ICAN: a small nuclear win
Sumiteru Taniguchi, Nagasaki victim and lifelong anti-nuclear activist, died just over a month ago. It’s a shame he didn’t live to hear that this year’s Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to ICAN (the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons). That aside, the timing of the award couldn’t be better, with our child-emperor waving America’s bloated nuclear sword over North Korea.
Here’s Taniguchi with the famous picture of him that was taken in hospital just after the sainted Harry Truman’s decision – contra many top advisors – to obliterate his city:
He lay in bed, face down, for two years, wracked by pain from his burns and then wracked by pain from the infected bedsores he developed on his chest. He was one of approximately 25,000 injured that day. 39,000 others were already dead.
Unfortunately, even if most of the world applauds the Nobel Committee’s decision, the nuclear powers are not listening. Below – with two really good, informative, interesting links – is a post I wrote recently, after Britain’s cowardly, short-sighted decision to replace and not merely retire its Trident nuclear deterrent …
Thirty six years ago, as a student, I wrote to the them Minister of Defense, Francis Pym, to argue that both the secret upgrade to Britain’s Polaris submarines, code-named Chevaline, and the replacement of Polaris / Chevaline with the vastly more powerful, more expensive Trident, was unwise. Today, Britain’s MPs voted to approve the even more vastly expensive replacement of Trident with a successor fleet of four ICBM submarines. Numbers vary, of course, but the cost of the boats will be 20–40 billion pounds, and total operating costs in the hundreds of billions.
Ironically, this has happened just days after the new Prime Minister will have completed the grimmest and most surreal of all her responsibilities, hand-writing four identical copies of the so-called Letter of Last Resort. This goes into a double safe on each of Britain’s nuclear-armed submarines, and tells the captains what to do if, and only if, they have concluded that Britain and its government have already been destroyed in a nuclear attack.
Scottish MP Mhairi Black just posted a video of her spirited and well-argued House of Commons speech against a Trident replacement. Check it out.
Nuclear deterrence is a strange paradox. Perhaps that’s why people so many of the comments on her speech are mutually angry and uncomprehending. I think the best way to think of it is like this: stop thinking about the nation, stop thinking about ‘defense,’ and ask one question only: Does this decision increase, or decrease, the probability that sometime in the future millions of innocent people will be burned to death in a war that didn’t need to happen?
My own view is that replacing Trident almost certainly increases this probability, in part because it puts off, for another generation, a meaningful British contribution to nuclear disarmament.
For reasons why this is a desperately urgent problem, forgotten in all the focus on climate change, see this review of William Perry’s recent My Journey at the Nuclear Brink.