Curtain Raiser

Rushing the Doomsday Clock, Colltalers

It may be hard to grasp this but the world was a bit safer on last year’s grim 70th anniversary of the obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That’s because, unlike in 1945, there wasn’t a realistic possibility of a U.S. president to even think about using nuclear power for war again.
Not anymore. Suddenly, the thought of some 2,000 nuclear weapons being at the fingertips of a would-be president who’s currently on a nasty Twitter battle with a dead American soldier’s grieving family, became all too real, at least to those who know what it all implies.
Granted, that’s too much power to be granted to a single individual, and given a choice, most would have reservations, even if the Pope or the Dalai Lama were in control of them. Be as it may, however, in our world, someone does have the codes for that suitcase from hell.
Also, to peace and anti-nuke activists, there’s not much difference between Republican candidate Donald Trump’s cavalier, and supposedly rhetorical, line of questioning on ‘why can’t we use them?’ and Democrat Hillary Clinton’s expected reaction as a president, in case the U.S. is threatened by another nuclear power. Both responses could lead to the end of civilization. But the comparison is a false equivalence.
At the World Social Forum, which gathers in Toronto this week for a second annual conference, nuclear armaments and their inherent risks to world peace will be central to several of its panel discussions. Which goes along with its overall theme, ‘Another World Is Needed.’
Created in January 2001 in Porto Alegre, Brazil, as a humanistic alternative to the better-funded World Economic Forum,

which gathers annually, also in the same month, the world’s wealthiest individuals and corporations to Davos, Switzerland, the WSF has grown in stature and relevance. Groups from 95 countries will be at this year’s second edition, taking place for the first time in a northern country.
While decisions made with Alps ski resorts in the background rule the way life is determined to most people, without their consent or knowledge, it’s in the other forum where the impact of those decisions is scrutinized. And, as it goes, things don’t look too good.
To mark the bombing of Nagasaki, 71 years ago tomorrow, a special panel on the nuclear threat will open the forum tonight. Then, from Wednesday on, issues such as climate change, the war in Syria, Palestinians, income inequality, and women’s rights, will be discussed.
These days, the threat of a nuclear disaster is a constant concern. The current turmoil in Turkey, for example, in the aftermath of the failed July 15 army coup, has exposed yet another instance where weapons of mass destruction may wind up being used, intentionally or not.
Along massive arrests of alleged suspects, President Tayyip Erdogan accused the high-ranking military commanders in charge of NATO’s nuclear storage facility in Turkey of having had a part in the coup, and ordered the police to detain them in a raid to the compound.
Even scarier are the U.S.’s plans to ‘modernize’ its nuclear arsenal to the beat of $1 trillion in the next 30 years. Not the kind of question you’ll see the media asking either presidential candidates, it is nevertheless one that we probably already know their likely similar answers.
In fact, pressure from the Pentagon to update the U.S. armament, by spending the equivalent of what it’d take to vanquish poverty and hunger in the entire world, has already overridden even one of President Obama’s shiniest, and shallowest, promises as a candidate. And in all likelihood, even if Senator Bernie Sanders were to be the next president, he wouldn’t be able to prevent it from going forward either.
Neither there’s need to mention the number of international conventions and peace agreements it would also violate. Defense hawks seem to believe that they’ve got an airtight argument in their favor: if nukes are dangerous to maintain as they are, aging nukes are even worse.
Never mind that we haven’t found a satisfying, and safe, way to dispose of lethal by-products left over in the manufacturing of weapons. That a ‘modernization’ would compound to the problem doesn’t seem to concern that much its advocates in Washington.
Despite a seven-decade effort to make nukes an alternative to carbon fuels as a source of cheap energy, it’s clear that we not just haven’t tamed it to an acceptable level of risk, but even from an economics point of view, they’ve never justified their costs. On the contrary.
Speaking of WWII and how it all ended, it’s ironic to note that while France has one of the highest levels of nuclear power consumption, Germany is phasing out completely their presence in the national power grid. Shouldn’t we have been the first to do it?
Instead, the U.S. and Japan have both a network of aging, technological-obsolete, unsound-located, and ultimately cost-demanding plants, spread out throughout the territory and way too close to cities and urban communities. Plus, the U.S. has all those weapons too.
The relevance of gatherings such as the WSF is that, all said and done, there are almost no forum for anyone to address the kind of issue that seems uninteresting to the establish media, powers that be, corporate investors, and those who live off government defense contracts.
We’re about to embark into another week of reading about every fleeting thought that crossed the troubled mind of Trump, and every single canned answer Clinton’s been given to the same set of questions for years. We’ll probably hear about their spouses too, and how there’s growing dissatisfaction brewing among American voters. Give or take a few endorsements, everything we’ve already heard before.
What we’re not likely to hear, though, or read about, or get by email, is how to regain control over the discussion about our own future. Specially because another future is needed. And we’re the only ones who can build it. Hydrate, remain calm, and have a good one. WC


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