Dear President Biden:
We breathed a collective sigh of relief at the beginning of your administration taking office, and you all have given us reason to be hopeful. Thank you for signing the CARES act and leading our people through the pandemic. The infrastructure bills begin to address our immediate needs both prior to and during this pandemic. The bills also begin to address the climate crisis. The continued health and wellbeing of our households and communities is the backbone of our national security. You promised that this was a priority for you.
We expect your administration’s Nuclear Posture Review to do no less than live up to your previous words.
We support Washington Congressman Adam Smith and the House Committee on Armed Services (HASC) call in their letter reiterating that a new nuclear arms race is wasteful and dangerous. We need a “No First Use” policy, to concretely implement your sentiment that “a nuclear war must never be fought”. You have also said in the past that the “sole use” of nuclear weapons is for retaliation only if we were attacked with nuclear weapons, not conventional weaponry. The HASC letter also highlights the need to reduce our land-based nuclear arsenal (ICBMs). We agree that land-based missiles are financially wasteful and are unnecessary for our defense in light of our more than capable sea-based and air-based weaponry.
We also applaud Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal’s letter to call your administration’s attention to the $634B over the next 10 years that our taxpayers will spend on nuclear weapons modernization. We agree with her that the ICBMs, the Long Range Stand Off weapon system (LRSO), the B83 variable yield Nuclear Bomb (“Gravity Bomb), and the Sea Launched Cruise Missile – Nuclear (SLCM-N) weapons systems threaten our very existence many times over. We must move our resources from these weapons systems and instead tackle the problems of poverty and climate catastrophe which threaten our national security. And we must not condemn future generations to an unlivable planet — whether because of a nuclear war or our inadequate and underfunded responses to the climate catastrophe.
We stand with Congressman Rick Larsen when he, as a member of the newly-formed Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control Working Group, called for our re-engagement and leadership in “arms control, disarmament, and strategic stability”. We are heartened by your return to negotiations with the Russian Federation, and your joint declaration with Russian President Putin that “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” So we are deeply concerned by your administration’s escalation of tensions in the Pacific region. We ask you to instruct your administration to practice restraint, and walk our country back from this arms race that is gathering speed. Based on positions you’ve taken on reducing nuclear stockpiles, we expect you to lead internationally in nuclear disarmament, and engage deeper in diplomacy. We are with you as you repair our credibility and reputation across the world with humility, rationality, and restraint. Consideration should be given to renewing the Intermediate Nuclear Forces agreement.
We ask you to seek a different understanding of national security. It must include protection from cyber attacks and cyber vulnerability of our weapons command and control. Upgrading the command and control structure for our nuclear arsenal would be a better use of funds than developing “advanced” nuclear weapons, or increasing our numbers of weapons. This does not increase our security but rather increases the risk for an accidental use or misinterpretation of signals, leading to a devastating exchange of nuclear weapons.
A comprehensive health care system including a well functioning public health system that adequately serves the entire population would truly increase our national security. The adverse impacts of social determinants of health — such as poverty, lack of access to education, income and wealth inequality, environmental pollution — on life expectancy and quality of life are well documented. The manifestations of a worsening climate crisis, from major heat events and lack of safe and clean water, to massive fires and floods, are in the news daily, and cause serious detrimental effects on human health right now. Without health, the U.S. population cannot be secure, and we expect your administration to continue addressing these issues which pose real threats to our security. Additionally, addressing the gross wealth and income inequality in our country would improve our nation’s health. That inequity uses racism as a way to push black, brown and indigenous communities to the breaking point. These inequities, and the domination of wealthy people leading their unaccountable corporations (including the weapons industries) make our future insecure. Nuclear bombs will not secure a future with living soil and water for intact and healthy communities.
We, the undersigned organizations, on behalf of the people of Washington state, urge you and your administration to divert our precious resources away from promoting militarization and destruction, to promoting human and planetary health and wellbeing.
Joseph Berkson, MD Co-Chair, Nuclear Weapons Abolition TaskForce, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility
Tara Villalba, Coordinator, Washington Against Nuclear Weapons Coalition
Mark Vossler, MD, President of Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility