Local action needed to ban the bomb

Phil Anderson

“[Is the] elimination of nuclear weapons, so naive, so simplistic and so idealistic as to be quixotic? Some may think so. But as human beings, citizens of nations... can we be at peace with ourselves if we strive for less? I think not.” – Robert McNamara, former Secretary of Defense

In numerous Reader articles I have written about the danger, waste, and stupidity of nuclear weapons. The United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapon provides the framework for finally banning them.

This is not quixotic. Former treaties successfully reduced the number of nukes. Completely eliminating them is an achievable goal.

All over the world people are advocating for the treaty by passing local advisory resolutions. Resolutions are a tool to educate local people and build grassroots support tor national governments signing the treaty.

In the Twin Ports, Grandmothers for Peace and Veterans for Peace are organizing a coalition for this purpose.

Dr. Ira Helfand is an internationally recognized expert and advocate for abolishing nuclear weapons. He wrote an email letter to the Superior City Council in support of a local resolution. Dr. Helfand’s letter is an excellent explanation of why citizens should be asking their local elected officials to support the treaty. Here are excerpts are from his letter.

“I am writing to ask your support for a resolution in support of the Back from the Brink campaign’s call for the U.S. to lead a global effort to prevent nuclear war. More than 60 municipalities around the country – including Milwaukee County, Minneapolis and St. Paul – have adopted such resolutions and the time could not be more urgent for Superior to lend its voice to this effort.

“Even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, experts like former Defense Secretary William Perry were warning us that we are closer to nuclear war today than we were during the worst moments of the Cold War ... Now the fighting in Ukraine and the repeated nuclear threats made by President Putin have brought us to the very brink of a global catastrophe.

“Recent studies have underlined the magnitude of the destruction that nuclear weapons can cause. A single 100 Kiloton nuclear bomb detonated over the capital of any of the nuclear armed states would kill hundreds of thousands of people and totally overwhelm first responders and emergency medical systems [more below on this study].

“A large-scale [nuclear] war between Russia and the U.S. would kill hundreds of millions of people in the first half hour, and destroy the entire economic infrastructure of both countries. There would be no internet or electric grid, no food distribution system, no public health system. In both countries, the vast majority of people who survived the initial bombing would also die in the following months, from starvation, exposure, radiation poisoning and epidemic disease.

“But these are only the direct effects. A [nuclear] war between the U.S. and Russia would put 150 million tons of soot into the upper atmosphere, blocking out the sun and dropping temperatures across the globe an average of 18 degrees F. In the interior of North America and Eurasia, temperatures would drop 45 to 50 degrees. That is colder than the coldest moment of the last ice age. Under these conditions [ecosystems] would collapse, food production would stop and the vast majority of the human race – at least 5 billion people – would starve. We might become extinct as a species.

“This is not the story line of a bad science fiction movie. This is what is going to happen to us if we do not eliminate nuclear weapons.

“Yet there is almost no public attention to this issue. During the Cold War, the urgent need to prevent nuclear war was on the top of everyone’s list of problems facing the world; today it is barely acknowledged.

Rather than working to eliminate their nuclear arsenals, all nine nuclear weapons states, including the U.S., have ambitious plans to enhance their nuclear arsenals. These plans are driven in no small part by the merchants of death, who manufacture these weapons.

“By passing a resolution Superior would join the national campaign to bring about fundamental change in U.S. nuclear policy. The campaign does not call for unilateral U.S. nuclear disarmament. It calls for the U.S. to initiate negotiations with the other 8 nuclear armed states for a verifiable, enforceable, time-bound agreement to eliminate their remaining 13,000 nuclear warheads so they can all join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It also calls on the U.S. to adopt four common sense policies to reduce the danger of nuclear war while these negotiations proceed. (See ‘Our Solutions’ at preventnuclearwar.org.)

“We have not survived the nuclear weapons era so far because of wise leadership, or sound military doctrine, or infallible technology. We are still here today because, as former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara famously declared, ‘We lucked out…it was luck that prevented nuclear war.’ It is unreasonable to assume that our luck will hold indefinitely. If these weapons are not removed, then sooner or later...they will be used by design, accident or miscalculation.

“Some may feel that this is a national issue and not something that the City Council should concern itself with. I would urge them to reconsider. The Council’s highest responsibility is to protect the citizens of Superior. The federal government is clearly failing to address adequately this existential threat. The Council must do what it can to prevent this looming disaster.

Dr. Ira Helfand, MD”

The study Dr. Helfand cites is “How Nuclear War Would Affect Earth Today” The lead author is Professor Cheryl Harrison at Louisiana State University. She concludes, “It doesn’t matter who is bombing whom. It can be India and Pakistan or NATO and Russia. Once the smoke is released into the upper atmosphere, it spreads globally and affects everyone.”

Nuclear weapons impact us locally. Our tax dollars are being wasted and our lives are threatened by the existence of nukes. Local action is needed to pressure our government to change its destructive policies.
Our government is a major obstacle to the success of this treaty. The other eight nuclear weapons countries will not adopt the treaty without U.S. participation and leadership.

You can help by joining the Twin Ports Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and by contacting your city counselor to support a resolution. To get involved email the coalition at Tpcan2022@gmail.com.