by Madelyn Hoffman, Director of NJ Peace Action
May 2010 is a significant month in the history of nuclear weapons and nuclear disarmament. Beginning May 3 and continuing through May 28, delegates from 189 countries are meeting at the United Nations to review the progress made toward global nuclear disarmament under the terms of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) first signed in March 1970. The NPT is regarded as the main treaty establishing rules for global nuclear disarmament, by preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology. In order to avert the danger of a nuclear war, the signatories of the NPT are convening now.
The nearly month-long NPT Review Conference happens every five years. This year’s is the culmination of several years of organizing by grassroots groups throughout the world, including the United States. Peace Action, the nation’s largest grass roots disarmament organization, provided much of the leadership and direction of this organizing, including a two-day international conference at the historic Riverside Church in New York City attended by 1000 delegates and a march and rally for nuclear abolition attended by more than 10,000 people (including nearly 2000 Japanese) that wove from Times Square to the United Nations on Sunday, May 1st.
New Jersey Peace Action (NJPA), based in Bloomfield, participated in all of these events and also sent an official NGO representative to the 2nd day of the Review Conference. That representative was seated in the General Assembly of the United Nations when Peace Action and other international organizations presented petitions with 7 ½ million signatures for a nuclear weapons free world. To sign a similar petition addressed to President Obama, download a copy off our website.
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Another group that worked hard in preparation for the 2010 Review Conference is Mayors for Peace, founded in 1982 by the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to promote the total elimination of nuclear weapons and the realization of genuine and lasting world peace. Today, Mayors for Peace is an international non-governmental organization accredited by the United Nations with 3,880 member cities in 143 countries and regions, up by almost 1000 new cities and 11 new countries since last August, with 87 new cities and mayors joining on May 1st alone! As of April 9th, every mayor of every town in Nicaragua joined Mayors for Peace. NJPA calls upon Bloomfield Mayor Raymond McCarthy to add Bloomfield to the ever-growing numbers of cities and mayors joining Mayors for Peace.
“One nuclear weapon exploded in one city – be it New York or Moscow, Islamabad or Mumbai, Tokyo or Tel Aviv, Paris or Prague – could kill hundreds of thousands of people. And no matter where it happens, there is no end to what the consequences might be – for our global safety, our security, our society, our economy, to our ultimate survival,” said President Barack Obama in Prague on April 5, 2009. “…as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act.”
On April 29th, 10 residents of Bloomfield participated in a “Sign Up for Nuclear Disarmament” vigil at the Bloomfield Post Office. Vigils took place at 14 other New Jersey locations at the same time. Each resident held a sign in a line which read: Nuclear Weapons Are/65 Years Old/It’s Time to Retire Them/UN Conference May 2010/www.njpeaceaction.org. Residents lined both sides of Bloomfield Avenue by the main post office. In an hour and a half, they distributed more than 100 fliers about nuclear disarmament. Participants reported that a very positive response from passers-by.
It is important to note that despite President Obama’s lofty rhetoric, provisions in the 2011 budget for nuclear weapons run counter to it. NJPA encourages Bloomfield residents to participate in a national week of action from May 31 – June 4 to push for crucial cuts to the nuclear weapons budget.
While the budget for next year being considered by the U.S. Congress imposes a spending freeze for most domestic programs, there is money to spare when it comes to nuclear weapons. The budget request for nuclear bomb activities next year is $7 billion, which is a 14% increase over last year’s budget for the same programs, and a whopping 40% over the $5 billion (in 2011 dollars) spent on average each year for these activities during the Cold War era.
Worse, the budget has hundreds of millions in nuclear pork for new bomb plants that would enable the U.S. to increase its capacity to create new nuclear weapons in the future. For example, the budget proposes funding a new plutonium facility in New Mexico to enable a huge increase in the production of plutonium pits, which are the radioactive cores of nuclear weapons. This will cost taxpayers $225 million in 2011, and about $4 billion by the time construction is complete. Moreover, the costs to non-proliferation and disarmament goals are incalculable.
Lastly, the budget request includes $252 million for a study in 2011 to upgrade the B61 nuclear bomb. While Congress considers whether to spend our tax money on plans to “modify” and “life-extend’ this nuke, Germany, Poland and others are pressing for its removal from Europe.
Since every member of Congress will vote on this budget, we ask everyone to call Senator Frank Lautenberg at (973) 639-8700, Senator Robert Menendez at (973) 645-3030, and Representative William Pascrell at (973)523-5152 in opposition to these proposals. .
The proposals are dangerous, unnecessary and expensive and they run counter to President Obama’s pledge to work toward a nuclear weapons free world. The United States must begin to have its actions match its rhetoric, but it will take an even stronger grassroots movement to accomplish this. Please join us!
*NJPA was founded as New Jersey SANE in 1957 with the primary mission of nuclear disarmament. NJPA is affiliated with Peace Action, the nation’s largest grassroots organization, with affiliates and chapters in thirty different states. As an organization we believe that every person has the right to live in a world free of nuclear weapons.