COMMENT by Noel Hamel

Humane Societies

In 1945 international consensus was that there were acceptable ways to treat fellow humans, and rules of decency, humanity and justice in warfare. Benchmarks for the future. A recent book, “Unjustifiable Means” by former Naval Intelligence officer Mark Fallon, lifts the lid on the USA’s deliberate strategy to flout everything learnt about justice and human rights. The ‘War-on-Terror’ — orchestrated ethically- and morally-repugnant barbarity and injustice — is liable to rebound to bite the perpetrators.

The attacks of 9/11 were crimes, not an act of war. Nihilism is a frame of mind, not a strategy. The clique responsible originally planned to ‘reform’ Islamic states. Through gruesome bloody revolution they dreamed of reversion to ‘virtuous’ archaic Islam. They failed and blamed the West.

Perverted logic led to the 9/11 crimes. The world was aghast, including the Taliban. The USA was dumb-struck; having history’s greatest military was no defence. There was ‘intelligence’ drought. Defiantly, the ‘War-on-Terror’ was launched. Tony Blair, self-appointed global ambassador, sold it as just and virtuous. Mark Fallon, a mature and reasonable intelligence officer, rolled his sleeves up to aid his country and the ‘free world’.

From the start, injustice, illegality and barbarity were the hallmarks. Following the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq (peoples innocent of 9/11 crimes), there was frenzied determination to inflict indiscriminate indescribable cruelty on anyone the military and CIA encountered. Innocent men were seized in exchange for ransoms — “Get wealth and power beyond your dreams” — without evidence of anything beyond beards and Casio watches. Barbarically treated, they were flown through UK airspace, shackled and blindfolded, to Guantanamo. Donald Rumsfeld recruited hard-line military officers committed to harsh treatment and torture, and medical professionals, psychiatrists and lawyers redefined torture and engaged in gruesome state sadism. Mark and other professional intelligence officers advised that physical abuse cannot produce reliable information — and so it proved. ‘Western barbarity’ has inspired generations of jihadis.

Remaining open with 41 ‘forever prisoners’ too embarrassing to release, Donald Trump’s Guantanamo endorses and threatens grisly torture. UK complicity is understood but not acknowledged, investigated or repudiated. Daesh jihadis are captured, their fate uncertain. Will they too be tortured in Guananamo, unable to be tried?

How do potential jihadis view the UK? Will others be ‘inspired’ to take retaliatory action for ‘Western barbarity’? What about our image internationally? I have written to outspoken women MPs, including Jess Phillips, Anna Soubrey, Emily Thornberry and Jo Swinton, in this anniversary year of the women’s vote. Will they speak up? Don’t tell me men have made a great job of things thus far!

White Poppies for Peace: the Collateral Damage project

WDC/CND member and Quaker Linda Murgatroyd has extended her white poppy project (started as part of Art the Arms Fair) with the intention of creating a large national installation to be exhibited in London in November 2018 to mark the end of World War I: “as we create and display our poppies in remembrance of past victims, we can also think about how we can build a more peaceful future together”. Linda has found that the creative act of poppy-making engages people who might not otherwise identify with the ‘Peace Movement’ and she has suggested we might run a couple of poppy-making workshops in Wimbledon, a challenge already taken up by Alison Williams who has offered the use of the Common Room at Wilberforce House, 119 Worple Road, at lunchtime on May 24th. Some of Linda’s existing poppies are on display until 28th April in the Kingston Quaker Meeting House together with a few other works shown at the Arms Fair, and Lush has funded the production of some splendid leaflets.

These poppies are personal, beautiful and deeply symbolic but it is the conversations that they start which are perhaps even more important. or

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It is seven years ago that an earthquake and tsunami overwhelmed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Mass evacuations took place and a triple meltdown resulted in an ongoing safety crisis. We recently had the opportunity to watch the DVD of a remarkable film from Japan, “A woman from Fukushima”, the personal story of Setsuko Kida who decided to stand as a candidate for political election after having been forced from her home by the disaster. This very moving film took the form of extended interviews with its subject, who spoke with remarkable frankness about the impact of her activism on her family life, in a country where it is still seen as normal for a wife to be at home preparing a meal for her husband in the evening instead of going out to political meetings. Despite threatening divorce, Setsuko’s husband eventually became sufficiently sympathetic to donate a set of green T-shirts for her supporters to wear while leafletting, but her campaign in the national elections resulted in failure and disappointment. (Get in touch if you would like to borrow a copy of the DVD.)

At the Houses of Parliament on 14th March a public meeting was hosted by Catherine West M.P. and Alison Williams has very kindly lent us her notes. There was valuable information about the current technical state of affairs: TEPCO has now finally managed to locate some of the melted fuel inside one of the three wrecked reactors via a camera robot, confirming that most of the 364 tons of fuel has burned through the bottom of the reactor pressure vessel, probably escaping through the holes for the control rods. This fuel remains slumped on the concrete floor of the primary containment vessel underneath. Attempts to get robots into reactors 1 and 2 have so far failed because of high radioactivity and tangling fuel debris. TEPCO has surrounded all four reactor buildings with an ‘ice wall’ (vertical pipes which freeze the soil around them) to reduce the 400 tons per day of groundwater flowing through the site and becoming strongly radioactive through contact with the melted fuel. Official estimates are that water flow has now been reduced to 120 tons a day with the ice wall creating another potentially serious problem: the huge volume of radioactive water accumulating inside it, vulnerable to power failure or a future earthquake. Meanwhile the four reactor buildings sit upon increasingly waterlogged ground of doubtful stability.

