In Feature Articles, Nuclear war

Introduction by New Cold, July 11, 2017

Underwater ‘Baker’ nuclear explosion of July 25, 1946 on Bikini Island, photo taken from 5.6 km away (Wikipedia)

There appears to be a paucity in English-language alternative media in reporting and analyzing the historic vote at the United Nations General Assembly on July 7, 2017 in support of an international treaty to ban the production and possession of nuclear weapons. Enclosed below are two articles from Common Dreams reporting on the vote.

There are four important matters absent from the analysis in Common Dreams and in other reports published to date:

  1. Once it successfully tested its first nuclear weapon in 1949, the Soviet Union strove for agreement with the United States to abolish the weapon. The United States refused.
  2. What followed were a series of international treaties to limit the production, proliferation and use of the weapons. See listed in the appendix here below the three most important of those treaties.
  3. During the Obama presidency, the United States began a program of ‘modernization’ of nuclear weapons at projected cost of more than a trillion dollars. This continues under President Trump. France and Britain have also announced their own ‘modernizations’.
  4. Parallel to the U.S. weapons ‘modernization’ of warhead design and production, U.S. arms manufacturers are researching and testing new missile delivery technology, specifically that of ‘hypersonic’ missiles. See: The end of nuclear deterrence? The U.S. hypersonic missile program, news compilation on New Cold, Feb 12, 2015.

Taking all the above together, it is inaccurate and simplistic to portray present-day Russia as equally culpable as the United States for the nuclear weapons danger in the world. Furthermore, the military and political interventions by the NATO military alliance in recent years in eastern European countries directed against Russia only add to the evidence that it is the United States, not Russia, that is escalating the nuclear war danger in the world.

The full text of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is here, as it appears on the website of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). A pdf-format text of the treaty is here: Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, July 2017. The voting record of countries at the General Assembly on July 7, 2017 is here; a pdf-format of the text is here:  Voting record at UN General Assembly, Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, July 7, 2017.

A nuclear weapons ban treaty—Rx for survival

By Robert Dodge, Common Dreams, July 8, 2017

Nuclear weapons have threatened humanity for 72 years ultiately becoming the greatest eminent threat to our survival. This past Friday, July 7, nuclear weapons at long last joined the ranks of other weapons of mass destruction including biologic and chemical weapons, landmines and cluster munitions in being banned and declared illegal under international treaty law.

Read also: UN General Assembly votes on July 7, 2017 to abolish nuclear weapons, news compilation on New Cold, July 7, 2017

“The adopted Treaty bans nuclear weapons and establishes a framework to mount an effective legal, political, economic, and social challenge to the concept, policies, and practices of nuclear ‘deterrence’ and to the existence of nuclear weapons themselves in order to eliminate them and all related programs.”

The U.N. adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Under Article 6 of the Treaty, states are prohibited from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, acquiring, possessing, stockpiling, transferring, deploying, stationing, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons, under any circumstances. It also makes it illegal to assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a state party under this treaty, extending the prohibitions to non-state actors as well.

While nuclear weapons still exist, any nation that violates the above conditions will now be in breach of international and humanitarian law and should be considered a pariah state and ultimately on the wrong side of history.  As with other weapons of mass destruction, the weapons are usually banned and then subsequently eliminated. .

This historic effort establishes a new norm and when in force will be the law of the land.

This Treaty has been years in the making and comes from the convergence of the failure of the nuclear weapons states to meet their legally binding obligation for 47 years, under article 6 of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to work in good faith to eliminate nuclear weapons and recent scientific evidence demonstrating humanitarian consequences far worse than previously imagined of even a small limited regional nuclear war. Such a scenario would put much of humanity at risk from the associated climate change and nuclear famine that would follow, lasting decades into the future.

