The Common Good

Happy (No) New (Nukes) Year!

The day after Christmas, President Bush signed an omnibus spending bill containing a major victory for all those committed to a world free of nuclear weapons: the complete elimination of funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program. This program would have led to a new generation of nuclear warheads, and possibly a new nuclear arms race, under the guise of ensuring the reliability of current nuclear warheads.


Congress saw through the program-despite its euphemistic name-and so did the American public. When a reporter for the San Francisco Gate stopped Californians on the street last year and asked them what name they would have picked for the Reliable Replacement Warhead program, he received some spot-on answers, including, "Stupidly Provocative Warhead," "The Let's Kill Them All Warhead, and, "An Efficient and Comprehensive Instrument of Death and Destruction."


Whatever the administration called it, the Reliable Replacement Warhead program represented yet another effort to build newer and more usable weapons of mass destruction. (Ironically, the administration's funding proposal for the program came at a time when tensions between the U.S. and Iran over Iran's nuclear energy program were at an all-time high.) When will our political leadership realize that as long as nuclear weapons exist, we'll be living under the threat of nuclear annihilation?


Many Christians have been working to eliminate nuclear weapons for longer than I've been alive. These immoral weapons of mass destruction have robbed us of our security ever since the first one was exploded in the desert of New Mexico, less than an hour from my house. In over half a century, we haven't seen a whole lot of victories. But last year, former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of Defense William Perry, and former Senator Sam Nunn laid out a bold new vision for a world free of nuclear weapons-thus bringing tremendous new energy to efforts to lift the nuclear threat once and for all.


And now, instead of funding the administration's request for the RRW program, Congress is demanding a new evaluation of nuclear weapons strategy for the 21st century. As it turns out, our current nuclear weapons policy hasn't been updated since the Cold War.


It's truly time for a change. Until the elimination of nuclear weapons becomes our number one priority, we're likely to see the Reliable Replacement Warhead program, repackaged in shiny new wrapping paper, coming up again year after year.


Jessica Wilbanks is the coordinator of Faithful Security, the National Religious Partnership on the Nuclear Weapons Danger.

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