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In a Direct Line - Photo by Ulli Diemer

The Bomb won't go away on its own

By Ulli Diemer

Seven News, June 4, 1982


For the past twelve years, 7 News has made a practice of restricting itself mainly to local matters. In this issue, the first of our 13th year, we are breaking with that tradition to address a much wider issue - a matter of life and death for us all: the threat of nuclear war.

The threat of the Bomb is something most of us ignore most of the time, in the interests of keeping sane. It's too overwhelming to contemplate, and we feel powerless to do anything about it. Better to concern ourselves with the problems we can maybe do something about.

But the Bomb won't go away on its own. Only we can get rid of it. And only if we try. If we decide the task is impossible and refuse to try, then it is impossible. But the fact is that if enough people come together strongly enough in a common cause, they can alter the course of history. Our challenge is to do it.

There is no question that the obstacles to be overcome are immense. The reality is that the world is dominated by two superpowers armed with enough weaponry to kill us all many times over. Both of them, the U. S. as well as the U.S.S.R., are dominated by entrenched elites heavily committed to maintaining their power and ideology by any means, and especially by military means. Surrounding them are a bewildering array of smaller nations acting on their own imperatives of power, more of them repressive dictatorships than not, all of them interested in bolstering their own military and economic strength, some of them already with nuclear weapons of their own or with the prospect of acquiring them soon.

Perhaps our first challenge is to try to rid ourselves of our own ideological blinkers, to not view the world as a battleground between the good guys (The West, The Free World, Us) and the bad guys (the Communists, Them). (Or vice-versa if you live in the Soviet bloc).

The people of all countries, whether Russian, American, Chinese, Canadian, etc., are much the same mixture of good, bad, and indifferent that we find in our own society and in ourselves. And most people everywhere want much the same things: a decent life, a better life for their children, security, and to live in peace. The Russian people no more want to be annihilated in a war than we do. They are not our enemies.

Governments, state apparatuses, on the other hand, are a different matter. These tend to coalesce into huge bureaucracies, with goals and dynamics of their own, with needs quite alien to ours. And one thing that the Russian and American military-economic-political bureaucracies have in common is a common need for the Cold War. The Cold War is vital to them to keep their allies and populations in line, to justify ever-increasing military expenditures, to justify repression. For example, the Soviets use the military threat of NATO to justify crushing any moves to independence or democracy in Eastern Europe, while the U.S. uses the threat of Communism to justify its support for some of the bloodiest regimes in history in Central America.

Our task is to break out of that closed, self-justifying system by depriving governments of the passive populations they need, by refusing to accept the choices we are offered and instead becoming active participants pressuring them to accept our proposals.

What might our objectives be? Some of the suggestions we find sensible are:

* A general freeze on all deployment, manufacture and testing of new nuclear (and chemical and biological) weapons. American and Russian spokesmen may argue about who has more of what but the basic fact is clear: both have enough weapons to destroy each other already. And because both sides have large numbers of land, air, and sea-based missiles, it is impossible for one side to destroy the other's missiles in a surprise attack. Enough would always survive to destroy the attacker several times over. American military strategists have estimated that as few as 100 missiles could destroy 60% of the U.S.S.R.'s industrial base, and kill 37 million people.

* A ban on short-range, small, nuclear weapons such as the proposed U.S. Pershing II. The danger of these weapons in particular is that they would be so small and numerous that they would make verification of an eventual arms control treaty very difficult, and also that they provide more of a temptation to use them because they are relatively smaller. American military planners especially have recently openly discussed the possibility of a “small”, “limited” nuclear exchange in Europe (to the dismay of the Europeans!); a dangerous fallacy: such an “exchange” would almost inevitably escalate to total war in a matter of hours.

* A ban on missiles such as the proposed U.S. Cruise missile (for which Canada makes the guidance system.) This missile has the capacity to be a first-strike weapon because if based in Europe it could hit Soviet targets in 10 minutes or less, is very hard to detect because it flies close to the ground, and is almost impossible to shoot down. A first strike would not be able to prevent the U.S.S.R. from retaliating massively, but some American military planners have argued that it might be possible to inflict 100 million casualties on the U.S.S.R. while the U.S. would “only” suffer 30 million, and that this would constitute a “victory”. Such planners must not be allowed to have the hardware to tempt them to try out their theories.

* A demand that the U.S.S.R. begin to withdraw its new SS-20 missiles from Europe. The Soviets have indicated a willingness to negotiate them away, so it is clear they don't consider them necessary to their military security. They are merely using them as a bargaining chip with us, the people of the world, as hostages.

* Work toward a nuclear-free zone in Europe and from there to a militarily non-aligned Europe. European countries would keep their economic and political systems but would not have foreign missiles or troops on their soil. This would also create the potential for greater liberalization and independence in Eastern and Western Europe.

* Work for the creation of nuclear-free zones elsewhere, putting more and more of the world off limits to nuclear weapons: A nuclear-free Canada, Middle East, Africa ... No weapons in space.

* A ban on the export of nuclear materials, such as Canadian exports to Argentina.

* As a first step to achieving these goals, attend the Parade for Peace this Saturday (June 5). The Parade starts at Christie Pits (across from Christie Subway, at Bloor and Christie) at 10:30 a.m. and heads to Queen's Park..


Written by Ulli Diemer
Published in Seven News, Volume 13, Number 1, June 4, 1982



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