As we approach this weekend's anti-nuclear events and actions which will include a direct action on May 3 to declare Grand Central Station in NYC a nuclear weapons free zone, check out this statement written by members of WRL and South Asia Solidarity Initiative:
“No Nukes! Start with U.S.”
May 3, 2010
In 1982, the War Resisters League initiated a “Blockade the Bombmakers” series of mass actions in New York City at the U.N. Missions of the five nuclear powers of the time. It was day one of the United Nations’ Special Session on Disarmament, and nearly 1,700 people were arrested in the blockades, which followed a march of an estimated 1 million.
Today, there are nine nuclear powers, and the danger of nuclear weapons proliferation is even greater than it was 28 years ago.
Here in the United States, despite the White House’s pledge to seek a world without nuclear weapons and recent agreements for arms reductions with Russia, the 2011 federal budget for nuclear weapons research and development is likely to be more than $7 billion and could (if the Obama administration has its way) reach $8 billion per year by the end of this decade. This steady and growing investment contradicts the White House’s promising rhetoric of disarmament.
In addition, the administration recently unveiled its Nuclear Posture Review, which affirms a more limited but “essential” role for nuclear weapons in U.S. national security and does not rule out “first use” of nuclear weapons, a “right” that would give the United States the clearance to drop the first bomb in an atomic war, thus leaving U.S. global dominance through military power unchallenged and unchecked. Another key Pentagon document, the Quadrennial Defense Review, suggests that as nuclear reductions are completed, more powerful conventional (i.e., nonnuclear) weapons capabilities—called “Prompt Global Strike”—will be necessary.
As the wars of the nuclear age continue to rage throughout the world, it is not just the existential threat of global annihilation by accidental or deliberate nuclear strike that is of pressing concern. Whole communities throughout the world are affected daily by nuclear weapons, their land forcibly subjected to decades of nuclear testing, mining, and dumping of toxic, radioactive waste. In the United States, these practices disproportionately affect indigenous communities throughout the Southwest, permanently damaging land that was legally granted to them through treaties. This targeting underscores the racism, colonialism, and illegality at the heart of the nuclear project, one that continues to envision, build, and retain the ability to destroy the world many times over.
Today, nuclear mining and nuclear waste dumping on Native lands is back with a vengeance, as the Obama administration pushes for a renaissance of nuclear power production in the United States. In January, the White House approved a $54 billion dollar taxpayer loan in a guarantee program for new nuclear reactor construction, three times what President George W. Bush promised in 2005. Right now, there are 104 nuclear reactors in the United States, which supply 20% of the United States’ electricity. Since 2007, 17 companies have sought government approval to build 26 new reactors, at an estimated cost of more than $12 billion each. These new nuclear reactors need uranium, and the mining industry has applied to open (or reopen) 22 mines in New Mexico, many of which are on Diné (Navajo) and other tribal land. The nuclear reactors that exist today produce about 2,000 metric tons of nuclear waste every year, which is added to the 75,000 metric tons of waste stored in temporary containment around the country (122 temporary storage sites in 39 states).
At the end of April, people will be coming to New York City from all over the world to participate in and monitor the United Nations’ Nuclear Non-Proliferation Review Conference. The meeting runs from May 3 through May 28 and is the latest in a long line of disarmament meetings at the United Nations (19 by our count) that have produced reams of paper, ornate language, and NO DISARMAMENT.
The 2010 NPT Review Conference represents a key juncture in the work for nuclear disarmament and a vital opportunity to put needed pressure on the U.S. government and kick-start the antinuclear movement.
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which came into force in 1970, offered a solution to the international community’s alarm about the growing ease with which countries were acquiring and developing nuclear weapons know-how and capabilities. The five acknowledged nuclear powers—the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, France, and China—committed to disarmament. Or, in the words of the U.N., they expressed “their intention to achieve at the earliest possible date the cessation of the nuclear arms race and to undertake effective measures in the direction of nuclear disarmament.” They also agreed not to transfer nuclear weapons material or know-how to any other country. The rest of the signing nations committed not to build nuclear weapons or accept delivery of that material or know-how. All signatories agreed to the benefits of nuclear energy.
In some ways, the treaty worked. A number of countries gave up nuclear weapons programs or well-funded nuclear aspirations, and regular international meetings on nuclear non-proliferation were established. Over the decades, however, the shortcomings of the treaty have also become increasingly clear: Today, there are four more nuclear weapons states than in 1982. The imbalances written into the treaty between the nuclear haves and the nuclear have-nots and the four decades of inaction on the keystone of the treaty—disarmament—mean that the majority of the world’s people continue to be displaced and/or threatened by tens of thousands of nuclear weapons well into the 21st century.
