It is good to be back at All Saints. This church represents what a Peace Church should be. I appreciate that Reverend Bacon has gone to Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas in support of Cindy Sheehan and in opposition to the illegal war in Iraq.
We are still in the season of Hiroshima. Sixty years ago that city was devastated by a single US nuclear weapon, and three days later the city of Nagasaki was devastated by another US nuclear weapon.
What most Americans don’t know is that in between those two bombings, which took place on August 6th and 9th, 1945, the US and the other Allied powers in World War II agreed to hold the Nuremberg Tribunals at which they held the Axis leaders to account for crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Between these two great crimes of slaughtering civilian populations at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we agreed to the Nuremberg Tribunals. The most basic principle of these Tribunals is that no one stands above international law, no matter how high his or her position – not presidents, not prime ministers, no one.
We Americans have a lot of ambiguity about nuclear weapons. We somehow think that they protect us, but they don’t. They make us more vulnerable. So long as the US continues to rely upon nuclear weapons for security, other countries will do so as well, and new countries will find it in their national interests to follow our example. If the most powerful country in the world demonstrates by its policies that it needs nuclear weapons, other countries will choose this route as well.
The greatest threat, though, lies with terrorists. If they get their hands on a nuclear weapon – a possibility made more likely by our policies of retaining large numbers of these weapons – they will not hesitate to use them against us. Extremist groups cannot be deterred by nuclear threats. You cannot deter those you cannot locate and you cannot deter those who are suicidal. Deterrence has major flaws, and it has zero value against extremist groups.
The US has not fulfilled its obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Back in 1968, we promised good faith negotiations for nuclear disarmament. Those negotiations have yet to take place. We still have some 10,000 nuclear weapons in our arsenal. We and the Russians still have some 2,000 nuclear weapons each on hair trigger alert, ready to be fired in moments. It is 15 years since the end of the Cold War. Our continued reliance on nuclear weapons is insane. It looks like the reflection of a “death wish” for the planet.
In the year 2000, the US, along with all other parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, agreed to 13 Practical Steps for Nuclear Disarmament. This would be a great step forward, except for the fact that the US has fulfilled none of these, and is now the major obstacle to nearly all of them. The Bush administration does not like to even see mention of nuclear disarmament in international documents. They held up agreement on the agenda for the 2005 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference for some ten days because they did not want to see reference to these 13 Practical Steps, nor of any of the components, such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, a verifiable Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, and the promise of an unequivocal undertaking to achieve total nuclear disarmament – all points to which the US had previously agreed.
A Responsible US Nuclear Weapons Policy
It’s long past time for a responsible US nuclear weapons policy, not only to fulfill our legal obligations and to uphold reasonable moral standards, but also to enhance the security of the US and the world. I would suggest that, at a minimum, a responsible US nuclear policy would include the following Ten No’s and a Yes.
- No new nuclear weapons
- No research and development of new nuclear weapons.
- No new plutonium pit production.
- No resumption of nuclear testing.
- No use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states.
- No first use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances.
- No maintaining nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert.
- No strategy of launch on warning.
- No nuclear weapons on foreign soil.
- No double standards.
And a Yes
Provide affirmative leadership to achieve existing obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, including the 13 Practical Steps for Nuclear Disarmament set forth at the treaty’s 2000 Review Conference. Above all, initiate good faith negotiations for a Nuclear Weapons Convention, as called for in Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty for the phased elimination of nuclear weapons under strict and effective international control within a reasonable period of time.
This does not mean unilateral disarmament. It means multilateral disarmament for all states with US leadership. It would constitute a major change of direction in US policy.
Who Are We?
I’ve thought a lot about the relationship of the war in Iraq to US nuclear weapons policies. I think what they have in common are these points: arrogance, double standards, disrespect for international law (and therefore the international community), and unilateralism. These characteristics are undermining what is decent and just about us. They are destroying us, and they have the potential to destroy the world.
We need to ask ourselves the question: Who are we? Have we become people of the bomb? Is the bomb more important to us than our humanity? The Russell-Einstein Manifesto in 1955, emphasized: “Remember your humanity, and forget the rest.” We need to return to our roots and regain our souls. The starting point is remembering our humanity.
We can’t just recognize the problems intellectually. We must do something about them. We must all become part of the force for change. We can’t just sit back while illegal and immoral actions are committed in our names. We need to take heart and take action. We need to become involved and do our part.
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation has some resources that may be helpful at our www.wagingpeace.org website.
First, you can sign up there for our free monthly e-newsletter, The Sunflower. It will keep you up-to-date on nuclear issues and provide action alerts.
Second, at the website you can become involved in our Turn the Tide Campaign, and send letters to your elected representatives on key nuclear issues.
Third, we have an excellent Speakers’ Bureau that can help you get the word out.
Above all, use your creativity and your special talents to help others “remember their humanity” and take part in turning around US nuclear policy.
There are times when the world looks pretty bleak, but we can take heart from all the great peace leaders who have preceded us. Here is my list of Fifty-One Reasons for Hope. I’m sure you can add to it, and I hope that you will.
1. Each new dawn.
2. The miracle of birth.
3. Our capacity to love.
4. The courage of nonviolence.
5. Gandhi, King and Mandela.
6. The night sky.
8. Flowers and bees.
9. The arc of justice.
12. The full moon.
14. Simple wisdom.
15. Dogs and cats.
17. Our ability to reflect.
18. Our capacity for joy.
19. The Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu and Oscar Romero.
20. The gift of conscience.
21. Human rights and responsibilities.
22. Our capacity to nurture.
23. The ascendancy of women.
25. Our capacity to change.
26. Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin.
27. The internet.
28. War resisters.
29. Everyday heroes.
30. Lions, tigers, bears, elephants and giraffes.
31. Conscientious objectors.
32. Tolstoy, Twain and Vonnegut.
34. Our water planet.
35. Solar energy.
36. Picasso, Matisse and Miro.
37. World citizens.
39. The survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
40. The King of Hearts.
43. Pablo Neruda.
47. The Principles of Nuremberg.
48. A child’s smile.
51. Our ability to choose hope.
It is our ability to choose hope, even in dark times, that can keep us going. I urge you to never stop fighting for a more decent world. We will not attain peace by making war, and we will not end the nuclear weapons threat to humanity by continuing to rely upon these most destructive and cowardly of all weapons for our security.
Nothing will change if we are complacent and accept the status quo. We need to rise to our full stature as human beings, and exert our full human powers to change the world and create a more decent future for ourselves and for those who follow us on this miraculous life-supporting planet.
David Krieger is the president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org). He is the author of a recent book of anti-war poetry, Today Is Not a Good Day for War.