Nov 162012
 

Aberdeen Voice presents the last of three articles by Jonathan Russell  of Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) investigating the nuclear and military build-up and tensions in Korea and the wider Asia Pacific area.

Possibly the single most important and worrying decision of Obama’s first presidential term was to move 60% of US naval assets plus other military personnel to the Asia Pacific area by 2020.
Obviously linked to shifts in military resources from Europe, Iraq and Afghanistan, this development is the principal reason bilateral relations between the US and China are at their lowest point since Obama came to power.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2012/jan/05/obama-plans-military-shakeup-video

That said, the possibilities following the re-election of Obama are certainly preferable to what may have unfolded under Romney. The latter’s insistence on naming China as a currency manipulator might well have increased tensions between the two countries.

One key issue is that, while the US has huge debts and could face economic meltdown, its military might continues to dominate the world. We now face a scenario where, on one hand, US allies in Asia Pacific have huge military budgets while, on the other, China is now the second biggest global military spender. This is a situation as unsustainable as it is absurd.

  • Current US debt is more than $16 trillion — the country is facing bankruptcy
  • Conflict over this continues between the Democratic Presidency/Senate and the Republican Congress.
  • Popular belief is that most of this debt is held by China. In fact, the biggest debt (one third) relates to surpluses in social security, unemployment benefit, disability, federal employer’s pensions and hospital insurance.
  • Though the US owes similar figures to Japan ($1.1 trillion) and China ($1.16 trillion), the US media often lumps these together and quotes the Chinese debt as $3 trillion, giving US citizens a false perception that China is somehow largely responsible for their fiscal difficulties.
  • Meanwhile, annual world military spending of $1,735 billion continues to explode, the US spending $711 billion this year alone.
  • China is now the second highest global spender on the military ($143 billion), almost double that of third-placed Russia on $71.9 billion.
  • In Asia Pacific, Japan ($59.3 billion) is the world’s 6th highest spender; South Korea ($ 30.8 billion) comes in at number 12, followed by Australia on $26.7 billion.

One US think tank suggests that as US debt equals its military spending, the way to reduce the deficit is to withdraw from its international military role.

While huge sums are spent on the military, international aid has fallen rapidly to $114 billion, much of this awarded to recession-hit western countries or used to boost western sales in the third world. Unfortunately, much aid is wasted funding large-scale corruption and high consultancy bills.

US defence department study The US force posture strategy in the Asia Pacific was presented to Congress in July. Co-author Michael J Green explained:

“An underlying weakness in the strategy is that it focuses on the US military in Asia in isolation from diplomacy, trade policy and other non-military elements of government that are just as important in maintaining influence in the region. The defence establishment meanwhile continues to see US/China issues in binary terms as it did during the cold war against the Soviets.” 

Concerns across Asia about the US military shift in the region were further fuelled by the US launching an air-sea battle exercise focused on fighting emerging powers. Green warned against overestimating China’s military despite its rapid growth, pointing to China’s huge vulnerability due to its dependence on sea lines.

China is now questioning the sincerity of the US role in stabilising Asia. Given their strong security ties to the US, China regards Japan, South Korea and the Philippines as US proxies and is consequently investing considerably more of its resources into military spending, at the same time reaching out to the US through diplomatic channels.

Following a meeting between a US deputation including Hilary Clinton and China (as reported on September 12) Councillor Doi Binggu stated:

“Major powers like China and the US should focus their Asia Pacific policies and interactions on regional peace, development and cooperation. China and the US cannot tread an old path of conflict and confrontation.”  

The Chinese do not have a history of invasion outside what they see as China. The US has considerable form in such matters. The emerging country also faces internal conflicts which, added to the massive task of sustaining its own population and dealing with rising inequality and an ageing population, leaves it with little energy to take on the US militarily. Despite this, China’s military continues to grow, largely in response to US military policy.

A recent power struggle has taken place in China. An open letter from a group of leftists asked parliament not to expel disgraced leader Bo Xilia, protesting such a move would be politically motivated. Particularly popular with the poor, Bo Xilia’s demands for social reform were seen as a threat to the current leadership.

  Meanwhile, both countries are meant to be making cuts in their military budgets, the US to the tune of $400 billion

In my last report, I spoke of the Juju island situation in South Korea, where the US wants to build a naval base against strong local opposition.

Japan has a similar conflict on Okinawa, an island annexed in the 19th century that looks across to both China and the Korean peninsula.

The island houses two-thirds of the US army in Japan (currently 26,000 troops), and is the centre of opposition to having Osprey aircraft based in the area.

Ospreys, which take off and land like helicopters but fly like fixed wing aircraft, could be used to attack the Chinese mainland and North Korea. It is reported 80-90% of the local population opposes basing them in Okinawa and a protest involving some 100,000 took place recently. A number of older protestors maintain a constant vigil outside the US base.

Despite Australia’s economic reliance on China, it has also increased its military alliance with the US with a doubling of US troops, primarily in the Darwin area. Meanwhile, both countries are meant to be making cuts in their military budgets, the US to the tune of $400 billion. Policies and budgets are clearly not fitting.

There have been reports of conflicts between China and Japan following the landing on the disputed Diayutai/Senkaku islands of 14 activists from Beijing. The islands, Chinese prior to WWII but now Japanese, are being used as a US military base. This initial incursion was followed by 150 Japanese activists landing on Diayutai/Senkaku, leading to nationalist demonstrations in both China and Japan.

These demonstrations have arguably helped both governments: in Japan, by deflecting concern from the Okinawa situation and boosting the popularity of a right wing government; in China, by distracting public concern about Bo Xilia and bolstering a government still to the right politically despite increasing concerns about corruption and inequality.

Japan and the US are presently undertaking joint military operations with 10,000 US and 37,400 Japanese troops. This again creates tension and will certainly lead to increased military spending by China. The Chinese are monitoring the situation but accuse Japan of manufacturing tensions. This may also be related to Obama’s successful presidential campaign in showing he can be tough on foreign policy, particularly on China.

On a positive note, Japan and North Korea met in August, their first meeting in four years and the first ever between their respective leaders.

Elections will take place in South Korea on December 19. For the Saenuri party Park Guen-hye is standing, the daughter of previous president Park Chung-hye.

Initially, her only rival was former human rights lawyer Moon-Jae-in of the liberal left Democratic United Party, but a new contender is Ahn Cheol-so, founder of the country’s biggest antivirus software company. One factor that may yet play a part in the region’s future is the historic hatred that exists between North Korea and the Saenuri party to this day.

Park Geun-hye initially led the polls and remains the leading contender, though Ahn Cheol-so has considerable support, particularly among young people.

