In Great Russell Street, Blooms­bury: a plaque for Joseph Rotblat, the scientist who worked to avert the threat of nuclear war

November 11, 2017

Photograph by Valerie Flessati, who designed two peace trails, one through central London and one from Tavistock Square to the Imperial War Museum

This news came from Peter van den Dungen, who attended the unveiling of a plaque for Joseph Rotblat, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning scientist who worked to avert the threat of nuclear war.

It was placed on the large building in Museum Mansions, Great Russell Street, Blooms­bury  where the Pugwash organisation – of which he was a founder – has an office, in which Professor Rotblat worked for many years. About 90 people were there and afterwards attended a reception in the Polish embassy.

The embassy’s website:

“The plaque is the result of a collaboration between the Polish Heritage Society UK (PHS), a charity dedicated to celebrating the achievements of Poles in the UK and their contribution to British life, the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in the United Kingdom and the British Pugwash”.

The Camden New Journal adds that the plaque was funded by money given to residents and civic groups to thank them for ‘accommodating’ the shooting of part of the film Wonder Woman in Bloomsbury, which – appropriately – had an anti-war message.

Joseph Rotblat, who described himself as “a Pole with a British passport”, was born in Warsaw on 4th November, 1908, and carried out his initial research into nuclear fission there, moving to Britain just before the outbreak of Second World War.  Read on here.

In 1944, he joined the Los Alamos Laboratory in the US as part of the Manhattan Project, which ultimately led to the development of nuclear weapons.

Shocked by the use of nuclear weapons against Japan, Rotblat was determined that his research should serve only peaceful ends and devoted himself to studying the medical and biological uses of radiation. In 1949, he became Professor of Physics at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. 

Rotblat became one of the most prominent critics of the nuclear arms race. In 1957, he chaired the first of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, an international organisation that brought together scholars and public figures from both sides of the Iron Curtain and around the world to work towards reducing the danger of armed conflict and to seek solutions to global security threats, particularly those related to nuclear warfare.

The Nobel Peace Prize 1995 was awarded jointly to Joseph Rotblat and Pugwash Conferences “for their efforts to diminish the part played by nuclear arms in international politics and, in the longer run, to eliminate such arms”

From our archives:

  • Professor Joseph Rotblat (CBE) was one of 32 signatories of the CHARTER FOR ‘JUST DEFENCE’.
  • In 1998 Peter van den Dungen met Professor Rotblat in London and had a long discussion about the peace museum, which Rotblat wished to support – but based in London, initially perhaps in the Dome. . .
  • Rotblat’s voice may be heard briefly in this podcast and in the powerful video War No More, with Bruce Kent, Martin Bell, Caroline Lucas, and Desmond Tutu, who spoke about the defensive defence policies of Japan, Sweden, Switzerland and New Zealand.

And the latest word this year comes from his close friend and colleague Bruce Kent:

“Let’s return to Joseph Rotblat, who years ago took us back to fundamentals. In his ‘A World without War’ speech in 2002 he said: ‘getting rid of nuclear weapons is not enough. To safeguard the future of humanity we have to eliminate not only the instruments of waging war, but war itself.’

“Time to write to your local paper explaining what a lot of dangerous nonsense is today passing for defence”.

 

 

 

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”The fruit of war: hate, death, vendetta”

November 7, 2017

 

Reuters reported in April that Pope Francis advocated conflict mediation by a third country like Norway between the United States and North Korea. A third country, Pope Francis said, could “cool a situation” that had become “too hot.”

As armed conflicts rage across the world in numerous countries, and amid rising tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, a reader sent a link to Pope Francis’ call for an end to “useless massacres” in an emotional anti-war homily at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Italy, where nearly 8,000 World War II soldiers are buried: “Please Lord, stop. No more wars.”

He told several thousand people that he believed the world was heading into what could be its biggest war yet, according to Reuters. Commemorating the young soldiers who died in World War II was of particular significance today, he said, because “the world once more is at war and is preparing to go even more forcefully into war.”

Associated Press reported that before visiting the U.S. military cemetery Francis warned that “humanity risks suicide” with the increased danger of nuclear war between the United States and North Korea.

As part of the Vatican’s efforts to eliminate the threat of nuclear weapons, the Vatican will host a two-day conference starting Nov. 10 of several Nobel peace laureates, international ambassadors and representatives from NATO and the United Nations.

Francis will address the conference on its opening day, and speakers will include Masako Wada, a notable disarmament activist who survived the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan. Other speakers include Mohamed El Baradei, the former head of the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency, and Rose Gottemoeller, an American diplomat and NATO’s deputy secretary-general

The governments of China, Japan, and South Korea have also called for restraint in the midst of Trump’s handling of the crisis with North Korea, urging him to call Kim to the negotiating table.

