To: Senator Patty Murray and Senator Maria Cantwell October 1, 2019
Resolution from the People’s Town Hall on Nuclear Weapons
On September 29, 2019 Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility convened the People’s Town Hall on Nuclear Weapons (view the recording of the Town Hall here), held at the newly refurbished Seattle Town Hall facility . We witnessed a graduate school-level review of many ways in which the nuclear age has undermined health. They are widespread – and ongoing, all this even without the actual use of these horrific weapons.
Over the 60 years we have lived precariously with the world’s nuclear arsenals, on hair-trigger alert and poised to launch in minutes, we have to admit that we have been extremely lucky. As General Lee Butler, former Commander-in-Chief of the US Strategic Command for nuclear forces, has stated, our survival so far is attributable to sheer luck and divine intervention, rather than our nuclear policies, including so-called deterrence.
This is why we turn to you, our leaders in Congress. The mindsets and belief systems that brought into existence and have sustained the Cold War policies that continue to threaten the globe must be challenged, refuted and changed.
Below you will find a summary of the testimonies from the people’s Town Hall, directly from the perspective of communities across Washington State.
Recovering from the production of nuclear weapons and consequences of nuclear weapons on climate, community, workers and ancestral indigenous land:
- Twa-le Abrahamson Swan, a Spokane Tribal member, representing SHAWL (Sovereignty, Health, Air, Water, Land) Society) shared documentation indicating that the Spokane and Yakama nations are among the most radioactively toxic regions in the world due to the presence of Hanford and the Midnite Mine uranium mining site along with abandoned uranium ore piles and acid mine drainage that flows into the Spokane river, exposing tribal members to contamination and health risks. They seek a comprehensive health study and resources to address increased cancers, kidney, heart and neuro-cognitive disorders. They ask that members of the Spokane Tribe be consulted and provided ongoing access to technical assistance and resources to support independent monitoring during the duration of cleanup of the Midnite Mine superfund site.
- Kara Sweidel, organizer with 350 Seattle, noted that the Department of Defense is the world’s largest institutional user of petroleum and responsible for 1.2 billion metric tons of greenhouse gasses of US military emissions since the beginning of the Global War on Terror in 2001, according to a Brown University Study. It also noted that “even a small-scale war would quickly devastate the world’s climate and ecosystems, causing damage that would last for more than a decade” and that “detonating between 50 and 100 bombs – just .03% of the world’s arsenal – would throw enough soot into the atmosphere [from firestorms] to create climatic anomalies unprecedented in human history.”
- Tom Carpenter, executive director of Hanford Challenge, called attention to the highly-radioactive, chemical sludge produced as a byproduct of the plutonium from the Hanford Reactors. This radioactive pollution escaped into the air and water around the site. The inventories of radioactive and chemical wastes are still subject to dispersal through fire, flood, volcano, acts of terror or simple human error. They demand that the federal government honor its clean up obligations.
The devastating consequences of use of nuclear weapons:
- Phoenix Johnson, a veteran and president of the Seattle Veterans for Peace Chapter #92, testified to the personal costs of war on our military and denounced our threat to use nuclear weapons. They also addressed the lack of attention and support the atomic veterans, who have also been exposed to radiation and chemicals in clean up and testing, have faced. As a former member of the armed service, Phoenix denounced the use of nuclear weapons and called for a reduction of spending on weapons of mass destruction.
- David Anitok from the Marshall Islands, representing “Compact of Free Association” Alliance National Network, told the story of his wife’s uncle, who recently died of cancer and kidney complications after surviving the 67 nuclear weapons tests conducted by the US military during the Cold War on the Marshall Islands. He noted that the total yield of nuclear weapons tested in the Marshall Islands equated to a Hiroshima-sized atomic bomb detonated every day for twelve years. Marshallese communities demand compensation and investment in health care as their communities continue to suffer high rates of cancer and other diseases since the nuclear testing.
- Dr. Tsukasa Namekata from the Seattle Hiroshima Club shared the recorded testimony of Gene Fujita, a hibakusha (survivor) of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, who describes the horrors of the destruction and loss of life after that attack including bodies with skin hanging off them, burned people, and bodies floating in the river. He lifts up the memory of the bombing of Hiroshima with the hope that there will never be another nuclear strike again.
Risks of accidents and consequences of current nuclear weapons arsenals:
- John Repp, a former Boeing employee, identified the elements of the nuclear system that Boeing produces, including maintaining the Minuteman III nuclear weapon carrying intercontinental ballistic missiles, producing the guided tail kit for the new B61-12 nuclear gravity bomb and making key components for US and UK Trident II (D5) nuclear weapons. This indicates Boeing continues to participate in the production of weapons of mass destruction. He also said after the energy crisis of the 1970’s, Boeing manufactured wind turbines and very efficient solar cells when contracted by the Federal Government to do so. Another Boeing is possible.
- Dr. Dave Hall with the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action and WPSR addressed weapons of mass destruction deployed from Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor on Hood Canal, 20 air miles from downtown Seattle, constituting the largest concentration of deployed weapons of mass destruction in the US nuclear arsenal. Eight Trident submarine warships are based here, half on patrol throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans at any one time threatening to launch a thousand Hiroshima atomic bomb equivalents on targets up to 4000 miles away. He calls for a rollback of the nuclear modernization program, for Congress not to spend $1.7 Trillion dollars over the next 30 years rebuilding our entire nuclear arsenal.
- Jeanelle Sales, Member Relations Officer of the Beyond the Bomb, UW Chapter testified to the ongoing psychological harms of having a “government prioritize extremely expensive weapons of mass destruction while socially we experience deep debt from loans for school and medical expenses, unemployment and homelessness, continuing discrimination of marginalized communities, and communities deprived of infrastructure.” She called for leadership from our Senators on this issue.
We recognize your roles are complex given the number of issues requiring your attention. But there are only two issues that threaten most or all of humanity: global warming and nuclear war. As constituents we have a right to expect that whatever other issues you need to confront, every member of Congress must speak out, take action and be fully engaged in efforts to confront these two horsemen of the apocalypse. This forum focused on the nuclear threat.
Both of you have demonstrated enlightened leadership on many issues of import to Washington residents. But we have observed that neither of you could be considered a leader or a spokesperson for policies that fundamentally address the stranglehold of our dangerous, frozen Cold War policies. Further, we argue that it does not take an expert on national security to speak out in favor a number of policy initiatives currently under consideration, initiatives that would contribute to both reduced risks and costs. Therefore, we implore your support for the following:
- Endorse No First Use, exhibiting common sense that under no conceivable circumstances would the US be the first to use nuclear weapons.
- Oppose the development or deployment of any new nuclear weapons systems including so-called low-yield Trident warheads or cruise missiles. (Thank you Sen. Murray for signing on to Sen. Warren’s letter to the SASC regarding deployment of the W76-2.)
- Boldly and regularly speak out in support of renewed negotiations with Russia on arms control, especially the renewal of New START. (Again, thank you Sen. Murray for also supporting this issue in the above letter.)
- Severe reductions in the proposed total rebuild and replacement of US nuclear arsenals, noting Rep. Adam Smith’s position that current US arsenals far exceed what is necessary for our security. We specifically call for you to work to prevent replacement of the ICBM wing of the triad, an offensive weapons system only.
- Address the demands of the Spokane Tribe for both consultation and justice in confronting residual issues from the Midnite Mine.
- Support for the Washington Marshall Island community and Marshall island residents in their demands for long-delayed justice addressing the legacies of US nuclear testing.
- Support establishment a policy to remove our nuclear weapons from hair-trigger alert and launch-on-command as a powerful gesture of sanity towards other nuclear nations.
To again quote General Butler, “We cannot at once keep sacred the miracle of our existence and hold sacrosanct the capacity to destroy it. We cannot sit in silent acquiescence to the faded homilies of the nuclear priesthood [the military/industrial/political complex]. It is time to reassert the primacy of individual conscience, the voice of reason and the rightful interests of humanity.”
What we declare we need from each of you, in this period of renewed nuclear peril, is bold, proactive and public leadership in addressing this continuing and growing threat to humanity. Further, we are confident that the great majority of Washington residents would not only support but herald this level of visible, articulate leadership in helping lead Congress to break the hold of our dangerous and dated Cold War policy framework.