On the steps of the MoD, Bruce Kent presents ‘peace prizes’ to activists from MEDACT, ICAN, WILPF and many others

December 12, 2017

This account was prompted by a tweet by Roslyn Cook (campaigning in support of the UN nuclear weapons ban treaty and a global nuclear weapon free zone) and an article in Beat (the “go to” multi-platform radio station for entertaining & informing young adults in the South East)

On the 10th December, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to ICAN, for its “work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons”.

On Saturday, the day before the award in Oslo, Bruce Kent hosted an ‘award ceremony’ at the MoD in celebration of the Nobel Peace Prize – which honours the tireless efforts of thousands of people across the world who brought about the nuclear ban.

His ‘peace prize’ was presented to activists from @Medact @ICAN_UK @WILPF and many others on the steps of the Ministry of Defence in London. Read a fuller account on an allied website.

Beat reported extracts from Bruce Kent’s address

Bruce, the vice president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), thinks that Britain is “uniquely placed” to become the first nuclear power to “come off the fence”. During a period of heightened nuclear tensions arising from North Korea’s military tests, said no one wins in nuclear war: “It is a very dangerous time because a man like Trump really is not sufficiently informed to know what he is dealing with. He is still living in a kind of cowboy world, where the one with the bigger gun somehow wins. Well nobody wins with a nuclear war – there is no winning. We have had precarious times before, like the Cuban crisis, but this is quite a dangerous one – granted his volatile method of talking and thinking.”

He said the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent would be a ‘gross waste of money’:

“They always talk about it as if it was just the building of the things. But if you add the building and the running of them it is something like £300 billion which could be spent on housing or hospitals, or social services, or overseas aid – that money does not get challenged.”

We note that in November 2012 the Ministry of Defence (MoD) outlined its projections for year-on-year spending up to 2016/17 (above).

Mr Kent said the UK does not have an independent nuclear weapon

The country depends entirely on the Americans to supply the missiles: “If America or Trump said no more missiles for Britain, in six months we would no longer have a nuclear arsenal. We would have the warheads, but we wouldn’t have anywhere to put them. We are well placed to be the first nuclear power to come off the fence.”

Asked if he thinks North Korea is a particular threat, Mr Kent said: “I think North Korea has nuclear weapons because of the world it lives in. It is looking out at the American fleet, it is looking at nuclear weapons pointed at it and it thinks to itself, just like Mrs May probably, that it is safer to have nuclear than not to have them. I think it is more dangerous for everybody. The answer to the North Korea problem is to get rid of American nuclear weapons from that area and de-target North Korea – not to encourage them to copy us. If nuclear weapons provide security there is no common sense in saying that other countries should not have them.”

MEDACT, ICAN and WILPF staged a ceremony which included the presentation of a handmade Nobel Peace Prize coin and speeches. They also called on the Government to sign up to the newly approved UN treaty that bans nuclear weapons, and staged a “die in”, where the 25 activists lay sprawled on the steps of the Ministry of Defence in London (above) to highlight the human cost of nuclear war.






Iran felt isolated and betrayed for over 30 years

February 10, 2014


Dr Khateri IranLast June this site posted news about the work of Dr. Shahriar Khateri, co-founder of the Tehran Peace Museum.

After fighting in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war he went to medical school and later co-founded the Society for Chemical Weapons Victims Support – which many believe should have shared the Nobel peace prize with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Strategic loneliness

robin wright persiaRobin Wright has now written from Tehran about the lingering impact of the 1980s war defining Iran’s worldview – described by Nasser Hadian, a University of Tehran political scientist, as one of “strategic loneliness”.

Robin continues: “Tehran felt a sense of isolation and betrayal after the United Nations verified Iraq’s repeated use of chemical weapons, but the outside world still almost unanimously sided with Saddam Hussein. Iran’s neighbors aided him. Europeans and Russians sold him arms. The United States was complicit too. Washington provided Baghdad with intelligence on Iran’s equipment and troops strengths to help Iraq retake the Fao Peninsula in 1988. Iraq made widespread use of chemical weapons to win it back”.

