February saw many nuclear-related stories in the media.
(Guardian 2/2/2009) The chief inspector at the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate was defending the regulation of a Magnox reactor at Bradwell-on-Sea, when a case brought by the Environment Agency came to court. Eleven breaches of radioactive disposal laws are alleged, in connection with liquid waste which leaked from a sump into the ground, “the sump pump not being part of the strict maintenance schedule”.
(Guardian 9/2/2009) The US has been using AWE Aldermaston to carry out research into its own nuclear warhead programme. John Harvey, policy and planning director at the US National Nuclear Security Administration said “There are some capabilities that the UK has that we don’t have, and that we borrow... that I believe we have been able to exploit that’s been very valuable to us” — the suspicion being that the US military may have used facilities in the UK to get round restrictions at home, Congress having stopped funding research into the Reliable Replacement Warhead.
(Guardian 7/2/2009) Diplomats and officials say they are optimistic that Washington and Moscow can quickly agree to cut warheads to about 1000 — “The Russians being keen to revive the arms control agenda that languished under George W. Bush.... Barack Obama is reported to have quietly sent Henry Kissinger... to Moscow last month, to test the waters”.
(Guardian 7/2/2009) A. Q. Khan, the Pakistani scientist accused of selling nuclear secrets, was released after five years of house arrest after a court ruling in Islamabad, the apparent result of a secret deal with the Pakistani government. Celebrations did not extend to Washington and London which have long sought to question Khan, with a US State Department spokesman saying that the US believed Khan “remains a serious proliferation risk” (Khan’s nuclear trading network having previously extended to 12 countries including Iran, Libya and North Korea until it was uncovered by Western intelligence in 2003).
(Guardian 17/2/2009) “The Ministry of Defence was under intense pressure to explain how the Vanguard, which can carry 48 nuclear warheads on 16 missiles, had managed to crash into the French Le Triomphant — payload 16 missiles — in an incident which some experts say could have caused a nuclear catastrophe”. This incident (which was probably ridiculous rather than dangerous) served the very useful purpose of reminding the public of the continued existence of nuclear patrols beneath the Atlantic, and the potential explosive power of their arsenals.
(Guardian 17/2/2009) “One of the great white elephants of Britain’s atomic industry looks set for closure according to documents published by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority — Sellafield’s mixed oxide (MOX) production plant. The plant cost £470m to build but was assessed by government-appointed consultants in 2001 to be worth only £216m — and this was on the assumption that the Japanese business would be won back “which proved hard after the falsification of quality assurance data in 1999”. Only 2·6 tonnes of fuel per year were reprocessed between 2002 and 2007. (The decision to proceed in the late 1990s was based on a reprocessing rate of 120 tonnes a year!)
Last month’s film was very poorly attended and this was a pity because Strangest Dream, the new Canadian film about the life’s work of Joseph Rotblat, is very impressive indeed: moving and informative in equal measure. The February showing in Brigitte’s beautiful house was a unique opportunity to view a preview copy but we hope eventually to be able to purchase a DVD from British Pugwash and arrange for wider showings.
The final film of our 08/09 ‘winter season’ is from a much earlier generation: Charlie Chaplin’s classic comedy poking fun at political pretension for all time, The Great Dictator. Sunday March 29th at 4·30pm, 43 Wilton Grove SW19 — 163, 164, 152 bus or Merton Park tram stop.
Please support and publicise this meeting on March 10th. Afghanistan is portrayed in the media as the “good war” with victory against the Taliban essential to Western security and President Obama appears intent on continuing to seek a military “solution”. Great Power involvement in Afghanistan goes back to the days of 19th century imperial rivalries and in our own time there has been a Soviet invasion and withdrawal with anti-Soviet (Taliban) forces actively supported and encouraged by the West. Professor Arif can tell us what it has been like for the ordinary people of Afghanistan (treated as pawns by the different warring factions), help us understand the past and discuss prospects for the future, and it promises to be a most interesting evening.
WDC/CND members at the Aldermaston 50th Anniversary demonstration last year will remember fashion designer Vivienne Westwood as a speaker amid the snow flurries on that occasion. The general public however will probably not be aware of her political views and it is pleasing to see among future events promoted by the V&A an evening talk entitled “Vivienne Westwood: Active Resistance to Propaganda”. Following a wine reception Ms Westwood will be “in conversation with representatives of Greenpeace and CND”. Tickets cost £20 (with no concessions) and include drinks with the speaker — http://www.vam.ac.uk/tickets or 020 7942 2211. (Of course we heard her free at Aldermaston!)
Thanks to Anna for this.
The birthday of William Morris will be celebrated at the William Morris pub, Merton Abbey Mills, on Saturday 28th March with the by now traditional mix of musicians, singers, poets and speakers, with Joanna making a contribution for CND. Doors open at 7·30pm and entry is £2.
