Gorbachev: political veterans, civil society, academics, all who are not indifferent – should urge our leaders to act

October 20, 2016

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MOSCOW, October 9. /TASS/. Mr Gorbachev opened by thanking the government of Iceland for invitation to participate in the conference marking the 30th anniversary of the Reykjavik summit of the leaders of the USSR and the United States.

He recalled that a few months before the first summit in Geneva, he and the US President made a statement: “Nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought; our countries will not seek military superiority”. But that statement was not followed by decisive steps to stop the nuclear arms race.

Extracts (read the whole statement here):

The overall situation in our relations was also causing grave concern. Many thought that relations were sliding back into a Cold War. US Navy ships were entering our territorial waters; the United States had tested a new, highly powerful nuclear weapon. The tensions were aggravated by hostile rhetoric and “spy scandals.”

Meanwhile, the Chernobyl nuclear accident had been a vivid reminder to all of us of the nuclear danger that we faced. I have often said that it divided my life into two parts: before and after Chernobyl. The Soviet leadership unanimously agreed on the need to stop and reverse the nuclear arms race, to get the stalled nuclear disarmament talks off the ground.

We proposed a clear and coherent framework for an agreement: cutting in half all the components of the strategic triad, including a 50-percent reduction in heavy land-based missiles, which the United States viewed from the start as “the most destabilizing.” We were also ready to accept a zero option for intermediate and shorter-range missiles.

I appreciated the fact that President Reagan, during the course of our discussions, spoke out resolutely, and I believe sincerely, in favor of ridding the world of weapons of mass destruction, of all types of nuclear weapons. In this, we found common ground. Experts led by Akhromeyev and Nitze worked overnight and found many points of convergence based on our constructive position.

Nevertheless, we were not able to conclude an agreement. President Reagan wanted, not just to continue the SDI program, but to obtain our consent to the deployment of a global missile defense system. I could not agree to that.

The key message in my statement for the press was: “In spite of all the drama, Reykjavik is not a failure – it is a breakthrough. For the first time, we looked over the horizon.” This is the view I still hold today. It was the breakthrough at Reykjavik that set off the process of real reduction of nuclear weapons. The unprecedented agreements we reached with Presidents Reagan and Bush on strategic and medium-range nuclear arms and on tactical weapons have made it possible to reduce the stockpiles and eliminate thousands of nuclear warheads – more than 80 percent of Cold War arsenals, as Russia and the United States reported to the Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference.

In 2010, the Presidents of Russia and the United States concluded the New Start Treaty. Nevertheless, we have to recognize that the process of nuclear disarmament has slowed down.I am concerned and alarmed by the current situation. Right before our eyes, the window to a nuclear weapon-free world opened in Reykjavik is being shut and sealed.

New, more powerful types of nuclear weapons are being created.

Their qualitative characteristics are being ramped up. Missile defense systems are being deployed. Prompt non-nuclear strike systems are being developed, comparable in their deadly impact to the weapons of mass destruction. The military doctrines of nuclear powers have changed for the worse, expanding the limits of “acceptable” use of nuclear weapons. It is mostly due to this that the risk of nuclear proliferation has increased.

The problems and conflicts of the past two decades could have been settled by peaceful, political and diplomatic means. Instead, attempts are being made to resolve them by using force. This was the case in the former Yugoslavia, in Iraq, in Libya, in Syria.

I want to emphasize that this has not resulted in the resolution of these issues. It resulted in the erosion of international law, in undermining trust, in militarization of politics and thinking, and the cult of force.

In these circumstances, it is becoming increasingly difficult to speak of moving towards a nuclear-free world.  We must be honest and recognize it. Unless international affairs are put back on a normal track and international relations are demilitarized, the goal that we jointly set in Reykjavik will become more distant rather than closer.

I am deeply convinced that a nuclear weapon-free world is not a utopia, but an imperative necessity. We need to constantly remind world leaders of this goal and of their commitment.

As long as nuclear weapons exist, there is a danger that someday they will be used: as a result either of accident or technical failure, or of evil intent of man – an insane person or terrorist. We must therefore reaffirm the goal of prohibiting and eliminating nuclear weapons.

Politicians who think that problems or disputes can be resolved through the use of military force (even as a “last resort”) must be rejected by society; they must leave the stage

I believe that the question of prohibiting nuclear weapons should be submitted for consideration of the International Court of Justice.

