We must keep fighting for the impossible
Forty years ago, 1 million people gathered in Central Park to demand an end to the nuclear arms race. It was not only the largest anti-nuclear demonstration, but also the largest political demonstration in American history.
The nation was there, a small cohort, but with a large banner!
A former intern, Duncan Harp, was part of our group. Two years earlier, he had written a short film Nation editorial proposing a bilateral freeze by the United States and the Soviet Union on the production of nuclear weapons. A similar measure had just been adopted in three counties in western Massachusetts.
Proposition 7 was the work of two local peace groups; Randy Kehler was a core member of one of them, the Traprock Center. After the proposal passed, Kehler said, “The vote shows that the American people are indeed receptive to proposals to stop the arms race…The issue of nuclear weapons transcends party lines and liberal versus conservative divisions.
Dozens of peace, religious, racial justice and labor groups quickly endorsed the concept of a bilateral nuclear arms freeze.
JToday, the risk of nuclear war is at its highest since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Unless the brutal war in Ukraine is over soon, with a ceasefire and a political resolution and diplomatic guarantee of Ukraine’s security and sovereignty, the escalation could well lead to a nuclear conflict, accidental or not.
Yet we continue to live in denial. The increasing normalization of discussions, by Russia and the United States, on the use of nuclear weapons is terrifying. At the beginning of April, Colonel Aleksandr Vindman told MSNBC that we shouldn’t fear a nuclear escalation because “the nuclear threshold is basically incredibly high…. the Russians will not make a nuclear war against us because they will be destroyed. This is the logic of madness.
Yet we hear daily from journalists speaking like combatants or former military officials with undisclosed investments in arms manufacturing companies. In White House press conferences, there are often more questions about arms deliveries than about how to defuse war.
What should not be forgotten – and these words have been repeated for decades, both by American and Soviet/Russian leaders, most recently by Biden and Putin at the Geneva summit in 2021 – is that “a war nuclear power can never be won and must never be won”. to be fought.
Does Colonel Vindman deny that even a small regional nuclear conflict could trigger a global catastrophe?
HHowever, in times of crisis, there is often an opportunity.
The narrative pushed relentlessly by mainstream media is that “this is a dangerous world, we need to arm ourselves”. Yet recent Associated Press polls show nearly nine out of ten people in the United States are concerned about the use of nuclear weapons. There is a powerful counter-narrative that we too rarely hear from our media and political elite: nuclear weapons do not make us safer. This understanding should rightly lead to a rejection of increased spending on nuclear weapons and a recommitment to disarmament. Instead, the infrastructure of the nuclear arms agreements has been destroyed.
FForty years ago, Olaf Palme, Sweden’s Prime Minister, convened an international commission whose report played a major role in redefining security and ending the Cold War.
The Common Security Report 2022 released this spring by the International Trade Union Confederation, the International Peace Bureau and the Olof Palme International Center offers us a renewed playbook for peace. It stresses the urgent need for international collaboration to prevent and end war. It also addresses real security challenges: the climate crisis, deadly pandemics, global hunger, spiraling inequalities and mass migration. Renewing calls for an urgent resumption of strategic and scientific talks between the United States and Russia, the report also provides models for a new global and regional security architecture, illustrating how to reduce obscene military spending in order to create jobs, and investing in health care and education.
Some will say that it is naïve to speak of peace and disarmament when the world is shaken by a new cold war or, more precisely, a hot war. Yet, now more than ever, we need the clearest arguments for peace.
And there are peace movements at home and around the world, such as Women Cross DMZ and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which received the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to advance a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). To date, 122 countries have voted in favor of adopting the TPNW – and although no nuclear state has yet expressed support, the treaty stands as a moral document, galvanizing peace movements in many countries.
Anti-nuclear activists in the United States and around the world are also taking inspiration from the fossil fuel divestment movement. Don’t Bank on the Bomb identifies companies that produce essential parts for nuclear weapons and urges major institutions to divest them.
The nuclear threat is not siloed, it is rooted in our broken democracy. The abolition of nuclear weapons will require an end to militarism in its many forms. The nuclear world has always been a bastion of secrecy. Consider the soon-to-be-announced nuclear posturing review the latest testimony to the lack of accountability to voters or citizens.
We would also be wise to observe the connection between the militarization of our approach to security and the militarization of our cities, our schools, the police and our approach to women’s bodies.
And we would be wise to ask ourselves: how could the military protect us from pandemics, corporations plundering the planet, nuclear proliferation, hunger or poverty? One notable leader making these connections is the Reverend William Barber, Co-Chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. Barber invokes the moral necessity of resistance to militarism, the war economy, and nuclear and other weapons. Many young people are also at the forefront of making these connections between movements against gun violence, attacks on women, immigrants, African Americans, Indigenous communities, LGBTQI and the threat of change. climatic.
In 2002, The nation and Jonathan Schell, our peace correspondent and visionary writer on nuclear issues and abolition, received a Global Green Award for his writing in The nation. Mikhail Gorbachev, who led the group, presented the award.
Gorbachev was the most radical and committed arms reductionist to ever lead a nuclear country – a staunch supporter of nuclear abolition. Today he is 91 years old and lives outside of Moscow. He is horrified by recent events. While too many members of our discredited national security institution still insist that the abolition of nuclear weapons is an unattainable and therefore utopian goal, I strongly support a principle enunciated time and again by President Gorbachev: “If we do not let’s not attempt what seems impossible, we will risk the unthinkable.