News in brief

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The ministry of defence (MoD) was facing ‘brutal’ cuts in a new strategic review, a Tory rebellion and ministerial resignations as PN went to press.

A £36bn ‘black hole’ in the defence budget had already been predicted back in 2010. Then Brexit devalued sterling by 11 percent against the dollar. MoD equipment purchases may cost £5bn more over the next decade as a result.

The government had ordered 138 US F-35 fighter jets. Now it is only confirming the first 48 F-35s which (including running costs) are predicted to cost £13bn by 2048.

Scribble scribble

1 December is Prisoners for Peace Day. Please consider writing a cheerful, non-hero-worship postcard to someone on the WRI list:

For example, a South Korean conscientious objector who was jailed in July and who will be freed on 30 September 2018:
Park Sang-wook #1315, Gosan-dong, Uijeongbu-si, Gyeonggi-do, 11797, Republic of Korea.

Drone home

On 7 October, the Drones Campaign Network held a demo outside RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, which controls Britain’s armed Reaper drones, to mark 10 years of British involvement in drone warfare.

Triple trouble

The latest Nuclear Resister records anti-drone action across the US.

On 25 September, seven members of Upstate Drone Action were arrested at Hancock air force base in New York state. Hancock operates MQ-9 Reaper armed drones overseas.

Dan Burgevin, Ed Kinane, Rae Kramer, Harry Murray, Julienne Oldfield, Mark Scibilia-Carver and Ann Tiffany were delivering a citizens’ war crime indictment when arrested.

Upstate Drone Action also blocked the main gate with a six-foot-high dollar sign dripping with ‘blood’ symbolising the corporate greed behind drone warfare.

Two women were arrested during a blockade of Creech air force base, Nevada, during the Codepink Drone Resistance Week (5–12 October). Creech operates 130 drones including MQ-9 Reapers and RQ-170 Sentinel reconnaissance drones.

About a dozen campaigners took part in a ‘celebration wedding circle dance’ in the main entrance way on 6 October, followed by the die-in. Only JoAnn Lingle and Toby Blomé remained in the road to be arrested and detained for 10 hours.

Toby Blomé was also arrested blocking a gate at Beale air force base in California a few days later, on 17 October. Beale is the home of Global Hawk drones, used to track targets for assassination.

... of your peace

Pope Francis, possibly the single most influential person on the planet, condemned not only the use but also the ‘very possession’ of nuclear weapons on 10 November.

Previous leaders of the 1.2bn-strong Roman Catholic church had justified keeping nuclear arsenals (to deter other countries from using them).

The pope gathered hibakusha (survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan), 11 Nobel Peace Prize-winners, UN officials, priests and diplomats for a two-day disarmament symposium at the Vatican.

... of poor Swedes

US nonviolent revolutionary George Lakey toured England and Scotland in the first half of October, talking about his book Viking Economics: how the Scandinavians got it right – and how we can, too (reviewed in PN 2600–2601).

George toured Quaker meeting houses in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Huddersfield, London, Norwich, Nottingham and Sheffield, as well as universities in Oxford, Leeds and London.

He also addressed the Quaker Gender and Sexual Diversity Community on 13 October and the Quaker Activist Gathering on 14 October before flying back to the US for the last leg of his 18-month book tour.

If you’re fleeced

The UK ministry of defence (MoD) plans to spend £1.3bn on 14 developments at two Trident nuclear bases in Scotland over the next 13 years. The Glasgow Sunday Herald used freedom of information requests to discover that the MoD is building ‘nuclear infrastructure’ projects at Faslane (where Trident submarines are based) and Coulport (where Trident warheads are stored).

Parliamentary questions confirm that these costs have not been included in the official budget for replacing Trident in 2028.

Climate change means that the Faslane submarine base will be at risk of flooding towards the end of the century, according to Scottish Natural Heritage. Sea levels in the Gare Loch are expected to rise 18.5 inches (47cm) by 2080.

Peacey reads

Recent peace research includes the Nuclear Information Service report, The UK and the nuclear ban treaty. This focuses on which parts of the UK’s nuclear weapons programme are – and are not – covered by the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons:

In October, Oxford Research Group published Capabilities Review: Squaring Naval Ambitions, Priorities & Resources (about British military strategy and spending) and Mind the Gap: Parliament in the Age of Remote Warfare (about democratic control of war):

Western Sahara

A British engineering firm is carrying out illegal work inside occupied Western Sahara.

Windhoist, based in Irvine, Scotland, has previously installed over 150 wind turbines just north of Western Sahara, inside Morocco.

On 17 November, Windhoist posted a photo of the first turbine tower it was installing at the Aftissat Wind Farm south of Boujdour ‘in the Western Sahara’.

The plan is to install 56 Siemens wind turbines, to be fully operational by the end of 2018, generating over 200MW of wind energy to supply Moroccan industrial groups.

The problem is that Western Sahara has been illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975. Under international law, as confirmed by the EU court of justice and the UN human rights council, the consent of the Sahrawi people is needed for the use of Sahrawi resources.

In February, Western Sahara Resource Watch asked Siemens chief executive Joe Kaeser (at the Siemens AGM) if the company had sought the consent of the Sahrawi people. He refused to answer.

According to Western Sahara Resource Watch, three of the Aftissat wind farm’s future clients have disputed operations in Western Sahara: a phosphate company OCP and two construction materials suppliers LafargeHolcim Maroc and Ciments du Maroc.

Nepal moves on

Every issue we check in on the Nepali peace process, running since the end of the 10-year civil war in 2006.

As PN went to press, Nepalis were completing the first leg of national and provincial elections under the constitution agreed (finally) in 2015.

The second and final set of elections (including the capital Kathmandu) takes place on 7 December.

The big news is that the Communist Party Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninists (UML) and the Communist Party Nepal-Maoist Centre have formed an electoral alliance and intend to merge to form a single communist party. They look set to win and hold power for years, if they can maintain the alliance/merger.

Both parties are firmly mainstream free-market parties, communist only in name.

The Maoists were guerrilla fighters controlling much of the country during the civil war, but they failed to make good on their radical promises when they were elected to power and they’ve lost much of their support.

Local elections earlier this year made it clear they are now a third force in Nepali politics. The UML won 14,000 seats; the Nepali Congress 11,400 seats and the Maoists just 5,400.

There is speculation locally that China has persuaded the two communist parties to merge, to decrease Indian influence in Nepal.