Brian Quail on “Usable” Nukes

Dear Sir,

“We only have it to prevent anybody ever using nuclear weapons on us. It will never actually be used. It’s just a deterrent”. This, the universal mantra of the apologist for Trident, is rehashed ad nauseam – in spite of the fact that the crews practice diligently to actually use the hellish thing. Facts tell a very different story.

The USS Tennessee, which left port in Georgia at the end of last year, is the first submarine to go on patrol armed with the W76-2 warhead, commissioned by Donald Trump two years ago. This has a yield of 5 kilotons, a third of the power of the “Little Boy” bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

This “low yield”(!) normalizes the W76-2, and makes it more usable. It is thus integrated into military war planning. Hans Kristensen, the director of the nuclear information project at FAS (Federation of American Scientists), said: “Certainly the low-yield collateral effect that would come from this weapon would be very beneficial to a military officer who was going to advise to the president whether we should cross the nuclear threshold.”

So there we have it from the horse’s mouth. While we rabbit on about a never-to-be-used “deterrent”, the US war machine is making plans to actually use nuclear weapons.

This is the inevitable resolution of an inherent contradiction at the very heart of the concept of nuclear deterrence. “Deterrence” is just a fancy Latinate word meaning threat. And a threat is useless, unless you are prepared to act it out. 

Meanwhile, in the real world far from the madding fantasies of American war planners, 122 states agreed on the TPNW (Treaty Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons) at the UN in 2017. Our job is to decide which side we are on.

Fortunately, we in Scotland do have a choice. All parties supporting independence take a principled stand against nuclear WMD. Our cousins south of the Tweed are not so fortunate.

We must be an example for them. We need to lead them, not leave them – to coin a phrase.

Yours sincerely,

Brian Quail, Glasgow

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