In a further development, Moe-Jae-in and Ahn Cheol–so formed an electoral pact to beat Park Guen-hye but as we go to press have yet to decide who will lead (they hold similar positions on increasing welfare, and on North Korea favour dialogue and economic co-operation). In response, Park Geun-hye has said she wants to meet the North’s Kim Jong-un in a bid to improve relations.

Another development in South Korea is that two nuclear reactors have been closed temporarily.

The South Korean economy has ridden the recession in similar fashion to Brazil by moving to Green technology.

It is difficult to judge what control China has over North Korea. Information leaked to Wikileaks suggests there is often tension between the two and at the UN, China has condemned the latter’s nuclear weapon trials. China remains North Korea’s main ally, however.

  Short-term internal needs must be replaced by a longer term vision for Asia Pacific

North Korea has been badly affected by floods this year, leading to increased aid from China. Agricultural reforms similar to those in Cuba have taken place and following shortages of artificial fertiliser and pesticides, they are increasingly moving towards organic farming.

The state has supported training and research in this area and has developed organic fertilisers suitable to its cold climate. Farmers are now allowed to keep 30% of produce to sell in markets; the rest goes to the state.

Following its own agricultural crises linked to the long-term damaging effects of industrial farming, South Korea has been developing organic farming since 1993.

There are problems politically and culturally in both North and South Korea. A united Korea should be the long term aim, with a government hopefully informed by the mistakes of the past and foreign influence kept to a minimum.

Military posturing on all sides serves only to worsen the situation. Short-term internal needs must be replaced by a longer term vision for Asia Pacific. Diplomacy should take centre stage and agreements must be reached by all sides to reduce their military, reducing tension and leading to better relations all round. Reducing military spending will then allow countries to foster alternative use of resources and improve the lot of ordinary people.

On a broader front, the people of the world need to start protesting NOW against the crazy military machine that controls, kills and robs us of our humanity. We need real statesmen like South Korea’s former president Kim Dae-Jung and current world leaders could do worse than follow this great man’s example.

https://aberdeenvoice.com/2012/10/conflict-zone-korea-historical-background/
https://aberdeenvoice.com/2012/11/conflict-zone-korea-2-recent-developments/

Nov 092012
 

Aberdeen Voice presents the second of three articles by Jonathan Russell  of Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) investigating the nuclear and military build up and tensions in Korea and the wider Asia/Pacific situation.

Jonathan will be giving a talk on this subject at 7.30pm on Monday 12 November in the conference room on the top floor of Aberdeen’s Belmont Cinema.

The one Korean politician who has cut a positive figure in recent years is Kim Dae-Jung.

President of South Korea from 1998-2003, the introduction of his Sunshine Policy led to marked improvements in relations between North and South Korea.

In the period following Dae-Jung’s presidency, however, the historic lack of trust between the nations, a change in the South Korean government and lack of positive leadership, both internally and internationally, has seen the relationship deteriorate.

TIMELINE:

2002:
North Korea decides to re-activate a nuclear reactor and expel international inspectors.

2006: President Bush names North Korea as part of the axis of evil. In October, North Korea states that, due to growing intimidation by the US, they will stage a nuclear test that month and a second in 2009.

2008:
The situation worsens when South Korean president Lee Myunheg-Bak ends his predecessor’s Sunshine Policy.

2009: North Korea walks out of international talks aimed at ending its nuclear activity and announces it no longer considers itself bound by the terms of the 1953 truce.

2010: The south accuses the north of sinking one of its warships and cuts off all cross border trade. The accusation is strenuously denied and the north severs all ties with Seoul. The US then imposes tough sanctions on the north. During a trip to China in August, North Korea’s Kim Jung Il signals a willingness to accept foreign aid to help cope with major flood damage.

2012: South Korea hosts the second Nuclear Security summit. The gathering of 50 nations is attended by President Obama, who hosted the first summit in Washington in 2010. North Korea condemns the South’s hosting of the event as ‘an unpardonable crime’ and an ‘intolerable grave provocation’. During the summit, the south mobilises more than 40,000 police and an unidentified number of troops to guard against possible provocation by North Korea, terrorists or demonstrations by its own citizens.

The United States has 28,500 troops based in South Korea. As a direct result of US pressure and with massive American funding, South Korea is constructing a naval base on the island of Jeju to berth Aegis warships, 38 of which form part of the US missile defence system.

Named the Island of Peace by the late President Roo Moo Hyon, Jeju was the site of a massacre where more than 30,000 civilians were estimated to have been slaughtered by the South Korean army during a 1948 uprising.

The high biological diversity, unique volcanic typography and local culture of Jeju attract many tourists but building the base will be hugely detrimental to the environment (notably its coral reefs), threatening the livelihoods of local fisherman and many related jobs.

Located strategically in the Korean straits, the construction of a naval base would considerably increase the island’s potential to become a military target in the event of an armed conflict.

Many observers believe Jeju naval base will serve the sea-based component of the US ballistic missile force.

Actor and campaigner Robert Redford has stated:

‘’I am moved and impressed that residents near the coastline have been waging a fierce, non-violent struggle to stop the base. They’ve used their bodies to block bulldozers and cement trucks, sacrificed their personal freedom, been beaten and imprisoned and paid heavy fines… I think the least environmentalists, peace activists and supporters of democracy can do is express our outrage.’’

In September, the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) held its World Conservation Congress with some 8,000 attendees on Jeju, throwing the spotlight on the bitter battle over the island’s future.

Missile defence systems on Aegis destroyers are currently being tested at the Pentagon’s testing facility on Hawaiian island Kavai. There is a potential danger of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan going nuclear or having US nuclear bases.

In February, there was good news following talks in Beijing between North Korea and the US, the former agreeing to halt uranium enrichment and the testing of long range missiles in return for food aid.

This agreement foundered on North Korea’s plan to launch a long range missile in honour of the hundredth anniversary of their leader Kim Il-Sung.

South Korea uses extensive nuclear power and produces plutonium

While the Koreans claim the launch was linked to the peaceful advance of their space programme, critics suspect it was connected to their nuclear ambitions. Both South Korea and Japan threatened to shoot the missile down if it entered their territory. In reality, however, the launch failed.

The failed ballistic missile launch by North Korea has been condemned by the UN Security Council, including China and Russia.

The unexpected re-election of the conservative Saenuri party in South Korea has complicated matters. As the Saenuri and North Koreans traditionally hate each other, the party is not interested in improving relations and tensions have increased.

