- Pilgrimage to nowhere
There has long been an ambivalence about the man who was both the ultimate betrayer and the means by which God’s plan was fulfilled. The author of a new book visits the lonely place where the renegade apostle took his own life
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David Blair's exposition of the immorality of nuclear weapons (in his article “Putin possesses avowedly expansionist goals and the world's largest nuclear arsenal", 29 March) is a reason for cautious rejoicing. Yes, possession is intrinsically immoral because, as he says, these weapons inflict indiscriminate carnage on a massive scale and their deployment as a deterrent implies a willingness to commit mass murder. People who see this, must take what steps they can to renounce the policy. If you accept these weapons for your defence, at any level of the alliance, then morally you hold them in your own hands. We have to reject them, even if it means being labelled as "unilateralists" by some who would deny that such steps are the best, and only moral, route to multilateral disarmament.
This kind of clarity will help us to move (carefully) forward. Nuclear weapons can be abolished and, when this happens, the fact that they are being rejected on moral as well as other practical grounds, will be essential to ensure that humanity can never go back to them. In this context it should be no surprise that current international progress towards a treaty of abolition is being driven by a series of international conferences where representatives from the vast majority of nations (146 at Nayarit, Mexico, in February) are calling for abolition on the grounds of the humanitarian consequences of any use of the weapons.
Martin Birdseye, Hounslow, Middx
I am not sure that it much helps when commentators such as David Blair (The Tablet, 29 March) assume that they know what those they oppose actually think. “As I understand it” … “Presumably, a unilateralist believes” … “so the unilateralist must wish” … “a unilateralist presumably wishes”. Who is this strange person called a unilateralist?
Said the Secretary General of the United Nations in 1983: “There is no either or choice between unilateral and negotiated measures of disarmament. Both are needed in view of their complementary nature.”
Before that, the report of the first UN Special Session on Disarmament of 1978 said “the UN should be kept informed of all steps in this [disarmament] field whether unilateral, bilateral, regional or multilateral.”
By all means let us have a sensible discussion about the elimination of nuclear weapons and the elimination of war in The Tablet. But is this really the start of one?
Does it relate in some way to the £100 billion this cash-strapped country is planning to spend on yet another generation of nuclear weapons?
Bruce Kent, CND Vice President