Sharing a fence with Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor — home to eight Trident submarines — is a daily reminder of the peril the world faces from a nuclear apocalypse.
A coalition of nongovernmental organizations in 100 countries, ICAN helped draft the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons that was ratified by the United Nations July 7 with the approval of 122 nations.
That’s right — fully two-thirds of the world’s nation-states have voted to banish nuclear weapons — the most destructive weapon ever created, capable of erasing humanity from the face of the earth.
Predictably, the United States and other nuclear nations have so far declined to sign the treaty. But as one advocate put it: “You cannot wait for the smokers to institute a smoking ban.”
I am a member in residence at the Ground Zero Center, where we share a border fence with Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor — home to eight Trident submarines and arguably the largest concentration of deployed nuclear weapons in the world. Former Seattle Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen famously characterized it as “the Auschwitz of Puget Sound.”
Indeed, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, a former nuclear-war planner who has just written a book about the nuclear threat in the Trump era, referred to nuclear weapons as a “movable Holocaust.”
In an escalating war of words with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, President Donald Trump, who commands the world’s most powerful nuclear arsenal, recently threatened to totally destroy North Korea. He subsequently rattled the world with his breathlessly reckless statement that “only one thing will work” with North Korea. Such dangerous rhetoric has raised tensions as well as the chances that nuclear conflict could indeed occur — whether deliberate or accidental.
In accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, ICAN stated: “This is a time of great global tension, when fiery rhetoric could all too easily lead us, inexorably, to unspeakable horror.”
Despite a prohibition on the targeting of civilians under the laws of war, ICAN noted that “nuclear weapons are meant to target civilians; they’re meant to wipe out entire cities.” This is unacceptable, ICAN said, adding: “Nuclear weapons no longer get a pass.”
Some governments hold the belief that nuclear weapons are a legitimate and essential source of security. Such a mindset is not only misguided but dangerous, since it incites other nations to proliferate their nuclear arsenal, and undermines diplomatic negotiations that could lead to disarmament. The United States should lead by example.
But at a time when most of the world’s nations are pursuing the abolition of nuclear weapons, our government is moving ahead with its trillion-dollar rebuild of the entire U.S. nuclear weapons triad. The program will include a new fleet of nuclear-armed submarines, some of which will be stationed here at the Kitsap-Bangor Naval Base.
Can the U.S. step back from the brink of nuclear destruction of the planet? The U.S. nuclear upgrade is certainly giving war a chance. But don’t we owe it to humanity to give peace a chance? We have the opportunity to act now.
As President John Kennedy stated in his 1961 inaugural address: “To those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction.”
We invite you to join us as we work together for a nuclear-free world. It’s our planet and our future.