Opinion: End nuclear weapons, before they end us

  • A visitor in front of the cenotaph dedicated to the victims of the atomic bombing at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, western Japan on Aug. 6. Kenzaburo Fukuhara / Kyodo News via AP

Published: 8/9/2022 6:03:23 AM
Modified: 8/9/2022 6:00:06 AM

Jeremy Love of Manchester is on the board of directors of Peace Action & New Hampshire Peace Action, and is national organizer and regional leader with Back from the Brink. The Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis is the director of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary in NYC. She is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Dr. Diane Swords of Syracuse is on the steering committee of Syracuse Peace Council, co-chair of Nuclear Free World Committee, and a regional leader in the national Back from the Brink Campaign.  

We recently passed the 77th anniversary of the atomic obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

For many, nuclear war may feel like a relic of that terrible history and of a time of great power struggle and the Cold War arms race. But that is a delusion we can no longer afford to maintain.

Today, the war in Ukraine, growing tension in the South China Sea (evidenced by Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit), and more, are reminding us just how close we are to global catastrophe. Indeed, the Secretary-General of the United Nations warned that this is “a time of nuclear danger not seen since the height of the Cold War…today, humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation.”

As governments, including our own, drag the globe closer to the brink, a massive majority of people everywhere oppose war and nuclear escalation. Here in the United States, many of us are realizing our common interests and joining together across our differences to say enough is enough. As we confront the worsening effects of climate disasters, economic recession and war, we refuse to be silent anymore.

Today, many lies are used to divide us and try to convince us that on one hand we have no choice but to wage war, but on the other, we can’t afford to address human needs here at home.

We mention just three of those lies here: that war protects us; that poverty is due to the failure of poor people; and that the option of nonviolent de-escalation is out of our hands and that we should prepare for nuclear war.

War is a protection racket. We are told that our enemies are many, even as far-off wars are not won and only profit the few while destroying the rest. Our military budget continues to grow at the same time politicians decry inflation and claim that working people need to take a pay cut and that there is not enough to spend on things like health care and housing. On top of that, funding for diplomacy has been radically cut in recent years. This is bad policy and is bringing us closer to moral bankruptcy and self-annihilation.

The lie that poverty is caused by the failure of poor people divests the government of any responsibility and further reinforces the logic of military spending over everything else. But this lie is countered by the valiant actions of poor people to improve their lot in spite of meager resources.

Poverty is not inevitable. It is a “systemic sin.” Discrimination and disparities in access to employment, education, health care and more make it difficult for the hardest working individuals to get ahead. Fair taxes, living wages, and access to all the basic requirements for life should be rights for all humans. Instead, poor people are left with few resources, while the Pentagon receives almost everything it asks for.

A third lie minimizes the grave risks of nuclear war and suggests that we can survive a nuclear attack if properly prepared. On July 11, NYC’s Office of Emergency Management aired a PSA telling New Yorkers what to do if under nuclear attack: “Get inside, stay inside and stay tuned.” 

The New York Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (NYCAN) responded with words of warning. “This shows a total lack of understanding of what thermonuclear weapons mean and how a single modern nuclear weapon would instantaneously and radically destroy our beloved city, killing millions of New Yorkers in seconds, making any preparedness or rescue effort an utter fantasy.”

NH Peace Action will gather on Tuesday, Aug. 9, at 5 p.m. behind the Everett Arena in Concord to remember and reflect upon the tragic events of August 6th and 9th, 1945, and invest in the work of creating a future free of nuclear weapons.

We’re committed to “ending nuclear weapons before they end us,” as Beatrice Fihn of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons said in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017.

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