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We Have Come To Far To Lose The Future Now

We Have Come To Far To Lose The Future Now

By Douglas Mattern

Despite the optimism and expressions of hope and renewal demonstrated around the world on the first day of this new millennium, the sad fact is that war and organized violence remain dominant with civilians bearing the brunt of the conflicts as evident in Lebanon, Israel and the continuing barbarism in the Sudan.

At the beginning of the 20th century the ratio between war casualties were about 90 percent military and 10 percent civilian. Today these figures are reversed because modern warfare is war against civilians. This is due in large part to the indiscriminate killing power of modern weapons that extends from bombs and missiles down to machine guns and rifles. Moreover, with the world spending a trillion dollars a year on the military, the weapons industry will continue to produce and develop more deadly weapons that guarantee more civilians deaths and a maddening arms race. In the United States alone tens of billions of dollars are allocated each year to build and develop new weapons. This country is also the leader is selling weapons to the world market, and combined with other major sellers that include Russia, the UK, China, France, Germany, we are turning our planet into a one giant arsenal.

Most dangerous is the proliferation of nations possessing nuclear weapons. There at least eight nations today, with several on the horizon and the UN reporting that 30 nations are capable of producing nuclear weapons. Without a very dramatic change in world political events and perspective it is only a matter of time until a missile strike carrying nuclear bombs occurs in some region of conflict. Moreover, such an event could rapidly get out of control and envelop much of the world in a nuclear tsunami that would kill tens of millions of people in a radioactive wasteland.

Keep in mind that approximately 27,000 nuclear weapons are stockpiled in the world with 12,000 of them operational. And despite the often hypocritical condemnation directed at other nations pursuing these weapons, it is the United States and Russia that have over 90 percent of the world stockpile. And it is the U.S. and Russia that have 4,000 nuclear warheads mounted on missiles on a hair-trigger alert, ready for launch in a few minutes notice. A recent study by the Rand Corporation reported these weapons could destroy both countries in an hour.

Such a doomsday scenario could result from an accidental missile launch, an early warning system error, or miscalculation. There have been many close calls to a nuclear war starting by accident over the years; therefore, to retain thousands of nuclear warheads on a hair-trigger alert, only minutes from launch, is a criminal threat to the world community, if not utter madness.

Surely people can comprehend that the long nuclear weapons nightmare must be ended before it is forever too late. And there is only one acceptable goal: the complete elimination of nuclear weapons from the face of the earth. Only then will humankind be liberated from this ultimate terrorism that poses the daily threat of complete ruin for civilization and human history.

The second priority is the elimination of the war system itself with all of its political, economic, and cultural manifestations, for even without nuclear weapons, civilization cannot long endure the atrocity of modern warfare. Disputes between nations and people, and dealing with terrorists and the causes of terrorism, must be settled through the creation of enforceable world law under the jurisdiction of a greatly reformed and representative United Nations. There is no alternative to continuing war and an eventual global catastrophe.

Success will require a great change in our thinking and perspective to move beyond the fools and their folly to use wisdom to create a new civilization for the 21st century. We need to elect a new kind of political leadership similar to that described by Senator William Fulbright: “The age of warrior kings and of warrior presidents has passed. The nuclear age calls for a new kind of leadership—a leadership of intellect, judgment, tolerance, and rationality, a leadership committed to human values, to world peace, and to the improvement of the human condition…The attributes upon which we must draw are the human attributes of compassion and understanding between cultures.”

This is a revolutionary challenge and if people really care about their children, grandchildren and future generations, then people must work together across all
racial, political, ethnic, religious, and geographical differences to achieve the changes that are needed. As President Kennedy stated: “We have come too far, we have sacrificed too much, to disdain the future.”


Douglas Mattern is President of the Association of World Citizens and author of LOOKING FOR SQUARE TWO - Moving from War and Violence to Global Community.

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