The Nuclear Challenge: 70 Years After Hiroshima and Nagasaki (2)

19 Aug

[Prefatory Note: What follows is a poem by David Krieger on what happened 70 years ago during those few fateful days in August that forever altered the human condition followed by the joint introduction that we contributed to Geoffrey Darnton’s Nuclear War and International Law, which was just published, and is available for purchase at the usual online outlets and via book store

Poetry is for David a seamless mode of expression that merges his life’s dedication to human wellbeing with his inner reflective consciousness, and bears a special relevance to his central mission of achieving a world without nuclear weapons. In my understanding, David’s poem that follows and others he has written dealing with other aspects of nuclearism enables him to enter what Thomas Merton and James Douglass identify as the domain of the unspeakable, and indeed virtually unimaginable. Most of us need poetry, film, and art to make authentic contact in those private and public situations where prose language and even an enlivened imagination cannot adequately express the extremities of experience. I think of the French film of Alain Resnais, ‘Hiroshima, Mon Amour’ (1959) and Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ as world class examples, but there are many.

Another form of authentic contact with the unspeakable is by way of pilgrimage to hallowed sites of desecration, and David has made such visits frequently, which often feature contact with hibakusha, survivors of the atomic attacks. As with the Holocaust, public atrocities of this enormity, constitute an inexhaustible occasion for mourning and reflections on the dark mysteries of evil, but unlike the memories associated with the Auschwitz experience, Hiroshima and Nagasaki have permanently and negatively affected the biopolitical contingency of the human species and its earthly habitat.

There is one further preliminary observation. Private atrocities, the death or terminal illness of one’s child or any deeply loved one, also gives rise to inexhaustible cascades of grief that can never be adequately expressed through reasoned narrative and never truly overcome. Such acute private losses because of their negative purity indirectly validate the reality of the absolute in human experience, and for closely related reasons helps us appreciate the extraordinary gravitational pull of the divine and sacred.

The special challenge of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is not merely to mourn and remember. It is rather a summons to devote our energies to rid the world of this curse that imperils human destiny for these past 70 years and as far ahead as we can discern. Denuclearization as a process of diminishing in all ways possible the threat posed by this weaponry and treating ‘getting to zero’ as the non-negotiable goal. This process and this goal can become attainable objectives if a sufficient political will is mobilized and becomes attached to a collective ambition to renounce nuclear weapons as an absolute prerequisite of human dignity.]

 

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A SHORT HISTORY LESSON: 1945

 

 

August 6th:

Dropped atomic bomb

On civilians

At Hiroshima.

 

August 8th:

Agreed to hold

War crimes trials

For Nazis.

 

August 9th:

Dropped atomic bomb

On civilians

At Nagasaki.

 

 

David Krieger

***********************************************************

 

 

Foreword to New Edition of Decision of London Nuclear Warfare

Tribunal

 

Richard Falk & David Krieger

 

When the London Nuclear Warfare Tribunal was convened in 1985, the Cold War set the tone of international relations. Beyond this, Ronald Reagan was the most anti-Communist and belligerent American leader since the end of World War II. There was every reason to be worried that the risks of nuclear war had become unacceptable from the outlook of political prudence additional to their dubious moral and legal status. In this atmosphere the London Tribunal sought an authoritative assessment of the status of nuclear weapons and warfare under international law with the hope that this might move the political debate toward the embrace of nuclear disarmament.

 

Now 30 years later, the Cold War is over and Barack Obama, the current American leader declared in 2009 his resolve to work toward achieving a world without nuclear weapons. This message of hope and commitment was reinforced at the time by four prominent American political figures with strong realist credentials (Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Sam Nunn, and William Perry) present the case for nuclear disarmament to avoid the further spread of nuclear weaponry. Yet as we reflect upon these issues in 2015 we note that there is not present among the nuclear weapons states the existence of a political will to place nuclear disarmament on the global policy agenda, much less evidence of a willingness by non-nuclear states to exert meaningful pressures.

 

Despite important shifts in conflict patterns, which make it more dangerous than ever that nuclear weapons will get into the hands of non-state political actors that would be inclined to disregard the horrifying consequences of use, there are no serious initiatives proposed by governments or through the United Nations to address this menacing challenge. What we find in 2015, instead of a sense of urgency, is a shared mood of complacency on the part of governments, international institutions, and international public opinion. Without the Cold War, and considering the absence of any use of such a weapon since 1945 at Nagasaki, there is a false sense of security, even as anxieties rise to fever pitch when contemplating the prospect of Iran armed with nuclear weapons. Indeed, the evident present priority of nuclear weapons states is to invest heavily in the modernization and further development of their existing arsenal of nuclear weapons, as well in the pseudo-stability of the nonproliferation regime.

 

And thus, even more so than in 1985, it would seem that it will be up to civil society activism to create the kind of climate of opinion that will force the hand of governmental actors. One step in this direction is to remind the people of the world that from the perspective of international law, nuclear weapons are unlawful, making their threat or use, crimes of utmost magnitude. In this regard, the material gathered in this volume is an invaluable resource for citizen activism on the basis of expecting governments in the 21st century to pursue security within the framework of the global rule of law. The clarity and authoritativeness of the conclusions of the London Tribunal are reinforced by the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice rendered in 1996, and especially by the historic dissent of Judge Christopher Weeramantry that is also included in this volume.

 

In 1986 there were some 70,000 nuclear weapons in the world. Since then, the number has fallen to approximately 16,000. It is a dramatic quantitative drop, but remains far from the only safe number, which is zero. Over 90 percent of the weapons are in the arsenals of the US and Russia, and their negotiations for further reductions have stalled while they engage in military posturing, including nuclear posturing over the conflict in Ukraine. The US and Russia still maintain some 1,800 nuclear weapons between them on hair-trigger alert, ready to be fired within moments of an order to do so. Neither country has a commitment to No First Use of its nuclear arsenal, leaving open the threat of a preemptive attack, or other initiating use of the sort sometimes suggested as the best means to destroy Iran’s underground nuclear facilities.

 

The United States unilaterally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002 under Bush II, a treaty that was designed to limit the number of missile defense deployments in order to discourage defensive-offensive escalation cycles. This US withdrawal from the treaty coupled with the subsequent deployment of missile defense installations near the Russian borders has generated Russian anxiety about a possible US first strike, which increases tensions between the two countries and makes more nervous the fingers on the nuclear buttons.

 

In addition to the US and Russia, seven other countries possess nuclear weapons: the UK, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea. All of them have joined the US and Russia in modernizing their nuclear arsenals. Each of these arsenals is a source of nuclear danger, as are those of the US and Russia. Atmospheric scientists found through modelling studies that a relatively small nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan using 50 Hiroshima-size nuclear weapons each on the other side’s cities would put enough soot into the upper stratosphere to block warming sunlight from reaching the Earth, reduce temperatures on the planet to the lowest levels in 1,000 years, shorten growing seasons, cause crop failures and result in nuclear famine that could take two billion lives of the most vulnerable people on the planet. A larger exchange of nuclear weapons between the US and Russia could send the world tumbling into a new ice age, destroy civilization and annihilate the human species and most complex forms of life on the planet.

 

Article VI of the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty obligates the parties to the NPT to negotiate in good faith on effective measures for a cessation of the nuclear arms race and an early date and for nuclear disarmament. These negotiations have never taken place, despite the unanimous legal support of the Article VI obligations in the 1996 ICJ Advisory Opinion: “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.”

 

In 2014, one of the smallest countries on the planet, the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), took a bold action to enforce the Article VI obligations and the customary international law obligations that derive from them.   The RMI brought lawsuits against the nine nuclear-armed countries in the ICJ, seeking declaratory judgments that they are in breach of their nuclear disarmament obligations and injunctive relief ordering them to commence the required negotiations within one year.   Because only three of the nine nuclear-armed countries accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ, only the cases against the UK, Pakistan and India are currently going forward at the ICJ. The other six countries would have had to affirmatively accept the jurisdiction of the ICJ to have their cases go forward and none have chosen to do so.

 

The Marshall Islands also brought a separate lawsuit against the US in US federal court, due to the pivotal position of the US in terms of its leadership on nuclear issues. That case was dismissed by the lower court and is currently being appealed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The cases are drawing interest throughout the world and currently over ninety civil society organizations, including the World Council of Churches, Greenpeace International and the Nobel Women’s Initiative, have joined a consortium headed by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation in support of the RMI’s Nuclear Zero lawsuits (see www.nuclearzero.org).

 

The Marshall Islands acts with great moral authority, as their territory was used as a site of US nuclear testing in the early years of the Nuclear Age. The US conducted 67 nuclear tests in the RMI between 1946 and 1958, with the equivalent explosive power of having tested 1.6 nuclear Hiroshima bombs daily for 12 years. The Marshall Islanders suffered cancers, leukemia, stillbirths, birth defects and other radiation-induced illnesses. Some of their islands still remain uninhabitable, and they have never been adequately compensated for their pain, suffering, premature deaths and the loss of their lands.

 

In addition to the Nuclear Zero lawsuits by the Marshall Islands, one other positive initiative in relation to nuclear weapons is the series of inter-governmental conferences on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons that have taken place in recent years in Oslo, Nayarit (Mexico), and Vienna. At the Vienna conference in December 2014, the Austrian government made an Austrian Pledge to work to close the legal gap to achieve the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons. Since then, over 100 other states have joined Austria in taking this pledge, now known as the Humanitarian Pledge. The hope is that one or more of these countries will convene a meeting of states to initiate a Nuclear Ban Treaty, similar to the Ottawa Conference that was convened to create a Landmine Ban Treaty. This can be done with or without the initial participation of the nuclear-armed countries.

