Saturday, July 23, 2016

Nuclear Weapons

Last week there was a vote in the House of Commons in Westminster on the future of Trident, UK's nuclear weapon.

A majority of 355 voted in favour of renewing this weapon of mass destruction. There are 59 MPs in Scotland. 58 of them voted against renewing it. Yet again, Scotland has a different opinion from most of the rest of the UK.

For people who normally read my blog, you will probably already be able to work out my view on Trident. For others, I'll explain....

I detest it.

I possibly feel exceptionally strongly about Trident, because it is housed on the Clyde, just outside Glasgow, not too far from where I was born and brought up. Being so close to home, probably means I think about it more. Not so easy to just switch off from it when it is on your own doorstep. People might say that is a typical NIMBY attitude. I don't think so. You see, yes, it bothers me about where it is, but I want it gone completely, not just moved down south somewhere.  And it's not just Trident I want rid of. I also wish the world could be rid of all nuclear weapons.

There are only nine countries in the world with nuclear weapons and the majority (93%) are owned by either USA or Russia. It is a huge power game. Does UK need to be involved in that game? Other countries get by perfectly well without needing to have nuclear weapons. So why does the UK or the other eight countries on this planet of ours want to have them so badly?

Nuclear powered weapons have been used in warfare twice. Hiroshima and Nagasaki which resulted in the death of over 120,000 people. Why would anybody ever want to witness those events happening again?

As long as Trident is sitting in our waters, we actually have a threat of radiation leakage or something even worse. There have actually been cases of accidental launching, firing and detonating nuclear weapons throughout the world. 32 accidents have been recorded worldwide. So, statistically, an accident (with serious consequences) is probably more likely to happen than a nuclear attack by another country.

But we are told that we need Trident in the UK. That if we didn't have it, one of those eight countries above would attack us with their nuclear weapon. Really? I actually wonder if we are more at risk because we do have those weapons on our shores. In the event of possible war, does a country decide to press their button to attack us, just in case we do it to them first? In which case, the deterrent did nothing, and it's much too late for us. The damage will have been done. It would be the beginning of the end.

If the UK didn't have Trident, would we really suddenly become a prime target? If it is true that we are, or would become a prime target, perhaps we ought to ask ourselves why.

Our main threat in this country, and others, is terrorism. Nuclear weapons certainly don't deter that. They didn't deter terrorism in USA, in France, here or anywhere else. Shouldn't we be focusing on trying to get the right intelligence to get this dangerous, and very real threat sorted, rather than spending a shameful amount of money on a deterrent which is deterring nothing.

The cost of renewing Trident will be billions. That money undoubtedly could be used elsewhere in areas which badly need it. Health, education, poverty...imagine what those billions could do. There are people using food banks in the UK because they have no other way to feed their families. Yet we are prepared to spend billions on a weapon which could eradicate another country (or eradicate our own by accident). Why can't we eradicate poverty instead?

But it's not just about money. It's a moral issue. Money can't buy the lives which could be ruined by Trident. Thousands of innocent people would be killed after the go ahead to enter a code to attack a country. Actually more than thousands. And not just at that time. For years to come. Probably decades. Vegetation and water ways affected. Livestock, wildlife, birds and fish would be affected. People in surrounding areas would be affected too. Birth defects. Serious illnesses. Cancers. All affecting innocent people. There might be a few evil monsters at the target destination, but the majority affected would be innocent people. What did they ever do to deserve that?

A few days ago, while discussing Trident, a friend sent me the following passage by a renowned Harvard Law professor, Roger Fisher.

There is a young man, probably a Navy officer, who accompanies the President. This young man has a black attaché case which contains the codes that are needed to fire nuclear weapons. I could see the President at a staff meeting considering nuclear war as an abstract question. He might conclude: “On SIOP Plan One, the decision is affirmative, Communicate the Alpha line XYZ.” Such jargon holds what is involved at a distance.
My suggestion was quite simple: Put that needed code number in a little capsule, and then implant that capsule right next to the heart of a volunteer. The volunteer would carry with him a big, heavy butcher knife as he accompanied the President. If ever the President wanted to fire nuclear weapons, the only way he could do so would be for him first, with his own hands, to kill one human being. The President says, “George, I’m sorry but tens of millions must die.” He has to look at someone and realize what death is—what an innocent death is. Blood on the White House carpet. It’s reality brought home.
When I suggested this to friends in the Pentagon they said, “My God, that’s terrible. Having to kill someone would distort the President’s judgment. He might never push the button.
Perhaps if every person in the world who agreed with nuclear weapons of mass destruction read these words and put themselves into the President's shoes, they too would think twice. How many could actually carry out the physical killing of an innocent life themselves. Or perhaps worse still, imagine if that innocent life was their own child.

I detest war. I detest nuclear weapons of mass destruction. I want this world to be a safer, more peaceful place and nuclear weapons will never bring that to us. I want nuclear weapons to be a thing of the past. I want them to be eradicated.

Can that world without nuclear weapons ever exist? Perhaps it can. But only if everyone who thinks they shouldn't exist, speaks up and says so, then that world could become a reality. Some people would say that I'm just a dreamer. But I know a lot of dreamers. And hopefully one day, our dreams could become reality.