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September 19, 1958

Address by Mr. Frank Aiken to the United Nations General Assembly Official, 23th Session, 751st Plenary Meeting

Aiken’s landmark address to the plenary of the UN General Assembly on 19 September 1958 launched his non-proliferation campaign. It is the first time he publicly identified stopping the spread of nuclear weapons as a concrete step in the collective interest to unblock the disarmament impasse, preventing a runaway arms race among the powers of the Earth. It was clearly framed as part of his wider campaign for global governance based on the rule of law rather than the threat of force. For Aiken, the challenge was stabilizing the arms race and generating trust to construct a world order based on justice and law – “to preserve a Pax Atomica while we build a Pax Mundi.” This speech was a critical departure. The widespread positive reception encouraged Aiken, persuading him to draft a formal resolution.

March 29, 1963

Memorandum from John McNaughton, General Counsel, Department of Defense, to McGeorge Bundy

One of the few pieces of declassified evidence showing John McNaughton’s role in the Jupiter removal process, his report to McGeorge Bundy concerned the “physical operation” to remove the missiles and the related press management.  Dismantlement actions would begin on April 1 in Italy and April 15 in Turkey.  For both countries, the dismantled missiles would go to a “graveyard.” The arrival of Polaris submarines during April would be publicized along with a visit to Turkey around April 14-15. No photographers would be allowed on site, but no “special limitations” would apply when the missiles were in transit. One of McNaughton’s concerns was that the dismantling operation be handled in a way that “reduced[d] … erroneous comparisons with Cuba.”

October 26, 1983

Bruce Kent, 'Direct Action Thoughts'

In this letter, Bruce Kent explains his views on direct action by the CND in the autumn of 1983. He also notes that polls suggest that public opposition to the deployment of Cruise - which would begin in the following weeks - had decreased.

June 1982

Nuclear Free Scotland: A Campaigners Manual

This publication, intended for activists in Scotland, sets out different anti-nuclear campaign themes and offers advice on effective strategies.

April 1983

Cruise: Your Questions Answered

This information leaflet was produced by the Ministry of Defence in April 1983, leading up to the June 1983 general election. The publication explains the Government's position and why the deployment of Cruise missiles is in the UK's interest. While the pamphlet engaged with arguments advanced by peace organisations, no specific groups are named. 

November 13, 1974

United Nations General Assembly Official Records, 29th Session : 2282nd Plenary Meeting, Agenda Item 108, 'Question of Palestine (continued)'

As other documents in this collection on Moroccan nationalists in 1947 and 1950 have exemplified, the United Nations was an important arena in decolonization struggles for Arabs, as it was for Asians and Africans as e.g. Alanna O’Malley’s The Diplomacy of Decolonisation: America, Britain, and the United Nations during the Congo crisis, 1960-1964 (2018) has shown. In this regard, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which was founded in 1964 and taken over by the Fatah movement in 1969, was no exception.

To be sure, Palestinian organizations including Fatah and the PLO decried key UN actions. One was the UN Palestine partition plan of 1947; another was UN Security Council resolution 242 of November 1967. Calling upon Israel to withdraw “from territories occupied” during the Six-Day War in June and calling for the “acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace,” it did not mention Palestine or the Palestinians. Even so, the PLO sought to get access to the UN and UN recognition. A crucial landmark on this road was the address to the UN in New York in November 1974 by Yassir Arafat (1929-2004), a Fatah co-founder in 1959 and from 1969 PLO chairman.

Arafat did not speak at the Security Council, which was and is dominated by its five veto-carrying permanent members Britain, China, France, the United States, and the USSR/Russia. Rather, he addressed the UN General Assembly (UNGA), where from the 1960s Third World states were in the majority; his speech was the first time that the UNGA allowed a non-state representative to attend its plenary session. The UNGA invited the PLO after having decided, in September, to begin separate hearings on Palestine (rather than making Palestine part of general Middle Eastern hearings), and after the PLO was internationally recognized as the sole representative of the Palestinian people, a landmark accomplishment for the organization. The UNGA president who introduced Arafat, Abdelaziz Bouteflika (1937-2021), was the Foreign Minister of Algeria, which since its independence in 1962 had supported the Palestinian cause organizationally, militarily, and politically. Arafat spoke in Arabic; the below text is the official UN English translation. Arafat did not write the text all by himself; several PLO officials and Palestinians close to the PLO, including Edward Said, assisted, as Timothy Brennan has noted in Places of Mind: A Life of Edward Said (2021). Later in November 1974, the UNGA inter alia decided to give the PLO observer status and affirmed Palestinians’ right to self-determination.

July 2, 1957

Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy in the Senate, Washington, D.C., July 2, 1957

On July 2, 1957, US senator John F. Kennedy made his perhaps best-known senatorial speech—on Algeria.

Home to about 8 million Muslims, 1.2 million European settlers, and 130,000 Jews, it was from October 1954 embroiled in what France dubbed “events”—domestic events, to be precise. Virtually all settlers and most metropolitan French saw Algeria as an indivisible part of France. Algeria had been integrated into metropolitan administrative structures in 1847, towards the end of a structurally if not intentionally genocidal pacification campaign; Algeria’s population dropped by half between 1830, when France invaded, and the early 1870s. Eighty years and many political turns later (see e.g. Messali Hadj’s 1927 speech in this collection), in 1954, the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) launched a war for independence. Kennedy did not quite see eye to eye with the FLN.

As Kennedy's speech shows, he did not want France entirely out of North Africa. However, he had criticized French action already in early 1950s Indochina. And in 1957 he met with Abdelkader Chanderli (1915-1993), an unaccredited representative of the FLN at the United Nations in New York and in Washington, DC, and a linchpin of the FLN’s successful international offensive described in Matthew Connelly’s A Diplomatic Revolution: Algeria’s Fight for Independence and the Origins of the Post-Cold War Era (2002). Thus, Kennedy supported the FLN’s demand for independence, which explains its very positive reaction to his speech.

And thus, unlike the 1952-1960 Republican administration of Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969) that officially backed the views of NATO ally France and kept delivering arms, the Democratic senator diagnosed a “war” by “Western imperialism” that, together with if different from “Soviet imperialism,” is “the great enemy of … the most powerful single force in the world today: ... man's eternal desire to be free and independent.” (In fact, Kennedy’s speech on the Algerian example of Western imperialism was the first of two, the second concerning the Polish example of Sovietimperialism. On another, domestic note, to support African Algeria’s independence was an attempt to woe civil-rights-movement-era African Americans without enraging white voters.) To be sure, Kennedy saw France as an ally, too. But France’s war was tainting Washington too much, which helped Moscow. In Kennedy’s eyes, to support the US Cold War against the Soviet Union meant granting Algeria independence. The official French line was the exact opposite: only continued French presence in Algeria could keep Moscow and its Egyptian puppet, President Gamal Abdel Nasser, from controlling the Mediterranean and encroaching on Africa.


Sayed Kotb [Sayyid Qutb], 'The World is an Undutiful Boy!'

After World War II, the political, military, and economic power of the United States’ rising international empire—one working with and through other nation-states—was accompanied by “soft power,” to use a term coined later. Victorious in a global war, Americans embraced “nationalist globalism,” as John Fousek put it in To Lead the Free World: American Nationalism and the Cultural Roots of the Cold War (2000). They wished the postwar world to follow their way of life rather than that of their Cold War Soviet rivals. Vice versa, people around the world paid more attention to them. Very few swallowed Americans’ self-view hook, line, and sinker. But a good number came, adopted what seemed of use—and often did (and could) openly oppose what they disliked, as Matthew Shannon discusses in Losing Hearts and Minds: American-Iranian Relations and International Education during the Cold War (2017).

An Egyptian visitor was Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966), a Cairene inspector of public schools. Egypt’s Ministry of Education chose him to analyze US education from November 1948 to August 1950. He studied at the Wilson Teacher’s College in Washington, DC, and the Colorado State College of Education, in Greeley. He visited New York, San Francisco, Palo Alto, and San Diego. Qutb wrote about this experience—for by the mid-1940s he had become a rising author and cultural critic in Egypt. There, as Giedre Sabaseviciute has shown in “Sayyid Qutb and the crisis of culture in late 1940s Egypt” (2018), Qutb, like others of his generation, accused the cultural establishment of selling out to Western imperialism culturally and hence politically; at the time, Britain still controlled the Suez Canal, and would withdraw its last troops only in June 1956. Some young nationalist critics were leftists; others, like Qutb, had a more religious bent. (In the early 1950s Qutb would officially join the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), and later texts like Ma‘alim fi al-Tariq [Milestones (1964)] would make him the intellectual father of contemporary Islamic radicalism; Gamal Abdel Nasser’s regime imprisoned him after an MB coup attempt in 1954, until 1964, and again from 1965 to 1966, when he was executed.)

As for Qutb’s texts on America, they were much more critical than texts by earlier Arabs who had visited and studied in Western imperial countries. Thus, Rifa‘a Rafi‘ al-Tahtawi’s (1801-1873) or Taha Husayn’s (1889-1973) reflections on sojourns in France, while critical, also identified commonalities and affirmed that Egypt could use some European traits to catch up with Western imperial powers. Not so Qutb, as John Calvert’s “‘The World Is an Undutiful Boy!’: Sayyid Qutb’s American Experience” (2000) shows. In letters home and in a three-part Arabic article titled “The America That I Have Seen,” published after Qutb’s return, he described Americans as a shallow, soulless people driven by status and money: Egypt’s opposite. This was the external inter-civilizational front of a conflict whose domestic cultural front countered those who presumably served Western imperialism. Qutb’s thinking was complex, then. This was the case doubly as it embraced Islam, whose spirituality imbued Egypt’s, and as he called Egypt a civilization—nay the civilization, the world’s first. In the late 1940s, in sum, Qutb was an anti-imperialist civilizational nationalist with a religious bent, or, perhaps, an Eastern civilizationalist of Egyptian nationality and Muslim faith. This showed also in the text here: Qutb’s first one in English, printed in the Greeley College literary society magazine in 1949.

