Quotable

"If I had foreseen Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I would have torn up my formula in 1905." - Albert Einstein




Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Worst Acts of the Nuclear Age

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following essay by David Krieger* lays out what might also be called the "worst crimes" of the nuclear age. These points, particularly when considered collectively, clearly demonstrate how those in power have consistently (for over 70 years) acted with great hubris while continuously preparing the way for humanity's demise.  It is time for people to rise up and say ENOUGH and to show the way (to abolition)!

(L to R) David Krieger, Fr. Louis Vitale & Daniel Ellsberg outside Vandenberg
Air Force Base in 2012 after taking part in a nonviolent civil resistance action.

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The ten worst acts of the Nuclear Age described below have set the tone for our time. They have caused immense death and suffering; been tremendously expensive; have encouraged nuclear proliferation; have opened the door to nuclear terrorism, nuclear accidents and nuclear war; and are leading the world back into a second Cold War.

These “ten worst acts” are important information for anyone attempting to understand the time in which we live, and how the nuclear dangers that confront us have been intensified by the leadership and policy choices made by the United States and the other eight nuclear-armed countries.

1 - Bombing Hiroshima (August 6, 1945). The first atomic bomb was dropped by the United States on the largely civilian population of Hiroshima, killing some 70,000 people instantly and 140,000 people by the end of 1945. The bombing demonstrated the willingness of the US to use its new weapon of mass destruction on cities.

2 - Bombing Nagasaki (August 9, 1945). The second atomic bomb was dropped on the largely civilian population of Nagasaki before Japanese leaders had time to assess the death and injury caused by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima three days earlier. The atomic bombing of Nagasaki took another 70,000 lives by the end of 1945.

3 - Pursuing a unilateral nuclear arms race (1945 – 1949). The first nuclear weapon test was conducted by the US on July 16, 1945, just three weeks before the first use of an atomic weapon on Hiroshima. As the only nuclear-armed country in the world in the immediate aftermath of World War II, the US continued to expand its nuclear arsenal and began testing nuclear weapons in 1946 in the Marshall Islands, a trust territory the US was asked to administer on behalf of the United Nations. Altogether the US tested 67 nuclear weapons in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958, with the equivalent explosive power of 1.6 Hiroshima bombs daily for that 12-year period.

4 - Initiating Atoms for Peace (1953). President Dwight Eisenhower put forward an Atoms for Peace proposal in a speech delivered on December 8, 1953. This proposal opened the door to the spread of nuclear reactors and nuclear materials for purposes of research and power generation. This resulted in the later proliferation of nuclear weapons to additional countries, including Israel, South Africa, India, Pakistan and North Korea.

5 - Engaging in a Cold War bilateral nuclear arms race (1949 – 1991). The nuclear arms race became bilateral when the Soviet Union tested its first atomic weapon on August 29, 1949. This bilateral nuclear arms race between the US and USSR reached its apogee in 1986 with some 70,000 nuclear weapons in the world, enough to destroy civilization many times over and possibly result in the extinction of the human species.

6 - Atmospheric Nuclear Testing (1945 – 1980). Altogether there have been 528 atmospheric nuclear tests. The US, UK and USSR ceased atmospheric nuclear testing in 1963, when they signed the Partial Test Ban Treaty. France continued atmospheric nuclear testing until 1974 and China continued until 1980. Atmospheric nuclear testing has placed large amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere, causing cancers and leukemia in human populations.

7 - Breaching the disarmament provisions of the NPT (1968 – present). Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) states, “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament….”

The five nuclear weapons-states parties to the NPT (US, Russia, UK, France and China) remain in breach of these obligations. The other four nuclear-armed states (Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea) are in breach of these same obligations under customary international law.

8 - Treating nuclear power as an “inalienable right” in the NPT (1968 – present). This language of “inalienable right” contained in Article IV of the NPT encourages the development and spread of nuclear power plants and thereby makes the proliferation of nuclear weapons more likely. Nuclear power plants are also attractive targets for terrorists. As yet, there are no good plans for long-term storage of radioactive wastes created by these plants. Government subsidies for nuclear power plants also take needed funding away from the development of renewable energy sources.

