National Missile Defence and the new nuclear arms race

US development of their National Missile Defence (“Star Wars”) programme continues at a rapid rate, despite budgetary delays in Congress and a failed attempt to test the operational system at the end of May. The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty between the US and Soviet Union came into force (restricting deployment of ABM systems) in 1972, but the US withdrew unilaterally in June 2002 so that it could pursue its missile defence programme. Missile defence sounds harmless, doesn’t it? But just think how such a programme appears to the ‘other side’ in a balance-of-terror situation. Overnight their ‘deterrent’ becomes useless and the natural reaction is to step up production of anti-anti-ballistic missile weaponry, and a classic arms race ensues.

Although the current governments in Eastern Europe are anxious to gain the favour of the United States and have enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to provide the US with military bases, there is much popular feeling against these developments. Last month we wrote on behalf of WDC/CND to support campaigners in Poland and the Czech Republic who are organising opposition to proposals to host radar and missile launch stations in both countries.

We sent a copy of the letter to the MoD and received a reply saying that “the UK faces a range of threats and that is likely to include, in time, a threat from ballistic missiles. Missile defence offers one means of countering the threat and it may also have the effect of persuading potential adversaries not to embark on offensive missile programmes in the first place.... To argue that this could trigger an arms race would be to accept that potential aggressors have some sort of right to threaten us” — reasoning which sounds less than convincing.

A conference organised by CND in central London in September will discuss building opposition across Europe to the US National Missile Defence programme. Kate Hudson, Jon Trickett M.P., Caroline Lucas M.E.P. and Andrew Murray will be joined by speakers from the Czech Republic and Campaign Iran, and US author and activist Bruce Gagnon, whose blog at is essential reading for all peace activists.

Human Security

This was the title of the Merton UNA lunchtime workshops held last month, which in the time available were only able to scratch the surface of a subject of immense importance and complexity. The UN charter proclaimed 60 years ago that “we the peoples” are determined to put an end to war and create a just and free society. But it is only recently that the UN is waking up to the fact that security, development and human rights are all facets of the same thing. There have been many summit meetings and many high-level reports have been published. All today’s global challenges — climate change, terrorism, the HIV epidemic — require imaginative joined-up thinking by both government and peoples. We need to see results rather than paperwork and action rather than theory. The autonomous specialised agencies of the UN have all been working in isolation for too long, while the Security Council with its five nuclear-armed permanent members has been perceived as the ultimate arbiter of international safety.

Human security is not about nuclear weapons. It is all about people feeling safe in their own homes and communities, with opportunities for education, employment and health services. It is a ‘soft power thing’ and that is what the UN is good at.

During the June UNA workshops we learned about some of the projects sponsored by the UN Trust Fund for Human Security (to which Japan is the main contributor) and realised how little media publicity is generated by initiatives of this kind. It is through these projects that the global UN engages civil society at community level, and it is at community level that we ourselves can find out about some of the things that our politicians choose to ignore in favour of more glamorous military strutting on the world stage.

Alison Williams plans a further series of workshops in the autumn, and will probably offer both lunchtimes and early evenings of the same day. An opportunity not to be missed.

Jim Addington

We were very sorry indeed to learn that Jim Addington of Kingston Peace Council/CND and Action for UN Renewal died suddenly while on holiday in Cornwall at the end of June.

Campaign success!

It is always nice to be able to celebrate tangible and unqualified success. It was announced on June 1st that the publishing company Reed Elsevier will pull out of the arms trade and will no longer organise arms fairs around the world, including the Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEI) held every two years in East London. CAAT (Campaign Against the Arms Trade, to which we are affiliated) coordinated the campaign against Reed Elsevier, highlighting the incompatibility of involvement in the arms trade with their position as the premier publisher of medical and scientific journals, including the internationally-renowned Lancet. And earlier this year the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust sold its £2m stake in Reed Elsevier, describing the arms trade as “deeply unethical and irredeemably corrupt”.

Reed Elsevier chief executive Sir Crispin Davis said “Our defence shows are quality businesses which have performed well in recent years; nonetheless, it has become increasingly clear that growing numbers of important customers and authors have very real concerns about our involvement in the defence exhibitions business. We have listened closely to these concerns and this has led us to conclude that the defence shows are no longer compatible with Reed Elsevier’s position as a leading publisher of scientific, medical, legal and business content.”

Reed Elsevier had previously claimed that the defence industry was “necessary to the preservation of freedom and national security” with arms exhibitions helping to ensure a licensed, regulated and open market. Moral: if something is against your principles — protest! Well done to all involved in this campaign.

West Wimbledon Eco-Festival

This took place in glorious weather on Saturday June 2nd at Christ Church, Copse Hill, and was a very rewarding day, with our WDC/CND stall being made very welcome. We sold £150-worth of plants and had plentiful opportunities for networking with the many other environmental organisations present. Kathleen and Maureen provided the transport and Margaret L and Joanna spent most of the day on the stall. Well done everybody!

Money well spent?

Latest figures from SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) show that in 2006 world military spending rose to a total of 1,204,000 million dollars, the eighth year of increase in succession. 46% of this total was spent by the USA, but the next largest military spender was once again the UK (5%). France, China, Japan, Germany, Russia, Italy, Saudi Arabia and India complete the list of the highest ten spenders, together accounting for 77% of all military spending worldwide: 888,700 million dollars. This is exactly twice the amount that the Stern Review estimated it would cost the world to stop runaway climate change and eighteen times the estimated current shortfall in spending needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Whatever happened to the Peace Dividend? (with thanks to David Gee at Quaker Peace and Social Witness)

AGM and Garden Party

All members and their familes are invited to a garden party at 43 Wilton Grove SW19 on Tuesday 10th July, 4pm onwards. As well as relaxing and socialising, this will provide an opportunity for a review of the past year and a much-needed discussion about the future of our group, with a brief formal AGM being held at 5pm (deferred from last month).

A Recital for Peace

The MANA (Musicians Against Nuclear Arms) concert on June 20th at St James Piccadilly was a wonderful occasion, with Sir Thomas Allen, star of the great opera houses of the world, and premier accompanist Roger Vignoles donating their talents to the cause of peace with a recital of French, English and American song of quite breathtaking artistry. The range and expressiveness of Sir Thomas’ voice and the clarity of his diction could be fully appreciated in the lovely acoustic of St James, with the mobility of his facial expression providing an extra dimension to his performance. Bruce Kent (just back from China) gave an inspirational interval talk, and all in all it was an evening to remember. The next Concert for Peace is at St James on the 13th October, so make a note in your diary now.

New Prime Minister, new Cabinet... new thinking?

Well, there is no harm in hoping; and now is a good time to put pen to paper and make some constructive suggestions. Jenny Maxwell who coordinates the CND letter-writing team suggests that we write to the new Foreign Secretary asking about the outcome of the meeting of the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) for the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, which took place in Vienna this May.

NPT Review Conferences take place every five years and PrepComs are held in between to prepare for the main conference: both meetings are attended by representatives of all signatories of the NPT. (All countries are signatories except India, Israel and Pakistan, which have never signed, and North Korea which withdrew in 2003.)

The NPT is basically a bargain between the five ‘declared’ nuclear states (China, France, Russia, UK, USA) which are thereby committed to work towards nuclear disarmament, and the non-nuclear nations which agree not to seek to acquire nuclear weapons, although retaining the right to develop nuclear energy. Meetings have always been dogged by disagreements between the declared nuclear nations who insist that the NPT’s chief purpose is to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and the rest of the world which argues that the nuclear nations are not honouring their undertaking to disarm.

The chairman’s ‘factual summary’ issued at the end of the May meeting contains the following: “States parties stressed that efforts to conclude a universal, unconditional and legally binding instrument on negative security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon states [i.e. a promise not to attack a non-nuclear-weapons state with nuclear weapons] should be pursued as a matter of priority” [para 26]. “States parties underlined the importance of establishing new nuclear-weapon-free zones, especially in the Middle East and South Asia” [para 33]

Please ask the Foreign Secretary whether any UK policy initiatives are planned to support these proposals. If you would like to become a regular member of the letter-writing team, contact Jenny on (or send your name to Joanna).

Hiroshima Day

Monday August 6th marks the 62nd anniversary of the atomic bomb which destroyed the Japanese city of Hiroshima. At 8·30pm we shall gather on the shores of Rushmere on Wimbledon Common and launch a flotilla of floating candles in commemoration of the 200,000 ordinary people who perished that day or died subsequently of radiation sickness.

This is always a very beautiful and moving ceremony which reminds us of fundamental things about our campaign. Please try to be there.

The Innocents

children, what do you do there
playing ball games, innocently in the park
smiling, laughing, with others of darker skins
who come from many lands.

do you in your innocence,
know that some older people
with lighter faces, and evil minds
think that you should not exist?

did not these people
take many from the park
for train rides to many camps
heated by huge ovens

the trains came back, empty
those children, were innocent too
the park became a lonely place
after that time.

the ball you played with
was for joy and laughter,
the one the older people have
is made of fire, and sadness

if they drop it there,
they could not play with it again
for there would be no park
in which to smile and laugh

children, whatever your colour
when you are a little older
do not play with balls of fire and sadness
that close the park, forever
George Marsh

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