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US Conference of Mayors calls for Nuclear Weapons Convention, troop withdrawals

June 23, 2011

The people responsible for managing US cities—the ones elected to keep the schools open, to maintain roads and bridges, to ensure public health and safety, and to advocate for the needs of their communities—sent a message to the rest of the country this week about the costs of war and preparing for war. The message, contained in two resolutions adopted by the US Conference of Mayors, was that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have to end, that the US needs to lead the way in ridding the world of nuclear weapons, and that the hundreds of billions of dollars now being lost to these misplaced national spending priorities should be redirected “to meet vital human needs” at home.

The resolution on military spending noted a couple of obvious facts: that the wars started by President Bush and continued by President Obama are costing about $126 billion a year and that more than 6,000 American soldiers have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. The mayors went a step further, pointing out in the same sentence that at least 120,000 civilians have been killed in those countries since these wars began. Americans don’t hear that fact often enough.

The nuclear disarmament resolution reproves the Obama administration for its plan to spend $185 billion on nuclear weapons modernization and infrastructure programs between now and 2020—amounts even greater than the Reagan administration spent on nuclear weapons at the height of the Cold War. The mayors called for a halt to this spending and urged the administration, instead, to work for the implementation of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s five-point plan for global nuclear disarmament, including the completion of a nuclear weapons convention by 2020. In strong contrast with those Americans who take an isolationist attitude, the US mayors spoke proudly of their participation in Mayors for Peace and aligned themselves with their colleagues in 4,700 cities and 150 countries who have declared that “cities are not targets” of nuclear weapons and have set their sights on a world free of nuclear weapons by 2020.

The contrast between two visions of where the world will stand in 2020—ramped up to produce, maintain, and endanger all of us with nuclear weapons for the rest of the 21st century; or free of a catastrophic threat to human survival that only exists because we allow it to exist—could not be starker. Both these resolutions reflect a growing sense of interconnectedness among municipal leaders in many countries who face similar challenges, are increasingly making common cause with each other across national boundaries, and know from experience that every dollar spent on war and the weapons of war is a dollar that cannot be spent, in the mayors’ own words, “to meet vital human needs, promote job creation, rebuild our infrastructure, aid municipal and state governments, and develop a new economy based upon renewable, sustainable energy and reduce the federal debt.”

The mayors may have gotten through to President Obama, who announced an accelerated schedule for troop withdrawals from Afghanistan a few days later, echoing what the country’s municipal leaders had said about the need to redirect national spending priorities. Let’s hope he heard them about nuclear weapons, as well.

IPPNW, which launched the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) in 2007, and Mayors For Peace, whose Cities Are Not Targets campaign is part of the 2020 Appeal for a nuclear-weapons-free world, work collaboratively to build public and governmental support for a nuclear weapons convention.

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