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Opinion: Happy Birthday MoD: 25 Years of Death and Destruction

As the Ministry of Defence (MoD) site at Abbeywood, Filton, celebrates 25 years of operating, Bristolian, nuclear scientist, and member of anti-war campaign group XR Peace Dr Rowland Dye looks past the decorative lake, with its Canadian geese and bees, and explores the true nature of the secretive complex in North Bristol. 

Bristol is a beautiful city. It’s easy to be unaware of the shocking war machine in the north of the city.

The vast Filton Abbeywood centre, the largest MoD site in the country, cost a quarter of a billion pounds to build and needs thousands of staff to run it. Its official role is “procurement”, but you could say it’s the heart pumping tens of billions of pounds of our tax-payers’ money into contracts for services and hardware for the entire British military – land, sea and air – both in this country and the 145 British bases around the world

Fighter jets with engines manufactured in Patchway launch missiles designed in Filton on innocent people in Yemen, resulting in the destruction of Yemen is so severe it is the worst humanitarian disaster in the world and not surprisingly refugees are fleeing the country. Every time Britain sells a new jet to Saudi Arabia someone has to train the pilots. The private company that organises this training has its office inside the Abbeywood MoD centre.

A lesser known activity at the Abbeywood MoD centre relates to the fact that about every six weeks an armed convoy takes nuclear warheads from a factory near Reading up to a submarine base in Scotland and brings old ones back. The control room for these convoys is in Abbeywood MoD centre. If the convoy was involved in a motorway pile-up and perhaps a fire, the plutonium in the warhead could be scattered miles downwind. There is no emergency procedure that could deal with this contamination. One of these convoys drove through the middle of Bristol last September. 

Many Bristolians would be surprised to hear there are well over thirty arms companies clustered in north Bristol 

Some are massive companies with household names like Rolls Royce, BAE systems, Raytheon, Boeing, MBDA, Atkins, Babcock, and Lockheed-Martin. Others are smaller and lesser known. These companies hold enormously lucrative contracts to run our military, service our ships, design nuclear submarines, build fighter planes, armoured vehicles, and armed drones, run our nuclear weapons factories, develop control and software systems, and design missiles and killing technology of all kinds.

There are victims of all this technology, generally poor people in other countries. But we’re victims too as our tax money could be used to fund society, health, education, combat climate-change, and to build better communities.

Bristol is directly involved in the death and suffering of people elsewhere in the world and this has nothing to do with our so-called defence. 

Then there’s the environmental cost of war. 

The US military is the largest single institutional consumer of hydrocarbons in the world. At the height of the war on Iraq they were using a million barrels of oil every day! Add to this the toxic environmental destruction caused by war, plus of course the carbon footprint of rebuilding everything afterwards. 

Politicians are keen to hide the military from national carbon emission calculations. Many wars, such as Iraq and Libya, have been fought to seize even more fossil-fuel reserves. The vicious circle becomes all too clear. 

The UN calculates that extreme weather events displace 20 million people from their homes every year. A vicious circle of war and climate change becomes clear. 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that a $1.6 – 3.8 trillion investment in energy systems is required to keep global warming within a 1.5 degree scenario and avoid the most harmful effects of climate change. Yet every year the world spends far more on militarism than on climate mitigation and adaptation. 

That companies in our city are supplying the weaponry for that militarism is not only totally immoral but also far from the green image that Bristol likes to project.


Feature image: Rowland Dye.

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