Letter to Barack Obama


BY pgs-admin
14 January 2009

Dear President – Elect Barack Obama,

We write as NGOs and as people in the US and worldwide, who are working for the elimination of all nuclear weapons. This is an objective desired by the overwhelming majority of both governments and people.

We are powerfully motivated by the belief that all nuclear weapons, without exception, whether in the possession of the United States and Russia, or in the hands of the supposedly most ‘unstable’ and ‘irresponsible’ of so – called ‘rogue states’, represent a threat to the existence of civilisation and humans. There is no such thing as a good nuclear weapon. There is no issue more urgent and important than the elimination of these weapons. It is a life and death issue for us all.

The use of as few as a hundred relatively small warheads in South Asia has been projected to cause catastrophic global climatic effects. The use of the massive arsenals that the US and Russia continue to maintain on high alert status, (as referred to in your policy document) would, even at the reduced levels of today, still mean the end of civilisation, of much of land-based life, and possibly of humans.

Each year, the nations of the world vote in the First Committee and plenary of the UN General Assembly for an end to this ongoing risk-taking, with overwhelming support for a number of resolutions that chart routes to the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.

A number of high – level calls have recently been made for the elimination of nuclear weapons , including the call by Kissinger, Schultz, Perry and Nunn which you reference in your policy documents. More recently, the Global Zero Campaign has released a call signed by 100 distinguished people, saying simply:

“We, the undersigned, believe that to protect our children, our grandchildren and our civilisation from the threat of nuclear catastrophe, we must eliminate all nuclear weapons globally. We therefore commit to working for a legally binding verifiable agreement, including all nations, to eliminate nuclear weapons by a date certain.”

The policies on which you campaigned have bought hope to people around the world who believe, with these people, that nuclear weapons are a threat to everybody and everything, and that they should have been eliminated years or decades ago as per article VI of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. This obligation, as you correctly state below, binds the United States.

You state in your policy on national security:

“…Set the Goal of a Nuclear-Free World: Barack Obama will show the world that America believes in its existing commitment under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to work to ultimately eliminate all nuclear weapons. Barack Obama fully supports reaffirming this goal, as called for by George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, William Perry, and Sam Nunn, and the specific steps they propose to move us in that direction. He has made clear that America will not disarm unilaterally.”

“…Seek Real, Verifiable Reductions in Nuclear Stockpiles: Barack Obama will seek deep, verifiable reductions in all U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons and work with other nuclear powers to reduce global stockpiles dramatically by the end of his presidency.”

We also especially strongly support:

“…Work with Russia to Increase Warning and Decision Time: Keeping nuclear weapons ready to launch on a moment’s notice is a dangerous relic of the Cold War. Barack Obama believes that we must address this dangerous situation. As President, Barack Obama will aim to work with Russia to end such Cold War policies in a mutual and verifiable manner.”

A resolution was recently passed in the UN General Assembly on this issue by 141 votes in favour to 3 against (including regrettably the US), indicating that the overwhelming majority of governments worldwide believe that the possibility of an accidental nuclear exchange is both real and intolerable.

Your election policies and statements have given hope to disarmament advocates and to the world as a whole.

However, some recent statements by others have given us cause for disquiet.

Robert Gates, whom you recently re-appointed as secretary for defence, stated in an address to the Carnegie Foundation just one or two months ago that:
“Try as we might and hope as we will, the power of nuclear weapons and their strategic impact is a genie that cannot be put back in the bottle, at least for a very long time. While we have a long-term goal of abolishing nuclear weapons once and for all, given the world in which we live, we have to be realistic about that proposition.”

We agree with the need for realism. But the question that your administration must ask is not whether it is ‘realistic’ to eliminate a threat to all humans, but whether it is ‘realistic’ to fail to do so, or to delay doing so. We draw your attention to the Model Nuclear Weapons Convention which has been circulated to all UN members by the United Nations Secretary-General, and which explores realistically the legal, technical, political and institutional measures to achieve and maintain a nuclear weapons free world.

