UNA-UK adds its voice to the nuclear debate

Two recent productions by UNA-UK have featured substantial articles on nuclear disarmament: ‘New World’ (Autumn 2013 special issue) and Winter 2013.

The Autumn issue carries a ‘Towards Zero’ update: “From UNA-UK’s participation in the Carnegie International Policy Conference... to a roadshow of nuclear disarmament lectures at universities throughout the UK, Towards Zero continues to build support for a world without nuclear weapons”.

Key findings from an Ipsos MORI survey of UK public perceptions of international security (conducted at the end of 2012) include

The Winter issue (Conflict. Climate. Disarmament. Development. Are global solutions still possible?) has a 3-page article “Moving to nuclear zero” by Paul Ingram, Executive Director of the British American Security Information Council (BASIC): “The UK’s ability to influence global nuclear disarmament and reduce nuclear dangers must be the most important measure of our actions in deciding on Trident renewal”. This is a carefully nuanced essay. “Our aim is to foster confidence in the possibility that the UK can find a balance that ensures there is faith in the efficient maintenance of its national security capabilities while encouraging more effectively the conditions for multilateral disarmament.... What are the conditions for global nuclear disarmament and how can the UK best bring these about? We need to take this beyond rhetoric and establish an informed dialogue on what it means to pursue steps down the nuclear ladder.”

New World’s ‘global nuclear map’ shows that the majority of the Southern hemisphere is now covered by nuclear-weapons-free zones, although the majority of the world’s population still lives in nuclear weapons states (or client ‘nuclear umbrella’ states).

Russia and the US together own 93·8% of the world’s total of 17,000 nuclear warheads and approximately $100bn a year is being spent on their programmes by the nine nuclear weapons states. “Among the recognised nuclear weapons states, the UK... has established itself as being at the vanguard of disarmament” [as we are constantly being told by government and Civil Service officialdom].

“But,” writes Paul Ingram, “being complacent will not bring about the conditions for a world free of nuclear weapons. Asking the critical questions with a fresh perspective is perhaps where UNA members could have most impact in the coming debate”.

Lady Ashton, CND and the Iranian nuclear deal

Everyone must celebrate the fact that the complex international negotiations with Iran resulted in a compromise acceptable to both sides. Iran retains the right to a limited (civil) nuclear programme in exchange for agreeing to an enhanced inspection régime. Iran benefits from the relaxation of sanctions and Western fears of an Iranian nuclear bomb recede.

CND Members will also be quietly celebrating the satisfying fact that the much-lauded facilitator of this triumph of diplomacy was Cathy Ashton, former chair of the Hertfordshire health authority and deputy chair of the National Council for One Parent Families, made a life peer by Tony Blair in 1999 — because Cathy Ashton’s first administrative job was with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (1977–83) becoming National Treasurer in 1982, and eventually Vice Chair.

Christmas/New Year Social

Everyone is welcome to come to our annual winter get-together at 43 Wilton Grove, this year on Sunday January 5th, 12 noon onwards. Please bring food and drink, music etc. to share.

‘Government is no longer the solution’

Members may have missed this interesting article by independent diplomat Carne Ross, former UK Iraq expert at the UN who resigned from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office after giving secret testimony to the Butler enquiry saying that the government had lied about the WMD threat and had ignored available alternatives to war. (The article in question appears in “The Shifting Power Dynamic”, a political studies insert in the 15–21 November issue of the New Statesman, so it is well hidden.)

Carne Ross describes how he saw policy made at the highest levels (“not a pretty sight, I fear”) and was involved in some of the most dramatic issues of the day (Iraq, Afghanistan, terrorism). “I thought that I loved the job, but I was not free. As a diplomat, you are always constrained by what London wants. This is how diplomacy must work.... [but] I am ashamed of some of the things I worked on, like the sanctions on Iraq that led to considerable human suffering.... Today I don’t really believe in governments as the solution.

“The most important problems are global and transnational: terrorism, climate change, inequality.... national governments are ill-suited to solve these problems.... I’ve become a kind of gentle anarchist... even democratic governments do not really represent what’s in the collective best interests of the people. As power concentrates in the hands of the few, government has become increasingly co-opted by special interests.

“We have lost control of the things that matter most to us. We need to take it back. People spontaneously working together on the things they care about... this is the best and most fulfilling way to change things for the better, not asking others, particularly governments, to do it for us. Diplomacy... is in fact very simple. It is about people talking to other people trying to sort stuff out... [and] procedure and protocol... is often employed to preserve the advantages of the powerful.”

Carne Ross is now executive director of Independent Diplomat, a non-profit diplomatic advisory group consisting of former diplomats and other experts, with eight offices around the world. He knows what he is talking about and we can be encouraged by what he says to have renewed faith in our citizens’ campaign against the obscenity of nuclear weapons.

(Full article available from Joanna if you want it: 020 8543 0362 to order a copy.)

