Transcript of July 30, 1999,
Press Conference
on behalf of
"Nuclear Disarmament and Economic Conversion Act of 1999 "

Co-Sponsoring Speakers:

U.S. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)
U.S. Representative Lynn Woolsey (D-CA)

And supporting speakers:

- Dr. Marcus Raskin, Institute for Policy Studies
Mary Olson, Nuclear Information and Resource Service
Bob Tiller, Physicians for Social Responsibility
John Steinbach and Arnold Peterson, Veterans for Peace

- Bruce Hall, Peace Action (Ill, Mailed Speech) -

- Related Speaker, August 4, 1999: Admiral Eugene Carroll, Center for Defense Information, at Radiation Survivors Press Conference.

Questions? Please contact Sean Gralton, Congresswoman Norton's Press Secretary, 202-225-8050
or Ellen Thomas, 202-462-0757, Proposition One Committee,

Opening remarks, 10:45 a.m.

I want to ask the speakers to all come forward to stand together, because we're certainly standing together for the "Nuclear Disarmament and Economic Conversion Act of 1999."

There is a memorial that I should be at, at 11 o'clock, but Lynn Woolsey should certainly be there because George Brown was from her home state and a wonderful member who would very much have supported we're doing here today, so I'm going to, as a matter of courtesy, let Lynn go first, and thank her for being here.


Thank you, Eleanor for doing this. George Brown would have been here standing with us. He's gone, but he made it easier for people like me when I came to Congress, he was the Dean of the California delegation, and he made it easier for people like me to have a big voice, and speak out, and know that that's the right thing to do because, you see, that's what he did. He was a model for all of us.

In Congress we are debating appropriations bills right now, I think you know that, and like you, like Eleanor, l am constantly amazed at the amount of money we allocate to nuclear weapons.

The $35 billion we spend each year on nuclear weapons is 13 times the budget of the National Cancer Institute and 120 times the amount we spend on domestic violence, battered women's shelters and runaway youths combined!

The cold war is over, yet, that's how we still spend our money here in this Congress.

But with the cold war being over, the threat of nuclear weapons still hangs over us like a dark mushroom cloud that does not go away, and it won't until we do something about it.

And while my colleagues, our colleagues, are taking care of building more nuclear weapons, I continue to ask the question, who's taking care of our children?

The most fundamental thing we can do for our children is to make certain that they live in a safe, peaceful world.

Books and booster shots have to come before bombs. We have to get our spending priorities straight. And we have to do it now!

I am pleased to be signing on as a co-sponsor of Delegate Norton's "Nuclear Disarmament and Economic Conversion Act of 1999," and if it doesn't pass this year, I'll sign on in the next Congress, and the next Congress, and the next Congress, until it will.

Because, as a global leader, the United States must set the example and we must eliminate nuclear weapons and we must do it now.

My own bill, H. Res 82, would work as a complement to Eleanor's bill. H. Res. 82 calls on the president to use the United Nations' "model nuclear weapons convention" as a guideline to start multilateral negotiations to rid all countries of nuclear weapons.

Right now, there are 36,000 nuclear warheads in the world -- 20,000 of these are operational. The United States alone has over 8,400 operational warheads and another 2,300 on alert. Just those on alert have the explosive power equal to 44,000 Hiroshimas.

And I ask the question constantly, is this the world we want our children to live in? If we are serious about taking care of our children, we must start by eliminating nuclear weapons and leaving behind a legacy of peace, not fear. And, we must do it now!

So I thank you Eleanor, for doing this and for letting me be a part of your efforts. You'd be surprised at how much we work on together. So, I must go now.


Congresswoman Norton
Links Nuclear Disarmament With Domestic Needs

First let me tell you how this ever got started. I want to particularly remark on those of my constituents who are responsible for the success of Ballot 37, at the polls in 1993. Since that time I have introduced this bill, based on that initiative, every year.

My hope is not that one day the Republican Congress will get religion and understand they ought to pass my bill all at one time, I do not live in fairyland, but that gradually this bill and parts of this bill will capture the imagination of a majority of Congress, and I try to link my introduction of the bill every year to some current notions that I think make the bill more and more timely.

