At a time when a record 47-million Americans live in poverty, when cities are going bankrupt, when 10 million jobless can't find work and millions more are too discouraged to look, when the infrastructure is crumbling, when schools are running down, when bridges,roads and water mains need urgent repair, and when the AP reports four out of five Americans are in the financial soup, President Obama's plan to spend $60 billion to refurbish an aging nuclear weapons arsenal is an obscene waste of tax dollars.
This president, who campaigns like a progressive and governs like a reactionary, is about to modernize a costly nuclear arsenal that President Ronald Reagan, in his shining moment, called "totally irrational, totally inhumane, good for nothing but killing, possibly destructive of life on earth and civilization". Reagan sensibly called for "a world free of nuclear weapons" and met with Soviet Russia's Gorbachev at four summit conferences between 1985 and 1988 to draw down missile and nuclear stockpiles.
Yet Obama appears bent on updating the seven aging hydrogen bomb designs (why, oh, why, in the name of god, why?) that would require construction of costly new facilities when millions of American families can't find decent housing and small businesses can't find money to grow and create jobs. According to a report by Ralph Vartabedian of the Los Angeles Times, the new scheme "essentially violates the Obama administration's pledge against developing nuclear weapons." The reporter interviewed Philip Coyle, former head of the U.S. nuclear testing program no less, quoting him as saying the Obama plan "sends the wrong message to the rest of the world."
It also puzzles a lot of Americans. A report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, Vartabedian writes, "raises new objections that the plan would require construction of unnecessary facilities and introduce untested combinations of parts inside the bombs---which could erode confidence in their reliability and safety." (Uh oh!)
Speaking of safety, in an article titled "Nukes of Hazard" in the Sept. 30th issue of The New Yorker, Louis Menand writes, "most of the danger that human beings faced from nuclear weapons after the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had to do with inadvertence---with bombs dropped by mistake, bombers catching on fire or crashing, missiles exploding, and computers miscalculating and people jumping to the wrong conclusion. On most days (during the Cold War), the probability of a nuclear explosion happening by accident was far greater than the probability that someone would deliberately start a war."
Yet, instead of destroying all nuclear weapons and calling upon the other members of the lunatic nuclear fraternity to do likewise, President Obama is raising the stakes of a nuclear accident that could far exceed the havoc that an accidental nuclear release is currently inflicting on Japan---and perhaps the rest of the world as well. Reviewing Eric Schlosser's new book, "Command and Control,"(Penguin) Menand writes, there have been "hundreds" of incidents since 1945 "when accident, miscommunication, human error, mechanical malfunction, or some combination of glitches nearly resulted in the detonation of nuclear weapons."
What's more, "the more extensive, elaborate, and fine-tuned the nuclear-weapons system became, the greater its exposure to the effects of an accident," Menand writes. "For the system to work," he adds, "for the warnings to be timely, communications to be transparent, missiles to launch, explosives inside the warheads to detonate, and nuclear cores to fission---everything has to be virtually perfect. The margin for error is tiny. And nothing is perfect." Also consider, if you will, that the new nukes will make those dropped on Japan look like cherry bombs.
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To spend $60 billion on weapons that must never be used, and whose use Reagan rightly warned can destroy civilization, is a horrific waste of taxpayers' dollars when, as CNN Money reports, roughly "three quarters of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, with little or no emergency savings."
Menand warns not to give too much credit to Mr. Reagan for calling for an end to nuclear bombs, as he was only responding to pressure from the American public. Well, I think the American public would overwhelmingly prefer not to have nuclear weapons around today, just as polls show it wants out of the Middle East. President Reagan showed the way. If Obama goes through with this wild spending plan, the survivors may well refer to it as Obama's Folly. #
(Sherwood Ross has won awards for his reporting and poetry. He runs a public relations firm that publicizes books, magazines, and worthy causes. Reach him at Email address removed )
Sherwood Ross worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News and contributed a regular "Workplace" column for Reuters. He has contributed to national magazines and hosted a talk show on WOL, Washington, D.C. In the Sixties he was active as public (more...