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Prospects for the Anti-Nuclear Movement in the United States
(And the Necessity for International Solidarity)
*Jacqueline Cabasso, February 28, 2005

I would like to thank the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs for inviting me to participate in the 2005 Bikini Day events. It is a great honor for me to be here with you. As an American citizen born after World War II, I would like to begin by offering my personal apology to the victims and survivors of the Daigo Fukuryu Maru (Fifth Lucky Dragon) and the nearly 1000 other Japanese tuna boats who suffered from the intolerable heat, blast and radiation unleashed by the "Bravo" hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll on March 1, 1954. I also extend my apologies to the people of Rongalap and Utrik Islands, whose lives were disrupted forever by that terrible event. And, in this 60th anniversary year, I again offer my apologies to the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki for the atomic bombings of your cities by my government. I have worked my entire adult life for the elimination of nuclear weapons. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the nuclear bomb tests in the Pacific were reprehensible, immoral and illegal. Nothing could have justified the use of those monstrous weapons of mass destruction. Unfortunately, prospects for nuclear disarmament any time soon, are bleak. I will start with the bad news.

George W. Bush's election to a second term as U.S. President removed any perceived ambiguity about prospects for nuclear disarmament in the foreseeable future. While many had hoped that a John Kerry Presidency would open the way to progress on nuclear disarmament, it probably would only have muddied the waters. While candidate Kerry stated his opposition to "new" nuclear weapons and espoused vaguely progressive ideas like alliance-building and being prepared to talk directly with North Korea, it was in the context of a national security policy premised, in his own words, on "modern[izing] "the world's most powerful military to meet new threats."

In terms of U.S. nuclear weapons policy, a Kerry Presidency would have looked a lot like the Clinton Presidency. Despite the unprecedented historical opportunity at the end of the Cold War, Democratic President Bill Clinton's regressive 1994 Nuclear Posture Review set the stage for current U.S. nuclear policy. Clinton's 1997 Presidential Decision Directive reaffirmed the threatened first use of nuclear weapons as the "cornerstone" of U.S. national security, and contemplated an expanded role for nuclear weapons to "deter" nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

The Bush Administration reinforced and expanded this policy, making it even more reckless by turning away from the long-standing, if often weak, declared U.S. commitment to treaty-based international law. Knowing with virtual certainty that we expect more of the same during the second Bush term requires a critical evaluation of past approaches to arms control and disarmament, and development of new strategies that that will be sustainable over many years.

Although George W. Bush declared a popular mandate following his re-election, nearly half of American voters voted against him. But there were significant gains by Republicans in the Senate and, for the first time in many years, the Republican Party now solidly dominates the Administration and both Houses of Congress. Further, all indications from the post-election Bush White House are that new appointments will favor those who support a unilateral, militarist world view of a U.S. empire determined to bring "freedom" and "democracy" to the Middle East and other volatile regions, through whatever means it deems necessary. Bush's loyal National Security Advisor, Condoleeza Rice, has been promoted to Secretary of State. Her replacement, Stephen Hadley, is a nuclear hawk who has expressed a hegemonic view: "[B]ecause we cannot be confident that the world will ever be . . . permanently 'devoid of nuclear weapons,' some nations, such as the United States, must continue to possess them to deter their acquisition or use by others." Hadley has also written that it is "often an unstated premise that "if nuclear weapons are needed at all, they are needed only to deter the nuclear weapons of others. I am not sure that this unstated premise is true."

In the current situation, at best what can be accomplished through conventional methods of lobbying in Washington, DC, is defending against the most egregious nuclear weapons programs. Somewhat surprisingly, last year Republican House members led efforts to cut funding for the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP) and Advanced Weapons Concepts, but the Fiscal Year 2006 budget request reinstates funding for the RNEP. It also establishes a new "Reliable Replacement Warhead" program, which has the enthusiastic support of the same Republicans who last year opposed the RNEP and Advanced Weapons Concepts. The U.S. will spend nearly $7 billion this year to maintain and modernize its nuclear warheads, and many billions more to operate and upgrade its delivery and command and control systems - all of this to ensure that its nuclear arsenal remains useable for decades to come, in any number of potential circumstances. And U.S. deployment of anti-ballistic missile interceptors in Alaska and California is well underway.

In understanding what will be required to halt this juggernaut, it is essential to recognize that the Bush doctrine is a continuation and extension of programs and policies carried out by every U.S. administration, Democrat and Republican, since President Harry Truman - a Democrat - authorized the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 60 years ago. Today, more than 2,000 "old" U.S. strategic nuclear warheads remain on hair-trigger alert, deployed on land-based missiles and Trident submarines still patrolling the seas at Cold War levels, ready to instantly target locations around the globe upon receiving a few short computer signals. And, it was recently reported that the U.S. maintains some 480 nuclear bombs in six NATO countries.

Despite this gloomy assessment, there are some reasons to be hopeful.

1) The 2004 Presidential election mobilized thousands of activists around the country - including many young people - for the first time. A tremendous opportunity and challenge exists to keep them engaged and to educate them on the most important issues facing human kind.

