Nuclear Crisis: Can the Sane Prevail in Time?

The first sentence in Steve Taylor’s book, The Fall: The Insanity of the Ego in Human History and the Dawning of a New Era, reads:

For the last 6,000 years, human beings have been suffering from a kind of collective psychosis. For almost all of recorded history human beings have been – at least to some degree – insane.

Through much of recorded history it has been accepted as normal that, periodically, large groups of men should meet and hack each other to pieces. This was the method of choice for resolving disputes. In the last few hundred years, with the aid of science, our capacity for killing other members of our species has been accelerating way beyond reason. It has now reached an apogee. We are at the end of the process. We can now, in a few hours, incinerate every human being in existence. What an accomplishment! What an epitaph! We have two thousand nuclear weapons held on hair trigger alert, already mounted on board their missiles and ready to be launched at a moment’s notice. This could happen at any time; perhaps when one of the nine nuclear states elects the ultimate psychopathic and/or narcissistic individual as their leader – one who believes that a first strike will enable him to win a nuclear war and rule gloriously thereafter.

Ian Hughes is a physicist and psychologist. He has just written a book, not published at time of writing, entitled Imperfect Design: How Our Psychology Threatens Our World.  In the book he describes how psychologists and psychiatrists have recently identified three psychological disorders from which a small proportion of humans suffer. This psychologically diseased minority has tended to dominate the normal majority. The disorders can make the bearers a danger to the rest of us. And when such individuals get into power, with the destructive forces already referred to at their disposal, this danger could not be more acute and urgent. The disorders are Psychopathy, Paranoid Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Psychopaths lack the ability to empathize with others. They relate to people in a similar way to relating to things. Many psychopaths have demonstrated their ability to kill without conscience.

Narcissists suffer from the belief that only they are important and thus are unable to appreciate the concept of equality. They have a sense of entitlement. They are entitled to more wealth, more power, more of everything than everyone else.

Paranoid Personality Disorder sufferers live in fear. They are hyper-sensitive and see everything and everyone as a threat.

In his book Mr Hughes focuses on the mass killers of history — Stalin, Mao, Hitler. Looking at what is happening in the world today it is very easy to see these disorders rife and threatening our survival right now.

Tragically, in our corporate culture the psychopaths have a home in organizations which embrace their own values. In his book The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, Joel Bakan writes: “The corporation’s legally defined mandate is to pursue, relentlessly and without exception, its own self-interest, regardless of the often harmful consequences it might cause to others…” and “The corporation, after all, is deliberately designed to be a psychopath: purely self-interested, incapable of concern for others, amoral, and without conscience.”  Psychopaths can fight their way to the top of corporations without experiencing the restraints of conscience felt by others. Without conscience they ruthlessly increase their wealth by releasing every last ton of carbon dioxide in profiting from every available borehole or fracking site. Without conscience they can manufacture massive amounts of weapons and distribute them round the world. Without conscience they can cut down the rain forests, deplete and poison the oceans and impoverish the soil. They justify all this with intelligence-insulting arguments like: “If we did not do it, someone else would”;  “It is our duty to maximize the profits for our shareholders”; “One government/corporation/minister can do nothing unless all others act simultaneously”; “Science will find some way of making everything OK”. The UK government is spreading the power of corporations by its obsessive privatization policy.

And the government, itself, in many instances exhibits psychologically dysfunctional behaviour.

The most dire example of all this keeps us all in a state of conscious or unconscious dread. The existence and deployment of nuclear weapons keep the survival of the human race on a knife edge. This is not rational behavior. It brings to mind Sigmund Freud’s opinion that man has a tendency to mass suicide (a death wish). In his 2006 White Paper, the then Prime Minister Blair wrote that we need an arsenal of nuclear weapons because no one knows what the future will bring. Of course, we all know that no one knows what the future will bring. That is the human condition. But most of us do not wish to prepare for the incineration of millions of fellow human beings to make us feel ‘secure’. This sounds as extreme as paranoia can get. The United States’ leaders have a vastly bigger nuclear arsenal than the British power elite. In a time of relative peace they have the most powerful armed forces ever devised.  Their military posture involves being able to fight two wars simultaneously and to have the capacity to quickly strike in any part of the world. Militarily their goal is “Full Spectrum Dominance”. Paranoia. Nuclear states have tested 15 megaton and even 50 megaton nuclear weapons. These are one thousand times and over three thousand times more destructive than the Hiroshima bomb which killed 140,000 people and wiped out a large town. What sort of people feel so insecure and paranoid that they think they need the option of such weapons?

