Conscience Trident debate

by Outreach ~ September 2nd, 2015. Filed under: News.

Trident photo

On the 30th of August 2015 The Peace Agenda hosted a debate on the controversial and pressing issue of whether we should abolish Trident. Trident is Britain’s nuclear weapons system which, willingly or not, is paid for by our taxes. It was a lively, compelling debate in which we heard thought provoking arguments from both sides.

In favour of the motion This House Would Abolish Trident, Conscience were lucky to host three distinguished speakers whose arguments were thorough, incredibly well supported and approached the subject from a broad range of angles.

The first was Kate Hudson, Secretary General of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). Hudson brought to our attention the argument that is perhaps most relevant to our cause here at Conscience: Trident is a waste of money. Why are we contemplating spending £100 billion on a nuclear weapons system that, as Hudson argued, is militarily useless when we could be spending it on social needs: jobs, health and education? Hudson concluded that Trident is irrelevant, and therefore a fateful misuse of our money.

The second speaker, Ruth Cadbury MP, highlighted the fact that our nuclear submarines are weapons of mass destruction, which would not only kill countless civilians but also cause long term damage to our ecosystems. Cadbury stressed that security and stability must come from somewhere other than the permanent threat of nuclear destruction: from economic, political and physical security as well as security of food sources, our health and our climate.  She envisioned a future where money is invested in these safeguards, and where conflict transformation and civilian peace keeping are the priorities.

And finally Dr Rebecca Johnson, Executive Director of The Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy, focussed on how abolishing Trident could be made a reality. Using the examples of chemical and biological weapons, she argued that we as a nation have to get involved in a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons in order to not only get rid of our own, but make the prohibition an international reality.

Speaking against the motion we heard from Nick Connor from the Bow Group, Political Analyst Jordan Anderson and the president of 104 Debaters Paul Carroll. Nick Connor’s main argument was that nuclear weapons prevent nuclear weapons from ever being used, using the fact that the cold war remained cold as evidence.

Jordan Anderson focused on the uncertainty of the future, warning us of the danger of abolishing nuclear weapons in the present, because over the course of 30 years who knows what kind of nuclear killing machines others can develop?  Furthermore he argued that Trident gives us a prestige that makes other countries ‘sit up and listen to us’.

Carroll, the last to speak, argued that ‘the toothpaste is out of the tube’, nuclear technology cannot be forgotten. As with Johnson, Carroll laid emphasis on the ‘could we?’ argument instead of the ‘should we?’, concluding that we can’t abolish Trident because we cannot dis-invent the technology.

While it was, as ever, valuable to hear the other side of the story, I’m not sure the debate left many converts in its wake. We felt the debate important to host, however, as the renewal of Trident is gaining attraction in the public eye as a costly military expenditure. While the military is often seen as something inherently good, Trident, as the debate demonstrated, is a lot harder to defend.

As Conscience is an organisation that is based on the belief that taxes should be used to nurture peace, and that those who are morally, ethically, or religiously opposed to war should have the right to have their money spent on peace building, it is an important argument for us to draw attention to.

Why is it fair that we do not have the choice whether or not we fund a nuclear weapons system which represents an ongoing commitment to a culture of militarisation? For many, Trident is a very potent symbol of our inability to avoid financial conscription into the arms services. It places a limit on our freedom of conscience.

Conscience: Taxes For Peace Not War is campaigning for the right to that choice and that freedom, the right not to be complicit through our taxes in war and preparation for war.


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