David Krieger delivered this speech at an event sponsored by Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles on September 9, 2012.

David KriegerIt’s great to be in a room filled with health care professionals who take seriously the challenge of healing their patients, their country and their planet. 

Before I present the Peacemaker Award to Bob Dodge on behalf of Physicians for Social Responsibility, I’ve been asked to make a few remarks about the continuing dangers of nuclear weapons.

The most important thing I can tell you is this: Nuclear weapons haven’t gone away.  They still threaten the very foundations of civilization.  There are still over 19,000 of them in the world.  The only acceptable number is zero.

Even a small nuclear war between regional powers would have global consequences.  Scientists have modeled a nuclear war between India and Pakistan in which each country used 50 Hiroshima-size nuclear weapons on the other side’s cities.  Using less than half of one percent of the nuclear weapons on the planet would lead to putting enough soot into the stratosphere to reduce warming sunlight, lower the surface temperatures on the planet to the lowest in 1,000 years, shorten growing seasons, cause crop failures, and bring on a global famine that would kill hundreds of millions of people, perhaps a billion people, throughout the world.

This would be a nuclear war totally beyond our control.

It is only one of the risks we run every day that we rely upon nuclear weapons to protect us.  Incidentally, these weapons cannot and do not protect us.  Deterrence is not defense and it is not protection.  All that can be done with nuclear weapons is to threaten retaliation.  And if there were a nuclear war between the US and Russia, we’re talking about an extinction event for most or all complex life on the planet.

Fifty years ago, we had the Cuban Missile Crisis and, in that crisis, we came far too close to nuclear war.

Today, we are tempting fate by moving NATO membership to the Russian borders and placing US/NATO missile defenses near the Russian borders.  When Russia tells us this undermines their deterrent capability and worries them, we tell them, in essence, “Don’t worry, be happy.”  This is needless provocation. 

What is needed is to work together with Russia as partners to help solve the world’s great problems: climate change, environmental degradation, poverty, terrorism, human rights abuses and, of course, the abolition of nuclear weapons and deep reductions in military budgets. 

No matter how powerful a country is, no one country can solve these problems alone.  We need to come together as a world to solve these problems.

I could go on talking about nuclear problems with Iran, North Korea and terrorist organizations.  But I won’t.  I just want to leave you with the thought that nuclear weapons still have the potential to do what Physicians for Social Responsibility recognized early on – to cause “The Last Epidemic.”

Now, I want to talk about Bob Dodge.  What a fantastic human being you’ve chosen for your Peacemaker Award.  He is a Peacemaker with every fiber of his being.

Growing up, his father helped him to recognize that war simply does not work.  The birth of his son, David, crystallized in him a passion to work for peace.  He considers this work both a responsibility and an opportunity.

As far back as high school, he stood up against the Vietnam War and he has never stopped standing up and speaking out against war. 

Many outstanding leaders in the anti-nuclear movement inspired him and instilled in him a sense of urgency to work for a world without nuclear weapons.

He practices family medicine in Ventura.  The people of Ventura know him not only as a great family doctor.  They know him, as you do, as a Peacemaker.

Every year, he informs his community how much taxpayers in Ventura are paying for nuclear weapons while basic needs for many go unmet. 

Bob has been a leader in the Ventura chapter of PSR since 1985.  He is a leader in Beyond War.  He is a founder and leader of Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions.

He is a man of firm character and boundless enthusiasm.  He is also tenacious.  He doesn’t give up.  He demonstrates in his life the values I most admire – compassion, commitment and courage. 

I think Bob Dodge must be an amazing physician.  I know from my experiences working with him over many years for a world without nuclear weapons that he is an extraordinary Peacemaker.

It’s a great pleasure to join you in honoring him tonight.