Why nuclear weapons won’t be around for ever

IssueAugust - September 2016
Comment by Matt Hawkins

Events in June left many with a sense of despair at the prospects for global peace. The killing of 49 people at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on 12 June was followed abruptly by the stabbing and shooting of the Labour MP Jo Cox at her constituency surgery in Yorkshire on Thursday 16 June. This in the midst of a hate-filled EU referendum campaign in the UK and the seemingly inevitable rise of the war-mongering Donald Trump in the US.

It’s enough to make anyone want to bury their head in the deepest sand pit they can find. Discovering light in this sea of darkness is not easy. I had never met Jo Cox but like many others I found myself crying at her death on Thursday evening. Not because I could pretend to have known her personally but because her death brought home how vicious the world can be, especially to those who, like Jo, push for something better and hope for change.It’s that fear that drives me to be an anti-nuclear weapons campaigner. Yes, the consequences of their use are unthinkable and yes they are outrageously expensive. But for me the biggest travesty about nukes is what they say about our view of other human beings.

They say that life is expendable – to the point that it is okay to obliterate millions of people in seconds.

They say that we can never trust other people – so that the continued maintenance of these weapons, fuelled though they are by hatred of ‘the other’ – is acceptable.

Banning or decommissioning these weapons would send a strong message about the way we think other people should be treated – a message filled with love, compassion, and solidarity. That world might seem a long way off but three recent developments give me hope.The first is that, unbeknownst to many, nearly 150 nations of the UN are right now laying the groundwork for an international treaty that will ban nuclear weapons. You probably haven’t heard about it and that’s because the UK government has decided to boycott these talks. But, whether our ministers like it or not, they are happening and if enough states come on board the treaty will be binding across the world. The treaty is becoming an inevitability, backed as it is by major states such as Austria and Norway and huge blocs including every single African nation and most of Latin America. These countries hold the moral and humanitarian high ground and soon history will also be on their side. The UK government faces two choices: act now and join these states and be part of a landmark treaty that will help make the world safer or continue down the path of renewal, an act which will be deemed illegal within a few years.

Secondly, these negotiations on the international stage are being combined with developments taking place right here in Britain. A new community campaign is springing up, using the fact that nuclear weapons are routinely driven on British roads – posing a danger to anyone who lives or works near to them – to encourage more people to support the huge range of movements, from campaigns to charities to unions, that are calling for the UK to scrap Trident.

Vote for life

And all of this is taking place against the backdrop of an imminent parliamentary vote on whether or not to renew Britain’s Trident submarines. The government assumes it will have this vote its own way – whipping front and backbenchers to support it and clinching enough votes from Labour MPs.

But, with negotiations at the UN taking the international zeitgeist in the totally opposite direction and members of the public increasingly feeling uncomfortable about the place of nuclear weapons on British soil, we believe there is now a window to persuade MPs to change their minds. Please therefore do whatever you can to get involved in ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. Visit our new website to sign our petition and find out how to contact your local MP. And, if you can, come along to one of our public meetings. We will be using these meetings, taking place in Birmingham, Newcastle, and Preston to light the touchpaper and start the process of building new community campaigns to carry the anti-Trident message.

Join us and we’ll make sure that power is invested in people and compassion, not in the destruction of humanity.

Topics: Nuclear weapons