It’s Time To Ban Nuclear Weapons For Good

In Environment, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Public Health, War on June 27, 2017 at 3:07 am

By Helen Szoke, Claire Mallionson and Tillman Ruff, Hyffington Post Australia. June 26, 2017


First the ground started shaking, and then a black mist rolled into the camp from the south. Then came skin rashes, vomiting, diarrhea and blindness. People so weak they couldn’t make it down to the waterhole and they died of thirst.

Yami Lester was 10-years-old when he saw this black mist roll in from the desert and engulf his family’s camp in the Yankunytjatjara homelands near Marla in South Australia. As men, women and children in his community fell ill, Yami himself became sick and started to lose his eyesight. The black mist that Yami saw in 1956 was the fallout from British nuclear tests at Maralinga and Emu Field in South Australia. The effects of these tests are still being felt today.

Yami’s community is not the only one to suffer the effects of nuclear weapons. Yami’s daughter, Karina Lester, has been at the United Nations (UN) in New York for historic negotiations to develop a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. She read, to the conference, a statement by 30 Indigenous organisations from the Pacific, North America, Europe and Australia about the harm suffered by Indigenous peoples from nuclear weapons tests. Survivors from the Marshall Islands and French Polynesia are also sharing their experiences with the assembly.

This final round of UN negotiations for a treaty to ban nuclear weapons is history in the making. Since the shocking 1945 nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we have known that whole cities can be violently destroyed by these weapons. Numerous times since then, it has been sheer luck or the courage of just one person that has stopped nuclear weapons being used. But, the risk of nuclear war still exists between NATO and Russia, India and Pakistan and in the Korean peninsula.

We know that the only way to prevent the unimaginable human suffering and environmental catastrophe caused by nuclear weapons is their elimination and tight international controls on the fissile materials that can be used to make them.
While nuclear weapons exist, so does the utterly unacceptable danger of their use. The world has made substantial progress in reducing the risks posed by other types of weapons that have inhumane and indiscriminate effects. Treaties are in force that prohibit and provide for the elimination of biological and chemical weapons, antipersonnel landmines and cluster munitions.

These weapons are being progressively eliminated, and the relevant treaties have changed the game, even for those states that have not joined them. In each case, the first step has been stigmatising the weapons as unacceptable for anyone to possess and codifying this in law. As former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “There are no right hands for the wrong weapons.”

Yet the glaring anomaly remains that nuclear weapons, by far the most destructive, inhumane and indiscriminate of all, remain the only weapon of mass destruction not comprehensively banned under international law. This has been unfinished business for far too long.

The very first resolution of the United Nations General Assembly in January 1946 was to establish a commission to draw up a plan “for the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons”. But progress since then has been far too slow, until now.

The negotiations now underway in New York were mandated in December 2016 by the UN General Assembly by a majority of over three to one. The conference was charged with negotiating “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”. Alarmingly, none of the states possessing nuclear weapons or those that claim dependence on U.S. nuclear weapons — the 28 members of NATO, Australia, Japan and South Korea — are participating constructively in the negotiations.

A nuclear ban treaty will delegitimise these weapons and the policies that threaten their use, including nuclear deterrence, and will affect even states that don’t sign the treaty. Disappointingly, Australia has been one of the most active states in opposing such a treaty, claiming that nuclear weapons should only be prohibited once they’ve been eliminated, and refusing to say that they should never be used again under any circumstances.

The current negotiations are the first UN nuclear disarmament negotiations in over 20 years. Sadly, this is the first time that Australia has ever boycotted multilateral disarmament negotiations. It is commendable that Australia is a signatory to the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions, the treaties banning landmines and cluster munitions, and the Arms Trade Treaty. On some of these, Australia has been a leader.

Our Government must move to the right side of history regarding nuclear weapons, the only weapons that pose an existential threat to all humankind. We know that the only way to prevent the unimaginable human suffering and environmental catastrophe caused by nuclear weapons is their elimination and tight international controls on the fissile materials that can be used to make them.

Our organisations have worked to regulate the trade in conventional arms, to prohibit and eliminate landmines and cluster munitions. We call on every government, including the Australian Government, to seize this historic opportunity to ban nuclear weapons.

