- conscripting conscience
- to vote or not to vote
- climate science: a peace-studies lesson
- climate change and conflict
- unarmed resistance
- acts of conscience
- a sunny day in prague
- human abuse map
complete issue pdf
that may not be the most important question.
The PPU does not endorse any party or candidate: we ask people to take into account the position of candidates on the following issues when they vote.
More UK soldiers have now died in Afghanistan than in the Falklands war.
Why is the UK fighting in Afghanistan?
The United States needs a stable state in Afghanistan so that no attacks on its soil can be planned from there, as the 9/11 attack was planned by Osama bin Laden. Little, however, is nowadays said about the fact that the USA was planning to bomb Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan before 9/11 – this conflict goes back much further than is usually remembered. It is now generally recognised that the 9/11 attack was an example of ‘blowback’ – unintended consequences. It was the USA who helped train the Taliban fighters to oppose the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s.
After the end of the Cold War, NATO needed a new role. It has reinvented itself and justifies its existence by fighting in Afghanistan, initially as self-defence after a NATO member, the USA, had been attacked by terrorists based there. The war has broadened out to become in effect a civil war in which NATO is supporting a weak and corrupt government against the Taliban. However this is going badly and causing serious divisions within the alliance. The USA is now accusing Europe of endangering peace ‘because of their growing pacifism and reluctance to foot the bill for adequate defence.’ The US Defence Secretary said in February 2010 that ‘The demilitarisation of Europe, where large swaths of the general public and political class are averse to military force and the risks that go with it, has gone from a blessing in the 20th century to an impediment to achieving real security and lasting peace in the 21st.’ This follows the collapse of the Dutch government over Afghanistan which means Dutch troops will be withdrawn later this year. Unfortunately this ‘European pacifism’ doesn’t extend yet to the UK which is still a loyal ally and generally very pro military force.
The longer the NATO forces stay in Afghanistan, the worse the problem is becoming – it has spread out to Pakistan where the situation in a nuclear-armed country is truly dangerous. Attempts to create a Western-style democracy in Afghanistan have been shown to be failing, with corruption rife, and with some warlords having power in the Afghan government. The situation for women is getting worse. It is clear the NATO political and military leaders all know this, but they are trying one last push to overcome the Taliban at the same time as trying to beg, bribe and generally persuade moderate Taliban to make peace. Bombing people to the negotiating table is not a rational policy. The continuing fighting is making things worse. In spite of military promises and policy to prevent civilian deaths, at least 60 civilians have lost their lives in air strikes in a month.
The British government appears to realise that peace must be pushed more urgently but that requires the cooperation of the Afghan government which is proving problematic.
In this country people are very loyal to the individual soldiers who are fighting and losing their lives and limbs and that is a genuine concern. However it does not mean that the majority of the population supports the war.
Most people want the soldiers home and the war ended. This is not going to happen overnight. But we can still encourage a date to be set for withdrawal, and all positive moves for reconciliation and peacemaking. The United Nations could be encouraged to be more pro-active in negotiating a peaceful solution to the war.
PPU position: that UK troops should be withdrawn at the earliest possible opportunity.
Questions to candidates/for general discussion
> Will you support the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan at the earliest date that is logistically possible?
> Will you encourage urgent moves for a negotiated peace, and advance planning for post-war reconciliation and peacemaking?
ÿ Will you support the involvement of the United Nations in this process?
After the election there will be a Strategic Defence Review, whichever party is elected. To date the Labour Party is excluding the renewal of the Trident nuclear missiles and submarines from this review. NATO are also drawing up a new strategic concept to be decided this year.
Trident costs: at the minimum CND believes that the Trident renewal programme to provide the UK with a new generation of nuclear weapons will cost £76 billion. (www.cnduk.org/election)
According to a Guardian/ICM poll in July 2009, 54% of Britons want the UK to rid itself of all nuclear weapons.
