Irish CND AGM 08/03/1997

The year just past since our last AGM could be called the Year of the World Court, in view of it's historic findings against the use and threat of nuclear weapons. It could also be called the Year of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

This treaty was finally signed by the major nuclear powers and by those with known nuclear capability, with the notable exception of India. The signing of the CTBT was a significant achievement and was welcomed by Irish CND.

Hard to believe it took almost half a century from the first proposal in 1954 (by the then Indian government) at the UN Gen. Assembly for an international agreement to ban all nuclear tests! Perhaps, worth having a quick review of tis long history if only to see how close agreement often seemed to be before being set back many years by short-sighted leaders, how many golden opportunities were lost. But how public pressure never let up making inevible its eventual signing.

1954: Indian proposes international ban.

1958: USSR, USA, UK at Geneva Conference to end testing.

1958: USSR, USA, moratorium. U2 spy scandal used to scupper achievements.

1963: Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT): ban on tests in atmosphere + outer space + underwater. Included the clause committing participants to: "the speediest possible achievement of an agreement on general and complete disarmament...which would put an end to the armaments race..."

1974 USSR, USA agreed Threshold Test Ban and Peaceful Nuclear Explosions treaties limiting tests to 150 kilotons ... but it took until 1990 for these to come into force!

Mid - 'Eighties USSR unilateral moratorium.

1991: USSR, USA: START 1

1993: General Assembly resolution kicked off the final phase of the CTBT negotiations.

1996: Text agreed and signed by the 5 official nuclear weapons states: US, Russia, China, UK, France.

The situation today, the 8th March 1997 re those particular states who once nursed nuclear ambitions:-

Argentina and Brazil have renounced their nuclear intentions; South Africa have done likewise and unilaterally disposed of their existing nuclear warheads; S. Korea and Taiwan have stopped their programmes; N Korea have agreed with US to end its programme; India has not signed either the NPT or the CTBT, but its not believed to have nuclear bombs; Pakistan doesn't have a programme but refuses to sign in advance of India; Iraq's nuclear programme is halted, as is Iran's; Egypt has signed into the African Nuke Weapons Free Zone (AWFZ) as has Libya. Which leaves only Israel outside of the Nuke Five; it is believed to have 100 warheads and refuses to sign the NPT. This is worrying and potentially destablising.

We condemn unreservedly India's failure to sign the CTBT. Clearly sensitive to criticism on this issue, the Indian ambassador wrote a several page reply to Irish CND criticism. But India's arguments are spurious. Testing is a crime against the planet. Nuclear weapons are not a legitimate form of defence. They are not defensive at all. E.g.:

"Just one of the trident submarines coming into service in 1995, at a cost of $5 million per day for 20 years, has the capacity to destroy all major cities in the northern hemisphere. This weapons is totally useless as protection for the nation launching it because its use would cause such destruction and produce such high levels of radiation in our environment that much of the planet would become uninhabitable": Peace 2000, 1994.

Nuclear weapons are, in fact, "war crimes waiting to happen."

And so, the planet can breathe again, if with caution. Whence the caution? Among other concerns are the following:

     nuclear testing has left behind in our planet large amounts of the deadly radioactive material, plutonium, which has a half-life of over 24,000 years. The ingestation of the teeniest speck can prove fatal.

     while rejecting India's reasons for not signing the CTBT, it is worth noting the points the Indian ambassador and/or others have made to CND, viz. the issue of the West's advanced nuclear weapon technology e.g.

     computer testing (France put aside several billions of francs for this)

     the so called "sub-critical" testing of the US

     the 5 nuclear powers' continued failure to comply with Article 6 of the NPT (complete nuclear disarmament) e.g. the British decision to continue with the Trident programme. The latter was sold as a weapon of "deterrence" during the Cold War, now it might be used if the "viral interests" of UK at stake! Talk about shifting the goal posts!

     there is the disturbing, if not alarming, threat made against Libya within days of the signing of last year's African Nuke Free Weapons Zone (AWFZ), by no less a figure than Harold Smith, Assistant to the US Sec. of Defence, to attack its alleged chemical weapons plant "using the B-61 as the nuclear weapon of choice"!

     and there is, in addition, the continued existence and expansion of the nuclear weapons based army of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

What is to be done? One answer, the Abolition 2000 petition, a powerful instrument, given the symbolism and meaning attached to the year in question: the first year of (hopefully) another one thousand years!

Billy Fitzpatrick


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