By RJ Thomsen
In honor of the victims, survivors, and family of those impacted by the brutal and unconscionable U.S. nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that occurred just over 76 years ago. Here at CODEPINK we understand the importance of remembering these tragic war crimes as we continue the fight to eliminate ALL nuclear weapons, which continue to be one of the greatest threats to human survival.
Imagine this scenario:
You are walking through your neighborhood when you encounter a stranger with a large automatic rifle. Does this situation alarm you? What if you learned that this stranger had a violent history that defines most people’s understanding of them. Perhaps you would seek safety and desire a way to disarm this person where no one, including them, could get hurt. Well, Daniel Hirsch, former Director of the Program on Environmental and Nuclear Policy at the University of California-Santa Cruz, argues that this is similar to the current state of the world in which the United States backs dangerous foreign policy decisions throughout the world with a war chest of over 5,000 nuclear weapons. Except—alarmingly—far too many Americans act as bystanders while the threat of nuclear annihilation due to warmongering, improper security, or simple human error remains far too close for comfort. We must understand and collectively fight the existential threat nuclear weapons pose to our survival and organize to demand that politicians draw down and eliminate our nuclear stockpile.
Instead of making us safer, this stockpile of nuclear warheads ensures catastrophic destruction with massive amounts of death if the warheads were ever to be used; moreover, the risk of simply holding nuclear warheads leaves open the possibility of accidental nuclear catastrophe as the U.S. has had several near disasters just transporting and storing nuclear weapons. In having more than 4 times as many deployed strategic nuclear warheads than China’s entire nuclear arsenal, the U.S. risks the peace and safety of the entire world every day. This risk is underscored by China’s commitment to a “No First Use” Nuclear Policy that it has followed since it was established in 1964. This means that the U.S. stockpile is not needed as a deterrent to nuclear war, as the U.S. has demonstrated itself to be the only nation reckless enough to use nuclear weapons during war, killing many innocent civilians in the process.
Yet the downsides of this nuclear arsenal go beyond the potential for nuclear war and disaster as these U.S. nuclear programs cause harm already in their current form by diverting spending from important investments in public education, programs to combat poverty and houselessness, and other issues like climate change. In addition to robbing taxpayers of domestic investments, the nuclear stockpile has emboldened U.S. Presidents like Trump and Biden to recklessly posture against China, escalate conflicts and deployments in the South China Sea, and cast China as an ideal military enemy in attempts to manufacture consent for war, much like President Bush did before the war in Iraq. This demonization of China has taken hold in the U.S. and has created a visible wave of sinophobia, including violent attacks on elderly Asian people from coast to coast, and the deadly shooting spree of Asian-owned massage parlors outside of Atlanta earlier this year. We cannot credibly claim to be against racialized violence that targets Asian communities in the U.S. while allowing our media and foreign policy to demonize China and spread hateful anti-Asian ideology.
Finally, while nuclear weapons pose a serious threat to human survival that requires us to take collective action, so does the issue of climate change. Not only would the use of nuclear weapons be devastating to the environment but the threat of warfare and nuclear attacks against China needlessly strain foreign relations, thus jeopardizing the vital international cooperation needed to drastically reduce global carbon emissions and combat climate change. China and the U.S. remain two of the most important partners in the fight against the ongoing devastation and dispossession that the irreparable changes to our planet have caused. But how can China or other nations comfortably partner with us when we are acting like a dangerous and unpredictable person brandishing our guns in public? It’s time for the people of the United States to demand informed and responsible leadership that prioritizes our present and future safety and rejects racist and xenophobic nationalism. We can do this by drawing down our nuclear weapons and military forces, reinvesting taxpayers’ money in our communities, and partnering with other global leaders like China against urgent threats like climate change.
👉Watch our Webinar with Daniel Hirsch
RJ Thomsen is a staff writer, organizer, and activist with CODEPINK.