A new project has been launched in Britain to ask the World Court whether the nuclear states are complying with their Good Faith obligation to achieve the global abolition of nuclear weapons.
Eleven years ago, the World Court issued an Advisory Opinion on Nuclear Weapons. In that 1996 Opinion, the World Court unanimously agreed that there is an obligation to negotiate global nuclear disarmament in Good Faith and to achieve the desired result - a nuclear-free world. The nuclear-armed states, especially the United States, have not responded well to this obligation, although lately some formerly high level officials (Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, William Perry, and Sam Nunn) are calling urgently for nuclear disarmament.
The World Court's Opinion highlighted the role of international law in assessing the legal status of nuclear weapons. It encourages scrutiny of the policy of nuclear deterrence. Recent statements by NATO generals on the first use of nuclear weapons give urgency to revisiting the Opinion.
The Opinion gave rise to several civil society initiatives. These include the Mayors for Peace, the Parliamentary Network for Nuclear Disarmament, and the Middle Powers Initiative, which works with the New Agenda Coalition.
Now is the time to return to the World Court and bring more legal pressure on the nuclear-armed states. A renewed initiative will require participation by citizens worldwide. You can participate by contacting one of the following sponsoring organizations: International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War; International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms; International Peace Bureau; Abolition 2000 Europe; International Law Campaign; Pax Christi International; and Scientists for Global Responsibility.
Canadian troops have been in Afghanistan for over six years. The Kandahar area where they are deployed is especially dangerous. So far, 79 Canadian soldiers and one diplomat have been killed.
No official report has been released concerning the mental health issues of Canadian soldiers, but some insights can be gleaned from a recent study of US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, where a team of experts surveyed more than 2,200 soldiers in Iraq and nearly 900 in Afghanistan. Each year there is a similar American study.
Not surprisingly, the extent of the mental problems is related to the amount of exposure to combat. During the past year, combat trauma was less in Iraq but worse in Afghanistan, where about 83% of the US soldiers said they had been in areas of mortar fire. The survey showed no change in the mental problems in Iraq between 2007 and 2008 and, if anything, a slight improvement in morale there, but depression especially became more prevalent in Afghanistan, where violence has increased.
Mental problems increase among soldiers who have been sent to war zones for a third or fourth time, as compared to those on their first or second deployment. Over 27 percent of the noncommissioned officers - the sergeants responsible for leading troops into combat - reported such problems during their third or fourth tours of duty.
The effects of stress affected the soldiers' personal lives at home. By the end of their 15-month tour of duty, 30 percent of the enlisted men said they planned to separate from their wives, divorce them, or break off other personal relationships, whereas only ten percent had expressed such feelings at the beginning.
The Philadelphia Inquirer has reported a study of the 131 survivors of the Pennsylvania National Guard's Alpha Company. Some 46 percent said they had been treated for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This probably reflects their unusually difficult front-line assignment in Iraq, where they lost six men. The average PTSD rates among other returning veterans is about 14 percent. All sorts of emotional symptoms can be part of PTSD - especially anxiety disorders.
The Canadian Forces as a whole has about the same rate of PTSD as the wider Canadian public - 2.8 percent - but their rates of depression are about twice as high. Between 2003 and 2005, when preparing for deployment to Afghanistan, more than 5,000 Canadian soldiers were screened for mental illness and fewer than one percent were kept from going.
War stresses can also affect the soldiers' families, including their children, who are occasionally diagnosed with "vicarious PTSD." Most of the people who are treated for this disorder experience some improvement if not complete cures, but soldiers are often reluctant for reveal their distress or ask for help.
Sources: CTV News; Votevets@mail. democracyinaction.com; Philadelphia Inquirer
Peace Magazine Apr-Jun 2008, page 31. Some rights reserved.
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