United Nations Adopts Historic Treaty Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons

This morning in New York, at the end of its final session, the United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Unlike other treaties, including the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT, this is the first true multilateral nuclear disarmament treaty negotiated since the dawn of the nuclear age.

The final vote was 122 to adopt, 1 against (Netherlands), and 1 abstention (Singapore). The Netherlands was the only NATO country to participate in the negotiations. All of the world’s nine nuclear-armed countries boycotted the negotiations (BIG surprise).

The Treaty will be open for signature by any member state starting on Sept. 20 during the annual General Assembly and would enter into legal force 90 days after being ratified by at least 50 countries.

In a Joint Statement – demonstrating the epitome of doublespeak – released after the treaty was adopted, the United States, Britain and France said, “We do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to it.” The statement demonstrates how the nuclear-armed nations still cling to the archaic and tenuous doctrine of nuclear deterrence: “Accession to the ban Treaty is incompatible with the policy of nuclear deterrence, which has been essential to keeping the peace in Europe and North Asia for over 70 years.”

“The theory only works if you are ready to use nuclear weapons, otherwise the other side will call your bluff,” said Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). Deterrence, she added, is also “based on a perception that leaders are rational and sane.”

As expected, the statement invoked the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) as a reason for disregarding the Treaty and cited how it “risks undermining the existing international security architecture which contributes to the maintenance of international peace and security,” while disregarding the fact that historical and current policies (particularly of the United States) have created and are exacerbating the current nuclear crisis with the DPRK.

The final irony in the Joint Statement is the three nations’ alleged commitment to the NPT: “We reiterate in this regard our continued commitment to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and reaffirm our determination to safeguard and further promote its authority, universality and effectiveness.”

The disarmament community never expected that any nuclear-armed country would sign the ban treaty initially. Instead, we hope that the treaty’s widespread acceptance elsewhere will eventually increase the public pressure and stigma on those harboring and threatening to use such omnicidal weapons, and make holdouts reconsider their positions. It will be a long haul!

There is historical precedent in previous treaties that banned biological and chemical arms, land mines and cluster bombs, demonstrating how weapons once regarded as acceptable are now widely, if not universally, reviled. “While the treaty itself will not immediately eliminate any nuclear weapons, the treaty can, over time, further delegitimize nuclear weapons and strengthen the legal and political norm against their use,” said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

The treaty adopted today will outlaw the use and threat of use, as well as testing, development, production, possession, transfer and stationing in a different country. It also provides a pathway for nuclear-armed nations that choose to join, with a process for destroying nuclear stockpiles and enforcing a nation’s pledge to remain free of nuclear weapons.

Los Alamos Study Group Director Greg Mello said: “It is difficult to overstate the accomplishment represented by this Treaty. It makes a sea-change in nuclear affairs, the effect of which will be felt only over time and with further yeoman efforts. It is a real milestone accomplishment in support of human civilization, an historic step in bringing the age of nuclear terror to an end.”

Mello also reminded us of the phenomenal efforts and co-leadership that went into bringing about this historic Treaty: “The Treaty could not have been possible without the leadership of, and engagement by, literally hundreds of civil society organizations, ably coordinated by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), underpinned by the untiring work of the Reaching Critical Will (RCW) program of the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom (WILPF). The ban campaign, the fruition of which we see today, really began and was co-led throughout by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). Dozens of other organizations could be mentioned, without which this Treaty could never have been produced.”

The day after the adoption of this landmark Treaty marks the 21st anniversary of the historic International Court of Justice (ICJ) Advisory Opinion on the Legality of Nuclear Weapons. In that opinion the Court concluded “that the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law.”

Today begins a new era of stigmatization of the continued preparation by the nuclear-armed nations that threatens humanity on an existential level. It will require a massive global effort by parliamentarians, NGO’s, and civil society, all working together, to bring a huge, continuous groundswell of pressure on the nuclear armed nations to not just “disarm,” but to create a paradigm shift away from violent conflict and toward mutual security assurances among nations. The framework and functioning of the United Nations must be respected and strengthened. Nonviolence MUST become the order of the day (and of the new era).

