On Wednesday, October 25 at 3 PM, a delegation organized by Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility met in Washington, D.C. with Dr. Lowell Schwartz, senior professional staff member to the Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate, and Daniel Ricchetti, legislative aide to that committee. They work for Senator Ben Cardin.
The delegation decided to present to the Cardin staffers six asks. Dr. Gwen Dubois, of PSR, led the delegation and began after introductions to outline the horror and madness of using nuclear weapons. She then urged the staffers to inform Sen. Cardin to support the Markey legislation which was prepared prior to the election. The purpose of the legislation is to remove from the president the authority to launch a first strike nuclear attack. Such authority should be with the Congress. Trump’s utterances has galvanized a movement to call for other senators to support S200.
Dick Ochs, a long-time peace and justice activist, sought Cardin’s support for the agreement with Iran to prevent the development of a nuclear weapons arsenal. Max Obuszewski, with PSR, added that the senator should disavow any efforts such as the Corker-Cotton bill to contravene the agreement with Iran.
Charlie Cooper called for serious diplomacy with North Korea, including negotiations without pre-conditions, an end to US - South Korea war games and the signing of a peace treaty to finally end the Korean War. He emphasized that based on U.S. warmongering one can understand why the North Korean regime would want to possess a nuclear arsenal.
Dr. Art Milholland, with PSR, condemned the refurbishing of the U.S. nuclear arsenal which begin under President Obama and continues today. He explained that it will help convince military officials that they can use “smaller” nuclear weapons in combat. For example, the B61 nuclear bomb has a variable nuclear yield, and a commander could dial the nuclear kilo-tonnage up or down. This bomb makes it more likely a nuclear weapon would be used.
Art also presented Dr. Schwartz with a copy of Dan Zak’s book “Almighty,” which is about the history of the development of nuclear weapons and the disarmament action at the Y-12 plant in Oak Ridge, TN by the Transform Now Plowshares. He added that this is the best book he has read on this subject.
Sr. Megan Rice of the Transform Now Plowshares said that $10 trillion has been spent on nuclear weapons since 1943. She believes nuclear weapons are illegal under international law, and she reminded all of us that 122 countries voted at the United Nations on July 7 to ban nuclear weapons. On September 20, nations began to ratify the ban. Sr. Megan urged Cardin to speak out to support the ban. Dr. Gwen who lobbied in New York for the ban said our legislators must get on board.
Finally, Jean Athey with Peace Action described the horrific nature of the attack on Yemen by Saudi Arabia with the assistance of the United States. The group could not have a meeting with legislative aides without bringing up U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s destruction of Yemen. A bipartisan bill has been introduced in the House to remove US forces from unauthorized hostilities in Yemen. Ben Cardin should introduce companion legislation in the Senate.
Dr. Schwartz then proceeded to respond to our asks. We met in a room next door to the room where the Senate Foreign Relations Committee meets, and after the meeting we did a photo op in the room. On October 30 the Foreign Relations Committee will meet to discuss the Authorization to Use Military Force passed in 2001. The senator recognizes that Congress has abdicated its role in deciding when the U.S. can wage war. The president keeps accumulating more power.
Secretaries Mattis and Tillerson will testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the 2001 AUMF. Sen. Cardin wants a much more narrow AUMF to replace the current one. He may try to put in language limiting presidential authority to use force in North Korea.
As for Markey, we received an unsatisfactory answer. Regarding S. 200, procedural custom within the Foreign Relations Committee works against his co-sponsoring the bill. GOP dissatisfaction with Trump may create an opening for other related bills to be introduced on the topic of nuclear weapons. Cardin spoke at a gathering with former Sen. Nunn on October 24 about nuclear weapons. Schwartz indicated that there will be a flurry of bills introduced. Yesterday, for example, right outside our meeting room, Sen. Corker spoke out against Trump. Dr. Schwartz said that while Chairperson Corker has made statements about Trump’s leadership style, he has not held the president accountable.
