Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 21, 2005
Step beyond Hiroshima
Holy See's advisor to UN calls for abolition of nuclear arms
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Sixty years after the United States destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atomic bombs, more than 30,000 nuclear weapons are still in existence.
"The Cold War is long over but half the world population still lives under a government that brandishes nuclear weapons," laments former senator Douglas Roche. "More than $12 trillion has so far been spent on these instruments of mass murder, which is a theft from the poorest people in the world."
In his recently released book, Beyond Hiroshima (Novalis/Bayard, $19.95), Roche exposes the myths about nuclear weapons, explores all the arguments and the history of previous efforts to achieve disarmament and updates readers on the consequences of keeping nuclear weapons around and on the dangers of nuclear terrorism and the use of space for future wars. He also explores solutions that will make global peace and political stability possible.
Peace or devastation
"The day will arrive when either nuclear weapons are abolished or the world is devastated by a nuclear attack," he warns. "One or the other will happen."
Roche, a parliamentarian, diplomat and educator who has worked on nuclear disarmament issues for more than 30 years, says the present nuclear crisis has, in fact, led to the opening of a Second Nuclear Age.
The long-standing nuclear weapons states - the U.S., Russia, China, the United Kingdom and France - are making nuclear weapons permanent instruments of their military doctrines. India, Pakistan and Israel are in the nuclear club. North Korea is trying to get in.
Moreover, the U.S. and Russia have put new emphasis on the war-fighting role of nuclear weapons with the U.S. spending $110 million everyday in maintaining its nuclear forces and now seeking money from Congress for new ones.
"The nuclear weapons states refuse to give up their arsenals, and feign surprise that other nations, seeing that nuclear weapons have become the currency of power in the modern world, are trying to acquire them," Roche writes in the book's introduction. "So are the terrorists. No major city in the world is safe from the threat of a nuclear attack."
Much of the public and some politicians, however, are oblivious to the new nuclear dangers, thinking that the nuclear weapons problem went away with the end of the Cold War.
"They do not recognize the continued existence of enormous stocks of nuclear weapons, most with a destructive power many times greater than that of the atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki," he writes. "Nuclear weapons are instruments of pure evil. A nuclear explosion, either by design or accident, would kill a massive number if people, create international chaos and cripple the world economy."
Roche, the founding editor of the Western Catholic Reporter and a member of the Order of Canada, was Canada's Ambassador for Disarmament from 1984 to 1989 and was elected chairman of the UN Disarmament Committee in 1988.
As far as he is concerned, nuclear weapons are illegal and the nuclear weapons states are undermining the rule of law by maintaining them.
What to do? "The deadlock in the operation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty combined with the increasing risk of the use of nuclear weapons, demand a focused effort to start building the architecture to support a nuclear weapons-free world," Roche says.
The first step in this direction, he maintains, is the start of negotiations toward the drafting of a nuclear weapons convention (NWC) that would "prohibit the development, testing, production, stockpiling, transfer, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons, and would provide a framework for the elimination of existing arsenals."
The convention, which would include procedures for verifying compliance, dispute resolution and enforcement, is what Hiroshima mayor Tadatoshi Akiba and the Organization Mayors for Peace see as the rational and achievable way out of the nuclear quagmire.
The idea that nuclear weapons are about deterrence and necessary to ensure our own security is a lie, Roche says, arguing they are about power, fear, economic exploitation and racism.
"The military industrial complex . . . benefits commercially from war and profits from the maintenance of the nuclear weapons systems," he says. "They do not want to let go, and seize on instabilities to make their case, always appealing to the fear, grief and anxiety of the human condition."
The abolition of nuclear weapons is no longer just a lofty goal, a noble aspiration or an idealistic thought. "It has become the irreducible essential for survival," Roche says in Beyond Hiroshima.