When Donald Trump Twittered something about nuclear weapons Dec. 23, I thought he must be deliberately trivializing the Bomb to make it appear small, the way he makes light of sexual assault, punching critics, deporting millions, torturing suspects, and assassinating women and children. About the Bomb, the world’s most famous Twitterer reportedly said, “The US must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”
The Tweeter in Chief is unaware that the world actually is coming to its senses regarding nukes. Mr. Trump either knows next to nothing about nuclear weapons — and isn’t afraid to teach nonsense, even contradicting his Secretary of Defense nominee — or he wants to direct attention away from current progress being made toward their abolition.
On December 23, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a historic resolution to begin negotiations in 2017 on a treaty banning nuclear weapons. The vote follows an Oct. 27 decision by the UNGA First Committee to begin work on the new treaty, a resolution opposed by the US and several other nuclear-armed states.
The latest resolution passed 113 to 35, with 13 abstaining. Putting the lie to President Barak Obama’s lip-service about pursuing “a world without nuclear weapons,” US delegate Samantha Power voted against the resolution. So did nuclear-armed England, France, Russia, and Israel. Yet not every nuclear power parroted US obstructionism. US partners India and Pakistan abstained, as did China. North Korea (with perhaps 10 nuclear weapons) and Iran (with zero nukes) voted in favor. Saudi Arabia blew off its principle arms supplier and voted Yes, as did Italy despite being both a NATO partner and home to about 80 US H-bombs still deployed at two if its air force bases.
The US knows a treaty ban will demolish the US-manufactured perception that nuclear weapons are legitimate — while landmines, gas, poison, biological and cluster munitions are not. An international ban would also make it politically embarrassing and legally suspect for the US and NATO to continue their nuclear war planning.
The UN treaty talks will proceed in two sessions: March 27 to 31, and June 15 to July 7. During a UN budget committee meeting in December, the US fought against a funding request for the planned four weeks of negotiations. But under pressure ban proponents Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa, the US withdrew its opposition and the funding was Okayed.
In a leaked document sent to NATO members in October, before the UN First Committee decision, the US urge opposition to the resolution and a boycott of the negotiations. US marching orders were disobeyed by allies including The Netherlands, India, and Pakistan which all abstained (and by Italy which voted Yes).
The “capability” of the US nuclear arsenal is already redundant, according to Mr. Trump’s nominee to head the Pentagon. In January 2015, Gen. James Mattis ridiculed our 450 land-based missiles, telling the Senate Armed Services Committee, “You should ask: ‘Is it time to reduce the triad … removing the land-based missiles?’” Gen. Mattis is friends with former Defense Secretary William Perry who earlier called for eliminating the same missiles. They should be scrapped, Perry says, because “They’re not needed.” The same position is advocated by Gen. James Cartwright, a former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a former commander of US nuclear forces, and by Republican Senator Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.
To “greatly strengthen and expand” the explosive, incendiary, and cancerous power of H-bombs is militarily irrational, economically bankrupting, and environmentally self-destructive. The Nobel Prize-winning Physicians for Social Responsibility, which has studied the subject for 4 decades, reported in 2014 that just 100 nuclear warheads — if detonated — could plunge the Earth into a smoke-clouded darkness long enough to destroy agriculture and starve billions of people to death. The US has 7000 warheads, 70 times the “strength” to do ourselves in. But then, Mr. Trump and his supporters would have to read something to know this.