"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, October 23, 2013

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate on the Arms Trade Treaty

From The New York Times Opinion Pages


Don't Arm Thy Neighbor


Published: October 23, 2013

SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica — I am not one of those who believe the United States’ days of world leadership are behind us. All my life I have been an admirer of our northern neighbor. I believe its strengths — its democracy, its founders’ wisdom, its people’s ingenuity and diversity — give it unique authority in the world. But many of its citizens and their leaders seem to take such authority for granted now, as if it were American property. The truth is, it must be earned, and today the United States is passing up opportunities to earn it.

The Arms Trade Treaty, approved by the United Nations in April, is one such opportunity, and it must not be allowed to slip by. Last month, Secretary of State John Kerry signed it. Given the enormous presence of the United States in the international arms market, the treaty’s ratification, which requires a vote of two-thirds of the Senate, is essential to its success.  

But the treaty will face stiff opposition. Two Republican Senators, James Inhofe and Jerry Moran, have gleefully pronounced the treaty “dead on arrival” and argue that the United States should not ratify it because North Korea, Syria and Iran declined to sign it. To do otherwise, they assert, would leave the United States “handcuffed.”

Oscar Arias Sanchez
Gentlemen, you have it backward. The United States would not be handcuffed by a treaty that prevents the sale of conventional weapons to individuals or states that would use them to violate human rights. If the Senate fails to ratify the treaty, your country will be handcuffed by its own reluctance to lead. The United States, which claims to desire a safer, more peaceful world, would shrink from moving toward that goal unless the rest of the world acted first.

Yours is the country that stood alone in the world’s first and only use of nuclear weapons; the country that stood nearly alone in invading Iraq; the country that seemed ready to stand alone at the brink of unilateral action against Syria.

So why should it be afraid to lead in matters of peace? One reason, clearly, is the extraordinary influence of the National Rifle Association over U.S. elected officials. I have rarely spoken out about the N.R.A., since I believe its position on gun control within the United States is for the American people and government to resolve. But I have campaigned for a treaty to control the international arms trade since the mid-1990s, after Costa Rica, having abolished its own army decades before, witnessed the carnage caused by unrestricted armies’ sales to other nations of Central America.

In opposing the Arms Trade Treaty, the N.R.A. now seeks to impose its agenda on the rest of the world, and I can no longer be silent. Its reckless argument that the treaty violates U.S. sovereignty is simply without any basis in fact. It is shameful to think that any definition of national sovereignty could include a right to sell arms for the violation of human rights in other countries.

To the N.R.A., I say: Inflict your agenda on your own nation if you must, but spare the rest of us. Spare us the notion that the interests of a single interest group, in a single nation, should trump the rights of all other nations to protect their citizens. Spare us your misguided references to a Constitution whose brilliant authors would be aghast to see you equate the right to put a rifle in your gun case with the right to put an AK-47 in the hands of a child soldier.

You should, instead, read the treaty with the seriousness it deserves. You would see that it supports the very causes you endorse: the safety of all citizens, and freedom from fear and oppression.

Ratification would also support a renaissance of U.S. leadership on the world stage. Your country is responsible for nearly half of the world’s outrageous $1.7 trillion military spending, and home to the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear weapons. It has unparalleled economic power to attack the root causes of terrorism and unrest by fostering human development, regulating the arms flow to terrorists and dictators, and pursuing the dream of a world without nuclear weapons. But America keeps waiting for someone else to make the first move.

If leadership toward these goals does not come from Washington, only the most arrogant American could think it would never come from somewhere else.

Óscar Arias Sánchez, a former president of Costa Rica, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987.


Editor's Note:  Paragraphs in BOLD font are my emphasis only.

Source URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/24/opinion/international/dont-arm-thy-neighbor.html?_r=0

Friday, October 4, 2013

Behold Your Nuclear God


Tom Krebsbach wrote the following poem on Monday, August 12, 2013, following his participation in Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action's weekend of remembrance and action (at the Bangor Trident nuclear submarine base) around the anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  

Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor represents the largest operational concentration of nuclear weapons in the US arsenal, and possibly anywhere in the world.  The nuclear missiles and warheads on a single Trident submarine are capable of destroying an entire continent - incinerating millions of human beings and leaving the land uninhabitable for generations.

A new book by Eric Schlosser, "Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety", poses questions about just how much "command" or "control" we have over these awesome and horrific tools of terror that are quite capable of ending life as we know it on this small planet.  Tom's poem turns the idea of command and control of nuclear weapons on its head, making clear the Faustian bargain humans have struck in our delusional power quest.

So much for "command and control" of nuclear weapons... in reality, they have controlled us since their creation in the minds of the scientists who developed them. Can we summon the strength and courage to turn away from them and embrace life?

With Tom's permission I am sharing his poem publicly for the first time.

In Peace,



Behold Your Nuclear God

Oh, foolish Homo sapiens, earth’s mistaken child,
In your puerile quest for indomitable power,
You have acted the obeisant midwife in my momentous birth,
Carefully hewing my cradle in the cauldron of ruthless war and strife,
Unleashing my fearsome powers to ravage and decimate earth. 

Bow down now before me and celebrate my awesome power,
For I am omnipotent and in charge.
I grow giddy with destruction fever as my time draws near,
When I shall consume all earthly existence in a fearsome ball of fire,
And render once and for all earthly life extinct. 

In fits of farcical delusion, you maintain that you are king,
Quite capable of restraining the primal powers I derive from sun and stars.
Continue on, foolish knaves, in your supreme complacency and unbridled arrogance!
Your very lust for unlimited power and defensive safety guarantee my ascendancy,
As I wait the fateful moment when I shall extend control over all of heaven and earth.

When that moment arrives in the devil’s hearse, there will be no turning back,
As all of life on earth tumbles into the fiery pits of hell. 
At this moment I will bite off man’s head like a voracious beast,
And sear the flesh of man and animal to a crisp and charred texture.
My apocalyptic frenzy of fire will cause Lucifer to bow down in envy before me. 

The structures and edifices of man will perish in a cloud of dust and twisted steel;
The seas will roil with the hot poison of radioactivity;
Children of man will vaporize into a cloud of radioactive dust;
And I will ascend my throne as man’s sole surviving heir,
The conception of his twisted mind, a product of his deviant progress. 

Gone for eternity, Beethoven’s music.  
My music is the moan of hot wind over charred and desolate plains.
Reduced to irrelevant ash, Rembrandt’s paintings. 
I paint a bleak and haunted landscape of blackened tree remains, 
Single black silhouettes against a gray and ominous sky.

Even now my human minions prepare the day of my ascendancy,
Stockpiling and upgrading my nuclear fuel to ludicrous extremes,
Assuring my day of coronation is near at hand,
When the short existence of man and life on earth will become irrelevant in the cosmic chaos, 
And I will rule on earth for evermore. 

Homo sapiens, bow down now before your only god.