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The Parable of Nonproliferation

In his spare time the UN delegate was generous. His education in the United States was a gift endowed by the head of the Crown family, who now was acquiring prospects for the Bulls, sportswashing his billions made from bombs in a game he had loved from his youth. The delegate entrance bypassed the exhibit of the Hibakusha (Bomb Survivors).

Meanwhile, the representative of a nuclear-possessing state rehearsed what he would say in conference that day in the Dag Hammarskjöld UN Meditation room saying, “We fully accept negotiations in good faith and we are prepared to reaffirm it to this conference.” In walked three delegates. The first, from Nicaragua said, “Do you uphold the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals?” “Yes.” The second, from the European Union asked “Do you care for your neighbor?” “I support the peaceful uses of nuclear energy including sterile insect technique to combat Malaria and Dengue Fever--” the representative said, “but what more can I do?” “Would you allow democratically elected governments a legal right to object to the presence of nuclear weapons in their borders?” At this, when the representative only shook his head, a third delegate, from the Russian delegation, came up and said, “In the holy scriptures the rich young man goes away sad when Jesus tells him to give away all his possessions to the poor, “for he had many possessions” (Mt. 19:20), but what if I say to you, dismantle all the nuclear weapons in your possession, and I will do likewise. The representative went away sad, for there were many doubts in his heart.

The Treaty item was of practical value, disarmament. The paragraph was twenty-two stitches on a cord of quilt, and however fine the embellishment, a reference to the International Court of Justice, the opinion wasn’t legally or factually correct, said the haggler. The buyers of nuclear insanity haggle over the needlework, disparaging the quality, but the seller isn’t dropping the price.

Seated in the Trustee room of the United Nations beneath a decorative false ceiling made of wood from seven trees were representatives of 192 countries. Negotiations expected to finalize a landmark biodiversity protection treaty in international waters garnered a packed crowd, siphoning the total full energies of many states in the Pacific parties to the NPT.

Still, at the start of its third week the Review Conference of the Nonproliferation Treaty drew a worshipful audience of nuclear and enabler non-nuclear states. U.S. Special Representative Adam Scheinman’s reaffirmation to “good faith” was professed before the conference, in rote-memory. “We are committed to negotiations in good faith” he said, invoking Article VI, but it sounded hollow, a corruption of the golden rule. Article VI, to put it in terms my kids would understand, is the heart of Tê-Fiti , Mother of the Pacific Islands, which the character Moana gives to her bereft alter ego, the raging, molten Tê-Kā.

Regarding the NPT Scheinman stated, never “in its negotiating history” was “disarmament” intended to mean “total elimination.” Because of its negotiation by the US and Soviet Russia, following the nuclear test by China in 1964, the Nonproliferation Treaty of 1968 became “bedrock” of disarmament “infrastructure.” Such claims to reify the NPT has established a self-fulfilling prophecy. The existence of nuclear weapons clearly demonstrates their ongoing necessity. The 1967 Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America was symptomatic of the underlying trauma of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and showed popular resistance among a coalition of non-nuclear weapon states had grown to disrupt forced consent. Complimenting the substantive “deal” regarding Article III supporting transfer of nuclear power for peaceful uses, Article VI was a normative concession to these non-nuclear states. They envisioned a world without nuclear weapons, and brought out the 1996 ICJ opinion following twelve years consecutive UN resolutions calling for elimination of nuclear weapons. In seeking the elimination of the reference to the ICJ, far from practicing good faith, Scheinman was expressing a spiritual pillar in the Nuclear Powers’ catechism, that the NPT enshrined a mystical body of nuclear weapon possession immune to negotiations with the governments whose peoples radically challenged what a philosopher called Thanatocracy, the status quo.

Convener of the Conference that led to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, Maritza Chan, Ambassador to the UN from Costa Rica, attended a side event hosted by NGOs on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons. She stated that inclusion of a paragraph referencing the TPNW among the recent outcomes since the 2010 NPT Review Conference is ”how you preserve language.”

From the example of nuke possessing states derived the cult of nuclearism. Disciples of the nuclear catechism professed continuance as a miracle: Just as manna from heaven and the multiplication of loaves was identified with the state of grace, so the proliferation of nuclear weapons was believed to confer hegemonic status as member of nuclear gentry.

The 1996 ICJ opinion only needled such embroidery, ‘There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to conclusion negotiations on nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international controls.’ In a separate opinion, Judge Schwebel called the Court’s interpretation of NPT Article VI an ‘anodyne asseveration of the obvious.’”

They believe (and want us to believe) in the impossible. The P-5 had given hollow echo to the Reagan-Gorbachev summit saying that “nuclear war can never be won and should be never be fought” and yet on the fifty-fourth anniversary of the treaty, the Nuclear Emperor’s clothes looked like the threadbare patched cloth relics of St. Francis which lay sealed under heavy bullet-proof glass. With the exclusion of reference to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the exclusion of reference to the ICJ 1996 opinion, and the blocked final draft of outcomes from the 10th NPT Review Conference a result of a hostage situation. Inside the UN delegates posed as humanitarians despite their bellicose belaboring of the seizure of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and Pro Ukrainian media coverage fabricating it as another Chernobyl, a comparison found “impossible” according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. Article VI, which stated the obligation of disarmament, remained, venerable, if untouched, and as impervious to fresh air.

The representative came out empty-handed after the conference, with no outcomes to show for twelve years. And the activist at the gates said to him, “How can you say, I have fulfilled the law when it is written in the law: You shall not enrich yourself with nuclear weapons; and look, your sisters and brothers are clothed in cast off “Celtics World Champions” t-shirts, dying of hunger on rafts, while your benefactor’s six homes look over the same waters, and his ferry, his yacht, and even your own houseboat is full of many good things, yet none of which goes out to them?” The representative began to scratch his head, and it did not please him.

C.R. Spicer is a former member of the White Rose Catholic Worker. He holds a Masters in Theological Studies from Boston College and lives in Somerville where he is a Somerville Human Rights Commissioner.


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