Published on Tuesday, April 27, 2010 by The Huffington Post
Obama, Nuclear Weapons
and the Future of the Planet
by Helen Caldicott
Isn't it strange?
In the 1980's an overwhelming 80% of Americans wanted to see an end to the nuclear arms race. The U.S. establishment treated this grassroots movement almost as an aberration, virtually ignoring it.
This massive, global, grassroots movement helped bring an end to the Cold War. But, throughout the duration of the Bush, Clinton, and G.W. Bush presidencies there was no respect for, no move to act on, the wishes of the American people and the worldwide supporters of nuclear disarmament.
Isn't it strange, that it was only last year, when the former champions of nuclear weaponry, Henry Kissinger, George Schultz, Bill Perry and Sam Nunn, wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons that the establishment "woke up" and started to take this notion seriously?
No doubt Barak Obama was influenced by this philosophy when he attended Columbia University. He almost certainly witnessed the million-strong peace march in Central Park, June 1982. And, during that time he wrote two articles calling for nuclear disarmament between Russia and the U.S.
This early period in the life of President Obama is clearly one of the motivating influences of his presidency. He is the only U.S. President ever to call for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Now, however, he is facing two of the most powerful forces in the world: the Military Industrial Complex, and the nuclear weapons labs.
He is a brilliant politician who exhibits patience and wisdom when dealing with his adversaries. But, the Nuclear Policy review recently published by the Pentagon exhibits no evidence that the U.S. Military establishment intends to decrease its essential reliance upon nuclear weapons, which remain the cornerstone of its military arsenal.
$5.5 billion dollars have been allocated to Los Alamos Labs to continue the development of new plutonium pits for new nuclear weapons scheduled for production in the future. The U.S. missile defense program stands unabated, and is forging ahead using Iran and North Korea as its raison d'être.
In this scenario we are only, ever, minutes away from Armageddon and the truth is the world is sick and tired of being held hostage by nuclear warriors whose 20th century mindset cannot seem to comprehend this. They insist on maintaining thousands of hydrogen bombs in ground, and sea, based missiles, on high alert, ready to be launched within minutes leaving us vulnerable to human or computer error, to hackers (domestic and foreign), and to the sheer adrenalin and anxiety of political crisis.
During the tragic events of 9/11 the nuclear command moved the country to the highest state of nuclear alert, ready to launch, simply because that is U.S. policy when faced with an unexplained state of emergency. The utter devastation of a nuclear response, had it occurred, would have dwarfed not only the horror of 9/11, but of anything imaginable.
Ninety-five percent of the approximately 23,000 nuclear weapons in the world are owned by the United States and Russia. Despite the extreme secrecy surrounding military information we must assume from available information that at any given minute 15-40 hydrogen bombs target New York, and Washington D.C, Moscow, Leningrad, and more of the worlds major cities. The effect of one 550 kt weapon on a city like Washington D.C. would be devastating. Imagine 40 and start doing the math. In fact, there is at least one hydrogen bomb targeting most towns with populations of over 100,000. This is true in Russia, China, Europe, Canada, and the U.S.
The stark truth is that one single failure of nuclear deterrence could end human history. The operational and deployed nuclear arsenals of Russia and the U.S. hold the human race and all other species captive and at nuclear ransom. I am sickened that we still play this deadly game of nuclear risk with our fragile planet. There are no national or political goals that justify a war that could terminate human existence. What terrifying accident or act of aggression must happen to wake people and our leaders to this reality? This cannot be how we learn if we wish to avoid nuclear Armageddon, and nuclear winter.
Once initiated, it would take one hour to trigger a swift, sudden end to life on this planet. The clock on global warming is ticking louder and louder. Nuclear war and nuclear winter would be a strange way to stop it.
President Obama needs our support in doing the right thing, in taking this first step all the way to the end of a journey where nuclear disarmament is more than a campaign promise. He needs to hear our voices, strong, around him. Once again 80% of Americans must rise up and demand the abolition of nuclear weapons.
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Helen Caldicott MD, Founding President of Physicians for Social Responsibility and Founder of Womens' Action for Nuclear Disarmament, is author of Nuclear Power is not the Answer to Global Warming and host of the radio show "If You Love This Planet," at www.ifyoulovethisplanet.org.