Letters: The ‘independent deterrent’ that isn’t

These letters appear in the 26th January 2016 edition of The Independent

Monday 25 January 2016 18:58 GMT
HMS Vigilant, one of Britain’s four Trident nuclear missile-armed submarines, at its Faslane base in Scotland
HMS Vigilant, one of Britain’s four Trident nuclear missile-armed submarines, at its Faslane base in Scotland

The nearest thing nowadays to a Potemkin village is Britain’s so-called independent nuclear deterrent (“Britain split down the middle on whether to keep Trident”, 25 January). Yet it is potent enough to blow Labour apart. To treat it as a job-preservation scheme, as do some of the trade unions, is ridiculous.

Questions concerning control of Trident are inseparable from the decision to use a missile delivery system designed, manufactured and overhauled in the US. Even submarine-launched test firings are conducted in American waters near Cape Canaveral under US Navy supervision. It is inconceivable that No 10 would fire Trident in anger without prior approval from the White House.

Persisting with Trident and its proposed replacement in order to retain a permanent Security Council seat is to reject British pragmatism in favour of la gloire. At least the French, to their credit, went to the trouble of developing their own submarine-launched missile delivery system. They own it, hence control it.

Yugo Kovach

Winterborne Houghton, Dorset

The idea of our Prime Minister pressing the “red button” is absurd. The button, if there is one, is located on Obama’s desk in Washington DC. With Trident, we have allowed America to pull a big con on us. We pay billions of our tax money (a quarter of our military budget) into the US economy for a huge project from which we gain nothing – it’s even worse as it is entirely negative for us.

The submarine base in Gare Loch is just miles from Glasgow, the biggest city in Scotland, and would obviously be one of the first targets in a nuclear exchange. It would destroy Glasgow and kill millions. Then there is RAF Fylingdales in Yorkshire. This is part of America’s “Ballistic Missile Early Warning System” – early warning for them, but not for us. It would be taken out in the first 10 minutes of a nuclear exchange and would take most of “God’s Own County” with it.

Instead of supporting the US economy we should support our own. The money saved by not buying the nuclear system from the US should be invested in Glasgow shipbuilding so that we can better defend our island nation.

John Day

Portchester, Hampshire

The point made by the Chief of the Defence Staff that a deterrent is only effective if it is believed that it could be used is of course true. However it is also obvious to anyone including potential enemies that Britain’s nuclear weapons could only be used as part of a Nato attack. A huge slice of the defence budget is spent on an independent deterrent that can never be used independently.

At the same time we see constant cuts to conventional forces spread around the globe actually in action defending our interests. We no longer have an aircraft carrier, and the one on order will not, initially at least, have any planes. How vulnerable does that leave, for example, the Falklands?

The argument is not between defence and no defence, it is between conventional forces that we need and a nuclear white elephant. If this point was made by a united opposition I suspect it would be surprisingly popular.

Alan Juriansz

Twickenham, Middlesex

Plenty of colonial guilt for everyone

Writing about colonialism, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown points out: “Whitewash is unreliable and temporary. Truths will out” (25 January).

Truths have out. Those who insist Britain hasn’t gone through an honest assessment of its past need only pick up a history book and the information is there. The slave trade is a common topic for all British schools.

I would argue that those who use the Empire to claim we should be ashamed of our history are not looking at it objectively or with any form of empathy. In any country’s history they have done things which at the time seemed perfectly reasonable but today are seen as terrible.

If Britain is to be ashamed of its empire for the slave trade, then all other countries involved in slavery have to share the guilt, including the African tribes that supplied 18th-century labour. It is often overlooked how they rounded up weaker tribes and sold them to Europeans.

Did Britain subjugate territory? Yes. Did they put the right of those persons in the conquered territories below their own interests? Yes. And again, so did many European nations, as well as America. What about Belgian brutality in Africa in the 19th century? Japanese war crimes in China? Armenian massacres by the Turkish? I could go on and on.

If you’re going to judge the British Empire as an evil part of history to be ashamed of, take into consideration what all other powers have done. World history is shameful.

Emilie Lamplough

Trowbridge, Wiltshire

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown puts a new distortion on the wretched Cecil Rhodes statue brouhaha.

To assert that it stands “above the main entrance to Oriel College” implies that he is treated as the college’s supreme hero.

The Rhodes statue is at the back of the college, the centrepiece of the sepulchral Rhodes Building facing the High Street.

Richard Humble


Might all sides in the Oriel College Rhodes statue row be appeased by the simple expedient of just moving the old boy, perhaps to the college gardens?

The statue could be visited and history not “whitewashed” but at the same time the college would be indicating that Rhodes’s values were not those of a contemporary university.

Dr Anthony Ingleton


Ask Muslim women what they want

Britain is home to thousands of loyal, well-integrated Ahmadi Muslim women. They are professionals and homemakers who speak good English and contribute fully to the development and progress of Britain. Ahmadi Muslim women condemn extremism and terrorism in all its forms.

Any free and democratic society must support a woman’s freedom to make choices about how she chooses to live. Before the Government or Parliament moves to ban gender segregation in public places such as town halls, they should first consult with Muslim women and ask them for their views on the issue.

Policy-makers should take a proper sample of Muslim women and ask them directly if they prefer sitting sometimes in segregated meetings or if they would prefer joint meetings. The comfort and ease of women themselves should be ascertained rather than prescribed by government. That should be the approach of a Britain which champions the rights of women and their freedom of personal choice.

Farzana Yousuf

National Secretary for Information and Communications, Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association (UK)

London SW18

Confusions over Turner’s legacy

Hannah Fearn’s puzzlement at finding only one small Turner at Turner Contemporary would be less if she had followed its history (“The Turner Contemporary owes it to visitors to display a few Turners”, 25 January).

The genesis of the gallery was a proposal for a Turner Centre to record Turner’s association with Margate. That got lost sight of as others came in with a plan for another coastal venue for contemporary art. The original idea should still be fulfilled, in a modest separate museum. What exists is another instance, like the Turner Prize, of Turner’s name being used to promote something quite different.

Meanwhile, the Royal Academy fails to bestow Turner’s own medal for landscape and all the provisions of Turner’s will are now ignored. This would only be compounded by lending to Turner Contemporary his Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth, which with his other finished oil paintings he left to be housed in the still unrealised Turner’s Gallery.

Dr Selby Whittingham

The Independent Turner Society, London SW5

Raging fires of benign toleration

Dr Munjed Farid al-Qutob (Letter, 22 January) cannot seriously believe that western societies are “raging fires of racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, bigotry, social, political and economic exclusion and intolerance”.

The exact opposite is the case. Western societies are the most benign, open and tolerant on the planet – which is why millions of desperate people are fleeing their homelands and risking their lives to seek asylum here.

Stan Labovitch


Assassinated by agents of the state

Is it surprising that, in all the column inches devoted to Alexander Litvinenko, parallels have not been drawn with the deaths of Osama bin Laden and “Jihadi John”?

Harry Cowdy

Newent, Gloucestershire

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