Published on Tuesday, April 17, 2001 in the Boulder Daily Camera
Colorado Still at Center of Nuclear Weapons Threat
by Richard Andrews
Stand and face the people nearest to you. Close your eyes. Visualize them vaporizing in the brilliant flash of a nuclear blast, turning to gas instantaneously.
Now visualize the other millions or even billions of innocent victims of immoral weapons of mass destruction nuclear weapons unleashed either by accident or intentionally. Of those who do not die instantly, uncounted more will die from fire storms, radiation burns, infections, radiation poisoning, destruction of society, and the contaminated earth and atmosphere far downwind. That scene is only 30 minutes away at any time, and Colorado is still at the heart of that unfathomable holocaust.
But you say that our nuclear weapons have been dismantled and the cold war is over. Not true. It won't be over until we have taken those weapons off hair trigger alert, and then disarm and dismantle the nuclear weapons in the arsenals of the world that have threatened our existence for the last half century.
Within Colorado alone, north and east from Greeley, there are 49 active underground missile silos, each with a Minuteman III missile ready to launch within as little as two minutes from the time of orders from the White House. The White House has an estimated maximum of eight to 15 minutes for a launch decision from time of notification about an incoming attack. Buckley Air Force base in Denver and Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs play key roles in that notification. Unbelievably, the U.S. president can even implement the stated U.S. first strike policy without an imminent attack.
Each of those 49 Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in our state has from one to three targetable nuclear warheads. These Colorado missiles are only a fraction of the approximately 150 nuclear armed missiles that are located in a crescent around Warren Air Force base in Cheyenne, Wyoming. In total, there are about 550 with up to 2000 nuclear warheads centered in the plains and mountain states. Most of the missiles are Minuteman III, and approximately 50 are Peacekeeper (MX) missiles with 10 warheads each. Add to these land-based missiles several thousand more nuclear weapons on submarines, ships and airplanes....on both sides of the oceans. A small fraction could destroy our planet's bountiful life.
On Dec. 4, 1996, General George Lee Butler, former commander-in-chief of the U.S. Strategic Air Command, and General Andrew J. Goodpaster, former supreme allied commander in Europe stated, "Nuclear weapons are inherently dangerous, hugely expensive, militarily inefficient, and morally indefensible....The ultimate objective should be the complete elimination of nuclear weapons from all nations." On the next day, 60 retired generals and admirals from 16 countries joined with Generals Butler and Goodpaster in calling on nations to reduce nuclear weapons, take them off high alert, and work to abolish them. These people speak with first-hand knowledge and many more have joined with them since. As a former Navy officer in an Atlantic Command war room role, I too once participated blindly in this deadly game but out of conscience now must object to any aspect of our nuclear arsenal.
For people of faith, nuclear weapons have also been soundly condemned and found inconsistent with fundamental beliefs and teachings by leaders of Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Lutherans, Quakers, Buddhists, Brethren, Mennonites, Congregationalists, Unitarians, Methodists, Episcopalians, Baptists, Presbyterians, Hindus, Moslems, Jews and many other religious denominations and persuasions. For a list of over 60 faith groups urging nuclear weapon de-alerting and elimination see www.backfromthebrink.org. You are not alone.
What can you do? Speak out emphatically. Demonstrate. Protest. Pray. Express your outrage. Vote for people who will eliminate weapons and instead build a world of peace and justice. And don't stop until sanity returns.
During the campaign George W. Bush promised to take a first step by de-alerting nuclear missiles, taking them off hair trigger status. Please insist that he follow through with that commitment. Call and write the White House. Send the same message to Secretaries Rumsfield and Powell and to Congress. Then insist they take the next steps to disarm and destroy these weapons and work earnestly with other nuclear nations to do the same.
On Earth Day, Saturday, April 21 at noon, join concerned citizens from throughout the Front Range who will gather at Minuteman Missile silo N-5 located a few miles east of New Raymer, Colorado (along Colorado Highway 14) to hold an interfaith service and peaceful protest of the continued high-alert status and presence of these nuclear weapons. This event is sponsored by the Colorado Coalition for the Prevention of Nuclear War, American Friends Service Committee, Citizens for Peace in Space, the Peace and Social Justice Committee of Boulder Friends Meeting, Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, the Sisters of Loretto, and many churches, synagogues and other religious groups of Colorado. Buses and car pools will leave from Boulder at 9:30 a.m. from the Mennonite Church (1520 Euclid) and from Boulder Friends Meeting (1825 Upland). For information call Rocky Mountain Peace Center at 303 444 6981.
Join with us to make a powerful statement to restore sanity to the world, before it's too late. With each second for which we do not express our moral outrage over the presence of these weapons, every one of us must be considered responsible for the potential extinction of humanity.
Each of us has a conscious choice to make. I have chosen the path to life and to protest this ultimate assault on creation. I choose to work so this fragile planet and its occupants can thrive in peace. I believe that nuclear weapons can have no moral purpose. Their very existence degrades and potentially destroys the meaning of whatever else one does in his life, however worthy those things may seem.
Richard D. Andrews of Boulder is a former officer of the U.S. Navy, and member of the Peace and Social Justice Committee of the Boulder Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).
Copyright 2001 The Daily Camera