In contrast to past Nobel Peace Prizes often going to war-makers – from Henry Kissinger to Barack Obama – this year’s award went to a global campaign for the elimination of nuclear weapons, as ex-CIA analyst Elizabeth Murray observes.
By Elizabeth Murray
I take delight in the news that the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons has won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. A coalition of non-governmental organizations in 100 countries, ICAN helped draft the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons that was ratified by the United Nations on July 7 with the approval of 122 nations, meaning that fully two-thirds of the world’s nation-states have voted to banish nuclear weapons, the most destructive weapon ever created, capable of erasing humanity from the face of the earth.
Predictably, the United States and other nuclear-armed nations have so far declined to sign the treaty. But as one nuclear resistance advocate put it: “You cannot wait for the smokers to institute a smoking ban.”
I am a member-in-residence of the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, a Poulsbo, Washington-based nuclear resistance group that has affiliated with ICAN. Here at the Ground Zero Center, we share a border fence with Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor – home to eight Trident nuclear submarines and arguably the largest concentration of deployed nuclear weapons in the world, which former Seattle Archbishop and nuclear resister Raymond Hunthausen famously called “the Auschwitz of Puget Sound.”
Indeed, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, a former nuclear war planner who has just written a book about the nuclear threat in the Trump era, has referred to nuclear weapons as a “movable Holocaust.”
In an escalating war of words with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, President Donald Trump – who commands what is indisputably the world’s most powerful nuclear arsenal – recently threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea. He subsequently rattled the world with his breathlessly reckless statement that “only one thing will work” with North Korea, which hints darkly at a nuclear confrontation. Such dangerous rhetoric has raised tensions as well as the chances that nuclear conflict could indeed occur, whether deliberate or accidental.
In accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, ICAN stated: “All nations should reject these [nuclear] weapons completely – before they are ever used again. This is a time of great global tension, when fiery rhetoric could all too easily lead us, inexorably, to unspeakable horror.”
Despite a prohibition on the targeting of civilians under the laws of war, ICAN noted that “nuclear weapons are meant to target civilians; they’re meant to wipe out entire cities.” This is unacceptable, ICAN said, adding: “Nuclear weapons no longer get a pass.”
Some governments hold the belief that nuclear weapons are a legitimate and essential source of security. Such a mindset is not only misguided but dangerous, since it incites other nations to proliferate their nuclear arsenal, and undermines diplomatic negotiations that could lead to disarmament. The United States could lead by example, but does the opposite.
“The spectre of nuclear conflict looms large once more,” ICAN warned in its acceptance statement. “If ever there were a moment for nations to declare their unequivocal opposition to nuclear weapons, that moment is now.”
But at a time when most of the world’s nations are pursuing the abolition of nuclear weapons, the U.S. government is moving ahead with its trillion-dollar rebuild of the entire U.S. nuclear weapons triad. The program will include a new fleet of nuclear-armed submarines, many of which will be stationed at the Kitsap-Bangor Naval Base.
Can the U.S. step back from the brink of nuclear destruction of the planet? The U.S. nuclear upgrade is certainly giving war every chance. ICAN’s selection as the Nobel Peace Prize winner provides a unique opportunity to raise the profile of the overwhelming desire of the world’s nations for nuclear disarmament.
As the late President John F. Kennedy stated in his 1961 inaugural address: “To those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction.”
Elizabeth Murray is a former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East in the National Intelligence Council and was a political and media analyst at the CIA for 27 years.
United States 27 (it is hard not to laugh), England 14 (peace loving English) & Switzerland 14 (which hides a lot of money but at least they ain’t fighting). Is this a credible award? Really!
My 11:03 post is being “moderated”. There are no words or word combinations which are even remotely offensive. Many experiments to pin down which part caused the “moderation” failed.
In my opinion the software here needs a serious working over.
Very good article, and congratulations to ICAN for winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Nuclear weapons are perhaps the greatest scourge that flew out of Pandora’s Box. It’s great to see these activists recognized for their efforts. Jerry makes a good point, we should be demanding the TPNW be ratified by the US.
An urgent message to the men and women of China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States:
DEMAND that your voices be honored and respected through nationwide referendums on the decision whether to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons or not. Only the entire peoples of the Earth have claim to the inherent, God-given right to decide on this matter of absolute and supreme importance.
It would be great if some international group would impose trade sanctions on the USA until they agreed to sign on. Hitting them in the wallet is the only thing they seem to understand.
I too delight in the news that ICAN has won the Nobel Peace Prize, although I recall that when the prize was awarded to the European Union, it was claimed that only physical persons could receive it. No one seems to have raised that objection in regard to ICAN. I don’t think anybody now takes Trump seriously. He says everything and the contrary of everything and then does nothing. In practice, he has already backed down in regard to North Korea. Nobody nowadays is scared by the 1950s-style scaremongering about “nuclear destruction of the planet”.
The Internatonal Committe of the Red Cross won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1917, 1944 and 1963. Also, the United Nations has won it, along with quite a few other organizations.
Our hit-and-run troll reads different sites than I do.
“US defence secretary calls on military to be ready for war against North Korea”
Some background on this from three weeks ago at a South Korean paper.
If Mattis can mount an attack against North Korea without that nation striking back at Seoul, that will be quite a trick. It’s doable, of course, but I rather doubt that we have the firepower to manage it.
It has been the business of elites to foster the idea that major changes in how we organize society are all hopelessly idealistic, and a waste of time to consider. Elimination of nuclear weapons is a prime example of this scam. In truth elimination of all nukes is quite doable, and Russia has long suggested that we sit down together and get on with it. The main obstacle to this is of course the intransigent USA with it’s dreams of world domination. The technical means for foolproof monitoring etc. all exist – we await the will to implement them.
“Russia has long suggested that we sit down together and get on with it.”
Here is President Putin speaking to journalists at the St. Petersburg International Forum in 2016:
This is the best Nobel Peace Prize selection in many years, especially considering some of the alternatives (EG the western pro-war ‘white helmets’??!!!)
International war leading to nuclear war could end civilization as we know it in a matter of hours and days not years. The Nobel Peace Prize Committee chose a legitimate organization with a crucially important cause. Good news and good article!
The Nobel Peace Prize awards have had some winners, and they’ve had some losers. This one isn’t one of the winners. At the icanw.org site is this:
Below that are images of “Biological Weapons”, “Chemical Weapons”, “Land Mines”, and “Cluster Munitions”. Now let’s look at the “legal footing of each one of those. To be more specific, who hasn’t bought into each deal.
Bio: Eleven states have neither signed nor ratifed the BWC Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Israel, Kiribati, Micronesia, Namibia, Niue, South Sudan and Tuvalu.
Chem: Four UN states are not party: Egypt, Israel, North Korea and South Sudan.
Mines: Status of the Mine Ban Treaty Non-signatories (34): Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, China, Cuba, Egypt, Georgia, India, Iran, Israel, Kazakhstan, North Korea, South Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Lao PDR, Lebanon, Libya, Micronesia, Mongolia, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Palestine, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tonga, United Arab Emirates, United States, Uzbekistan, Vietnam
Cluster Bombs: The treaty was opposed by a number of countries that produce or stockpile significant quantities of cluster munitions, including China, Russia, the United States, India, Israel, Pakistan and Brazil.
The treaties outlawing these are supposed to be some kind of a Gold Standard? Obvious nonsense.
This is a bad joke which isn’t much different from the “preemptive” Peace Prize awarded to Obama in 2009. Taking the award money and handing it out to passing homeless people would have been a more effective use of it, in my opinion.
All these weapons exist, and will continue to exist. And so do the nukes. Until there is a world government with real muscle the nuclear weapons aren’t going to be banned. This is a wishful thinking on a grand scale, and nothing more.
Worth noting that there is one country appearing on all four lists above: Israel. So they have not agreed, for example, not to use chemical weapons.
The Peace Prize recipient was certainly a choice between lesser evils, an organization that would rouse least dissatisfaction. It has some symbolic value, though, and will probably finance more conferences on the issue, with idealistic speeches and declarations.
At least it was better than Obama’s prize, which absolutely should be cancelled (among some others).
Sweden has supported, but not signed the UN treaty for banning the nuclear weapons. A difficult decision lies ahead. US, UK and French representatives are all putting heavy pressure on Swedish government not to sign it, threatening that it would complicate the cooperation with NATO, and that Swedes could not count on having any more meetings on the minister level in the US, landing at the end of the queue, after Baltic states (Nato members). Sweden would be unpopular in the US like in the old times, during the US critic Olof Palme’s reign, some 35 years ago.
The Swedish foreign minister wants to sign the treaty, the minister of defence does not. Typically for Sweden, they might try to find some middle way, in order to please everyone.
If there is one reality that proves beyond doubt that our leaders are insane, it is their embrace of the idea that arming themselves with weapons of mass annihilation and creating an atmosphere of mutual suspicion and hostility is the road to a peaceful world. That they have convinced large numbers of their populations that this Orwellian absurdity is true, is very disturbing – because any retreat from this dead end approach will depend on large numbers of people awakening to reality, and demanding their leaders ban these weapons.