James Delingpole

How I learned to stop worrying and love the Bomb

Nuclear terror made me the man I am. And now it’s keeping us from a pointless war with Russia

29 March 2014

9:00 AM

29 March 2014

9:00 AM

Just as every child now thinks he’s going to die of global warming, so those of us who grew up in the Seventies and Eighties all thought we were going to die of nuclear war. We knew this because trusted authorities told us so: not just the government and our teachers but even the author of Fungus the Bogeyman.

When the Wind Blows (1982) was the downer of a graphic novel which Raymond Briggs wrote as our punishment for having enjoyed Fungus. It was about a nice, retired couple called Jim and Hilda Bloggs who somehow survive the first Soviet nuclear strike, unwittingly smell the burned corpses of their neighbours, and end the book praying in their miserable fallout shelter as they vomit, lose their hair and their teeth fall out.

There was another book, too, that we all read around that time. It was by General Sir John ‘Shan’ Hackett and it was called The Third World War. ‘Shan’ obviously knew what he was talking about, a) because he’d fought at Arnhem and b) because he had commanded the British Army of the Rhine. So when he showed Birmingham — which was where I lived then — being nuked by the Soviets, I abandoned all hopes of having children on my knee asking: ‘Deddy, what did you do in the great war against the Red Terror?’

One result of all this brainwashing was that none of my career plans involved surviving much beyond my thirties, which may explain why I’m in such a hopeless mess now. Another is that I’ve ever since been hugely sceptical of anything the authorities tell us about anything, from Aids to the Millennium Bug to the possibility that we’re going to be allowed to escape from the EU, hence my trademark contrarianism. So for better or worse, I suppose I ought to be grateful for the nuclear bomb: it made me who I am.

Today, though, I have more reason than ever to thank the Manhattan Project for its sterling contribution to world peace. (Did you know, by the way, that I was born on the 20th anniversary of Hiroshima?) It has reduced, virtually to nil, the chances of our pitifully useless leaders in the free West doing something so ineffably stupid as to drag us into a war with Russia none of us wants over a place none of us cares about, Ukraine.

Sorry to put it so bluntly, Ukrainians, but there it is. Yes, as a child it’s true that I enjoyed many happy servings of M&S Chicken Kiev; no doubt, at some stage in my life, I may have eaten Ukrainian wheat; I’m also a big fan of Chernobyl, whose post–disaster cancer statistics are very useful to quote at enviro-loons who think nuclear power is deadly dangerous because what those statistics show is the exact opposite. But none of these, I fear, carries quite enough weight to persuade me that Ukrainian sovereignty is something for which I should be prepared, on a point of principle, to lay down my life.

Liam Fox thinks differently, though. ‘We must not accept the incorporation of Crimea into the Russian Federation,’ he said on Sunday, likening it to ‘Hitler’s Sudetenland adventure’. (Gosh. Just remind me how that one ended, Liam.) Hillary Clinton has been making similar comparisons between Putin and Hitler. William Hague has accused ‘bullying’ Russia of starting a new Cold War. John McCain actually wants the US to arm the Ukrainians (what, the pro-Russian ones in the East too, John?). In fact, with odd exceptions like Rand Paul, it’s quite hard to find a leading politician in the West who isn’t hot for old school, retro confrontation with the Russian bear. For those of us who believe that foreign policy should be about looking after one’s national interests rather than, say, honouring some crappy, temporarily expedient agreement signed by a foreign secretary now long since departed, this is all a bit worrying. What would make it a lot more worrying, though, is if any of these posturing Eighties throwbacks had the power to fulfil their Top Gun/Red Dawn fantasies, which thanks to the balance of terror they don’t.

Russia, there is no question, is on a massive remilitarisation programme. It has tripled its defence spending from 0.5 per cent to 1.5 per cent of GDP; having spent a tenth of what the US did on navy shipbuilding in 2008, it was up to half the US budget last year; it’s building 2,300 new Armata tanks (to go with the 18,000 old models); it’s planning 1,200 new helicopters, 50 new ships, 28 new submarines; as part of a £400 billion plan announced by Putin in 2010, it is going to upgrade 10 per cent of its military equipment a year for its new, better paid, professional, non-conscripted million-man armed forces.

Are we then going to take urgent pre-emptive action to deal with this problem? Of course we’re not: not with defence spending decreasing across the EU, with our army reduced from 108,000 in 2010 to 82,000 by 2018. And even if we did, what would we be trying to achieve? To show the Russians how jolly wrong we think it is for them to grab back a bit of the Motherland which was historically theirs anyway? To earn the privilege of bringing the economically useless western part of the Ukraine into the EU?

