Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Britain's killing machines

Seventy-years-ago this week the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – the only time nuclear weapons have ever been used.

Around 120,000 people were killed instantly: over the next few months a further 100,000 died as a result of burns, radiation sickness and other injuries – the vast majority of fatalities were civilians.  For many years after the atomic bombs were dropped, people living near Hiroshima and Nagasaki suffered severe health-related problems as a consequence of being exposed to radiation: this included children being born with deformities.

Today, if two countries were to embark on a nuclear war the outcome would be ‘MAD’ - Mutually Assured Destruction. The two countries that used nuclear weapons against each other would see millions of their citizens killed and their national infrastructure would be blown back to the stone-age. To all intents and purposes those countries would cease to exist.

The most heavily-armed nuclear country is the United States of America, closely followed by Russia. In fact, the two nations possess 95% of all the nuclear weapons on the face of the planet. Their arsenals are mainly a legacy of the Cold War, which ended around 20 years ago. Both America and Russia (and the United Kingdom) claim their nuclear weapons of mass destruction act as a deterrent, preventing other nations from launching attacks against them. However, terrorist groups have not been deterred. Nuclear weapons, which kill indiscriminately and on a mass scale, could not have been used against those who carried out murderous attacks against New York, Moscow and London.

Nuclear weapons cannot be used, yet nine countries – including the United Kingdom – continue to spend billions-of pounds creating and maintaining them.

The Tory UK Government has committed £700m to design new nuclear-armed submarines to replace the current Trident boats.  The Tories have also made clear they have no intention of moving Britain’s nuclear base from Faslane on the Clyde, despite a majority of Scots consistently indicating their opposition to nuclear weapons being located on Scottish soil or in our waters.

In addition to the already-committed design costs of £700m, it is projected that to build and maintain a new missile system to replace Trident will cost UK taxpayers between £72bn and £120bn.  

However, the greatest benefit arising from the removal of nuclear weapons is not financial, it is that the world would be a safer place. Currently, with the existing Trident system, the UK has four nuclear-powered submarines, three of which are always operational. There are 14 nuclear missiles with forty-eight 100kiloton warheads on each submarine. This can be increased to 96 warheads, giving a potential total of 384. One Trident warhead is eight-times more powerful than the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Therefore, the existing UK nuclear arsenal is capable of producing 3,072 Hiroshimas or Nagasakis.

There were around 120,000 people killed when America dropped the atomic bombs 70 years-ago (not including those who died much later as a result of the nuclear fall-out). Right now, the United Kingdom has the capacity and the capability to kill in the region of 43-million people using missiles on Trident submarines based in Scotland.

Scots don’t want these obscene killing machines.

Incidentally, in 1996 the International Court of Justice declared that to use – or threaten to use - nuclear weapons is illegal in almost all conceivable circumstances.

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