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Obama Calls for World without Nuclear Weapons

An Invitation: 42 years ago today, on April 4th, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King first spoke out against the Vietnam war in a speech entitled “A Time to Break Silence.”

Tomorrow, Get Afghanistan Right, in coordination with bloggers, writers, and activists all over the country, will participate in demonstrations both online and offline around the war in Afghanistan, with the aim of getting our fellow Americans to break their silence and voice their views on planned escalation.

If you would like to join this effort, please post a diary at Oxdown Gazette with your thoughts – and encourage your friends and family to add a diary as well.


Lost in a lot of the usual round of media commotions today was news of President Obama’s speech in Prague this morning on nuclear proliferation. When the media did notice the speech, their focus on his comments about North Korea completely distracted from the more important message:

Just as we stood for freedom in the 20th century, we must stand together for the right of people everywhere to live free from fear in the 21st century. And as nuclear power –- as a nuclear power, as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act. We cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it, we can start it.

So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.

Obama coupled this important acknowledgement of "moral responsibility" with an outline of what the US will actually do:

First, the United States will take concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons. To put an end to Cold War thinking, we will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, and urge others to do the same…

To reduce our warheads and stockpiles, we will negotiate a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with the Russians this year…

To achieve a global ban on nuclear testing, my administration will immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. After more than five decades of talks, it is time for the testing of nuclear weapons to finally be banned.

And to cut off the building blocks needed for a bomb, the United States will seek a new treaty that verifiably ends the production of fissile materials intended for use in state nuclear weapons…

Second, together we will strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a basis for cooperation.

Cheryl Rofer, one of the best writers on nuclear issues, begins to “unpack” the importance of this speech in a post over at Whirled View and I’m sure will have more as she has time to digest.

A UK based journalist noted (via email) that this speech was Obama’s major address to the people of Europe. And his pledge of action brings the US into alignment with recent European calls for significant action on nonproliferation.

Germany’s foreign minister Frank Walter Steinmeier has called for nuclear disarmament plans to be mobilized this year. “Nuclear weapons and their unchecked proliferation are a major threat to us all,” Steinmeier told the mass circulation German tabloid Bild am Sonntag.

Gordon Brown, who has recently been speaking out a lot on this issue said "he agreed with Mr Obama that a "new global bargain" over nuclear weapons was possible"

"We can make huge advances quickly in the reduction of nuclear weapons as a means also of encouraging those countries that are considering proliferating nuclear weapons and making the world less safe that they should desist from doing so. North Korea is one, Iran is another."

Now there are parts of this speech that give me pause. I certainly wish Obama had not again repeated the propaganda that Iran is building nukes nor continued his support for a defense shield, but there are significant steps here that – as he himself notes in the speech – could make deployment of such a “shield” moot and his statement that countries have a right to development of nuclear power for energy purposes could – if actually applied to Iran – help there as well.

Recently, the talk of “terrorism” has overrun the long years when nuclear war was the prime fear we faced and the prime threat our country posed to the world. In today’s speech, we see the first promise that we will take real steps to break our reliance on the terrorism of nuclear weapons. Let’s hope we see many more.

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Siun is a proud Old Town resident who shares her home with two cats and a Great Pyrenees. She’s worked in media relations and on the net since before the www, led the development of a corporate responsibility news service, and knows what a mult box is thanks to Nico. When not swimming in the Lake, she leads a team working on sustainability tools.

Email: media dot firedoglake at gmail dot com