Print Version    Email to Friend
Comforter or threat?

OSLO (SE): The awarding of the Nobel Prize for Peace to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) in Oslo on December 12 has re-sparked a seven-decades-old debate over whether such weapons of mass destruction are a threat to humanity or a protective shield to comfort in the face of other threats.
At least 122 nations believe that they are a threat, as demonstrated by a vote in the United Nations (UN) earlier this year that proposed the UN Treaty on the Banning of Nuclear Weapons.
Already to date 108 nations have signed the treaty, with those outside the ring mainly being the nations that possess nuclear weapons and their staunchest allies.
ICAN is a group that was born in Melbourne, Australia, and now holds the distinction down under of being the one and only Nobel Prize for Peace laureate the nation has produced.
But in a country that loves a winner and normally sees politicians from the prime minister down jostling for a selfie with the victors to post on their Facebook pages, the silence of the government is telling.
But this time the powers that be are peeved.
Australia, along with the United States of America, France, Britain, India, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea and Russia, boycotted the vote in the UN when the Treaty on the Banning of Nuclear Weapons was voted on.
It too, along with these same countries was not officially represented at the presentation ceremony. In fact, the government of Malcolm Turnbull could not even bring itself to say congratulations, which many find a bit disingenuous.
A member of the ICAN executive, Tilman Ruff, said that even though the prime minister may not agree with what the group stands for, a public mention would have seemed in keeping with the occasion.
But if as many political figures on the world scene would have us believe nuclear weapons are a comforter, many disagree.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation quoted Karina and Rose Lester, the daughters of Yami Lester who went blind after exposure to British nuclear tests carried out in the 1950s in South Australia, as being among them.
Those who still live with the effects of radiation in Japan, the only country in the world to have suffered a nuclear attack, are too.
While there is regret that immediate survivors who can give first hand testimony are quickly disappearing, their children are not.
Children born to those who were exposed to the radiation still carry some of the consequences.
Many have suffered from immune deficiencies, leaving them with low resistance even to common illnesses, making catching even a cold potentially life threatening.
Although the risk is abated in adulthood, the same immune deficiencies can be passed to their own children, a condition that doctors have estimated could take well over 100 years to itself flush out of the human system.
However, while the pro-nuclear lobby is tossing off the UN treaty and the work of ICAN as ineffectual, the fact that the government cannot even bring itself to say congratulations to a group of its citizens who have achieved something no one from the country has never done before is in itself an indication that the treaty does indeed matter and is not to be taken lightly by the heads seeking nuclear comfort.

More from this section