COMMENT from America

Nancy Grayson, a secondhand bookseller in Portland, Maine, has recently sent over another envelope of local press cuttings on the Iraq war. Here is a selection of extracts:

On Bush’s spending plans for 2007: Before we give this administration $2·7 trillion more, the taxpayers need to see an audit of the trillions that already have been authorised to be spent. Show the voters an accounting for the money already spent on Homeland Security. What did we get for that? Our borders are still not safe. What did we buy? Who got the money? Is the Iraq war money being spent properly?... How much is really being used to help our soldiers? About those no-bid contracts, has Halliburton paid back its overcharges? Who is auditing our books?

Jim Hawkins of Kennebunk

Bush’s legacy is our massive debt. Bush already has an enduring legacy: debt so massive it will take generations to recover. Bush wants his tax cuts for the rich to be permanent and promises to cut the deficit while some $200 million a day is squandered in Iraq. Remember Iraq? The Iraq that had nothing to do with 9/11, no weapons of mass destruction, and no proven collaboration with al-Qaida? ... Bush still tries to connect Iraq with 9/11. He also smears anyone who questions his war as ‘unpatriotic’. Is it any wonder this president has credibility problems? ...The corrupt, incompetent domination of Congress may end with the coming election...

Harry Dwyer of Kents Hill

Throwing a trillion dollars against terrorists as futile as Don Quixote dueling against the windmill. Giving a trillion for the welfare of the desperate, depressed, poverty stricken millions of Islamic unemployed would be doing more to defeat the terrorists. The terrorist phantom becomes more of a reality with each death of an Iraqi, Afghan, Palestinian, or the starvation of every Islamic child. Now is the time to cut off the funding of the war.... Enough robbing of the poor, cutting off funds for health care, education and welfare, neglecting the unemployed and depleting the funds for social security. Falsely promising security when that is truly impossible is another deceit.

Philip Thompson, Portland

White House open to criticism — as long as it’s not on a T-shirt! Two women got booted from the U.S.Capitol for wearing slogans, but only one got arrested. The women attempted to wear shirts bearing messages into the gallery last week, where President George W.Bush was delivering his State of the Union address. One was Beverley Young, wife of a Republican Representative. Her shirt said “Support our troops”... The other was Cindy Sheehan, the woman who lost a son in Iraq, and spent last summer camped outside the President’s Texas ranch, guest on this occasion of a Democrat Representative. Cindy’s T-shirt said simply “2,245 Dead. How many more?” Both women were asked to leave the gallery. Cindy Sheehan was arrested, and treated roughly enough to leave bruises in the process. Beverley Young was not. Later U.S.Capitol Police Chief said “We made a mistake: wearing a T-shirt with a slogan on it breaks no law.” Leonard Pitts, Miami Herald columnist, said “Contrary to the evidence of your lying eyes, the President is actually open to criticism. Heck, he said so in his speech! Just so long as it’s ‘responsible criticism’ that aims to help win the war in Iraq, and not the other kind which says we never should have been there in the first place.”

Chomsky views — on our ‘outlaw nation’. Noam Chomsky drew an audience of some 1,000, young and old, when he spoke at the University of New England, Biddeford in November 2005. On the ‘Voice of the people’ page in the Portland Press Herald a reader took the paper to task for not reporting on Chomsky’s speech and summarised his words as follows: “He made the case that the U.S. government is ‘an outlaw state’ amongst nations. Virtually all of the major international conventions (those guaranteeing the rights of children, women and minorities; those making it a crime to engage in genocide, torture and aggression) the United States has either failed to ratify or has ratified with exception, i.e. declaring itself exempt from application of those laws.

“This sort of unilateral, above-the-law action has put our government in the same league at various times with Albania under Hoxha, Libya under Ghadafi and other nations notorious for the disregard of human rights...”

Val C. Hart, Portland

(Material contributed by Barbara Bampton: a valuable reminder that Bush does not speak for the whole of the USA.)

Trident Replacement: What Does Theology Say?

This conference organised in Oxford by Christian CND was a useful reminder that there is a basic moral choice to be made in taking the decision whether or not to commission the next generation of nuclear weapons. Despite her academic erudition, the Regius Professor of Divinity, Canon Marilyn McCord Adams put it most simply. “Warfare is bestial,” she said.

And given that all ‘civilised’ nation states have historically been willing to go to war, we must accept the paradox that some of humanity’s highest cultural achievements have been built and are secured on a foundation of bestiality. We all benefit and therefore acquiesce and it is not just ‘they’ but ‘we’ who have to repent. As a US citizen, Prof. McCord Adams had generous things to say about the UK record on repentence and saw Britain as a leader in setting aside degrading practices (slave trade, death penalty etc.) In the case of Trident, we have yet another opportunity to take the lead: “the UK could shed light on a confusing, confused and darkening world”.

