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Kathryn Bourgoin is a family doctor from Orono and a member of the National Security Committee of Maine Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR). Judy Kuhns-Hastings is a nurse practitioner from Bangor and a member of Maine PSR.
At the request of citizen groups, the Bangor City Council has in the past recognized the dangers to our health and prosperity posed by nuclear weapons and America’s war fighting doctrines. A year and a half ago, it proclaimed Aug. 6, 2019, as Hiroshima Remembrance Day. In that proclamation councilors noted that “the detonation of even a small number of these weapons anywhere in the world could have catastrophic consequences that could affect everyone on the planet, including the residents of Bangor, Maine.”
Fortunately, we can do more than simply wait passively and hope that nuclear destruction never comes to Bangor. There is recent good news: The United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) has now been ratified by 52 nations and entered into force on Jan. 22. It is now illegal under international law for nations that are party to the treaty to “develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess, or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”
It is increasingly clear around the world that possession of nuclear weapons is not only immoral but also threatens one’s own nation’s security rather than protecting it. So far, the U.S. and other countries with nuclear weapons have opposed this treaty and are thus not yet bound by it. This must change.
Even as we celebrate the treaty now having the force of international law, the prior U.S. administration and Congress have been significantly expanding the U.S. nuclear arsenal. This will likely provoke a dangerous and expensive new nuclear arms race. This year alone, the U.S. will be spending nearly $45 billion to maintain existing nuclear weapons and build and deploy new ones, as part of the recently approved 2021 appropriations bills.
Essentially, Bangor taxpayers will pay a total of $4.25 million of this total; this works out to be $132 per person. These funds will not increase our safety but rather serve to increase the risk to our health. They divert much needed funding from healthcare, education, alleviation of poverty and rebuilding infrastructure.
There is something we can do. Physicians for Social Responsibility and many other groups advocate for the redirection of a significant portion of current nuclear weapons spending to where the money is most effective, supporting the economic and health care needs of U.S. citizens. In the midst of a devastating global pandemic, this is not the time to continue down the path of an outdated military doctrine that even military planners agree will signal the end of civilization as we know it.
We encourage the Bangor City Council and all Mainers to join many other municipalities across the country to support the five policy changes outlined in the “Back from the Brink” resolution to reduce the likelihood of nuclear war by: renouncing the option of first use of nuclear weapons; ending the unchecked authority of one individual, the U.S. president, to launch a nuclear attack; taking U.S. nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert; cancelling the plan to replace the entire U.S. arsenal with enhanced weapons; and actively pursuing a verifiable agreement among nuclear armed states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.
We have enough on our plate in 2021 – the Jan. 6 assault on our Capitol, grievous losses from COVID-19, a damaged economy and much more. We can proactively prevent an even greater catastrophe from happening in the future. Contact your city councilors and ask them to support the Back from the Brink Resolution when it comes before them next week.