WASHINGTON, D.C. - A group of 18 retired high-ranking U.S. military officials today joined 21 national religious leaders in calling for the outlawing and prohibition of nuclear weapons worldwide. In a joint statement, the military professionals and active clergy declared the human race could be exterminated by such weapons.
"This nuclear predicament is untenable in the face of a faith in the divine and unacceptable in terms of sound military doctrine," they said.
Released at a news conference at Washington National Cathedral, the statement said nuclear arms represent "a threat to the security of our nation, a peril to world peace, a danger to the whole human family." Further, the signers declared, "the long-term reliance on nuclear weapons in the arsenals of the nuclear powers, and the ever-present danger of their acquisition by others, is morally untenable and militarily unjustifiable."
The signers said it is past time for an international discussion of the implications of relying on nuclear weapons, and called for action "leading to the international prohibition of these weapons."
Retired Air Force General Charles A. Horner, who commanded U.S. air forces in the Persian Gulf War and was in charge of the U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command in the 1990's, noted there is an historic convergence of military and religious action in this issue, saying in his remarks, "This issue is one confronting our vital national interests from a security and moral point of view. It is one requiring the involvement of both military professionals and religious leaders."
The news conference, which will launch a national education program to mobilize citizen action against nuclear arms, was organized by Washington National Cathedral.
The education outreach program will provide free materials about the nuclear threat facing all humankind in the new millennium. The materials will be supplied to individual religious bodies for distribution, as they wish, to churches, synagogues and mosques. Information is available on the World Wide Web at http://www.cathedral.org/cathedral/nuclear.
"The education component of our project is key," said the Very Reverend Nathan D. Baxter, Dean of Washington National Cathedral. "Nuclear disarmament is the ultimate human rights issue. People have a right to know that more than a decade after the Cold War ended, tens of thousands of nuclear weapons still exist with the power to destroy God's creation. We also have a right and responsibility to demand an end to this threat of annihilation."
Besides General Horner, signers include Admiral Stansfield Turner, USN (Ret.), former Director of Central Intelligence, Major General William F. Burns, USA (Ret.), and a host of Army, Navy and Air Force senior officers. The religious leaders include Bishop William B. Oden, President, Council of Bishops, The United Methodist Church; Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, President, The Islamic Society of North America; and Monsignor Dennis M. Schnurr, General Secretary of the U.S. Catholic Conference.
Of the nuclear arms race, Dr. Siddiqi said in his remarks, "This race is against the human race. In this race there will be no winners, only losers. It is nothing but destruction, for humans and their environment. We must say to ourselves first and then to the world that we want a total and universal ban on the possession and production of nuclear weapons."
Citizens Urged to Mobilize Against Nuclear Arms
The signatories said that ". . . a peace based upon threats of inflicting annihilation and genocide upon whole populations is a peace that is corrupting, a peace that is unworthy of civilization."
The statement ends with a call for "our political and military leaders, our faith communities, and all concerned citizens to mobilize in support of this noble cause."
The news conference was followed by an interfaith service at the Cathedral to pray for the strength to stand by the statement and protect God's creation from nuclear dangers. The service included readings by Imam Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D., of the Minaret of Freedom Institute; Rabbi Deborah S. Kaiz, Washington Hebrew Congregation; and Ms. Annette Kane, Executive Director of the National Council of Catholic Women.
The interfaith service featured a procession of the statement's signers and others, with General Homer and Admiral Turner reading an alternating litany, and a sermon delivered by Chaplain (Major General) Kermit D. Johnson, USA (Ret.).
The Nuclear Reduction/Disarmament Initiative is an interfaith project led by Washington National Cathedral, working with the Fourth Freedom Forum, former U.S. Senator Alan Cranston and his Global Security Institute, and a variety of religious groups. Major funding has been provided by the Ploughshares Fund, W. Alton Jones Foundation, and The John Merck Fund.
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Washington National Cathedral
Signed by Military Professionals and Religious Leaders
We deeply believe that the long-term reliance on nuclear weapons in the arsenals of the nuclear powers, and the ever-present danger of their acquisition by others, is morally untenable and militarily unjustifiable.
They constitute a threat to the security of our nation, a peril to world peace, a danger to the whole human family.
Historically, military and religious leaders have not always been in agreement on these issues, but now a consensus is emerging.
National security imperatives and ethical demands have converged to bring us to the necessity of outlawing and prohibiting nuclear weapons worldwide.
In the 1970s and 1980s, religious leaders of many faiths addressed the morality of nuclear weapon policies, expressed their concerns about the destruction of human life and the environment, and called for steps toward nuclear disarmament. It was difficult to envision a world free of the nuclear menace, however, in that dark time of belligerent confrontation and mistrust between two superpowers and their respective allies.
