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Nuclear Disarmament

UMC Policy
MUPWJ Statements
Writings of Howard W. Hallman

Nuclear disarmament has been the central issue for Methodists United for Peace with Justice since our founding in 1987. This stems from our initial organizing in response to a call for prayer and action on this issue by the United Methodist Council of Bishops in their pastoral letter and foundation document, In Defense of Creation: The Nuclear Crisis and a Just Peace.

In their 1986 pastoral letter In Defense of Creation: The Nuclear Crisis and a Just Peace, the United Methodist Council of Bishops stated: "we say a clear and unconditional No to nuclear war and to any use of nuclear weapons. We conclude that nuclear deterrence is a position that cannot receive the church's blessing."

In their foundation document with the same title the United Methodist bishops presented a biblical and theological grounding for their position. They recommended a set of policies for a just peace. Although In Defense of Creation is out of print with the publisher, copies may be purchased through online book sellers. A free, downloadable Study Guide is also available from Cokesbury.

Current United Methodist policy is expressed in a resolution "Saying No to Nuclear Deterrence" adopted by the 2004 General Conference.

In the spring of 2001 Methodists United for Peace with Justice offered its views to the Bush Administration on the pending Nuclear Posture Review. In an April 2001 letter to President George W. Bush, we indicated:

We believe that the final product should contain a multi-year plan for nuclear disarmament on equal terms with specification of deterrence policy and targeting.

When the conclusions of the Nuclear Posture Review were made public early in 2002, an article in Peace Leaf called the report "A Flawed Proposal". We observed:

The greatest flaw is the belief that nuclear weapons should remain forever. In contrast, the voices of religion say that possession, threatened use, and actual use of nuclear weapons is immoral and that all nuclear weapons should be eliminated.

The article identified other flaws: continuation of the doctrine of mutual assured destruction (MAD); expanded role for nuclear weapons; development of new nuclear weapons; the possibility of renewed testing.

Letter to President Bush on Nuclear Posture Review
from Methodists United for Peace with Justice

April 25, 2001

The Honorable George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We understand that the strategic review which your administration now has underway is encompassing a review of the U.S. nuclear posture. We note that Congress, in mandating a nuclear posture review, specified that consideration should be given to "the relationship among United States nuclear deterrence policy, targeting, and arms control objectives." We believe, therefore, that the final product should contain a multi-year plan for nuclear disarmament on equal terms with specification of deterrence policy and targeting.

The law of the land in the form of Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) commits the United States and other nuclear-weapon states "to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament." President Lyndon Johnson and then President Richard Nixon signed this treaty, and the U.S. Senate ratified it in March 1969 by a bipartisan vote of 83 to 15. Affirmative votes were registered by Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen and by two future Senate Republican leaders, Senator Howard Baker and Senator Robert Dole.

The United States and other nuclear-weapon states recommitted themselves to Article VI when the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was extended indefinitely in 1995. The United States concurred with the Final Document of the 2000 NPT Review Conference, which contains a commitment to "an unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapon States to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals."

Voices of Religion

Numerous faith-based organizations and religious leaders join in the call for the total elimination of nuclear weapons. Thus, the Sixth Assembly of the World Council of Churches in 1983 stated
We believe that the time has come when the churches must unequivocally declare that the production and deployment as well as the use of nuclear weapons are a crime against humanity and that such activities must be condemned on ethical and theological grounds. Furthermore, we appeal for the institution of a universal covenant to this effect so that nuclear weapons and warfare are delegitimized and condemned as violation of international law.

Speaking for the Holy See at the United Nations in 1997, Archbishop Renato Martino, the Holy See's Permanent Observer at the UN, stated:

Nuclear weapons are incompatible with the peace we seek for the 21st century. They cannot be justified. They deserve condemnation. The preservation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty demands an unequivocal commitment to their abolition....The world must move to the abolition of nuclear weapons through a universal, non-discriminatory ban with intensive inspection by a universal authority.