South Korea uses extensive nuclear power and produces plutonium. If its nuclear plants were targeted in a conflict, extensive devastation would follow with possibly catastrophic consequences worldwide.

While it has not yet developed a ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, it is likely North Korea has more than one enrichment plant. Though a failure, the recent attempted missile launch suggests North Korea is well on its way to developing such a weapon.

Confused messages coming out of the country suggest an internal power struggle, that some elements want better relations with the West in return for food aid while others seek a more militant stance.

Meanwhile, China has been advocating calm in the area. North Korea’s most important ally, biggest trading partner and main source of food, arms and fuel, China has its own internal conflicts between its role as an emerging global player and its commitment to its North Korean allies.

The first six-nation talks since 2008 between North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the US were due to restart in September. Russia allocated one of their top deputies to the talks, showing they are taking the situation seriously. While it seems some informal contacts did take place, these turned into an exchange of insults rather than any constructive dialogue or agreement.

Heads need to be knocked together by Russia and China re the North and the US re the South to make these talks happen and work. The alternative is ever escalating tension leading potentially to military and even nuclear warfare.

0n 23 October, South Korea announced a new deal with the US allowing it to develop ballistic missiles capable of striking targets anywhere in North Korea, missiles with larger warheads than had previously been in operation. North Korea responded by claiming it had missiles capable of reaching the US mainland.

A frequent complaint made by North Korea is that South Korea is a puppet regime of the US, which wants it to invade the north. This leads to North Korea pursuing its military First, Second and Third policies, meaning other aspects of society are neglected. This surely is not the way forward for either of the Koreas or the wider Asia Pacific area.

Next week Jonathan Russell will be writing about the wider Asia/Pacific political context taking in developments in China, the US, Japan, other Asian countries, Australia and Korea.

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Oct 312012
 

As tension mounts on the Korean Peninsula, Jonathan Russell of Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) provides background to the conflict. Jonathan also examines its potential for leading to a nuclear and conventional arms build up between the United States and China and to a much wider conflict.

This is one of a series of articles being produced for Aberdeen Voice by Aberdeen and District CND.

Jonathan Russell will give a talk on the Korean conflict at the meeting of Aberdeen and District CND on Monday 12th November.

Aberdeen CND have meetings on the second Monday of each month at 7.30pm on the top floor of the Belmont Cinema, Belmont Street, Aberdeen. You are more than welcome to come along.

This week’s article gives some historical background to the present tensions.

It will be followed after the talk on Monday 12th by two subsequent articles in Aberdeen Voice on Korea specifically and the wider Asia/Pacific area.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND TO KOREAN CONFLICT

North and South Korea are two very different states situated on the Korean peninsula, an area similar in size to that of the UK, lying between China and Russia to the North and Japan to the South-East. Japan occupied Korea from 1905 until 1945 and has a brutal history in the region.

In 1910 the Treaty of Annexation turned Korea into a fully fledged Japanese colony. This heralded a period of oppressive colonial rule. The Japanese aim was to modernise Korea and they built roads, railways, and waterways . They also eradicated nostalgia and hundreds of uniquely Korean buildings were destroyed.

The Korean Communist party was formed in 1925 and it became involved in guerrilla wars with other Korean groupings against the Japanese. The Western world turned a blind eye and only Christian missionaries raised concerns. By 1948 the Japanese language was made compulsory. During the Second World War conscription took place into Korean mines and Korean and Japanese factories. Thousands of Korean leaders from schools, churches and newspapers were thrown into jail.

With the surrender of Japan in 1945, the United Nations developed plans for a trusteeship administration, the Soviet Union administering the peninsula north of the 38th parallel and the United States administering the south.

This was done as a hasty expedient based on no more than a National Geographical map. After 40 years of Japanese oppression Korea was not prepared for the collapse and withdrawal of the Japanese in August 1948. On the 8th September 1948 Soviet troops moved into the North and United States troops into the south.

Initially the Korean Workers Party tried to establish a Government. The Russians backed a people’s committee in the North originally headed by a Christian nationalist Cho Mansik.  However Stalin came to favour a communist resistance fighter called Kim ill Sung whose ‘dynasty’ the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea still remains in power.

  This led to a horrendous three year war resulting in the estimated deaths of 2.5 million combatants and civilians.

The politics of the Cold War resulted in the 1948 establishment of two separate governments, North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and South Korea(Republic of Korea). There was a major contradiction in this in that more communist party members were living in the South and more Christians in the North.

In October 1948 Synman Rhee a right wing nationalist returned to Korea in a plane arranged by General Macarthur. Following elections Synman Rhee took over the Presidency of the South. Soon after this there was what was known as the autumn uprising which was brutally put down. In Jeju island at the bottom of Korea 160 villages were destroyed on the orders to Rhee by the United States and nearly a third of the population were killed. Soldiers of Rhee’s 14th regiment mutinied but they themselves were brutally put down.

Following a build-up in tensions the North Korean army – the Korean People’s Army -crossed the 38th parallel on 25th June 1950 in response to the massacre of communists in the South. This led to a horrendous three year war resulting in the estimated deaths of 2.5 million combatants and civilians.

The Soviet Union under Stalin supported the North and had given the go-ahead for the People’s Army to cross the 38th parallel. Following a UN resolution sponsored by the United States, the United States and twenty other countries, including the United Kingdom, supported the South. The Russians supported the North with military equipment and aid but due to fear of a Third World War never directly became militarily involved.

Initially the North nearly captured the whole of the South but following a counter offensive led by General Macarthur the reverse was achieved.

The leadership of the newly declared People’s Republic of China under Mao also supported the North but was initially reluctant to get involved as they were both recovering from and consolidating power following their own civil war. However when United States and its allies nearly reached the Chinese border they entered the war with an estimated 340,000 troops.

The war was part civil war but primarily it was a struggle between the Communists and the Western allies.

The United States dropped more bombs during the conflict than they had in the Second World War and used napalm in greater levels than they did in Vietnam. 

Both sides committed appalling atrocities against soldiers, civilians, and prisoners of war.

The use of child soldiers became a common occurrence on both sides.

After Stalin’s death the Soviet Council of Ministers ordered Mao and Kim to seek peace. The ending of the war (it has never been officially declared- a truce still remains) led to no change in that the pre-war border remained un-altered along the 38th parallel.

Without doubt the entire Korean people were the losers and the area has remained one of high tension. Korea has not been affected by ethnic tensions as in other parts of the world following the war but by ongoing ideological tensions.

Since 1948 the Korean peninsula has been divided between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the North (23million people) and the Republic of Korea in the South (48.25 million people) the mountainous north has more mineral resources and the south richer agricultural land.

In the early days the northern Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was a communist success story but over time in particular after the fall of the Soviet Union it rapidly declined. Kim IL Sung its leader from the inception had close links with Stalin and in similar vein was involved in purges to get rid of his opposition.

Following Stalin’s death Kim IL Sung developed his totalitarian system called ‘juche’ a kind of Confucian Socialism which demanded that all activity would be beholden to the state. Emphasis went onto industrialisation to the neglect of agriculture and following the collapse of the Soviet empire this led for many to starvation.

In 1999 the North admitted to 220,000 deaths from famine though outside commentators have suggested the figure of 600,000.

There has been some improvement in North Korea since with China recently putting £3 billion into the economy but there is no doubt that the citizens of North Korea are much poorer than those in the South and vulnerable to shortages of food. The Kim IL Sung dynasty with its military 1st, 2nd and 3rd policy which is a huge drain in its overall resources is still in place with the young Kim IL Sung the third having just taken over the reins of power.

The people are poor and even the army are mostly involved as peasants on the land. Amnesty International in the United States has satellite images of political camps in North Korea where they estimate there are 200.000 people held in horrendous conditions.

The North Korean government are adamant that the camps do not exist. In the Korean situation even more than others it is difficult to distinguish between propaganda and truth from either side. If the camps to exist in the form suggested they are truly horrific.

There was another form of totalitarianism in the South under their leader Syngman Rhee’s autocratic and corrupt government and most of the governments and military governments that followed. The South had their National Security Law which allowed clamp downs on opposition.

In present day South Korea Amnesty International, report, that the South Korean Government are increasingly invoking their national security law. This restricts freedom of expression particularly in the context of discussions pertaining to North Korea. In March the UN Human Rights Commission considered the cases of 100 South Koreans.

Initially it was South Korea’s economy which did not work well with an over reliance on foreign aid from the United States and North Korea was seen as a communist success. However over recent years South Korea has become one of South East Asia’s booming economies with standards of living rising but with marked disparities in wealth.

According to a speaker on BBC’s Women’s Hour from Nottingham university who has spent a number of years in North and South of Korea, those defecting from the North find it difficult to adapting to the hierarchical style of businesses in South Korea. Korea is indeed a place of many contradictions and working out what is true and what is propaganda is complex.

For a much more detailed history of Korea an excellent book ‘Everlasting Flower a History of Korea’ is available in Aberdeen’s Central Library. Information is also available on the Internet.

Next week I will be writing more on the present situation and the third and final article which will be published following my talk will look at Korean conflict and the wider military build up and potential for conflict in the wider Asia/Pacific area.

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Oct 312012
 

Talk & discussion: Conflict Zone Korea

As tension mounts on the Korean Peninsula Jonathan Russell, chair of Aberdeen & District CND, provides background to the conflict in Korea and its potential for leading to a nuclear and conventional arms build-up between the United States and China/Russia.

Time and Date:  7:30pm, Monday, 12th Nov

Venue:   the seminar room, top floor, the Belmont Cinema, Belmont St.

Everybody Welcome!

http://www.cnduk.org/

http://www.banthebomb.org/

For more details contact: Jonathan on 07582-456-233

Sep 212012
 

Voice’s Old Susannah  takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and further beyond ( including the murky depths of ‘local’ cyberspace ). By Suzanne Kelly.

Across Aberdeen this past week most of us have enjoyed the last warm(ish) days of summer, and the sunny days and early evenings. Others have been glued to their computers waging a curious battle over a protest planned for tomorrow (Saturday 22nd September).

In the quest to win new friends and influence people, the ‘Protest Against Aberdeen City Council’ Facebook pages have entertained a wide variety of opinions, and a wide spectrum of humour (I am using the term ‘humour’ loosely).

Somewhere between 12 and 500 people will appear at 1pm tomorrow in front of the Marischal College  building (which will be deserted, as it’s Saturday), to protest against Aberdeen City Council, Labour, and the death of the granite web.

An interesting report is to go before the Audit Committee soon; it is by an independent reporter who finds that both the councillors and the officers of Aberdeen City Council need to think about how they interact.

Anyone who read about this report in the Press & Journal would have been shedding tears, assuming this bullying was 100% by mean councillors against poor but honest officers.   Indeed. More on that later.

But the real talk of the whole country is around the most fundamental question of all, which is dividing the Scottish nation, setting brother against brother, and causing an affa bother:  is the deep-fried Mars bar a national treasure or not?  Earlier on, the Mars company reportedly disowned the creation;  other sources later claimed the Mars business had embraced the calorific snack.

This crucial question will no doubt be the subject of several independent consultations, a referendum, Holyrood debate, health & safety analysis, a PR campaign by the BiG partnership featuring Morris the Monkey, and more than a few bar room fights.

Some people claim that the original, unadorned Mars bar was good enough as it was, and should be retained.  Others claimed it wasn’t 21st century enough unless it was covered with a web of deep fried flour and grease.  Not since Culloden has such bickering been seen in this part of the world.  Old Susannah hopes resolution is possible.

There have been a few amusing news stories across the UK as well.

  Just tell that to your boss next time you need a few grand on your company’s credit card; I’m sure they won’t mind

Seems some of those nice people at Scottish Enterprise have been very enterprising indeed.  Old Susannah never realised what a generous employer SE was, but it is kindly allowing staff to take SE credit cards and take out nice big, fat juicy cash advances (in a variety of currencies), and paying the amounts back as and when.

As a taxpayer, I’m so pleased we can help out the less fortunate SE employee with the odd £10K loan or two.  It’s alright though, as the employees always intended to pay the money back.  Just tell that to your boss next time you need a few grand on your company’s credit card; I’m sure they won’t mind.

It’s almost as if proper financial controls were not working 100% at SE – which is a bit unfortunate in such a tiny organisation; they still operate on a mere £750,000,000 or so per annum (much of which is salary – which Old Susannah finds difficult to reconcile with the cash advances the cash-strapped staff seem to need).

And in England, a woman has been sentenced for hijacking a ferry boat, telling her pursuers ‘I’m Jack Sparrow!’ and sailing away until finally caught.

Readers will find it hard to believe, but she was high on drink and belladonna (deadly nightshade to you and me, which is quite poisonous).  I prefer the odd BrewDog and crisps, myself.  After two days of drink and hallucinogens, she felt ill for some reason or other, and called the paramedics.

When they arrived she was, naturally enough, on a moored ferry boat, as you do.  She ‘didn’t mean to untie the craft, but the ropes kept getting under her feet’.  Fair enough – could have been any of us really.  The ferry boat’s owner told the BBC this incident was a:-

“total one-off bizarre incident which we have never experienced before”.

Old Susannah should hope so, too.

I’m afraid the definitions this week do involve the web; don’t worry – this too shall pass.

Carrot or the Stick: (English saying) to offer an inducement – reward and/or sanction to gain support or agreement.

Any movement needs to recruit new members.  Those nice Scientology people give out free books on  Oxford Street, and tell you how clever you are.  Next thing you know, you’re married to Tom Cruise and waiting for the mothership.  The Moonies used to give out flowers; various missionaries would trade a square meal in exchange for preaching at you.

The Friends of Union Terrace Gardens and Common Good Aberdeen – two forces with the same ultimate goal of saving UTG from development have web presences, hold meetings, and hold the odd demo or two.  New members and the curious are welcome.

Speaking of odd demos, there is a group called ‘Protest against Aberdeen City Council’ holding the demonstration I mentioned before, taking place tomorrow.  They too have a web page and embrace open debate.  And what a debate it has been.

The finest minds in all of Scotland’s past pale into insignificance against the rhetoric, logic, self-restraint and persuasive skills of a small number of the posters on this page.  I’m surprised we’ve not all been convinced the web’s the way to go by this bunch.

The page’s administrator, who apparently lives in the United States, has allowed a wide raft of comments to go unmoderated, which I’m sure doesn’t mean they are encouraging trolls at all.

Usually when you want someone to come around to your way of thinking, you offer them some reason to do so – the proverbial  carrot and the stick.  The Big Partnership, recently rendered silent on the topic of the web, used both the carrot and the stick to get us to join the granite web fanclub.

  There is an explanation of why the English Defence League has nothing to do with hate or violence

The carrots were ‘build the web and 6,500 new jobs appear’, ‘two hundred million pounds will magically flow into the city annually until the year 2023 (not 2022 or 2024 – 2023) AND the added incentive that Morris the Monkey and Jake the Ghost want the web convinced us in the thousands.

The sticks used to try and beat us into submission?

‘No one will come to Aberdeen’, ‘we’ll look silly if we don’t take Ian’s £50 million and do what he says with it’ and ‘people will think Aberdeen is ‘closed for business.’

I always liked this last ‘closed for business’ argument.  It was supposed to make me think of a vibrant and dynamic shopping mall, doing lots of business.  Instead, it made me think of an indiscriminate callgirl who would do anything with anyone if the price was right.

How are the ‘Protest against Aberdeen’s’ members and posters winning hearts and minds?  Reasoned argument?  Supplying facts and figures?  Welcoming newcomers?  Parrying dissent with rapier-like wit and friendly banter?  Absolutely!

Please do go and visit this page yourself – it has all the relevant facts you need to know to make an informed decision to support the web.  These include colourful postings such as the following:-

*  There is an explanation of why the English Defence League has nothing to do with hate or violence;

*  there is a woman being insulted because of her looks;

*  there is a man who says he’s no longer onside with the protest because of the abusive comments made by protest supporters – so he’s attacked as being a ‘plant’;

*  a man who was abused as a child is asked if he was ‘a little sh*t who deserved a clip ‘round the ears’;

*  there is a woman who ‘has it on good authority’ that all the bills the taxpayer has already picked up for the web were really somehow not paid by the city council (who the invoices were made out to), but Sir Ian really picked them up; and

*  a hilarious joke about building a mosque on UTG (alas; Old Susannah is unable to appreciate the witticism or the point being made)

People against the web have in several instances risen to the bait and argued back.  But whatever side of this issue you are on, have a look at the comments made by people like Sandy M, George S and others.  They’ll have won you over with their carrots and sticks before you know it.

Readers of a sensitive disposition may, however, wish to stay well clear.  https://www.facebook.com/events/456202784419418/

Cautionary Tale: (compound noun; English) A story intended to impart advice by showing someone else’s error.

This new Information Commissioner is taking no prisoners – well, actually she might be, as the police have been called in to enforce the law.

This kind of development in Aberdeenshire is extremely worrying!  The local authority seems to have accidentally denied it had information and accidentally deleted the information it denied having.  It was almost as if there was something to hide, and as if the law came second to what the local government mandarins wanted.

This story, covered in this past week’s Press & Journal (really) implies that Freedom of Information requests have to be answered with the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  Old Susannah is reassured that there won’t be any such issues here in our city.

Even if the Information Commissioner’s office is reportedly auditing the work our FOI office does, it’s not as if information has ever been withheld from me, or anyone else, is it?  (Unless of course you count requests about Mr S Milne, the deer cull, cost of Marischal college…)

Pre-emptive strike: (compound noun; English) a form of defence or deflecting attention  by attacking one’s opponent first.

Well, a report going to the Audit Committee next week seems to imply that councillors had in the recent past not been treating officers courteously and had asked difficult questions.  Naughty!

No real naming and shaming was done.  I hope no councillors asked awkward questions of Pete Leonard for instance.  Mean councillors in the past may have asked him why he kept representing that the deer-culling, tree-planting scheme was completely cost neutral, even though he knew for months that phase one failed, and ACC had to repay £43,800 for the dead trees.

He recently tried to deflect this irritating fact by reportedly saying £43,800 referred to something in the 1990s.  Just because the money was paid in March 2011, when he was saying the great scheme was cost neutral to the Housing Committee, is no reason to think he wasn’t accurate or completely open, is it?

A cynic could think this report’s suggestions that councillors should show more deference to officers like Leonard is a pre-emptive strike.  Did the report authors know about all the assorted little machinations of Leonard and his ilk?  I’d love to know.  At least one person must have come out of this untarnished:  the softly-spoken, always calm and rational Gerry Brough, kindly volunteer to the City Gardens Project.

Now that this report has come out, I hope city councillors will be warned by this pre-emptive strike not to ask any tough questions!  Hope that’s settled then.

And there we leave it for now.

Next week:  I will attempt again to escape from the granite web – unless Zoe finally writes back about those CGP radio ads, promising us the web for free.  Will keep you posted.

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Jun 142012
 

This is the second article produced by Aberdeen and District CND on the economics of the UK nuclear deterrent system Trident. This article relates to the economics of the Scottish situation last week’s article looked at the wider UK. We would recommend that you read both articles. With Thanks to Jonathan Russell.

The STUC/CND report of 2007 demonstrated the inaccuracy of claims that upwards of 11,000 jobs would be lost to Scotland if Trident was not replaced. It found that the loss of Jobs would be (only) 1,800.
In a recent article in the Scottish CND Magazine John Ainslie has said that there are less than 500 civilian jobs in Faslane and Coulport which are directly involved in supporting the Trident weapon system.

