Dear Senator Markey, It’s Time to Face an Existential Threat

By Timmon Wallis, World BEYOND War, September 30, 2020

Dear Senator Markey,

I have written to you on this subject a number of times, but I have so far only received stock responses, crafted no doubt by your staff or interns, which do not address the specific questions I have raised. I am hoping for a more considered response from you, now that your seat is all but secured for another 6 years.

I am a member of Massachusetts Peace Action and I campaigned for your re-election, along with many others in peace and climate organizations across the state. I applaud your efforts over many years and decades to reduce and “freeze” the nuclear arms race.

But at this point in history, you must explicitly support the TOTAL ELIMINATION of nuclear weapons. So far you refuse to do so, and you merely continue to support more stockpile and budget reductions. That will be nowhere near sufficient to continue winning my support.

As you may recall from earlier correspondence, I was privileged to be part of the negotiations at the United Nations which led to the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. (And to the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize!) I have seen first-hand the incredible commitment of governments and civil society from all around the world to finally be rid of these dreadful weapons before they are ever used again.

I have worked alongside survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who have spent more than 70 years fighting to make sure no city and no country ever goes through what they went through in August 1945. I have also worked alongside downwinders and other victims of nuclear testing, uranium mining and other environmental consequences of the nuclear weapons business that have caused untold suffering and hardship over the many decades since then.

I just listened to your recorded remarks to the UN High Level Meeting on October 2nd to commemorate the UN International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. I can tell you, Senator Markey, with absolute certainty, that your words will ring hollow to all those people who have been working so hard for the total elimination of these weapons.

How can you possibly say that what we need now is another “freeze” in the nuclear arms race? The rest of the world has already said enough is enough, and we now need a complete END to this nuclear madness, once and for all. These weapons, as you have said many times yourself, are an existential threat to the whole human race. Why would the world accept “freezing” the number at 14,000 warheads when that is already 14,000 warheads too many?

As I’m sure you are well aware, the “grand bargain” of the Non Proliferation Treaty involved the rest of the world foregoing their own development of nuclear weapons in exchange for a commitment by the existing nuclear powers to get rid of the ones they already had. That was a promise made 50 years ago to negotiate “in good faith” and at “an early date” the elimination of their arsenals. And as you know, it was reiterated in 1995 and again in 2000 as an “unequivocal undertaking” to negotiate the elimination of all nuclear weapons.

It’s not that difficult to do. And it doesn’t weaken the United States in any way. In fact, as we are now seeing with North Korea, the possession of nuclear weapons is now the new “equalizer” that enables even a minor bit player like DPRK to threaten the United States with potentially disastrous consequences, even from a single high-altitude EMP detonation. The United States will continue to be the most powerful military force in the world, even without nuclear weapons. It would arguably be much MORE powerful if nobody had nuclear weapons.

And yet, the nuclear weapons industry is an extremely powerful lobby, just as is the fossil fuel industry. I understand that. Even in Massachusetts we have extremely powerful corporations that are dependent on a never-ending supply of nuclear weapons contracts. But we need those corporations to be researching new green technologies and developing cutting edge solutions to the climate crisis.

You have built your reputation in the peace movement on important work that you did in the 1980s to help “freeze” the nuclear arms race. But that is not enough anymore.

PLEASE don’t talk about a “new” global nuclear freeze movement. The new global movement already exists, and it is calling for the ELIMINATION of all nuclear weapons, in line with the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

PLEASE don’t talk about “reining in” the number of nuclear weapons. The only acceptable number of nuclear weapons in the world is ZERO!

PLEASE stop talking about “unnecessary spending” on nuclear weapons, when ALL spending on nuclear weapons is totally unnecessary and an unacceptable burden on our national budget when so many more important priorities go underfunded.

PLEASE no more talk about a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty. That is nothing but a scam that is designed to allow the US and the other major players to continue their nuclear developments unchecked, while supposedly stopping newer countries from developing theirs.

