It seems like an endless cycle. How long will it be till people can see that violence is not the answer to violence? Even a limited violence, imposed on Syria by Western nations is likely to have negative effects throughout the region. It would be a natural response from our militaristic culture, but could prolong the evils for which, historically, we bear some responsibility.

The situation in Syria is now so terrible that an intervention by a United Nations force might be justified. However, for reasons of credibility and natural justice it would be imperative to exclude from such a force the British and American forces that are, and are seen to be, responsible for so much of the historical chaos of the Middle East.

The extreme irony that this emergency is taking place at the very time of the DSEi arms fair in London, where up to 28,000 will gather to participate in the evil trade that largely relies on, and indeed ferments, insecurity in the Middle East, will, we hope, be noticed.

Banner from London demo

Yesterday in London thousands of people demonstrated against any new act of war in Syria.

There are some times when, fortunately, MPs and Representatives can make a difference.

Please, US Congress, make it now.


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.


Easter Peace Thoughts

Next time anyone attempts to justify the current global arms spend of £1,134,320,000,000 a year, by citing the muddle we were in in 1939, send them the link to this enlightening discussion.

Christians (thoughtful Christians) always struggle to reconcile the teaching and example of Jesus with our present day military ethics and just war formulation, and never more so than on Good Friday.  In discussion last night we came eventually to the World War II, 1939 question.  What would you have done, or think you ought to have done, in that situation and at that time?

This is certainly a challenge, the more so because this one situation is a defining episode for our military culture.  Growing up in the fifties and sixties it was part of our life – the lesson that had been learned the hard way and almost too late.  One had to be prepared (in two senses of the word) to fight, and appeasement was a bad thing.  However, it is time for us to recognise that this has become the paradigm that we are in; it affects every aspect of security policy in the UK and to some extent globally.  It is as if all our wisdom is hinged on one historical situation.

Time to move on?  Or at least, time to re-examine the criteria, just in case they are leading us to a global doom?  I think so.

Susan Clarkson helped to enlighten us at a recent talk she gave to the Council on Christian Approaches to Defence and Disarmament (CCADD). The following is from the report of the discussion:

How can the pacifist position be sustained, for example in face of WW2 and Hitler?

A non-violent stance means working all the time towards it and living a life of non-violence when there isn’t a war. It does usually work.  There were people even in this country who liked Hitler, but always there are people who believe that war is wrong. Some people, in some ways, effectively defeated Hitler by non-violent means, e.g. the Danes defeated a plan to round up the Jews by declaring that all citizens were Jews.  Everyone knows that the seeds of WW2 were sown by the victors after WW1 and that a different approach after WW2 was hugely successful.  We all have to face the question, for ourselves, of what we would have done at start of WW2, but far more important is what to do now.  Start from here.

So if we can’t all be pacifists (or those Christians trying to really follow Christ) then we have to start from where we are now and judge the situation with the help of history; that means all the relevant history we can see, including the times when we made mistakes.  If we base all our ideas and policy on one particular episode, then we really are in trouble.

MB 30 3 13

Time for Iranian participation?

The Nuclear Morality Flowchart is currently available in English, Dutch and Farsi.  This logical flowchart is designed to enable ordinary people to come to a rational assessment, for themselves, of the ethics of nuclear weapons and in particular of the morality of deterrence.  It is relevant to everyone, not least the citizens of the nuclear nations, and relevant to Iran because the world still anxiously watches the alleged progress of Iran towards a nuclear weapons capability, while the religious establishment there has unequivocally condemned nuclear weapons.  When the world sees the Iranian people making a popular and logical rejection of nuclear weapons for sound moral reasons then the nuclear arsenals of the West will be more than ever untenable.  Governments will be shamed into real progress towards disarmament and sanctions on Iran will appear more than ever ridiculous.

Inadequate UK response to Hiroshima children

Update on what happened when Japanese children sent a gift of 1000 Origami cranes to David Cameron with a letter asking for him to support the proposed UN treaty to abolish nuclear weapons (see last post: Hiroshima Cranes):

Eventually the Hiroshima Youth Committee received a letter from the Ministry of Defence!

How sad that “The UK position” is still to “continue to work with the NPT” while the world can see that in most respects we continue to defy Article VI of the NPT (the commitment to disarm), starting on a new generation of Nuclear Weapons.

We have to assume that the PM has not seen this yet among the thousands of letters (and gifts?) that he receives. The responses from MOD and No.10 are effectively anonymous.  But how poor it would look to have a letter signed by a “Desk Officer” at the MOD alongside all the letters from presidents, prime ministers and the UN Secretary-General! (see responses so far at: )

We know Britain can do better.  So what to do next?

Among the ideas we have received so far is this:

I suggest that your organisation or CND ask local schools to make and send 1,000 cranes to Hiroshima with a thank you note for theirs to the PM. We know that the majority in our country want a nuclear-free world. If the Min of Defence reply to the youngsters proves to be inadequate, our young people can apologise for them.  Maybe Nick Clegg would have a Mr Nice day and thank the youngsters?

Anyone who can take this on please let us know.   And more ideas are welcome.

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.