Action Alert

Let Congress Weigh in on Disarmament

Since 1970, when the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) entered into force at the United Nations, the nuclear weapons states – led by the U.S. and then-Soviet Union, now Russia – have largely dragged their feet on any real progress toward disarmament. Accords between the two countries such as SALT I and II, ABM, INF and new START have signaled at least a willingness to address the nuclear threat, but all have either gone by the wayside or, thanks to the Trump administration, are on the way out.

Now with 191 signatories, NPT will have its five-year review conference in 2020, with the usual minimal expected results. With an eye on such results up to that time, in July 2017 122 of those nations, also under the auspices of the UN but not including the nuclear weapons states, signed an alternative document – the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which, as stated on its web site, “includes a comprehensive set of prohibitions on participating in any nuclear weapon activities. These include undertakings not to develop, test, produce, acquire, possess, stockpile, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons.”

Addressing our country’s inertia toward TPNW and such accords in general, in April 2019 Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern introduced H. Res.302, “Embracing the goals and provisions of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons”. More specifically the bill also takes on previous hallmarks of disarmament, including removing the sole ability to launch a nuclear strike from the president; taking missiles off “hair-trigger alert”, and scrapping nuclear weapons modernization efforts going back to the Obama era and beyond.

Here is a chance for Congress to make a statement on the need to disarm, and to join the international community. While H. Res 302 is a long way from serious consideration, every bit of support from the House can be its own statement.

Action: Contact Rep. Jackie Speier or Anna Eshoo, or whomever represents you, and tell them to co-sponsor H. Res 302 and honor the notion of ending the specter of nuclear weapons.

Help on the Global Stage

In today’s world we continue to face the threat of terrorism and other violence, either from state- or non-state-sponsored entities. Whether over religious persecution, natural resources or wealth inequity (to name a few sources of conflict), the human race seems compelled to watch its collective back in a desperate posture of readiness.

At the same time, the U.S. devotes a minute amount of funding toward violence prevention, which is consistent with figures worldwide. For instance, a group of humanitarian aid organizations found that in 2016 just 2% of U.S. funding for conflict-affected and fragile states went to reduction of violence, and 0.9% to development and peacebuilding; the rest was for “containment”.

Congress has begun to address this situation with bipartisan legislation. Last July, Delaware Sen. Christopher Coons introduced S.727, the Global Fragility Act of 2019, which “directs the President to devise and implement a 10-year plan (for starters) to combat global fragility” as well as provide the funding for such a plan. Along with trying to identify and stabilize conflict areas, S. 727 focuses on reducing causes of violence and resulting fragility of some nations.

In this way, the U.S. can add an element of prevention to conflict-ridden counties, depending on the conditions at hand. The bill, whose companion in the House has already passed, now has 26 co-sponsors, not including Senators Dianne Feinstein or Kamala Harris.

Action: Contact both Senator Feinstein and Harris to ask for their support for S.727, the Global Fragility Act. Suggest that an ounce (or more) of prevention of conflicts around the world could prevent U.S. military actions, as well as contribute to stability and peace if used correctly.

SANE Act Redux

There is a new version of legislation designed to curb our country’s nuclear weapons arsenal. Donald Trump has plans to spend nearly $2 trillion over the next 30 years on unneeded and unnecessary nuclear weapons and delivery systems. This makes no sense…in fact this is insane.

We’re talking about nearly $100 million wasted every day for 30 years on weapons we are supposed to be getting rid of. To put that amount in perspective, you could instead spend that money to send nearly 9 million people to a 4-year university or hire 18 million teachers for a year!

Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey and Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer have re-introduced the SANE Act, companion versions of a bill in the Senate and House, which would save taxpayers approximately $100 billion over ten years by scaling down, delaying, or canceling a variety of obsolete nuclear weapons programs. By helping to focus our resources on the real threats of the 21st century instead of on Cold War relics, the SANE Act would help bolster our economic and national security.

Some of the targeted cuts include:

Cut the current fleet of nuclear submarines from 12 operational at sea to eight operational at sea ($3 billion savings)

Delay the purchase of new nuclear submarines ($17 billion savings)

Reduce the number of ICBMs ($6 billion savings)

End the nuclear missions of air bombers (up to $17 billion savings)

Delay the new bomber program ($18 billion savings)

Cancel new, wasteful nuclear weapons facilities ($15 billion savings)

Action: Contact Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris and tell them to support S.2727, the Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures (SANE) Act from Senator Markey. Likewise tell Rep. Jackie Speier and Anna Eshoo, or whomever represents you, to co-sponsor HR 4904, the same bill from Rep. Blumenauer in the House. Suggest to them that the cold war is long over, and we have never needed enough firepower to destroy the world several times over.