9 - Failing to cut a deal with North Korea (1992 to present). During the Clinton administration, the US was close to a deal with North Korea to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons. This deal was never fully implemented and negotiations for it were abandoned under the George W. Bush administration. Consequently, North Korea withdrew from the NPT in 2003 and conducted its first nuclear weapon test in 2006.

10 - Abrogating the ABM Treaty (2002). Under the George W. Bush administration, the US unilaterally abrogated the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. This allowed the US, in combination with expanding NATO to the east, to place missile defense installations near the Russian border. It has also led to emplacement of US missile defenses in East Asia. Missile defenses in Europe and East Asia have spurred new nuclear arms races in these regions.

*David Krieger is a founder and president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org).

This essay was originally published June 18, 2016in IDN-InDepthNews: Analysis That Matters|, the flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Dorothy Day and the Deep Roots of Resistance

"They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation. Neither shall they learn war any more." Isaiah 2:4

Over a year ago, on April 28th 2015, I found myself standing before the Isaiah Wall, directly across the street from the United Nations building. It was 8:30 AM, and across the street delegates to the NPT Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference were entering the building as it began its second day.

April 28, 2015 at the Isaiah Wall

Police vans were pulling up and and New York's finest were making preparations for the expected onslaught of nuclear abolitionists who would soon arrive for the 9:30 vigil here and the subsequent nonviolent direct action at the US Mission to the United Nations just down the block.

The sun was shining and the tree in front of the Isaiah Wall was bursting with the beauty of Spring. In an instant all this could disappear in a blinding flash and, quite ironically, Isaiah's words just might remain while every living thing around it would be vaporized or incinerated, the shadows created from their ash etched into the stone surface.

The letters etched into the stone of the wall are a permanent reminder of the words of the prophet Isaiah who, like most prophets, have been ignored through the centuries by leaders of so many nations and those who follow them blindly into the endless madness of war.

Civil Defense sign above the Isaiah Wall
Yet many people have resisted and called humanity to something better. As I walked up the steps circling up by the wall I saw, at the top of the stairs, an icon of the Cold War - the days of duck and cover, of bomb shelters and mutually Assured Destruction. It was a faded, rusting fallout shelter sign over a nondescript door.

It was a stark reminder of my childhood, when students at my elementary school would walk from the school roughly a mile or two to the nearest official fallout shelter during the many Civil Defense drills held in those days.

It was also a reminder of Dorothy Day and other resisters who, during the Cold War, refused to enter the fallout shelters in New York during the drills, and were arrested for doing so. As today, the actions of Day and her co-conspirators were part of a small but significant witness against the nuclear arms race.

Dorothy Day (far right) and others seated on a park bench at Washington Square Park, New York City, on July 20, 1956, in protest of the mandatory "Operation Alert" civil defense drill. Police subsequently arrested them. (photo credit: Robert Lax)

At one of those early civil defense protests, the resisters shared a leaflet that read:
We will not obey this order to pretend, to evacuate, to hide. In view of the certain knowledge the administration of this country has that there is no defense in atomic warfare, we know this drill to be an act in a cold war to instill fear, to prepare the collective mind for war. (from a 1955 protest leaflet)
In much the same spirit participants in the more recent (April 28, 2015) action engaged in active resistance to the nuclear weapons policies of the US, and in the spirit of Dorothy Day and so many others, blocked the entrances to the US Mission to the United Nations, risking arrest for their actions. The name of the action was "SHADOWS AND ASHES: Direct Action for Nuclear Disarmament."

Resisters blocking the entrance to the US Mission to the United Nations on April 28, 2015 shortly before they were arrested.

Indeed, as in Day's time, all that would be left after a nuclear war today are shadows and ashes, and so we continue to resist the forces of madness with Isaiah's words etched on our hearts. If we keep on in this wonderful, long tradition long enough, perhaps one day the words of Isaiah will ring like a clarion call and we will truly beat our swords into plowshares and make war no more.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Calling on Obama to Take Concrete Action in Hiroshima

Editor's Note: President Obama will visit Hiroshima this Friday after the Group of Seven economic summit in Japan. This will be the first time a U.S. president has visited the city that was devastated in the atomic bombing of August 6, 1945.

At a time when the US is modernizing its nuclear forces at an estimated cost of a trillion dollars over thirty years, the President's visit to Hiroshima is an opportunity that will likely not come again. Yet many, such as American University Professor Peter Kuznick, are concerned that Obama will "use it as a cover for his militarization of the conflict with China and his trillion dollar nuclear modernization program to make nuclear weapons more usable."

