So General Sir Nicholas Houghton cannot live with the thought of someone in Downing Street who cannot answer confidently “yes” to the question “Would you launch our nuclear weapons?”
Each Trident submarine carries 16 missiles each with three warheads. It is reliably estimated that a single warhead detonated above a city would instantly kill in excess of 100,000 men, women and children, not to mention the ongoing consequences for the atmosphere. One would seriously question the state of mind of someone who could confidently answer “yes” to such a question.
No doubt the political answer should have been along the lines of “In certain circumstances, which hopefully will not arise during my term of office, reluctantly, I would be prepared to be the last Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.”
We should at the very least respect the honesty of someone who is clear about what they would and would not do in our name.
Those in favour of Trident talk as though it is self-evident that we need a nuclear deterrent. Who are we deterring?
I cannot think of any country that poses an existential threat to us and I defy anyone else to think up a plausible scenario where having nuclear weapons would be of any use. No doubt, that is why so many other countries of equal or greater importance than us, have not bothered to waste their money on one.
Aidan Harrison sets out persuasively why Jeremy Corbyn’s position about the use of nuclear weapons is reasoned and not eccentric (letter, 5 November). However, the issue is not whether Corbyn’s view is justifiable, it is whether he should have stated it publicly.
Many prime ministers may have decided that, if it came to it, they would not “push the button”; we simply do not know. The point about having nuclear weapons is that a potential enemy is uncertain whether, in extremis, we would make use of them. Telling them in advance that we would not do so means that the deterrent will not deter.
At present the Labour Party is in the incoherent position of being officially supportive of renewing Trident but with a leader who has told the world that he would never use it.
Since when did it become a badge of honour to glibly (but solemn-faced) state that you are prepared to “press the button”, destroying millions of lives and unleashing who knows what consequences; and a flaw to say that in the world as you see it you cannot imagine being in circumstances where you would perform that act?
I do despair for our country when political speak is so far from what I think and hope are the underlying morals of our human bosses.
Dr Gemma Stockford
Hassocks, West Sussex
Opinions as to whether Sir Nick Houghton, Chief of the Defence Staff, was in breach of military impartiality in his interview on Andrew Marr’s programme on Sunday have dominated the headlines. Unfortunately, this has deflected attention from his response to Mr Marr’s earlier question as to whether the UK defence budget could afford Trident.
The CDS said we needed to maintain a balance between nuclear deterrent and conventional armed forces and this was being maintained in conjunction with our Nato partners; thereby acknowledging that to maintain this balance we rely on Nato to offset our own conventional force shortcomings.
One would like to think that being independently able to defend the realm was a given for an island nation, but, with the run-down level of those forces, is very questionable.
Were we, however, to rely instead on the nuclear deterrent being provided by our Nato partner in the US, whose approval to use it we depend upon in any case, we could use the £150bn so saved to rebuild our conventional forces and be better equipped to defend our realm on our own.
Commander RN (Ret’d)
Can somebody, anybody, please give me one example of a situation where David Cameron, or anyone who isn’t Jeremy Corbyn, will actually launch a nuclear warhead?
British ban on Gaza clinicians
Next weekend (14 and 15 November) an academic and clinical conference is to be held at Kingston University, entitled “Trauma and Resilience in the context of Political Violence”. We have just been informed that the British consular authorities have refused permission for four Palestinian clinicians from Gaza to attend: Dr Hasnaa Al Sourani; Dr Amal Shaat; Dr Rula Al Helo and Mr Yousif Abu Rahma. Also refused entry was Dr Nahida Al-Arja from Bethlehem University.
It is beyond our comprehension how such an interference with intellectual and clinical discussion on such an important topic could be justified.
This is a measure that further isolates clinicians from Gaza, already struggling under the impact of military assaults and siege, who need the opportunity to breathe in order to sustain their work. It has detrimental implications for the treatment of children and families whose suffering under these unconscionable circumstances it is difficult for us to appreciate.
We urge the UK authorities to reverse this decision immediately, and to resolve to nurture, rather than undermine, urgently needed psycho-social support services for the people of Gaza.
Christiane van Duuren
UK-Palestine Mental Health Network
When hospice care fails in the final days
Three weeks ago my husband died in a hospice (“What a way to go”, 6 November). He did not “go gently” but was in great distress for several days until a few hours before his “peaceful” death.
As his wife, sleeping on the floor next to him in those final days, I am heartbroken. He begged my daughter to kill him. He pleaded with me: “Help me, help me; after all we’ve been through all these years.” He called to “God, if you’re there, don’t let me suffer”.
When I pleaded with doctors and nurses to increase pain relief, anything to give him a dignified end, they talked about “terminal agitation” which “often” produced such distress in the patient!
Staffing levels were inadequate over that weekend. The on-call doctor was obviously overstretched and couldn’t be contacted. At one point we were told, quite pleasantly, that my husband wasn’t the only patient in the hospice. I didn’t hear any of the other patients crying in pain as my husband was.
I’d looked after my husband for several years with huge support from the hospice day care team. Although I do not dismiss the wonderful care we, as a couple, received during those years I do need to understand why, at the end and as a patient in a hospice, it ended so badly for us both.
To preserve the anonymity of the (very highly regarded) hospice referred to, please do not print my name.
Name and address supplied
Why do passports look to the past?
Why do we feel the need to feature any individual on passports? This is an opportunity for a contemporary design instead of always harping back to the past. I’d say much the same for banknotes.
At the very least it would avoid wrangles about who is worthy and whether the gender balance is PC.
The kind side of Downton Abbey
In reviewing the “insanely successful period drama Downton Abbey”, the focus of your weekend TV review (9 November) is on the unpleasantness of those who live above stairs, omitting the kindness of those below stairs.
Mrs Hughes is invariably kind, as are a number of others who serve. And Tom, adopted son of the aristocrats, is consistently understanding and supportive of the good around him, and unafraid to call a spade a spade with Mary. Unpleasantness is shown for what it is, irrespective of wealth and privilege.
Not so insane in fact.
Just the news, please, without the show
You refer to ITV News as “ITN’s recently relaunched news show” (“ITN’s Tom Bradby attacks ‘imperial’ BBC”, 9 November). That tells us all we need to know. I have not the slightest interest in watching a “news show”, whatever that is. Just give me the news, honestly and straightforwardly presented. That will do.
West Wittering, West Sussex
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