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CURRENT ISSUE:  April 26 , 2010
VOL. 48, NO. 8   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
Bishop details local, Vatican actions in Kiesle case
MSJ Dominicans first stop for Visitation team
Peace leaders urge support of
treaty to ban nuclear weapons

MARYKNOLL, N.Y. (CNS) — Non-govern-mental organizations, including Catholic Church entities, could make a significant contribution to nuclear disarmament by supporting a treaty to outlaw nuclear weapons, declared speakers at a panel discussion at Maryknoll headquarters in New York, April 11.

The 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 non-weapon signatories have largely kept their promises.

The exceptions are North Korea, which signed the treaty as a non-weapon state and then developed a nuclear weapon, and India, Pakistan and Israel, which have weapons, but were never part of the treaty.

Review conferences every five years

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.

‘One of the scariest pieces’

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.”

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