The Ploughshares Monitor Autumn 2009 Volume 30 Issue 3
These comments were taken from a presentation at the Hiroshima Day commemoration organized by Ploughshares Hamilton.
On August 6 and 9, 1945, the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed with nuclear weapons. Over 100,000 people, mostly civilians, died instantly and thousands more succumbed to burns, malnutrition, and illness. It is our duty to remember these events.
It is also our duty to celebrate the spirit of survivors and those who have dedicated themselves to ensuring that such events are never repeated and that nuclear weapons are never used again. The only way to ensure that these weapons are not used is to eliminate them.
The world continues to live in the shadow of nuclear weapons. Nine countries own approximately 24,000 nuclear weapons, with the United States and Russia accounting for the vast majority. Approximately 9,000 are considered operational and, of these, over 2,000 are on high alert, ready for use within minutes.
While the number of nuclear weapons has decreased significantly since the end of the Cold War, the rate of reduction has slowed considerably in recent years and new arsenals are being developed. Delivery systems are being modernized.
The potential for an arms race in space threatens to derail nuclear disarmament and destabilize global security. The prospect of space weapons and the drive for the ultimate high ground are causing a spiral of weapons and defenses, seen most clearly in the US push for ballistic missile defense, and responses from China for more nuclear weapons.
More and more people are demanding a world without nuclear weapons, and the voices are being heard.
In July US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed to revive the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, along with further disarmament measures that would cut their nuclear arsenals by a third or more. Also this year, NATO members launched a review of the Alliance’s Strategic Concept, including its nuclear doctrine, which makes nuclear weapons the “supreme guarantee of the security of the Allies.”
As Ernie Regehr from Project Ploughshares notes, this year’s Preparatory Meeting for the 2010 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty “moved beyond the rancor and discord of previous meetings to focus on concrete proposals”; the session “displayed a new sense that all the recent prominent proclamations of the goal of a world without nuclear weapons are having an impact on real world expectations and negotiations.” Similarly, at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, where negotiations for a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty and a treaty to prevent the weaponization of space have been stalled for over a decade, there is a new agreement to work on these and other disarmament issues.
Several current campaigns are working for a nuclear-weapon-free world. The International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons demands a Nuclear Weapons Convention that would make these weapons illegal. The Global Zero campaign has created a plan for the phased reduction of nuclear weapons leading to elimination, which they call global zero. More than 70 Canadian cities are members of Mayors for Peace.
Now we must all add our voices and actions in support of these and other initiatives. In the words of military analyst Gwynne Dyer, “it sounds like a pipe dream, but in fact the conditions have never been as promising as they are now.”