Physicians for Social Responsibility
August 6, 2019

On August sixth and ninth concerned citizens around our nation will gather for vigils to commemorate the 74th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and to protest our government’s current nuclear policy. We would all do well to reflect at this time on the existential threat of nuclear weapons which has received far less attention than climate change. When our country’s war weary Greatest Generation dropped the bombs our world changed forever: We arrived at a juncture where the struggle is no longer principally between opposing ideologies and national destinies-but between survival and catastrophe.

So far we have been very lucky. As Robert McNamara President Kennedy’s defense secretary said after the Cuban Missile Crisis “We lucked out. It was luck that prevented nuclear war”. Recent events including our withdrawal from the Iran Treaty –(JCPOA)- , suspending the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty-(INF)- with Russia, delaying the renewal of The New Start Treaty with Russia and beginning to develop new bombs half the size of the two 10 kiloton devices that killed at least 150,000 people in August 1945-so they are more usable- have alarmed the most critically thinking scientific and medical groups as well as highly regarded former statesmen and military officers. T

he Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has moved its iconic Doomsday Clock to 2 minutes to midnight, the closest it has been to a nuclear apocalypse since 1953. Former Secretary of Defense William Perry believes that the danger of nuclear war is greater now than it was during the Cold War. To believe that our luck will hold out is magical thinking better suited for children’s fairy tales than for National Defense Policy.

Fortunately there are also very hopeful things happening. Some of our congressional representatives have introduced legislation that among others: calls for a No First Use Policy, limits sole presidential authority to launch, and cuts spending for dangerous weapon systems that will not make us safer. These legislators are well aware that our defense contractors whom we depend upon are sometimes extremely disingenuous and monetarily driven when they present their weapon systems to congress.

There are medical, faith-based and science groups that are promoting grass roots movements like Back from the Brink-(BftB)-to get more groups and municipal, county and state governments to endorse their views on risk reduction through resolutions and proclamations. BftB can be thought of as a Green New Deal for the nuclear threat and alone has been endorsed by more than 250 organizations, 30+ municipalities, and the California and Oregon state legislatures. ICAN – International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons- was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for its work in promoting The United Nations Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons-(TPNW). TPNW, created by the UN General Assembly in July 2017, has now been ratified by over 20 nations. When it is ratified by 50 it will become international law and the nuclear weapon states can join it with a timetable for total abolition or they can stand alone stigmatized in violation of international law.

As long as there are other nations with nuclear weapons the United States must maintain a credible nuclear deterrent. Still we must work vigorously for A World Free of Nuclear Weapons that four highly respected senior statesman promoted in a Wall Street Journal Commentary with that title on Jan. 4, 2007. As long as nations feel they must maintain nuclear arsenals the security “policy” of the nuclear armed states is essentially a hope for continued good luck. A policy based on luck is a poor policy. Establishing trust through skillful diplomacy, as we did after the Reagan-Gorbachev summits is needed to convince all nations that it is in their best interests to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons, and will be essential for survival.

Bert Crain, MD

Mission Statement

PREVENTING WHAT WE CANNOT CURE: Physicians for Social Responsibility is the medical and public health voice working to prevent the use or spread of nuclear weapons and to slow, stop and reverse global warming and the toxic degradation of the environment.