International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)
By Chuck Baynton
The dawn of the nineteenth century saw widespread, legally sanctioned markets where black Africans were bought and sold by white Europeans. By century’s end, that practice was gone. The United States was among the last to abolish it. Resistance to abolition here was massive. These are shameful facts.
Today there is a new abomination, nuclear weapons, and a new abolition movement.
Who says nuclear weapons are an abomination, and heartily embraces abolition? In March 2013, hosted by Norway, an international conference met in Oslo. Peter Maurer, president of the International Committees of the Red Cross, said:
“Nuclear weapons are unique in their destructive power, in the unspeakable human suffering they cause, in the impossibility of controlling their effects in space and time, in the risks of escalation they create, and in the threat they pose to the environment, to future generations, and indeed to the survival of humanity.”
“Any use of nuclear weapons is a violation of the UN Charter and a crime against humanity.”
That was Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at a September 2013 UN General Assembly meeting on nuclear weapons. Before you dismiss his remarks as a rant by a notorious America-hater, you should know that Rouhani spoke that day in behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement comprising approximately two thirds of the world’s countries.
Switzerland, in Oslo, spoke of the need to “progressively delegitimize nuclear weapons” and “the anomaly that nuclear weapons are the only weapons of mass destruction that are not banned.”
And Ireland, September 2013 at the UN: “The international community has recently conveyed, rightly, its sense of complete revulsion at the use of chemical weapons in Syria… Nuclear weapons…are different to chemical weapons only in that they are more indiscriminate and more devastating.”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has said of nuclear weapons, “There are no right hands for the wrong weapons.”
This is widely quoted, for example by Austrian President Heinz Fischer (September 2013) who continued, “He is entirely right. The peoples of the world have the right to live without this menace. Nuclear weapons should be stigmatized, banned, and eliminated.”
Mexico shows its support (today) by hosting a successor to the Oslo meeting. Expect empty chairs for the major nuclear-armed powers. They’re invited, but everyone understands that this movement is building toward a treaty to outlaw nuclear weapons, to proclaim them rogue state weapons as surely as poison gas is.
America, joined by other nuclear powers, claims that no new treaty is needed because stepwise nuclear force reductions are working. The world is not fooled. Force reduction treaties squeak through the US Senate only by showing that the remaining US arsenal can still unleash Armageddon on an hour’s notice. The Vatican representative said it at the September UN meeting: “(This) meeting would not have been called if the steps were working. They are not.”
The abolition movement will not end in Mexico. For now, shaming, not power, is what the participants have.
In America, we still have the power. Events to come will show what we understand of shame.