Disarmament Campaigns

By Disarmament Campaigns | 1986-12-01 12:00:00

Irish Portwatch

THE IRISH CAMPAIGN FOR NUCLEAR Disarmament organized protests last year against NATO warships visiting the port city of Cork. They report that visits to Cork have decreased, while visits to the port of Dublin have increased. A Portwatch group, set up in Dublin last December, has visited 24 foreign warships, from France, Denmark, and Germany, to determine if they carried nuclear weapons or were on military exercises. Sean MacBride Jr. of Irish CND reports, "Three Soviet 'naval and oceanographic research vessels' also visited Dublin in July for four days. We have visited all of the warships....To date, none of the ships has been in breach of the 1967 Department of Foreign Affairs regulations, according to the military literature and assurances from the ships' captains, the Department of Foreign Affairs, and the relevant embassies. Some embassies or captains refuse to say whether they have nuclear weapons on board (although none of the ships were nuclear capable). We are also concerned about the Department of Foreign Affairs procedures on these visits: They say the relevant embassy is informed of the regulations, but they refuse to say whether or not the regulations are complied with....We are doubtful about how keenly these regulations are applied."

Contact: Irish CND, 37 Lower Ormond Quay, Dublin, IRELAND. Tel. 01-730877.

Irish Neutrality and NATO

By Anthony Coughlan

The Republic of Ireland is the only member of the European Community (E.C.) which is not in NATO. The Republic's official neutrality is now under pressure from the E.C.. The issue of Northern Ireland, which many outsiders see as just a terrorist conflict between the IRA and the Ulster Unionists, also has a NATO dimension.

The island of Ireland has always been strategically important to Britain. Bases in Ireland would be valuable and possibly essential to Britain and NATO in the event of another war. Within NATO Britain is responsible for overall security around Ireland and the adjacent area. A unified Ireland which was militarily neutral would almost certainly be unacceptable to NATO given the current superpower tension and with so many preparations being made for World War III.

Some British government papers released in recent years make this strategic interest explicit. "It is essential for strategic reasons that some part of Ireland should remain part of His Majesty's Dominions," the British Cabinet Secretary wrote to Prime Minister Attlee in 1949. "So far as can be foreseen, it will never be to Great Britain's advantage that Northern Ireland should become part of a territory outside His Majesty's jurisdiction. Indeed, it seems unlikely that Great Britain would ever be able to agree to it even if the people of Northern Ireland desired it."

That the strategic interest is still there is indicated by the words of General Farrar-Hockley, former NATO commander in Northern Europe, who said in 1983: "Ireland would be of considerable value to NATO in the event of a conventional war with the USSR. Irish ports and airfields would be of considerable value in terms of covering the western approaches and the northern. There are parts of Ireland which would give considerable range out into the Atlantic for NATO air patrols that would be of no mean value. Of course it isn't a question of Ireland putting divisions into the field, but there is the question of solidarity with NATO."

Ireland joined the E.C. along with Britain in 1973, essentially because of the economic dependence of a partitioned country on the country which partitioned it. Irish public opinion overwhelmingly favors noninvolvement in military blocs. Since joining the E.C. the Republic's foreign policy has been much less independent than it was previously. In fact if not in form, the European Community is in large part the European economic pillar of the NATO alliance. Although originally an economic community, E.C. member states have embarked over the past decade on a process of what they call European Political Cooperation. Through this they seek to coordinate their foreign policies. They do not always succeed, but the pressure is on Ireland to move away from an independent stand and adopt what are in effect NATO positions.

Irish neutrality is thus more fragile than that of such Western European neutrals as Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, and Finland. E.C. pressures forced Ireland to join in what were in effect NATO sanctions against Iran over the hostages affair, against the Soviet Union over Poland, and against Argentina over the Falkland Islands. In the last case, outraged Irish public opinion over Prime Minister Thatcher's order to sink the Belgrano, and the subsequent death of several hundred Argentinians, forced the Irish government to abandon the E.C. sanctions after a few days.

There has been much talk of closer political union in the E.C. in recent years. This has come mainly from West Germany with support from the United States. The latest manifestation of E.C. pressure on the Republic is the new E.C. treaty, the Single European Act, which was signed by Community members last February. The Single European Act has to be ratified by the member states' parliaments in the coming months. The Irish peace movement, Irish CND in particular, is campaigning strongly against this treaty. Both the peace movement and the Irish trade union movement are urging the Irish parliament, the Dail, not to ratify it. The largest party, Fianna Fail, has said that it would be difficult to support this treaty because of its dangers to Irish neutrality.

