Endangerment, North America

New York City Prepares Nuclear Option

By David Swanson, World BEYOND War, January 15, 2020

There really only is one option when it comes to nuclear weapons, and that is to do everything we can to abolish them before they abolish us. New York City Council will be voting on January 28, 2020, to do its part by voting on two measures that already have enough sponsors to give them veto-proof majorities.

[UPDATE: the City Council will hold a hearing but may not vote on 1/28.]

One is a bill that will create an “advisory committee to examine nuclear disarmament and issues related to recognizing and reaffirming New York city as a nuclear weapons-free zone.”

The second is a resolution that “calls upon the New York City Comptroller to instruct the pension funds of public employees in New York City to divest from and avoid any financial exposure to companies involved in the production and maintenance of nuclear weapons, reaffirms New York City as a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone, and joins the ICAN Cities Appeal, which welcomes the adoption of and calls on the United States to support and join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.”

The “whereas” clauses that lead up to the statement above are specific to New York City, but could be modified for any location on earth. They include these:

“Whereas, Catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences would result from any nuclear detonation in New York City and could not be adequately addressed; eliminating nuclear weapons remains the only way to guarantee that nuclear weapons are never used again under any circumstances; and . . .

“Whereas, New York City has a special responsibility, as a site of Manhattan Project activities and a nexus for financing of nuclear weapons, to express solidarity with all victims and communities harmed by nuclear weapons use, testing and related activities;”

The resolution makes clear that divestment will be no mere formality:

“Whereas, According to the 2018 report compiled by Don’t Bank on the Bomb, 329 financial institutions around the world including Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and JP Morgan Chase among others have invested through financing, manufacturing or production of nuclear weapons with BlackRock and Capital Group, the highest contributors among United States based financial institutions, with their investments totaling $38 billion and $36 billion respectively; and

“Whereas, The pension system for the City of New York retirees has significant investments in these financial institutions and other companies involved in producing key components for and maintaining nuclear weapons through equity holdings, bond holdings, and other assets, according to the annual report issued by the New York City Employees’ Retirement System;”

A large coalition of organizations has been supporting the resolution and bill that are now scheduled for a vote. Alice Slater, a Board Member of World BEYOND War, and the UN Representative of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, will be one of numerous individuals testifying on January 28th. The following is her prepared testimony:

____________ ________________ _______________ ______________

Dear Members of the New York City Council,

I am so deeply grateful and thankful to each one of that has sponsored this pending legislation, Res. 976 and Int.1621.  Your willingness is laudable in showing the world that the New York City Council is stepping up to the plate and taking historic action to support the recent global efforts to finally ban the bomb!  Your resolve to use the power and clout of New York City to call on our US government to sign and ratify the new Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons(TPNW) and to work for the divestment of NYC pensions from investments in nuclear weapons manufacturers is so greatly appreciated. In this effort, New York City will be joining the historic Cities Campaign of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, recently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its successful ten-year campaign resulting in a UN negotiated ban treaty.  By your action, New York City will be joining with other cities in recalcitrant nuclear weapons states and states under the protection of the US nuclear deterrent whose national governments refuse to join the PTNW– cities including Paris, Geneva, Sidney, Berlin, as well as US cities including Los Angeles and Washington, DC. all urging their governments to join the treaty.

