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Dugger writes: "In the ongoing media melodrama about Iran's nuclear program, could we be overlooking profound questions and truths about the again-rising likelihood of the decimation or the end of life on Earth in an H-bomb holocaust?"

The threat of nuclear annihilation is still real. (photo: USAF/NYT)
The threat of nuclear annihilation is still real. (photo: USAF/NYT)

Time for America to Revisit Its Nuclear Policy

By Ronnie Dugger, The Dallas Morning News

14 August 12


n the ongoing media melodrama about Iran's nuclear program, could we be overlooking profound questions and truths about the again-rising likelihood of the decimation or the end of life on Earth in an H-bomb holocaust?

Why are nuclear weapons commonly called "weapons of mass destruction" when morally they are weapons of mass murder?

If we put aside the Soviet collapse, the disassembly of our own grotesquely surplus nukes and the numbers trick of putting still-active weapons "in reserve," there hasn't really been any effective nuclear disarmament.

We accuse Iran and suspect other nations of hypocrisy about their nuclear plans. And yet the actual and prospective nuclear policy and practice of the United States, Israel and Britain has moved from the nuclear disarmament promised in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty into attacking nations that we don't trust and believe insist on getting the same weapons we have.

Has the deterrence doctrine against an H-bomb attack "worked," as is so commonly said, or was it the skin of our teeth that pulled us back three times from attacks that would have left tens of millions dead? An H-bomb explodes in millionths of a second with several times the heat of the core of the sun. Tens of millions of degrees. Heat, blast, radiation, no life. Only one failure of deterrence can kill as many as a billion people, the experts say. It's unimaginable, so we don't imagine it.

Why is "nuclear deterrence" so numbly accepted? To work, the theory has to be based on seriously intended retaliation with nuclear weapons. Deterrence is a euphemism, a brand on a box that also contains retaliation. Mass murder as revenge for mass murder. This is the policy we support?

In 1951, as a young reporter in Washington, I asked President Harry Truman why the U.S. did not have a "no-first-use" policy for nuclear weapons. He was angered and didn't answer. How long has it been since a journalist asked a president why we still reserve the right to explode these weapons first?

In the 1960s during dinner in the White House, I asked President Lyndon Johnson about nuclear weapons. He, too, flared into anger and exclaimed, "I'm the one who has to mash the button!" while bearing his stiffened right thumb and four curled fingers downward as if he were mashing that button.

In 1986, I asked Dr. Richard Garwin, one of three inventors of the H-bomb, what it felt to be personally responsible for the bomb that can destroy any large city. After a pause, he responded, not with his feelings, but by saying to me quietly that what we're doing with the policy of nuclear deterrence is buying time, that nuclear proliferation can't be stopped, that there will be a nuclear war and that a billion people will die.

Why are so many of us so confident that this won't be the case? Are we lemmings? Is this not the most important subject in the world?

More nations keep getting the H-bomb and the systems to deliver it wherever they want to. There is still no international control of these weapons that can end life on Earth.

Jonathan Schell reports in The Seventh Decade that 50 more nations know how to make H-bombs. It's a secret no more. Why, then, are H-bombs a national - and not an international - question? Why are they still, 67 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, none of our business? And why are possibly apocalyptic facts about them blocked from us by nine systems of military secrecy?

For just one example, does Israel, as indicated in Ron Rosenbaum's recent well-sourced book How the End Begins, have five German-made nuclear-armed submarines in the Mediterranean poised to fire H-bombs in retaliation even if Israel's leadership has been "decapitated"?

Mikhail Gorbachev cautioned us recently that we need enough effective international governance to keep events from becoming "dangerously unpredictable." Are they not already so? My friend societal psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton said to me concerning Gorbachev's warning, "Unpredictability is all right, except for nuclear weapons."

What, fellow citizens, are our political and ethical responsibilities for our American H-bombs? I believe Garwin's prophecy is on its way to coming true.

What, if aimed, are they aimed at? If exploded, how many people will they kill? If we use them either to attack or to retaliate, what would that do to our standing in the conscience and history of humanity?

More deadly plutonium, the H-bomb fuel, isotope 239 of which has a radioactive half-life of 24,100 years, is the last thing Americans need. But late last month, the Senate Armed Services Committee revived a plan to spend $3.7 billion to build a new plutonium factory at Los Alamos, N.M., despite President Barack Obama's decision to suspend funding for it.

In Prague in 2009, Obama called for "a world without nuclear weapons." But he also said that we are not likely to get it in our lifetimes. Why not? He then went on to reassure our allies that we will maintain our nuclear deterrent. We cannot have this both ways.

