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From Draft NOtices, July-August 2002

Dr. Strangelove Lives

- Carol Jahnkow

Are we in some kind of Nuclear Time Warp? Feels like it, but it's no joke.

The Bush administration's Nuclear Policy Review (NPR), leaked to the Los Angeles Times in early March, revealed dangerous major changes in U.S. nuclear policy. The NPR outlines plans to bring U.S. nuclear weapons production capacity back into full force by dedicating more resources to upgrade U.S. nuclear weapons infrastructure in order to further develop, produce and test new nuclear weapons, including a fast production capability. This is a serious blow to arms control in the post-Cold War world, and the revelation that the U.S. has expanded the circumstances under which nuclear weapons would be used assures us, according to one critic, that we have moved from "MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) to NUTS."

While it is true that we should not be too naïve about past arms control successes, and it has been clear that nuclear weapons have remained a cornerstone of U.S. warfighting capacity, there has been optimism that further reductions, leading to eventual total nuclear disarmament, would put an end to nuclear insanity. (The end of the so-called Cold War saw the world go from 50,000 to about 31,000 nuclear weapons maintained by the eight nuclear powers, with 95% of those in the hands of the U.S. and Russia. Currently 16,000 nuclear weapons are operationally deployed, maintaining the ability to kill and destroy the people and cities of the world many times over.) But apparently this is not to be. The Bush administration, under the rubric of the "war on terrorism," once more seized the opportunity to bring forward reactionary policies.

The NPR broadens potential targets to include Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Libya, Syria, China and even our now ally, Russia. It outlines plans to use nuclear weapons in what would formerly have been considered conventional missions -- specifically stating that the U.S. would consider using nuclear weapons against China in a military confrontation over Taiwan, against Iraq should it attack Israel or any other country, against North Korea if it attacked South Korea, and in an Arab-Israeli conflict. And the NPR states that the U.S. may use nuclear weapons not only in retaliation for use of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, but asserts our right to a preemptive strike against weapons of mass destruction or "in the event of surprising military developments." Does that mean when you're losing?

If we were not already convinced of the absolute arrogance and lack of regard for international rule of law or norms, morality, life, or world peace, this emphasis on the use of nuclear weapons -- the assertion of the absolute RIGHT of the U.S. to use them in essentially any circumstance -- should.

The ramifications of the NPR are destabilizing and dangerous. First and foremost is the creation of further resentment at U.S. arrogance. Others include the legitimization of nuclear weapons; the proliferation and acceleration of weapons programs in other countries -- China for example, says it will increase its nuclear arsenal because U.S. strategy mentions possible nuclear interventions in Asia; accelerated proliferation, increasing the possibility not only that they will be used in regional conflicts, but making it more possible for nuclear materials to fall into the hands of others; undermining the international arms control regime to which U.S. abrogation of the ABM treaty was already a blow; and blurring of the distinction between conventional and nuclear war.

This is a serious setback. Nuclear weapons, if used under any circumstances, are indiscriminate mass killers that exponentially increase casualties, poison the area attacked for decades, and kill survivors of the initial blast slowly and cruelly over time. Their production to date has left us with hundreds of thousands of people affected by the radiation from mining, production, testing and storage of nuclear materials. For example, it was reported in February that an estimated 80,000 people who lived in or were born in the U.S. between 1951 and 2000 will contract cancers attributable to fallout from worldwide atmospheric nuclear testing.

But there is another aspect of all this: while we continue to live under the nuclear sword, the world suffers from the loss of desperately needed resources that would enhance the lives of billions living in poverty.

Who Pays?

In February, the Bush administration released its proposed budget for fiscal year 2003, which calls for $396.1 billion for national security -- $379.3 billion to the Department of Defense and $16.8 billion for nuclear weapons functions of the Department of Energy.

This amount is $48 billion above current annual spending levels -- a 13% increase over FY 2002. It is 15% above the Cold War average for a military force structure that is one-third smaller than it was a decade ago. At this spending rate the Bush administration will spend $2.1 trillion over the next five years on "national security."

All of this is, of course, justified as necessary for supporting the "war" against terrorism and providing funds to transform the current military into a force better suited to meet emerging threats. But is it really necessary?

Take a look: the proposed FY 2003 $396 billion spending package exceeds that of the next 25 nations combined. It is more than six times larger than that of Russia, the second largest military spender. It is more than 26 times as large as the combined spending of the seven countries traditionally identified by the Pentagon as our most likely adversaries (the so-called "rogue states") -- Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria. The U.S. and its close allies (the NATO countries, Australia, Japan and South Korea) account for more than two-thirds of all military spending, together spending over 39 times more than the seven "rogue states."