That’s the glory of nuclear weapons. They render all this silly speculation entirely redundant. We’re not going to have a pointless war with Russia because, unlike in our pointless wars with Afghanistan or Libya or Iraq, we know that if we do someone, somewhere, is going to get nuked. And none of us wants to get nuked, which is the whole point of having nukes. In my childhood, they kept me awake at night. Now they help me sleep. Mutually assured destruction: don’t you just love it?

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  • John Locke

    Are you seriously suggesting, that Ukraine, Poland, the Baltic states and the rest of the eastern Europe all pursued nuclear weapons, so that we too could have a good night’s sleep? We can do it, sure, if that is your wish. And we will, when there is no alternative.

    Now, please stop and try to think really hard on what you’re saying. You want to abandon Ukraine? Sure, we can do that. But don’t kid yourself — it will not be the end of it. Who will you abandon next? You better make a list.

    • serguei_p

      After Ukraine was created in 1991 it gave up the nuclear weapons that were based on its territory and came under its control in exchange for guarantee of its sovereignty from Russia, the USA and the United Kingdom (1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security).

      It trusted the UK and the USA.

      According to James Delingpole they should not have trusted the UK and the USA and instead should have kept the bomb.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Mein Führer! I can walk!

  • Guest

    It will be of interest to some that James Delingspole’s new employer has spared no expense of employing the team behind him.
    Has one ever wondered why his dismal blog feeds full of strawman arguments attract such high number of comments? Well, we can now confirm that so-called trolls with moderator status (!) not only police his every outpourings but post biased content on his feeds to increase the supposed traffic count. A pingu lookalike contributor can be pointed out (without any doubt) at this moment in time, surely there are more.

    Will an independent Press Complaints Commission investigate?

    • zoid

      so….apart from your assertion, do you actually have any evidence to back that up?

      should you not be under a bridge somewhere, awaiting some billy goats crossing?

  • disqus_JXTaH3N9kU

    I’m just pleased he has told us again that he once lived in Birmingham. Must be at least three weeks since he has thrown that one in. He is such a man of the people.

  • goatmince

    it appears the author is unilaterally perceived by his peers as someone with severe and permanent brain damage. why give him this platform. does anyone think he’s funny?

    • g1lgam3sh
      • Guest

        Is it not curious that when the (measily paid) trolls with moderators status, MRP is such a character, do not infiltrate a blog feed, the sane suddenly come out in droves to use a forum for its intended purpose?

        The suspicion has now been demonstrably confirmed that James Delingpole’s utter crap of scewed onesided thinking is pushed on his blogs to generate traffic.

        In conclusion, all he has done is unite the cause of OAP whinging bigots with that of apologists of the ever-present fossil fuel lobby.

        He has outlived his purpose, the world has long sussed him out and moved on.

  • gelert

    Excuse me, but growing up in the 50s and 60s we all thought we might perish in a nuclear war. However, I don’t think anyone lost any sleep over it, not even during the Cuban missile crisis.

    • rob232

      Well I grew up in the US in the fifties and sixties and yes people did. I knew people who wanted to build fall out shelters. When I was six years old I came home from school and my mum explained the missile crisis. And she was scared. The nun who taught me in November 1961 said Kruschev had said we would be in ashes for Christmas. Some of us lost sleep thinking about it.

      • gelert

        Maybe that’s a difference between the American and British psyche; reinforced by five years of enemy bombing in WW2 😉

        • rob232

          I imagine that American children were better ‘informed’. There were many TV and radio channels full of political commercials warning of the Russian threat. Even the ‘funny papers’ warned of the coming war. When I moved to Britain in 1964 there were only two TV channels. The BBC had no advertising and ITV didn’t do political commercials. There were no ‘funny papers’. In fact British chidren didn’t seem to have all this information.

          • gelert

            American TV is wasteland. Newton Minnow, Chairman of the FCC under JFK.

            Only an American could say that Americans are better informed about the world than Europeans

          • rob232

            Oh really.Leave your silly prejudices and read the post I wrote.
            Did I say Europeans are less well informed?
            I was speaking about the information and influences of the media on British children and American children in the early sixties and what I found when at the age of nine I arrived in the UK in 1964.
            If I had been 35 years old I’m sure my impressions would have been quite different.
            American television was family orientated and children could warch it all day. There was a wide choice of channels and the programmes were continually interrupted for commercials many of which were political and warned of the Soviet threat.
            The British only had two TV channels and commercials were very controlled. Television only came on in the afternoon and children’s programmes were much more limited. Many programmes were not suitable for children.
            The kids I went to school with in England just didn’t know about the nuclar threat. It was a different world. In contrast they knew about the second world war from the incessant war films on Sunday afternoons. Amercan kids weren’t very knowledgeable about that.

          • gelert

            I originally replied to the author’s assertion that children growing up in 60s and 70s were terrified that they were going to die in a nuclear war and stated that the threat was there before. Indeed, it probably diminished after the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

            Do you think TV is the only type of information ? Newspapers were then, and are now, much better sources of information, as is radio. Our impression in the 50s and 60s was that Armageddon was only four minutes away in the U.K, as opposed to fifteen in the US.

            Coming to the UK in 1964 you may have been exposed to the anti-Goldwater ads for the ’64 election of the little girl counting down from ten, with the implication that Goldwater would trigger a nuclear war. Sheer brainwashing and you think British TV wasn’t suitable for kids. American TV wasn’t suitable for anyone; as per Minnow.

            The bottom line is that Brits are more phlegmatic than Americans and less inclined to panic. Another example being the reds under the bed scare of the 50s and the missile gap of 1960 in the US.

          • fubarroso

            Only problem was that we Brits did have reds under the Cambridge bed and they did an untold amount of damage before they were uncovered.

          • Marie Louise Noonan

            I think you’ll find that such people existed in America too.

          • gelert

            They were protected by the OBN.

          • rob232

            You take this all very personally and throw out all these red herrings.
            America was in the early sixties a much more sophisticated place than Britain. Being more family orientated children had much more information than their British counterparts.
            You mention the radio. What radio? The BBC? There wasn’t anything else. News programmes? The BBC Home Service?
            How many little kids listened to that?
            In America we listened to commercial radio stations (of which there were many) on the car radio going to school. How many British families had cars then? And radios in their cars? I had a transister radio as did many of my friends. English kids were lucky to have a wristwatch in 1964. It was a whole different ballgame in England and the kids didn’t know much about anything.
            And yes British television wasn’t suitable for children. Dreary adult entertainment like the Wedenesday play.Even Z cars was really above our heads. It wasn’t like that in the US. Most programmes primarily aimed at adults could be watched and enjoyed by children.
            I don’t remember any commercials with Barry Goldwater but most certainly a lot with Kennedy and Eisenhower warning us with photos of Kruschev saying ‘We will bury you’.
            Children didn’t read newspapars but we read the ‘funny’ papers aimed at adults full of political humour. Li’l Abner for example was full of references to nuclear crisis. English kids read the Beano and slept the deep sleep of England well cocooned.

          • gelert

            Seems you like being brainwashed. From the nun who said you would be incinerated by the USSR, makes a change from Satan, to the endless commercials that have made you believe in the superiority of the American way and your belief that possessions are more important than quality of life.

            The Goldwater political commercial I referred to was the one used by LBJ against Goldwater for the ’64 election. You are ignorant of this, yet it was shown in the UK as an example of the dirty tricks of US politics.

          • rob232

            You are getting more and more desperate.
            If we are discussing the fifties and early sixties and I left the US in 1964 why do you bring up some political campaign for November 1964? I wasn’t there then.
            Do you really believe I am flaunting American prosperity? What a lot of silly things you write(incuding the bit about the nun)
            All red herrings.
            I’m simply telling you how things were in the early sixties and why an American child would be more affected by the nuclear threat than his English counterpart. Instead of reading what I wrote and thinking about it you’ve taken offence and got very chauvinistic.
            Although I have lived abroad most of my life and come across this kind of reaction many times I still find this silly chauvinism ridiculous.

          • gelert

            You’re just a troll; albeit one that writes lengthier posts than the average.


            I haven’t lived in the UK for forty years. I lived in the US for over twenty of those.

          • davidshort10

            You have a big problem with old-style Britain.

          • davidshort10

            We knew about the Second World War because our fathers were sent to Europe to fight in it and some of us lived in places where the Germans came to bomb us. We had flattened parts of my town in the Sixties just down the road. Evidence indeed. And we did know about the nuclear threat. We were scared stiff of radiation.

          • Terry Field

            Oh funny.
            Americans are provided will little analysis, wall-to-wall junk and few of them are rigorous in their thought processes.
            The elite is quite separate from the pap masses there.
            Just look at their class eating habits.
            The British are just as aware; they are simply mores stable.

          • saffrin

            Duck & cover. I remember it well. Sit under the dining table son, you’ll be ok.

          • davidshort10

            The Daleks were pretty scary, but not as scary as atom bombs. Which is what we called them.

      • Terry Field

        Yanks panic, Brits do not; and yanks enter wars when they are pushed – except where the enemy is a fuzzy wuzzy or an Iraqi with a comic mustache.
        There was no real chance of war as the Russian politburo was conservative in its approach, but there is a high probability that billions will be killed by catastrophic climate change.