The humanitarian case has taken this treaty process forward from meetings in Oslo, Mexico and Vienna to the United Nations who gave approval last December for the treaty to be negotiated this year. The process has been driven forward by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) working with civil society.  Representatives of 129 non-nuclear nations including the International Red Cross and the Holy See have worked together and made clear through this treaty that they will no longer be held hostage or bullied by the nuclear nations. While there is not one fewer nuclear weapon on the planet, this treaty focuses the world’s attention on the nuclear powers and the international institutions that make the existence of these weapons possible. It highlights the humanitarian costs to victims particularly indigenous peoples, women and girls, the hibakusha as well as the catastrophic effects on the environment that have long been the silent victims of the testing, development and use of these weapons.

The treaty adopted by an overwhelming majority of 122 in favor, one against (the Netherlands) and one abstention (Singapore) establishes a new international norm and does not specifically establish enforcement mechanism’s which are otherwise left to the court of public opinion and adherence to international norms.  This does not differ from other international treaties banning weapons of mass destruction such as chemical weapons, biological weapons, and land mines.

This treaty process has been boycotted by the nuclear weapons states. In particular, protestations of the United States and followed suit by Russia. Together they possess approximately 93 per cent of the 15,000 weapons in today’s global arsenals and who have effectively bullied the other nuclear nations with their rhetorical double speak. Voicing their support for a world without nuclear weapons they professed the need to be realistic due to the dangers of these weapons and the need for a strong deterrence thus precluding their ability to participate in this treaty process. They have remained oblivious and hostage themselves to this mythological deterrence argument that has been the principal driver of the arms race since its inception, including the current new arms race initiated by the United States with a proposal to spend $1 trillion in the next three decades to rebuild our nuclear arsenals. Under these deterrence theories, each nation must maintain a superiority or generational advantage over its adversaries thus fueling the ever accelerating and growing arms race to oblivion.

The adopted Treaty bans nuclear weapons and establishes a framework to mount an effective legal, political, economic, and social challenge to the concept, policies, and practices of nuclear “deterrence” and to the existence of nuclear weapons themselves in order to eliminate them and all related programs. The Treaty will be open for signature to all States of the United Nations on September 19 at the U.N. The Treaty shall enter into force 90 days after the 50th State has ratified, signed or accepted it.

This Treaty represents the resolve of the negotiating states and civil society and puts us on a path to a nuclear weapon-free world. In the future when the United States and other nuclear states are asked, what did we do when our planet was threatened, what will be our [united States] response? What will we say when it is recognized that we were on the wrong side of history and our very survival was threatened?

Robert Dodge is a family physician practicing full time in Ventura, California. He serves on the board of Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles serving as a Peace and Security Ambassador and at the national level where he sits on the security committee. He also serves on the board of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions. He writes for PeaceVoice.

U.S. a no-show as historic nuclear weapons ban treaty adopted

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer, Common Dreams, July 7, 2017

The United States has joined a small group of global outliers on Friday [July 7] after a historic United Nations treaty to ban nuclear weapons was adopted by a majority of the world’s nations.

“The adoption of the nuclear weapons ban treaty marks an historic turning point in the centuries-old battle to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction,” said Jeff Carter, executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Ahead of its adoption, Elayne Whyte Gómez, Coasta Rica’s ambassador to the U.N. and president of the United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, championed the “historic”agreement, calling it “the first multilateral nuclear disarmament treaty to be concluded in more than 20 years.”

Noting that the landmark moment comes 72 years after the atomic-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, an editorial in Japan’s Mainichi said: “The international community’s firm determination not to repeat these tragedies is the linchpin of the convention.”

One hundred twenty-two nations agreed to the final draft text after weeks of negotiations that were not attended by any of the nine nuclear-armed states, which include the U.S., Russia, and North Korea. (Among those signing on, however, are two of the other “axis of evil” states: Iran and Iraq.) The Netherlands cast the sole vote against the treaty.

“The nuclear weapons states’ boycott of the ban treaty negotiations,” Carter said last month, “illustrates a denial of medical science,” referring to “empirically known consequences of the use, testing, and development of these weapons on human lives.”

