I live in the UK and two days ago our government voted to bring back the Trident missile. I felt so incredibly sad. A few facts:
It could cost up to £97bn – in a time of so-called austerity.
Each of the submarines can carry up to 16 Trident II D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), with each missile capable of carrying up to 12independently targetable nuclear warheads.
Each Trident missile has a range of up to 7,500 miles (12,000km) and is accurate to within a few feet.
Their destructive power is estimated as the equivalent of eight Hiroshimas. The Hiroshima bomb killed 140,000 people and damaged countless others.
The UK deploys 16 Trident missiles on each of its four Vanguard-class submarines, of which one is on patrol at all times.
The Scottish branch of CND estimate that if Trident was used to bomb Moscow that 3 million would die, including 750,000 children. This figure does not include secondary problems because of the pollution of water supplies, destruction of homes and general devastation would result in secondary problems with disease, as well as the possible effect on the world climate. These bombs can be nothing less than genocidal.
As a teenager in the 1980’s the cold war was at its height and we very much felt that it was possible someone would press that button. We talked about it at break-times at school: what would we do if we had just three minutes left? Who would we want to be with? What would be our last action, thought or feeling? We talked about in it our lessons and it there were programmes on a possible post holocaust world.
We were told how many would survive, and if they did what kind of life it would be, how the world would be full of dust and that we would need to stay below ground for a long period and then even if we did survive the chance of cancer, genital defects, infertility, starvation were high. But the truth was most would die in the blast, because it was felt that if one person pressed that button, then the other country would press their’s in retaliation.
What a pointless exercise and very clearly demonstrated in the 1983 film “War Games,” where a teenage computer whizz-kid accidentally taps into the government supercomputer WOPR (War Operation Plan Response): originally programmed to predict the outcome of a nuclear war. The teenager ( Matthew Broderick) simulates a nuclear war believing it to be a computer game, but because the computer is now connected to nuclear warheads it is hard to know if it is a simulation or reality. The government, the people who run the computer do not know for sure if world war three has been started and so starts a very serious situation. In the end the teenager finds the inventor of the computer and within seconds of an actual real launch of a nuclear warhead they realise the computer is just calculating all possible outcomes. It is a great film and what was the computer’s discovery: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A WINNABLE WAR!
We know this to be true: centuries of war have demonstrated that no one truly wins. How can a war ever be good, when so many lives are lost, so much damage done and even those that survive are left with huge emotional scars. Violence begets violence. Gandhi said, ” An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.” We supposedly won World War One and Two, but at what cost? Millions of young men shot down in their prime; millions of others dead, tortured; millions of women, children, families suffering incredible loss and pain, a changed world, heavy with grief. I know the reason is we had to stop the madness of Hitler, but maybe we should ask what created Hitler? What part did we all play that he could and did rise to power, despite his seemingly mental and emotional instability and injuries?
My grandfather was a young soldier in the World War One. Like many, he lied about his age to serve his country and was thrown into the horrors of the battlefields of northern France and the Netherlands. He did not speak about it. He only showed me a scar on his leg from shrapnel, but never told me what he experienced there. They were in fact told not to tell people what happened there in case it disturbed the masses, so to speak. I discovered more about that when I read Pat Barker’s fictional ( though based in certain facts) trilogy of novels about the psychological damage/shell shock when I did an English degree. It was shocking and sad how soldiers were treated and silenced. Again, how did we get to the point of creating a world war? Any war?
For me, the issue is about not creating those conditions for war in the first place. War has and will always sadden me hugely. It all seems pointless. In 1982, my cousin, aged only about 20, was sent to fight for the Falklands: a tiny island thousands of miles away from the UK, with not much going on there from what we saw. It was nearer to Argentina and Argentina wanted it back. My cousin lost friends there and we all lived in fear in case we lost him. When he came back, they were going to send him to Northern Ireland. He left, he had seen enough violence.
Thank goodness, in the 1980s there were many who were also sick of war and most definitely felt that sitting around waiting for a nuclear button to be pressed was not the way to go. There were many movements, such as the CND who fought for nuclear disarmament. It has originally started in the 1950’s when shocked by what had happened in Japan at the end of WW2, a real fear of nuclear war, caused many to call for peace and disarmament. It had a resurgence in the 1980s. I remember watching the Greenham Common Women on the news chaining themselves to the fence around a US airforce base in the UK which had Cruise missiles.
The building of nuclear weapons has never completely stopped, but to see it so emphatically agreed upon by the UK parliament this week felt like a huge step backwards, especially after the awful wars we have had this millennium. War has never created long-lasting real peace. We may not have had a world war, but we have had many, many wars since from Vietnam to the Iraq to Syria. It doesn’t move us forward. Isn’t it time we tried something different? The conservative and many of the labour MP’s used the war on terror as an excuse for Trident. A “war on terror” – so sadly we ARE still at war, so sadly we are still living in fear and prejudice and separation. And we are all responsible.
Our seemingly small and daily lives are full of fear and anger, expectations, demands, inequality and prejudices. In our hearts, we are so full of fear, we will fight tooth and nail to do what we feel we have to survive. Our recent Brexit decision was based on this emotion and blaming others for the “state of our country.” Continually blaming and admonishing responsibility is not going to help either.
We need to look into the dark places in our own hearts, to feel that sickening fear that rules our lives and to desire to change it. But we also need to look at the human race as one family, as each person we meet as a brother or sister. I believe we are that: all children of God. But even, if you are unsure of that, imagine how the world would change if we saw it as one world and one family. Each member, an equal; each of us with pain to heal, but with a willingness to be truthful with ourselves and heal within first before we blame or hurt others. My ex-partner, my son’s father, summed it up the other day in saying it is time we stopped just seeing things as Britain, or our country; stopped seeing “them vs us” all the time, but started to think globally about making things better.
I heard one MP saying we need to be realistic and face the fact that Trident was needed in our “war against terror” and that idealism was nice, but not realistic. Well I like idealism! I like the fact that some have had a dream of a different world and had the guts to be a ripple in the pond, from Jesus to Gandhi to Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. Thank God for the dreamers, the ones who had a feeling to change things, to be bold enough to be different, feel different, take action and create different experiences. As John Lennon said:
“You may say I’m a dreamer..But I’m not the only one.
I hope one day you will join us and the world will live as One.”
I will end with a youtube clip from Australia’s Got Talent where one young man sings that very song and the more poignant because he is a victim of the Iraq War. His name is Immanuel – which means ” God with us.”