        • fubarroso

          ..but there is a high probability that billions will be killed by catastrophic climate change.

          So who’s panicking now?

          • Terry Field

            You do not really understand language, do you.
            I anticipate something; that is not panicking about it. It is simple expectation.
            How do you negotiate reality with such a limited linguistic skill-set?

          • balance_and_reason

            The yanks have shown the least panic over climate change as far as I can see….and their progress on fracking has made the biggest contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions so far…funny old world.

          • fubarroso

            You anticipate something which you say is a high probability. I contend that global warming is the biggest con trick (UN Agenda 21) ever attempted and you are one of the alarmists. If not panicking yourself you are attempting to get me and other readers to panic.

            Climategate together with 18 years of temperatures failing to adhere to warmist predictions resulted in them dropping the AGW mantra. They then adopted the term “climate change”. When people failed to panic, because the climate is always changing, it became “man made climate change” and finally “man made climate disruption”. There have always been extreme weather events and their frequency has not increased.

          • Terry Field

            I hope you are correct, as my car of choice has always been a Bentley, and I resent being so heavily taxed, but all my intellect says you are a lying little fruitcake with no grip on reality at all.
            I hope this won’t come between us and we can still be good friends.

          • fubarroso

            If “fruitcake” is equivalent to Ukipper then you’re right. However, I am not a liar and what I wrote before is a deeply held conviction borne out of observations made about politicians and especially so called globalist politicians over the past 50 years.

            I drive a low-emissions supposedly eco-friendly Kia.

            Yes we can still be friends. After all it is only politics!

          • fubarroso

            Terry, Try this for a less panicky and “sexed-up” view than that presented by the IPCC


    • davidshort10

      Yes, we did. There’s not many things to be happy about being old, except for not being dead already and for putting into perspective the risk of being killed by a suicide bomber.

  • serguei_p

    Mr Delingpole, it seems you actually think that Neville Chamberlain was right when he signed a Munich agreement in 1938 and Winston Churchill was wrong calling to stop Hitler.
    Am I correct?

    • g1lgam3sh

      Not even close.

    • rob232

      My grandfather, who worked on the design of the Lancaster bomber during the war, always maintained that Chamberlain was right in appeasing Hitler because Britain was completely unprepared for war and that Chamberlain was merely buying time. Thus Britain was able to build up an aircraft industry.

      • serguei_p

        You probably also believe that Chamberlain should not have declared the the state of war with Germany in 1939. Do you?

        • Terry Field

          There are excellent arguments in favour of not having declared war on Germland in 1939.

        • rob232

          I don’t know why you say that.
          In my post I expressed the view that Chamberlain was simply buying time as Britain was not yet prepared for a war which seemed inevitable. My grandfather always maintained this and he was very well informed. He was an aviation engineer and worked on aircraft design all through the war.
          I have no real opinion on the subject myself.

  • Anteaus

    We nearly did die in a nuclear war. There were several accidents with nuclear weapons which could have started one had the weapon exploded with full yield. Unbelievably, some American warheads of the Cold War era had their security codes set to 000000 for the sake of expedience should a conflict arise, and the British WE-177 freefall bomb had only two bicycle-style locks as security. We were extremely lucky.

    Though, whether we would have been better off with or without nukes is an unanswerable question. Quite possibly an all-out conventional war was avoided due to their presence.

    • balance_and_reason


  • Steven Barr

    Britain doesn’t have nuclear weapons. At least not ones we can use without US approval.

    • Terry Field

      And the approval of Peppa Pig would be required.

  • balance_and_reason

    I grew up through the sixties and seventies and I wasn’t the slightest bit concerned that we were about to be obliterated. It was quite clear to me , even as a thirteen year old that a combination of local politics(left) and investment from the east(USSR) plus a propensity for teenage lads to suspect teenage birds were more likely to put out for a CND warrior, made for a lot of noise and bullshit but no sense. MAD worked and still does.

  • Perseus Slade

    “Wars are caused by undefended wealth.” wrote Ernest Hemingway

    Putin is just probing and seeing what he can get away with.
    The EU is a toothless blob, who would fight for it?
    If the US won`t make a stand, Putin can get away with a lot more.

  • roman_column

    Interesting series of ad hominem attacks against James Delingpole. He writes something true about Russia and Ukraine? Why, “his dismal blog” is the work of “someone with severe and permanent brain damage”. That should settle the Ukrainian issue.

  • Mnestheus

    Delingopole’s catastrophic interview with Sir Paul Nurse demonstrates that in the face of superior intellectual firepower, he is of no more use in the Climate Wars than the Cold one.