Saturday, 29 September 2007

Pacifism discussion on Radio 4

It was good to hear Albert Beale, of Peace Pledge Union and Housmans on BBC Radio 4's "Saturday Live" this morning. A very interesting and intelligent discussion with Fi Glover and other guests. Listen to Albert again here.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Swords, ploughshares, R & D

Further to my earlier post, I notice that Scientists for Global Responsibility have plublished an update to their report "Soldiers in the Laboratory" [also known as SITL] ... Simply entitled "More Soldiers in the Laboratory" its author, Chris Langley, concludes:

"It is clear that since we published the SITL report, the military has put in place plans to expand and strengthen its involvement with and influence over the UK science and technology sector with significant emphasis on building and further consolidating links with universities.Yet it is also increasingly clear that the narrow, high-technology, weapons-based aproach to tackling international tensions and conflicts is failing in many situations."

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

So that's swords and ploughshares...?

Ten years ago, some of us were eagerly waiting to see what the new Labour government was going to do about its manifesto commitment to defence diversification. We found out later that the Defence Diversification Agency (DDA) was mostly about spin-ins and spin-offs - i.e. technology transfer between defence and civil sectors in order that both may thrive. The vision of arms conversion that some had in the 1980s - and then reawakened with the possibility of a peace dividend after the cold war - was quietly abandoned.

Now the DDA has been closed, though the government's objectives don't seem to have changed - spin-ins and spin-offs through other means. One of these other means goes by the extraordinary name of Ploughshare Innovations Ltd. This is a 'technology transfer company' set up by The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory "to actively pursue the commercial exploitation of publicly funded research for the benefit of all". Now, my understanding is that this 'all' means that the defence industry benefits still more, as it sells its technological expertise to a wider market. How about dispensing with the swords altogether and just focusing on the ploughshares?

The vision of arms conversion, rather than diversification, still has an important place and is promoted again in a recent CND report, Trident and Employment, in which the writer Steven Schofield says:

"Rather than follow this course [of building a replacement to the Trident system at Barrow in Furness], the UK could adopt an arms conversion policy that sees the savings from the cancellation of FOS [Follow-on System to the current generation of Trident] used to support civil R&D and production. In this way the UK could satisfy 50% of its electricity generation needs from a multi-billion pound investment in offshore wind and wave power, providing 25,000 to 30,000 jobs, that would more than compensate for lost military employment, while significantly reducing carbon emissions and enhancing security of supply."

Swords... who needs 'em!?


As the world watches to see how the situation in Burma develops ("Burma monks maintain nonviolent resistance in the face of attacks") ...

Here's a useful analysis on Open Democracy.

The Burma Campaign UK has a number of action suggestions

and AVAAZ has organised an international petition, " Stand with the Burmese Protesters"

Finally, an inspiring poster apparently being carried by protesting monks

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Hopeful words?

I've just read the BBC news item about UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband's speech at the Labour party conference in which he said:
"... while we've won the wars it's been harder to win the peace.
"The lesson is that while there are military victories there never is a military 'solution'. [my emphasis added]
"There's only military action that creates the space for economic and political life."

I will be very interested to know what his colleagues in the Government have to say on this matter. And if they agree, whether this statement means anything in practice. I can't quite see the use of Trident nuclear weapons as a particularly useful tool for creating 'space for economic and political life' - any thoughts on how that might work?!
And if there is government unity behind these sentiments, what are the non-military solutions that the UK will now be investing in, given that it has realised the limits of militarism as a tool for building peace? Do you think we might be told?

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Warning about war and warming

Alan Greenspan's comments on the real reasons for the Iraq invasion (oil) and the build up to military action against Iran (oil again) could easily be seen as 'stating the blindingly obvious'. Andrew Murray, of Stop the War Coalition, trying to move beyond the 'we told you so' response that would be so easy to make, concludes in his Guardian comment piece
" .... Greenspan's uncharacteristic glasnost is helpful at a time when the campaign for a further war against Iran appears to be gathering significant momentum. ....... Every time a politician tries to convince you that the next war in the US campaign to run the Middle East is unavoidable for this reason or that, just remember Alan Greenspan. Let's not wait five years for some other ruling class Grand Vizier to reveal the blindingly obvious. It's about the oil, stupid, and it should be stopped before it starts."

Bringing the twin issues of war and oil dependency together is a US campaign, No War No Warming, which is planning a nonviolent demonstration in Washington DC on 22 October, stating on their website...

We need to take immediate action…
…To end the war in Iraq and all future oil wars
…To halt the impending climate crisis
…To end the US addiction to oil and other fossil fuels
…To rebuild New Orleans and all impacted communities
…To end racism and corporate greed
…To promote green jobs in a clean energy economy


Monday, 17 September 2007

Quakers? Peace?

If you're not a Quaker, are wanting to know a bit more (perhaps even meet some) and are in Britain during the last week of September, did you know that it's the first ever national Quaker week? There will be events around the country over the period (and for some weeks after, it would appear) to raise the profile and provide opportunities for finding out a bit more about Quakers. I've not yet spotted a website that lists all the events that are taking place around the country, but the main site for the Quaker Week is at, complete with video contributions from three different Quakers and an easy way to find your local Quaker Meeting. See also the NFPB introductory page, with a bias towards Quakers and peace.

And if you're not a Quaker or that interested, have you remembered Peace Day, this Friday, 21st September?

Watching, waiting and ...?

The International Atomic Energy Agency began its 51st general conference today, with Iran high on the agenda. The noises from the US and France (aren't they nuclear weapons' states?) are discouraging, and a news report recently from the BBC quoted the UK Foreign Secretary as warning Iran not to develop nuclear weapons, or to act in a way that destabilises the Middle East. And whilst we might scoff at the apparent hypocrisy of a nuclear weapons' power whose invasion of Iraq has been massively destabilising and destructive making such pronouncements, a small piece in the same report about the importance of diplomancy might offer a glimmer of hope. I believe (call me naive, if you like) that the UK really does want to resolve this by diplomatic means, as they say they do. They need every encouragement to resist pressure from the US to be involved in more disastrous military folly.

The Friends Committee on National Legislation has put together a useful briefing (updated just last week) on the issue ... "The Anatomy of the U.S.-Iran Dispute: Why War Is Not the Answer". This is written for a US audience, but is a handy and up-to-date paper for those of us in the UK and elsewhere. The regular updates from BASIC are also key resources for anyone wishing to keep abrest of these matters. It's also timely to post a reminder about the Crisis Iran report "Time to Talk"

There may not be 2 million of us demonstrating in London, but I can't believe many of in this country would support any UK involvement in military action against Iran. The ongoing shock and awe in Iraq is about as brutal a warning as we'll need, isn't it??

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Visions of Peace

We received today DVD conversions of the NFPB video - Visions of Peace - that we made more than 10 years ago. We were keen then to make a resource that wouldn't date too quickly, and since we were still able to make use of it a year ago, we seem to have managed that. We already have a good number of requests to use it during the first National Quaker week - starting on 22nd September and I shall be posting these out tomorrow. Let me know at the NFPB office on nfpb (at) if you'd like one.