"Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons." Bertrand Russell

Friday, August 19, 2005

Nuclear Nightmare Diplomacy

We Must Act Now to Prevent Another Hiroshima -- or Worse
The explosions in London are a reminder of how the cycle of attack and response could escalate
by Noam Chomsky
August 17, 2005

This month's anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki prompts only the most somber reflection and most fervent hope that the horror may never be repeated.

In the subsequent 60 years, those bombings have haunted the world's imagination but not so much as to curb the development and spread of infinitely more lethal weapons of mass destruction.

A related concern, discussed in technical literature well before 11 September 2001, is that nuclear weapons may sooner or later fall into the hands of terrorist groups.

The recent explosions and casualties in London are yet another reminder of how the cycle of attack and response could escalate, unpredictably, even to a point horrifically worse than Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

The world's reigning power accords itself the right to wage war at will, under a doctrine of "anticipatory self-defense" that covers any contingency it chooses. The means of destruction are to be unlimited.

US military expenditures approximate those of the rest of the world combined, while arms sales by 38 North American companies (one in Canada) account for more than 60 per cent of the world total (which has risen 25 per cent since 2002).

There have been efforts to strengthen the thin thread on which survival hangs. The most important is the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which came into force in 1970. The regular five-year review conference of the NPT took place at the United Nations in May.

The NPT has been facing collapse, primarily because of the failure of the nuclear states to live up to their obligation under Article VI to pursue "good faith" efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons. The United States has led the way in refusal to abide by the Article VI obligations. Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, emphasizes that "reluctance by one party to fulfill its obligations breeds reluctance in others".

President Jimmy Carter blasted the United States as "the major culprit in this erosion of the NPT. While claiming to be protecting the world from proliferation threats in Iraq, Libya, Iran and North Korea, American leaders not only have abandoned existing treaty restraints but also have asserted plans to test and develop new weapons, including Anti-Ballistic missiles, the earth-penetrating 'bunker buster' and perhaps some new 'small' bombs. They also have abandoned past pledges and now threaten first use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states".

The thread has almost snapped in the years since Hiroshima, repeatedly. The best known case was the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962, "the most dangerous moment in human history", as Arthur Schlesinger, historian and former adviser to President John F Kennedy, observed in October 2002 at a retrospective conference in Havana.

continued... The Independent via ZMag