Congress Is Making a Critical Decision
by Peter G. Cohen
The Pentagon is lobbying the Congress to provide funds for the “Modernization” of the B-61 gravity bombs now stored in Europe. Making this bomb more accurate and more “useable” will cost an estimated $8.1 billion through 2024. At the same time, many experts and some European nations would like to see the bombs withdrawn from Europe.
“I would never have thought those silly things would still be there in 2013. I think they are an absolutely pointless part of a tradition in military thinking.” said former Dutch Prime Minister, Ruud Lubbers, to Time Flies, a National Geographic Television documentary. In 2010 a parliamentary resolution called on the Dutch governments to inform the United States that its nuclear weapons were no longer required for Dutch security.
We know that America’s future is now endangered by many other considerations. Due to the Republican sequester, government functions have been cut back. Our children are receiving less help with preschool, food stamps and school lunches. Our schools are reducing teachers and increasing class size. Through corporate-designed free trade agreements we have given away millions of manufacturing jobs to impoverished and often endangered foreign labor. Our infrastructure is rotting away and our businesses are sold to foreign buyers. After more than a decade of unnecessary wars, it is irresponsible to make decisions about national defense without considering the many other needs of the nation.
Unfortunately, the Representatives who make the Pentagon budget decisions in Congress are amply rewarded for supporting military excess. “Leading advocates of high levels of nuclear weapons spending have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from major nuclear weapons contractors in the course of their careers. These advocates include House Armed Services Committee Chair Rep. Howard P.“Buck” McKeon (R-CA), with career receipts of $809,150 from these companies; Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH), Chair of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, with $144,400 in career receipts; and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), with $250,875 in career receipts. Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT), who sponsored an amendment designed to block funding for the implementation of the New START arms reduction treaty with Russia and protect ICBMs based in his home state, has received $118,990 from nuclear weapons contractors in his career in Congress.” — Bombs Versus Budgets: Inside the Nuclear Weapons Lobby, by William D. Hartung, Christine Anderson, a Report of the Center for International Policy. This report is essential reading for all who assume that we are safer for every dollar the Pentagon spends.
The Pentagon spokespeople who present the budget requests to Congress are also under pressure to sell every proposed project. Lobbyists are watching to see who should be invited to represent their corporations when they retire from the Pentagon. On the other hand, some Pentagon people sincerely believe that it is essential to spend billions of our dollars to modernize these huge old bombs to fit our new bombers.
The corporations who expect to rebuild these weapons spend hundreds of thousands to assure that their weapons project will get Congressional budget approval. But who speaks for the needs of the American people? Who represents the future of America and its children?
We are in the process of making an historic decision. Our sales of nuclear reactors to any interested state almost guarantees the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the coming decades. At the same time, new computer simulation of the effects of a relatively small war of nuclear weapons has made the world realize that not only the participants, but the whole world would suffer from their use. The radiative debris, lifted high into the atmosphere by the intense heat of the fireballs and resulting firestorms, would circle the Earth, obscure the sun and cause crops to fail and hunger to result. The wide dispersion of radiation would weaken the ozone layer and deplete the phytoplankton that feeds much ocean life. In the end, the human gene pool, our most precious inheritance, would be irreparably damaged to an unknown degree.
As the full dimensions of this potential disaster become known worldwide, more and more weapons-free nations are demanding that the Nuclear Nine relinquish their weapons. This year several international meetings examined the catastrophic effects of nuclear weapons and 151 nation now support a ban. (For more information please see: www.icanw.org/why-a-ban.)
Who should decide whether or not to spend billions on modernizing the B-61 nuclear bombs? Certainly not those who would benefit from this controversial project. It really is up to us. Our families are the ones who will pay for it, and, if they are ever used, women and children everywhere will be the ones to suffer. Will we be safer to have the ability to incinerate thousands of distant human beings with our airplane delivered bombs? Or, will we be safer to support an international convention making the possession, maintenance and use of nuclear weapons a crime against the human future? Our Representatives must hear from us now, while the Congress is deciding whether or not to “modernize” the B-61 bombs.
Peter G. Cohen, artist-writer, is a veteran of W.W.II, a grandfather, and longtime environmental activist. He is the author of the website www.nukefreeworld.com. Peter lives in Santa Barbara and may be contacted at: [email protected].