End nuclear weapons, or they may end us

Posted 5/19/22

To the editor:

Last June, the Little Compton Town Council voted to endorse part of the policy platform of the Back from the Brink campaign, a national grassroots effort advocating for the …

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End nuclear weapons, or they may end us


To the editor:

Last June, the Little Compton Town Council voted to endorse part of the policy platform of the Back from the Brink campaign, a national grassroots effort advocating for the elimination of nuclear weapons and the pursuit of a verifiable agreement among all nuclear-armed states to dismantle their nuclear arsenals.

During the deliberations, it was repeatedly brought up that if the town did adopt the resolution, it would not “do anything.” Yet just recently, in part due to the existing support from Little Compton and other towns in the state, the Rhode Island Senate adopted the Back from Brink resolution 32-4 after it passed unanimously out of the Special Legislation & Veterans Affairs Committee on April 26.

Rhode Island joins California, Oregon, the New Jersey Assembly, and the Maine Senate in adopting this resolution, as well as more than 60 municipalities including Boston, Des Moines, Honolulu, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Tucson and Salt Lake City.

This is how democratic social change happens — from the grassroots on up — as was the case with the 1980s nuclear freeze movement. In 1982, nine states, 275 city governments, and 446 town hall meetings passed pro-freeze resolutions. Over one million people demonstrated in Central Park on June 12 of that same year.

Three years later at the height of the Cold War, President Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev issued their famous joint statement that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” paving the way for the implementation of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

The war in Ukraine is a terrifying reminder of the nuclear brink we find ourselves on today. Vladimir Putin has threatened to use nuclear weapons and placed his nuclear forces on high alert for the first time since the end of the Cold War. Kim Jong Un has warned that North Korea could preemptively use its nuclear weapons.

These are not weapons in the traditional sense of the word — they are suicide bombs. Studies indicate that even a “limited” nuclear war would cause enough climate disruption to affect global food production and cause a worldwide famine that could put two billion people at risk. A large-scale war between the U.S. and Russia could kill several hundred million people in a single afternoon — the sobering possibility of “mutually-assured destruction.” 

Little Compton and the state of Rhode Island should be proud to have added their voice on this issue at a time when the nuclear threat is at an all-time high. We don’t know if efforts to pursue nuclear disarmament among nuclear-armed states will succeed, in part because we haven’t yet tried, but the precedent of substantive change coming at the height of the Cold War offers reason for hope.

There is a very clear choice facing each of us: We can do something to try and eliminate nuclear weapons or we can do nothing, rolling the dice on the potential for nuclear weapons — whether by design, by accident, or by miscalculation.

Visit www.preventnuclearwar.org to get involved with the Back from the Brink campaign or contact State Representative Michelle McGaw to implore her to vote in favor of the resolution when the identical bill comes before the Rhode Island House.

Brennan Tierney

Little Compton

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Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.