As I write this, it is three days until the 2020 election. And most Americans have heard nothing about a story that would dominate the news cycle in any sane society.
The necessary 50-nation threshold allowing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to enter into force was achieved on Oct. 25 when the island nations of Jamaica and Nauru ratified it. Hell, Honduras ratified it on Oct. 24.
Seriously. Honduras. Meaning even an oligarchy and perennial dictatorship run by a few rich families is capable of doing the right thing and working to ban nukes the way other weapons of mass destruction have been banned by international accords in the past.
But the U.S. refuses to sign and ratify the treaty, as do all the other nuclear powers.
And what’s that I hear grassroots Democrats say? The United States of America would absolutely do so if their party was in power? No, absolutely false. The Obama administration was engaged in “modernizing” U.S. nuclear weapons stocks when the Trump administration came into office. That is, not eliminating the worst existential threat facing humanity next to the climate crisis. Rather, both the Obama and Trump administrations have exacerbated that threat. Because every minute we continue to have operational nukes anywhere on the planet means we’re one minute closer to using those weapons. Their use is inevitable as long as they exist.
Unfortunately, the Democratic Party’s position on nuclear weapons remains to keep those weapons in service. To nibble away at U.S. stocks here and there – mostly by taking old weapons offline and replacing them with fewer, more effective ones. To modernize them – that is, making them lower-yield, faster, more accurate. Thus making it ever more likely they will be used, as President Donald Trump has threatened to do, making him the latest in a long line of Democratic and Republican presidents to threaten to do so over the last 75 years.
It will then merely be a matter of course when the nation (or organization) we nuke – or one of its allies – responds with its own. And then naturally the U.S. would have to respond with another nuke. Which would draw a predictable counterstrike. Soon enough we will have a global nuclear conflagration that could accelerate quickly over just a few days. Or a few hours. Or, now that computer algorithms are responsible for a lot of war fighting by major powers, and the U.S., Russia and China are engaged in building hypersonic delivery vehicles, over a mere few minutes.
We must push both U.S. parties to do the right thing, to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, then eliminate all its nukes.
There’s a way to get involved: Support the Nobel Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (icanw.org) and help it ensure the treaty is adopted by every nation on the planet. Sign after your post-election fury or elation abates a bit. Because the fate of humanity depends on it.