Moving Back from the Brink

Pacific Northwest organizers join a global campaign to abolish all nukes and push for a city council resolution to start

Pacific Northwest organizers join a global campaign to abolish all nukes and push for a city council resolution to start

[  This article was initially published on and is reprinted here with the permission of the author.  ]

“This world really is impossible to manage so long as we have nuclear weapons”, President Kennedy confided to a friend a day before his blockade speech: “It is really a terrible way to have to live in this world.”

At 5:30 a.m. on July 16, 1945, a flash “brighter than a thousand suns” lit the Alamogordo desert in New Mexico. General Leslie Groves, the overseer of the Manhattan Project estimated the explosive force of Trinity, the first full scale test of the implosion-type atomic fission bomb, “in excess of the equivalent of 15,000 to 20,000 tons of TNT.”

Grove’s report continued to describe “a fireball brighter than several midday suns;” a stratospheric mushroom cloud over 41,000 feet; and an explosive force resulting in a crater 1,200 feet in diameter and shattering windows 125 miles away.

According to War Secretary Henry Stimson, President Truman was giddy, “tremendously pepped up,” confident and invigorated enough to call the annihilation of Hiroshima three weeks later to the sailors on the USS Augusta while returning from Potsdam “the greatest thing in history.”

Today, a mere lifetime and thousands of Trinities later, nine nuclear nations control the futures of billions of global inhabitants. The cataclysmic potential of more than 13,000 nuclear weapons in 2024, each with unimaginable destructive power, are but a single miscalculation, false flag attack or accident away from ravaging the planet.  

 Recently, longtime antinuclear activist, Dr. Helen Caldicott described the medical effects of a single 20-megaton bomb dropped on an American city, New York or maybe Boston:

A Russian 20-megaton bomb would enter at 20 times the speed of sound exploding with the heat of the sun, digging a hole three-quarters of a mile wide and 88 feet deep, converting all buildings, people and earth shot up into the air as a mushroom cloud. Twenty miles from the epicenter, all humans would be killed or lethally injured, some converted to charcoal statues. Winds of 500 mph turn people into missiles traveling at 100 mph. A massive conflagration would follow covering 300 square miles and the fires would coalesce across the nation.

As cities burn across the world, a massive cloud of toxic black smoke will elevate into the stratosphere blocking out the sun for ten years inducing a short ice age nuclear winter when all humans and most plants and animals will perish.

Closer to home, the Pacific Northwest is a major nuclear strategically targeted region in any war, if only to include the 1,300 nuclear warheads at Kitsap Bangor Naval Base and submarine communications base, Naval Radio Station Jim Creek, near Oso, both within 73 and 58 miles, as eagles fly, from Bellingham, both listed as primary U.S. ground zeros for Russia’s crosshairs. Doing the cataclysmic math for a strike on Oso, the City of Subdued Excitement and most of Skagit County would be consumed in less than fifteen minutes in a mega-inferno, and finished off by shockwaves and Carl Sagan’s “witches brew of radioactive particles” raining down as fallout.

Those lucky enough to have survived will realize within minutes they are entirely on their own. No 911. No FEMA. Just struggling to self-survive.

While individual and cultural psychic-numbing provides most of the post-Cold War populace with a much-needed coping mechanism to keep from being overwhelmed. Many of the rest of us remember all too well nuclear annihilation threats from U.S. presidents and Soviet leaders, the inefficacies of civil defense exercises and the Cuban Missile crisis, and most refuse to check out, just yet.

They know that nuclear weapons matter to people at the local level and campaign organizers hope our City Council will join this global effort to abolish every nuclear warhead by passing a resolution in support of the goals and provisions of the U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (below), in effect a lasting legacy for Bellingham, to take the nuclear option off the table, for generations and billions of futures to come.   

The author of Nuclear War: A Scenario, Annie Jacobsen, likely said it best,

With time, after a nuclear war, all present-day knowledge will be gone. Including the knowledge that the enemy was not North Korea, Russia, America, China, Iran, or anyone else vilified as a nation or group.

It was the nuclear weapons that were the enemy of us all. All along.

Ultimately, avoiding a nuclear war depends on the judgement of national leadership controlling the arsenals. Let’s hope a changemaker is listening.



