"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." — Elie Wiesel

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

No Itchy (HAIR) Trigger Finger Please


So, let's get this straight. The Cold War ended nearly two decades ago, but the United States and Russia still maintain their deployed nuclear weapons on high alert, hair trigger alert, launch on warning, ready alert status; whatever you want to call it. The bottom line is that, should the United States detect the launch of nuclear weapons by Russia (or vice versa), the President would have mere minutes to process a huge amount of information under tremendous pressure before deciding whether to launch a counterstrike.

Sound implausible? Think again. This very scenario has played out before, most recently in 1995 when Norway launched a weather rocket that initially resembled an intercontinental ballistic missile to Russian radar. The Norwegians had notified Russian officials before the launch, but the message was never delivered to the Russian nuclear weapons command center. Russian president Boris Yeltsin was notified and had only minutes to decide whether to retaliate. Fortunately, cool heads prevailed; a Russian officer observing the radar track not only questioned why there was only a single missile launched (not your typical first strike), but watched the track of the missile and finally (just in time) determined that it was not a nuclear missile.

So we squeaked by on that one But will we be so lucky the next time??? Accidents happen, even in systems with multiple safety features. And let's face it; there is absolutely no rationale for either the U.S. or Russia to maintain any nuclear weapons on hair trigger alert; the Cold WAR is so over!!! It only increases the risk of an accidental launch (and its catastrophic consequences). This is the kind of error the world can not afford.

President Obama has made nuclear disarmament not just a goal, but official policy. Secretary of State Clinton has already engaged in discussions aimed at official talks between the U.S. and Russia to further this goal. But before anyone talks about anything else, it is critical that both nations take their weapons off alert status. This is a first step, (more than) a good faith measure, needed to create a far greater (and necessary) margin of safety for both nuclear arsenals. President Obama has stated his intention to work with the Russians to take both nation's weapons off hair trigger alert.

President Obama could unilaterally take U.S. weapons off alert status, and ask Russian President Medvedev to do the same. I think chances are pretty darned good that he would reciprocate. What does the U.S. (or Russia) have to lose? Absolutely nothing. And if the two largest (and I mean LARGEST) nuclear powers took this action, it would send a strong message to the other nuclear powers and lay a foundation for further reductions of U.S. and Russian nuclear warheads.

You can write to President Obama asking him to take this action NOW! Send your message from the Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) Website. The President needs to hear this positive message in order to counter those who believe that the U.S. security means retaining a large nuclear "deterrent" force, and even building it larger.

While at the PSR Website, check out other actions at their Legislative Action Center, and consider signing up to become a PSR Activist. Advocacy at its best!



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