Keynote speakers at this Frome Stop Wars Campaign meeting were Lindsey German from Stop the War and Kate Hudson from CND.
Frome Stop Wars Campaign hosted the two most prominent women in the British peace movement, who tirelessly campaign for an anti-war, anti-nuclear government agenda—Kate Hudson, general secretary of CND and Lindsey German, convenor of the National Stop the War Coalition.
The event was held on Wednesday 15th April at the Trinity Church Hall, Trinity Street, Frome, attracting an attentive audience of about forty.
The importance of events like this is that people can hear informed analysis not available on the mainstream media. Sheila Coombes, Chair of Frome Stop Wars Campaign, introduced the two guests, and Lindsey German spoke first.
Lindsey German noted that countries like Afghanistan, Libya and Syria have been extensively bombed, and Yemen and Kenya have recently seen more of it.
Yet despite there being an election in progress attracting hours of TV time, it is not a big election issue.
The excuse offered for this bombing is the “War on Terror”, yet the anti-war movement predicted it would not defeat terrorism but lead to its escalation. And so it has!
Beginning with Afghanistan in a supposed attempt to capture Osama bin Laden, alleged to have been behind the destruction of the New York Twin Towers, his so-called Al Qaida being holed up in some mountains to the east of the country.
The attack provoked a counter action by the Taliban—a fundamentalist group which had emerged from US plans to evict the Soviet Union from its role of protecting the left wing regime in Afghanistan—who were then thrown out, only to return stronger despite the massive investment in the military sent there.
The 14 year long intervention succeeded in nothing but the death of over 400 British soldiers and thousands of Americans. Terrorism was not ended, it spread in that time such that from a few caves in Afghan’s mountains, the fundamentalists now have huge swathes of territory in the Middle East and Africa.
Despite the cheery publications of the media that the war would improve infrastructure, little significant in the way of new schools and services emerged in Afghanistan. Rather the media emphasised that the leaders of the groups that were added as they emerged to Al Qaida, or the leaders of the countries supposed to be incorrigible monsters for terrorising their own people were deemed to be new Hitlers threatening us in the west besides the local people.
Saddam Hussein was accused of being able to attack Britain in 45 minutes with WMD that have never been found.
It was a lie to excuse the Bush/Blair invasion, and was only vaguely true in that possible British bases in Cyprus could theoretically have been within range had Saddam had the weapons he was accused of having.
More recently the legal passing of Russian warships through the English Channel and the flying by of a few Russian aircraft have been painted as existential threats to Great Britain.
Meanwhile the West are still trying to get rid of another of their new Hitlers, Bashar al Assad, but so far have failed.
A product of these incessant wars is the currant European xenophobia about immigrants trying desperately to get from Asian and African war zones to Europe. Surely that is not surprising, but western politicians will describe them as criminals.
Then there is Isis, the so-called Islamic Caliphate, but this has emerged as a result of western bombing and infrastructure destruction in Iraq, and recruits from all those Muslims incensed by the utter disregard of the western bombers for the lives of Muslims everywhere not least Muslim youth here in the UK.
Moreover it is funded and sustained by our own supposed allies Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the latter in particular being a most valued ally because it spends fortunes in the UK buying armaments, a business that Labour are eager to support! The death of the former king of Saudi Arabia was mourned astonishingly ingratiatingly in this country, with Saudi flags raised at half mast in public buildings everywhere, media coverage and the hypocritical rush of politicians and royalty to attend the funeral and pay tribute to a man who had ordered the beheading of far more people than Isis ever had.
The media and western politicians now make out that the Muslim world has always been tormented by antipathy between Sunnis and Shia, but that is another western lie. Whatever happened in distant history to cause the split, it has not generally been a bone of contention in more recent eras. Middle eastern Arabs, Christians and Jews tell us that generally there has been a remarkable level of peace and cooperation between the different religions and sects in the Middle east, even in Syria where the mix is extremely complicated.
The cause of the present troubles has been fomented by imperial intervention, bombing and bribery.
As an aside, Ms German noted that Hillary Clinton is scarcely a woman to be admired by the women of the peace movement like those on the platform. She had cheered each US intervention as it happened beginning with Afghanistan, prolonged the Syrian war, and celebrated the horribly disgusting manner of Gaddafi’s murder. In foreign policy she is far more hawkish than Obama who has been obliged by the Washington caste and the hawkishness of the Republicans to intervene but has never seemed enthusiastic about it, and has taken some contrary measures such as lifting the half century sanctioning of Cuba.