WHEREAS, Whatcom County has a long history of advocacy around federal nuclear policy, even declaring itself to be a nuclear free zone by citizen Initiative in November 1984; and

WHEREAS, this local history is archived and available to the public at Western Washington University’s Center for Pacific Northwest Studies; and

WHEREAS, the world’s nine nuclear nations possess an arsenal of roughly 13,000 nuclear weapons, more than 90% of which are held by Russia and the United States and more than 9,000 are operationally deployed; and

WHEREAS, the Pacific Northwest is a major nuclear strategically targeted region in any war, if only to include the 1,300 nuclear warheads at Kitsap Bangor Naval Base and submarine communications base, Naval Radio Station Jim Creek, near Oso, both within 73 and 58 miles, respectively, from Bellingham; and

WHEREAS, the detonation of even a small number of these weapons would have catastrophic human and environmental consequences; and

WHEREAS, the United States continues to reserve the right to use nuclear weapons preemptively, which reduces the threshold for nuclear use and makes a nuclear war more likely; and

WHEREAS, the U.S. president has the sole and unchecked authority to order the use of nuclear weapons; and

WHEREAS, the United States currently plans to spend an estimated $1.7 trillion by 2046 to replace its entire nuclear weapons system; and

WHEREAS, the United States and other signatories are obligated under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to take concrete steps to reduce and eliminate their nuclear arsenals; and

WHEREAS, the Back from the Brink, a U.S.-based grassroots coalition, and the Nobel Prize winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) have led the development of policy solutions to reduce the risk and harms of nuclear militarization and has been endorsed by over 465 health, environmental, academic, peace, faith, and justice organizations; and

WHEREAS, over 80 U.S. cities and counties have adopted resolutions supporting both Back from the Brink and ICAN policy solutions, including Olympia, Walla Walla, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, Tucson, and Washington DC; and


Section 1. That the City of Bellingham requests Washington state’s Congressional Delegation to co-sponsor House Resolution 77.

Section 2. That a copy of this resolution be sent to the Washington State Congressional Delegation, United States President Joe Biden, and to the Governor of Washington, asking them to support the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Please email, write or call your council person or the entire council and urge them to join 80 other cities in urging the Federal Government to begin negotiations to lessen the threat of nuclear war. 

About Gene Marx

Citizen Journalist • Member since Feb 13, 2023

Gene Marx is a former Naval Flight Officer and Past National Board of Directors Secretary of Veterans for Peace. A retired Federal Aviation Administration Watch Supervisor, he lives in the [...]

Comments by Readers

Carol Follett

Apr 06, 2024

Thank you, Gene, for this information and an action we can take. The expensive preparation for mutually assured destruction in the face of our fellows in need of basic necessities appears as incomprehensibly insane behaviour to me. Trusting that a pathological power monger will not set this disaster in motion is to be blind to our human history  that has raised fabulous civilisations and then leveled them to “long dried earthmounds”. The difference being that those past destroyers did not devastate the global ecological systems a last, global nuclear war will.

I always hold hope that we will evolve and create a society where reason and compassion are the dominant themes of life. May we give ourselves the chance of surviving long enough for this by eliminating these nuclear weapons.


Gene Marx

Apr 06, 2024

I’m not holding out much hope that the West will evolve beyond late state capitalistic chumps, Carol, but Reagan and Gorbachev actually negotiated and signed the INF treaty in 1987. It reduced our combined inventories from nearly a peak of 32,000 nukes to a “mere” 13,500 thermonuclear stockpile today. I know that’s not a unicorns and rainbows but it is a sliver of hope. Of course, that requires a diplomatic dialogue, and then replacing the psychopaths guarding our nuclear arsenals in 2024 with reasonable visionaries. 


Carol Follett

Apr 13, 2024

I had some difficulty getting back to your article, Gene, but I see it has been resolved. The recent news about Netanyahu’s “highly provocative April 1 attack on Iran’s consulate in the Syrian capital of Damascus” adds to the feeling of urgency about this threat. These groupings of beligerents  and their allies are all too familiar and frightening signs of global wars. Talk of “losing face” is too archaic as we sit in this modern tender box. Where is a voice of reason? Is there anyone or nation that can create a space for dialogue and dial down this madness? 

For what it is worth, I emailed the City Council with the request to endorse the resolution. 


Gene Marx

Apr 15, 2024

In this age of “rational irrationality” voices of reason are in short supply, almost non-existent in Congress. In fact, I sometimes wonder, with all that’s at stake for humanity, why campaigns like ICAN are necessary to convince our local communities to endorse abolishing nuclear weapons, particularly with everything that’s going on in the Middle East and Ukraine. Talk about tinderboxes!

I came across a great quote from Annie Jacobsen:

How tragic and ironic it is that human beings developed slow and steady over hundreds of thousands of years, culminating in the creation of vast and complex civilizations, only to get zeroed out in a war that takes less than a few hours from beginning to end.

And from what I’ve read “a few hours” is more than generous. Most of humanity would be gone in less than an hour.

Thanks so much, Carol, for contacting the City Council. You get it.

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