We made the decision to hold our commemoration ceremony as usual, despite the restrictions imposed by Covid-19, as it will be outdoors and, given the amount of space, it will be easy to maintain social distancing. The ceremony will start at 8·30pm at Rushmere Pond on Wimbledon Common, near the War Memorial. We will have a stall as usual with explanatory leaflets, little boats and candles etc, but people will be asked to help themselves. For the candle-floating, we feel that we can easily spread out around the semi-circle of the pond, at a suitable distance from each other, to float the boats. We hope you will be able to come, and look forward to seeing you there.
Maisie Carter, Chair
Sadako Sasaki was a two year old child living in the city of Hiroshima when the atomic bomb fell, 75 years ago. Due to the radiation from the blast, she developed leukaemia at the age of 12, and was hospitalised. When in hospital, Sadako’s father told her a Japanese legend: that if you folded one thousand ‘orizuru’ (paper cranes) you would be granted a wish. Despite being very tired and in a lot of pain, she managed to fold 1000 cranes. Tragically, she passed away within months, but her story spread around the world, and origami cranes have since become a global symbol for peace, and a reminder of the terrible suffering that today’s nuclear weapons threaten.
This year, CND is urging supporters to get sponsorship from family and friends to fold 75 origami peace cranes, one for each year since the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. One of our members, Ruth Crabb has taken up the challenge — thank you Ruth. There’s still time to register: see https://cnduk.org/take-part-in-our-cranes-for-peace-challenge/. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The following is a submission by our Chair, Maisie Carter to the Labour Party Policy Forum (a chance to change Labour Party policy on nuclear weapons).
There has never been a more appropriate time to change Labour Party policy on nuclear weapons; or indeed a more urgent need to work for nuclear disarmament. Nuclear weapons cause severe damage to the climate and environment on a scale incomparable with any other weapon. Trump’s withdrawal from the INF Treaty will give the go ahead for a new nuclear arms race, with the possibility of US missiles back in Britain threatening Russia and missiles in Okinawa trained on China, all increasing exponentially the threat of nuclear war.
It is immoral, obscene and a complete waste of money to continue support for the Trident nuclear submarine system. Like all nuclear weapons, it is an indiscriminate weapon of mass destruction. It offers no defence; on the contrary it has been shown to be prone to accidents and can be targeted by terrorists. The cost of renewal is an estimated £205bn, money which would be better spent on health care and the needs of the people. It is nothing short of criminal that our government can always find money for war while it starves essential services of resources.
The full effects of the coronavirus on the health of the nation are as yet unknown, but the economy will be devastated and there is no doubt that the present government will attempt to make the poor pay for economic recovery. It will be the poor and the very poor who will suffer the most hardship. This makes the prospect of spending on nuclear weapons even more obscene and is another reason to stop the useless waste of taxpayers’ money, which can be used instead to improve people’s lives.
In 2017 the United Nations adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons. This treaty has been ratified by forty states. To its eternal shame, the British government is not one of these. Ratification of the treaty must become an important part of a Labour government’s peace-keeping programme and the Labour Party must spare no efforts in publicising and working with the United Nations to achieve its worthwhile aims.
CND’s webinar with Becky Alexis-Martin on 4 July was a positive delight. The title of the event was “Disarming Doomsday — The Human Impact of Nuclear Weapons since Hiroshima”, the title of Becky’s award-winning book. Her focus is on the stretch of time and place which neither the pro- nor anti-nuclear camps know much about: the years of atmospheric nuclear testing, the lasting impact on the unwilling host territories and on those doing the testing. She comes to the subject with a PhD in geography and describes herself as a radical nuclear geographer and feminist, especially mindful of ‘people of colour’.
She underlined two themes: the extreme secrecy of the nuclear establishment and the manipulation of language to make what is monstrously inhumane acceptable. The remote location in New Mexico where the first atomic bombs were created was designated ‘Project Y’ and workers were not allowed to say where they were or what they were doing. We are told we need ‘a deterrent’ and our leaders should be ready to ‘press the button’ if necessary to ‘defend our country’. Other weapons of mass destruction are illegal; to use them is a war crime. The fact that nuclear weapons are not reflects, in Becky’s view, the continuing dominance of white men in positions of power.
The human impact is emphasised by a report on the implications of testing for America’s Trust Territory of the Marshall Islands. Entrusted to that state to promote the welfare of the inhabitants, the area was used as a nuclear test zone from 1946 to 1958. This report, presented in 2012, gives a detailed account of the adverse effects and the limited success of the efforts to mitigate them: https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session21/A-HRC-21-48-Add1_en.pdf
Becky spoke of the “casual racism” underlying the treatment of indigenous people by all the testing powers. People were evicted from their homes, reduced to being “foreign commuters”, employed to do menial tasks in their home island and escorted by police to exile at night. Nuclear testing is done underground now but the legacy of the early years remains painful, not only in physical deformities and disease but “psychological trauma from witnessing the explosions and their effects”.
Thanks to Becky a lot more of us have renewed incentive to confront the injustices of our lifetimes and commit to “building back better” for everyone everywhere!
On 8th July the Guardian reported that Fiji became the latest country to ratify the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). It is the culmination of long years of anti-nuclear campaigning in Fiji which began in the 1970s. The Atom (Against Testing in Mururoa) committee was formed in 1970 to warn the Fijian public of the dangers of radioactive fallout from French testing in the Pacific. They were resisting what has been called nuclear colonialism in the Pacific by the United States, Britain and France.
It has been a long fight. France only stopped nuclear testing on atolls in Tahiti in 1996, and the radioactive legacy of US and British tests in the Marshall Islands and Kiribati continues to cause environmental, social and health issues to this day.
Fiji’s ratification carries particular significance. It comes after five long decades of grassroots activism from women’s, church, national and community groups, and from teachers, unions, students and pan-Pacific organisations rejecting nuclear weapons in the Pacific. The first ever regional Conference for the Nuclear-Free Pacific was held in 1975 bringing together 90 delegates from the enormous region to discuss the issue of nuclear testing and the widespread pollution it caused.
The ratification of the treaty by Fiji marks an important milestone. It was one of the majority of 122 nations that voted to adopt the historic treaty banning nuclear weapons three years ago and has become the 39th country to ratify it. The Treaty needs 50 nations to ratify it to bring it into force.
Unfortunately the UK, along with the other nuclear nations, continues to reject the TPNW and to maintain and, indeed, enhance their nuclear stockpiles. However the proponents of the treaty argue that it is a powerful moral instrument that will help to establish a new international norm prohibiting nuclear weapons’ development, possession and use.
Postscript: More good news — on 22nd July, Sudan became the 82nd nation to sign (though not yet ratify) the TPNW.
The AI technology already exists and AI espionage is the new arms race. An article by Kenneth Payne gives a foretaste in the New Scientist Essential Guide Nº 2 on Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Kenneth Payne discusses the following aspects of war: the need to gauge what opponents are thinking and how they might react, the rôle of nuclear weapons with such destructive power threatening against any attack, and the need to hide nuclear weapons in submarines to ensure no ‘first strike’ by others can destroy possible retaliation.
To some extent until now, war strategy has still managed to remain human, but unfortunately, it is clear that the use of AI in war is developing apace and the human aspect is being lost. He points out that AI swings the logic of strategy towards attack; with precise targetting and distributed swarms of robots, AI is hard to knock out, and fewer military personnel are risked. “Human preferences are fuzzy, sometimes contradictory and apt to change in the heat of battle — you can’t just switch AI off in mid-battle.”
As he further points out, “An AI’s own moves are often unexpected…. The last thing we want is a blindingly fast, offensively brilliant AI that makes startling and unanticipated moves in confrontation with other machines”. And, I am adding, “unanticipatable moves”. There won’t be time for human judgment, no enemy mind to try to understand, no scope for compassion or mercy, no persons even to try to intimidate or coerce.
I think it is very regrettable that the Covid-19 pandemic, which might have brought out the best in really international efforts at co-operation, is being outmanoeuvred by the most militaristic proponents of capitalism. In the last few years the UK has been trying to play at being ‘independent’ and able to make alliances with whomever it wishes…. Brexit and the Huawei affair are just two of the features showing how weak we really are.
Further reading: “New Scientist Essential Guide Nº 2: Artificial Intelligence”, edited by Richard Webb, available at https://shop.newscientist.com/products/the-essential-guide-2-artificial-intelligence
Two of us in the WDC/CND are paid-up members of the United Nations Association/UNA-UK but we realise that one can’t pay subscriptions for every Good Cause.
UNA-UK have a cost-free membership category for Supporters and the more of those they can claim the more credible they look with their lobbying. Please have a look at the UNA-UK website http://www.una.org.uk/. At the top of the page there’s a menu including Supporters with various options listed.
If you would like to become a member, great! But if you’re willing to support the cause and don’t want full membership, click on Become a Supporter: https://www.tfaforms.com/4775195
On that page you’re offered information and asked for your contact details. The only tricky bit is where they ask for which UNA you would like to be part of: you get a long string of bodies ahead of the national branches and somewhere near the bottom you’ll see UNA Merton. That’s the one to click on if you’re in the WDC/CND area.
I’m contact person for the branch and would love to see many of the WDC/CND members as supporters when I get my next list from UNA-UK.