Other speakers were Jesuit Fr. Gerry Hughes and Dominican Friar Peter Hunter who suggested that philosophical arguments based on universal human societal values should not be seen exclusively as ‘theological’ arguments. Perhaps we (as campaigners) spend too much time with the small print. Maybe we should stand back from the details of the debate on legal niceties and military practicalities and use our emotional intelligence. “Where your heart is, let your mind be also”.

Nuclear weapons are intrinsically evil. Threatening to kill huge numbers of people is inherently unacceptable. We should say so more often.

March Sale in the Peace Movement Bookshop

Housmans Bookshop will be having a spring sale to clear out old stuff and make money! Among potential sale items are lots of old/interesting books and pamphlets that you might want to be saved, archived or even bought by yourself. So please call by and have a look next week lest your favourite things be brushed away by the iron broom of history...

Housmans Bookshop, 5 Caledonian Road, King’s Cross, London N1 (020 7837 4473)

Defence Select Committee

The terms of reference of the Defence Select Committee inquiry on Trident replacement were announced in late January and are deliberately narrow. (We are told that there may be subsequent investigations of other aspects but for now we have to go along with this.)

Terms of reference:

‘The first inquiry will focus on the strategic context and the timetable for decision making. It will consider the threats which the strategic nuclear deterrent is currently intended to combat and how this context might change over the next two decades. It will consider what other states or organisations could develop nuclear weapons capabilities by 2025, and how this might affect the strategic context in which decisions on the UK deterrent will be made. And it will consider the timetable in which these decisions will have to be taken and implemented. The Committee would welcome written evidence on these matters.’

The main point to make is that threats to mankind are increasingly global (climate change, pandemics, poverty, dispossessed peoples etc.) and there is a military solution to none of them. We need fresh thinking, going beyond the old-fashioned assumptions of the Cold War. Modern threat analysis shows that nuclear weapons have no rôle.

Write to: Philippa Helme, Clerk to the Defence Committee, House of Commons SW1A 0AA or by March 7th.

A Peace Map of the British Isles

The movement for the Abolition of War is planning to produce a UK Peace Map for display in schools, libraries, and other public places. (There are also ambitious plans to publish in book form with full descriptions of each site.) We have been asked to put out an appeal for sources of relevant information, which could include birthplaces of famous peace activists, statues, plaques, sites of peace actions etc. Anyone with knowledge of a particular site, or with an interest in cooperating with MAW in this project is invited to send contact details to Lesley Docksey, 1 Court Farm Cottages, Buckland Newton, Dorset DT2 7BT or e-mail Lesley.Docksey@abo...

Letter Writing

We have been asked to write to Jack Straw making the following points:

Write to: Rt. Hon. Jack Straw, Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, King Charles Street, London SW1A 2AH.

Milan Rai’s new book

Milan Rai, 7/7: The London Bombings, Islam and the Iraq War Pluto Press 2006, ISBN 0745325637. £11.99 (by post with free p&p from

Tony Benn writes:

“Milan Rai’s book about the July bombings is clear, scholarly, analytical, powerful, persuasive — and very readable. Seeking the real explanation for those events he totally destroys the illusion spread by the Prime Minister that they had nothing to do with Britain’s illegal aggression against Iraq, which no-one really believes. The author, a man committed to peace, holds no brief for the violence in those attacks and the suffering they caused, but patiently takes us through the circumstances that played a part in motivating those who carried them out. This is a book that everyone with a serious interest in the crisis we face must read if they are to hope to understand it, its causes, its effects, and how we might resolve it.”

Third Anniversary of the Iraq War: Demonstration against the Occupation March 18th in Central London

The Stop the War Coalition, Muslim Association of Britain and CND are once again co-sponsoring this anti-war event with the threat of military action against Iran giving the demonstration this year additional urgency. This is part of a series of demonstrations across the world: people will be out on the streets in at least 15 European countries as well as in Asia, Africa, Australia and Latin America. The march assembles in Parliment Square 12 noon, moves off at 1pm and arrives at Trafalgar Square for rally and speeches 2·30 to 5pm.

You may like to go up to London early and hear Dan Plesch, keynote speaker at the World Disarmament Campaign Spring Conference: “Disarmament — what is possible now?” (The agenda has been arranged so that speech and discussion will take place from 11am–12 noon. Anyone who wishes to join the march can hear the speech, participate in the debate and still be in plenty of time for the demo.) Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, Shaftesbury Avenue, W1 10·30am.

Sutton for Peace and Justice

Film night, Friday 10th March. Doors open 7pm, show starts 7·30pm.

‘Injustice’, described as “the most politically controversial film of recent years”, is a documentary feature film that follows the struggles for justice by the families of people who have died in police custody in England: over 1,000 people died between 1969 and 1999, and no police officer has ever been convicted of any of these deaths.

Friends Meeting House, Cedar Road, Sutton (5 mins from Sutton station). Limited seating. Reservation essential. Telephone 07931 786 134 or e-mail sutton4peace@yah...

Fête of the Earth

May 13th is the date to put in your diaries. This is our major fund-raising event of the year — we shall need lots of goods to sell and lots of helpers and offers of transport on the day.
Please try to be there!

CND Return to Newsletter index