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Funding Nuclear Weapons at a Time of National Crisis

Nuclear weapons represent the greatest imminent existential threat to our very existence and to every social, racial, environmental and economic justice movement that we are working for, since ultimately it is all connected.

This time of awakening has drawn attention to the connection and challenges we face as a nation and world. (Photo: Ralf Schlesener/ICAN)

This time of awakening has drawn attention to the connection and challenges we face as a nation and world. (Photo: Ralf Schlesener/ICAN)

Today, July 15, we fund our nation’s priorities. This year, the nation is awakening to the problems of systemic and institutionalized racism while simultaneously grappling with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which has no end in sight. The Black Lives Matter movement is receiving its due attention and communities are demanding demilitarization of police forces and tactics and reprioritization of funding to address the needs of communities to bring forth a socially just, environmentally sustainable and peaceful community. City councils are taking a close look at police budgets and many citizens are calling for participatory budgeting with input in the budgets of their cities as they move to determine their own priorities. Nationally, with our massively bloated defense budget, it is also the time we fund the nuclear arms race even as nations around the world work to pass a nuclear ban treaty, the “Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons”, similar to those banning all other weapons of mass destruction.

Nuclear weapons represent the greatest imminent existential threat to our very existence and to every social, racial, environmental and economic justice movement that we are working for, since ultimately it is all connected. In the words of Vincent Intondi, author of African Americans Against the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Colonialism, and the Black Freedom Movement, “These were not separate issues. Jobs, racial equality, climate change, war, class, gender, and nuclear weapons were all connected and part of the same fight: universal human rights, with the most important human right being the freedom to live…live free from the fear of nuclear war.” Our country must reassess our priorities through the lens of caring for one another to address these inequities.

The expenditures spent on nuclear weapons deprive communities across this nation of the finite dollars needed to fund critical social programs. Each year, Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles publishes our Nuclear Weapons Community Costs Program. Now in its 32nd year, the project, unlike many other nuclear cost determinations, seeks to calculate the full costs to our nation of nuclear weapons programs encouraging conversations on the fiscal inequities in our communities while building support in the U.S. for nuclear abolition and divestment from nuclear weapons. As our nation grapples with the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 and racial injustice, we continue to fund nuclear weapons programs in the amount of $67.595 billion for fiscal year 2020. Large states like New York are spending in excess of $4.5 billion and California is spending over $8.7 billion on nuclear weapons programs. From our poorest to richest communities, these are dollars that could be better spent.

In this political season there are calls from both major parties for a return to the past. Realistically, it is the policies of the past that have brought us to this point in history. As our nation awakens and begins to address the realities of systemic racism and evolving global pandemics we simultaneously need a fundamental shift in U.S. nuclear policy to address the threat. This policy is articulated in “Back from the Brink: The Call to Prevent Nuclear War." This grassroots initiative calls on the United States to lead a global effort to prevent nuclear war by:

1. Renouncing the option of using nuclear weapons first                                                                                                                               

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2. Ending the sole, unchecked authority of any U.S. president to launch a nuclear attack                                                                                       

3. Taking U.S. nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert           

4. Cancelling the plan to replace its entire nuclear arsenal with enhanced weapons

5. Actively pursuing a verifiable agreement among nuclear-armed states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals

This time of awakening has drawn attention to the connection and challenges we face as a nation and world. COVID-19 with its disproportionate effects on the poor and people of color, and the Black Lives Matter movement have made this eminently apparent. It is time to respond and for all of us to come together to address and rectify these issues while simultaneously working to abolish nuclear weapons.

Robert Dodge

Robert Dodge

Robert Dodge, a frequentCommon Dreams contributor, writes as a family physician practicing in Ventura, California. He is the Co-Chair of the Security Committee of National Physicians for Social Responsibility and also serves as the President of Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles.

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