Roots Action & Ira Helfand / CNN – 2018-12-04 23:13:01
Tell Congress to Save This Vital Nuclear Treaty
Block Donald Trump’s move toward nuclear war
(December 2, 2018) — President Trump has announced plans to withdraw the United States from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), a key nuclear disarmament pact with Russia signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1987 and approved by the US Senate.
Congress should take action to keep the United States in the treaty. And either house of Congress alone has the power to refuse to fund any weapons prohibited by the treaty.
Now, experts are alarmed that pulling out of the treaty will heighten the risks of nuclear war. Congress has the power to force adherence to the treaty if it chooses to act. Email your two Senators and your Representative with one click below.
Some members of Congress are already indicating an interest in taking action.
Congressman Ro Khanna has tweeted: “I am alarmed that President Trump is withdrawing from the INF treaty with Russia. This action plunges us back into a nuclear arms race and endangers our troops, allies, & the world, while wasting taxpayer dollars to prepare for a nuclear war that must never be fought.”
The INF prohibits the United States and Russia from deploying both nuclear and conventional missiles with ranges between 310 and 3,420 miles. These are among the weapons most likely to lead to miscalculation or misadventure in a crisis.
Following ratification of the INF, the United States destroyed almost 1,000 missiles, and the Soviet Union almost 2,000. “But,” writes Jon Schwarz at The Intercept:
“arms control treaties are never about weapons and numbers alone. They can help enemy nations create virtuous circles, both between them and within themselves.
“Verification requires constant communication and the establishment of trust; it creates constituencies for peace inside governments and in the general public; this reduces on both sides the power of the paranoid, reactionary wing that exists in every country; this creates space for further progress; and so on.”
Conversely, withdrawal from arms control treaties can feed vicious cycles of distrust, animosity, and militarization.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which now shows the Doomsday Clock at two minutes to midnight, points out: “The INF withdrawal is part of a pattern. It is not the first nuclear treaty the U.S. has terminated; at the end of 2001 the United States walked out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty it had signed with the Soviet Union in 1972.”
Both the United States and Russia currently accuse each other of violating the INF Treaty. Wherever the truth lies, the solution is not to pull out of the treaty, but to redouble diplomatic efforts to resolve the allegations.
The United States and Russia control more than 90 percent of the worldâ€™s nearly 15,000 nuclear weapons. It is unlikely that any of the other nuclear-armed powers will be willing to engage in negotiations to control or eliminate these extraordinarily dangerous armaments if the United States abandons arms control.
A ratified treaty is a part of the â€œsupreme law of the land,â€ former Senator Russell Feingold has noted â€” â€œwhich should logically mean that it could only be undone by Congress and the President, or at least by a vote of the Senate.â€
Tell the first branch of government in the U.S. Constitution to step up and do its job. After signing the petition, please use the tools on the next webpage to share it with your friends.
RootsAction is an independent online force endorsed by Jim Hightower, Barbara Ehrenreich, Cornel West, Daniel Ellsberg, Glenn Greenwald, Naomi Klein, Bill Fletcher Jr., Laura Flanders, former U.S. Senator James Abourezk, Frances Fox Piven, Lila Garrett, Phil Donahue, Sonali Kolhatkar, and many others.
* David Cortright, The Nation: â€œThe Peace Movement Won the INF Treaty. We Must Fight to Preserve It.â€
* Russell Feingold, NBCnews.com: â€œDonald Trump can unilaterally withdraw from treaties because Congress abdicated responsibilityâ€
* Zia Mian, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: â€œThe INF Treaty and the crises of arms controlâ€
* Jon Schwarz, The Intercept: â€œWhat Trump and John Bolton Donâ€™t Understand About Nuclear Warâ€
* Ira Helfand, CNN.com: â€œSheer Luck Has Helped Us Avoid Nuclear War So Far â€“ Now We Need to Take Actionâ€
Sheer Luck Has Helped Us Avoid Nuclear War So Far
— Now We Need to Take Action
Ira Helfand / CNN
(November 17, 2018) — The 100th anniversary of the World War I armistice last weekend underscored the great folly of President Donald Trump’s threat to pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia. President Vladimir Putin’s response that “there would be nothing left except an arms race” shows our world leaders have failed to learn from history.
The Great War, also known as “the war to end all wars,” engulfed an unwitting world because the leaders of the great powers did not understand the enormity of suffering they were about to unleash when they stumbled needlessly into conflict.
Today, Trump, Putin and other leaders pursue their nuclear policies with a similar disregard for the potentially catastrophic effects. They plot their moves as if they were playing a game of global chess. But nuclear weapons are not chess pieces, and nuclear war will certainly not be a board game. War involving today’s nuclear arsenals would be a disaster beyond our imagining.
And that may be the root of the problem we face: We literally cannot imagine how destructive nuclear weapons are. Our defense policies treat them like ordinary weapons, and we seek the security of bigger arsenals to ensure our enemies’ fear of the nuclear unknown is greater than ours.
Terminating the INF Treaty Could Be Disastrous
For much of human history, a bigger stockpile, or more advanced weapons, granted a greater advantage in combat. But nuclear weapons should be understood as suicide bombs. Even the “successful” use of our own nuclear weapons against an enemy that doesn’t fire back could potentially destroy the world as we know it.
Recent studies have shown that even a conflict between smaller nuclear powers such as India and Pakistan could trigger dire consequences. If just a fraction of the world’s nuclear weapons (say, 100 bombs the size of the one dropped in Hiroshima) were deployed on urban industrial targets, the resulting fires would put enough soot into the upper atmosphere to cause climate disruption. This could then lead to a global famine that would place up to 2 billion people at risk of starvation, according to one study.
There are enough weapons on board a single US Trident submarine to trigger this kind of catastrophe many times over. To put this into context, the United States has 14 of these submarines as well as land-based missiles and a fleet of long-range bombers. All told, the United States has 6,550 warheads — most of which are 10 to 50 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb — with about 1,350, or 1 in 5, deployed and ready to use.
There is no conceivable security benefit from having more of these weapons, nor do we need to worry if Russia has more than we do. Astronomer Carl Sagan compared the arms race between the United States and Russia to two men “standing waist deep in gasoline; one with three matches, the other with five.” We all understood how crazy this was, but that is exactly how our current leaders think about nuclear arsenals.
Far from protecting us, nuclear weapons are, in fact, the greatest threat to our security. There have been several instances during the Cold War when either Washington or Moscow began the process of launching their nuclear arsenals in the mistaken belief they were under attack by the other side.
Each time, in former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara’s words, “We lucked out.”
Current nuclear policy is little more than hope for continued luck. Pulling out of the INF treaty will only increase the odds that our luck runs out sooner rather than later as the United States, Russia and perhaps China field new nuclear weapons instead of working to eliminate those they already possess.
Last year, 122 nations called for a dramatically different approach and voted to adopt a new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Here in the United States, a national grassroots campaign, Back from the Brink, is calling for the US government to embrace this treaty.
Rather than destroying agreements such as the INF we should be working with the other eight nuclear-armed states to negotiate a verifiable, enforceable, time-bound framework for dismantling the 14,500 nuclear weapons that remain in the world.
Despite the terrible carnage, the world survived World War I and World War II. We will not survive a world war fought with nuclear weapons. We need to eliminate them before they eliminate us.
Ira Helfand, a medical doctor, is a member of the international steering group of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the recipient of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize. He is also co-president of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the founding partner organization of ICAN and itself the recipient of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.â€
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