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20 times more powerful than Hiroshima

Modern US nuclear weapons could easily bring about armageddon. That is why today’s demonstration at Lakenheath is part of a vital campaign for disarmament — our world's survival hangs in the balance, writes KEN LIVINGSTONE

AS Morning Star readers will doubtless be aware, there is no shortage of important campaigns and causes to get involved in at the moment — but the peace movement remains up there as one of the most vital.

One of my first political acts was to join the protests against the US invasion of Vietnam and I always tried to use the positions I’ve held over the years to help give a platform to various peace campaigns — even if some of my fellow young radicals in Labour Party at that time seemed keen to move into rather different circles as their careers progressed.

In 2005 for example, I was proud to sign up to an international pledge initiated by the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to be a Mayor for Peace, working to bring about an end to war and the presence of nuclear weapons.

Further back, in 1983 during my time as leader of the Greater London Council, we launched Peace Year with a series of exhibitions, educational resources, campaign materials and screenings being organised. We even had a statue commissioned to launch it, with Gwyn Kirk — a leading participant in the Women’s Peace Camp opposing nuclear missiles being stored at Greenham Common — coming along to the unveiling.

That example set by the brave women activists at Greenham Common is particularly relevant today — not only due to the current general geopolitical climate, with tensions increasing between various global powers, but in relation to another situation with direct parallels here in Britain.

This is that, after a 14-year absence, US nuclear weapons are set to return to British soil. The RAF station at Lakenheath in Suffolk has been lined up to host them — a site, which appropriately enough, is fully run by the US Air Force. The transfer of these weapons here is part of Nato’s drive to upgrade European nuclear weapons storage locations (at a cost of millions, naturally).

As if the kind of nuclear weapons held in Britain historically weren’t enough of a monstrosity, this generation actually have the power to inflict far greater levels of potential death and destruction even than those which killed hundreds of thousands and devastated the lives of many more when they were dropped on Japan in 1945.

Astonishingly, Tara Drozdenko, director of the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists, recently assessed contemporary US nuclear weapons as being 20 to 30 times more powerful than those used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is the reality of what will be coming to Lakenheath.

Another shocking (if not surprising) aspect of this plan is just how opaque it’s been. The proposals were revealed not in an announcement from a representative of either the British or US governments, or a story run by a mainstream news outlet. Instead, they were part of a report released last month by Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists, who revealed that there was even a possibility of nuclear weapons having been taken there for storage already.

Whilst this is, in my view, clearly a story of great significance and importance — perhaps it is sadly to be expected that the majority of the British press (with this paper being an honourable exception) have shown little no interest in it, focusing instead on ever-fascinating topics such as Tony Blair’s latest offering in his 16-year long mission to inform people about the wonders of identity cards.

But you could surely reasonably expect that bringing over US weapons of mass destruction for the first time in well over a decade would face a bit of scrutiny from Parliament?

In fact, not only has there been no vote or even official debate about this in Parliament, the government have refused to make any kind of comment on it! Even by their own standards, this represents an outrageous display of contempt for basic principles of transparency and accountability.

Polling data in relation to this issue may well provide some insight into what’s behind their secretive approach. YouGov found that in each of the European countries which currently host US nuclear weapons (Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium), public opposition far outweighs support.

Here in Britain, a poll by Survation showed 59 per cent of people supported Britain signing up to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, including a majority of voters from both major parties. And even in the US itself, the Chicago Council found that two thirds of Americans believed “no country should be allowed to have nuclear weapons.” People are simply nowhere near as supportive of nuclear jingoism as prominent politicians and newspapers (other than this one) will often claim.
 
I offer my full support to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament’s “stop US Nukes at Lakenheath” protest today and would encourage all Morning Star readers to do the same. As the drums of war grow even louder, it’s vital that the peace movement makes itself heard — starting with a clear rejection of this government’s dangerous, undemocratic and immoral deal with Washington to prop up a weapons programme which threatens the safety of the entire world.

You can follow Ken on Twitter @Ken4London and Facebook @KenLivingstoneOfficial.

Join CND at www.cnduk.org.

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