By Joyce Rothermel
Over the past several months, because of severe weather and then the pandemic restrictions, the twice a month pickets at PNC headquarters and branch offices were suspended. That hiatus ended on July 2 outside PNC corporate offices in downtown Pittsburgh. Joined by several members of the Green Party and others, the group resumed its hour long presence with posters and handouts describing the Stop Banking the Bomb (SBTB) campaign’s demands for PNC to end its over $1 billion lending to five corporations involved in the manufacture of nuclear weapons, and to adopt a policy restricting such lending in the future.
Following its open letter to Mr. William Demchak, President and CEO and the PNC board, representatives from the SBTB campaign have met twice with staff from PNC’s Corporate Social Responsibility department. With little sign of any change in policy forthcoming, the pickets will continue.
The campaign is heartened by this year’s report on the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons’ (ICAN) Don’t Bank on the Bomb effort, announcing that there are now 36 (14 of these were added over this past year) financial institutions in their Hall of Fame, keeping billions of Euros in assets out of the nuclear weapons industry. Unfortunately, only two are U.S. based. Our goal is to welcome PNC into the Don’t Bank on the Bomb Hall of Fame.
ICAN, winner of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, has recently published, “Let’s Be Realists: Eleven Answers to Common Questions and Comments about Nuclear Weapons.” We have begun to utilize these answers on our picket leaflets and would like to share them with you. Here are two of them. We hope to share the others in future issues of The NewPeople.
1. “Nuclear weapons deter war; they keep us safe.”
It is often claimed that nuclear weapons deter war, preserve “strategic stability” or “keep us safe.” But there is no evidence for this beyond the mere correlation of the existence of nuclear weapons with the fact that a third world war has not (yet) occurred. Countries have conducted acts of aggression against countries with nuclear weapons.
Argentina invaded the British overseas territory, the Falkland Islands in 1982, as one example. An arsenal of thousands of nuclear weapons did not protect the United States against the tragic 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks or deter terrorists from the attack in the first place. It is naïve and unrealistic to expect nuclear weapons to deter or defend against all aggression.
What’s more, if nuclear weapons really did reliably deter war or keep people safe, why wouldn’t nuclear armed states encourage more countries to acquire them? On the contrary, most governments know that nuclear weapons are dangerous, destabilizing, indiscriminate, and potentially catastrophic.
A hundred and ninety-one countries have joined the 1968 Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which prohibits the acquisition of nuclear weapons. The United States, Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom have willingly accepted a legal obligation to negotiate disarmament (Article VI of the NPT) in exchange for nearly all other countries accepting a legal obligation never to acquire nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons do not keep anyone safe; they threaten massive, indiscriminate harm to millions of people.
2. “No country will ever actually use nuclear weapons – they are just for deterrence.”
The theory of nuclear deterrence requires that the threat of use of nuclear weapons be credible. For this reason, over one thousand nuclear weapons were deployed on high alert in 2017.
We know about a disturbing number of accidents, close calls and near catastrophes since 1945; presumably many more remain secret. History shows that conflicts can escalate rapidly and unpredictably, national leaders do not always act rationally or prudently, communications can break down, and high tensions tend to amplify misunderstandings.
Deterrence is often given the credit for the long record of non-use of nuclear weapons, but much of it is due solely to good luck – which cannot be expected to last forever. The risk of nuclear weapons being used, whether deliberately, by accident, or miscalculation, is real. It literally could happen at any moment. Worse, many experts assess that the risk of use of nuclear weapons is increasing, due in part to the increased speed of warfare triggered by the expanded use of artificial intelligence by the military. Unless nuclear weapons are eliminated, sooner or later they will be used – and the consequences will be catastrophic.
Upcoming pickets: Fri., Aug. 7, 11:30 AM at PNC, 5th and Wood; Sat., Aug. 15, 11 AM, 5810 Forbes Ave., Squirrel Hill, and Fri., Sept. 4, 11:30 AM at PNC, 5th and Wood (downtown).
Joyce Rothermel is on the Coordinating Committee of the Stop Banking the Bomb Campaign.
NewPeople Newspaper VOL. 50 No. 5. July/August, 2020. All rights reserved.