Trident Debate

Thursday January 23rd is now firmly booked as the date for a very important public meeting where international disarmament expert Rebecca Johnson and Wimbledon M.P. Stephen Hammond will each tackle the question “Does Britain need to renew Trident? The case for and against”. CND Vice-President Rebecca Johnson is Executive Director of the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy and co-chair of ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons). Over the past decade she has served as Senior Adviser to the Blix Commission, Vice Chair of the Board of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, and Nuclear Issues co-ordinator to Greenpeace. Recently she acted as non-proliferation consultant for the UN and European Parliament and as a public speaker she has few equals.

January 23rd at 7·30pm should go into everybody’s 2014 diary. We shall once again be using the Mansel Road Centre with its excellent facilities. This is a wonderful opportunity to attract an audience of wide political persuasion. Please do all you can to help us publicise the event.

† Mansel Road is a short walk from Wimbledon Station next to the Girls’ High School (turn left at the foot of Wimbledon Hill).

Website, Facebook and Twitter

Members with access to a computer might like to be reminded that we keep up a lively presence on the Internet. Reports and photographs of our activities usually appear within days of the event and we also share national and international information. It is a very good way to keep in touch — supplementing rather than replacing our excellent Newsletter of course! See http://www.facebook.com/joanna.bazley.7 for a more personal slant.

Palestine Solidarity Campaign

The next meeting of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign will be on Wednesday 18th December at 7·15pm in the William Morris meeting rooms at 267 the Broadway, and will feature speakers Rev. Stephen Sizer, (KairosUK), and Glyn Secker of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, who captained one of the few relief boats to make it through the blockade into Gaza.

Scientists for Global Responsibility Conference 16 November 2013

SGR had its origins in SANA (Scientists Against Nuclear Arms) but now functions as an umbrella organisation for all concerned scientists, architects, engineers and technologists. It supports students looking for an ethical career in science and undertakes meticulous research, providing much-needed facts in areas of debate where emotions run high. SGR sponsors include a long list of eminent scientists: these are people who really do know what they are talking about.

Their November conference was held at St Thomas’ Hospital and this year’s theme was ‘Security and Sustainability’. Three speakers drew on recent research: Dr Stuart Parkinson on “From offensive insecurity to sustainable security”, Dr Philip Webber on “The catastrophic humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons” and Dr Ian Fairlie on “UK energy policy: secure and sustainable?” All three papers are available in full on the SGR website http://www.sgr.org.uk/

Stuart Parkinson showed the extent to which UK military research and development expenditure is directed towards offensive systems, how failure to respond to climate change is already feeding into conflict and putting pressure on resources and how the powerful fossil fuel industries are subsidised at the expense of renewables. He explored the concept of ‘non-offensive defence’. Weapons of mass destruction, aircraft carriers, long-range strike aircraft, ballistic missiles, the arms trade etc all increase the risk of conflict, so we should instead be tackling the root causes of major threats: competition over resources, global militarisation, climate change. As he pointed out, a non-offensive defence policy would result in a considerable saving of money!

Phil Webber spoke about the realities of nuclear weapons and how they are different from all other weapons. The electromagnetic pulse accompanying the explosion, immediate release of radiation, intense blinding flash and flash burns, the intense fireball, the long-duration supersonic blast wave, the resulting fires and firestorms followed by delayed radiation (fallout): all these consequences of the detonation of even a single modern nuclear weapon would create such complex health and environmental effects that no community could cope.

A generation has grown up largely unaware of nuclear reality and it is time to revisit some of the calculations made in the 1980s. People (including politicians) need to be shocked out of the complacency that has settled around the concept of ‘the deterrent’. Phil was instrumental in preparing the paper on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons delivered to the Oslo conference in March (see March Newsletter). Manchester was chosen as a representative ‘medium size city’ and a single Trident warhead was taken as a representative ‘intermediate nuclear weapon’, and the figures are indeed shocking — 81,000 dead, 40% of hospitals destroyed, 600,000 displaced persons etc. with a 2km radius of complete destruction. The total firepower of one Trident submarine is greater than that of all the explosives used in World War II (including both nuclear weapons) and it is necessary to remind people of facts such as these.

Ian Fairlie spoke about UK energy policy and was very scathing indeed about the government’s “obsession” with nuclear power. He repeatedly made direct comparisons with the situation in Germany, a perspective which we are never normally offered. We are told that four new nuclear power stations will create 1,000 extra jobs (excluding construction jobs) but not that there are 44,000 new jobs directly linked to renewables in Germany. We are not told that energy demand is falling in most EU countries because of superior energy conservation measures: the UK government predicts a doubling of energy consumption by 2050 while the German government seeks a 25% cut.

The UK has by far the largest potential for wind and wave power in the EU and Germany the lowest, but in present capacity Germany is the highest and the UK the lowest. Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Austria, Portugal, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands are all above the UK in renewable energy use — and the only reason is political choice. He firmly refuted the suggestion that nuclear power should be seen as the answer to carbon dioxide emissions and climate change: one new nuclear power station only leads to a reduction in emissions of between 1–2% and the biggest source of carbon emissions is transport. His German colleagues think we are quite mad to be planning to give lots of money to the French treasury and inviting China to control our nuclear power stations.

Report by Joanna

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