Quotable

Hope for the Earth lies not with leaders, but in your own heart and soul. If you decide to save the Earth, it will be saved. Each person can be as powerful as the most powerful person who ever lived--and that is you, if you love this planet. - Dr. Helen Caldicott. From the book Speaking of Peace: Quotations to Inspire Action, published by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation




Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Astana Vision: From а Radioactive Haze to a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World

Editor's Note: I recently participated in the international conference in Astatna, Kazakhstan - Building a Nuclear Weapon-Free World. The conference included parliamentarians, mayors, religious leaders, government representatives and disarmament experts, and was held in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the closing the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site.

Kazakhstan's leadership toward a nuclear weapon-free world has, until now, gone largely unnoticed. In addition to closing the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in 1991 and subsequently decommissioning it, Kazakhstan also relinquished its entire nuclear arsenal (then the fourth largest in the world) to Russia. These were unarguably the most significant acts in the history of nuclear disarmament, and were the first significant acts toward that end. 

It has been under the leadership of President Nursultan Nazarbayev that Kazakhstan has moved away from nuclear weapons, and today he continues to lead the way, calling for a new paradigm of collective security for all nations.

The conference just held adopted the following declaration, which sets a direction for disarmament and calls on governments to take specific steps toward a nuclear weapon-free world. This is the full text of the declaration, The Astana Vision: From а Radioactive Haze to a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World, adopted August 29, 2016.
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Declaration
The Astana Vision:
From а Radioactive Haze to a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World
Adopted in Astana, August 29, 2016
at an international conference ‘Building a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World’
co-hosted by the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan and Parliamentarians for Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation



On 29 August 1991, precisely 25 years ago, President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, with the support of a popular movement of civil society against nuclear tests, closed down the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, the first such step in the world history of disarmament. 
The 456 nuclear weapons explosions conducted by the Soviet Union at the Semipalatinsk test site in eastern Kazakhstan have created a catastrophic impact on human health and environment, for current and future generations. The legacy from the nuclear tests around the world, including the Pacific, Asia, North Africa and North America, and the experience of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the risks of nuclear-weapons-use by accident, miscalculation or design - establish a global imperative to abolish these weapons. 
We commend the leadership of President Nazarbayev and the people of Kazakhstan for voluntarily renouncing the world’s fourth largest nuclear arsenal, joining the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), achieving a Central Asian Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone, launching The ATOM Project to educate the world about dangers and long-term consequences of nuclear tests, moving the United Nations to establish August 29 as the International Day Against Nuclear Tests, initiating a Universal Declaration for a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World adopted by the United Nations in 2015, and advancing a Manifesto “The World. The 21st Century” to end the scourge of war.
We support the ambition expressed in the Manifesto that a nuclear-weapons-free world should be the main goal of humanity in the 21st century, and that this should be achieved no later than the 100th anniversary of the United Nations in 2045.
We commend world leaders for taking action, through the series of Nuclear Security Summits and other international action, to prevent nuclear weapons or their components from falling into the hands of terrorists. However, world leaders should join President Nazarbayev in placing a similar high priority on nuclear disarmament. 
We deplore the continued testing of nuclear weapons by the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea, and we express concern at the continuing modernization of nuclear weapons by all nuclear-armed States. With tensions growing among these states, an accidental or intentional military incident could send the world spiraling into a disastrous nuclear confrontation.
We recognize the special responsibility of the legislatures and legislators around the world for further advancement of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament at the global level and for the adoption of relevant legislation.
We congratulate Kazakhstan on the country’s election as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for 2017-2018. We are confident that Kazakhstan will work closely with other Security Council members to prevent nuclear proliferation and advance the peace and security of a nuclear-weapon-free world.
We support the initiative put forward at this conference for President Nazarbayev to establish an international prize for outstanding contribution to nuclear disarmament and the achievement of a nuclear weapon free world, and the announcement of the Astana Peace Summit in 2016. 
We welcome the progress made in the Open Ended Working Group on Taking Forward Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament Negotiations, and we urge governments around the world to do more.
We - as legislators, religious leaders, representatives of international organisations, academics, scientists, medical professionals, lawyers, youth and other representatives of civil society - specifically call on governments to:
  1. Sign and Ratify the CTBT, in particular the nuclear armed States, if they have not already done so, noting the symbolism of this conference taking place on the 25th anniversary of the closure of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site and the 20th anniversary of the opening for signing of the CTBT;
  2. Initiate negotiations and substantive discussions in accordance with the adopted 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Plan of Action, and the universal obligation to negotiate for complete nuclear disarmament affirmed by the International Court of Justice in 1996;
  3. Establish a Middle East Zone free from Nuclear Weapons and other Weapons of Mass Destruction as agreed at the 1995 Review and Extension Conference, and call upon the United Nations Secretary-General to advance this mandate; and establish additional nuclear-weapon-free zones, such as in North East Asia, Europe and the Arctic;
  4. Reduce the risks of nuclear-weapons-use by taking all nuclear forces off high-operational readiness, adopting no-first-use policies and refraining from any threats to use nuclear weapons;
  5. Fully implement their treaty and customary law obligations to achieve zero nuclear weapons;
  6. Commence multilateral negotiations in 2017 to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons;
  7. Support interim measures by the UN Security Council regarding nuclear disarmament, including to prohibit nuclear tests and nuclear targeting of populated areas;
  8. Further develop the methods and mechanisms for verifying and enforcing global nuclear disarmament, including through participation in the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification; 
  9. Eliminate the reliance on nuclear deterrence in security doctrines, and instead resolve international conflicts through diplomacy, law, regional mechanisms, the United Nations and other peaceful means;
  10. Call on all nuclear weapon states to undertake deep cuts to their nuclear weapons stockpiles with the aim to completely eliminate them as soon as possible, but definitely no later than the 100th anniversary of the United Nations.
We are ready to support and cooperate with governments to abolish nuclear weapons. The cooperation between different constituents at this international event provides a platform for building the global movement to achieve nuclear disarmament.
Deeply concerned for the future of all humanity, and encouraged by the example of Kazakhstan in the field of nuclear disarmament we affirm the possibility and necessity to achieve the peace and security of a nuclear-weapon-free world in our lifetimes.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Isn’t It Time to Ban the Bomb?

By Lawrence S. Wittner*
Although the mass media failed to report it, a landmark event occurred recently in connection with resolving the long-discussed problem of what to do about nuclear weapons.  On August 19, 2016, a UN committee, the innocuously-named Open-Ended Working Group, voted to recommend to the UN General Assembly that it mandate the opening of negotiations in 2017 on a treaty to ban them.
For most people, this recommendation makes a lot of sense.  Nuclear weapons are the most destructive devices ever created.  If they are used―as two of them were used in 1945 to annihilate the populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki―the more than 15,000 nuclear weapons currently in existence would destroy the world.  Given their enormous blast, fire, and radioactivity, their explosion would bring an end to virtually all life on earth.  The few human survivors would be left to wander, slowly and painfully, in a charred, radioactive wasteland.  Even the explosion of a small number of nuclear weapons through war, terrorism, or accident would constitute a catastrophe of unprecedented magnitude.
Every President of the United States since 1945, from Harry Truman to Barack Obama, has warned the world of the horrors of nuclear war.  Even Ronald Reagan―perhaps the most military-minded among them―declared again and again:  “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”
Fortunately, there is no technical problem in disposing of nuclear weapons.  Through negotiated treaties and unilateral action, nuclear disarmament, with verification, has already taken place quite successfully, eliminating roughly 55,000 nuclear weapons of the 70,000 in existence at the height of the Cold War.