William Morris Free House, Merton Abbey Mills, Colliers Wood, London SW19. Further info: Auriel Glanville 020 8540 6154
Barack Obama’s first visit to Britain as US President takes place at the beginning of April when the leaders of the world’s big powers meet at the G20 summit. CND has joined with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the British Muslim Initiative and the Stop the War Coalition to organise a march and rally in Central London on the afternoon of April 1st while President Obama speaks to Parliament. Adopting the Obama “Yes we can” slogan the march will call for withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, an end to the siege of Gaza, freedom for Palestine, jobs not bombs and Abolition Now (an end to the nuclear arms race): in other words calling for the rejection of all the simplistic militaristic policies that made the Bush era such an international nightmare.
On Thursday morning (April 2nd) there will be a protest at the summit itself at the Excel Centre in East London. On 3–5th April NATO leaders will gather in Strasbourg to celebrate NATO’s 60th anniversary (see February Newsletter) and the anti-war movement will be organising blockades of the conference, a massive international demonstration on Saturday April 4th and a counter summit that ends on Sunday April 5th. Coaches will leave London on the morning of Friday April 3rd and WDC/CND is offering a substantial discount on the £70 coach fare for anybody prepared to take the WDC/CND banner and represent us in France. (Contact Joanna on 020 8543 0362 if you are interested.)
This new play by David Wilson and Anne Aylor is billed as a “rehearsed reading of a surreal comedy about the terror laws that have descended into farce”. The inspiration comes from two recent incidents: the suing of the Evening Standard by composer Keith Burstein after being accused of glorifying terror in his opera Manifest Destiny and the arrest of the drivers of aid trucks to Gaza on the M6, with the trainer of the title being Leila, a young Palestinian gym trainer to the judges in Burstein’s Court of Appeal. The cast will include Tim Pigott-Smith and Corin Redgrave, tickets cost £5 and proceeds will be divided between the fund for the re-building of the Gaza Music School and the Stop the War Coalition. Oxford House, Derbyshire St E2, 7·30pm — for further details phone 07951 579064.
Our Wimbledon CND banner will be carried on Saturday 28th February at the South London “March for Palestine” from Balham to Tooting ending with a rally at the Tooting Islamic Centre addressed by speakers including MP Sadiq Khan, with the focal message “Lift the siege of Gaza, stop arms sales to Israel”. At the February WDC/CND steering group meeting we voted to send £100 donation to the Medical Aid for Palestine Gaza appeal. According to the United Nations more the 1,300 people (412 of them children) are known to have been killed during the 22-day conflict in Gaza, and this death toll is expected to rise. The fragile ceasefire has enabled aid to reach many more families, starting with basic first aid kits and water purification tablets followed by a UNICEF vaccination programme hoping to reach 120,000 children. UNICEF is also running daily radio announcements within Gaza to alert children to the dangers from unexploded munitions.
The February MANA Concert for Peace featured the Freylekh Klezmer Dance Band, raising £1,000 for the Gaza appeal, and MANA has asked that £700 of this should go towards rebuilding the Gaza music school which was totally destroyed in the conflict.
“The crisis in Gaza has again highlighted the UK’s complicity in arming Israel” according to the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) — some weaponry is supplied directly (£24 million licensed for export from the UK in the first six months of 2008) but UK arms are also supplied via the US as components and subsystems. More information about UK arms sales to Israel is available on the CAAT website http://www.caat.org.uk and there is a link from this site to the Stop Arming Israel site which is a collaboration between several organisations including CAAT, War on Want and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
Professor Paul Rogers, writing in the Oxford Research Group January Briefing (“Gaza — the Aftermath”) comes to the conclusion that Israel has lost support in Europe while Hamas has increased its status in the Middle East. “Furthermore, it is by no means certain that Israel can rely on the strong support that it has in the past received from the United States.” Although “the political mood in Israel is [now] less supportive of negotiating a lasting settlement with the Palestinians... developments in irregular warfare mean that the security of Israel is likely to decline unless a settlement can be achieved.... This aspect is only recognised by a small minority of Israeli analysts and commentators, but that element may grow as the realisation develops that the three-week Gaza war added little or nothing to Israel’s security.... If it becomes apparent to the new Israeli government that the Obama administration regards a... lasting settlement... to be in the security interests of the US, given the radicalising impact of the Gaza war, then attitudes may have to change rapidly.... an unexpected consequence of the war.”
I was privileged to attend this concert — and it is not a word I use flippantly! There were five wonderful women musicians, one of whom was especially delightful to watch: when she wasn’t actually playing her oboe she couldn’t stop moving and dancing to the music. There was also a space in front of the musicians for dancing, and five or six times one of them would begin a line dance and invite up as many as would. And I would. And did. Two elderly Jewish women behind nodded wisely and told me that “it was in the genes”.
The musicians — of a large age range — created for the sell-out concert such joy and delight and true musicality that everyone there was moved and delighted. Of course there were a few short speeches about MANA and the need to help its fundraising, and I doubt if anyone wanted to avoid the buckets held for donations. The atmosphere was wonderfully friendly and the event very moving. I hadn’t been a member before — I am now. (http://www.mana.org.uk or 020 8455 1030)
This lobby will take place on Wednesday 11th March, 2–6pm, House of Commons (nearest Tube station Westminster). Please make an appointment to see your MP now; we have arranged a 4·30pm appointment with Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond.
The lobby has been organised at short notice to call for action by the British government to address the urgent humanitarian crisis in Gaza: http://www.palestinecampaign.org or 7700 6192.