December 2, 1947

Report on the Activities of the Arab Office, Washington, for the First Six Months Beginning Nov.1.1945 (Excerpts)

In March 1945, the Arab League (AL) was founded in Cairo. It arrived at the tail-end of a gargantuan four-year-long endeavor to economically integrate the entire Middle East and North and northeast Africa in order to make its polities more self-sufficient during the world war, in which shipping with Allied countries was dangerous and when military trumped civilian needs. This endeavor was supported by national authorities, aided by the United States, and directed by officials of the British Empire. Britain was paramount in the region, and by 1943 its armies, with the US military, evicted all German and Italian troops from North Africa.

Towards the end of the war, the British Empire developed a greater interest in allied Arab countries cooperating more closely. Hence, it backed the establishment of the AL. The latter was not at all simply a British project, though. It also reflected a highly particular version of pan-Arab nationalism: rather than promoting territorial or political unification, it allowed key states to assert their voice in the Arab World.

The Arab League had six founding members. These were Saudi Arabia, a British ally, and Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Transjordan, which all were in various ways British-ruled; so was Yemen, which joined in May 1945. Though Palestinians worked with it, Palestine was not an official founding member. Britain was not keen. As Palestine’s Mandate power, it continued to heed Yishuvi interests. Moreover, AL member governments were not truly supportive either. They did, however, take a great interest in the Palestine conflict. In November 1945, the AL re-established the Arab Higher Committee (AHC), which first was founded at the start of the Palestine Revolt, in 1936, but outlawed by Britain in 1937. When the AHC imploded due to intra-Palestinian infighting, the AL in 1946 created the Arab Higher Executive, renamed AHC in 1947. Moreover, the AL in 1945 declared a boycott of all Jewish-owned businesses in Palestine. And in 1945, too, it executed plans going back to 1944 to open abroad public relations “Arab Offices” (AO), whose main writ was to explain why Palestine’s Arabs, not the Zionists, should become the sovereign in Palestine. One AO was in London. Another was in Washington, DC, open until 1948, and a third followed in 1946 in New York, open until 1947; they have been treated in Rory Miller’s “More Sinned against than Sinning?: The Case of the Arab Office, Washington” (2004) and Daniel Rickenbacher’s “The Arab League's Propaganda Campaign in the US Against the Establishment of a Jewish State” (2020). 

Supported by some British officials, the AL opened AOs in the United States because it feared Zionist lobbying and public relations there and because it knew the US government would help shape the postwar Middle East, even if Britain was still the premier power. The man behind the idea of the AOs, Musa Alami (1897-1984), and a majority of AO officials, including Ahmed Shukairy (1908-1980), were Palestinians. There were other Arabs, too. One was the Lebanese Nejla Abu-Izzedin (1908-2008), who had received her PhD from the University of Chicago in 1934; another was the Anglo-Lebanese Cecil Hourani (1917-2020), brother of the famous historian Albert Hourani (1915-1993), who discussed the AO in An Unfinished Journey: Lebanon and Beyond (1984).

The text printed here, excerpts from a report, in English, reflects the work of the Washington AO, its travails, and the AL officials’ views of the US. It is noteworthy that the original of the text forms part of a broader file created by the Political Department of the Jewish Agency, Jerusalem, the para-state government of the Yishuv in British Mandate Palestine. The file is kept at the Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem.

April 12, 1931

Letter, Bayard Dodge to Thomas B. Appleget (Excerpts)

In 1866, US Presbyterians who had been working for half a century in the Ottoman city of Beirut founded the Syrian Protestant College (SPC), to compete with Arab and French endeavors in higher education. Chartered in the State of New York, the American University of Beirut (AUB), as the SPC has been called since 1920, came to employ American, European and Arab professors. It soon turned into a foremost institution of higher education for Arab Christians and Muslims alike from Greater Syria (present-day Syria, Israel/Palestine, Lebanon, and Jordan), and especially after World War I attracted more and more students also from other Arabic-speaking countries, a history told in Betty Anderson’s The American University of Beirut: Arab Nationalism and Liberal Education (2011). AUB’s educational quality and missionary institutional bedrock gave it some clout in the United States.

Hence, when the New York-based Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Foundation in 1924 added an international layer to a US-centered social science grant program it had been running since 1922, it in 1925 asked the AUB president, Bayard Dodge, whether his institution would apply for such a grant. AUB did. Making its case in a way that reflected the establishment of League of Nations Mandates in the post-Ottoman Iraq and Greater Syria and the rise of anticolonial nationalisms there, AUB received a US$39,000 grant to develop its social science offerings in 1926-1931, and three additional grants through 1940.

The text published here is a letter written by Bayard Dodge to senior officials in the Rockefeller Foundation.