Why nuclear spending is wrong

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People ask me why I’m traveling around the country speaking on this theme in so many places. The reason is that I can’t stand stupidity, waste and gross immorality. They make me angry.

To spend £100 billion on yet another generation of nuclear weapons, so that we are nuclear armed for another 30 or more years, is all those things. It’s stupid because nuclear weapons give us only the illusion of security. They did not even save the United States from their biggest military humiliation in their history in Vietnam. They are supposed to have ensured that the Soviets did not attack Western Europe, even though there was not the slightest evidence that the Soviets - who lost more than 20 million in WW2 - ever contemplated invading Western Europe. They will do nothing to protect us against the real danger that terrorists will get their hands on nuclear weapons one day. How does one deter suicidal people by threatened to kill them?

If we continue with Trident how can we possibly tell other countries that we need them for our security but they cant have them? The only sensible way forward is to negotiate their elimination globally with strict inspection rules imposed; that’s how we got rid of chemical weapons. But that is just what this country is not trying to do. We were one of only four countries to vote against a United Nations proposal to set up new negotiating machinery aimed at global elimination. It is just British nationalism which keeps these illusions alive and has nothing to do with real security which only comes, not from threats, but from mutual respect and justice.

Waste? Only the other night on the main BBC TV news there was story about a GP ‘s surgery shutting down for lack of funds. We all know what “cuts” mean. They affect us all - libraries, pensions, benefits, travel costs, school budgets, park maintenance - the list goes on and on. Yet no money for flood defences or the other effects of global warming, our real security issues.

Yet we propose to spend £25 billion on building four more nuclear missile submarines and another £75 billion to keep them gong for their limited life span. We are supposed to be concerned about the problems of the poor. It is the problem of the rich and comfortable that really worry me. It is not the millionaires in our current Cabinet who will feel the result of this absurd spending - it is the poor of this, and other, countries.

Immorality? At least all the Faith groups agree on this. To try to defend oneself by being willing to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people in other countries is plain wicked. It’s never going to happen people say. How do they know? We have had many, many accidents and miscalculations in our nuclear weapon age. Robert McNamara, a big hawk in his day as George Bush’s defence secretary said in his later years we were saved not by wise prudence but only by good luck.

But my message is not just this. It is much more. We have become a too passive people. We forget how much power we have to move public opinion and to make politicians of all parties think again. The next election is due in 2015 and a final decision on Trident in 2016. There is still time but not much of it. We need a party which will promise to maximize efforts at global nuclear weapons elimination.

How about an Abolish Nuclear Weapons Conference in London called for by a British Government. We need a Government which will commit itself to spending these Trident billions on the NHS, on schools, on decent pensions, on affordable house building…

Jobs? Why can’t those skilled engineers, who make these weapons of mass murder, make hospital ships instead. Four hospital ships on loan to the World Health Organisation would do much more for peace in this world than yet more missile submarines.

I’ve got Faith in people as well. Please help to stop this Trident nonsense.

*Bruce Kent