The above is the title of an article by CND Chair Kate Hudson posted last month on the Guardian “Comment is free” website: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jun/15/defence-review-trident
“While Dr Fox promises a root-and-branch rethink in all other military areas, he has chosen to exempt the unused and unusable weapon that senior military figures have described as ‘completely useless’. When there are so many other calls on funding for the forces’ needs — never mind any other public spending — it seems like a dereliction of duty not even to consider non-replacement,” writes Kate, and presumably all WDC/CND members would agree with her. It is a good article, but what I found even more interesting was the storm of comment that it provoked, a fascinating cross-section of opinion from the general public.
There is plenty of supportive comment of course, and also the inevitable abuse (“I think Ms Hudson should worry more about her mad North Korean Communist comrade Kim Il-sung than Trident”) but what was most revealing was the would-be rational counter arguments put forward in all seriousness. This provides a glimpse of some of the basic fallacies upon which the remaining pro-Trident public opinion is based.
All these comments came from people who are thinking of Trident as a war-fighting weapon and who do not have a grasp of the basic facts:
There seems to be fundamental confusion between the Navy’s nuclear-powered submarines and the Trident fleet armed with strategic (intercontinental) nuclear weapons of mass destruction. Is any country looking to ‘poach’ oil reserves going to be impressed by an empty threat from the UK to launch a ballistic missile to destroy its capital city? (Galtieri was not deterred from invading the Falklands.) If we think we have a ‘right’ to oil reserves in the South Atlantic it would be more useful to send off a fleet armed with weapons they could legitimately use.
Terrorists are not going to be very impressed by the UK ‘nuclear deterrent’ either. Nuclear weapons are irrelevant to our security, ‘protecting our vital interests’ or anything else. Nuclear weapons are a powerful political symbol conferring ‘great power’ status, which not surprisingly means that others now aspire to great power status too. Renewing Trident just at this moment sends out all the wrong international signals as well as being a wholly inappropriate use of public money in a time of financial stringency.
We have a public education job to do.
[Nuclear Basic Facts courtesy of Jim McCluskey of Kingston Peace Council/CND]
Despite gloomy prognostications, the 2010 Non Proliferation Review Conference ended with some guarded optimism, largely because all 189 member nations were able to agree on a final declaration (in contrast to the 2005 Review at the height of the G.W.Bush era).
The tension between the nuclear ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ remains, with the nuclear weapons states very reluctant to commit to any time-bound commitment to reducing their nuclear arsenal despite their undertaking of forty years ago. In general terms the US, Russia, France, Britain and China have agreed to “speed up” arms reductions and to report on progress in four years. Many of the ‘13 steps’ agreed at the 2000 Review Conference are reiterated in the 2010 declaration (having been lost sight of in the intervening ten years) with the UK’s contribution being to work towards greater transparency (William Hague declared that the UK nuclear arsenal will not exceed 225 warheads) and to continue joint research with Norway over verification techniques.
A major breakthrough was consensus support for a Middle East Nuclear Weapons Free Zone with agreement to organise a 2012 conference, despite the US complaining that its ability to work with the Middle Eastern (Arab) nations had been “seriously jeopardised because the final document singles out Israel in the Middle East section, a fact that the US deeply regrets”. (Israel, of course, not being a signatory to the NPT did not take part in the Review Conference, but has indicated that it would attend a Middle Eastern disarmament conference “as long as it was not singled out for criticism”.)
David Krieger, President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, has provided an excellent summary [http://www.wagingpeace.org/articles/db_article.php?print&article_id=86]: “In the end, the Final Document was largely aspirational. It brought the parties back to where they stood in 2000, but provided few specific guidelines for success to measure progress in 2015.... The principal message from the 2010 NPT Review Conference is that the nuclear weapons states are still on a Snail Plan for eliminating their nuclear arsenals — moving slowly and not recognising the vulnerability of their thin shells. If a sense of urgency is to be instilled in the nuclear disarmament process, people will need to press their leaders from below.” That is us!
For many years we have held a candle-floating ceremony on Rushmere (Wimbledon Common) and it is always a very beautiful and moving occasion as we remember the 200,000 dead of the world’s first atomic bomb and rededicate ourselves to our campaign. This year we have decided to make it a more structured occasion and more visible to the general public, so we shall be holding a short ceremony at the War Memorial (at the top of Wimbledon Hill) before moving on to Rushmere and the candles. Local civic and church leaders will be invited and we shall be asking our members for suitable readings of poetry and prose, and perhaps music. Plans are still in preparation so please get in touch with your ideas: Saturday August 7th, 8pm at the War Memorial.
WDC/CND Chair Maisie Carter attends Sidmouth Folk Week at the beginning of August every year, and as this week always includes Hiroshima Day she packs CND leaflets in her luggage and organises a small commemorative event among the festival-goers. This year will be different. Leading compère Roy Bailey is promoting a Peace Concert as part of the formal Sidmouth Folk Week programme. This will take place in the Ham Marquee (which holds 1,000 people) on August 6th with top name performers invited, including Chumbawamba, Sandra Kerr and David Ferrard, and the concert will be followed by a commemorative one minute silence.
Roy Bailey writes in the Festival Newsletter that he hopes the concert will become an annual event: “There is no other Festival in the country with such an overt and formal statement of support for peace and an antinuclear future.... finally I’d like to express admiration and gratitude to Maisie Carter (she won’t thank me for this) for her tireless efforts over many years in sustaining the Hiroshima Day peace gathering.” Wimbledon is proud of you, Maisie!
“After the Bomb Dropped: How Hiroshima and Nagasaki Suffered”: material from the Hiroshima Peace Museum in Japan. 2nd–12th August, Friends House, Euston Rd, London NW1 2BJ. CND has asked for volunteers to steward the exhibition. If you can help, contact David Polden (firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7607 2302).
We were out in force on successive Saturdays at the beginning of June, making a very visible presence at two major local events. Our stall at Mitcham Carnival successfully combined money-raising with campaigning: we made four new members and took £131. Julie, Jill, Joanna, Kathleen, Bob and George were the sales, leafletting and transport team, and we have Sheila to thank for arranging the loan of display boards and two sturdy tables.
We were once again denied an official place at Wimbledon Village Fair (which has apparently become too large and commercial to accommodate more than a small number of campaigning organisations) but Edwin and Joanna decided to try a spot of unofficial “gate crashing” armed with leaflets and Umbrella Group umbrellas. It didn’t take long before we were challenged by the organisers, but we were delighted to be allowed to continue, on payment of the official ‘roving stallholder’ fee of £30. This seemed a bit steep, but it gave us the unfettered right to circulate among the crowds all day long very visibly indeed, having adorned the bright orange umbrellas with shiny fluorescent CND symbols around the brim.
So next year we know what to do: apply to be ‘roving’ rather than static stallholders and take our place among the giant zebras, bright yellow suns and gentlemen with balloons. We made no money but we ran out of leaflets.
A reminder that the local branch of the PSC meets on the third Monday of most months at the Irish Centre, Hartfield Road SW19, at 7pm. In June a packed meeting was addressed by Jeremy Corbyn M.P. and heard a first hand account of the Israeli attack on the Free Gaza Movement flotilla. The PSC ‘Stolen Goods’ leafletting campaign targets the sale of produce grown in Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land. For further information contact Dave Esbester (Chair) email@example.com.
The Tricycle Theatre in North London is putting on a festival of plays, films and discussions on Afghanistan from 23 July–29 August. For details see http://www.tricycle.co.uk/festivals/the-great-game-afghanistan/
We have booked stalls at Lloyd Park (direct to Wimbledon by tram) for Croydon’s Mela and World Party (July 31st/Aug 1st) and at Morden Park for the Bank Holiday Fête run by the Morden Park & Playing Fields Association. Both should be fun events which provide an excellent opportunity to link with huge crowds of potential well-wishers. People need to know that we exist!
Lloyd Park is an Umbrella Group event, so we shall be teaming up with CND colleagues from other South London groups. WDC/CND has offered to stock and run a second-hand book stall so we are appealing for book sellers: if we get enough volunteers no-one need work very long shifts and people will be free to enjoy the fun and music of the World party. Croydon CND is organising mobile leafletting teams and would also like volunteers. (Even if you don’t like handing out leaflets you might be prepared to hold a CND umbrella....) Transport, as always, will be an essential ingredient of both days.
At Morden Park on August 30th we shall be running our usual plant/bric-à-brac stall. Expect those begging phone calls.
This year our Annual General Meeting will be on a Sunday to enable more people to attend. We hope the weather will be fine so we can enjoy a leisurely garden party after business has finished. We shall review the year, elect the committee and discuss future plans. A very small executive team works very hard throughout the year and extra committee members would help to spread the load a bit, so please consider joining us. A Press Officer is particularly needed.
One Resolution has been received (proposed by Julie Higgins, seconded by Joanna Bazley): “That the annual subscription to WDC/CND be raised to £5 (full rate) or £3 (unwaged)”. This would allow for the huge increase in the cost of postage over recent years and continue the tradition that subs cover Newsletter costs so that all other funds can be devoted to campaigning. Put the date in your diary.
Venue: 43 Wilton Grove, SW19 3QU at 3pm.