The results of foreign wars are not only felt overseas, they are also felt at home. There is the expense of them which means money is not available for domestic consumption, for example on the NHS, and education or housing, but also there is the growth of racism, and the scapegoating of Muslims.
Moreover, it provides an excuse to clampdown on legitimate protest as being extreme! In contrast, what is needed is a mass protest against war so as to build peace and co-existence and mutual respect between countries of different political, cultural and religious systems.
Answering questions, Lindsey German noted that only the Green Party and the SNP had clear anti-war policies in their manifestos, that she had not mentioned Israel specifically in her talk because she was trying to speak generally, but agreed that Israel had a special function through its alliance with the US and its favoured status among the US ruling clique.
Asked about the cost of the Middle Eastern wars to the west, she said it was hard to get reliable figures but that Joseph Stiglitz had put it at $trillions! People should note that US budgets are misleading when it comes to expenditure on wars and the military. Much more is available than that accounted under “defense”. Military expenditure is available under many other accounts, and so is a much higher proportion of the US GDP than it appears, and the US GDP is, of course, vast anyway.
The second speaker was Kate Hudson, General Secretary of CND. She was to speak particularly on NATO and the UK’s retention of the Trident nuclear defence system.
She said it was hard to get the facts about our defence systems particularly trident. Minister Michael Fallon attacked labour leader Ed
Miliband in a personal way causing a media rumpus to avoid the real issue being raised.
The media is expert at distorting the news by commission but particularly omission. They simply do not report what is awkward or embarrassing, and Nato, the Ukraine and Russia are prime examples.
The public do not realise that much of what is written about these issues is rubbish. Recently there have been menacing reports of Russian warships going through the Channel and Russian aircreft "testing our defences", and that Russia is carrying out exercises on its borders as if preparing to attack its neighbours, but little or nothing is said about Nato doing exactly the same thing in the former socialist countries allowing far more massive and continuous Nato exercises on Russia’s borders, now that these countries have been obliged to join Nato as a condition of being a member of the European Union.
It is typical media distortion meant to suggest that Russia is menacing us, when in reality it is us via Nato that is menacing Russia. The same is true of the media coverage of Nato in Ukraine. It is largely absent.
People have been led to think Nato is a defensive organisation set up in 1949 to balance the menace of the socialist countries forming the Warsaw Pact, but the Warsaw Pact was actually set up in 1955 in response to Nato having been set up by the US and its western allies.
With the weakening and eventual collapse of the Soviet Union, the Warsaw Pact was abolished in 1991.
The expectation, with the change of status of Russia from socialist to capitalist state, was that Nato would also be abandoned, but not a bit of it.
Not only did it continue, it expanded into the eastern European countries that had also changed to capitalism. Consisting of 16 in 1989, Nato expanded to 28 today, so now it reaches right up to the borders of Russia Naturally it was of concern to the Russians who had thought East-West tensions would cease.
The legitimate fears of western deceit by Russia are ignored in our media. It is not only territorial expansion of Nato but Russian fears are multiplied by the internal changes made in the Nato constitution.
So, at the Nato summit of 1999, Nato expanded its remit from defending its member states to “defending” other countries not members of the North Atlantic Treaty organisation.
It therefore gave itself the right to intervene in the affairs of countries far from the North Atlantic like Afghanistan.
Nato is going global, presenting itself as the United Nations’ police force, but really it is the United States’ police force, devised by the US to relieve it of the direct role of “global policeman” that it likes, but which was becoming a burden, by making it seem the schoolyard bully.
Nato is also forging partnerships with other groups seeking involvement everywhere, on every continent, though it failed to get access to central Asia, a setback to US imperial ambitions in the Far East.
Nonetheless it is a global problem, and the EU requirement that its member states should maintain at least 2% of their GDP on defence is because the US wants Nato members to take on more of the funding of the US’s role of “global policeman”, that is to say, the US imperial enforcer.
Added to the danger of Nato is that it has taken on a first strike policy, meaning that no member state can honestly claim not to have a first strike policy. As members, they are obliged to follow the rules of the club!
Besides that, the US has nuclear weapons already stationed in Europe, under the Nato umberella, in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey (included because it is keen to join the European Union). These weapons cannot be withdrawn, and will be updated, irrespective of the non-proliferation treaty, in 2020.
These nuclear “agreements” and Trident have been opposed by most of the British public for nearly a full decade (since 2006), and their opponents now include the TUC, many faith communities, and even some military men and Tory MPs. (Blair prevaricated that there were valid arguments on both sides but he had decided to replace Trident to maintain the status of the UK!)