The Confused Logic of War: Review of Howard Zinn’s ‘The Bomb’

In Human rights, Justice, Peace, Politics, War on June 26, 2017 at 9:20 pm

By Kym Robinson, The Libertarian Institute, June 12, 2017

The Bomb is a combination of older essays written by Howard Zinn which looks at the morality of the mass aerial bombings of civilian dense targets. Zinn was himself a bombardier during World War Two and spent most of his Post War life as a strong anti-war voice, both as historian and activist. Inside this brief book, he cites as his main examples of the bloody futility of aerial bombing as being the destruction of Hiroshima and the pointless devastation of the French City of Royan both in 1945.

Zinn confronts the confused logic that a great many hold dear which states that nationality or birth determines whether one is guilty in war. And thus a credible target to be executed, so long as it is done under certain conditions. Those conditions being, for example, the bombing of a city which will kill thousands instantly in such a frightening manner, this is somehow considered ‘just’ whereas the specific gassing of other citizens is unjust. Or that bayoneting a baby is immoral whereas dropping napalm on many children from high above is a necessity of warfare.

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Ultimately, however, it is the victor who determines what is right and wrong as those vanquished are condemned to history, to stand judgment for all the ills of conflict. Zinn, however, uses quotations from both those critical of such conduct as well as the condemning sociopathic boasts from those in favor of such brutality. Zinn in his brief book condemns all the war makers, both victor and vanquished as both are responsible for the deaths of millions. Yet, the victors never face justice for their conduct and instead glorify it.

Zinn puts on paper in so many words a sincere and eyewitness condemnation (his experiences from when he served in the USAAC 8th Air Force based in the UK during the War) of the bombings of citizens. Whether this happens to be with a fleet of bombers, a single nuclear device or as has been used in more recent times with an apparent ‘smart’ weapon system. He questions and blasts those who so would elect to indiscriminately destroy property and life, simply because it is deemed important to the ‘war effort’.

The legitimacy of just how effective such aerial bombings are as far as strategic effectiveness goes is also addressed. The strategic validity of such mass murder is often the sole crux to the mass killers…bombers arguments. The calculations made by politicians and military strategists to justify the destruction of so much private property and savage slaughter of millions is sinister and yet despite the claims empirically it is flawed.

Did murdering millions of civilians in East Asia during both the Korean and Vietnam wars bring victory to the allies? Has the constant bombardment with cruise missiles, aircraft and drones stabilized the Middle East and defeated the insurgencies? Will it ever? Or is it simply the mechanical genocide of other human beings done with gloves on and from afar?

Zinn’s book asks such questions in so few pages because of this it is a very quick read. Too quick in fact as you wish to read more of what Zinn has to say. Not because he lacks depth in his argument, but because he is a talented writer and man who gets to the point with polite savagery. And because unfortunately, this is a subject of tremendous magnitude and consequence, it is one that should be simply seen as right and wrong. Yet, many are educated to know better, to know that murdering innocent civilians is allowable so long as ‘we’ do it. Zinn disagrees. So should all of us.

I suggest this book to be read for any one who considers themselves an intelligent person. I say this because obedient considerations on such historical events are so well-entrenched with many. And thoughts on such events as the bombings of Hamburg, Dresden or Nagasaki by the ‘good guys’ are of paramount importance for individuals to consider.

Many grow up with the assumption that the ‘Hun’ or ‘Jap’ were no good killers, who deserved a fiery death and it is precisely because of this crude outlook that we now find ourselves fighting in so many unwinnable conflicts against concepts or caricatures. All the while real human beings die and suffer. If you hold a simplistic absolute world view that ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ are simply black and white, a view so determined by what National Government is in control, then you are ultimately on a path to condoning the death of so many innocents past, present, and those yet to be born.

Anti-nuclear bomb activists arrested at U.S. mission to U.N.

In Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on June 22, 2017 at 12:45 am

World News, June 19, 2017

More than a dozen activists were arrested for disorderly conduct after they blocked the entrances to the United States mission to the United Nations on Monday to protest Washington’s decision to boycott negotiations on a nuclear weapons ban treaty.

Chanting “U.S. join the talks, ban the bomb,” the protesters sat in front of the doors for about 10 minutes before New York police moved in. Police had repeatedly warned protesters that they would be arrested if they did not disperse.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley announced in March that the United States, Britain and France were among almost 40 countries that decided not to join talks on a nuclear weapons ban treaty at the United Nations.

A second round of negotiations is underway at the United Nations.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution in December – 113 in favor to 35 against, with 13 abstentions – that decided to “negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination” and encouraged all member states to participate.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Grant McCool)