At the same time as suffering from extreme paranoia the US leaders have an attitude of “xceptionalism”. They have a “manifest destiny”. They invade and attack other parts of the world at will (provided these are parts of the world that are unable to effectively fight back). The believe that they can do this ‘by right”. Narcissism. The narcissism of the leaders of the nuclear states takes many forms. Switzerland has no nuclear “weapons but its government has built nuclear shelters for all its citizens. The US government decided not to build nuclear shelters for its citizens and then went on to spent more on building them exclusively for the government than it spent on all variety of needs and services for the rest of us.

Kurt Nimmo edits and writes for, billed as the home of the number one Internet News Show in the World. He writes:

In America, the criminally insane rule and the rest of us, or the vast majority of the rest of us, either do not care, do not know, or are distracted and properly brainwashed into acquiescence. [my emphasis]

Michael Portillo was UK Defense Secretary of state from 1995 to 1997. He says:

I think [the UK nuclear arsenal] …. is neither independent, nor is it any kind of deterrent because we face enemies like the Taliban and al-Qaeda, who cannot be deterred by nuclear weapons. It is a tremendous waste of money and is done entirely for reasons of national prestige. [my emphasis]

For “national prestige” read ‘bloating the egos of the power elite’. The leaders of the nuclear states put all other states at risk as well as their own people. This is done to enhance the leaders’ sense of their own power. Could narcissism become more extreme, more out of control and terrifying? We need to learn about the psychology of such people so that we can keep them out of power. Carl Jung warned, “We need more understanding of human nature….we are the origin of all coming evil”. And as Victor Gollantz wrote nuclear weapons are “pure, unqualified evil”.

The forces of reason, humanity and sanity are marshalling to break the grip of these leaders with behavioural disorders. First of all these forces are warning us that we are being subjected to nightmarish risks.

Some nuclear warnings

Here are a few from the countless warnings which have been issued by sane people and which are being ignored by our psychologically disordered leaders.

On May 24th, 1946 Albert Einstein sent the following telegram to prominent Americans. “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”  The thinking of our nuclear leaders has not changed and the situation is now immeasurably worse.

On July 25th, 1961, in a report to the American people John F Kennedy warned: “In the thermonuclear age, any misjudgement on either side about the intentions of the other could rain more devastation in several hours than has been wrought in all the wars of humanity.”

On September 25th, 1961 in addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations, John F Kennedy stated: “Today, every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be habitable. Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.”

Jumping to 2013…

On  January 18, 2013, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, told the Monterey Institute of International Studies: “Deferring nuclear disarmament indefinitely pending the satisfaction of an endlessly growing list of preconditions can lead only to a world full of nuclear weapons. The longer we procrastinate, the greater the risk that these weapons will be used, will proliferate or be acquired by terrorists”.

On April 24th, 2013, at the NPT Conference, South Africa’s Ambassador Abdul Minty presented a statement on behalf of 74 nations. It started “Our countries are deeply concerned about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons”.

On February 24, 2014, Ray Acheson of ICAN (The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) International Steering Group and Reaching Critical Will, addressing the Second Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, said:

I am speaking on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, a coalition of over 350 organizations in 90 countries. They do not bring security. They bring death and destruction on a scale that cannot be justified for any reason.

The use of less than one percent of existing arsenals against cities would have extreme and long lasting consequences for the Earth’s climate and for agriculture. This would put billions of lives in jeopardy.

Unless we act, nuclear weapons will be used, either by accident, design, or miscalculation. The only questions are when, where, and how many.

On May 20th, 2014 Desmond Tutu and David Krieger, President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation wrote, in an article entitled, “We Must End the Madness of Nuclear Weapons”:

Instead of working to end the insanity (my emphasis) of the nuclear age once and for all, these nine countries waste trillions of dollars on their nuclear arsenals, in violation of both the treaty and customary international law. We can no longer afford this perilous game of nuclear roulette.

