Conference: ‘Trident Replacement? What does theology say?’

posted by Kaihsu Tai on February 26th, 2006

On Saturday 25 February 2006, a few of my friends and I joined about 50 others at St John’s College, Oxford, for the Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament conference ‘Trident Replacement? What does theology say?’. One new development: WMD Awareness Programme. If the gentle readers read one website because of this report, it should be this. This new initiative aims to educate the public and parliamentarians, especially those not in the (stereo)typical Guardian–Radio 4 clique. It has found an interesting ‘crack’ we could try to pry open: The Ministry of Defence does not want to pay for a unuseable/useless ‘political toy’ which has no place in its doctrine; the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are not happy that a policy decision (not a defence item) is out of its reach. Who actually wants nuclear weapons then?

Two years ago (Saturday 28 February 2004), the Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament organized a similar day-school called ‘Law Not War!’ at the Oxford Union in preparation for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference 2005 (New York). It was nice to see that a booklet was available at the current conference, summarizing all the related work by CCND and other organizations. Another creative-resistance action was the oratorio ‘Trident: a British war crime’ composed by Camilla Cancantata and published by Trident Ploughshares. I got a copy of the libretto and the compact-disc recording. Other organizations and activists were present or mentioned: World Court Project, Abolition 2000, Oxford Research Group, Peace Tax Seven, Aldermaston fig and vine planters, etc., but I will not try to be comprehensive in my coverage here. The gentle readers can find out about their work elsewhere in these pages or on the web.

The speakers in the morning were: The Reverend David Platt (chair), Peter Hunter OP, Gerry W. Hughes SJ, and Canon Marilyn McCord Adams (Regius Professor of Divinity, Oxford). The workshop leaders in the afternoon were: Dr Kate Hudson (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament), Angie Zelter, Dr Siân Jones, Michael and Patricia Pulham.

Some of the discussions fell into a recursion around the Just War Theory, etc. This is what I think: It is all very well to argue ‘rationally’, in the abstract, about some moral arithmetic/algorithm such as Just War Theory. But we need to remember how absurd weapons and wars have become nowadays, and ridicule the arguments for them when that is due. If we limit ourselves to the ‘rational’, abstract moral arithmetic, we already concede a lot of ground, and unduly so. By all means, join a rational debate and be respectful then. But also engage other parts of your mind sometimes: We should not refrain from laughing at ridiculous arguments. Otherwise we shall soon find ourselves with our interlocutors (who do not shy away from ridiculing us) trying to figure out (quite literally) what a ‘useable’ nuclear weapon is, rather than arguing for disarmament.

The other thing I have noticed: An antidote is needed against the triumphalist Allied–Nato–Anglosphere Scheme of History. For this I suggest two excellent books by the Oxonian historian Norman Davies: Europe: a history (ISBN 0060974680) and The Isles: a history (ISBN 0333692837).

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  1. On March 13, 2006 at 06:11 Dr Kaihsu Tai (Oxford, England) said:

    Some updates:
    The Scotsman: Secret scientific project may prolong life of Trident
    The Sunday Times: Revealed: UK develops secret nuclear warhead
    Ekklesia: Christian allegations about secret nuclear weapons substantiated

  2. On April 3, 2006 at 12:13 Dr Kaihsu Tai (Oxford, England) said:

    Look what sort of cases the United Kingdom is getting itself into these days. You can find the documents at the website of the European Court of Justice. I include the headnotes to give a flavour.

    Commission v. United Kingdom (C-61/03): Failure by a Member State to fulfil its obligations – EAEC Treaty – Scope – Military installations – Health and safety – Decommissioning of a nuclear reactor – Disposal of radioactive waste.

    Commission v. United Kingdom (C-65/04): Failure by a Member State to fulfil its obligations – EAEC Treaty – Scope – Directive 89/618/Euratom – Health and safety – Ionising radiations – Use of nuclear energy for military purposes – Repairs to a nuclear-powered submarine.

  3. On April 3, 2006 at 14:14 Dr Kaihsu Tai (Oxford, England) said:

    Dr Caroline Lucas MEP (Green, South East England): “Head off the warheads” in Comment Is Free, the Guardian‘s new comment-blog site.

  4. On June 16, 2006 at 09:11 Dr Kaihsu Tai (Oxford, England) said:

    A booklet containing transcripts of the speakers at the day-school:

  5. On July 18, 2006 at 06:33 Dr Kaihsu Tai (Oxford, England) said:

    The Catholic Radical (August/September 2006) brought this quote attributed to Thomas Merton: The Just War Theory “is a boat that has slipped its moorings and is now floating off in mid-ocean a thousand miles from the facts.”

  6. On July 18, 2006 at 18:54 Adam (Southern California) said:

    Mentioning Merton reminds me that on my recent trip to Louisville, I saw that there’s a big historical marker at the corner of 4th St. and Muhammad Ali Blvd. noting that Thomas Merton had a revelation there. I took photos of each side and will post them here within the next couple of days.

  7. On July 19, 2006 at 10:34 Mike said:

    I’m planning to run that essay here; there’s an “embargo” period between the street date and the Internet date for CR articles.