trident_genocide“While our resolve and capability to [use our nuclear weapons] if necessary is beyond doubt, we will remain deliberately ambiguous about precisely when, how and at what scale we would contemplate their use.”

This sentence, from the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) published yesterday, defines the UK’s nuclear posture. In less technocratic terms, it means: “The United Kingdom Government is willing to commit genocide.”

Any MP who does not vote against the renewal of Trident this afternoon declares themselves to be comfortable with that position. They are either enthusiastically in favour of the UK advertising itself as a potential war-criminal state, or they are willing to go along with preparations for a future crime against humanity in order to protect and/or advance their political career. I can hardly tell which is worse.

The second half of that sentence, asserting deliberate ambiguity, serves two purposes. It is certainly true that it avoids, as the SDSR goes on to say, “simplify[ing] the calculations of any potential aggressor.” But it has another, arguably far more important, advantage: it removes the UK’s nuclear strategy from the democratic realm altogether.

In the run up to today’s debate, that assault on democracy has been in full force. But at the end of the day, newspaper editors only get one vote each, just like the rest of us. It is up to all of us to reject the mindgames of the WMD lobby, and to let our less morally courageous representatives know that there is something worse than a bad newspaper headline – voters that dare to think rationally.

By refusing to share with the public the details of the rationale for possessing nuclear weapons or criteria for launching them, the Government prevents the public questioning their decisions in this area, and makes it impossible to vote against a Government that has made poor ones. Even voters that support nuclear deterrence in theory surely have to think twice when their only guarantee that it will be used rationally is “trust us”.

Rationality, though, has little place in nuclear strategy. There can be no winners in a nuclear war, a truth that is obvious to all logical participants. Nuclear ‘deterrence’ relies upon rivals believing that the UK might launch a nuclear weapon despite that being a wholly irrational thing to do – in other words, deterrence requires the public perception that the UK is led by psychopaths. Any rational nuclear strategy is necessarily ineffective, so by definition it is impossible to have a rational case for the renewal of Trident.

When discussing Trident, it is hard to think of anything other than the apocalyptic human suffering it has the potential to inflict, but it is also inflicting desperate suffering now. The money being poured into equipping the UK with a new generation of WMDs is the same money that is being snatched from the least able to afford it, through social security raids, tax credit cuts and the gutting of essential public services. Trident swallows both the money and the engineering skill that could be resourcing the UK’s response to climate change, which is already devastating millions of lives with hurricanes, floods and drought.

These spending decisions are moral judgments that should be subject to the fullest public debate and citizen power. But military spending, like nuclear strategy, is a subject that the government prefers to keep away from the inconvenient influence of democracy. While we are encouraged to scrutinise in lurid detail the welfare claims of a succession of fictionalised tabloid hate figures, the Tory insistence that “there is no money left” seems not to apply when it comes to weapons of war.

An overwhelmingly conservative press has colluded in the strategy to put these issues beyond the pale of acceptable debate. When Jeremy Corbyn dared to admit that unlike the incumbent Prime Minister, he is definitely not a genocidal psychopath, the media somehow managed to assert that that was an unforgivable character flaw.

In the run up to today’s debate, that assault on democracy has been in full force. But at the end of the day, newspaper editors only get one vote each, just like the rest of us. It is up to all of us to reject the mindgames of the WMD lobby, and to let our less morally courageous representatives know that there is something worse than a bad newspaper headline – voters that dare to think rationally.

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