“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone.
It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.
The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.
It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.
It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.
We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat.
We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.
This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking.
This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron”.
Fine words indeed from former two-term American President and Five Star General Dwight D. Eisenhower addressing the American Society of Newspaper Editors in Washington 65 years ago on April 16th 1953. The address was delivered under the title ‘Chance For Peace’ only 3 months into the first of his two terms in the White House (1953-1961).
Sadly these fine words turned out to be empty and the “hopes” of our children have played a very distant second fiddle to the desires and avarice of the warmongers and arms manufacturers throughout the last 65 years. Indeed at the end of his tenure in his Farewell Address 8 years later in January 1961 Dwight D. Eisenhower was compelled to coin a hitherto unheard of phrase when he remarked on the “new” American experience of the conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry which he Christened the ‘military industrial complex’. This colossus had become omnipotent in U.S. society dominating politics and economics like nothing before.
A President who in words at least opposed the usurping of vital resources to feed the production of weapons, warships and missiles instead of feeding, clothing, educating and housing the ordinary citizens had presided over the emergence of an insatiable monster, a beast without morals or a social compass. This Military Industrial Complex has polluted politics, undermined real economic development and created a permanent war economy in America and across the developed and developing world.
Today military expenditure stands at an eye-watering $1.7 trillion across the world with America alone accounting for more than a third of that total and spending more than the next seven highest spenders and 2.7 times more than China, the 2nd highest spender (Source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute https://www.sipri.org/sites/default/files/2018-05/sipri_fs_1805_milex_2017.pdf ). America spent $610 billion last year, 35% of the world total and over 3% of the country’s gross domestic product.
This is in a country cursed and blighted by poverty, low incomes and economic insecurity. Almost half the population are struggling to survive on low incomes, 140 million people, and over half of all of America’s children are poor or in low income households, 51.9%. Nine out of every ten African American children will qualify for food stamps before they reach the age of 20 (https://kairoscenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Poverty-Fact-sheet-March-2018.pdf ) But $610 billion is stolen from the mouths of these children and pockets of ordinary workers to feed the billionaires who own and control the military industrial complex. I wonder if old Dwight’s concern for this obscene waste of resources was sincere. If it was he must surely be spinning in his grave.
Politics in the UK is sadly little different to that of the US as the military industrial complex here is just as powerful, corrupt, wasteful and immoral. One of the most brutal, undemocratic and inhumane countries in the world is Saudi Arabia. It chopped off the heads of 48 people in the first four months of 2018, half for non-violent crimes (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/26/saudi-arabia-criticised-over-executions-for-drug-offences) and is seeking to impose the death penalty against peaceful human rights activists including a woman for the first time (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/22/saudi-arabia-seeks-its-first-death-penalty-against-a-female-human-rights-activist ). It is currently engaged in a brutal war against Yemen and has been responsible for inflicting terror on that poor nation and indiscriminately killing thousands of innocent civilians, including children.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the United Nations was recently compelled to report:
“Between 26 March 2015 and 9 August 2018, our office has documented a total of 17,062 civilian casualties – 6,592 dead and 10,470 injured. The majority of these casualties – 10,471 – were as a result of airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led Coalition” (https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23439&LangID=E ).
Yet who supplied Saudi Arabia with its military hardware and bombs? Primarily the UK as Saudi Arabia is the UK’s number one military hardware and software customer. That trade in arms to the Saudis is immersed in fraud, corruption and flagrant disregard for human rights abuses and the murderous use of those weapons. But that is the corrupting and immoral influence of the military industrial complex which pollutes political life in Britain just as much as it does in America.
The arguments concerning the waste of resources that are dedicated to means of killing people rather than feeding and caring for them are even more acute when it comes to the consideration of nuclear weapons. Such weapons are immoral, illegal and economically insane. To possess and develop nuclear weapons is to risk the very existence of humanity. These weapons have a destructive capacity so extensive that their use would destroy the world as we know it.
