nuclear war

Preliminary Deal on Iran Nuclear Program Reached

A nuclear deal between Iran and the US was reached today. Image via Aref.ahm/shu
A nuclear deal between Iran and the US was reached today. Image via Aref.ahm/

The United States and Iran agreed to a preliminary deal on Iran's nuclear program today, Politico reports. The hotly anticipated deal, following stop-and-start negotiations and vocal concern from Republicans and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will include Iran dismantling two-thirds of its centrifuges and allowing rigiourous inspections by the IAEA through 2035 and beyond. In exchange for Iran's compliance, the U.S. and the E.U. will lift longstanding economic sanctions. 

President Obama was optimistic but pragmatic, saying the plan was a "good deal," according to Politico: 

"'[It is] a historic understanding with Iran which, if implemented, will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon. I am convinced that if this framework leads to a final deal, it will make our country and the world safer,' Obama said in a statement in the White House Rose Garden. The deal would 'cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.'

... Obama stressed in particular the inspection and verification aspects of the agreement. 'If Iran cheats, the world will know it. If we see anything suspicious, we will inspect it,' Obama said.

...'If there is backsliding on the part of the Iranians,' he said, 'there will be no deal.'"

The Win Without War coalition called the preliminary deal "huge news" in a statement, also released today:

"At a time when much of the Middle East is engulfed in war, the United States is on the verge of achieving one of our most pressing national security goals without dropping a single bomb. Today's progress towards a comprehensive, historic agreement between Iran, the United States, and our P5+1 partners not only ensures that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon, but it demonstrates precisely how America can win without war."

Details of the plan are anticipated in late June. Read more at Politico


Americans of Faith Must Reconsider Stands on Nuclear Weapons

Gas masks of World War II. Image via RNS/
Gas masks of World War II. Image via RNS/

Setsuko Thurlow was 13 when “progress” came to Hiroshima in a white-hot flash. In the dark silence following the nuclear bomb blast, Thurlow recalls children crying, “Mama, help me. God, help me.”

Her sister lived for four days. Many of her 351 dying schoolmates “looked like skeletons with skin hanging from their bones.”

They perished in agony.

Today, Thurlow and other survivors travel the globe, sharing their stories with a new generation for which nuclear weapons are an afterthought — seemingly a hypothetical and abstract threat.

The end of the Cold War had a mixed effect on the nuclear equation. Through dogged diplomacy and effective institutions, disarmament continues, though at a slower pace in recent years. There are now 10,000 operational nuclear warheads in the world, down from a high of 64,000 in 1986.

But the specter of nuclear terrorism and regional conflicts between nuclear weapons states makes nuclear weapons even more dangerous in our international system. Deterrence theory, which governed strategic thinking during the Cold War, is a much less compelling framework today.

Thankfully, most states have forsworn these armaments. Nuclear weapons are not vital to any state’s legitimate security interest. No state or NGO has the capacity to respond to the unfathomable humanitarian crisis that would follow an accidental or intentional use of a nuclear weapon.

Thus a growing global consensus now acknowledges the extreme risk nuclear weapons pose.

Pope John XXIII stated unequivocally in his 1963 encyclical “Pacem in Terris,” “Nuclear weapons must be banned.”

Little Boys With Toys

Kim Jong-un in 2009. Photo by petersnoopy /
Kim Jong-un in 2009. Photo by petersnoopy /

The fact that North Korea’s young leader Kim Jong-un is threatening the world with nuclear holocaust does what World War I did to many theologians who had presumed that history was on a course of inevitable progress.

It is not.

The power of death is enticing, a sin to which Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the bomb, later confessed. The human will to power becomes evil when real soldiers, real nuclear bombs, real missiles, and real threats of destruction are mistaken for childhood toys or computer games where human folly can be erased by hitting a reset button.

We are all children inside, for good and for ill.

Sleepwalking in a Nuclear Minefield

As the 21st century unfolds, a new truth is gradually being recognized: Nuclear wea­pons and human security cannot co-exist.

Almost two decades after the end of the Cold War, there are still 25,000 nuclear weapons in existence, about 95 percent held by the United States and Russia with smaller numbers also possessed by the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, and Israel. All told, half of humanity still lives in a nuclear-weapons state. The total amount of money spent by these countries on their nuclear arsenals exceeds $12 trillion, a stupendous sum only a fraction of which could have resolved the issues of mass poverty, health deficiencies, and education neglect.

During the Cold War, the rationale for the superpowers’ buildup of strategic nuclear weapons was the theory of deterrence. The U.S. and the Soviet Union were each deterred from using their nuclear weapons, according to the theory, in the knowledge that the opponent had the capacity to strike back overwhelmingly. This stand-off was called Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD). But with the post-Cold War emergence of the United States as the sole superpower, a new nuclear age has begun in which the war-fighting use of nuclear weapons is actually considered and threatened.

The Nuclear Posture Review, conducted by the Bush administration in 2001, established expansive plans to “revitalize” U.S. nuclear forces and all the elements that support them, within a new triad of capacities combining nuclear and conventional offensive strikes with missile defenses and nuclear-weapons infrastructure. Under the subsequent post-9/11 National Security Strategy, the administration said it would take “anticipatory action” (a euphemism for pre-emptive strikes) against enemies of the United States and has not ruled out using nuclear weapons, which remain a cornerstone of U.S. national security policy.

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Sojourners Magazine March 2008
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Breaking the Power

In the last 10 years, a truly remarkable thing has happened in our country and in most of the world. The widespread alarm of ordinary citizens at the prospect of nuclear war has become a major factor in domestic politics and international diplomacy. Humanity's silence in the face of a precarious balance of terror has been decisively broken. From town councils and church committees to houses of parliament and super-power summits, the question of nuclear war is finally at, or near the top of, the public agenda.

That great awakening didn't just happen. It was in large part the result of hard work and difficult struggle on the part of thousands of dedicated activists. And churches and Christian communities, in fact many of the readers of this magazine, played a key role in that process. Because of those efforts, combined with the tides of history and providence, we now live in a world where masses of people in almost every nation are awakened and mobilized against the nuclear threat.

We called for a freeze on the production, testing, and deployment of new nuclear systems. And that call was ratified by an overwhelming majority of the American people. We called for one of the superpowers to break the deadly cycle with a bold, unilateral initiative for peace. And with the Soviet testing moratorium, that has come to pass. Even our fondest and often unspoken dream--the complete elimination of nuclear weapons as instruments of national security--is now discussed with apparent seriousness by world leaders. We can look back over the last decade and, paraphrasing the hack politician's dying words in The Last Hurrah, say to ourselves, "We've done great things--among others."

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