The policies that you brought to the election were and are policies that have given hope to Americans and to the world.

A retreat from those policies into ones that more closely resemble those of the previous administration would send extremely negative signals to those that you would wish to influence in a more positive direction, fuelling nuclear arms – races and proliferation worldwide and extinguishing much of the hope you have ignited.

An appeal by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation outlines the steps we urge your administration to take. These steps are a practical expression of the policies you have already outlined.
De-alert. Remove all nuclear weapons from high-alert status, separating warheads from delivery vehicles;

No First Use. Make legally binding commitments to No First Use of nuclear weapons and establish nuclear policies consistent with this commitment;

No New Nuclear Weapons. Initiate a moratorium on the research and development of new nuclear weapons, such as the Reliable Replacement Warhead;

Ban Nuclear Testing Forever. Ratify and bring into force the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty;

Control Nuclear Material. Create a verifiable Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty with provisions to bring all weapons-grade nuclear material and the technologies to create such material under strict and effective international control;

Nuclear Weapons Convention. Commence good faith negotiations, as required by the Non-Proliferation Treaty, to achieve a Nuclear Weapons Convention for the phased, verifiable and irreversible elimination of nuclear weapons;

Resources for Peace. Reallocate resources from the tens of billions currently spent on nuclear arms to alleviating poverty, preventing and curing disease, eliminating hunger and expanding educational opportunities throughout the world.

Nuclear disarmament advocates strongly support your commitment to a nuclear – weapons – free world. Now that you are president – elect of the United States, you must think carefully about how to maintain and implement these policies, and about how to keep the impetus toward the achievement of a nuclear weapon – free world sooner rather than later.

A reaffirmation in your inaugural speech on 20 Jan, of your commitment to a nuclear weapons – free world would be extremely helpful.

We hope and trust that under your presidency, the United States will show the leadership you have promised toward a nuclear – weapons – free world.


Jayantha Dhanapala (Sri Lanka) – former United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs 1998-2003 and President of the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference

Colin Archer, Secretary – General, International Peace Bureau (IPB) Geneva,

Alyn Ware, Vice – President, International Peace Bureau,

Aaron Tovish, International Director, 2020 Vision Campaign, Mayors for Peace, Hiroshima/Ypres

Jonathan Granoff, President, Global Security Institute, Philadelphia/NY,

John Loretz, Executive Director, Sergei Kolesnikov, Co-President, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW),

Ron McCoy, Past Co-President, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, IPPNW Malaysia,

Paul Ingram, Executive Director, BASIC, US/UK (Pers Capy)

Vijay Mehta,Co-chair, World Disarmament Campaign,
President of VM Centre for Peace
Chair of Action for UN Renewal, London, UK
David Krieger, President, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation,(NAPF) Santa Barbara, Calif,

Alice Slater, NAPF – New York,

Dr. Kathleen Sullivan, Office for Disarmament Affairs, United Nations, New York,

Dr. Robert Zuber, Global Action to Prevent War, NY,

Steven Starr, MT, Senior Scientist, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Washington,

Helen Caldicott, Founding President, Physicians for Social Responsibility,

Joseph Gerson, AFSC (identification only)

David Hartsough, Director, Peaceworkers, San Francisco,

Marylia Kelley, Executive Director, Tri-Valley CARES, Livermore, CA,

Kim Kroeber, Physicians for Global Survival Canada,

Gordon Edwards, Ph.D., President, Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility (CCNR), Montreal (Quebec) Canada,

Mrs. Eryl Court, Canada, Canadian Envoy Coordinator and Member of the Council of Advisors of Unitarian-Universalist United Nations Office, (Official NGO of the UN)

Hon. Douglas Roche, O.C., Former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament,
Jean-Marie Matagne, Président, Action des Citoyens pour le Désarmement Nucléaire (ACDN), France.

