Let the Hiroshima and Nagasaki commemorations be our call to action

As we prepare to commemorate the 74th anniversary of the horrific Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings on 6 and 9 August respectively, we must also reflect on the growing danger of another deliberate use of nuclear weapons.

The only possible role for nuclear weapons, so long as they remain in existence, is to deter their use by anyone.  Any other scenario, especially those based on the insane notion of a limited, “winnable” nuclear war, is a sure path to global Armageddon. – RI President Peggy Mason

Professor Paul Rogers, in a recent article for Opendemocracy.net, highlights the resurgence under President Donald Trump of Pentagon planning for first use of nuclear weapons. Rogers notes:

At the root of the approach is the belief that small-scale use of very powerful weapons could end a conflict on US terms.

Trump seemed to be channeling this thinking when he recently bragged he could “decisively” end the conflict in Afghanistan in “a week and a half” but for the killing of 10 million Afghans which he said he did not want.

Writing in the Military Times, journalist Meghann Myers drew the awful conclusion on the minds of many:

Trump’s statement that his plan would annihilate one-third of the Afghan population raised concerns in national security circles, as the estimated death toll implied a threat of nuclear force.

Not only would such a use of nuclear weapons be a war crime of unimaginable proportions, it would almost certainly be the beginning, not the end, of the use of nuclear weapons. As Paul Rogers cautions:

If the US did kill millions in a small nuclear war it would not prevent any further nuclear attacks for a hundred years ….[as proponents allege]. The new certainty would be the direct opposite: any such US nuclear use would prompt clandestine [nuclear] attacks on US cities within a few years at most.

In short, any use of nuclear weapons risks a global conflagration, whether in days, weeks or months.

Whither Canada?

As this country prepares for a federal election, we call on each and every Canadian to let the prospective candidates in your constituency know that we expect our Government to do everything in its power to ensure nuclear weapons are never again used.

For the full article by Professor Paul Rogers, click: A winnable nuclear war: Trump revives his generals’ dreams (opendemocracy.net, 25 July 2019).

For a detailed look at how a made-for-tv movie that was broadcast 35 years ago turned then American President Ronald Reagan into a nuclear weapons abolitionist, see: Facing Nuclear Reality 35 years after The Day After (Dawn Stover, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Special Report).

Dialogue and cooperation: The way forward

For a wonderful antidote to the litany of bad news on the nuclear weapons front, see the article by Professor Michael Byers: Cold, dark, and dangerous: international cooperation in the arctic and space (Polar Record, Vol. 55, Issue 1, Jan 2019).

An essay based on the full article can be found in the Globe and Mail here.

Byers concludes that essay with the following observation:

There are still factors that could tip the Arctic or space into competition and conflict, including climate change, rogue states and an uninformed and impulsive U.S. President. But professional diplomats understand that these regions are special, that their extreme conditions almost demand co-operation.

Can we not say the same of nuclear weapons?

Photo credit: Freedom II Andres (A-Bomb Dome)

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