“Never Again”: Taking Action against the Nuclear Threat

Posted on August 22, 2023 By

by John Whitehead

The following is adapted from remarks given at the Vigil to End the Nuclear Danger, a peace witness outside the White House co-sponsored by the Consistent Life Network.

John Whitehead No Nukes

John Whitehead, delivering these remarks


We are here today to call for an end to the nuclear threat that hangs over humanity. We are here to remember the past and to call for action in the present, because the nuclear threat has been a part of our past and is part of our present today. And if we do not prevent it, the nuclear threat may well prevent all of us from having a future.

The nuclear threat began 78 years ago this July with the testing of the first atomic bomb in New Mexico. The bomb’s terrible consequences became apparent immediately, when that initial test, through its radioactive fallout, harmed those living close by.

Nuclear weapons soon showed their horrific power to harm even more vividly when they were used 78 years ago this August to annihilate two cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing tens of thousands of their inhabitants. The mass killing at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the first and—to date—only use of nuclear weapons in wartime. Sadly, though, Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not mark the end of the threat from nuclear weapons.

The United States and soon other nations (ultimately eight other nations in total) built more nuclear weapons in the years after 1945. And those nuclear weapons continued to wreak their terrible consequences.

More people were harmed and had their lives cut short because of continued nuclear testing, both here in the United States and across the globe. More people were harmed or had their lives cut short or had their land polluted by the toxic consequences of mining uranium to make nuclear weapons. Many more people, especially the world’s poorest people, were robbed of resources they needed that instead went into building and maintaining nuclear weapons.

Above all, the continued presence of nuclear weapons over the last 78 years has meant that all humanity, every single person on this planet, has been living under the threat of nuclear war. The threat of nuclear war means the threat of a war that could kill on a scale beyond imagining and bring an end to civilization.

The threat of nuclear war has not gone away. In fact, it is more present than ever today in 2023. The Ukraine war seriously threatens to escalate into a nuclear war between Russia and the United States. Other conflicts, such as those between the United States and China or North Korea, also hold the possibility of turning into nuclear conflicts. Meanwhile, still more hundreds of billions of dollars are slated to be wasted on nuclear weapons; the facilities at Los Alamos, which once built the first nuclear bomb, are now preparing to build nuclear weapons again.

Mary Liepold no nukes

Mary Liepold at the vigil

The situation today is very dangerous and requires action. People are taking action, though, and that is reason for hope.

An international movement against nuclear weapons culminated a few years ago in an international Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. That treaty, which came into effect in 2021, commits the nations who signed and ratified it to renounce the possession of nuclear weapons. To date, 68 nations have committed themselves to this treaty, which demonstrates the opposition to nuclear weapons that exists across the world.

Another hopeful sign is the efforts of the Back from the Brink Campaign. Back from the Brink is working to reduce the danger of nuclear war through a series of crucial policy steps that the United States could take. These steps include taking nuclear weapons off the high level of alert that allows the weapons to be used at a moment’s notice; making it impossible for nuclear weapons to be used only by the decision of a single human being, the president of the United States; and cancelling plans to spend untold amounts of money on new nuclear weapons.

Both these efforts to end the nuclear danger, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and the Back from the Brink Campaign, have recently gained support within the United States Congress. This year, members of Congress introduced House Resolution 77, which calls on the United States both to adopt similar measures to those advocated by the Back from the Brink Campaign and to embrace the goals of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. This resolution provides a crucial first step in building significant political momentum within the United States toward ending the nuclear threat.

All these efforts are reasons for hope because, to repeat, we need to take action to end this threat. We need to finally end the catastrophic danger that has hung over humanity since the first atomic bomb was tested 78 years ago. Remembering the horrific loss of life from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings and the many, many people harmed by nuclear testing, nuclear weapons production, and the theft of resources from the poor for making these weapons, we are here today to say “Never again.”


For more of our posts in which John Whitehead discusses nuclear weapons, see:

The Persisting Threat of Nuclear Weapons: A Brief Primer

Nuclear Disarmament as a Social Justice Issue

A Global Effort to Protect Life: The UN Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons

“Everybody Else in the World Was Dead”: Hiroshima’s Legacy



nuclear weapons

  1. Ken Cooper says:

    I was there. John spoke very well. I was impressed with style, volume, sincerity, knowledge…
    He had the TRUTH. The Spirit was with him. 🙂
    Ken “Coop”
    Recently retired religion teacher

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