Sixty-nine years ago this Tuesday, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, killing 80-140,000 people immediately. Three days later on Aug. 9, a second U.S. nuclear bomb was dropped over Nagasaki, killing an additional 74,000 people. From that week to the present moment the world has been held hostage to the insane threat and potential annihilation by these weapons that now number in excess of 17,000 worldwide.
However daunting, we have witnessed this past year some of the most significant progress and awareness of this threat and work to eliminate nuclear weapons, thus realizing the long standing desires of people everywhere, to live in a world free of nuclear weapons. It is time for our elected officials to support the international efforts toward this end.
There have been four significant events over the past year.
First, in December 2013, the Physicians for Social Responsibility and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (www.ippnw.org) released a monumental report identifying the horrific potential devastation and death toll of up to two billion from a small limited nuclear war between Pakistan and India using approximately 100 Hiroshima sized weapons — less than 0.5 percent of the world’s nuclear arsenals. The resulting climatic changes affecting growing seasons and inducing global famine could last more than 20 years.
Then on April 24 this year the tiny heroic nation of Marshall Islands brought suit against the nine nuclear nations of the world in the International Court of Justice and the U.S. Federal District Court in San Francisco for breech of Article VI of the 1970 Non Proliferation Treaty which states that the nuclear nations of the world will work in good faith to eliminate all nuclear weapons. The islands were victim from 1946-1958 of 67 U.S. nuclear bomb tests, equivalent to 1.7 Hiroshima size bombs daily for 12 years. They are seeking no monies or compensation but rather the guarantee that no nation or peoples of the world would ever be subject to these atrocities again. Anyone interested in supporting this effort is urged to sign the petition at www.nuclearzero.org.
In March of this year the Rotarian Action Group for Peace (www.rotarianactiongroupforpeace.org) along with Physicians for Social Responsibility and the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War launched an international speakers bureau and campaign to educate about the “Humanitarian Effects of Limited Nuclear War.” Rotary, with its longstanding mission of ”peace through service,” well established Peace Fellows Program and its 1.2 million members in 220 countries may be the perfect apolitical international organization capable of taking on this task of eliminating nuclear weapons.
The international movement to abolish nuclear weapons is building unprecedented momentum behind the Humanitarian Impact Initiative. Last October in Oslo, 124 nations signed onto a statement to the UN calling for complete global nuclear disarmament, based on the intolerable human costs of these weapons. In February 2014, 146 nations — three-quarters of the nations of the world — including major U.S. allies such as Germany and Japan, attended the second Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons Conference in Nayarit, Mexico. Remarkably absent and boycotting the conferences for doublespeak reasons were the U.S. and the other P5 nuclear signatory members to the NPT - China, Russia, France and U.K. The U.S. claimed that “while we recognize the seriousness of this subject and attach the utmost importance to it, we are concerned that the conference in Oslo will divert discussion and focus away from the practical steps required to create the conditions for further nuclear weapons reductions.”
A similar conference is scheduled for Vienna in December, and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) itself is up for review in May 2015.
Nuclear abolition is not a partisan issue. It is a survival issue and has now become mainstream. From military leaders to architects of the cold war including Sam Nunn, Henry Kissinger, George Schultz, William Perry and Colin Powell to the International Red Cross, U.S. Conference of Mayors, the call to eliminate nuclear weapons is being heard. Add your voice to the growing chorus.
If the U.S. and other nuclear weapons states are truly interested in eliminating nuclear weapons, then the U.S. has an opportunity and obligation to lead by example and attend and challenge the other nuclear nations to do likewise. We the people must demand that our elected officials push for this participation and that they represent us. Action speaks much more than words alone. Contact the president and your representatives today at www.usa.gov/Contact/US-Congress.shtml.
Robert F. Dodge, M.D., serves on the boards of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Beyond War, Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles and Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions, and writes for PeaceVoice.