As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Obama has fought to strengthen America's position in the world. Reaching across the aisle, Obama has tackled problems such as preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction and stopping the genocide in Darfur.
Taking Weapons Out of Terrorists' Hands
Today, 80 percent of the world's spending on armaments is on conventional weapons not nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. These conventional weapons are a threat to our security. Since the 1970s, more than 40 civilian aircraft have been hit by shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles, and in recent conflicts around the world, small arms have caused four out of every five casualties. There are countless caches of mortars, landmines and other weapons spread across the globe. Insurgents in Iraq have used these caches against our troops by converting older munitions into roadside bombs.
In 2005, Senator Obama traveled to the former Soviet Union with Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) to investigate the dangers posed by unsecured weapons. The two senators returned from the trip and introduced legislation to establish the next generation of the Nunn-Lugar initiative. Senator Obama helped shepherd this legislation through Congress and it was signed into law in January 2007. The Lugar-Obama initiative cracks down on conventional weapon caches by building on the Nunn-Lugar program, which has secured nearly 7,000 Soviet nuclear warheads, in order to find and destroy conventional arms.
Lugar-Obama "The Dynamic Duo"
"The most dynamic duo in Washington today crosses party lines. Old-school realist Richard Lugar, the five-term Republican senator from Indiana, has embraced new-school realist and rising star Barack Obama, the junior Democratic senator from Illinois ... The two agree on much and seem to genuinely like each other. Rather unusual in hyper-partisan Washington, these days."
-Washington Monthly September 2006
"This is a homeland-security sort of bill that America urgently needs to become law."
-Martin Schramm, Scripps Howard News Service Columnist, 12/06/2005
Stopping Nuclear Terrorism
The greatest threat our nation faces is a nuclear weapon falling into terrorists' hands. The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed 650 cases of illicit trafficking in nuclear and radiological materials worldwide between 1993 and 2004. As little as four kilograms of plutonium - about the size of a soda can - can potentially be enough for a fissile nuclear bomb.
Senator Obama passed legislation with Senator Lugar to prevent weapons of mass destruction from being smuggled across the globe. Signed into law in January 2007, the Lugar-Obama initiative will help other nations detect and secure weapons of mass destruction before they ever leave their borders. Senator Obama also worked with Senator Lugar to successfully restore $8 million in budget cuts to the original Nunn-Lugar Initiative.
Preventing an Avian Flu Pandemic
Senator Obama was one of the first legislators to recognize the dangers of a potential avian influenza pandemic, and was successful in securing $25 million that U.S. agencies in Southeast Asia are currently using to combat and contain widespread outbreaks of avian flu. He also worked with other Senators to provide $4 billion in funding to the Centers for Disease Control to combat avian flu which included more than $3 billion to build a stockpile of antiviral drugs that had been in short supply.
"Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) understands how dangerous (a bird flu pandemic) would be and just how small the world has become...Obama is to be commended for recognizing that the U.S. and the world have to stay a step ahead of the avian flu."
-Chicago Tribune, Editorial, March 7, 2005
Ending the Conflict in Congo
An estimated 3.9 million people have died from war-related causes since the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo began. Nearly 80 percent of Congo's 56 million people live in extreme poverty and more than 70 percent are undernourished. The United Nations has its largest peacekeeping force in the world in the Congo, and in the summer of 2006, the country held competitive national elections for the first time in more than 40 years.
Senator Obama wrote and passed legislation to build on this historic election and promote stability in the country. Senator Obama revamped U.S. policy in the Congo to include a commitment to help rebuild the country, develop lasting political structures, hold accountable destabilizing foreign governments, crack down on corrupt politicians, and professionalize the military. The bill also authorizes $52 million in U.S. assistance for the Congo, calls for a Special U.S. Envoy to resolve ongoing violence, and urges the administration to strengthen the U.N. peacekeeping force.
"It was a source of considerable encouragement to learn that the Congo Bill which (Senator Obama) graciously initiated and sponsored was recently passed and signed into law (S.2125). This is an important and most welcome development for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) at this critical juncture of its history."
- William Lacy Swing, U.N. Special Representative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Stopping the Genocide in Darfur
Senator Obama has been a leading voice in Washington urging the end of genocide in Sudan. He worked with Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) on the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act, a version of which was signed into law. Senator Obama has traveled to the United Nations to meet with Sudanese officials and visited refugee camps on the Chad-Sudan border to raise international awareness of the ongoing humanitarian disaster there. He also worked with Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) to secure $20 million for the African Union peacekeeping mission.
"Two senators from opposite sides of the aisle have joined together to call for increased U.S. involvement in Darfur. They are Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, and Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois."
-Gwen Ifill, Newshour with Jim Lehrer, PBS, February 16, 2006
Bringing a Brutal Warlord to Justice
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor has been accused of committing war crimes by international prosecutors. After taking the presidency following a brutal civil war that decimated Liberia's population, Taylor created a rebel group that fought in neighboring Sierra Leone's civil war. These rebels committed a range of atrocities including rape, murder and the use of child soldiers.
On July 19, 2005, Senator Obama passed a bipartisan amendment, along with Senators Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Judd Gregg (R-NH) to provide $13 million for the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Signed into law in November 2005, the Obama amendment provides critical funding to keep the Court up and running and dramatically enhances efforts to bring Charles Taylor to justice. Taylor was arrested in 2006 and awaits trial in April 2007.
"The knowledge that we have secure funding for 2006 now allows me to concentrate my energies and efforts to bring Mr. Taylor to trial."
- Desmond de Silva, Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone