By Ann Suellentrop
- Over 2/3 of the world’s countries support the Ban Treaty (the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons) because nuclear weapons are too dangerous. They threaten all life on Earth. They do not keep us safe. Nuclear weapons could be set off by accident or by hacking, through theft by terrorists, or by war. They are designed to burn cities, which would loft tons of soot into the atmosphere, block the sun, and plunge the world into another Ice Age. Crop failures for years would cause billions to starve and die. The only way to keep us safe is to eliminate these weapons of mass destruction. The Ban Treaty sets a worldwide standard, even if the US doesn’t sign it. It’s an international treaty among countries. It’s the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons.
- There are negative prohibitions that affect the US and Kansas City. The Ban Treaty stigmatizes nuclear weapons and restricts the 36 multinational corporations that make them. The 53 countries (and counting) that have ratified the Ban Treaty can have absolutely nothing to do with nuclear weapons or assist these companies in any way. For example, Ireland already has made this law punishable by fine or imprisonment for life! Another example is Mexico. Honeywell has a factory in Mexico that makes air conditioners. Mexico could pass a law that prohibits government or private financial support for the factory. It could prohibit Mexican citizens from working at the factory. And if the Honeywell CEO visited the factory, he could be arrested. International treaties affect the US even if we don’t sign them. For example, we didn’t sign the land mine international treaty, but no company in the US makes land mines anymore.
- There are positive obligations that affect the US and Kansas City. The Ban Treaty mandates assisting radiation victims and cleaning up contaminated environments. In another example of the effect of the international treaty against land mines, the US has contributed funds to help victims of land mines even though it didn’t sign this treaty. The US has exploded about 1,000 nuclear bombs in New Mexico, Nevada, and the Marshall Islands during testing. Also, uranium mining on the Navajo and Sioux reservations highly contaminated the lands, and the companies never properly sealed up these mines when they abandoned them. All this has resulted in the suffering of hundreds of thousands from dozens of types of deadly cancers and birth defects. RECA, or the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to people, but many more persons have never been compensated, including the General Services Administration Bannister Federal Complex workers here in Kansas City. This compensation program is due to end in the US on July 11, 2022. The Ban Treaty could stimulate further assistance for victims, such as expanding RECA.
- This is a turning point in history. It is up to us to make the Treaty work! We can join ICAN (the International Coalition to Abolish Nuclear Weapons), PeaceWorks-KC, and Physicians for Social Responsibility-KC. Together we can ask our elected officials to sign the Parliamentarian’s Pledge and introduce resolutions in support of the Treaty. We can ask local officials to join Mayors for Peace. We can press financial institutions to withdraw their support from nuclear weapon companies. We can encourage faculty and students to demand that their universities sever ties with nuclear weapon companies.
As MLK put it, we need to focus on “social uplift.” We need to stop the pandemic, reverse climate change, solve poverty, build up infrastructure, and invest in housing, education, and job training. The booklet Warheads to Windmills: How to Pay for a Green New Deal by Timmon Wallis outlines some business ideas in this direction; contact me if you want a free copy—913-271-7925. We must turn from death-dealing to life-enhancing activities, to things that truly build peace and security.
—Ann Suellentrop, MS, RN, presented these points during the Jan. 22 rally, “Celebrate the Nuke-Ban Treaty,” in Kansas City, Mo. She is project director for Physicians for Social Responsibility-KC and serves on the PeaceWorks-KC Board of Directors.