None of the global problems faced by humanity can be solved by military means. Our common challenges – further reduction of nuclear weapons, non-proliferation¸ fighting terrorism, prevention of environmental catastrophe, overcoming poverty and backwardness – again need to be put on top of the agenda.

We need to resume dialogue. Essentially abandoning it in the last two years was the gravest mistake. It is high time to resume it across the entire agenda, without limiting it to the discussion of regional issues on which there are disagreements.

We need to understand once and for all: A safe and stable world cannot be built at the will or as a project of one country or group of countries. Either we build together a world for all, or mankind will face the prospect of new trials and tragedies.

This is what we – political veterans, civil society, academics, all who are not indifferent – should say to our leaders, urging them to act.

 

 

 


Roslyn Cook sends good news

December 15, 2015

 

Roslyn continues to work for the abolition of nuclear weapons – and a treaty to ban them – wearing more than one ‘hat’.

roslyn cook 2 world court projectShe is an active member of ICAN, a global campaign coalition launched in 2007 by International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, which works to mobilize people in all countries to inspire, persuade and pressure their governments to initiate and support negotiations for a treaty banning nuclear weapons. ICAN now has more than 400 partner organizations in 95 countries.

Next year, governments will start substantive discussions on creating new law on nuclear weapons in Geneva.

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An ICAN press release informs us that on December 7th at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, governments adopted a resolution that will convene talks in Geneva in 2016 to develop new law on nuclear weapons. The resolution presented by Mexico received the support of two-thirds of the governments of the world and is a response to the growing demand for a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

Following the failure of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in May 2015, the desire for launching a new process on nuclear disarmament has grown significantly. 121 governments have signed the “Humanitarian Pledge”: a commitment to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons. The talks in Geneva will be an opportunity to start working on the elements of a new prohibition treaty.

The nuclear-armed states strongly opposed this resolution and exerted pressure on allies and other governments to prevent these talks from happening . . .

The misuse of the consensus rule contributed to the deadlock of the Conference on Disarmament and the collapse of the 2015 NPT Review Conference. This new working group will not be bound by strict consensus rules, which means that nuclear weapon states and their allies will not be able to veto any concrete outcome.

ICAN will be there to monitor these talks, coordinate civil society and make governments take the next step towards a new treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons.

In commending ICAN, Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General said: “The world is over-armed and peace is under-funded”. Readers are asked to consider sending a donation for ICAN – and help to make peace history:

 

http://www.icanw.org/DONATE/.

 


Responding to terrorism: a statement from Quakers in Britain

November 25, 2015

News Release: 24 November 2015

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As Parliament prepares to debate next steps in Syria, Quakers in Britain have made this statement.

The attacks in Paris on 13 November were deeply shocking and our hearts continue to go out to those killed, injured, bereaved and traumatised.

It is human nature that the closer suffering comes to us, the more acutely we feel the pain and grief. But that experience should sensitise us to the suffering caused repeatedly by acts of war and violent crime in more distant places, including Beirut, Sinai, Bamako and Aleppo. It should strengthen our determination to build a safer world together.

Terrorism is a deliberate attempt to provoke fear, hatred, division and a state of war. War – especially war with the West – is what ISIS/Daesh wants. It confirms the image they project of the West as a colonialist ‘crusader’ power, which acts with impunity to impose its will overseas and especially against Muslims.

The military actions of Western nations recruit more people to the cause than they kill. Every bomb dropped is a recruitment poster for ISIS, a rallying point for the young, vulnerable and alienated. And every bomb dropped on Syrian cities drives yet more people to flee and seek refuge in safer countries.

Our political leaders seem determined that Britain should look strong on the world stage. Quakers in Britain believe our country should act with wisdom and far-sighted courage. A wisdom that rises above the temptation to respond to every problem with military might. A wisdom that looks back at our failures in Libya and Iraq and Afghanistan and learns from experience. The courage – and strength – to think through the likely consequences of actions to find a long term, lasting solution.

The courageous response of ordinary people who refuse to give up their way of life and refuse to be driven by fear is one that politicians could learn from.

Although there are no quick or easy answers, there are things we can do, all of us together, which will defeat the terrorists more assuredly than military action. Quakers in Britain commit to playing our part in these actions.

We can quieten ourselves and listen to the truth from deep within us that speaks of love, mutual respect, humanity and peace.

We can and will refuse to be divided. By bridge-building among faiths and within our local communities we can challenge and rise above the ideologies of hate and actively love our neighbour.

By welcoming refugees, we can not only meet the acute needs of those individuals but also undercut the narrative of those who seek to create fear and mistrust.

And we can ask our political leaders to:

  • Treat terrorist acts as crimes, not acts of war
  • Stop arming any of the parties fighting in Syria
  • Observe international law and apply it equally to all parties
  • Build cooperation among nations, strengthening those international institutions which contribute to peace
  • Export peace rather than war, so that we can create the conditions the world needs to address its most serious problems, including climate change.

The statement concludes with this extract from a statement made by Quakers in Britain in 1943 (Quaker Faith and Practice 24.09):

“True peace cannot be dictated, it can only be built in co-operation between all peoples. None of us, no nation, no citizen, is free from some responsibility for this.”


How can we learn from history to build a peaceful future?

July 15, 2015

PVDD 5The author of ‘Learning the Lessons of War’, published recently in the SGI Quarterly magazine, a Buddhist forum for peace, culture and education, Dr Peter van den Dungen, has been at the Department of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford, UK, since 1976. A peace historian, he is founder and general coordinator of the International Network of Museums for Peace. Some extracts follow but interested readers are urged to follow the link and read the article in full.

Hegel’s “We learn from history that we do not learn from history” is a well-known saying. Given the continuing prevalence of war, it can also be said that we certainly do not seem to learn from war, such a pervasive feature of history. However, Immanuel Kant, a great German philosopher and one of the most profound thinkers on war and peace, argued in the late 18th century that humankind learns from history and war, but only the hard way.

After the Napoleonic Wars (of which Kant witnessed the beginning), the main European powers instituted a “concert” system to prevent a similar violent disruption of the established international order.

A century later, the horrors of World War I resulted in the creation of the League of Nations, the first organization of its kind, which was meant to limit the recourse to war. It also established agencies and the Permanent Court of International Justice in order to address issues that otherwise might result in war.

These new institutions proved too weak to prevent another world conflagration, which occurred a mere two decades after the first one. During World War II, plans were laid for a successor world organization. The onset of the Cold War, the antagonism between the main powers since then and inherent weaknesses have made the United Nations a rather ineffective instrument for keeping the peace. At the same time, it cannot be denied that it pioneered new techniques (not even foreseen in the Charter) to limit or prevent war, such as UN peacekeeping operations.

The end of World War II also saw the beginnings of a process of economic and social cooperation that resulted in a new political entity, the European Union. The need for this, as the surest way to abolish war and poverty, was urged by the organized peace movement in the 19th century, and similar ideas had been put forward in peace plans formulated by visionaries in earlier centuries.

Airing books containing the names of atomic bomb victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

Airing books containing the names of atomic bomb victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

World War II had other profound consequences, particularly for the two countries that were widely regarded as responsible for it–Germany and Japan. Apart from the terrible loss of civilian life and destruction of their cities, Germany was divided and Japan became the victim of the use of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Both countries adopted peace constitutions with self-denying ordinances regarding their military capabilities and intentions. But in other respects, Germany learned lessons and pursued policies with the aim of achieving peace and reconciliation with its erstwhile adversaries, which have largely been lacking in Japan. They involve elements of apology, compensation, repair and restitution–expressed in moral, material and symbolical terms. Without such a deliberate and sincere strategy on the part of Germany, the project of European unification (of which the country has been the main pillar, together with France) would have been impossible.

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If Japan has learned lessons from the atrocities and crimes committed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the same cannot be said of the world as a whole.

Arnold Toynbee writes (in his autobiography, Experiences) that he had been jolted out of the traditional accepting attitude to war by the slaughter of half of his friends in World War I. The same revulsion against war was widespread in its aftermath. He noted that such revulsion “ought [to] have been total and universal from the moment . . . the world entered the Atomic Age.” He found that the American people, victorious in two world wars, had succumbed instead to militarism. Toynbee wrote this during the Vietnam War. Since then, the trauma of that war has been overshadowed by the events of 9/11, and militarism has become even more pervasive in American society.

An appropriate, meaningful and fruitful remembrance would amount to the initiation of nothing less than a worldwide program of peace education as part of the development of a comprehensive culture of peace. That peace is possible–indeed, that it is imperative for human survival–should be taught and learned in schools and universities and through peace museums.

