In this season of the 61st anniversaries of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, it is noteworthy that there are still 27,000 nuclear weapons in the world. These weapons are in the arsenals of nine countries, but over 95 percent of them are in the arsenals of just two countries: the US and Russia. These two countries each actively deploy some 6,000 nuclear weapons and keep about 2,000 on hair-trigger alert.

The political elites in the US seem to think this is fine, and that they can go on with nuclear business-as-usual for the indefinite future. Not a single member of the US Senate has called for pragmatic steps leading to the abolition of nuclear weapons, including negotiations for nuclear disarmament as required by the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

US leaders are living within a bubble of hubris that is manifested in many ways, flagrant examples of which are the pursuit of an illegal war in Iraq, and opposition to joining the International Criminal Court and the Kyoto accords on global warming. Underlying their policies is the attitude that US military and economic power gives them the right to violate international law at will and pursue a unilateral path of force when it suits their fancy. We citizens are being held hostage to their major errors in judgment, which in the Nuclear Age could result in the destruction of the country and much of civilization.

Rather than working to reduce the nuclear threat, US nuclear policy is promoting nuclear proliferation. A recent example is the proposed US-India nuclear deal, in which the Congress appears prepared to change its own non-proliferation laws in order to sell nuclear materials and technology to a country that never signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and secretly developed nuclear weapons. US leaders must have their heads deeply buried in the sand if they fail to grasp that this will spur an even more intense nuclear arms race on the Indian subcontinent and be viewed as hypocritical by the vast majority of the non-nuclear weapons states that are parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In the 2006 Hiroshima Peace Declaration, Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba pointed out that the US Conference of Mayors adopted a resolution in June “demanding that all nuclear weapons states, including the Untied States, immediately cease all targeting of cities with nuclear weapons.” Of course, this would be a good beginning, but nuclear weapons have little use other than to target cities or other nuclear weapons. They are, after all, the ultimate weapon of mass destruction.

The World Court found the threat or use of nuclear weapons to be illegal. Most churches have been vocal about their immorality. These weapons detract from security rather than add to it. A recent international commission report on weapons of mass destruction, Weapons of Terror, concluded: “So long as any state has [weapons of mass destruction] – especially nuclear arms – others will want them. So long as any such weapons remain in any state’s arsenal, there is a high risk that they will one day be used, by design or accident. Any such use would be catastrophic.”

Why are we not appalled by the myopia and arrogance of our political leadership for disastrous policies such as those that ignore the obligation in the Non-Proliferation Treaty for good faith negotiations to achieve nuclear disarmament in all its aspects? We should be asking: How do individuals who support these insane policies rise to such high office? We should also be asking: Why do ordinary Americans not care enough about their survival to change their leadership?

A large part of the answer to the first question is that the system is broken and far too dependent on large cash contributions to buy television ads. Insight into an answer to the second question may be found in the recent Harris Poll (July 21, 2006) that reported that 50 percent of US respondents still believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the US invaded that country in March 2003. One opinion analyst, Steven Kull, described such views as “independent of reality.” That is how it is for many Americans and their political leaders in this 61st year of the Nuclear Age. Living with such purposeful ignorance is a recipe for disaster.

David Krieger is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation ( He is a leader in the global effort for a world free of nuclear weapons.