Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND)

Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND)


* Anti-nuclear weapons group based in United Kingdom
* Opposes U.S. development of missile defense system

A member of the Abolition 2000 antiwar coalition, the United Kingdom-based Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) defines itself as an organization that “campaigns non-violently” to “rid the world of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction,” so as to “create genuine security for future generations.” A first step toward this objective, says CND, must be to “change government policies to bring about the elimination of British nuclear weapons” in particular.

Funded by its members and supporters, CND today operates a national office in London as well as regional offices in several other English cities. It also has independent branches in Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

CND was formed in 1958 after the United States, under the aegis of NATO, had placed several of its fleet submarines and intermediate-range missiles in British territory to counter possible Warsaw Pact aggression. Leftist author and playwright J.B. Priestley wrote an article in The New Statesman urging Britain’s unilateral withdrawal from NATO’s nuclear deterrent, and this helped spur the left-wing British intelligentsia to create CND. Philosopher Bertrand Russell was the first president of the organization, whose membership grew rapidly during its early years.

Most of CND’s founders were loyal supporters of the Soviet Union. One of its executives—governing council member Vic Allen—was an avowed Stalinist who passed confidential information about CND to East German secret police and worked to manipulate the peace movement into taking a Soviet-friendly line. Reflecting, years later, on his actions, Allen said: “I have no shame. I feel no regrets about that at all.”

From its earliest days, CND advocated Britain’s unilateral nuclear disarmament—i.e., “the proposal that Britain should take the initiative and get rid of its own nuclear weapons, irrespective of the actions of others.”

CND’s membership rolls contracted somewhat in the mid-1960s, when the anti-Vietnam War movement eclipsed anti-nuclear crusades as the major focus of mass popular protest. The organization’s activism continued, however, particularly in Scotland, where British nuclear-armed submarines were now based. Throughout the ’60s and ’70s, CND persisted in calling for Western disarmament as a gesture of goodwill toward the Soviet Bloc.

When NATO in 1979 decided to deploy US Cruise and Pershing missiles in several Western European countries including Britain, while the Soviet Union was deploying its new SS-20 missiles in Eastern Europe, CND gained thousands of new members each month. In the early ’80s, the organization condemned American President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for having “embarked on an anti-Soviet, anti-Communist crusade,” as evidenced by their “speeches … full of fundamentalist rhetoric: of Us and Them, of Good versus Evil.”

By CND’s telling, “the whole [hostile] temper of international relations” did not subside until the late 1980s, when “a new Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, took the initiative in calming the situation” and instituted “reforms” that led to “the end of the Cold War, the reunification of East and West Germany, the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Eastern Europe, and finally the collapse of the Soviet Union.”

Following what it termed “the criminal attacks of September 11th, 2001,” CND “vigorously opposed the so-called ‘war on terror’ and the resulting war on Iraq based on trumped-up charges over weapons of mass destruction.”

In the fall of 2002, Labour Party-affiliated members of CND supported a House of Commons motion condemning America’s development of a missile defense system that was “designed for control and domination” and would likely pose “a new threat to stability and peace” across the world.

In October 2002, CND asked the British High Court to declare, “on behalf of all the citizens of the world who want to stop war on Iraq,” that it would be contrary to international law for Britain to join any invasion of Iraq without a fresh United Nations Resolution. Specifically, the group argued that UN Security Council Resolution 1441—which held Iraq in “material breach” of its obligations under previous Resolutions—did not authorize military action against Saddam Hussein‘s regime.

On December 12, 2002, British High Court Judge Simon Brown announced that he had decided not to consider CND’s case against the government, on grounds that the Court’s jurisdiction extended only to British Common Law: “The problem with this is that in order to decide whether war would be unlawful, the courts would have to interpret [UN] Resolution 1441, clearly not part of domestic law.” Similarly, Government Solicitor Diana Barbar said: “The matter is non-justifiable and the courts will not intervene to dictate the conduct of foreign policy, especially, we would add, in a matter of high policy relating to a decision as to whether and when the United Kingdom would engage in military action against another state.”

CND today administers 7 major ongoing campaigns: No to the Trident Nuclear Weapons System; Global Abolition; No to U.S. Missile Defense; Anti-War; No to NATO; No to Nuclear Power; **and No to Depleted Uranium. For comprehensive details about these initiatives, click on their respective links.

