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Peace Talk and War Budget

Saturday, 06 July 2013 00:00 By Peter G Cohen, Truthout | Op-Ed
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(Illustration: <a href=" http://www.flickr.com/photos/truthout/4664343933/in/set-72157623775269259" target="_blank"> Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t</a>)(Illustration: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t)"I've determined that we can ensure the security of America and our allies, and maintain a strong and credible strategic deterrent, while reducing our deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one third." -- Obama's Berlin speech, Wall Street Journal, June 25, 2013.

Mr. President, This is the wrong goal. We should not "maintain a strong and credible strategic deterrent." We should lead the world in abolishing nuclear weapons before they abolish us. The choice is real and immediate. 

While the president promised to work for peace, the National Nuclear Security Administration presented a new budget to Congress in June for the Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan (SSMP) for 2014, with plans for the distant future. This budget, covering the next 25 years, details plans to replace all of our current nuclear warheads with new models to be built in new facilities for $275 billion. The SSMP, in the rarified atmosphere of the nuclear establishment, makes no mention of reducing warhead stockpiles or delivery systems.

The politics of nuclear weapons reveals a Congress that wants to maintain the current expenditure, keep the stockpile, the laboratories, bases, and the business of making more planes, missiles and submarines to deliver them. (see Bombs Versus Budgets, Hartung & Anderson, Center for International Policy, June 6, 2012) But, nuclear weapons are not a matter of corporate profits, congressional district payrolls, or pleasing Congress and its generous lobbyists. Nuclear policy must be approached from the viewpoint of national security and the preservation of Life on Earth.

We now know that even a relatively small nuclear exchange and its fires would cause a giant cloud of radioactive debris to circle the Earth producing a Nuclear Winter of failed food crops and starvation. Radioactive fallout would poison friends and foe alike, damaging genes and causing illness and death. Life on Earth and in its oceans would be substantially reduced. The result of these forecasts is that many nuclear-weapons-free nations are now concerned for the safety of their people, and impatient for the nuclear nations to proceed promptly with the 1970 NPT agreement to abolish these weapons.

Nuclear weapons must never be used! Even if we were to receive a nuclear missile obliterating one of our cities, it would be folly to respond with nuclear weapons that would release more blast, fire, radiation and death on the world. 

Those who promote, work in nuclear weapons, or associated missiles, planes and submarines, have been told that they are a deterrent, a weapon so fearful that it keeps the peace. They are told that we are very careful to assure that they are only used in the most dire circumstances. Our many near misses, accidents, and close calls are hidden from view. The true casualties from our own development of weapons, and their manufacture also are hidden from view. As of Dec. 31, 2011, the EEOICPA, which compensates Department of Energy workers, had compensated 88,000 workers or their surviving families for disease or death resulting from radiation on the job. The work of compensation continues. Thousands of others, who do not work for the Department of Energy, are not covered by the law.

No matter how careful we are, radiation sickens and kills. As a result of nuclear activities, including mining, processing, working with nuclear reactors and accidents, such as Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Fukushima, radiation is now estimated to have killed well over a million people. Any use of uranium is extremely dangerous. Genetic defects, created by ionizing radiation, can be passed on to the children of those exposed. If we continue to build nuclear reactors and weapons, we will do irreparable damage to the human gene pool, eventually leading to human extinction. 

The only secure way to be free of the threat of nuclear war is to abolish all nuclear weapons. Because the United States has by far the world's largest conventional military power, it is important for the US to take the lead in weapons reduction and negotiations for abolition. Not to do so will cause the Non Proliferation Treaty to fall apart and more nations to acquire these weapons.

Therefore, the safest first step for our nation is to continue to negotiate openly and faithfully with Russia to reduce our huge stockpiles. About that, the President was right. To be successful, we must avoid all plans to take advantage of this process, such as missile defenses near Russian borders. When the US and the Russians have demonstrated their determination to abolish these weapons, we can begin negotiating the final stages of elimination with the other nuclear nations.

In the meantime, a draft Nuclear Weapons Convention, like those outlawing chemical and biological warfare, has been submitted to the United Nations. In the name of humanity, the development, manufacture and use of nuclear weapons should be outlawed, now, by the World Court of Justice as an additional incentive to their prompt abolition. 

For the future of Life on Earth, and our own safety, all nuclear and related activities must be organized around this goal of abolition - not preservation! Where possible, nuclear bases, laboratories, facilities and delivery systems must be converted to conventional weapons or to peacetime purposes. 

The nations of the world have been patiently waiting for the nuclear weapons nations to live up to their Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) 1970 agreement to achieve the abolition of these weapons. It is urgent that we focus on this goal and demonstrate our determination to proceed, before more nations acquire nuclear weapons and the world situation deteriorates beyond our control.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

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