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President needs to pull back on nuclear plans

robert howarthGuest Column
Asheville Citizen Times
April 22, 2016
by Bob Howarth


Seven U.S.senators sent a letter to President Obama on Dec. 17, 2015 encouraging him to severely scale down his request for nuclear weapons that could exceed $1 trillion over the next 30 years. They pointed out that the request “clearly violates the policy laid out in your administration’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review which states that programs to maintain nuclear weapons ‘will not support new military missions or provide for new military capabilities.’’’

The senators point out that the Obama administration’s proposal to build a new nuclear air-launched cruise missile does not reflect current national security needs and in fact would make our country less safe. These weapons are destabilizing in part because it is impossible to distinguish conventional from nuclear versions. This could result in miscalculation and escalation that would be devastating to the U.S. as well as an adversary.

Former Secretary of Defense William Perry recently explained that canceling the new nuclear cruise missile “would reduce the risk of nuclear weapons use and be a historic practical step in the direction of a world without nuclear weapons”. Indeed, this new cruise missile appears to be designed specifically for improved nuclear war-fighting capabilities. This is a dangerous direction for U.S. nuclear deterrent and counter to the goals POTUS set out in his 2009 speech in Prague.

Another item cited in the letter are plans to develop as well as buy 1,000-1,100 new cruise missiles.

Government and independent estimates put the cost of the missiles and warheads at $20 billion-$30 billion to build, barring the usual cost overruns. If implemented this would take funds from higher priority national security needs. The senators said, “Outdated and unnecessary nuclear weapons are relics of the past. We should not revive and waste money on the security tools of the past and rob future generations who will have to bear the burden of this useless spending.”

Now, reader, how do you feel about adding $1 trillion to your tax bill for 30 years of payments? Does this make you feel safer, more secure, better able to repel infiltration by insidious foreign terrorists? Use of nuclear weapons could contribute to worldwide destruction of life, but would not do much to deter terrorist infiltration – in fact the likely nuclear weapons arms race incited by U.S. example would make it easier for terrorists to steal or buy their own nukes – then what?

Perhaps the better way is to earnestly comply with the nuclear treaties we are party to and work for elimination of nuclear weapons and ban them in the next 30 years. Indeed, at the United Nations 158 national governments have indicated their determination to ban nuclear weapons - to make their citizens feel safer and more secure, and they are working to try to make this happen despite the resistance of the Security Council.

Now, who are the seven senators that inspired the writing of this article? They are Edward J. Markey, Jeffrey A. Merkley, Patrick Leahy, Ron Wyden, Dianne Feinstein, Bernie Sanders and Al Franken. I find their letter to be a courageous effort to decrease the risk of the use of nuclear weapons which serves to keep all humans safe from devastating harm and to promote the long term security of Americans, all humanity and our planet home.

I have sent my letters to POTUS and my Congressional representatives deploring this proposed nuclear buildup “arms race” for more weapons whose use could be a big step toward suicide of and by the human race.

How about you? Information on contacting POTUS and members of Congress is readily available at , and . For the latest on this, go to the New York Times via .

Robert F. Howarth, a retired engineer who lives in Asheville, is a member of Western North Carolina Physicians for Social Responsibility and of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

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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.