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Home > War On Terror

WMD in the UK: a handy guide

It's good to know, given how many hundreds of nuclear warheads Iraq has, that we have a few of our own...

30 August 2003

What was it that Norway's foremost weapons inspector during the Falklands, Morten Harket, once said?

"I'll always be hunting high and low
Hungry for you,
Watch me tearing myself to pieces
Hunting high and low..."

Well, lately it's not just Morten Harket who's been "hunting high and low". No indeed. For months now, the coalition forces in Iraq have been "hunting high and low" for those pesky WMDs - under tarpaulins, down wells, behind sofas, in the bins behind the hospital where they dump the nappies - but so far they've been unable to find even one of them.

But perhaps they've been "hunting high and low" (as Morten Harket might say) in the wrong place all along, because back here in Britain we appear to be awash with the little fellas.

Here’s a brief guide to Weapons of Mass Destruction in the UK for any prospective weapons inspector, despotic regime or international terrorist.


1) Faslane Naval Base

Saddam's Scuds may have gone rusty but the UK has some of the finest nukes money can buy. There's no carting these guys around on clapped out pick-ups and hiding them under hedges; Britain's Trident missiles glide around the globe in state of the art submarines. Don't be put off though, bean-munching peaceniks regularly breach the security so you should have no trouble getting in. And frankly, what better place to celebrate Hiroshima day?


2) RAF Brize Norton

They've got Tornados, Hawks, Harriers, Blackhawks, the odd B52 in the mating season and if you're really lucky you'll catch a Stealth Bomber stopping off on its way to more exotic climes. In February, anti-war activists occupied the runway, which stopped the War on Iraq for about 73 minutes, but still - must have been fun to do.

3) Defence Systems and Equipment International Arms Fair (DSEi)

This is an annual jamboree for all those who produce and procure weird and wonderful ways to blow people to bits or torture them slowly. There really is something for everyone at this arms expo taking place this September in London. You may not be able to find a canister of sarin gas but you'll certainly be able to pick up some daisy-cutter bombs which are much more reliable when it comes to dishing out death and destruction. What's more, you'll be able to rub shoulders with representatives of some of the world’s most repressive regimes.

Remember: today's client is tomorrow's rogue state. Is the day after that's client.

4) Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), Aldermaston

The centre of Britain's nuclear weapons industry since the 1950s they've seen it all here, from the heady days of the cold war to the current climate of free enterprise in the nuclear sector. If you're after warheads then the chaps at AWE will sort you out. They've knocked out Chevaline, We177 and Trident in their time and will undoubtedly be open to a bit of custom-made work. And you'll be glad to know that in 2003 AWE won the coveted Astor Trophy for the company with the best managed occupational health programme. Presumably by not having any major nuclear explosions take place during office hours.


5) Porton Down

They've been in the Chemical and Biological weapons game for 85 years down at Porton Down. Once famous for their phosgene, chlorine and mustard gas, they can confidently lay claim to having gassed the Iraqi Kurds before Saddam Hussein was even born. Porton was also once home to the late 'Chemical' Kelly so get down there quick before more of their employees end up dead in the woods.


Pretty much any military base in the UK has some form of WMD although they don't always call them that. A depleted uranium tipped shell is just as effective against a civilian population as a dose of anthrax - probably more so when you think that a gas mask ain't a lot of good against a cluster bomb. So keep an open mind when hunting high and low for WMD in the UK (and an open wallet will help as well).

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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