News Release

WMDs: * U.S. Public Opinion * Solutions


Kull is director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes which has recently released two studies: “U.S. Public Beliefs on Iraq and the Presidential Election” and “Americans on WMD Proliferation.” He said today: “Sixty percent of Americans believe that just before the war Iraq either had weapons of mass destruction or a major program for developing them. Few Americans perceive most experts as saying the contrary. Perceptions of what the experts are saying are highly correlated with intentions to vote for the president in the upcoming election. Among those who perceived experts as saying that Iraq had WMDs, 72 percent said they would vote for Bush. Despite polling showing that the majority of world public opinion is opposed to the U.S. war with Iraq, only 41 percent were aware that this is the case. Among those who knew that world public opinion opposed the U.S. going to war with Iraq, only 25 percent thought that going to war was the right decision…. Asked how many nuclear weapons the U.S. has, the median estimate was 200 … the actual number of U.S. nuclear warheads is 6,000. A majority is not aware that the U.S. made a commitment to seek the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons as part of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. However [when informed] a very large majority (84 percent) thinks doing so was a good idea and that the U.S. should make greater efforts toward that goal. A very large majority supports giving international inspectors the power to examine biological research labs in all countries, including the U.S., to determine if they are abiding by the biological weapons treaty. Three-quarters incorrectly believe that the U.S. government supports such an inspection regime. Americans show a strong preference for multilateral arms control over the use of military threats.”

Executive director of the Western States Legal Foundation, Cabasso has written widely on nuclear weapons. She said today: “President Bush waged war on the pretext of disarming Iraq, whose nuclear weapons program in fact had been dismantled by 1995. Now at the United Nations, where governments are meeting about the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the United States is claiming that ‘the NPT does not prohibit the nuclear weapons states from modernizing their nuclear forces while they possess nuclear weapons…. It would be a novel interpretation of the NPT to assert that conceptual work on a “Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator” or other new weapons designs is problematic under the NPT.’ But the treaty requires ‘negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date.’ More than 30 years after the NPT became law, and 15 years after the Berlin Wall came down, the U.S. position exemplifies bad faith, and is seen that way by most of the world. This does not bode well for the viability of the nonproliferation regime.”
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Director of Global Resource Action Center for the Environment, Slater said today: “Members of the Abolition 2000 Global Network for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons have been monitoring this year’s Nonproliferation Treaty meeting. In view of the stalled disarmament process, at our annual meeting we decided to demand that at next year’s five-year review conference, heads of state gather from all over the world to consider how to finally make good on the obligation of nuclear disarmament. The people are way out ahead of governments on this issue.”
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Executive director of the New York-based Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy, Burroughs said today: “On April 28, the United Nations Security Council adopted a U.S.-sponsored resolution requiring all states in the world to establish criminal laws, export controls, and other measures to prevent ‘non-state actors’ — businesses, rogue scientists, terrorists — from acquiring and trafficking in nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and missiles for their delivery. There clearly is a need to address these issues, dramatically illustrated by recent public revelations about the Pakistan-based nuclear proliferation network run by a top nuclear scientist, A. Q. Khan, allegedly without governmental approval, and involving business in several countries in Europe as well as the developing world. But the U.S. government may use it as a green light for unilateral and provocative actions like interceptions of ships at sea in the name of nonproliferation standards. And the resolution accelerates a trend for the Security Council to become the world’s lawmaker, rather than relying on negotiation of multilateral agreements, to the detriment of global democracy and cooperation.”

Also available this week while attending the Nonproliferation Treaty review meeting at the United Nations through the Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy:

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HILDA LINI is director of the Pacific Concerns Resource Centre, Fiji, the secretariat for the Nuclear-Free and Independent Pacific Movement, 1993 recipient of the Sean MacBride Peace Prize.

Prof. MITSUO OKAMOTO is with the Hiroshima Alliance for Nuclear Weapons Abolition, Japan,

ELAHE MOHTASHAM is with the Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation International Safeguards System. Ms. Mohtasham is from Iran and is based in London, where her work focuses on nuclear weapons issues related to the Middle East,

SAM AKAKI is a parliamentary officer for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Britain,

REGINA HAGEN is coordinator of the International Network of Engineers and Scientists Against Proliferation, Darmstadt, Germany,
For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020