Alice in Nuclearland: a Bad Dream by Noel Hamel, Kingston Peace Council

“It really doesn’t make any sense” said Alice. “Here we are, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air and saying how nice everything is, and how much we like it and you say it’s all thanks to nuclear bombs”

“You aren’t listening the right way upside down”, said Mad Hatter, “it’s all about back-to-front uncommon sense – anything else is not at all fit to be heard in Trumpington or its suburbs. The May Queen has said it and it’s true – ‘nuclear weapons keep us safe’ – so there! Good night!”

“But it isn’t night, it’s the middle of a nice sunny day and how on earth do nuclear weapons make it so?” asked Alice.

“Wrong again. Nuclear weapons blot out the sun completely which is why they keep us safe,” said Mad.

“That’s contradictory,” said Alice.

“No, it’s just nonsense that makes perfect sense. No one dare blot out the sunshine and destroy the earth so they don’t use nuclear bombs and that keeps us safe and the sun shining”, said Mad.

“Oh! I see” said Alice. “Nuclear weapons would destroy everything but no one wants that, so they aren’t used, and that keeps us safe …   but what happens if they are used?”

“Now you are being silly,” said Mad. “Use them? No, Trumpington thought about it in Korea and Vietnam but decided it was too dangerous and would start another world war and destroy the earth. So they put nuclear weapons away for the moment; and the world was saved by nuclear weapons because they weren’t used on those occasions. Obvious really.”

“But what about other occasions,” said Alice, “and as not all countries have nuclear weapons it doesn’t seem fair that those without should also have their sunshine blotted out and be destroyed in a nuclear war.”

Don’t worry,” said Mad, “those without nuclear weapons would only die from radiation poisoning, and from famine because of climate destruction. Nuclear armed countries would get far worse – they would be directly hit by nuclear bombs. No point in hitting Uruguay which can’t hurt anyone with nuclear bombs when you can hit the UK which can.”

“Oh!” said Alice, “so by having nuclear bombs it means we would be hit hardest and hit directly in a nuclear war? That doesn’t sound like ‘keeping us safe’.”

“You learn fast,” said Mad. “I told you it’s all about back-to-front uncommon sense. But, there is more. The laugh is that the people paying £billions to have nuclear weapons in the UK are putting themselves first in the firing line in a nuclear war so they are potentially paying for their own destruction – assuming nuclear weapons are ever used – which they aren’t supposed to be – which is why we have them – so they won’t be used – except that we are supposed to think they would be used – to keep us safe from total destruction if they ever were used – though we would be totally destroyed if they were used since there is no escape. All clear now?”

“So nuclear weapons cost £billions and aren’t meant to be used?” asked Alice incredulously. “Are you sure they are real? And wouldn’t the money be better spent on something useful?”

“I don’t know that they are real or that they would work,” said Mad, “but you miss the point which is that others should think they are and that we would use them, (if we felt like destroying the planet one day,) so it is a game of make-believe. Politicians love games of make-believe because it makes them feel big and powerful, especially if people think they could destroy everything. Why spend money on sensible things if you can spend it on trying to make others believe you can destroy everything?”

“So, we are safe so long as no one uses nuclear bombs; then we are the least safe because we have them; but it all only works anyway so long as no one else uses theirs and believes that we might use ours to destroy them,” said Alice. “But what happens if there is a mistake?”

“If there is a mistake then the make-believe spell is broken – normal common sense returns and everyone, everywhere is killed. There is no defence against nuclear war,” said Mad, “but that won’t happen, except there have been some accidents and false alarms…  so, barring all that I have said, nuclear weapons keep us absolutely perfectly safe. Would I lie to you? Mind you, we would be even safer than that if we had no nuclear weapons – but who would want that?”

“It’s all gobble-de-gook to me”, said Alice, “All this is making my head spin. I need to lie down … “