Written by Alexander Tufel, Beyond the Bomb UW Chapter
Seattle, Wa — Washington Against Nuclear Weapons (WANW) organized the State Senate to pass Senate Joint Memorial 8006 and in the House of Representatives to pass House Joint Memorial 4008; these memorials requests that the U.S. Congress impose checks and balances on a president’s ability to start a nuclear war. These bills put the the impacts of Nuclear Weapons on people in Washington State on display at the highest level of governance in Washington State.
WANW, a statewide coalition of activists united for a future free of nuclear weapons, hopes to halt the $1.7 trillion overhaul of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, with the long term goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons.
Aside from curtailing a U.S. president’s ability to launch a preemptive strike, the memorial also asks that the president not have unilateral authority to use nuclear weapons, removing US nuclear weapons from hair trigger alert, cancelling the planned $1.7 trillion rebuilding of our nuclear arsenal, and pursuing multilateral, verifiable disarmament with other nuclear powers, leading to the total elimination of all nuclear weapons.
SJM 8006 was drafted with grassroots involvement, has the backing of over 40 organizations statewide, and is co-sponsored by Sens. Bob Hasegawa, Patty Kuderer, Sam Hunt, David Frockt, Jamie Pederson, and Rebecca Saldaña.
On Feb. 22, 2019, SJM 8006 had a public hearing at the Senate State Government, Tribal Relations & Elections Committee, where it passed the rules committee.
Hasegawa opened the hearing by recounting the nuclear weapons experimentation that occurred in the Marshall Islands during the Cold War and his opposition to the current arms nuclear racing of the Trump Administration.
“I think this whole escalation of the nuclear arms race that is kicking into gear again is just as sociopathic and unconscionable as what we did to the those people,” Hasegawa said. “The fear that this brings on of just global annihilation at the disposal of one person … I think needs to be corrected.”
Hasegawa added that given that the Washington State has the highest concentration of nuclear weapons in the country, it would be a “prime target” during a nuclear exchange.
According to Crosscut, 20 miles from Seattle is Naval Base Kitsap, home port to eight out of the fourteen Trident ballistic missile submarines. The base also houses an underground nuclear weapons storage complex. Altogether, the base contains over 13,000 nuclear warheads. This is not only the single largest concentration in the country, but the world.
Nine other activists from various grassroots organizations also gave testimonies, voicing their concerns with U.S. nuclear policy and its current dangerous trajectory.
“For half a century, nuclear weapons have continuously threatened to destroy all life on earth,” Glen Anderson from the Olympia Coalition to Abolish Nuclear Weapons said. “If something were to go haywire right now in our nuclear system, 30 minutes from now all of us could be dead.”
He urged those listening to consider the fact that, while only Congress can officially declare war, no such impediment is placed on the president’s ability to wage nuclear war.
“Let us hope we never have a president who is emotionally unstable,” Anderson said. “Let us hope we never have a president who is reckless and impulsive.”
WPSR Executive Director Laura Skelton mentioned the Trump Administration’s recent withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which she said could could trigger a new arms race, according to experts. Those living close to deployed nuclear weapons would be most at risk.
“SJM 8006 is an important tool for sending a message to our president and our federal leaders,” Skelton said. “Please pass this measure.”
Given that the Senate failed to hear a vote on SJM 8006 before the cutoff date on March 13, WANW will have to take a second swing at passing this legislation through the legislature next session. The Joint Memorial ended up in what is called the “X-File” where the House and Senate Rules Committees may place bills that will go no further in the legislative process. WANW hopes that Washington State legislators make not only the right choice for the safety and health of their constituents, but the world. Our country’s dangerous and reckless nuclear policy must be changed.