Liberation Day minus 7739 (Log#7)

Aaron Tovish
10 min readMay 28, 2024

As we wrap up the final score years of the Nuclear Century, it is essential for the success of Liberation Day (L-Day) that we OWN the history of the Bomb. We can do that by getting a jump on those who would memorialize events of the Nuclear Age as if they were acceptable and as if this Age can carry on indefinitely. I will give, here, just two modest examples of how this can be done.

[In the second section, we take on NATO.]

October 17, 2028, 80th anniversary of the first UNGA resolution on “non-dissemination” (precursor to “non-proliferation” (thus NPT), precursor to “nonproliferation”)

On that day on 1958, the Irish Foreign Minister Frank Aiken introduced a draft resolution with this very brief operative paragraph:

[The UNGA] decides to establish an ad hoc commission to study the dangers inherent in the further dissemination of nuclear weapons and [to] recommend to the fourteenth session of the General Assembly appropriate measures for averting these dangers.

His eloquent introduction was a good deal longer. I quote briefly from it:

… a comprehensive agreement on disarmament may at last be within sight. But while we await that comprehensive agreement, we must remain alert to what is happening in a changing world. The old dangers which we know so well are still with us, but while we are still discussing them new dangers which may prove fatal are beginning to arise. It is on those dangers, and to the urgent necessity of taking measures to avert them, that my delegation wishes to focus the attention of the committee.

He was referring, of course, to proliferation; but his warning of danger is equally salient today: the actual use of nuclear weapon(s) could permanently derail efforts to establish a nuclear weapon free world (NWFW) and even just the threat of nuclear escalation hinders progress.

These further words from him, are also most pertinent:

Can we allow ourselves to be deterred from any serious effort to diminish those risks by considerations of hypothetical military advantage — advantage in a struggle which, if it occurs, will be so indiscriminately destructive that the whole concept of a military advantage will probably become destitute of meaning?

The hypothetical advantage of first-use options must not stand in the way of preventing nuclear war. We will return to this subject below, where we address the challenge of overcoming NATO’s resistance to change.

On the anniversary of Aiken’s proposal, in the UN General Assembly, we need to underscore that non-use is just as vital to survival as nonproliferation.

July 16, 2032, 87th anniversary of the Trinity “atomic bomb” test at Alamogordo, New Mexico

“Four-score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth…”

This one is for an American audience, since every highschooler knows President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address — or at least its first sentence (see the 272-word text below). The Trinity test was the first uncontrolled chain-reaction release of nuclear energy. Its power shocked even the likes of Robert Oppenehimer. Three weeks later the other two Bombs built at Los Alamos were loaded on bombers south of Japan, and then on 6 and 9 August they were detonated above the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively. Over one hundred thousand people were killed immediately, after three months, radiation poisoning had pushed the death toll over two hundred thousand.

The idea for the commemoration is to use an “updated” version of Lincohn’s text, to underscore the inadmissibility of what was done to those two cities. The Alamogordo Address could be recited by a stellar cast of public figures, each delivering one sentence or phrase. One candidate who springs to mind is Michael Douglas, star of “The American President” and a UN Messenger of Peace. Nominations are open for others!

Here is a very rough draft of what the Alamogordo Address might say:

[1] Fourscore and seven years ago, scientists unleashed upon our planet, a new, barbaric force, conceived in the throes of a world war, and dedicated to the proposition that supreme might makes supreme right.

[2] We have since been engaged in a never-ending cold war, constantly casting doubt on whether a world, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on the original testing ground of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of ground zero, as a place to contemplate how we might meet this great challenge, so that our global civilization might survive. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

[3] But, in a larger sense, we cannot consecrate this ground. The scientists, who tested here, have forever desecrated it, far beyond our poor power to restore. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it must never forget what was done here and, just weeks later, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to liberating humanity from the threat that was here so ignobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from the honored dead of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, then and since, we take increased devotion to that cause for which they have given the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that those who died shall not have died in vain — that our world shall have a new birth of freedom — and that our civilization of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from our Earth.

Perhaps an edited video of the speech could be played at the Hiroshima and Nagasaki commemorations three weeks later, and ever year thereafter on July 16th — (four score and eight years ago,…etc.)

Many other opportunities like these two, need to be identified and developed. This, of course, on top of the scores of city commemorations of the bombardment over the centuries, culminating in the many WWII attacks on cities beginning with centenaries of Coventry and then Stalingrad and concluding with the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

NATO has retained nuclear first use options since its inception — “ A change is gonna come, oh, yes it will!” (Sam Cook)

In the early 1950s, when NATO was founded, Russia had only a small nuclear arsenal, however, a large portion of its forces in Eastern Europe remained mobilized. To recover from the devastation of WWII, Western Europe needed to demobilize and put people to work on reconstruction. The Bomb, proffered by America, made this possible by checking the Russian conventional threat with a threat of “massive” — i.e., nuclear — retaliation. Faced with US “escalation dominance” Russian forces stayed put. This situation prevailed for roughly two decades.

