Important Anti-Nuclear Gains Made in House Version of the National Defense Authorization Act

By Alexander Tufel

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For months now, the country (and perhaps the world) watch with bated breath as this year’s $733 billion National Defense Authorization Act slowly takes shape.

On the negotiating table is the health of everything living on the planet.

While pundits from both major political parties decry the cost of providing all of us with healthcare, education, and a habitable planet for future generations, the $733 Billion NDAA reveals the extent to which American Politics is guided by the Military Industrial Complex.

The Trump administration is engaged in an extraordinarily dangerous push to blur the line between conventional and nuclear weapons while also attempting to provoke Iran into an illegal and unconstitutional war.

The House of Representatives, however, has delivered a number of important sought-after victories in the House version of the NDAA. If these amendments make it into the final version of the NDAA, it would act as an additional set of checks and balances on the Trump administration’s reckless foreign policy and autocratic impulses.

Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility has prioritized the inclusion and objection to a number of amendments to the NDAA, all of which received support from Washington State Democratic representatives Adam Smith, Pramila Jayapal, Kim Schrier, Derek Kilmer, Rick Larsen, Suzane DelBene and Denny Heck.


Defeated funding the deployment of Trump's new "low-yield" nuclear weapon

Leading up to the 2016 election, the terrifying prospect of Trump having total authority over our nuclear arsenal was broadcasted to us on a regular basis. Since taking office, Trump’s “red button” has only gotten bigger.

Last year, the Trump administration released their 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, essentially doing away with the notion that weapons of mass destruction should be reserved only as a deterrent.

Aside from suggesting that the United States respond to a cyber attack from a hostile country with nuclear armaments, the document called for the development of a new low-yield nuclear weapon, according to Common Dreams. With ⅓ the power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, the W76-2 dangerously lowers the threshold for the use of such weapons on the battlefield, possibly leading to a scenario of escalation that threatens all of humanity.

Thankfully, an amendment introduced by Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) that would have funded the deployment of the W76-2 was voted down.


Repealed the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force

It has been sixteen years since the United States invaded Iraq, leading to the death of hundreds of thousands.

What is now viewed almost unanimously as a disastrous decision by politicians and the American public is not enough to deter hawkish Trump administration officials, such as National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, from starting another endless war in the Middle East.

An amendment introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) repeals the 2001 AUMF, a significant step in Congress reclaiming the power under article I of the constitution to authorize war.


Prohibited the unauthorized use of military force against Iran

From pulling out of the Iran Deal, to Trump’s twitter threats of genocide, to renewed sanctions, the Trump Administration has done almost everything to provoke a war.

On June 20, after an American surveillance drone was shot down over the Strait of Hormuz, according to the New York Times, the United States was minutes away from initiating an attack on Iranian targets when the president abruptly changed his mind.

As long as neoconservatives John Bolton and Mike Pompeo are in the White House, war with Iran remains a very real possibility.

An amendment introduced by Ro Khanna (D-CA) prohibits an unauthorized war with Iran.


Prevented the U.S. military from supporting and participating in the Saudi-led war against Houthis in Yemen

The conflict in Yemen between the country’s Zaidi Shia Muslim minority and the Saudi-led coalition of mostly Sunni Arab nations has led to the world’s worst humanitarian distaster, according to the BCC. Since March 2015, the UN reports that at least 7,025 civilians have been killed and another 11,140 injured.

Three million people, two million of which are children, are on the brink of starvation, while also enduring the world’s largest recorded cholera outbreak.

Starting under former-President Barack Obama and continued under President Trump, the United States has been aiding this genocide through sharing intelligence, refueling planes and selling munitions to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, according to In These Times.

An amendment introduced by Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) ends the United States’ support to the Saudi-led coalition’s military operations in Yemen.


Expressed Congressional support for the extension of the New START treaty

The 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which replaced the original 1991 START 1 treaty, was an agreement between the United States and Russia to verifiably reduce the two nations’ nuclear arsenals, according to the Arms Control Association.

Seven years after the adoption of the treaty, both countries' bombs and warheads were reduced by 1,550.

An amendment introduced by Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) would not only extend New START but also prohibit the use of funds for withdrawing from the treaty unless Russia has violated the agreement.



Withheld funding for new missiles that would violate the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty

Earlier this year, the Trump Administration pulled out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

The landmark arms control agreement between then-President Ronald Reagan and Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev required the elimination of ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, according to the U.S. Department of State website.

In addition to the administration’s highly aggressive 2018 Nuclear Posture Review and the $2.1 trillion “modernization” of our nuclear arsenal that started under former-President Obama, the scrapping of the INF Treaty is paving the way for a new global arms race.

Last June, a document briefly published online by the Pentagon before it was taken down revealed a frightening return to the Cold War-era mentality of winning a nuclear war, according to The Guardian.

An amendment introduced by Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL) prohibits funding for any missiles that are noncompliant with the INF Treaty unless the Secretary of Defense meets certain conditions.


Thanking our Washington State representatives

It is important that we take the time to thank your representatives in Washington for taking a stand and voting for the interests and health of their constituents but also the world. Without their support, such important amendments would not have even been considered. With our allies in Congress, we will continue to oppose this administration’s dangerous agenda.