Last Friday saw the predictable failure of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference to reach any consensus on disarmament measures. The refusal of Israel to admit to the existence of their nuclear arsenal and to take part in a conference to create a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East is the reason for this failure. Nevertheless, even if Israel hadn’t blocked the consensus, the draft text was so weak on disarmament that in reality it is better that the conference failed.
Assuming that humanity survives into the next century, when historians look back at this period of time they will surely amuse themselves to see how nations deliberated about nuclear weapons. One cannot help but make comparisons to how the establishment worked five centuries ago.
“The Earth revolves around the sun,” proclaimed Galileo before being denounced as a heretic and subject to house arrest and forced to abjure his scientific conclusions. Giordano Bruno’s fate wasn’t as fortunate because he was burnt at the stake for beliefs such as the stars being distant suns that could possibly foster their own planets and life forms.
The Christian church in those days legally controlled the means and exercising of physical violence and sentenced people to death and torture under the laws that they themselves designed and imposed. The church controlled the banks, the media and government and, through this, education and thereby they controlled the population.
Challenging the church’s teaching on the cosmos challenged their entire authority and power base. Putting in doubt an element of a doctrine that was previously infallible was unthinkable because if one belief was put into doubt then what about the others? The Virgin Mary, the Resurrection, and the thousands of other myths and tenets of morality in the pages of the bible?
The modern day analogy of the church saying that “the Sun revolves around the Earth” is when the five permanent members of the UN Security Council say that “nuclear weapons provide security”.
We have spent the last two and a half years hearing in conference after conference (Oslo, Nayarit, Vienna and now New York) how nuclear weapons put humanity in danger of extinction, how risks of accidental detonations cannot be eliminated and are in fact growing, how failure to disarm inevitably leads to proliferation and how there is no humanitarian response that can be provided in the case that a nuclear bomb explodes. In effect we have heard clearly that nuclear weapons provide insecurity.
Those who control the governments of the Five may have different political ideologies and different ways of controlling the masses but essentially they are the same: an unholy alliance of arms-traders, bankers, media moguls and their puppet politicians who do and say what they’re told. China, the USA, the UK, France or Russia, it doesn’t matter, the system is the same and the elites at the top of the pile need nuclear weapons because control of the means of legal violence equals control of the system, education and thereby the population.
Despite the antagonism between the five they all agree unanimously in NPT conference after NPT conference that the time isn’t right for disarmament and that the rest of the world should trust them to hold onto their weapons. They could easily sit down and negotiate progressive and proportional reductions in their arsenals and establish a framework of mutual trust leading to elimination. They could bring peace to the Korean peninsula, the Indian sub-continent and the Middle East and ensure that these regions join nuclear-weapon-free zones. They could take the lead and bring peace and social justice to the whole world, but they don’t, despite the fact that it would be to everyone’s economic advantage, including theirs.
Nevertheless, we are in a moment of transition, just as in Galileo’s day the church had to change its position and relinquish much of its power, today’s establishment will have to do the same thing through increased consciousness of the population. People and non-P5 governments are starting to wake up. The Humanitarian Pledge proposed by Austria and adopted by 107 countries is the starting point.
It is now incumbent on the anti-nuclear movement and the governments that support the abolition and elimination of nuclear weapons to push ahead with a treaty to ban nuclear weapons and make sure that consciousness is created everywhere on the planet. Education is the only thing that can combat ignorance. People everywhere, in every country of the world need to know that nuclear weapons equal the extinction of humanity, proliferation and insecurity. A ban treaty in itself does not equal nuclear abolition, but the global consciousness that can be created by such a treaty is the key to breaking the deadlock in disarmament fora and will provide us the means to get there.