IF IT’S FRIDAY IT MUST BE BRENTWOOD
Bruce Kent’s visit to Brentwood on Friday, 26 April was an inspiring talk to a packed, standing-room only audience of nearly 60 people, which left us all talking excitedly afterwards and was a catalyst for action and has led to the founding of Brentwood Against Trident (see P. 3): for him, however, it was a mere stopover in a punishing schedule of country- wide meetings which had taken him to Sheffield and Doncaster on the day before and to Norwich the day after. In all, in April, he was visiting twenty one different towns. In Brentwood itself he gave a talk at Shenfield School, did a Radio Phoenix interview, did some leafleting/ petitioning in the high street as well as addressing the public meeting in the evening.
Beginning with self-deprecating jokes about his visits elsewhere – “I thought you were dead” was apparently the comment from some, or “Go back to Korea” from less friendly members of his audience – he soon launched into his passionate disavowal of nuclear weapons. The parliamentary decision may be 3 years away, he said, in 2016 but already billions are being spent in seed money for Trident – at Barrow, Aldermaston, Burghfield, Rolls Royce. By 2016 they’ll say “we’ve gone too far and can’t stop”. NOW is not the time to sit back and wait for 2016, but the time to campaign. Everyone should be actively involved in changing public opinion. There are no passengers in life. We are all crew members with a responsibility to do something.
There are many arguments against Trident renewal:
*Economic: Trident will cost £100 billion – £25 billion to produce and £75 running costs. This money could be spent on education, affordable housing, benefits, social services, the elderly and the NHS and yet the government is squandering money on obscene and pointless weapons of mass destruction.
*It’s not independent: the missiles belong to the US and can only be fired by them. The design is American and American satellites are needed to aim and fire them.
It’s immoral: it will pollute the planet for years to come and cause indiscriminate mass slaughter.
It’s illegal under various conventions and treaties.
It’s a potential vote loser for the labour party as a majority of people oppose it. In Scotland it’s as much as 75%.
They do not address a single one of the major security issues threatening us today – terrorism, global warming, food security, fuel shortages etc. More importantly, we were reminded that most nations do not possess nuclear weapons, the vast majority of the member countries of the United Nations, do not have them, do not want them and, indeed, are arguing for an international treaty (see P.2) to outlaw them and compel the nuclear countries to begin a real process of disarmament. Even if, as some hope, nuclear weapons would never be used, whilst they exist and are ready to be launched at the touch of a button, there is always the very real danger of an accident, either for technical
reasons or because or false security information.
Earlier in the day Bruce spoke to a large and very alert sixth form audience at Shenfield School.
Conscious of the fact that his audience was not one which had grown up during the Cold War when the threat of nuclear weapons seemed very real indeed and many schoolchildren had seen films like The War Game and Threads, he began by giving a short history of the development of the bomb, the tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the reasons (mainly those of national pride and fear of losing influence in the world) why Britain felt it needed to have nuclear weapons. He then went on to discuss the current attempts by most countries at the UN to get the UK and the other nuclear nations to sign up to the multi-lateral disarmament treaty (see information on I-can on next page) and briefly explained the step by step approach which this treaty envisaged. Questions from the students were robust, courteous, showed real concern and the meeting was a very lively one. The sudden appearance of two younger students with the presentation of a window box of pansies was very touching and provided a fitting end to a successful visit. All credit due to Shenfield School – headteacher, staff and students.
One of the questions raised at the Bruce Kent meeting was that of the increasing number of drone strikes being used by Britain and the US and the increasing number of civilian casualties they are causing. Here, Terry Ward reviews one of the latest books on the subject:
DRONE WARFARE Killing by Remote Control
Medea Benjamin £9.99 Verso or £7.99 Guardian Books.
Drones can come in all shapes and sizes, from the humming bird, a reconnaissance drone, to those that are guided missiles. Thanks to Israel and Amazon, where, according to the author drones can be purchased for very little money, drones are now ubiquitous. Since Obama became President 3,000 people in Pakistan and Afghanistan have been killed by US drones, most of the people were civilians.
Drones have lowered the threshold of warfare. The monitors are in Nevada, and the operators become bored with long hours of screen watching. Pressing the button to score a kill is like a video game.
Benjamin provides a comprehensive account of the rise of robot warfare. It is only a matter of time before terrorists fire a drone at an urban transport system. Terry Ward 21 May 2013
NB The author, Medea Benjamin, was present at Obama’s recent press conference regarding the use of drones. She heckled and was ejected.
A WALES PEACE INSTITUTE FOR 2014
Jill Evans, Plaid Cymru MEP, is calling on Wales’ first minister to make peace the theme of next year’s centenary commemorations of the start of the First World War. She said:
“I am calling on the Welsh government to make a real commitment to peace in 2014. In Flanders, (where many Welsh men were killed) a human chain has been suggested along the entire Western Front, from Nieuwport to the French-Swiss border. What an incredible statement that would make.”
There is a Peace Institute in Flanders and the plan for the Welsh one would be for it to concentrate on research into peaceful resolution of conflict. The purpose of all commemoration of the 1914-1918 war should be for it never to happen again.
The idea for a Peace Institute in Wales has been around since 2008. Perhaps 2014 will see the project really take off.
The main purpose of Bruce Kent’s talk was to inspire us to action and campaigning. Having reminded us of all the arguments he then outlined what needed to be done in terms of raising consciousness. ‘It’s not a question of deciding who should get involved,’ he said, ‘We all have a duty to oppose war and nuclear weapons.’ He listed many ideas: local library notice boards, write letters to local papers, (read by over 5,000 readers), to national papers, hand out leaflets, respond to erroneous propaganda, involve schools, set up a Youth CND branch, write to local councillors, write to MPs and push them to make a stand: demand that non-nuclear treaties are part of their programme. Call local politicians and church leaders to account and make sure they support the non-nuclear con- vention (see next column). Lobby the churches and use the report from the United Reformed Church, Baptists, Methodists and Quakers (see next column) to raise the issues. Encourage inter-denominational discussions: use church notice boards. Get the development agencies involved. Put a sticker in your house or car, wear a No Trident badge: be a spokesperson against Trident wherever you are – workplace, unions, job centres, schools, hospitals.
BRENTWOOD AGAINST TRIDENT
Enthused by the vigour of this 83 year old man a few of us had a fairly impromptu meeting on Saturday morning 25th May at Merrymeade Buddhist Café. Out of a lively discussion which covered almost all the aspects mentioned above and more we came up with the idea of a Brentwood Against Trident (Alliance or Coalition) which would mobilise all branches of civil society into a coherent voice against Trident. It would start in Brentwood, but could go beyond as many in our audience were from Southend, Chelmsford, and Billericay. Schools, local council members, LibDems, Eric Pickles, churches and faith groups, humanists, WIs etc., unions, hospitals and social services could all be approached alongside activities like letter writing, leafleting, and petitioning.
Use of social networking must also play a crucial role.
So much can be done.
WATCH OUT FOR YOUR NEXT EXTRAORDINARY EDITION OF WIRE TO SEE WHAT YOU CAN DO.
So much can be done but what are some of us doing so far?
• Supporting the Japanese anti-nuclear pro-
test on Fridays together with union members.
• Using Facebook to highlight Trident
• Setting up a meeting on Trident for local humanists
• Anti-Trident stickers on windows and in cars
• Local schools have been offered a visit from Bruce Kent, following on success at Shenfield school
• Labour party members will put Trident on meeting agenda.
WHAT’S HAPPENING ELSEWHERE?
Most people by now have heard of I-Can. Check them out on www. Icanw.org It’s a very informative website, full of information your government doesn’t want you to know. They have a draft multi-lateral nuclear disarmament treaty on the desk of the General Secretary. It’s a sensible step by step approach, full of monitoring safeguards. So far 146 countries have signed up to this (including China, India, Pakistan, Iran and Austria), 22 are sitting on the fence (including Canada and Germany who might well be persuaded), and 26 are against (including Russia, the UK, France and the US). We need to talk to the Coalition about this!
The Baptist Union of Gt Britain, the United Reformed Church, the Methodist Church and the Religious Society of Friends produced a well-argued and well supported submission to the Trident Commission in July 2011. It clearly states “Trident renewal is incompatible with the UK’s desire to encourage global nuclear non-proliferation”. The concerns expressed are moral, ethical and economic. The position of these churches is unequivocal. We need to reach out to them in Brentwood and involve them in our work.
And what about the Anglicans Humanists, Buddhists, the Moslems? Much needs to be done. Find the report on the Methodists website. It’s brilliant!
FUKUSHIMA 2 YEARS ON
The 3 melted down reactors which were most badly damaged by the 2011 tsunami are still encased in their metal covers and continue to dribble and belch their poisonous slime and vapours. Every so often, they stir restlessly and release even more radiation into the air. A fish recently caught in the harbour was found to contain 254,000 bequerels (radio-active iodine measurement )per kilo-gram. The Japanese govern- ment’s safe level is currently 300 per kg (or per litre of liquids) for adults (100 for children). This was cynically upgraded in March from 100 for adults – thus allowing the newly-elected Government to assure the population in the area of the reactor that much more of the food and water they were consuming was safe. The World Health Organisation’s recom- mended safe level is 1 bq per litre and in Germany it is .5 and in the US .11. The Government’s and TEPCO’s (Tokyo Electric Power Company) response to this discovery is to put a net around the harbour to prevent the fish from swimming out and being eaten by other fish. But already fish caught 200 kms south of the plant were also badly contami- nated. There has been a leakage reported just a few weeks ago, in April, of water from the plant which has led to TEPCO having to provide more storage capacity.
The Government is trying to push ahead with the nuclear waste re-
processing plant at Rokkasho. It is 15 years behind schedule and 3 thousand tons of waste have already been sent there, but Rokkasho has an active fault under it which could produce an earthquake of up to 8 on the Richter scale. None of the plants which produced the waste will have it back as their spent fuel pools are mostly full. And yet, still the Government is refusing to abandon nuclear power.
Until it does, protests outside the Japanese Embassy will continue. Every Friday tens of thousands of Japanese are demonstrating outside their Prime Minister’s office in Tokyo. In London demonstrations are held outside the Japanese Embassy (101-104 Piccadilly opp. Green Park). Join them if you can to show soli- darity and your opposition to nuclear power in the UK: Fridays 11am – 12.50 and then 1pm – 1.30 outside EDF offices in Berkeley Square. One of our members, has already alerted her union to this and they will be joining them on some Fridays. For up to the minute information contact Shigeo Kobayashi, a local member, at:
LIFE WITHOUT NUCLEAR POWER
While the coalition here tries to sweet talk EDF into investing in nuclear power in the UK, and tries to get around the commit- ment they made not to subsidise the industry, saner countries are demonstrating that they can manage perfectly well without it. Germany announced in April that more than half its energy now came from renewables and it had set a record for solar output on April 14th. Portugal produced 70% of its energy from renew-
ables in the first quarter of this year according to its grid oper- ator REN. This was put down to favourable weather conditions and the country’s investment in wind and hydro-electric capacity: hydroelectric capacity now accounted for 37% of total con- sumption and wind 27%. You see – it can be done.
Countries not now engaging or re-engaging in nuclear program- mes, although they had pre- viously planned to do so are:
Greece, Israel, Italy, Kuwait, Oman, Peru, Portugal, Thailand and Venezuela. It can be done.
A PILGRIMAGE FOR PEACE AND ECONOMIC JUSTICE
Starting on 19th May from Iona a pilgrimage from Iona to West- minster has been organised to focus public attention on the Government’s intention to spend up to £100 billion on renewing Trident whilst slashing the NHS, education and social welfare budgets. People are welcome to join the pilgrimage at any point for as long as they want. It will arrive in Westminster on July 20th via St Albans so if you are interested in joining them at this point ring 07425 9315 111.
June 13 7pm Housman’s Bookshop
5 Caledonian Road N1 9DX
‘Countering the Militarisation of Youth’. Launch of War Resisters’ International’s book
June 22 2pm Battersea Park
Annual celebration of London’s Peace Pagoda.
June 22 9.30am – 5pm Central Hall, Westminster
People’s Assembly Against Austerity
July 3 8pm Conway Hall, Red Lion Sq
‘Fukushima: the health and community effects’. Speakers Dr Ian Fairlie and Satsuki Goto.
August 6 8pm Maldon Quaker Meeting House, Butt Lane, Maldon
Hiroshima Service Christian CND
Ring Beryl 01621 869850 for further info.
August 6 Tavistock Square noon
CND’s annual Hiroshima Day event
August 6 – 9 Burghfield
Joint Anglo-French fasts at Burghfield and Eiffel Tower in protest at nuclear weapons. 0845 4588 362
August 9th 6.30pm Westminster Cathedral
Ecumenical Service organised by Pax Christi to mark Nagasaki Day
2nd w/e every month
Aldermaston Women’s Peace Camp
Info 07969 739 812