According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Doomsday Clock is still 2 minutes to midnight – a new abnormal. Having become disillusioned with this particular noteworthy development being buried under the media’s radar for far too long, director of the UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) Renata Dwan has spoken out against the threat of nuclear war, calling it an “urgent” issue that the world should take more seriously.
To be fair, we live in a world where the people will only take an issue seriously if they are told to take it seriously – by the media. The risk of nuclear warfare is no exception, despite its catastrophic consequences. If you want people to understand the urgent threat nuclear arms pose to the world, the media would do well to start talking about it more.
According to Dwan, all states with nuclear weapons are in the process of modernizing their nuclear weapons, which in turn is changing the arms control landscape. She also believes this is partially due to growing competition between China and the United States.
“I think that it’s genuinely a call to recognize – and this has been somewhat missing in the media coverage of the issues – that the risks of nuclear war are particularly high now, and the risks of the use of nuclear weapons, for some of the factors I pointed out, are higher now than at any time since World War Two,” Dwan said.
What would a nuclear war look like?
Albert Einstein once famously said: “I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”
To launch a nuclear war is to launch the unthinkable. Unfortunately, unthinking is all too common in the age of Donald Trump, so we have to be even more vigilant about this issue than we ordinarily would (that isn’t to say we shouldn’t have been vigilant under Clinton, Bush and Obama, all of whomlaunched disastrous wars of aggression without a legal basis).
If Washington launched a nuclear war against Russia and China, the bombing alone is estimated to kill at least 335 million people within the first seventy-two hours (this estimate was calculated as far back as 1962, meaning the number is surely higher today). As former Pentagon consultant and whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg once explained, these deaths are merely the beginning:
“Well, then I asked, ‘All right, how many altogether’ And a few days later, 100 million in East Europe, the captive nations, another 100 million in West Europe, our allies, from our own strikes, by fallout, depending on which way the wind blew, and, however the wind blew, a third 100 million in adjoining countries, neutral countries, like Austria and Finland, or Afghanistan then, Japan, northern India and so forth — a total of 600 million people. That was a time, by the way, when the population of the world was 3 billion. And that was an underestimate of their casualties — a hundred Holocausts.”
These numbers also don’t take into account the number of people who would die gradually and overtime from the aftermath, which would likely surpass the amount killed in the attack itself. If entire cities are destroyed, who will treat the wounded, feed the remaining people, provide shelter, and the like?
If right-wingers think the refugee crisis is bad now, they should be doing their utmost to prevent such a catastrophe from ever occurring. Yet, despite these damning figures, a survey conducted in 2017 suggested that the majority of Americans would approve of a nuclear strike against an adversarial state such as Iran, killing 2 million civilians in the process so as long as it saved American lives in the long run.
As it transpires, nuclear weapons have lost the taboo that existed after the horrors of the US attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As Brian Toon, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Colorado bluntly admitted, people today are just not confronting themselves with the facts.
“They think nuclear weapons are just big bombs that blow up lots of people,” the professor said, “without considering the way a nuclear conflict – even a ‘small’ one involving some 10 percent of the US arsenal — might poison millions of men, women and children and change the climate enough to starve hundreds of millions.”
The United States has been using nuclear weapons for decades
Former Secretary of State under Donald Trump Rex Tillerson once allegedly called Trump a “f***ing moron” when the President had asked three times in a meeting “if we have nuclear weapons, why don’t we use them?”
When this proposition was put to Daniel Ellsberg in an interview with Democracy Now! Ellsberg stated that it is not a question of whether or not Trump might use nuclear weapons – he already is.
“It’s not a question of whether the president might use them,” Ellsberg stated. “He’s using them the way you use a gun when you point it at somebody in a confrontation, whether or not you pull the trigger…as in NATO. I think the — one of our commanders just said, ‘Oh, we use the weapons every day, every hour of the day,’ which is true. We use them on the hip.”
This is not an issue of the recklessness of Donald Trump versus the unknown depths of an unhinged leader of a so-called rogue state like North Korea. We must bear in mind that in all actuality, the US has been using its nuclear weapons supply to achieve its own ends for decades.
In the case of Iraq and Libya, most of Washington’s adversaries have concluded that these countries were not attacked because they had weapons of mass destruction or posed any significant threat to the world – but in fact, because they didn’t.
According to North Korea’s Foreign Ministry, “[T]he Libyan crisis is teaching the international community a grave lesson,” which was that Libya’s decision to abandon its weapons programs in 2003, applauded by George W Bush, had been “an invasion tactic to disarm the country.”
The same can equally be said about Trump’s recent threats towards Iran, in which he took to his infamous Twitter account to threaten that “if Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran.” This isn’t a bully at school threatening a weaker child with violence – we all know what he is referring to. Seeing as Iran doesn’t actually have nuclear weapons, any surviving historians will remember who led the world towards a nuclear holocaust.
The current president certainly wears his nuclear weapons supply on his hip, and with crazed advisors like Bolton pushing up voluptuously against his other hip, perhaps the warnings of Renata Dwan and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists should be heeded. As former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said just two years ago:
“In the modern world, wars must be outlawed, because none of the global problems we are facing can be resolved by war — not poverty, nor the environment, migration, population growth, or shortages of resources.”
In the meantime, the best defense we have is the hope that defiant officers will uphold their promise to disobey a presidential order to deliver a nuclear strike.