COMMENT by Alison Williams

When I look at the world...

All sorts of people stop and talk to us at the Friday Vigil for Peace, some more engaging than others. One chap I’ll remember was an academic — a mathematician. He stopped and looked at us for a while, apparently wanting to speak but not sure how to get started. Then he said he really admired us for standing there, it was “a noble cause”, but he thought it was totally futile. People are all selfish and greedy, he said, only interested in getting what they want.

He’d clearly had a bad day, maybe several bad days — trouble with a neighbour and colleagues too. I was unable to alter his perspective but in the course of our conversation he urged me to look up a song he knows well, “When I look at the world” by U2.

I found it online and was moved by it. It concludes “Tell me, tell me, what do you see? Tell me, tell me, what’s wrong with me?” I imagine many people who pass us by on Fridays assume we ‘see the world’ differently from them, if they think about it at all. I wonder how many wish they could see it our way and think there may be something wrong with them because they can’t.

In a surprising epilogue to this story, the first time I used this song as a text with some English language students and told them how I’d come to find it, one of them expressed serious interest in our peace vigil. Unfortunately his London home is too far away for him to join us but I encouraged him to look for something in his area. There are plenty of us who still see the world and our fellow beings with hope and affection, aren’t there?

When I Look at the World

When you look at the world
What is it that you see?
People find all kinds of things
That bring them to their knees
I see an expression
So clear and so true
That it changes the atmosphere
When you walk into the room.

So I try to be like you
Try to feel it like you do
But without you it’s no use
I can’t see what you see
When I look at the world

When the night is someone else’s
And you’re trying to get some sleep
When your thoughts are too expensive
To ever want to keep
When there’s all kinds of chaos
And everyone is walking lame
You don’t even blink now, do you
Or even look away

So I try to be like you
Try to feel it like you do
But without you it’s no use
I can’t see what you see
When I look at the world

I can’t wait any longer
I can’t wait until I’m stronger
Can’t wait any longer
To see what you see
When I look at the world
I’m in the waiting room
Can’t see for the smoke
I think of you and your holy book
While the rest of us choke

Tell me, tell me, what do you see?
Tell me, tell me, what’s wrong with me

AGM, July 17th 4pm

All are invited to our annual AGM and garden party at 4pm on Sunday, July 17th. We shall review the year’s activities, elect our committee and discuss the future before enjoying tea, cakes and good company in the pleasant surroundings of the garden at 43 Wilton Grove. (Please bring a contribution to the menu for all to share.)

We could do with new blood on the committee and are especially in need of a Press Secretary and Membership Secretary. If you can help please get in touch with Joanna on 020 8543 0362, even if you are unable to make the meeting.

Mitcham Carnival, June 11th

Our stall was in a prominent position near the main arena (and next to a well-patronised Caribbean food stall!) and we had a very successful day, taking £146 (nothing priced much above 50p) and gaining four pages of signatures on the CND ‘Scrap Trident’ petition. In a part of the borough where money is tight, nobody can see the sense in the government wasting billions on a new generation of nuclear weapons.

As always, it took a large number of man-hours to transport the goods to Mitcham, set up the gazebo and set up and run the stall all day. Our thanks go to the team who made it all happen: Ruth, John, Mikael, Joanna, Maisie, Hazel, Dave E and Dave C. It is important for us to be visible at community events like this, and our next opportunity will be at Morden Park on August Bank Holiday when we shall once again need volunteers.

Brian Haw

No one in the peace movement can have failed to be moved by the recent death of Brian Haw. This was an example of stubborn determination to continue with a self-imposed peace mission which bordered on obsessiveness. In the process he destroyed his marriage and undermined his own health to the extent that it was a shock to discover how relatively young he still was. We can’t all be like Brian Haw, and perhaps he was a bit mad, but as long as he remained in Parliament Square our legislators were forced to confront the reality of war every time they entered or left the Palace of Westminster.

It was impressive that Brian’s death became headline news in the national media (radio, TV and national newspapers) and attracted appreciative obituaries in unlikely places (such as the freesheet London Metro). The following Early Day Motion has been put down in the House of Commons (EDM 1945) with all-party support, and we suggest contacting your M.P. to ask him to sign, or in the case of an M.P. with a post in Government (which prohibits signing) to ask him/her to endorse the sentiments of the EDM.

“That this House notes with sadness the passing of Brian Haw, whose protest camp in Parliament Square, initially against the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and then all wars, has stood for a decade and resisted all legal and political challenges to its existence; supports the principles behind the protest camp and regards its existence as a formidable example of the possibilities for peaceful dissent at a time when civil liberties are being eroded and military power is being employed over negotiated peace; further notes Mr Haw’s relentless discipline in ensuring that he be seen by Hon. Members going about their business every day as a constant reminder of the consequences of their decisions for the lives of thousands of innocent people and subsequent generations; further notes the political inspiration that he was to so many, with his handcrafted placards about the innocent lives lost as a result of war; trusts that his inspiration lives on as an influence to those in Parliament who make the decisions, and to the public whose role it is to hold decisionmakers in Parliament to account so that they might work toward bringing about peace in their time; and calls for a fitting permanent memorial to be established in Parliament.”

