Interested in preserving the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and learning more about its history? Abolition 2000 is hosting a webinar Thursday January 17th. Learn more or sign up here
The 2018 Annual Gathering of East Bay Peace Action featured a talk by Eric See, Director of Outreach and Organizing Campaign for national Peace Action. See described 2018 Midterm Election activities for the national organization and the endorsement process. With an unprecedented number of people running for office, Peace Action activity intensified. National Peace Action endorsed 8 of the newly-elected members of the U. S. House of Representatives.
See also spoke about activities to end U. S. support for the war in Yemen and the state of diplomacy on the Korean Peninsula. Additionally, See discussed the need to create a peace movement that connects peace with human needs and climate chaos.
From United for Peace and Justice:
September has arrived and we’re less than two weeks away from Campaign Nonviolence Action Week, September 15-23, connecting the dots between war, poverty, racism, climate change, and the epidemic of violence. Learn more.
Events are planned in San Francisco and Oakland.
The following guest opinion was written by Michelle Cunha, assistant director of Massachusetts Peace Action for digboston.com
Addressing the US’s complicitness in maintaining the nuclear status quo
In the sweltering heat of the Japanese summer, I toured the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. Set nearly on top of the epicenter where an atomic bomb was detonated on Aug 6, 1945, I saw statutes of women trying to protect children from the bomb’s devastation, a burial mound with the ashes of at least ten thousand bodies, and monuments to workers whose lives were lost on that shameful day. At the Nagasaki Peace Park I viewed images of infants, teens, and adults burned beyond recognition, lying in the streets.
The next nine days I spent in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki listening to the voices of nuclear abolitionists from around the globe. I met Hibakusha, survivors of the nuclear attack, and listened to their stories of losing their loved ones and community in a moment. They spoke of the deep unabating grief they felt in the days, months, and decades since. Their words made me verklempt when they described the shame of being a survivor, of how many were unable to marry, find jobs, or live any sort of normal life. They spoke about how many Hibakusha chose to live in silence, never speaking of the day, instead choosing to suffer in silence. They spoke of being instantly alone in middle age having lost their parents, spouses, children, and livelihoods.
As I listened to the speeches at the 2018 World Conference against A and H Bombs, two men kept coming to my mind: Congressman Seth Moulton and State Rep. Kenneth Gordon. Why were these two men on my mind as I looked the legacy of the use of nuclear weapons? Both represent Bedford; Moulton believes nuclear deterrence is a viable doctrine and Gordon believes our attention is better spent on elections in other states as a way to change the discourse on nuclear weapons.
The Doctrine of Deterrence is based on the idea that if a nation possesses nuclear weapons it will not be attacked thus it is protected from any foreign aggressors.
Nations do not like unjust imbalances. If one nation has a nuclear weapon then its chief rival must have two. That skewed thinking leads to an arms race in which the two nations must one-up each other. Other nations wanting to be perceived as powerful join in the arms race as they too start to conceptualize and build their own nuclear arsenal.
Rachel Melly said “Of course our government always claims that they [nuclear weapons] are necessary for our security, that they will never be used, and they are designed to deter attack from hostile powers. But increasingly our politicians are required to say that they would press the button, so there is calculated uncertainty about whether it should be used or not.”
Moulton has declined to sign onto Sen. Ed Markey’s bill, co-authored by Congressman Ted Lieu of California (D-Calif.), which is designed to limit presidential first use of nuclear weapons by requiring Congressional approval before launching. A similar resolution is in the Massachusetts State House, authored by State Sen. Barbara L’Italien. Ken Gordon has procrastinated signing the resolution saying via email on July 12, 2018: “While I do support this initiative and will do what I can to help with this Senate resolution, I really think our time is best spent assisting the campaigns of those Senators in contested races in other states, because the real solution to all of this will only start when people who share our values take back the House and Senate, slowing down the current threat, and then work toward a more rational Administration.”
At a town hall in Newburyport on May 20, 2017, I asked Moulton why he has not signed onto the No First Strike bill. The Congressman mansplained that deterrence is a viable option and US treaty obligations to East Asian allies require the US to maintain a nuclear arsenal. Video of the exchange can be found on Massachusetts Peace Action’s website.
