Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) rightly warned of the danger of pursuing usable nuclear weapons in her March 5 Sunday Opinion essay, “There’s no such thing as ‘limited’ nuclear war.” Studies of “limited” nuclear war over the past decade have shown that the use of a tiny fraction of the world’s nuclear arsenals would cause a global catastrophe. One hundred Hiroshima-size bombs, less than 0.5 percent of the world’s nuclear arsenals, could kill tens of millions of people directly. Even worse, the fires started by these bombs would loft millions of tons of soot into the upper atmosphere and trigger worldwide climate disruption and a disastrous decline in global food production. The ensuing famine would put some 2 billion people at risk. But the problem goes deeper. For decades, the U.S. government has argued that it would be a disaster if even a single atomic bomb fell into the “wrong hands” of a terrorist or rogue state.
We just transferred some 6,800 warheads into the very wrong hands of President Trump, an impulsive and vindictive man who is the last person who should be in control of the means to destroy the world. Those who have supported the continued reliance on nuclear weapons must now consider that no nation has the “right hands” when it comes to nuclear weapons. We have to accept once and for all that these weapons can never be used and must be eliminated from the world’s arsenals. The negotiations that begin this month at the United Nations for a new treaty to ban nuclear weapons are a key next step toward this goal and deserve our full support.
Ira Helfand, Leeds, Mass.
The writer is past president of
Physicians for Social Responsibility and
co-president of International Physicians for
the Prevention of Nuclear War.