Deconstructing Obama’s Nuclear Overhaul: Countdown to Zero

Rachel Falek, Editor In Chief

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Fists rose up in protest as over a hundred demonstrators clung to signs displaying the words “No $1 Trillion Nuclear Arsenal.” Protesters chanted “Zero nukes” and “What does democracy look like? This is what democracy looks like!”  

The demonstrators were demanding justice, and I was right there with them as a member of the new American University chapter of Global Zero, an organization aimed at ridding the world of nuclear weapons. 

The crowd quickly gathered on Jan. 31 at the Ellipse, located near the White House, to call on President Obama to abandon his plan to overhaul the US nuclear arsenal at the price tag of $1 trillion over the next three decades.

 Global Zero, an international movement comprised of hundreds of leaders and students, launched a “No-Trillion Dollar Arsenal” campaign as a part of their greater effort to combat the costly nucelar overhaul. 

According to movement leader Lillyanne Daigle, Global Zero organized the event with the goal of “working internationally to build a strong grassroots movement, as well as creating strong policy and engaging political figures in the process to move to zero by 2030.” 

Erin Finucane, Global Zero’s campaign director, rallied the group of protesters from across the country to fight Obama’s plan in view of the White House.

“We are here today to call on President Obama to abandon this trillion dollar nuclear arsenal and to live up to his promise to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” Finucane said. “This is an arsenal we don’t need and money we don’t have.”

The event included a life-size inflated nuclear missile and interactive 3-D street art on the “humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons,” created by British artist Joe Hill.

Matt Brown, Global Zero co-founder, emphasized his frustration with Obama, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his “commitment to [a] nuclear weapons-free world.” 

Obama has decreased the amount of nuclear weapons less than any other post-Cold War president. According to the New York Times, Obama has destroyed 309 warheads, in comparison to George W. Bush, who cut the nuclear weapons stockpile in half during his presidency. There are still 7,315 nuclear weapons total, with 4,800 deployed.

“It was six years ago that President Obama called nuclear weapons the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War,” Brown said. “He said, ‘I state clearly and with conviction of America’s commitment to seek peace and security without nuclear weapons. These weapons are out of sync with our values, they are out of sync with the law…they are out of sync with our national priorities and they’re out of synch with the kind of future we want to create.”

Brenna Marie, a Student Movement Leader at Notre Dame, brought Global Zero’s message home.

“How can we as students fight something so terrible, something that can only be negotiated by state leaders and is seemingly out of our control?”  

“How can we as students fight something so vast and so terrible, something that can only be negotiated by state leaders and is seemingly out of our control?” Marie said. “The answer is that we take control. We organize and take an active role and fight. I really believe that the students and young people of this world are a generation that can bring about global zero’s vision: a world free of nuclear weapons.”

Global Zero’s “No-Trillion Dollar Arsenal” campaign does not end with Obama; it is only the start of their movement. According to Finucane, If the president continues with his plan for a $1 trillion nuclear arsenal, the organization will be calling on Congress to not approve that part of the budget.

“DC is just the beginning,” Finucane said. “We are taking this fight across the country from Raleigh to Miami to Atlanta to San Francisco to Portland.”