On Oct. 24, the 50th nation ratified the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). Ninety days from that date, the TPNW will enter into force as international law and prohibit participating parties from developing, possessing, testing, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons, allowing nuclear weapons to be stationed on their territory, or assisting others to engage in such activities. All nine nuclear weapons nations boycotted the proceedings leading up to the treaty and not one has signed or ratified the treaty.
There are about 13,400 nuclear weapons held by 9 countries, with 3,720 deployed – that is, ready to launch – and the rest in storage. The risk of a nuclear war from an accident, miscalculation, planned or unauthorized attack or from nuclear terrorism remains as long as nuclear weapons exist.
If a nuclear war were to occur, some predict that the resulting soot would block the sun's rays and result in a nuclear winter, where food would not grow and eventually extinguish life on earth.
William Perry, former secretary of defense under President Bill Clinton and undersecretary of defense under President Jimmy Carter in his just published book, "The Button," written with Tom Collina from Ploughshares Fund, compares the U.S. current nuclear policy to the Titanic. They warn that we are headed toward the iceberg and state: “US nuclear policy is a disaster waiting to happen, and it could be only a matter of time before our luck runs out.”
They believe change in US nuclear policy needs “broad public awareness and support.”
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), largely responsible for the UN approving the treaty in July 2017, has recommended a Parliamentarian Pledge to support the TPNW. Ten members from the US House of Representatives have taken that pledge, including Keith Ellison when he was still in Congress. I would urge our US senators and representatives to take the pledge. ICAN also has appealed to cities for support. In the U.S., 37 cities and 3 states have indicated support for the Treaty, but not one of those cities is in Minnesota.
The US Conference of Mayors, at their annual meeting in June 2018, passed a resolution urging the United States to embrace the TPNW and called on “US members to act at the municipal level to raise public awareness about the growing dangers of wars among nuclear–armed states, the humanitarian and financial costs of nuclear weapons,” and called on the US “to lead a global effort to prevent nuclear war by renouncing the option for using nuclear weapons first; ending the sole, unchecked authority of any president to launch a nuclear attack; taking US nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert; canceling the plan to replace its entire arsenal with enhanced weapons; and actively pursuing a verifiable agreement among nuclear armed states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.”
Perry and Collina, in their book, add several things to this list, including saving and extending the New Start Treaty, retiring all ICBM’s (our land-based nuclear weapons), and stressing diplomacy.
Daniel Ellsberg states: “This is the greatest moral crisis of our time: governments are prepared to unleash a nuclear war which would end civilization as we know it and could kill over seven billion people.” Pope Francis in a visit to Hiroshima in November 2019 said: ”The use of atomic energy for purposes of war is immoral, just as the possessing of nuclear weapons is immoral, as I said two years ago.”
I urge area cities, including Rochester, to indicate support for the treaty and support the US Conference of Mayors statement.
Rich Van Dellen of Rochester contributes an occasional piece to these pages. He is a member of Rochester Friends (Quaker) Meeting.