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Nukes Are Nuts

(Photo: US Government / Flickr)

When asked by a reporter why nuclear weapons are useless, Colin Powell, former US secretary of state and four-star general said: “Because they’re such horrible weapons. And so no sane leader would ever want to cross that line to using nuclear weapons. And, if you are not going to cross that line, then these things are basically useless.” In other words, one could say, nukes are nuts.

There are innumerable global security issues that need to be addressed, some of which are poverty, terrorism, the climate crisis, pollution of the oceans, loss of biodiversity and forest depletion. Not one of these issues can be addressed with nuclear weapons. In fact, nuclear weapons draw much-needed resources away from solving these global problems. Nukes are nuts.

Nuclear weapons are justified by their possessors for nuclear deterrence, but nuclear deterrence is only a hypothesis about human behavior. While “no sane leader would ever want to cross that line,” even the best of political and military leaders can be less than rational at times, particularly when they are under stress. Nuclear deterrence is only as sound as the craziest political or military leader with a finger on the nuclear button. Does the name Kim Jong-un raise any concerns? Nukes are nuts.

Nuclear weapons are weapons of vast overkill. They are equal-opportunity destroyers of men, women and children. The radioactive effects of these weapons cannot be contained in time or space. They affect not only the living, but generations yet to be born. Their radioactive material will affect countless future generations. Even a small regional nuclear war could result in a global nuclear famine, killing a billion people. Nukes are nuts.

Nuclear weapons can destroy everything we hold dear and love most. They can destroy every special thing, every sacred thing that has ever been created. Nuclear weapons are anti-human weapons: they threaten us all, even their possessors, and place all of humanity at risk of annihilation. But they also place all of complex life at risk of destruction. The possession of these weapons makes us irresponsible stewards of our environment and of all the creatures dependent upon our stewardship. Nukes are nuts.

Nuclear weapons are extremely costly, with anticipated global expenditures for the next decade at over $1 trillion. The US plans to modernize its B61 bombs, which it deploys in five European countries, at a cost that is more than two times that of building them out of solid gold. Nuclear weapons take away resources from the education of the world’s children, medical treatment from the world’s sick and infirm and food from the world’s hungry. Nukes are nuts.

Nuclear weapons divide us when we need to unite to find cooperative, diplomatic and nonviolent solutions to the great global issues of the 21st century. Only nine countries have nuclear weapons and, of these, only two countries, the US and Russia, possess more than 90 percent of the more than 17,000 nuclear weapons in the world. Nukes are not useful, nor are they status symbols. Nukes are nuts.

Every man, woman and child on the planet can understand that nukes are nuts. So, if we understand that, what are we going to do about it? My answer is to wage all-out peace with a sense of urgency until the last nuclear weapon is eliminated from the planet. We would be nuts to settle for anything less.

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