Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 11, 2007
Nuclear annihilation looms large
Roche says holocaust greater threat than global warming
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
Nuclear apocalypse is looming over our shoulders, says retired Senator Douglas Roche.
The threat is far greater now than during the Cold War, though most people are in a state of denial concerning the danger, he said.
Roche pointed to the rise of terrorism, the "loose nukes" that could end up sold on the open market, and the "loose systems" to control nuclear weapons in countries such as the former Soviet republics as factors that create a greater uncertainty.
Speaking at the Rideau Institute on International Affairs May 31 after making a presentation on nuclear-non-proliferation to the House of Commons foreign affairs committee, Roche said many think the threat ended when the Cold War did.
However, during Cold War impasse between the Americans and the Soviets nuclear weapons mainly operated as a deterrent. Now they are "maintained for war-fighting purposes," he said.
Weapons being modernized
While Iran and North Korea may alarm people, Roche calls them mere flashpoints on a volcano. The volcano represents the 27,000 nuclear weapons already in existence. And now NATO countries like the United Kingdom and the United States are modernizing their weapons.
Studies show that most people would like to see nuclear weapons abolished, he said. Even in the United States about 81 per cent would agree with that.
However, he said these days it never appears in the top 10 lists of things people are concerned about. Nuclear weapons are being upstaged by global warming, but they pose a more imminent threat.
Retired Project Ploughshares director Ernie Regehr, who joined Roche before the House committee and at the Rideau Institute, said both climate change and the threat of nuclear weapons were overarching issues that needed to be addressed "or our grandchildren are not going to be around."
The issue "can't be resolved by war," Regehr said. It must be resolved through "diplomacy and negotiation."
Roche, who represented the Middle Powers Initiative before the Commons foreign affairs committee, called on the Canadian government to "show a greater sense of urgency in dealing with the over-arching problem of nuclear weapons.
On May 3, the Senate of Canada passed unanimously a motion by Senator Romeo Dallaire, a retired general who led the UN mission in Rwanda during the genocide.
This motion urged Canada "to take a global leadership role in the campaign of eradicating the dire threat to humanity posed by nuclear weapons."
Roche reiterated this call to the Canadian government.
"The nuclear crisis can be stated in a nutshell: A two-class world in which a few states arrogate unto themselves the possession of nuclear weapons while proscribing their acquisition by any other state is not sustainable," Roche told the committee.
Roche argued that Canada's leadership is needed to save the Non-Proliferation Treaty (originally signed in 1970) when it comes up for review in 2010.
"The Canadian government should show a greater sense of urgency in dealing with the over-arching problem of nuclear weapons," he said, calling it a "moral obligation."
The Middle Powers Initiative represents eight international non-governmental organizations dedicated to ridding the world of nuclear weapons.
The Rideau Institute is an independent research and advocacy group.