I invite each and every fellow traveler on this small, fragile, blue planet we all share to join in this struggle for a better world, a world with hope for future generations. For now I leave you with the wisdom of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr on the subject:

More recently I have come to see the need for the method of nonviolence in international relations. Although I was not yet convinced of its efficacy in conflicts between nations, I felt that while war could never be a positive good, it could serve as a negative good by preventing the spread and growth of an evil force. War, horrible as it is, might be preferable to surrender to a totalitarian system. But now I believe that the potential destructiveness of modern weapons totally rules out the possibility of war ever again achieving a negative good. If we assume that mankind has a right to survive then we must find an alternative to war and destruction. “Don’t ever let anyone pull you so low as to hate them. We must use the weapon of love. We must have the compassion and understanding for those who hate us. We must realize so many people are taught to hate us that they are not totally responsible for their hate. But we stand in life at midnight; we are always on the threshold of a new dawn.”

–Martin Luther King, Jr., “Pilgrimage to Nonviolence,” Strength to Love, 13 April 1960


Photo courtesy of Unfold Zero




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GZ endorses IPPNW statement on Korea crisis

Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action (Ground Zero) is deeply concerned about the Korea crisis. The tense situation that continues to evolve has been likened to a “Cuban Missile Crisis in slow motion.” There is no military solution to the standoff with theDemocratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK); diplomacy is the only reasonable approach.

In addition to the immediate dangers involved, this situation points to much greater issues that must be addressed in order to prevent proliferation and reduce the risks posed to humanity by nuclear weapons.

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW)has issued a statement on the Korea crisis on April 28, 2017 (see full text below). Ground Zero endorses the IPPNW statement, and calls on the US Government to not only seek a permanent, peaceful resolution to the Korea crisis, but also fully support the upcoming second round of United Nations negotiations of a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons.


IPPNW statement on Korea crisis

APRIL 28, 2017

The persistent tensions on the Korean peninsula are rapidly escalating into a crisis fueled by mutual fears, provocations, and the volatile temperaments of two unpredictable, nuclear-armed heads of state. The current US administration seems determined to “resolve” the situation through shows of force and military threats. The government of Kim Jong-un is accelerating its efforts to test and build nuclear weapons and missiles, while promising “massive” retaliation should the US follow through on those threats.

Tens of millions of people on both sides of the demilitarized zone are literally caught in the middle of an evolving conflict that could erupt into war—potentially nuclear war—with a single misstep or ill-considered decision on either side. Not only are the lives of millions of North and South Koreans at stake; an armed conflict would inevitably draw in neighboring countries—especially China, Russia, and Japan.

This is exactly how a regional nuclear war could start and escalate into a global catastrophe. The targeting of even a tiny fraction of the combined nuclear arsenals of the DPRK, US, Russia and China on cities in the Korean peninsula or elsewhere would result in a global nuclear famine putting billions of people worldwide at risk of starvation. The consequences of such a war have been described in recent years at three international conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, which reaffirmed the long-held conclusion that nuclear weapons must never be used again under any circumstances, and that the only way to ensure our survival is to prohibit and eliminate the weapons themselves.

If immediate steps are not taken to defuse the current crisis and resume diplomatic approaches to the security issues on the Korean peninsula, the world may well run out of time to prevent a nuclear disaster, despite having had more than 70 years to eliminate the most urgent threat to our common survival. No other option should be on the table.

The alternative to nuclear war is a good-faith effort by the US, the DPRK, and other regional powers to replace military threats and actions with diplomatic initiatives that take the security interests of all parties into account. All nuclear weapons-related activities in the region and everywhere else in the world—including nuclear tests, missile tests and tests of missile defense systems, provocative military exercises, and verbal nuclear threats—should be halted immediately. A formal end to the Korean War, which was halted in 1953 with the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement, must be a goal of regional diplomacy

The current crisis in the Korean Peninsula is the latest example that a world divided into nuclear “haves” and “have nots” is untenable. The possession and threat of use of nuclear weapons by a handful of states promotes, rather than discourages, conflict and the spread of nuclear weapons. Proliferation is a symptom that requires a global solution.

Last March, the international community took a huge step forward toward ending the nuclear crisis when more than 130 countries, in partnership with international organizations and civil society, began negotiating a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons as a basis for their total elimination under international law. These negotiations have inspired a new sense of hope that effective leadership toward a world without nuclear weapons is possible, and that a clear path toward that goal can be defined by year’s end. Every government should support and participate constructively in those negotiations.

Source URL for IPPNW Statement on the Korea crisis: https://peaceandhealthblog.com/2017/04/28/korea-crisis/

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Will Federal Court Protect International Laws?

