U.S. Needs to Embrace a Ban on Nuclear Weapons

Madelyn Hoffman- Executive Director of NJ Peace Action

Special to North Jersey Record USA TODAY NETWORK – NEW JERSEY

Nuclear ban or nuclear war? It’s an easy choice for most, but perhaps not for the U.S. government.

On April 29, New Jersey Peace Action celebrated its 61st anniversary with a program featuring two dynamic women answering this question. They were Ray Acheson, from Reaching Critical Will and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and Alice Slater, from the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and a veteran of the fight for nuclear abolition. Both had traveled to Oslo, Norway, in September 2017 to accept the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

Peace and nuclear disarmament groups cheered at the announcement of ICAN’s award. They were pleased to see a grass-roots organization honored and excited to see nuclear abolition efforts finally acknowledged as a vital part of the work for peace and a necessary step toward the survival of the planet.

Nuclear disarmament has never been more important than it is today. It hangs as a backdrop behind all work to prevent wars and the yelling between the U.S. and North Korea. The escalating rhetoric between Kim Jong-un and President Trump is intensified because one wrong move could lead to the potentially catastrophic use of nuclear weapons. The proximity of Russian and U.S. troops in Syria becomes more dangerous because if either Russia or the U.S. provokes the other, that conflict, too, could result in the use of nuclear weapons.

Don’t let anyone fool you. No one will win a nuclear war. Remember the last time (and hopefully the only time in the history of the world) that atom bombs were used? “Fat Man” and “Little Boy” were dropped by the U.S. military on Nagasaki on Aug. 9 and Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. Some 210,000 people were killed or vaporized instantaneously – with millions dying from radiation poisoning over time. Some of the effects from exposure to radiation continue to affect the children and grandchildren of the survivors. Today’s nuclear weapons are more powerful, so would have more devastating effects.

The consequences of radiation poisoning are still making themselves felt today. Fed up with what seems to be a reluctance to once and for all rid the world of nuclear weapons, led by ICAN in July 2017, members of 122 of the 192 member countries in the United Nations agreed to create a world that completely bans these terrible weapons.

In addition to opposing nuclear weapons out of concern for the humanitarian consequences of their use, the U.S. government has pledged to spend $1 trillion over the next 30 years to “modernize and rebuild” the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal, making it bigger and more powerful than it was at the height of the Cold War. At the same time, the U.S. warns countries like Iran and North Korea that they cannot have any nuclear weapons. All this when U.S. infrastructure is crumbling or when money is needed for education, health care, veterans’ benefits, public transportation and more. Think of how much money is needed for these purposes and then think about spending $1 trillion on our nuclear weapons arsenal. The words fall flat on their faces.

Ray Acheson wrote in her April 27 article “A New Generation Against the Bomb,” published in The Nation, “Since its founding in Melbourne, Australia, in 2007, ICAN has encouraged and accepted contributions from every person of every age … ICAN is not a youth organization … We’re an intergenerational campaign. Indeed, that’s one of our greatest strengths. We have octogenarians working alongside school students. No one is too young or too old to contribute to a world free of nuclear weapons.’

Nuclear countries like the U.S. must realize that instead of protecting the world and bringing about peace, many U.S. actions accomplish the opposite. Instead of tearing up international diplomatic agreements like the Iran Nuclear Deal, the U.S. should do everything it can to protect such agreements.

On May 12, we’ll learn whether the Trump administration will protect the Iran Deal. It shouldn’t be so difficult to support efforts by young and old alike to lower the escalating levels of violence in our society, including violence from mass shootings and U.S.-initiated violence in the form of drones, nuclear weapons or illegal and undeclared wars of aggression around the globe.

We can support local efforts to highlight the dangers of war on the first Saturday of every month from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the MLK statue, 450 MLK Boulevard, Newark. Let’s also support the nuclear abolition efforts of NJPA’s honorees – including the Essex County Branch of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom celebrating its 103rd anniversary this year.

We all have a stake in peace. Hear From Madelyn and Read more about NJPA here.