Peace Action: The U.S. Movement to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

By Jo Ann Fuller, Co-chair, Strategy Committee, Peace Action, Washington, DC,USA

I bring you greetings as the representative of Peace Action. Peace Action is the largest grassroots peace and justice organization in the United States. Our work challenges the outdated and outrageous reliance on nuclear weapons of the United States government. We are committed to abolishing nuclear weapons. We also oppose the massive U. S. military budget, and we are working to prevent our government from selling weapons around the world.

I also bring you greetings from my home community of Sacramento, California, where every year we commemorate the atomic bombings of Japan by the United States and recommit ourselves to ensuring that nuclear weapons will never again be used. On August 6th, several hundred women, men, and children will come together in Sacramento for a program calling on us to work to educate others and be active politically so that a nuclear attack will never happen again.

It is especially moving for me personally to be here with you. I have worked for many years against nuclear weapons, and have seen pictures and read accounts of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. My father and mother, who were themselves lifelong workers for peace, often spoke of the horrors of nuclear weapons. They traveled to Japan many years ago to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki and dedicate themselves to work against this evil. So to be part of this delegation today has great personal meaning for me. I appreciate your moral leadership in keeping alive the passionate refusal to accept nuclear weapons as just another part of the military. Being here deepens my commitment to the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

The people of the United States support nuclear abolition. We know this from current polling data. Our task as peace activists is to translate public opinion into action. Our challenge is to make sure our legislators understand that people disagree with what Congress is doing. People want to abolish nuclear weapons, but our Congress has voted to spend $60 billion over the next 13 years to develop new nuclear weapons. People in the United States oppose nuclear testing. But Congress authorized a program of sub-critical testing and computer simulated testing of nuclear weapons. I live close to the Livermore Laboratory where the National Ignition Facility is being built. The National Ignition Facility is one of the places where this computer testing of nuclear weapons will take place. People from Sacramento work together with the people of that community to oppose the new weapons being developed in that Lab. The people of Livermore have found plutonium even in the park where their children go to play, showing that the consequences of conducting research on these terrible weapons extend even now into our communities and homes. All over the United States people are suffering from the health consequences of producing nuclear weapons. We are working to channel that suffering into action to show our elected representatives that they are out of touch with what people want. People protested the Cassini Space Probe that put plutonium into space, but in spite of that, Congress voted new support for Star Wars with the vision of controlling the world with nuclear weapons in space. Peace Action knows that there is a major difference between what the people of the United States want and what our politicians are doing.

I want to tell you about what we in the U.S. peace movement are doing to translate what people want into demands that our government will respond to.I have just returned from the annual national Peace Action conference where anti-nuclear activists from all over the United States came together to plan the details of our work for next year. We recommitted ourselves to insuring that the United States will ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. We will continue our opposition to developing a new generation of nuclear weapons. We will also hold a huge demonstration, including non-violent direct action, at Los Alamos National Laboratory next summer to oppose plans to resume the production of nuclear warheads. We hope some of you will join us there.

Most exciting is our commitment to make nuclear weapons an important issue in the Presidential elections in the year 2000. We will conduct a nationwide petition drive to gather signatures in targeted congressional districts demanding that the candidates take a position to abolish nuclear weapons and stop all funding for nuclear weapons programs. Volunteers will be organized in 27 states and most major cities. This grassroots campaign will go door-to-door in neighborhoods across the U.S., distributing voter guides and information about candidates' positions on nuclear weapons. We will hold our representatives accountable. Our nationwide petition drive will gather hundreds of thousands of signatures before the congressional elections next November, and present them to the presidential candidates. The candidates will be forced to take a stand on these issues. We will urge them to respond to what the people want them to do, not to what the weapons manufacturers and the military want them to do.

We in the United States have been energized by several recent events. We have heard General Butler, the recently retired U.S. commander in charge of fighting a nuclear war. He said, "Get rid of all nuclear weapons. You cannot use them to fight a war." The recent nuclear tests by India and Pakistan said loudly and clearly that other countries will also develop nuclear weapons if the United States insists on keeping a huge nuclear arsenal.

We in the nuclear abolition movement have been inspired by the Canberra Commission, by the statement against nuclear weapons by retired generals and admirals from around the world, by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences report, by the draft Nuclear Weapons Convention, by the Malaysian resolution on the International Court of Justice opinion, by the 100 world leaders statement, and by the New Agenda opposing nuclear weapons. These developments inspire us to work harder. There are many forces converging to help us succeed in our efforts to abolish nuclear weapons. We will continue to put pressure on our representatives until the people's voice is heard. We will urge the United States to keep its commitment in the Non-Proliferation Treaty to eliminate its huge arsenal of nuclear weapons. And we will urge the United States to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

We have been inspired by the people of Japan who keep alive the memory of what is at stake if we fail to abolish nuclear weapons. Peace Action is a vibrant, active, and organized force for nuclear abolition. I thank you for your work, and I assure you Peace Action will continue its commitment to a world without the menace of nuclear weapons.