Thursday, April 10, 2008

Imagining a World Without Nuclear Weapons

It has been almost forty years since the United States signed on to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty and now is the time to begin to live up to the spirit of that treaty. The NPT has been signed by 189 nations and was intended as a framework to move the world toward both the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and the eventual dismantlement of weapons of mass destruction. In our time, these instruments of genocide and apocalypse have hung over our heads like an angel of death, haunting the vast majority of our foreign policy decisions and at times pushing the planet to the edge of nuclear war.

It has been a long time since anyone felt the conscious threat of global thermonuclear war like the kind of visions of destruction that seemed to capture popular consciousness in the 1980's, but the reality of those weapons and their threat still looms large over foreign policy decisions, and now is the time to begin to take concrete steps toward dismantlement and destruction, before it is too late. Right now, while our world is at relative peace regarding global threats to security, right now, while the United States has the will and the leadership, right now, while the generation which dedicated itself to peace and social justice has the vision and the determination, right now is the time to dismantle our own weapons of mass destruction.

This may seem like a dangerous idea to some. Many Americans cannot imagine a world without nuclear weapons. I myself know that many people feel that our only real security lies in this superior construction of Armageddon, but the fact is that we are the greatest threat to world security right now. In spite of our ideals, in spite of the spirit of our democratic tradition, there is nothing democratic, there is no message of freedom in our collection of weapons of mass destruction. Just like a drug addict who needs his fix, we still crave the power that comes from the threat and fear that these weapons generate.

There are no words to honestly describe our condition. We stand at a moment in history that is generally unique. We have never before faced a time when our cleverness and our own skills as a society can lead to our complete undoing. This is the reality that these weapons generate. They are instruments not of democracy, but of tyranny. They are not agents of peace, but rather agents of total destruction and we have a moral obligation to dismantle these weapons of destruction and live up to the spirit of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that we signed almost forty years ago.

We can live in a world of peace, if we take concrete steps now to live up to our better selves. It is possible to resolve international conflicts without threatening to completely destroy other cultures, other peoples. We have the collective intelligence to create a more meaningful future for ourselves and our future generations. By investing in our domestic infrastructure, by supporting fair trade policies, by creating universal health care, by offering meaningful access to education at all levels in our society, by investing in alternative energy and moving away from our addiction to oil, by supporting the international community, by investing in programs to support the global south, by divesting in war and violence as the only solution to international conflict and by dismantling our weapons of mass destruction we can move toward the kind of world that Martin Luther King Jr. imagined nearly forty years ago.

Forty years after the NPT is only two generations. Let's not wait even one more before we rid ourselves of these instruments of global genocide. If you care about peace and want to make a statement that will be heard by people around the world then I would like to encourage you to come to Oak Ridge, Tennessee this Sunday, April 13th for the twentieth anniversary of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance public demonstration for peace. Oak Ridge is the home of the only atomic bombs ever used on a human population. Constructed between 1942-45, the bombs manufactured in Eastern Tennessee were used to killed tens of thousands of civilians in 1945. Since that time Oak Ridge has continued to play an instrumental role in the production and maintenance of America's nuclear weapons complex.

On April 13th hundreds of people will gather in Oak Ridge to march to the gates of the Y-12 facility and call for an end to the manufacturing of weapons of mass destruction. They will also call for a plan to clean up the oak ridge environment, which has been polluted by decades of abuse and a plan for dismantling our nuclear weapons infrastructure. Some people may feel so strongly about this event that they will engage in non-violent civil disobedience to express their concern for humanity and our children's future. Others will protest in a law abiding fashion but with no less intent and concern for the future generations of this planet. I hope you can join us. For more information please visit the website

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