Editor’s Note: The following Op-Ed was written by Larry Kerschner, and published in The Chronicle, Lewis County, Washington, where Larry resides. Larry, along with Bernie Meyer and Gilberto Perez, collectively known as the “Trident Three”, will stand trial in Federal court on April 12th for their nonviolent direct action at the Bangor nuclear submarine/weapons base in Silverdale, Washington on Mothers Day weekend in 2016.

Letter: Will Federal Court Protect International Laws?

Apr 6, 2017

Twenty miles west of Seattle is the largest concentration of deployed nuclear weapons in the United States. Most politicians in this country are under the strong influence of the well-paid war- and weapons-making lobbyists.

However, the United States at Nuremberg urged that individual citizens have an affirmative duty to publicly disassociate themselves from a known violation of international law.

Chief Prosecutor for the United States Robert H. Jackson, later a U.S. Supreme Court justice, stated, “International law, as such, binds every citizen just as ordinary municipal law.”

International law is the “supreme law of the land” under Article VI, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution and therefore binding on the United States and all states therein. The most important international law principles related to nuclear weapons exist within the Nuremberg Principles, the Genocide Convention, the Geneva Conventions and the United Nations Charter. The Charter of the United Nations states, “All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat of or use of force against territorial integrity of any state. …”

Over the past 50 years there has been a U.S. military tendency toward increasing tolerance for the limited use of nuclear weapons delivered by weapons such as drones, allowing military planners to claim that their objectives can be achieved with minimal loss of civilian life.

This ignores the fact that the entire point of nuclear weapons is their massive, indiscriminate destructive power.

The use of nuclear weapons is a war crime because such use would violate international law by causing unnecessary suffering while failing to distinguish between combatants and noncombatants and by poisoning its targets with radiation.

In September 2002, a paper concerning the National Security Strategy of U.S. marked the adoption of a pre-emptive strike doctrine: “While the United States will constantly strive to enlist the support of the international community, we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting pre-emptively against such terrorists, to prevent them from doing harm against our people and our country.”

Every American citizen has the right and the duty to insist upon a lawful foreign policy. In post-Nuremberg settings, a government that flagrantly violates international law is engaged in criminal activity, and as far as related law is concerned, its policies are not entitled to respect or compliance.

Last Mother’s Day, two friends and I were arrested for holding anti-nuclear signs blocking traffic entering the Trident Submarine Base in Kitsap County.

Our trial will be Wednesday at the Federal Court in Tacoma. I will respectfully ask the court to dismiss the charges against us on the grounds that they are pre-empted by the international laws and treaties that are the supreme law of the United States and to publicly define the current nuclear weapons policies of the U.S. government as an ongoing criminal conspiracy to violate international law and the United States Constitution.

It’s time for the judicial branch to act as the check on the executive branch it was designed to be.

Larry Kerschner


Original Source URL – http://www.chronline.com/opinion/letter-will-federal-court-protect-international-laws/article_5f88f9f4-1aee-11e7-84af-9b23647b5fe3.html

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US Nukes at the “Top of the Pack” (and that’s not good)

Greetings friends of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action,

Nuclear weapons have certainly figured prominently in the news lately, and almost none of it has been good news.

Insisting the U.S. has fallen behind in terms of nuclear weapons, President Trump recently told Reuters that he wants to strengthen the US nuclear arsenal to ensure it’s at “the top of the pack.” His mouthpiece, Sean Spicer, said that the US will not “yield its supremacy” in nuclear capabilities. As President-elect, Trump said that he didn’t mind an arms race because it would only benefit the US. Besides the ongoing and dangerous rhetoric, what is crystal clear is that the US is, and has been for many years (even after the end of the Cold War), working to maintain nuclear dominance and hegemony.

The most recent disclosure and damning piece of evidence for this is the recent article in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (The Bulletin) that blew the lid off what the US government has euphemistically called it’s “Life Extension Program” for the W76 thermonuclear warhead deployed on the Trident II D5 submarine-launched ballistic missile.The article, “How US nuclear force modernization is undermining strategic stability: The burst-height compensating super-fuze,” authored by Hans M. Kristensen, Matthew McKinzie, and Theodore A. Postol, shows how the US military, under the guise of what it calls a “life-extension program” – allegedly intended to increase safety and reliability of nuclear warheads – has vastly increased the ability of warheads to detonate closer to their intended targets. Essentially, Trident is now three times deadlier than ever before.