On the 54th anniversary of the first nuclear test at Alamogordo, New Mexico, I introduced the Nuclear Disarmament and Economic Conversion Act of 1999 (NDECA). This is the … fourth time I've introduced it. The bill would require the United States to disable and dismantle its nuclear weapons and to refrain from replacing them with weapons of mass destruction once foreign countries possessing nuclear weapons enact and execute similar requirements. The bill also provides that the resources used to sustain our nuclear weapons program be used to address human and infrastructure needs such as housing, health care, education, agriculture, and the environment. So I would see a direct transfer of funds.

Despite the end of the Cold War, we still live in a dangerous world where declared nuclear powers continue to possess vast stockpiles of nuclear weapons. However, the danger that these weapons will be used in war comes not only from our former Cold War adversary, Russia. Rather, there is an even greater danger that nuclear weapons will proliferate and be used by countries located in unstable regions of the world, such as India and Pakistan.

This year in introducing my bill I'd like to focus on what the failure to pass this bill means by using India and Pakistan as the most recent example.

The recent fighting in the Kashmir region along the disputed border between those two countries illustrates the danger. India and Pakistani have fought three wars since they gained independence after British colonial rule, and the first reports of renewed fighting along their disputed borders therefore did not attract much attention, because skirmishes routinely every year during spring, when weather conditions improve. However, as the Washington Post reported on just July 26, 1999, "the latest conflict over Kashmir came much closer to a full-scale war then was publicly acknowledged at the time--and raised very real fears that one or both countries would resort to using variants of the nuclear devices each tested last year." India had actually begun mobilizing its tanks and artillery for a full-scale invasion of Pakistan. Once this mobilization had been detected by U.S. intelligence, the Clinton administration scrambled frantically to avert a wider war because, according to the Post, "U.S. officials. . . could easily envision a scenario under which Pakistani forces, overwhelmed by India's much larger army, could find themselves backed into a corner that could tempt them to play their last and most devastating card."

Although the administration successfully helped to diffuse this looming crisis, the United States must exercise stronger leadership on the fundamental question of stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons, especially in other regions of the world that have not been normally seen as the greatest dangers for nuclear power. However, we cannot make a credible case to persuade such countries to abandon their nuclear ambitions unless we ourselves are willing to take the initiative in dismantling our own nuclear weapons program and helping arms industries to convert to useful economic activity.

Nuclear disarmament would (importantly, from the point of view of most of my constituents in this city, and probably most Americans) enable the United States to spend resources on urgent needs at home that have been neglected and underfunded. In the 56-year period between 1940 and 1996, the United States spent on average $98 billion each year on nuclear weapons research, development, production, and deployment. This money could be used far more productively if it were directed toward education and employment training; science and technology research; community development, and social services.

We will not find that the Republican majority is coming forward tomorrow on this bill, but as we see dangers like the Kashmir danger loom each year, even the Congress, no matter how it looks, no matter what its composition, can be shaken into common sense. And that's why it's very important that we in fact introduce this bill each year, be serious about it each year, press it as the Proposition One Committee has pressed it all along, until this bill or some version of this bill becomes law.


Norton: I'm now pleased to introduce the other speakers, and I'm told I should begin with my good friend, Dr. Marcus Raskin of Institute for Policy Studies, former member of the White House Staff, has been a White House Delegate to the U.N. Disarmament talks in Geneva, has written 17 books, many of them on national security, is Professor of Public Policy at George Washington University, co-founder of Institute for Policy Studies, and one of the nation's foremost experts on nuclear disarmament and international affairs. Dr. Raskin?

Dr. Marcus Raskin
Institute for Policy Studies

Thank you, Eleanor. I had hoped to introduce you, rather than the other way.

The reason that I wanted to introduce Congresswoman Norton is that she is one of the great Congresspeople presently in Congress and certainly in the 20th Century. We're all very, very proud of you in terms of what you've done locally and what you seek to do nationally and internationally. So it's a great honor to be here with you, for you.

I have to leave in one or two minutes to catch a plane, but I wanted to say a couple of things. First, in 1961, the United States signed on to the idea of general and complete disarmament. And there are six treaties in being which begin with that idea, including various arms control agreements, no nuclear testing in the atmosphere, space, and so forth. The point is also that the United States has done virtually nothing with regard to moving toward general and complete disarmament. It also is part of the non-proliferation treaty, the idea of cutting back radically in nuclear weapons, and getting other nations to do the same. So the United States has not done its role.

I have to add one other point. I don't think the peace movement has done its role either, and I think that one of the problems here is that we have to work through the strategy for bringing on a disarmament situation. What I mean, and here the Congresswoman is right, let's see what specific things are on the table that are current which somehow lead them to more general propositions, more fundamental underlying conditions. That's number one. Number two, the peace movement itself should not get caught up, in my view, in trying to answer the Department of Defense weapon system for weapon system. They're always able to come up with another weapon system. So unless we have, unless we can get agreement about general principles, we will always be running behind.

The third point that I would make is that I think there is very little will, now, among many members of Congress who should be lobbied very hard, for this bill, and for the economic conversion part of this bill, and perhaps a good place to begin with would be with the Progressive Caucus itself, to get them to sign on as much as possible. To press the case with the Senate as well, with the obvious people perhaps Senator Kennedy at this point, who wants to return the general disarmament program that was laid out by his brother in the 1961-62 period. So I would hope that there would be much that could be done in this next period of time; I would also hope that it would be possible to take seriously the idea of general and complete disarmament.

There are programs which have been worked out; indeed, I have written a 100-page paper on how to move from here to there on the subject. People in the United Nations have done the same. What is important about this is that the United States presently thinks it's riding very high, and the Administration and others in Congress have come to the conclusion that they don't have to live within international law, that others have to do it, but not the United States. And that's a disaster for this country.

So there a number of things that have to be linked together, which means that there has to be a dialogue in the peace movement to show the linkages between these various questions, and therefore to come up with a program which could be worked through with members of Congress, led by Congresswoman Norton, and just see where we go over the course of the next three or four year period.

So I congratulate her, and I congratulate all of you.



Congresswoman Norton

I want to thank Dr. Raskin again for taking the time to stop by on his way to the airport, it's just like him. But I do hope you realize that what you've heard illustrates the mind of not only one of the great theoretical thinkers, but of the great strategists in this entire field. It seems to me we need to talk a great deal more to Marc Raskin. Let me just say as a member of the Progressive Caucus he's come forward with one of these obvious and therefore brilliant ideas.

I don't know, how many sponsors are on my bill? People who know? We only have two co-sponsors on my bill? Tsk, tsk, tsk. I need your help. The way people co-sponsor a bill, ladies and gentleman, is that people write them. I've sent "Dear Colleagues" that say "co-sponsor my bill." But the way people come onto bills is the way Lynn Woolsey got here. Did some of you ask Lynn to come? Yes? She's from California! I bet she's one of the two. And you, of course, have a national network. If you simply ask your … we'll give you a list of the Progressive Caucus, for starters. There's not a single member of the Progressive Caucus that wouldn't sign onto this bill. I'm willing to get the Chairman of the Caucus, of which I am a member, to sign a "Dear Colleague" letter with me asking all members of the Caucus to sign onto this bill. This is their politics anyway. But if you let the bill just lie in the hopper, there it lies. The way it jumps out of the hopper is that other members join in on the bill, and I would ask you to contact members of your network to ask them to write their Congressmen, or better still, call. If you call and say, "Are you a co-sponsor of" and use the title of my bill, "HR-2545, Nuclear Disarmament and Economic Conversion Act of 1999," when a Member hears you ask that question, particularly a member of the Progressive Caucus, if they're not, they quickly become a sponsor. It'd be even better than writing a letter.

Let me go to the next speaker. I'm pleased to introduce, now, Mary Olson of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service.

Mary Olson
Nuclear Information and Resource Service

It's an honor to be here today. Again, thank you so much for reintroducing this legislation.

The production of nuclear weapons has devastated large areas of land, permanently sacrificed water. Much of the uranium mining is on the land of indigenous peoples. But it's worldwide, wherever the nuclear technology has spread. The recent announcement by the Department of Energy that some cold war workers will receive health benefits because of the health effects of the production of nuclear weapons is very good news. However, it's just the tip of the iceberg compared to the number of people who are affected. And as I biologist, I don't think only of people; we have to think of all of the creatures that have been affected by this technology.

In addition to the need for immediate remediation of these sites, immediate cleanup, over long term we don't have an answer for what to do with nuclear waste, but we do need to keep the radiation from spreading into air, water, food, ourselves. In addition to that pressing agenda, there is one even more pressing at the moment. Nuclear technology, both the reactors that have come on line, 433 in the world, 103 in this country, and also the nuclear weapons that we're talking about, are sitting there on a collision course with another technological challenge, which is the Year 2000 Y2K problem. There are very recent reports in the press that indeed early warning systems for nuclear weapons, the information that informs our decision-makers as to whether they need to be worried about the launch of another country's nuclear weapons, are vulnerable. And certainly the 103 nuclear power reactors in the United States are not Y2K compliant. So this technology has become an additional burden, on top of other challenges that come along, like the dysfunction of computers, and it's one more reason that we need to back down and stop investing in this technology, and ensure that our future doesn't have a big huge nuclear boobytrap on top of what should be a small problem like a computer failure.

I just want to add one point, that the idea of conversion is very dear to my heart, for years, but it's becoming even dearer because I'm about to move myself into the neighborhood of the Savannah River site, which is one of the largest weapons production sites in the country. And I'm also moving into a family business to generate electricity using water power that doesn't even involve a dam. This unique new approach to electrical power generation is something that the Savannah River site could embrace as a new economic base for the region. Unfortunately, again we're headed on a collision course with something else. Our current program for that site is to start producing plutonium fuel for nuclear power reactors that weren't designed for it.

While this is a wonderful moment where some nuclear weapons are being dismantled and taken apart, we need to treat that plutonium as a waste, contain it, keep it out of the environment, and not invest further in nuclear technologies that place us all at risk.

So thank you, very much, for taking us on another path.


Congresswoman Norton

I'm going to introduce our next speaker, I'm not going to be able to stay much longer, I've got to stop by George Brown's memorial, and then I have an 11:30 hearing, but I'm very pleased to introduce at this time Bob Tiller of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Bob Tiller
Physicians for Social Responsibility

I'm pleased to be here and to speak in support of this legislation.

Physicians for Social Responsibility, a national organization of over 15,000 health care professionals, is the U.S. affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the recipient of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize.

We will be, as Ms. Norton asked and encouraged us to do, we will be contacting our members and asking them to urge their members of Congress to become co-sponsors of this legislation.

Physicians for Social Responsibility has been striving for nearly 40 years to tell this nation and the entire planet of a grave threat to public health: nuclear weapons. Today I want to commend Ms. Norton and Ms. Woolsey and all those in Congress who are striving for the same goal.

We believe no United States city, indeed no resident in the U.S. or anywhere around the earth should live under the prospect of nuclear annihilation. Not now, not ever. Today, ten years after the end of the cold war, there still are 30,000 nuclear weapons across the globe threatening our children and grandchildren. 5,000 are on hairtrigger alert, meaning that if the order to launch were given now, by 11:30 millions of unsuspecting, innocent children and adults would be incinerated.

Nuclear weapons are not just bigger bombs. The firestorm, the blast, the radiation, these make nuclear weapons qualitatively different, practically and morally different, from other weapons. They are rightly called weapons of mass destruction.

As we enter the new millenium, threatening global holocaust can no longer be accepted as a civilized approach to international problems. Every member of Congress, indeed every elected official in this country, should use the power of his or her office to ensure that all nuclear weapons in the world are permanently and verifiably dismantled and destroyed.

As we ourselves seek to live in peace and safety, we know that this is true of parents in Russia, in China, and in all nations.

The legislation that has been announced today is given in expectation of and insistence on mutual collaboration and reciprocity among the nuclear powers. It promotes cooperation among leaders of the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia, India, Pakistan, and, yes, Israel, so all our children and grandchildren can get out from under this mind-numbing threat.

Nuclear holocaust would mean the end of everything this nation has meant since 1776, including our freedom and our democratic institutions. If nuclear war were unleashed upon us, it would destroy, not just disrupt, but destroy our communications, education, commerce, finance, manufacturing, transportation, agriculture, banking, healthcare, churches, everything. And the same thing would happen to any nation upon which the U.S. unleashed nuclear weapons.

The fact that our government can threaten to use nuclear weapons when 87% of Americans want a verifiable treaty to eliminate such weapons challenges all of us who believe in government of, by, and for the people.

The question we must give to our leaders is this: "Why do we have these weapons?" Why? They make all of us less secure, less safe, unless eliminated from the face of the earth. They do not provide security and safety, so let's get rid of them.

I thank Ms. Norton for this bill, and I strongly urge all members of Congress to give it their full support.


John Steinbach
Veterans for Peace

I'll introduce myself. I'm John Steinbach, with Veterans for Peace, and I want to recognize Arnold Peterson in the back, he's the coordinator of the Metropolitan Area Veterans for Peace. I'd like to invite any veterans here to see Arnold about joining our organization. We're the fastest-growing veterans organization in the country, and we have veterans ranging from World War II through the Gulf War, and I'd be surprised if we don't already have veterans from the conflict in Yugoslavia.

I would just like to say a couple of words and cover a couple of points that haven't been covered. One point I'd like to make is that a half million veterans took part in the nuclear bomb testing program in the Pacific and in Utah, and these people were used as human guinea pigs. In fact this was one of the largest and most devastating of the human radiation experiments. I personally have met a number of atomic veterans, and many of them have had repeated incidents of cancer, various other types of immune diseases. They suffer, they go to the hospital, the government has covered some of their expenses -- they have an elaborate process by which, if you get this cancer within this time, then you're covered, but there are lots, hundreds of cancers, and most of them aren't covered. Most of the atomic veterans do not get compensation.

This group is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the human cost. You can't forget the park workers, the Navajo uranium miners, most of whom overwhelmingly are now dead, most of whom died of lung cancer, needlessly because we knew back in the '50s and '60s the dangers of uranium mining, going all the way back to the 1890's in Czechoslovakia … we sent those Navajo uranium miners down into those pits to dig out the uranium to fuel the early stages of the nuclear arms race. And the nuclear workers. And downwinders in St. George Utah and Cedar City, Utah, and many of the other places. And the people all over the country who were exposed, according to the National Cancer Institute, to incredibly high doses of radioactive iodine. I came from a farming community in Michigan, and according to the charts I personally was exposed to up to 20 rads of iodine to my thyroid. That's the equivalent of many, even hundreds of chest X-Rays. So these are the human costs.

The economic conversion and disarmament Act addresses that question, because it calls for the conversion and allocation of funds to deal with these problems. In all fairness, these costs ought to be figured, the environmental costs should be factored in when they figure out what the total cost of the arms race in. The Brookings Institute has done a wonderful job, and they came up with a five trillion (plus) dollar figure, but what would the figure be if we factored in all of the environmental externalities? I'll bet you it would be twice or more, incalculably perhaps.

So, in closing, the cold war has been over now for almost ten years. The U.S. is the only superpower. The whole rationale for nuclear weapons has been swept away, and it's absolutely absurd, and the overwhelming majority of the American people … even though we may not get press coverage … agree with us, the choir here, that we need to get rid of nuclear weapons. If the United States doesn't take the lead, it's hard to figure how we're going to get there. So what Eleanor has done, and Ms. Woolsey has done, and the people at Proposition One, Thomas and Ellen, have done, is very important in terms of getting it all started. We've got to start somewhere, and this is a very good place to start.


Bruce Hall
Peace Action
Support for HR-2545, July 30, 1999

From: "Bruce Hall" <>

To: "Proposition One Committee" <>

Date: 30 July 1999

Once again, allow me to apologize for missing the opportunity to be with you and Congresswoman Norton today. I suddenly became very ill this morning and could not reach you. Here's a rough outline of what I planned to say….

"It is an honor to be here today alongside Representative Lynn Woolsey and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, both champions of a cause that effects every single person on the planet. The cause of nuclear disarmament.

Peace Action is the nation's largest grassroots peace and disarmament organization. We've been campaigning for the elimination of nuclear weapons since we were founded in 1957. We are particularly grateful to Congresswoman Norton's consistent and visionary leadership on behalf of this cause which affects the safety and security literally, of everyone on the planet.

I say visionary because, as I understand it, Congresswoman Norton first introduced the "Nuclear Disarmament and Economic Conversion Act" in 1994. She was one of the very few people in government at that time to move beyond advocacy of arms control toward advocacy of nuclear disarmament. Since 1994, a number of prominent individuals and organizations have come to share Congresswoman Norton's view that the best way to protect our citizens from the threat of nuclear war is to abolish nuclear weapons from the planet.

In 1996, the Australian government commissioned the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. This pretigious 17 person panel included former Denfense Secretary Robert McNamara and former Commander in Chief of the US Strategic Air Command General (ret) George Lee Butler and reached unanimous agreement "that the proposition that nuclear weapons can be retained in perpetuity and never used - accidentally or by decision - defies credibility. The only complete defense is the elimination of nuclear weapons and assurance that they will never be produced again."

Also in 1996, the World Court ruled the use or even the threatened use of nuclear weapons was out of accordance with international law. The National Academy of Sciences joined the call in 1997 with a report urging drastic reductions and the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons. Later that year, over 60 active and retired high ranking military officials from 17 countries issued a statement that said "nuclear weapons are a threat to the very people we are sworn to protect." These retired generals and admirals, called for immediate steps to eliminate the world's nuclear weapons.

Over 100 civilian leaders including President Jimmy Carter, Mikhail Gorbachev, Helmut Schmidt, and Bishop Desmond Tutu, came together in 1998 to announce that "The long sought prospect of a world free of the apocalyptic threat of nuclear weapons is suddenly within reach."

The governments of Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Slovenia, South Africa, and Sweden joined together in 1998 to issue yet another appeal for the elimination of nuclear weapons. They said the "international community must not enter the third millennium with the prospect that the maintenance of these weapons will be considered legitimate for the indefinite future, when the present juncture provides a unique opportunity to eradicate and prohibit them for all time."

There is nothing like the power of an idea who's time has come and the time has now come to abolish nuclear weapons. Congresswoman Norton, who put forward the "Nuclear Disarmament and Economic Conversion Act" and Representative Lynn Woolsey, who has introduced a resolution in this Congress that calls for the abolition of nuclear weapons have our respect, support, and gratitude. Together we will make this shared vision of a world without nuclear weapons a reality.




Ms. NORTON introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Armed Services and International Relations Committees on July 16, 1999


To provide for nuclear disarmament and economic conversion in accordance with District of Columbia Initiative Measure Number 37 of 1993

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be cited as the "Nuclear Disarmament and Economic Conversion Act of 1999".


The United States Government shall----
(1) disable and dismantle all its nuclear weapons and refrain from replacing them at any time with any weapons of! mass destruction;
(2) redirect resources that are currently being used for nuclear weapons programs to use-

(A) in converting all nuclear weapons industry employees, processes, plants, and programs smoothly to constructive, ecologically beneficial peacetime activities during the years following the effective date of this Act, and
(B) in addressing human and infrastructure needs such as housing, health care, education, agriculture, and enviromnental restoration;
(3) undertake vigorous good faith efforts to eliminate war, armed conflict, and all military operations; and
(4) actively promote policies to induce all other countries to join in these commitments for world peace and security.
This Act shall take effect when the President certifies to the Congress that all foreign countries possessing nuclear weapons have established legal requirements comparable to those set forth in section 2 and those requirements have taken effect.
Questions? Please contact Sean Gralton, Congresswoman Norton's Press Secretary, 202-225-8050
or Ellen Thomas, 202-462-0757, Proposition One Committee,