BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
    You are in: UK: Politics  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
 Tuesday, 21 January, 2003, 08:30 GMT
Kent: Oil, religion and Bush

Bruce Kent was the public face of the anti-nuclear movement in the 1980s. As conflict looms now he remains staunchly anti-war.
George Bush is a religious fundamentalist who uses the Old Testament to justify his right to attack other countries, according to a veteran British peace campaigner.

In an interview with BBC News Online, Bruce Kent - who was head of CND in the 1980s and had to quit a senior post in the Catholic church to pursue his political interests - also said that President Bush believes that Americans are God's chosen people.

The Americans in a funny way see themselves as an ongoing chosen race - it was the Jews and now it's the great American dream

When we meet at his North London home, Kent claims that a future war with Iraq, like the war in Afghanistan and military action in the Balkans, all come back to one basic factor: oil.

"The problem with Bush is that yes, he's religious in a fundamentalist sort of way, they read the Old Testament as a sort of charter for the chosen people to do what they like," he said.

"You get your security by weapons and too bad if you happen to belong to one of the other tribes - you're going to get walked on.

"And it's that kind of thing that horrifies me. I mean the Americans in a funny way see themselves as an ongoing chosen race - it was the Jews and now it's the great American dream."

Dangerous people?

Kent is keen to stress he is not anti-American - he draws great inspiration from political leaders such as Martin Luther King Junior.

That said, he certainly feels a great deal of antipathy to the current White House administration.

President George W Bush
Bush causes Kent massive concern
"I think that the present gang that's got control are really dangerous people," he says.

Kent is also infuriated by the US position on Israel - a nation that both has nuclear weapons and has attacked another country, he says.

"You're not allowed to say anything about Israel nor are you allowed to say anything about Pakistan ... nor are you allowed to say anything about India and those two countries have been brandishing their weapons at each other."

Kent thinks their nuclear weapons deter US interference.

"Which may suggest the Americans know Saddam Hussein hasn't yet got them although they may be on the way - heavens above why shouldn't he in a way?

"We've got eight or nine countries with nuclear weapons and those countries all say nuclear weapons are essential for security as we do in Britain. What's the moral logic in saying other people can't?"

Going nuclear?

Kent also feels antipathy towards the current Labour administration in the UK.

President Reagan
President Reagan's Cruise missiles were a focus of CND
He says he quit the party on the day Tony Blair indicated he would be willing in some circumstances to use Britain's nuclear arsenal.

Kent says he cannot work out what the prime minister's motivation is in politics nor does he have much time for the "many absolute clones" on the government benches.

"He's making a country that is internally divided: the rich and the poor - the gap's getting wider, people are dispirited, they're disempowered."

But Kent says there is little else to vote for either in the Lib Dems or among the Tories - or 'Sons of Thatcher' as he dubs them.

The only reason Kent says he retains his optimism is that "change often happens outside parliament so when public opinion has moved sufficiently then politicians tend to follow".

Envy

The day we meet, news has just broken of Greenpeace activists getting into the grounds of the Sizewell B nuclear power station.

Kent admits to being a little envious of the organisation's capacity for getting publicity for their cause.

Tony Blair
Blair has not won Kent's admiration
Of course in the 1980s he was rarely out of the papers. It was the era of Reagan and Thatcher, the Cold War, Greenham Common and Cruise Missiles.

So what are the lessons to be drawn from the 1980s in this new era of nuclear brinkmanship?

"In the 1980s the real nuclear doctrine and the most dangerous one was first use - that we in some circumstances would be willing to use nuclear weapons in any conflict which had not yet gone nuclear - and that was the point of Cruise missiles, they were there to be used in a conflict that had started.

"But now with President Bush in June of 2002 we've gone into a new line which is being echoed by [Defence Secretary] Geoff Hoon and that is that we have a right to pre-emptive action if we judge that we might be under some sort of threat.

"In those circumstances we have a right, the Americans have the right, to use anything in the arsenal which must include nuclear weapons, and that's a completely new development and a very dangerous one."

Abolishing war?

Kent remains just as busy as he was in the 1980s still traipsing up and down the country to talk to different groups of peace activists.

He has also founded an organisation called the Movement for the Abolition of War "to get people to realise that war is not an essential part of civilisation".

Kent says if Germany and France - which had three wars in under a century - can come to such a binding peace as they have today there is hope for the rest of the world.

It is clear that he believes the biggest barrier to the abolition of war is a belief in what he sees as a distorted version of the American dream.

"We run everything and if you don't like what we're doing we are going to bop you with something," is the way Kent puts it.


 E-mail this story to a friend



© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes