Laura Kriv is the campaign manager of TechRocks’ nuclear disarmament Internet campaign, DontBlowIt.org.

Monday, 14 May 2001

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Some people think that the nuclear disarmament movement is dead. After all, the Cold War is long over. The fear is gone. But is it really? Or has it just been replaced by some other equally important issue of the moment, like economic globalization or environmental destruction? (As syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman noted, “How did we manage to overlook the greatest environmental danger of all — the mushroom cloud over the green space?”)

The fear of nuclear annihilation may be gone, but the danger is very real. There are over 36,000 nuclear weapons around the world. Thousands are on “alert status,” ready to be launched in minutes. Our government alone spends over $30 billion annually just to maintain the Pentagon’s nuclear arsenal of over 12,000 nuclear weapons — the equivalent of 150,000 Hiroshima-sized bombs. And if that’s not bad enough, the U.S. has been fascinated with building a national missile defense system (properly dubbed “Star Wars”) since the Reagan era. With the hopes of protecting the U.S. and its allies from incoming missiles from rogue nations, Americans have already spent more than $120 billion on missile defense and have yet to see a workable system. The most alarming aspect of building a national missile defense is the grave risks it poses to U.S. and global security. Our allied countries around the world warn that it will provoke a new nuclear arms race.

Now, I’m usually not into scare tactics. But I believe that people would be afraid if they knew the facts. I’m afraid. Mostly I’m afraid for my three-year-old daughter and the kind of world that she will grow up in. I really don’t think we will blow up ourselves and the rest of the world. But I do think another Hiroshima — or something even worse — is very possible. And I guess fear can be a great motivator, because its one of the reasons I do what I do.

About a year ago, I launched an online campaign to raise awareness of the dangers posed by nuclear weapons and to build a new constituency in support of nuclear disarmament. With seed money from the Ploughshares Fund and the W. Alton Jones Foundation, I began working with TechRocks, a nonprofit organization that works with other nonprofits and foundations to develop customized approaches to the effective use of the Internet. Together, we launched www.DontBlowIt.org.

DontBlowIt.org has already recruited nearly 40,000 citizens to take action online to reduce and eliminate nuclear weapons. People have heard about the campaign through email alerts, online advertising, or from the dozens of arms control and disarmament organizations that have endorsed the campaign. At TechRocks, we feel that the Internet is exploding as a channel for civic participation. DontBlowIt.org is using this participation to affect public policy.

I have my work cut out for me. Two weeks ago, President Bush announced a major shift in our government’s nuclear policy. He agreed to unilaterally reduce nuclear weapons — but at the expense of withdrawing our nation’s support from principles that have governed the world’s nuclear balance for 30 years. He condemned the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) as a Cold War relic and vowed to deploy an extensive National Missile Defense (NMD) system.

Within days of Bush’s announcement, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld called for the establishment of a new Pentagon post for what could become a new space force. He is proposing a sweeping overhaul of the Pentagon’s space programs, sharply increasing the importance of outer space in strategic planning. In other words, our fears of “Star Wars” are coming true. If all of this isn’t bad enough, the Senate has confirmed the nomination of John Bolton to serve as the State Department’s undersecretary of arms control and international security — the nation’s chief arms control post. Bolton was championed through the Senate by his buddy, Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), and has a terrible track record of opposing most international arms-reduction treaties.

All this makes for scary policies but great activism. As my week gets underway, I’ll try to fill you in on more of the political work I’m doing as well as the day-to-day trials and tribulations that make my work challenging, rewarding, frustrating, and let’s not forget, fun. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t enjoy it and believe that I can change the world.