President Trump has responded to Kim’s recent missile launches and nuclear tests by threatening the isolated country with “fire and fury” and saying he would “totally destroy” North Korea, home to 25 million civilians, if the nuclear activity continued. In light of Trump’s rhetoric, Pope Francis said in his speech, “the world once more is at war and is preparing to go even more forcefully into war.” He added that “humanity must not forget” the suffering of those who have lost loved ones to war. “Humanity has not learned the lesson and seems that it does not want to learn it,” he said.

In the visitors’ book at the cemetery, he wrote, “This is the fruit of war: hate, death, vendetta. Forgive us, Lord.”

 

 

 

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Peaceful resistance

October 24, 2017

 Tokyo’s Mitsukoshi department store has withdrawn Israeli settlement products

The American Herald Tribune reports that earlier this month, the hundred year old store was scheduled to host an event featuring Israeli wines, including wines made in illegal Israeli settlements built on stolen land – see United Nations’ reaffirmation in 2016. After Japanese civil society raised concerns, Mitsukoshi shortened the event and removed all wines which Palestine Forum Japan activists indicated were made in Israeli settlements. A spokesperson for Japan’s Palestine Forum said:

“We warmly welcome this principled decision by Mitsukoshi department store to pull products made in illegal Israeli settlements from its shelves. By refusing to sell these products, the store is complying with international law and Japanese foreign policy. It is also respecting human rights and advancing justice and peace.

“Mitsukoshi’s action serves as a model to other Japanese companies trading with those in illegal Israeli settlements on occupied land. Japanese companies must immediately end their complicity in Israeli violations of human rights by stopping all trade and cooperation with Israel’s regime of occupation and apartheid, or increasingly face both reputational damage and financial losses”.

Simulation of an Israeli checkpoint outside Muji store

The Jerusalem Post recalls that the first protest of this kind was held in 2010, when civil organisations in Japan, including the Palestine Forum Japan, campaigned for seven months against the plan of Muji, a Japanese retail chain, to open stores in Israel – a plan which was eventually cancelled.

Last year the Israeli embassy in Japan had been planning to hold an Israel Wine Seminar at the Osaka Office of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO). Some of the Israeli wineries attending were located in or used grapes from illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank or the Golan Heights.

Palestine Forum Japan sent a fax to JETRO about providing their facilities for the promotion of illegal settlement businesses and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry informed Palestine Forum Japan that the Ministry had advised JETRO of the significant legal and moral risks associated with promoting illegal settlement businesses as outlined by the United Nations Human Rights Council. JETRO staff called Palestine Forum Japan and informed them that they would be withdrawing from the event which would not be going ahead at JETRO’s facilities.

In July 2017, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted a warning on its website, advising that “settlement activities in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are in violation of international law, and one must be aware of the financial, reputational and legal risks when involved with economic activities in these areas.”

In September the Boycott, divestment and sanctions website reported that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was beginning to send letters to 150 companies in Israel and around the globe, warning them that they could be added to a database of complicit companies doing business in illegal Israeli settlements based in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Japanese BDS activists are calling on the Japanese government to implement sanctions against Israel until the military occupation is ended, Palestinian citizens of Israel enjoy equal rights and Palestinian refugees are permitted to return to their homes and their land.

 

 

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Britain’s global role: fantasy vs reality

October 15, 2017

Paul Rogers opens: “The UK’s government and military are trapped in a futile search for greatness, thus missing the country’s true security challenges”. 

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson delivering his speech at the Conservative party conference at the Manchester Central Convention Complex in Manchester.

Several recent events at the heart of Britain’s state and government suggest that the country’s failure to come to terms with its post-imperial position in the world is turning critical.

A prime exhibit is foreign secretary Boris Johnson, whose position and high profile make him a leading symbol of the United Kingdom’s current status. His fixation with empire was reflected in a crass suggestion, during a visit in January 2017 to the Shwedagon temple in Yangon, Myanmar, that he might recite lines from Rudyard Kipling’s colonial-era poem “The Road to Mandalay”. This was thankfully parried by the British ambassador. But nothing stopped him from addressing the Conservative Party conference this week in Manchester on the theme of “let the British lion roar”.

The embarrassingly dysfunctional Conservative gathering seemed in other ways to embody the desperate search for national purpose in the wake of Brexit, even as its language and attitudes aspired only to repackaging the past.

There is much wider evidence of a move into an era of “The (British) Empire Strikes Back”. A significant example is the launch of two huge new aircraft-carriers. The lead ship of the pair, HMS Queen Elizabeth, has already been handed over to the Royal Navy for sea trials, and is now followed by the 65,000-ton supercarrier, HMS Prince of Wales. These are by far the largest warships to be deployed in Britain’s history. With so much of the navy’s power focused around such ships, it is ever easier to press the idea that Britain’s way forward is the return to a global role.

