Brookline Town Meeting Calls for Abolition of Nuclear Weapons

Brookline Town Meeting vote, 2017 Brookline Town Meeting vote, 2017
Kea Van Der Ziel

Kea Van Der Ziel

On May 29, 2018, Brookline Town Meeting approved a warrant article dealing with the abolition of nuclear weapons.  It passed by an overwhelmingly positive vote of 167 for and 2 opposed.  This warrant article was a resolution calling on the U.S. to pull back from the brink of nuclear war.  It represents an effort by Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Union of Concerned Scientists to build bipartisan public and congressional support for fundamental changes to the U.S. nuclear policy that will make not only the U.S. but the entire world safer.  Brookline’s resolution is based on that joint effort, spearheaded mainly by residents of Massachusetts.  It has passed in several other municipalities in Massachusetts.  Additionally, there is movement on this issue across the U.S., from California to Maine.  A broad range of local, state, national and international organizations support and endorse the PSR/UCS effort, including faith and secular groups, organizations dedicate to peace and justice, among others.  A full list can be found at www.preventnuclearwar.org.

The expenditure of $1.2-2 billion on nuclear “modernization” is really an escalation since it will inevitably lead to a renewed arms race.  Those dollars could be better spent on our crumbling infrastructure and other pressing needs here at home.  We are already spending $2 million/hour on maintaining the arsenal while the American Society of Civil Engineers gives our country failing or near failing grades on our infrastructure. 

Groups such as Physicians for Social Responsibility have been working on nuclear disarmament and abolition for decades.  It was the impetus for its founding in 1961 here is Massachusetts.  Subsequently, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War was formed, initially bringing together physicians from the U. S. and the U.S.S.R. but now with representatives from 64 countries.  In 2006, the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons was formed.  It spearheaded the recently promulgated U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by 122 nations and the Holy See.  It has been signed by 59 of these nations and ratified by 10 as of 5/17/2018.  None of the nuclear armed states nor their allies, with the exception of the Netherlands, participated in the crafting of this treaty.  However, the moral force of such an agreement is not to be minimized.

In December of 2018, ICAN received the Nobel Peace Prize for their work on the treaty.  Last month, the U.N. convened a high-level conference on Nuclear Disarmament in New York City and talks will continue.

In the U.S. there are multiple efforts in Congress addressing nuclear weapons.  Our own Senator Ed Markey has filed a bill in the Senate with a companion bill in the House authored by Representative Ted Lieu to prevent the first use of nuclear weapons by our president without congressional approval. There are other bills sponsored by Adam Smith, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee.

In May, 2018, The New England Journal of Medicine published “The Nobel Peace Prize and the Doomsday Clock – the End of Nuclear War or the End of Us.”  That title says it all.

 

RESOLUTION TO CALL FOR THE UNITED STATES TO “PULL BACK FROM THE BRINK” AND PREVENT NUCLEAR WAR—AN EXISTENTIAL THREAT TO THE FUTURE OF HUMANITY AND THE PLANET

Principal Petitioners:

                Cornelia van der Ziel (Town Meeting member, Precinct 15)

100 Wolcott Rd., Chestnut Hill MA 02467, 617-935-2940, vanderziel@earthlink.net

 

Edward Loechler (Town Meeting member, Precinct 08)

106 Beals St., #2, Brookline MA 02446, 617-543-8153, loechler@bu.edu

 

WHEREAS, since the height of the Cold War, the United States and Russia have dismantled more than 50,000 nuclear warheads, but approximately 15,000 of these weapons still exist and, thus, still pose an intolerable risk to human survival1; and

WHEREAS, approximately 95 percent of these weapons are in the hands of the United States and Russia, while the remainder are held by 7 other countries, namely, China, France, Israel, India, North Korea, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom2; and

WHEREAS, nuclear war would directly kill hundreds of millions of people and cause unimaginable environmental damage3; and

WHEREAS, there is a high probability that such a nuclear war would lead to catastrophic climate disruption dropping temperatures across the planet to levels not seen since the last ice age, thus resulting in the starvation of the vast majority of the human race, quite possibly leading to our extinction and the extinction of multiple other species4; and

WHEREAS, even the use of a tiny fraction of these weapons would cause worldwide climate disruption and global famine; e.g., as few as a 100 Hiroshima-sized bombs (small by modern standards) would put at least 5 million tons of soot into the upper atmosphere and cause climate disruption across the planet, cutting food production and putting 2 billion people at risk of starvation5; and

WHEREAS, despite the popular notion that these arsenals exist solely to guarantee they will never be used, on multiple occasions nuclear armed states have proceeded to the brink of using these weapons, and their use was narrowly averted6; and

WHEREAS, former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara—speaking about the Cuban Missile Crisis in The Fog of War—said, “It was luck that prevented nuclear war”; and

WHEREAS, our nuclear policy must NOT be subject to the whims of “luck;” and

WHEREAS, the growing climate crisis is stressing communities around the world and intensifying the likelihood of conflict, and, thus, the danger of war and the possibility of escalating to nuclear war7; and

WHEREAS, the planned expenditure of more than $1 trillion dollars to enhance the U.S. nuclear arsenal will not only increase the risk of nuclear disaster but also fuel a global arms race and divert crucial resources needed to assure the well-being of the American people and people all over the world8; and

WHEREAS, in July 2017, 122 nations called for the elimination of all nuclear weapons by adopting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons9.

BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Town of Brookline, Massachusetts, calls upon our federal leaders and our nation to make nuclear disarmament the centerpiece of U.S. national security policy and to work toward the goal of signing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Select Board of Brookline, Massachusetts, calls upon our federal leaders and our nation to spearhead a global effort to prevent nuclear war by:

  • renouncing the option of using nuclear weapons first;
  • ending the president’s sole, unchecked authority to launch a nuclear attack;
  • taking U.S. nuclear weapons off “hair-trigger” alert;
  • cancelling all plans to add weapons to the U.S. nuclear arsenal that would make it more likely that leaders will initiate nuclear war; and
  • actively pursuing a verifiable agreement among nuclear armed states to eliminate                their nuclear arsenals.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Town Clerk shall cause a copy of this resolution be sent to our U.S. Congressional Representative Joseph P. Kennedy, III, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey, and President Donald J. Trump. 

Or act on anything relative thereto. 

1 https://fas.org/issues/nuclear-weapons/status-world-nuclear-forces/

2https://fas.org/issues/nuclear-weapons/status-world-nuclear-forces/

3 http://www.psr.org/assets/pdfs/projected-us-casualties-and-destruction.pdf

4 http://climate.envsci.rutgers.edu/pdf/RobockNW2006JD008235.pdf

5 http://www.psr.org/assets/pdfs/two-billion-at-risk.pdf

6 http://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/attach/2015/04/Close%20Calls%20with%20 Nuclear%20Weapons.pdf
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https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/once-again-climate-change-cited-as-trigger-for-war/

8 https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/USNuclearModernization

9 www.ican.org/treaty-on-the-prohibition-of-nuclear-weapons/