Showing posts with label nuclear weapons. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nuclear weapons. Show all posts

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Blasting Galloway with Uranium

Depleted uranium is a radioactive and chemically toxic heavy metal produced as waste by the nuclear industry. It has been widely used by UK and US military forces to harden armour-piercing shells fired in the Gulf, Balkans and Iraq wars. When DU weapons burn, they release a hazardous dust that can contaminate wide areas. Civilians and soldiers exposed to the contamination claim to have suffered from cancers, birth defects and other illnesses as a result.

A new ruling by the UK Government after a secret review that depleted uranium (DU) weapons are acceptable under international humanitarian law means that DU tank shells could again be tested at the Dundrennan military firing range near Kirkcudbright on the Solway coast. Between 1982 and 2008, over 6000 DU shells were fired at Dundrennan. Soil samples taken in 2006 showed DU contamination breached agreed safety limits and high levels of DU have been found in earthworms on the site. The MoD has fired more DU in Scotland than anywhere else on the planet yet the Scottish government is powerless to intervene being a reserved matter. The MoD argued that UK DU munitions, known as Charm-3 and fired by Challenger tanks, did not cause widespread and severe damage to the natural environment.

The Campaign Against Depleted Uranium (CADU), is now seeking legal advice with a view to taking the Government to court. The group said  the UK Armed Forces Minister, Liberal Democrat Nick Harvey has downplayed the risks of DU, and misinterpreted the Geneva Convention.

Aneaka Kellay, of CADU, said: "It is disturbing that the Ministry of Defence appears to have ignored the findings of international organisations such as the UN Environment Programme, overlooked the wider conclusions of the World Health Organisation's reports, and ignored the widely accepted potential risks the chemical toxicity of DU poses."

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Faslane Futility

 There has been a tradition of anti-nuclear protest in Scotland since the early 1960s when the US Navy established a base for their submarines at Dunoon on the Holy Loch. The Scottish National Party, the Scottish Socialist Party and the Scottish Green Party all oppose the deployment of nuclear weapons. It is not unusual for members of these Scottish political parties, and indeed some from the Labour Party, to attend rallies outside Faslane. Both George Galloway and Tommy Sheridan have been arrested in demonstrations.

 The Faslane peace camp began 30 years ago. It was set-up as a Scottish version of Greenham Common. After all those years the camp is still there - and so are the warheads.

 Eric Thompson was commodore of the naval base in the mid-90s says: "Our original security concerns were Russian special forces, for which we had a barbed wire fence. Then we started worrying about the IRA, so we had a double-barbed wire fence but it was actually the peace camp and political embarrassment which kept us on our toes." He recalls one incident in which three peace campers managed to get into the base dressed as Santa Claus. "They were actually in the sights of an armed Royal Marine guarding the jetty and he could have taken all three of them out but he decided shooting Santa Claus was not going to be a good idea."

Mahatma Gandhi counselled non-violent resistance to nuclear war. People should get out of their homes and look the pilots in the eye as best they could. With love and prayer, and without hatred for their killers above, they were to offer themselves willingly in sacrifice. Aircrew were thus given the opportunity for redemption before bombs away. He hoped that the gesture of accepting death would be transformative for those who commit mass murder in pursuit of their political objectives.Clearly, Gandhi hadn’t banked on missiles. These days against the scourge of nuclear weapons, the human race has little more than the thin line of activists at places like the Faslane Peace Camp. They paddle out in their little dinghies to confront British nuclear submarines to remind us all that these weapons are not worthy of human possession. Each day it becomes more obvious that mankind must choose between the security of a peaceful society, which only conscious action can bring about, and the insecurity of militarism.

It is not just a matter of "Stop Trident". It is about ending of all wars and the economic competition between national ruling classes that cause them. It requires advocating policies and taking actions which will make war impossible, by removing its causes. As long as there are economic rivalries for wars to be fought over, wars will take place and, whatever the weapons of choice, death and destruction will be the result. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

what austerity?

Nato's plans to upgrade the US's estimated 180 tactical nuclear weapons in western Europe. The alliance is preparing to replace "dumb" free-fall nuclear bombs and ageing delivery aircraft with precision-guided weapons that would be carried by US F35 strike aircraft. The plans to upgrade significantly the US's stockpile of tactical nuclear weapons would increase its ability to reach targets in Russia.

The cost to upgrade the bombs with precision-guided B61-12 nuclear gravity bombs will be at a cost of $4bn (£2.5bn). Replacing their existing aircraft with the US F35 Joint Strike Fighter, whose cost has risen to more than $100m (£62m) each.

Ted Seay, who until last year was arms control adviser to the US mission at Nato headquarters in Brussels  adds that modernisation would be a form of expensive nuclear escalation by default that could be expected to draw a hostile reaction from Moscow.

 Ian Kearns, chief executive of the European Leadership Network , a thinktank supported by former UK defence ministers including Lord Des Browne and Sir Malcolm Rifkind, said "The planned upgrade of Nato's tactical nuclear forces in Europe will be expensive and is unnecessary. Nato states are fully secure without this additional capability and should be focused on removing all tactical nuclear weapons from Europe, not on modernising them".