The Jackson School of International Studies worked with Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility (WPSR) and Ploughshares Fund to host a joint conference discussing today’s nuclear weapons issues.
Ploughshares Fund is a network of organizations and individuals with the common goal of reducing and eliminating nuclear threats. WPSR is a similar network that works to prevent what they define as major threats to humanity, including nuclear weapons. Members from the two groups organized the conference to speak out about the dangers of nuclear weapons in the modern world.
The conference began with the showing of a video from Washington’s Rep. Adam Smith (WA-09) who was unable to attend in person. Smith is the incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
Smith introduced what he considers to be the three main issues in regard to modern nuclear weapons policies: the need for nuclear powers to have open lines of communication with one another to minimize fear of one side striking, the importance of arms reductions treaties with callbacks to the successes SALT I and SALT II during the Cold War, and how the U.S. must fundamentally change its view on nuclear policy.
“There is no way to win a nuclear war,” Smith said in the video. “We have to get out of that Cold War mentality of ‘the more, the better.’”
Rather than arming the U.S. with the intent to defeat its opponents, Smith stressed that nuclear policy should focus solely on deterring potential enemies. He believes that such a change would both reduce the possibility of escalating another arms race and allow the government to allocate money elsewhere.
With the video’s conclusion, UW Community Oriented Public Health Practice Director Amy Hagopian took the microphone and introduced the panel that she would be moderating. The distinguished panel consisted of four experts: Ploughshares Fund President Joe Cirincione, former Obama-era Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, WPSR and UW School of Medicine representative Bruce Amundson, and Washington Against Nuclear Weapons Coalition organizer Lily Adams.
“If Washington state was an independent nation, it would be the third largest nuclear power in the world,” Cirincione said, beginning the discussion with an explanation on why nuclear policy is an important topic to Washington voters specifically. Just 20 miles from Seattle, the Kitsap-Bangor Naval Base holds the record for concentration of deployed nuclear weapons in the U.S.
With new House and Senate members starting their terms in January and the next presidential election two years away, the panelists encouraged audience members to vote in favor of those with opinions similar to Smith’s. They explained that politicians’ priorities reflect their constituents, so looking toward politicians with clear nuclear policy opinions will be vital for sparking change.
Adams also recommended those seeking direct involvement to join organizations. She explained she personally hand-built the Washington Against No Weapons Coalition by involving over 40 groups in the state. Now, it holds in-person meetings every month and hosts educational events to spread the word.
When the panel concluded, Adams introduced Marshallese community organizer and advocate David Anitok to end the event with a reminder on why nuclear weapons are to be feared.
The cycle of nuclear weapon development involves the initial production of the weapons, followed by testing, and then cleaning up those test sites. The Marshall Islands, located northeast of Australia, were a test site for 67 weapons during the Cold War.
Anitok told the story of how the U.S. government asked Marshallese tribes living on the island Bikini Atoll for permission to “borrow” their land under the premise that it was “for the good of mankind.” Their chief at the time had faith in this sentiment, and agreed to have his people relocated for the time being. Those people still have not returned due to the nuclear radiation present.
“We don’t want any of you or any of our children to go through [the effects of nuclear weapons],” Anitok said, speaking on behalf of his people. With that solemn note in mind, Anitok thanked the audience for taking the discussion on nuclear weapons seriously enough to attend the conference that evening.
Reach contributing writer Ray High at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @Hi_Ray27
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