November 21, 2017
The Most Valuable
Information Free To All

State of the Union Omission: Nobel Laureates Say it's 3 Minutes to Midnight

When President Obama first took office he was deeply concerned about nuclear disarmament. In 2009, in a speech in Prague he had this to say about nuclear weapons:

Today, the Cold War has disappeared but thousands of those weapons have not. In a strange turn of history, the threat of global nuclear war has gone down, but the risk of a nuclear attack has gone up. More nations have acquired these weapons. Testing has continued. Black market trade in nuclear secrets and nuclear materials abound. The technology to build a bomb has spread. Terrorists are determined to buy, build or steal one. Our efforts to contain these dangers are centered on a global non-proliferation regime, but as more people and nations break the rules, we could reach the point where the center cannot hold.

He also said at Prague:

So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. (Applause.) I’m not naive. This goal will not be reached quickly — perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence. But now we, too, must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change. We have to insist, “Yes, we can.” (Applause.)

us-presidential-sealWe might well ask not only what happened to “America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” but what happened to President Obama’s commitment?

In President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union Address, the only mention of nuclear weapons was in relation to the agreement the Obama administration is seeking to negotiate with Iran. The President promised to veto any additional sanctions placed on Iran, which he said would undermine the negotiations between the US and Iran to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. President Obama also expressed considerable concern for the dangers of climate change, a clear danger to the environment and the future. But there was no mention in the State of the Union of “America’s commitment” to nuclear disarmament.

President Obama’s early concerns for nuclear disarmament led to his receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, but he seems to have given up his pursuit of a world without nuclear weapons. He does so to the detriment of all Americans and all people of the world. Nuclear weapons are equal opportunity destroyers – women, men and children. Under Obama’s leadership, America is setting a course to modernize its nuclear infrastructure, weapons and delivery systems. Not only is the expected price tag for the US nuclear modernization program expected to exceed $1 trillion over the next three decades, but such a program endangers all Americans rather than providing them with security.

In a recent article in The Nation, Theodore Postol, a MIT professor emeritus of science, technology and national security policy, argued, “No rational actor would take steps to start a nuclear war. But the modernization effort significantly increases the chances of an accident during an unpredicted, and unpredictable, crisis – one that could escalate beyond anyone’s capacity to imagine.” Postol concluded, “In a world that is fundamentally unpredictable, the pursuit of an unchallenged capacity to fight and win a nuclear war is a dangerous folly.”

Mr. President, we live in an unpredictable world, but it is predictable based on history that nuclear weapons and human fallibility are a dangerous and highly flammable mix. Nuclear weapons, including our own, threaten all Americans and all humanity. Don’t give up on the essential quest for a Nuclear Zero world, which you seemed so eager to achieve upon assuming office.



The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has just announced its latest nuclear Doomsday Clock moving ahead the minute hand to three minutes till midnight. The clock represents the count down to zero in minutes to nuclear apocalypse – midnight. This significant move of TWO minutes is the 22nd time since its inception in 1947 that the time has been changed.

In moving the hand to 3 minutes to midnight, Kennette Benedict the Executive Director of the Bulletin, identified in her comments: “the probability of global catastrophe is very high”… “the choice is ours and the clock is ticking”…”we feel the need to warn the world” …”the decision was based on a very strong feeling of urgency”. She spoke to the dangers of both nuclear weapons and climate change saying, “they are both very difficult and we are ignoring them” and emphasized “this is about doomsday, this is about the end of civilization as we know it”. The Clock has ranged from 2 minutes to midnight at the height of the Cold War to 17 minutes till midnight with the hopes that followed the end of the Cold War. The decision to move the minute hand is made by the Bulletin’s Board of Directors in consultation with its Board of Sponsors, which includes 18 Nobel Laureates.

What is clear is that the time to ban nuclear weapons is now. Today’s announcement by the Bulletin further corroborates the dangers confirmed by recent climate science. These studies identify the much greater dangers posed by even a small regional nuclear war using just 100 Hiroshima size bombs out of the 16,300 weapons in today’s global stockpiles. The ensuing dramatic climate changes and famine that would follow threaten the lives of up to 2 billion on the planet with effects that would last beyond 10 years. There is no escaping the global impact of such a small regional nuclear war.

Medical science has weighed in on the impacts and devastation of even the smallest nuclear explosion in one of our cities and the reality is there is no adequate medical or public health response to such an attack. We kid ourselves into a false sense that we can prepare and plan for the outcome of a bomb detonation. Every aspect and facet of our society would be overwhelmed by a nuclear attack. Ultimately the resultant dead at ground zero would be the lucky ones.

Probability theorists have long calculated the dismal odds that the chance for nuclear event either by plan or accident are not in our favor. Recent documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act detail over 1000 mishaps that have happened in our nuclear arsenals. Time is not on our side and the fact that we have not experienced a nuclear catastrophe is more a result of luck than mastery and control over these immoral weapons of terror.

The time to act is now. There is so much that can and must be done. Congress will soon begin budget debates that include proposals to increase nuclear weapons spending for stockpile modernization by $355 Billion over the next decade and up to a Trillion in the next 30 years. Expenditures for weapons that can never be used and at a time when the economic needs for our country and world are so great.

Around the world, there is a growing awareness of the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, and a corresponding desire to rid the world of these weapons.The Vienna Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons conference last month saw 4/5 of the nations of the world participating. In Oct., 2014, at the UN, 155 nations called for the elimination of nuclear weapons. At Vienna, 44 nations plus the pope advocated for a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

The people are making their voices heard and demanding a change of course from the status quo.

In this week’s State of the Union address, President Obama emphasized that we are one people with a common destiny. He said this both in reference to our nation and our world. The threat of nuclear weapons unites us even as it threatens our very existence. This reality can also be remembered in the words of Martin Luther King when he said,

“We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

The time for action is now, before it is too late. It’s 3 minutes till midnight.

Robert Dodge is a family physician practicing full time in Ventura, California. He serves on the board of Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles serving as a Peace and Security Ambassador and at the national level where he sits on the security committee. He also serves on the board of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions. He writes for PeaceVoice.