U.S. should lead in nuclear disarmament

Fifty-eight years ago this week, the United States – the only country to use nuclear weapons – dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These actions, which resulted in the deaths of over 300,000 people and left many more ravaged by radiation sickness, forever changed the nature of warfare. For the first time, a weapon existed that could threaten humanity’s very existence. Successive U.S. administrations, and the transnational corporations that back them, saw nuclear arms as critical to the drive to control the world’s destiny and dominate its resources.

Over the ensuing decades, a vast worldwide people’s movement to abolish nuclear weapons sprang up, with the Soviet Union playing a leading role. Though ever more dangerous and powerful arms were developed, they were hemmed in by a network of agreements. Among these were the partial and complete test bans, the anti-ballistic missile treaty, the nuclear non-proliferation agreement which commits the five acknowledged nuclear powers to eliminate their arsenals, and successive treaties to reduce numbers of weapons.

However, since the extreme right wing of the U.S. ruling class took power under the Bush administration, the specter of nuclear war looms larger than ever. Together with the doctrines of preemptive strike and perpetual war, the current administration publicly declared that seven countries including Russia and China are targeted with nuclear arms. The Bush administration destroyed the anti-ballistic missile treaty that bars weaponization of space, and its strategic doctrine includes the possibility of nuclear first strike. It plans to develop new types of nuclear arms including low-yield “bunker busters.”

It is time (some say past time) to demand that the United States – possessor of the world’s leading arsenal by far – must now live up to its pledge in the nuclear non-proliferation agreement and lead the worldwide process of nuclear disarmament by dismantling its own arsenal.

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GLBT progress tempered by new attacks

This summer will go down as historic for the successes in the struggle for gay and lesbian rights. The Supreme Court overturned state sodomy laws, Canada legalized gay marriage, Wal-Mart, the country’s largest employer, extended benefits to domestic partners, and even on TV and in movies, the GLBT community is being shown in a positive light.

But as we enter the lazy days of August, it is becoming clear just how far there still is to go. At a Rose Garden press conference last week, President Bush vowed to work for a ban on same-sex marriages. “I am mindful that we are all sinners,” said Bush, once again, injecting his religion into a political debate. Trampling squarely on the Bill of Rights, he again crossed the line which separates church and state.

The far right in the churches have also stepped up their attacks. The Vatican announced that papal support will be given to anything banning gay marriage, while conservatives in the Episcopalian church threatened a major split over the election of a gay bishop.

The struggle for LGBT rights and equality is important to all supporters of democracy. Human Rights Campaign Executive Director Elizabeth Birch put it well when she said, “Our nation was founded by those who held deeply in their hearts the principle that religious matters should be separate from state matters. It’s important for lawmakers – and the American people – to understand that civil marriage is about receiving more than 1,000 protections and rights under federal and state law. … No religious institution would be forced to recognize these marriages, just as today the Catholic church isn’t forced to recognize the marriage of someone who has been divorced.”

Leading up to the election, we must redouble efforts to make sure the Bill of Rights is upheld, that discrimination not become the law of the land, and that Bush has to find a new home come January 2005.