The US government has been working on this program (and this “super-fuze”) for years, and now 100% of the warheads on Trident submarines are capable of destroying “hard targets.” No matter how the government tries to portray Trident as a second-strike (defensive) weapon system, the addition of the super-fuze clearly makes it capable of being used (and in an extremely effective manner from a strategic standpoint) as a first-strike weapon (as the article makes clear) against the entire Russian ICBM force.

We can only imagine (and not in a good way) what Russian leadership (both civilian and military) are thinking about this development, and what steps they are taking to counter it. Yes, it is a definite Cold War Redux, and the US is pushing it hard. And it is extremely destabilizing and dangerous!

And to add insult to injury, our government is boycotting the historic United Nations conference to negotiate a treaty banning nuclear weapons, which began on Monday, March 27th.

The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, told reporters on the opening day of the UN negotiations that the world’s powers were skipping these negotiations so they could instead remain committed to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). HOGWASH!!! The US, along with the other nuclear powers (and their nuclear umbrella vassal states) have clearly disrespected Article VI of the NPT and have abrogated their duty to “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

Isaiah Wall, across from the United Nations, New York (photo by Leonard Eiger)

Directly across from the United Nations stands the Isaiah Wall with its prophetic message to the nations for all to see. Isaiah’s message stands in dramatic (and ironic) counterpoint to the imperial hubris laid bear by Ambassador Haley and other diplomats who spoke on behalf of the nuclear weapons states and their vassals as they boycotted the UN negotiations.

Ambassador Patricia O’Brien of Ireland stated the importance of this landmark meeting eloquently when she said that it “is a pivotal point in our international relations, a time to take stock and honor the testimony of the past, to decide what sort of present we wish to live in and what sort of legacy we wish to leave for future generations.” She noted, “We are not just writing a new and complementary treaty here, we are taking the opportunity to write a new history and in so doing to create a new, more stable, more secure and more equal future for all.”

Reaching Critical Will, a project of the Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom, is publishing a daily report on the negotiations. Click here to learn more and subscribe. I also invite you to contact your members of Congress and ask if they support the UN ban negotiations. If they do not, please educate them and urge them to do so. Click here to learn more about the negotiations at the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

Here in the home of the largest deployed concentration of nuclear weapons in the US, we continue to resist, to educate and to work for an end to the nuclear madness. Here’s a recap of what is happening in our little corner of the world.

Mira Leslie – Presente 

Our dear friend and colleague Mira Leslie died on March 10th, 2016. Mira knew she was on limited time after being diagnosed with brain cancer, and chose to continue being out in the world working to make it a better place. Just days before her death Mira participated in the Pacific Life Community gathering and the monthly Ground Zero Stewardship Council meeting, building the fire and working on the grounds, providing, as always, energy and support for the work at hand.  All are welcome to join the celebration of Mira’s life on Sat May 6, 1-4pm, at the Hillman City Collaboratory, 5623 Rainier Ave S, Seattle. Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action will also remember Mira with a tree planting at its Saturday, May 13th Mothers Day event.Click here to read an obituary and find more details on the upcoming celebration of Mira’s life.

Trident Three On Trial April 12th

The “Trident Three,” arrested by the Navy for “trespassing” during the 2016 Mother’s Day weekend vigil and nonviolent direct action at the Bangor Trident base, will appear for trial in the US District Court, Western District of Washington, Tacoma Courthouse on Wednesday, April 12th at 1:30 PM. Navy prosecutors are pressing charges for the three defendants, Larry Kirschner, Bernie Meyer and Gilberto Perez. There will be a vigil and press conference in front of the Tacoma Courthouse just prior to trial, around noon (exact time to be announced). Check the GZ Upcoming Events Calendar beforehand for updates and times for vigil and press conference.

The Trident Three also will present a discussion about their arrest on Mother’s Day 2016 and on the implications of the current U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy at St. Leo’s Church, 710 South 13th St. Tacoma, WA 98405, in the Father William Bichsel SJ Hall, on Thursday April 6, 2017 at 6:30 p.m. Click here for more information and to read statements by these three resisters.

