WHOSE FINGER ON THE BUTTON?
The current U.S. policy that threatens the first use of nuclear weapons has always been controversial; in these times it’s a dangerous relic of the Cold War. Even military leaders who have been in charge of our nuclear forces, such as General James E. Cartwright, argue that there is no need for such a policy that cannot be addressed by economic, diplomatic and conventional tools. And of course, should the United States ever launch a nuclear first strike, the risks of catastrophic escalation would be great. If one nuclear attack led to others, a nuclear winter could ensue, risking billions of casualties and any number of global crises.
Maintaining this first-use policy, especially when the decision of whether to carry it out is left in the hands of one person – in our case, the President – encourages other nations to pursue advanced nuclear weapons in order to deter a potential U.S. first strike…which in turn increases the chance of an unintended nuclear war. The current resident of the White House, and the manner in which he has so far done his job, brings new significance to the notion that no president should be able to unilaterally launch a nuclear first strike.
In January California Rep. Ted Lieu and Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey introduced corresponding bills in the House and Senate, entitled the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017. This legislation – H.R. 669 in the House and S. 200 in the Senate – would prohibit a President from launching a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress. In a government that thrives under a system of checks and balances, the bills would seem to be the ultimate “check” in favor of our survival. While nuclear weapons should never be used under any circumstances, the bills are a move in the right direction to prevent what amounts to what has been called a “thermonuclear monarchy”.
ACTION: Contact Reps. Jackie Speier or Anna Eshoo, or whomever represents you, and tell them to co-sponsor H.R 669, the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017. Likewise contact Sen. Kamala Harris and tell her to add her name to the corresponding S. 200. Suggest this is a long-overdue bill, but especially timely during the present administration. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has signed on in the Senate, so feel free to thank her.
In early March, Donald Trump sent hundreds more Marines into combat in Syria. The war in Syria is a devastating crisis that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives, created millions of refugees and dragged on for 6 long years. Experts agree that there is simply no military solution to the conflict, yet Trump is rushing toward a major war, using the same old broken thinking that every problem in the Middle East can be solved with American weapons. In addition, the Defense Department recently announced it would no longer disclose how many troops are being sent into places like Syria.
East Bay Representative Barbara Lee answered with a bipartisan bill to prohibit the expansion of U.S. combat troops into Syria. Lee released a statement – excerpted here – upon her introduction of H.R. 1473, The Prohibit Expansion of U.S. Combat Troops into Syria Act.
“For more than fifteen years, the U.S. has been engaged in an ever-expanding war in the Middle East. President Trump’s deployment of combat troops in Syria is the latest front in this endless war…
“The bill I am introducing today prohibits the Department of Defense from funding any attempt by the Administration to expand our presence in Syria by putting U.S. combat boots on the ground. It is our constitutional duty as Members of Congress to place a check on the Executive Branch in matters of war and peace. We owe it to our brave service members to live up to our constitutional duty.”
ACTION: Contact Rep. Speier or Eshoo, and tell them to cosponsor H.R. 1473. Add that the new troop deployment in Syria is a new, riskier mission that will lead to a new rash of American casualties and traumatized veterans in a war that shows no sign of a constructive end.
PROPOSED MILITARY BUDGET -- A HANDOUT TO WAR PROFITEERS
Half of the federal budget now goes to weapons of war and the military-industrial complex; now Donald Trump wants to increase military spending by $54 billion, a full 10 percent. There are many reasons to oppose the overall Trump budget, but the Democratic Congressional leadership has barely addressed the part of it that radically expands military spending. If people like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer rightly intend to resist Trump’s cuts without mentioning the military increases for which the cuts make room, they are telling only half the story.
Many progressives feel there is not so much a spending problem as there is a wasteful military spending problem. Safety net programs like Social Security have their own sources of funding and can be shored up for decades with small fixes – without benefit cuts. The rest of the federal budget “discretionary” spending is split between military spending and domestic priorities.
Such a military budget increase would help weapons contractors who profit from preparing for war, but it does nothing for everyday Americans. Indeed, some military families need food stamps to survive. Children face crowded, crumbling schools, and our infrastructure (to which Trump promised to devote $1 trillion) is falling apart. The State Department also faces cuts, which means diplomacy will suffer and war could become more likely. Meanwhile, under the influence of war profiteer lobbyists, Congress repeatedly funds weapon systems that even the military says it does not want.
This isn’t just opposed by Peace Action members. A recent poll found that 58 percent of Americans oppose the Trump plan to increase the military. Congressional Democrats afraid of their own shadows must realize that even though they might draw a little less in campaign funds from weapons contractors, redirecting such spending to higher priorities is a political winner.
ACTION: Contact Rep. Speier or Eshoo, as well as both Sens. Feinstein and Harris, urging them to oppose a huge military budget increase. Tell them our national priorities and real security are on the line, and Congress should get out from under the thumb of war profiteers and demand a cut to wasteful military spending.
Senator Kamala Harris
50 United Nations Plaza, Ste 5584 San Francisco, CA 94102
(916) 448-2787 FAX: (202) 228-3865
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, U.S. Department of State:
(202)647-6575 FAX: (202)647-2283