A Nuclear-Free World Awaits Action by Obama, Senate

Humans and nuclear weapons cannot co-exist.

This stark judgment comes from those best qualified to speak on the subject -- the survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki A-bombs, who 65 years ago endured, witnessed and continue to live with the legacies, horror and insanity of nuclear weapons. These survivors steadfastly work for a nuclear-free world, a goal that millions around the world have embraced. More than 5,000 of the world's mayors, including the U.S. Conference of Mayors, have joined the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki urging nuclear weapons abolition by 2020.

We will proudly stand with those calling for an end to nuclear weapons as we journey to Hiroshima for the 11th annual Nobel Peace Laureates Summit. The community of Laureates, including the Dalai Lama, Mikhail Gorbachev, Oskar Arias, and Mairead Corrigan Maguire, will seize this moment to recommit to total nuclear disarmament. We urge President Obama, whose inspiring speech in Prague urged the same goal, to join us there. What better way to reiterate his pledge and boost the global movement for a more peaceful and secure world?

The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) has worked toward a nuclear-free future since mere days after the first atomic bomb was dropped 65 years ago. We have encouraged millions of citizen peacemakers to write letters to their legislators. We have helped organize marches, protests, and vigils as part of the worldwide campaign to limit the dangers posed by nuclear weapons and, ultimately, to eliminate them. Those efforts were vital to the creation and passage of bedrock treaties to ban atomic tests, to reduce nuclear arsenals, and to establish non-proliferation and abolition as global necessities.

Now we are pressing the U.S. Senate to ratify another modest, but strategically critical treaty, the New START arms control pact with Russia.

We wish the treaty went further. When fully implemented, the U.S. and Russia will still have more than 90 percent of the world's nuclear weapons. But the treaty will make us all safer by:

  • reducing the number of deployed nuclear weapons
  • allowing U.S. inspectors to monitor Russian nuclear weapons, and
  • clearing the way for additional steps to curb nuclear proliferation.

We applaud President Obama for negotiating New START, but we and many others see serious contradictions between his rhetoric endorsing a nuclear weapons-free world and his budget -- which is fueling a renewed arms race under the guise of research and modernization. The U.S. already leads all the nuclear powers in modernizing its nuclear arsenals. President Obama's budget increases funding for nuclear weapons research and production from $6.4 billion to $7 billion next year, growing to $9 billion annually by 2018. By what logic do we seek to modernize that which we agree must be eliminated? Sadly, Senate Republicans have been holding hostage the ratification of New START, to guarantee this or an even greater increase in funding, ensuring that nuclear weapons remain the cornerstone of our national defense. This money could do far more to increase our national security if it were spent to decommission weapons, prevent housing foreclosures, create new jobs, expand health care, and improve access to education.

The contradiction between rhetoric and action on nuclear weapons policy should trigger a much-needed national debate on how to achieve real security in a changing world. What better place to begin the debate than Hiroshima?

We and the Nobel Peace Laureates understand that creating a world free of nuclear weapons requires mutually acceptable treaties, and a credible mechanism to ensure dismantling of weapons and compliance. We have draft treaties that provide a good starting framework. What is now most needed is a political vision and will - and we applaud the growing worldwide social movements demanding total nuclear disarmament as the key to stiffen the spines of political leaders.

President Obama has been invited to meet with the Nobel Laureates in Hiroshima any time during the Nov. 12-14 gathering, if only for a few hours. There could be no better place to reiterate his pledge to work toward an end to nuclear weapons, and then show by his actions he meant what he said. A nuclear-free world by 2020 is possible. We in Hiroshima who will be working towards this end have a space reserved for the Nobel Peace Laureate who controls largest nuclear stockpile in the world. We hope he will have the courage and vision to join us.

Learn more about nuclear abolition here