The treaty is based in humanitarian law and prohibits the development, testing, production, possession, or stockpiling of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, the transfer of such weapons, and also bans not only their use but the threat of their use. It also calls for states to undertake environmental remediation for areas contaminated by nuclear weapons use or testing, and for states to provide assistance to victims “including medical care, rehabilitation, and psychological support, as well as provide for their social and economic inclusion.”

As John Loretz, program director at International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, explained Friday:

The nuclear-armed and nuclear-dependent states have been provided with practical and flexible ways to comply with those prohibitions once they decide to join. If they persist in defying the norms established by the treaty, they will be outlaw states.

The treaty refutes the claim made by a handful of states that they need nuclear weapons to ensure their own security, and that humanitarian consequences must somehow be balanced with those needs. Not only does the treaty insist that the dangers posed by nuclear weapons “concern the security of all humanity,” but it also calls the long-overdue elimination of nuclear weapons “a global public good of the highest order, serving both national and collective security interests.”

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) said Thursday it was “overwhelmingly positive about the draft treaty,” adding: “We are on the cusp of a truly historic moment—when the international community declares, unambiguously, for the first time, that nuclear weapons are not only immoral, but also illegal. There should be no doubt that the draft before us establishes a clear, categorical ban on the worst weapons of mass destruction.”

The New York Times writes: “The new agreement is partly rooted in the disappointment among non-nuclear-armed nations that the Nonproliferation Treaty’s disarmament aspirations have not worked.”

Indeed, said Dr. Matthew McKinzie, Natural Resources Defense Council Senior Scientist and director of NRDC’s nuclear program, at a U.N. media briefing last month, “Both the U.S. and Russia are modernizing their nuclear arsenals.”

“That reveals an expectation that instead of reducing and eliminating nuclear arsenals, we will have these weapons for generations to come. That’s not the future we want,” he said.

Further explaining this trend, Matt Taibbi wrote at Rolling Stone:

This slowing of the disarmament movement began during Barack Obama’s last term, coinciding with the collapse of relations between the U.S. and Russia. Particularly since 2011, when the U.S. and Russia concluded the “New START” treaty on the reduction of each others’ arsenals, dialogue has almost completely ended on the subject.

Whatever you want to point to as the reason—the much-condemned Russian adventurism in Ukraine [sic]or maybe the 2012 passage of the Magnitsky Act sanctioning Russia for human rights abuses, a law that outraged Putin and inspired a vicious ban [sic] on American adoption of Russian children—communication between Russia and the United States had long ago dropped to almost nil. This was before last summer’s election, the DNC hack, or the rise of Trump.

As a result, the two countries who maintain about 90 per cent of the world’s warheads have stopped talking about nuclear reduction, and the rest of the world—which was promised disarmament—has noticed, leading to protest moves like this new treaty ban.

“Right now,” Carter added, “the U.S. government defies its existing disarmament obligations under the Nonproliferation Treaty by planning to fund an extensive buildup of its nuclear arsenal. The ban treaty is the start of a new worldwide movement that gives the United States an opportunity to break from its self-destructive nuclear weapons policy.”

“In the twenty-first century, we can no longer pretend that these doomsday devices are instruments of security. The active conscience of the American health community calls on the United States to sign the nuclear weapons ban treaty to ensure that we safeguard our world for the next generation. It’s past time that we part from this untenable path. Prohibiting and eliminating these weapons of mass destruction is the only responsible course of action for U.S. nuclear weapons policy,” Carter continued.

Added Jon Rainwater, executive director of Peace Action: “Preaching temperance from a barstool never works. The U.S. can not lead the push for nuclear non-proliferation on the Korean peninsula while it spends billions to maintain one of the world’s two biggest nuclear arsenals. It’s time for the U.S. to get off of the barstool and lead by example.”

States can sign on to the treaty starting September 20, 2017.

Appendix by New Cold

  • Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, 1970 (Wikipedia)
  • Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty between United States and Soviet Union, 1972, 30-year term agreed. The treaty was terminated in 2002 following unilateral U.S. withdrawal. (Wikipedia)
  • START 1 (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) and START 2, between the United States and the Soviet Union (become Russian Federation), 1994 and 2011, respectively. (Wikipedia)


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