2) With the number of U.S. soldiers dying and injured in Iraq growing each day, a growing outcry against the war and occupation by military families and former government officials, and ominous new U.S. threats against Iran, Syria and North Korea, there is a potential for a powerful, mainstream, anti-war movement to emerge in the U.S. Long after the end of the Cold War and fears of "mutually assured destruction," it hasn't been easy to educate a new generation of peace activists about the growing dangers of nuclear weapons, but over the past two years, Abolition 2000 groups in the U.S. have worked hard to bring nuclear disarmament "home" to the anti-war movement. As a result, United for Peace and Justice, the largest anti-war coalition in the United States, with nearly 1000 member groups, has agreed to co-sponsor a major demonstration in New York City on May 1, the day before the 2005 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference opens, to demand an end to nuclear excuses for war and a plan for the global elimination of nuclear weapons.

3) The 60th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Mayors' call for A Year of Remembrance and Action for a Nuclear Weapons Free World, provide a useful framework for public education in the United States. The Abolition Now! campaign of Abolition 2000 is working internationally with the Mayors Emergency Campaign to Ban Nuclear Weapons to enroll U.S. mayors in World Mayors for Peace, and to encourage them to join an international mayors delegation to the NPT Review Conference in May, headed by Mayors Akiba and Itoh. Perhaps more importantly, the Mayor's Campaign provides a powerful organizing tool for local groups in cities across America, large and small, to approach their mayors to educate their citizens about the threat of nuclear weapons. On August 6, nationally coordinated protest actions against U.S. nuclear weapons policy will take place at the Livermore and Los Alamos nuclear weapons laboratories, the Nevada Test Site, and the Y-12 nuclear facility in Tennessee, which represent the core of the active U.S. nuclear weapons complex. And on August 9, we are calling for candlelight vigils at city halls in towns and cities across the United States. No more Hiroshimas! No More Nagasakis!

We have just received some very good news. In the face of enormous pressure from the United States, the Canadian Prime Minister has announced that Canada will refuse to participate in the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense program. This represents a dramatic turnaround in Canada's position, and a major victory for the peace movement, demonstrating the importance of international solidarity, and in particular, the close cooperation between American and Canadian peace activists.

The American anti-war and anti-nuclear movements stand in solidarity with the Japanese movements, in defense of the "three nonnuclear principles" and Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, and in opposition to the deployment of so-called "self-defense" forces to Iraq and U.S. bases in Japan. Japan, as the only country to experience the devastating effects of nuclear weapons in war, has a unique moral stature. For that reason, I urge Japanese NGOs to press their own government and corporations. It's time for Japan to get out from under the U.S. nuclear umbrella. Japan should join with European nations and others in opposing U.S. missile defense plans, and should withdraw from participation in theater missile defense research and development. Japan should halt uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing activities and permanently shut down the Monju and Rokkashomura facilities. Japanese companies should refuse to participate in U.S. nuclear weapons programs like the National Ignition Facility, a stadium-sized laser installation at the Livermore Lab. Japan should renounce the idea that nuclear weapons can provide regional security, and should initiate negotiations on a Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone inclusive of Japan and the Korean peninsula. Japan should support the New Agenda countries, and should initiate an even stronger coalition with like-minded nations and NGOs to lead global efforts for nuclear disarmament at the upcoming NPT Review Conference.

Here's what I'm telling my government. Without further delay, the U.S. should reaffirm its commitment to the rule of law and make good on its long-overdue NPT commitments to end the nuclear arms race and negotiate the elimination of its nuclear weapons. The U.S. should ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and halt all efforts aimed at "improving" the military capabilities of its nuclear arsenal, including research and development for the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, "mini-nukes," and delivery systems. It should halt plans for upgrades to existing weapons production facilities and forgo building new ones for plutonium pit manufacturing and tritium. The U.S. should cancel plans for missile defenses and support efforts to ban the weaponization of space. Instead of threatening countries suspected of having biological and chemical weapons programs, it should work to strengthen the Biological and Chemical Weapons Conventions. The U.S. should lead the world out of the nuclear arms race it began by initiating comprehensive negotiations to verifiably eliminate nuclear weapons and ban missiles worldwide, under strict international control.
If the most powerful country in history reserves for itself the threatened first use of nuclear weapons in the name of "national security," we shouldn't be surprised if others follow suit. Following the 9-11 attacks, the Bush doctrine of preventive war, carried out and disastrously continuing to unfold in Iraq, makes clear that we urgently need a new understanding of what security means. It is too little and too late to campaign narrowly against individual weapons like bunker busters and mini-nukes. As responsible global citizens, we must demand a more sustainable concept of "human security" based on the promise of food, shelter, health care, education, clean water and air for all people everywhere, and on the resolution of international conflicts through multilateral institutions and nonviolent mechanisms rather than through the threat or use of force.

Somewhat paradoxically, I'd like to close with an observation by Dr. Ralph Lapp, a U.S. nuclear physicist, who worked on the Manhattan Project. Just a few years after the tragedy we are commemorating today, he wrote: "The true striking power (of nuclear weapons) was revealed on the deck of the Lucky Dragon. When men 100 miles from an explosion can be killed by the silent touch of the bomb, the world suddenly becomes too small a sphere for men to clutch the atom. For this knowledge, gained so strangely from the adventures of 23 men, the world may some day rank this voyage with that of Columbus."

Thank you.
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*Jacqueline Cabasso is the Executive Director of the Western States Legal Foundation in Oakland, California, USA (www.wslfweb.org) and the U.S. Coordinator of the Abolition Now! campaign (www.abolitionnow.org) +(510) 839-5877; wslf@earthlink.net

 

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