A catastrophe to humanity
”Industrialisation without a heart means a catastrophe to humanity”. So writes sociologist Zygmund Baumann in his book Modernity and the Holocaust. Many of us feel that the mere existence of nuclear weapons is just that kind of a catastrophe. Researchers and scientists mastered technology with help of their intellect – but did they really consider the consequences in their hearts before it was too late? How can one morally defend the existence of a weapon with the capacity of total annihilation of the planet and all life – soldiers and civilians; enemies and friends? How can one morally accept a production process that destroys large parts of our vulnerable environment and leaves a radioactive legacy for generations to come?
“Equality of all those who are subject to a legal system is central to its integrity and legitimacy. So it is with the body of principles constitutes the corpus of international law. Least of all can there be one law for the powerful and another law for the rest. No domestic system would accept such a principle, nor can any international system, which is premised on a concept of equality” said Christopher Weeramantry, former Judge in the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
He speaks about the lack of ethics in the laws regulating nuclear weapons and disarmament. Many have pointed at the hypocrisy of a handful of states who claim the right to possess nuclear weapons for their security, while at the same time denying to other states a similar “right” to acquire their own weapons. Many others reiterate the absurdity of any state at all being allowed to possess nuclear weapons – of giving human beings the responsibility to rule over the continued existence of our planet.
Nuclear weapon states often claim that deterrence is the main function of nuclear weapons. Deterring other states from attacking their territories by their superior capacity of annihilating the enemy. Frightening people and forcing the world to face a threat to its very existence can hardly be considered ethical.
A philosopher talks about nukes
Torbjörn Tännsjö is a Professor of Practical Philosophy at the University of Stockholm, Sweden. He is one of the better-known Swedish philosophers, and is often seen and heard in the media.
Tännsjö’s most recent publication is called “Global Democracy. The Case for a World Government” (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2008). In the book he argues it will not be possible to deal with problems like wars, global injustice, and environmental sustainability unless a world government is established. When we talk to Tännsjö about nuclear weapons and how the existence and disarmament of these weapons can be discussed from a philosophical and ethical perspective, he returns to the need for a world government.
The following articles can also be interesting to study further:
- Nuclear Weapons, Ethics, Morals and Law av Jonathan Granoff
- The Most Important Moral Issue of Our Time av David Krieger
What does Christianity say?
Representatives of many religions have expressed opposition to nuclear weapons. The Golden Rule exists in one form or another in almost every religion: do to others as you want others to do to you. Possession of nuclear weapons is obviously not in compliance with this. The World Council of Churches has issued many statements on the nuclear issue. “Nuclear weapons do not, cannot guarantee security. They deliver only insecurity and peril through their promise to annihilate life itself and to ravage the global ecosystem upon which all life depends”. (1) In later years, the World Council has been especially active in the issue of NATO nuclear weapons and the nuclear policy of the military alliance.
In the UK, a number of Christian societies have united in a Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CCND). CNND says the possession and use of nuclear weapons is an act of offence against God and all humanity, due to the mass destruction that can be caused by these weapons. “We believe in God, not in nuclear weapon”, CNND says in its mission statement. The network was a key player during spring 2007 when the British Parliament was to vote on a renewal of the state’s Trident nuclear program. Massive campaigning was done in cooperation with other religious and non-religious actors.
To find out a bit more about how to discuss nuclear weapons from a Christian perspective we have had a chance to talk to former Swedish Archbishop K. G. Hammar.
Nuclear weapons and Islam
Islam has, in many ways, been portrayed as a religion of violence. The Western media has been too quick to make connections between Islam and terrorism. Statements by some Iranian religious leaders and the reporting around the alleged nuclear intentions of Iran have probably contributed to this perception. Too often, the peace message of Islam is forgotten. We talked to Anna Waara, Vice President and spokesperson for the Swedish Muslims for Peace and Freedom, to get a view of the Islamic peace message and the problem Islam sees in nuclear weapons.
