Risk of nuclear war is highest since WW2, perhaps it is time to start paying attention

Thursday, May 23, 2019
By Paul Martin

Darius Shahtahmasebi
23 May, 2019

Debates over pressing issues such as climate change, healthcare and global poverty will ultimately be rendered pointless if crazed neocons decide to make the world uninhabitable by launching a nuclear war.
According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Doomsday Clock is still 2 minutes to midnight – a new abnormal. Having become disillusioned with this particular noteworthy development being buried under the media’s radar for far too long, director of the UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) Renata Dwan has spoken out against the threat of nuclear war, calling it an “urgent” issue that the world should take more seriously.

To be fair, we live in a world where the people will only take an issue seriously if they are told to take it seriously – by the media. The risk of nuclear warfare is no exception, despite its catastrophic consequences. If you want people to understand the urgent threat nuclear arms pose to the world, the media would do well to start talking about it more.

According to Dwan, all states with nuclear weapons are in the process of modernizing their nuclear weapons, which in turn is changing the arms control landscape. She also believes this is partially due to growing competition between China and the United States.

“I think that it’s genuinely a call to recognize – and this has been somewhat missing in the media coverage of the issues – that the risks of nuclear war are particularly high now, and the risks of the use of nuclear weapons, for some of the factors I pointed out, are higher now than at any time since World War Two,” Dwan said.

Albert Einstein once famously said: “I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

To launch a nuclear war is to launch the unthinkable. Unfortunately, unthinking is all too common in the age of Donald Trump, so we have to be even more vigilant about this issue than we ordinarily would (that isn’t to say we shouldn’t have been vigilant under Clinton, Bush and Obama, all of whom launched disastrous wars of aggression without a legal basis).

If Washington launched a nuclear war against Russia and China, the bombing alone is estimated to to kill at least 335 million people within the first seventy two hours (this estimate was calculated as far back as 1962, meaning the number is surely higher today). As former Pentagon consultant and whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg once explained, these deaths are merely the beginning:

“Well, then I asked, ‘All right, how many altogether’ And a few days later, 100 million in East Europe, the captive nations, another 100 million in West Europe, our allies, from our own strikes, by fallout, depending on which way the wind blew, and, however the wind blew, a third 100 million in adjoining countries, neutral countries, like Austria and Finland, or Afghanistan then, Japan, northern India and so forth — a total of 600 million people. That was a time, by the way, when the population of the world was 3 billion. And that was an underestimate of their casualties — a hundred Holocausts.”

These numbers also don’t take into account the number of people who would die gradually and overtime from the aftermath, which would likely surpass the amount killed in the attack itself. If entire cities are destroyed, who will treat the wounded, feed the remaining people, provide shelter, and the like?

If right-wingers think the refugee crisis is bad now, they should be doing their utmost to prevent such a catastrophe from ever occurring. Yet, despite these damning figures, a survey conducted in 2017 suggested that the majority of Americans would approve of a nuclear strike against an adversarial state such as Iran, killing 2 million civilians in the process so as long as it saved American lives in the long run.

As it transpires, nuclear weapons have lost the taboo that existed after the horrors of the US attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As Brian Toon, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Colorado bluntly admitted, people today are just not confronting themselves with the facts.

“They think nuclear weapons are just big bombs that blow up lots of people,” the professor said, “without considering the way a nuclear conflict – even a ‘small’ one involving some 10 percent of the US arsenal — might poison millions of men, women and children and change the climate enough to starve hundreds of millions.”

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