Medical Journals: Eliminate Nuclear Weapons

“Before they eliminate us.” More journals are expected to publish the editorial in the coming days ahead of the 78th anniversary of the U.S. nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

A girl in Hiroshima prepares to float lanterns near the Peace Park on Aug. 6, 2011, marking the 66th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing, which obliterated the Japanese city in World War II. (Tim Wright/ICAN, Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)

By Jake Johnson
Common Dreams

Leading medical journals published a joint editorial late Tuesday calling on world leaders to take urgent steps to reduce the risk of nuclear war — and eliminate atomic weapons altogether — as the threat of a potentially civilization-ending conflict continues to grow.

The call was first issued in The LancetThe BMJJAMAInternational Nursing Review, and other top journals. Dozens of other journals are expected to publish the editorial in the coming days ahead of the 78th anniversary of the U.S. nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The editorial begins by noting that the hands of the Doomsday Clock are closer to midnight than ever before, reflecting mounting nuclear tensions amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “Current nuclear arms control and nonproliferation efforts are inadequate to protect the world’s population against the threat of nuclear war by design, error, or miscalculation,” the editorial reads.

“Modernization of nuclear arsenals could increase risks — for example, hypersonic missiles decrease the time available to distinguish between an attack and a false alarm, increasing the likelihood of rapid escalation.”

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The editorial cautions that even a “limited” nuclear conflict involving just hundreds of atomic weapons — a small fraction of the global arsenal — “could kill 120 million people outright and cause global climate disruption leading to a nuclear famine, putting two billion people at risk.”

U.S. Defense Department officials visit artificial intelligence company Shield AI in San Diego in September 2020. (DoD, Lisa Ferdinando)

“A large-scale nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia could kill 200 million people or more in the near term and potentially cause a global ‘nuclear winter’ that could kill 5-6 billion people, threatening the survival of humanity,” the editorial continues.

“Once a nuclear weapon is detonated, escalation to all-out nuclear war could occur rapidly. The prevention of any use of nuclear weapons is therefore an urgent public health priority and fundamental steps must also be taken to address the root cause of the problem — by abolishing nuclear weapons.”

Chris Zielinski of the World Association of Medical Editors said in a statement that the joint publication is “an extraordinary development” given that medical journals typically “go to great lengths to ensure that the material they publish has not appeared in any other medical journals.”

“That all of these leading journals have agreed to publish the same editorial underlines the extreme urgency of the current nuclear crisis and the need for prompt action to address this existential threat,” said Zielinski.

The editorial was released as parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons convened in Vienna in preparation for the 2026 treaty review conference. Last year, the 10th review conference of the nonproliferation treaty ended without a consensus agreement as Russia opposed a draft summary document.

All the while, the global nuclear stockpile continued to grow.

Radiation Effects Research Foundation in Hiroshima, 2011. (Taisyo, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0)

According to recent research by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the nine nations currently known to possess nuclear weapons had 9,576 working nukes at the start of 2023, up slightly from the 9,490 total in January of last year.

The U.S. — the only country that has ever used nuclear weapons in war — and Russia control roughly 90 percent of the world’s nuclear arsenal.

None of the nuclear-armed countries have backed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, a legally binding international agreement that bars signatories from using, threatening to use, developing, stockpiling, or transferring atomic weaponry.

The editorial argues that must change if the world is to step back from the brink of catastrophe.

“The health community has had a crucial role in efforts to reduce the risk of nuclear war and must continue to do so in the future,” the editorial states.

“In the 1980s the efforts of health professionals, led by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), helped to end the cold war arms race by educating policymakers and the public on both sides of the Iron Curtain about the medical consequences of nuclear war. This was recognized when the 1985 Nobel peace prize was awarded to the IPPNW.”

“Don’t test” stall at Fifth IPPNW European Congress in Coventry, England, 1990. (Wellcome Library, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 4.0)

Noting that IPPNW and other groups played critical roles in the development of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the editorial calls on health professionals worldwide to

“join with the IPPNW to support efforts to reduce the near-term risks of nuclear war, including three immediate steps on the part of nuclear-armed states and their allies: first, adopt a no first use policy; second, take their nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert; and, third, urge all states involved in current conflicts to pledge publicly and unequivocally that they will not use nuclear weapons in these conflicts.

“We further ask them to work for a definitive end to the nuclear threat by supporting the urgent commencement of negotiations among the nuclear-armed states for a verifiable, timebound agreement to eliminate their nuclear weapons,” the editorial adds. “The nuclear-armed states must eliminate their nuclear arsenals before they eliminate us.”

Jake Johnson is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

This article is from  Common Dreams.

Views expressed in this article and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

4 comments for “Medical Journals: Eliminate Nuclear Weapons

  1. robert e williamson jr
    August 5, 2023 at 18:19

    I am of the opinion that the only logical reason for maintaining nuclear arsenals is to allow authoritarian governments around the world to hold the nuclear “club” as in” bludgeoning device” over the heads of the masses. “Be afraid, very, very afraid of the other, they are out to kill you and yours.” The planners made damned sure they could keep both the truthful secret and the secret lie behind the screen of secrecy and now here we find ourselves.

    The implied existential threat produced by this action created existential dread in the human psychic at both conscious and the subconscious level. The nuclear option is in no way a viable alternative for the human to embrace for Any reason and to think other wise was and is madness.

    If the average human had the available knowledge of so many who worked on the Manhattan Project in the very beginning they would learn many of these men of extraordinary scientific vision and talent immediately understood what these weapons meant to the human race. Niels Bohr was one of the many, Einstein, Szilard, Oppenheimer were some of those who wrestled with this reality trying to explain what this project cold end up doing. They were right.