The United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs states: “Nuclear weapons are the most dangerous weapons on earth.  One can destroy a whole city, potentially killing millions….. The dangers from such weapons arise from their very existence…The United Nations has sought to eliminate such weapons ever since its establishment.”

All these warnings and countless more have been ignored by the dysfunctional leaders of the nuclear states. They know best. This is narcissism of a high order but it is even more sinister than that. It denotes a terrifying recklessness and absence of even a normal instinct for self-preservation. They have their bunkers but what sort of world would they and their families emerge into?

Leaders of Nuclear States Show Contempt for Us All

The nuclear states who are signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (UK, US, Russia, China and France) undertake to get rid of their nuclear weapons. The treaty came into force in 1970. Every five years there is a Review Conference to see how this is going. Before the Review Conference there are a number of Pre-Review Conferences (referred to as PrepComs) to decide what will be discussed at the Review Conference. The third (!) Pre-Review Conference for the 2015 Review Conference has just concluded – without adopting any agreed recommendations! All the nuclear states are renewing their nuclear arsenals. The British Government has declared that it is building an arsenal for the next fifty years. The nuclear armed states illustrated their commitment to making progress with disarmament by pleading that they had made a glossary of nuclear definitions! This ludicrous pantomime is treating the public with contempt. It is clear that the nuclear states have no intention of honouring the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Supporting Sanity

In my previous article, “Nuclear Weapons: Hope At Last” I pointed to the international meetings in Oslo and Mexico at which the non-nuclear states determined to take matters into their own hands and protect themselves and the planet by bypassing the madness of the nuclear states. The conferences focus on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons use and the nightmarish consequences. Dates have now been fixed for the third of these conferences. It will take place on 8-9 December in Vienna, Austria. It is expected that the Vienna conference will take the matter of a Nuclear Weapons Treaty much further forward.  The treaty would ban the existence of nuclear weapons. Moreover, after Vienna, South Africa has mentioned the possibility of hosting a fourth conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. If the combined efforts of the non-nuclear states are successful in achieving an international ban on the existence and use of nuclear weapons, then the nuclear armed states will be under great pressure to follow suit.

There are now a vast number of civil society organisations world-wide that are demanding a ban on the existence of nuclear weapons. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) states that “among our goals we call on states, international organizations, civil society organizations and other actors to take immediate action to support a multilateral process of negotiations for a treaty banning nuclear weapons”.  This is a global campaign coalition working to mobilize people in all countries to inspire, persuade and pressure their governments to initiate negotiations for a treaty banning nuclear weapons. Everyone is urged to join. Contact details for countries round the planet can be accessed at ICAN’s website.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent continue to make the world aware of their passionate opposition to nuclear weapons. At Sydney, Australia, 17 November 2013, they reiterated their deep concern about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and adopted a four-year action plan towards ensuring that nuclear weapons are never used again. The world’s largest humanitarian organisation reiterated its objective to prohibit the use of, and completely eliminate, nuclear weapons.

The website of Chatham House (The Royal Institute of International Affairs) states it is a “world-leading source of independent analysis, informed debate and influential ideas on how to build a prosperous and secure world for all”. They are not renowned for overstating a case. In April 2014 they published a study entitled “Too Close for Comfort – Cases of Near Nuclear Use and Options for Policy”. They outline some of the near misses when the world has come close to the final catastrophe. They repeat what civil society has been saying for years. “There are many events that demonstrate the fragility of nuclear deterrence, including technical malfunctions and miscommunications”. They further state the primary finding of the study is that “…the risk associated with nuclear weapons is high”, adding that “For as long as nuclear weapons exist, the risk of an inadvertent, accident or deliberate detonation remains”.

The sword was suspended above Damocles head by a single horse’s hair. It is still there and now it hangs over us all. It will keep us in grave danger of a nuclear holocaust until we clean our world of all these obscene and insane instruments of Armageddon.

Jim McCluskey is the author of The Nuclear Threat. Read other articles by Jim.