Nuclear weapons must be eradicated for all our sakes- Desmond Tutu


No nation should own nuclear arms – not Iran, not North Korea, and not their critics who take the moral high ground

(FILES) This file picture taken by North

As an Oslo conference on nuclear weapons starts, we should not accept that a ‘select few nations can ensure the security of all by having the capacity to destroy all.’ Photograph: Kns/AFP/Getty Images

We cannot intimidate others into behaving well when we ourselves are misbehaving. Yet that is precisely what nations armed with nuclear weapons hope to do by censuring North Korea for its nuclear tests and sounding alarm bells over Iran’s pursuit of enriched uranium. According to their logic, a select few nations can ensure the security of all by having the capacity to destroy all.

 

Until we overcome this double standard – until we accept that nuclear weapons are abhorrent and a grave danger no matter who possesses them, that threatening a city with radioactive incineration is intolerable no matter the nationality or religion of its inhabitants – we are unlikely to make meaningful progress in halting the spread of these monstrous devices, let alone banishing them from national arsenals.

 

Why, for instance, would a proliferating state pay heed to the exhortations of the US and Russia, which retain thousands of their nuclear warheads on high alert? How can Britain, France and China expect a hearing on non-proliferation while they squander billions modernising their nuclear forces? What standing has Israel to urge Iran not to acquire the bomb when it harbours its own atomic arsenal?

 

Nuclear weapons do not discriminate; nor should our leaders. The nuclear powers must apply the same standard to themselves as to others: zero nuclear weapons. Whereas the international community has imposed blanket bans on other weapons with horrendous effects – from biological and chemical agents to landmines and cluster munitions – it has not yet done so for the very worst weapons of all. Nuclear weapons are still seen as legitimate in the hands of some. This must change.

 

Around 130 governments, various UN agencies, the Red Cross and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons are gathering in Oslo this week to examine the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons and the inability of relief agencies to provide an effective response in the event of a nuclear attack. For too long, debates about nuclear arms have been divorced from such realities, focusing instead on geopolitics and narrow concepts of national security.

 

With enough public pressure, I believe that governments can move beyond the hypocrisy that has stymied multilateral disarmament discussions for decades, and be inspired and persuaded to embark on negotiations for a treaty to outlaw and eradicate these ultimate weapons of terror. Achieving such a ban would require somewhat of a revolution in our thinking, but it is not out of the question. Entrenched systems can be turned on their head almost overnight if there’s the will.

 

Let us not forget that it was only a few years ago when those who spoke about green energy and climate change were considered peculiar. Now it is widely accepted that an environmental disaster is upon us. There was once a time when people bought and sold other human beings as if they were mere chattels, things. But people eventually came to their senses. So it will be the case for nuclear arms, sooner or later.

 

Indeed, 184 nations have already made a legal undertaking never to obtain nuclear weapons, and three in four support a universal ban. In the early 1990s, with the collapse of apartheid nigh, South Africa voluntarily dismantled its nuclear stockpile, becoming the first nation to do so. This was an essential part of its transition from a pariah state to an accepted member of the family of nations. Around the same time, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine also relinquished their Soviet-era atomic arsenals.

 

But today nine nations still consider it their prerogative to possess these ghastly bombs, each capable of obliterating many thousands of innocent civilians, including children, in a flash. They appear to think that nuclear weapons afford them prestige in the international arena. But nothing could be further from the truth. Any nuclear-armed state, big or small, whatever its stripes, ought to be condemned in the strongest terms for possessing these indiscriminate, immoral weapons.

 

Nuclear divestment: the medical case


 by Tim Wright

This week the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons launched a major study on the global financing of nuclear weapons producers. The 180-page report argues that banks, pension funds, insurance companies and asset managers should divest from companies involved in the manufacture, maintenance and modernization of nuclear forces. By investing in these companies, financial institution are in effect facilitating the build-up of nuclear arsenals and heightening the risk that these ultimate weapons of mass destruction will be used again.

The report provides details of financial transactions with 20 companies that are heavily involved in the US, British, French and Indian nuclear programs. They include BAE Systems and Babcock International in the United Kingdom, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman in the United States, Thales and Safran in France, and Larsen & Toubro in India. Financial institutions invest in these companies by providing loans and purchasing shares and bonds. The report found that more than 300 financial institutions in 30 countries have substantial investments in nuclear weapons companies.

Roughly half of them are based in the United States and a third in Europe. Asian, Australian and Middle Eastern institutions are also listed in the report. The institutions most heavily involved in financing nuclear arms makers include Bank of America, BlackRock and JP Morgan Chase in the United States; BNP Paribas in France; Allianz and Deutsche Bank in Germany; Mitsubishi UJF Financial in Japan; BBVA and Banco Santander in Spain; Credit Suisse and UBS in Switzerland; and Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland in Britain.
The Humanitarian Argument

The report argues that investing in nuclear weapons producers is unethical given the catastrophic humanitarian harm that nuclear weapons cause. A single nuclear bomb dropped on a large city could kill millions of people. Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945, writes in the report: “Anyone with a bank account or pension fund has the power to choose to invest his or her money ethically – in a way that does not contribute to this earth-endangering enterprise.”

The report notes that, in May 2010, the 189 parties to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty acknowledged, for the first time collectively, “the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons”. The report also draws attention to the landmark resolution on nuclear disarmament adopted by the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement in November 2011, which describes nuclear weapons as “unique in their destructive power, in the unspeakable human suffering they cause … and in the threat they pose to the environment, to future generations and indeed to the survival of humanity”.

ICAN chair Tilman Ruff argues that nuclear divestment is necessary on the basis that “nuclear weapons are the biggest threat to global health”. He says in the report that curbing investments in nuclear weapons would directly help end their production and stigmatize these most inhumane of all weapons: “A world freed from nuclear weapons is good for everyone – the business case to do the right thing and help to bring it about is compelling.”
Taking Action for Divestment

The report offers practical suggestions for ways to put pressure on financial institutions to divest, recommending that financial institutions be boycotted by the public if they refuse to do so. In today’s globalized economy, many thousands of individuals and institutions are indirectly involved – in most cases, unwittingly – in the financing of nuclear weapons companies. Any person with a bank account or pension fund has the power to choose not to invest in nuclear arms makers.

Divestment is a mechanism with which we can harness the widespread and overwhelming public opposition to nuclear weapons to achieve tangible outcomes. As South African activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu reminds us in the foreword to the report, divestment was a vital part of the successful campaign to end apartheid in South Africa: “Today, the same tactic can – and must – be employed to challenge man’s most evil creation: the nuclear bomb. No one should be profiting from this terrible industry of death, which threatens us all.”

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