Joseph Gerson, of the American Friends Service Committee, said, “President Obama should cancel this spending, revitalize disarmament diplomacy by announcing a reduction of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and challenge Russian President Putin to join in beginning negotiations to create the nuclear weapons-free world promised in Prague and required by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

Over seventy prominent scholars and activists signed the following letter urging President Obama to visit with Hibakusha, atomic bomb survivors, and to announce concrete steps toward nuclear disarmament during his visit to Hiroshima.

Whatever the President does and says in Hiroshima, his actions going forward toward the end of his term are what will count. He can take concrete steps to either end the new, rapidly escalating arms race or continue on the current path, one that will certainly come to no good end.


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May 23, 2016

President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, DC

Dear Mr. President,

We were happy to learn of your plans to be the first sitting president of the United States to visit Hiroshima later this week, after the G-7 economic summit in Japan. Many of us have been to Hiroshima and Nagasaki and found it a profound, life-changing experience, as did Secretary of State John Kerry on his recent visit.

In particular, meeting and hearing the personal stories of A-bomb survivors, Hibakusha, has made a unique impact on our work for global peace and disarmament. Learning of the suffering of the Hibakusha, but also their wisdom, their awe-inspiring sense of humanity, and steadfast advocacy of nuclear abolition so the horror they experienced can never happen again to other human beings, is a precious gift that cannot help but strengthen anyone’s resolve to dispose of the nuclear menace.

Your 2009 Prague speech calling for a world free of nuclear weapons inspired hope around the world, and the New START pact with Russia, historic nuclear agreement with Iran and securing and reducing stocks of nuclear weapons-grade material globally have been significant achievements.

Yet, with more than 15,000 nuclear weapons (93% held by the U.S. and Russia) still threatening all the peoples of the planet, much more needs to be done. We believe you can still offer crucial leadership in your remaining time in office to move more boldly toward a world without nuclear weapons.

In this light, we strongly urge you to honor your promise in Prague to work for a nuclear weapons-free world by:

• Meeting with all Hibakusha who are able to attend;

• Announcing the end of U.S. plans to spend $1 trillion for the new generation of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems;

• Reinvigorating nuclear disarmament negotiations to go beyond New START by announcing the unilateral reduction of the deployed U.S. arsenal to 1,000 nuclear weapons or fewer;

• Calling on Russia to join with the United States in convening the “good faith negotiations” required by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty for the complete elimination of the world’s nuclear arsenals;

• Reconsidering your refusal to apologize or discuss the history surrounding the A-bombings, which even President Eisenhower, Generals MacArthur, Arnold, and LeMay and Admirals Leahy , King, and Nimitz stated were not necessary to end the war.

Sincerely,

Gar Alperovitz, Co-Chair of The Next System Project, former Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political-Economy at the University of Maryland,

Christian Appy, Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Colin Archer, Secretary-General, International Peace Bureau

Charles K. Armstrong, Professor of History, Columbia University

Medea Benjamin, Co-founder, CODE PINK, Women for Peace and Global Exchange

Phyllis Bennis, Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies

Herbert Bix, Professor of History, State University of New York, Binghamton

Norman Birnbaum, University Professor Emeritus, Georgetown University Law Center

Reiner Braun, Co-President, International Peace Bureau

Philip Brenner, Professor of International Relations and Director of the Graduate Program in US Foreign Policy and National Security, American University

Jacqueline Cabasso, Executive Director, Western States Legal Foundation; National Co-convener, United for Peace and Justice

James Carroll, Author of An American Requiem

Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

David Cortright, Director of Policy Studies, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame and former Executive Director, SANE

Frank Costigliola, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor, University of Connecticut

Bruce Cumings, Professor of History, University of Chicago

Alexis Dudden, Professor of History, University of Connecticut

Daniel Ellsberg, Former State and Defense Department official

John Feffer, Director, Foreign Policy In Focus, Institute for Policy Studies

Gordon Fellman, Professor of Sociology and Peace Studies, Brandeis University.

Bill Fletcher, Jr., Talk Show Host, Writer & Activist.

