The front page of today's Seattle Times is embazoned with the headline:
Plan for $715 million Bangor wharf fires up
Under the headline is a mammoth photo of a Trident nuclear submarine somewhere in Puget Sound near Squim. Each of these behemoths has 24 launch tubes, and is capable of carrying 24 Trident II (D-5) missiles, each with a capacity of 8 warheads, each warhead being either a W76 (100 kiloton) or W88 (475 kiloton). In contrast, the Hiroshima bomb yield was somewhere between 12 and 15 kilotons.
Even if a single Trident sub carries only 24 missiles, each with only 4 warheads (as is supposedly the case due to current arms control agreements), that's a mighty big bang. One Trident sub - and there are a total of 14, with 8 of them at Bangor - can easily wipe any nation off the face of the map in a matter of minutes... POOF!
The Times article stated that “the entire fleet carries enough nuclear warheads on its Trident missiles to obliterate every major city in
Russia and ” Wow!!! If that seems like overkill, consider that the statement understates Tridents killing capacity. Each warhead can incinerate hundreds of thousands or millions of civilians in an attack on a "major city." With over a thousand warheads in the entire fleet, well... You do the math. China.
Should our government be crazy enough to start launching Tridents with armed nuclear warheads towards any nation all bets are off. Besides the mass murders of scores of innocent men, women and children, the fallout and residual radiation - much of which would exist for countless generations - would render much of the planet uninhabitable, and would cause major climatic effects resulting in global famine. Then, of course, there would be multi-generational birth defects, cancers and other radiation-related diseases.
It's safe to say that Trident is a "Cold War relic'" as retired Navy captain Tom Rogers referred to it in the article:
"Why are we doing this [building another Explosives Handling Wharf at Bangor]? We're spending a whole lot of taxpayer money on a Cold War relic," Rogers said in an interview. "All we are doing is making defense contractors rich."
Indeed it is making weapons makers extremely rich, and if the Navy goes ahead with its plans to build a next generation ballistic missile submarine to replace the current Trident fleet the amount to be spent on the new wharf will seem like chickenfeed. Just the construction cost of the news subs will likely be around $100 billion.
Admiral Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, has told Congress that the new wharf is "critical to nuclear weapons surety and our national security." One has to wonder how, in an age when the Cold War is over and the greatest threat related to nuclear weapons or the fissile materials needed to make them likely would come from terrorists, a nuclear weapons system like Trident ensures our national security. If anything, it's an impressive (and extremely expensive) symbol of military might.
At a time when we need to be shifting from our reliance on nuclear weapons in order to bring stability to (and ensure progress in) global disarmament and nonproliferation efforts we need to reduce our nuclear arsenal and its delivery systems. If we do the math it is obvious that we have far more nuclear weapons than necessary to "deter" any adversary (that is assuming that the concept of deterrence is even applicable anymore).
Perhaps broader questions than those being debated about a Second Explosives Handling Wharf are in order. Why does the U.S. assume a continued Cold War posture? How can we possibly contemplate using weapons that kill indiscriminately and contaminate our environment for generations?
We need to grasp the dangers that nuclear weapons present, and further accept the fundamental risk that the longer we continue to produce and deploy them, the greater the probability that they will one day be used either accidentally or intentionally. And when that happens, it will be a dark day indeed.
As Tom Rogers pointed out - even with over a thousand nuclear warheads on all those Trident subs - we’re “not deterring anyone.” What a waste! So let's skip the small stuff and have the real debate -
Are nuclear weapons essentially obsolete??? Do we not need to learn to live together without threatening each other with annihilation???
As Martin Luther King Jr. said one year before his death, “We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.” These were (and continue to be) prophetic words. Indeed, we have a choice and we are at the crossroads. Let us make the right choice, if not for ourselves, at least for future generations. We must work towards global nuclear disarmament, and the U.S. can (and must) lead the way.
Note: URL for Seattle Times article: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2017193326_navywharf09m.html