In a message on January 1, 2000 His Holiness the Dalai Lama called for a step-by-step approach to external disarmament. He stated, "We must first work for the total abolishment of nuclear weapons and gradually work up to total demilitarization throughout the world."

Many denominations in the United States have official policies calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons. For instance, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1993 indicated that "today, the moral task is to proceed with deep cuts and ultimately to abolish these nuclear weapons entirely." They further stated, "The eventual elimination of nuclear weapons is more than a moral ideal; it should be a policy goal."

The United Methodist General Conference, the denomination's official governing body, in May 2000 stated the moral case against nuclear weapons.

We reaffirm the finding that nuclear weapons, whether used or threatened, are grossly evil and morally wrong. As an instrument of mass destruction, nuclear weapons slaughter the innocent and ravage the environment. When used as instruments of deterrence, nuclear weapons hold innocent people hostage for political and military purposes. Therefore, the doctrine of nuclear deterrence is morally corrupt and spiritually bankrupt.

Therefore, we reaffirm the goal of total abolition of all nuclear weapons throughout Earth and space.

In June 2000 an interfaith group of 21 religious leaders joined 18 retired admirals and generals in a statement issued at the Washington National Cathedral in which they said:

We deeply believe that the long-term reliance on nuclear weapons in the arsenals of the nuclear powers, and the ever-present danger of their acquisition by others is morally untenable and militarily unjustifiable. They constitute a threat to the security of our nation, a peril to world peace, a danger to the whole human family.

They further stated:

It is...time for a great national and international discussion and examination of the true and full implications of reliance on nuclear weapons, to be followed by action leading to the international prohibition of these weapons."

Practical Steps

Thus, the voices of religion and the nations of the world as expressed in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty agree on the long-range goal of the total elimination of nuclear weapons. The question is: how do we achieve that goal in a practicable manner? The 2000 NPT Review Conference provided an answer by specifying in its Final Document a series of "practical steps for systematic and progressive efforts to implement Article VI." These steps include:

  • Early entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
  • A moratorium on nuclear weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosions pending entry into force of that treaty.
  • Negotiation of a multilateral treaty banning the production of fissile material.
  • Early entry into force and full implementation of START II and the conclusion of START III as soon as possible while preserving and strengthening the ABM Treaty as a cornerstone of strategic stability.
  • Further efforts by the nuclear-weapon states to reduce their nuclear arsenals unilaterally.
  • Further reduction of non-strategic nuclear weapons.
  • Concrete agreed measures to further reduce the operational status of nuclear weapons systems.
  • A diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies to minimize the risk that these weapons will ever be used and to facilitate the process of their total elimination.
  • The engagement as soon as appropriate of all the nuclear-weapon states in the process leading to the total elimination of their nuclear weapons.

Many of these practical steps were also recommended by the 2000 United Methodist General Conference in the attached resolution, "Saying No to Nuclear Deterrence".

Nuclear Posture Review

In the current nuclear posture review the United States now has an opportunity to translate its treaty commitment for the elimination of nuclear weapons into specific policies and a schedule of concrete steps. Although we share the view of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, who in 1986 said "No" to nuclear deterrence, we recognize that official U.S. policy is unlikely to immediately and totally reverse its 50-year commitment to nuclear deterrence. However, we ask that U.S. nuclear policy reaffirm the treaty commitment to nuclear disarmament and specify "a diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies". This diminishing role should include a no-first-use policy by the United States as a transitional measure on the way to total elimination.

With these basic commitments established the U.S. nuclear policy should outline a program of practical steps that will be carried out in the next four years and for another four year period beyond that. These should encompass (1) de-alerting the entire nuclear arsenal by removing weapons from hair-trigger alert, (2) deep cuts in the strategic arsenal through treaty negotiation and unilateral initiatives, (3) expanding the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program (Nunn-Lugar) to help Russia dismantle its nuclear weapons and achieve secure storage of fissile material, (4) vigorous international control of fissile material and ballistic missile technology, (5) use of diplomacy and financial incentives to curtail development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles by small nations, (6) maintenance of the nuclear testing moratorium and ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and (7) preservation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty because of its restraining influence on strategic missile deployment.

We believe that this agenda is a far superior way to achieve security of the United States from nuclear attack than national missile defense, which your administration is so vigorously pursuing. We agreed with the United Methodist General Conference which has issued a call to "halt all efforts to develop and deploy strategic antimissile defense systems because they are illusory, unnecessary, and wasteful."

Public Participation

Finally we recommend that there be full public participation in the nuclear posture review, including public hearings by the Department of Defense and by appropriate committees of Congress. We ask that a draft nuclear posture statement be published for widespread public discussion with provision for ample feedback before it is finally adopted.

With the United States leading the way the world can move away from outmoded, 20th century reliance on nuclear weapons and can free the 21st century from the curse of human existence threatened by these terrible instruments of mass destruction. This would constitute true moral progress for humankind. Mr. President, please use the opportunity of the nuclear posture review to provide global leadership for this worthy, achievable goal.

With best regards,

Howard W. Hallman

From Peace Leaf, April 2002

Nuclear Posture Review: A Flawed Proposal
by Howard W. Hallman

In January 2002 the U.S. Department of Defense sent to Congress a secret report on the results of its comprehensive Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). Mandated by Congress, the NPR lays out the direction for American nuclear forces for the next ten years and beyond. For the general public the Pentagon released only a bare outline of its recommendations. In March the Los Angeles Times got hold of the classified version and divulged greater details.

The fuller version reveals a set of policies that has some positive features but also contains serious flaws, some quite disturbing. The greatest flaw is the belief that nuclear weapons should remain forever. In contrast, the voices of religion say that possession, threatened use, and actual use of nuclear weapons is immoral and that all nuclear weapons should be eliminated.

Reductions Insufficient

On the positive side the Nuclear Posture Review offers the goal of 1,700 to 2,200 operationally deployed strategic warheads for the United States by 2012. This is a reduction from the approximately 6,500 warheads now deployed and the goal of 3,500 by 2007 under the second Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START II), which has never gone into effect. This is a step in the right redirection. If achieved, it will be a worthy improvement over the lack of reductions during the Clinton Administration, deadlocked as it was with the Republican-controlled Congress.

Deeper analysis, however, reveals that this reduction is not as significant as first appears. Previous arms control agreements, such as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, signed by President Reagan, and START I, signed by President George H.W. Bush, provided for the destruction of delivery vehicles (missiles, bombers) taken out of service. In contrast, the Nuclear Posture Review reveals an intent to preserve the delivery vehicles and warheads for possible redeployment

This goes against the principle of irreversibility that the United States agreed to during the 2000 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Also, it will encourage Russia to keep in reserve warheads and delivery vehicles take out of service. Because Russian security of nuclear weapons and fissile material is sometimes lax, this increases the risk that terrorist organizations could gain access.

A much wiser course would be to dismantle all downloaded warheads and their delivery systems. Moreover, reductions should be accomplished at a much faster pace and should go much deeper that now being considered by President Bush and Russian President Putin.

MAD Continues

The Nuclear Posture Review speaks of an intention to encourage and facilitate a new framework for cooperation with Russia. It indicates that the Cold War approach to deterrence is no longer appropriate. It declares a desire to end the relationship with Russia based on mutual assured destruction (MAD). In speeches and news conferences President Bush has repeatedly stated an intent to move away from MAD. So have Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell. Rumsfeld has acknowledged that the "deterrent of massive retaliation, or MAD -- mutual assured destruction -- did not do anything to deter the Korean War or the Vietnam War or Desert Storm or dozens of other events."

Their words about moving away from MAD are contradicted by the level of the nuclear force to remain deployed and held in reserve. Administration officials explain that nuclear missiles will no longer be aimed at any particular target but will be available for whatever contingency might arise. But experts indicate that all of the contingencies specified in the NPR beyond Russia -- China and five non-nuclear states (see below) -- would require only a few hundred missiles to deal with if worse comes to worse. The only possible targets for the balance are in Russia.

