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August 6, 2003
Vol. 1, No. 85




Tom Fox Remember the bishops' call: 'progressive disarmament'

By Tom Fox, NCR publisher

Today is the 58th anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima.

Hot Link: Hiroshima mayor lashes out at Bush on atomic bombing anniversary
Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba said the United States worshipped nuclear weapons as "God" and blamed it for jeopardising the global nuclear non-proliferation regime.
Posted: Wed Aug 6, 3:18 AM ET
While most Americans will not commemorate the day, many others will. Most Americans remain unaware that much of the rest of the human family remembers that the United States is the only nation to ever have used an atomic weapon with intent to kill.

Like it or not, this separates us from all other nations. And while the debate lingers over whether the United States was justified in using the bomb, the fact is we alone used it.

Today this might not mean much to us. But it should.

Being the remaining superpower and spending more on military weaponry than virtually the entire rest of the world also separates us from the rest of humanity. It places special responsibility upon us.

Whether the nuclear genie can ever be put back into that bottle or whether proliferation continues depends a great deal on U.S. policies.

The hawks dismiss the possibility of nuclear disarmament. They advocate policies that couple U.S. dominance and the use of military might, if necessary, to rid foes of weapons of mass destruction. The doves counter that this only keeps the United States in a holding pattern while making more enemies, even as nuclear weapons and their technologies proliferate, often clandestinely.

The U.S. approach rests on the precarious notion that with U.S. might we can do as we wish. We can keep our nukes while forcing others to give up theirs.

History shows, however, that eventually double standards don't work. Empires fall.

And yet this is precisely the charade in which the White House and Pentagon and their supporters are currently conducting U.S. policy.

The nuclear clock is ticking.

It should be very disturbing to all Americans that US policy does not have a goal of total nuclear disarmament. Short of this goal and short of leading the way by example, U.S. calls for other nations to put down their weapons of mass destruction are simply vacuous.

In this light it should be even more disturbing that some 150 top U.S. officials and military contractors are scheduled to gather tomorrow just south of Omaha, Nebraska at the U.S. Strategic Command Center.

Their plan is not nuclear disarmament; it is rearmament. Their plan is usher in yet another phase of the nuclear age.

The Omaha meeting's agenda is secret as is the guest list, but information of the gathering has appeared in The New York Times and a limited number of other media outlets. The purpose of the meeting is to develop plans for the U.S. to expand its nuclear arsenal. Missing will be any advocates for nuclear disarmament.

Expect in the weeks ahead calls to resume nuclear testing.

Topping the Bush Administration wish list are weapons meant to penetrate deep into the earth to destroy enemy bunkers.

To protest the government's return to nuclear bomb making, hundreds have gathered in recent days outside the gates of the U.S. Strategic Command center. Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich addressed the crowd. They have received relatively little press.

The Bush Administration plans to build a new generation of nuclear weapons to penetrate deep enemy bunkers. The ideas are not new. They have been around since the end of the Cold War. However, with Bush in the White House the nuclear hawks feel their time has come.

The Pentagon wants bomb makers to develop a class of relatively small nuclear arms ranging from a fraction the size of the Hiroshima bomb to several times as large that could pierce rock and reinforced concrete and turn strongholds into radioactive dust.

To introduce a new generation of nuclear weapons would mean reversing policies aimed at ending nuclear proliferation. The first Bush Administration unilaterally stopped nuclear testing in 1992. Tests would have to resume.

Critics of the "mini-nukes" policy fear that their arrival on the world scene will severely diminish the threshold between conventional weapons and non-conventional weapons, making the world ever more dangerous. They also question whether radioactive fallout can be contained once these weapons are used.

"We worked hard to get civilian control over nuclear arms," Greg Mello, director of the Los Alamos Study Group, a private organization in Albuquerque that monitors arms labs, told The New York Times. "Even though nuclear weapons are inimical to the democratic spirit, the idea of these being made by a small minority is especially dangerous."

On this Hiroshima anniversary we need to rededicate ourselves to ridding the world of all nuclear weapons.

In 1983 the U.S. bishops, in one of their greatest moments, published a peace pastoral in which they reasoned that a "strictly conditioned moral acceptance" of nuclear deterrence is acceptable, not as a "long-term basis for peace," but "as a step on the way toward progressive disarmament."

Building a new generation of nuclear weapons is a long way from being "a step on the way toward progressive disarmament."

Starting to build, test and deploy even more nuclear weapons, whatever their size and for whatever purpose, is bad policy and a moral outrage. It must be unequivocally condemned.

Tom Fox is NCR publisher. He can be reached at

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