Nukewatch Quarterly Winter 2020-2021
By John LaForge
With the shamelessness of autocrats the world over, Donald Trump’s White House, on October 20, directly confronted countries that had ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, telling them to withdraw their ratifications. Like a drug cartel’s kingpin, with all the hired guns and political protection to operate above the law with impunity, Trump’s gangster White House seemed to believe it still had some weight to throw around. Not one country bowed to Trump’s edict.
According to the Associated Press, which obtained the letter, the Trump administration claimed that Russia, China, Britain, France, as well as all 30 NATO allies and the United States “stand unified in our opposition to the potential repercussions” of the treaty ban.
The pomposity and obliviousness of the White House letter is hard to exaggerate. It’s like imagining president Abe Lincoln urging countries that had abolished slavery to have it reinstated. Ray Acheson, director of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom’s disarmament program, replied, “It’s incredible that a nuclear-armed state is demanding other countries withdraw from a treaty banning nuclear weapons.” Incredible, yes; that is impossible to believe.
Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, told the AP that diplomatic sources had confirmed to her that they and other states that had ratified the new treaty ban received the US letter requesting their withdrawal.
Fihn said the letter indicated an “increasing nervousness, and maybe straightforward panic, with some of the nuclear-armed states and particularly the Trump administration,” and showed that it “really seems to understand that this is a reality: Nuclear weapons are going to be banned under international law soon.”
So, while the White House, the US weapons industry, and the other nuclear weapons states oppose the treaty, some in the administration seem to recognize the political banditry, ethical stigma, and legal hypocrisy of shunning a popular treaty that is coming into force.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump repeated boastful denunciations of international treaties including the Iran Deal and the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty. In Arizona that year Trump said, “When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families.” In practice, this is an order to commit terrorism and violate the Geneva Conventions in which “no protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed.” In February 2016, Trump said he’d bring back “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding” which would violate the UN Convention Against Torture and the US Torture Statute, 18 USC 2340A.
In March 2017, when negotiations for the nuclear weapons treaty ban got started, Trump’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Gov. Nikki Haley, dutifully led a 40-state boycott of the proceedings. Speaking at the UN, Haley made two verbal slips that accidentally revealed the Trump gang’s private view of “law and order.”
Ambassador Haley said, “We would love to have a ban on nuclear treatie’, uh, weapons.” She then admitted, “One day we will hope that we are standing here saying we no longer need nuclear weapons.” The Trump administration’s actions have matched its words here, because it didn’t even hope for eliminating nuclear weapons. It cheered the production of new ones and got rid of nuclear treaties.