This is an emergency.
Yet few members of Congress are advocating for any steps that the U.S. government could take to decrease the dangers of a nuclear conflagration. The silences and muted statements on Capitol Hill are evading the reality of what’s hanging in the balance – the destruction of almost all human life on Earth. "The end of civilization."
Constituent passivity is helping elected officials to sleepwalk toward unfathomable catastrophe for all of humanity. If senators and representatives are to be roused out of their timid refusal to urgently address – and work to reduce – the present high risks of nuclear war, they need to be confronted. Nonviolently and emphatically.
Russian president Vladimir Putin has made thinly veiled, extremely reckless statements about possibly using nuclear weapons in the Ukraine war. At the same time, some of the US government’s policies make nuclear war more likely. Changing them is imperative.
For the last few months, I’ve been working with people in many states who aren’t just worried about the spiking dangers of nuclear war – they’re also determined to take action to help prevent it. That resolve has resulted in organizing more than 35 picket lines that will happen on Friday, October 14, at local offices of Senate and House members around the country. (If you want to organize such picketing in your area, go here.)
What could the US government do to lessen the chances of global nuclear annihilation? The Defuse Nuclear War campaign, which is coordinating those picket lines, has identified key needed actions. Such as:
- Rejoin nuclear-weapons treaties the US has pulled out of.
President George W. Bush withdrew the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in 2002. Under Donald Trump, the US withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in 2019. Both pacts significantly reduced the chances of nuclear war.
- Take US nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert.
Four hundred intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) are armed and ready for launch from underground silos in five states. Because they’re land-based, those missiles are vulnerable to attack and thus are on hair-trigger alert – allowing only minutes to determine whether indications of an incoming attack are real or a false alarm.
- End the policy of "first use."
Like Russia, the United States has refused to pledge not to be the first to use nuclear weapons.
- Support congressional action to avert nuclear war.
In the House, H.Res. 1185 includes a call for the United States to "lead a global effort to prevent nuclear war."
An overarching need is for senators and representatives to insist that US participation in nuclear brinkmanship is unacceptable. As our Defuse Nuclear War team says, "Grassroots activism will be essential to pressure members of Congress to publicly acknowledge the dangers of nuclear war and strongly advocate specific steps for reducing them."
Is that really too much to ask? Or even demand?
Norman Solomon is the national director of RootsAction.org and the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. He is the author of a dozen books including War Made Easy. His next book, War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine, will be published in Spring 2023 by The New Press.