Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Nuclear Weapons Abolition: What Will Be Different After September 20?

Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

The global treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons will be available for countries to sign when the UN General Assembly begins its session September 20. The treaty enters into force 90 days after 50 countries have signed it.

The treaty text was drafted during a three week conference in June and July. One hundred and twenty-two (122) countries who participated in the special conference voted in favor of the text. (There was one voted against and one abstention.)

Some personal predictions:

* Fifty (and probably many more) nations will rapidly sign the treaty on September 20, or very shortly after. (I base this on the extremely strong support from the many participating countries in the drafting conference, including public statements and social media updates from their delegations.)

* There will be a strong impetus to reach the fifty nation threshold by September 26 - the fourth International Day for Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

* There will also be a motivation to reach the fifty nation threshold at the latest by October 3. That would mean that the 2018 would be ushered in with the treaty entering into force on January 1. (Ninety days from October 3 is January 1.) 

The momentum is already building as individual states affirm their intent to sign the treaty as soon as it becomes available.

So here is a question for all of us to think about: how will it change the global conversation when a treaty is affirmed by so many countries from all over the world? What will it feel like to know the clock is ticking down to nuclear weapons abolition . . . instead of worrying that the clock is ticking down to nuclear war? What will be different about the way people talk about the behavior of the states that still stubbornly hold on to nuclear weapons (and threaten each other with them)? In what light will it cast the countries that rely on the "nuclear umbrella" of countries like the US?

I've written about the important conference that will take place in Cambridge on November 4, which will focus on US nuclear weapons. What might be different about those deliberations if the participants know that, within days, a global nuclear weapons ban treaty will be entering into force?

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Time to Call the Question: Is Presidential First Use of Nuclear Weapons Constitutional?

Trump: If N Korea keeps threatening, will be met with 'fire'."

Adam Liptak wrote in the New York Times several days ago that law schools are preparing to delve into numerous Constitutional questions that have been brought to a head by the Trump presidency, not the least of which is:

"Must Congress authorize a nuclear strike against North Korea?"

(See "New on This Fall’s Law School Syllabus: Trump.")

Case in point: a conference taking place in Cambridge on November 4 will address the question, "Presidential First Use of Nuclear Weapons:  Is it Legal? Is it Constitutional? Is it Just?"  The affiliations of the speakers -- including Yale Law School, Georgetown University Law Center, University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy, Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, MIT -- tend to affirm Liptak's suggestion that this is a question that is being taken up in law schools and on campuses nationwide.

Also speaking at the Cambridge conference will be Massachusetts member of Congress Jim McGovern, a co-sponsor of HR669 "Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017." Central to HR669 are the principles that . . .

"The Constitution gives Congress the sole power to declare war";

"By any definition of war, a first-use nuclear strike from the United States would constitute a major act of war"; and

"A first-use nuclear strike conducted absent a declaration of war by Congress would violate the Constitution."

Of course, breathing life into HR669's steely logic requires the participation of actual members of Congress, and in turn by the life-and-blood people they represent. It is worth noting that HR 669 now has forty-seven (47) co-sponsors in the House, including representatives from . . .

New Jersey
New York
North Carolina
Rhode Island

Food for thought: how many law schools and universities will avail themselves of the opportunity to invite their member of Congress to participate in a discussion of this vital question? As the list above indicates, "Presidential First Use of Nuclear Weapons:  Is it Legal? Is it Constitutional? Is it Just?" has now become the question people are asking everywhere.

Related posts:

Nuclear Weapons: People Power Over Trump Power

"Thermonuclear Monarchy: Choosing Between Democracy and Doom" by Elaine Scarry

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Donald Trump: The Great Clarifier

Ever since nuclear weapons were first invented and the United States used them against Japan, ordinary citizens have been subjected to an unrelenting campaign of obfuscation and confusion about their true nature and what's at stake. If any of us stopped long enough to think about nuclear weapons, we realized that everything possible must be done to get rid of them, and to make sure no one is every able to cause them to be used. But our ability to think has been challenged by a smokescreen of state propaganda: the state needs them, the state has everything under control, the state will take care of it. (Just feel lucky you're a citizen of such a big, strong state.)

Now along comes Donald Trump, who has sole authority to order a nuclear first strike and is tossing out threats left and right against North Korea.

People are waking up. Nuclear war is not an abstraction. It is a real possibility, and it is in the hands (right now) of a single person.

There are now forty-four (44) co-sponsors on Rep. Ted Lieu's House bill to rein in presidential first use of nuclear weapons. (And nine (9) co-sponsors on the corresponding bill in the Senate sponsored by Ed Markey.) Now is the time to demand a tidal wave of support for this bill, and get the unilateral authority over these weapons out of the hands of a single person.

Please use this script to call and get YOUR representative on that list!