Global military spending declined from $1.2 trillion in 1985 to $809 billion in 1999. During that time the U.S. share of total military spending rose from 31% to 39%.

Each California congressional district will spend an average of $47.5 million on nuclear weapons alone this year and another $13.9 million on missile defense. Yet the child poverty rate in California is 19%, and 17% of our children go without health care.

What Can We Do?

Obviously working to cut the military budget needs to be a high priority. Other long lists relating to the nuclear weapons issue are circulating. Among other things, they call for de-alerting all nuclear weapons and de-coupling all nuclear warheads from their delivery vehicles; reaffirming our commitments to the 1972 ABM treaty and ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; declaring policies of "no first use" against other nuclear weapons states and no use against non-nuclear weapons states; and commencing good faith negotiations to achieve a Nuclear Weapons Convention requiring phased elimination of all nuclear weapons, with a timetable as called for in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

But as we move into these debates in Congress over the budget and weapons systems, there will be a real challenge to us as a movement in terms of where we place our energies. Peace and disarmament organizations find themselves stretched very thin trying to argue down particular weapons systems, promoting particular arms control measures and so on. We focus our energies on congressional debates and in lobbying campaigns that focus on which military hardware will best protect "American interests," while the most important issues go unexamined. And that's no accident -- the ruling powers can keep us very tied up arguing these fine points.

How can we best work for real change? And particularly in the post-September 11 world, how do we stop the Bush administration's "war on terrorism?" How do we stop its assault on our civil liberties? How do we stop its assault on the environment? How do we stop its cold, callous, calculated assault on the poor, the underprivileged and the desperate people of the world? How can we shift from its preferred state of perpetual war, which keeps the rich and privileged in power, to a world where there is global justice for all?

Redefining Security: Who Are the Real Terrorists?

During a February debate on terrorism in the Canadian Senate, Senator Douglas Roche stated:

Terrorism feeds on the hatreds and resentments that have been built up in the rest of the world against Western society as it continues to reap much of the benefits from globalizations. The statistics are all too familiar: half the world's population living in abject poverty and 80 percent living on less than 20 per cent of global income. . . . In the global village, sooner or later, someone else's poverty becomes one's own problem.

As Americans, we must take account of the fact that we live in a world where resources are stretched to the limit, where the poorest countries have the fastest growing populations and where unequal access to the necessities of life and the benefits of modern technology remain the rule.

In April 2000, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan observed:

How can we call human beings free and equal in dignity when over a billion of them are struggling to survive on less than one dollar a day, without safe drinking water, and when half of all humanity lacks adequate sanitation. Some of us are worrying about whether the stock market will crash, or struggling to master our latest computer, while more than half our fellow men and women have much more basic worries, such as where their children's next meal is coming from."

Who are the real terrorists? Those who are desperate and use terror to call attention to their situation? Or those who create the unjust situations that lead to desperation?

We must struggle to bring to the public agenda a new definition of "real security" that includes providing food, water, shelter, health care, jobs, basic democracy and more, not only for ourselves, but for others. There is enough in the world for everybody. The problem is those who want to own a disproportionate amount at the expense of others.

By virtue of the fact that we live in this country, whose power-holders are hell-bent on retaining control over and access to a disproportionate amount of the world's resources, and who state clearly their intent to do so by any military means they have - including use of nuclear weapons -- we will have to be involved in these struggles over the budget and weapons systems. But it's our job to use these debates as a platform for bringing these issues more to the public eye -- to raise the more basic justice issues that get lost when the "leaders" plan for perpetual war.

Information sources: Arms Control Today, April 2002; Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, March-April 2002 and May-June 2002; The Defense Monitor, February 2002; press releases, Embassy of the People's Republic of China, March 11 and 12, 2002; Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, February 28, 2002; The Nation, April 15, 2002; National Priorities Project Grassroots Factsheet, Volume 5, Issue 1, 2002; Nuclear Age Peace Foundation press release, March 11, 2002; Peace Action Web site,; U.S. Department of Defense Press Release No. 113-02, March 9, 2002; War Times, April 2002; Western States Legal Foundation Information Bulletin, Spring 2002, and Special Report, April 2002.


This article is from Draft NOtices, the newsletter of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (


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