Information about the Trident system.
On October 19, 2005, Tony Blair told the House of Commons, I do not think that anyone pretends that the independent nuclear deterrent is a defence against terrorism; none the less, I believe that it is an important part of our defence? He was talking about Trident nuclear weapons. At Faslane, near Glasgow, Britain currently deploys four Trident nuclear submarines, equipped with US missiles and up to 200 warheads, made at Aldermaston in Berkshire. The warheads could each deliver around 8 times the destructive power of the bombs that obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
Although the weapons were procured in 1979 by Margaret Thatcher in a world that is fundamentally different from now, the Labour government has carried on paying some £800 million per year of taxpayers' money to keep sending Trident out on patrol. If Trident were to be decommissioned now, we would not save the full amount, but we'd save a lot. Dismantling the weapons and securing the radioactive waste would be expensive as well, but that would be the case whenever decommissioning took place. If we started the process of disengaging from nuclear weapons, we would save significant resources, while making our world safer by disarming and devaluing nuclear weapons and working more effectively with the rest of the world in combating proliferation and dealing with the causes of conflict.
In the 21st century, this is the kind of security policy that makes most sense, but it is not what Tony Blair has in mind. If the government fails to scrap Trident now, then around the year 2024 (and £15.2 billion later) the submarines will begin to fall apart. Relying on arguments that are several times thinner than the dodgy dossier used to take Britain into war in 2003, Blair wants this parliament to agree to spend a further £40 billion on new nuclear submarines and warheads to ensure that this country continues to have nuclear weapons until at least the year 2055. At the same time, we are desperately trying to prevent further countries, such as Iran, from developing nuclear weapons programmes.
The defence establishment is divided, as there is no convincing rationale for keeping nuclear weapons. We have a real opportunity to block the decision to commission Son of Trident, but we are up against a panoply of myths and ideologies: that nuclear weapons keep the peace, make us safe, give us status, provide bigger bangs for the buck than conventional weapons, and, the biggest voodoo mantra of all, that they deter other threats.
On the contrary, the huge US and Russian nuclear arsenals were completely irrelevant in the wars these superpowers fought and lost in Vietnam and Afghanistan, and they did not stop Saddam Hussein from invading Kuwait. Tony Blair acknowledges that nuclear weapons are useless against terrorism, and it is clear that they contribute nothing to preventing the kinds of attacks we saw recently in London. Meanwhile, the risks of nuclear proliferation are growing, compounding the increased vulnerability of nuclear materials and technology to theft, accident or purchase on the black market. It should be obvious by now that nuclear weapons are an expensive security liability, useless for defence or deterrence. That ought to be reason enough to get rid of them. But the dangers go much deeper.
Nuclear weapons are the tap-root of violence in the world today. The ultimate expression of militarism and terrorism, they pollute and degrade our spirit, our environment, our economy and our international relations. The use and threat of use of nuclear weapons are in violation of international and humanitarian law and undermine the whole international legal order, but that has not prevented doctrines and deployments that breach these norms. Britain is guilty of these violations, along with France, China, Russia, the United States, Israel, India, Pakistan and, most recently North Korea. As Iran seeks to join this shameful club, it has become increasingly clear that nuclear weapons distort all our efforts to create just and sustainable societies in a fragile, interdependent world.
Hanging on to nuclear weapons carries heavy costs for our security, society, civil liberties and human rights that far outweigh the monetary costs. Continuing with this nuclear business will exacerbate the negative consequences, not only in terms of our foreign and defence policies and international relations, but also in the distortion of our economic, energy and even health policies.
The worldview that drives countries to acquire or hold on to nuclear weapons is the same worldview that concentrates power in multilateral corporations. A few examples:
The world is held hostage to the excessive energy consumption of a minority, who seek to control the world's oil for their own purposes. Hurricanes, floods, melting ice caps... the evidence of climate change is now all around us, but governments in hock to fossil fuel companies and vehicle manufacturers are afraid to take necessary steps to cut emissions. Instead they are trying to rebrand and revive nuclear power as the technological fix to stave off climate catastrophe, starving alternative research programmes that would provide sustainable, renewable energy resources that could be produced and managed locally. Nuclear weapons and nuclear power are produced by the same technology and rely upon each other. Sharing the same unsolved problems of lethal radioactive waste, they are incompatible with our health and safety and are susceptible to catastrophic accidents like Chernobyl.