The United States is the only country in the world who has used nuclear bombs, not once but twice. An estimated 60,000-80,000 people were killed instantly in Hiroshima and another 75,000 were lost in Nagasaki. Added together, a rough total of 145,000 people were killed instantly. If you add the populations of Bedford, Lexington, Lincoln, Concord, Carlisle, Billerica, and Burlington together, total population is approximately 147,000. Imagine every single man, woman, child in those communities being lost in less than 5 seconds. Image the first responders from surrounding communities attempting to respond to such a completely preventable catastrophe: the blocked roads, the widespread fires, the cancers and radiation diseases police, fire, and EMS would contract. Imagine Emerson and Lahey Hospitals—if they were not instantly destroyed—trying to treat any survivors who are able to make it to their campuses.
The lucky ones in Hiroshima and Nagasaki died instantly. Radiation poisoning killed thousands more in the weeks following the attacks. Still, to this day, thousands of Hibakusha suffer the consequences with cancers throughout their bodies and other radiation diseases. The illnesses do not end with them. Second-generation Hibakusha are also afflicted with radiation diseases all because the United States believed dropping nuclear bombs on human beings—military and civilians alike—was an acceptable war tactic even at a time when the Japanese were attempting to surrender on the terms accepted after the A-bombings.
If I were to point a gun at someone but not to pull the trigger, I would be arrested for assault because to threaten to use a gun is as much a crime as to actually use it. Nuclear weapons are really big guns with the capability of destroying entire communities like Bedford.
During the last phase of his presidency, President Obama initiated a $1 trillion nuclear upgrade and 2018 Congress has bumped that number up to about $1.7 trillion. Hanscom AFB, in Moulton’s and Gordon’s districts, will see millions of those dollars to upgrade the Nuclear Command and Control Communications. In the last few weeks the NDAA was passed, which included funding for “low yield” nuclear bombs. These low yield bombs have more destructive capabilities than the two dropped on Japan. Earlier this year the Doomsday Clock was moved to 2 minutes to midnight after Trump’s NPT was released. It was the first time since 1953 that the hands have been so close to nuclear annihilation.
And yet, Moulton and Gordon believe the threat of instant and indiscriminate death brought on by a bright flash of light and a searing heat so hot eyeballs melt is necessary for US security. They believe burdening humans with life-threatening cancers that will affect millions for generations is in the US’ best interest.
It is time to put a stop to outmoded and antiquated thinking. It is time for total nuclear disarmament by all nine of the nuclear states. It is time for the United States to sign onto the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and to eliminate every single one of its 4,000+ nuclear weapons.
East Bay Peace Action wishes to make its members and the public aware of the upcoming march in support of real climate leadership. As climate catastrophes escalate, the San Francisco March will be the flagship event. You can learn more about the march by clicking here.
East Bay Peace Action joins 24 groups co-sponsoring the March for Nuclear Abolition at the Lawrence Livermore Lab, Aug. 6, 2018. Learn more about the event.
Following a vote at its last board meeting, East Bay Peace Action has joined a grassroots effort to take on systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation with the endorsement of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.
When 1 in 2 Americans is poor and the news of the day is climate chaos, police brutality, foreign wars, and tax cuts for the wealthy, we need Dr. King’s “revolution of values” and a moral revival in America more urgently than ever. It’s time not to commemorate Dr. King’s work, but to complete it.
The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is uniting tens of thousands of people across America to challenge the evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and the nation’s distorted morality. We need you to step up and join our efforts.
Add your name now if you’re ready to help unite all Americans in our movement to transform the political, economic and moral structures of the country.
East Bay Peace Action today joined with other organizations across the United States to endorse the Olympic Truce, an initiative calling for a cessation of hostilities on the Korean Peninsula during the Winter Olympics in South Korea..
As supporters of the truce state:
The Winter Olympics and Paralympics, to be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, offer a unique moment to promote peace on the Korean Peninsula. On a very encouraging note, in November 2017, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for an Olympic Truce, or a cessation of hostilities during the Winter Games, which gained the support of 157 Member States including both Koreas and future hosts of the Olympic Games: Japan, China, France and the United States.
The Olympic Truce represents an important opportunity to defuse tensions and begin the work of reconciliation on the Korean peninsula. The United States should fully support both Korean governments’ current efforts to restore a peace process.
You can read more of the details and view a list of endorsing organizations by following this link.
Time for Real Talk
The North Korean situation demands an unbridled pursuit of negotiations.
By Jon Rainwater, Executive Director of Peace Action and the Peace Action Education Fund, and Opinion Contributor | Dec. 1, 2017, at 11:10 a.m.
North Korea’s latest apparent intercontinental ballistic missile test after a two-month lull raises a troubling question: Is this the end of “the calm before the storm” the president referred to in October after a meeting with top military brass? One way or another, a storm is coming. Only time will tell whether it heralds a surge of diplomacy or bloodshed. As the president ominously put it, “you’ll find out.”
The storm’s first rains picked up after President Donald Trump decided to add North Korea to a list of state sponsors of terrorism last week. Announcing the decision, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reassured the press pool that “we still hope for diplomacy.” Tillerson argued that the designation “continues to tighten the pressure on the Kim regime all with an intention to have him understand, this is only going to get worse until you’re ready to come and talk.”
This latest missile test demonstrates the folly of that thinking. Tightening the screws on Pyongyang has not advanced prospects for diplomacy, nor has it slowed North Korea’s progress on a more advanced nuclear weapons program. On the contrary, the administration’s hyperfocus on the “pressure campaign” has squandered yet another opening for negotiations.
Some have argued North Korea’s pause in missile testing was not a sign that the North was ready to talk, but was rather a pause driven by preparations for more launches during the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea, by poor weather conditions and by resources being diverted for the harvest season. These factors may have contributed to the pause, but numerous signs indicate that the assumption that North Korea has not been ready to talk is flawed.
In June, North Korea’s ambassador to India Kye Chun Yong told reporters that North Korea was willing to consider a “freeze for freeze” agreement, under which the U.S. and South Korea would pause their joint military exercises in exchange for North Korea pausing its nuclear and ballistic missile testing. Such an agreement would drastically reduce tensions and decrease the risk of a miscalculation leading to war. It could also pave the way for further negotiations to roll back North Korea’s nuclear program in exchange for economic incentives and security assurances from the U.S.
Nuclear and foreign policy experts around the world including former Secretary of Defense William Perry support the “freeze for freeze” approach. The South Korean government also recently voiced tacit support for it, suggesting a delay in upcoming U.S.-South Korean military exercises. The U.S. has repeatedly rejected the approach.
Of course, North Korea’s actions have not been conducive to the diplomatic process either, this most recent ICBM test serving as the latest example of its counterproductive behavior. But meeting North Korea’s missile test with another round of threats, insults and provocative military exercises would be a mistake. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and in this case, they would bring us one step closer to a catastrophic war.
Instead of responding in kind, the Trump administration should take South Korea up on its suggestion of a delay in joint military exercises and give the “freeze for freeze” approach a second look. Taking the first step toward de-escalation by delaying or suspending the military exercises would not be a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of true leadership.
With North Korea closing in on an ICBM capable of reliably striking the U.S. mainland, a threshold the administration has said would be “intolerable,” there’s a strong case to be made for accelerating the pursuit of negotiations. For one, the more advanced North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is when negotiations begin, the more leverage it will have at the negotiating table. But more importantly, if we don’t begin negotiations before North Korea crosses that threshold, it’s unclear whether or not the president would be decide to launch a preemptive war.
Thankfully, legislation before Congress would address both of these concerns. The “No Unconstitutional Strike Against North Korea Act of 2017” would prevent funds from being used for any preemptive strike against North Korea without congressional authorization. It would also call on the president to “pursue every feasible opportunity to engage in talks” with North Korea to reduce tensions and advance the goals of denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula. While the administration may “still hope for diplomacy,” hope is not enough. Congress has the power to remind the administration that any preemptive war must be authorized, and that this crisis demands more than hope – it demands an unbridled pursuit of negotiations. It should exercise it.