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The Nuclear Sword Of Damocles: We Must Change Course

But let's get one thing clear: a single modern nuclear weapon would most likely end up killing many millions, whether immediately or slowly, and is designed to be much more devastating to both people and the environment than those dropped by the U.S. on Japan.
Genbaku Dome or Hiroshima Peace Memorial, Hiroshima, Japan
Genbaku Dome or Hiroshima Peace Memorial, Hiroshima, Japan

The following is a harrowing account by a Hiroshima survivor talking about the fate of her schoolmates. It was recently read out in the British parliament during a debate about Britain's nuclear arsenal:

"Some fell to the ground and their stomachs already expanded full, burst and organs fell out. Others had skin falling off them and others still were carrying limbs. And one in particular was carrying their eyeballs in their hand."

In response to a question, British PM Theresa May said without hesitation that, if necessary, she would authorize the use of a nuclear weapon that would kill hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children.

But let's get one thing clear: a single modern nuclear weapon would most likely end up killing many millions, whether immediately or slowly, and is designed to be much more devastating to both people and the environment than those dropped by the U.S. on Japan.

Politicians like May are reading from a script devised by elite interests (see David Rothkopf's analysis). This US-led elite comprises the extremely wealthy of the world who set the globalization and war agendas at the G8, G20, NATO, the World Bank, and the WTO. They are from the highest levels of finance capital and transnational corporations. This transnational class dictate global economic policies and decide who lives and who dies and which wars are fought and inflicted on which people.

The mainstream narrative tends to depict these individuals as "wealth creators." In reality, however, many of these "high flyers" have stolen ordinary people's wealth, stashed it away in tax havens, bankrupted economies and have imposed a form of globalization that results in devastating destruction and war for those who attempt to remain independent from them, or structurally adjusted violence via privatisation and economic neo-liberalism for millions in countries that have acquiesced.

The agritech sector poisons our food and agriculture. Madeleine Albright says it was worth it to have killed half a million kids in Iraq to effectively extend the wider geopolitical goals of "corporate America." Welfare is dismantled and austerity is imposed on millions. The rich increase their already enormous wealth. Powerful corporations corrupt government machinery and colonise every aspect of life for profit.

And nuclear weapons hang over humanity like the sword of Damocles -- not to protect the masses from the bogeyman, but to protect the power and wealth of competing global elites; or, to be more precise, in the case of the U.S. -- the predominant superpower -- to cajole and coerce with the aim of expanding influence.

While we hear much talk about the "civilized values" of the West, what civilized value is the threat of nuclear mass murder based on? The media and much of the public seem to shrug their shoulders and accept that nuclear weapons are essential and the mass murder of sections of humanity is perfectly acceptable in the face of some fabricated "Russian aggression."

Many believe nuclear weapons are a necessary evil and fall into line with hegemonic thinking about humanity being inherently conflictual, competitive and war-like. Such tendencies do of course exist, but they do not exist in a vacuum. These traits are played on by politicians, the media and vested interests that seek to scare the population into accepting a 'necessary' nuclear status quo.

Co-operation and equality are as much a part of any arbitrary aspect of "human nature" as any other defined characteristic. These values are, however, sidelined by a system which fuels wealth accumulation for the few, exploitation, war and a zero-sum system of power.

Much of humanity has been convinced to accept the potential for instant nuclear Armageddon hanging over its collective head as a given. If the 20th century has shown us anything, it is that imperialist interests are adept at gathering the masses under notions of the flag, "the bomb" and king, god or country to justify their slaughter.

Now and then, though, the reality of a nuclear-armed world comes to the fore, as May's response demonstrates. To prevent us all shuddering with the fear of the threat of instant nuclear destruction on a daily basis, it's a case of don't worry, be happy and watch TV. It was the late academic Rick Roderick who highlighted that modern society trivializes issues that are of ultimate importance: they eventually become banal or "matter of fact" to the population.

People are spun the notion that militarism and neoliberalism and its structural violence are necessary for securing peace, defeating terror, creating prosperity or promoting "growth." The ultimate banality is to accept this and believe there is no alternative or to just switch off to it all.

Instead of acquiescing when someone like May advocates mass murder in the name of peace, it is time to move beyond rhetoric and for ordinary people to take responsibility and act. We should listen to peace campaigner Robert J Burrowes:

"Many people evade responsibility, of course, simply by believing and acting as if someone else, perhaps even 'the government', is 'properly' responsible... the most widespread ways of evading responsibility are to deny any responsibility for military violence while paying the taxes to finance it... denying any responsibility for the exploitation of other people while buying the cheap products produced by their exploited (and sometimes slave) labour... and denying any part in inflicting violence without understanding the many forms this violence can take."

Of course, war is by no means the sole preserve of a particular social system. The roots of violence are complex as Burrowes notes. But there is potentially a different path for humanity that draws on an aspect of "human nature" that is too often suppressed, devalued and, today, when used as a basis for social transformation, regarded as a threat to those who benefit from and are hell-bent on fueling division and conflict. It is an aspect steeped in notions of commonality and international camaraderie and cooperation and rests on the genuine democratic ownership of productive resources put to use for the common good.

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