"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." — Elie Wiesel

Saturday, February 28, 2009

BRAVO! (No Encore Please)


On March 1, 1954 the United States tested the first deliverable hydrogen bomb, code named "Bravo”, at Bikini Atoll, in the Marshall Islands. Bravo was the largest U.S. nuclear test ever exploded, with a yield of 15 megatons, 1000 times larger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima (and well beyond the predicted yield of 6 megatons; oops!). This is an opportune moment to consider the critical juncture we have reached 55 years after this test and the opportunities presented to us.
The Cold War ended nearly two decades ago; and yet the United States and Russia still maintain thousands of nuclear missiles ready to launch on warning. The President of the United States may have just a few minutes to make the fateful decision to launch nuclear weapons in case of warning of a nuclear attack. In 1995, Russia came within a few minutes of launching a nuclear counterattack after it initially interpreted the launch of a scientific rocket from Norway as a first strike. This is just the most recent known close call among those documented involving both the United States and the Soviet Union/Russia. A number of them have been just too close.

The Bush administration repeatedly refused to pledge to a "no first use" policy. President Obama has not yet explicitly stated a "no first use" policy, although he has started down the road to nuclear disarmament with the Russians (an extremely important first step) by establishing dialogue.

The 2002 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) issued by the Department of Defense under the direction of the Bush administration would lead to new nuclear capabilities, the possible resumption of nuclear testing, and plans to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states believed to have the capability to build weapons of mass destruction. Before the NPR was submitted to Congress (during the Bush Administration), the U.S. had already announced its withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) and refused to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Does this sound like a scenario for destabilization, a new and improved arms race and an increasingly unsafe world????

President Obama has the opportunity to reverse the 2002 Nuclear Posture Review, re-commit to the ABM Treaty, and ratify the CTB Treaty. He has stated his desire for nuclear disarmament. He has spoken of his desire to seek "a world without nuclear weapons" and at the same time spoke of the need to "retain a strong deterrent"..."as long as nuclear weapons exist." It is difficult to have it both ways; his rhetoric could indicate different paths. On the positive side, the draft 2010 Energy Department budget has "ZERO dollars for new nuclear weapons." However, the nation's most senior nuclear combat commander yesterday took issue with U.S. President Barack Obama's characterization of U.S. atomic weapons as being on "hair-trigger alert" and warned against reducing the arsenal's launch readiness. We need to keep pushing the President down that difficcult road towards that "world without nuclear weapons". It is attainable, although it will be a long road getting there.

The next week and a half is the final opportunity for you to sign on to the Appeal to President Obama calling for US Leadership for a Nuclear Weapons-Free World. The Appeal calls upon President Obama to "make a world free of nuclear weapons an urgent priority and to assure US leadership to realize this goal." Click here to read the Appeal, and sign it today! On Wednesday, March 11 the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation will submit the Appeal to President the Obama administration in Washington.

A world free of nuclear weapons is possible, and really is the only way to prevent a future nuclear war. We may not see the fruits of our labor in our lifetime, but by beginning now we can help rid the world of the nuclear Sword of Damocles that hangs over humanity.



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