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John LaForge: Senior nonviolent resister celebrates nuclear ban treaty the hard way

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Monday 22 January marks the third anniversary of the coming-into-force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

The TPNW has 70 “states parties” (signed and ratified) and 23 more governments (signed) moving to see it ratified. Its entry-into-force will be celebrated all over the world as the best means of preventing accidental or deliberate attacks with the most poisonous and catastrophic weapons in human history. The treaty’s universal enforcement would also end today’s use of nuclear weapons, employed as they are by nine governments the way hostage-takers point a loaded pistol: without pulling the trigger, they still get what they want, usually. They use that pistol.

The nuclear-armed states have dismissed the TPNW as a political annoyance, a naïve aspiration of an unschooled group of lesser UN members — the 122 out of 193 that voted for enactment.

However, it was no tangent but a super-majority of UN members that finally decided that the nuclear weapons powers must have lied when they promised, in 1970, in Article VI of the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date”, etc., etc. After 57 years, “at an early date” has become the laugh line of international law. The phrase was vague enough for nuclear powers to ignore it indefinitely, while asserting their lawful adherence. The U.S. state department still claims on paper, “The United States is in full compliance with all of its NPT obligations, including Article VI.”

Fed-up with decades of lip service, 122 United Nations governments took to heart the NPS’ Art. VI mandate to pursue disarmament in good faith, and, in 2017, they produced the TPNW. The treaty is now part of the “rules-based order” that President Biden, the State Department, and the Pentagon love to pose with.

Here in Germany, nuclear attack threats emanate from the Luftwaffe’s Büchel Air Force Base in the form of 15 U.S. nuclear bombs stored and kept ready for Germany’s Tornado jet fighter pilots to drop on Russia. This unlawful “nuclear sharing” (the Nonproliferation Treaty prohibits such transfers) has been the focus of hundreds of protest actions over the years.

After joining a recent protest, U.S. Air Force veteran Dennis DuVall, formerly of Prescott, Ariz, but now living in Germany, will be honoring the TPNW’s Monday anniversary by defending himself in a political trial. Having named an entrance road to the nuclear weapons base a “Crime Scene” with a bit of spray paint, he committed no exaggeration or misdemeanor, considering the United Nations Charter, the Nuremberg Judgment, and the Geneva Conventions. Nonetheless, DuVall was charged with damage to property but will turn the tables in district court in Cochem, Germany, reminding the court that earlier judges in Germany, in the Third Reich, learned the hard way by not refusing to cooperate with state crimes.

Even at 82 years of age, and having already served 60 days in a German prison for previous actions at Büchel, DuVall is not “rehabilitated” and may remind the court as he did in 2020: “I wish to underscore the need for judicial courage to shine a spotlight on preparations for nuclear war taking place at Büchel AFB.  I ask you, Judge, to … or allow me to go unpunished by recognizing the unlawful threat of using nuclear weapons stationed at Büchel AFB.”

A better shout out to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons — from a more stalwart nuclear resister — is hardly possible.

John LaForge, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and is co-editor with Arianne Peterson of Nuclear Heartland, Revised: A Guide to the 450 Land-Based Missiles of the United States.

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