To put this in perspective, up until 2007 over 40, 00 Scottish Defence related jobs had been shed since 1990 without significant government intervention to ensure alternative employment.

  • At 2007 prices, of the then £1 billion annual procurement costs of Trident replacement, the annual cost to Scotland would have been £238 million,
  •  Combined costs of £85 million annual procurement, with £153 million a year share of existing and continuing costs of Trident.

A debate and vote on Trident took place in the Scottish Parliament in June 2007. In this debate the Scottish Parliament voted conclusively against the renewal of Trident, demonstrating the clear opposition of the Scottish people to the UK government’s course of action. Following on from this, the Scottish Government set up a working group on Scotland without Nuclear weapons.

The working party had the following to say on the economic effects of not renewing Trident.

 “The UK government has made significant investment over the years in upgrading the facilities at HMNB Clyde, including £300 million in the past two years and has announced that HMNB Clyde can have a continuing role as a strategic naval facility for conventionally armed naval forces, to take advantage of significant assets already in place and the UK  governments maritime change programme offers the opportunity in the long run for stability of employment, without nuclear weapons at HMNB Clyde.”

The effect of expenditure on Trident replacement on Scottish budgets, in the context of future Comprehensive Spending Reviews, will have a negative impact on public expenditure in Scotland with a corresponding effect on jobs: the STUC/CND investigation estimated that replacing Trident could cost Scotland 3,000 jobs.

The working group considered that a planned programme of defence diversion adequately resourced, could ensure that an equivalent or greater number of jobs can be created in the local economy.

The more recent BASIC commission report by Professor Keith Hartley points out that though Glasgow is an area of high unemployment it is part of the wider Clyde economy where there are alternative job prospects. Staff and facilities are in the main transferrable however some staff and facilities are so highly specialised that they can only be used for submarine work.

  Global climate change is emerging as a major future security challenge

Aberdeen has 12 firms that would be affected by the replacement of Trident. With an average spend of just under two million on each firm involved in Scotland this would affect the Aberdeen economy.

Government would require appropriate policies to adjust to these changes. It must be remembered that spending in other ways would lead to more jobs .

Choices have to be made about what it is best to spend public money on.

  • For many the cry would be that money is better spent on saving some of our health, education and welfare services from at least some of the cuts that are planned;
  • Others would say that these finances would be better spent on keeping our conventional military resources
  •  Others would say our spending should go on overseas aid.
  •  Other Capital expenditure in transport, green technology or housing infrastructure would be a far more effective way of invigorating the economy than spending our increasingly reduced public spending on nuclear weapons.

Of course firms like BAE systems and Babcock’s would argue differently. We would argue that this money, however it is spent; it should not be on the renewal of Trident.  Further the priority should not be on military spending unless aimed at developing our role in peace keeping.

On another front we would question our priorities; Global climate change is emerging as a major future security challenge.

  • Expenditure on nuclear weapons could consume resources that might otherwise be used in the fight against climate change;
  • Climate change is one of the drivers which will influence the long term affordability of nuclear weapons.
  •  If we re-invest the money that is to be spent on Trident we could make the UK/SCOTLAND a worldwide leader in wave and tidal power technology and create hundreds of jobs, more than compensating for the jobs lost by cancelling Trident.
  •  This in turn would help re-build our economy, which in turn, would help protect our public services. A win-win-win solution!

The credit crunch and global economic meltdown has compounded pressure on the affordability of Britain’s Nuclear weapons.

The time is ripe to stop the replacement of Trident and it would be one significant step in getting rid of Nuclear Weapons worldwide; it could further help us start concentrating on the real problems we face, both at a UK/SCOTTISH and world level.

Aberdeen and District CND have monthly meetings at 7.30pm on the second Monday of each month held on the top floor of the Belmont Cinema, Belmont Street, Aberdeen.
http://banthebomb.org/AbCND/index.php/CND

 

Jun 072012
 

This week we examine the UKdimension of the Economics of the UK’s nuclear deterrent Trident,  and next week we will look at  Scottish dimension.  This is one of a series of articles being produced by Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). You can read further articles in both past and future editions of Aberdeen Voice.  With thanks to Jonathan Russell.

Given the global recession and the United Kingdom’s huge debt crisis, a major area of concern is whether, in a time of massive cuts, Trident should be a priority of our public spending.
The estimated lifetime cost of more than £80 billion to replace Trident will have a significant effect on other public spending and, if the experience of such replacements replicates what has happened in the United States, costs could be more than double that amount.

A recent BASIC Trident Commission report has stated that the non-replacement of Trident could produce substantial cost savings of up to £83.5 billion over the period 2016 – 2062.

The Ministry of Defence faces cuts of up to £74 billion over the next ten years and a £36 billion deficit on projected capital programmes.  On top of this, there will be a bill exceeding £20 billion for the capital costs of Trident replacement over, more or less, the same period.

In April, 2010, under the heading The UK does not need a nuclear deterrent, Lord Bramall, the former Chief of Defence Field Marshall, challenged the wisdom of replacing Trident in the following letter to the Times:

“It is of deep concern that the question of Trident replacement is at present excluded from this process (the Strategic Defence Review).  With an estimated cost of more than £80 billion, replacing Trident will be one of the most expensive programmes that this country has seen.  Going ahead will clearly have long-term consequences for the military and defence equipment budget that needs to be carefully examined.

“Given the present economic environment in which the defence budget faces the prospect of worrying cuts and that we have already an estimated hole in the defence equipment budget of some £35 billion, it is crucial that a review is fully costed.”

He also added that the option of nuclear disarmament needs to be carefully evaluated as:

  • both the running costs and the disposal of nuclear waste costs are often ignored when discussions take place about the costs of replacing Trident
  • the £20 billion capital costs were a considerable underestimate and
  • the running costs went up from £1 billion in 2006 to £3.1 billion in 2010.

The £80 billion cited by Lord Bramall included the running costs of the present and successive programmes and the disposal costs of nuclear waste.

UK CND point out that £3.1 billion a year would pay for approximately 31,000 houses and create employment directly in construction and through the supply chain, for 62,000 people.  Given the UK housing shortage, this would be a win-win situation resulting in both growth in the economy and the provision of much needed social housing.

The vulnerability of employment loss UK wide would be most acute in Barrow-in-Furness and, to a lesser extent in Aldermaston and Burchfield.
Professor Keith Hartley, in the recent BASIC report, analyses the impacts arising from possible options and concludes that, if the government decided to cancel the Trident programme, the UK would be looking at job losses of around 9,200 after 2025 and the loss of 21,700 jobs in 2052.