The U.S. should be leading the world toward "near zero" or the abolition of these weapons. We should be challenging our officials and military for risking our deaths, the lives of our fellow human beings and our national honor by keeping, maintaining and implicitly threatening to use our own weapons of mass murder. your social media marketing partner


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+3 # RICHARDKANEpa 2012-08-14 18:45
This needs to be linked to a previous article,
+18 # cordleycoit 2012-08-14 21:17
The fear machine is running out of stuff to frighten us into submission. I remember duck and cover. I knew the Russians were going to fry us kids. I also knew that Yugoslav gorillas all hairy, were coming to tommy gun us kids as well. Now they are Iranian coming after my grand-kids. Why do they whip out the atomic honeydripper and expose our children to another burst of fear? Its time for the Republican party and their media to grow up or wise up. Stop peddling fear.
+16 # MidwestTom 2012-08-14 21:46
A friend of mine suggested that Russia should simply loan Iran a nuclear bomb, then Israel would not attack. Iran could stop trying to build their own, and 1,000's of American troops would not have to die in a war that that nobody outside of the beltway wants.
+8 # Dave_s Not Here 2012-08-15 01:40
Quoting MidwestTom:
A friend of mine suggested that Russia should simply loan Iran a nuclear bomb, then Israel would not attack. Iran could stop trying to build their own, and 1,000's of American troops would not have to die in a war that that nobody outside of the beltway wants.

Brilliant! But I think they'd stand a better chance of getting one from the Pakistanis, who are fellow Muslims. A Halal bomb, if you will.
-2 # tahoevalleylines 2012-08-15 11:29
Fear is engendered when one person or a group or a nation makes threats againt another. Written or verbal threat as uttered by Hitler in "Mein Kampf" and by generations of Mullahs quoting passages from unabridged (arabic) Qur'an...

How the Islamic bomb saga plays out is a question discussed in strategic think tanks around the world. Anyone with some initiative can gain insights to the Muslim Mullah mission by reading George Grant's "The Blood Of The Moon".

Lacking nukes; because high school biology & chemistry enables WMD proliferation, getting off oil ASAP is best US course to step back from foreign conflicts, at a minimum. Chem/bio smuggled in containers and used in an attack shall seal commerce across US borders & spell end of the globalization Ponzi scheme.

This plays out with a disastrous war in the Middle East, and a "Fortress America" era while the rest of the world ebbs and flows until the residual conflicts play out. America's ability to maintain societal cohesion on 1/2 current oil consumption depends on how quickly US pre-1950's railway capacity & reach is put back together.

No coincidence Mein Kampf and Qur'anic threats center on Jews. Because the world does not defang Iran/Pakistan/N orth Korea, we all share inevitable consequences. Happy motoring!
-1 # Johnny 2012-08-30 11:34
So you think all black people look alike? Muslims are not all the same, any more than Christians are all the same. The government of Pakistan persecutes Shia Muslims, and especially the pacifist Ismaili Muslims. Besides, the U.S. controls the Pakistani military, which is why the U.S. is able to slaughter Pakistani men, women, and children with its drones. Pakistan is not going to help Iran.
+7 # PABLO DIABLO 2012-08-14 21:53
Remember Hiroshima? Remember Nagasaki? Remember Dr Strangelove?
-1 # brux 2012-08-14 22:35
Democrats ought to just concentrate on one issue, the economy or social justice, the rights of Americans being trampled, the unfairness of the tax code and the government representatives representing money instead of people.

I'm concerned about nuclear issues, and I am more concerned about Iraq than I am about the US, but it is not THE major issue of the day.

We need to get all the information out, as well as the solutions, and stop flitting from one minor issue to another, what's important is the future of this nation. The future of social security, medicare, medicaid, education, health care, housing, etc.
+3 # robniel 2012-08-15 13:56
The government most certainly must be involved in all nuclear issues. Only the media (and their audience) "flit" from one issue to another. So ... why would we need a new plutonium refining facility? Our current inventory is many times more than foreseeable need plus we are gathering "loose" nukes from around the world for "safekeeping"; many of these very likely contain already-refined (i.e. metallic) plutonium. Reason: Someone is looking for government $$$.
+6 # tomtom 2012-08-15 01:21
The one and only way each nation can no longer justify having nukes is to know that every other nation doesn't have them and that means everyone gets to monitor everyone else's arsenals. I'll show you mine if you show me yours. We sure as hell can't trust each other.
+4 # rpherold 2012-08-15 02:47
Since the 1970's the Ground Zero Center for Non Violence adjacent to the Bangor Washington Trident Submarine Base has inspired hundreds to be arrested in an attempt to foster peace non-violently. On April 10, 2010 I videoed of an action at the main gate and featuring a powerful song by Joe Crookston based on his Grandfather's experience as a Seabee on Tinian Island during WWII constructing the four runways: Able, Baker, Charlie, and Dog. You can view the video at:
+6 # radbrad1 2012-08-15 03:22
Ronnie we first talked about this in 1960. Really not much progress since. For people to get more altitude so they can have a more inclusive perspective they need to be more grounded. In order to have height we need depth. The lack of grounding in reality for almost everyone in politics and in the body politic, is clear to anyone who is grounded in their experience, related to gravity and able to see and hear and acquire more information before being blocked off by belief. Our entire cultural context works contrary to that, so belief in belief rules supreme--and manifesting belief itself becoming the point of it all. I am happy you are still in this world. love, brad blanton
-1 # Johnny 2012-08-30 11:38
I haven't heard from Ronnie in many years. I am glad to know he is still sharp and still writing for what's right.
+4 # handmjones 2012-08-15 05:15
Only one nation was mad enough to take a huge amount of mustard gas into the war zone during WWII and now the U.S. is endangering us all with H bombs.
-9 # James Smith 2012-08-15 05:18
Keep in mind, the USA has reduced its nuclear armament for 25,000 weapons to about 5,000, all of which are not currently active. No other country has made reductions of that level.