The youth and the future
“Do you want to inherit the nuclear weapons threat?” medical students from non-nuclear weapon states ask their colleagues in the nuclear weapon states. Through the Nuclear Weapons Inheritance Project (NWIP), university students from all over the world have been able to meet in a peaceful dialogue on nuclear weapons and their meaning. (3)
Youth all over the world have, in different ways, engaged in the struggle for a world free from nuclear weapons. There are many who do not accept inheriting the threat of nuclear weapons; who do not accept taking on a threat on their lives. For more information on what medical students all over the world do for nuclear disarmament, please visit their website: http://www.ippnw-students.org/
During the NPT Review Conference in New York 2005 a large number of young people from Europe participated. The youth had an opportunity to deliver a statement to all the gathered state representatives about why young people demand to grow up in a world free from nuclear weapons. After the conference they set up the European network BANg – Ban All Nukes Generation. The network has activities throughout Europe and is always represented at international conferences on nuclear weapons and disarmament. BANg has launched a DVD with the movie Genie in a Bottle – Unleashed and a lot of ideas for action. Two 13-year-old boys from Chicago produced the movie. For more information on the network and the movie, please visit their website: http://www.bang-europe.org/
Many people turn their heads as the German International Law Campaign sets up its symbolic protective shield for international law. Students from nine schools in Heidelberg, Germany established the International Law Campaign in February 2003 before the invasion of Iraq. The aim is to manifest our world’s people’s will for the solution of international conflicts without the use of force and war.
The campaign works on an invitation from Mayors for Peace for serious negotiations on the elimination of nuclear weapons to begin and for nuclear weapons to be abolished in accordance with international law before 2020. The International Law Campaign builds a wall where every brick represents one person and her will for peace.
The people of the world say no to nuclear weapons
There are few recent polls on nuclear weapons but those conducted towards the end of the 1990s were strongly supportive of negotiation of a Nuclear Weapons Convention and an international ban on nuclear weapons. Between July 26 and August 8, 2007, 1,000 adults each from nuclear weapons countries Britain, France and the USA, as well as Israel (yet to openly discuss its nuclear capability) and NATO states Italy and Germany, were asked: Do you support or oppose eliminating all nuclear weapons in the world through an enforceable agreement?
Results show that a large majority of adults in six nations believe nuclear arms should be banned.
95.4% of respondents in Germany and 94.6% of respondents in Italy support eliminating all nuclear weapons in the world through an enforceable agreement.
France is next on the list with 86.6%, followed by Britain (84.5%), Israel (78%), and the United States (73.5%).
Download The Simons Foundation, “Global Public Opinion on Nuclear Weapons,” Vancouver, Canada, September 2007 here: http://www.angusreidstrategies.com/uploads/pages/pdfs/Simons%20Report.pdf
Other recent polls give similar results:
- 69% of Europeans polled in France, Italy, Germany, Belgium Turkey and the UK want Europe to be nuclear free (StratCom for Greenpeace International, March 2006).
- 64% of those polled in the UK by YouGov in January 2007 agreed that “International Conventions are in force banning chemical and biological weapons. The UK government should support a similar convention to ban nuclear weapons.”
Also older studies from the 1990s show that a majority of the world’s population has long had a desire to get rid of the nuclear weapons:
- 87% of those polled in the US agreed “the US should negotiate an agreement to eliminate nuclear weapons.” (Lake, Sosin and Snell, 1997)
- 87% of those polled in Britain agreed, “Britain should help to negotiate a global treaty to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons.” (Gallup, 1997)
- 61% of Russians polled said “All nuclear weapons states should eliminate such weapons.” (Vox Populi commissioned by TASS, 1998)
- 62% of Indians polled said “India should not produce nuclear bombs.” (The Hindu,1998)
- 78% of Japanese polled agreed that, “all nuclear weapons states should eliminate such weapons.” (Asahi Shimbun, 1998)
- 92% of Australians polled agreed “Australia should help negotiate a global treaty to ban and destroy all nuclear weapons.” (Roy Morgan Research Co., 1998)
- 92% of Norwegians polled agreed “Norway should work actively for a ban on nuclear weapons”. (4 fakta A/S, 1998)
- 72% of Belgian polled said they were for “an initiative on behalf of Belgium with an aim of initiating talks concerning a treaty for the abolition of nuclear weapons.” (Market Response, 1998)
- 93% of Canadians polled agreed that “Canada should take a leadership role in global negotiations to eliminate nuclear weapons.” (Angus Reid Group, 1998)
2. Weapons of Terror – Freeing the world of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Weapons (2006) Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission. P. 160.