Norma Field, Professor Emerita, University of Chicago

Carolyn Forché, University Professor, Georgetown University

Max Paul Friedman, Professor of History, American University.

Bruce Gagnon, Coordinator Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.

Lloyd Gardner, Professor of History Emeritus, Rutgers University.

Irene Gendzier Professor Emeritus, Department of of History, Boston University

Joseph Gerson, Director, American Friends Service Committee Peace & Economic Security Program,

Todd Gitlin, Professor of Sociology, Columbia University

Andrew Gordon, Professor of History, Harvard University

John Hallam, Human Survival Project, People for Nuclear Disarmament, Australia

Melvin Hardy, Heiwa Peace Committee, Washington, DC

Laura Hein, Professor of History, Northwestern University

Martin Hellman, Member, US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering, Stanford University

Kate Hudson, General Secretary, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (UK)

Paul Joseph, Professor of Sociology, Tufts University

Louis Kampf, Professor of Humanities Emeritus MIT

Michael Kazin, Professor of History, Georgetown University

Asaf Kfoury, Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science, Boston University.

G. Peter King, Honorary Associate, Government & International Relations School of Social and Political Sciences, The University of Sydney, NSW

David Krieger, President Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

Peter Kuznick, Professor of History and Director of the Nuclear Studies Institute, American University

John W. Lamperti, Professor of Mathematics Emeritus, Dartmouth College

Steven Leeper, Co-founder PEACE Institute, Former Chairman, Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation

Robert Jay Lifton, MD, Lecturer in Psychiatry Columbia University, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, The City University of New York

Elaine Tyler May, Regents Professor, University of Minnesota

Kevin Martin, President, Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund

Ray McGovern, Veterans For Peace, Former Head of CIA Soviet Desk and Presidential Daily Briefer

David McReynolds, Former Chair, War Resister International

Zia Mian, Professor, Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University

Tetsuo Najita, Professor of Japanese History, Emeritus, University of Chicago, former President of Association of Asian Studies

Sophie Quinn-Judge, Retired Professor, Center for Vietnamese Philosophy, Culture and Society, Temple University

Steve Rabson, Professor Emeritus of East Asian Studies, Brown University, Veteran, United States Army

Betty Reardon, Founding Director Emeritus of the International Institute on Peace Education, Teachers College, Columbia University

Terry Rockefeller, Founding Member, September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows,

David Rothauser Filmmaker, Memory Productions, Producer of "Hibakusha, Our Life to Live" and "Article 9 Comes to America

James C. Scott, Professor of Political Science and Anthropology, Yale University, ex-President of the Association of Asian Studies

Peter Dale Scott, Professor of English Emeritus, University of California, Berkleley

Mark Selden, Senior Research Associate Cornell University, editor, Asia-Pacific Journal,

Martin Sherwin, Professor of History, George Mason University

Tim Shorrock, Journalist, Washington DC.

John Steinbach, Hiroshima Nagasaki Committee

Oliver Stone, Academy Award-winning writer and director

David Swanson, director of World Beyond War

Max Tegmark, Professor of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Founder, Future of Life Institute

Ellen Thomas, Proposition One Campaign Executive Director, Co-Chair, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (US) Disarm/End Wars Issue Committee

Michael True, Emeritus Professor, Assumption College, is co-founder of the Center for Nonviolent Solutions

David Vine, Professor, Department of Sociology, American University

Alyn Ware, Global Coordinator, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament 2009 Laureate, Right Livelihood Award

Jon Weiner, Professor Emeritus of Histry, University of California Irvine

Lawrence Wittner, Professor of History Emeritus, SUNY/Albany

Col. Ann Wright, US Army Reserved (Ret.), former US diplomat

Marilyn Young, Professor of History, New York University

Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics; Coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies, University of San Francisco

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Trillion Dollar Question

By Lawrence Wittner*

Isn’t it rather odd that America’s largest single public expenditure scheduled for the coming decades
has received no attention in the 2015-2016 presidential debates?

The expenditure is for a thirty-year program to “modernize” the U.S. nuclear arsenal and production facilities. Although President Obama began his administration with a dramatic public commitment to build a nuclear weapons-free world, that commitment has long ago dwindled and died. It has been replaced by an administration plan to build a new generation of U.S. nuclear weapons and nuclear production facilities to last the nation well into the second half of the twenty-first century. This plan, which has been largely ignored by the mass media, includes redesigned nuclear warheads, as well as new nuclear bombers, submarines, land-based missiles, weapons labs, and production plants. The estimated cost? $1,000,000,000,000.00 — or, for those readers unfamiliar with such lofty figures, $1 trillion.

