Not since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, when President Kennedy was faced with the Russians placing nuclear weapons in Cuba, have the two nuclear superpowers faced such tensions as those of today. Both sides favor upgrading the present systems and, despite agreeing to the terms of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, there is even insane talk about developing new nuclear weapons or new uses for older nuclear systems.

Of much greater worldwide significance, however, is the fact that one person has the authority to unleash a nuclear apocalypse without congressional oversight. That one person is the president of the United States, and thus far he has shown little awareness that such an act has the potential to wipe out life on Earth

It is long past time to change this deeply flawed system. A first step recently occurred when Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., introduced the “Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act,” which would prohibit the president from launching a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress. Referring to the authority of the president to launch a first-strike nuclear attack, William Perry, who was secretary of defense during the tense periods of the Cold War, says: “Certainly a decision that momentous for all of civilization should have the kind of checks and balances on executive powers called for by our Constitution.”

Let us cry out, “Remember Hiroshima. Remember Nagasaki.” As citizens, we must use our authority to follow the lead of Sen. Markey and Rep. Lieu. We must take the next step: to call our senators and representatives, asking them to co-sponsor this bill. Surely, when Congress hears the public’s voice of concern, they’ll act accordingly and this piece of legislation will enshrine into law that the United States will abide by the “no first use” of a nuclear weapon.

Sally A. Breen