Particle Beams

"Luminous Quanta of Divine Intelligence…" dispelling the nuclear delusion

Posts Tagged ‘B-61

Nuclear weapons: the Razor’s Edge

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Our officials have a big problem: during the Cold War, they created tens of thousands of nuclear weapons, and now, faced with the threat that terrorists could make dirty bombs out of unsecured nuclear materials, and the spread of nuclear weapons to less stable countries like North Korea, they don’t know how to get rid of them. It’s a mess. In Russia and in the United States, the waste created and dumped during those years will cost billions and billions of dollars to clean up, and no profit to be made from it. According to David Culp, the people in the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense, to say nothing of people in Congress, are so tired of talking about the insurmountable problems posed by the mounting waste that they don’t even want to think about it anymore. But unfortunately, they are still producing it.

President Obama has puzzled supporters and critics alike, ever since he made his fabulous commitment in Prague in 2009 to move to eliminate nuclear weapons and then knuckled under to Republican pressure to start modernizing the stockpile, at terrific expense, if he hoped to have their votes for the NewSTART treaty with Russia.

Last February, news leaked out, and spilled all over the Internet, that the President had convened a meeting of top Pentagon heads to analyze the safety of reducing the stockpile even further than NewSTART levels. Disarmament folks got all excited, but then the mollusk clamped shut around this pearl, and nothing more was said. In April, the President’s budget continued to fund modernization, a project expected to cost more than $80 billion over the coming decade.

Huh? What happened to the disarmament president now, we whined? It was a heartbreaking setback.

But in fact, Obama had not actually said that he was planning on holding further negotiations with Russia. Indeed, he said nothing in response to the rumors, and the “implementation” document, as it was called, remained classified. It was an election year, and perhaps campaign politics dictated that it was not a good time to throw an atomic debate into the mix. That was Culp’s interpretation. In a talk at the Quaker House in Santa Fe on June 16th, the lobbyist on nuclear disarmament for the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) presented an optimistic picture of past and potential future progress in the disarmament arena.

Since the end of the Cold War, he said, we have reduced our arsenal by 75 percent. We stopped the Reliable Replacement Warhead and the Robust Nuclear Penetrator. By we, he said, he meant grassroots voices, especially those of the people in New Mexico.

And now we’re going to stop the B-61, he said, distributing paper and pens for writing letters to our Senator, Tom Udall.

I recently wrote an article for La Jicarita, a northern New Mexico publication on regional environmental politics, in which I took a dim view of NNSA’s recent budget proposal that includes massive funding for the refurbishment of this warhead, at a projected cost of $10 billion. This, while Congress votes to cut people off Food Stamps! In the light of this exorbitant budget proposal to perpetuate the nuclear machinery at any cost, Culp’s optimism seemed shockingly unrealistic. But he’s been doing this work for more than 20 years.

Then this morning in Berlin, President Obama stepped out and confirmed that he is still working to curtail nuclear proliferation, and that he plans to negotiate with the Russians about further reductions of the two nations’ respective stockpiles.

Obama met with Putin just a few days ago, so one might infer that Obama had checked out Putin’s response before making this powerful public commitment.

Obama spoke of the conclusions of Pentagon officials involved in the “implementation” discussion that had sparked the February mania amongst disarmament watchdogs.

Even more important, perhaps, than the specifics about disarmament, whose fulfillment we must yet await — and the opposition is lining up as we speak; a debate between right-wing analysts will be held this evening entitled “Cutting the Pentagon’s Budget is a Gift to our Enemies” — was Obama’s overarching theme, that we live in the world together, and that we must find ways to create opportunity for everyone:

“For we are not only citizens of America or Germany — we are also citizens of the world.  And our fates and fortunes are linked like never before.

“We may no longer live in fear of global annihilation, but so long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe. We may strike blows against terrorist networks, but if we ignore the instability and intolerance that fuels extremism, our own freedom will eventually be endangered.  We may enjoy a standard of living that is the envy of the world, but so long as hundreds of millions endure the agony of an empty stomach or the anguish of unemployment, we’re not truly prosperous.

“I say all this here, in the heart of Europe, because our shared past shows that none of these challenges can be met unless we see ourselves as part of something bigger than our own experienceOur alliance is the foundation of global security.  Our trade and our commerce is the engine of our global economy.  Our values call upon us to care about the lives of people we will never meet.  When Europe and America lead with our hopes instead of our fears, we do things that no other nations can do, no other nations will do.  So we have to lift up our eyes today and consider the day of peace with justice that our generation wants for this world.”

These words are the beginning of a vision of the world as one interrelated unit that is essential if we are to get out of the box of fear and hatred of one another, competition and wished-for supremacy, and begin to work together for a better, safer world.

If nuclear proliferation and global warming don’t stimulate an urgent will for the nations of the world to overcome our differences and subscribe to a single mission, to rescue the world from the razor’s edge on which it wobbles perilously, then surely there is no hope for humankind.

Just at the critical moment, Obama has done his part to reframe the debate into one of larger vision. “We must care about people we don’t even know,” and “see ourselves as bigger than our own experience.” It’s a big leap from Manifest Destiny and the American exceptionalism we’ve heard in some of Obama’s speeches here at home. This is a wider embrace, and though it may be hard for some of us to see ourselves as allies with our erstwhile fanatic enemy, allowing ourselves to think of the citizens of Germany and America as people who share a common past is an exercise that may one day make it possible for both sides of the aisle to join hands in recognition that we are all citizens of one country.

