Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-Los Angeles County) and Senator Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) have reintroduced the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act to Congress. The bill, endorsed by the international Global Zero movement for the elimination of nuclear weapons, would prohibit President Trump from launching a nuclear first strike without a Congressional declaration of war.
Derek Johnson, executive director of Global Zero, issued the following statement in support of the legislation: “In the wake of the presidential election, the American people are more concerned than ever about the terrible prospect of nuclear war — and what the next commander-in-chief will do with the proverbial ‘red button.’
“One modern nuclear weapon is more destructive than all of the bombs detonated in World War II combined — yet there is no check on a president’s ability to launch the thousands of nuclear weapons at his command. His power to do so is absolute. Within 5 minutes of giving the order, these civilization-ending missiles would fire from underground silos and hurtle across the Earth at roughly 22 times the speed of sound. There would be no take-backs. They would hit their target cities in 30 minutes or less.
“That such devastating power is concentrated in one person is an affront to America’s founding principles. The proposed legislation is an important first step to reining in this autocratic system and making the world safer from nuclear catastrophe.”
In a letter to his colleagues urging them to support the bill, Rep. Ted Lieu explained: “Our Constitution created a government based on checks and balances and gave the power to declare war solely to the people’s representatives. A nuclear first strike, which can kill hundreds of millions of people and invite a retaliatory strike that can destroy America, is war. The current nuclear launch approval process, which gives the decision to potentially end civilization as we know it to a single individual, is flatly unconstitutional.”
Earlier this year, Global Zero co-founder and former nuclear launch officer Dr. Bruce Blair published a startling piece in POLITICO outlining various nuclear scenarios facing now-President Trump and highlighting the inherent danger of U.S. reliance on a “red button” nuclear system primed for first-strike and rapid-launch.