Nuclear Weapons to be illegal

United-Nations-Security-C-008I mentioned the UN disarmament conference in my election blogs and commented on the complete absence of press coverage in the UK. 

Its outcome has been quite positive: the non-nuclear nations have lost all patience with the nuclear states and have decided to make the possession of nuclear weapons declared illegal – whatever the UK and US say.

Regular readers of this blog need no reminding that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1966 was a temporary agreement in which non-nuclear nations agreed to remain non-nuclear on condition that the handful of nuclear-armed countries “negotiated in good faith to achieve nuclear disarmament” (Article VI).

After half a century of duplicity, the nuclear nations no longer even pretend to be fulfilling their treaty obligations. So the non-nuclear states have drawn up a statement making nuclear weaponds illegal – to come into force when ratified by two-thirds or more nation states.

This already has over 100 signatories and ratification is surely only a matter of time. NickRitchie

If Britain were to renew Trident, with this declaration in force, it would be committing an act illegal under international law.


Nuclear “ethics”

Pope FrancisAs a non-believer, I find it puzzling that the teachings of leaders of the Christian faith are so flagrantly ignored by our politicians. At an evangelical hustings I attended in Cwmbran, the most gung-ho supporters of nuclear weapons were those who boasted most about their christian church attendance. The Catholics Bishops of Scotland had this to say at Easter on these issues.

The Economy: The first consideration for any economic policy should be the dignity of the person, not the pursuit of profit. We urge candidates to endorse the living wage campaign, giving people the opportunity to provide for themselves and their families.

In these turbulent financial times Pope Francis has been a prophetic voice, warning that economies stripped of ethics trample human dignity. “Unbridled capitalism,” he says, “has given us the logic of profit at any cost, (and) of exploitation without looking at the person.” The existence of so many food banks in our country offers a depressing vindication of the Pope’s warning.

Peace. Successive UK Governments have made plans to replace and upgrade our nuclear weapons capacity. This is despite the considerable costs involved and in the face of persistent moral objections, to say nothing of international agreements we have entered into which commit us to work against the proliferation of such weapons. While recognising each country’s right to defend itself, the existence of nuclear weapons, and their possible proliferation, continue to represent a grave threat to the human family.

Pope Francis reminds us that peace is better fostered by greater equality – not least by fairness towards the poor, refugees and migrants – rather than by increased spending on arms.

This was not a one-off. The Vatican has long opposed nuclear weapons – what has changed is that Pope Francis has made this a priority.

  • In December, the Vatican submitted a call for total nuclear disarmament to the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons.
  • In January, Pope Francis touted nuclear disarmament as a major goal alongside climate change in his speech to the Vatican’s diplomatic corps.
  • On Easter Sunday, he prayed that the proposal to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons would be “a definitive step toward a more secure and fraternal world.”
  • … and the Holy See’s UN Ambassador says. “Today there is no more argument, not even the argument of deterrence used during the Cold War …the ‘peace of a sort’ that is supposed to justify nuclear deterrence is specious and illusory.”

For Pope Francis, nuclear disarmament is viewed from the position of the poor: “Spending on nuclear weapons squanders the wealth of nations. … To prioritise such spending is a mistake and a misallocation of resources which would be far better invested in the areas of integral human development, education, health and the fight against extreme poverty. When these resources are squandered, the poor and the weak living on the margins of society pay the price.”

Meanwhile, in Britain, leaders of all three establishment parties and UKIP trot out the same 50-year-old banalities about the nuclear deterrent keeping the peace. They neither address the morality nor rationality of possessing weapons that, if used, would destroy Britain. There has been no word, throughout the election campaign, about the UN conference currently taking place on nuclear disarmament nor any British government initiative in support of it.

Former Defence Minister says “Scrap Trident”

Speaking to Andrew Neil on the BBC’s This Week on Thursday night, Mr Portillo said:

Michael Portillo “A former defence secretary and some Generals [this week] wrote a letter demanding the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons programme. You’re probably familiar with these men who are worried about their own virility and buy large sports cars, and this I think is a case in point.

“I mean, Britain now has a minute army and a microscopic navy. And as these have become smaller so the status symbol of having nuclear weapons becomes more important, at least to some people.

“Our independent nuclear deterrent is not independent and doesn’t constitute a deterrent against anybody that we regard as an enemy. It is a waste of money and it is a diversion of funds that might otherwise be spent on perfectly useful and useable weapons and troops. But some people have not caught up with this reality.”

           The UK’s armed forces are certainly not minuscule or microscopic, but Mr Portillo – who has long been an opponent of renewing Trident – joins a chorus of voices calling for the abandonment of the British state’s weapons of mass destruction. Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood last night reiterated her party’s opposition to Trident. In a Question Time Leaders’ special show on the BBC last night, she contended that scrapping the £100 billion Trident would go some way to addressing Wales annual £1.2 billion underfunding.

Labour (and Conservatives) ignore major conference on disarmament (28th April) In a landmark foreign policy speech at Chatham House, Labour leader Ed Miliband pledged commitment to multilateralism and global institutions (good). But he reiterated Labour’s support for Britain retaining nuclear weapons and said nothing whatsoever about multilateral disarmament or a global ban on nuclear weapons.

The media news is all about his criticism of the Conservatives for lack of post-conflict planning following the 2011 bombing campaign in Libya and the ensuing migrant crisis – a war that Labour backed. But if they are in favour of multilateralism and international institution-building, neither party should have got Britain involved in disastrous and bloody misadventures: from Afghanistan to Iraq to Libya.

The one concrete message in Ed’s speech is that Labour will spend up to £100bn to ensure Britain is a nuclear-armed state for the next 30-40 years – despite a majority of Labour’s candidates voicing their opposition.

