Reasons to abolish nuclear weapons

Phil Anderson

“The likelihood of a nuclear catastrophe is greater today than during the cold war, and the public is completely unaware of the danger.” Former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry  

“American leaders have declared that nuclear weapons will remain the cornerstone of US national security indefinitely. In truth...nuclear weapons are the sole military source of our national insecurity. We, and the whole world, would be much safer if nuclear weapons were abolished.”  Rear Admiral Eugene J. Carroll, USN (Ret.)  

Nuclear weapons did not go away with the end of the Cold War. There are still an estimated12,500 warheads owned by nine nations. This is enough to destroy human civilization.   The United States created nuclear weapons and are the only nation to have used them. We fueled the Cold War arms race and are continuing this race to oblivion today. We have an obligation to lead the world in stepping back from the brink of nuclear war.  

The danger of nuclear weapons is increasing. The war in Ukraine has increased the possibility of a deliberate use of nuclear weapons. But unintended accidents, technological failures and human errors or miscalculations have always been a dangerous possibility. Only the abolition of all nuclear weapons will end the threat of a nuclear catastrophe.  

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) says the world is "drifting into one of the most dangerous period in human history." The nine nuclear armed countries are still adding to their stockpiles. The number of operational nuclear weapons grew in 2022. Both the U.S. and Russia are busy “modernizing” their arsenals while opposing the United Nations  Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.   Nukes do not enhance our national security. Nuclear weapons are the only weapons that can reach and destroy our country. We are less secure because they exist. As Admiral Carroll said many years ago, “...nuclear weapons are the sole military source of our national insecurity.”  

Gen. John Sheehan, a former Commander of NATO, advises us that “These weapons have increased global uncertainty and it is time for the global community to work toward a regime that eliminates their existence and possible use.”   Nuclear weapons are militarily useless. The damage done can not be confined to the battlefield. The fallout and radiation will spread worldwide. No one will win a nuclear exchange. They can never be used.  

Admiral Noel Gayler, a former commander of the Pacific Fleet and Director of the National Security Agency, has said, “It is my view that there is no sensible military use for nuclear weapons...”  

George F. Kennan, the author of the Cold War communist “containment” policies agrees, “The nuclear bomb is the most useless weapon ever invented. It can be employed to no rational purpose. It is not even an effective defense against itself.”  

There is no military, political or ideological objectives that would be worth the death and suffering from any use of nuclear weapons. Dr. Ira Helfand with the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, says “Even a very limited nuclear war, involving less than 0.5% of the world’s nuclear weapons, would be enough to cause catastrophic global climate disruption and a worldwide famine, putting up to 2 billion people at risk.”  

Nukes are the ultimate in wasteful spending. “Perhaps the most egregiously wasteful defense expenditure is the excessive budget for the entire nuclear weapons complex...” This is the opinion of retired Lt. Gen. Robert Gard and former chairman of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.   The definition of waste is expending resources on something you can not use. This waste continues today.

Rather than working with other nations to implement the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the U.S. is fueling a new arms nuclear arms race by spending $1.7 trillion to completely rebuild and “modernize” the entire arsenal and delivery systems.  

Nuclear weapons are an environmental disaster.  The production of nuclear weapons has polluted vast amounts of soil and water at hundreds of nuclear weapons facilities all over the world. Mining and processing uranium for bombs produces huge amounts of highly toxic, long lasting substances. These bi-products and waste are carcinogenic, cause genetic mutations and can remain hazardous from decades to a100,000 years. There is no safe storage facilities anywhere for this waste.  

Nuclear weapons are immoral. Nuclear weapons deliberately and unavoidably target innocent civilians. Military strategists know that millions (or billions) of innocent people would be killed and maimed by any use of nuclear weapons. Their use would be a war crime.   

The 1999 the Parliament of the World’s Religions declared, “...a peace based on terror, a peace based upon threats of inflicting annihilation and genocide upon whole populations, is a peace that is morally corrupting.”  Pope Francis has said, “Now is time to affirm not only the immorality of the use of nuclear weapons, but the immorality of their possession.”  

Deterrence is playing chicken with humanity. Mutually Assured Destruction is an insane policy. General George Lee Butler, a former commander of our nuclear forces, called them a “fool's game.” He has written, “...these hideous devices unnecessarily prolonged and intensified the Cold War... Deterrence was a formula for disaster. We escaped disaster by the grace of God.”  

Even if deterrence worked to prevent war (which it doesn't) we have many more nukes than needed. In 1957 Admiral Arleigh Burke, the Chief of Naval Operations said 720 warheads on invulnerable submarines would be enough to deter the Soviet Union.  

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is a realistic blueprint to negotiate an end to nuclear weapons. It is not unilateral disarmament. Nor does it endanger U.S national security. The treaty requires the nine nuclear countries to negotiate verifiable disarmament agreements to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.  

But our government is opposed to the treaty. Only citizen pressure can change this dangerous policy.  

The late Archbishop Desmond Tutu described the situation well, “Disarmament is not an option for governments to take up or ignore. It is a moral duty owed by them to their own citizens, and to humanity as a whole. We must not await another Hiroshima or Nagasaki before finally mustering the political will to banish these weapons from global arsenals.”  

It is time all nuclear weapons are abolished.