Nuclear Disarmament Campaigns Move Forward Locally and Globally

Jerry Ross, Jonathan King, Amy Hendrickson, Jane Binkerd, and Eust Eustice at Paribas demonstration Sept. 26 Jerry Ross, Jonathan King, Amy Hendrickson, Jane Binkerd, and Eust Eustice at Paribas demonstration Sept. 26

This article appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of the Massachusetts Peace Action newsletter

Don’t Bank on the Bomb

MAPA organized a spirited demonstration at the BNP Paribas office in downtown Boston on Sept. 26, as part of a global day of action against this massive French bank that provides more than $8 billion in financing to nuclear weapons companies. Our action was part of the Don’t Bank on the Bomb campaign, which began in Europe and is organized by the International Coalition Against Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and other disarmament groups. Its focus has been on pressing large banks and investment funds to divest their holdings in nuclear weapons companies.

The demonstration outside BNP Asset Management Offices at 75 State Street was among those occurring at Paribas locations in over 40 countries. The action was held in recognition of the United Nations’ International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

In Massachusetts, the Cambridge City Council voted unanimously in 2016 to divest its pension holdings in companies that produce nuclear weapons. That action has been halted by State intervention. In response, next year MAPA will help file Don’t Bank on the Bomb divestment legislation with the state legislature. This action will follow the precedent set by state divestment from corporations producing tobacco products, which is now part of Massachusetts law.

—Jerry Ross, Bedford, Mass. Peace Action

Back from the Brink

The Back from the Brink campaign, launched in Western Mass. a year ago, has grown dramatically in the past few months. It has been endorsed by unanimous votes of the US Conference of Mayors, the Baltimore City Council, the LA City Council, and—in an overwhelming though not unanimous vote—the California State Legislature. It has been endorsed by Peace Action nationally.

The campaign calls on the US to embrace the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by actively pursuing negotiations with the other eight nuclear armed states for a verifiable, enforceable, time-bound plan to dismantle their remaining nuclear weapons. It calls for the US, while these negotiations are in progress, to:

  • renounce the first use of nuclear weapons;
  • take its nuclear weapons off hair trigger alert;
  • end the unchecked authority of the President to initiate nuclear war; and
  • abandon the $1.7 trillion plan to enhance every aspect of the nuclear arsenal.

The goal is to achieve a national consensus on this set of policy initiatives by the time the next administration takes office in January of 2021. Here in Massachusetts, it has been endorsed by the Northampton City Council, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, the Somerville Board of Aldermen and the Town Meetings of Brookline, Amherst, Wendell, Plainfield, Cummington, Leverett, Williamburg, Goshen, and Windsor. The campaign has also been joined by a large number of civic organizations and faith communities. (See complete Mass. and national list at www.PreventNuclearWar.org) We are working to secure the endorsement of other cities and towns and pursuing a resolution in the state legislature.

—Ira Helfand, Northampton, president of Physicians for Social Responsibility

Restrict Presidential First Strike

MAPA has been campaigning hard for the Markey / Lieu bill, HR669, introduced into Congress in 2017, that would limit the President’s ability to launch a nuclear first strike by requiring that he first secure a Congressional declaration of war. We have sent delegations to meet with all our Members of Congress.

Reps. Jim McGovern, Katherine Clark, Mike Capuano, and Joseph Kennedy have thus far responded positively. Among the most resistant has been Rep. Seth Moulton. At a town hall in Newburyport last May, MAPA’s Michelle Cunha asked Moulton why he has not signed on to the No First Strike bill. Moulton claimed that deterrence is a viable option and that US treaty obligations to East Asian allies require the US to maintain a nuclear arsenal. Video of the exchange can be found on the Mass. Peace Action YouTube channel. 

A similar resolution was introduced in the Mass. legislature, presented by State. Sen. Barbara L’Italien and supported by Reps. Mike Connolly, Denise Provost, and Kay Kahn.  In the coming legislative session we hope to transform the resolution into a bill asking the state legislature to call upon the US Congress to support a No First Strike bill.

 —Jonathan King, Cambridge, chair of MAPA’s Nuclear Disarmament Working Group

Invest in Minds Not Missiles

Mass. Peace Action is engaged in an ongoing campaign to “Cancel the Trillion-Dollar Nuclear Weapons Upgrades” and invest that money in meeting human needs. To that end, in October we held a forum at UMass Boston entitled “Increasing Federal and State Investment in Higher Education: Invest in Minds, not Missiles.”

UMass Boston, originally chartered to provide quality education for low-income urban residents, has been subject to repeated budget cuts in recent years by the governor and state legislature. Speakers such as Barbara Madeloni, former president of the Mass Teachers Association, State Rep. Mike Connolly, UMass Profs Tony Van Der Meer and Paul Atwood, and Boston University Prof Jane Regan eloquently expressed the need to protect and expand higher education opportunities, especially for those least able to afford the current costs.

Other participants included UMass faculty, undergraduates and graduate students, members of the Public Higher Education Network of Mass. (PHENOM), Save UMB, and the Professional Staff Union. This forum complemented the work of other MAPA campus groups that are promoting the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s People’s Budget, which sharply increases federal investment in education.

—Jelena Mitic-Elliott, MAPA intern and UMass Boston student, and Jonathan King

Trump to Scrap INF Treaty with Russia

President Trump recently proposed pulling the US out of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia. The signing of the treaty by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev significantly reduced the numbers of the world’s nuclear weapons. Intermediate-range missies, launched from a few hundred miles outside a nation’s border, leave only minutes for the target nation to decide how to respond. This is a deeply destabilizing situation. Abrogation of the treaty, and deployment of such nuclear-armed missiles, can only increase the danger of an accidental or intentional nuclear exchange, lethal for human society. MAPA’s Nuclear Disarmament Working Group, along with our sister peace organizations, will work to develop a response to this new threat.