Search topics on this blog

Showing posts with label Faslane bases. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Faslane bases. Show all posts

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Truth and transparency in politics – unrealisable ideals or practical necessities?

JESUS: To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.

PONTIUS PILATE: What is truth?

I am an atheist, and do not recognise the Bible as the word of God, nor as an objective historical account, but I do recognise it, in its many translations, especially the King James version, as a great work of literature, of poetry, one containing deep insights into human nature and behaviour.

Like most men, I lost my idealised view of  politics and politicians early in life, recognising that the ‘art of the possible’ involved compromise, and compromise sometimes involves avoiding tight definitions if the agreement is to hold across divergent viewpoints.

For example, in diplomacy and in negotiation, ambiguity is sometimes necessary; indeed on occasion – say, in collective agreements between management and union - it is the essence of an agreement clause that it be subject to more than one interpretation, which is the antithesis of legally drafted agreements. This is sometime called the “agree fuzzy now, fight detail later if necessary …” approach. So like Pontius Pilate, politicians only ask the question What is Truth? rhetorically, and don’t expect an answer.

The first duty of a politician is to gain power, the pre-requisite of any political programme, however high-minded. But in a democracy, a politician with any real values must constantly test expedient actions against two fundamental questions -

Does the greatest good for the greatest number outweigh the rights of the few or the individual?

Does the end justify the means?

Professors of ethics will tease you with many ethical dilemmas relating to these questions. Suffice to say, there is no absolute answer to either of them. To both, I say sometimes the answer is yes, dependent on circumstances and sometime the answer is an absolute no – for me, anyway.

The possession and use of nuclear weapons of mass destruction provides my absolutes and I say that to possess them is absolutely wrong and to contemplate their use or to use them is absolutely wrong. I also say that it is at best naive, and at worst hypocritical to suggest that they can be possessed with no intent to use them, and without taking appalling, unacceptable risks.

There are sharply divided views on whether the United States of America and Harry Truman were right in their decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, or whether it was a crime against humanity, indefensible against any ethical standards. (I say ethical and not religious standards, because many ministers of religion then and now have defended the use of nuclear weapons.)

Their use then was justified by America by saying YES to both of the questions above. The only mitigation I can suggest for Truman is that it was the first use of nuclear weapons, no one knew for certain what their destructive power really was until that moment, no other country had them, so a nuclear exchange leading to Armageddon could not have resulted, and the destructive power, awesome and terrible though it was, was as nothing to what can be delivered today by a single Trident submarine.

Scotland will soon be facing great choices in its march towards what I hope will be its independence as a nation – a non-nuclear nation. If that great goal is achieved, the credit will be substantially the SNP’s – the great progress towards it could not have been achieved achieved without them, and without the belief, commitment and unremitting hard work over decades of many people with a great ideal. The campaign for independence is now being led by the SNP but with the involvement of  many other groups and parties, and groupings within the three major parties.

But there is now a worm in the SNP apple and that worm is NATO. NATO is a nuclear alliance, committed to the possession and use of nuclear weapons of mass destruction, and the dominant countries within it will brook no interference from the member countries within NATO with non-nuclear policies.

When the critical decision must be made on the first use of nuclear weapons since 1945, NATO will not seek the permission of the member countries in a democratic vote, nor will they seek the endorsement of the people or the UN. The dominant nuclear powers in NATO will act militarily and unilaterally to unleash the whirlwind – that is the stark, realpolitik.

If a nuclear strike is launched, every member of NATO will be culpable, whether they endorsed it or not.

For an independent Scotland to seek membership – or a continuation of present UK membership – of NATO is wrong and dangerous. Attempting to hide behind Norway’s stance and that of other non-nuclear NATO members is wrong because they are wrong to be members, and because membership of a nuclear alliance is incompatible, any way you slice it, with a non-nuclear stance. The current status of Scotland as the home of the UK’s nuclear deterrent is also fundamentally different from any other NATO member country.

In recent months, the SNP has failed in transparency over their defence policy and failed in transparency over the intentions of the leadership in relation to NATO. They have allowed speculation to rage unchecked from their opponents, and they have not only failed to inform their supporters of their true intentions, they have actively misled them by pretending that no game was afoot, leaving many members – not me – defending the indefensible.

I intend to blog in detail on this, with facts and detail, but today, I had to say this to get it off my chest. But maybe all is not lost …

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Racism, music – and the nuclear submarines in Scotland.

