'CHESHIRE FIRST BAT AGAINST LIVELY KENT' [EXTRACTS]

By Jack O'Sullivan

Catholic Herald – 22 February 1985

There is no "middle ground" between possessing a nuclear deterrent and being totally defenceless, argued war hero and philanthropist Group Captain Leonard Cheshire in a lively debate this week with Mgr Bruce Kent, turbulent priest and retiring General Secretary of CND. Neither of the speakers, nor the chairman, David Alton MP, particularly favoured the term "debate". The purpose of the Monday evening meeting at London's Friend's House was not to make one's opponent quake. In the discussion "Nuclear Weapons – Peace or Disaster" there were to be no winners or losers.

The first speaker, Group Captain Cheshire, an observer at the atom bombing of Nagasaki, delivered, in slow measured tones, his message to the 500 gathered that nuclear weapons deter war absolutely. Conventional war had always seemed rational, producing the horrors he had witnessed. But nuclear weapons had deemed world war between the superpowers not perhaps

"physically impossible"

but certainly

"rationally impossible".

Without nuclear weapons, the West could be exposed to the nuclear threat of another country, great or small and even if all nuclear weapons were eliminated, we would

"bring back the spectre of world war which the deterrent is holding back".

The former member of Bomber Command insisted that the question of whether he would drop a nuclear bomb was immaterial since it was

"something that can never happen".

Mgr Kent replied in brisk, urgent terms. If Group Captain Cheshire sounded like a man who had already seen the apocalypse, Mgr Kent looked like one caught in the calm eye of the storm, anxiously predicting worse to come.

"This is not deterrence, it is absurd overkill",

he proclaimed ...