EYE ON THE ENVIRONMENT
By: Frances Lamberts
The recent holiday might also have brought us reminders of concerns by Martin Luther King about the threat we face from nuclear weapons and their impact – in policy and military-budget costs – on our lives. In his Riverside Church address, he had linked the Vietnam War’s “destructive suction tube” withdrawal of “men and skills and money” to a great lessening of funds and efforts toward betterment of lives for the poor, in then President Johnson’s anti-poverty program.
In several aspects, as the Union of Concerned Scientists reported, President Biden has long embraced views — such as never (again) to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict – which could deescalate their danger. Such policy evaluation, and opposition to a new type
of weapon initiated by the Trump administration, were promises Biden had made during the presidential campaign. Shortly after taking office, he then negotiated an extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty
with Russia, which limits deployed warheads to 1,550 on each side and would have expired in early February.
Should a reminder of the absurd killing power of these weapons be needed: One currently being funded (B83) is 80 times more destructive than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima which killed 135,000, immediately or within some months’ illnesses aftermath.
In September, more than 300 state and local leaders, representing 41 states, sent
a letter to President Biden and the Congress urging that the threat from these weapons be massively reduced. Among other policy action, they should be taken off hair-trigger alert and a verifiable agreement among the nuclear-armed states should be sought to eliminate them altogether. After all, the letter stated, the $1.7 trillion now planned for maintaining
and upgrading these weapons robs communities of much needed resources for the real, day-to-day problems of human security and well-being.
Similarly in December, nearly 700 scientists and engineers, including many Nobelists, called on President Biden to use an approach available to him, the upcoming Nuclear Posture Review, to make good on his longstanding support for nuclear arms control. They urged a one-third reduction in the arsenal and a formal declaration of no-first-use of nuclear weapons by the United States.
As Dr. King also had demanded, for their enormous risks to all life and cost to human communities, nuclear weapons must be abolished altogether. The President should seek to initiate, in the Congress, affirmation and ratification of the United Nations’ treaty that prohibits them.