Letters: Paul Mason is right that we should speak out; we should also ask our government to back the ban treaty, and attend the June talks in New York
Paul Mason writes (G2, 17 April) that the generation waking up to recent headlines “may need reminding what a nuclear weapon does”. Given the dramatic escalation of nuclear rhetoric in recent months, we could all use a reminder of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of such weapons.
Mr Mason correctly notes that in the UK – as elsewhere – the numbers of people in need of emergency medical help after an attack would outstrip hospital beds. But it is worth remembering that in many nuclear scenarios, these hospital beds and other essential health infrastructure would no longer exist. Neither would the doctors and nurses who operate them. Nuclear weapons are unique in their destructive power, in the unspeakable human suffering they cause, and in the impossibility of controlling their effects in space and time. They threaten irreversible harm to the environment and to future generations. Prohibiting and eliminating them is a humanitarian imperative.
Mr Mason writes about what a responsible nuclear power “would do”. We would suggest that a responsible nuclear power should participate in the ongoing UN negotiations for a new treaty banning nuclear weapons. This would reinforce the stigma against their use and be a concrete step towards fulfilling existing commitments for nuclear disarmament, notably those of article VI of the non-proliferation treaty. All nuclear states can show leadership by taking their place at the negotiating table.
Head, Arms Unit , International Committee of the Red Cross
• Paul Mason writes very good sense in relation to the present risk of war as a result of emotion-driven leadership, and the urgent need to “use our diplomatic clout to strengthen disarmament”. The UK should go further and support the nuclear ban treaty negotiations backed by over 130 nations at the UN, which met for a week in March and will reconvene from 15 June to 7 July. These remarkably positive talks have hugely advanced the steps towards nuclear disarmament, but are being boycotted by the US, the UK and other nuclear weapons states on the grounds that we should stick with the ineffective non-proliferation treaty, and because “nuclear weapons are needed for security”. Mason is right that we should speak out; we should also ask our government to back the ban treaty, and attend the June talks in New York. Otherwise our claim to support nuclear disarmament is an empty one.
Newcastle upon Tyne
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