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Amherst’s new Global Zero chapter says ‘no’ to nukes

The era of nuclear warfare began on Aug. 6, 1945 with the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan. This past Thursday was the first meeting of the University of Massachusetts chapter of Global Zero – a non-profit institution aimed at eliminating nuclear weapons by 2030.

Eunkyo Choi, an international student from South Korea, is heading the UMass section of Global Zero. The launch coincided with similar meetings at 13 other schools this past Thursday.

One hundred world leaders established Global Zero at a Paris conference in December 2008. They laid out a plan to reduce the number of nuclear weapons – first by reductions in Russian and American stockpiles and then by phased reduction worldwide by all countries – to achieve a nuclear-free world.

President Barack Obama has largely endorsed Global Zero’s mission.

For the first time in American history, the President chaired a meeting of the United Nations Security Council and, according to The New York Times, “pushed through a… resolution that would, if enforced, make it difficult to turn peaceful nuclear programs into weapons projects.”

Choi spoke to a group of about 10 students, where she spent about 15 minutes echoing the major ideas of Global Zero. Choi called for the “elimination of all proliferation of nuclear weapons.”

Following Choi’s introduction, a live video was shown featuring former Special Representative for Arms Control and Nonproliferation and Disarmament to Preisdent Clinton Ambassador Thomas Graham, hosted by Georgetown University.

Ambassador Graham introduced Global Zero’s intentions and goals.

“We can never get to zero if we can’t hold the line of where we are today,” said Graham.

Graham said that Project Zero wanted to “create conditions for a world without nuclear weapons,” through “encouraging states to negotiate conflict.”

There were some technical difficulties during the video presentation but the audience stayed for the 35 minute duration.

At the video’s conclusion, Choi asked members to volunteer in an effort to educate the public about the need for a world free of nuclear weapons. Choi was confident of the potential of UMass in forwarding Global Zero’s cause. Her goal is to organize demonstrations and educate the public.

A video of Queen Noor of Jordan was also shown. She spoke briefly about the United Nation’s Security Council passing their resolution – with President Obama’s support – of ideas supported by Global Zero.

Commenting after the meeting, Choi admitted that nuclear weapons had played a role in keeping the peace between the Soviet Union and The United States.

“[Nuclear weapons] made [the U.S. and USSR] more afraid of a third World War.”

During the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States, President Dwight Eisenhower was the first to implement a policy of “massive retaliation,” should a nuclear attack occur. When only a few nations possessed nuclear arms, peace could arguably be attained by tension and threat.

Today, however, more countries than ever possess or are seeking nuclear weapons. Global Zero argues that the threat of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorist groups has greatly increased, drastically changing the previous dynamic.

Global Zero alleges that there have been “25 incidents of nuclear weapons being lost or stolen,” and that this danger is a primary reason to eliminate nuclear arms.

UMass student Meaghan Foran, who attended the meeting, said, “I think I will [volunteer],” but that there were some questions she wanted to have more answers to, even if “my gut feeling goes with [global zero].”

According to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, in 1985 there were around 65,000 nuclear weapons, whereas today there are less than 24,000.

Ambassador Graham touched on this point, saying that “if we can go from 60 [thousand nuclear weapons] to 24 in 20 years, why can’t we go from 24 to 0 in the next 20 years?”

Russia and the United States have periodically agreed to decrease their nuclear weapons arsenals. In 2004, President George W. Bush passed Resolution 1540 in the United Nations, which called for nuclear materials to be secured and their export to be restricted.

When Choi was in elementary school in South Korea, she heard a siren go off warning of a possible war with North Korea.

“Why did I have to deal with this?” Choi asked the group after recounting the story. Choi said that these experiences – as well as the terrorist attacks of September 11 – were primary reasons for her drive against nuclear weapons.

“The solution lies in spreading knowledge,” said Choi. Global Zero’s goal “will not be possible without it.”

Michael Phillis can be reached at mphillis@student.umass.edu.

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