I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones
-Albert Einstein (contemplating nuclear devastation)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Nuclear Weapons: Absolute Evil Requires Absolute Prohibition!


Yesterday the Simons Foundation and the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA) released a historic document - the Vancouver Declaration.

The Vancouver Declaration affirms that nuclear weapons are incompatible with international humanitarian law, the law stating what is universally prohibited in warfare. The declaration observes that with their uncontrollable blast, heat, and radiation effects, nuclear weapons are indeed weapons of mass destruction that by their nature cannot comply with fundamental rules forbidding the infliction of indiscriminate and disproportionate harm.

Entitled “Law’s Imperative for the Urgent Achievement of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World,” the declaration concludes by calling on states to commence and conclude negotiations on the global prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons as mandated by the legal obligation unanimously proclaimed by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 1996. An annex to the declaration specifying the applicable law states: “It cannot be lawful to continue indefinitely to possess weapons which are unlawful to use or threaten to use, are already banned for most states, and are subject to an obligation of elimination.”

Eminent experts in international law and diplomacy have endorsed the Vancouver Declaration; among them Christopher G. Weeramantry, former Vice President of the ICJ and current President of IALANA; Mohammed Bedjaoui, who was ICJ President when it handed down its advisory opinion on nuclear weapons; Louise Doswald-Beck, Professor of International Law, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, and co-author of a major International Committee of the Red Cross study of international humanitarian law; Ved Nanda, Evans University Professor, Nanda Center for International and Comparative Law, University of Denver Sturm College of Law; Jayantha Dhanapala, former UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs; and Gareth Evans, QC, former Foreign Minister of Australia who recently served as Co-Chair of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament.

The Simons Foundation and IALANA developed the declaration with the input of a conference convened by the two organizations in Vancouver, Canada, on February 10-11, 2011, that brought together some 30 experts in international law, diplomacy, and nuclear weapons.

Dr. Jennifer Simons, President of The Simons Foundation, said: “It is my hope, shared by IALANA, that in the debate about the road to zero, the Vancouver Declaration will serve to underline the essential element - the inhumanity and illegality of nuclear weapons - and hasten their elimination. The possession of nuclear weapons should be an international crime.”

Peter Weiss, IALANA Vice President, who has litigated international human rights cases in U.S. and other courts and advised governments on their submissions to the ICJ in the nuclear weapons case, commented: “Overwhelming problems, like ensuring the survival of the planet, cannot be resolved by law alone. But nor can they be dealt with by ignoring the law altogether. The drafters of the declaration, and those who have signed and will sign it, offer it to governments and civil society as a contribution to the debate. The horrific events occurring in Japan serve to accentuate the danger of continuing to live with the risk of exposing humanity to nuclear radiation, whether emanating from nuclear meltdown or nuclear bombs.”

Dr. John Burroughs, Executive Director of the New York-based Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, the UN Office of IALANA, said: “President Obama and Prime Minister Singh last year jointly stated their support for ‘strengthening the six decade-old international norm of non-use of nuclear weapons.’ The Vancouver Declaration demonstrates that the non-use of nuclear weapons is not only wise policy; it is required by law.”

The Vancouver Declaration is a most important document coming at a time when nations, in particular the United States, flaunt international law on many fronts.  As this relates to nuclear weapons, it is critical that all nations take their responsibilities as not only sovereign nations states, but as nations sharing this small planet where no one is immune from the horrific effects of nuclear weapons.

The clock is ticking, and it is high time for nations to seriously negotiate a treaty for the total prohibition of nuclear weapons. The President of the International Court of Justice called nuclear weapons "an absolute evil," and as the Vancouver Declaration says, "an absolute evil requires an absolute prohibition."  Can there be any greater and absolute evil than nuclear weapons??? 



Click here to read the full text of the Vancouver Declaration.  Click here to see the signatories to the declaration.

Author's Note: Text in italics are quoted from the news release.  Click here to read the full March 23, 2011 news release.

Visit the Simons Foundation at http://www.thesimonsfoundation.ca. Visit the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms at http://www.ialana.net and http://www.lcnp.org

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Day of Great Hope


Greetings from The Zone - the Puget Sound Nuclear Weapon Free Zone. Earlier today three co-conspirators signed a document establishing Puget Sound as a Nuclear Weapon Free Zone. I first travelled to the Tacoma Catholic Worker where we held an informal signing ceremony. Bix Bichsel, SJ was removing a load of laundry from the dryer as I placed the original Puget Sound Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Declaration on the kitchen table and put my signature on it.  Bix placed his laundry on the table, picked up the pen and added his signature.