PLEASE stop the double-standards, rationalizing that it’s okay for the US to have nuclear weapons but not India or North Korea or Iran. Admit that as long as the US insists on maintaining nuclear weapons, we have no moral authority whatsoever to tell other countries they can’t have them.

PLEASE stop talking about “no first use” as if using nuclear weapons SECOND is somehow okay! Nuclear weapons must never be used, ever, under any circumstances, first, second, third or ever. Please re-think what the message is that you are conveying to people when you talk only about no first use and not about abolishing these weapons altogether.

For whatever reasons, you still seem unwilling to join with the rest of the world in condemning the continued existence of these weapons and calling for their total elimination. Why do you still refuse to support, or even to mention, the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons? Especially now, when it is about to enter into force, outlawing under international law everything to do with these weapons and putting them very firmly into the same category of banned weapons as chemical and biological weapons.

PLEASE, I beg you to re-think your approach to this issue and to decide which side of the fence you really want to be on. When you refuse to mention or to show your support for the TPNW or for the total elimination of nuclear weapons, and then you point a finger at the rest of the world, meeting next week at the UN, and say “what will YOU do to reduce a threat to the planet which is existential?” how do you think that comes across to the people demanding the elimination of these weapons and working hard for that reality?


Timmon Wallis, PhD
Northampton MA

6 Responses

  1. A freeze would be a first step in de-nuclearization, allowing the world to do a careful rethink and prepare for the next steps.

    (i am a co-founder of Foreign Policy Alliance)

    1. A million people showed up in Central Park in the 1980s calling for a nuclear freeze and they cut some of the missiles that were threatening the planet, and cut the arsenals over the years from 70,000 to 14,000 lethal nuclear warheads today. After the freeze, everyone went home and forgot to ask for abolition. The new treaty to ban the bomb is the way to go and asking for the freeze is the wrong message! Stop making them, shut the weapons labs down, and figure out how to dismantle and store the lethal nuclear waste for the next 300,000 years or so. Freeze is ridiculous!!

  2. Well done. Thank you

    In response to comments, “A Freeze would be a first step.”?! Saying this now as a Co-Founder of Foreign Policy Alliance?
    Ever study JFK’s Test Ban Treaty in 1963? That was to be only his first step in a series of steps to rid the world of nuclear weapons. It was cut off.

    Thank you Prof. Wallis. Excellent letter, most timely letter.
    Why Senator Markey has ignored the greatest STEP since Gorbachev came on the scene in 1985….(The TPNW) and he or team have never explained why.

    Senator Markey, I sat numerous times in your office in 2016, with your Foreign Policy and Military policy aides. They were all given copies of a documentary “Good Thinking, Those Who’ve Tried To Halt Nuclear Weapons” that reviews the many thousand of our greatest leaders who’ve stood up to the industry.

    And YOU, happen to have been one of them. Decades ago YOU along with us spoke clearly, bravely, and you wrote the SANE act among others…. You sir, are in this documentary…..

    In 2016 your staff were told that the world had had enough of the nuclear clubs threatening all life on the planet, and spending trillions of our tax monies that we need for all else. That there were world conferences arising (155 nation’s representatives participating) and you were asked to make a statement to them, in support, as one US Rep. that we could be proud of, to stand up against the genocidal devices….. one person to voice what the majority of citizens feel. You didn’t.
    I then just asked for just some basic public acknowledgment of their efforts, efforts that we once yours, and that your constituents thought was yours on their behalf. But….silence from you.

    Your office, like all our congressional offices, could not tell me the tax payers cost of this industry.
    When asked, they had not given much thought to what ONE detonation would do. (Something you once could talk about elequently, but your staff knew little of.)

    We had a President win a Nobel Peace Prize for saying he hoped someday we’d have a nuclear free world. Just that satement…. the world profoundly rewarded, celebrated. But, in less than a year he signs all the directives for new nuclear weapons and thier new facilities. Why not call that out?

    Then came the Conference on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at the UN, opened by Pope Fances, March 2017 (after 3 large international conferences in preceding years leading up to it).
    Your office was updated weekly about the proceedings, about the expert testimony, the abundance of research and facts that countered falsities, the relation to climate disaster, to poisoning the earth, to racism, to our humanitarian laws and ALL laws.

    You were asked once again, to just acknowlege this hard, difficult work going on. If you disagreed with some points, fine, or if were too fearful to support it, OK, BUT just to acknowledge the diplomats working day and night for these months….. You could not find a word. I wasn’t the only one dumbfounded by your silence.

    Then as Prof. Wallios writes, 122 nations actually transform the Conference into one that adopts the Ban Treaty, in July! What brilliance! But from you, Not a word.

    Then a Nobel Peace Prize given to an organization that helped mobilize citizens to participate in informing the Treaty, many from your state and our country. Not a word of encouragement or gratitude from you.

    As of last week the world is only 5 nations away from this being International Law! This is vital, positive news for civilization’s unfoldment. Let’s help it grow and get there. Let’s join in the hard work, the spreading of facts.

    Prof. Wallis has written a great book, Disarming the Nuclear Argument. Please read it. Not one of our nations arguments stands up to reality.

    He and Vicki Elson produced a tremendous report over a year ago, “Warheads to Windmills” to show the path forward to funding a true Green New Deal, facing the other great threat to humankind. You got a copy then. Study it.

    As Prof. Wallis points out, you wish to talk about a freeze? We were there all through the Freeze. I was…. and the vast majority of citizens at that time. We had many elders with us from the anti nuclear weapons movement before Vietnam took much of our required energy to stop.
    So, no, we need to not start all over again with a Freeze movement… we need to RE-Member, and move forward.

    Have you read the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons yet? It is a beautiful document, (only ten pages!) and it leads the way for us to enter as we can.

    Tell us Senator Markey, explain what happened to you?

    You remember Frances Crowe?
    Did you know the late Sr. Adeth Platte? She knew you and was in your office and her compassion was stronger and brighter than any of the mightiest industrialist’ or military reasoning that cross your desk. Try to hear what her life was dedicated to.

    Do you not remember her dear friend who you personally championed, Sr. Megan Rice?! Thank you for that, of course you do. Her years in prison?

    How about Dorothy Day, who the Pope called out not one time in his address to you in the US Congress, but four separate times! Why?
    He called out MLK, Jr. and the monk Thomas Merton…. why? What were their life commitements and clarity regarding nuclear weapons?

    How about Liz McAlister, who along with six other Catholic Workers, Dorothy Day’s granddaughter one of them, have been in prison and about to be sentenced this month in Georgia’s Federal Court for trying to awaken US citizens to the grave horror and the secret endless cost of this industry…..Have you read about their civil disobedience and why they willingly, profoundly risked their good lives? Would you even think about raising them up? Would you think of sharing their witness and testimony Not allowed mention in our Federal Courts?

    A thousand of us who were beat up down on Wall Street in June 1970 knew exactly why we had nuclear weapons. You know why. It’s a business “most foul”. It’s time to offer your life for what is right and what creates true security. Or, at least come clean.

    As declared by Einstien, and thousands of brilliant souls since, these devices offer us “a false sense of security”. His colleague the late Prof. Freeman Dyson echoed, “All these things can do is murder millions of people? Is that what you want? …… Verification is just an excuse to delay things …… Just get rid of them, and you will all be a lot safer”.

    From 1960, my mentor Amb. Zenon Rossides called out the nuclear weapon states. He also made it clear, “It is not the power of weapons
    but the power of spirit,
    That will save the world.”

    Thank you World Beyond War. Thank you Prof. Timmon Wallis. Thank you each and all for keeping on.

  3. Excellent letter to Sen. Markey. I’m now inspired to send a similar plea to him.
    Even if we can’t expect many leaders or nations to call for more than a freeze, we need the same voice of a highly respected Senator like Markey to stand up and make the case for the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction. No one in Congress is better prepared and more able to make the case.
    He is secure in his seat for six more years. So why isn’t he taking this stand now ?

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