In the modern world, museums are preeminent institutions, widely regarded as guardians of high culture that fulfill a major role in public education. It is telling that, whereas war and military museums are widespread (with hundreds of such museums in the US and UK alone) and often well-funded, peace museums are hard to find, with the singular exception of Japan. Likewise, war monuments abound, whereas antiwar and peace monuments are far less numerous. History textbooks have traditionally been dominated by war and its pretended heroes, with opponents of war and advocates of peace at best relegated to footnotes. The “invisibility” of peace in education, institutions and public life generally is a great hindrance to learning about peace and working toward it. In particular, museums honoring peacemakers of the past and present would inspire and encourage visitors to believe in peace and recognize their role in helping bring it about.

In this way, perhaps, Hegel’s sombre maxim may yet prove to be wrong.


Media in Japan and the United Arab Emirates report the UN Review Conference of the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

April 30, 2015

At a time when the future of Trident is an election issue in Britain, it is difficult to get news of this event. The writer was alerted by the mother of one of the delegates to the conference taking place now in New York. She had described the march through the city and only technical reasons have prevented the transmission of a picture taken on the spot.

Atomic bomb survivors and peace campaigners take part in a march through New York last Sunday ahead of the U.N. conference to promote nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation that was to start Monday. | KYODO

Atomic bomb survivors and peace campaigners take part in a march through New York last Sunday ahead of the U.N. conference to promote nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation that was to start Monday. | KYODO

Around 7,500 people carrying banners and signs chanted “No nukes!”, “No more Hiroshima!” and other slogans as they walked about 3 km toward the United Nations,

An account and picture of the march was published in Japan which has experienced the horror of nuclear attacks by America.

At a rally held ahead of the parade, Yuko Nakamura, who survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in August 1945, recalled that more than 200 students at her school died when the United States dropped the bomb. She was 13 years old at the time.

Toward the end of the event, more than 7 million signatures on petitions from Japan and other countries seeking negotiations to eliminate the world’s nuclear arsenals were submitted to Taous Feroukhi, the Algerian ambassador who will chair the NPT review conference, and Angela Kane, top U.N. official for disarmament affairs. The conference will continue through May 22.

gov uk logoIt was good to find a statement on GOV.UK, a public sector information website, created by the government’s Digital Service. Baroness Anelay, the Minister of State at the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, is attending the UN 2015 Review Conference of the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. It opens:

baroness anelay“The United Kingdom remains committed to the Non Proliferation Treaty. It has played an unparalleled role, keeping the world safe and curtailing the nuclear arms race. It is at the centre of international efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, to create a nuclear weapon free world, and to enable access to the peaceful use of nuclear energy”.

And closes: “The United Kingdom will therefore play its part to reach an outcome that best benefits our collective rights to undiminished security, whilst taking us closer to our goal of a world free from nuclear weapons”.

dr al jabarThe only national media report found on the first page of a Google search was by the UEA’s The National: the Emirates’ Minister of State, Dr Sultan Al Jaber, said that the UAE was committed to ensuring global peace and security:

“The UAE attaches high importance to the NPT. It supports the right of countries’ peaceful use of nuclear energy with transparency and abiding by the highest standards of security and safety.”

He cited the UAE’s peaceful nuclear programme as a role model on how non-nuclear countries can utilise the international framework of cooperation, as provided for by the treaty.

Dr Al Jaber made a welcome call for the elimination of nuclear weapons worldwide, urging nuclear states to abide by their commitments: “[We] need to adopt practical steps to declare the Middle East as a nuclear weapons free zone”.


George Farebrother: in memoriam

April 13, 2015

george farebrotherThe late George Farebrother, who received the Civilisation 3000 alerts was, as his close colleague described him, “a deeply committed member of the global anti-nuclear movement who was intricately involved in moves to mount legal actions against governments that possess nuclear weapons”.

That colleague, Commander Robert Green Royal Navy (Ret’d) – from the Disarmament & Security Centre in New Zealand – wrote George’s obituary for the Guardian.

He records that from 1991 to 2004, they worked together as secretary and chair, respectively, of the UK affiliate of the World Court Project, an initiative that used the International Court of Justice at the Hague to challenge the legality of nuclear weapons. After the court confirmed in 1996 that the threat or use of nuclear weapons should generally be regarded as illegal, George sustained the project virtually single-handedly until his death.

From the moment he learned about the World Court Project in 1991 he took early retirement and dedicated the rest of his life to its activities. Applying his Quaker beliefs and teaching experience, he came up with the idea of collecting individual “declarations of public conscience” against nuclear weapons, which were accepted by the International Court of Justice as “citizens’ evidence”. This characteristically inventive concept was taken up all over the world, especially in Japan, and George helped present nearly four million declarations to the Court before its historic judgment.

He never gave up trying to engage with decision-makers and their advisers, and became a familiar figure in the corridors of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Defence, parliament and London embassies. His cogent writing, networking flair and grass roots appeal brought in enough funds to allow him to travel to key United Nations events in New York and Geneva. Constantly devising fresh ways of using the law to mobilise against nuclear weapons, he became adept at producing computerised publicity material.

In the Friend [15.4.05], George reported that one hundred and eighty eight states had ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which obliged them to negotiate their abolition. Individuals who wanted to see the nuclear­-armed states honour their legal obligations and abolish these outrageous weapons forever signed personal declarations which were presented at UN HQ in New York during the NPT Review Conference in May. The declarations also demanded the start of negotiations leading to the abolition of nuclear weapons under strict and effective international control.

The writer, who had not seen George in person for several years, was very pleased to hear news about his work at second hand from a friend, whose daughter Roslyn (below) worked closely with George during his latter years.

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Roslyn thus gained vital experience that has enabled her to continue his work for the abolition of nuclear weapons and a treaty to ban them, as readers may see here: https://twitter.com/roslyncook.

She attended the NPT Review Conference in 2010 with George and will be attending again in April as part of the CND delegation. Currently she is involved in a project to bring 80000 voices together next year to sing for peace and freedom from nuclear weapons.

George had also been secretary of the Sussex Peace Alliance, treasurer of Peacerights, Secretary of Eastbourne for Peace and Liberty, treasurer of the Institute for Law and Peace and a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).


Lest we forget

March 12, 2015

Peter Jarman reflects on the nature of remembrance

Amongst the many events intended to keep alive the memory of the Nazi genocide of Jews, in January I attended a Holocaust Memorial Day event in York. A Jewish Quaker gave a harrowing account of her grandparents – murdered in Auschwitz.

The murder of millions of Jews seventy years ago and the plight of the survivors was terrible and cannot be forgotten.

Holocaust Memorial Day events include other genocides since then, including those in Rwanda and Darfur. However, the International Court of Justice ruled recently that the war crimes in Serbia and Croatia were not genocide, which is ‘the intention to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnical, racial or religious group’.

There was a deafening silence at the York event about Palestinians whose livelihoods have been destroyed by successive Israeli governments. I heard no mention of the hundreds of Palestinian children and over 1,600 adult civilians killed during the Israeli shelling and bombing of Gaza in 2009 and 2014. Gaza: virtually a small blitzed prison enclosure with little proper sanitation or health care. Does the fate of Palestinians come close to genocide?

I felt like intervening when a person holding a lighted candle advised that British children should be taught about the Holocaust. Surely this is for adults to include in a balanced study of German history? For school pupils this could add to the stereotyping that some have about Germans – as if they were all Nazis. Roswitha, to whom I am married, was nine at the end of the war when she and her family fled from east Germany as the Soviet army invaded. When she sought to teach German at a comprehensive school in Birmingham in 1975 the kids there shouted ‘piss off, you Hun’. She, like many Germans in Britain, has borne the guilt of what the Nazis did, continually having a finger pointed at her as if she was responsible.

Her dismay over the Nazi crimes recently dominating newspapers and television came on top of the centenary of the first world war and the many war films depicting German forces on television.

Little, if anything, is broadcast about the German resistance to Adolf Hitler. Amongst the many who perished for this were Sophie Scholl and her two friends, young people, who were beheaded in 1943 for criticising the Nazi treatment of the Jews.

I am much troubled about the continual silence about what we British did during the Kikuyu uprising in Kenya in 1952-60: the ‘Mau Mau’ rebellion against the British occupying their land. We British were responsible for the torturing, killing and execution of tens of thousands Kikuyu, as related, for example, in Caroline Elkins’ book Britain’s Gulag, based on ten years’ research by this Harvard scholar. When, finally, Jomo Kenyatta, the Kikuyu leader, was released as Kenya moved towards independence in 1960, he advocated forgiveness for the sins of the British.

We British should take responsibility for remembering our crimes against humanity, like the fire bombing of Dresden in February 1945, which killed at least 25,000 civilians, and those tortured and killed in Kenya.

It took until 2013 – some sixty years later – before three or four of the surviving Kikuyu were given compensation for what was done – in our name – to them. Ought I to bear some guilt for what my forefathers did? Should these atrocities be mentioned in a future Holocaust memorial event, lest we forget?

the Friend, 13 March 2015