Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Disarmament deception

What a depressing,  vote-losing and hopeless response to the Trident Alternative Review (TAR) from Labour's shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy when he said "Labour has always said that we are committed to the minimum credible independent nuclear deterrent,"("Trident  set to  be kept afloat after Labour snubs Lib Dem plans," Independent, 17 July)

Lib Dem deputy prime minister Nick Clegg calls for a fact-based debate on theUK nuclear WMDs. Here is a start.

In papers I uncovered at  the National Archives in Kew, they show that on 23 January 1968, Fred (later Lord) Mulley - as the UK Labour Government's minister of state for foreign affairs -  addressed the 358th plenary meeting of the Eighteen Nation Committee on Disarmament (ENDC) in Geneva, explaining why nations should sign up to the newly negotiated Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), he told the ministerial delegations:

"As I have made clear in previous speeches, my government accepts the obligation to participate fully in the negotiations required by [NPT] Article VI and it is our desire that these negotiations should begin as soon as possible and should produce speedy and successful results. There is no excuse now for allowing a long delay to follow the signing of this treaty."

Instead of entering into multilateral negotiations to fulfil our commitments to the NPT, as Mulley had promised, the next Labour government in the mid-1970s, secretly modernised  the UK’s  Polaris nuclear WMD with Chevaline, without consulting - or even telling – Parliament: it took the Conservatives to reveal it in 1980.

On Monday last week Tory foreign office minister Baroness Warsi told peers in a written answer that the UK will not be participating in the United Nations Open-Ended Working Group on Taking Forward Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament Negotiations "because Government considers that the Conference on Disarmament, not the OEWG, provides the correct forum for taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations. The Government considers that a practical step by step approach is needed, using existing mechanisms such as the Non Proliferation Treaty and the Conference on disarmament." (Lords Hansard, 15 July: Column WA93


With Tory defence secretary Philip Hammond telling the Today Programme listeners on Radio Four on Tuesday morning, 16 July, he could see Trident2 needed for at least sixty years hence, that would be over 100 years without any nuclear disarmament under Tory plans.

In the late 1960s the modernising Labour Government set a fine precedent in negotiating the NPT, and establishing the foundatiions for making the UK - and the wider world - a more secure place without nuclear weapons.

The current Labour Leader Ed Miliband has an opportune chance to build on this trailblazing tradition, by resurrecting the NPT commitment, and at the same time to show you can see more secure without nuclear weapons, which is a strong message to send Iran, North Korea and, Pakistan, India and Israel.

Mr Murphy's instant rejection was totally unhelpful.
 
 

Monday, 22 July 2013

If only he had known.......

Former foreign Secretary David Miliband, who imminently sets off for his new life in New York as a charity ceo, asserted in an interview in the Observer that  if he had known in 2003 that there were no WMDs in Iraq "there would have  been n no justification for war." ("David Miliband's farewell  blast at failings in Iraq and Afghanistan,"  Observer, 14 July).
 
Mr Miliband  is as wrong in 2013 as his predecessor Jack Straw (http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/media/43119/jackstraw-memorandum.pdf)) and former prime minister Tony Blair were earlier: they are all in wilful denial. Tony Blair's government knew Saddam had no WMDs at least six years before he colluded with Bush to illegally invade Iraq.
 
This information was reported originally in US magazine Newsweek, in its first issue in March 2003, and re-reported by  the Guardian's  diplomatic editor, (“Iraqi defector's testimony confuses case against Iraq ,” 1 March 2003,http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/mar/01/iraq.julianborger),but it then disappeared from the pre-invasion public debate.

The evidence comes from General Hussein Kamel, the former director of Iraq's Military Industrialization Corporation, who defected to Jordan on 7 August 1995, taking with him crates of documents revealing past weapons programmes, and provided these to UNSCOM, the United Nations WMD inspection team. Kamel ill-advisedly late agreed to return to Iraq, where he was assassinated.

Kamel had stated categorically in his 22 August 1995 inteview: "I ordered destruction of all chemical weapons. All weapons - biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed" (p. 13). The CIA and MI6 were told the same story, Newsweek reported. All this is available at :
http://www.casi.org.uk/info/unscom950822.pdf

Blair told the now retired Labour MP Llew Smith, for whom I then did research,
"Hussein Kamal was interviewed by UNSCOM and by a number of other agencies. Details concerning the interviews were made available to us on a confidential basis." (Hansard, 26 March 2003 : Column 235W)
Sir John Chilcot should surely obtain the text of the interview from the Special Intelligence Service (M16) at the earliest opportunity, before he completes his report.
 
And Mr Miliband should take advantage while in New York to  consult the full original  transcript of the interview at the United Nations' voluminous Iraq archive.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Baseless Nuclear Killer

 
The suggestion emerged  last week in a leak to the BBC, picked up by the Guardian in several articles,  that the bases for Britain’s nuclear WMD system (Trident) at Faslane and Coulport  near Glasgow in Scotland could be designated as “sovereign UK territory” should Scottish voters  back independence in the forthcoming referendum This follows some unhappy examples elsewhere, not mentioned in the reports. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk-news/2013/jul/10/mod-trident-scotland-independence?INTCMP=SRCH)
 

The US detention jail at Guantanamo Bay on Cuba – with its shocking reputation – is well known.

 
The US use of the island of Diego Garcia as a strategic  military base - rented from the UK - which effectively expropriated the Chagos Islands (British Indian Ocean Territory, BIOT) from its inhabitants, who were forcibly deported, is a shameful episode in  British colonialism. Last  Monday foreign office minister Mark Simmonds admitted to MPs in a statement:

This Government have expressed their regret about the way resettlement of BIOT was carried out in the late 1960s and early 1970s. We do not seek to justify those actions or excuse the conduct of an earlier generation. What happened was clearly wrong, which is why substantial compensation was rightly paid.” (Hansard, 8 July: Columns 3-4WS)

 
The minister did not mention it, but a disgraceful deal done in 1966 with the Americans was part of the agreement that secured the US designed Polaris nuclear missile  and submarine system, which is Trident’s predecessor, as the Guardian has earlier reported. (see  Peter H. Sands, 2009,  United States and Britain in Diego Garcia – the Future of a Controversial Base. New York: Palgrave MacMillan) The human rights of the Chagossians were expendable in attaining the new nuclear WMD system Polaris (“Chagos Islands marine park is compatible with law, high court rules,”Guardian, 11 June 2013, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/11/chagos-islands-marine-park-court?INTCMP=SRCH)

 
The US  also has 14  major military bases on Okinawa, the archipelago of islands  south of Japan, officially Japanese, but practically American, fully 68 years after US  military activities against Japan ceased. A small number of the  26,000 US military personnel  based there  have committed, and been convicted of, terrible sexual abuses against  local women. (“U.S. sailors get nine, 10 years for rape ,” JapanTtimes, 2 March 2013, http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/03/02/national/u-s-sailors-get-nine-10-years-for-rape/#.Ud8Y_XDn-M8 ; “Okinawa Military Rape Arrests: Japan Decries U.S. Troops In Sexual Assault Allegations, “ Huffington Post,  17 October 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/17/okinawa-military-rape_n_1974475.html)

 
The Ukrainian port city of Sevastopol continues to be the home of the Russian - formerly  Soviet –Black Sea Fleet, and is now home to a Ukrainian naval base too, and has Russian naval facilities leased from Ukraine through 2042. The headquarters of both the Ukrainian Naval Forces and Russia's Black Sea Fleet are located in the city.
 

Russia  also has the micro-territory of Kaliningrad, formerly the German K√∂nigsberg , which borders NATO states of Poland and Lithuania, is located at the mouth of the navigable Pregolya (Pregel)River, which empties into the Vistula Lagoon, an inlet of the almost totally enclosed Baltic Sea. Its strategiv location make it Russia’s most militarised teritory and it hosts Russia’s Baltic Fleet m, as well as the 3 military airports (Chernyakhovsk (air base), Donskoye (air base) and Kaliningrad Chkalovsk (naval air base). The city is one of the wierdest in Europe.