A speech delivered on 11 September by the navy’s senior admiral, Sir Philip Jones, reinforces the point. He argues precisely that carriers such as these now enable the UK to resume its old role in Asia and the Pacific, one largely abandoned in the 1970s after the military’s withdrawal from “east of Suez”. This is already happening: a small naval base has been constructed in Bahrain, the port of Duqm in Oman is being adapted to support the aircraft-carriers, and a defence office has been established in Singapore where the Royal Navy has berthing rights. Moreover, the UK is also preparing to help defend South Korea at a time of rising tensions in the region. Interestingly, the admiral linked this reorientation directly to Brexit and the UK’s need to develop new trading partners outside Europe.

There is a catch, though. Warships of the size and complexity of the Queen Elizabeth or Prince of Wales will never operate on their own. The norm for these carriers will be, at the very least, a fleet comprising an air-defence destroyer, one or two anti-submarine frigates, a Royal Fleet Auxiliary supply-ship, a tanker, and a nuclear-powered attack-submarine. In recent months the navy has been able only to deploy frigates and destroyers in very small numbers – six or seven out of the nineteen theoretically available. This is unlikely to change any time soon because of long-term shortages of crew and a host of engineering problems. Certainly the navy will not have the resources to have more than one carrier at a time operational.

The challenges here are steep enough. In addition, though, the Royal Navy is responsible for Britain’s submarine-based nuclear force. Since that requires “deterrence support” in the form of surface warships and attack-submarines, there is a real sense of Britain being reduced to a two-ship navy – able to deploy one carrier strike-group and one strategic nuclear-missile submarine, but not much else (see “Britain’s deep-sea defence: out of time?“, 3 March 2016).

Thus, the navy-led shift towards a revived global posture – analysed in depth in Global Britain: A Pacific Presence?, a new briefing by Richard Reeve for the Oxford Research Group – is accompanied by a great overstretch of resources and commitments. In this sense the fate of the Royal Navy is emblematic of the UK’s deep-rooted desire for the status of a great power, or at least a pretty big power.

This is a delusion. By the mid-2020s, the UK will be able to kill many millions of people in a nuclear war and to deploy a single supercarrier – largely as an appendage of the United States navy when it next goes to war. That will be about it as far as the Royal Navy is concerned, suggesting that the reality behind the pretence of a major power is merely a “bigger than average little power”.

As well as a delusion, Britain’s military direction is a lost opportunity – for it is already made irrelevant by the evolving global-security challenges that will dominate the 2020s and 2030s. On present trends, the world will by then have moved more fully towards extreme economic division and marginalisation, where millions experience accelerating climate disruption and an increased risk of irregular war. In face of all this, supercarriers and thermonuclear weapons really aren’t much use.

It would be possible to design a foreign policy that was far more focused on conflict prevention, peacekeeping, peacebuilding and economic and environmental reform – all of which could begin to offer leadership in meeting these challenges. That option is a far cry from the current outlook, but it is there for the asking. If it were taken, Britain might at last replace fantasy with reality, get rid of its imperial shackles, and discover a truer form of “greatness”.

Source: https://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/britains-global-role-fantasy-vs-reality

 

 

 

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School cadet forces: ambush or support?

October 7, 2017

 Felicity Arbuthnot draws attention to an article by Rhianna Louis, the education and outreach officer at ForcesWatch summarised below.

A report commissioned by Veterans For Peace UK draws on veterans’ testimony and around 200 studies from the last half-century to explore the effects of army employment on soldiers, particularly their initial training.

It finds that young people with experiences of childhood adversity, who exhibit violent behaviour at a young age, or have mental health problems, are not for the most part “rescued” by a military career. They are likely to leave early and face unemployment due to a lack of transferable qualifications after leaving education to enlist.

Their early difficulties leave them more susceptible to mental health problems triggered by training and in service. They don’t need a cadet force to mould them into controlled, obedient and patriotic young citizens but proper and sustained mental health support in a supportive learning environment.

However, another interim report on the social impact of cadet forces, recently published by the University of Northampton, said that cadet units can improve attendance and educational achievement, supporting children in ways that schools cannot. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon praised the report while announcing 31 new cadet units in state schools. It extols the benefits offered by cadets for socio-economically disadvantaged and emotionally troubled young people — in fact military service can be highly damaging to such youngsters.

The University of Northampton report, and Fallon’s dream of cadet units blossoming up and down the country, herald the cadet forces as the solution to struggling children, mixing child development aims with defence aims such as savings, recruitment and PR for the armed forces.

