Blog Archives

Science, Law and Nuclear Weapons

The trouble with man-induced destruction is that ‘law’ cannot keep up with ‘science’.

Science has no morals; from animal testing to finding cures for diseases that once were a stamped passport to the after life. It has no scruples as to whether research and development or inventions are detrimental to the world. It’s all about wanting to know more, more, and even more.

And that’s where law comes in. It’s the bottle stopper, or rather the filter that controls how far science can take its immoral liberties. But there are lapses in this system. According to Judge C. G Weeramantry, former Vice-President of the International Court of Justice, and President of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms, just as law is able to review and determine whether the effects of the latest scientific findings or inventions are destructive and should be banned, science has vamoosed ahead and developed ten more!

Nuclear weapons and nuclear energy is one such controversial subject. As international judges review and debate on whether it should be banned, science is steadily proliferating advanced nuclear weapons. Judge Weeramantry, however, believes the debate is over. The obvious catastrophic power of nuclear warfare was seen back in August of 1945, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The destruction was unprecedented. It was inhuman, deep-rooted and its effects seeped well beyond the region.

Here are some of the effects of nuclear weapons:
  1. They cause death and destruction on an unprecented scale. Hiroshima 140,000 killed immediately and shortly after, an estimated 230,000 to date. Nagasaki 39, 000 killed immediately and 100,000 to date.
  2. They cause congenital deformities, mental retardation and genetic damage for generations.
  3. They carry the potential to cause a nuclear winter which blots out the sunlight, destroys crops globally and causes freezing cold and darkness over large areas of the earth’s surface.
  4. They damage the environment not only for the present generation but future generations as well.
  5. They contaminate and destroy the food chain.
  6. They produce multiple physical effects, inducing cancers, leukaemia, keloids and related afflictions, as well as gastro intestinal, cardiovascular and related afflictions.
  7. They continue for decades after their use to induce the health related problems mentioned above.
  8. They imperil the entire eco system.
  9. They produce a destructive electromagnetic pulse which cuts all communication lines, throws all electronic devices out of action and cause all organised life to collapse.
  10. They span a time range of thousands of years. The half-life of plutonium 239, one of its by-products, is over 20,000 years. Several of these half life periods are required before radioactivity becomes minimal.
  11. They produce social disintegration.
  12. They irreversibly damage the rights of future generations.
  13. They imperil all civilizations an threaten human survival.
  14. The vast bulk of the victims are civilians, thus violating a central principle of international humanitarian law.
  15. They cause damage to neighbouring states which are not at war with either party, thereby violating another rule of international humanitarian law.
  16. They produce psychological stress and fear syndromes which last through the victim’s lives.
  17. They wreak cultural devastation, destroying historical monuments, historical documents and works of art.

Here is an eyewitness description from the first use of the weapon in the nuclear age- one of hundred of such scenes which no doubt occurred simultaneously, and many of which have been recorded in contemporary documentation. The victims were not combatants.

“it was a horrible sight. Hundreds of injured people who were trying to escape to the hills past our house. The sight of them was almost unbearable. Their faces and hands were burnt and swollen; and great sheets of skin had peeled away from their tissues to hand down like rags on a scarecrow. They moved like a line of ants. All through the night they went past our house, but this morning they had stopped. I found them lying on both sides of the road, so thick that it was impossible to pass without stepping on them.

And they had no faces! Their eyes, noses and mouths had been burned away, and it looked like their ears had been melted off. It was hard to tell front from back. One soldier, whose feature had been destroyed and was left with his white teeth sticking out, asked me for some water I didn’t have any. (I clasped my hands and prayed for him. He didn’t say anything more.) His pleas for water must have been shi last words”.

Multiply that account a thousand fold. Hundreds and thousand more people suffered a similar fate.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were two isolated incidents that occurred three days apart. Now, 60 years later, bombs that carry 70 or even 700 times the explosive power of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are available. The devastation that occurred 60 years ago magnified 700 times by just one bomb today!

