US Veterans Group calls on President Biden to adopt a No-First-Use policy

In conjunction with the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons (September 26, 2021) Veterans For Peace, a US participating organization of NoFirstUse Global, has released Just Say No to Nuclear War, an Open Letter to President Biden calling on the United States to step back from the brink of nuclear war by declaring and implementing a policy of No First Use and by taking nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert. 

As veterans who have fought in multiple U.S. wars, we are concerned about the very real danger of a nuclear war that would kill millions of people and could possibly even destroy human civilization,” says the letter from Veterans for Peace, which has 140 chapters in the United States and abroad.

Many members of Veterans for Peace were also among the 1200 endorsers of the Joint Letter to Presidents Biden and Putin on no-first-use which was sent to the two leaders just prior to their summit in Geneva on June 16.

“The U.S. and Russia possess and deploy the lion’s share of nuclear weapons in the world,” says Gerry Condon, Chair of the Veterans for Peace Nuclear Abolition Working Group which drafted the letter. “These two nuclear superpowers can therefore reduce the risk of a nuclear war that could destroy all life on earth.  As a U.S. citizen, I particularly call upon my own government to lower global tensions, to implement a No First Use policy, and to help lead a global process to eliminate all nuclear weapons.”

The follow-up Veterans for Peace letter to President Biden released this week calls on President Biden to use the current US Nuclear Posture Review process to adopt a no-first-use policy.

“We represent millions of people who want nothing more than to see the United States make a dramatic Pivot to Peace” says the Veterans for Peace letter. “What better place to start than to step back from the brink of nuclear war?”

“Some people think when we say ‘No First Use,’ that we are okay with second use, but nothing could be farther from the truth,” says Mr Condon.  “A No First Use policy would lower tensions and greatly reduce the possibility that a nuclear exchange will ever take place.  No First Use would build trust and momentum for the total elimination of nuclear weapons.”

President Biden has expressed personal support for a no-first-use policy, saying prior to his election that “it is hard to envision a plausible scenario in which the first use of nuclear weapons by the United States would be necessary or make sense” and that “deterring, and, if necessary, retaliating against a nuclear attack should be the sole purpose of the US nuclear arsenal”.

However, there are concerns that ‘hawks’ from the US Defence establishment are ‘hijacking’ the US Nuclear Posture Review process in order to prevent any significant progress on nuclear arms control and disarmament.

 “These concerns have been intensified by a 9/23/21 Washington Post report stating, ‘The Defense Department has removed a top political appointee in charge of nuclear policy from her position’,” says Retired Marine Corps Major Kenneth Mayers, a member of VFP’s Nuclear Abolition Working Group. ‘This is prompting concern among disarmament advocates that the Pentagon is sidelining those with less hawkish views as the Biden administration develops its official policy on nuclear weapons. Therefore we are asking to have input into the Nuclear Posture Review that your administration has recently initiated.” 

The Veterans for Peace letter also calls for operational measure to implement a no-first-use policy, such as ‘decommissioning U.S. ICBMs that can only be used in a first strike’. And it calls for additional nuclear risk reduction and disarmament measures including, inter alia,

  • Taking U.S. nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert (Launch On Warning) and storing warheads separately from delivery systems, thereby reducing the probability of an accidental, unauthorized, or unintentional nuclear exchange;
  • Cancelling plans to replace the entire US arsenal with enhanced weapons at a cost of more than $1 trillion over the next 30 years;
  • Redirecting the money thus saved into environmentally and socially sound programs, including the accelerated cleanup of highly toxic and radioactive waste left during eight decades of the nuclear cycle;
  • Ending the sole, unchecked authority of any president (or his or her delegates and their delegates) to launch a nuclear attack and require Congressional approval of any use of nuclear weapons;
  • Complying with US obligations under the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) by actively pursuing a verifiable agreement among nuclear-armed states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals;

“The Billions of U.S. tax dollars saved by cancelling the nuclear weapons modernization program could be applied to the very real national security threats of the Climate Crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic,’ says Mr Condon.  “What better legacy for the Biden Administration than to begin a process that could lead to worldwide nuclear disarmament!”

Note: On September 28, the UN will hold a High Level Meeting to observe the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. It can be watched live on UNTV.  Another group of NoFirstUse Global participating organizations has sent a letter to all UN members calling on them to use the occasion of the UN High Level Meeting to support the adoption of no-first-use policies.

Cover photo: The historic Golden Rule anti-nuclear sailboat, a project of Veterans For Peace, returned to San Francisco in May, after a two-year voyage to all the Hawai’ian Islands. Photo credit: Noah Berger, San Francisco Chronicle.