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Campaigning for global peace in a time of war

December 23, 2015

IPPNWLogoNewThe year 2015 will be remembered sadly for the many ways in which war and armed violence devastated the lives of millions of people around the world—armed conflicts in Ukraine, the Middle East, and Africa; a global refugee crisis spawned by those conflicts and by the atrocities of the radical Islamic State; massacres in Kenya, Nigeria, Syria and elsewhere; an expanded use of cluster munitions and landmines in conflict zones; and countless other mass shootings and suicide bombings.

The nuclear-armed states not only wasted another year in avoiding compliance with their disarmament obligations, but they also made matters worse by increasing their investments in nuclear modernization programs. The much-touted international agreement with Iran on its nuclear programs was overshadowed by the increased risk that escalation of the conflicts in Ukraine, South Asia, or the Middle East could lead to the use of nuclear weapons by those who actually have them.

In the midst of the seemingly endless series of headlines about the victims of war, armed violence, and acts of terror, 2015 was a year when IPPNW and its many partners in civil society took significant steps to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons and to bring the expertise of doctors and public health professionals to the global promotion of violence prevention. Read more…

“What if?” (part 2)

December 11, 2015

web_n09_ban_bombYesterday, I asked what would happen if a leader of a nuclear-armed state decided to use nuclear weapons and they (thankfully) didn’t work. Here’s another “what if” question: What if we were to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons and remove that threat to our existence at the source? Read more…

What if?

December 10, 2015
A poster of a broken missile by artist Peter Kennard, taped to the fence of Greenham Common by a protester in 1982. PeterKennard.com

A poster of a broken missile taped to the fence of Greenham Common by a protester in 1982. Poster by Peter Kennard

Former UK Defence Minister Des Browne is worried that Britain’s Trident submarines could be put out of commission by a cyberattack. What if, he asked the BBC last month, the prime minister “needs to reach for” nuclear weapons and they don’t work?

Putting aside the temptation to jump down all the rabbit holes opened by questions about cybersecurity and nuclear command and control systems, let’s take a literal look at what Browne asked. What if the person in charge of launching a country’s nuclear warheads decided to push the button and they didn’t detonate when they reached their targets? Or never left the subs or silos in the first place?

Here’s what wouldn’t happen. Read more…

Armed conflict, militarization pose grave escalating threats to health worldwide

December 9, 2015

“We can give up hope and ensure that the worst will happen, or we can grasp what rays of hope there are – and they are not lacking – and try to make the world a better place. It’s not a difficult choice,” said Dr Sarah Alhulail, quoting Noam Chomsky, at the closing session of the recent Medact Health through Peace conference in London.  “We need a movement that is bold and positively radical in its demand for a fairer, safer and better world,” said the young doctor from Kuwait.  Read more…

Invisible harm from ionizing radiation

December 8, 2015

DangerRadiationBesides the terrible effects of the burst of light that causes eye damage, the heat that sets everything flammable on fire, the electromagnetic pulse that knocks out all electronic devices, and the blast that produces winds with ten times the force of a hurricane, demolishing everything, the detonation of nuclear weapons also leads to the emission of large amounts of ionizing radiation, which has serious deleterious effects on humans and many other species. Ionizing radiation is, in fact, a lurking danger as we cannot see it, we cannot smell it, we cannot hear it, and we cannot feel it immediately. But we certainly get harmed from it. Read more…

The health impacts of war and armed conflict

December 3, 2015

By guest author Jessica Falk (reprinted with permission from Medact)

 

child receives polio vaccine

A child receives a polio vaccination              © CIDA-ACDI/Sharif Azami

In 1951, at the height of the Korean War, seven eminent doctors wrote to The Lancet medical journal in a call for disarmament. Their argument? Military spending was impacting upon healthcare provision in the UK, and doctors had a social responsibility to advocate against war. Some dismissed the letter out of hand, its opponents arguing that politics should not be a concern for health professionals. Another letter to The Lancet last year, condemning the summer assault on Gaza, received similar treatment – for how long can we deny that health and conflict are priorities for health professionals? Read more…

Why aren’t the candidates for US President talking about nuclear war?

November 24, 2015

[The following op-ed by IPPNW co-president Ira Helfand and PSR board member Maureen McCue appeared in the DesMoines Register on 23 November.]

When the Cold War ended, we pretty much stopped worrying about nuclear war, but the weapons didn’t go away. More than 15,000 are left in the world today, 95 percent in the arsenals of the U.S. and Russia.  Seven other countries have nuclear arsenals as well.

We know of at least five major incidents in the last 35 years when either Washington or Moscow prepared to launch nuclear war in the mistaken belief that it was under attack by the other side. Now, for the first time in 25 years, rising tensions between the U.S. and Russia have been accompanied by nuclear saber-rattling. In defense circles, concern is growing that we could stumble into a direct armed conflict with Russia. Such a conflict could escalate out of control and nuclear weapons could be used.

Clearly, we should not be complacent about nuclear war. So why aren’t the candidates talking about nuclear war? Here are a few questions we should ask them: Read more…

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