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Nuclear politics shouldn’t lead to nuclear weapons

Asheville Citizen Times Guest columnist: Nuclear politics shouldn’t lead to nuclear weapons

Robert F. Howarth GUEST COMMENTARY 6:54 a.m. ET Jan. 9, 2017

robert howarthStarting a new year opens the door to the future, the unknown. We know that 2017 was preceded by a chaotic and divisive national election. A recent Associated Press survey of 21 risk-assessment professionals and a much larger one by the World Economic Forum asked responders to list the five biggest threats to the world. Both found nuclear weapons and climate change topping their lists. Neither issue was a priority on the list of any of the 2016 presidential candidates – a worrisome reality? A look at our history may help us more clearly focus on one of these little discussed challenges, nuclear weapons.
Albert Einstein in a 1946 NY Times article wrote “I do not believe that we can prepare for war and at the same time prepare for a world community. When humanity holds in its hand the weapon with which it can commit suicide, I believe that to put more power into the gun is to increase the probability of disaster.”

General Leslie Groves, Boss of the Manhattan Project joined with Secretary of War Henry Simpson in a letter to President Harry Truman a few months prior to bombing Japan, “Modern civilization might be completely destroyed” if other countries produced their own atomic weapons.

Manhattan Project Lead Scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer in a 1946 closed Senate hearing was asked whether a nuclear bomb could be smuggled into Manhattan and detonated by enemies of the United States – he answered “Of course it could be done, and people could destroy New York”.

President Harry S. Truman was fully aware that atomic bombs went beyond war games and organizational charts. “You have got to understand that this isn’t a military weapon” he said in a meeting with officials from the Atomic Energy Commission and the Department of Defense. “It is used to wipe out women and children and unarmed people, and not for military uses. So we have got to treat this differently from rifles and cannons and ordinary things like that”.

Many churches, in particular the Catholic, have a long history of outspokenness against nuclear weapons from Pope Pius XII in 1943 to the Vatican’s recent Oct. 2016 statement that “the uneasy peace promised by nuclear deterrence is a tragic illusion” and the indefinite possession of nuclear weapons is “morally wrong”. Pope John XXIII in his 1963 encyclical Pacem in Terris said “Nuclear weapons must be banned”.

Recall nuclear melt downs and nuclear near misses – Chernobyl, 1986; Three Mile Island, 1979; Fukushima, 2011; Goldsboro North Carolina nuclear bomb drop,1961; plus numerous radioactive leaks from nuclear power plants.

Following a recent national security briefing President-elect Donald Trump tweeted that the nation’s nuclear arsenal had to be strengthened “greatly” …. “ until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”


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.