There is a new version of legislation designed to curb our country’s nuclear weapons arsenal. Donald Trump has plans to spend nearly $2 trillion over the next 30 years on unneeded and unnecessary nuclear weapons and delivery systems. This makes no sense…in fact this is insane.

We’re talking about nearly $100 million wasted every day for 30 years on weapons we are supposed to be getting rid of. To put that amount in perspective, you could instead spend that money to send nearly 9 million people to a 4-year university or hire 18 million teachers for a year!

Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey and Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer have re-introduced the SANE Act, companion versions of a bill in the Senate and House, which would save taxpayers approximately $100 billion over ten years by scaling down, delaying, or canceling a variety of obsolete nuclear weapons programs. By helping to focus our resources on the real threats of the 21st century instead of on Cold War relics, the SANE Act would help bolster our economic and national security.

Some of the targeted cuts include:

Cut the current fleet of nuclear submarines from 12 operational at sea to eight operational at sea ($3 billion savings)

Delay the purchase of new nuclear submarines ($17 billion savings)

Reduce the number of ICBMs ($6 billion savings)

End the nuclear missions of air bombers (up to $17 billion savings)

Delay the new bomber program ($18 billion savings)

Cancel new, wasteful nuclear weapons facilities ($15 billion savings)

Action: Contact Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris and tell them to support S.2727, the Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures (SANE) Act from Senator Markey. Likewise tell Rep. Jackie Speier and Anna Eshoo, or whomever represents you, to co-sponsor HR 4904, the same bill from Rep. Blumenauer in the House. Suggest to them that the cold war is long over, and we have never needed enough firepower to destroy the world several times over.

Not First, Hopefully Not Ever

The thought of a nuclear war is just about at the top of occurrences that we all dread (and try our best not to think about). The degree to which the current resident of the White House has implied the possibility of such a war (“fire and fury”, anyone?) is just one reason we wait and hope for a different administration, whether by election or by the American legal system. In the meantime, there are now two different companion bills in the House and Senate regarding first-use of nuclear weapons by the U.S.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has introduced S. 272, which would “establish the policy of the United States regarding the no-first-use of nuclear weapons”. To be exact, in simple and clear language, it makes no-first-use the policy. Likewise does H.R. 921, introduced by Washington Rep. Adam Smith. These both follow up on the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Acts, both re-introduced from the last Congress by Rep. Ted Lieu of California and Sen. Ed Markey, also of Massachusetts, respectively. Each of those would require approval by Congress for a “first strike”.

While Americans are certainly overwhelmingly opposed to any use of nuclear weapons, let alone initiating it, and it is reasonable to assume nobody in their right mind in Congress would favor such a deployment, a strong show of support for these various no-first-use bills would be a good look…especially considering the person whose “finger is on the button”.

Action: Sen. Dianne Feinstein is a co-sponsor of both S. 272 and Markey’s S. 200, and we can thank her for her support. However Sen. Kamala Harris has not signed on to either bill. With hope that this is just something she missed, contact Sen. Harris and urge her support for both bills preventing a first-use of nuclear weapons. On the House side, Rep. Anna Eshoo has co-sponsored both H.R. 921 and Lieu’s H.R. 669, and her constituents can also thank her. Rep. Jackie Speier is on Lieu’s bill, but has yet to co-sponsor H.R. 921, thus her people can contact her tell her to add her name. Suggest this is about common sense and perhaps survival.

End a War – Begin a Peace

Not everyone is aware that the Korean War never formally ended; rather, the bombing and the killing stopped only when the two sides signed an armistice agreement, in place “until a final peaceful settlement is achieved”. That has never happened, and the tension between the U.S. and North Korea has surely been exacerbated by this continuing state of war. Indeed, signing a formal peace treaty has been one of North Korea’s conditions toward achieving peace. It seems a small step, but many activists feel its significance would lift one cloud that hangs over U.S./DPRK relations…and pave the way for more progress.

In this spirit, South Bay Rep. Ro Khanna has introduced H. Res. 152, “Calling for a formal end of the Korean war.” Following up on a similar resolution introduced in 2014, this measure also supports efforts by South Korean President Moon Jae-in – jointly with his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong Un – as they look for paths to cooperation and security. An important overall goal is eventual denuclearization by North Korea, and the resolution does not affect that goal.