As Secretary of State George Shultz under President Reagan observed, states design policy not on the basis of intention of other states but rather on their capabilities. Because Russia retains the capability of launching a massive attack on the United States, the U.S. must maintain a counter capability. This means that mutual assured destruction remains in effect between two nations now said to be friends.

The only way to end the MAD doctrine is to substantially reduce capability far below the numbers considered in the Nuclear Posture Review, perhaps to fewer than 200 or 100, and eventually to zero.

Expanded Role

As the United States built up its nuclear arsenal after World War II, the primary role for nuclear weapons was the deterrence of nuclear attack by another state possessing nuclear weapons. The second role until the Cold War ended was deterrence of a Soviet attack on Western Europe. Under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the United States made a commitment not to use nuclear weapons against any nation not possessing nuclear weapons or allied with a nuclear weapons state.

The Nuclear Posture Review of the Bush administration changes this. It indicates that nuclear strike capability should be available for various contingencies. It specifies: "North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Libya are among the countries that could be involved in immediate, potential, or unexpected contingencies." The NPR also indicates that nuclear weapons should be used to deter attack by biological and chemical weapons. It adds that nuclear weapons could be employed against targets able to withstand non-nuclear attack, such as, deep underground bunkers and bio-weapon facilities.

When asked about this at a news conference, President Bush explained, "We've got all options on the table." This is a dangerous approach. The expanded role for nuclear weapons suggests greater legitimacy and encourages other nations to respond in kind. Moreover, it is immoral, for all options should not be on the table. Genocide is not a legitimate option. Slaughter of the innocent is not an acceptable option.

Testing and New Weapon Development

The desire to expand the role of nuclear weapons leads the Nuclear Posture Review to give consideration to return to nuclear weapon testing and development of new nuclear weapons. Although the NPT affirms President Bush's commitment to a moratorium on nuclear weapons testing, it calls for the Department of Energy to reduce the time it would take to resume testing from the current two to three years to one year or so. Comments by the Pentagon spokesperson at a press briefing on the NPR and statements by other officials suggest that the Administration is looking toward the end of the test moratorium within a few years.

The NPR indicates that the current nuclear force is projected to remain until 2020 or longer. Meanwhile the Department of Defense will study alternatives for follow-ons. This could include a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) to be operational in 2020, a new SLBM (submarine-launched ballistic missile) and a new SSBN (ballistic missile submarine) in 2030, and a new heavy bomber in 2040 as well as new warheads for all of them.

Thus, the Bush Administration assumes that nuclear weapons will be part of U.S. military forces for at least the next 50 years. This is clearly in conflict with the goal of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It is contrary to the recommendation of numerous religious bodies to achieve the global elimination of nuclear weapons.

A Faith Response

Because of such concerns, representatives of 25 national religious organizations have urged President Bush to send the Nuclear Posture Review back to the drawing boards. They propose that it should be reconfigured to incorporate nuclear disarmament components and specify a declining role for nuclear weapons in U.S. foreign and military policy.

An excellent disarmament agenda is available from the Final Document of the 2000 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It encompasses a number of practical steps, such as: reduction in operational status of nuclear weapons system; continued moratorium on nuclear-weapon-test explosions; entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; irreversible reductions of strategic offensive weapons and also tactical nuclear weapons; increased transparency; engagement of all nuclear-weapon states in the process of achieving the total elimination of their nuclear weapons.

For some, this may sound too idealistic and impractical. It isn't. Numerous admirals and generals in their retirement have told us that nuclear weapons have no military utility. In June 2000 eighteen of them joined 21 top religious leaders in a statement, issued at the Washington National Cathedral, saying that "the long-term reliance on nuclear weapons in the arsenals of the nuclear powers, and the ever-present danger in their acquisition by others, is morally untenable and militarily unjustifiable. They added, "National security imperatives and ethical demands have converged to bring us to the necessity of outlawing and prohibiting nuclear weapons worldwide."

This is moral response for a moral nation. This is the correct nuclear posture for the United States.

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