Chicago Network for Justice and Peace sponsors the following books:

Towards Nuclear Zero

David Cortright and Raimo Vayrynen

An Appreciation of, “Towards Nuclear Zero,” by Dan Ursini

A nuclear holocaust is unimaginable to most people; total nuclear disarmament, all the way down to zero, is inconceivable to just about as many. It takes conviction, expertise and vision to discuss possibilities allowing that to happen; and those are among the qualities that make the book, “Towards Nuclear Zero,” by David Cortright and Raimo Vayrynen so valuable. Co-published by Routledge and by the Institute for Strategic Studies, it conveys a deeply informed perspective about the current disarmament picture and its surprisingly hopeful prospects.

That the term, “surprisingly hopeful,” may not ring true reflects a dissonance between the dynamism of the disarmament culture and the fixed state of the conventional wisdom about it. According to Cortright’s book, there is much energy and commitment and even good will in nuclear disarmament. This is news, in the truest sense, partly because disarmament is often treated as a middle-distance issue. The media may not have consigned it to Siberia, but Iceland certainly fits. An unfortunate result is that this book, written by an insider, will find its primary audience among other insiders –along, perhaps, with those willing take the leap toward real discovery.

For those who do, the rewards are considerable. Cortright writes with terrific intellectual energy and focus. He moves from topic to topic with the grace and ease of someone who has absorbed them thoroughly; and he offers deep analysis, identifying underlying causes and fundamental issues. The gravity of the world’s crises is as strong as ever; but the ability of the media to report them has slipped far from the techtonic plates. Writer’s like Cortright are more valuable than ever in getting the word out.

The book’s basic argument is that there is a confluence of circumstances in the world today that is pushing disarmament forward. They include the emerging multipolarity in world affairs; shifting power relationships; and the spread of nuclear weapons. Beyond that, there is “the deadly nexus of proliferation and terrorism,” and the resulting anxiety throughout the human community This is in deep contrast to the Cold War era, a grim two-hander between the United States and Russia, in a game of Mutually Assured Destruction. Though this is a book that hardly dotes on personalities, it finds a couple heroes in Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, who found an unlikely common cause in their commitment to nuclear disarmament. These two gambling old-timers did their best. If they fell short of total disarmament, they radically reduced its threat, accelerating the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Back in the Cold War, people often objected to the black/white bipolarities of the conflict. Now people complain of the many shades of grey making them nervous. Nations like India, Iran, Israel, North Korea and Pakistan have emerged on the nuclear scene, each with their own agenda. They are discussed in a fascinating chapter on regional challenges. Cortright excels at providing a clear identity to the nuclear ambitions of each nation and to the political/cultural context behind those aspirations. This is especially true about Iran which, as the author points out, has undergone a lengthy and stressful tenure contending with the perplexities and threats posed by the United States and by Israel. Indeed, this book offers the mirthless consolation that every nation pursuing nuclear ambitions has had to fight an uphill battle.

For a host of reasons, the chapter entitled, “Why States Give Up the Bomb,” refreshes the spirit with its insights about the nations of the world which have put nuclear weapons aside. Over a dozen of them have done so at this point. Though the reasons vary, first and foremost is the perception that nuclear weapons are not essential to security. Cortright’s powers of explanation are especially impressive in, “Building Cooperation for Non-proliferation and Disarmament,” in which he details the work of the International Atomic Energy Association and other regulatory agencies. Yet what I found most valuable about this book were the sections focusing directly on achieving Nuclear Zero. The solutions he discusses fascinate because they try to inject common sense into a discussion that absolutely resists common sense. At the height of the Cold War, American and Russian stockpiles of tactical nuclear weapons measured in the tens of thousands. The joint combined power of those weapons is beyond the range of the human imagination. The whole issue of nuclear power seems tease the human intellect into pushing the boundaries, introducing its own elasticized sense of reality. As Corwright points out, it is impossible to uninvent the nuclear bomb. He offers solutions which show genuine imagination. An important stop along the way is the adoption of, “virtual nuclear arsenals (VNA), the partial dismantlement of nuclear weapons through the removal of warheads from launch vehicles….The components of strategic arsenals would remain—missiles, guidance sets, fissile material, warheads—which could be reassembled within a designated time.” The book defines Nuclear Zero as a “weaponless deterrence in which the knowledge of how to make the bomb rather than the bomb itself becomes the basis of security.” There is an audacious simplicity here which is a powerful stimulant to serious thought and discussion. Cortright details a gradual continuum of disarmament, entailing many years, by which a nuclear nation would reasonably approach this state. I deeply respect the vision at work here and the courage needed to express it and I recommend it to those ready to entertain these challenging ideas.


Our Voice

Rossi de Fiori, Iride M., Ed.

produced by the International PEN Women Writers Committee, a four volume tri-lingual anthology (English, French, Spanish) of poetry, fiction and essays contributed by 113 women from 33 countries. Volume 1 includes author surnames A-M; Volume 2 includes author surnames N-Z. Volume 3 gathers together poems and short stories written by women in English, French and Spanish.

NUESTRA VOZ: VOLUME 4 is an anthology of the Women Writers Committee of International PEN, which consists in a selection of literary texts written by women coming from various PEN Centers throughout the world.

As Judith Raphael Buckrich explains in her editor's note, "The result has been the most kaleidoscopic range of submissions that anyone could have imagined. Every aspect of life is explored and every style of writing used to bring the spectrum of women's lives in the twenty-first century to the reader."


And One Wednesday

Martha Cerda

Mexican writer Martha Cerda’s daring testimonial novel about the gas leak in the sewer system of Guadalajara in 1992, documentary fiction using local reports from radio, television and newspapers, and the real names of public figures as well as imaginary characters representing different sectors of the stratified society of Guadalajara.


To Make Ourselves Heard

two volumes of newspaper articles and other short texts by Lucina Kathmann, International Vice-President of International PEN, former chair of the PEN Women Writers Committee, about the struggles of women writers everywhere, with abundant citations from works of women of all continents, some translated here for the first time. Published in bilingual version, Spanish/English.


Conditional Liberty

Latin American PEN Foundation

English translation of a selection of papers on the theme of Censorship and Self-Censorship presented by women writers in International PEN conferences in Guadalajara.

These books have been published by La Luciérnaga Editores, Guadalajuara, Mexico, and by Editorial Biblioteca de Textos Universitarios, Salta, Argentina, in association with Chicago Network. They can be ordered online and sent anywhere in the world through Small Press Distribution.