Quotable

"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, July 17, 2015

The Nuclear Age at 70; Time for Mandatory Retirement!

Yesterday marked the anniversary of the day in which the world entered the atomic age. On July 16, 1945, at 5:29:45 AM at the Alamogordo Test Range, on the Jornada del Muerto (Journey of Death) desert, in the test named Trinity, the experimental device known as the "Gadget" was detonated, creating a light "brighter than a thousand suns." A mere 6 kilogram (13.2 pound) sphere of plutonium, compressed to supercriticality by the surrounding high explosives, created an explosion equivalent to 20,000 tons of TNT (20 Kilotons). It was a stunning sight.

No one who saw it could forget it, a foul and awesome display.
- Kenneth Bainbridge, physicist
Was this, as thought nuclear physicist Robert Oppenheimer, the beginning of the end? These scientists had "become death", and they had created what could become (quite literally) "the destroyer of worlds"(Oppenheimer quoted a verse from the Bhagavad Gita which read, "I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.")

Less than a month after the Trinity test, the United States dropped two atomic bombs - on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - that killed over 100,000 people in less time than it took me to type a few of these words. As many as 220,000 were dead from the effects of radiation by the end of 1945. Even today, 70 years later, survivors (the Hibakusha) and subsequent generations suffer the effects of radiation.

From its horrific beginnings the nuclear arms race has led humanity down a perilous road of preparation for its own destruction. Scientists have continued to seek the power of gods, creating ever more destructive nuclear devices over the years, and military planners continued asking for more of these awful weapons in every shape and form (and method of delivery).

The fall of the Berlin Wall provided an extraordinary opportunity for the U.S. to reach out to Russia to begin the process of bilateral disarmament that would have sent a clear signal to other nuclear armed nations, as well as the non-nuclear nations, that it was time to rid the world of the weapons of humanity's demise.

So why didn't this happen? The U.S. was so set on taking hold of the former Soviet republics, controlling resources in the region, and weakening the new Russian state that it barely throttled back on its nuclear weapons program. Oh yes, we cut back on the overall numbers of nuclear warheads and some delivery vehicles, Yet, the ICBM forces stayed (for the most part) on alert, and ballistic missile submarine (Trident) patrols have remained at near-Cold War levels to this day.

The nuclear weapons infrastructure has been in the process of rebuilding in recent years, a new generation of ballistic missile submarines is in the works, and other delivery systems are on the drawing boards. Is it any wonder then that other nations, including Russia, are building up their nuclear forces?

Of course, for the U.S., all this nuclear weapons modernization is about projecting force in our insane colonial quest to control resources around the world. The irony is that nuclear weapons do not provide any real security at all; they are only a liability, and their eventual use will mean the end of life on Earth as we know it. Don't future generations deserve better?

With the very real threats posed by Global Warming and its associated Climate Change, shouldn't we be spending our precious human and financial capital on works that will help humanity adapt and find sustainability in what will be a difficult enough future?

A new Cold War is brewing as the bomb approaches its 70th birthday. Is it not time to send this demonic creature into forced retirement and to transition the entire nuclear weapons infrastructure to sustainable industries and jobs to build a positive future for humankind?

Here in Washington State we have Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor and the Strategic Weapons Facility, Pacific. Bangor is home port to 8 of the nation's 14 ballistic missile (Trident) submarines, and the two facilities together represent the largest operational concentration of nuclear weapons in the U.S., and possibly anywhere in the world.

Trident is a first-strike weapon system designed during the height of the earlier Cold War in the bad old days of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). Those days are long gone, and with them any possible argument for the concept of Strategic Deterrence that continues to justify our nation's continued nuclear weapons modernization.

The Navy's plans for a successor to Trident, known as the OHIO Class Replacement, SSBN(X) or as I call it, "New Trident," are moving full speed ahead. Of course, the Russians are responding and building their submarine fleet (and the associated missiles) back up.

This madness must stop, or we will be assuring the eventual destruction of everything we hold dear. Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action has, for nearly four decades, resisted the Trident nuclear weapons system and worked for the abolition of all nuclear weapons, while grounding its work in the study and practice of nonviolence.

This August we will remember the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on this 70th anniversary and continue to work to retire Trident and all nuclear weapons. 70 years is long enough (or perhaps I should say far too long).

Wherever you may be this August, I invite you to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings and begin or continue your work (in whatever way you are able) to rid the world of the scourge of nuclear weapons. There are events around the country, and you click here to find one thanks to Physicians for Social Responsibility.

While you're reading this, consider taking one of the actions (at the top of the right-hand column of this blog) to help build a nuclear weapons free world. You can also check out (and get involved at) our campaign to stop production of New Trident at NO To NEW TRIDENT.

Towards a peaceful retirement for the nuclear age,

Leonard

No comments:

Post a Comment