Trident WMDs remain immoral, wasteful and redundant

By Simon Barrow
July 18, 2016

It is almost certain that the Westminster Parliament will this evening approve the expenditure of what will apparently be £31 billion immediately, and some £205 billion in the long run, on a renewed Trident nuclear missile system.

I say "apparently" because, astonishingly, the sums involved (eye-watering as they are) have still not been properly pinned down in terms of through costs, and are likely to escalate way beyond what is being talked about at present.

The Conservative government, along with its Labour and DUP allies on this issue, is determined to spend obscene amounts of money on Weapons of Mass Destriction, primarily because of the prestige and influence it supposedly gives the crumbling UK on the world stage.

The cover for this involves claims about "defence needs" and "national security" which have been ripped to shreds, not only by seasoned anti-nuclear campaigners, but by the government's own National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review (NSSDSR), by former Conservative Defence Secretary Michael Portillo, by senior military figures, by former United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix, and by the Conservative chair of the influential Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, Sir Crispin Blunt MP, among many others. 

NSSDSR, the government's  senior advisory body, which it is choosing to ignore in a flurry of soundbites, concluded recently that there is "no direct threat to the UK or its vital interests from states developing weapons of mass destruction." Its exhaustive review listed international terrorism, cyber-attacks, public health scares and natural hazards among the many greater threats than nuclear war.

Indeed, far from making the country safer, a new generation Trident theoretically makes the UK a target for the minority of world states possessing nuclear weapons. In addition, the threat of a nuclear terrorism, misfiring, or of an accident involving nuclear weapons is very real. 

Trident is also an issue of basic belief, both for Christians and people of other faith traditions, and for ethical humanists. Justin Kenrick, writing for Bella Caledonia, observes that it is "a perverted potlatch, snake oil, charm to ward off evil. Like a protection charm that is worn around the neck while leaching poison into body and brain." 

Evidence of this came in the Prime Minister's unwavering response to SNP MP George Kerevan's telling question in the Commons this afternoon, when he asked Theresa May if she would be prepared to push the UK nuclear button to incinerate 100,000 or more innocent men, women and children in an instant. Unflinchingly, she replied 'Yes!' This is quiet immorality on a monumental scale.

In fact, the decision would not be in the PM's hands. Technically and politically, the "independent deterrent" is not finally under Britain's control, as the independent investigative journalists of The Ferret have spelled out. The country was misled on Brexit, and is being misled again on Trident and WMDs.

The semblance of democracy in this Parliamentary vote is a fig leaf to cover a culture of deception, profiteering by the military industry, vanity and hubris on the part of senior politicians, and a public anaethetised by the way even the BBC (which has a duty of impartiality rooted in its public service ethos) refers to "the Trident nuclear deterrent" as if this was a fact. On the contrary, it is one of the key issues of dispute.

Prime Minister May defended her willingness to commit mass murder by immediately adding that the purpose of deterrence was that she would not have to do so. But that in itself is a contradictory position. Deterrence is a dangerously unstable game of multiple bluff based precisely on the fact that she would commit such an indefensible act -- and, notwithstanding a pre-emptive 'first strike', would do so under conditions which would not save a single life, but would simply add to the sum of human annihiliation and misery.

Britain's nuclear weapons, situated in Scotland against the democratic wishes of the population, parliament and government there, are not only wasteful (at a time of huge cuts to basic services) and redundant (from a military and strategic point of view) they are also fundamentally immoral. The churches have pointed this out in no uncertain terms.

Though the majority of trade unions oppose nuclear weapons, it is sad to see the leaders of UNITE and the GMB urging support for Trident on the basis of jobs. Since the 1976 Lucas Aerospace workers' alternative corporate plan in the face of arms industry redundancies, there has been a huge amount of research into alternative production and employment. The money saved by scrapping Trident dwarfs what is needed to ensure the security of the jobs it secures immediately, and those down the supply chain.  

The root issue remains, however, that the use or threatened use of WMDs is a crime against humanity and is illegal under international law. The vote in the House of Commons to ignore this and press ahead regardless will bring more shame on a deeply soiled institution. But it does not end the struggle to rid the world of WMDs. It merely shows how necessary and tough that struggle against a culture of expensive, misguided death-dealing is. 

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© Simon Barrow is director of Ekklesia. 

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