Racism is an odd beast – laughable in its atavistic – and usually illiterate – certainties, but frightening in its possibilities. I’ve dealt with two examples in the last 24 hours, one from a ScotNat, the kind of supporter my party, or indeed any party can do without. The other was a strange one -

I went into GuitarGuitar at Corstorphine yesterday, and my eye was caught by a bangitar – a hybrid instrument, consisting of a banjo body and resonator affixed to a guitar neck, with six strings, unlike the banjo’s four or five. It is tuned like a guitar, and offers guitarists the opportunity to instantly play the banjo with guitar fingering – or so it would seem. I have a five string banjo (both my guitar and banjo skills are rudimentary), but I was in enough trouble with the guitar, as a sax and clarinet player, so I gave up on banjo stringing and tuning, took off the fifth string, and retuned as the top four strings of the guitar. This works reasonably well for me, but it’s definitely not right …

So I went on to YouTube in search of banjitar advice, most of which was either sales pitches from manufacturers, or enthusiastic new purchasers, “I’ve just bought my banjitar and it’s great!” etc. But one site – I won’t identify it – offered bangitar lessons, the guy was knowledgeable, and he offered the insight I needed – that the bangitar, played as a guitar, sounded crap, and the only way to make it sound good was to master banjo picking and strumming styles. He was right, and I was grateful, but there was a jarring note. He said “The banjitar is a kinda half-bred thing – a bit like Obama!” and he laughed. I offered the comment that it was a pity he had made such a racist remark, and asked if it was really necessary. This produced a torrent of abuse, and the information that I was blocked. He followed up this morning with another, even more abusive comment on my YouTube profile. (He is now blocked by me.) Ah, the American Deep South Republican Right – good ole boys – a pickin’, a pluckin’ and a lynchin’.



The nuclear lobby has been lying low since Fukushima, after an initial bout of futile propaganda, but they’ve crept out of their nuclear shelters since then, and are beginning the insidious fightback – radiation’s not so bad really, it may even be good for you, the real threat to humanity is wind farms polluting the landscape, alternative energy will never work, the wind doesn’t always blow, the waves don’t always wave, etc.

The symbiotic twin of nuclear energy, the WMD industry, is also out and about, alarmed at the prospect of losing their WMD dumping ground, Scotland, and the vital submarine bases. I was more than disturbed that the SNP government seems to be rather less hostile to nuclear submarines and appeared to be welcoming the retention of nuclear submarine bases in Scotland as part of the defence-as-job-creation scheme thinking that regularly pollutes and distorts rational debate of defence matters.

Now I accept that there are difficult moral questions when one comes to weaponry, because it is designed to kill and maim other human beings, and the scale of horror from, say, the flamethrower, designed to burn alive another human to the baton, designed to inflict a sore head, involves moral dilemmas and choices even in individual cases. Unless one rejects all defence concepts for a nation and all conventional weaponry – I don’t – choices have to be made.

When one comes to the incinerations of millions and the pollution of the planet, human imagination quails, and human morality often fails. I am become Death – the destroyer of worlds.” The Bhagavad Gita, quoted by Robert Oppenheimer as the full horror of what the implications of his work dawned on him as he observed the first nuclear explosion. This choice should be simple, and for me and many others, it is – starkly simple.

But as a nuclear-powered submarine is not a weapon in itself – it is the carrier of a weapon or weapons system, and the nuclear reactor that powers it is not a weapon – why should we object to it, especially if it provides jobs?

Well firstly, I reject the defence as job creation scheme argument, and believe that defence policy and expenditure should be based solely on defence considerations. But the UK is deeply in the grip of the military/industrial complex and the armaments industry, and all our politicians are infected by this kind of thinking. It is the kind of thinking that powers graft and corruption wherever and whenever it occurs.

Secondly, I believe the retention of nuclear-power submarines in Scotland is the thin edge of a nuclear wedge – it compromises the SNP’s position on nuclear power and WMDs.

Nuclear power is unacceptably dangerous. A young serviceman, armed and drunk, attacked his shipmates and killed his officer on a nuclear submarine recently. He has just been sentenced to 25 years for this crime. A recent television documentary on nuclear subs showed a crew member being disciplined for drunkenness on board the the sub. It’s not so long ago since two armed nuclear subs crashed into each other on the high seas.

This is the nuclear reality that nuclear proponents would like to slide over, with their emphasis on the safety of the systems and procedures. No system is safe against human fallibility, against human error, not to mention human greed and corruption in defence and civil nuclear contracts in the manufacture and maintenance of equipment. The nuclear error is one that humanity cannot afford to make – other errors pale into insignificance beside it. But we have politicians who are the moral and intellectual equivalent of a five-year old playing with a loaded gun or a live grenade.

Keep nuclear, in all its manifestation, out of our new Scotland.