When command centers in and around the Russian capital are attacked with Trident nuclear warheads from a single submarine, “The total number of people who would die within 12 weeks in Moscow and the surrounding areas would be around 3 million, including around 750,000 children,” according to a study by John Ainslie. “Several million people would be injured.” With all major hospitals in the area destroyed or rendered inoperable by radiation and fire, there will be no burn beds to alleviate the horrific wounds sustained by millions of people who are not completely incinerated.
Elaine Scarry, a Professor at Harvard University, in her recent interview in Boston Review invokes these and many other horrors that miraculously have not yet happened and warns: “I’m almost at the point of believing that there is a wanton refusal to see the imminent peril, a refusal to understand not just that we have a responsibility to reverse it, to dismantle it, but that we have the ability to do so, and that if we don’t, it is going to happen. I don’t know if it’s going to happen this year, or whether it’s going to happen this century, but it’s almost inconceivable that nuclear war isn’t going to happen.”
With hundreds of nuclear-tipped ICBMs in Russia and America on hair-trigger alert and a complete break-down in nuclear arms control agreements and communication between the world’s two largest nuclear superpowers, no words ring truer or more urgent today.
Ernest Moniz and Sam Nunn, bemoaning this erosion of “strategic stability” in the U.S.-Russia relations, write in the Foreign Affairs magazine on this year’s somber 74th anniversary of Hiroshima Day: “Not since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis has the risk of a U.S.-Russian confrontation involving the use of nuclear weapons been as high as it is today. Yet unlike during the Cold War, both sides seem willfully blind to the peril.”
As the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), the last remaining vestige of nuclear arms control architecture between the U.S. and Russia, is set to expire in 2021, and “all nine nuclear powers are…modernizing their nuclear weapons production facilities and adding new, improved types of nuclear weapons to their arsenals,” it is really hard to miss the gravity of what we are witnessing in the world today. We have to start working on easing that omnicidal tension now, before it is too late. In order to do this, we have to finish what we weren’t able to resolve in the 1990’s.
After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the world had a real chance of pursuing the path of peaceful co-existence. The horrible nightmare that we all lived in during the second half of the twentieth century, in constant fear of mutually assured nuclear destruction, seemed to be over. There were bright, peaceful years ahead. But something went awfully wrong…
What we are experiencing today causes even more fear, and you can’t really call it a “nightmare” any longer. It’s been a long time since everybody awoke, but most are still pretending to be asleep. Good luck trying to wake them up, as Gandhi was well aware. In the meantime, the Doomsday Clock is ticking, and the nuclear odds are not in our favor.
To stop the clock, before the minute hand irreversibly hits the eternal midnight, we are going to have to give up our misplaced faith in our own exceptional uniqueness and insularity. It is that faith that allows us to see ourselves as superior to the rest of the world and, simultaneously, allows others to manipulate us. What politician would be able to convince his constituents that the continuation of endless war is good for them, if they didn’t already believe that it would be necessary to preserve and impose forcefully on the rest of the world the freedom-loving fire of their benevolent exceptionalism?
That was precisely how, in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy, which, in the words of the late Lynn Margulis, was “the most successful and most perverse publicity stunt in the history of public relations,” the neoconservatives were able to con America into adopting the concepts of unilateralism and pre-emptive military action. After all, we know better what’s best for the rest of the planet, truth and justice be damned; we are the victims, we are different, and we’ll to dictate to others by our God-given privilege the rules and conditions of their dependent, inferior, and completely isolated existence.
Once we’ve let this faith in our uniquely-blessed exceptionalism and our vengeful self-righteousness, whether American, or Jewish, or Evangelical Christian, nurtured carefully by the state and mass media, blind us into such an illusion, we lost our chances for peaceful development in the world. Russia, which was infected by the Bolsheviks with a similar belief system in the twentieth century, paid for it dearly after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The United States is about to experience the same tragedy that it was forewarned about by the Russian ordeal.
The only thing that can help us now is the realization that we are all brothers and sisters. We are all in this together; we are all the same and all so different. We all share the same fundamental interests. The other person’s happiness is no less valuable and important than ours. And her pain no less terrible and unbearable than our own. All those who say otherwise are our only enemies. We have no others. We have to overcome them with our self-enquiry and ensuing action. There are many organizations and international efforts trying to bring peace and security to us all, but they need our collective and individual help.
First of all, there is the Appeal of the Hibakusha, the A-bomb survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. The Appeal, signed by over 9 million people around the world, states:
We, the Hibakusha, call on all State Governments to conclude a treaty to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons. The average age of the Hibakusha now exceeds 80. It is our strong desire to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world in our lifetime so that succeeding generations of people will not see hell on earth ever again.
You, your families and relatives, or any other people should not be made Hibakusha again. We believe that your signatures appended to this appeal will add up to the voices of hundreds of millions of people around the world and move international politics. They will finally save the future of our blue planet and all life on it. We earnestly appeal to you to append your signature to this petition.