From a rule of war approach the very possession of nuclear weapons let alone their use is illegal for they are weapons incapable of discriminating between combatants and civilians. There use amounts to nothing more and nothing less than pre-mediated murder on a scale without comparison. That is precisely what happened on 6th August 1945 when a lone American plane loaded with an early generation nuclear bomb, distastefully nicknamed ‘Little Boy’, dropped its lethal load from 2,000 feet over a small industrial town in Japan called Hiroshima. 80,000 civilians were killed immediately in the thermo-nuclear blast, with a further 60,000 perishing from radiation poisoning before the year’s end. Lingering and painful illnesses claimed more lives in the months of 1946 and the final death toll from ‘Little boy’ is recorded as 237,062. Three days later another lone plane carried another atomic bomb over a Japanese town and laid Nagasaki to waste. This bomb was nick-named ‘Fat Man’ and killed 75,000 instantly and another 75,000 before the year ended.
Only the Holocaust can surpass these actions in the annals of crimes against humanity. Yet these weapons of mass destruction unleashed 73 years ago are mere pee-shooters compared to the destructive potential of the 21st century nuclear missiles. The destructive capacity now is not hundreds of thousands but hundreds of millions. That makes them not just immoral but also illegal. Two cardinal rules are beyond reproach in international humanitarian law in connection with any armed conflict. Firstly combatants are distinguished from non-combatants and weapons unable to make such a distinction should not be used and secondly that States must at all costs avoid inflicting unnecessary suffering. If those two tenets of international law had been applied in 1945 then atomic bombs would not have been allowed to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Last July within the New York HQ of the United Nations an historic vote took place to ban nuclear weapons. The Treaty was endorsed by 122 countries. Nuclear powers like the US and UK boycotted the debate but only one country which actually participated, the Netherlands, voted against the Treaty. Of the 195 sovereign countries recognised by the United Nations only 9 are in possession of nuclear warheads. The fact that 122 nations debated and voted to ban nuclear weapons last year underlines just how socially unacceptable nuclear weapons are and how united the world is to have them banned.
That’s one of the many reasons why this Saturday’s ‘Nae Nukes Anywhere’ (http://www.nuclearban.scot/sep-rally/) International march and rally is so important. Thousands will gather from all across the world to march from the Faslane Peace Camp to the North Gate of the Trident Nuclear Base in Helensburgh on Scotland’s beautiful West coast. I am hoping to attend with my wife and daughter to show support for the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament event. Like the vast majority in Scotland I am sick to the back teeth of cuts to vital local authority services and welfare provision on the back of cruel austerity programmes yet no one in the mainstream media ever poses the question to the political axe-wielders why, if we are so cash-strapped, do we have enough money for illegal and immoral nuclear weapons?
The Tories who preach about ‘living within our means’ have already agreed to replace Trident, Britain’s nuclear weapon programme, at a cost of anything between £167 billion and £205 billion over a 30 year period (https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/jul/17/trident-renewal-205bn-arguments-for-against). Hospitals have to organise fundraisers and seek public donations to pay for essential equipment like MRI scanners (https://mft.nhs.uk/2018/06/20/childrens-hospital-launches-appeal-to-transform-brain-surgery-for-young-patients/). Cancer research depends on charity to proceed. And thousands of essential NHS staff are being driven out of the health service through a combination of poor pay and stress laden workloads (https://www.unison.org.uk/news/article/2014/11/unison-survey-shows-nhs-staff-are-overworked-and-underpaid/). But don’t worry we can always find the money for nuclear bombs. That is unacceptable to me.
I say cancel Trident replacement and invest the £205 billion saved in better health care, more health research and to facilitate greater health service recruitment and improvements in wages and conditions.
In the interests of freedom and democracy we should provide the nuclear bomb proponents and assorted warmongers with collecting tins and missile shaped stickers and encourage them to take to the high streets of the UK seeking public donations for their new generation of nuclear bombs. With honest endeavour and many hours of dedicated pleading for support they might just raise enough for a couple of mince pies and a cup of tea but society as a whole would be safer and better cared for. Nae Nukes Anywhere should be our cry. Bairns Not Bombs, Peace Not War.