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Sunday, April 24, 2011

US must play lead role in new test ban treaty

Guest Commentary

During the last few days, we have traveled to Concord, Dover, Manchester, Plymouth and Portsmouth to address students and the wider community on what we can do to reduce the risk from nuclear weapons.

We thanked U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, former Sen. Judd Gregg and our supporters for building a bipartisan majority in 2010 in favor of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

The next logical step to reduce the nuclear weapons threat will be Senate consideration and ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

As in 2010, the nation will be looking to New Hampshire’s senators for their leadership on this critical issue.

The CTBT would end nuclear weapons test detonations worldwide. The United States was the first country to sign the treaty, and 181 countries have since followed our example.

In 1999, the Senate took up the consideration of the treaty and failed to ratify it. This rejection came even though the U.S. had not tested nuclear weapons since 1992 and had no realistic plans for doing so in the future.

Before the treaty can become international law, the U.S. and nine other countries must ratify the treaty. Without U.S. ratification, other countries will continue to use that as an excuse for not ratifying it.

Two arguments raised by the opposition to the treaty at the time of the debate on the CTBT regarded the issue of verification and the question of whether our nuclear arsenal could be maintained without detonating nuclear weapons.

Those concerns, while sufficiently answered in 1999, are now addressed by a significant array of bipartisan scientists and national security experts.

President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State George Shultz, Henry Kissinger and President George H.W. Bush’s National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft have come out strongly in favor of this treaty on national security grounds.

This treaty is urgent to the security and health of our country because it helps to lessen the only remaining existential threat to the United States. A nuclear detonation, either by virtue of terrorism or a general attack, would lead to the devastation of the public health infrastructure in the area and the spread of dangerous radiation for miles.

A physician’s ability to respond to this is woefully inadequate, focusing on supportive care and comfort measures. As with most serious illnesses in medicine, prevention is the best practice.

With no need or desire to test nuclear weapons and a clear national security interest in preventing other countries from doing so, the CTBT is a common- sense treaty.

New Hampshire Sens. Kelly Ayotte and Shaheen have an opportunity to help lead a bipartisan majority to stop the worldwide testing of nuclear weapons and help reduce the risk posed from these weapons of mass destruction.

Col. Richard L. Klass is president of the Veterans’ Alliance for Security and Democracy. Dr. Robert Dodge serves on the Board of Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles.