A Call for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons – A Call to Action

From the Nuclear Resister #155, October 17, 2009

Plans are well underway for public demonstrations in support of nuclear disarmament at the United Nations next May, outside the critical Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference.

Eight international and nineteen national organizations from around the world have put together a coordinated call and petition to “urge the 2010 NPT Review Conference to make an unambiguous commitment to begin negotiations on a convention for the time-bound elimination of all nuclear weapons – a Nuclear Weapons Convention.” Mobilization plans include an international peace conference in New York on May 1, 2010, and an International Day of Action for a Nuclear Free World, in New York and globally, on May 2. (The U.S. version of the petition can be signed at peace-action.org, under ‘Nuclear Disarmament’.)

However, the nuclear powers have already staked their positions, and they don’t include anything approaching such an “unambiguous commitment.”

Despite Nobel Laureate President Obama’s aspirational rhetoric in Prague last spring, he preempted any such disarmament agenda at the U.N. with his call for a Global Nuclear Summit this coming March. In his call, Obama is already advancing an agenda focused more on containment and nonproliferation – “secure loose nuclear materials; combat smuggling; and deter, detect and disrupt attempts at nuclear terrorism” – than on any of several well-defined, widely recognized steps toward getting rid of nuclear weapons.

Regardless of such dodging and hedging, the unambiguous demand for disarmament must be made by people in N.Y.C. and around the world next May.

What should we in the anti-nuclear resistance movement be doing at this decisive, pivotal moment in history? Are we looking ahead to visualize and begin forging the actions that can inspire global resurgence of the demand for nuclear disarmament?

From the beginning of the Atomic Age, the penultimate violence of nuclear weapons has inspired in each new generation committed, persistent and creative expressions of nonviolent resistance. We recall that in 1982, civil society’s demand for nuclear disarmament was expressed, among other avenues, in the June 14 blockades of the U.S., Soviet, British, French, Chinese, Israeli and South African missions to the United Nations, resulting in 1,691 arrests. (see the Nuclear Resister #12, October 18, 1982)

Since that time, legal arguments in favor of anti-nuclear civil resistance have gained strength through the work of the World Court Project, Lawyer’s Committee on Nuclear Policy, International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms, Western States Legal Foundation, and writings of Professor Francis Boyle, among others, who have defended civil resisters in landmark trials in the U.S. and abroad.

We believe that the rekindling of public interest in nuclear disarmament that is needed now would invariably include a resurgence in the numbers willing to risk arrest and imprisonment to advance this goal. This would include both veterans of the Cold War anti-nuclear movements and new resisters from around the world. How can such commitment be expressed and leveraged before, during and after the NPT Review Conference?

We think it is vitally important to nurture and focus this energy, and, in a conscious and strategic manner, integrate civil resistance into whatever other campaigns and actions are adopted by non-governmental organizations advocating for disarmament.

For a start, groups and communities around the world interested in nonviolent civil resistance for nuclear disarmament can begin to coordinate with one another. We need to start thinking about going to N.Y.C. in May, or organizing protests and actions in our own areas.

We need to start thinking about how we in the U.S. are going to keep the pressure on President Obama, who echoes Franklin Roosevelt when he tells advocates for change to “make me do it.”

And after May, we will have the opportunity to discuss in person what’s next and to act – at the July, 2010 Resistance for a Nuclear-Free Future gathering and action at the Y-12 nuclear weapons complex. (Contact
nukeresister@igc.org or nukewatch1@lakeland.ws for more details.)

What do you think? We’d like to hear from you. Is your group or community interested in doing something? Are you or your group planning any actions along these lines that we should know about and can help publicize?

We know that nuclear weapons are illegal and immoral, even if they are not used.
We know of the horrific effects of their use from the hibakasha, survivors of the atomic blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
We know that silence is the voice of complicity.
It is time to speak out – it is time to coordinate, to conspire (breathe together), to plan, to act.