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Activists from New York-based direct action group Rise and Resist and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) took to the streets to announce the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons on January 22, 2021 by holding illuminated letters that read #NUCLEARBAN in front of iconic New York landscapes. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

To Turn Back the 'Clock of Doom' Millions of Us Need to Step Forward

ICAN has laid the groundwork for an invigorated movement for nuclear disarmament. But in spite of their extraordinary accomplishments so far, our struggle for nuclear disarmament and a peaceful future has just begun.

Sharleen Leahey

On the 6th and 9th day of August 1945 a new dark age began. Two unarmed Japanese cities were each destroyed by a single atomic bomb dropped from the sky. From the beginning of the nuclear age until this present moment human beings across the globe have struggled to turn back the clock of doom.

On January 22, 2021 an internationally binding treaty calling for the prohibition of nuclear weapons was ratified under the auspices of the United Nations. For the first time in our lives, nuclear weapons have been declared illegal under international law.

Seventy-seven years after thousands of defenseless civilians living in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were vaporized by nuclear weapons, people on every continent continue to be haunted by the mushroom cloud. For decades millions who yearn for peace have organized, marched, and even gone to jail to bring about an end to our collective nuclear nightmare. Despite a few years of substantial reductions negotiated by the leaders of the former Soviet Union and the United States in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the threat of nuclear annihilation has not only continued but has intensified. In 2022 nine nuclear-armed nations continue to possess and deploy nuclear weapons. Some of these nations have openly threatened to use them.

In the year 2007, carried on the wings of youth, a new peace group was formed. In ten short years the International Committee to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (known as ICAN) won the 2017 Nobel Prize for Peace. Four years later, amid an unprecedented global pandemic, 50 nations on Mother Earth made history. On January 22, 2021 an internationally binding treaty calling for the prohibition of nuclear weapons was ratified under the auspices of the United Nations. For the first time in our lives, nuclear weapons have been declared illegal under international law.

Over a half century ago, in a Commencement address he delivered at American University, President John F. Kennedy spoke frankly about the grave danger nuclear weapons posed to the survival of the United States of America and the Soviet Union.

"Today, should total war ever break out again, no matter how, our two countries will be the primary targets. It is an ironic but accurate fact that the two strongest powers are the two in the most danger of devastation. All we have built, all we have worked for, would be destroyed in the first 24 hours."

In 1991 the Soviet Union was dissolved. Tragically, in the years since the Cold War between the two most powerful nuclear-armed nations came to an end, humanity's greatest opportunity to achieve world peace has been squandered. A new Cold War with Russia has turned into a hot war in Ukraine. Recently the United States has placed missiles in Poland and Romania, literally on Russia's doorstep. Both nations' doomsday machines, programmed to inflict mass death in a matter of minutes, continue to cast a dark shadow upon us all.

If the heightened risk of nuclear war is indeed a reality, the question arises: how can peace activists turn our dire situation into headline news? Corporate-owned major media conglomerates, heavily invested in the trillion dollar weapons industry, regularly censor voices for peace. What can ordinary people do to break through the deafening silence?

ICAN has laid the groundwork for an invigorated movement for nuclear disarmament. But in spite of their extraordinary accomplishments so far, our struggle for nuclear disarmament and a peaceful future has just begun.

If ICAN can work to build a world at peace, then each and every one of us can too.

A massive education campaign which tells the truth about the senseless and monumental danger we face as a species is urgently needed. Misrulers and their media stenographers, blindly leading us to catastrophe, must be exposed, confronted and pressured to change course. A re-invigorated global movement demanding the abolition of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth must become our top priority. The elimination of these weapons from national budgets will liberate trillions of dollars of taxpayer funds to protect and restore our increasingly endangered eco-system. Our children's futures and the future of Creation itself are at stake.

Less than six months before he was assassinated in Dallas President John F. Kennedy eloquently and courageously spoke out to end nuclear madness.

"Is not peace, in the last analysis, basically a matter of human rights . . . the right to live out our lives without fear of devastation . . . the right to breathe air as Nature provided it . . . the right of future generations to a healthy existence?"

We must act quickly to awaken our sisters and brothers before it's too late. The stakes have never been higher and voices for peace have never been more desperately needed. To turn back the clock of doom millions of us need to step forward. Now it's up to you and me!


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Sharleen Leahey

Sharleen Leahey

Sharleen Leahey is a songwriter and recording artist living in Central New Jersey. She is a member of Somerset Voices for Peace and Justice. She can be contacted at www.songs4peace.org

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