Follow up to Ian Fairlie’s visit

CND is encouraging members to contact the Energy Minister, Chris Huhne, asking him to support the development of renewables instead of nuclear power. (There is a suggested letter on

It does seem extraordinary that the UK is persisting in its devotion to a heavily subsidised nuclear industry when so many other countries are having second thoughts: Germany, which has announced its intention to phase out nuclear power, already employs over ten times as many people as we do in the renewables industry. Mr Huhne needs to explain how he justifies subsidising the nuclear industry while drastically cutting the feed-in tariff scheme for solar power installations. The government is still ignoring the unsolved problems with nuclear waste, decommissioning costs and likely health risks, and the proposed coastal sites for power stations are beginning to look very vulnerable in the light of predicted rises in sea-level.

The first nuclear power station in the UK was a cloak for the production of plutonium for Britain’s atomic bomb. Is government devotion to nuclear power still linked with our status as a nuclear weapons state? Is this the reason behind the government’s determination to maintain the technology and the scientific expertise? Or is it a reluctance to admit that we have taken a wrong path in the past? Perhaps the government is simply in thrall to powerful vested interests? The nuclear industry is running a very effective propaganda campaign with its claims that nuclear power is the answer to climate change, ignoring the fact that most of the energy we use is not even electrical.

Hiroshima Day: Saturday, August 6th, 8·30pm

Our annual candle-floating ceremony on Rushmere, Wimbledon Common (near the War Memorial) is a moving and beautiful occasion when we remember the victims of the world’s first atomic bomb and renew our determination to continue our campaign to eliminate all nuclear weapons. Please come if you can and bring your friends.

Latest from the MoD

I wrote to the MoD several months ago on behalf of WDC/CND challenging the renewal of Trident, and have only just received a reply.

The usual formulae are used: “The Government believes we need to take action to safeguard our national security at home and abroad.... The Government’s view is that this is not the right time for the UK to give up its nuclear deterrent.... In many respects we face a more dangerous situation now than we have for several decades.... There are substantial risks to our security from emerging nuclear weapons states and state sponsored terrorism.” There is not the slightest acknowledgement that our “deterrent” is another country’s weapon of mass destruction, and no understanding that “emerging nuclear states” have been encouraged by the refusal of the existing nuclear weapons states to fulfil their obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [“There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects”: International Court of Justice, 1996].

The author mentions the Parliamentary Report that accompanied the government’s announcement of ‘Initial Gate’ Trident replacement approval in May, which explains that “we will order some of the parts that have a particularly long lead time... expected to amount to around £500 million”. (This is small change in MoD terms, but just think how this money could be put to better use.) Finally “a study will be initiated to investigate the costs, feasibility and credibility of alternative systems and postures for the nuclear deterrent.” (This last is a concession to the Lib Dem arm of the Coalition.) I have written asking for further elucidation as to the precise meaning of “postures for the nuclear deterrent”.

Although the official position is that a final decision on Trident is postponed until after the next General Election, it does look as if it is taken as a given in the minds of MoD civil servants. Nevertheless you are urged to continue to write challenging letters, which at least oblige some of those civil servants to think outside the box occasionally and, who knows, even to question what they are doing?

Joanna Bazley

Campaigning through the Courts

WDC/CND member Chris Coverdale has been pursuing alternatives to the more conventional campaigning methods, himself becoming an expert on the ‘law of war’, and is currently trying to organise a judicial review of the Government decision to go into Libya, on the grounds that setting out to kill a racial group (“killing Libyans because they are Libyans”) is genocide in the eyes of the United Nations. Chris has attempted to use the legal justice system to prevent war on many previous occasions, his applications generally being turned down as “non justiciable” because the UN Charter is an “international legal instrument” and not a “domestic legal instrument”.

He envisages a new organisation (“The Campaign to Make Wars History”) with the aim specifically to reveal the domestic legal position and to pursue legal challenges to force the UK Government and the public to recognise the criminality and immorality of UK involvement in the wars of the past ten years.

“Since 2001 the UK Government has spent £500 billion waging illegal wars against Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. We’ve killed 1·2 million civilians, injured 3 million and driven 8 million into exile...” writes Chris. “Are you concerned at the way in which the British Government repeatedly violates international treaties and breaches the laws of war?.... Are you alarmed at the way in which the media use government propaganda to support and endorse these wars?.... Does it worry you that Parliament can decide to attack and kill thousands of innocent men, women and children without the slightest concern for their right to life? Does it concern you that UK law enforcement authorities do nothing to uphold or enforce the laws of war?”

He suggests that all UK taxpayers are complicit in government policy (which sounds far-fetched, but remember how ready we are to condemn the general German population for their indirect support of Nazi atrocities).

Anyone interested in taking these ideas further is invited to contact Chris on 020 8540 2865 (or and with sufficient support, a public meeting might be held to launch the new organisation. There are all sorts of ways of campaigning, and this would be a new and complementary approach to outlawing Britain’s all-too-ready resort to armed conflict.

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