by Jim McCluskey
November 14, 2014
The US, the UK, Russia, China and France are rebuilding or upgrading
their arsenals of nuclear weapons.
The other four nuclear states (Pakistan,
India, Israel, and North Korea) too are 'improving' their arsenals.
As we discuss the statistics and strategies of 'nuclear arsenals'
and 'nuclear deterrence' it can be hard to keep in mind the reality
underlying the abstract discussions.
The nine nuclear states have over 10,000 nuclear weapons in their
stockpiles.1 This is enough to wipe out the entire population of the
planet many times over together with all other life forms.
Is this sane? Has the human race lost its senses? A single United
States thermonuclear warhead, designated
W88, has an estimated
'yield' of 475 kilotons.2 The 'yield' is the
destructive power expressed in tons of TNT equivalent.
The W88 is over 30 times more destructive than the bomb which wiped
A single W88 could completely destroy London, Moscow or New York.
Each bomb on a major city would kill millions of people; women,
children, babies, old people, everyone. The suffering would be
indescribable and for many would go on for months and years before
death. No emergency services could begin to cope. There would be no
What sort of people would do such a
What kind of human would threaten such
The US government has 5 nuclear submarines on patrol at all times
carrying 1000 times the destructive power of the Hiroshima bomb.
Is it possible to imagine the degree of
paranoia represented by such a standing threat? The UK government
has started to spend one hundred billion pounds on rebuilding its
Trident fleet of nuclear submarines, each one with the capacity to
incinerate over 40 million people.
This is being done at a time when many
citizens are suffering from inadequate defences against flooding and
when the social services are being radically cut back.
The situation is being rendered even more dangerous by the US and
Russia who keep 1,800 weapons on high alert atop long-range
ballistic missiles that are ready to launch 5 to 15 minutes after
receiving an order!
It is ironic that the worst offenders are the five permanent members
of the 'Security' Council of
the United Nations.
They have had 69
years to get rid of their nuclear weapons while all that the
citizens of the world hear from them are windy speeches around
purported good intentions which never come to fruition.
Citizens of the world have simultaneously become aware that the
nuclear states do not intend to get rid of their nuclear weapons and
that their existence imposes a permanent and intolerable threat to
The existence of nuclear weapons means
they could be used by accident, by misunderstanding or by malicious
How can we ever be sure that
some deranged psychopath will not gain power in one of the
nuclear states and deceive him/herself into believing that
it is in their best interests to make a first strike?
How can we ever be sure that
some terrorist organizations will not hack into the
electronic control systems and carry out the launching
And we now know that even a small
nuclear exchange could be a lethal threat to everyone on the planet.
In a limited nuclear war between India
and Pakistan 20 million people would die from the nuclear blasts,
fires, and radioactive fallout. And the fallout would have global
consequences that would kill millions of people, disrupt climate
patterns, and threaten global agricultural collapse.4
Furthermore decent people round the globe know that the existence of
nuclear weapons is a brooding evil which undermines the moral
integrity of humankind.
As the great moral leader Desmond
"Nuclear weapons are an obscenity.
They are the very antithesis of humanity…" 5
The only remedy is an enforced world ban
on the existence of nuclear weapons. The other weapons of mass
destruction have already been banned. It is the turn of the last and
most destructive of them all.
And finally there is hope. The huge burgeoning of awareness in the
citizens of the world is bearing fruit.
There are 9 nuclear states and there are 183 non-nuclear states. The
security of the non-nuclear states is threatened by the
irresponsible and self-focused behavior of the 9 others. But these
9 are outnumbered by 20 to one.
The non-nuclear majority which do not
feel the need for a lethal 'security' crutch have decided to take
the initiative. And rather than focus on the numbers and 'yields' of
the weapons it was wisely decided to concentrate on the effects on
humanity of the use of nuclear weapons.
The next logical development, as the
nuclear states continue to deny their obligations to shed their
arsenals, is for the non-nuclear states to proceed independently to
enact a treaty outlawing these weapons internationally.
By focusing attention on the
humanitarian consequences of their use they are well on their way to
The first International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of
Nuclear Weapons was held in 2013. Humanity owes a great debt to
Norway for this initiative.
This ground-breaking and historic conference was attended by
delegates from 127 countries and 70 nongovernmental organizations.
The nuclear states were invited but declined to attend. It is not
easy to face up to the implications of these arsenals especially if
you bear the primary responsibility. India and Pakistan sent
After hearing presentations from a wide range of experts on the
various effects of nuclear weapon detonations the conference
"it is unlikely that any state or
international body could address the immediate humanitarian
emergency caused by a nuclear weapon detonation in an adequate
manner and provide sufficient assistance to those affected."
Conference members also agreed that the
effects of a nuclear weapon detonation will not be constrained by
national borders but will produce significant negative regional and
Mexico offered to host a follow-up meeting to this conference and
such is the vital importance of this approach that other states
declared their intention to organize additional events on this
The Second Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons
was held in Nayarit, Mexico, on 13 and 14 February 2014. It included
delegations representing 146 States, the United Nations, the
International Committee of the Red Cross, the Red Cross and Red
Crescent movement and civil society organizations.
The powerful summary statement of the conference Chair pointed out
that the broad participation of states and civil society reflected
the burgeoning awareness that this issue is of the utmost importance
to all the peoples of the world.
'…proliferation, the vulnerability
of nuclear command and control networks to cyber-attacks and to
human error and potential access to nuclear weapons by non-state
actors, in particularly terrorist groups' the risks are 'growing
The risks of,
'accidental, mistaken, unauthorized
or intentional use is growing significantly due to more
countries holding weapons on higher levels of combat readiness'.
As awareness of the humanitarian impact
grows hearts and minds are being changed worldwide.
These weapons must be outlawed:
'in the past, weapons have been
eliminated after they have been outlawed. We believe this is the
path to achieve a world without nuclear weapons'.
He called for a 'legally binding
instrument' and declared that the,
'time has come to initiate a
diplomatic process conducive to this goal. Our belief is that
this process should comprise a specific timeframe, the
definition of the most appropriate forum, and a clear and
substantive framework, making the humanitarian impact of nuclear
weapons the essence of disarmament efforts. It is time to take
The Third Conference on the Humanitarian
Impact of Nuclear Weapons will be held in Austria later this year.
The movement for an international ban is unstoppable.
The International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) 8
is a coalition of over 350 organizations in 90 countries.
Ray Acheson, in her closing
statement on behalf of ICAN to the Second Conference included the
'The claim by some states that they
continue to need these weapons to deter their adversaries has
been exposed by the evidence presented at this conference and in
Oslo as a reckless and unsanctionable gamble with our future'.
She went on to explain that the use
against cities of less than one percent of existing weapons would
put billions of lives in jeopardy and have a long lasting
detrimental effect on both the planet's climate and agriculture.
She insisted that we must act to get rid
of them or they will be used by accident, misunderstanding or
malicious intent. Getting rid of them will take courageous
leadership by states but such leadership will have the support of
civil society. She concluded 'It is time to change the status quo.
It is time we ban nuclear weapons.
So with these and other major forces at work there is an unstoppable
movement towards banning these Armageddon machines.
The nuclear states have become a sorry
sight. Frozen in a realm of outdated thinking which was always
inhuman; their leaders frightened and paranoid and prepared to put
the survival of humanity in jeopardy simply in order to feel
important and powerful as they strut, uncomprehending, on the world
Their brief and nightmarish ascendancy is over.
The world has moved on...