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Passion, Not Polarization Needed to Rid World of Nukes
Beth Griffin
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Thursday, April 15, 2010
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The leaders of international delegations at the Nuclear Security Summit 2010 in Washington.
MARYKNOLL, N.Y. (CNS)—Nuclear disarmament is a critical goal that enjoys popular and bipartisan support but is hampered by a lack of passion and the polarization of society and politics, according to speakers at a panel discussion held at Maryknoll headquarters.

Nongovernmental organizations, including Catholic Church entities, could make a significant contribution by supporting a treaty to outlaw nuclear weapons, they said.
The April 11 program was held in anticipation of May 3-21 meetings at the United Nations where international representatives will conduct a scheduled review of the U.N. nuclear nonproliferation treaty.

Dave Robinson, executive director of Pax Christi USA, said U.S. President Barack Obama energized the nuclear disarmament movement with a speech delivered in Prague, Czech Republic, on April 5, 2009. Robinson said Obama envisioned a world without nuclear weapons and that the United States bears a moral responsibility to help achieve it because the U.S. is the only country that has used them.

Obama also spearheaded the just-concluded Nuclear Security Summit in Washington aimed at building global consensus on nuclear issues.

Robinson said the U.N. treaty is the only international accord that addresses the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the disarmament of the countries that have them and also includes a provision to allow nations that forgo them to access nuclear technology for peaceful uses, including energy, medicine and agriculture.

He characterized the treaty as a "grand bargain" in which nuclear-weapon nations agreed to give up their weapons and countries without them agreed not to develop them.

He said there has not been significant progress on the nuclear disarmament side of the bargain, but the nonweapon signatories have largely kept their promises. The exceptions are North Korea, which signed the treaty as a nonweapon state and then developed a nuclear weapon, and India, Pakistan and Israel, which have weapons, but were never part of the treaty.

Robinson said the 1970 treaty expired in 1995 and was extended indefinitely with the condition that review conferences every five years would allow signatories to hold one another accountable.

The Obama administration's Nuclear Posture Review, a 72-page document that defines the country's policy, was released April 6. Robinson said it "takes three steps forward and two steps back. It has some merit, but there are problematic areas."
"It embraces Obama's vision for a nuclear-free world, but does it by replacing nuclear weapons with conventional weapons," he said.

What Robinson called "one of the scariest pieces of the Nuclear Posture Review" is Prompt Global Strike, developed by the administration of President George W. Bush and reiterated by the current administration. Robinson said the program would replace nuclear warheads on some intercontinental ballistic missiles with conventional weapons.

"What Obama unleashed in Prague cannot be put back in the bottle," Robinson said. "Obama's heart is in the right place, but the nuclear industry is a behemoth, a multi-headed monster that has been around for almost 70 years and requires enormous infusions of cash and wields enormous institutional power."

He said the U.S. spends more than $54 billion annually on nuclear deterrence.

Now is the time for a citizens' movement, led by nongovernmental organizations and similar to the one that brought attention to land mines, Robinson said. "We need a treaty to outlaw nuclear weapons, the last of the weapons of mass destruction, in the same way that chemical and biological weapons were outlawed."

He said the Holy See has been in the forefront of the effort since 1997 to call for a convention to draft such a treaty.

Judith LeBlanc, field organizer for Peace Action, a national grass-roots peace organization, said the job of activists is to bring the passion back to the nuclear disarmament movement. "Polls continue to show there is popular support for nuclear disarmament, but there's no passion for it," she said.

On April 8, President Obama and President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia signed a new bilateral Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which must be ratified by the U.S. Senate and the Russian parliament to be enforced. LeBlanc said, "Our message is 'START, yes! And don't stop there!'"

She said it is important to mobilize support among "those who know nuclear war is unwinnable. Having modern nuclear weapons does not make our country a safer place. You cannot prevent nuclear war by threatening to launch nuclear war."

The program was sponsored by the Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns, Maryknoll Affiliates and Pax Christi.

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