While the president decertified the Iran JCPOA, he has not taken any punitive action toward Iran. Cardin doesn’t support trying to change the JCPOA. Senators Cotton and Corker have a bill to end the agreement with Iran, however it has yet to be introduced.
In regards to North Korea, Cardin is speaking out for diplomacy, and has written an article in Foreign Affairs calling for a “Surge in Diplomacy.” It seems both North Korea and the USA want pre-conditions before engaging in negotiations. Again we were told that Cardin wants serous negotiations, but only if the rhetoric is chilled.
Dr. Schwartz and Sen. Cardin took a trip to South Korea. President Moon wants engagement with the North and doesn’t want U. S. nuclear weapons in S. Korea. They found the North Koreans have their own intransigent pre-conditions for negotiations – namely to be recognized as a legitimate nuclear power. Dr. Schwartz feels the N. Korean government is not interested in suspending its nuclear program if the US and S. Korea suspend military exercises.
Max pointed out an opposition member of parliament in South Korea will hold a press conference on October 26 urging the US to re-install nuclear weapons in South Korea. However, Schwartz pointed out that the new president of South Korea is opposed, and the Trump administration is not interested in placing nuclear weapons in South Korea.
Dr. Terry Fitzgerald, an addictions specialist, said that we must be careful of nomenclature. Saying “Iran deal” connotes something derogatory. A deal is something done on a car lot. This is a treaty, not a deal. “Modernization” of nuclear weaponry is a lie. It is really about increasing the destructiveness of nuclear weapons.
Dick indicated that there is no Congressional support for the nuclear weapons ban. In 2018, the Democrats should take the high road and promote the ban. Schwartz will bring this to Cardin’s attention. None of the nuclear countries were involved in the UN vote, thus another process is necessary.
The senator is opposed to nuclear weapons, and believes the best approach is to negotiate with Russia. Process is important to the liberal senator from Maryland, but current tensions with Russia have caused a pause in reducing arsenals.
Art added that he has a “new admiration” that Sen. Cardin can change his mind. We reminded the staffers that PSR is part of ICAN, which just won the Nobel Peace Prize. Janice Sevre-Duszynska, a Roman Catholic woman priest, felt Cardin was a senator with a conscience and hoped he will listen to us by promoting life-giving legislation. Mary Elieisar, a retired lawyer, also participated in the dialogue. Schwartz affirmed that we were welcome to stay in touch. We then entered the Foreign Relations Committee room for a photo op.
Gwen sent a thank you email to Dr. Schwartz. This was his response:
“Thanks very much for your note. I was very happy to meet with the group and pass on our concerns/views to Senator.
“I’m always honored to be associated with my Great Aunt, [Bella Abzug] whose picture hangs in my office. However, I would note (like my father who also worked in the Senate) she thought even in my youth I was too much a creature of the establishment.
“Regards, Lowell Schwartz”
Charlie read the Foreign Affairs article by Sen. Cardin and sent an email in response. We are awaiting a response.
“Dear Dr. Schwartz:
“We read Sen. Cardin’s article in Foreign Policy as you recommended, and we are puzzled by this passage:
“The initial objective of such a diplomatic surge would be to begin a process where Pyongyang starts by verifiably halting its nuclear and ballistic missile testing. If North Korea does so, the United States and our allies can consider confidence-building measures to address tensions on the Korean peninsula.
“To us, this sounds like the pre-condition for talks that we are deeply concerned about: North Korea must verifiably halt weapons and missile testing before talks start. Are we reading this correctly?
“What would “confidence-building measures” include? Would Sen. Cardin support suspending military exercises or starting negotiations for a peace treaty?
“Again, thank you very much for your time and for your response to our crucial request for information.
“P. S. We were heartened to hear the CNN interview with Sen. Cardin in which he said he supports the Markey bill on First Use.”
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs