Faith Groups Vigil While Parliament Decides

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Yesterday Parliament voted in favour of building four new nuclear-powered submarines to carry US Trident missiles, armed with modernized nuclear warheads, for the next half century, in other words to renew Trident.  While this debate proceeded hundreds, maybe thousands of people came to Parliament Square with a different message.

The CND rally went ahead with wise words and tumultuous applause, while on the Parliament side of the square the Christian, Buddhist and other faith groups were for much of the time the main presence.  Who can have a silent vigil amid the roaring traffic and among friends that one has not seen for a year or more?  Nevertheless we prayed, I know we did, and God was listening. We stood with our banners “No Faith in Trident” and placards proclaiming church statements on Trident and nuclear weapons, as a witness against the accepted narrative that was proceeding in Parliament.

We attracted some attention from tourists and commuters, and we  talked with some foreign and freelance media. (UK mainstream media seems only ever engaged by violence.)  We talked about how we knew we would “lose the vote” – we who had no vote!  Yet we know we have the power of logic and humanity.  History shows that truth and goodness and common sense have a way of winning out in the long term.

We know that most countries are on our side, having already decided against the false security of nuclear weapons. It is very likely that next year a ban treaty will be agreed in the UN, making nuclear weapons illegal, as has already been achieved with chemical, biological and other weapons such as antipersonnel mines and cluster bombs, that could never meet Just War criteria.  If you still feel despondent about this go to http://uk.icanw.org/.

Martin Birdseye

ETHICS OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS

                     Pax Christi UK, Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament                           and the Heston Justice & Peace Group invite you to  a

“DISCUSSION ON THE ETHICS OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS”

An open meeting at the House of Commons

1.30 to 2.45 p.m. Thursday 21st April 2016  Committee Room 5

(please arrive by 1.15 p.m. to allow time to come through security)

hosted by Seema Malhotra MP

Speakers will include Ruth Cadbury MP and the Rev. Dr. Sam Wells

This will be an open meeting to debate the merits of unilateral and multilateral disarmament in achieving a nuclear free world. It will also be an opportunity to debate the ethics of nuclear weapons, regardless of your position on the issue.

The Heston Justice & Peace Group, Pax Christi, Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament have been holding such briefings and discussions with Parliamentarians from across all parties. They have created a Nuclear Morality Flowchart, which is simply a decision tree, a logical network of moral and practical questions designed to encourage and enable a full and rational response to this complex issue.

You can try it now at http://nuclearmorality.com/interactive/interactive.html .

Ask your MP to try it and then send you his or her decision path. The special software makes this easy.

Further information from:  Martin Birdseye 020 8571 1691   077 6274 6895  info@nuclearmorality.com

Nuclear Weapons and Democracy

Thoughts from Christian CND

One of our greatest responsibilities in a democracy is to elect our Members of Parliament. Often we think that our responsibility ends there and we leave the policy decisions to those we elect and the experts, frequently encouraged by our political leaders. Robert Dahl, in his essay “Democracy versus Guardianship” says “We have, in fact, turned over to a small group of people decisions of incalculable importance to ourselves and mankind” So we have given this special class of people sole responsibility for the decision whether or not to kill millions of people and destroy vast areas of the planet by firing nuclear weapons- without any participation by the people who paid for those weapons with their taxes or by those who voted for the leaders who gave the final orders-Where is democracy here?

Once citizens no longer feel qualified to participate in discussions about their very survival, the connection between the governing and the governed is severed. Is this democracy?

In her book “Thermonuclear Monarchy — the Choice between Democracy and Doom”, Elaine Scarry argues that the very existence of nuclear arsenals betrays the basic purpose of the social contract that governs any civil society. “Nuclear weapons undo governments and undo anything that could be meant by “democracy’. They put the population completely outside the realm of overseeing our entry into war or having a say in their own survival or destruction. We have to choose between nuclear weapons or democracy.”

Nuclear weapons are what she calls “out-of-ratio” weapons: ones that give a very small number of people the power to annihilate very large numbers of people. “An out-of-ratio weapon makes the presence of the population at the authorisation end (of an attack) a structural impossibility. New weapons inevitably change the nature of warfare’; she says “but out- of- ratio weapons have changed the nature of government.”

The nuclear-armed submarine, this obscenely powerful engine of destruction and death, when deep under the ocean at a time of political tension, is difficult to communicate with. The Extra Low Frequency radio waves that can penetrate such depths take many minutes to arrive, so at the most critical moment it is almost,.. incommunicado.

There is no transparency if you have to wait 30 years to get information on Cabinet decisions. There is no transparency if treaties can be signed without discussion in Parliament (e.g. 50 year Teutates Treaty):

“The two artifacts, the social contract and the nuclear array are mutually exclusive. To exist, each requires that the other be destroyed. Which one will it be?” Elaine Scarry.

Information and quotes from `Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ (columnist; Kennette Benedict) and “Harvard Magazine’ (columnist: Craig Lambert).

For God’s sake, use your heart

  “I would like you to sit down in a calm place, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and focus on the future of your grandchildren.”

It is my priviledge to publish this letter here. About ten years ago Mrs Deep Sandhu sent it to the leaders of every country in the world. She gave me a copy during my talk for Ealing U3A on Ethics of Nuclear Deterrence. That was a serious discussion on how to resolve the difficult moral questions, but here, heart speaks to hearts, and in the end they must listen. God help us if they can’t.

I am not a politician —just an ordinary seventy years old woman. When I was 22 years old I suffered from Tuberculosis. I still remember how awful it was watching people dying around me and thinking I might be next. It felt so great to be alive when I left the hospital. I decided to make good health my top priority in life. One can face or cope with anything as long as one is healthy.

I have always tried my best to tell my friends and family how important our health is.      I am not Mother Teresa, but I would do ANYTHING to turn our world around from its present destructive course. The first step is to plant a seed in your brain, which hopefully will grow to ring alarm bells in time to save the world before it is too late.

You have children of your own, and one day, God willing, you may have grandchild as I have. It scares me to death what sort of world we are going to leave for them. The way things are going we can easily start World War three. It would not be like the last 2 World Wars, It will be the end of our planet, as we know it. Surely just thinking of that makes you feel that you want to be rid of all those nuclear weapons on the planet.

We are all one God’s children — drops of the same ocean. Surely we don’t want to poison the sea, as it will affect all of us? There will be no escape from it. Instead, why don’t we learn to take care of each other? We need to create balance in the world. In this day and age every human being should have the dignity to have at least their basic needs met – of food and shelter.

I am sure we can change things around and really start caring for each other. Instead of spending millions and trillions on war, we could feed humanity.

I have a very dear old friend who is a writer. In 1991 he wrote a book about Hiroshima. This book is about the endless suffering and pain of innocent people caused by Americans when they dropped the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima, and three days later another in Nagasaki when more than million people were killed. As a result, for decades there were a great many disabled and malformed, badly distorted faces and bodies. As you read the book you hear the cries of the wounded, see thousands of scattered parts of the blown up bodies, and smell the stench of huge piles of rotting dead bodies. These scenes keep playing over and over again in your mind, as if you are watching a video. After intensive research and talking to people who lived through those horrific experiences, the writer explains exactly the enormity of the pain and damage caused by those acts of madness. Years later, thousands of people are still suffering from leukemia, blindness, cancer and other dreadful diseases because of the poisonous gases.

Any thinking person must realize the danger of any nuclear weapons on this planet. There have been mistakes made, either through human beings or technology, that could have resulted in World War three — e.g. the Cuban Missile Crisis, not forgetting Chernobyl.

After reading my letter, I would like you to sit down in a calm place, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and focus on the future of your grandchildren.

What would they inherit from us, a planet full of poisonous gases?

Yours sincerely

Deep Sandhu

 Footnotes

 “This is what we are about:

We plant seeds that one day will grow.

We water seeds already planted,

knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.

We provide yeast that produces effects

beyond our capabilities.”

Archbishop Oscar Romero

And now the world is listening:                                                                      http://www.icanw.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/BanPoster.pdf

And only two months ago, at the UN, 125 nations signed up to a statement demanding bold action to ban nuclear weapons: http://www.icanw.org/campaign-news/the-tipping-point-125-states-at-unga-first-committee-demand-bold-action/

 

Early Morning Aldermaston

    (From AAWE Newsletter)

The very idea of a nuclear weapons-owning democracy is terrible in the extreme                –   a mass consent to commit mass murder (or how else would deterrence work?)

It is of course not so conscious a consent. The Government is trapped in ‘political necessities’ and the people are unaware, unconsciously or wilfully.  What is there to see?  Destructive potential so vast that it can only be understood by numbers is impossible to visualise.  It’s just a big weapon isn’t it?  We need it for security don’t we?

So, for those who have chosen to be aware, where do we start?  We need to tell the Government, tell the people, make them see what is happening and what really can be done about it, give them hope that could overcome their universally suppressed fears.   Anti-nuclear weapons campaigners know how hard this is.  Governments and public opinion are something we chip away at.  These are quite elusive things and neither is based at Aldermaston or Burghfield.    So why do we go there?

We go because there is an instinctive and real need to confront the evil where it lies. No amount of writing and talking elsewhere can substitute for facing these five miles of wire, behind which five thousand highly technical creative people work to engineer a new Armageddon.  We go there to be seen and sometimes even when there is nobody there to see us.

The CND event on Easter Monday, observed by minimal media and a few kindly police, was hugely successful – an affirmation, a rally, a physical prayer, an outpouring of the human spirit confronting a mindless capability for destruction.

And what about the people who put themselves behind this wire every day?  Certainly we have a message for them.  We ask them to think, to think outside the conventional oversimplified deterrence wisdom.  To think it through in a historical, global and moral context.  We would like to create for them the intellectual and moral climate where they are free to do this and to act on their conclusions.

It is quite hard to think rationally if it might cost you your job.  And we know from experience that what is even harder than putting your job on the line is to be different.  It takes intellectual and moral courage to openly ‘question the mission’. But, in principle, AWE staff should be free to do the same as we do.  They have colleagues and family to talk it over with. They have MPs and newspapers to write to. They have a right, like anyone else, to protest against government policy.

Unless their management see fit to deny them these rights, it should not even jeopardise their jobs, because we have come to a point where the global dismantling of the nuclear threat to the world will require a huge investment of equivalent skills and engineering facilities.  If the UK takes a lead on this, grasping the necessary outcomes of a nuclear weapons treaty, there will be work for many years.

The idea for the current Early Morning Aldermaston pickets probably started three years ago on 15th February 2010 when we blockaded all the gates at Aldermaston starting at 7.00 a.m.  That is the time to be there if you want to meet staff arriving.  On that occasion we were there all night for a Christian CND vigil at Tadley Gate.  We were quite happy to stand there with our lanterns and symbols of all faiths, defended by the police against local hooligans (though not against the cold); but around 5.30 a.m., when it should have been really quiet, things began to happen.

One car, then another, then hundreds, pouring through the gate to get to work ahead of our blockade.  You have to admire this, but it was so frustrating.  I did not even have my usual “WMD” placard, as thousands of people drove past in the morning darkness.  However, I resolved to come back.

Now I find there are many people coming back, at all sorts of times.  Several of us, with the benefit of similar experiences, come back about once a month for this early shift. It still seems like the most appropriate time because the workers are at that moment placing themselves ‘inside the wire’, where they will help to maintain and enhance our genocidal weapons.

They will not stop to take a leaflet – you get a bit of eye contact if you are lucky – but they cannot help but read the simple, polite, strong messages on our placards.  And they come in their thousands.  To get 600 cars an hour through Home Office Gate without clogging up the local country roads is quite an achievement in traffic management.  And this happens every morning.  We intend to continue to play our occasional part in this drama. Our next appearance will be around 7.00 a.m. on 21st May.  If we are well organised then one car-load of demonstrators can get the message to about a thousand staff. We must never let these people forget what they are doing.

Contact: martin@nuclearmorality.com

Hiroshima cranes

A personal appeal to our prime minister from the young people of Hiroshima goes straight to the generals and bureaucrats at the Ministry of Defence.

On December 3rd 2012, London schoolchildren delivered a special present to  Downing Street, as part of a project to send 1,000 hand-folded paper cranes to the president or prime minister of every UN member state, from the young people of Hiroshima.

They also delivered a letter addressed to David Cameron, asking specifically for a message of support for a global treaty to outlaw and eliminate nuclear weapons. His response to this will be displayed, together with messages from other prime ministers and presidents, in Hiroshima and online.

Headed by a statement from Ban Ki Moon, the messages from national leaders are already beginning to appear on the ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) website.  Among the first and most heartfelt statements are those from Kazakhstan and from the Marshall Islands.  These are the countries, after Japan, which have suffered most by actual detonation of nuclear weapons, in tests on their territories.

Response from Cameron

On being pressed for a report of progress we are informed by the Prime Minister’s office that the gift of 1000 hand-folded paper cranes has been forwarded to the Ministry of Defence.  This is to be his response to a hand-crafted personal gift?  One wonders what they will do with it. (Even their ‘peacemaking’ is normally done with military hardware.) It appears that the letter from Hiroshima has also been sent to the Ministry of Defence “for reply”.  A personal appeal to our prime minister goes straight to the generals and bureaucrats.

Is this how we do things here? We claim competence to wield weapons of mass destruction yet have no competence to deal with a simple peacemaking gesture. Nobody wants the response from the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to appear to be ludicrously inadequate but that is what will happen unless someone takes the matter properly in hand.

Young people of Hiroshima are reaching out in practical love of humanity and real friendship, to the prime ministers or presidents of all the UN member states. They reach out with a gift and a letter, appealing to common sense, justice and humanity.  The gift in every case is a thing to be treasured for its natural beauty and for the significance of the work that has gone into it.  One thousand hand-folded origami paper cranes, “each one a prayer for a peaceful nuclear-weapon-free world”, are tightly threaded together and assembled into a unique and colourful object.  Unique if not for their being sent to 180 countries – over 180,000 paper cranes in total. Why cranes? Why a thousand?

Why Cranes?

Fifty seven years ago a twelve year old girl lay dying in a Japanese hospital. Sadako Sasaki was a survivor of Hiroshima. For a two year old baby, who was only one kilometre from the centre of the blast, to be growing into a healthy young girl must have seemed like a miracle of hope, but it was not to be.

After 10 years she was showing signs of radiation sickness and was diagnosed with leukaemia. She did not survive, but a different kind of miracle emerged. Sadako had learned that, according to Japanese legend, if she folded 1,000 paper cranes she would be granted a wish, in her case a wish for life itself. She started out folding dozens of cranes each day. When she ran out of paper, she used medicine wrappings and whatever else she could find. But as her condition worsened she could only manage to fold one or two a day. Sadly, she died before reaching her target, but then the other miracle began to happen.

Sadako’s friends completed the one thousand cranes. They ensured that her name is remembered. Sadako now symbolizes the impact of nuclear weapons on children. The origami cranes have become a symbol of hope and peaceful resistance to preparations for nuclear destruction. In Hiroshima and some other cities there are statues of Sadako which are regularly draped with colourful strings of cranes and it is the voice of young people that is most effectively coaxing the world away from nuclear madness.

UN Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC)

Meanwhile a treaty was being drafted – a treaty known as the UN Nuclear Weapons
Convention (NWC), designed to abolish nuclear weapons and systematically eliminate
them in much the same way as the existing treaties on chemical and biological weapons,
anti-personnel mines and cluster bombs. In some ways it will be easier to eliminate
nuclear weapons than these others, because nuclear weapons depend on a vast amount of engineering and are easier to detect, but politically it is more difficult.

The Convention on Nuclear Weapons was first put before the UN by Costa Rica in 1997 and then again in 2007 by Costa Rica and Malaysia. It is actually a model for a UN treaty; it is a basis for the start of negotiation. 146 countries, i.e. nearly all those outside of NATO and other nuclear alliances, support the immediate commencement of negotiations on the NWC. Five of the nuclear nations: USA, Russia, Israel, France and UK, do not support commencement of negotiations on the NWC. The UK position is that NWC would at present be “premature and potentially counter-productive”, citing the risk of diverting political capital and resources away from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). But the NPT is itself at some risk because of failure of the nuclear states to meet obligations under Article VI and indeed the development of new weapon systems like our Trident replacement programme, already underway.

How will Cameron respond to this? Current UK policy is set on re-armament, in defiance
of NPT and the wishes of most of humanity. But how can he make a negative response
to this humble but straightforward request from young people? The gift and the letter
were delivered to 10 Downing Street on 3rd December by some equally youthful London
based supporters and they too are awaiting a response. Any sort of political obfuscation
would look very inadequate to them and therefore to everyone else – political lies may be
commonplace but it is simply not acceptable to deceive young people.

In fact Cameron has every reason to be positive. It is a leadership opportunity for the
UK. He could bring a message of hope for the world. Britain has the technical, legal and
diplomatic skills to contribute hugely to the Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC). We
could go from a position of relative isolation (alone with four other nuclear nations) to the
position of supporting the commencement of negotiation. Here also is a positive way out
of our legally and morally iniquitous (and unaffordable) decision to replace Trident. And in
time we could bid for hosting the Agency which will administer the NWC treaty.