The countries with the biggest nuclear arsenals also have the most sophisticated conventional weaponry and are the largest profiteers from the arms trade. Their weapons fuel wars, oppression and instability in the most vulnerable countries in the world, and many end up on the `illicit' markets, where they arm militias and gangs that traffic in people, drugs and the prolific small arms and light weapons used in rapes, murders and other violent crime.
Agribusinesses have privatised, centralised and mass produced the growing of food to maximise output and profit. Their practices have robbed large parts of the Earth of their natural fertility, poisoned others and turned vast areas into wasteland. The consequence is that millions in some countries starve, while others are malnourished with junk food contaminated with pesticides, additives and genetic modifications. These agribusinesses rob local farmers of their skills, prevent them from saving their own seed, and unnecessarily transport agricultural products across the world, which wastes energy and contributes to climate change.
Pharmaceutical corporations benefit from the knowledge and resources of the natural world and indigenous peoples; they then make huge profits out of manufacturing medicines that they refuse to make accessible to the poor and needy, as illustrated by the denial of affordable drugs to AIDS sufferers in Africa and Asia.
On the excuse of preventing 'industrial espionage', US-run pharmaceutical corporations and the industry's lobbyists were behind the United States wrecking an international agreement to verify the Biological Weapons Convention, a global treaty that bans the production and use of biological and toxin weapons. Bioweapons are one of the most potentially devastating of weapons of mass destruction, yet the US action wasted five years negotiations and left the international community without any verification or inspection powers to strengthen the treaty.
Protecting US commercial interests and investments is given as one of the primary reasons for deploying weapons in space. US Strategic Command called for full spectrum dominance, not only in outer space, but on earth, land and sea, dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect US national interests and investment?[and] integrating space forces into war-fighting capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict. In Pentagon 'war-games' in which computers tried out various scenarios, the use of weapons in space quickly spread to nuclear war on Earth.
The politicians that have stripped away decades of developments in human rights and international law and gone to war on the pretext of preventing others acquiring weapons of mass destruction are deeply dependent on these multinational corporations. It should come as no surprise to find that in advance of commissioning Son of Trident, the MoD in 2003 signed a new 25-year contract with the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) management consortium, comprising US arms giant Lockheed Martin, British Nuclear Fuels, and Serco. That contract alone will be worth some £5.3 billion to those corporations.
Governments that are so busy spending our money and wasting the world's resources on building up military capabilities are failing to address the most serious challenges facing the world. Of what conceivable use are nuclear weapons against the real mass destruction that threatens our security and the lives of millions: the oil-and-industry-driven heating of the planet; destruction of our habitat and environment; and the institutionalised poverty that destroys the hopes and lives of thousands each day?
Representing a quick and violent `fix' to complex threats and challenges, nuclear weapons epitomise the abuses of power and skewed values that fuel terrorism and the growing levels of violence in our homes and on our streets. Trident is thus inextricably related to a wide range of economic, humanitarian, peace and justice issues.
The year-long blockade of the Faslane nuclear base that will start on October 1 will provide an opportunity for a wide range of people to oppose the deployment and replacement of Trident, while simultaneously highlighting the important issues they are working on, such as poverty, peace, environment, globalisation, economic equity and social justice. Bringing together the people and organisations working for a better world will help to expose the myriad crimes and distortions wrought by the nuclear mentality and globalised dominance of military-industrial corporations.
If we succeed in cutting the cord that binds our country to nuclear weapons, we will find that we have gone a long way towards cutting or at least loosening the hold of the military mindset and the dominant corporations, giving us a better chance to turn things around on a host of connected issues.
Faslane 365 is asking for 48 hours of your time to make the connections: to publicise and work on your issues while helping us physically to close the Trident nuclear base.
There is a wealth of information on the internet about nuclear weapons and about Britain's nuclear weapons: Trident. Listed here is just a selection