The latter losses are linked to Astute-class submarines and would allow plenty of time for future governments to intervene in particular exposed local economies like Barrow on Furness.  It should also be remembered that submarine manufacture is particularly capital intensive, so more alternative jobs could be created with the same investment.

Trident is there for defence purposes – it is not the best means of creating employment – and, unlike other UK defence industries, it provides no obvious long term benefits in the form of exports, or extensive technology spin-offs to other products or to the rest of the economy.

Job losses should also be put in proportion: between 1990 and 1995 employment in the Barrow shipyards fell from 14,250 to 5,800, a much greater figure than the possible job losses if Trident was cancelled.  The state of the economy and labour markets, including local labour markets at the time, would also affect the economic impact of the cancellation of Trident

In line with the TUC’s 2009 support for Just Transition towards a fuel-efficient green economy, government funded programmes, such as those operated in the United States under the Base Realignment Closure programme, should be adopted now.

The scientific, design and technical skills concentrated in Barrow were identified by the International Energy Agency as having the potential to be used for the development of new technological niches in the efficient production of marine and sub-sea energy.

Next week’s article will deal with the Scottish dimension of the Economics of the UK’S nuclear deterrent Trident

  • Aberdeen and District CND hold meetings at 7.30pm on the second Monday of each month on the top floor of the Belmont Cinema, Belmont Street Aberdeen
Apr 062012
 

At the next meeting of Aberdeen CND on Monday 10th April, Jonathan Russell, Chair of Aberdeen CND and also a member of Campaign Against the Arms Trade, will be leading a discussion on the Arms Trade. The meeting will take place at 7.30pm on the Top Floor of the Belmont Cinema, Belmont Street, Aberdeen.

The arms trade is a deadly, corrupt business. It supports conflicts and human rights abusing regimes while squandering valuable resources which could be used to deal with the many social and environmental challenges we face here on Planet Earth. It does this with the full support of governments around the world, in particular the five permanent members of the United Nations  Security Council: the United States, Russia, France, China and the United Kingdom.

These are the very countries which are meant to be our global custodians, but are in fact the very countries which are feeding global insecurity and conflict.

While very few countries sell large volumes of weaponry, the buyers are spread across the world. Other than to the five permanent UN Security Council members, the largest buyers are in the Middle East and South East Asia. The arms themselves range from fighter aircraft, helicopters and warships with guided missiles, radar and electronic warfare systems, tanks, armoured vehicles, machine guns and rifles.

The common misconception is that it is the illegal trade that is damaging, while the legal trade is tightly controlled and acceptable. However, the vast majority of arms sold around the world including those to human rights abusing governments or into areas of conflict are legal and are supported by governments. In 2007 the value of legal arms around the world amounted to 60 billion dollars. The illegal market is estimated at 5 billion dollars:  many illegal weapons end up as legal weapons.

The arms trade exists to provide weapons to those who can pay for them. What the buyers do with the arms, what political approval the sales signify, and how money could be better spent appears irrelevant to the arms companies and our governments. The UK Government’s 2010 Human Rights Annual Report identified 26 countries of concern. In that year the UK approved arms licences to 16 of these.

There’s a sense that in the past we were embarrassed about supporting defence exports. There’s no such embarrassment in this Government.

David Cameron was in the Middle East on a high-profile mission to sell arms when the democracy movement started in the Middle East. Selling arms to a country in conflict whether internal or external makes the conflict more deadly and longer lasting.
If there is tension between countries or within a country, then arms purchases are likely to increase this tension and make actual conflict more likely.

Even when conflict has ended, arms, particularly small arms, may remain in large numbers (as in Libya at present), fuelling further conflicts and/or criminal activity.

Every year the UK Government authorises the sale of arms to well over 100 countries. This is hardly surprising given that it is Government policy to vigorously support arms exports. Peter Luff, Minister of Defence Exports in the present UK Government, has stated that:

“There’s a sense that in the past we were embarrassed about supporting defence exports. There’s no such embarrassment in this Government.”

Arms companies and Government are inseparable when it comes to selling arms. The Government’s UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) department is a vital element of UK’s arms dealing. In 2008 the Government opened the Defence and Security Organisation which promotes weaponry on behalf of arms companies. There are 158 civil servants in the Defence and Security Organisation while other non-arms sectors have137 staff. This is despite arms accounting for less than 1.5 Percent of UK exports.

• Arms export jobs as a percentage of total employment:  0.2%
• Arms as a percentage of exports:  1.5 %
• UK Government Research Expenditure Spent on Arms:  27%
• UK trade and investment staff committed to selling arms:  54%

Research carried out for Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) by the Stockholm International Peace Institute assesses the level of subsidy by Government to the arms trade in the UK to be around £700 million a year.  In 2010 the UK Government issued 10,850 arms export licences, refused 230, and revoked 14.

Half of the refusals related to proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, with a maximum of 76 being revoked on the grounds that they contributed to internal repression, internal conflict or regional instability. Foreign office embassies also promote the arms sales, as do the Ministry of Defence armed services. Arms fairs are common in the UK and around the world.  The governments of host countries provides support for their arms firms.

Arms sales from the UK seem to vary from year to year:

• 2007    9651 million   (particularly high because of sales of Typhoon aircraft to Saudi Arabia)
• 2008    4367 million
• 2009    7261 million also high as included Typhoon support services to Saudi Arabia)
• 2010    5819 million

Of the 16 countries identified by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute as locations of major conflict in 2009, the UK sold arms to 12.

Columnist Will Self –  “War, the arms trade and the abuse of language”

BAE arms are the UK’s main arms company and has military customers in over 100 countries. BAE’s focus over the past few years has been on increasing sales to the US, specifically targeting equipment for conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and supplying Euro fighters and other arms to Saudi Arabia. BAE routinely supplies countries which the UK Foreign Office considers as having ‘the most serious wide-ranging human rights concerns’.

The casualties of conflict are now overwhelmingly civilian, increasing from 50% of war related deaths in the first half of the twentieth century to 90% near the end of the century.

The arms trade affects development both through the money wasted on arms purchased and through the conflicts fuelled by arms.

A study in 2007 by Oxfam of the economic cost of armed conflict to Africa estimated that Africa  loses around 18 billion dollars a year due to wars and that armed conflict shrinks an African nations economy by 15%.

As well as the direct effects of military spending, medical costs and the destruction of infrastructure, there are indirect costs on the  economy and employment suffers ( this does not take into account the countless human misery caused by loss of life and sustained injuries effecting families and friends as well as the individuals concerned).

