Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

The movement to abolish nuclear weapons 1946 to 2018

ICAN  wants to stigmatize nuclear weapons, portraying them as inherently immoral and in violation of international law, not symbols of power or guarantors of national security. In July, 2017, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, sponsored by ican, was endorsed by a hundred and twenty-two of the hundred and ninety-three countries in the United Nations. The treaty will attain legal force after being signed and ratified by fifty. It forbids the testing, development, production, acquisition, manufacture, and possession of nuclear weapons. Last November, Pope Francis backed the treaty, altering the Catholic Church’s position on nuclear weapons. 

I  hope the spirit now animating the demonstrations against gun violence will soon offer resistance to the greatest possible form of organized violence. As government officials in Washington, Moscow, London, Paris, Beijing, New Delhi, Islamabad, Tel Aviv, and Pyongyang discuss how to update and improve their arsenals, the madness at the heart of the whole enterprise must be loudly asserted. How much is enough? The only rational answer: even one nuclear weapon is one too many.

The Growing Dangers of the New Nuclear-Arms Race,  The Trump Administration’s push for more nuclear weapons is part of a perilous global drive to miniaturize and modernize devices that already promise annihilation. New Yorker, By Eric Schlosser, 24 May 18, “…………The movement to abolish nuclear weapons began soon after the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In January, 1946, the first resolution of the United Nations General Assembly called for “the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons,” and during the Cold War every American President supported that goal, with varying degrees of sincerity. On September 25, 1961, addressing the U.N. General Assembly, President Kennedy gave perhaps the most eloquent speech on behalf of abolition. “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 madness,” he said. “The risks inherent in disarmament pale in comparison to the risks inherent in an unlimited arms race.”

That week, Kennedy also secretly met with military advisers at the White House to discuss the pros and cons of launching a nuclear surprise attack on the Soviet Union. American and Soviet troops were confronting each other in Berlin, and a war between the superpowers seemed possible. Kennedy wanted to hear the benefits of striking first. ……..

Kennedy wrestled with the dilemma, decided not to launch a surprise attack, and made his feelings clear at the U.N.: “Together we shall save our planet, or together we shall perish in its flames.”

……… nuclear weapons have regained their sinister allure. North Korea has repeatedly threatened to launch a nuclear attack on the United States, producing elaborate videos that show the destruction of the White House and the U.S. Capitol. During a speech by the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, in March, computer animations projected on a large screen  behind him showed Russian nuclear warheads descending over the state of Florida, perhaps aimed at Mar-a-Lago. And President Trump has delivered the sorts of nuclear threats that only Soviet leaders used to make, promising to unleash “fire and fury” and boasting about the size of his “button.” Nuclear weapons are once again being depicted as good, valuable things, the measure of national status and strength. The current arms race between the United States and Russia betrays the same assumptions as the last one: that new weapons will be better, and that technological innovations can overcome the nuclear threat. It’s a familiar delusion.

William Perry, who’s been involved in nuclear matters for more than half a century, believes that the risk of a nuclear catastrophe is greater today than it was at any time during the Cold War. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, unfortunately, agrees with him, and in January moved the hand of its Doomsday Clock to two minutes before midnight. The Cold War arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union has been replaced by a multipolar nuclear competition, with far more volatile dynamics. Russia faces possible nuclear attacks by the United States, China, France, and the United Kingdom. India must worry about China and Pakistan. China must deter the United States, India, and Russia. North Korea feels threatened by the United States, while some politicians in Japan and South Korea advocate developing their own nuclear weapons to counter those of North Korea. Nuclear terrorism poses a global threat. And everyone, it seems, hates the United States.

Moreover, the aftermath of a nuclear war may be even more dire than anything anticipated during the Cold War. In the nineteen-eighties, the astronomer Carl Sagan brought public attention to the danger of “nuclear winter,” a sudden and extreme form of climate change that would be precipitated by the dust and debris rising into the atmosphere as mushroom clouds from obliterated cities. The latest studies suggest that a relatively small nuclear exchange would have long-term effects across the globe.

A war between India and Pakistan, involving a hundred atomic bombs like the kind dropped on Hiroshima, could send five million tons of dust into the atmosphere, shrink the ozone layer by as much as fifty per cent, drop worldwide temperatures to their lowest point in a thousand years, create worldwide famines, and cause more than a billion casualties. An all-out war between the United States and Russia would have atmospheric effects that are vastly worse.

The fact that launching a nuclear attack would be suicidal as well as genocidal hasn’t put an end to nuclear-war planning.  Nor does the prospect of Armageddon loom as an effective deterrent. Some religious fanatics celebrate the slaughter of civilians and have no reluctance to die for their gods, while leaders like Syria’s Bashar al-Assad have been willing to use banned chemical weapons and bring on the destruction of their own countries rather than surrender power. An eagerness to embrace death undermines the logic of nuclear deterrence, while a determination to kill may perversely uphold it. In a recent documentary, Putin said that his country would only use its nuclear weapons in retaliation—and that he wouldn’t hesitate to use them. “Why do we need a world,” he asked, “if Russia ceases to exist?”

