Bruce Kent
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ICAN - Will you?

Forgive the whimsical title but I could not resist it.

ICAN - the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons - has just issued an attractive little leaflet which shows someone on a mountain top looking out into the distance. The text reads  ‘I can see a world with NO nuclear weapons. Can you?’

Well what’s new?- we have all  been hoping and working for the abolition of all nuclear weapons for years. But there are new developments. For one thing over 170 states voted last year at the UN for a Japanese resolution calling for the elimination of all nuclear weapons. China, Pakistan and India, all nuclear weapon states, support that call.

Then there are the recent abolition converts. In this country Douglas Hurd, Malcolm Rifkind and David Owen have all put abolition on the global agenda. They are following the lead given by Henry Kissinger, George Shultz and others in the United States.

Cynics will say that these converts have come to realise that nuclear weapon proliferation is inevitable as long as the nuclear weapon states insist on retaining theirs and that, in any event, new weapons - laser beams from space and God knows what else coming from the Devil’s kitchen of military research - mean that nuclear weapons are no longer ‘needed’.

Whatever the reason, there is a shift in global thinking. The sheer cost of weaponry  is beginning to be realised by those who are trying to deal with world poverty. ‘A theft from the poor’ said President Eisenhower years ago of the gross global annual arms expenditure. To spend at least £25 billion on a replacement for Trident while millions have neither education nor clean water nor roofs over their heads is sinful as well as wasteful.

Cynics must not be allowed to dis- empower us. The moment for ICAN is a good one.

In about twenty months the next review conference of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty will start in New York. ICAN has produced a text prepared by lawyers, scientists and politicians of a draft abolition treaty. It runs to over 60 pages and it covers all the contentious issues.

Who can inspect establishments which might be in secret weapon production? At what stage will States have to reveal the size of their arsenals? How can criminal law, domestic and international, be used to prevent evasions? How can whistle blowers be protected by the international community? What will be the time scale for total elimination?  These are the practical questions which negotiators will have to face. The ICAN text deals with them all.

You and I are not negotiators. Our job is to build up the public pressure to get negotiations started. There is already a petition text in the name of CND and MEDACT. The Japanese hope for millions of signatures and why not. Getting them should be a push over in our Church.

The current Pope has called nuclear weapon policies fallacious and baneful. The right wing, political and clerical, always said that what they really wanted was abolition by negotiation. Well that road is now wide open. All of us should be able to take it.

Absurd arguments are being put up by our Foreign Office.  They say that abolition negotiations would divert attention from negotiations on the NPT.  But the NPT, Article VI, precisely calls for abolition negotiations.  More than that, the International Court of Justice in 1996 said that it was a legal obligation to start them and ‘to bring them to a successful conclusion.’

Please look up ICAN ( for more information and material. Get hold of some petition forms and make sure your Bishop, Parish Priest, MP, local Councillors, representatives of CAFOD and Friends of the Earth, are all asked to sign.

The Japanese (I am still fresh from a trip to Hiroshima) also hope for large contingents from many countries going to New York in April 2010.  Only 20 months to go. Please start saving.

August 08

665 words


Nuclear Disarmament :- A dying religion Colonel Petrov Justice Magazine Responses from the Trident commission
Abolishing War :- Castles and boarding houses Militarisation, poverty and environment The Missing Link Vocation For Justice Christians and the Military Remembrance Sunday
Misc :- Culture of Peace Prisoners Assorted Topics