Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Yesterday was International Day For The Total Elimination Of Nuclear Weapons.  No, I am not making this up and yes, I am serious.

Following the High-level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament held at the United Nations on 26 September 2013, the General Assembly adopted resolution A/RES/68/32 calling for “the urgent commencement of negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament for the early conclusion of a comprehensive convention on nuclear weapons to prohibit their possession, development, production, acquisition, testing, stockpiling, transfer, use or threat of use and to provide for their destruction.”

Resolution 68/32 also declares 26 September “as the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons devoted to furthering this objective, including through enhancing public awareness and education about the threat posed to humanity by nuclear weapons and the necessity for their total elimination, in order to mobilize international efforts towards achieving the common goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world”.

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while know that I am against any and all sorts of weapons.  I would happily see guns removed from the hands of all civilians.  I consider the invention of nuclear weapons to be the single worst invention of humankind.  So, my ears perked when I saw the title of this day, but then my brain kicked in and I wanted to say, “Quit talking about it, stop patting yourselves on the back for creating an “International Day”, and just DO SOMETHING about it!!!”  But, of course, that is easier said than done, for it requires leaders of nations to set aside their fears and join together for the sake of all life on Planet Earth.

From the United Nations website

Achieving global nuclear disarmament is one of the oldest goals of the United Nations. It was the subject of the General Assembly’s first resolution in 1946, which established the Atomic Energy Commission (dissolved in 1952), with a mandate to make specific proposals for the control of nuclear energy and the elimination of atomic weapons and all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction. The United Nations has been at the forefront of many major diplomatic efforts to advance nuclear disarmament since. In 1959, the General Assembly endorsed the objective of general and complete disarmament. In 1978, the first Special Session of the General Assembly Devoted to Disarmament further recognized that nuclear disarmament should be the priority objective in the field of disarmament. Every United Nations Secretary-General has actively promoted this goal.

Okay, so they’ve been at it for 76 years and today there are still approximately 12,705 nuclear weapons and …

While the number of deployed nuclear weapons has appreciably declined since the height of the Cold War, not one nuclear weapon has been physically destroyed pursuant to a treaty. In addition, no nuclear disarmament negotiations are currently underway.

Let me tell you a little story that some of you may remember …

On September 26, 1983, Stanislav Petrov, then Lieutenant Colonel of the Soviet Air Force made a decision that prevented a nuclear war between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the United States.

The USSR’s satellite missile detection system issued the alarm that the United States had launched five nuclear missiles into the territory of the USSR. The alert required an immediate response. The USSR had only a few minutes to decide whether to launch nuclear missiles at the United States in retaliation or to wait and risk devastating damage. This decision was in the hands of Petrov who noticed that the conventional radar system did not detect any nuclear missile and chose to break the military protocol. Despite opposition from its command team, Petrov ignored the alert of the new missile detection system of the USSR. He disobeyed the chain of command and preferred not to respond to the alleged attack.

The supposed launching of the North American missiles turned out to be a false alarm, it was an error of the USSR missile detection system. Had the USSR responded to the alleged attack, the United States, in turn, might have launched a nuclear strike in retaliation, provoking an untold number of deaths and major disasters. Petrov’s decision not to launch a retaliatory nuclear strike saved hundreds of millions of lives around the world.

That time, a cooler head prevailed and a catastrophe of great magnitude was averted, but what about next time?

While I applaud the intent for this international day, I would cheer if progress were being made, but it seems to me that it is more talk than anything.  With escalating tensions around the globe today, I believe it is only a matter of time before somebody gets trigger-happy, or an accident happens that will change the landscape of all nations forever.  The road to peace, if such a road exists, will be paved with tolerance, understanding, and compassion … not with nuclear weapons!