A call for a world without nuclear weapons
· By Sara Cate
· Nov 3, 2017
Republicans and Democrats have agreed on many issues over the years. Reducing the threat of nuclear war was, and I hope still is, an area of common ground. The Nobel Committee just awarded the 2017 Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), for their work in passing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). Our current administration dismisses this historic treaty — they are wrong to do so. The U.S., and the people of Washington state, should heed this call and join the movement for a world without nuclear weapons.
As a physician and member of Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility (WPSR), a partner organization of ICAN, this issue is personal. Growing up in the ’60s and ’70s, I felt the risk of nuclear war was frighteningly real. While earning my masters in Public Health in the ’80s, I chose to study radiation health effects. The pictures of the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are etched in my mind — many dying instantly, others through an agonizing death from radiation sickness. Those who survived faced increased risks of cancers and other health issues.
This became very personal when I worked in the Pacific islands. Many islanders were exposed to radiation fallout where the U.S., France and England had tested nuclear weapons. There, I met Darlene Keju, a young woman from the Marshall Islands, also passionate about public health, and we became fast friends. A few years later, Darlene died of breast cancer before reaching 40. I often wonder if she had not been exposed to radiation as a child, whether she would be alive today and we would be sharing stories about our children and future grandchildren.
WPSR has long argued that nuclear weapons are a major public health threat. Prevention is the only answer. There is no such thing as a winnable nuclear war.
The TPNW is the result of a decade-long campaign raising awareness about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. In Washington, we know these consequences all too well. Uranium mining for nuclear weapons on the Spokane Tribe of Indians’ reservation poisoned residents and their land. The Hanford nuclear site is the most contaminated place in the United States.
This treaty is a monumental step, expressly prohibiting nuclear weapons development, production, possession, use and threat of use. Nuclear weapons will join the ranks of other inhumane weapons declared illegal by international law.
The Nobel Committee stated that the “next steps towards a world free of nuclear weapons must involve nuclear-armed states.” This prize is a call for serious negotiations with a view to the careful elimination of the global stockpile of almost 15,000 nuclear weapons.
Current actions to rebuild our entire nuclear arsenal, to scrap the Iran deal, to provoke nuclear weapons states like North Korea, are taking us down a dangerous and foolhardy path. Our members of Congress should show bold leadership in the movement to eliminate our nuclear arsenals. Washington state must be a leader in this campaign.
* Sara Cate lives in Yakima.
Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski2001 [at] comcast.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/
"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs