Chesapeake PSR

Baltimore supports Back from the Brink

Peace and Social JusticeLydia SullivanComment

Baltimore made history on August 6, the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, by becoming the first major city to endorse the nationwide grassroots Back from the Brink campaign that calls for a fundamental change in U.S. nuclear weapons policy. Like the 150 local and national groups that have endorsed Back from the Brink, the Baltimore CIty Council resolution, which passed unanimously, asks Congress to make five changes to reduce the risk of nuclear war:

  • Renounce the option of using nuclear weapons first.
  • End the president’s sole, unchecked authority to launch a nuclear attack (the Markey-Lieu bill presently proposed in Congress).
  • Take U.S. nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert.
  • Cancel the 1.2 trillion-dollar plan over 30 years (1.7 trillion with inflation) to replace the entire U.S. arsenal with enhanced weapons.
  • Require the U.S. to pursue a verifiable agreement among nuclear armed states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.

This resolution will be sent to the mayor and to the Maryland delegation of the 115th Congress.

Chesapeake PSR worked closely with the city council in passing this resolution.

Maryland's estimated tax bill for the nuclear weapons complex for just 2017 was $1.48 billion. Baltimore collectively paid over $107.5 million for this past year. Baltimore’s bill is especially troublesome for a city with limited funds and major problems: crime, police corruption, housing shortages, aging infrastructure in constant need of repairs, a shortage of decent low-income housing and shortfalls in funding for public education.

Baltimore's city council has a broad vision. Bill cosponsor Councilman Bill Henry stated, "As the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. said, 'A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.' We need to invest more of our resources in ourselves and in our children, striving for a future in which our efforts towards building a stronger society are no longer diminished by our efforts to mutually assure our own destruction."

If these weapons are never used, it is a colossal waste of financial resources. On the other hand, if our president initiates a nuclear launch, which he can do without congressional oversight, there could be a response from another nuclear nation and this could start a nuclear war. Millions if not hundreds of millions could die. Maryland would be in the crosshairs as it is one of the most dense states in weapons per square mile (FEMA report, 1990, and comments made by Alex Wellerstein, creator of nukemap). In addition to all of the deaths from radiation, fires and traumatic injuries, the lofting of soot and smoke would likely disrupt the climate with drops in temperature, a shortened growing season in the Northern Hemisphere and reduced agricultural production leading to mass starvation.

Ultimately, the U.S. and other nuclear nations must join the United Nations Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which at 14 ratifications and 58 signatures is on its way to becoming international law. Until then, adoption of the five planks in Back from the Brink would make it less likely that the U.S. - and if other nuclear nations follow suit, any nuclear nation - starts a nuclear war.

In June of this year, the U.S. Conference of Mayors unanimously adopted a sweeping resolution “Calling on the Administration and Congress to Step Back from the Brink and Exercise Global Leadership in Preventing Nuclear War.”

Two days after the Baltimore City Council passed the Back from the Brink resolution, Los Angeles, the second largest city in the country, did the same and also urged the U.S. to embrace the U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Santa Barbara is likely to be next to pass a resolution. Earlier this month the resolution was introduced in the California statehouse in Sacramento. 

With Hiroshima Day 2018 now behind us, there is reason to hope a public groundswell is building in this country to move us back from the brink of nuclear war.

Will you get involved with Chesapeake PSR to help us work with local municipalities and community groups to endorse Back from the Brink? If so, please contact Chesapeake PSR's Tim Whitehouse at twhitehouse@psr.org or (240) 246-4492.

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