"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

Friday, October 12, 2012

(Nuclear) Bombs or Bread: Who Decides???

In a response to recent "threats" made by North Korea, the U.S. State Department said that the country should "tend to the needs of its citizens rather than boasting about its missiles,"

I don't know of many people who would argue that the people of North Korea would be better served by their "leaders" if they were to spend less on their military - especially on nuclear weapons - and spend more on the true needs of its people.

That being said, isn't it the duty of every government - especially one that is supposed to be "of the people, by the people, for the people" (thanks to Abe Lincoln for the reminder) - to "tend to the needs of its citizens?"

As the State Department spokeswoman was going on about North Korea's (nuclear) missile ambitions, the U.S. Air Force was continuing its preparations for the test launch of a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile scheduled for November 13th from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Of course this is only a test launch, so the missile will carry a "dummy" warhead. If it was one of the 450 Minuteman III missiles sitting in silos scattered around the U.S. on alert and ready to launch in short order on the President's command it would be carrying a thermonuclear warhead of up to 475 kilotons!

But these are not the only missiles that the U.S. has deployed every day. A number of the 14 Trident (Ohio class) ballistic missile submarines patrol the world's oceans carrying the Trident II D-5 ballistic missile. Each Trident sub carries 24 missiles, each currently armed with four thermonuclear warheads, each warhead with a yield of 100 or 475 kilotons. They are also on alert, ready to launch on command.

Current U.S. Navy plans call for construction of 12 new submarines that will carry the current Trident missile. The existing W-76 (100 kiloton) warheads for the Tridents have been undergoing a "Life Extension Program." In this program the warheads undergo a "refurbishment" process in which they are improved.

So what does all this have to do with North Korea or taking care of the needs of our nation's citizens??? Well, the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the nation's nuclear infrastructure has cost trillions of taxpayer dollars since the beginning of the nuclear age. Just the construction of the 12 new submarines I mentioned will cost $99 billion or more (according to the Congressional Budget Office); and with operations and maintenance - $350 billion over the fleet's lifetime.
And it is not only North Korea that has hungry citizens. According to Feeding America, "In the United States, more than one out of five children lives in a household with food insecurity, which means they do not always know where they will find their next meal. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 16.7 million children under 18 in the United States live in this condition – unable to consistently access nutritious and adequate amounts of food necessary for a healthy life." And that's just "children." 

The overarching questions beneath this issue are - What kind of security is our continuing pursuit of nuclear weapons and their use as a tool of foreign policy providing the people of the U.S., or the rest of the world for that matter? What message(s) does our continuing testing of missiles, refurbishing of weapons, building new nuclear weapons facilities, and planning new nuclear weapons delivery vehicles (eg., submarines) send to countries like North Korea? And, is it even conscionable on any level to spend hundreds of billions on nuclear weapons when so many people cannot afford food, shelter, education and health care???

So long as those in charge (whether in a totalitarian state or declared democracy) continue to be rooted in fear, blinded by power and beholden to special interests, they will also be blind to the needs of the people. 

No "enemy" will ever be defeated by the use of nuclear weapons.  Instead, the result will be unimaginable death and suffering (on both sides of any nuclear exchange).  Martin Luther King Jr. summed up the potential when he said (and it rings as true today as it did a half century ago):
In our day of space vehicles and guided ballistic missiles, the choice is either nonviolence or nonexistence.
Indeed, it is time for all those who should represent the interests of the people to do just that.  War is not the answer, and war fought with nuclear weapons is unconscionable.  Disarmament will not come easy, but if all leaders of the nuclear powers (starting with the U.S. and Russia) do not begin a sincere effort toward that worthy goal we will continue down a dangerous path that will lead to no good end. 

Beyond the question of bombs or bread, it is truly a matter of nonviolence or nonexistence.


For a good look at U.S. nuclear weapons spending check out Exploding Budgets, by Joe Cirincione, at Time.com: http://nation.time.com/2012/10/10/exploding-budgets/ 

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