NEW YORK – Albert Einstein, one of the great physicists and political activists of his generation, once made the famous remark: “I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones. “

As Einstein predicted, if there is a nuclear war the world risks being reduced to rubble, forcing most humans to return to a prehistoric era in a post-nuclear world. As political activists demand peace in a war-torn world, the international community has so far succeeded in banning a wide variety of deadly weapons, including biological and chemical weapons, anti-personnel landmines and, more recently , cluster bombs.

This television footage from China’s National Television Channel shows the public demolition of North Korea’s cooling tower at its Yongbyon nuclear complex on June 27, 2008. North Korea blew up the cooling tower to symbolize the commitment of the communist state to abandon its nuclear program. AFP

But eight countries still retain their enormous nuclear arsenal: the five declared nuclear powers in the world (which are also the five permanent members of the UN Security Council): the United States, Great Britain, France, China and Russia (as well as India, Pakistan and Israel).

Last week, after years of relentless negotiations, the United States declared that North Korea (the ninth nuclear power, although not declared) was abandoning the development of nuclear weapons, which prompted the Bush administration to remove Pyongyang from the list of so-called “terrorist states”.

North Korea’s government, which has yet to fully account for its mini-arsenal of nuclear weapons, has agreed to blow up its nuclear power plant’s cooling tower in a public spectacle to global media. But the jury is still out on the North Koreans.

What does the United States know about the North Korean nuclear program? How extensive has North Korea’s technology transfer been to other potential nuclear powers? And how much nuclear know-how has North Korea received from Pakistan?

President Bush’s decision to curry favor with the North Koreans has upset the die-hard conservatives in his own Republican Party who have never trusted and will never trust the unpredictable North Koreans. Perhaps the biggest supporter of the Bush administration’s hard line – on war and peace – is Vice President Dick Cheney.

According to an article in The New York Times last week, Cheney was speaking to a group of foreign policy experts in an informal session when one of them asked if it was true that the Bush administration planned to remove North Korea from the list. as a terrorist state.

Cheney apparently “froze”, looked at his interlocutor and replied, “I will not be the only one to announce this decision. take other questions.

The decision to play ball with the North Koreans was obviously a victory for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who heads the State Department, and was more politically flexible on foreign policy issues than a skeptical Cheney.

But the fact remains that even if North Korea, in the unlikely event, turns out to be sincere in its commitment to be nuclear-weapon-free, we still end up with eight nuclear powers armed to the teeth. Jayantha Dhanapala, former UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs and longtime anti-nuclear activist, points out that the rest of the world is denied possession of nuclear weapons on the grounds that nuclear proliferation is a bad thing.

“Now nuclear proliferation is certainly not good, but if you have those countries that have nuclear weapons arrogate to themselves the right to keep their weapons to themselves, while others are denied possession, then you almost certainly encourage other countries to want to have them. “
Non-proliferation and disarmament are two sides of the same coin. “This is why it is so important to achieve the abolition of nuclear weapons. If there were no weapons, they could not proliferate,” Dhanapala rightly argues.

Japan, the only country in human history to have been nuclear powered by the United States, has been one of the world’s most vocal activists for nuclear disarmament. The Americans dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, followed by a similar attack on Nagasaki three days later.

The Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima City, one of Japan’s darkest tourist attractions, is a grim reminder of the horrors of nuclear war, vividly illustrating the devastation wrought in Hiroshima by an atomic bomb. American. And in one year, more than 140,000 died as a result of the American attacks of 1945.

Last August, a “peace declaration” adopted by the city of Hiroshima detailed the impact of the US attacks on that fateful day, describing it as “hell on earth”. “The eyes of the young girls looking at the parachute (which opened in the sky before the explosion) melted. Their faces became gigantic charred blisters. The skin of those seeking help hung from their fingernails.” Many of those who escaped death still suffer from leukemia, thyroid cancer, and a wide range of other afflictions.

All of this is very clearly represented in the photographs hanging on the walls of the Hiroshima Peace Museum.

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