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Our luck will run out if we continue to play ‘MAD’ game

10-5-14 Asheville Citizen Times Article by Lew Patrie and Robert Howarth

There are 1,500 U.S. nuclear missiles on high alert and more than 3,500 more on reserve stockpile and as many in Russia. We are still living under the almost forgotten cloud of the Cold War’s mutually assured destruction (MAD). In less than an hour after detection of a seeming missile attack, whether by error, blunder, incompetence or equipment malfunction, all life in the world we know would be gone. This could be the result of MAD, the “mutual suicide agreement” with the Russians. Is this not a crazy way to live? Sister Megan Rice, an 82-year-old Roman Catholic nun and two accomplices thought so, and armed with only a bolt cutter and flashlights penetrated the high security protections at Tennessee’s Oak Ridge Y12 Nuclear Complex in 2012, splashed blood on equipment and sprayed peace notes on walls. So much for high security to foil terrorists.

Deterrence: Considering that the U.S. requires deterrence against nuclear attack by enemy, how much deterrence is needed? Don’t the U.S. and Russia have an excess of deterrence considering that at least eight close calls have occurred since Hiroshima, and conditions that allowed such near disasters have not significantly changed? The U.S. and Russia each maintain more than 1,000 warheads mounted on missiles on hair trigger alert. At any moment the same kind of scenario could play out, and we may not be so lucky.

Physicians for Social Responsibility and its global partner International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War’s co-president Dr. Ira Helfand have shown even a very “limited nuclear war involving less than one-half of one percent of the world’s nuclear weapons could cause global climate disruption, cut food production worldwide and could kill more than a billion people.” This would be in addition to immediate deaths from blasts, heat, fire storms and later radioactive fallout. Why do the U.S. and Russia continue to threaten human existence with 1,500 nuclear weapons on high alert?

Relevant factors:
• Modern nuclear one megaton bombs are 60 times more powerful than those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki .
• Independent civilian experts and government experts have determined that U.S. nukes are reliable for the next 50 to 100 years
• Oak Ridge’s nuclear complex builds eight new nukes each year; the National Nuclear Security Administration wants to fund production of 80 per year
• “Build Down:” the U.S. and Russia are committed to reduce nuclear weapons towards their eventual elimination; the New START Treaty requires such reductions from 2012 to 2017.

U.S. taxpayers have been assessed more than a trillion dollars in nuclear weapons development, testing, and deployment over the past 75 years. Will billions more per year for these weapons increase our security and help make the world a safer, healthier environment? The obvious answer is “no.’’ With our excess of existing deterrence power what would be the benefit of masses of more weapons that will be usable for 100 years? The primary beneficiaries of our 75 years of nuclear investment are the contractors and suppliers that profit handsomely from it. The losers for most of this period are U.S. taxpayers. Even those and their families who appreciate their employment manufacturing these weapons also risk health threats from their proximity to radioactive materials.

New requests of Congress are pending for 400 new land based missiles, 100 new bombers and 20 new missile submarines at a cost of $900 billion to $1.1 trillion over the next 30 years. This is shockingly out of line with deterrent needs, treaty commitments, and U.S. civilian needs. Shouldn’t we better invest in employment and industry creating renewable energy, such as solar, wind, and geothermal to deal with the dangers of climate change, in rebuilding our transportation infrastructure, in health care, education and social safety net needs? It is no secret that investment in civilian oriented needs yields three to seven times more jobs than an equal amount invested in the military-industrial complex. More workers will be needed by tackling these needs than in making weapons of death. Americans must wake up, stand up and speak out. Citizen taxpayer voice is needed and must continue and grow to help shape U.S. nuclear policy. Members of Congress and candidates must hear more on this from “We The People.”

Lew Patrie is a retired physician and immediate past president of WNC Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Robert F. Howarth is a retired engineer and member of WNC Physicians for Social Responsibility and Union of Concerned Scientists. They live in Asheville.


Response to MAD article:
ASH 3:04 p.m. EDT October 8, 2014
Why keep spending money on madness?

After reading the thoughtful piece in Sunday's AC-T by Lew Patrie and Robert F. Howarth, both members of WNC Physicians for Social Responsibility, we wonder all over again why we keep spending large sums of money to build more nuclear weapons?

The title of the article "We can't keep playing MAD game" adequately sums it up. The question is, what do we do to stop this madness? The least we can do for now is to put this question to all of the candidates for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. We need to let them know that "We The People" think it's high time to stop this madness and devote our tax money to more constructive projects, which we are neglecting big time.

Maybe we need to re-kindle the public zeal of the '80s and '90s when many of us demonstrated for limiting these weapons of mass destruction.

Louis Parrish, Swannanoa

Mission Statement

PREVENTING WHAT WE CANNOT CURE: Physicians for Social Responsibility is the medical and public health voice working to prevent the use or spread of nuclear weapons and to slow, stop and reverse global warming and the toxic degradation of the environment.