 
We should beware of the negative impact of such sometimes lawless military enclaves on foreign territories. In the case of Trident better to scrap it altogether and invest the  resources saved in rebuilding our economy and public services.

 

 

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Mystic Warsi

Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore suggested  in her  latest column (4 July ) that "we remain passive while the other European countries are angry at what [US National Security Agency whistleblower]  Ed Snowden has told us. We maintain the special relationship [ with the US]."

She is correct for most of the British political class, who show supine subservience to the United States, whether led by a dangerous political buffoon like George W. Bush, or a would-be Liberal, like Obama, whose own instincts have been suppressed by the obsessions of the intelligence apparatus in Washington.

The Tory chair of the so-called Intelligence and Security Committee, Sir Malcom Rifkind, himself "captured"  by  his former stints as both Conservative foreign and defence secretary, ("Unrepentant in our secrecy," Guardian 4 July) exemplifies perfectly to supine surrender to  the superior calls for secrecy by the intelligence community, in his apologia article  arguing he will hold  hearing of  his committee in public only on issues that don't matter!

One MP did try to get behind the shroud of secrecy surrounding the PRISM revelations  unveiled in Guardian over the past month. Labour veteran backbencher, Paul Flynn, asked the foreign secretary how many meetings (a) he, (b) Ministers in his Department and (c) officials in his Department have had with their US counterparts on the PRISM data gathering system since May 2010. and also whether  the Government has given the US government authority to allow the US National Security Agency (NSA) to process data acquired by the NSA on UK citizens at the NSA's new Utah Data Center?
Junior foreign office minister Alistair Burt replied fulsomely: "It is the long-standing policy of successive governments not to comment in detail on matters of intelligence. This includes discussions with allies and liaison agencies."  (Hansard, 18 June: Column 630W)

How clever are our intelligence agencies anyway? Last week,  Lib Dem peer Lord Alton of Liverpool asked in the Lords about the intelligence that the UK  have received about military intervention in Egypt, she replied “it has helpfully been indicated that there is no intention for there to be a military coup”.(Official Report, 2 July: col.1079.)
 
When challenged  by Lord Alton two days later about this answer, Baroness  Warsi replied: "My Lords... I take the noble Lord’s point, but it would be inappropriate for me to comment on intelligence matters at the Dispatch Box."(Lords Hansard, 4 July: Column 1323).
 
As the United States funds the  Egyptian military to the tune of $1.3 bn annually, it is  highly unlikely that they did not  know about the planned coup. So did they not tell their closest ally, the UK, or did Baroness Warsi  not tell Parliament the truth?
 
Either way, it is worrying, and all the more reason to shine some  sunlight on the nefarious activities of the intelligence agencies to keep our defenders competent.
 

Monday, 8 July 2013

Nuclear Numpties


Last Saturday Liberal Democrat energy Secretary Ed Davey told the Guardian (“Ed Davey 'will not give an inch' on nuclear power price,” 6 July) http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2013/jul/05/davey-minister-nuclear-power-hinkley-point . “So many environmentalists have changed their views [on nuclear] because of the threat of climate change and the fact that nuclear is low-carbon….” and consolidated his conversion to nuclear power with his announcement that EDF Electricit√© de France SA (EDF.FR) would be given guarantees of up to £10bn to underwrite the loans to build the proposed plant at Hinkley Point C, so making the project more attractive to third-party investors and reducing the impact on EDF's balance sheet.
But in the past few months there have a been a series of  disturbing and frankly bizarre stories about this technology the energy secretary  now wants to massively subsidise to ensure it is resurrected in the UK.
Two weeks ago it was revealed by documents released under a Freedom of Information  Act application that that Police officers with the elite force that guards Britain’s nuclear power stations have been caught drunk, using drugs, misusing firearms and also accused of sexual harassment and assault. (“Safety fears over elite police officers drunk on duty at UK’s nuclear sites,” Independent, Thursday 27 June 2013, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/safety-fears-over-elite-police-officers-drunk-on-duty-at-uks-nuclear-sites-8675660.html)
A few weeks earlier it was reported that some find  nuclear reactors safe enough to live in them, not people, but birds. The BBC reported that Peregrine falcon chicks have hatched on the roof of a closed nuclear reactor at Bradwell-on-Sea in Essex, two months after their parents decided it was a good place to nest.  (“Peregrine falcon chicks hatch on Essex nuclear reactor,” BBC on line news, 19 June 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-essex-22213300