Although he claims to be ‘a disarmer’, Ed’s multilateralism is confined to seeking allies to achieve military solutions to deal with ISIS and the crisis in Ukraine. Ed offered nothing in the way of multilateral commitments on disarmament – a hypocritical and muddled stance, big on admirable rhetoric and light on substance.

Yet, world leaders are meeting at the UN for the largest global conference on nuclear disarmament for the past 5 years – and this was not even mentioned.

All their talk is about being tough on defence. If Ed Miliband really wants to show he’s tough, he should commit to scrapping Trident and kickstarting real progress on global nuclear disarmament.’

Time for Britain to move on from nuclear weapons

This is from The Observer 12th April 2015

Pinning our security on a nuclear deterrent encourages others to do the same

Anti-Trident  protesters outside Faslane submarine base.

 Trident Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Observer 12th April 2015

The election campaign to date suggests that decommissioning Trident nuclear weapons is a dangerous, minority demand led by the SNP, the Greens and Plaid Cymru. Yet poll after poll reveals that it is in fact a majority popular demand throughout the UK. One poll recently revealed that 81% of 500 general election candidates are opposed to renewal.

There are increasingly obvious reasons why we think it’s time to move on from Trident. Pinning our security on a nuclear deterrent encourages others to do the same. The UK should become the first permanent member of the UN Security Council to give up all its nuclear weapons, transforming the nuclear club from within.

Instead of protecting us, hosting nuclear weapons makes us a target for the disaffected. And any accident would lead to a humanitarian disaster. Having nuclear weapons diverts resources and attention from tackling our most urgent security problems, including climate and environmental destruction.

Finally, continuing to invest in nuclear weapons is actively depleting military and other effective defences we might need in the 21st century. We should invest military spending on conflict prevention. By moving on from Trident, we can more effectively serve the needs and the potential of our country and a changing world. ; Helena Kennedy QCYoung Fathers, Mercury prizewinners; Prof Peter Higgs, 2014 Nobel prize for physics; Vivienne Westwood, designer and activist; Frankie Boyle, comedian; Neal Lawson, Compass; Gabrielle Rifkind, Oxford Research Group; Konnie Huq, presenter; Massive AttackSir Michael Atiyah, ex-president of the Royal Society; Marina Cantacuzino, founder of The Forgiveness Project; Jonathon Porritt, Forum for the Future; Robin McAlpine, director, Common Weal; Kamila Shamsie, writer; Lindsey Coulson, actress

The Whitehall conspiracy to save Trident renewal

Whitehall is really worried at the possibility of the Green/SNP/Plaid Cymru alliance influencing the next government and halting the renewal of Trident.

Moreover, with over 70% of Labour’s candidates already pledged to oppose Trident renewal, they realise this is their weakest link in maintaining status quo. Sturgeon

Following the 7-way leaders’ debate and the success of the SNP, it was to be expected that Nicola Sturgeon would be a target.

The ‘leaked memo of a conversation, denied both by the French Ambassador and Scotland’s first Minister, has all the hallmarks of a 21st Century Zinoviev letter.

This is lucidly outlined in Craig Murray’s blog today. He points out that the Civil Service has dispension to treat Scotland’s government as an enemy of the British state – and therefore fair game for dirty tricks (my words, not his).

It’s a comprehensive warning of what to expect in the next few weeks.

Trident costs – a quick quiz

The three establishment parties at Westminster (and UKIP) all support “upgrading” the Trident nuclear submarine nuclear “deterrent”.  But scrapping this £100 billion folly would go a long way towards solving Britain’s financial problems.

Try this quick quiz (for the answers, see the page “Immoral and unusable”):

1        How much does this cost the people of Britain per minute?

a)   £5707            b)     £570               c)   £57

2        For how long could this fully fund all A&E services in Britain?

a)    4 years          b)    40 years          c)   20 years

3       How many jobs could be created if this was spent on green and social infrastructure?

a)     20,000          b)    2,000,000        c)   200,000

4        How many people could the British Trident nuclear arsenal kill?

a)     3 million         b)    32 million        c)    320 million

Immoral and unusable

The British nuclear arsenal, on its own, could kill over 300 million people. In a war fought with nuclear weapons, it is probable that human life and many other life forms would be extinguished. There can be no justification for such an outcome.

Some people say nuclear weapons are “just a deterrent” and would never be used. But they are not credible as a deterrent as anyone who uses nuclear weapons against a nuclear-armed enemy also will be destroyed, .  The only credible military use for nuclear weapons is against a non-nuclear enemy – but inflicting such damage in these circumstances would be even more immoral.

There’s also the point that Britain’s so-called independent nuclear weapons are less than a tenth of the equivalent US nuclear weapons. What is the point of having the so-called “independent” British nuclear deterrent?  Would we use them against (say) Russia whilst the USA stood aside? In the real world, there are no conceivable political circumstances in which Britain would act alone – so why have them at all?

In a very real sense, Britain is responsible for the spread of nuclear weapons to France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and all others. During the Cold War there was some mad sense and stability in the USA-USSR confrontation as they did deter each other from attacking the other. But there was never any military need for Britain to have nuclear weapons and once they did, for political prestige, other nations followed.

The same could happen in reverse if Britain gave up its nuclear weapons. This would make it politically feasible for France, China, India …. to follow. But rather than taking the lead for nuclear disarmament, the Conservative and Labour parties (and UKIP and the LibDems) all support a massive upgrading of Britain’s nuclear deterrent – costing over £100 billion.

Answers to “Trident costs – a quick quiz” (20 March) – 1(a), 2(b), 3(b), 4(c)