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19th IPPNW World Congress & the Challenges at Home
Peter Wilk, MD
August 26, 2010
I am just arriving in Switzerland, a stunningly beautiful country, travelling from the Zurich airport through well manicured countryside to the site of the 19th World Congress of International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) in Basel. The Swiss rail system is well organized; the train ride is smooth and fast. I am confident the Congress, the first plenary session of which begins tomorrow, will be equally well organized. All indications are for the largest attendance in many years. It will be wonderful to gather there with colleagues from around the world.
The one major problem is this: the primary goal of this gathering is to advance toward nuclear abolition. And progress toward that goal has been neither smooth nor fast.
What is the major challenge to progress? All eyes are on the U.S. Senate, where a minority of stubborn Senators still clinging to outmoded Cold War thinking threatens to block ratification of the New START agreement.
Our international colleagues are eager to help advance the cause, both through meetings with U.S. embassies in their own countries and building international support for elimination of nuclear weapons. However, as exciting as it is to be reminded of the global consensus that we will all be safer and more secure with fewer nuclear weapons in the world, I also know that it is up to us in the U.S. to secure ratification of New START.
It is true that all key current U.S. military leaders, plus six former secretaries of state, five former secretaries of defense and seven former commanders of U.S. nuclear forces have endorsed the treaty. Yet this isn’t quite enough to put us over the top. We still have our work cut out for us over the next few weeks, leading up to a currently scheduled vote in the Senate on New START in mid-September. One more round of letters-to-the-editor and calls to Senate offices by PSR advocates is needed.
This week, many PSR leaders are participating in this exciting IPPNW World Congress. We will return, inspired and reinvigorated, to rejoin the U.S. effort to secure New START ratification, the crucial next step toward the enhanced security of a world free of nuclear weapons.