Ira Helfand’s Letter in the New York Times

‘Living on Borrowed Time’: Eliminate Nuclear Arms

To the Editor:

Re “Don’t Ban the Bomb” (column, Oct. 7):

Bret Stephens repeats the tired refrain that nuclear weapons are necessary for our security and that the call for their elimination is dangerous and unrealistic.

He writes as if these weapons have some magical quality that keeps them from ever being used, and he omits any discussion of what such use would do to the world.

In fact, a limited nuclear war involving less than 0.03 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons could cause a global famine that would put two billion people at risk. A large-scale nuclear war would trigger an instant ice age that would kill most of humanity.

On more than half a dozen occasions we have avoided that fate because, as Robert McNamara once said: “We lucked out. It was luck that prevented nuclear war.”

So who is living in a fantasy world? Those who understand that we have been living on borrowed time for the last 70 years and need to get rid of nuclear weapons before our luck runs out, or those who think that we can continue to maintain thousands of nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert and hope that the wise and thoughtful leaders who control these weapons will make sure that nothing ever goes wrong?

IRA HELFAND, LEEDS, MASS.

The writer is a member of the International Steering Group of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which received the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.

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