I woke up this morning at Jean's House of Prayer in Tacoma, Washington where I am helping prepare for the trial of the Disarm Now Plowshares 5 that begins today in U.S. District Court. As I looked out the window around 6:00AM I saw the bright lights of the Port of Tacoma, and wondered what it must have been like just before dawn on November 2, 2009 as the Disarm Now Plowshares 5 topped the hill overlooking the Strategic Weapons Facility, Pacific (SWFPAC), bathed in bright light, looking like the mythical Mordor in J.R. Tolkein's stories.
Mordor was a terrible, dark place, as is SWFPAC, which (along with the Trident nuclear submarines based at Bangor) contains enough nuclear weapons to end life as we know it on our small planet. Every step taken, whether by Plowshares activists like the Disarm Now Plowshares 5 or by our elected leaders to ratify treaties like New START are IMPORTANT.
Here is an important letter from past presidents of Physicians for Social Responsibility stressing the need to ratify the New START. Please read this and then take action to push the U.S. Senate to ratify New START now! And please hold the Disarm Now Plowshares 5 in your thoughts and prayers as they go on trial for attempting to do what all citizens are called to do - abolish these immoral and illegal nuclear weapons.
There will regular updates each day this week at the Disarm Now Plowshares Website and Blog.
The diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks this past week show a dangerously escalating nuclear confrontation in South Asia. This growing danger is one more reason why the US Senate should ratify new START without further delay.
Both US and British intelligence experts believe that Pakistan is rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal, which now numbers 70 to 90 bombs, despite increasing economic and political instability. India has 60-80 warheads in its nuclear arsenal. According to the leaked reports, Pakistan fears that it would be overwhelmed in a conventional war, and looks to establish nuclear superiority to offset India’s advantage in conventional weapons.
The leaked cables also describe an Indian contingency plan, code named Cold Start, to launch just the kind of conventional invasion the Pakistanis fear. While Cold Start is meant to be a purely non-nuclear attack, the Pakistani nuclear build up suggests that it is likely that any future conflict in South Asia would escalate to nuclear war.
A regional nuclear war in South Asia would be catastrophic for the whole world.
Recent climate studies have shown that if only 100 warheads were directed at urban areas, the resulting fire storms would inject upwards of five terragrams ( 5 million tons) of soot into the upper atmosphere. In a matter of days temperatures across the globe would drop an average of 1.3 degrees C., more than twice the warming that has occurred in the last 130 years. There would also be a major decline in rainfall worldwide. These changes would persist for nearly a decade.
While there are no detailed studies of the decline in food production that would result from these climate changes, there is reason to believe that it would be very significant. A cooling event caused by the Pinatubo volcano eruption in 1815 dropped global temperatures only .7 degrees, and the fall in temperature lasted only 1 year, but that was enough to cause widespread famine in Europe and Asia, and the “Year Without a Summer” here in New England when killing frosts throughout the summer devastated crops.
There are over one billion people in the world today who live on the brink of starvation, and global food stockpiles are perilously low. A study that we presented at the Royal Academy of Medicine in 2007 concludes that we have reason to fear that all of these people might starve to death in the event of a nuclear war in South Asia.
What has this to do with New START? Everything.
US efforts to limit nuclear proliferation have been hobbled by our own continued reliance on nuclear weapons despite our having the strongest conventional forces in the world.
New START does not eliminate our arsenal. The 1550 warheads we still retain are enough to destroy India, Pakistan, Iran, North Korea, China and Russia—and to kill most of the people on Earth in the process. But New START is an important next step in limiting the US and Russian arsenals, and it is essential to the improved relations with Russia necessary for us to work with the Russians to limit nuclear proliferation. Further it restores our ability to monitor Russia’s nuclear arsenal, an ability we lost when the original START expired just one year ago.
The treaty is seen as vital to US security by our entire military leadership and a veritable “Who’s Who” of Republican defense experts. The original START treaty received overwhelming bi-partisan support in 1992, passing 93-6. But today’s Senate Republicans are threatening to block this replacement treaty unless the Senate agrees to extend the Bush era tax cuts for people making more than $1 million a year.
Republicans, including Senator Gregg, need to stop playing partisan politics with our national security and support this treaty NOW.
John Pastore, MD
Ira Helfand, MD
The authors are past Presidents of Physicians for Social Responsibility, US Affiliate of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Recipient of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize
Contact: Ira Helfand, MD at email@example.com or 413 320 7829