"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." — Elie Wiesel

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Criminality of Nuclear Deterrence


In 2010 the nations will come together at the United Nations to review the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), ratified by the United States in 1968. To sum up this noble, yet vastly imperfect document, countries with no nuclear weapons promised not to build them, while the existing nuclear weapons states made a promise to disarm "at an early date."

President Lyndon Johnson looking on as Secretary of State Dean Rusk prepares to sign the NPT, 1 July 1968. (Photo: Courtesy of Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library)

Neither the United States, nor the other members of the nuclear club made any serious commitments to their promise, and we have seen the results. Without a serious demonstration of the U.S. commitment to achieving significant disarmament progress by 2010, the NPT could collapse, opening the doors to uncontrolled global proliferation of nuclear weapons.

It will be up to the citizenry of all nations to hold our leaders accountable to disarmament and nonproliferation in the spirit (not the letter) of the NPT. As the only nation to have ever used nuclear weapons on another, the U.S. has a special, moral obligation to lead (by example) the way to a nuclear weapons-free world. More on this in blog posts to come.

We, as abolitionists, need to consider nuclear weapons from a number of perspectives, including the legal perspective. Francis A. Boyle, a lawyer, professor and expert in international law and human rights, recently wrote an essay on The Criminality of Nuclear Deterrence that focuses on the criminality of the threat of using nuclear weapons and the human right to anti-nuclear civil resistance. I highly recommend it to anyone who is serious about nuclear abolition.

"Anti-nuclear civil resistance is the right of every citizen of this planet for the nuclear threat, attacking as it does every core concept of human rights, calls for urgent and universal action for its prevention." These words were spoken (on February 3, 2009) by another legal scholar, Judge Christopher Weeramantry, former vice-president of the International Court of Justice, and winner of The Right Livelihood Award in 2007.

We must understand our rights before we can defend them.



Read Francis Boyle's article, The Criminality of Nuclear Deterrence, at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation's Website. Boyle also wrote a book by the same title, Criminality of Nuclear Deterrence: Could America's War on Terrorism Go Nuclear?, published in 2002.

Read Judge Weeramantry's presentation, The Trident and International Law: Scotland's Obligations, given at the Conference on Trident and International Law: Scotland's Obligations organized in Edinburgh by the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy, Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre and Trident Ploughshares on February 3, 2009

1 comment:

  1. Mutual Nuclear Deterrence is Civil Deterrence, Civilized Deterrence, Civilizing Deterrence