A decade later, generals and admirals from many nations addressed this still urgent matter of nuclear weapons from a military perspective.
They urged a fundamental shift away from reliance upon these weapons in light of the world's changed circumstances in the wake of the Cold War's end. They advocated that nuclear weapons be taken off hair-trigger alert poised to launch at a moment's notice, that swift and deep reductions in nuclear arsenals be made, and that these steps be taken within the framework of an unequivocal commitment to the achievement of their universal, verifiable, enforceable outlawing and prohibition.
These warnings are yet to be heeded, these proposals are yet to be embraced.
This is the situation today despite two truths: first, that the most commonly postulated threats to our national security are not susceptible to nuclear deterrence; second, that our nation's efforts to provide effective leadership in opposing the growing threat of nuclear proliferation will be credible only if our policies and those of the other nuclear powers demonstrate a commitment to the universal outlawing of these weapons.
We also believe that reliance on a nuclear deterrent in the long run calls into question our stewardship of God's creation.
In the short run, effective diplomacy may well require reciprocal and phased reduction of nuclear weapons over some period of years. While we have a variety of perspectives on the language and ethics of nuclear deterrence, none of us would support any role for nuclear weapons except possibly to deter the use of nuclear weapons by others.
And so it is that we now come together to bear witness anew: it is past time for a great national and international discussion and examination of the true and full implications of reliance on nuclear weapons, to be followed by action leading to the international prohibition of these weapons.
- We say that a peace based on terror, a peace based upon threats of inflicting annihilation and genocide upon whole populations is a peace that is corrupting, a peace that is unworthy of civilization.
- We say that it defies all logic to believe that nuclear weapons can exist forever and never beused.
- The opportunity is at hand to do away with this danger, to do away with our capacity for self-destruction.
- We say that it defies all logic to believe that nuclear weapons can exist forever and never beused.
This nuclear predicament is untenable in the face of a faith in the divine and unacceptable in terms of sound military doctrine.
We know that the responsibility for banning nuclear weapons does mot lie solely with the government of the United States and its citizens. It is a responsibility shared by all sovereign states and sovereign individuals everywhere.
But as the creator of these weapons and the preeminent military power in the world, the United States and its people bear a special obligation, and have a unique opportunity to lead the way.
We call upon our own country to do so.
We call upon our political and military leaders, our faith communities, and all concerned citizens to mobilize in support of this noble cause.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The Reverend Dr. John A. Buehrens
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America
The Reverend Bob Edgar
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA
The Reverend Wesley Granberg-Michaelson
Reformed Church in America
The Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold, III
The Episcopal Church
The Reverend R. Burke Johnson
Moravian Church in America, Northern Province
Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani
Islamic Supreme Council of America
The Reverend Clifton Kirkpatrick Stated Clerk of the General Assembly Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Rabbi Charles A. Kroloff
Central Conference of American Rabbis
Rabbi Vernon Kurtz
The Rabbinical Assembly
Bishop William B. Oden
President, Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
The Reverend Judy Mills Reimer
Church of the Brethren, General Board
Rabbi David Saperstein
Director and Counsel
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
The Reverend Dr. Robert E. Sawyer
Moravian Church in America, Southern Province
Monsignor Dennis M. Schnurr
U.S. Catholic Conference
Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi
The Islamic Society of North America
Primate, Orthodox Church in America
The Reverend John H. Thomas
United Church of Christ
The Reverend Jim Wallis
The Reverend Dr. Daniel E. Weiss
American Baptist Churches USA
Brigadier General Horner Boushey, USAF (Ret.)
Brigadier General Dallas Brown, Jr. USA (Ret.)
Major General William F. Burns, USA (Ret.)
Rear Admiral Eugene J. Carroll, Jr., USN (Ret.)
Lt. Gen. John H. Cushman, USA (Ret.)
Lt. General Robert G. Gard, USA (Ret.)
Admiral Noel Gayler, USN (Ret.)
General Charles A. Horner, USAF (Ret.)
Rear Admiral Robert G. James, USN (Ret.)
Chaplain (Major General) Kermit D. Johnson, USA (Ret.)
Major General Jack Kidd, USAF (Ret.)
General Robert C. Kingston, USA (Ret.)
Rear Admiral Eugene LaRocque, USN (Ret.)
Admiral Stephen T. Quigley, USN (Ret.)
Vice Admiral John J. Shanahan, USN (Ret.)
Admiral Stansfield Turner, USN (Ret.)
Vice Admiral James B. Wilson, USN (Ret.)