Memorandum from Medact
1. For several decades the UK and the USA
have had a close and co-operative relationship, which has been
to the benefit of both parties and which we would wish to continue.
However, recent activities on the part of recent US administrations,
and in particular during the 9 months of the Presidency of George
W Bush, give cause for concern. We hope that Honourable Members
of the Foreign Affairs Committee will share these concerns and
convey them to Her Majesty's Government. They relate to:
1. The Administration's attitude to international
treaties and conventions.
2. Plans for National Missile Defense and
for militarisation of space.
3. Response to international terrorism.
2. Since WWII, a network of international
treaties and covenants has come into being, which we believe provides
the basis for a just, peaceful and sustainable world order based
upon the United Nations. Some of these treaties are bilateral,
most multilateral, and many are in effect part of the UN system.
All depend for their effectiveness on the full co-operation of
many States Parties and in particular of the five permanent members
of the UN Security Council, including of course the UK and the
USA. However, the UN is not highly regarded by the USA, which
has been persistently late in paying its dues until very recently.
Recently the US has increasingly disregarded the UNSC, for instance
in bombing Yugoslavia. It has withdrawn from or threatened to
withdraw from several important treaties and refused to sign and/or
ratify others. These include:
3. Kyoto Protocol on carbon dioxide
emissions. The US, with 4 per cent of world population, is
responsible for 25 per cent of global CO2 emissions. Without its
participation atmospheric CO2 levels will continue to rise and
lead to major environmental damage.
4. Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
The US is one of the States which must ratify this treaty if it
is to enter into force. Without its participation others, including
India and Pakistan, will not sign up, and sooner or later nuclear
weapons proliferation will resume.
5. Verification Protocol to the Biological
Weapons Convention. The GW Bush Administration has refused
to accede to this protocol, which was due to be agreed at the
BWC Review Conference next month. Without this protocol, effective
enforcement of the objectives of the BWC is impossible, as has
been demonstrated already by the case of Iraq.
6. Ottawa Landmines Convention. The
US is among several states that have refused to sign this Convention,
delaying the elimination of a group of weapons that do immense
damage to the environment and cause serious injury and death to
many thousands in the developing world.
7. International Criminal Court.
This court will come into being when ratified by 60 states, and
we are delighted that the UK is in process of ratifying its Statute.
The US does not currently intend to do so. Were the court in being,
those responsible for the recent terrorist attacks on New York
and Washington could have been tried before it.
8. Convention on the Illicit Trade in
Small Arms. If it comes into being, this convention will eventually
greatly reduce the toll of the many conflicts that afflict the
developing world. In July, the US prevented the establishment
of a binding convention for at least five years. It is not unlikely
that, as a result, illegally traded arms will be used against
UK and US forces that might not otherwise have been available
to the combatants.
9. We urge the Committee to advise HMG to
ask the US to review its attitude to these and other treaties.
Among other benefits, this will significantly reduce the hostility
to the US that we suggest is among the factors underlying recent
terrorist attacks in the US. Similar attacks could occur against
the UK if it continues to give uncritical support to the US.
10. Perhaps the most controversial of current
US policies is the plan for National Missile Defense, perhaps
to be part of a multi-billion dollar scheme for "full spectrum
dominance" to extend to weaponising outer space. Such plans
must be another contribution to the resentment of the US that
many of its citizens seem unable to comprehend. NMD in particular
is open to several objections.
11. It may not work. Two tests have
failed, two others have "worked" but under such conditions
as to bear no resemblance to responding to a genuine attack.
12. It is inappropriate. Most western
commentators are sceptical that a missile attack on the US from
"states of concern" is a serious possibility for many
years. We trust that informed members of the Committee share this
view. Rogue states and non-state actors areas shown by
the 11 September atrocitylikely to use other methods of
attack not preventable by NMD. Missiles can be tracked back to
source, and a missile attack would bring massive retaliation.
Chemical and biological weapons could be scattered from light
planes or lorries. (Crop spraying was suspended in the US after
Plutonium scattered by a "conventional"
lorry bomb could make a city centre uninhabitable. Yet the Government
has licensed the MOX plant at Sellafield, which will depend upon
plutonium being transported across the worldan obvious
target for terrorist capture.
13. The recent loss of a Russian airliner
may be a warning of a further danger, that of false alarms and
missiles going astray with disastrous consequences.