This is a unique chance to cancel the Trident renewal programme – not only is it immoral and against the UK’s international obligations in the Non-Proliferation Treaty, it is now completely unaffordable – the point worth emphasising in the current financial crisis. Army chiefs are openly discussing the costs of Trident (the only disadvantage being that they want a cheaper option for the possession of nuclear weapons such as putting nuclear warheads on cruise missiles instead).
This May sees the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. Under the Non-Proliferation Treaty the UK has an obligation to: ‘pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.’
PPU position: the PPU is opposed to all nuclear weapons and calls for the removal of the UK’s nuclear weapons as a positive contribution to nuclear disarmament worldwide.
Questions for candidates:
> Will you support the abolition of the Trident renewal programme?
> Will you support the transfer of the money which would have been used on this programme to socially useful production, e.g. investment in the development of green energy?
> Will you support efforts to negotiate a Nuclear Weapons Convention to outlaw all nuclear weapons?
Five NATO states (Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway and Luxembourg) are to call for the removal of all US nuclear weapons on European soil. (It is believed there are between 150 and 240 ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons in Europe in the form of aerial bombs. Stockpiled on US bases in Italy and Turkey as well as a few in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. Gdn.23.2.2010).
This would be a first step even if it does not deal with the remaining UK and French nuclear weapons.
In 2009 Africa became the latest Nuclear Weapons Free Zone.
PPU position: the PPU supports a European Nuclear-Free Zone.
Questions for candidates
> Would you support the removal of all US nuclear weapon states from Europe?
ÿ Would you support and work for the establishment of a European Nuclear-Free Zone?
Human Security and the Millennium Development Goals
‘’The poor cannot wait.”
At the international level the UN Millennium Declaration was drawn up in 2000 and committed the world to a global partnership to reduce poverty and tackle eight areas known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These are:
End Poverty and Hunger
There is an action plan with timed goals, and a deadline for achievement of 2015.
This plan aims to eradicate extreme ‘poverty, hunger, disease, lack of adequate shelter and exclusion while promoting gender equality, health, education and environmental sustainability’. The goals are based on the equal human rights to health, education, shelter and security.
There are 5 years left to achieve these goals. The UN has called a summit in New York on 20-22 September 2010 to boost progress on these issues. The Secretary-General has produced a report “Keeping the Promise” looking at progress so far and setting out an agenda for the next 5 years. Ban Ki-moon says “Our world possesses the knowledge and resources to achieve the MDGs.” Falling short “would be an unacceptable failure, moral and practical.”
The UK’s current defence budget is about £37 million. None of the major parties are ring-fencing defence expenditure in the post-election spending reviews – it will have to be cut and we need to encourage drastic cuts! There are many extravagant military projects which could be easily cut now, including Trident, aircraft carriers, new aircraft etc.
It is increasingly recognised that human security should be the aim, putting the security of people rather than the nation state at the heart of policy, and aiming to tackle the underlying causes of war to treat the symptoms not the disease. But the phrase ‘Human security’ means different things to different people and can include military options. We prefer the term ‘security without the military’. Others refer to ‘non-military security’ which includes activities which promote peace, prevent war, transform violent conflict, rebuild civil society and increase real security.
Even the military recognise that the kind of conflicts they are involved in cannot be solved by military means alone. They are increasingly seeking to deliver development and security in different ways by infrastructure projects and working to help economic and social development. But in doing so they are blurring the lines between the military and the delivery of aid and development assistance, causing great dangers for aid agencies. They are also blurring the lines in budgetary terms – for example the Conservatives are pledging to ring-fence spending on international aid, but this will in practice mean much military spending coming out of that budget instead of aid as it is usually understood.
Questions for candidates
> Do you know about the Millennium Development Goals to which the UK is committed
> Will you work to ensure these goals are attained by 2015?
> Will you work to transfer military spending to socially useful production, e.g. investing in green technologies to tackle climate change.?
> Will you work to place security without the military at the heart of the UK’s foreign policy?
ÿ Will you keep the international aid budget totally separate from the defence budget, and ring-fence international aid?
Did you know that 2008 'was The International Year of Sanitation', in recognition of the slow progress being made towards the MDGs sanitation target.
Diarrhoea claims the lives of 4,000 children a day. These children are dying because they do not have access to adequate sanitation or safe water. Their deaths, from common diseases, are preventable.
The Ministry of Defence describes the cadet forces as ‘community-based voluntary organisations for young people’. Yet it spends almost £100 million annually out of the UK military budget for this ostensibly innocuous purpose. The reality is that around a half of army officers and a quarter of other ranks have a cadet background, and a quarter of all navy personnel have cadet experience. The cadets – Sea Cadet Corps, Army Cadet Force, Air Training Corps and schools-based Combined Cadet Force (CCF) – are an important military recruiting tool. So committed is the government to them that over the past three years £800,000 was spent on expanding the CCF, and to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the start of military cadets, it was announced on 10 January 2010 yet more is to be spent on further expansion.
This development has been largely driven by Gordon Brown, while David Cameron agrees that ‘extending the cadet force is a very good idea’. At a time when fatal gun crime is constantly deplored, both parties seem to ignore the fact that shooting is a regular cadet activity, as, indeed, is the handling, and implicit admiration of, all kinds of weapons, from the age of 12.
PPU position: The PPU opposes any encouragement to children and young people to play with guns and calls for the cessation of any kind of public funding of such activity. Furthermore it calls for the withdrawal of all public funds from quasi military organisations for young people.
The 2005 Labour election manifesto stated: "We are also committed to retaining the independent nuclear deterrent." This like so much surrounding nuclear weapons is a confidence trick which like all confidence trick works because people want to believe it. Ever since the late 1940s when miffed by the Americans the Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin said: I do not want any other Foreign Secretary of this country to be talked at [by the Americans], or to, as I was. We've got to have this thing over here [atomic bomb], whatever it costs. We've got to have the bloody Union Jack on top of it. Most British politicians and commentators who surely know better continue talking about Britain’s ‘independent’ nuclear deterrent. In fact there is no such thing.
The fact behind the pro-renewal of Trident argument is that Britain’s defence in any future scenario depends not on it having a nuclear deterrent with a Union Jack on it, but on it having the US on its side. Declassified National Security directives make Britain’s dependence clear. Even the conservative government at the height of nuclear confrontation had to admit that there were never any ‘identifying British’ Trident missiles. The words ‘Royal Navy’ were only> > painted on the missiles for test firing to make suitable publicity pictures.
Documents obtained by the Natural Resources Defence Council, a non-governmental organisation in the US, show that for 45 years the UK has been given blueprints of many US weapons to help build bombs for Royal Navy missile submarines and RAF bombers. For decades, too, all British nuclear testing was done in the US, and access to the Nevada test site is still essential to the UK programme.
Just before the Christmas break in 2008 Ministers announced the sale of the remaining third share in the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston to a Californian engineering company or as The Independent put it at the time ‘The announcement means that Americans will now produce and maintain Britain's independent nuclear deterrent.’
Today Aldermaston not only uses US equipment to make the bombs but is co-managed by the Lockheed Martin Corporation of Bethesda, Maryland, while the submarine maintenance base in Plymouth is largely the property of Dick Cheney's old firm, Halliburton.
As far back as 1962 the then US defence secretary, Robert McNamara, said that the British nuclear bomber force did not operate independently. Writing in 1980, Air Vice-Marshal Stewart Menaul said it definitely could not be used without US authorisation. Today former naval officers say it would be extremely difficult. Or as Robin Cook said all aspects of Trident are dependent on the US.
Did Britain have to invade Iraq? No, but if it had not, when the Mutual Defence Agreement came up for renewal in 2004 would John Bolton have recommended to his president that Britain was worthy of another ten years of nuclear supplies?