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General News    H3'ed 6/24/21

Tomgram: Frida Berrigan, Living with World's End in Plain Sight

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This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

This editor's note introduced the single article that took up almost every inch of space in the August 31, 1946, New Yorkermagazine:

"TO OUR READERS: The New Yorker this week devotes its entire editorial space to an article on the almost complete obliteration of a city by one atomic bomb, and what happened to the people of that city. It does so in the conviction that few of us have yet comprehended the all but incredible destructive power of this weapon, and that everyone might well take time to consider the terrible implications of its use. THE EDITORS"

That article was, of course, journalist John Hersey's account of the destruction of the Japanese city of Hiroshima by an American atomic bomb and the stories of six survivors of that devastating single blast. It caused a sensation at the time and was recently memorialized in Lesley M.M. Blume's riveting book, Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-up and the Reporter Who Revealed It to the World.

Sadly enough, 76 years later, I think it's clear that we Americans (and we're hardly alone in this on Planet Earth) have yet to take in the full and "terrible implications" of that bomb's use or of the second war-ending atomic weapon, code-named "fat man," that devastated Nagasaki. In fact, when the leaders of Russia and the U.S. recently met in Geneva, nuclear war, unlike cyberwar, wasn't even at the top of the set of topics they so grimly discussed for several hours, despite the fact that, of the nine nuclear powers on this planet, theirs are the two most staggering arsenals.

Or think of it this way: in the pandemic year 2020, the U.S. alone spent $37.4 billion improving and updating its nuclear weaponry, even launching the production of an all-new intercontinental ballistic missile. Reportedly, this country is planning to spend something like $1.7 trillion over the coming three decades on "modernizing" that very arsenal.

We're talking not world-ending but worlds-ending potential here. For most of us, this is a sadly distant subject, but not for TomDispatch regular Frida Berrigan. As she explains today, she lives in the midst of just such preparations for producing a world that, at least in human terms, would be no more. Tom

Meatball Subs, Not Nuclear Subs
Or How to Deliver 16,128 Hiroshimas

By

Groton and New London, Connecticut, are home to about 65,000 people, three colleges, the Coast Guard Academy, 15 nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed submarines capable of destroying the world many times over, and General Dynamics' Electric Boat, a multi-billion-dollar private corporation that offers stock options to its shareholders and mega-salaries to its top executives as it pockets taxpayer dollars and manufactures yet more of those stealthy, potentially world-ending machines. Whew! That was a long sentence!

Naval Submarine Base New London stretches along the east side of the Thames River, straddling the towns of Groton and Ledyard. Occupying at least 680 acres, the base has more than 160 major facilities. The 15 subs based there are the largest contingent in the nation. They're manufactured just down the river at Electric Boat/General Dynamics, which once built the Polaris and Trident nuclear submarines, employs more than 12,000 people in our region, and is planning to hire another 2,400 this year to meet a striking "demand" for the newest version of such subs.

Some readers might already be asking themselves: Are submarines still a thing? Do we really still put men (and women) far beneath the ocean's surface in a giant metal tube, ready to launch a nuclear first strike at a moment's notice? At a time when the greatest threats to human life may be viruses hidden in our own exhales, our infrastructure is crumbling, and so much else is going wrong, are we really spending billions of dollars on submarines?

Yes!

Back in 2010, the Department of Defense's Nuclear Posture Review called for a "recapitalization of the nation's sea-based deterrent," as though we hadn't been spending anything on submarines previously. To meet that goal, the Obama administration, the Trump administration, and now the Biden administration all agreed that, on a planet already filled with devastating nuclear weapons, the U.S. must begin construction of a new class of 12 Columbia ballistic missile submarines.

The Navy's 2021 budget submission estimates that the total procurement cost for that 12-ship class of subs will be $109.8 billion. However, even a number that big might prove nothing but rough back-of-the-napkin figuring. After all, according to the Navy's 2022 request, the cost estimate for the first submarine of the 12 they plan to build, the lead ship in its new program, had already grown from $14.39 billion to $15.03 billion. Now, that may not sound like a lot, but string out all those zeros behind it and you'll realize that the difference is more than $640 million, just a little less than what Baltimore a city of more than 600,000 people will get in federal pandemic relief aid.

Swirling around those submarines are descriptions citing "strategy" and "capability." But don't be fooled: they'll be potential world killers. Each of those 12 new subs will be armed with 16 Trident D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles, or SLBMs, which have a range of 4,500 miles and can carry 14 W-76-1 thermonuclear warheads. Each one of those warheads is six times more powerful than the atomic bomb that the U.S. military detonated over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Start multiplying 12 times 16 times 14 times 6 and there isn't enough world to destroy with math like that. After all, the single Hiroshima bomb, "small" as it was, killed an estimated 140,000 people and turned the city into rubble and ash.

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)
 

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