    What so many fail to realize is the extent to which the organizers of this effort went to acquire talent.

    After reading a dozen or so books on the various activities MP officials engaged in one of the least revealed is how much pressure the MB authorities applied to those they sought assistance from, many of whom were “drafted”, for lack of a better term, from the schools they were attending, to agree to join the effort.

    The message sent to those who questioned providing their service was, “You will work for us or you will not work in this field or any other field of Nuclear Physics.” You know the old “you are either with us or against us”, line.

    I try often to encourage open minded thought and critical thought in the minds of so many who comment here and I have no real idea if I’m ever successful. I don’t intend to cease that effort.

    These weapons represent one of the most crude judgements ever conceived by man and to seriously consider wiping out mankind in an effort to settle man made differences, JFK would describe this as, “man made problems can be solved by man made solutions”, is absolutely asinine .

    Unfortunately I’m some what of a fire brand and have little of no patience with pompous individuals who gloss over what I consider the second most important issue to those living on this planet. Climate change has taken over first place in my mind.

    World leadership is failing those who inhabit the planet and time is running out.

    The BOZOS running the world currently seek no solutions to these problems or they would do something other fight elective wars.

    I have news for Mr. William J. Kinsella and the rest of you. Look around across this country and you should soon realize these dead zones that were and are contaminated with nuclear materials will never be cleaned up, it cannot be done at this time with the techn0logy that currently exists without making things worse. Only government contractors benefit, umbilically attached to the public fisc as they are, through the corrupt nature of all things nuclear clean up, to the tune of billions of dollars each year. Been there and seen it!

    I am very limited in my ability to communicate to the masses, one would think the good professor might have much more of greater substance to say on this matter. The medical community seems to being doing a much better job of this but they too might need to learn a thing or two about these weapons.

    Think the modern “neutron bomb”, the bomb that kills living things but leaves inanimate objects intact. A device said to be Israels favorite weapon.

    Journalists will have no readers if these serious world issues continue to be unchallenged by the masses.


    Thanks CN

  2. Randal Marlin
    August 5, 2023 at 10:49

    There is a marvelous treatment of how a strong peace movement got underway through the efforts of Josef Rotblat, a physicist who was a member of the scientific team of the Manhattan Project. When he saw the power of the bomb in July 1945 he wanted out from the Project and with great difficulty succeeded – the only scientist to do so. Working with Bertrand Russell he eventually won the Nobel Peace Prize. That was when peacemakers, not warmongers, were winners.
    As I’ve mentioned in a comment I’ve submitted elsewhere on CN, there is a film, made by the National Film Board of Canada, telling the story of how Rotblat teamed up with a very rich man, Cyrus Eaton, who brought together influential people from rival nations to discuss ways of combating human annihilation by atomic weaponry. They met at Pugwash, Nova Scotia, and indirectly accomplished agreements that were very successful, such as arms limitations agreements reached by Gorbachev and Reagan. The way to move politicians is to educate the masses, and Pugwash meetings helped very much to do this.
    The film, “The Strangest Dream,” was made by Eric Bednarski in 2008. It is a great antidote to the deficiencies in the film “Oppenheimer,”that is receiving so much attention. Let that attention be transferred to this tremendously inspiring NFB film.

  3. Jeffrey W. Mason
    August 4, 2023 at 13:20

    For those in the mainstream political mindset and the idea that a strong well-armed nuclear nation keeps that nation safe, we’ve got to convince them that human-crafted, like all other human created concepts like the impregnable Maginot Line, the unsinkable Titanic, and it goes on and on, nuclear deterrence will fail and when it does the escalation ladder is unstoppable because fear of not launching soon enough to prevent your side from being destroyed before launching is human nature. Reducing dramatically and eliminating 99 percent of nuclear weapons (w/100 N. missiles controlled by international scientific authority to destroy incoming NEOs) will work when negotiated multilaterally thru the TPNW because there is a global seismic network that can instantly uncover cheaters. We’d have to reinstitute Open Skies and IAEA twice yearly inspections to all 9 powers (and a few others capable of building nukes like S. Korea, Japan, Iran, Saudis, etc). The alternative is an end to the glorious life of the super rich, the billionaires and others corporate bigwigs who would realize that living underground (or even in Earth orbit) isn’t viable for very long, so to keep profits coming they should be the most successful in finding a way to profit from denuclearization. The rest of us 99 percenters on the planet will also benefit. Global conventional military reductions can also occur within a decade or two after denuclearization when world leaders realize this is also a waste of money, while our species reinvests military & N. weapons money into addressing global heating, hunger, education, job creation (without resort to wholesale AI economy), and redirecting some of the finest military trained people worldwide into paramount outer space activities like deploying sensing assets far out into the solar system to give us much more time to spot incoming Earth threatening asteroids & comets, utilizing assets to eliminate growing orbital space debris, as well as benefiting all mankind (not the superrich) with exploiting minerals and rare metals found inside asteroids (ending the awful condition of poor peoples mining cobalt and other rare metals today on Earth), while deindustrializing Earth, allowing within decades a restoration of a healthier ecosystem. Sound like a pipe dream, huh? Some people see things as they are and say why, others dream things that never were and say why not? (President John Kennedy quoting George Bernard Shaw). We don’t have a choice, unless we want to accept the end of our species and countless others. So if you disagree, remember Enrico Fermi’s “Where is Everybody?” and your answer is, “Intelligence innately doesn’t survive its technological era, destroying itself is a cosmic constant – so it’s just a matter of time, we’re doomed”

  4. Henry Smith
    August 4, 2023 at 03:36

    Good luck with this, though frankly with our governments infested with morons I cannot see any changes happening.

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