Later in the day I met with my other co-conspirator, Tom Shea, who also signed the document.  With all three of our signatures the Declaration is now official (as far as we are concerned).  Acting as informed and responsible citizens we have established the Puget Sound Nuclear Weapon Free Zone.  The rest, as the saying goes, will one day be history.  We hope that what we have started will continue to grow and engage more and more fellow citizens in the struggle to abolish nuclear weapons, starting right here at home.

As I write this, just 20 miles from Seattle - as the gull flies - is the largest concentration of operational nuclear weapons (according to the Kansas City Star).  These are weapons which, by their very nature and design would, if ever used, kill tens of thousands, or possibly millions of people and contaminate vast areas of land, making them unlivable.  And that is NOT the worst case scenario - more on that another time.

Getting back to The Zone - While at the Tacoma Catholic Worker today, Theresa Power-Drutis dropped in to Jean's House of Prayer - where Bix lives - with a box of yard signs.  I owe Theresa a particular debt of gratitude; had it not been for her this project might never have gotten off the ground.  She contacted me about a month ago and told me she was going to have an initial run of Puget Sound Nuclear Weapon Free Zone yard signs printed, and she needed a Website that she could put on the sign (She Just Did It!).

I knew at that moment that there was nowhere to hide; it was time to act. No more talking and planning; it was time to get off the dime.  Today we have a Website/Blog and a Declaration.  We take an initial step as we establish the Declaration, and we hope that it will build on the footsteps of those who have gone before us, and ultimately become a well trodden path toward a nuclear weapon free world.  I invite you to take the first step (of many) with us and endorse the Declaration.

Go to the "Declaration" page, read the declaration, and if it resonates for you please add your name (or organization) to what I hope will become a very long list.

Today is a day of great hope as we begin a new phase in our work.  Our hope is that the Puget Sound Nuclear Weapon Free Zone will generate increased public action toward a world free of nuclear weapons; and that action starts right here in Puget Sound.  Join us!



Saturday, March 5, 2011

Help Mayors for Peace Grow!


As the only cities to have suffered the horrific effects of nuclear weapons, Hiroshima and Nagasaki have consistently sought to persuade the world that nuclear weapons are inhumane, continually calling for their total abolition. In 1982, the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki established Mayors for Peace to promote the total elimination of nuclear weapons as a vital step toward genuine and lasting world peace.  The Conference was registered as a NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council in May 1991.

Since its inception Mayors for Peace has gradually built up its membership of mayors of cities around the world acting in solidarity towards a world without nuclear weapons.  By 2003 when they launched their 2020 Vision Campaign, Mayors for Peace had 500 member cities.  As of March 2011 there are 4540 members in 150 countries and regions around the world.

The 2020 Vision Campaign aims for the global abolition of nuclear weapons by the year 2020, the 75th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Working with many other organizations the 2020 Vision Campaign has built momentum with "The Hiroshima-Nagasaki Protocol", a road map to its goal of nuclear abolition by 2020, and "Cities Are Not Targets (CANT)", that sends a clear message to nuclear weapon states that cities are no longer willing to be held hostage to the threat of use of nuclear weapons.

There are currently 150 mayors for peace members in the U.S.  As one of the world's two largest nuclear powers, we can do better.  Washington State, and particularly Puget Sound, is home to the single largest concentration of operational nuclear weapons, and that makes it even more important for mayors in our region to join Mayors for Peace in solidarity with other mayors working toward a nuclear weapons-free world.

Washington State has two current mayors who are members; Mayor Marilyn Strickland of Tacoma and Mayor Mary Verner of Spokane.  Other participating cities - where previous mayors were members - include Seattle and Olympia.

Maren Clifton and Kyle Jorgensen have started a Washington Mayors for Peace Campaign.  Their goal is to contact every mayor in Washington State and invite them all to join and support the goals of Mayors for Peace.  They can't do it alone!  Here is their request:
As we send information to mayors (which we have organized by county), we would like to coordinate with local individuals and groups to follow up, write letters, or visit mayors in person to express the need for nuclear disarmament. If you are interested in getting involved or would like to know more, please contact us via telephone at (253) 219-6409, or email M4PWashington@gmail.com.
Best Regards,
Maren Clifton and Kyle Jorgensen
This is going to be a tough one; we live in a state with not only Hanford and Bangor (two major nuclear installations), but also one with a very large overall military presence.  It will take a great deal of work to break down the old thinking that nuclear weapons create security and are a credible "deterrent".

Please support Maren's and Kyle's efforts.  Contact them and find out how your city can join Mayors for Peace.  A nuclear weapons-free world is possible - with our efforts.



P.S. - If you live outside Washington State click here and then click here to download materials to present to your mayor.

Mayors for Peace: http://www.mayorsforpeace.org/english/index.html