Nerve gas-opposing Senator dies

Former Senator Mark Hatfield (R-Oregon), who described President Ronald Reagan’s plan to produce nerve gas as “sheer madness,” has died at the age of 89.

Hatfield visited the Japanese city of Hiroshima soon after it was hit by an atomic bomb while a Navy ensign during World War II. He remained mindful of the destruction he saw there and regularly fought efforts to increase the production of weapons of mass destruction, according to Bloomberg.

Hatfield won election to the Senate in 1966 after two terms as Oregon’s governor. He served in the Senate until 1997.

As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee during the first six years of Reagan’s presidency, Hatfield successfully diverted $100 billion dollars marked for military build-up to social programs, Bloomberg reports. Despite being an avowed Republican, Hatfield joined Democrats in mocking the space-based anti-missile program Star Wars.

In 1982, Hatfield joined Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) in proposing an immediate end to the production of nuclear weaponry. He also opposed the construction of the multiple-warhead nuclear MX missile.

“I’m often pegged as a pacifist," Hatfield wrote, Bloomberg reports. "In fact, I am not. I’m not totally opposed to military force (for example World War II), yet I believe force should not be used until all other options have been exhausted. And most critically, we ought to address the causes of war - poverty, lack of education, health, racism, militarism, or conflict over raw materials (such as oil) - and work to prevent war in the first place.”

The cause of Hatfield’s death has not been announced, but he had reportedly been in ill health for several years.