Suits and nukes

Nuclear weapons: what's the deal?

Feature story - 6 May, 2003
As you may not have heard, the folks who signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty are meeting this week in Geneva, Switzerland. They're scratching their heads over why the treaty has utterly failed to stop non-nuclear states from going nuclear (like India and Pakistan and Israel and Korea) as well as failing to force the nuclear-capable states to disarm.

The Greenpeace 'Most Wanted' deck of nuclear evil-doers.

When the NPT was agreed in 1968, there were approximately 38,000 weapons in the world. Today, there are approximately 30,000. What have these guys been doing for the last 35 years, playing poker?

Well, if so, we figured we had to adopt our communication methods to the audience. So instead of putting another 30 million people out on the streets worldwide to shout for peace, we made them a special deck of playing cards.

If cards are good enough for the US military to use to educate soldiers in how to spot bad guys, we figured they were good enough for us.

Our "most wanted" pack includes pictures of some real deal-welshers -- world leaders who promised to disarm and get rid of their weapons of mass destruction, but didn't do so. Leaders who never signed the treaty, and went off to pursue nuclear weapons on their own. And one leader whose country did sign the treaty, and then went off and developed nuclear weapons anyway.

We hope these pictures will help the delegates to the NPT spot the evil doers. If they need help finding the evidence, we also published a handy map with the known locations of plenty of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

To remind the delegates of just how big a job they've got to do, and to help them with their speeches, we've also included a set of easy-to-understand nuclear factoids, with our deck, one per card.

They're just chock full of surprises for anybody who's been concentrating on cutting the deck instead of cutting back on nukes. Like this one, from the 5 of diamonds: "The latest US/Russia nuclear disarmament treaty, signed in 2002, will not involve the destruction of any nuclear weapons." Huh? What was all that fanfare about when Putin and Bush were being all buddy buddy? Good heavens, you don't think it could have been PR spin, do you?

And this one, from the 9 of clubs: "The US wants to build a facility capable of producing 450 nuclear weapons cores annually." That ought to raise the stakes!

One really great thing about our deck of cards is that they were partially subsidized by the US military. Not knowingly, of course. We went to the same printers that they used for their "Iraqi Leadership Most Wanted" deck, and since the printing plates had already been made up, we got a discount. So in fairness, we ought to give them a little plug here:

"All of these facts about how the world is bristling with nuclear weapons are made possible by the US Government."

(Let it not be said we don't give credit where credit is due.)

While we only intended to give our cards to delegates and journalists at the NPT, the story got out into the press, and suddenly we were being asked how much the cards cost and where folks can get them. We initially printed 600 of them, and those are all gone... with the exception of a few our fund raising department snagged and are auctioning off on Ebay. (Don't be fooled by the scammers that are selling PDF files for US$3.99. The PDF files are available free here.)

We'll be doing a reprinting of the cards soon, but in the meantime, you can amuse yourself and learn just how effectively the NPT is working by playing our

It features the same cards we gave out to the delegates, presented (appropriately enough for a 35-year-old treaty that hasn't accomplished much) in the perennial time-wasting and unilateralist format of a game of Solitaire.


And if after a few hands you find yourself inspired to help do something about nuclear weapons, why not become a cyberactivist? Just go to and register for a free newsletter, cyberalerts, your own home page, and free membership in our online community.