US prelate calls for ratification of START
A leading Archbishop in the US has described the ratification of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty by the Senate as a moral imperative and a necessary step towards the eventual goal of total nuclear disarmament.
Speaking during a discussion on the ethics of President Obama’s nuclear weapons policy hosted by The Catholic University of America, Archbishop Edwin O’Brien of Baltimore urged senators to cast aside partisan differences and approve the START agreement.
The agreement calls for what he described as “modest reductions” in American and Russian nuclear arsenals.
He also cited traditional just-war theory as well as Church documents in calling for nuclear disarmament.
“The aims of just war teaching are to reduce recourse to military force and to restrain the damage done by war,” he said.
“Some of its principles are particularly applicable to nuclear weapons: The use of force must be discriminate. Civilians and civilian facilities may not be the object of direct, intentional attack and care must be taken to avoid and minimize indirect harm to civilians. The use of force must be proportionate. The overall destruction must not outweigh the good to be achieved. And there must be a probability of success.”
“Nuclear war-fighting is rejected in Church teaching because it cannot ensure non-combatant immunity and the likely destruction and lingering radiation would violate the principle of proportionality,” Archbishop O’Brien continued.
“The real risks inherent in nuclear war make the probability of success elusive,” he added.
Signed on 8 April in the Czech Republic’s capital, Prague, by Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, the START “follow-on” treaty calls for both countries to reduce their strategic arsenals — weapons deployed on long-range missiles, bombers and submarines – to 1,550 each.
Under the previous START pact, which expired in December, both countries reduced their strategic arsenals to 2,200 weapons each.
The Russian Duma also must approve the treaty, and from that point, both countries will have seven years to reach the agreement’s targets.
The archbishop’s call is the most recent public step by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and Church leaders to build support for the new round of nuclear disarmament among Catholics and in the US Senate.