Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Testing 1,2,3 (4,5...)

What's up with all the nuclear missile testing lately by the US military? It's nothing new: they have been doing it for decades. But five tests in eight days? Twenty years after the end of the Cold War, and with a president who claims to (eventually) want a world free of nuclear weapons, this really is not what the world needs.

On Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, the US Navy fired four Trident 2 D-5 nuclear-capable missiles from the USS Maryland. Then, early this morning, the US Air Force fired a Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile from Vandenberg - just up the road from me in California - to Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

The Navy really patted itself on the back about the "success" of the tests and the capabilities of their missiles that carry nuclear warheads around the world's oceans. In their press release, they lauded the Trident 2 D-5 missile for its "increased firepower [and] flexibility."
Lt. Cmdr. Shaun Servaes, weapons officer of Submarine Squadron 20 said, "An SSBN crew's mission is deterrence but this test of their weapons' system is proof that if called upon for national defense, they are ready." In other words, because nuclear deterrence is a faulty theory that is unlikely to hold up under all circumstances, the US Navy must be ready to use these weapons that will kill hundreds of thousands of people.

This morning's test at Vandenberg shot a nuclear-capable missile over 4,000 miles to the Marshall Islands. Col. Carl DeKemper, the 576th FLTS commander, said, "Our team is dedicated to ensuring a safe, secure and effective combat-ready ICBM force."

Well, that's reassuring. I'm glad to know that our hair-trigger Minuteman III nuclear missiles are ready for combat. As NAPF Associate Steven Starr reports:

In a nuclear war, immense nuclear firestorms in burning cities would create millions of tons of thick, black, radioactive smoke. This smoke would rise above cloud level and quickly surround and engulf the entire Earth. The smoke would form a stratospheric smoke layer that would block sunlight from reaching the surface of Earth for a period of about ten years.

Heated smoke in the stratosphere would cause massive destruction of the protective ozone layer. Huge amounts of harmful Ultraviolet light would penetrate the smoke and reach the surface of the Earth.

Warming sunlight would be blocked by the smoke layer and cause the Earth to rapidly cool. In a matter of days, Ice Age weather conditions would descend upon all peoples and nations.

Prolonged cold, decreased sunlight and rainfall, and massive increases in harmful UV light would shorten or eliminate growing seasons for a decade or longer. Nuclear famine would result for the 800 million people who already suffering from hunger and malnutrition.

A war fought with 1% of the deployed and operational nuclear weapons could cause up to a billion people to die from nuclear famine. A large nuclear war, fought with the nuclear arsenals of the U.S. and Russia, would surely kill most humans and many other complex forms of life on Earth.
These are not just tests. These are not just simulating imaginary scenarios that are never going to happen. The US government, together with all other nuclear weapon states, must urgently come together to negotiate the phased, verifiable, irreversible and transparent elimination of all nuclear weapons before it is too late.

A model Nuclear Weapons Convention is already on the table. It's time for us to stop testing our nuclear weapons and begin testing our diplomacy and negotiation skills.

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