The cadet expansion programme is funded by part of nearly £90 million that has gone into military programmes in education since 2012

By contrast, non-military services and facilities for young people have been decimated in recent years, and education is facing a funding crisis. Teaching and support staff posts are being cut, along with Special Educational Needs (SEN) provision and spending on books and equipment. Funding for education of 16-19 year olds has been devastated and should be restored.

While the cadet forces offer benefits to many young people, so would any well-funded youth programme with excellent resources

Outside the classroom, the picture is equally bleak. Youth clubs have been so badly hit that they are closing up and down the country and may become once more reliant on Dickensian philanthro-capitalism. Children’s mental health services have also faced cuts, with funding falling by nearly £50m between 2010 and 2015.

Two years ago Tim Bevan, producer of “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and co-founder of Working Title Films, commented on Nicky Morgan harking back to the days of national service, by investing millions in funding for military boot camp type projects to instill discipline and build “character, resilience and grit” in young people.

The funding was going to organisations such as Commando Joe’s, Challenger Troop and Skillforce. Tim thinks that the lure of additional funding into cash strapped schools masks the intention to raise a public willing to pay for the military, make recruitment easier in to armed forces and stifle opposition to unpopular wars and asks:

“What will be the effect of this approach on children, already identified as disadvantaged? What will they learn? To follow rules without question, to do as they are told and not think for themselves, to respond to aggression and to conform through fear. How will this develop the creative, problem solving, free-thinking, decision makers of the future?” And ends:

“We do not need a public service focussed on war to turn around the lives of disadvantaged young people. Those facing hardship need meaningful opportunities to secure employment, not to develop resilience to the pain and frustration of inequality”.

 

 

 

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Will Japan be ‘reset”, maintaining the pacifist principles enshrined in its constitution?

September 29, 2017

Following Shinzo Abe’s dissolution of the Japanese parliament for a snap election on October 22, Seiji Maehara, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, announced to his MPs that he would not field any candidates. He encouraged them to apply instead to run for a new party established by the governor of Tokyo only two days ago.

Tokyo’s governor,  Yuriko Koike, has announced the formation of the Party of Hope (Kibo no To) to contest the election She  laid out her party’s vision: to “reset” Japan, operating free of the interests of the political establishment and maintaining its pacifist principles, which are enshrined in its constitution.

Maehara’s proposal to shift allegiance to Koike’s movement was unanimously approved at a general meeting of DP MPs the same day. Under the plan, all DP candidates for the general election have been asked to abandon party membership and apply to join the official ticket of Kibo no To.

“I made this proposal after thinking about what would realize a change in power again,” Maehara told DP MPs during the meeting.  According to Maehara’s plan, the DP will give “full support” to Koike’s party in election campaigns, including financial support for former DP members running on the Kibo no To ticket.

During a TV interview on Wednesday, Koike said her party will choose applicants from the DP after close consideration of their views on constitutional revision and security issues.

 

 

 

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NATO Watch: Breaking the US-Russia Impasse: Keeping the Door Open to Dialogue  

September 18, 2017

NATO Watch is an independent think-tank which examines the role of NATO in public life and advocates for more openness, transparency and accountability within the Alliance. Its news briefs cover a range of NATO-related news items from around the world. See http://natowatch.org/links

The NATO Watch Media Centre includes:

News Briefs deliver NATO-related news items from around the world.

The founding director of NATO Watch is Dr Ian Davis, an independent human security and arms control consultant, writer and activist with over 30 years’ experience in government, academia and the NGO sector. He was Programme Manager for Saferworld 1998 – 2001, co-executive director of BASIC, 2001 – 2007, publications director at Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) from 2014, executive editor of the SIPRI Yearbook from November 2016 and Associate Senior Fellow Armament and Disarmament. See https://uk.linkedin.com/in/iandavisconsultancy.

NATO Watch has a free syndicated news feed which allows readers to stay up to date with the latest news and features by adding the feed address to a news reader programme, or to their own website.

There are various ways to subscribe, including:

  • Signing-up to receive it by email – click here;
  • Dragging the orange feed button () or URL of the feed into your news reader software; or
  • Cutting and pasting the URL of the feed into your news reader.

The latest paper disseminated is Breaking the US-Russia Impasse: Keeping the Door Open to Dialogue, by Hall Gardner, 4 September 2017.

It opens:

Relations between the US and Russia appear to be almost at the point of no return. Whether justified or not, each side has accused the other of interfering in their respective election processes. Moscow has accused the United States of backing protests that opposed the results of Russia’s parliamentary elections in 2011, and of directly interfering in the Russian presidential elections in March 2012 that brought Vladimir Putin to power. Washington has also accused Moscow of interfering in the November 2016 presidential elections that brought Donald Trump to power. Read on: http://natowatch.org/default/2017/breaking-us-russia-impasse-keeping-door-open-dialogue

 

 

 

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