The Nuclear Weapons Vortex

  • Nuclear Weapons

In the weather news a “polar vortex” has brought winter back to much of the country. In other news there have been a number of nuclear weapons related stories suggesting we have a nuclear weapons vortex threatening us.

For decades the nuclear weapons industry has purported to keep us free and safe. It is a very expensive, giant whirlpool sucking our tax dollars. Between 1946 and 1996, we spent an estimated $8.66 trillion on them.  But is it necessary? Not according to Lt. Gen. Robert Gard, Jr. (US Army Ret.). He works for the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation and was quoted on the U.S. Labor Against War web site;

“Perhaps the most egregiously wasteful defense expenditure is the excessive budget for the entire nuclear weapons complex, estimated to cost $640 billion over the next decade. This includes expenditures for unnecessary infrastructure, nuclear warhead modernization, and new and expensive delivery systems at a time that we are reducing the role of nuclear weapons in our defense strategy.”

The Air Force has been in the news recently about the incompetence of the officers in the ICBM nuclear missile force. Thirty four of the nuclear launch officers have been removed from duty for cheating on a qualification test. Another scandal involved the general in charge the ICBM force. He was fired last year for misconduct involving women and drink.

A third news item is the January 28 sentencing hearing for the Transform Now Plowshares protesters. Three peaceful citizens were convicted of sabotage for bringing to our attention the immorality and illegality of our nuclear weapons programs. They have been in jail since their trial in May.  They embarrassed the government by demonstrating the lax security at the Oak Ridge, TN weapons plant. The year before the government spent $50 million dollars on security, but two old guys and an 82 year old nun walked right in. Are our nuclear facilities really secure?

Then there is the recent book Command and Control by Eric Schlosser. The book discusses the history of our nuclear weapons and efforts to control them. It details some of the 1200 accidents between 1950 and 1968 involving nuclear weapons or the nuclear strike force. There were bombs dropped by mistake, bombers catching on fire or crashing, missiles exploding, computers miscalculating, and people jumping to wrong conclusions about launching attacks. The Cuban missile crisis was not the only time we almost pushed the button. A book review in the New Yorker magazine says,

“On most days, the probability of a nuclear explosion happening by accident was far greater than the probability that someone would deliberately start a war.”

This book makes you wonder how we survived the cold war.

Add to this list the huge environmental damage done by producing these WMD and the thousands of years it will take for the waste products to decay, and it is obvious we need to re-think nuclear weapons. Do we need these cold war relics? Are the cost and risk too high? When will the inevitable accident occur? Is it just pure luck we haven’t created a nuclear winter for ourselves?