Is Washington ready to embrace this shared mission in a spirit of hope and possibility? Is the world ready to join us?

And what about the pundits, and the critics, and the watchdog organizations, the disarmament advocates as well as the deterrence proponents? Is it possible for us to rally in support of these fine words, this high-minded intent, instead of disintegrating into opposition?

It all remains to be seen. We know what Obama is up against. I’d like to take him at his word and rally behind him. Now is the time to stop blaming him for what he has been unable to do, and acknowledge that his intention is true. Without widespread public support, he will go down in history as a president who tried.

We need him to be a president who succeeded.

I look forward to your comments!

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Two-Minded World

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This morning as I drank my cup of tea I flipped through the pages of Sunset magazine with its beautiful pictures of gardens and nature hikes and fabulousfood; and I envied those who have gardens, who go camping in spectacular places, who can afford these furnishings, these homes.

Then I reminded myself of the many people struggling with chronic illness, or raising a child with birth defects, or suffering crushing poverty.

On the floor where it had fallen from my dining table was my unopened copy of TriValleyCARES newsletter. I reached over to pick it up.

TriValleyCARES is the watchdog group that keeps a steady eye on Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California. I am getting ready to move back to California, and will be only about an hour from LLNL, in a lovely area of Sonoma County where most people forget completely about nuclear weapons laboratories. They manage to be more oblivious of the menace than people here, who live in a state that seems dedicated to the military goals of this militaristic nation, especially nuclear.

In New Mexico we have two national nuclear laboratories within an hour of one another. We have one of the largest nuclear waste disposal sites, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, WIPP. Of course we also have the Trinity Test Site, where the first nuclear bomb was exploded in 1945, a historic site. We have a plant where uranium is processed, and of course we have uranium mines, and the ever-present threat of new uranium mining. We’re surrounded.

Not that California doesn’t have its share, home to Lockheed Corporation for example. Do you live in a state where there is no contamination from nuclear reactors? I also just read that the tanks in Hanford, Washington, are leaking…

So, this is our world.

On the one hand, we have hikes up in the stunning Sierra mountains; on the other, we have nuclear weapons being designed and manufactured, and leaking their toxic garbage into our water supply.

Taking the TriValleyCARES newsletter into the bathroom, I learned something new about plutonium pit manufacture planned for the Los Alamos Lab.

It seems that pits manufactured in Los Alamos are going to be transported to Livermore to be burnished and finished and then transported back to Los Alamos!

I can’t think of anything more stupid, unless it is something I learned from the movie “The Economics of Happiness,” which I watched on my computer last night, that nations now export foodstuffs like eggs and tomatoes while at the same time importing the same foods to feed their own people!

The miles traveled by foods in a time of diminishing fuel supplies where corporations drive the compulsion to obtain what we “need” by frakking is wasteful and stupid enough, but how about sending plutonium pits back and forth on the beautiful highways of the West?

Does that sound fiscally responsible? Or SAFE?

Reading this article reminded me of something I read last night about Obama’s budget proposal. Here it is, from Democracy Now!

The Obama administration has been accused of backtracking on vows to move toward nuclear disarmament following reports it plans to spend more than $10 billion to upgrade its nuclear arsenal. The plan would extend the life of U.S. nuclear B61 gravity bombs stored in Europe and apply new tail fins to make the bombs into guided weapons. Joseph Cirincione, head of the nuclear arms control group the Ploughshares Fund, told The Guardian: “The billions of dollars we are lavishing on the B61 is criminal. This is billions of dollars spent on a weapon whose mission evaporated at the end of the cold war,” he said.

Not only is our Great Emancipator willing to spend billions on this project while agreeing to strip funds from unrelated budgets for Social Security and MediCare, but these B61 bombs are 50 megatons – three times the size of the bomb that leveled Hiroshima – and said to be “more useable” because they will allegedly create “less fallout” due to releasing less debris into the atmosphere.

I’m so happy that these monstrosities, which will devastate any city on which they are dropped, will release less radioactive fallout to pollute the atmosphere over the United States of America, which is always on the side of the Good, and only goes to war to promote peace.

Norman Solomon nailed it when he said, “War becomes perpetual when it’s used as a rationale for peace.”

That movie, War Made Easy, is something else I watched last night on the Internet.

This is my life, your life, in today’s crazy world. Between these two realities, we struggle to stay sane, raise children, earn a living, and read labels on bread and other staples when we stop at the grocery store on the way home.

On the one hand, we have people watching movies on huge TVscreens in their California backyards, and on the other, we have governments subsidizing – with our tax money! — the design and production of bombs of enormous murderous capacity.

In the gap between these two realities, people scattered all over the world are trying to create a “new paradigm,” and new ways of living based on that paradigm that will make it possible for us to survive on this deeply endangered planet.

The crisis is real, and it’s urgent. What are we willing to do in order to restore our planet and ensure that life is possible for our children and grandchildren?

Says Vandana Shiva, “We are either going to have a future where women lead the way to make peace with the Earth, or we are not going to have a human future at all.”

Let’s go, women of the world. Time for The Uprising.