Local View: Destroy all nuclear weapons before they destroy us all

From the column: "The dangers of nuclear accidents are more likely than the threat of a war. There have been numerous mishaps, accidents, technology failures, communication breakdowns, and near accidental launches of nuclear weapons."

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Most Americans think nuclear weapons, and the threat of nuclear war, went away with the end of the Cold War. But because humanity dodged the nuclear bullet in the past doesn't mean we are safe and that it still can't happen.

The Union of Concerned Scientists says the threat from nuclear weapons is greater today than at the height of the Cold War. The increasing tensions between the U.S. and Russia and China, plus the war in Ukraine, are to blame. With an estimated 13,000 nuclear warheads still deployed around the world — 95% of them by the United States and Russia — nukes are still a threat to everyone and the planet.

Nuclear weapons are not just bigger bombs. They are far more destructive than conventional weapons, with long-lasting consequences. The radiation, fallout, and massive amounts of soot and dust injected into the upper atmosphere would be catastrophic for the entire world. Millions would die immediately, and millions more would die of radiation, starvation, and cancer in the decades that followed.

These predictions have been documented by recent computer modeling. Professor Cheryl Harrison at Louisiana State University is lead author of “How Nuclear War Would Affect Earth Today.” She concludes that, “It doesn’t matter who is bombing whom. It can be India and Pakistan or NATO and Russia. Once the smoke is released into the upper atmosphere, it spreads globally and affects everyone.”

Dr. Ira Helfand with Physicians for Social Responsibility summarizes these dangers and the solutions in the short YouTube video, “Can We Prevent Nuclear War.” I urge you to watch it.


Obviously, there is no political, military, economic, or foreign-policy goal worth the cost to humanity of a nuclear war.

Nuclear weapons are not necessary to defend our country or to prevent war. In fact, nuclear weapons are the only weapons that can actually destroy our country. Whether Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) worked in the past is irrelevant. Today, nuclear weapons are militarily worthless because they cannot be used. All nations would be more secure if nuclear weapons were abolished.

The dangers of nuclear accidents are more likely than the threat of a war. There have been numerous mishaps, accidents, technology failures, communication breakdowns, and near accidental launches of nuclear weapons. Six times the U.S. or Russia almost launched a nuclear attack because of a mistake. The most recent was in 1995 when the launch of a Norwegian weather satellite was mistaken for an attack on Russia. These incidents don't include major confrontations like the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Abolishing all nuclear weapons is the only way to ensure that nuclear weapons will never be used or cause a catastrophic accident. Today, we have a realistic, verifiable plan to abolish all nuclear weapons. It is the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, with 89 nations already signing it and 66 ratifying it.

The U.S. is the major obstacle to the success of this treaty. We all need to pressure our government to do what is right and needed to end nuclear weapons.

Philip Anderson of Maple is a member of Veterans for Peace Chapter 80 in Duluth-Superior.

Philip Anderson.jpg
Philip Anderson

"The nuclear bomb is the most useless weapon ever invented. It can be employed to no rational purpose. It is not even an effective defense against itself."

— American diplomat George F. Kennan (1904-2005)


“Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. The way to win an atomic war is to make certain it never starts. And the way to make sure it never starts is to abolish the dangerous costly nuclear stockpiles which imprison mankind.”

— Gen. Omar Bradley in 1948

“It is a measure of arrogance to assert that a nuclear weapons-free world is impossible when 95% of the nations of the world are already nuclear-free. There is no security in nuclear weapons. It is a fool’s game.”

— Gen. George Lee Butler, head of U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces from 1991-1994

“(The) elimination of nuclear weapons, so naive, so simplistic, and so idealistic as to be quixotic? Some may think so. But as human beings, citizens of nations with power to influence events in the world, can we be at peace with ourselves if we strive for less? I think not.

— Robert McNamara, former U.S. secretary of defense

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