Face it, it’s just a weapon

Naima McClean, an energetic poet and performer from South Africa encouraged an audience of hundreds to shout “hero, hero, hero” at ten o’ clock in the morning. If Emma Goldman was still alive she would laugh and see we’ve all understood her message: If I can’t dance to it, it’s not my revolution. Yes, we are here to talk about serious stuff. After all, if banning nukes was an easy job, why are they still here? But serious stuff can be fun as well, and this ICAN civil Society Forum certainly kicked off with a lot of positive vibes!

By Krista van Velzen and Wilbert van der Zeijden

In Oslo, 400 campaigners have come together this weekend to discuss the humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons and how we’re going to use that knowledge to get a ban in the near future.

Today we focused solely on the weapons, not the symbolism. A nuclear bomb is – as Dr. Patricia Lewis put it: “not new, not magic, not something that somehow can never go away”. The role of nuclear weapons has come, and gone. They have no finesse, they cannot be used responsibly, they just kill a lot of people. Dr. Lewis reminds us: “You can look these weapons in the eye, face them down and just talk about them – as weapons. You can dismantle them.”

The countries possessing nukes seem to think that nuclear disarmament is so difficult that they can talk and talk and negotiate for decades without serious result and still claim with a straight face they work for nuclear abolition!

The civil society conference organised by ICAN precedes a governmental conference on the same topic. It is illustrative that the P5, the five ‘recognised’ nuclear powers have decided to ‘boycott’ the conference. They are the countries most attached to the symbolism of the bomb. They are also the countries who atre most afraid of a focus on humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. Gry Larson, Norwegian State Secretary said of their decision that he regretted their absence, but that “their arguments were not very convincing”.

The good news is that the US government did meet up with anti-nuclear campaigners and took time to explain how it can be that Obama said all these great things in Prague but now refuses to send a delegation to Oslo. Apparantly they do feel they need to explain.

So now 132 states will spend Monday and Tuesday discussing the impact of nuclear weapons in the short, and long term. They do so without obstruction from the P5 who remain in denial. As someone today put it, rephrasing Mark Twain: “For the P5, denial is just a river in Egypt”.  We’ll convince them one day, we have to. Meanwhile, in Oslo, Naima McClean inspires us to to dance, defending our future!