Time to rid world of nuclear weapons, cardinal, ex-defense secretary say

October 26, 2011

Dennis Sadowski
from Catholic News Service

Nuclear disarmament is a moral imperative that requires bold action on the part of the world’s military powers, an American cardinal and a former Secretary of Defense told a forum sponsored by University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.

Cardinal Roger Mahony, retired archbishop of Los Angeles, and William Perry, who served as defense secretary from 1994 to 1997 under President Bill Clinton and helped build the U.S. nuclear arsenal during the Cold War, said Oct. 25 that even though eliminating nuclear weapons around the world will be a tough challenge, it doesn’t mean world leaders shouldn’t try.

“The church … finds the nuclear status quo morally unacceptable,” Cardinal Mahony said, pointing to the need to begin moving toward a mutual, verifiable global ban on such weapons.

The cardinal, who has helped draft statements from the American bishops on the possession and use of nuclear weapons, expressed concern that despite the signing of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty by the U.S. and Russia early this year, thousands of missiles and bombs remain on alert.

Disarmament is “a moral imperative,” he said. “(The church) does reject the view that nuclear deterrence is the only option in the long term. Rather the church insists that nuclear disarmament, not nuclear deterrence, is a long-term basis for security.”

Perry has reversed course since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. He said he has made it his life’s work to rid the world of nuclear weapons, no matter how small the steps that are taken.

Perry is known today as a member of the “gang of four,” which includes former statesmen Henry Kissinger, George P. Schultz and Sam Nunn, who in a series of op-ed pieces (here, here and here for starters) in The Wall Street Journal beginning in 2007 called for the elimination of all nuclear weapons. The group subsequently formed the Nuclear Security Project, which produced a video titled “Nuclear Tipping Point” to bolster their stance.

Perry acknowledged that Iran and North Korea pose serious dangers if they are able to build nuclear arsenals and said the world must be vigilant when dealing with both nations.

Both speakers also cited several challenges ahead in a world still dependent on nuclear deterrence. Most notable perhaps, they said, is a complacent public which hardly concerns itself with the dangers that nuclear weapons pose. They also called for ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, strengthening protections around nuclear materials and implementation of a nuclear fissile material treaty.

“In the end it requires something more: a rejection of the sin of despair that we can never escape the nuclear predicament we find ourselves in,” Cardinal Mahony said. “We must embrace the virtue of hope. We must not be naïve about the daunting challenges involved in moving to nuclear zero.”


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