6 August 2005

Nuclear or spiritual: you choose

By Andrew Boswell

60 years ago today humanity entered a new era as the first atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Each year, there is much soul searching and arguing about the morality of this event. Whatever the arguments and counter arguments, few ordinary people would disagree that nuclear weapons should never be used again.

With this very significant anniversary, it is more valuable, then, to look to the future. We can't change the past, but we can choose to do differently in the future.

Yet, since Hiroshima and the end of the 2nd World War, each generation of UK leaders has chosen again the 1950s notion of a British nuclear deterrent. Like mice on a treadmill, without the will or imagination to do anything different, this decision is taken in the utmost secrecy. This reflects a grave crisis in leadership and decision making - our leaders repeatedly sleepwalk into choosing weapons of mass destruction.

Within the nation, too, people are increasingly disconnected from the issue and in denial - part of a growing spiritual crisis. Earlier this year, I collected signatures for nuclear disarmament in Norwich. The depth of people's denial came home to me, as several people commented they thought nuclear weapons "were no longer a problem". Only under an opiate daze of consumerism can people be so unengaged.

As Martin Luther King said "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death." These prophetic words were made in 1967 - now we must wonder if our nation has reached the point of spiritual death.

The death cycle of WDM is continuing once again - press reports suggest that the government has already made a decision to replace the current Trident nuclear weapons system.

In fact, early work on this huge new nuclear weapons programme is very likely to have already started, with Defence Secretary John Reid's announcement to parliament on 20 July that an 'agreement has been reached with AWE Management Ltd. (AWE ML) to take forward a programme of investment in sustaining key skills and facilities at the Atomic Weapons Establishment. This will involve an investment of £350 million a year for the next three years.'

Bearing in mind, that we are continually told we are "fortunate" to live in a democracy, why are these momentous decisions made by a very few individuals without even reference to Parliament? No wonder people feel disillusioned and sooth themselves in the next new shopping Mall.

If we were in any doubt before, since July 7th, we can be sure that our greatest security threat comes from a small number of people prepared to blow themselves up. What purpose can a continuing British nuclear program have in the face of asymmetric warfare, here and globally?

Despite the few who are in denial that there is any link between Britain's involvement in Iraq and the emergence of home grown terrorism, most British people know in their hearts that our foreign policies, and particularly the Iraq misadventure, are a significant influencer of recent tragic events.

Replacing Trident continues a supremely aggressive foreign policy from the mid 20th century. The government is unaccountable and undemocratic in continuing this incredibly dangerous and expensive Dr Strangelove project.

It is a risk to the world - increasing the risk of nuclear weapons being employed in some future war. It is a risk to our people - increasing the risk of nuclear weapons being used against us. It is a risk to the future - increasing the appeal of nuclear to terrorists and other nations.

Why, 35 years after Britain made a commitment under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), do we allow a small number of men continue to break that commitment? How can people trust us around the world? This flagrant violation of international treaties sends the wrong signals to all countries, particularly those who may be encouraged to develop their own nuclear systems.

Then what about the tens of billions of pounds of taxpayers' money that could better be spent on life affirming projects - here and worldwide? We simply can't "make poverty history" without making rampart militarism history too. The spiritual death of our nation is certainly inevitable unless we break out of the cycle.

The vibrant campaign for unilaterally disarmament in the 1980s, and the fall of the Berlin wall, tells us that a British nuclear deterrent is past its sell by date. A truly democratic government would engage its citizens in a real debate about whether there is still any requirement for a British nuclear capability.

To mark the 60th anniversary of Hiroshima, the Exhibition "Hiroshima to World Peace" is at St Peters Mancroft Church from August 6th to 18th,10.30am-3.30pm daily.