But in the United States it was not birds, but Goldfish that were discovered living inside the Perry nuclear power plant, owned by FirstEnergy Corp. of Akron, Ohio.  At the beginning of May it was reported in the Cleveland New Dealer newspaper that two goldfish were discovered by workers taking apart scaffolding in the tunnel, which is locked and under constant video surveillance. The fish, which later died, had been swimming in a lemonade pitcher that contained reactor water. Both the fish and the water were slightly radioactive. (“Perry nuclear power plant's goldfish owners still unidentified,” May 14, 2013, www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2013/05/perry_nuclear_power_plants_gol.html). One nuclear critic, David Lochbaum, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists' nuclear safety project.wryly observed: "Goldfish are not authorized to be inside the tunnel, yet they were there. And Perry cannot determine how they got there or who put them there. What if it hadn't have been goldfish but a bomb?”

Back in Britain, a month ago, bombs were indeed found at a nuclear site. (“ Bomb find ends with a big bang”,

Whitehaven News, 6 June 2013, http://www.nwemail.co.uk/bomb-find-ends-with-a-big-bang-1.1060905?referrerPath=news_2_1817. The local newspaper  unveiled the  potentially explosive situation when  bomb disposal experts were called to the low  level  radioactive waste  disposal site at Drigg, a few miles south of Sellafield in Cumbria,  after more than 100 unexploded shells were found washed up, creating a mile-wide exclusion zone along the shore, which  had  been popular with local dog walkers.
Experts from the Northern Diving Group, based at Her Majesty's Naval Base Clyde, gathered the shells and pieces together and carried out controlled explosions. The majority of material was comprised of 12 and 18-inch shells, having been dumped there after World War II, the newspaper reported
Other odd stuff swept in from the sea disrupted another nuclear plant in Scotland in May. (“Seaweed stops Scottish EDF nuclear plant,“ 24 May  2013,  


Reuters reported that a rising tide of seaweed halted  the Torness nuclear power station, east of Scottish capital city, Edinburgh, threatening to clog up its cooling system. The plant’s owners,
EDF Energy took both reactors at the site offline at its 1,280MW  nuclear plant, due to what an EDF spokesperson described as “increased seaweed levels as a result of the severe weather and sea conditions in the area." An EDF statement said power plant staff are trained to deal with high seaweed levels resulting from weather conditions in the Forth Estuary, and that the plant can be taken offline if there are signs that the cooling system could be affected. Two years earlier, the same plant was forced to shut down after large numbers of jellyfish were found in the sea water entering the plant.  

And finally it emerged earlier this year in California that a Star Trek movie spoof had  been filmed three years ago inside an operating nuclear plant (Star Trek’ Spoof at Nuclear Power Plant, ABC television,  23 May 2013, http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2013/05/star-trek-spoof-at-nuclear-power-plant/). In a weird tape, nuclear operatives had gone  where no such operatives had  gone before, as dressed in  full Federation uniforms, several executives and line employees at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station,  or SONGS,  in Pendleton, made their tape  called  “SONGS TREK” right inside the nuclear station’s training facility ABC’s San Diego affiliate KGTV reported.
Is this the brave new energy future our brave energy minister is leading us towards?