Oped: Remember Hiroshima, think disarmament

William Lambers
York Dispatch Contributor

As we remember the first atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan (August 6, 1945) during World War II, let’s  rededicate our efforts toward nuclear disarmament.

The nukes dropped on Hiroshima and later Nagasaki (August 9) brought an end to World War II. Those bombs, which devastated the two Japanese cities, pale in comparison to the power of nuclear weapons today. We must continue to strive for elimination of these weapons of mass destruction.

As long as nukes exist we live under the fear of their use, including accidents or terrorist theft. You are paying for these nuclear weapons too, including a proposed modernization plan that will cost the U.S. a trillion dollars over the next few decades. 

Nukes are a dangerous and expensive arms race that never ends. We must hold our leaders accountable to do everything in their power to reduce nuclear weapons globally.

It was President Dwight Eisenhower who said that not achieving disarmament, including a ban on nuclear testing, would "have to be classed as the greatest disappointment of any administration — of any decade — of any time and of any party." Both Democrats and Republicans should share the goal of reducing nukes.

Eisenhower, in a 1961 interview with Walter Cronkite, thought it was vital to take the expensive burden of these weapons off the backs of mankind.

Today, Russia and the United States each have close to 7000 nuclear weapons despite existing treaties. This is the vast majority of the world's nuclear weapons stockpile.

Things could get a whole lot worse too with an escalating nuclear arms race. As during the Cold War we must keep trying to reduce the nuclear danger with Russia.

All nuclear powers should resist an arms buildup and instead devote precious resources to a war against poverty.  In 1953 Eisenhower said the United States should  “join with all nations in devoting a substantial percentage of any savings achieved by real disarmament to a fund for world aid and reconstruction…..The monuments to this new war would be roads and schools, hospitals and homes, food and health." This must remain our aspiration.

One of Eisenhower's aides, General Andrew Goodpaster, teamed up with General Lee Butler in 1996 to propose the elimination of nuclear weapons worldwide. Their plan called for the U.S. and Russia to start reducing weapons even down to levels of 100-200 nukes.

The current START Treaty with Russia, signed by President Obama, takes deployed strategic nuclear warheads on each side down to about 1550 each.   Why not go even further on this treaty working down to 100-200 weapons, with an eye toward disarmament of all the different types of nukes. 

Trump and Putin could do this, and it would start to save the world a lot of money that could be better spent fighting hunger, poverty and disease. World peace and stability can only be truly achieved by ending hunger and want.

One easy thing Trump could do now is finish a goal started by Eisenhower, ending nuclear weapons testing for good. The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which bans all nuclear testing, would help prevent a Cold War like arms race. If we don't ratify the treaty, there is the danger that Russia could break from the pact and resume nuclear testing.  Getting nuke powers China, North Korea, India, Pakistan and Israel to join would also help set the stage for disarmament talks.

We must urge our leaders to take action on reducing nuclear weapons. Starting with reducing U.S. and Russian stockpiles is a good first step toward eventually eliminating these horrible weapons from the face of the earth.

— William Lambers covers world hunger, including as a writer with Catholic Relief Services.