“Just give me the warm power of the sun

Give me the steady flow of a waterfall

Give me the spirit of living things as they return to clay

Just give me the restless power of the wind

Give me the comforting glow of a wood fire

But won’t you take all your atomic poison power away?”

“Power,” by The Doobie Brothers, 1979

Four-star General Lee Butler had a 33-year Air Force career and from 1991 to 1994 he was commander of all U.S. strategic nuclear forces. He had authority over the nuclear triad of bombers, submarines and land-based missiles.

During his tenure, he knew more than anyone in the world about U.S. nuclear forces. Within two years of retiring, he began traveling the world as an outspoken nuclear abolitionist.

According to an interview with Robert Kazel from the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation on May 27, 2015, Butler had become concerned about the moral implications of nuclear weapons and saw the folly of pursuing them as if they were our salvation, “instead of the prospective engine of our utter destruction.”

Butler mused that human beings are the most destructive species our planet has ever seen, and that we kill each other for a variety of reasons, ranging from pleasure to vengefulness to fear for our survival.

“As long as these weapons exist, and people hold them in such high regard for reasons of national esteem, they act as a brake on our capacity for advancing our humanity,” Butler said in the interview.

Setsuko Thurlow was 13 years old when the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb on her hometown of Hiroshima, Japan. She is a hibakusha, or one who has experienced the deadly and lasting effects of nuclear weapons. She miraculously survived and ultimately became an activist trying to teach the world about the tragedy of pursuing nuclear weapons. In 2017, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Beatrice Fihn, the executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), for their “work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for their ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear weapons, or BAN Treaty.”

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), is the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons with the ultimate goal being their total elimination. In 2017, 122 nations voted to approve the treaty and 55 of those nations have ratified it.

According to Ralph Hutchison, of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance (OREPA), the legal power of the treaty is not universal. It applies only to the countries that have officially joined the treaty. The list does not include any of the nuclear weapons states or their protectorates — nations that are covered by the “nuclear umbrella.”

But, Hutchison pointed out that the moral power of the treaty does not see national or state boundaries and that it has force across the globe, including in the nuclear weapons states. He points out that the moral power rests not only on the insistence of signatories to the treaty that their lives matter, but that they can not conscionably be subjected to the effects of nuclear war.

The signatories know that the only way to assure that no one else is ever subject to the horrors they have witnessed is to dismantle all nuclear weapons under the terms of the Ban Treaty.

We must embark upon this long and complicated path. All those who understand the lethal puzzle of these weapons must help spread efforts about the utter necessity of dismantling the thousands of them. We must increase the numbers of those who “get it” and we cannot rest until the job is done. Only then will the poison of atomic power be taken away.