Friday, October 24, 2014

The mouse that roared

Lawsuits have been filed by the tiny country of Marshall Islands against the nine nuclear-armed nations. Between 1946 – 1958 the Marshall Islands was used as a test ground for the U.S. nuclear program during this time. 67 nuclear bombs detonated over the Marshall Islands during this time period. That is the equivalent of  1.7 Hiroshima bombs detonated daily for 12 years .

The lawsuits raise the following issues:

First, the nuclear-armed countries party to the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (the US, Russia, UK, France and China) are obligated "to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race and to nuclear disarmament . . . "  The four nuclear-armed countries that are not parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea) have the same obligations under customary international law.

Second, all nine nuclear-armed countries are in breach of their obligations to negotiate a cessation of the nuclear arms race.

Third, all nine nuclear-armed countries are in breach of their obligations to negotiate for nuclear disarmament.

Fourth, all nine nuclear-armed countries are in breach of their obligations to act in good faith.  They are not engaged in negotiations.  Rather, they are modernizing their nuclear arsenals.  The United States alone has plans to spend $1 trillion over the next three decades modernizing its nuclear arsenal.

Fifth, these breaches undermine the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and international law itself.

Sixth, continued reliance on nuclear weapons keeps the door open to nuclear proliferation by other countries and by terrorist organizations, and to nuclear weapons use, by accident or design.

In sum, the nuclear-armed countries have obligations under international law that they are breaching, and these breaches raise serious threats to the people of the world, now and in the future.  The Marshall Islands has brought the lawsuits in an attempt to compel them to do what the parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty promised to do long ago, and what all nine nuclear-armed countries are required to do under international law. Considering that most of the economy of the Marshall Islands is supported by the U.S. government, and along with many of the other micro-nations of the Pacific votes alongside the America on most international issues  this court action took some courage. Whether it's likely to have any effect is a different story.

There are still over 16,000 nuclear weapons in the world, with some 94 percent of these in the arsenals of the United States and Russia.  A war between these two countries could trigger an ice age that would end civilization and potentially all complex life on Earth. According to atmospheric scientists, even a small regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan, in which each side used 50 Hiroshima-size nuclear weapons on the other side’s cities, would result in putting enough soot into the upper stratosphere to block warming sunlight, shorten growing seasons and cause crop failures that could lead to a global nuclear famine resulting in the death by starvation of some two billion people.

Unfortunately, these powerful nations have a history of ignoring the illegalities of their actions and have often ignored court decisions against them. The goal pursued by campaigners for nuclear disarmament is a world without nuclear weapons but a world still divided into competing nation states and alliances, still plagued by conflicts over resources, still armed to the teeth with non-nuclear weapons. The strategy to separate the issue of nuclear weapons from its broader military and political context and deal with it first. Then, with nuclear weapons out of the way, the next goals would be conventional disarmament, a lasting peace, perhaps a united world Arguably this has never been a feasible plan. This does not mean that a world without nuclear weapons is impossible. It means only that such a world must take the form of a united human community that has no use for weapons of any kind. The efforts of people who want a better world –or simply human survival –must be geared directly toward that goal, for there is no viable halfway house.

The well-meaning law-suit fails to consider what political, social and economic changes might be necessary to create and sustain the international trust and cooperation that he seeks. Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that nuclear disarmament were somehow to be achieved within the existing conflict-based system. Many states would still have the technological capacity to make nuclear weapons again if they so decided. This is known as the “breakout” problem. It is hard to imagine countries resisting this temptation when at war or even under conditions of acute military confrontation. As we need not just to achieve but maintain nuclear disarmament, we therefore also need to abolish war in general, together with all weapons that can be used to threaten war.

But take our argument a step further. Wars arise out of conflicts over the control of resources. Doesn’t this mean that an end has to be put to such conflicts? And how can this be done without placing resources under the control of a global community – that is, without establishing world socialism?

Socialists are not against nuclear or any disarmament within capitalism. We know that the world faces problems of the greatest urgency and we know that the global social revolution is not an immediate prospect. We have no wish to hold human survival hostage to the attainment of our ideals. Please go ahead and prove us wrong by abolishing nuclear weapons through international law and the courts legal decision without abolishing capitalism. Nothing, apart from socialism itself, would make us happier. The trouble is that we simply don’t understand how it can be done. That is why we see no alternative to working for socialism.

Adapted from here 

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