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Sir Joseph Rotblat: A Legacy of Peace (1908 – 2005)
an article by David Krieger
President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

Joseph Rotblat was one of the great men of the 20th century. He was a man of science and peace. Born in Warsaw, Poland in 1908, he was one of those rare individuals who, like Rosa Parks or Nelson Mandela, comes to an intersection with history and courageously forges a new path. In Joseph’s case, the intersection with history arrived in 1944 while he was working on the Manhattan Project, the US project to develop an atomic bomb.

Joseph had worked as a scientist toward the creation of an atomic weapon, first in the UK at the University of Liverpool and then at Los Alamos, New Mexico. When he learned in late 1944 that Germany would not succeed in developing an atomic bomb, he believed there was no longer reason to continue work on creating a US bomb. For him, there was only one reason to create an atomic weapon, and that was to deter the German use of such a weapon during World War II. If the Germans would not have an atomic weapon, then there was no reason for the Allies to have one. Joseph was the only scientist to leave the Manhattan Project on moral grounds.

He was the last living signer of the 1955 Russell-Einstein Manifesto, one of the great documents of the 20th century, and he often quoted its final passage: "We appeal, as human beings, to human beings: Remember your humanity and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open for a new paradise; if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death."

He was convinced that countries needed to abolish nuclear weapons and he devoted his life to achieving this goal, as well as the goal of ending war as a human institution. Just prior to his 90th birthday, he said that he still had two great goals in life. "My short-term goal," he said, "is the abolition of nuclear weapons, and my long-term goal is the abolition of war."

(article continued on discussion page).


Question(s) related to this article:

Can we abolish all nuclear weapons?,

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30 August 2012 — The following opinion piece by Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon has appeared in leading newspapers in Argentina, Bangladesh, Burundi, China, Germany, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Malaysia, The Philippines, Republic of Korea, Russia, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine and European weekly publications and has been translated into 10 languages.

Last month, competing interests prevented agreement on a much-needed treaty that would have reduced the appalling human cost of the poorly regulated international arms trade. Meanwhile, nuclear disarmament efforts remain stalled, despite strong and growing global popular sentiment in support of this cause.

The failure of these negotiations and this month's anniversaries of the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki provide a good opportunity to explore what has gone wrong, why disarmament and arms control have proven so difficult to achieve, and how the world community can get back on track towards these vitally important goals.

Many defence establishments now recognize that security means far more than protecting borders. Grave security concerns can arise as a result of demographic trends, chronic poverty, economic inequality, environmental degradation, pandemic diseases, organized crime, repressive governance and other developments no state can control alone. Arms can't address such concerns.

Yet there has been a troubling lag between recognizing these new security challenges, and launching new policies to address them. National budget priorities still tend to reflect the old paradigms. Massive military spending and new investments in modernizing nuclear weapons have left the world over-armed -- and peace under-funded.

Last year, global military spending reportedly exceeded $1.7 trillion – more than $4.6 billion a day, which alone is almost twice the UN's budget for an entire year. This largesse includes billions more for modernizing nuclear arsenals decades into the future.

This level of military spending is hard to explain in a post-Cold War world and amidst a global financial crisis. Economists would call this an "opportunity cost". . ...more.

This report was posted on September 4, 2005.