Critics charge that the expenditure of this staggering sum will either bankrupt the country or, at the least, require massive cutbacks in funding for other federal government programs. “We’re . . . wondering how the heck we’re going to pay for it,” admitted Brian McKeon, an undersecretary of defense. And we’re “probably thanking our stars we won’t be here to have to have to answer the question,” he added with a chuckle.

Of course, this nuclear “modernization” plan violates the terms of the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which requires the nuclear powers to engage in nuclear disarmament. The plan is also moving forward despite the fact that the U.S. government already possesses roughly 7,000 nuclear weapons that can easily destroy the world. Although climate change might end up accomplishing much the same thing, a nuclear war does have the advantage of terminating life on earth more rapidly.

This trillion dollar nuclear weapons buildup has yet to inspire any questions about it by the moderators during the numerous presidential debates. Even so, in the course of the campaign, the presidential candidates have begun to reveal their attitudes toward it.

On the Republican side, the candidates — despite their professed distaste for federal expenditures and “big government” — have been enthusiastic supporters of this great leap forward in the nuclear arms race. Donald Trump, the frontrunner, contended in his presidential announcement speech that “our nuclear arsenal doesn’t work,“ insisting that it is out of date. Although he didn’t mention the $1 trillion price tag for “modernization,” the program is clearly something he favors, especially given his campaign’s focus on building a U.S. military machine “so big, powerful, and strong that no one will mess with us.”

His Republican rivals have adopted a similar approach. Marco Rubio, asked while campaigning in Iowa about whether he supported the trillion dollar investment in new nuclear weapons, replied that “we have to have them. No country in the world faces the threats America faces.” When a peace activist questioned Ted Cruz on the campaign trail about whether he agreed with Ronald Reagan on the need to eliminate nuclear weapons, the Texas senator replied: “I think we’re a long way from that and, in the meantime, we need to be prepared to defend ourselves. The best way to avoid war is to be strong enough that no one wants to mess with the United States.” Apparently, Republican candidates are particularly worried about being “messed with.”

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has been more ambiguous about her stance toward a dramatic expansion of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Asked by a peace activist about the trillion dollar nuclear plan, she replied that she would “look into that,” adding: “It doesn’t make sense to me.” Even so, like other issues that the former secretary of state has promised to “look into,” this one remains unresolved. Moreover, the “National Security” section of her campaign website promises that she will maintain the “strongest military the world has ever known” — not a propitious sign for critics of nuclear weapons.

Only Bernie Sanders has adopted a position of outright rejection. In May 2015, shortly after declaring his candidacy, Sanders was asked at a public meeting about the trillion dollar nuclear weapons program. He replied: “What all of this is about is our national priorities. Who are we as a people? Does Congress listen to the military-industrial complex” that “has never seen a war that they didn’t like? Or do we listen to the people of this country who are hurting?” In fact, Sanders is one of only three U.S. Senators who support the SANE Act, legislation that would significantly reduce U.S. government spending on nuclear weapons. In addition, on the campaign trail, Sanders has not only called for cuts in spending on nuclear weapons, but has affirmed his support for their total abolition.

Nevertheless, given the failure of the presidential debate moderators to raise the issue of nuclear weapons “modernization,” the American people have been left largely uninformed about the candidates’ opinions on this subject. So, if Americans would like more light shed on their future president’s response to this enormously expensive surge in the nuclear arms race, it looks like they are the ones who are going to have to ask the candidates the trillion dollar question.

This article was originally published in the Huffington Post, March 17, 2016, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lawrence-wittner/the-trillion-dollar-question_b_9481432.html 

*Lawrence Wittner (http://www.lawrenceswittner.com) is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is a satirical novel about university corporatization and rebellion, What’s Going On at UAardvark?