In June 2013, State Department documents dealing with the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war were declassified and released under the Freedom of Information Act. Some confirmed 2002 reports that US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld – an executive in the pharmaceutical industry – helped Saddam Hussein build up his arsenal of chemical and biological weapons.

Iran has become the world’s ‘largest laboratory’ for the study of low-dose exposure to chemical weapons

It is estimated that Iran suffered more than 50,000 immediate casualties from Iraq’s repeated use of nerve agents and toxic gases in the 1980s. Years after the war however, Iranian doctors noticed that respiratory diseases with unusual side-symptoms — corneal disintegration, rotting teeth and dementia, a combination synonymous with mustard gas — had started killing some veterans who had not been on the frontlines. The troubling pattern was soon diagnosed as secondary contamination to mustard gas.

The final tally of the war may still not be known for years, Dr. Shahriar Khateri, now Iran’s leading expert on chemical weapons victims, says. “Most of the men exposed to chemical weapons were not registered casualties at the time. So almost every day there are new cases — 30 years after the war.” Dr. Farhad Hashemnez told Robin Wright in 2002. “At least 20% of the current patients are civilians who didn’t think they were close enough to be exposed.”

Khateri says 70,000 are registered and other Iranian doctors predict that the final toll of Iraq’s chemical weapons could rival the 90,000 who died from toxic gases in World War I.

Robin Wright has been a fellow at Yale, Duke, Stanford, Brookings, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the U.S. Institute of Peace. Among many awards, she won the U.N. Correspondents Gold Medal, the National Magazine Award, and the Overseas Press Club Award for “best reporting in any medium requiring exceptional courage and initiative”.


Projecting Peace Through History and Museums

March 19, 2013


An eprint, link below, is available, possibly for a limited period, enabling people to read Peter van den Dungen’s article online.

PVD journal cover

Dr van den Dungen sees the emergence of institutions for the study and pursuit of global peace, and peace academies for the training of nonviolent activists and mediators, in the latter decades of the twentieth century, as part of a wider “emancipation” of the notion and value of peace itself, “understood in the first instance as the absence of major war in global society and the creation of norms, practices, and institutions that would be able to banish the recourse to large-scale violence in relations between (and within) states”.

The announcement every October of the new winner of the Nobel peace prize, followed by the award ceremony itself in Oslo on the tenth of December (date of Nobel’s death), remains one of the rare occasions when the nature and meaning of peace are widely discussed in the media, though, as Dr van den Dungen points out, “a close student of Nobel and his will has persuasively argued that Nobel’s prize is essentially one for disarmament, and that successive Norwegian Nobel Committees have unwisely and illegitimately broadened the scope of the prize”, (see Fredrik Heffermehl’s book, The Nobel Peace Prize: What Nobel Really Wanted).

He notes the stark contrast of the emergence of institutions for the study and pursuit of global peace, and peace academies with the “ubiquitous presence of war and the military, especially in Western society”, the large and well-funded museums devoted to war and the military profession, the war monuments, squares and streets named after battles or victorious military leaders and history textbooks, which tend to focus on war.

While the overall message portrays the military as the protector of the nation, and war as an admittedly tragic but at times inevitable necessity – “the (hi)story of antiwar, of war resistance, of war prevention, of peacemaking and peacemakers” remains largely unknown and untold.

Dr van den Dungen sees that the forthcoming centenary of World War I, 2014–2018, could provide many opportunities for peace educators and activists to show that, using a motto of the Movement for the Abolition of War (UK), “whatever war can do, peace can do better.”

At present, histories and museums about World War I seldom record those voices that warned against such a war being unleashed, though those who died in that war are remembered in many countries around the world every year on or around November 11—Armistice Day:

“Those who anticipated the bloodbath, labored to prevent it, and urged peaceful conflict resolution (such as Jan Bloch), as well as those who refused to participate in the war (war resisters and conscientious objectors), were treated as utopians, cowards, and traitors, respectively.

“These ‘patriotic pacifists’ (in Sandi E. Cooper’s felicitous expression) who wanted to avert the disaster, however, are not remembered—neither on November 11 nor in any other way, raising profound questions about the nature and purpose of war remembrance, including in war museums”.

The paper may be read here: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/iQhZiYbDsEhjCA58rg7u/full