Thursday, 26 June 2008

US/UK - an explosive relationship

A press release just received from the CND (not yet, at time of writing, available on the press release page of their website) reads, in part:


CND today welcomed the news that 110 US tactical nuclear weapons had been withdrawn from Lakenheath airbase in Suffolk . The report by Hans Kristensen, one of the foremost nuclear researchers with the Federation of American Scientists, concludes that there are now no US nuclear weapons in Britain – for the first time since 1954.

However, CND cautioned against the installation at Lakenheath of interceptor missiles as part of the US Missile Defence system, which could potentially replace one historical arms race with another, with Europe again at the centre. Tony Blair asked the US to consider Britain as a possible launching pad for US missile interceptors in February 2007.

This looks like good news: but where are they now keeping the weapons withdrawn from Lakenheath?

Less cheerful news came in an article in The Sunday Times this week, reporting that the UK military is currently using Hellfire missiles in Afghanistan, fired by RAF Reaper unmanned drones, remotely controlled from a US base in Nevada. The missiles have been described as being armed with 'thermobaric' warheads, though the article tells us that the MoD prefers to call them 'enhanced blast weapons'. The Times article describes the effects thus: "[the weapons] create a pressure wave which sucks the air out of victims, shreds their internal organs and crushes their bodies". Concerns have been raised by Human Rights Watch, Nick Harvey of the Lib Dems and others, particularly highlighting the consequences for civilians who happen to be in the vicinity of one of these missile explosions. Anyone remember that old-fashioned idea of an ethical foreign policy?