Sunday, January 31, 2016

POLITICAL RESPONSIBILITY IN THE NUCLEAR AGE: AN OPEN LETTER TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE


Prefatory Note [by Richard Falk]: What follows below is An Open Letter to the American People: Political Responsibility in the Nuclear Age. It was jointly written by myself in collaboration with David Krieger and Robert Laney. The three of us have been long connected with the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. For further information on the work of the foundation see wagingpeace.org. The NAPF focuses its effort on the menace posed by nuclear weaponry and the urgency of seeking nuclear disarmament. The nuclear agreement with Iran and the North Korean nuclear test explosion are reminders of the gravity of the unmet challenge, and should serve as warnings against the persistence of complacency, which seems to be the prevailing political mood judging from the policy debates that have taken place during the early stages of the 2016 presidential campaign. This complacency is encouraged by the media that seems to have forgotten about nuclear dangers since the end of the Cold War, except for those issues arising from the real and feared proliferation of the weaponry to countries hostile to the United States and the West (Iran, North Korea). Our letter proceeds on the assumption that the core of the problem is associated with the possession, development, and deployment of the weaponry, that is, with the nine nuclear weapons states. The essence of a solution is to eliminate existing nuclear weapons arsenals through a phased, verified process of nuclear disarmament as legally mandated by Article VI of the Nonproliferation Treaty (1968, 1970).

We would be grateful if you could help us reach the widest possible audience through reposting and dissemination via social media networks.


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by Richard Falk, David Krieger and Robert Laney

Dear fellow citizens:

By their purported test of a hydrogen bomb early in 2016, North Korea reminded the world that nuclear dangers are not an abstraction, but a continuing menace that the governments and peoples of the world ignore at their peril. Even if the test were not of a hydrogen bomb but of a smaller atomic weapon, as many experts suggest, we are still reminded that we live in the Nuclear Age, an age in which accident, miscalculation, insanity or intention could lead to devastating nuclear catastrophe.

What is most notable about the Nuclear Age is that we humans, by our scientific and technological ingenuity, have created the means of our own demise. The world currently is confronted by many threats to human wellbeing, and even civilizational survival, but we focus here on the particular grave dangers posed by nuclear weapons and nuclear war.

Even a relatively small nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan, with each country using 50 Hiroshima-size nuclear weapons on the other side’s cities, could result in a nuclear famine killing some two billion of the most vulnerable people on the planet. A nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia could destroy civilization in a single afternoon and send temperatures on Earth plummeting into a new ice age. Such a war could destroy most complex life on the planet. Despite the gravity of such threats, they are being ignored, which is morally reprehensible and politically irresponsible.

We in the United States are in the midst of hotly contested campaigns to determine the candidates of both major political parties in the 2016 presidential faceoff, and yet none of the frontrunners for the nominations have even voiced concern about the nuclear war dangers we face. This is an appalling oversight. It reflects the underlying situation of denial and complacency that disconnects the American people as a whole from the risks of use of nuclear weapons in the years ahead. This menacing disconnect is reinforced by the media, which has failed to challenge the candidates on their approach to this apocalyptic weaponry during the debates and has ignored the issue in their television and print coverage, even to the extent of excluding voices that express concern from their opinion pages. We regard it as a matter of urgency to put these issues back on the radar screen of public awareness.

We are appalled that none of the candidates running for the highest office in the land has yet put forward any plans or strategy to end current threats of nuclear annihilation, none has challenged the planned expenditure of $1 trillion to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and none has made a point of the U.S. being in breach of its nuclear disarmament obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In the presidential debates it has been a non-issue, which scandalizes the candidates for not raising the issue in their many public speeches and the media for not challenging them for failing to do so. As a society, we are out of touch with the most frightening, yet after decades still dangerously mishandled, challenge to the future of humanity.

There are nine countries that currently possess nuclear weapons. Five of these nuclear-armed countries are parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (U.S., Russia, UK, France and China), and are obligated by that treaty to negotiate in good faith for a cessation of the nuclear arms race and for nuclear disarmament. The other four nuclear-armed countries (Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea) are subject to the same obligations under customary international law. None of the nine nuclear-armed countries has engaged in such negotiations, a reality that should be met with anger and frustration, and not, as is now the case, with indifference. It is not only the United States that is responsible for the current state of denial and indifference. Throughout the world there is a false confidence that, because the Cold War is over and no nuclear weapons have been used since 1945, the nuclear dangers that once frightened and concerned people can now be ignored.