Let’s get these signatures to 100,000,000 and make the Hibakusha and our voices heard!
Second, there is the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) itself, which was adopted at the UN on July 7, 2017. On Hiroshima Day 2019, Bolivia became the 25th country to deposit its ratification instrument of the TPNW. The Treaty will enter into force once it’s been ratified by 50 States, so we are now halfway to making nuclear weapons illegal under international law. Organizations, such as ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) and Nihon Hidankyo (Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations), need all the help we can provide them to make full ratification of the TPNW a reality.
Third, we need to follow the lead of the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) and bring the nuclear disarmament issue into the 2020 U.S. Presidential Campaign. On July 1, 2019, the USCM, a nonpartisan association of 1,408 American cities with populations over 30,000, unanimously adopted a Mayors for Peace resolution “Calling on All Presidential Candidates to Make Known Their Positions on Nuclear Weapons and to Pledge U.S. Global Leadership in Preventing Nuclear War, Returning to Diplomacy, and Negotiating the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons”. The USCM “calls on all Presidential candidates to pledge, if elected, to reverse U.S. opposition to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and to embrace its humanitarian values and goals”. We have to bring this resolution to the attention of our mayors, public officials, and Presidential candidates. And we need to help United for Peace & Justice, CodePink, World BEYOND War, and other peace organizations make this resolution, along with others adopted by the USCM in the past, front and center in a number of critical campaigns, including Back from the Brink and Divest from the War Machine.
Fourth, there was the Basel Appeal on Disarmament and Sustainable Security addressed in January 2019 to Presidents Trump and Putin, Secretary-General of NATO, and to the chairs of U.S. congressional and Russian parliamentary committees on defense and foreign relations, by mayors, parliamentarians and representatives of civil society organizations from some 40 countries, including the mayors of 18 U.S. cities. Their joint appeal calls on the U.S., Russian and European leaders to preserve the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty (from which the United States formally withdrew on August 2), extend the New START Treaty until 2026, adopt ‘no-first-use’ and rescind ‘launch-on-warning’ policies, and work towards a nuclear-weapon-free world through “enhanced dialogue and engagement with other nuclear-armed States.”
The endorsing mayors and parliamentarians also call on the Russian Duma and U.S. Congress to refuse to authorize or allocate funding for the nuclear weapons banned by the INF Treaty, reaffirm their commitment “to acting resolutely for a nuclear-weapons-free and less militarized world,” and “call on cities, parliaments, governments and civil society around the world to join us in this endeavor.” You can already see these calls at work in several Congressional resolutions in the U.S., such as the No First-Use Act introduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congressman Adam Smith.
As Christine Muttonen, Jacqueline Cabasso, and Alyn Ware write on IPS, “it may not be all up to Trump and Putin.” They quote U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, who observed: “People want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it.”
This power-from-below approach – taking concerted action on nuclear risk-reduction and disarmament in federal, state and city legislatures – is just beginning…There are powerful levers parliaments, cities and civil society can use to stop the unraveling of the arms control regime and prevent an arms race…
It is our responsibility as an informed public in what is supposed to be a participatory democracy to help them engage these levers.
Finally and perhaps most importantly, there are the indispensable nonviolent acts of civil disobedience that must become our reality for the foreseeable future. We have plenty of examples of this in our past, from Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement in the U.S., to Mahatma Gandhi’s Satyagraha and the Indian independence movement, which was influenced heavily by Leo Tolstoy’s philosophy of “non-resistance to evil by force.” Tolstoy was, in turn, moved by the Doukhobors (Духоборы, “Spirit Wrestlers”), whose pacifism and anti-war preaching led to government persecution in 19th-century Russia and whose immigration to Canada, following their 1895 mass burning of guns in Transcaucasia, Tolstoy helped finance, along with the British Quakers. The Doukhobors tradition is alive in Canada to this day.
The Plowshares movement is a courageous example of anti-nuclear protests and nonviolent resistance to war in the present-day world. The movement was started by the Reverend Daniel Berrigan, his brother Phillip and six other activists, known as the “Plowshares Eight”, when they trespassed onto the General Electric nuclear missile facility in King of Prussia, PA, on September 9, 1980. They hammered on nuclear warhead nose cones, poured blood on documents, and prayed for peace, before being arrested. A prolonged court battle followed, with over 10 felony and misdemeanor charges piled on by the federal government. The eight were convicted and served from five days to over 14 months in prison for their protest.
There have been 100 similar actions throughout the world since then, with the latest event organized on April 4, 2018. On that day, marking the 50th anniversary of the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination, seven Catholic plowshares activists entered Kings Bay Naval base in St. Mary’s, GA, the largest nuclear submarine base in the world.
The Kings Bay Plowshares 7 (KBP7) said in their pre-action statement, “Weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, create nothing but a false sense of security. They cannot constitute the basis for peaceful co-existence between members of the human family, which must rather be inspired by an ethics of solidarity. Nuclear weapons eviscerate the rule of law and force white supremacy, perpetuate endless war and environmental destruction, and ensure immunity for all manner of crimes against humanity…A just and peaceful world is possible when we join prayers with action, [beat] swords into plowshares.”
The KBP7 proceeded to symbolically and nonviolently convert the nuclear weapons of mass destruction stored at the base by hammering on a statue of a Trident II D5 missile and pouring their own blood on it. They were arrested, and several of them, including the 79-year-old Liz McAlister, have spent the next 17 months (as of this writing) in jail, awaiting trial (now set for October 21) and facing 25 years in prison, if convicted of the multiple charges brought by the federal government. Compare this with the 13 months served by the multimillionaire pedophile, sex trafficker, and alleged Mossad agent Jeffrey Epstein out of an 18-month sentence in 2008 for molesting 36 underage girls, some as young as 14 years old, and you’ll get the idea of whose interests the government and the justice system truly represent and why our nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience are so important.
It takes exceptional courage and dedication to do what the Plowshares Eight, KBP7, and the rest of the Plowshares movement have done, and very few of us will ever be able to rise to their level. But we all have to stand in solidarity with these heroes, when they need our help the most. Please join Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other Nobel Peace Laureates and distinguished supporters from around the world and sign a global petition to U.S. Attorney General William Barr to dismiss all charges against the Kings Bay Plowshares 7.
We can also look to the British-based group Extinction Rebellion (XR, for short) for inspiration in using “acts of peaceful civil disobedience to disrupt the business-as-usual which is sending our species on a one-way track to extinction.” The movement was founded in May of 2018 (one month after the KBP7 action) by 94 academics who co-signed a letter declaring that “When a government willfully abrogates its responsibility to protect its citizens from harm and to secure the future for generations to come, it has failed in its most essential duty of stewardship. The “social contract” has been broken, and it is therefore not only our right, but our moral duty to bypass the government’s inaction and flagrant dereliction of duty, and to rebel to defend life itself.”
Extinction Rebellion has since brought together thousands of people around the world in nonviolent direct actions against the governments’ criminal inability to address the “direct existential threat” to humanity of climate change and ecological collapse. Major roads and bridges were blocked and hundreds of demonstrators arrested. XR organizers have called for a general strike around the world this October. As Chris Hedges writes in Fear vs. Fear,
The 10-day protest in April in London led by Extinction Rebellion—which saw 1,130 people arrested as crowds repeatedly shut down major parts of the city in demonstrating against the failure of the ruling elites to confront the climate catastrophe—is what we must emulate…
Switch off the electronic images. Ignore the media burlesque. The endless political shows, which turn presidential campaigns into mind-numbing, two-year-long marathons, are entertainment. Do not trust anyone in power. We will save ourselves by building mass movements to overthrow corporate power. I am not certain we will succeed. But I am certain that if we fail, we are doomed.
Elaine Scarry observes in her interview for Boston Review that “It might be embarrassing to have to stand on a street corner with a sign or attend a public meeting. Imagine, though, if we forgave the complicity with past acts of enslavement or genocide by saying, ‘People saw that it was wrong, but they considered it too intellectually obvious, too compromising of their dignity, to have to stand up and protest.’”
Discussing the meaning of the Second Amendment as the repudiation of a “standing army” that serves at the discretion of a single individual, without the consent of the citizens who are instead to be armed for their mutual self-defense, she notes that “A nuclear weapon is everything that was detested (and regarded as illegal) in the ‘standing army…’” We have surrendered our right to self-defense, which underlies every other human right, to a “thermonuclear monarch,” who is “so thrilling, so important, so vulnerable that he alone deserves a fallout shelter.”
As for America’s political landscape,
Right now it seems there are only two options: keep the right to bear arms and continue to witness shootings in schools, streets, and workplaces, or repeal the right to bear arms altogether. But there is a third alternative: the left has to listen to the right, and the right has to listen to the left…Ours is a citizenry that needs to relearn what courage is; it’s not shooting schoolchildren, and it’s not firing nuclear missiles at the innocent citizenry of a foreign nation.
The Chinese writer and poet Lu Xun wrote, “Hope is like a path in the countryside. Originally, there is nothing–but as people walk this way again and again, a path appears.” May we all walk this path to peace.
Author: Anna Tolstoyevskaya grew up in the Soviet Union and came to the U.S. as a student of Philology and Foreign Service in the mid-1990s. She is an analyst by trade and an Austinite at heart, having spent a third of her life in that beautiful city. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All statements in this report are an opinion of the author. Act at your own risk. Russia & America Goodwill Association (RAGA) is not responsible for the content of the article. Any views or opinions presented in this report are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RAGA. Any liability in respect to this communication remain with the author.