You may ask, how can we respond to something so overwhelming, so huge, so threatening that there is nowhere to hide except in denial? We’ve been trying that for almost 70 years. The numbers of weapons are down, their accuracy and lethality are up. It is time to try something new.

We now know that Nuclear Winter, ozone layer destruction, phytoplankton reduction and other effects of a nuclear exchange would threaten health and life  everywhere on Earth in addition to the warring peoples. The people of the world are held hostage to the passions of the nine nuclear-weapons nations. We are no longer talking about deterring a potential adversary; we are talking about poisoning or ending Life on Earth. This new knowledge potentially adds billions of people to those already determined to abolish nuclear weapons.

After the disaster of Fukushima, several nations, including Germany, abandoned nuclear generation because of its dangers. But thirteen nations are now constructing new power reactors. The problem is that the refinement of nuclear reactor fuel, if carried further, becomes weapons grade highly enriched uranium. The operation of nuclear plants results in the byproduct of plutonium, which also can be used to make a bomb.

Since 1970 the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has succeeded in slowing the  proliferation of nuclear weapons. The original deal was that the nuclear weapons states (NWS)  would work at abolishing their weapons, while the nuclear-weapons-free states (NWFS) would refrain from obtaining them. However, the weapons-free states are growing increasingly impatient with the deal, as they realize that they are endangered and that the nuclear weapons states are making little progress toward abolition.

The Role of the U.S.

Since 9/11/01 the U.S. has been following a policy of expanding its influence  through military bases around the world, particularly in Central Asia,  Africa and the Pacific. This process is greatly aided by the presence of our vast stockpile of nuclear warheads and far-reaching delivery systems, a fearful “deterrent” to any potential resistance. .

At the same time, the manufacture and maintenance of nuclear warheads and the missiles, planes and submarines to deliver them anywhere in the world has grown into a huge business. Estimated at $50 billion a year, this business, including Air Force bases, nuclear laboratories, manufacturing plants and other facilities,  employs people in almost every Congressional District. The corporations that manufacture and manage these facilities spend millions a year in campaign contributions and lobbyists persuading our Representatives in Congress not to cut the budget from any part of this huge “defense” conglomerate.

For other nations of the Nuclear Nine, the possession of nuclear weapons supplements their limited conventional forces when compared to those of a potential enemy. They will resist relinquishing their nuclear weapons, unless there is a reduction in all military forces. But it can be managed.

Slicing Through the Gordian Knot

In 1996 the World Court of Justice considered nuclear weapons and concluded that their use was illegal, except as the last resort of an endangered nation. We now know that any use of these weapons threatens Life on Earth. It would be useful if the nuclear-weapons-free nations could persuade the Court to label the manufacture, maintenance, support and any and all preparations for the use of nuclear weapons to be criminal activities. It seems obvious that any activity that threatens the indiscriminate incineration or poisoning of human beings is a Crime Against Humanity. For the millions involved in this work, or profiting from it, it is high time that they face the criminal nature of their employment, management, study or investment. This potential suicide of the human race cannot be disguised as a military deterrent, a patriotic duty or an acceptable activity for any reason. It is a crime beyond all measure. It must be stopped!

There is now a draft convention for the abolition of nuclear weapons at the United Nations, similar to those that ended chemical and germ warfare. As the step-by-step disarmament process has resulted in the current “modernization” of existing weapons, it is time  to take another approach. The more than 180 nuclear-weapons-free nations should move to finalize this convention with or without the NWS participation. In the final analysis, if the nuclear nations continue to resist abolition, they may be subject to sanctions of the NWFN.

There is no time to hesitate on the abolition of these weapons. As more nations get nuclear plants, refined uranium fuel and basic technology, the Non Proliferation Treaty will lose its force and the number of nations having nuclear weapons will increase.

As the United States developed nuclear weapons, is the only nation to have used them, and has one of the greatest stockpiles of warheads, it is important that we take the lead in their abolition. We have an election every two years for all of our Representatives in Congress and a third of our Senators. Can we not demand that all of these elected officials Pledge in their campaigns to Oppose any funding for any part of our nuclear weapons and delivery systems? Can we not ask all those who fund these elections to abstain from funding candidates who will not take the Pledge of Opposition? Can we not disinvest in those corporations that are active in the nuclear weapons business and support the self-perpetuating nuclear weapons lobbies in Washington?

The choice is clear. Either we exert ourselves to achieve and enforce a Convention to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, or we leave to our children the awsome possibility that they will be poisoned by fallout or incinerated by these criminal weapons.

Peter G Cohen was a freshman at the U Chicago when Fermi developed the chain reaction. He was on a troopship bound for Japan when the bomb was detonated over Hiroshima. He is the author of the website