Last week, Congress refused - for a second time - to fund the Bush administration's demand for a new nuclear weapon system, the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW). However, cutting funding for the RRW is one of those big moves destined to generate little fanfare.
It is a little too technical and incremental to be heralded as a decisive step towards nuclear abolition, and yet the RRW program - which over the next decade or so would have upgraded the core workings of all U.S. nuclear warheads - was a life line for the nuclear weapons complex at a time when President George W. Bush was one of the few holdouts on the global consensus on disarmament.
So, cutting $10 million for the nascent program could very likely be the beginning of the end of the flow of resources into new nuclear weapons development.
The move "reflects a broad rejection of President Bush's aggressive nuclear doctrine, and may also signal a new opportunity for true American leadership away from nuclear weapons," notes Cara Bautista, deputy political director for Peace Action West.
Stephen Colecchi, director of the Office of International Justice and Peace for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told Sojourners:
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has opposed funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead for a long time. As Bishop Wenski, the Chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace, wrote in a letter to Congress: 'The moral task today is to proceed with deeper cuts and ultimately to ban nuclear weapons entirely, not to create new ones. Just war moral criteria require that the use of force be proportionate and discriminate, minimizing harm to civilians. The use of nuclear weapons cannot meet these criteria in any meaningful sense.'
We can credit everyone from Henry Kissinger to Helen Caldicott to grassroots activists with groups like PeaceAction and the Campaign for a Nuclear Weapons Free World with helping to create a political climate in which Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and others could act.
The religious community and nuclear arms reduction advocates can celebrate a victory on this one.
Frida Berrigan is a senior program associate at the New America Foundation's Arms and Security Initiative. Read what religious leaders have to day about nuclear weapons in A Crime Against Humanity (Sojourners, March 2008) Read Frida Berrigan's overview of the military spending budget in 'A Theft from Those Who Hunger' (Sojourners, June 2008).