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The U.N. Goes for Disarmament

By Douglas Mattern

A gathering of profound importance for the entire world community is gaining momentum as the convening date approaches. The event is the second United Nations Special Session on Disarmament (SSD II) to begin on June 7, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

Scheduled to last five weeks. SSD II will have the participation of virtually all 156 Member States of the U.N., with many delegations led by heads of State, and others by foreign ministers, Ambassador Ismat Killani of Iraq will preside over the meeting.

The responsibility for organizing the disarmament session is charged to the Preparatory Committee, which was established by the 35th session of the General Assembly, and consists of delegations from 78 nations. This committee held a total of 29 meetings in 1981, with most of the work directed to creating a provisional agenda for SSD II. Highlights of this agenda include:

* general debate during the first weeks

* consideration and adoption of the Comprehensive Program of Disarmament

* implementation of the Declaration of the 1980s as the Second Disarmament Decade

* enhancing the effectiveness of machinery in the field of disarmament and strengthening the role of the United Nations in this field, including the possibility of convening a World Disarmament Conference

* measures to mobilize public opinion in favor of disarmament

The man agenda item is the Comprehensive Programme of Disarmament. A Working Group of the Disarmament Commission, which was established by the U.N. in 1978, is working to complete this program. The Chairman is Ambassador Garcia Robles of Mexico, who recently told the General Assembly that the present concept is for a four-stage Program with a five-year duration for each stage.

The timing and purpose of SSD II carries the hopes of people in every land who understand the great imperative of our time is to stop the arms race and move to controlled disarmament with security. This need was bluntly expressed in the Final Document of the first U.N. disarmament session in 1978. "Mankind is confronted with a choice: we must halt the arms race and proceed to disarmament or face annihilation."

This is all too clear when we review the incredible overkill nuclear arsenal already in place. For example, the Soviet Union how has 20,000 nuclear bombs stockpiled, with 7,000 nuclear warheads aimed at the United States. At the same time the United States has 25,000-30,000 nuclear bombs stockpiled, with 10,000 aimed at the Soviet Union. And yet in spite of this amazing overkill stockpile, we are currently engaged in a massive escalation of the arms race. An example of this escalation is manafest in President Reagan's astronomical $1.5 trillion military spending plan for the next five years, including a $180 billion nuclear weapons program that will add 10,000 atomic warheads to our arsenal.

The reality is that we cannot continue in this manner without virtually ensuring a nuclear war, whether through accident, miscalculation, or design. In this regard it is foolish to become involved in a numbers game concerning the quantity of missiles and warheads in the possession of each super-power. The numbers are already so vast they exceed any realm of reason: thus every new weapon added to either stockpile makes all of us less secure.

The crisis in which we find ourselves results from decades of national policies which have been predicated on a cold war perspective of the world that have a relation to the needs of humanity, or to the global politics that are necessary to resolve today's problems. These policies have let to purposely designed confrontation politics, efforts to dominate the world's resources and markets an economy that is geared to military production, and strategic scenarios which now include the potential of a nuclear pre-emptive attack (first-strike) the fantasy of waging "limited" nuclear war, and retaliation programs in which the casualties are figured in hundreds of millions of human beings.

It is clear that a great change in attitudes and policies is imperative, and yet as we view the world scene it is equally obvious that no single nation has the moral record or credibility to lead the movement for progressive change. At the same time, while most national leaders engage in a great deal of public moralizing and high sounding rhetoric, it is, for the most part, spurious, designed for purely poltical reasons for the cold war school.

The movement for disarmament, security, and building the foundation for a world community, where lasting peace and progress are possible, must come from concerned people: individuals and organizations who are willing to work cooperatively while demanding that all governments and societies adopt programs for disarmament and peace.

In the immediate future, this means performing a major constructive role--as well as adhering to the consensus of opinion at SSD II. While it is fashionable to constantly criticize the United Nations, the truth is the U.N. is performing a great deal of responsible work in many crucial fields. In the realm of the arms race and related problems, the U.N. has produced comprehensive studies which provide the facts and possibilities for dramatic progress. Published studies include:

* Regional Disarmament

* Nuclear Weapons

* Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty

* Confidence Building Measures

* Relationship Between Disarmament and International Security

* Relationship Between Disarmament and Development

* U.N. Satellite Monitoring Agency

* Economic and Social Consequences of the Arms Race

* Reduction of Military Budgets

* World Disarmament Campaign

It was myopic and jingoist thinking that ensured the failure of the League of Nations in the 1930s, leading to the most devastating war in history. The failure of the United Nations--due to the lack of public support--could lead to an even greater disaster nuclear war.

Our responsibility to support and to strengthen this international institution was eloquently stated by President Roosevelt in his last speech before a joint session of Congress on March 1 1945. Roosevelt was making a plea of support for the United Nations Conference which was soon to convene in San Francisco: "No plan is perfect. Whatever is adopted at San Francisco will doubtless have to be amended time and again over the years, just as our own Constitution has been. No one can say exactly how long any plan will last. Peace can endure only so long as humanity really insists upon it, and is willing to work for it, and sacrifice for it. Twenty-five years ago, American fighting men looked to the statesmen of the world to finish the work of peace for which they fought and suffered. We failed them. We cannot fail them again and expect the world to survive..."

The most immediate contribution we can give to the United Nations, as well as efforts to defuse the arms race, is to strongly support SSD II. Understanding this, hundreds of peace and peace-related organizations around the world are actively preparing for this even through public education programs. During the five-week period of the U.N. meeting, thousands of people will come to New York to demonstrate their support, and to insist on positive results. Similar activities are being organized in cities throughout the world.

In the final analysis, success for SSD II, and off efforts to end the prevailing nuclear madness, and begin the process of building a world community, depends on enough people becoming concerned and involved. Perhaps the bottom line can be found in a statement that was part of a resolution against nuclear weapons signed by Bettrand Russell. Albert Einstein and others: We appeal, as human beings: Remember your humanity and forget the rest."

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