Obama, Nuclear Weapons and Abolition

On May
19, as nuclear disarmament negotiations between the United
States and Russia
began in Moscow,
President Obama welcomed a Gang of Four to the White House to provide him political
reinforcement for his disarmament efforts. Beginning with a February, 2007
article in the Wall Street Journal, George Schultz, Henry Kissinger, William
Perry and Sam Nunn - three of whom prepared and threatened to initiate apocalyptic
wars during wars and international crises[1]
--had warned of the dangers of nuclear weapons proliferation and urged the
nuclear powers, led by the United States, to make deeper reductions of their
nuclear arsenals and to recommit their nations to their Nuclear
Nonproliferation Treaty obligation to negotiate the elimination of their
nuclear arsenals. They had finally come to understand Nobel Laureate Joseph
Rotblatt's warning that because "No nation will long tolerate what
it perceives to be an unjust imbalance of power" humanity faces the
"stark choice" of abolishing nuclear weapons or suffering their
global proliferation and the catastrophes to follow.

was the combination of the Gang of Four's articles and pressure from
nuclear weapons abolition advocates during the New
Hampshire presidential primary that led Candidate, and now
President, Obama to commit himself and the Democratic Party to the complete
elmination of the world's nuclear arsenals, a pledge he reiterated most
recently in Prague.

With the economic crisis, President Obama's
disastrous escalation of the Central Asia
wars, and the looming debate over health care, nuclear weapons, nuclear war and
the imperative of abolition are not the mainstay of our daily headlines.
However, decisions taken in Washington
between now and next May when negotiators gather aat the U.N. for the Nuclear
Nonprolifeartion Treaty Review Conference could well determine whether our
species and many others survive.

people in the U.S. who are at
all aware of the NPT think of it only in terms of other preventing other
nations from joining the club of nations, that like the United States can threaten nuclear
annihilation. In fact, along with the Versailles Treaty and the Yalta
Agreement, the NPT was one of the three most important deals of the 20th
century, and its future is in jeopardy.

The NPT is composed of three primary elements: With
the exceptions of Israel, India and Pakistan, the non-nuclear nations
foreswore ever becoming nuclear powers. In exchange, the nuclear powers made
two binding commitments. First, they guaranteed non-nuclear nations (including Iran) the
right to develop and use nuclear power plants for the peaceful production of
energy, and in Article VI they committed to engage in "good faith"
negotiations to achieve the complete elimination of all their nuclear

are obvious problems with the Treaty. Nuclear power is not the safe source of
energy that Treaty negotiators believed it to be forty years ago when the
treaty was first negotiated. More, as we have learned with India, Pakistan
and North Korea,
nuclear power production can serve as a stepping stone to the development of
genocidal and omnicidal weapons. Finally, as U.N. General Assembly resolutions,
the International Court of Justice, and previous NPT Review conferences have reiterated,
the nuclear powers have hypocritically refused to implement Article VI while
insisting that other nations remain non-nuclear. This is not a formulae that
can endure.

recent NGO meetings in New York in early May to prepare for next year's
NPT Review
Conference, President Obama's speech in Prague was much discussed.
Mayor Akiba of Hiroshima and others celebrated the hopeful change in
policy from that of the Bush Administration, whose romance of
ruthlessness led
to its denigration of international treaties and to the failure of the
2005 NPT
Review Conference.

Others, including myself and Jonathan Schell are
looking hard and connecting dots that we would rather not see. We understand that
leading figures in the U.S.
elite led by George Schultz, Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn and Bill Perry have
concluded that sixty-four years after Hiroshima,
nuclear hypocrisy no longer serves U.S. interests. They fear that
unless the U.S.
engages in significant nuclear disarmament and acknowledges its Article VI
obligations, the NPT will lose its perceived legitimacy and collapse. A deluge
of proliferation would likely follow, leaving the U.S. far more vulnerable to nuclear
attacks by so-called "rogue" states and by non-state terrorists.

We are also deeply concerned that there appears to be
less to Obama's "perhaps not in my lifetime" commitment to
nuclear weapons abolition than the adoring press has let on. It is no accident
that in his message to the NPT Preparatory Conference earlier this month that he
made no reference to abolition. Similarly, the subject did not arise when
President Obama and former Secretary of State George Shultz spoke with the
press following their meeting at the White House. And Richard Burt, who
negotiated the START I Treaty with the Soviet Union may have given the
game away when he told the New York Times that the United States sees the START
I follow on negotiations that have begun in "as a first step toward a
broader nonproliferation strategy that could eventually curb the spread of
weapons to 'irresponsible nuclear tates' like Pakistan." The
United States, which first used nuclear weapons against the innocent people of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which drove the nuclear arms race that has led to the
expansion of arsenals and proliferation, and which has reinforced its global
dominance with terrorizing first-strike nuclear weapons, doctrines and threats
is, of course a "responsible nuclear power."[2]

If we are to take our President at his word, we need
to ask more of him. His Prague speech provided a remarkable opportunity for him
to reinforce his declared commitment to abolition by using his Commander in
Chief authority to order the withdrawal of the estimated 400 Cold War nuclear
weapons that are still based in Europe and targeted primarily against Russia.
He could have announced a no first-strike policy. To satisfy the majority of
people in the Czech Republic and elsewhere in Europe, he should have
declared an end to U.S.
plans to base first-strike related "missile defenses" in Central
Europe, rather than reserving this possibility as a negotiating chip with Russia.
And he should have offered to include the estimated 10,000 U.S. stockpiled nuclear in the disarmament
negotiations with Russia.

Instead, Obama made his all too limited commitments to
negotiate the elimination of several hundred deployed nuclear weapons from the U.S.
and Russian arsenals, to win ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty,
and to begin negotiations of a Fissile Materials Cut Off Treaty. These, of
course, should be celebrated and supported, but they need to be seen for the
limited steps that they are.

These steps, which were reiterated in the meeting with
the Gang of Four, only begin to fulfill the 13 steps agreed to by the Clinton
Administration during the 2000 NPT Review. They may, however, prove sufficient for
the U.S. to regain the legitimacy needed next year's Review Conference to
strengthen the international inspections regime needed to prevent nations from
using their nuclear industries to equalize the imbalance of nuclear terror.
Actions speak louder than words, and as Richard Burt has signaled, Obama's
limited agenda may be all that he seeks to achieve, leaving in place the U.S.
first-strike arsenal under the guise of "Deterrence."

So, what is to be done?

We need to help President Obama fulfill his stated
commitment to abolition. Meeting in New
York in early May, nuclear abolitionists from around the
world committed to organize to bring pressure to bear on the world's
governments when they convene next May at the U.N. for the NPT Review
Conference. The essential elements of our campaign are:

1) To build the Abolition Flame campaign
designed to generate 25,000 letters to Presidents Obama and Medvedev urging
them to begin negotiations on a treaty to eliminate all nuclear weapons (See

2) To launch massive international petition
campaign urging commencement of negotiations for a treaty to eliminate nuclear
weapons by 2020. The petition drive will be launched this August, which will be
Nuclear Free Future month in the United States. Petitions will be
presented to U.N. officials during the Review Conference next year. (The text
will soon be posted at www.unitedforpeace.org.)

3) Sunday, May 2, 2010 has been designated
"International Action Day for a Nuclear Free World" and will
feature a mass international demonstration and rally in New York City, including several thousand
abolitionists from other countries.

4) Plans are being developed for an international
youth presence in New York
during he NPT Review.

5) Organizing a major international peace
conference in New York City
on Saturday, May 1 is being explored. It will include a heavy focus on the NPT Review
Conference, but it will also address related issues from the economic crisis to
the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

6) A second wave of activities will begin on May
14, when an additional 800 Japanese peace activists arrive in New York aboard the Peace Boat.

activists in Vermont
are preparing another Town Meeting campaign like the one that sparked the
nuclear freeze movement a generaton ago. Their Massachusetts counterparts are preparing
town and city referenda. And working groups around the world are collaborating
to build pressure on all of the nuclear powers as we approach a determinative
moment for humanity: whether we will opt for nuclear weapons abolition and
survive, or silently give our blessings to a second nuclear age and the
apocalyptic wars that will follow.

For additional
information see:







[1] Joseph Gerson. Empire and the Bomb: How the US Uses Nuclear Weapons to Dominate
the World. London,
Pluto Press, 2007 pp 37-38

[2] Ellen
Barry. "U.S. and Russia
Begin Arms Talks With a December Deadline", The New York Times, May 20,

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