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For Immediate Release

Contact

West Coast: Carley Towne, carley@codepink.org
East Coast: Cole Harrison, cole@masspeaceaction.org

Press Release

Peace, Religious, and Community Groups Call for ‘No First Use of Nuclear Weapons’ Policy

WASHINGTON -

As the mass deaths caused by the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are commemorated in towns across the U.S. from August 6th through 9th, thousands are demanding that such a holocaust never be allowed to happen again. 

A broad coalition of peace groups, religious leaders, and community organizations has formed to launch a national campaign urging the U.S. Congress and President to adopt a policy of No First Use of Nuclear Weapons. Organizers see the policy as a step on the road to the eventual abolition of all nuclear weapons by all nations. 

“As long as the nuclear-armed nations maintain thousands of nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert, the danger that these weapons of mass destruction will be used continues to increase,” said CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin.  Cole Harrison, Executive Director of Mass Peace Action, noted: “Our own Congress is funding an upgrade of our nuclear weapons triad, increasing the danger of an inadvertent or intentional nuclear exchange.” 

According to MIT Professor Jonathan King, launching even a small number of these weapons risks the destruction of human civilization on our planet. Mass. Senator Edward J. Markey reported to a recent peace conference that: “The risk of inadvertent nuclear war has risen to a level that is simply unacceptable.”

A first-use nuclear strike is defined as an attack using nuclear weapons against an enemy that did not first launch a nuclear strike against the United States, its territories, or its allies. “The United States has never agreed to a No First Use policy and has nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert, ready to strike first and begin a nuclear war that could result in the deaths of billions of people around the globe,” said Steve Gallant of Mass. Peace Action. 

Not only does the United States currently lack a pledge or policy of No First Use, but the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review actually expands the range of significant non-nuclear strategic attacks – whether they be cyber, chemical, or biological warfare – to which the U.S. may respond with the use of nuclear weapons.

Professor Elaine Scarry, author of “Thermonuclear Monarchy”, points out that the President of the United States has the sole authority to order the launch of hundreds of nuclear warheads within minutes, without consultation or agreement from any other sector of U.S. government or society: not the Cabinet, nor the Congress, nor the Joint Chiefs of Staff, nor the Supreme Court.  Princeton’s Professor Zia Mian notes that this power holds even though “any threat or  use of nuclear weapons in the present day constitutes a crime against humanity and a crime under international law.” 

Legislation has been introduced into both the House and Senate restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons. Representative Adam Smith (D-WA), Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, introduced the “No First Use Act” in the House (H.R. 2603) and Senate (S.1219). President Biden is on record supporting a No First Use nuclear policy and should sign this legislation when it passes.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2021 (H.R.669 and S.1148). It prohibits the use of federal funds to conduct a first-use nuclear strike unless Congress expressly authorizes such a strike pursuant to a declaration of war. 

Pamela Richard of Peace Action of Wisconsin makes clear that “while we urge the passage of these bills as a first step, what is needed is the universal acceptance of the recent UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, banning the development, testing, production, stockpiling, stationing, transfer, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons. Our long-term goal is total nuclear disarmament.”

The Coalition will be carrying out educational campaigns on college and university campuses, on law school campuses, and among major social organizations such as the Rotarians and other civic groups. Organizations promoting the “No First Use: Decreasing the Dangers of Nuclear War” Campaign include CODEPINK; Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security; Chicago Area Peace Action; Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility; Institute for People’s Engagement; Massachusetts Peace Action; Peace Action Maine; MIT Radius; Peace Action of Wisconsin; Peaceworks of Kansas City; and other nuclear disarmament advocacy groups. 

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CODEPINK is a women-led grassroots organization working to end U.S. wars and militarism, support peace and human rights initiatives, and redirect our tax dollars into healthcare, education, green jobs and other life-affirming programs.

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