Illegality of Nuclear Weapons (or the lack of it)

Humanitarian principles were recognises and outlined as far back as in 1899 when The Hague Declaration concerning Expanding Bullets banned the dum dum bullet. It was declared too cruel a weapon to be used in ‘civilized warfare’, and banished to the darker corners of laboratories; never to make a comeback. What was so deadly about the dum dum bullet? The bullet was designed to explode the moment it enters the human body­—and in doing so exacerbate the victim’s suffering, inducing a slow painful death.

The dum dum bullet was certainly barbaric. When compared to nuclear weapons, however, it’s nothing more than a paper pellet. But lo and behold! Some of the same ‘civilized states’ that voted against the dum dum bullet, maintain that nuclear weapons; despite its ghastly, mortal, and lasting effects on hundreds of thousands of people, unborn children and the ecosystem, should be legal.

Professor Weeramanthy writes, ‘the possibility of their [nuclear weapons] use is increasing by the month and time is running out for meaningful action to rid the world of this scourge’.

Nuclear bombs- will bring world peace, say civilised, responsible states

So what cards do these states play in trying to keep their blood curdling nukes? The jokers. Empty claims, that surprisingly people seem to buy. False claim uno numero- that the atomic bomb successfully ended the war with Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And look, how the countries have risen like phoenixes from the nuclear ashes! These self-proclaimed ‘responsible’ states, will store an arsenal of these badies, to ensure those rogue states stay in line by threatening to unleash a diabolical weapon of mass (and I’d add interminable) destruction on them if they misbehave. Of course they stultify the edge of their argument by adding that they would never really dream of executing the threat. Empty threat or excuse? The answer is clear.

Myth buster one- If Hiroshima and Nagasaki are newborn phoenixes they are undoubtedly mutated, probably afflicted with cancer, retarded and deformed. Plutonium persists in the soil even today. The destruction will prevail.

Myth buster two- ‘Responsible states’, really? Can we honestly, trust these self-professed ‘responsible’ will not employ their weapons of mass destruction?

Myth buster three- Will these so-called rogue states, cow down and surrender when threaten with being blown with nukes? Saddam Hussein led the US on saying he had nuclear weapons. Iran and Pakistan, claim they’re going be dabbling in the proliferation of forbidden nuclear weapons. And this subsequently conceives a rather comical paradox.

Nothing good can come out of nuclear weapons. Nothing.

On the Brightside

Judges of the International Court of Justice (the World Court)—the world’s largest tribunal in international law; unanimously held that “there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control”.

Judge Weeramanthy stated, “this is an imperative obligation lying upon every single state. If the nuclear states do not pursue the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in good faith with a view to total disarmament they are in clear violation of their basic obligations under treaty law, under customary international law, under general principles of law and under law evidenced by judicial decisions. In Short they are in violation of their obligations as laid down unanimously by the World Court, how then can they expect non-nuclear powers to obey international law and keep away from nuclear weapons? Nor will they be able to speak to other nations with authority or credibility.

While the law is potent, more will have to be done in order to ban nuclear weapons. The absurdity of the ‘logic’ held by nuclear-armed nations as to why they should own nuclear weapons is indisputable. Everyone is aware of the magnitude of destruction caused by nuclear weapons. Even blockbuster movies; in the recently released Avengers movie, Ironman selflessly saves America from a nuclear explosion by flying through a space portal seconds before the nuke set off, as the rest of the Avengers and America watch from below with baited breath.

Movies, cartoons, books… all communicate the abominable destruction of nuclear weapons. Awareness is far from lacking. Yet, nothing is being done hit the brakes on nuclear weapon proliferation.

– Megara Tegal

Meg is a member of the steering committee of Beyond Borders. She’s a journalist, part time TV show host, 3rd grade caricature artist, student in social sciences and she holds the world prize for klutz-iness. She blogs here. Her opinions are her own