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Publications:  IALANA News March 2005 - Online Edition

Editorial - The Tsunami and Nuclear Weapons
C.G. Weeramantry (Sri Lanka), President of IALANA

On December 26 the force unleashed from a major shift in the Indian Ocean tectonic plates hit South Asia with an unimaginable force that destroyed whole villages, swept away countless families and scarred our landscapes and our souls. The total number of deaths in the tsunami has been estimated at around 150,000. It will take years for communities in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India and Thailand to rebuild.

The global response to this devastation has been one of overwhelming compassion and generosity. People from all walks of life, at great cost to themselves, have given generously to the survivors to help them rebuild their lives. The whole world has rallied to the assistance of the countries affected in a massive demonstration of international support and sympathy. Governments have forgiven some of the foreign debt ‘owed’ by the already impoverished South Asian peoples. Armed forces from many countries have taken a break from the dubious profession of war to contribute their skills and resources to the much more honorable vocation of service to others.

It is these acts of compassion, cooperation and service which indicate the capabilities of the human race to rise above the egoistical pursuits of greed and power and the anachronistic institutions of war. The universal response to this tragedy indicates how strongly humanity could respond to avoid similar or greater devastation purposefully caused by other humans. It shows that humans care enough about each other to do their utmost to prevent such devastating tragedies – whether natural or human caused – from happening again.

More lives were extinguished in a few moments in Hiroshima and Nagasaki than in all the countries affected by the tsunami. Still, for nearly 60 years we have done little to prevent that man-made tsunami from devastating our cities and civilizations on an infinitely larger scale.

Today’s nuclear weapons are much larger than those used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Moreover if the bomb were ever used today it would likely not be the only bomb used, but the first in a nuclear exchange, which would geometrically multiply these figures and cause more destruction than a hundred tsunamis – and possibly the destruction of civilization or the extinction of humanity.

We can do little to curb the awesome powers of nature. But we can do much to curb the awesomely destructive powers of humans – especially when that power is irrational in its conception, illegal in its use and unconscionable in its consequences. This is the work that IALANA will continue to do in South Asia and around the world until we have eliminated nuclear weapons and achieved a significantly more peaceful world.


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