We Did It, World! We Destroyed Our Chemical Weapons

On Friday, July 7th, 2023, our world reached a major milestone when the United States finally destroyed its remaining chemical weapons stockpile — the last of the planet’s eight countries to do so.

What a remarkable achievement! We recognized the terrible toll those weapons could take, and the countries of the world decided, jointly and unitedly, to get rid of them.

That real-life miracle happened because the eight nations that admitted to manufacturing and stockpiling chemical weapons voluntarily agreed — in 1997 — to destroy them. Signed by nearly 200 countries, the Chemical Weapons Convention bound all of its “State Parties” in a global treaty to permanently ban the possession, manufacture, and use of any chemical weapon in warfare.

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That happened because the world collectively realized that the indiscriminate horror of chemical weapons — which kill everyone, combatants and civilians alike, in horrible inhumane ways — should never be used against people.

This final step means, according to Kingston Reif, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Threat Reduction and Arms Control, as reported by National Public Radio, that “one hundred percent of the world’s declared chemical weapons have now been destroyed.” A few rogue nations may still have some un-declared chemical weapons, but the vast majority are now gone.

In early July of 2023 the last remaining warhead of the American chemical weapons stockpile met its demise at the Bluegrass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant in Kentucky, when moon-suited technicians broke open and drained the final rocket of its deadly sarin nerve gas, and then chemically de-activated it.

If the world can do that, just imagine — what else could we do? Could we agree to ban and then deactivate all weapons of mass destruction? Could we disarm and de-militarize globally? Could we even agree to ban war itself? 

The Baha’i teachings say a resounding yes to all of those questions. 

Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, wrote an unprecedented series of letters and tablets to the world’s kings and rulers in the latter part of the 19th century, urging the major political leaders to disarm, dismantle their military capabilities, and ultimately come together to stop all warfare:

The time must come when the imperative necessity for the holding of a vast, an all-embracing assemblage of men will be universally realized. The rulers and kings of the earth must needs attend it, and, participating in its deliberations, must consider such ways and means as will lay the foundations of the world’s Great Peace amongst men. Such a peace demandeth that the Great Powers should resolve, for the sake of the tranquillity of the peoples of the earth, to be fully reconciled among themselves. Should any king take up arms against another, all should unitedly arise and prevent him. If this be done, the nations of the world will no longer require any armaments, except for the purpose of preserving the security of their realms and of maintaining internal order within their territories. This will ensure the peace and composure of every people, government and nation. We fain would hope that the kings and rulers of the earth, the mirrors of the gracious and almighty name of God, may attain unto this station, and shield mankind from the onslaught of tyranny ….

In Baha’u’llah’s tablet to Queen Victoria, who led the British Empire at the time, he advanced the Baha’i principle of collective security among all nations, and called on every world leader to unite and band together to establish a planetary peace:

Be united, O kings of the earth, for thereby will the tempest of discord be stilled amongst you, and your peoples find rest, if ye be of them that comprehend. Should any one among you take up arms against another, rise ye all against him, for this is naught but manifest justice.

This kind of collective security, reflected so prominently today in existing collective defense agencies like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), binds nations in agreements to defend one another in case of attack. Those treaties, and others like them in various parts of the world, have helped us avert major world wars for more than 75 years, since the end of World War II.

Ultimately and inevitably, Baha’is believe, the world will need to create a collective security agency that includes every country on Earth, so war becomes a thing of the past, a relic of a bygone, barbaric era.

That sort of unanimous support could entirely eliminate the wars that have plagued humanity for most of our recorded history, ushering in our collective maturation, that period the poets and philosophers refer to as “the golden age of humanity” — an age that Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith until his passing in 1957, writing in his book God Passes By, characterized as witnessing:

the unification of all the peoples and nations of the world, the establishment of the Most Great Peace, the inauguration of the Kingdom of the Father upon earth, the coming of age of the entire human race and the birth of a world civilization

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This glorious vision of a peaceful future, Baha’is believe, is not only possible but will, one day, definitely be achieved. World peace, the Baha’i teachings say, must occur. Baha’u’llah’s son and successor, Abdu’l-Baha, in his 1875 book The Secret of Divine Civilization, wrote

… man’s glory and greatness do not consist in his being avid for blood and sharp of claw, in tearing down cities and spreading havoc, in butchering armed forces and civilians. What would mean a bright future for him would be his reputation for justice, his kindness to the entire population whether high or low, his building up countries and cities, villages and districts, his making life easy, peaceful and happy for his fellow beings, his laying down fundamental principles for progress, his raising the standards and increasing the wealth of the entire population.

In a 1912 interview with a Canadian newspaper reporter, Abdu’l-Baha said:

Disarmament is surely coming, but it must come, and it will come, by the universal consent of the civilized nations of the earth. By international agreement they will lay down their arms and the great era of peace will be ushered in. In this and no other way can peace be established upon the earth.

OK, world — we’ve just proven, by the successful conclusion of our international agreement to jointly eliminate all known chemical weapons, that we have the ability to reach, abide by, and sustain global treaties regarding weaponry and warfare. Now our leaders have the opportunity to take the obvious next step, and in an “all-embracing assemblage,” outlaw war itself.

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