Yes, it's true that even the 2,500 or so currently deployed are enough to decimate the planet, but what is being recommended here is unilateral disarmament. If you think that will work, ask your local terrorist cell what they think.
-1 # Johnny 2012-08-30 11:39
The U.S. IS your local terrorist cell.
+16 # Peace Anonymous 2012-08-15 05:55
Fear is such a profitable tool. We have a $900 Billion defense budget. Who would get all of that money if it were not for defense contractors. Ex-CIA task force commander John Stockwell so accuarately stated in 1987 that if the Russians no longer became a threat the USA would find an enemy which would keep the game alive. Would we have invaded Iraq for oil or Afghanistan for opium had there not been the fear in post 9/11? We will pay anything to feel safe. So follow the money. Where did it go? This is a shell game folks. The only enemies we have are the ones we create. And for them we need nuclear weapons??? Why? Follow the money.
+7 # tedrey 2012-08-15 06:57
I spoke with Robert Oppenheimer shortly before his death, a haggard and guilt-ridden man. He told me there was no hope; if we hadn't gotten rid of those weapons in 20 years, it meant that we never would -- they would remain, they would proliferate, they would be used, civilization would end. It was inevitable.
There is an obvious contradiction built into our official rationalization for these weapons. If nuclear weapons deter war, why do we insist on preventing some nations from obtaining them? Obviously because WE do not wish to be deterred.
Right now, war is highly likely in the Near East exactly because Israel has the bomb and Iran does not. If Iran did have it, then the two nations could revert to Cold War status, satisfied with incursions, assassinations, economic warfare, and such standard stuff.
Getting rid of them all would be far preferable. But if Oppenheimer and Garwin are right, we (or our leaders) are not sane enough to do that.
+2 # mrbadexample 2012-08-15 07:29
The last time I checked, the US still has some 1,700+ strategic nuclear weapons ready to launch on warning, plus as many as 5,000 tactical weapons for battlefield use. Since (per a World court decision in 1996) there is no LEGAL use of such weapons, why are we keeping them? Why wouldn't 50 be enough?
+1 # Kootenay Coyote 2012-08-15 08:29
Nuclear weapons: the dead end of the 18thC ‘rational enlightenment’.
+3 # Buddha 2012-08-15 09:16
I actually am going to disagree here, but for 2 very specific reasons. First, it is a dream that the genie will ever be put back into the bottle. Second, we rationalize our huge $1T/yr Pentagon spending and maintenance of a Global Empire as what is "keeping us safe and free". That is just pure hooey, and the reason is our nuclear arsenal, particularly the tactical warheads that could be used to decimate any invasion by an enemy through Alaska, Central America, or by ocean. So really, why do we need to spend $1T/yr again on War and Empire? Pull our troops back home, focus on rapid response and tactical Special Operations which is more the nature of our conflicts against "terrorist groups" today anyways, and use our nuclear arsenal as the ultimate guarantee of "keeping us safe". Then use the $750B or so per year in savings to rebuild our infrastructure, our schools, putting people back to work, heck, even paying off our debt.
-1 # sandywow 2012-08-15 13:40
Are nuclear weapons obsolete? Given that
just about everything these days can be
hacked by computers perhaps such weapons could be rendered inoperable by a computer hacker.

Who knows maybe that has already happened.
0 # ericlipps 2012-08-15 13:57
Neither "nero zero" or outright nuclear abolition is coming anytime soon.

Why? Because no country could ever be sure that somne other country had really gotten rid of its stockpile. And in any case, even a "near zero" regime would leave countries with the capacity to kill millions instantly.
+1 # Roger Kotila 2012-08-15 15:31
There is a way to eliminate all nuclear weapons but activists must accept a hard psychological fact: The nations must federate in a world union. THERE IS NO A SHORT CUT. Openness breeds trust; secrecy and closed sovereign systems breed paranoia. See Earth Federation Movement under the Earth Constitution. R Kotila, Ph.D.
-1 # RobertMStahl 2012-08-18 07:12
Context is everything. Totalitarianism maintains the status quo of education (Norman Dodd). If anyone read enough of GUT-CP to get the slightest grip on what energy existed in the universe, there would be three types with nuclear at the far end, inside the Sun mainly, ever so little at this end of the spectrum on earth (despite the fact that the last natural nuclear fission reactor on the planet remaining from when the solar system arrived the same time as the Sun, went extinct only 13 million years ago), where fossil fuels are predominant. The corona of the Sun is different, still. There is a third spectrum in the chemistry of the universe (a universe which, by the way, over time decays into pure energy until it contracts toward the 'big bang' once again). Read GUT-CP about dark matter, and the context of the universe we do occupy.

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