Despite the mounting threats and costs that the coronavirus pandemic has devastated the globe with, pro-military lobbying and government investments on nuclear weaponry persist unabatedly worldwide. However, in an uplifting attempt to curb the global wave of military prioritization, three former U.K. Royal Navy Commanders sent a letter to the U.K. Parliament on April 1st, questioning the moral warrantability of maintaining the U.K.’s Trident Nuclear Weapon System. Intended to counter a “bolt from the blue” nuclear attack against the U.K., the commanders have noted that this continuous at sea nuclear deterrent costs 2 billion pounds a year, an impractical price and allocation given the current circumstances.
Peace and disarmament leaders, alongside several U.K. parliamentarians endorsed this encouraging initiative. Bill Kidd, member of Scottish Parliament as well as a co-President of Parliamentarians for Nuclear non-Proliferation and Disarmament U.K. (PNND), asserted that governments and parliamentarians have a duty “to pull back from nuclear war planning and preparation, and to instead cooperate internationally on facing down this deadly pandemic.” Tom Unterrainer, Director of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, criticized Britain for prioritizing the acquisition and deployment of weapons of mass destruction even as the government grapples to respond effectively to the life-threatening pandemic.
Back in March, the Peace Pledge Union (PPU) accused the government of endangering the public by choosing to waste money preparing for war, when it should’ve armed Britain instead with “a resilient National Health System (NHS), local councils funded to fulfil their responsibilities in public health, and social care for disabled and other people.” PPU member Ceri Dare stated that they are armed only with “useless weapons of war,” but Britain “cannot battle our way out of a pandemic with bombs and gas.” Reiterating that viruses can’t be nuked, Campaigns Manager Symon Hill urged the government to divert funds away from multi-million pound weapons and NATO training exercises.
However, the prospects of budget re-allocation are grimmer in the U.S., whose Department of Defense is undertaking a record-breaking military buildup. FY 2021’s budget reveals that spending on nuclear arms modernization will see a 27% increase over 2020 – measures not seen since the end of the Cold War. Despite the dilapidated state of hospitals, emergency rooms that have been likened to war zones, and nurses dying due to lack of PPE, the government still decides to spend such disparate amount of money on advanced nuclear munitions and super-sophisticated weapons. ICAN has calculated that these are enough to finance 300,000 ICU beds, 35,000 ventilators, and the salaries of 75,000 doctors. Yet, the government has deemed it more necessary to replace aging nuclear warheads and give the president more “options” to choose from.
As anti-war activist and author David Swanson points out in his recent article ‘A Dept. of Actual Defense in a Time of Coronavirus,’ solving the problem of widespread healthcare inaccessibility and financial insecurity across the globe is an “actually radically-smaller task than developing the militaries that have been built in recent years.” We only have state and government-sanctioned systems to blame for “insider trading, pandemic profiteering, and negligent mass homicide.” These systems are engineered for “those things and nothing else,” by governments who continuously invest in them at the literal expense of fundamental needs such as health care and resources that could be put towards curbing this pandemic.
What is the use of training and arming workers to “kill large number of people with weapons but then assigning them to other tasks?” Why is the Department of Defense not called the “Department of War?” Lawmakers and civilians alike must not forget that this ridiculous budget allocation for militarism has normalized long-distance drone wars, created permawars, murdered innocent civilians, and stole resources that could’ve been invested towards accessible public health and a robust social care system. “All of this,” as Swanson says, “has generated more terrorism in the name of fighting it.” We must clamor for “better humanity” – not “better militarism.”
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