Organizations Call for Elimination of 'Launch on Warning' Land-Based Nuclear Missiles in the United States

RootsAction
Organizations Call for Elimination of 'Launch on Warning' Land-Based Nuclear Missiles in the United States US Army Pershing II ballistic missiles, later banned by the 1987 INF Treaty. (image: Breaking Defense)

More than 60 national and regional organizations on Wednesday issued a joint statement calling for the elimination of the 400 land-based nuclear missiles now armed and on hair-trigger alert in the United States.

The statement, titled “A Call to Eliminate ICBMs,” warns that “intercontinental ballistic missiles are uniquely dangerous, greatly increasing the chances that a false alarm or miscalculation will result in nuclear war.”

Citing the conclusion reached by former Defense Secretary William Perry that ICBMs “could even trigger an accidental nuclear war,” the organizations urged the U.S. government to “shut down the 400 ICBMs now in underground silos that are scattered across five states -- Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wyoming.”

“Rather than being any kind of deterrent, ICBMs are the opposite -- a foreseeable catalyst for nuclear attack,” the statement says. “ICBMs certainly waste billions of dollars, but what makes them unique is the threat that they pose to all of humanity.”

Norman Solomon, national director of RootsAction.org, said the statement could represent a turning point in the range of options being debated about ICBMs. “Until now, the public discussion has been almost entirely limited to the narrow question of whether to build a new ICBM system or stick with the existing Minuteman III missiles for decades longer,” he said. “That’s like arguing over whether to refurbish the deck chairs on the nuclear Titanic. Both options retain the same unique dangers of nuclear war that ICBMs involve. It’s time to really widen the ICBM debate, and this joint statement from U.S. organizations is a vital step in that direction.”

RootsAction and Just Foreign Policy led the organizing process that resulted in the statement being released today.

Here is the full statement, followed by a list of the signing organizations:

Joint statement by U.S. organizations being released on January 12, 2022

A Call to Eliminate ICBMs

Intercontinental ballistic missiles are uniquely dangerous, greatly increasing the chances that a false alarm or miscalculation will result in nuclear war. There is no more important step the United States could take to reduce the chances of a global nuclear holocaust than to eliminate its ICBMs.

As former Defense Secretary William Perry has explained, “If our sensors indicate that enemy missiles are en route to the United States, the president would have to consider launching ICBMs before the enemy missiles could destroy them; once they are launched, they cannot be recalled. The president would have less than 30 minutes to make that terrible decision.” And Secretary Perry wrote: “First and foremost, the United States can safely phase out its land-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force, a key facet of Cold War nuclear policy. Retiring the ICBMs would save considerable costs, but it isn’t only budgets that would benefit. These missiles are some of the most dangerous weapons in the world. They could even trigger an accidental nuclear war.”

Rather than being any kind of deterrent, ICBMs are the opposite -- a foreseeable catalyst for nuclear attack. ICBMs certainly waste billions of dollars, but what makes them unique is the threat that they pose to all of humanity.

The people of the United States support huge expenditures when they believe the spending protects them and their loved ones. But ICBMs actually make us less safe. By discarding all of its ICBMs and thereby eliminating the basis for U.S. “launch on warning,” the U.S. would make the whole world safer -- whether or not Russia and China chose to follow suit.

Everything is at stake. Nuclear weapons could destroy civilization and inflict catastrophic damage on the world’s ecosystems with “nuclear winter,” inducing mass starvation while virtually ending agriculture. That is the overarching context for the need to shut down the 400 ICBMs now in underground silos that are scattered across five states -- Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wyoming.

Closure of those ICBM facilities should be accompanied by major public investment to subsidize transition costs and provide well-paying jobs that are productive for the long-term economic prosperity of affected communities.

Even without ICBMs, the formidable U.S. nuclear threat would remain. The United States would have nuclear forces capable of deterring a nuclear attack by any conceivable adversary: forces deployed either on aircraft, which are recallable, or on submarines that remain virtually invulnerable, and thus not subject to the “use them or lose them” dilemma that the ground-based ICBMs inherently present in a crisis.

The United States should pursue every diplomatic avenue to comply with its obligation to negotiate nuclear disarmament. At the same time, whatever the status of negotiations, the elimination of the U.S. government’s ICBMs would be a breakthrough for sanity and a step away from a nuclear precipice that would destroy all that we know and love.

“I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction,” Martin Luther King Jr. said as he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Nearly 60 years later, the United States must eliminate its ICBMs to reverse that downward spiral.

Action Corps

Alaska Peace Center

American Committee for U.S.-Russia Accord

Arab American Action Network

Arizona Chapter, Physicians for Social Responsibility

Back from the Brink Coalition

Backbone Campaign

Baltimore Phil Berrigan Memorial Chapter, Veterans For Peace

Beyond Nuclear

Beyond the Bomb

Black Alliance for Peace

Blue America

Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security

Center for Citizen Initiatives

Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility

Chicago Area Peace Action

Code Pink

Demand Progress

Environmentalists Against War

Fellowship of Reconciliation

Global Network Against Weapons … Nuclear Power in Space

Global Zero

Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility

Historians for Peace and Democracy

Jewish Voice for Peace Action

Just Foreign Policy

Justice Democrats

Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy

Linus Pauling Chapter, Veterans For Peace

Los Alamos Study Group

Maine Physicians for Social Responsibility

Massachusetts Peace Action

Muslim Delegates and Allies

No More Bombs

Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

Nuclear Watch New Mexico

Nukewatch

Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility

Other98

Our Revolution

Pax Christi USA

Peace Action

People for Bernie Sanders

Physicians for Social Responsibility

Prevent Nuclear War Maryland

Progressive Democrats of America

Reader Supported News

RootsAction.org

San Francisco Bay Physicians for Social Responsibility

Santa Fe Chapter, Veterans For Peace

Spokane Chapter, Veterans For Peace

U.S. Palestinian Community Network

United for Peace and Justice

Veterans For Peace

Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility

Western North Carolina Physicians for Social Responsibility

Western States Legal Foundation

Whatcom Peace and Justice Center

Win Without War

Women Transforming Our Nuclear Legacy

World Beyond War

Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation

Youth Against Nuclear Weapons

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