Pierre Villard, co-president, Le Mouvement de la Paix (France)
Prof. Henri Firket, President , Association Médicale pour la Prévention de la Guerre Nucléaire (AMPGN, Belgium),

Xanthe Hall, IPPNW Germany,

Derman Boztok, General Secretary, IPPNW Turkey,
Kate Hudson, Convenor, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) London, UK,

George Farebrother, World Court Project, UK,

George Paxton, Gandhi Foundation, UK,
John Gunnar Maeland, M.D. Ph.D professor, University of Bergen, Norway,
Deputy Chair, Norwegian Physicians against Nuclear Weapons,

Kirsten Osen, Council member IPPNW Norway,

Ole Kopreitan, secretary General – No to Nuclear Weapons – Norway

Ak Malten, Pro Peaceful Energy Use, Netherlands,

Maria Arvaniti Sotiropoulou, President, Hellenic Affiliate of IPPNW

Admiral L Ramdas. Former Chief of the Naval Staff Indian Navy. President Emeritus of the Pakistan India Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy. Member National Coordination Committee Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace INDIA.

Wilfred D’costa, General Secretary, Indian Social Action Forum – INSAF, New Delhi, India,

Sukla Sen, EKTA, Mumbai, India,

S. P. Udayakumar,People’s Movement against Nuclear Energy,
Nagercoil, Tamil Nadu, India

Sri Raman, Movement Against Nuclear Weapons (MANW), Chennai, India,

Dr Kusum Chadda, Reader, Political Science, University of Delhi,

Farooq Tariq, Spokesperson, Labour Party Pakistan

Paul Saoke, Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR)-Kenya,
Ignacio Paniagua, MD, Director,Mauricio Lozano, MD, Deputy Director, Salvadoran Physicians for Social Responsibility
Barney Richards, Peace Council Aotearoa NZ,

Gerald O’Brien, President of Honour, Peace Council, NZ,

Bob Rigg, former Chair, NZ National Consultative Committee on Disarmament,
Steve Leeper, Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, Hiroshima, Japan

Hiroshi TAKA – Japan GENSUIKYO, Tokyo Japan,

Philip White, International Liason, Citizens Nuclear Information Centre,(CNIC) Tokyo, Japan,

Akira Kawasaki, Peaceboat, Japan,

Satoru Konishi, Asst.Secy. General of Nihon Hidankyo, Japan.
Luisa Morgantini MEP, Vice-President, European Parliament,

Caroline Lucas MEP, Greens,for South-East England,

Jean Lambert MEP, Green Party, London

Langeland Hallgeir MP, Storting, Norway,

Frank Cook MP, Westminister UK,

Paul Flynn MP House of Commons London,

David Chaytor MP, Bury North, House of Commons, Lond,

John Robb, three times Irish Senator, Ten year term as Senator, Queen’s University, Belfast, Founder member of New Ireland Movement (1070s); Founder member and long time chairman & Consensor, New Ireland Group, (1980s). Portrush, North of Ireland.

Jill Hall MP, Federal Parliament Australia,

Jo Vallentine, People for Nuclear Disarmament Western Australia

Irene Gale/Don Jarrett, Australian Peace Committee, Adelaide,

Tim Wright, President, Peace Organisation of Australia,

Peter Murphy, SEARCH Foundation, Sydney Australia,

Pauline Mitchell, CICD Peace Centre, Melbourne,

Fr Herman Roburgh SJ, Society of Jesus Australian Province,

Dave Muller, South Movement, Melbourne,

Brenda Conochie, Environment House, Perth, W.A.,

Nasser Mashni,Sonja Karkar, Co-conveners, Australians for Palestine, Melbourne – Australia,

Sonja Karkar, President, Women for Palestine, Melb, Aust,

John Hallam, People for Nuclear Disarmament Nuclear Flashpoints Campaign (Letter Coordinator) Surry Hills NSW (Sydney) Aust,