Optimism in the Face of Nuclear Danger

Protest by Peaceworks KC at the nuclear bomb parts plant under construction. Eric Bowers photo

Mike VanElzakkerRemarks delivered by Michael VanElzakker at our 60th Anniversary celebration October 29.

The ultimate goal of the nuclear disarmament working group is both radical and necessary for the survival of the human species: total abolition of nuclear weapons from the planet. At MAPA, we work towards that radical goal knowing that we will have to fight for non-radical, reformist goals along the way, and we fight for that radical goal as citizens of a government that’s sprinting in the wrong direction on several fronts.

Perhaps our most urgent goal is being addressed in the above slide. Many people wrongly assume that US Presidents face strong checks and balances preventing them from launching a nuclear war but the opposite is true: Presidents have legal protection allowing them to unilaterally launch nuclear weapons at any target at any time. On Nov 4th, we are holding a day-long conference intended to draw attention to that reality and to promote strategies for it its repeal, including H.R.669 – the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act, also known as the Markey-Lieu Bill.

The context of a US President’s ability to unilaterally launch nuclear war is an unstable, deeply ignorant and incurious president who seems determined to stoke a nuclear war with North Korea (DPRK), and a bipartisan push to spend $1 Trillion to escalate a nuclear weapons arsenal that can already destroy humanity several times over.

Our working group has held several recent events – with more to come – centered around giving the public context to the Korean conflict, including rallies, a film screening, and talks by historians and activists. The core issue is acknowledged by US intelligence services:  North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is intended to be a deterrent against invasion or attack by the US, with whom the Korean War has still never been formally ended. At MAPA, we advocate for solidarity with the anti-war and anti-imperialism movements of South Korea (RoK), who have called for a “freeze for a freeze” – meaning the US would halt its twice-annual practice invasions of North Korea and in exchange North Korea would halt further testing and development of nuclear missiles. The only way North Korea will disarm its nuclear weapons is if the United States stops provocative rhetoric and War Games, and disarms its nuclear weapons as well – another example of the necessity for worldwide abolition.

The recent awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons is a cause for cautious optimism – caution because the nuclear powers were already under legal obligation to engage in “good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race” but have not lived up to that obligation. The ongoing bipartisan push for a $1 Trillion nuclear weapons arsenal upgrade is further evidence that the US government will not engage in these “good faith” efforts unless compelled to do so by an invigorated nuclear disarmament movement. But we feel optimism because the cause of nuclear abolition has gained new momentum as the rest of humanity wait for those of us in the US to use our power and privilege to rid the world of these infernal weapons. In the MAPA nuclear disarmament working group, we take that charge seriously, and hope that you’ll join us.