The main arguments against Trident is cost and its irrelevance to our modern security needs. Trident costs £3bn a year, and renewal of the system, promised by the main parties, will cost around £100bn.
The system was designed to face up to the fear of the Soviet Union, then a similarly armed mega-power, but the threats now are more diffuse, terrorism, criminal activities, cyber warfare and such. In fact, now only the Tories and UKIP give unqualified support to Trident.
Labour are somewhat ambiguous, calling for its inclusion in a defence review and suggesting that even if the renewal goes ahead, only three submaries rather than four will suffice.
Answering a question, Kate Hudson pointed out that Trident is not “our independent” nuclear deterrent anyway. It is not solely ours and we do not have control of it. It consists of three parts:
- The warheads, supplied by the US, are held by the UK at Aldermaston.
- The missiles are provided by the US.
- The submarines are jointly owned by the US and the UK.
So whose weapons are they? Who can press the button to fire them. The answer is the US!
Tony Benn pointed out that the British PM could press the button to launch Trident but all it could do without US approval was to go up and come down again.
Without US authorization, the missile cannot be guided because the US control access to the satellite guidance system! Trident is not our system, it is a US system, except that we pay for it and provide a base for it. Our aim should be to scrap Trident and use the money saved on our own needs.
In further questions, the government and media’s efforts to promote the military again arose in connection with the publicity given to the “Help for Heroes” charity. The aim is to use the human sympathy people have for wounded soldiers to get support for the military in general as heroes.
A questioner was concerned about what would replace Trident if we succeeded in scrapping it. Wouldn’t we be vulnerable? But only 8 countries had nuclear weaponry, so we would just openly join those many nations who feel no fear from not having them. Having them actually makes us a prime target. We had a few nuclear weapons of our own until around 1990, but now we do not, and we had let the US keep nuclear weapons at Lakenhurst until 2008, so we were a target anyway.
If defence was felt necessary, conventional weapons can do the trick against the type of enemy we are likely to face. The best remedy, though, would be to treat other people properly, trade with them honestly, and not give them cause for anger. The Anglo-French nuclear agreement was also noted.
Asked about the causes of war, the speakers highlighted the drive for global control of markets and resources by imperial countries, the US and its allies. The US fear of losing important markets and resources to Russia and China in Asia and Africa has driven the latest spate of US/Nato interventions.
Lindsey German pointed to the serious wars being fought in Mali and Nigerian stemming from the overthrow of a stable state in Libya seen as a threat to western control of Africa. Kate Hudson added that neoliberalism and war were two sides of the same imperialist coin.
Austerity had brought a lot of people to CND who had seen that there was no austerity when it came to armaments and war. When the money for warfare can always be found, it proves to those following events that austerity is not to cut any imaginary deficit.
Britain is a rich country. It has the money, but too much of it is in the wrong hands.
Asked about the strategy of enrichment of the already rich, Lindsey German said the US economy was indeed declining while the rich were taking more and so getting richer but they were not feeling any more secure.
On Syria, the west were wrong to try to make Assad go by supporting Saudi Arabia funding of so called rebels, who have metamorphosed into mercenaries and fanatics from many other Muslim countries. Left to itself, the original dissidents and Assad could have come to a settlement.
Saudi Arabia has been getting more ambitious, and the destruction of otherwise stable countries suits its ambitions—the overthrow of Shia Iran.
The platform speakers agreed that women were more anti-war than men, and that included Muslim women. They also apologised for a misleading shorthand used in speaking, that of saying “America”, “the US”, and so on. They accepted that many Americans were opposed to war, but that the ruling elite were the drivers of it. It was a class issue rather than a national one.
The anti-war movement was not particularly interested in the inner politics of warring countries, the concern being for all the innocent people murdered and maimed in the conflicts.
We seem to be being propelled in spite of popular opposition into a series of wars of intervention through NATO’s aggressive strategy of launching pre-emptive wars, despite the dangers of the nuclear arsenal at its disposal, and the risk posed by the approximately 16,000 nuclear weapons held by the nuclear community.
The detonation of just one of these weapons by accident or design, would be catastrophic.
The Stop the War Coalition has opposed invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and the proposed NATO bombing of Syria. It says:
We are living with the consequences of United States’ stewardship of NATO and its belligerent stance on the world stage which has brought about death, destruction and the collapse of societies in sovereign countries. With the 21st Century seeing an ever increasing number of international conflicts, it is important to analyse and understand the nature of these and our own government’s role in them.
Source: Frome Stop Wars Campaign