After that, Russia’s growing nuclear capabilities negated the USA’s dominance, and either side was able to assert escalation dominance again. The concept of massive retaliation (to conventional attack) was modified to “flexible response”, but the option to initiate nuclear warfare was preserved, despite being devoid of credibility. As the near-certain site of any limited nuclear exchange, Germany began to question this priority. Their leaders were rebuffed, in essence, by the argument, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The absence of war in Europe was — without a logical basis — taken as proof that threatening first use “worked”.

Indeed, until it fails.

The War on Ukraine ought to have engendered a rethink of nuclear-use policy. But no, even Sweden and Finland — eager to join the alliance — have muted their criticism of first-use options in order not to ruffle feathers as they complete induction into NATO. This presents not only a major challenge to achieving the Great Renunciation, but to the achievement of a NWFW as well.

Why does a dangerous policy which lacks credibility persist when a better policy is readily available?

There are, no doubt, many reasons, but in my view the overriding one is fear of modern conventional war and its impact on modern cities, which was displayed in WWII even before Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and has been showcased in practically every war since. The first-use stance is touted as a means of deterring major (city-busting) conventional war. The relatively decent odds of extending the non-use record seems to make this risky stance the “safer bet.”

Essentially each side holds the cities of the other side hostage, saying, “Don’t think you can come in and mess with our cities, ’cause your cities can be pulverized at the push of a button.” Never mind that rationally calculated it is pure bluff, the mere chance that rationality might not prevail (see Medevdev’s antics, for example), lends it a deterring power.

From a visit to Whitehall by a delegation of European mayors which I organized on the occasion tenth anniversary of the ICJ Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons:

UK official: “But we do not target cities!”

Mayor One: “No nuclear explosions in and around cities??”

UK official: “We do not target cities as such.”

Mayor Two: “As such? Well, that’s cold comfort.”

In point of fact, the main target of the UK nuclear forces is Moscow.

It is highly unlikely there will be any change to nuclear use policy in Europe until city leaders recognize the danger it poses to their citizens and unite in opposition to it. That means not just exposing the danger of first use policies, but also effectively addressing the current threat to cities due to how modern urban warfare is conducted, viz, Mariupol/Gaza.

The last major event I organized for Mayor for Peace was on this topic. The conference was held in Ypres, Belgium, in April, 2015, commemorating the centenary of first use of chemical weapons and the prolonged bombardment that city suffered during WWI. One of the speakers was a survivor of the Hamburg firestorm ignited by the incendiary carpet-bombing of the RAF in WWII. A leader of the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW, more on it later.) which zeroes in on the use of “wide-area” explosives in populated areas also spoke. The Bomb is, of course, the widest-area explosive ever; even when tested in the most remote reaches of the Pacific Ocean, it inflicted terrible damage upon the islanders.

What ought to have become a Major for Peace Cities Are Not Targets! campaign, was torpedoed when a new Mayor took office in HIroshima. (More on that later.) Recently, however, a second meeting (a webinar) along these lines was held in September, 2023, by the Mayors for Peace Europe Section together with INEW.

Precious years had been squandered, but there is time, yet, to make up for it. If Mayor-Major conferences can be organized on 90th WWII anniversaries, then events on the 100ths can review actual progress and accomplishments. [A similar effort should be undertaken in the “Pacific Theater”; and the Middle East has more than its “fair” share of city-busting to commemorate and address. More on that in a later log.]

While China is sometime accused of “deviously” using the nuclear-warfare-initiation issue as a wedge to disrupt NATO, it should be noted in its recent pronouncement (February 2024), it addressed the issue quite forthrightly:

China calls upon nuclear-weapon states to negotiate and conclude a treaty on “mutual no-first-use of nuclear weapons” or issue political statements in this regard. Countries that are part of “nuclear sharing” or “extended deterrence” arrangements should reduce the role of nuclear weapons in their national and collective security policies in a practical manner and terminate the inappropriate arrangements.

While it is good that NATO member states are thus challenged on this issue, governments really need to hear it from their citizens — or should that be spelled, city-zens? Nothing would be more compelling than having city leaders sitting across from military leaders — Mayors and Majors, if you will — coming to grips with how urban warfare needs to be thoroughly reconceptualized — with nuclear threats and use strictly ruled out.

After the threat of urban warfare, the second main obstacle is transatlantic manipulation. On each side of the ocean, military leaders and “experts” tell their political leaders that, no matter how much they wish to change policy, switching to no-first-use would grievously upset the leaders “over there”. To short-circuit that ruse we must build a true, transatlantic movement for the renunciation of any and all options to initiate nuclear warfare. (I will return to this topic in due course.)

That’s it for now!

For comparison: the original Gettysburg Address:

[1] Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

[2] Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

[3] But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate-we can not consecrate-we can not hallow-this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us-that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion-that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain-that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom-and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.