The study estimated that the cost  of conflicts in Africa since 1990 was equivalent to the aid provided to them by major donors.

Even when conflict is not taking place money diverted to arms is a drain on government resources and takes away from vital spending on health education and infrastructure. The massive 1998 South African arms deals for aircraft, helicopters, warships and submarines cost the country over £8billion. Yet most of the population live in shanty towns and other poor housing and South Africans with HIV/AIDS were told that the country could not afford ant-retroviral medication.

Despite desperate poverty and its recent appalling history of armed struggle, the UK government is actively promoting arms struggle to Angola. The UK government not only approved arms exports to Angola it actively organised an “industry day’’ when HMS Liverpool docked in Angola waters and hosted Angolan political and military officials.

The arms trade causes countless misery in our world; it is a poor use of limited resources which should be used to make this world a better place. We need to question the thinking in the world that believes you only get what you want by force. The five members of the Security Council should start taking on their responsibilities and use conflict resolution rather than warfare to sort the many conflicts that take place both between and within countries.

Mar 242012
 

With thanks to Dave Watt.

 

In 1975, as part of a programme to increase the Jewish population in the Galilee (the Judaization of the Gaililee), the Israeli government announced plans to expropriate 20,103 dunams (about 5000 acres) of Palestinian land to make way for twenty new Jewish settlements. In reaction to this, and years of such expropriations, the Palestinian community established a Committee for the Defence of Arab Land.

On March 30th 1976, they called a general strike and mass protest to demonstrate the government’s plans. The excessive force used by Israeli forces against the protests saw 6 Palestinians shot dead and hundreds injured.

Land Day has since come to symbolise Palestinian resistance to Israel’s racist policies and has been commemorated by Palestinians every year since, with thousands of activists taking part in actions around the world to show their solidarity (this year will see the Global March to Jerusalem take place on March 30th).

Aberdeen SPSC invite you to join us on Thursday, March 29th to find out more about Land Day and the land legislation and policies used by the Israeli government to force Palestinians within Israel from their land. A short presentation will be followed by a screening of the film Lemon Tree, which tells the story of a Palestinian woman whose livelihood (her lemon grove) is threatened when the Israeli Defence Minister moves into the house next door.

Lemon Tree Screening and Presentation – 
7.30-9.30pm,
March 29th,
Room 051 MacRobert Building,
Aberdeen University (all welcome)
Mar 152012
 

For the third time in less than a year, Dons fans and players of a certain age will be wearing mourning clothes, literally or figuratively. David Innes reminisces on Jens Petersen, a man whose dedication to the Dons in the 1960s makes him truly worthy of legendary status among Reds followers.

It was with heavy hearts that we learned of the death of Jens Petersen, a stalwart servant of the mid and late 1960s whose brave battle against death ended in noble defeat on 8 March 2012.

This follows far too closely the deaths of Eddie Turnbull in April 2011 and Francis Munro in August last year.

Another one of the Reds family has gone, and it hurts.

For the many friends Jens made during his time at Pittodrie, the hurt is because they knew him, they appreciated his determination to succeed and the inspiring leadership that he offered, but most of all, the lasting friendship that they formed with someone who is unanimously regarded as one of the genuine good guys.

Among the fans who remember Jens, it hurts because we too have lost someone we looked up to, someone who played the game in its proper spirit and a man who took delight in meeting fans, taking an interest in them and making them feel that they, as much as the players, were all part of the same whole.

We have lost a hero.

Jens arrived in Aberdeen with fellow Danes, Jorgen Ravn and Leif Mortensen, all signed by Tommy Pearson in 1965, when Scottish clubs realised that Scandinavia was a new hunting ground for players of good quality who fitted into the Scottish style of play. Whilst Ravn and Mortensen left Pittodrie after a short while, Eddie Turnbull spotted that Jens had something special that would fit with the Turnbull football vision and not only kept him on at Pittodrie, but made him a key member of the first team.

In 1966, the jewel in the Reds’ crown was Dave Smith. His performances in midfield and in the curious “sweeper” role that Eddie Turnbull introduced meant that he was an attraction for bigger, more predatory teams. I recall, to a background of Yellow Submarine, the news coming through in August 1966 that our star had signed for Rangers and that the Dons were £45000 better off.

The money was unimportant; we had lost our most influential player. How, the devastated 9 year old me worried, could we go on without Dave Smith? Eddie Turnbull had a cunning plan: Jens Petersen.

What the Boss had seen in Jens was someone who could naturally play the role that Smith had made his own, a man possessed of an unflappable temperament, comfortable with the ball at his feet in defence or midfield, an athlete, excellent in the air and with an ability to break from defence with the ball, striking panic into the opposition, a sight to behold.

US sports fans were amazed that the players did not wear body armour

The statistics tell us that Jens Petersen made 203 appearances for Aberdeen and scored 11 goals.

These are merely numbers. Influence and dynamism cannot be enumerated.

It’s a long time ago, but I can still remember his late spectacular goal against Morton to put us into the League Cup semi-final in 1966, my uncle’s surprised comment, “Look, the Dane’s wearin’ san’sheen”, when Jens decided that a frosty pitch later that season needed alternative footwear, and his ill-luck in the 1967 Cup final where his shot into an open goal was miraculously saved by Celtic’s Ronnie Simpson’s sliding clearance from the goal line.

When Jens left the Dons in 1970, his number 6 shirt was bequeathed to Martin Buchan. That illustrates the level of talent at which he operated.

My own contact with Jens was limited to a couple of phone conversations about the 1967 Washington Whips. Chalky Whyte gave me Jens’s number and encouraged me to call him in Denmark. He answered in Danish. I said, “Hello, I’ve been given your number by Jim Whyte”. Jens’s response (and that of his wife Dora when I called on another occasion) was that he was delighted to speak to me, but before he spoke about the USA in 1967, how were his friends at Pittodrie?

My lasting memory of the discussion was that he was asked by a US interviewer, “Petersen, have you ever burst a ball with your head?” and that US sports fans were amazed that the players did not wear body armour. His English, and Dora’s, was better than mine and he was a joy to interview.

Chalky, Ally Shewan and Ian Taylor have often spoken to me about the friendship they maintained with their great pal Jens and their memories and anecdotes will help ease some of the hurt that these guys and their colleagues are feeling.

Jens was only just 70 when he died, which is no age at all these days, and he was an outstanding athlete, still running marathons into his 60s.

The Northern Lights are significantly dimmer with his departure.

Image Credit: Aberdeen Voice is grateful to Aberdeen Football Club for use of Photographs.