 

This year (2015) marks the 70th anniversaries of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The survivors of those bombings, the hibakusha, have been outspoken in their calls to abolish nuclear weapons so that their past does not become someone else’s future. Every year, every day, that this advice is not heeded, increases the danger to the human future. This is a legal issue, as this book makes clear, but it is also a moral issue, a security issue and, ultimately, a spiritual issue. Humankind must step back from the nuclear abyss now, before it is too late.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 Responses to “The Nuclear Challenge: 70 Years After Hiroshima and Nagasaki (2)”

  1. rehmat1 August 19, 2015 at 4:57 pm #

    Harry S Truman needs lot more credits; Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Cold War, Korean War, interventionism in the Middle East for the World Zionist Movement and being the first world leader to bless Ben-Gurion’s unilateral declaration of the Zionist entity.

    Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had nothing to do with WWII, as Tokyo had already waved a White Flag. It was mean to destroy Japan as an independent economy in the future.

    The current nuclear powers and their nuclear stockpiles are; Russia (8,000), United States (7,800), France (350), UK (250), Israel (240), Pakistan (100), India (90), N. Korea (10), Turkey (70 at NATO base) and Australia (1 loaned by US during East Timor conflict).

    While both Pakistan and N. Korea have produced nuclear bombs as deterrents – the rest of nuclear power use their nuclear stockpiles to bully non-nuclear nations.

    Iran, a non-nuclear power, has been leading a campaign for a nuclear free Middle East and a “World without Nukes” – but both calls have been rejected by the Us and Israel.

    http://rehmat1.com/2009/08/11/a-world-without-nukes/

    • Kata Fisher August 19, 2015 at 8:43 pm #

      A note: I believe that nuclear-weapon-free nations can be sponsoring nations that will make transition and change happen within nations that are stuck with an absolute lawlessness. Some nations may have absolute difficulty with transitional magnitude for them as nations. There should be none of difficulty – the only difficulty will be to bring reason and consciences together. Most of humans are not in human reason/humanly reasonable in order to understand or reason with- and sometimes is just an impossible to achieve reason. There has to be something that will transition and make imminent change possible. Sometimes nations can be stuck in bad conditions, and is best for them to have other nations guide them out of it. Those are just simple and natural laws, I believe

      • rehmat1 August 20, 2015 at 5:23 am #

        Yuval Diskin, former head of Shin Bet has answer for you – I guess!

        http://rehmat1.com/2015/08/20/israels-ex-top-spy-west-bank-is-a-jewish-terrorist-state/

      • Kata Fisher August 20, 2015 at 7:56 am #

        A note:

        Holy Land is a very difficult place for Jews and Arabs, primarily.
        Religious lay-people do whatever they will. Occasionally, their seared conscience is changed.

        However, when things are done is the spirit of Anti-Christ things become a tripping-curse and destroying-curse for all involved.

        As long as Jordans landmark is in Holy Land there is not even hope for any type of equilibrium in the region.

        Saud’s province in Holy Land (Jordan) is misplaced. Actually, that Saud’s province it should be in England – just for one outrageous example!

        Church (authentic) had nothing to do with establishment of Jordan. Those who were in the spirit of Anti-Christ had everything to do with it.

        Further, Jews acted in a very bad timing – anxiously wanting that what was given to Jordan, in the spirit of Antichrist, and illegally.

        I believe that Jews were warned by the Church. Emigrating Jews into the Holy Land was of another point in time. Just for example New Millennium. Still, it does not mean that some in the Church were of the devil, but the Church itself had a pretty good understanding of issues of those times.

        Nations can do any treaties according to any laws that they establish for them self … but it becomes difficult when they apply anything evil in the Holy Land and toward the Holy Land. Touching landmarks of Holy Land is sure condemnation and penalty that is of death.

        Again, lay-people do whatever they want – but condemnation remains upon all generations that do not repent of evil ancestral works and correct all evil wrong-doing in Holy Land. Children of the wicked will have to reverse the works of their wicked ancestors or they in generational lines will have and continue of condemnation that is everlasting residence in fires of hell.

        In natural things can appear just wonderful right for everyone – while lay-people do kill each other. Why is that? Those who do have understanding do understand, but it is impossible to transfer reason and understanding onto the wicked.

        That is why I believe that people of Gaza and Palestine need to kick back and relax – and have the children of the wicked correct what their wicked ancestors have done. Otherwise, they did slip into the irrevocable sins and condemnation, as well.

  2. rehmat1 August 20, 2015 at 1:25 pm #

    Jerusalem is not a “Holy Land” for Muslims. It’s “Holly Land” for Jews and Christians. In Islam, only two are called HOLLY – Allah and His Message written in al-Qur’an.

    The ancestors of five million Jews living on land stolen from Palestinian Muslims and Jews never lived in the “Holy Land”. They lived in Europe and Monte Carlo.

    Zionists’ claim on Palestine and Wailing Wall is as fake as “Jesus was Jewish”.

    http://rehmat1.com/2011/08/12/the-%e2%80%98wailing-wall%e2%80%99-is-not-jewish/

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