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California Leads the Way in Support of Nuclear Disarmament

By J C Suresh

Photo: California State Capitol. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

TORONTO (IDN) – The State Senate of California, the most populous state in the United States, has adopted Assembly Joint Resolution 33 (AJR 33), which calls upon the federal government to embrace the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, make nuclear disarmament the centerpiece of national security policy, and spearhead a global effort to prevent nuclear war.

Santa Barbara's State Assembly member Monique Limón introduced the Resolution emphasizing that since the height of the Cold War, the United States and Russia have dismantled more than 50,000 nuclear warheads, but 15,000 of these weapons still exist and pose an intolerable risk to human survival.

Ninety-five percent of these weapons are in the hands of the U.S. and Russia. Seven other countries – China, France, Israel, India, North Korea, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom – hold the rest of the nuclear weapons.

In his testimony in support of AJR 33, Rick Wayman, Deputy Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF), a non-profit organization headquartered in Santa Barbara, said the Resolution comes when "we have a federal government that is choosing to spend over $100,000 per minute for the next 30 years on nuclear weapons upgrades. But it's not just dollars that we're squandering".

Wayman participated in the negotiations at the United Nations for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. "As a partner organization of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, NAPF shares in the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize that was awarded for our work on this groundbreaking treaty," he added.

As the Treaty underlines, nuclear weapons are indiscriminate mass killing devices. Any use therefore would be illegitimate and wholly unacceptable.

Wayman noted: California has a long and proud history of setting positive legislative trends and kick-starting the process of change nationwide. That is why AJR 33 is so important today. The Resolution adopted on August 28 lays out some of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that could occur should nuclear weapons be used again.

The Resolution notes: The use of even a tiny fraction of these weapons could cause worldwide climate disruption and global famine; for example, as few as 100 Hiroshima-sized bombs, small by modern standards, would put at least five million tons of soot into the upper atmosphere and cause climate disruption across the planet, cutting food production and putting two billion people at risk of starvation.

A large-scale nuclear war would kill hundreds of millions of people directly and cause unimaginable environmental damage and catastrophic climate disruption by dropping temperatures across the planet to levels not seen since the last ice age; under these conditions the vast majority of the human race would starve and it is possible we would become extinct as a species, the Resolution adds.

The NAPF Deputy Director accentuated that for 50 years the United States has been a part of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This treaty has been remarkably successful at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to additional countries. But it has failed to compel the nuclear-armed nations to fulfill their obligation to negotiate in good faith for an end to the nuclear arms race and for nuclear disarmament.

While the 122 nations that voted in favor of adopting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in July 2017 at the United Nations were complying with their obligation to act, the U.S. was "shamefully hostile" to this process.

Whereas the vast majority of the world’s countries are moving forward to outlaw and stigmatize nuclear weapons possession, the U.S. is being left behind.

Wayman, who has worked closely with people around the world deeply impacted by nuclear weapons development, testing, and use, expects the nuclear ban treaty to strengthen the emerging legal norm against nuclear weapons.

"California, followed by the entire United States, must get on the right side of history. But more importantly, we must do everything in our power to eliminate nuclear weapons before they eliminate us. The Assembly and Senate of the State of California now have a unique opportunity to contribute to this noble goal," he added.

The Resolution notes that despite assurances that nuclear arsenals exist solely to guarantee that they are never used, there have been many occasions when nuclear armed states have prepared to use these weapons, and war has been averted only at the last minute.

It recalls what former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara said, speaking about the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962: "It was luck that prevented nuclear war," yet our nuclear policy cannot be the hope that luck will continue.

The Resolution passed by a vote of 22 to 8 further points out that, as the effects of climate change place increased stress on communities around the world and intensify the likelihood of conflict, the danger of nuclear war will grow. [IDN-InDepthNews – 30 August 2018]

Photo (top): California State Capitol. Credit: Wikimedia Commons. (Middle) Wayman in front of the State Capitol in Sacramento, California.

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

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