The Marshall Islands is “the mouse that roared.” It is a small island country standing up to the nuclear-armed bullies of the world saying, “enough is enough.” It is in effect saying to the nuclear-armed countries, “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk (on the false power and prestige of nuclear weapons).” The Marshall Islands is acting with courage, compassion and commitment, taking risks for all humanity. It is seeking to restore global sanity and end the overarching threat of nuclear omnicide.
The Nuclear Zero Lawsuits filed by the Marshall Islands against the nine nuclear-armed “Goliaths” have the potential to awaken the public to the current status of nuclear weapons dangers. For the most part, the public appears ignorant of or apathetic to these dangers. Awakening the public may be an even more important function of the lawsuits than the legal rulings of the courts.
The lawsuits raise the following issues:
First, the nuclear-armed countries party to the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (the US, Russia, UK, France and China) are obligated “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race and to nuclear disarmament . . . ” The four nuclear-armed countries that are not parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea) have the same obligations under customary international law.
Second, all nine nuclear-armed countries are in breach of their obligations to negotiate a cessation of the nuclear arms race.
Third, all nine nuclear-armed countries are in breach of their obligations to negotiate for nuclear disarmament.
Fourth, all nine nuclear-armed countries are in breach of their obligations to act in good faith. They are not engaged in negotiations. Rather, they are modernizing their nuclear arsenals. The United States alone has plans to spend $1 trillion over the next three decades modernizing its nuclear arsenal.
Fifth, these breaches undermine the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and international law itself.
Sixth, continued reliance on nuclear weapons keeps the door open to nuclear proliferation by other countries and by terrorist organizations, and to nuclear weapons use, by accident or design.
According to atmospheric scientists, even a small regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan, in which each side used 50 Hiroshima-size nuclear weapons on the other side’s cities, would result in putting enough soot into the upper stratosphere to block warming sunlight, shorten growing seasons and cause crop failures that could lead to a global nuclear famine resulting in the death by starvation of some two billion people. It would be a heavy price to pay for the broken promises and breached obligations of the nine nuclear-armed countries.
There are still over 16,000 nuclear weapons in the world, with some 94 percent of these in the arsenals of the United States and Russia. A war between these two countries could trigger an ice age that would end civilization and potentially all complex life on Earth.
In sum, the nuclear-armed countries have obligations under international law that they are breaching, and these breaches raise serious threats to the people of the world, now and in the future. The Marshall Islands has brought lawsuits against the nine nuclear-armed countries in an attempt to compel them to do what the parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty promised to do long ago, and what all nine nuclear-armed countries are required to do under international law.
The people of the world should follow the lead of the Marshall Islands, one of the smallest but most courageous countries in the world. We should stand with the Marshall Islands and support them in their legal action. The dream of ending the nuclear weapons threat to humanity should be not only the dream of the Marshall Islands, but our dream as well. You can find out more about the Nuclear Zero lawsuits and sign a petition supporting the Marshall Islands at www.nuclearzero.org.