Nuclear panic of a warlike world
Wednesday 13 February 2013
News channels today all led with North Korea and its latest nuclear test.
North Korea does not have a comprehensive delivery system, but it clearly does have the ability to manufacture a nuclear device and it increasingly has missiles that can travel considerable distances and could, one day, be used to carry such a device.
There can never be any moral justification for holding or developing nuclear weapons. They are weapons of mass destruction which, if used, would kill millions of civilians and destroy all the means of normal life in their wake.
Pictures of Hiroshima and Nagasaki show what total destruction is. But today’s nuclear devices are far more powerful.
So North Korea’s detonation of a nuclear device underground is bad news. It represents a failure of the six-party disarmament talks, and obviously I hope these will be renewed.
One hopes too that North Korea will engage with these negotiations and ultimately take the brave path of South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Ukraine and Kazakhstan in renouncing all nuclear weapons. Not the path, you note, of the UN security council powers berating them for their nuclear test.
The five permanent members of the security council are also the five declared nuclear weapons states – the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China.
These five have signed the non-proliferation treaty (NPT), which has also been signed by other non-nuclear countries which have pledged never to build such weapons.
Signing the NPT is a start. The problem is there are other nuclear powers who haven’t signed it – Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea.
It is essential that we keep up the pressure for disarmament among all nuclear states, and that conferences to get these countries to sign up to the NPT and agree not to proliferate their weapons are held in the Middle East to include Israel and the Indian subcontinent for India and Pakistan as well as in the Far East for North Korea.
If we want North Korea to disarm the country needs to be brought in from the cold. Despite its poverty and the huge problems of malnourishment wracking the population, the country clearly has a very skilled workforce. You can’t build nuclear devices without technically able and highly educated workers. Bringing it back into the community of nations would allow these to be redeployed for the country’s benefit.
And we could do no better than to lead by example and not renew Britain’s Trident missile system. Peace leads to peace.
Speaking of which I asked our Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday the relatively simple question as to what our military objective was in Mali and how long French and British troops would be deployed there.
Cameron said Britain was prepared to contribute 200 troops for training African forces, and that more might be offered to Nigeria. He added reassuringly that no-one wanted foreign troops to stay in Mali “a second longer than necessary.”
But the events of the last few days have shown that the war in Mali is far from over.
The French, with British logistical support, claim to have rapidly cleared Timbuktu, Bourem and Gao of al-Qaida-backed insurgent forces.
President Hollande soon arrived to take the victor’s salute.
Less than a week later an attempted suicide bomber in Gao set off a firefight between the French and the alleged al-Qaida fighters. The French finally “subdued” the situation by pounding their opponents’ positions with helicopter gunships.
The idea that French forces – whose casualties will sadly but inevitably start mounting soon – will withdraw in the near future, or that Britain will get itself out, seems far off the mark.
As pointed out by Jeremy Keenan in a recent article published in the New Internationalist, the origins of the Malian conflict go back to a colonial settlement in which the country was created, initially as a federation with Senegal and later as a stand-alone nation.
Like all former colonies in Africa, its border are utterly illogical. They ignore linguistic and physical barriers.
Often the resulting states see one community gaining power at the expense of the others. The isolation of the Tuareg people from the political process in Mali is a case in point.
This isolation, both within and outside Mali’s borders, means there is huge frustration among the Tuareg people which can only be dealt with by addressing their political representation.
In such circumstances al-Qaida will obviously be able to exploit grievances and develop its fighting forces.
Into this volatile mix was thrown the Western attack on Libya, which saw Tuaregs driven out of that country following the death of Muammar Gadaffi. Many were heavily armed with the often Western-supplied weapons looted from Libya’s broken military.
The attempt to declare an independent Azawad state for the Tuaregs has happened before, and its crushing, often involving massive French infiltration of rebel groups over decades, has led to increasing armed conflict and poverty.
The West’s intervention has made the situation worse in the past, and will do so now. We are seeing the use of expensive surveillance equipment and high-tech weapons against those who claim to fight for a poor and marginalised people.
The motive, as always, is to be found in the vast mineral reserves and resources that can feed the nuclear industries of Europe, particularly France.
David Cameron returned from his EU summit on Monday like a dog with two tails. He radiated self-satisfaction as he was cheered by the empire-loyalist, Eurosceptic wing of his own party.
In a rather lengthy statement he claimed that the EU budget was going to be cut and this was all a result of how prepared he had been to stand firm against the rest of Europe.
This was rather strange, since the decision was apparently made unanimously at the end of the summit.
After Ed Miliband had briefly responded for Labour questions were invited from all MPs.
The most Eurosceptic backbenchers lined up to congratulate the PM. Bill Cash spoke of the power of national parliaments versus Europe. Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is normally very verbose, informed the house that there was rejoicing in Somerset. He asked if this “bodes well for our getting rule back to Britain.”
As the questions went on it became obvious what the Tory agenda on Europe is.
To ditch any social obligations, such as working time directives and environmental regulations, while deliberately confusing the Council of Europe and its European Court of Human Rights with the totally separate EU in order to attack the very idea of a human rights court.
What Cameron and the Tories want is a free market Europe without any social protections or environmental safeguards. Not too far from the current EU’s policies, actually.
It is essential that the left begins to build co-operation among working-class organisations across Europe against austerity and the privatisation of the whole continent.
Jeremy Corbyn is Labour MP for Islington North.