Of the 27,000 nuclear weapons currently in existence worldwide, the United States maintains an active nuclear stockpile of 5,200 warheads with many more in reserve. The United States is the only nuclear state to have dropped nuclear weapons in war; the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed or wounded over 300,000 people and left many more survivors of the devastation.
After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the United States was the sole nuclear power in the world and there was a chance for us to recognize the immense danger of nuclear weapons and put a stop to nuclear proliferation—but the United States decided not to disarm. The Pentagon’s nuclear stockpile and vast military arsenal has been historically and continually used to intimidate and enact violence against other nations. Thus, it is clear that nuclear armament is not a matter of U.S. security but rather a decisive step toward maintaining global hegemony.
The aggressive posturing for global dominance by the United States continues with threats of economic sanctions against Iran and even military strikes to destroy their nuclear energy development efforts. Notably, in the melodrama unfolding around Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, there is no mention of the fact that the United States’ close ally Israel is the only country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons capability. The Israeli occupation of Palestinian land continues unabated and unquestioned by the United States—its number-one funder and military supporter—and the siege of Gaza continues to deny people access to vital food and supplies. In spite of the humanitarian crisis created and ignored by the U.S. and Israeli governments, Israel’s chief international priority is Iran’s uranium enrichment program, rather than peace talks with Palestine.
In addition, the Obama administration has taken up a “nuclear posture” that repositions “terrorist networks” as 21st century “Cold War” targets. By generating fear around the specter of terrorist groups gaining access to nuclear weapons, the administration seeks to justify not only its nuclear weapons program but increasing military intervention and occupation in South Asia.
As several of the new nuclear nations have demonstrated, nuclear power generation can be a path to nuclear weapons development, undermining (in fact, obliterating) one of the three pillars upon which the treaty was built: “atomic energy for peaceful purposes.” Now, nuclear technology—both for weapons and for power—is available to anyone with a high-speed internet connection, a few million dollars, and lax port security.
This level of nuclear threat alarms even ardent Cold Warriors like Henry Kissinger and George Shultz. They fear a new global paradigm—“every nation for themselves” and armed with nuclear weapons. In the face of increasing multi-polar nuclear threats, U.S. policy leaders and insiders in Washington have initiated talks around “nuclear arms control.” The latest initiative being trumpeted by the United States is the START agreement, to be signed with Russia. Among other things, the treaty pares nuclear arsenals down by 650 strategic (long-range) warheads each (establishing new legal limits at 1,550 instead of 2,200 warheads). But this is neither disarmament nor nuclear abolition.
During a speech in Prague on April 5, 2009, President Barack Obama acknowledged that “as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act.” But this “moral responsibility” has resulted only in more meetings and more talks, without concrete steps toward a nuclear weapons–free world. Since the early days of the Cold War, the War Resisters League has held that nuclear abolition begins at home, with unilateral nuclear disarmament.
We support efforts toward a Nuclear Weapons Convention, undertaken by groups like the Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy that establish a framework for real action toward disarmament. The document, which Costa Rica submitted to the 2007 U.N. meeting in preparation for the NPT Review Conference this spring, “prohibits development, testing, production, stockpiling, transfer, use, and threat of use of nuclear weapons” and calls for “states possessing nuclear weapons [to] destroy their arsenals according to a series of phases.”
While we wait for this Convention to be adopted and implemented, the War Resisters League will continue to organize to resist war, to remove the root causes of war, and to build solidarity with those most affected by war.
Join War Resisters League in April and May
On Monday, May 3, the first day of the NPT meetings, the War Resisters League and the South Asia Solidarity Initiative (SASI), along with a coalition of other groups, are organizing a demonstration. We will declare Grand Central Station a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone and reach out to commuters, delegates, and tourists to educate and inspire them to greater awareness and action around nuclear abolition.
We are also organizing a WRL panel discussion with SASI for the Disarm Now! conference on Saturday, May 1 and a WRL contingent in the international march on Sunday, May 2. Through all of this activity, we will unite with thousands of anti-nuclear activists from around the world in resistance to nuclear buildup and global militarism.
Join us to demand unilateral nuclear disarmament and to insist that action for disarmament, not more talking, is needed.
To find out more and to sign up or get involved, please email WRL Organizing Coordinator Kimber Heinz at kimber [at] warresisters.org.
Resources for More Information:
“Model Nuclear Weapons Convention,” submitted as a Working Paper to the 2007 Preparatory Committee for the 2010 NPT Review Conference by Costa Rica
“Uranium Mining, Native Resistance, and the Greener Path: The Impact of Uranium Mining on Indigenous Communities,” Winona LaDuke, January/February 2009, Orion.
Doomsday Clock, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
“Rhetoric vs. Reality: Elite Disarmament Proposals and Real Disarmament Prospects,” Western States Legal Foundation Information Brief, Spring 2009 http://www.wslfweb.org/docs/rhetoricvreality.pdf