Also, the world’s other agents of mass destruction, biological and chemical weapons, have already been banned by international agreements.
Naturally, then, most people think that creating a nuclear weapons-free world is a good idea.  A 2008 poll in 21 nations around the globe found that 76 percent of respondents favored an international agreement for the elimination of all nuclear weapons and only 16 percent opposed it.  This included 77 percent of the respondents in the United States. 
But government officials from the nine nuclear-armed nations are inclined to view nuclear weapons―or at least their nuclear weapons―quite differently.  For centuries, competing nations have leaned heavily upon military might to secure what they consider their “national interests.”  Not surprisingly, then, national leaders have gravitated toward developing powerful military forces, armed with the most powerful weaponry.  The fact that, with the advent of nuclear weapons, this traditional behavior has become counter-productive has only begun to penetrate their consciousness, usually helped along on such occasions by massive public pressure. 
Consequently, officials of the superpowers and assorted wannabes, while paying lip service to nuclear disarmament, continue to regard it as a risky project.  They are much more comfortable with maintaining nuclear arsenals and preparing for nuclear war.  Thus, by signing the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty of 1968, officials from the nuclear powers pledged to “pursue negotiations in good faith on . . . a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”  And today, nearly a half-century later, they have yet to begin negotiations on such a treaty.  Instead, they are currently launching yet another round in the nuclear arms race.  The U.S. government alone is planning to spend $1 trillion over the next 30 years to refurbish its entire nuclear weapons production complex, as well as to build new air-, sea-, and ground-launched nuclear weapons.
Of course, this enormous expenditure―plus the ongoing danger of nuclear disaster―could provide statesmen with a powerful incentive to end 71 years of playing with their doomsday weapons and, instead, get down to the business of finally ending the grim prospect of nuclear annihilation.  In short, they could follow the lead of the UN committee and actually negotiate a ban on nuclear weapons as the first step toward abolishing them.
But, to judge from what happened in the UN Open-Ended Working Group, a negotiated nuclear weapons ban is not likely to occur.  Uneasy about what might emerge from the committee’s deliberations, the nuclear powers pointedly boycotted them.  Moreover, the final vote in that committee on pursuing negotiations for a ban was 68 in favor and 22 opposed, with 13 abstentions.  The strong majority in favor of negotiations was comprised of African, Latin American, Caribbean, Southeast Asian, and Pacific nations, with several European nations joining them.  The minority came primarily from nations under the nuclear umbrellas of the superpowers.  Consequently, the same split seems likely to occur in the UN General Assembly, where the nuclear powers will do everything possible to head off UN action.
Overall, then, there is a growing division between the nuclear powers and their dependent allies, on the one hand, and a larger group of nations, fed up with the repeated evasions of the nuclear powers in dealing with the nuclear disaster that threatens to engulf the world.  In this contest, the nuclear powers have the advantage, for, when all is said and done, they have the option of clinging to their nuclear weapons, even if that means ignoring a treaty adopted by a clear majority of nations around the world.  Only an unusually firm stand by the non-nuclear nations, coupled with an uprising by an aroused public, seems likely to awaken the officials of the nuclear powers from their long sleepwalk toward catastrophe.
*Dr. Lawrence Wittner (http://www.lawrenceswittner.com) is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany.  He wrote Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament MovementHis latest book is a satirical novel about university corporatization and rebellion, What’s Going On at UAardvark?


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Be Part of the CHAIN REACTION 2016!

There are roughly 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world. The only safe number is ZERO! Now is the time to break free of nuclear weapons. We need a huge groundswell of global citizen support and action to put pressure on the nuclear weapon states to assume their responsibility to disarm. CHAIN REACTION 2016 is an effort to help make this happen.

WHAT is CHAIN REACTION 2016?

A nuclear bomb destroys through an uncontrollable chain reaction of atoms being split in two. There are over 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world’s arsenals – ready to destroy the world.

From July to October 2016, civil society around the world is acting in a Chain Reaction of peace to highlight the immorality and insecurity of nuclear weapons, to oppose the institutions and policies perpetuating the nuclear arms race, and to support nuclear disarmament actions by governments and the United Nations.

This action is engaging youth, environmentalists, parliamentarians, mayors, religious leaders, human rights activists and other representatives of civil society.

Chain Reaction is facilitated by UNFOLD ZERO and the Basel Peace Office.

WHEN is CHAIN REACTION 2016?

The period July 8 – October 2 takes in a number of key anniversaries and international commemorative days.

It includes dates such as the International Day Against Nuclear Tests, International Day of Peace and the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

GET INVOLVED in CHAIN REACTION 2016

Organize your own event or participate in one of the many events happening between now and October.

Learn more and get involved at unfoldzero.org.

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.