President Moon will be in Washington this week to meet with Donald Trump about how peace can be achieved. While H. Res. 152 will not come to the House floor that soon, strong support for it among its members will make it a part of the mix of calming tensions – which seemed to increase when the latest talks between Trump and Kim failed.

Action: Contact Rep. Speier or Eshoo and tell them to become a co-sponsor of H. Res. 152, toward formally ending the Korean war. Suggest that this early step is not just a symbol but an end to a war…and can potentially lead to a more significant peace.

Save a Nuclear Weapons Treaty

In 2010, the Obama administration and Russia negotiated the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). Compared to most of our readers’ disarmament aspirations, this was a relatively modest accord…but it reduced the U.S. and Russian strategic arsenals to 1,500 apiece, and delivery vehicles to 700 apiece. New START also established the most extensive verification and monitoring process ever agreed upon by both nations, including 18 on-site inspections per side per year, and direct inspections of the weapons themselves.

But Donald Trump’s seeming lack of regard for any such measure that is not his, coupled with then-National Security Advisor John Bolton’s seeming lack of regard for any disarmament treaty at all, combined earlier in the year to put New START in jeopardy. It is set to expire in 2021, and while Trump and Vladimir Putin can extend it for five years at any time, Bolton, who had Trump’s ear on such matters, called that “unlikely”, and it seems to remain so.

Members of Congress from both parties have shown their concern about preserving New START, and in fact there is a bipartisan bill in the House calling on Trump to do just that. H.R. 2529, the “Richard G. Lugar and Ellen O. Tauscher Act to Maintain Limits on Russian Nuclear Forces” seems to take an arguably antagonistic tone toward Russia, but its goal of keeping both sides’ arsenals at relative bay – until 2026, as called for in the measure – is its most important element. The extension would last until either Russia (or presumably the U.S.) violates the treaty, or an equivalent or more stringent disarmament regime can be settled upon – not likely with the current administration, but a hopeful provision nonetheless.

In the Senate, Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey introduced S.1285 – the “Save Arms Control and Verification Efforts Act of 2019” aka the “SAVE Act”. This bill, as its description says, would “require certifications and reporting in an unclassified form related to the national security implications of the New START Treaty, and to provide for arms limitations in the event of the treaty’s non-renewal.”

S.1285 would also encourage the president to extend New START, or explain why he or she has not taken such steps; In addition, it would require the arms limitations for the treaty to stay at the current level. Senator Dianne Feinstein is a co-sponsor of the SAVE Act, but Kamala Harris is so far not.

Action: Contact Rep. Jackie Speier or Anna Eshoo, or whomever represents you, and urge them to co-sponsor H.R. 2529 in its hope of keeping the New START agreement alive and kicking until at least 2026. Also contact Sen. Harris and urge her support for S.1285, the SAVE Act. Perhaps add that we need to aim for even more stringent disarmament agreements, but to abandon this one would be more than a step backwards.

Protect Palestinian Children

When human rights becomes an issue, it seems we are most likely to think first of what the children of a victimized people are going through. While this has come up recently at our borders, it has for some time been the case for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. A passage on the subject from the web site of Jewish Voice For Peace conveys it thusly:

“Since the year 2000, an estimated 10,000 Palestinian children between the ages of 12 and 17 have been detained, prosecuted and incarcerated by the Israeli military in the occupied West Bank. Often dragged from their homes in the middle of the night by armed soldiers, they suffer physical and emotional violence and frequently face verbal abuse, humiliation and/or intimidation. These children are interrogated without family or lawyers present, in an effort to generate forced confessions justifying their detention for months on end – often in solitary confinement. This is unacceptable.”

In response to such conditions, Minnesota Rep. Betty McCollum introduced H.R. 2407, the “Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act.” Along with what its title states, this bill also forbids U.S. military aid for Israel – currently totaling $3.8 billion – from supporting “military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children”. This is a common-sense measure that would take steps toward keeping the U.S. within the bounds of international law.

Action: Contact Rep. Speier or Eshoo, to tell them to co-sponsor H.R. 2407 and stand up for the rights of Palestinian children. Suggest that, as with the migrant children on our border that recently-passed legislation are trying to protect, our tax dollars should also not be used to keep these children detained and mistreated.

No Help for the Saudis

The frustration among peace advocates over U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia grew in May when Trump vetoed a bill to cut off aid to Saudi Arabia in the latter’s brutal participation in the civil war in Yemen. Both chambers have stayed busy over the issue.

In June, the Senate passed S.J.Res. 36 and S.J.Res. 38, bipartisan bills intended to together block 22 separate arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other countries. On the House side, H.R. 643, “…to prohibit the provision of United States security assistance (meaning intelligence and arms sales) to the Government of Saudi Arabia”, has been on the docket since January, with Rep. Eshoo an original co-sponsor. Ted Lieu, another California Rep, introduced H.R. 910, the Yemen Refueling Prohibition Act, which prohibits the U.S. practice of in-flight refueling of Saudi jets as they conduct their bombings.

Public opinion polls have shown that 75% of Americans oppose U.S. intervention in the Saudi war on Yemen. If Trump wants to defend his wealthy allies in the Middle East with vetoes of measures aimed at saving civilian lives, his aims should be exposed for all to see.

Action: Contact Reps. Speier and Eshoo to urge their support for H.R.910, to keep our planes from helping the Saudis wage war in Yemen. Also tell Speier to co-sponsor H.R. 643, prohibiting security assistance to Saudi Arabia. Suggest Congress should not go along with the Trump administration by playing a part in Yemeni civilian suffering.

“Smaller” Nukes?

None but the most ill-informed doubts the civilization-ending destructive potential of nuclear weapons; as a result there is a lot of talk and advocacy in recent years about “low-yield” nuclear warheads. The Department of Energy, nuclear weapons contractors such as Lockheed and Boeing, and certain members of Congress who see the nuclear weapons industry as a way to create jobs in their district or state all push the “low-yield” concept in order to make nuclear weapons more palatable to the American public (and perhaps other publics).

Another insidious label for such warheads would be “more usable”, which implies not only an ability to control the results in terms of the destruction they would cause, but also a degree of acceptability for actually using them under certain circumstances. It says here those circumstances do not exist, because of the potential for mass destruction of cities and lives. Avoiding nuclear winter (for instance) and the possible end of most life forms on earth is not enough; a “smaller” amount of destruction and murder is also a dreadful notion, with the distinct possibility of escalation to the worst possible scenario.

Surely with such thoughts in mind, in February Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey and California Rep. Ted Lieu re-introduced S. 401 and HR 1086 respectively, the “Hold the LYNE (Low Yield Nuclear Explosives) Act”, which would prohibit research, development, production and deployment of such a nuclear warhead for the Trident D-5 missile. The D-5 would be just one application for such “low-yield” warheads, but would be a start for more progress to call out the idea as obsolete.

HR 1086 co-sponsor Oregon Rep. Ed Blumenauer, said, “Despite their misleading name, so-called ‘low-yield’ nuclear weapons are highly destabilizing and increase the likelihood of nuclear war. We should abandon our focus on outdated Cold War tactics and focus on the strategic challenges we face today, including accounting for the irresponsible spending on weapons we can’t afford to build and the world can’t afford for us to use.”

Action: Sen. Feinstein is a co-sponsor but Sen. Harris is not yet. Contact Harris and tell her to co-sponsor S.401, the “Hold the LYNE Act”. On the House side, Rep. Speir is a co-sponsor but Eshoo is not, and her constituents should contact her to urge her support for HR 1086. Suggest that nuclear war is unacceptable at any level, there is no such thing as a “more usable” nuclear weapon, and we should spend the money saved not building these warheads on constructive (where our money would surely go farther and create more jobs) rather than destructive budget items.

DIRECTORY
Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121

Senator Dianne Feinstein
One Post St., Ste 2450 San Francisco, CA 94104
(202) 224-3841 FAX: (202) 228-3954
(415) 393-0707 FAX: (415)393-0710

Senator Kamala Harris
333 Bush Street, Ste. 3225 San Francisco, CA 94104
(202) 224-3553 FAX: (202) 224-2200
(415)981-9369 FAX: (202) 224-0454

Representative Jackie Speier
155 Bovet Rd., Ste 780 San Mateo, CA 94402
(202) 225-3531 FAX: (202) 226-4183
(650) 342-0300 FAX: (650) 375-8270

Representative Anna Eshoo
698 Emerson Street Palo Alto, CA 94301
(202) 225-8104 FAX: (202) 225-8890
(650) 323-2984 FAX: (650) 323-3498

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (202) 225-4965

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (202) 224-6542 

Donald Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20500
(202)456-1111: FAX: (202)456-2461
www.whitehouse.gov/contact/

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, U.S. Department of State:
(202)647-6575 FAX: (202)647-2283

Find out who your Representative is here.
If you are not in California, identify your senators here.