The Single European Act puts E.C. foreign policy cooperation into formal treaty form for the first time. It commits the E.C. member states to develop common foreign policy positions as much as possible, and to inform one another before undertaking any foreign policy initiative. It recognizes the closer cooperation around security issues "would contribute in an essential way to the development of a European identity in foreign policy matters." Article 6 of the treaty commits the Irish government to working "to maintain the technological and industrial conditions necessary for the security" of the European Community. This phrase refers to cooperation on setting up a European armaments industry, which could soon become an arms lobby to influence governments.

Irish Prime Minister Garret FitzGerald and his Fine Gael party are strong supporters of this new treaty. His Labour Party allies in the present Irish government coalition will have to ask themselves how Ireland can aspire to a meaningful neutrality while signing a treaty which commits the country to developing common foreign policies with states which are all in NATO. All this takes place in the run-up to the next general election in the Republic, which must be held before December 1987. The situation exemplifies the tension between the external pressures on Ireland to move toward NATO foreign policy positions and the internal resistance from the Irish peace movement and others. What is involved in effect is a struggle for democratic control over the foreign policy of Ireland.

Anthony Coughland is head of the Department of Social Studies at Trinity College, Dublin. He is on the executive board of the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Ireland's principal peace organization, and is chairman of the Irish Sovereignty Movement.

North Atlantic Network Conference

NEARLY 100 ACTIVISTS FROM SEVENTEEN countries gathered in New York City the weekend of 22-24 August for the fourth annual North Atlantic Network (NAN) conference. They discussed strategies and planned common actions for countering the militarization of the oceans. The participants shared experiences in opposing foreign military bases and port calls by nuclear-armed vessels; the creation of regional nuclear-free zones; and other methods of opposing the naval arms race.

The North Atlantic Network is determined to make visible a naval arms race that has received little attention from either peace movements or the general public.

The U.S. Navy's aggressive new maritime strategy is of special concern to North Atlantic activists. The strategy calls for attacking or bottling up the Soviet fleet, including its strategic nuclear submarines in Soviet home waters in times of crisis, including the Barents Sea, north of Norway. The strategy is highly provocative and could easily cause an escalation to nuclear war. The new U.S. naval strategy has been accompanied by an increase in provocative naval exercises by the U.S. near the Soviet Union. The USSR has also been building up its naval forces.

Observers attended from the Pacific Campaign to Disarm the Seas and the Campaign to Demilitarize the Indian Ocean as well as activists from Italy, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico. This was the first time the activists concerned about the spread of nuclear navies had gathered together from so many places.

The North Atlantic Network was founded in 1983 to facilitate greater understanding of the region's rapidly expanding naval arms race. The network seeks to support member groups' campaigns by showing the "international context within which local and national campaigns' developments take place," said Jan Williams, a member of the NAN Steering Group from Britain. NAN is especially concerned with supporting campaigns in smaller countries and communities. Considered "peripheral" by the superpowers and many peace movements, these places are often heavily affected by militarization. Actions by these nations, such as New Zealand's or Iceland's refusal to accept nuclear vessels, can have a significant impact.

After evaluating last spring's International Actions to Disarm the Seas, the conference called for common actions in late May on a similar theme. Many of the actions, which may involve releasing bottled peace messages in local harbors, will stress the need to improve communication among peoples and nations. Other ocean networks, such as the Pacific Campaign to Disarm the Seas (co-sponsor of last year's actions) may decide to join the actions.

The Network has also decided to improve the Ports Watch Newsletter, a bi-monthly magazine focussing on strategies and actions to oppose port calls by nuclear-capable vessels. Ports Watch is published by the International Peace Ports Watch Network, a project of NAN. Ports Watch will also begin to spread information about shipments of Namibian uranium.

New York was chosen as the conference site this year because of the intense opposition to Navy plans to base the nuclear-armed battleship Iowa in New York harbor. During the conference, participants visited the proposed site of the base and met with local activists.

Several conference participants also visited Groton, Connecticut, the self-proclaimed "submarine capitol of the world." Groton includes a base for attack submarines and Electric Boat, the builder of Trident submarines, the latest addition to the U.S.'s first strike arsenal. Britain is purchasing Trident technology from the U.S. and important links were made between British and U.S. Trident activists during the conference.

By John Miller, member of the Mobilization for Survival staff.

For a summary of the conference results, contact: North Atlantic Network, c/o MfS, 853 Broadway, No. 418, New York N.Y. USA 10003. For information about the North Atlantic Network Newsletter contact: Magne Barth, Nei til Atomvapen, Youngsgt. 7, Oslo 1, NORWAY. Subscriptions to Ports Watch are U. S. $10/year from Alf Harbitz, P.O. Box 2770 Elverhoy, 9001 Tromso, NORWAY.

CND Phone Tap Ruling

A RULING WAS MADE THIS SEPTEMBER IN the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament's (CND) case against the government's phone tap of CND Vice-President John Cox. John Millner, CND Press Secretary, called the London High Court ruling "complicated" but also a "landmark case." "It established that we were justified in bringing legal action," he said. "This can act as a precedent for other groups." It was the first time actions by M15, the British intelligence service, had been subject to judicial review.

The court rejected the government argument that it had no jurisdiction in the case because it involved national security. "All the legal arguments went our way," said Millner. "The judge agreed that by publishing its own criteria of tapping, M15 was obligated to follow their own guidelines." Stephen Sedley, lawyer for CND, had argued that the government broke its own guidelines in authorizing the tap.

The Court decided the tap was not illegal, however, because the Home Secretary may have had access to information that CND and the Court itself did not have that would justify the tap. The phone tap, one of 100 examples of government interference in the British peace movement CND has documented, was revealed last year by former intelligence officer Cathy Massiter. CND will appeal the decision, Millner said. They are currently considering legal advice as to pursuing the case through either the British Court of Appeal or the European Court of Human Rights. CND has published a booklet on this and other cases of government surveillance. (See the Materials section.)

Contact: CND, 22-24 Underwood Street, London N1 7JG, U.K. Tel. 01-250-4010.

Swiss to Hold Referendum on Army

"Switzerland does not have an army. It is forbidden for federal, provincial or community authorities as well as private persons to have armed forces or to train them. Switzerland will develop a comprehensive peace policy which strengthens the self-determination of the people and promotes solidarity among peoples."

The above is the proposed text to be included into the Swiss Constitution which Swiss voters will be able to vote on in about four years. This is possible due to the work of the Group for a Switzerland Without an Army (GSoA), which handed the required signatures to call a referendum to the authorities on 12 September. Approval of the abolition of the Swiss army has been quoted as an "incredible act of reason;" no one, however, expects the proposal to be adopted. Despite its probable rejection at the ballots, a referendum on the issue does make sense.

Unlike the people in many other countries, the Swiss can directly influence policy questions by conducting an initiative. This is a legal way whereby political parties, lobby groups, and even individuals can add articles to the constitution, as long as the following conditions are fulfilled: 100,000 citizens have to sign a petition asking for the referendum within one-and-a-half years, and the petition must be witnessed by the authorities. The proposed bill is then presented to Parliament, who must submit it to the people's vote in a referendum.

This is a very costly and exhaustive, but common, process in Switzerland. Normally an initiative issue does not become controversial until after the period of signature collecting. Controversy usually comes during the parliamentary debate and the electoral campaign. Up to now few initiatives have been as radical as the "abolition of the army" initiative. Controversy has come with the signature collection, which began in March of last year. A movement and counter-organizations arose to defeat the initiative.

The way GSoA proceeded was also controversial. Conservatives argues again and again that the country's tolerance was strained even to allow such an absurd initiative. Switzerland, they argued, does not have an army. Switzerland is an army. [Editor's note: Switzerland has a defence based upon active citizen participation. In a war, 600,000 people--10 percent of the population--would be called into the army.] The abolition of the Swiss army, according to this criticism, would mean the abolition of Switzerland. Within the peace movement neither the Swiss Peace Council nor the Young Socialists, who had supported the idea of abolishing the army for decades, could make up their minds about supporting the GSoA.

After 113,000 signatures had been collected the Swiss Peace Council issued a statement calling the collection "a gigantic effort." The Young Socialists joined the GSoA. The only organization which supported GSoA from the beginning was the very left-wing Socialist Workers Party, which collected about one-fourth of the signatures.

The way GSoA has handled this constitutional right of launching an initiative is the starting point for a new political era in Switzerland. In the past all initiatives had a more realistic political chance of passing. They were small steps toward a more liveable future and were accompanied by strong hopes of popular support. The disappointment was equally strong when these initiatives were rejected regularly.

The law allowing initiatives does not define how this democratic tool should be used. GSoA decided to use it as a democratic consciousness-raiser. The initiative has directed Parliament's and the media's attention toward one of the main problems of our times.

By Marcel Mattenberger, GSoA member. Contact: Gruppe fur eine Schweiz ohne Armee Postbox 221, CH-8307, Effretikon, SWITZERLAND.

News Shorts:

A former U.S. Army chaplain returned the Congressional Medal of Honor (the country's highest war award) he won in Vietnam to protest the Congress's vote for aid to Nicaragua Contras. Charles J. Liteky placed the medal on the wall of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. on 29 July. The same day he and other veterans began a fast for life as a way of "identifying with the people in Nicaragua and El Salvador who are suffering and dying because of American tax dollars used to support killing and torture." On 7 August in San Francisco, twenty other veterans, under a sign with read, "No Contra aid--No more Vietnam!" also returned their medals in solidarity.

Contact: World Connections, P.O. Box 337, Washington, Virginia 22747, U.S.A.

Also in the U.S., scientist Peter Hagelstein announced in September that he is leaving his weapons research job at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. Hagelstein invented the X-ray laser which is a key component in the Strategic Defense Initiative program. Co-workers say his leaving will be a "tremendous loss" for the program, and that working on weapons had troubled Hagelstein's conscience.

Three peace activists wrote "Messenger of Death" with blood and ashes on the base of the Watsonia Satellite Communications Dish in Australia, then planted seeds. The Communications Dish helps the U.S. military select targets for nuclear weapons. The activists conducted their own defence during court proceedings. The judge, approving their moral justification, dismissed the willful damage charge but convicted them of trespassing.

American F-111 bombers, the same type used in the April attack against Libya, were the target of British demonstrators in the first weekend in September. Banners with slogans such as "No to Nuclear War Preparations" were hung across the road to the USAF base at Boscome Down, England. American bombers were also banned from NATO exercises over Norwegian territory by the Norwegian Labour Government, for fear the USSR would find their presence provocative.


Offence of the Realmis a new booklet by former Sunday Times journalist Joan Smith and former CND Press Officer Gillian Reeve on British government surveillance of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. It contains documented evidence on mail interference and the wire tapping of CND telephones. Price is 1.5 pounds.

Contact: CND Press Office, 22-24 Underwood Street, London N1 7JG, U.K. Tel. 01-250-4010.

Project Ploughshares has introduced a new series of special issue brochures. Topics include "Disarmament and Development," "Economics of Militarism," "Canadian Military Production," "NORAD, Canada, and Nuclear War," plus three others on related issues. Price: 15 cents each for one to 19 copies, 12 cents for 20 or more copies of the same brochure.

Contact: Project Ploughshares, Conrad Grebel College, Waterloo, Ont. N2L 3G6. Tel. 519/888-6541.

Is Western Europe to Become a Military Superpower? is the title of a new brochure available for free from the Green-Alternative European Link in the European Parliament. Edited by Christine Merkel, the brochure argues that the European Parliament plays a "willing role" in the militarization of the EEC which must be countered by the international peace movement. Available in French, English, and German. Contact: GRAEL, Christine Merkel, 97-113 Rue Belliard, B 1040 Bruxelles, BELGIUM. Tel. 230-6456.

A Manual on Star Wars--Present Dangers and Long-Term Implications by Margaret Jacobs and Kathleen Maloney is a new resource for activists opposed to the SDI program. The cost is $US 1.50 plus postage. It can be ordered from Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 1213 Race Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107.

Proceedings of the July 1985 Middle East Peace Conference is now available in English. The 176-page publication includes reprints from international journals on the peace movement and the Middle East issue, colonization of the Occupied Territories, and the militarization of the Middle East and the Mediterranean. In addition there are papers discussing the roles Europe and the peace movements should take, and international proposals for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian-Arab conflict. The cost is US $5. Contact: Pax Christi Netherlands, Celebesstraat 60, 2585 TM The Hague, the Netherlands. Tel. 070-507100.

"Initiators of Peace,"the audio cassette from the International Women's Peace Conference in Halifax. It includes Ursula Franklin on the meaning of true security, Rosalie Bertell answering questions about Star Wars and the nuclear industry. Pavanne, P.O. Box 7, Place du Parc, Montreal, Canada H2W 2M9. $6 plus $2 shipping.

Peace Magazine Dec 1986-Jan 1987

Peace Magazine Dec 1986-Jan 1987, page 8. Some rights reserved.

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