OP-ED: The Promise of Prague, Self-Assured Destruction and Taxes

By Robert Dodge
Robert Dodge, M.D.
Robert Dodge, M.D.

  On April 5, 2009, in the first foreign policy address of his presidency, President Obama expressed his vision of a world free of nuclear weapons. The realization of this vision, shared by a majority of citizens around the world, is vital to the very survival and future of our planet. We the people await the actions that are needed to make this a reality. Now is the time for the president and our leaders to put words into action. As we reflect on this vision and prepare to fund our budget and nation’s priorities the choice is ours.

Meanwhile, we see a nuclear budget so vast that, for example, in 2012 Los Angeles County taxpayers contributed $1.8 billion straight out of their pockets. New York City taxpayers were required to pay $1.6 billion. To find out your city’s or county’s share, visit www.c-p-r.net. In effect, we are made to pay for our own mortal risk. This is unconscionable.

It is time to ignore the dinosaurs of old thinking who feel that massive arsenals of nuclear weapons and the huge costs to our society somehow add to our safety. Even our own military planners have recognized that our arsenals could be massively reduced to as little as 300 weapons as a strong first step. The outmoded idea of deterrence now only fuels the arms race and the desire of other nations to have nuclear weapons themselves, thus increasing their potential use either by design or accident.  Any use of these weapons risk the potential for devastating consequences. A recent report by the Nobel Prize Physicians for Social Responsibility has identified that the use of as few as 100 weapons would damage the global climate and agricultural production so severely that the lives of more than one billion people would be at risk in a Nuclear Famine. We are now confronted by the fact that even unilateral use of these weapons can result in a slow but assured suicide. We have moved from the insane cold war doctrine of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) to SAD (Self Assured Destruction). Is there any policy that makes less sense?

The theft of these dollars from every community in our nation could be more effectively spent on education, healthcare, infrastructure, energy conservation and development of renewable energy sources and many other programs that must compete for these nuclear dollars and that ultimately add for more to our security and wellbeing.  In this time of budgetary debate and sequestration is this really the best we can do?

 Speaking in Prague that April 5, 2009 President Obama said:

“the Velvet Revolution taught us many things. It showed us that peaceful protest could shake the foundations of an empire, and expose the emptiness of an ideology. It showed … that young people can lead the way in overcoming old conflicts.  And it proved that moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon.

…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.

…Human destiny will be what we make of it. And here in Prague, let us honor our past by reaching for a better future. Let us bridge our divisions, build upon our hopes, accept our responsibility to leave this world more prosperous and more peaceful than we found it. Together we can do it.”

The existence of these immoral weapons of mass destruction themselves are just such an empty ideology. As the greatest imminent existential threat to our future, every day that we coexist with these weapons is a gift. We must demand an end to the existence of these weapons. The people are leading. Now is the time for leaders to follow. Make your voice be heard.


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Robert Dodge is a family physician practicing full time in Ventura, California. He serves on the board of Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles (www.psr-la.org) and writes for PeaceVoice, which distributed this commentary. Tom H. Hastings, Ed.D. is director of the PeaceVoice program at the Oregon Peace Institute.

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