We are gathered here today…for two important reasons, for both a celebration and a protest. Let’s start with the celebration…of the landmark Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons! Today, nuclear weapons are officially illegal! And in marking this momentous occasion, we are not alone! At least 158 other celebrations and protests are happening all over the world today on every continent!
In 2017, 122 nations voted for adoption of this treaty to ban nuclear weapons, and last October the requisite 50th nation ratified it, and today, the treaty “enters into force” as international law!
We now have an international treaty firmly declaring that nuclear weapons are illegal. Of course nuclear armed nations, like U.S.A., have refused to sign the treaty. However, humankind now has a powerful tool in our hands that enables us to strongly stigmatize possession of these horrific weapons.
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which spearheaded the treaty, declared that today “Marks the Beginning of the End of Nuclear Weapons!” And by the way, ICAN was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for this important work.
Part of the reason for this celebration is to show Arkansas that there are people that support nuclear weapons abolition, and to help shift public opinion. The most recent polling in 2019 showed a strong plurality of 49% of Americans support the treaty, 32% think the treaty should be ignored, and 19% were unsure. Our purpose here today is to help that confused 19% make up its mind & to shift that 49% just a bit further into a clear majority. It will then become increasingly untenable for politicians to cling to these outlawed bombs.
We must also help our fellow citizens realize that nuclear weapons pose a far graver threat than most can imagine. A great book, the Doomsday Machine by famous whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, details his experiences as a nuclear war planner. He highlights how many believe the President alone can launch nuclear war, but this is not the case. The authority to start nuclear war is delegated to many lower level commanders, which greatly increases our peril. Nuclear war can be started by false alarms, unauthorized attacks, and by accidents.
Also, far too few people understand the dangers of nuclear winter and nuclear famine. A full scale thermonuclear attack would cause ferocious firestorms in the bombed cities, sending massive amounts of smoke into the upper atmosphere, blocking out sunlight and lowering temperatures worldwide for a decade or more. Within a year or two, this would destroy nearly all plant life and the humans and other animals that require plants for food.
Too many people rationalize these dangers, but as Ellsberg writes, “No policies in human history have more deserved to be recognized as (criminal, immoral, insane and evil).”
The second reason we are here today is a protest calling on the University of Arkansas, and U of A College of Engineering specifically, to Stop Participating in Building Nuclear Bombs. The Nobel Peace Prize winning organization ICAN, which spearheaded the nuclear bomb ban, has issued a report titled Schools of Mass Destruction. Their report found the University of Arkansas is involved in the production of these illegal nuclear bombs. We’re demanding that they cancel their Master Collaboration Agreement with the nuclear weapons corporation Honeywell International. And we have a petition here with 342 signatures calling for this cancellation, which we will soon deliver to UA Administrators.
ICAN also suggested that we emphasize that highlight that universities are contradicting their core Mission Statements. The U of A Mission statement says, “The University of Arkansas is determined to build a better world,” and it is clear that helping to build nuclear weapons is diametrically opposed to building a better world.
And this protest today is only a commencement of a long term effort. The university’s position is ultimately indefensible, especially in light of the Nuclear Ban Treaty, and with enough public pressure, I do believe they will cancel this contract.
Now, I will conclude with an excerpt from Dr. King’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.
King said, “I refuse to accept despair (or) the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.
I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”