Rather than fulfill their obligations for negotiated nuclear disarmament, the nine nuclear-armed countries all rely upon nuclear deterrence and are engaged in modernization programs that will keep their nuclear arsenals active through the 21st century and perhaps beyond. Unfortunately, nuclear deterrence does not actually provide security to countries with nuclear arsenals. Rather, it is a hypothesis about human behavior, which is unlikely to hold up over time. Nuclear deterrence has come close to failing on numerous occasions and would clearly be totally ineffective, or worse, against a terrorist group in possession of one or more nuclear weapons, which has no fear of retaliation and may actually welcome it. Further, as the world is now embarking on a renewed nuclear arms race, disturbingly reminiscent of the Cold War, rising risks of confrontations and crises between major states possessing nuclear weapons increase the possibility of use.

As citizens of a nuclear-armed country, we are also targets of nuclear weapons. John F. Kennedy saw clearly that “Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident, or miscalculation, or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.” What President Kennedy vividly expressed more than 50 years ago remains true today, and even more so as the weapons proliferate and as political extremist groups come closer to acquiring these terrible weapons.

Those with power and control over nuclear weapons could turn this planet, unique in all the universe in supporting life, into the charred remains of a Global Hiroshima. Should any political leader or government hold so much power? Should we be content to allow such power to rest in any hands at all?

It is time to end the nuclear weapons era. We are living on borrowed time. The U.S., as the world’s most powerful country, must play a leadership role in convening negotiations. For the U.S. to be effective in leading to achieve Nuclear Zero, U.S. citizens must awaken to the need to act and must press our government to act and encourage others elsewhere, especially in the other eight nuclear-armed countries, to press their governments to act as well. It is not enough to be apathetic, conformist, ignorant or in denial. We all must take action if we want to save humanity and other forms of life from nuclear catastrophe. In this spirit, we are at a stage where we need a robust global solidarity movement that is dedicated to raising awareness of the growing nuclear menace, and the urgent need to act nationally, regionally and globally to reverse the strong militarist currents that are pushing the world ever closer to the nuclear precipice.

Nuclear weapons are the most immediate threat to humanity, but they are not the only technology that could play and is playing havoc with the future of life. The scale of our technological impact on the environment (primarily fossil fuel extraction and use) is also resulting in global warming and climate chaos, with predicted rises in ocean levels and many other threats – ocean acidification, extreme weather, climate refugees and strife from drought – that will cause massive death and displacement of human and animal populations.

In addition to the technological threats to the human future, many people on the planet now suffer from hunger, disease, lack of shelter and lack of education. Every person on the planet has a right to adequate nutrition, health care, housing and education. It is deeply unjust to allow the rich to grow richer while the vast majority of humanity sinks into deeper poverty. It is immoral to spend our resources on modernizing weapons of mass annihilation while large numbers of people continue to suffer from the ravages of poverty.

Doing all we can to move the world to Nuclear Zero, while remaining responsive to other pressing dangers, is our best chance to ensure a benevolent future for our species and its natural surroundings. We can start by changing apathy to empathy, conformity to critical thinking, ignorance to wisdom, denial to recognition, and thought to action in responding to the threats posed by nuclear weapons and the technologies associated with global warming, as well as to the need to address present human suffering arising from war and poverty.

The richer countries are challenged by migrant flows of desperate people that number in the millions and by the realization that as many as a billion people on the planet are chronically hungry and another two billion are malnourished, resulting in widespread growth stunting among children and other maladies. While ridding the world of nuclear weaponry is our primary goal, we are mindful that the institution of war is responsible for chaos and massive casualties, and that we must also challenge the militarist mentality if we are ever to enjoy enduring peace and security on our planet.

The fate of our species is now being tested as never before. The question before us is whether humankind has the foresight and discipline necessary to forego some superfluous desires, mainly curtailing propensities for material luxuries and for domination of our fellow beings, thereby enabling all of us and succeeding generations to live lives worth living. Whether our species will rise to this challenge is uncertain, with current evidence not reassuring.

The time is short and what is at risk is civilization and every small and great thing that each of us loves and treasures on our planet.

The authors are affiliated with the Santa Barbara based Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

Vaya aquí para la versión española.

Original Source URL: https://www.wagingpeace.org/political-responsibility-in-the-nuclear-age-an-open-letter-to-the-american-people/