I have been working to end wars since 1968 when I learned on television that Ho Chi Minh, the President of North Vietnam had begged Woodrow Wilson in 1919, to help him get the French colonial rulers out of Vietnam.  The US turned him down and the Soviets were more than happy to help, which is why he became a communist!  That same night I saw on TV that the students at Columbia University had locked the President of the school in his office and were rioting on campus, because they didn’t want to be drafted to fight in the illegal and immoral Vietnam War.  I was living in the suburbs with my two babies and was absolutely terrified.  I couldn’t believe this was happening in America, at Columbia University, in my New York City, where my grandparents settled after emigrating from Europe to escape war and bloodshed and my parents and I grew up.   Filled with righteous indignation, I went to a debate between the hawks and the doves at my local Democratic club, in Massapequa, joined the doves, soon becoming Co-Chair of Eugene McCarthy’s campaign in Long Island’s 2nd Congressional District, and never stopped fighting for peace. I worked through McGovern’s campaign for the Democratic Presidential nomination to end the Vietnam War, to the days of the nuclear freeze in New York City and the homeport movement here that kept nuclear-bomb laden ships out of New York City’s harbors, to the most recent triumph of citizen action, the adoption of the new Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  This new treaty bans nuclear weapons just as the world has banned chemical and biological weapons and landmines and cluster bombs.

There are about 16,000 nuclear weapons on our planet and 15,000 of them are in the US and Russia. All the other nuclear-armed states have 1,000 between them—UK, France China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea.   The 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) had a promise from five countries—the US, Russia, UK, France, and China—to give up their nuclear weapons if all the other countries of the world promised not to get them.   Everyone signed, except for India, Pakistan, and Israel and they built their own nuclear arsenals.   The NPT’s Faustian bargain promised all the countries who agreed not to acquire nuclear weapons an “inalienable right” to “peaceful” nuclear power, giving them all the keys to the bomb factory.   North Korea got its “peaceful” nuclear power and then walked out of the NPT and made nuclear bombs.   We were fearful that Iran was doing that too, although they asserted that they were only enriching uranium for peaceful uses.

Today, all the nuclear weapons states are modernizing and updating their arsenals, despite treaties and agreements over the years that reduced global nuclear arsenals from a height of 70,000 bombs.  Sadly, our country, the US, has been the provocateur for nuclear proliferation over the years:

–Truman refused Stalin’s request to turn the bomb over to the newly established UN and put it under international control after the catastrophic devastation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where it is estimated that at least 135,000 people died instantly, despite the UN’s mission to “end the scourge of war”.

–After the wall fell, and Gorbachev miraculously ended the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe, Reagan refused Gorbachev’s offer to abolish nuclear weapons in return for Reagan abandoning US plans for Star Wars to achieve domination in space.

–Clinton refused Putin’s offer to cut to 1,000 weapons each and call everyone to the table to negotiate an abolition treaty, provided the US stopped its plans to violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and put missiles in Romania and Poland.

–Bush actually walked out of the ABM treaty in 2000 and now Trump has walked out of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force agreement with the USSR.

–Obama, in return for a modest cut in our nuclear arsenals that he negotiated with Medvedev of 1500 nuclear bombs, promised a one trillion dollar nuclear program over the next 30 years with two new bomb factories in Oak Ridge and Kansas City, and new missiles, planes, submarines and warheads. Trump continued Obama’s program and even raised it by $52 billion over the next 10 years [i]

–China and Russia proposed in 2008 and 2015 negotiations on a Model Treaty they put on the table to ban weapons in space and the US blocked any discussion in the consensus-bound UN Committee for Disarmament

–Putin proposed to Obama that the US and Russia negotiate a treaty to ban cyberwar, which the US rejected. [ii]

Walt Kelly, the 1950s cartoonist of the Pogo comic strip, has Pogo saying, “We met the enemy and he is us!”

With the negotiation of the new Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, we now have a breakthrough opportunity for citizens and Cities and States around the world to take action to reverse course from plummeting our Earth into catastrophic nuclear disaster.  At this moment, there are 2500 nuclear tipped missiles in the US and Russia targeting all of our major cities.    As for New York City, as the song goes, “If we can make it here, we’ll make it anywhere!” and it’s wonderful and inspiring that this City Council is willing to add it’s voice to demand lawful and effective action for a nuclear free world!  Thank you so much!!

[i] https://www.armscontrol.org/act/2017-07/news/trump-continues-obama-nuclear-funding

[ii] https://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/28/world/28cyber.html

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