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On the prohibition of nuclear weapons treaty via The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

Kennette Benedict

Against all odds, the United Nations has successfully negotiated a treaty to outlaw nuclear weapons. […] As they have done already with chemical and biological weapons and land mines, an overwhelming majority of countries have come together to prohibit nuclear weapons from ever being used again. Their goal is to bring the treaty forward for signing on September 20 when the UN General Assembly meets in New York.

At a time when many people feel that organizations supporting globalization, such as the European Union, the World Trade Organization, and the European Parliament, ignore the needs of ordinary people, the UN, instead, is placing the protection and well-being of people at the very heart of this treaty. Indeed, it was inspired by UN-sponsored conferences beginning in 2013 to consider the harm to individuals and to highlight the humanitarian catastrophes resulting from the use of nuclear weapons.

Prominent among the nongovernmental organizations at the conferences were the International Committees of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, as well as physicians groups and environmental scientists. These are the international groups that will be called upon to respond to the certain disasters if nuclear weapons are used, whether by accident, miscalculation, or intentional war—to treat the burned and wounded, attend the sick and dying, bury the dead, and assess the environmental destruction. Because of the likely scale of damage, these relief and medical organizations know they will be overwhelmed by any detonation of nuclear weapons. They also understand that the Bomb is an affront to human decency and defies the laws of war that set limits to prevent unnecessary suffering.

n proposing this treaty, the United Nations is taking seriously its responsibility to protect people, even as national governments have admitted they cannot save their citizens from an enemy’s nuclear weapons. It’s telling that US leaders have built a system of fortified sites that protect them in the event of nuclear cataclysm, but have no such plans for the rest of the country’s people. (See Garrett M. Graff’s recent book,Raven Rock: The Story of the US Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself While the Rest of Us Die.) Even more insidious, as Joseph Masco documents in The Theater of Operations (2014), rather than reducing the dangers, the United States government creates and manages fear about nuclear weapons to emotionally bind its people to the national security state, resulting in the loss of their critical judgment about nuclear weapons policy.

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