The United Nations did a fine thing last week, as the majority of its members – the nations of the planet – voted to approve a Treaty which outlaws nuclear weapons. The final draft treaty, distributed on 6 July, had benefited from considerable input and is quite different from the draft convention of 22 May, which was less definite and clear. It seems an excellent document.
What is the use of it? The cynic or world-weary may enquire. The nuclear weapons states — the US, Russia, China, perfidious Albion, France, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea — refused to participate in the discussions. One country, Holland, which illegally houses American nuclear weapons on its soil, voted against the treaty. Singapore abstained. 122 countries voted to outlaw nukes. But so what? None of them have any!
It may all seem pointless, and symbolic. But only a few years back, the US and Russia and England all proudly developed biological weapons, and stockpiled poison gas, and manufactured landmines, and cluster bombs. Determined campaigns against them, and international outrage at the horrible things, led to the United Nations treaties outlawing them. Biological weapons were banned in 1972; chemical weapons in 1993; landmines in 1997; and cluster bombs in 2008. Today, while many landmines and cluster bombs still scatter the homelands of our allies and enemies, their manufacture is now internationally banned. The major nations have destroyed their stockpiles of poison and nerve gases.
The US, Russia and England already have obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (which they signed in 1968) not to export nukes to other countries, nor to assist or encourage other nations to acquire them. The US has been a persistant violator of the NPT, aiding India, Pakistan and Israel in the acquisition of nuclear weapons, and continually deploying its nuclear weapons abroad. In 2017, American nuclear bombs are stored at Aviano and Ghedi in Italy, Buchel in Germany, Incirlik in Turkey, Kleine Brogel in Belgium and Volkel in Holland. All three countries possess nuclear weapons submarine fleets, whose travels routinely violate the NPT.
The NPT also contains a commitment by all signatories “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” General disarmament! Not just nuclear! So England, Russia and the US are already committed by treaty obligation to “pursue negotiations in good faith” with and end to the arms race and disarmament as a goal.
Are they doing this? No. Does this mean that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is just more worthless symbolism? Not necessarily.
The nuclear powers stand on extremely shakey ground. Their mechanical war-making infrastructure was conceived, and in some cases built, half a century ago. It depends on incredibly expensive, very dangerous technology with a limited life expectancy, and a legacy of highly toxic radioactive and chemical garbage which must be guarded and somehow safely disposed of. Obama commited a trillion dollars to the US Nuclear Weapons upgrade, partially as a traditional taxpayer give-away to weapons corps like Boeing and Raytheon, partially because of Americans’ ongoing fascination for the shiny and the new, and partially because — at least in the case of the land-based Minutemen missiles — the nuclear weapons infrastructure is falling apart.
Now Presidents Trump and Putin have met, and as a Russian writer observed, it is quite funny and shocking to see the liberal media excoriating both of them, with the New York Times, the Bezos Post, The Guardian and Rachel Maddow all united in their condemnation of the boorish, orange-tinted bozo and the James Bond super-cyber-villain. Liberals worry about climate change, which they think of as global warming. Conservatives don’t believe in climate change. Yet one way to guarantee climate change – in the form of a nuclear winter provoking worldwide famine – is to start a nuclear war. Presidents Trump and Putin, as commanders-in-chief of the greatest arsenals of mass destruction the world has ever known, are our number one protections against nuclear war between the US and Russia.
Think about that. We rely on those two gentlemen to get along, and not to be provoked into detesting each other, or into provocative “shows of credibility.” In such circumstances, the UN Treaty keeps up an admirable pressure on the two of them, and on all nuclear-weapons states. Obviously, a lot more money is being made from nuclear weapons than was made from nerve gas, or cluster bombs. But each diabolical weapon had a powerful constituency; and in each case it was defeated. No country can “afford” a nuclear war. Not even the one percent can escape its consequences.
The fact that the US, UK and France issued a joint press release condemning the treaty, blaming North Korea for the world’s perilous nuclear imbalance, and reaffirming their commitment to the NPT, which requires them to disarm, and which they continue to ignore, is a good sign. They came over like silly billies, babbling nonsense in the face of an increasingly impatient world. The fact that Russia and China didn’t condem the treaty outright, may be a good sign too.
Don’t count on the mainstream media to get the word out about the Treaty, though. Silence prevails, as usual, or else outright misinformation, as when NPR’s “Democracy Now” host reported that the UN had banned the “use” of nuclear weapons. The Treaty bans the possession and distribution of nuclear weapons. (I have a friend who works as a bud-trimmer during pot season here in Oregon. She and her colleagues operate in Victorian working conditions, grooming buds of pot for hours on end for minimum wage. I had assumed they would be listening to Bob Marley. But no! The cruel dope grower boss has the radio permanently switched to NPR. I consider that an oppressive work environment.)
I just had to add one more link — to the story about the apparent “long time Clinton family ally” Paul Begala. No idea who this bazooka is but yesterday, on CNN, he called for a debate in the United States as to “whether we should blow up the KGB, GSU, or GRU.” As the DNC/Clinton faction grows increasingly McCarthyite, its push for a confrontation with Russia – not just in Syria or Ukraine – appears to have elscalated. The United States routinely meddles in other countries’ elections — via CIA, NED, straightforward military coups, and “visits” from US Senators bringing oppostion leaders scads of bribe money in diplomatic bags. Now Russia is accused, by anonymous CIA sources, of doing the same thing. The Clinton camp’s response? Bomb Russia. As the Daily Beast remarked, “What could go wrong?”