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Tutu writes: "We cannot intimidate others into behaving well when we ourselves are misbehaving. Yet that is precisely what nations armed with nuclear weapons hope to do."

Archbishop Desmond Tutu. (photo: AFP/Getty Images)
Archbishop Desmond Tutu. (photo: AFP/Getty Images)

Nuclear Weapons Must Be Eradicated

By Desmond Tutu, Guardian UK

04 March 2013


No nation should own nuclear arms - not Iran, not North Korea, and not their critics who take the moral high ground.

e cannot intimidate others into behaving well when we ourselves are misbehaving. Yet that is precisely what nations armed with nuclear weapons hope to do by censuring North Korea for its nuclear tests and sounding alarm bells over Iran's pursuit of enriched uranium. According to their logic, a select few nations can ensure the security of all by having the capacity to destroy all.

Until we overcome this double standard - until we accept that nuclear weapons are abhorrent and a grave danger no matter who possesses them, that threatening a city with radioactive incineration is intolerable no matter the nationality or religion of its inhabitants - we are unlikely to make meaningful progress in halting the spread of these monstrous devices, let alone banishing them from national arsenals.

Why, for instance, would a proliferating state pay heed to the exhortations of the US and Russia, which retain thousands of their nuclear warheads on high alert? How can Britain, France and China expect a hearing on non-proliferation while they squander billions modernising their nuclear forces? What standing has Israel to urge Iran not to acquire the bomb when it harbours its own atomic arsenal?

Nuclear weapons do not discriminate; nor should our leaders. The nuclear powers must apply the same standard to themselves as to others: zero nuclear weapons. Whereas the international community has imposed blanket bans on other weapons with horrendous effects - from biological and chemical agents to landmines and cluster munitions - it has not yet done so for the very worst weapons of all. Nuclear weapons are still seen as legitimate in the hands of some. This must change.

Around 130 governments, various UN agencies, the Red Cross and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons are gathering in Oslo this week to examine the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons and the inability of relief agencies to provide an effective response in the event of a nuclear attack. For too long, debates about nuclear arms have been divorced from such realities, focusing instead on geopolitics and narrow concepts of national security.

With enough public pressure, I believe that governments can move beyond the hypocrisy that has stymied multilateral disarmament discussions for decades, and be inspired and persuaded to embark on negotiations for a treaty to outlaw and eradicate these ultimate weapons of terror. Achieving such a ban would require somewhat of a revolution in our thinking, but it is not out of the question. Entrenched systems can be turned on their head almost overnight if there's the will.

Let us not forget that it was only a few years ago when those who spoke about green energy and climate change were considered peculiar. Now it is widely accepted that an environmental disaster is upon us. There was once a time when people bought and sold other human beings as if they were mere chattels, things. But people eventually came to their senses. So it will be the case for nuclear arms, sooner or later.

Indeed, 184 nations have already made a legal undertaking never to obtain nuclear weapons, and three in four support a universal ban. In the early 1990s, with the collapse of apartheid nigh, South Africa voluntarily dismantled its nuclear stockpile, becoming the first nation to do so. This was an essential part of its transition from a pariah state to an accepted member of the family of nations. Around the same time, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine also relinquished their Soviet-era atomic arsenals.

But today nine nations still consider it their prerogative to possess these ghastly bombs, each capable of obliterating many thousands of innocent civilians, including children, in a flash. They appear to think that nuclear weapons afford them prestige in the international arena. But nothing could be further from the truth. Any nuclear-armed state, big or small, whatever its stripes, ought to be condemned in the strongest terms for possessing these indiscriminate, immoral weapons. your social media marketing partner


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-8 # James Marcus 2013-03-05 00:13
World Peace, 'weapon-by-weap on'?. Endless waste of time...Too many others! more than we know....
+10 # Vinush 2013-03-05 03:39
Mr. Tutu is correct.
For the human race to thrive we need to be in Love not in fear.
Remove the evil causes of fear and we will have Harmony on Earth.
Let's realise the Oneness of All.
+9 # RMDC 2013-03-05 05:47
Thanks. This is what everyone should demand of nuclear armed nations. The dismantling of nuclear weapons needs to start at the top -- the most heavily armed nations. Small countries like North Korea build nuclear weapons to keep the big nations like the US from invading them. That is a rational defense policy. We all believe that if Iraq would have had nuclear bombs it would not have been invaded and destroyed.

The problem is the aggressive nations like the US. The US won't even renounce a first strike policy. When the US threatens a small nation, its leaders always say that "all options are on the table" and this directly means the use of nuclear weapons.

The US has used nuclear weapons in every war since the 1990s. They are the depleted uranium cores in most bombs, rockets, and artillery shells. The spread radiation all over the nation, causing cancers and birth defects for probably generations or maybe even forever. The cancer and birth defect rates in places like Fallujah are so high that the Iraqi governmet has advised people not to have any babies. There are about 3 million people in Vietnam with serious birth defects caused by all the chemical weapons the US used against the people there.

Thanks for this strong statement. We need more. We need a huge global outcry and boycott of the US.
+5 # jjj 2013-03-05 07:26
Yes. Nuclear weapons must be banned and taken apart by all nations. Yes morally, yes ethically and yes practically. Looking at this on a purely results-oriente d basis: For decades we (the US) has been able to blow up the world many times over with our stockpile of nuclear weapons. So are we all better off now because of it? I'd argue that we are not.
+5 # massager2002 2013-03-05 09:34
Thank you Mr Tutu for saying what most people are afraid to say, that we are sick and tired of living in fear of wars. We Americans are beginning to awaken to the despotic nature of our first response model of wars anywhere. We are losing credibility around the world and we are out of money to fund those wars! Love IS the answer to PEACE!
+1 # dick 2013-03-05 10:48
The problem of hidden weapons enables the Nuclear Industrial Congressional Complex to perpetuate gross profiteering. The combination of outside money & local vulnerabilities has made Congress a Public Enemy. Perhaps serious public funding of Congressional elections & dramatically improved internet exposure of local loonies would help. Well funded internet exposers are critical.
0 # corals33 2013-03-09 16:28
Better late than never Arch but too damned late.

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