14. It will be highly expensive.
If the US wishes to increase world security, and not just retreat
into a laager, it should increase its overseas aid one
of the lowest among OECD countriesat the expense of its
inflated arms spending and in particular the USD 100 billion which
NMD may cost.
15. It could trigger a new arms race.
If the US abrogates the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty to proceed
with NMD, Russia may withdraw its ratification of START II and
the CTBT. This could bring negotiations towards nuclear disarmament
(to which the UK and US are committed under Art VI of the Nuclear
Non-proliferation Treaty) to a halt. China will increase its nuclear
capability, resulting in a race for weapons of mass destruction
16. For all these reasons, we hope that
the Committee will advise HMG to take no part in missile defence
programmes. Many Honourable Members have already signed an EDM
expressing concern about NMD, and some may be members of the committee
or give evidence to it.
17. The use of Menwith Hill and Fylingdales
would be a key part of any but the most minimal NMD programme.
We ask the Committee to strongly advise the Prime Minister and
Secretaries of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs to state
clearly that these facilities must not be used for NMD.
18. The Committee will share in the almost
universal condemnation of the 11 September attacks, grieve for
the dead, and join in condolences to their loved ones. Some aspects
of the response to the attacks have been covered above. We would
19. A Military Response will Fail.
While we understand the anger felt in the US in particular, and
in other countries whose nationals died in the World Trade Center,
we ask the Committee to urge that military action be avoided until
all other avenues, diplomatic and legal, are closed, for two reasons.
1. More deaths will result; and no
matter how carefully any attacks are targeted, "collateral
damage" a euphemism for civilian, including perhaps child,
casualtieswill occur. These will be regarded as martyrs,
further acts of terrorism will occur in revenge . . . and so the
cycle of violence will go on.
2. Afghanistan is on the verge of a humanitarian
crisis, as the Secretary of State for International development
has made clear. This has already been made worse by the threat
of bombing. Actual bombing will turn this into a major disaster;
hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, could die of cold and
starvation. Nothing could please Osama bin Laden more than the
chance to blame the US and UK for all this.
20. Diplomacy and Law. The actual
perpetrators of the atrocity are beyond the reach of human justice,
but others behind them are clearly guilty of conspiracy to murder.
Bringing them to justice will be difficult and take time, leading
to protests that nothing is being done. It took years to bring
two men to trial for the Lockerbie jumbo jet crash, but only if
justice is done and seen to be done will US claims to be on the
side of freedom and justice be justified. Many will doubt if those
brought to trial can receive a fair trial in the US, and European
countries that do not practise the death penalty may not extradite
them. An ad hoc tribunal, analogous to that trying war
crimes in former Yugoslavia, or trial under US law at The Hague,
21. Long-term measures. The only
long-term solution to terrorism is to eradicate its causes. We
suggest that there are two principal causes, and that the US in
particular, but also the UK, can help in this.
1. Resolution of territorial disputes.
In the case of Islamic terrorism, settlement of the Arab/Israeli
dispute is essential. Only the US can bring sufficient pressure
on Israel to achieve this, and we hope that the Committee will
commend Pres. Bush's statement that a Palestinian state is inevitable.
The issue of the settlements in the Occupied Territories and East
Jerusalem must be resolved, and a solution will have to take into
account that they are widely believed to be illegal under international
As a member of the Commonwealth, the UK is better
placed than the US to mediate in Kashmir, another source of terrorism.
2. Eradication of Poverty. The DfID
is committed to halving world poverty by 2015. We commend this
initiative but to turn the call into deeds rather than words,
the UK must speedily increase its contribution to overseas aid
from the present 0.32% to the UN target of 0.7%. As already noted,
the US must also be asked to increase its overseas aid, now only
0.1% of GDP. This aid must be in such forms as debt relief and
promotion of health and education facilities and must not
involve public expenditure cuts through the Structural Adjustment
Programmes hitherto favoured by the World Bank and IMF, nor of
course as military aid. We agree, as health workers, with the
case put forward by Richard Horton (The Lancet, 6 October
2001, vol 358 pp 1112-1113) that promoting health will do more
than any other measure to defeat the terrorist threat. Afghanistan,
the Occupied Territories of Palestine, Peru and Colombia are all
among the world's poorest countries and also homes for terrorist
(Medact is the UK affiliate of International
Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War: which was awarded the
Nobel Peace Prize in 1985.)