EDITORIAL: A nuclear-free world

In the 2005 documentary film “The Last Atomic Bomb,” Sakue Shimohira, who as a 10-year-old schoolgirl lived through the U.S. nuclear bombing of Nagasaki, says, “The wound in my heart will never heal. If you encounter an atomic bomb once, you will never be at peace again.”

But the living nightmare Shimohira and hundreds of thousands of other Japanese people experienced after August 1945 is a very small part of the catastrophe the world would suffer if even a tiny portion of today’s incredibly more destructive nuclear arsenals were ever unleashed.

For the last six decades, the vast majority of the world’s peoples have backed the call for a nuclear-weapons-free world.

As the first — and so far the only — nation to explode nuclear weapons in war, and the leader in developing new weapons and ways to deliver them, the United States holds the key to achieving that goal. At the May 2000 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference, the U.S. joined in pledging practical steps toward universal nuclear disarmament.

But the Bush administration is racing in the opposite direction, with its drive to build both powerful “bunker-buster” nukes and smaller, more “flexible” weapons, while talking openly in military strategy documents about using them.

Nuclear weapons are making headlines now, with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s announcement it tested a bomb Oct. 9. That test also inexcusably disregards the urgent need to banish nukes from the earth. At the same time, it illustrates the complete bankruptcy of the Bush administration’s across-the-boards rejection of diplomacy, including its refusal to talk directly with North Korea.

The North Korean test brings to nine the number of countries known to have the bomb. International Atomic Energy Commission head Mohamed ElBaradei says another 40 countries may be capable of making nuclear weapons.

Unfounded allegations about nuclear weapons preceded the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and unproven allegations underlie Washington’s saber-rattling toward Iran.

The Nov. 7 election offers a chance to reject the Bush administration’s policy of confrontation instead of diplomacy, along with its nuclear first-strike policy. Needed instead is a comprehensive, serious approach to nuclear disarmament.