Disarmament Imperative


The Disarmament Imperative

The U.S. currently maintains an arsenal of almost 10,000 nuclear weapons, which it is actively upgrading. The U.S. openly seeks new kinds of nuclear weapons and new factories with which to build them. Why?

Not for defense. Nuclear weapons provide no defense whatsoever. In fact they justify in many eyes the acquisition of similar weapons by others. U.S. violation of disarmament obligations undercuts diplomatic and legal efforts to control proliferation, leading the world toward war, including nuclear war.

Nuclear weapons are also very costly. Over the past six decades, the average cost of the 70,000 nuclear weapons we have deployed at one time or another exceeds $100 million apiece, with a total cost of about $7.4 trillion in 2006 dollars.

The U.S. has no nuclear-armed enemies. Russia , our only possible nuclear rival, is not our enemy. Russia has repeatedly tried to negotiate smaller arsenals, but the U.S. has refused. China , for her part, has only a few dozen older weapons that could reach the U.S. U.S. intransigence is the principal barrier to nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation today, as Hans Blix said on June 1 as he released the report of the international WMD Commission.

The U.S. today has a highly militarized foreign policy, with over 700 foreign military bases and active military operations in most parts of the world, not even counting the military occupation of the conquered, hostile countries of Iraq and Afghanistan . Such imperial policies require military “full spectrum dominance” to succeed, which is inconceivable without having “usable” nuclear weapons to back up conventional forces. Nuclear “deterrence” now centrally includes nuclear “compellance,” as the Defense Science Board has called this element of U.S. nuclear doctrine.

“Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and of a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

– Article VI, Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, ratified by the United States and entered into force in 1970.

To resist militarism, resist it in New Mexico
“There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.”
Unanimous judgment of the International Court of Justice, 1996, “Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons.”

Most of us are appalled by the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq . We also understand all too well the profound dangers posed by increasing militarism in our society and many of us we want to do something effective about it.

There is only one place we can trenchantly and hence successfully resist militarism and war: in our own community and state. This is where we work, where our friends and family live, where we go to church and school, and where we vote. But if we tacitly accept militarism at home in New Mexico – an industry which is perceived by our political leaders as paying a lot of our collective bills – our opinions and occasional acts of protest about militarism and wars far away will carry very little political weight.

To resist militarism and its authoritarian consequences, or to try to promote peace in New Mexico without clearly and publicly rejecting the growing nuclear weapons industry for which our state is known all over the world, is like trying to clean up our house without moving the huge pile of manure in the kitchen. No one will take such feckless work seriously.

Therefore we must first and foremost concern ourselves with militarism and war here in New Mexico , which means specifically rejecting nuclear weapons, if working for peace and justice is to have any meaning at all.

Most Americans in fact do reject nuclear weapons. But attitudes mean little unless they are expressed in effective political organization, such as that expressed in the Call and related activities.

In New Mexico militarism is mostly nuclear

In New Mexico , militarism comes primarily in the shape of a mushroom cloud. It is a shape that has been particularly damaging to our nation’s, and our state’s society, political institutions, and environment.

Our state is home to the two best-funded nuclear weapons facilities in the world: Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and Sandia National Laboratories (SNL). Half of U.S. nuclear warhead spending occurs in New Mexico , making nuclear warheads roughly our state’s second largest industry in dollar terms. The nuclear weapons share of our state’s total economic activity is about 20 times more than that of any other state. There are also more intact nuclear weapons stored in New Mexico (at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque ) than in any other state – or for that matter, at any other location in the world.

For all these reasons New Mexico is the “world capital of weapons of mass destruction,” and we are the people who tolerate this state of affairs, undercutting any and all of our other efforts for peace, justice, social uplift, and environmental sustainability.

“The Conference agrees on...[a]n unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear weapon States to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals leading to nuclear disarmament, to which all States parties are committed under article VI.”

— from the consensus agreement of all NPT signatories present at the 2000 NPT Review Conference, including the U.S., Russia, China, France, and the U.K.

New Mexico ’s love affair with the atom is linked to economic and social decline

Thirty-six years after the entry into force of the NPT, the five nuclear weapon states parties to the treaty have failed in their duty to achieve disarmament through negotiation. There is currently a risk for a new phase in nuclear arms competition through the further modernization of weapons. Many non-nuclear-weapon states feel cheated by the nuclear-weapon states’ retreating from commitments made in 1995 in order to get the treaty extended to unlimited duration….There must be no compromise on the goal of outlawing nuclear weapons. This goal was accepted as a legally binding commitment as early as 1970, when the NPT entered into force. There can be no going back from it, and all steps in the disarmament process must be taken with this goal in view.

Weapons of Terror: Freeing the World of Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Arms, Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, 6/1/06 .

Our state’s acquiescence to nuclear weapons has not brought us wealth. For more than 20 years, we have received more net per capita federal funds than any other state. But as the labs have grown – through the largesse of congressional committees often led by our state’s representatives – New Mexico’s relative standing in economic and human well-being has declined to at or near the very bottom of all U.S. states.

In 2003, a Fordham University study of the overall social health of each state ranked New Mexico dead last. We received an “F” grade from the Fordham researchers in poverty, health insurance coverage, teenage drug abuse, average weekly wages, suicide, and high school completion.

Morgan Quinto Press ranks our education system as the worst in the nation; from 1993 to 2004, their assessment of the relative rank of our health care system fell precipitously from #22 to #49 — concurrent, as it turns out, with huge growth in nuclear weapons spending in New Mexico .

New Mexico has the second highest rate of poverty – and child poverty – in the nation.

From 1929 to 1960, New Mexico consistently ranked 37th or so among the states in per capita personal income. By 1970, we had fallen to 42nd where we stayed through 1980. By 1990 we had fallen to 48th.

Perhaps most ominous for the health of our society and democracy, especially when coupled with both widespread and deep poverty, by 1997 New Mexico had achieved the third-greatest gap between rich and poor of any state. Why?

The money has been flowing in, lots of it. And we have had the political clout. Senator Domenici is one of the most powerful persons in the U.S. Congress. What has been the fruit of the enormous efforts that he, Senator Anderson before him, and to a lesser extent Senator Bingaman and others, have devoted to the weapons laboratories and the military in New Mexico ?

The economic benefits of our six decades of fealty to the labs have been minimal. Instead of real economic development, we have allowed ourselves to become an economic and political colony, exercising little actual sovereignty of our own in return for the federal dole.

Federal and corporate managers now control or have veto power over too many New Mexico assets, loyalties and policies, leading to rule by bureaucratic administrators instead of representative government by and for New Mexicans. The result has been a decline in our economic prospects, health, and society.

To a considerable extent this is also a national problem. Military spending in all its forms now amounts to $7,600 per U.S. household. This heavy tribute goes to feed a national security state which provides far more violence, fear, and want than it does actual security. These trends are amplified in New Mexico , which has created only sparse, poorly-funded institutions to help its citizens.

If New Mexico is ever to turn this situation around, a new kind of politics is needed here; one based on a renewed social contract and renewed commitments to human dignity and to the environment.

For all these reasons and many more, New Mexico really has only one choice with respect to the nuclear weapons industry it harbors: either to be its continuing victim, or to forge a new political and moral identity based on respect for the human person and the environment. Such an identity is intellectually, morally, economically, environmentally, and politically incompatible with support for nuclear weapons.

The American novelist E.L. Doctorow remarked, “We have had the bomb on our minds since 1945. It was first our weaponry and then our diplomacy, and now it’s our economy. How can we suppose that something so monstrously powerful would not, after years, compose our identity?” Identification with “monstrous” violence isn’t healthy, isn’t good economics, and will never build a just and sustainable society here or anywhere.
“It is clear that the use of such a weapon cannot be justified on any ethical ground which gives a human being a certain individuality and dignity even if he happens to be a resident of an enemy country…It is necessarily an evil thing considered in any light.”
— Enrico Fermi and Isidor Rabi on the hydrogen bomb, 1949

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