Save Our Planet: Celebrating Earth Day April 21st

Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action and allies are organizing a (pre) Earth Day Action on Friday April 21, 2017 in Seattle. We will gather at Westlake Park at 11:00 am where prayer, drumming, singing, and speakers will engage us. From Westlake Park we will march to the Federal Building where we will continue the rally while a delegation meets with Senators Cantwell and Murray and/or their staffs to call for their leadership in the abolition of nuclear weapons. Click here for more information.

GZ Celebrates Mothers Day (the day before) May 13th

Save the date  – Saturday, May 13th – to join us at Ground Zero Center as we honor the original intention of Mother’s Day (for Peace). The Seattle Peace Chorus will be performing. Planners are preparing a meaningful day. Final details will be posted soon at the GZ Upcoming Events Calendar.

Plowshares Film to be Screened in Tacoma April 30th

Documentary filmmaker Helen Young will give a special screening of her film “The Nuns, The Priests, and The Bombs” – note: this is the working title – on Sunday April 30th at 4pm at the Father William Bichsel SJ Hall, St. Leo Church, 710 S. 13th St., Tacoma. There will be a question and answer period following the film. Helen began this project not long after the Disarm Now Plowshares action, and through the course of filming wove other elements into it, significantly the Transform Now Plowshares. Considering current nuclear weapons issues and developments, this film could not be more timely and important.

Command and Control is Back on April 7th

If you haven’t yet seen Eric Schlossers gripping documentary on nuclear weapons, Command and Control is being shown by the Meaningful Movies in Wallingford on Friday, April 7th at 7:00PM at 5019 Keystone Place N (at Keystone Congregational Church) Seattle. Special guests Mary Hanson (of Ground Zero Center) and Lillly Adams (Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility) will be there for a discussion after the film. Click here for all the details.

Free Range Films presents “13th” on April 7th

Free Range Films is showing the award winning documentary, “13th” by Ava DuVernay on Friday, April 7 at 7:30pm at the Suquamish Church of Christ located at 18732 Division Ave. in Suquamish. This film documents how the U.S. criminal justice system has been driven by racism from the days of slavery to today’s era of mass incarceration. “13th” has garnered acclaim from film critics and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2017. Ava DuVernay’s previous work included the 2014 hit film, “Selma” which was nominated for Best Picture. Click here for more information.

Important Resource on Nuclear Weapons

Glen Anderson, of the Olympia Fellowship of Reconciliation, has put together another extremely useful compilation of information on nuclear weapons and how we can effectively organize for their abolition. We invite you to check it out at OlympiaFOR.

People have, for some time now, been citing the figure of $1 Trillion to “modernize” the US nuclear weapons program over the next thirty years. Judging by what we are hearing from the Trump administration, along with what the Pentagon and its corporate partners are pushing for, the total will far surpass that figure. For the past 70-plus years the US nuclear weapons program has been like the creature from “Little Shop of Horrors”, continually screaming “Feed Me!” And going forward, unless we are able to starve this monster, it will continue to devour everything in its path, until the day these horrific devices of humanity’s demise  are finally used in the final orgy of destruction and death.

As the authors of a recent article in Counterpunch put it: “The [newest round of] money for all of these [nuclear weapons] programs is just beginning to flow into hundreds of congressional districts.  As the torrent of money builds up over the next decade, the flood of sub-contracting money and jobs in hundreds of congressional districts guarantees the entire nuclear spend-up will acquire a political life of its own — and the taxpayer will be burdened with yet another unstoppable behemoth.”

As for the UN negotiations, their time has come. Even without the nuclear powers coming to the table, these important talks have the potential to impact the current lack of progress on disarmament. They can do no harm to an ineffective Non-Proliferation Treaty. If enough countries ratify a nuclear weapons ban, it will create political and moral pressure on the holdouts. Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said that “it will reinforce the stigma against their [nuclear weapons] use, support commitments to nuclear risk reduction and be a disincentive for proliferation.”

Whatever the outcome of this first round of negotiations, a second round has already been scheduled. It is up to us as responsible citizens and members of civil society to bring pressure to bear on our governments (that are not already on board) to fully support the negotiations and work toward a global ban on nuclear weapons. Anything less is a death sentence for future generations. Keep the pressure on your members of Congress or parliamentarians!

May we continue to work together, in the words of Ambassador Patricia O’Brien of Ireland, “to write a new history and in so doing to create a new, more stable, more secure and more equal future for all.”

With Thanks and In Peace,

The Resistance Team at Ground Zero Center

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