iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Lawrence Bender

Lawrence Bender

Posted: April 12, 2010 09:55 AM

Countdown to Zero: Investigating Our Most Urgent Security Threat

What's Your Reaction:

Earlier this week, I was excited to be in Washington, DC with Jeff Skoll, founder of Participant Media and the leaders of Global Zero, to screen our new film, Countdown to Zero, for a high-level DC group. The film is an edge of the seat wake up call about the global nuclear threat. We scheduled the screening for the lead up to President Obama's global nuclear security summit, which is taking place today, convening almost 50 heads of state in Washington. We wanted to ensure that the conversation about the movie helps to create a sense of urgency at the summit. Adding to the momentousness of the past few days, the screening actually ended up taking place on the eve of the historic signing of the new START treaty -- the bilateral agreement between the U.S. and Russia, which, if ratified, will bring about the largest reduction in strategic nuclear arms in a generation.

Because of this fortuitous timing, I found myself on MSNBC's Daily Rundown, CBS News's Washington Unplugged, the BBC World News Tonight, and other shows talking about the film and how it can support the new international momentum toward global zero -- the total elimination of nuclear weapons. It reminded me of my experience several years ago, when I worked with Participant Media to make An Inconvenient Truth, and saw firsthand how a movie can motivate people to take action that leads to real policy change on a major global issue. When AIT came out, we had an administration that was not talking about global warming seriously, to put it mildly; but despite this, the film raised the issue in the public debate and had a major impact on the public's awareness and attitude towards the issue. It made a difference. Now, as we prepare to release Countdown to Zero this summer, we have a president who is serious about reducing and eliminating nuclear weapons. He talked about the issue as far back as the presidential primaries, and last September he presided over a historic meeting of the United Nations Security Council, where the Council unanimously endorsed the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. And at the Nuclear Security Summit today, he is meeting with the leaders of almost 50 other countries to develop a plan of action to secure nuclear materials worldwide to prevent nuclear terrorism. President Obama is demonstrating bold leadership on the most urgent security threat facing the world today. What we need now is major public involvement.

My hope is that Countdown to Zero will not only make people aware of the scope of this threat, but will also help create the political will necessary to ensure that the Senate ratifies the New START treaty without delay or partisan bickering. In the aftermath of the health care debate, the mood in the Senate isn't particularly harmonious, but I hope and expect that this Senate will continue the long-standing tradition of bipartisan support for arms control treaties which so clearly strengthen the security of our country. And with strong Republican leaders like Richard Lugar in the Senate, I think it's possible.

With Participant Media and Global Zero, we are in the process of putting together a coalition of NGOs, religious groups, policy experts and internet gurus to create a massive grassroots movement around Countdown to Zero. After seeing the film and hearing terrifying stories about terrorists trying to acquire nuclear weapons and the all-too-real risk of an accidental nuclear attack -- as well as getting an overview of the key steps governments can take to end the nuclear threat and eliminate all nuclear weapons -- people will be motivated to act. We will be giving them the information and tools they need to take action, first by urging their Senators to ratify the New START treaty and then to take the steps that must follow in order to reach the ultimate goal: a world without nuclear weapons.

To get involved in the growing movement, go to www.takepart.com/zero and sign the declaration.