Banning nuclear in the new year
The celebrations and commemorations of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that took place throughout our region this last week were varied, spirited and uplifting. But those celebrations did not shine a spotlight on Dr. King’s dream that his country’s government would stop being “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” His anti-militarist analysis was most clearly articulated in his April 4, 1967 address at Riverside Church in New York City, where he thundered, “When machines and computers, profit and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”
As we enter 2024, more than 100 wars rage throughout the world. Here in the United States, the military budget for 2024 is an overwhelming $886 billion even as human needs go indefensibly unmet. This disparity was smaller and less stark nearly 57 years ago when King observed that, “a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
Today, privately-held corporations manufacture conventional weapons and nuclear weapons delivery systems. Their CEOs and shareholders pocket billions in profits. They have but a single customer — the United States military. The United States is in the midst of a nuclear weapons renaissance, spending $75 billion a year to upgrade, refurbish and improve on a lethal technology that its very inventors desperately wished to un-discover. According to the Congressional Budget Office’s estimates, the costs of the Department of Defense’s and the Department of Energy’s nuclear forces plans over the next 10 years could total $756 billion.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) declares that all of this activity is illegal. The treaty, which has been ratified by 69 nations so far, outlaws the development, testing, production, manufacturing, acquisition, possession, stockpiling, stationing, deployment, use, threat of use, transfer or receipt of nuclear weapons, and prohibits the assistance, encouragement or inducement of any outlawed activity. Think of all the money that will be saved as we begin to undo some of the harm the United States has inflicted as the inventor — and one of the most profuse proliferators — of nuclear weapons technology in the last eight decades. The treaty highlights the disproportionate impact of nuclear weapons on Indigenous people and on women.
The TPNW became legally binding when ratified by the 50th nation (Honduras in Jan. 2021), filling a significant oversight in international law that left nuclear weapons as the only weapons of mass destruction not subject to a comprehensive ban. As the treaty continues to gain signatures and ratifications, the United States and the 8 other nuclear weapon states, find themselves in a shrinking minority, clinging to a technology and a power that is out of step with the rest of the world and our need for a future free of these uniquely devastating weapons. The Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor asserts that 139 states support the TPNW, representing more than 70% of the global community.
On Monday, Jan. 22 from 2-4 p.m., the CT Committee for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is holding a public witness across from the New London General Dynamics complex at the beginning of Pequot Avenue. We gather to draw attention to the hopeful news that nuclear weapons are illegal and to invite workers and our own government to explore how their considerable skills and expertise can be used to safeguard a nuclear-free, green future for all our children and grandchildren. Please join us! For more information, please email NuclearBanCT@gmail.com.
Frida Berrigan and Anne Scheibner are members of the CT Committee for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
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