For a brief overview of each of the 7 campaigns, featuring direct quotes by CND, see below:**

1) No To Trident: “Trident is Britain’s nuclear weapons system. It’s made up of four submarines – one of which is on patrol at all times—carrying up to 40 nuclear warheads on board…. These weapons have no legitimate purpose: their use would be illegal under almost every conceivable circumstance, as huge numbers of civilian casualties would be unavoidable…. Not only are these weapons immoral, potentially genocidal and strategically irrelevant in the face of the realistic threats we face today, they are also hugely expensive. The government is in favour of replacing Trident at a cost of around £100 billion. This money would be enough to fully fund A&E [Accident & Emergency Hospital] services for 40 years, employ 150,000 new nurses, build 1.5 million affordable homes, build 30,000 new primary schools, or cover tuition fees for 4 million students.”

2) Global Abolition: “Today there are approximately 16,000 nuclear weapons in the world. The majority are owned by the United States and Russia…. They are … genocidal and utterly immoral. When confronted with any of today’s real security threats, nuclear weapons are irrelevant. They cannot be used to combat climate change, poverty, hunger, overpopulation, terrorists, cyber-attacks or pandemics for example….”

3) No to U.S. Missile Defense: “The United States has been developing an extremely expensive weapons system over several decades now generally termed ‘Missile Defense’…. Contrary to U.S. claims, this system … will allow the U.S. to attack other countries in a first-strike capacity without fear that they will be able to effectively attack back because such a retaliation would be neutralized by the system. In other words, the U.S. Missile Defense system is offensive. Having such a weapons system inevitably leads to an arms race as other countries feel pushed to level the balance of power and threat by developing their own competitive missile defense systems or weapons systems that might overcome the U.S. system.  U.S. Missile Defense helps the U.S. achieve a strategy of global military dominance…. Russia believes the U.S. Missile Defense system is targeted at them…. There are fears that continued development—including plans to site bases in Southern and Central Europe—will provoke a new Cold War with Russia…. The US Missile Defence system is a provocative military system, under the guise of defense.”

4) Anti-War: “CND’s core strategic objectives include campaigning for the ‘Prevention and cessation of wars in which the nuclear weapons of Britain or other countries might be used.’ Since 2001, CND has opposed the U.S.’s so-called ‘war on terror’ and backed solutions to conflict and complex problems based on dialogue and justice…. CND’s view was that the criminals who perpetrated the crime should be brought to justice, but we completely opposed plans to launch a NATO-led military attack on Afghanistan in response. The deaths of thousands of innocent Afghani civilians have not been a just response…. CND [also] took a strong position against the war on Iraq and worked with a top-flight legal team which, among other things, took the government to court to ask for an advisory opinion on the legality of using Resolution 1441 as a pretext for war…. CND is increasingly concerned about drone attacks killing innocent people and promoting conflict…. We work to oppose any attacks on Iran. We do not believe that military interventions, which overwhelmingly affect innocent civilians, are the right way to deal with complex regional problems, or with concerns about potential nuclear proliferation.”

5) No to NATO: “CND campaigns for Britain to leave NATO and opposes its expansion. NATO has become an ever-expanding interventionist bloc, operating on a global scale…. NATO also flouts the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty through deploying nuclear weapons in European countries like Germany, Italy and Belgium…. NATO causes instability across the globe—as well as costing us increasing amounts of money—and it must be disbanded.”

6) No to Nuclear Power: “Government spin doctors and the nuclear industry have been working overtime to repackage nuclear power as a green solution to climate change. They want to build new nuclear power stations, but they know we won’t want them if we know the reality—nuclear power is dirty and dangerous and not the answer to climate change.”

7) No to Depleted Uranium: “Depleted Uranium (DU) is a chemically toxic and radioactive, heavy metal which is produced as a by-product of the enrichment of uranium for civil nuclear power programs. It is used in armor-piercing munitions because of its very high density…. The use of DU in weapons disperses toxic and radioactive dust which can then be inhaled. It is thought that using DU has caused a sharp increase in the incidence rates of some cancers … in areas of Iraq following 1991 and 2003. It has also been implicated in a rise in birth defects from areas adjacent to the main Gulf War battlefields…. DU was used on a large scale by the US and the UK in the Gulf War in 1991, then in Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo, and again in the war in Iraq by the US and the UK in 2003. At least 17 countries are thought to have weapon systems containing DU. Many of them were sold DU ammunition by the US while others, including UK, France, Russia, Pakistan and India are thought to have developed it independently…. CND is a member of the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons … [which] is the best initiative yet to achieve a ban on all conventional weapons containing uranium.”

For additional information on CND, click here.

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