July 30: Mass. Peace Action Sponsors Showing of "Countdown to Zero"
“Countdown to Zero makes old terrors radioactively new again.”
“A hair-raising look at nuclear proliferation from the producers of An Inconvenient Truth.”
“A nuclear wake-up call about the real threats we face and the urgent need for action.”
These press comments (respectively from Entertainment Weekly, The Wall Street Journal, and The Huffington Post) describe a terrific film, Countdown to Zero, that is coming to the Kendall Square Theater on July 30th. It's terrific in both senses: wonderful and terrifying, for it is about nuclear weapons.
While we managed to avoid a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union, it wasn't clear that we would always be so lucky. There were several close calls, the Cuban Missile Crisis being one of the major ones. (There were some minor ones too.) It could well have escalated out of control, were it not for the cool-headed handling of the confrontation by President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev. Later, when the Norwegians launched a research missile, the Soviets were informed of it beforehand but, because of a mix-up, they interpreted it as part of a U.S. nuclear attack. They were just a few minutes from launching a massive counterattack when they realized their error and averted world-wide Armageddon. It is clearly not a good idea to plan on continuing to have such luck.
Of course the Cold War is over, and we are all safe from nuclear weapons now, right? Wrong! Along with the original five (U.S., U.S.S.R., France, Britain, China), nuclear powers now include Israel, India, Pakistan, North Korea, maybe one day Iran, and even some "non-state actors." Al Qaeda, for one, has announced its intention to obtain and use a nuclear weapon, perhaps on a nice spring day turning an easily-accessible harbor into a local Armageddon.
The threat of further nuclear proliferation has caused a re-assessment of the security value of these weapons: many experts conclude that they threaten, rather than enhance, both U.S. and world security. In the U.S. the strongest opposition to abolishing nuclear weapons used to come from the defense establishment. That opposition is dissolving; most former Secretaries of State and Defense and Chairs of the Joint Chiefs of Staff now advocate nuclear abolition -- for the sake of U.S. security. These leading voices include James Baker, Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, William Perry, Colin Powell, and George Shultz. In addition, the U.S. Conference of Mayors has repeatedly voted to urge the President to initiate talks leading to nuclear abolition, because, like Hiroshima and Nagasaki, U.S. cities are likely targets. This vote, by both Democrats and Republicans, has been unanimous in each of the last three years.
Russia and the U.S. recently took a first step in the right direction in signing the New START Treaty. It calls for a 30 percent cut in long-range nuclear weapons and for a rigorous verification system, so that each side can be assured that the other is not cheating. It needs to be ratified by at least 67 votes in the Senate, but ratification is not assured. Senator Kerry is a leading voice in favor of ratification. Our new Senator, Scott Brown, has not stated his position. He needs to hear from you that you want him to vote to ratify.
Countdown to Zero makes clear why we need this treaty, as well as further steps toward ridding the world of these weapons, which harm the environment and increase tensions among nations even when they're not being used. The movie is both informative and suitably frightening -- and if you're one of the first 100 people to order a ticket for the 7:20 show on Friday, July 30th, you can see this first-run film for half price ($5)! To do that, go to www.masspeaceaction.org, call 617 354 2169, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eva Moseley and Guntram Mueller are board members of Massachusetts Peace Action.