Seventy years ago Britain played its full part in the US dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan, wiping out a quarter of a million people, (half of them slowly) and mostly civilians [the standard military excuse of ‘collateral damage’ won’t wash on that one will it?]. Somehow or other it is not classed as a war crime, but hardly something we would want to boast about, is it? It is possibly due an entry in the Guinness Book of Records – as it has been the only use ever of nuclear weapons?
The A-bomb had been developed by a hundred thousand scientists on the USA’s Manhattan Project and successfully tested before use to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
It is old hat now of course because we have gone even further in horrifying destructive capability, and replaced it with the Hydrogen bomb – the latest which is a thousand times more powerful. No one dare use such evil weapons because setting one off would have global implications and like a boomerang come back to haunt the perpetrator.
Nevertheless, we in the UK persist in an overwhelming ambition to be seen worldwide as a nuclear power, and so justify the substantial environmental risks and enormous expense involved on the basis that it is a military ‘deterrent’ and protects the UK from attack. Surely the opposite is in fact the truth? We as a nation have nothing left of material value worthy of any foreign aggressor’s interest, do we? The ONLY reason that another power would want to attack us is to neutralise our nuclear capability – so if we don’t have any such weapons, we would be a hell of a lot safer, surely?
To have a nuclear weapon capability you basically need three things.
- Somewhere to store or hide your base system to avoid its destruction; that used to be in underground silos but that became easy meat, so we moved to submarine platforms which could hide away deep in the oceans – we started with Polaris in the late 1960s, replaced it by Trident thirty years later and that is still operational now.
- Then you need a reliable and non attack-vulnerable delivery system; that used to be our V-bombers (Victor, Valiant, and Vulcan) – but aircraft are attackable these days, so we now use unbelievably sophisticated intercontinental ballistic missiles.
- Top this then with the nuclear warheads to be delivered by the system; we are probably using the standard nuclear warhead of some thirty-five years ago – but still at least five times the power of the A-bomb.
Each of our existing four Trident submarines predictably will carry eight missiles and forty thermonuclear warheads, which are multiple deployed on the missile and are each independently targetable – all a bit of overkill don’t you think?
This missile system was designed as part of an American ‘first strike’ capability, rather than a defensive response to attack.
The big conundrum we in the UK now face is do we maintain this so called ‘nuclear deterrent’ capability? You see the existing Trident system is creaking at the joints, is past its ‘best-before-date’ and is fast approaching its ‘use-by date’. The replacement will take more than fifteen years to put in place, and the enormous costs could bankrupt our impoverished nation – the sceptics estimate the expense to be as much as a hundred BILLION pounds taking everything into account, and you can bet your bottom dollar that it will be substantially greater than the Government’s outline procurement budget of say some twenty-five billion (which doesn’t include associated costs such as infrastructure, maintenance & decommissioning, which will certainly double the expenditure).
It is said that there is a ten to fifteen THOUSAND nuclear missile bomb stock around the world (all but a few percent held by America & Russia – though perhaps two-thirds of theirs are not deployed or operational). A gaggle of other countries each have a hundred or more nuclear missiles’ bombs – France, China, UK, Pakistan, India, and Israel (with North Korea still trying to get there). So it is an elite if not a very reliable membership club, isn’t it? Soon we will have some fifty counties ‘able’ to assume nuclear weapon capability, even if the reality of nuclear proliferation in the world right now is fairly limited – scary though eh?
If someone like a paranoid leader kicks-off a nuclear conflict, we are all done for. If terrorists like ISIS get hold of one, a major city can say goodbye forever. So, being in the nuclear club can in no sense be a deterrent in this day and age – time to terminate our membership, perhaps?.CND has been in the right from the start it appears? If Britain ever gets embroiled in a nuclear confrontation, the first target on the UK will be Faslane Scotland, the Trident base on the Clyde. That will immediately wipeout the city of Glasgow and a large part of their west coast – is it any surprise then that the SNP and Scots are against nuclear weapons and a Trident replacement on their doorstep?
The very existence of nuclear weapons is a massive risk to society – the chances of them falling ito the wrong hands is frightening, and the chances of an accident or mistake is even more substantial. Here in the UK we know that sixty years ago, a plane crashed in Suffolk, nearly detonating an atomic bomb, and thirty years ago an RAF truck carrying hydrogen bombs skidded off a road in Wiltshire, but there may have been countless other incidents before and since that have been kept secret. We probably now face a far greater chance of being harmed by our own nuclear weapons, than by an enemy attack.
If Britain was in fact attacked by a handful of nuclear bombs, the ensuing firestorms and radioactive fallout from these relatively few detonated warheads would apparently immediately kill or injury about one-third of our population, drinking water would be contaminated, most of the nation’s farmland would be unusable, and British society would collapse. It is difficult to see how having our own “deterrent” would avoid such a scenario on our tiny island, wouldn’t you say? Will having new nuclear weapons really keep us safe, do you think? We can of course maintain some nuclear capability whatever – if we can see any strategic advantage?
Another factor of course is that we in Britain cannot in actuality ourselves retain our nuclear capability. No it is the Americans who have been maintaining our stuff over the past five decades, will provide any Trident replacement, and will be the ongoing critical support that will allow us to continue to use it.
The issues has come to the forefront now because in the middle of his ‘austerity’ programme, Chancellor George Osborne has just committed five hundred MILLION pounds over the next decade to enhancing Faslane’s infrastructure . Yet this is at a time when there has been no debate nor government final decision about proceeding with a Trident replacement programme, and that not expected until next year. Osborne’s arrogance getting the better of him?
[What is your view on Britain spending much of the defence budget on Trident replacement instead of conventional forces? Use your voice before the decision is taken, or forever hold your peace]