Great challenges require great vision

Cherry blossoms in our nation’s capital harken the onset of spring each year with their renewal and hope for the New Year. Simultaneously on April 15, our nation, through our tax dollars, funds our national priorities representing our hopes, desires, aspirations and security for the future.

Again, our nation is funding the recovery from devastating natural disasters, from California’s wildfires to the worst hurricane to hit the east coast in 60 years. Funding for this recovery and the first responders is an essential and huge financial burden.

Paradoxically, we also fund the instruments for the greatest potential disaster, a man-made disaster for which there is no adequate humanitarian or medical response: nuclear war.

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This year our national tax burden for all nuclear programs will be $61.45 Billion. And if that were not enough, we are forging ahead with a new arms race with plans for a new generation of enhanced and usable nuclear weapons expected to cost $1.7 trillion after inflation over the next 30 years. Not to be outdone in the mythological theory of deterrence, this plan has resulted in Russia and all of the other nuclear nations following suit. These expenditures affect all communities across our nation as they grapple with the aftermath of natural disasters and the ability to meet basic human needs while rebuilding critical infrastructure. These costs are calculated each year by Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles.

As physicians charged with responsibility of being first responders in our communities, we recognize that in addressing all major public health threats, we must prevent what we cannot cure. The only way to guarantee prevention of the humanitarian and global effects of nuclear war, is to work toward the complete abolition of these weapons as called for in the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

There is a growing movement from communities, cities, states, NGOs and religious bodies across our nation called “Back from the Brink” that demands action by our government. This calls on our federal officials to endorse:
  1. Renouncing the option of using nuclear weapons first
  2. Ending the sole, unchecked authority of any U.S. president to launch a nuclear attack
  3. Taking U.S. nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert
  4. Cancelling the plan to replace its entire nuclear arsenal with enhanced weapons
  5. Actively pursuing a verifiable agreement among nuclear-armed states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals 

This past week U.S. Representatives Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerDemocrats give Trump trade chief high marks On The Money: S&P hits record as stocks rally on Fed cut hopes | Facebook's new cryptocurrency raises red flags for critics | Internal IRS watchdog rips agency's taxpayer service | Apple seeks tariff relief First major 'Medicare for All' hearing sharpens attacks on both sides MORE (D-Ore.) introduced H. Res. 302 which supports the Back from the Brink campaign.

At this time our nation and world face great challenges. The threats of climate change and nuclear war demand great vision and leadership to protect our future and that of future generations. These are not political or partisan issues. They are issues of survival. Now is the time for our elected officials to demonstrate the courage to support these efforts to abolish nuclear weapons forever.

Robert Dodge, M.D. is a family physician practicing in Ventura, California. He is the President of Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles (www.psr-la.org), and sits on the National Board serving as the Co-Chair of the Committee to Abolish Nuclear Weapons of National Physicians for Social Responsibility (www.psr.org). Physicians for Social Responsibility received the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize and is a partner organization of ICAN.