Too Late to Stop the Tribulation

Consider this: There are still an estimated 18,000 of these weapons in the arsenals of the nine nuclear states with the United States and Russia holding 95% percent. Many are at the ready 24 hours a day, seven days a week to be launched upon command from missile silos, from U.S. and Russian nuclear submarines still plying the sea, or on board planes poised to launch an attack. Dr. Strangelove is still with us in 2013, yet aside from the latest nuclear headlines from North Korea and Iran, many disregard the threat nuclear weapons continue to pose for global civilization — the same threat that kept us awake at night from the late 1940s through the early 1990s.
It’s challenging to call attention to these weapons at the ready. With all the competing and compelling demands on our time and attention, from terrorism to the economy to climate change, why pay attention to nuclear weapons now? After all, “nothing has happened” since 1945. Too often, we believe “it can’t happen here.”
More than 240,000 human beings were killed by just two atomic bomb explosions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, and many more later because of the impact of the radiation released by the bombs. The reality is that the world has not been the same.
Since then, the Soviet Union (now Russia), the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea all announced that they have nuclear weapons. It is well known, although not officially acknowledged, that Israel has their own arsenal of nuclear weapons. From 1946 to 1998 more than 2,000 nuclear test explosions took place around the world. In 1996, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was adopted by most nations including the United States, however,the U.S. and seven other countries have not yet ratified it. North Korea exploded nuclear devices in 2006, 2009 and once again in February of this year. And Iran threatens to join the nuclear club.
On top of this, there is a proliferation of nuclear waste from nuclear power plants around the world, which can be processed into fissile radioactive materials that can be used by what is benignly called “non-state actors” to make either their own nuclear bomb or what is called a dirty bomb.
There was a moment in recent history that the world came close to abolishing nuclear weapons. In October 1986, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union at that time, met in a small room at the Hofdi House in Reykjavik, Iceland. For two fateful days they met and negotiated. At the end Reagan and Gorbachev came within one word of cutting a deal to eliminate their nuclear arsenals, but it was not to be.
The story told in my documentary, In My Lifetime, is a window into the larger issues of war and peace, but I hope that it will also initiate a global dialogue. Filmed in Europe, Japan and the United States, and drawing on hundreds of hours of archival footage, the film has been produced for an audience of all generations, focusing on the possibilities that we can someday move toward the elimination of this invention born out of fear during World War II.
Will anyone listen? Does it need to “happen again” before we understand the consequences of maintaining these arsenals, each one capable of destroying a city?
Every person on the planet should be aware of the perils posed by nuclear weapons and materials. A nuclear event does not “have to happen here.”
Robert E. Frye is the producer/director of a one-hour documentary In My Lifetime, released by American Public Television for broadcast on public television stations.

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