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Honour Mandela by scrapping Trident

Letter to the Herald:

Words come easy and cost nothing. The only honest way to honour Nelson Mandela is not to add to the mountain of praise heaped on him, but to follow his footsteps in walking the long and arduous road to reconciliation.

In an impassioned speech to the UN on September 21 1998 Mandela called for the worldwide elimination of nuclear weapons and attacked the addiction of some states to “these terrible and terrifying weapons of mass destruction.”


Ironically, it was the racist and violent apartheid regime that took the step of scrapping South Africa’s ballistic missile programme in 1990. While the apartheid leaders’ actions were certainly worthy of praise (for once), there is some suspicion surrounding their motives. Did they dismantle the country’s nuclear missiles because they believed in a vision of an Africa free of nuclear weapons or, realising that black rule was inevitable, did they dismantle these to keep them out of the hands of Nelson Mandela and his looming ANC administration? We may never know the answer.

But it remains true, that it is better to do the right thing, even for suspect motives, than to do the wrong thing. In a similar way, Britain could take the honourable path of dismantling Trident, and working to make Europe a nuclear-free zone (as Africa already is), even if it is just to save us the horrendous price tag.  Or we could obstinately press on blinded by our nuclear idolatry. We can keep Trident on 24/7 patrol and replace it 2025, and so on in perpetuity.

The nightmare of unending state nuclear terrorism, or a first step in our long walk to Freedom. That is the stark choice we face today in the UK.

Can anyone doubt which Mandiba would choose?

Yours sincerely,

Brian Quail

Printed in the Herald on 9 December 2013