The Day After

We have been donated a DVD of the film “The Day After: the End of the Familiar, the Beginning of the End”, made in the US in 1983 but never widely known in this country, despite having a strong cast (Jason Robards, Steve Guttenberg, Jobeth Williams) and winning two Primetime Emmys. Coincidentally its relative neglect has recently been discussed in the New Statesman with the suggestion that the British and American governments of the time tried to play down its significance. Yet Ronald Reagan wrote in his diary that the film was “very effective and left me greatly depressed” only a few days before receiving a military briefing which “[simply] put was a scenario for a sequence of events that could lead to the end of civilisation as we knew it”. “There were still some people in the Pentagon who claimed that a nuclear war was ‘winnable’. I thought they were crazy,” he wrote later.

“The Day After” is the American equivalent of “Threads” and “The War Game”: “a stark drama of ordinary human lives of people who laugh, cry, work, play, think, wonder, create, hate and love. Lives that are changed forever by Man’s final war upon himself.”

Copyright restrictions mean that we cannot distribute fliers and advertise our Mansel Road showing on April 26th as a ticketed public performance, but of course you should spread the word as widely as possible and bring lots of friends. (Interestingly, the film is ‘12’ rated: the horrors of nuclear war do not count for as much as blasphemy and sex in the eyes of the censors.)

Martin Bell

The excellent interval speaker at a recent Musicians for Peace and Disarmament concert was journalist and former M.P. Martin Bell, who “came to peace rather late in life” after many years as a war correspondent. But as a young national serviceman in Cyprus he had already felt that he was taking part in “armed repression”.

“Armed force very rarely achieves the results expected by the perpetrators,” he said. Military failure has often been admitted in hindsight and potential warriors would do well to strengthen their understanding of history. Unfortunately those politicians who take the decision to go to war have nowadays rarely had any personal experience of it.

Fête of the Earth: I

The date of the annual Fête of the Earth should have been in your diaries for several months: May 19th 2–5pm at St Mark’s Hall behind Wimbledon Library. Final preparations are now under way. Goods for sale can be delivered to 43 Wilton Grove in advance (books, bric-à-brac, plants, fancy goods/jewellery and items for the raffle/tombola) or if they are brought to the hall on the day please ensure that they arrive as soon as possible after 9am. Please get in touch if you want to arrange for goods to collected (020 8543 0362). Please volunteer your services as a helper and above all please spread the word as widely as possible amongst your friends.

Fête of the Earth: II

We have a temporary entertainment licence for the Fête this year, which entitles us to raise the profile of whatever live music and other public entertainment that we can arrange. The Fête of the Earth is always an enjoyable as well as a profitable event and we want to make it even more of a fun occasion. We have links with various musicians and ensembles but at this stage we cannot be certain how many of these ‘expressions of interest’ will materialise on the day. There is even the possibility of a visit from a circus skills performer if his professional circumstances permit. So, do you sing or dance or play an instrument? Please volunteer for a slot in the day’s programme.

Lost Cities of Palestine

Haifa, Nazareth and Jaffa have all been overshadowed by Tel Aviv, but in their day each of these Palestinian cities has boasted magnificent commercial and cultural importance. Made for Al Jazeera Arabic in 2011, “Lost Cities of Palestine” provides a rare opportunity to see footage of Palestine as it was in the 1930s and 40s and to learn about the everyday life and culture of urban Palestine before 1948: Wednesday 4th April at the William Morris Meeting Rooms, 7·15 for 7·30pm.

“Common Women”: scripts on offer

The reading of Jill Truman’s play on March 9th (in the author’s presence) was enormously enjoyable and revealed some impressive talent among the cast. But after discussion we have reluctantly come to the conclusion that the sound and lighting and stage effects required for a more formal production are beyond our resources. This leaves us with a set of “Common Women” scripts to which Jill is happy to waive all copyright claims. This would be a wonderful resource for any peace group (or indeed any amateur dramatic organisation) who would like to borrow them.

Greenham Common

It was very exciting to receive a packet through the post containing mementoes of the great Women’s Gathering at Greenham Common on December 12th 1982: ‘Women Come Together’. Cathie is now in retirement in Newcastle but says she is still an ‘armchair supporter’ of the Peace Movement and avid reader of our Wimbledon Newsletter. Many of you will remember that December day, and Cathie’s diary notes bring back vivid memories.

8·00am: It is cold and drizzly and still quite dark as we set off in the car; the three of us cocooned in woolly hats (well, the media always says Greenham Common women wear woolly hats), anoraks and the essential wellies of course; flasks of hot soup and coffee stacked away. The atmosphere is of controlled excitement and wild apprehension. ...three sober sensible middle-aged wives and mothers who never in our lives before had felt impelled to demonstrate against government policy....

10·00am: Let’s decorate the fence! We hang our treasured mementoes of the sanctity of life; a rosary, a crucifix, the beads our daughter played with in infancy, the woven mat our son made in school; the pictures and the posters depicting God’s beautiful Creation which we yearn to protect from man’s mindless destruction... other women are hanging coloured balloons, tiny baby booties, photographs of laughing children....

12 noon: The place is milling with women now, all shapes and sizes, ages, classes and kinds.... The atmosphere is good humoured, low key but determined as the women splodge their way through the mud to take their place around the perimeter fence.... Some women ask if they can squeeze into the circle beside us; certainly! Goodness, we could almost make two circles, there are so many of us. Word is passed along the chain that the circle is complete and an enormous shout of ‘FREEDOM’ echoes around the perimeter. What a moment of history to remember.

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