Trident: a mark of shame.

WMDs don’t improve our safety, they threaten the very peace we hold so dear. Here’s why…

On August 6th 1945, “Little Boy” was dropped onto Hiroshima, Japan, where in just the blink of an eye over 90% of the city was damaged or destroyed by the bomb’s impact and where over 150,000 people perished. Over 70 years on, why are we still parading these nuclear weapons as a symbol of power when their mere existence is a risk to our peace?

As it stands today, there’s just nine countries in total that possess nuclear weapons: The United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea. Just 9 out of 206 countries hold these weapons of mass destruction, just 9 out of 206 countries hold the codes to wipe out entire cities. This means that we are in the minority — the vast minority.

In the UK our nuclear weaponry is known as Trident — four submarines each with up to eight missiles on board, with every missile having up to five nuclear bombs on top with a power roughly eight times higher than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. But everything has a life span, and for the Trident nuclear weapons that is coming to an end in around 2025. On July 18th 2016 the House of Commons voted in favour of renewing these nuclear weapons — at an estimated cost of over £150 billion.

To me, this costing is an outrage of hypocrisy. In one of the world’s richest countries where we can’t find the money to support out National Health Service, where we cant find the money to fix our crumbling infrastructure, where we can’t find the money to look after the 4 million children living in poverty — we can find the money to kill and destroy. Now, perhaps you will agree with me that this just simply isn’t a sustainable way of running a country’s but perhaps you will be like the majority of those preaching about nuclear weaponry needing a place in our society by saying it is a price worth paying when it’s an insurance policy for an uncertain future. To this I would say that any claims that nuclear weapons make you safer are simply unfounded and untrue.

The challenges and enemies we face in the world today cannot be tamed by the threat of nuclear weapons — these dangers are not the same dangers as the Cold War era. Nowadays we face international terrorism, cyber-terrorism, climate change — these aren’t dangers you can stop at the push of some big red button, these are only dangers we can fight through cooperation with our international community. Trident didn’t stop the Lockerbie bombing, Trident didn’t stop the 7/7 attacks and they didn’t stop the disgusting explosion at the Manchester Arena this year either. Nuclear weapons can’t stop terrorism and they won’t stop climate change — the two greatest threats of our time.

Nuclear weapons of any kind are an insurance policy which itself increases the risk it is supposed to protect us against. By refusing to eradicate our own arsenal of nuclear weaponry, and instead building more whilst claiming it makes us “safer” encourages other countries to pursue developing nuclear weaponry themselves in the belief it makes them safer, therefore adding more and more nuclear weapons into an already fragile world. The only way to ensure a nuclear weapon-free world is to work towards getting rid of all WMDs in all countries. Those who say it hasn’t been done are simply lying to you, there have been twelve countries in total who have either got rid of their arsenal (such as South Africa) or have stopped their programmes of developing nuclear weapons. It can be done, and it is exactly what the United Kingdom signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968 to do.

UK Foreign Secretary, Michael Stewart, signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968
“Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” Article IV of the Non-Proliferation Treaty 1968

In 1996 the International Court of Justice declared unanimously when discussing the NPT that ‘there is an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects’ and so by having signed the treaty to negotiate to eradicate our weapons whilst at the same time pursue replacing them would not be demonstrating ‘good faith’ — it would be pursuing disregard for international law.

During the 2017 General Election campaign the issue regarding Jeremy Corbyn’s personal opinion on the Trident nuclear weapons came up in debates repeatedly. On an appearance at a Question Time special, some members of the audience pressed several times on whether he would use the weapons, either as first or second use, or whether he would simply “let North Korea or some idiot in Iran bomb us”. Jeremy’s answer was a suggestion of opening dialogue with those with the capabilities to attack our country and offering to do everything that he could to ensure that any threat is actually dealt with earlier on by negotiations and talks. A far more honourable response than Theresa May’s “Yes” to whether she would commit herself to killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians by launching the nuclear missiles.

When Trident has been discussed in the past there is always the mentioning of jobs, with numbers shouted about of those that would be made unemployed by the closure of the facilities that rely on the Trident nuclear weapons system even existing. As it stands, roughly 11,500 jobs are linked to the Trident submarines in some form or fashion, most not directly, but dare I tell you that if instead of renewing the nuclear weapons for £150 billion and instead wrote a redundancy cheque of £1 million for every employee that would be made jobless you would still be saving over £148 billion? The argument that we should renew Trident for jobs simply just isn’t there, if it was the case, it would be the most expensive job creation programme that has ever existed!

Of course, most employees wouldn’t be made jobless by not renewing the nuclear weapons systems. There would still be a need for those jobs to be around until the end of Trident’s life cycle and some beyond, and with the promise of Faslane being adopted into a conventional naval base in Scotland there will of course be a chance to retrain and keep on most staff without the need of a big red button.

I do know that I am most likely not in the majority when it comes to opposing weapons of mass destruction, in a poll by YouGov carried out in April 2017 it showed that a majority supported renewing Trident in some fashion, whilst only 18% supported giving up nuclear weapons completely.

YouGov (April 2017)

Many people support it because they have been fed the idea that these weapons are keeping us safe (as without them we would be one of just 210 countries without nuclear weapons). But these ideas are fantasy. Let us imagine that in the future we are for some reason attacked with nuclear weapons by an enemy state. What happens? Hundreds of thousands of innocent British civilians die, minimum. Now, if we still have our nuclear weapons then we can of course fire back and then hundreds of thousands of their innocent civilians will die too. But if we didn’t have nuclear weapons? Still, hundreds of thousands innocent British civilians die. Whether we have nuclear weapons or not, the end-game is always the same.

Having our own arsenal of weapons of mass destruction doesn’t improve our safety, they threaten the very peace we hold so dear. They aren’t some symbol of power we should be parading but a mark of shame we should have no pride in owning.