Keynote luncheon address by Senator Roméo Dallaire, PNND Special Representative
October 12, 2007
(delivered by Kim Kroeber, Special Representative of Senator Dallaire)
Distinguished Guests and Friends:
Everywhere one looks or listens these days, one is confronted with the issue of global warming. It is quite an amazing phenomenon how something that was off the radar a few years ago has become so omnipresent in such a short time. It is a credit to the commitment and passion of Vice President Al Gore and to the ability of the public at large to become engaged in an issue which they perceive affects them directly. This summer on the auspicious date 7/7/07 the global warming concert event drew an unprecedented global audience of 2 billion people. We need to learn from this remarkable example and draw hope from it.
Right now, there is a much more serious and immediate threat which faces each and every one of us today. Of course I am speaking about the 26,000 nuclear weapons, thousands of which are ready to launch in under 30 minutes. Shockingly, the average person is completely ignorant of this situation and believes that the nuclear threat is an artifact of the cold war. This is an untenable situation which can only be remedied by global awareness campaign aimed at nuclear arms’ abolition.
HOW HAS THIS HUGE GAP BETWEEN THE URGENCY OF THE NUCLEAR ARMS THREAT AND THE DETACHED STANCE OF MOST PEOPLE ARISEN?
There are a number of reasons.
1) ROCKET SCIENCE:
Most people think the subject matter is beyond their comprehension and control. This is, after all, the domain of nuclear physics and rocket science. The truth is that the basic underlying moral issue is quite straight forward and understandable by all. We must strip down the technical language and make the foundational issue clear to all.
Nuclear weapons are inherently evil. They are designed to attain a single goal: to cause the most massive annihilation of innocent civilians possible. They are the ultimate tool of genocide. They have no place in a truly civilized world which values life and human rights. They must be abolished.
Unlike the example of global warming, most people have no direct experience of nuclear weapons which seem unduly abstract to the point of irrelevance to daily existence. They must be disabused of this notion. Nuclear weapons are very concrete and very real. I have seen them. The unprecedented death and destruction they created at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was very real. We must communicate the reality of this threat. We do not have the luxury of waiting for a nuclear bomb or dirty bomb to be dropped, because by then it will surely be irrevocably too late. It is our mission to ensure that we prevent the ultimate global warming—nuclear holocaust.
3) FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY:
Because there has been no nuclear weapon bombing since 1945, the general public has been lulled into the illusion that we are safe. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many experts maintain that in many ways we are more vulnerable to the nuclear weapons threat today than at the height of the cold war. I shall explore the reasons why shortly.
4) THE GENIE IS OUT OF THE BOTTLE:
There are those who claim that because we have invented nukes we are stuck with them because they cannot be disinvented. Humanity has created other evil thing which we have had the morality and good sense to abolish such as slavery and chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction. If humanity is intelligent enough to have created the technology behind nuclear weapons, let us be wise enough to abolish them.
5) THE MYTH OF SAFE POSSESSION BY GOOD GUYS:
In the field of nuclear weapons, the catch word of today is non-proliferation. There is a myth out there that if you are a good state and posses nukes, that is a good thing. You can use your nukes to deter other bad guys who cannot possess them without threatening world order. This is a false and dangerous rationale on a number of levels. I will point out 5 reasons why this approach doesn’t work.
i) NUCLEAR WEAPONS ARE INHERENTLY EVIL BY DESIGN.
The nature of the possessor cannot change the monstrous nature of the weapons. Any security or peace which is attained by virtue of the threat of genocide is grossly immoral and unacceptable by any standard. We must create a new kind of global security which reflects our inherent interdependence.
ii) NUCLEAR DETERRENCE SIMPLY DOES NOT WORK IN TODAY’S WORLD ORDER.
We no longer have two warning superpowers capable of destroying each other. This is a cold war paradigm which is no longer relevant. There are many more players in the modern world dynamic and many more complicating factors such as the emergence of black markets in nuclear materials and the prospect of nuclear terrorism. We have to move forward from a now outdated security system based on nuclear deterrence and nuclear alliances, to one based on cooperation and allegiance to humankind.
iii) TO FOCUS SOLELY UPON NONPROLIFERATION & IGNORE DISARMAMENT IS WRONG, ILLEGAL AND UNSUSTAINABLE.
The most successful treaty in the world, the Non-proliferation Treaty, is based on a deal: that states who did not possess nuclear weapons would not acquire them if states who had them would eliminate their nuclear arsenals. (although the right to access peaceful civilian technology was preserved.) The nuclear weapon states are reneging on the deal. They are using deceptive arguments that they are willing to disarm at some nebulous future date, but that, since 9/11, it is too dangerous to disarm now. This has created an impossible situation. The world has been divided into nuclear haves and have nots. It is nuclear apartheid.
iv) CONSEQUENCE OF THE RETENTION/MODERNIZATION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS:
By insisting upon the retention and in some cases, the modernization of nuclear weapons, the nuclear haves have underscored that nukes are the new currency of power. This spurs certain of the nuclear have nots into wanting to acquire them or wanting to retain them in security partnerships such as NATO.
v) RETENTION OF NUKES BY ANYONE IS JUST TOO DANGEROUS.
I know many of you are familiar with the recent massive breach of security which happened in this country, arguably the greatest military power in the world. For a period of over one day, the destructive force equivalent to 60 Hiroshimas was out of command and control when a nuclear armed B-52 made a cross-country flight by accident.
To err is human. People, even highly educated/skilled people entrusted with global security, can and will make mistakes. Beyond operator error, we must expect defects in the weapons themselves, the delivery systems, the supporting computer systems, et cetera. Leading scientists around the world agree that a nuclear incident is inevitable through deliberate act or accident. At the end of January this year, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, advanced the hand of its doomsday clock to five minutes to nuclear midnight due to the increased potential for accidental or intentional nuclear exchange. We shall only be safe when nuclear weapons are abolished.
WE HAVE DISCUSSED WHY THERE EXISTS THE GAP BETWEEN THE DIRE NATURE OF THE NUCLEAR THREAT AND THE LACK OF RESPONSE TO IT. WHAT CAN WE DO TO BRIDGE THE GAP?
First we must educate ourselves and keep abreast of international developments. Then, spread the word to each and every person you meet. I encourage you to research the ICAN campaign launched in April of this year. It stands for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.
2) ENLIST YOUTH:
We must politicize youth. This is a huge unmined resource. The youth of today are not apathetic; they are grossly uninformed about this issue. They feel disconnected from political leaders and processes and feel that they cannot make a difference. It is our challenge to enlighten them that they can in fact make all the difference. We must connect with youth where they live. We must have a real presence on the internet. We must get our message out through musicians, actors, athletes and other role models for youth.
3) DEMONSTRATE LEADERSHIP:
There is an appalling international vacuum when it comes to global leadership. Governments around the world have become such slaves to the influence of lobbyists, preserving their interests and the status quo, and careful considerations of possible political and economic consequences to taking any position on issues that they routinely fail to be guided by considerations of morality to do the right thing. They have forgotten their most basic mandate: to first and foremost protect the lives and human rights of their citizens. It is shameful and insupportable that the international situation has been permitted to deteriorate to the point that the very right to exist of each and every one of us is threatened each minute. This must be rectified immediately.
4) FORGE COALITIONS:
We must devise new initiatives and form new liaisons limited only by our creativity. Nuclear abolition can only be achieved by a multi-pronged approach. We must draw on new synergies which arise from new partnerships with governments, diplomats, the private sector, the scientific community, non-governmental organizations, academics, celebrities and more. We must share information between ourselves as to which strategies have proven effective and which have not. We must demonstrate unprecedented tolerance, patience and empathy. All political partisanship must be submerged for the greater good of all.
5) BUILD ON MOMENTUM:
There is a perceptible sea change occurring in our midst. There have been some significant positive developments upon which we must focus and build.