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons was formed in 2007. It seeks to reframe public attitudes toward nuclear weapons and gain ratification of an international treaty banning them. ican contends that the same rationale used to outlaw chemical weapons, biological weapons, land mines, and cluster munitions—their cruel, indiscriminate harm to civilians—should be applied to the deadliest weapons of all. According to the World Health Organization, no nation has the medical facilities or emergency-response capability to deal with the detonation of a single nuclear weapon in a city, let alone hundreds. After a nuclear blast, as in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, survivors would have to fend for themselves.

ican wants to stigmatize nuclear weapons, portraying them as inherently immoral and in violation of international law, not symbols of power or guarantors of national security. In July, 2017, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, sponsored by ican, was endorsed by a hundred and twenty-two of the hundred and ninety-three countries in the United Nations. The treaty will attain legal force after being signed and ratified by fifty. It forbids the testing, development, production, acquisition, manufacture, and possession of nuclear weapons. Last November, Pope Francis backed the treaty, altering the Catholic Church’s position on nuclear weapons;

the Vatican had long opposed their use in war and advocated nuclear disarmament, but recognized their value in deterring war. Francis called nuclear weapons “senseless from even a tactical standpoint,” criticized their “catastrophic humanitarian and environmental effects,” and “firmly condemned” any possession of them.

A month later, the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to ican—an impressive achievement for an organization with only three full-time employees and a part-time office temp. ican’s success has been driven by thousands of idealistic volunteers who are mainly in their twenties and thirties. During her Nobel lecture, Beatrice Fihn, the group’s executive director, a young and charismatic Swede, challenged the complacency of world leaders. “It is not irrational to think nuclear states can disarm,” she said. “It is a necessity.”

The Trump Administration and the eight other governments that have nuclear weapons vehemently disagree on a wide range of issues, but they are united in opposition to ican’s treaty. They argue that it is poorly conceived, unverifiable, unenforceable, unrealistic, and an invitation to nuclear blackmail. “This treaty will not make the world more peaceful, will not result in the elimination of a single nuclear weapon, and will not enhance any state’s security,” the State Department said in a statement after the group won the Nobel Peace Prize. The United States, France, and the United Kingdom declined to send a representative to the award ceremony, as a protest against the winner.

Thirty-five years after President Reagan promised an American missile-defense system that would somehow blast dozens of nuclear-warhead-tipped missiles from the skies, his dream remains unfulfilled.    Pursuing it, at a cost of close to two hundred billion dollars, has only pushed other nations to modernize their nuclear arsenals. The exotic weapons recently announced by Putin—long-distance undersea drones with nuclear warheads, nuclear-powered cruise missiles that can circle the globe—aren’t necessary to evade a missile defense system. A hydrogen bomb hidden in a forty-foot sailboat can do that. Nuclear wars remain unwinnable, despite fantasies to the contrary. During the last two tests of American interceptors, the missile-defense system failed to destroy a single missile launched, even when it knew the trajectory.

The many grievances between the United States and Russia are serious. They include the expansion of nato to the Russian border; American withdrawal from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty; Russia’s invasion of Georgia, seizure of Crimea, and attack on eastern Ukraine; hostile propaganda; cyberwarfare; and meddling in elections. But they hardly justify killing billions of civilians. During a telephone call between Trump and Putin on March 20th, the two discussed resuming arms-control talks. If the two countries, which possess nine-tenths of the world’s nuclear weapons, can agree to make significant cuts in their arsenals, the other nuclear powers can be pressured to do the same. And if a meeting between Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, ever occurs, Kim should be told that having nuclear weapons, for a wide variety of reasons, makes the destruction of his country more likely.

The abolition of nuclear weapons will require unprecedented trust between nations, a strict inspection regime, and severe punishments against any country that cheats. Until the day when those things are possible, greatly reducing the number of nuclear weapons, taking ballistic missiles off of alert, and abandoning high-risk strategies will make the world a much safer place. None of that will happen until people are willing to confront the threat. “Yet in spite of the immeasurable importance of nuclear weapons, the world has declined, on the whole, to think about them very much,” Jonathan Schell wrote in “The Fate of the Earth,” which was published in The New Yorker thirty-six years ago. “This peculiar failure of response, in which hundreds of millions of people acknowledge the presence of an immediate, unremitting threat to their existence and to the existence of the world they live in—but do nothing about it . . . has itself been such a striking phenomenon that it has to be regarded as an extremely important part of the nuclear predicament.”

Since the publication of my book “Command and Control,” in 2013, I’ve gotten to know the young leadership of the nascent anti-nuclear movement, spoken at ican gatherings, joined the board of the Ploughshares Fund (a foundation dedicated to reducing the nuclear threat), and received financial support for some of my work from the Nuclear Threat Initiative. I have also met with many of the top officials at our nuclear-weapon laboratories, with the leadership of the National Nuclear Security Administration (the civilian agency in charge of our nuclear weapons), and with the commanding officers at the Air Force Global Strike Command, the unit responsible for our intercontinental ballistic missiles and strategic bombers. What these disparate groups share is a strong and sincere desire to avoid a nuclear war. But they don’t agree about the best way to do that.

I  hope the spirit now animating the demonstrations against gun violence will soon offer resistance to the greatest possible form of organized violence. As government officials in Washington, Moscow, London, Paris, Beijing, New Delhi, Islamabad, Tel Aviv, and Pyongyang discuss how to update and improve their arsenals, the madness at the heart of the whole enterprise must be loudly asserted. How much is enough? The only rational answer: even one nuclear weapon is one too many.

 

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May 25, 2018 - Posted by | General News

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