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Say No To New Nuclear Weapons

by Peter Wilk

Today and Thursday, as we mark the anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it is fitting that we take a moment out of our busy Maine summers to remember the hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians who perished on Aug. 6 and Aug. 9, 1945.Now, 62 years later, the Bush administration wants to start building new nuclear bombs.

They've got to be kidding. How is this possible?

It is not only possible; the planning for it is well under way. A new design has been selected. A proposal to proceed with development is before Congress. Even more ominous, plans have been drafted to build a new generation of nuclear bomb-making factories at eight sites across the country -- intended to produce thousands of new nuclear weapons for decades to come.

What are they thinking? How could this possibly be serving our national security interests?

The stunning reality is that nobody knows the answers to these questions. U.S. nuclear weapons policy is completely out of date.

'NEW AND DANGEROUS ERA'

But there is hope that we can slow down the Bush administration's rush to build new nuclear weapons.

Recently, former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Schultz, former Secretary of Defense William Perry, and former chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee Sam Nunn jointly declared: "The world is now on the precipice of a new and dangerous era. We endorse the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons."

With such respected, conservative leaders now advocating for nuclear abolition, the time is ripe to take action to fundamentally change our nuclear weapons policy.

Current Bush administration policy includes threatening to use nuclear weapons, not only in response to an attack against us, but pre-emptively against any country we judge to be a security threat. Some have suggested a nuclear attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.

In a recent report by Physicians for Social Responsibility, utilizing the same computer model used by the Defense Department, it is documented that up to 3 million people would likely be killed in such an attack. Do we really want a national security policy based on threatening innocent civilians with mass murder?

Perhaps those supporting development of new nuclear weapons ought to take a trip to Ground Zero in Manhattan. There they might pause to remember that each nuclear weapon among the thousands still in our arsenal, and each new nuclear weapon the Bush administration proposes to build, threatens others with death and destruction dwarfing the World Trade Center attack.

If we are frightened of weapons of mass destruction being used against us, how can threatening others with nuclear weapons possibly help? When other countries see the United States targeting them with nuclear weapons and planning to build new ones, their interest in obtaining the same weapons is stimulated.

It is a dangerous delusion to believe nuclear weapons enhance our security. Acting as if they provide protection inspires others to share in this delusion -- all of which increases the nuclear danger for all of us.

LET SNOWE KNOW

In the House, Reps. Tom Allen and Mike Michaud have voted with the majority on a bill eliminating funding for the first new nuclear weapons in two decades and calling for a thorough review of current U.S. nuclear weapons policy.

Sen. Susan Collins has just co-sponsored legislation halting the proposed new nuclear weapons program until after such a policy review has been completed.

All three deserve our thanks.

However, the full Senate has not yet dealt with the issue, and Sen. Olympia Snowe has not decided how she will vote.

It is well past time to change course. Every Maine citizen has a role to play in creating a world free of the nuclear threat. Snowe needs to hear that an overwhelming majority of us want her to join the rest of our congressional delegation in leading us away from a nuclear holocaust.

© 2007 The Portland Press Herald

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