Seventy-six years ago today at 8:15 am, Japan Standard time, the world changed forever with the dropping of the first atomic bomb over the city of Hiroshima resulting in the deaths of over 140,000 human beings—mostly civilians—by year's end.
Three days later a second bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki resulting in over 74,000 deaths. The existential threat initiated with these relatively crude small weapons continues to this day with the existence of approximately 13,100 weapons in the world’s nuclear inventories. This clear and present danger threatens all of humanity and in fact could very possible extinction of the human race, by intent, accident, miscalculation, or cyber attack. The voices of the Hibakusha, the survivors of the nuclear holocaust, serve as a reminder of those horrific events and we must heed their demand: "Never again."
Oblivious and seemingly unaware of the risks posed by the very existence of these weapons, leaders of the nuclear nations continue to pursue a new arms race of enhanced nuclear weapons. They remain addicted to the myth of deterrence when, in fact, it is the greatest driver of the arms race. These weapons do not make us safer and benefit no one except the multibillion dollar arms production corporations who build these immoral instruments of death.
Fortunately, there is hope. This year has seen the international Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons move into force on January 22, marking the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons. This followed the ratification of the treaty by Honduras as the 50th nation to do so. Presently there are 55 nations who have done likewise.
Within the nuclear nations there are significant efforts calling on those governments to abolish their arsenals and join the Treaty as well. In the United States there is a national grassroots campaign called "Back from the Brink” seeking the abolition of nuclear weapons and a fundamental change in U.S. nuclear weapons policy. It calls on the United States to enter into negotiations now with the other nuclear arms nations for a verifiable, enforceable, time bound agreement to illuminate their weapons. It also calls for the U.S. to unilaterally adopt four additional key policies to reduce the danger of nuclear war while these negotiations proceed. These include:
- Renouncing the option of using nuclear weapons first;
- Ending the soul, unchecked authority of any U.S. President to launch a nuclear attack;
- Taking U.S. nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert; and
- Canceling the plan to replace the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal with enhanced weapons.
This effort can be endorsed by anyone and has currently been back by 354 organizations, 50 municipalities, and six state legislative bodies. It is being supported by a growing list of local and state elected officials across the nation who are calling on the Biden administration and the U.S. Congress to take bold action now. We all can and must encourage our local and state leaders to sign on, which they can do on the Open Letter for Elected Officials page.
At a time where the world is threatened with the effects of climate change and a global pandemic with no end in sight we must remember and learn from those events 76 years ago and call for an end to a security policy based on luck that there will not be another nuclear attack or war. Simultaneously we must call out the ignorance or outright lies of leaders who maintain a need for a "credible nuclear deterrent" or state that "all options are on the table" as euphemisms for the plan to use these weapons. We must demand an answer to the question of when they would ever consider such an action that would threaten the existence of humanity and simultaneously make it clear that this is not acceptable.
The Biden administration has an opportunity to now to live up to the campaign rhetoric of reducing our reliance on nuclear weapons as it develops its nuclear posture review and demonstrates to the world that the U.S. is committed and ready to lead the world in our 51-year commitment under Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) to work in good faith for the complete abolition of nuclear weapons.
This content originally appeared on Common Dreams - Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community and was authored by Robert Dodge.