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Response to President Bush's Remarks on Weapons of Mass Destruction

Author: John Edwards
February 11, 2004


Senator John Edwards, D-NC
February 11, 2004

Senator John Edwards (D-NC) released the following statement today in response to the president's speech on the spread of weapons of mass destruction:

"The one thing we know is that often George Bush's rhetoric does not reflect reality. For nearly three years, he's talked about the threat of weapons of mass destruction, but he's done very little to work with our allies to secure these weapons and secure our nation.

"Two months ago, I outlined a specific plan to bring the world together into a new Global Nuclear Compact to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, giving the international community new tools to keep the most dangerous weapons from getting into the wrong hands. I also outlined specific proposals to improve America's ability to lead this effort, including new funding to end the 'loose nukes' danger in the former Soviet Union and to strengthen America's intelligence capability to understand and respond to such threats.

"Unfortunately, the president still refuses to provide any new funding to deal with this threat, but seems to find money in the budget for a new generation of bunker busting nuclear weapons. Given the urgency of the threat, our priority should be stopping the spread of nuclear weapons; not producing new ones.

"We've heard these speeches before. He promised a new 'Marshall Plan' for Afghanistan, but provided nothing of the sort. He promised to help promote democracy in the Middle East, but I am the only candidate who has outlined specific ideas to do so. On something as serious as preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, the American people cannot afford any more of this president's empty promises."

Fact Sheet: Edwards' Strategy Of Prevention, Not Preemption

John Edwards has a specific plan to meet one of the most pressing national security challenges facing America: the threat posed by the spread of weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons.

Edwards will implement new policies to meet the new national security realities. Time and technology have enabled dangerous states like North Korea and Iran to take steps toward the development of nuclear arms. These states and others also have the capacity to produce and sell dangerous technologies to terrorists intent on doing us harm. At the same time, the source materials for producing weapons of mass destruction have become vulnerable to theft or black-market sale, particularly in the former Soviet Union.

Meanwhile, the international rules and institutions America relies on to deter and isolate those trying to get such weapons are riddled with loopholes and gaps. The Bush administration has responded by pretending that these rules and institutions do not matter. Edwards believes that they do matter, and that the right policy for America's security is not to ignore them, but to fix them.

Edwards believes that America cannot accept the false choice between the administration's dangerous doctrine of preemption and a multilateral regime that isn't up to the current challenge. He has a plan designed to accomplish three broad objectives:




  1. To establish new international standards and safeguards to stop dangerous weapons from getting into the wrong hands - standards that are clear, unambiguous and sanctioned by international law;


  3. To give the international community tough new tools to punish nations that violate these standards; and


  5. To improve America's ability to be an international leader in this effort.



To accomplish these objectives, Edwards will:




  • Establish a new Global Nuclear Compact to strengthen and reinforce the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)


  • Propose a new United Nations Security Council Resolution to tighten the diplomatic noose around nations that violate non-proliferation agreements


  • Triple the budget for programs to end the dangers of "Loose Nukes" in the former Soviet Union and around the world


  • Reform our intelligence to strengthen America's capacity to understand and respond to WMD threats


  • Appoint a high-level "Non-Proliferation Director" who will bring focus and energy to our country's non-proliferation efforts.



Establish A New Global Nuclear Compact To Strengthen And Reinforce the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)

Under the NPT, it is too easy for a country to cheat or use a legal civilian power program as the jumping off point for an illegal military one by withdrawing from the Treaty on short notice and having a weapons capability within months. The new Global Nuclear Compact would close this nuclear loophole by establishing clear international standards for the storage, handling and transportation of dangerous nuclear materials, and by giving the international community new tools to deter and, if necessary, to sanction nations that violate these standards. Within six months of taking office, John Edwards will convene a summit of leading nations to consider the new Compact.

In particular, the Compact would:




  • Require heightened security for existing nuclear facilities and materials;


  • Ensure more frequent verification that nuclear facilities are not being misused and nuclear materials are not being diverted;


  • Authorize international inspectors to mount challenge inspections without notice in countries that have a record of past non-compliance with their obligations;


  • Set specific limitations on the capability of nations to produce the most dangerous materials and increase the international community's role in providing access to fuels for peaceful nuclear programs;


  • Authorize strong, immediate multilateral penalties aimed specifically at the military capabilities of offending nations.



Propose A New United Nations Security Council Resolution To Tighten The Diplomatic Noose Around Nations That Violate Non-Proliferation Agreements

This resolution would establish the principle that countries like North Korea who willfully violate treaties like the NPT lose certain rights under international law, including the right to sell or transfer deadly weapons or related material to other nations or groups. To enforce this principle, law-abiding nations would have the right to search ships, aircraft and land vehicles originating in these lawless countries.

Triple The Budget For Programs To End The Dangers Of "Loose Nukes" In The Former Soviet Union And Around The World

The Edwards plan would increase the budget for initiatives such as the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program -- from $1 billion per year to $3 billion per year - allowing us to eliminate this problem before the end of the decade. These increases would be paid for by canceling the Bush administration's plan to create a new generation of "bunker-busting" nuclear weapons and by cuts in the $9 billion annual budget for the missile defense programs. It makes no sense to spend nine times as much on an unproven missile defense system than we do on proven successes like the Nunn-Lugar.

Strengthen America's Intelligence Capability To Understand And Respond To WMD Threats

Edwards will hire more intelligence analysts with the right kind of scientific and technical training, backgrounds, and language skills, and institute reforms to improve both our technical and human intelligence concerning WMD. To reform domestic intelligence, Edwards will shift the authority for tracking down terrorists here at home from the FBI to a new agency. That agency should have a mandate, the mission and the institutional culture needed to assault terror without assaulting the constitution of the United States.

Appoint A High-Level "Non-Proliferation Director" Who Will Bring Focus And Energy To Our Country's Non-Proliferation Efforts

Right now we have one person in charge of homeland security, one person who leads our fight against drugs and a single administrator in Iraq, but no one person or office in charge of dealing with the threat from WMD. Instead, that responsibility is dispersed among at least six agencies and many layers of bureaucracy. Edwards will name a senior official, answering directly to him as president, who will wake up every morning thinking only about how to keep WMD out of the hands of terrorists and others who wish us harm.

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