Richard Norton-Taylor / The Guardian – 2015-08-06 00:23:19
70 Years after Hiroshima,
Nuclear Weapons Threaten Us All
Richard Norton-Taylor / The Guardian
(July 23, 2015) â€“ Nearly 70 years ago, on 6 August 1945, the US dropped “Little Boy”, the first nuclear weapon used in warfare, on Hiroshima.
“Two thirds of the buildings in the city were destroyed and perhaps 80,000 civilians were killed”, observes Eric Schlosser, in Gods of Metal, a frightening yet moving account of how three Catholic pacifists, including an 82-year-old nun, broke into Y12, a top security nuclear weapons base in Tennessee, known as the Fort Knox of Uranium, where material used in the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima was processed.
“The amount of weapons-grade uranium needed to build a terrorist bomb with a similar explosive force”, Schlosser adds in his extremely timely short book, “could fit inside a small gym bag”.
Though there are treaties banning biological and chemical weapons, cluster bombs, and landmines, there is no such ban on nuclear weapons, even though their use would breach international agreements, not least the Geneva Conventions.
70 years after Hiroshima, despite all the rhetoric and genuflection (and negotiations with Iran) moves towards global nuclear disarmament are further away than ever.
Vladimir Putin brandishes Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons capability, presenting British ministers (and the Labour front bench) an excuse to spend Â£100bn-plus on a new fleet of four Trident nuclear ballistic submarines to provide a Continuous At Sea Deterrence (CASD).
Yet David Cameron insists the greatest, indeed existential, threat to Britain, one the country will face for a generation, comes, not from any hostile state, but from violent Islamic extremists, notably Isis.
Tony Blair said of Trident in his autobiography, A Journey: “The expense is huge and the utility â€¦ non-existent in terms of military use”.
In the end he thought giving it up would be “too big a downgrading of our status as a nation”. (Of the Labour leadership candidates, only Jeremy Corbyn opposes Trident.)
Sceptics describe nuclear weapons as “power tools”. Major General Patrick Cordingley, former commander of the 7th Armoured Brigade, the Desert Rats, says strategic nuclear weapons have no military use.
“It would seem”, he said recently, “the government wishes to replace Trident simply to remain a nuclear power alongside the other four permanent members of the UN Security Council. This is misguided and flies in the face of public opinion; we have more to offer than nuclear bombs”.
Britain continues to modernise its nuclear weapons arsenal. Though successive governments have reduced the stock, the UK still holds more than a hundred “operationally available warheads” .
Without the cooperation of the US, concluded a report last year by the London-based Trident Commission, the life expectancy of the UK’s nuclear capability could be measured in months. The commission’s crossparty panel described Britain’s deterrent as “a hostage to American goodwill”.
This year’s non-profileration treaty (NPT) review conference held under UN auspices in New York, took a step backwards on the road to nuclear disarmament, with the five “official” nuclear powers — the UK, US, Russia, China, and France — insisting on even vaguer language, and more caveats, than they have in the past.
But the non-nuclear powers, the vast majority, are fighting back.
159 countries signed a statement at the end of the New York conference. “All efforts must be exerted to eliminate the threat of these weapons of mass destruction”, they said. “The only way to guarantee that nuclear weapons will never be used again is through their total elimination.”
The statement referred to a “renewed resolve of the international community, together with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other organisations, to address “the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons.”
And more than a hundred countries have signed what they call a “humanitarian pledge”. It states: “the risk of a nuclear weapon explosion is significantly greater than previously assumed and is indeed increasing with increased proliferation, the lowering of the technical threshold for nuclear weapon capability, the ongoing modernisation of nuclear weapon arsenals in nuclear weapon possessing states, and the role that is attributed to nuclear weapons in the nuclear doctrines of possessor states…”
Beatrice Fihn, executive director of ICAN (the international campaign to abolish nuclear weapons) told me: “The humanitarian initiative has enabled people to see nuclear weapons for what they really are, inhumane, indiscriminate and unacceptable weapons of terror.”
One of the secret documents obtained by Edward Snowden in 2013 said US intelligence agencies had little “knowledge of the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and associated material”.
A classified US state department document released by WikiLeaks quotes a Russian foreign ministry official warning that Islamists “are not only seeking power in Pakistan but are also trying to get their hands on nuclear materials”.
Schlosser warns: “There are still about 16,000 nuclear weapons in the world. Terrorists only need to steal one”.
ACTION: Letter to the Editor (Template)
ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons)
To the Editor
On August 6 and August 9, 1945 the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed by atomic bombs. More than 240,000 children, women and men died in the blasts. The overwhelming majority of the victims were civilians.
Today the world’s nuclear arsenals count more than 15,000 nuclear weapons, many of which are on high-trigger alert.
70 years after the humanitarian catastrophes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, governments have a historic opportunity to prohibit nuclear weapons — the only weapon of mass destruction yet to be explicitly banned by an international treaty.
More than 100 nations have signed on to an initiative to begin negotiations to fill the gap in international law and prohibit the possession and use of nuclear weapons. This “Humanitarian Pledge” reflects the deep frustration of non-nuclear weapon states with the failure of the nuclear weapons states to recognise the unacceptable threat posed by the continued existence of nuclear weapons as well as to honor their disarmament obligations.
Incredibly, the US government did not sign onto this pledge. It should do so now, embrace this historic opportunity, and negotiate a treaty banning nuclear weapons.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.