In October 2006, the UN General Assembly voted 168 to 4 to abolish nuclear weapons. A seminal article by distinguished bipartisan former cold war hawks was published in January of this year in the Wall Street Journal and is of critical significance in its castigation of nuclear deterrence and its elucidation of the goal of nuclear arms’ abolition.
In his response to the article, visionary leader Mikhail Gorbachev supported their message and stated:
“OVER THE PAST 15 YEARS, THE GOAL OF THE ELIMINATION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS HAS BEEN SO MUCH ON THE BACK BURNER THAT IT WILL TAKE A TRUE POLITICAL BREAKTHROUGH AND A MAJOR INTELLECTUAL EFFORT TO ACHIEVE SUCCESS IN THIS ENDEAVOR. IT WILL BE A CHALLENGE TO THE CURRENT GENERATION OF LEADERS, A TEST OF THEIR MATURITY AND ABILITY TO ACT THAT THEY MUST NOT FAIL. IT IS OUR DUTY TO HELP THEM TO MEET THIS CHALLENGE.”
I am pleased to report that both houses of Canadian Government passed unanimous motions to reinvigorate the disarmament agenda and to take a leadership role. We must press all governments to take a similar action.
There was the exciting statement by Margaret Beckett in her then-position as the UK Foreign Minister that in building the new impetus for global nuclear disarmament, the UK would be a disarmament laboratory by studying the policy ramifications of abolition.
WHAT IS THE URGENCY ABOUT THE PUSH TO ABOLISH NUCLEAR WEAPONS NOW?
There are a number of reasons.
1) 2010 NON-PROLIFERATION REVIEW TREATY:
Many believe that the international non-proliferation regime will not be able to withstand another failed conference similar to that of 2005. It is absolutely essential that everything possible be done to protect this treaty and encourage productive negotiation. I commend the invaluable work being done by Senator Douglas Roche and the Middle Powers Initiative in this regard.
2) POTENTIAL NEW NUCLEAR WEAPON STATES:
There are some 30 or 40 states which seem to be sitting on the proverbial fence concerning the acquisition of nuclear arms. The potential exists for many regional nuclear arms races. There was the disturbing North Korean nuclear test of October 9, 2006, and ongoing uncertainty concerning Iran’s nuclear program. The next couple of years will be determinative as to whether there will be an alarming cascade of nuclear weapons proliferation, or whether the tide will turn in the other direction and disarmament obligations will be respected and acted upon in earnest.
3) THE ADVENT OF THE THREAT OF NUCLEAR TERRORISM:
Imagine if 9/11 terrorists were armed with nuclear arms. Enough said.
More than 30 countries are members of alliances that rely on nuclear weapons as part of their security. NATO is presently reevaluating its strategic concept and this would be a fine time to address the inherent inconsistency between NATO’s current nuclear policy and the disarmament obligations pursuant to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
5) THE U.S.-INDIA DEAL:
The proposed deal between the United States and India would set a dangerous precedent. India has nuclear weapons, but refuses to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty. This deal would reward India for this conduct and constitute an end-run around the NPT. International pressure must be brought to bear on the Nuclear Suppliers Group to block the approval of this deal.
6) WEAPONIZATION OF SPACE
The Outer Space Treaty since 1967 has protected space for the use of humanity’s common interests. Although it has been militarized by the extensive use of intelligence gathering satellites, these uses actually help bring stability by allowing better eyes and ears on arms activities. But the current quest to place offensive weapons in space will make progress on non-proliferation and disarmament extremely difficult. Those without such weapons will pursue security by other means and certainly will not agree to nuclear disarmament. Preventing weaponization of space and achieving ongoing cooperation above will help us enormously in our efforts to find cooperative law governing security here on Earth. We simply must ensure space does not become another theater for war.
No one can afford a new nuclear arms race. Since the end of the cold war, some 12 trillion dollars has been spent on perfecting technology to blow our planet up several times over. What an obscene and immoral diversion of global resources which continues and grows today. Just imagine the contribution that those funds could make to strengthening world peace and global security if they were used to feed, educate, cure and employ the poor?
8) URGENT NEED TO REDUCE THE RISK OF NUCLEARS WEAPONS USE:
Thousands of nuclear weapons in American and Russian arsenals can be launched in under 30 minutes. This creates an obscene level of peril. Our advocacy must be ramped up concerning the de-alerting of these arsenals and the elimination of the launch-on-warning option from nuclear war plans. We must also encourage all nuclear powers to adopt nuclear no-first-use policies and non-use policies relating to states without nuclear weapons capability.
9) URGENT NEED FOR FUNDRAISING:
There is no question that fundraising for peace may be easy, but for disarmament is hard. Nonetheless, some significant funds are essential if we are to communicate our message and put the necessary programmes into places to advance the yardsticks. It is the time now to call in some favours. We need to enlist the support of celebrities and other prominent figures as spokespersons who can help us in this goal. This is the number one threat to humanity and I cannot believe that if it is presented as such, people with the ability to help financially will refuse.
10) STOP GLOBAL SECURITY DESECRATION:
Please imagine sending your son or daughter to school with another student with whom they’d had disagreements in the past. Throughout their day, every day, to ensure that a fight did not break out, both children were armed with guns directed at each other’s temples. This seems appalling and ridiculous, yet this is how we ‘civilized’ members of the 21st century choose to live our lives. Of course, our weapons are much more powerful and threaten to destroy not only our adversaries but all life as we know it.
There can be no global security while we rely upon the indiscriminate threat of mass murder of innocents as the basis for peace. The only true peace must come about through mutual respect, total transparency, trust and recognition of our interconnectedness. We must recognize the inherent interconnectedness. We must recognize the inherent interconnectedness of global threats.
In the area of nuclear weapons, there must be verified, irreversible disarmament toward a timely abolition of all nuclear weapons. We must gain control of the nuclear fuel cycle and have controlled access to the only universal fuel supply for civilian nuclear energy. Nuclear stockpiles must be secured.
Root causes of global insecurity must be addressed such as poverty, disease, rights abuses, inadequate international development, limited access to employment and education, gender inequality, et cetera.
I am not an alarmist. I have experienced the harsh consequences of international indifference first hand. Nuclear weapons is an issue which requires immediate attention and action. Time is quite simply running out.
I have seen the human propensity for evil up close. I have seen genocide by machete. Trust me; we shall never survive genocide by nuke.
There is a dangerous complacency beginning to develop—a cavalier attitude about the prospect of using nuclear weapons—which is wrought from ignorance.
Serious players are discussing not only the use of these terrifying weapons as a defence measure, but in a preemptive strike against a country who has not initiated an act of war. This is the condonation of evil on an unprecedented scale. This flies in the face of the 1996 unanimous decision of the International Court of Justice which stated the threat or use of nuclear weapons “would generally be contrary” to humanitarian and other international law and that states have a legal obligation to disarm.
Collectively, we must act as the alarm bell for the globe. We must awaken the rage and moral indignation that is the only rational reaction to the mere existence, let alone preemptive use of such horrific weapons. We must jar countries from the paralytic state many have been in since the tragedy of 9/11. Fear and hatred cannot be the basis of any rational global security strategy. The status quo and the same entrenched positions cannot continue. This is not the time for a ‘watch and see what the other guys are doing’ approach. It is the time to assume a proactive, leadership role to rethink the way we must live together for if we fail we shall certainly perish together.
We must commit ourselves to building bridges, devising creative alternative security mechanisms and engaging in tough talk, where necessary, to advance the process. We must explore all diplomatic avenues from the most formal to the most casual and clandestine.
We need to enlist the support of mass media in launching a sustained campaign to abolish nuclear weapons. How can something which threatens our daily, collective survival not even appear on the radar screen of national and international mainstream press? This abomination must be rectified. It is only with the cooperation of the media that the public can be made aware of the nuclear threat and become enraged into action.
If, as former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has stated, the world is asleep at the wheel of a fast-moving airplane, for goodness sake let us grab the controls and steer humanity into the future!