WASHINGTON - President Bush was stunned last
month when told of the extent of the U.S. nuclear arsenal,
Newsweek magazine reported in its June 25 edition, released on
``I had no idea we had so many weapons,'' Bush was quoted as
saying by an unidentified ``White House insider.''
``What do we need them for?'' the president was said to have
asked at a briefing, according to the Newsweek report.
But that was not a dumb question, the magazine noted in
detailing the vast U.S. nuclear arsenal, which includes 5,400
warheads on intercontinental ballistic missiles, 1,750 nuclear
bombs and cruise missiles ready to be launched from B-2 and
B-52 bombers, 1,670 ``tactical'' nuclear weapons and another
10,000 warheads in bunkers around the United States.
That potential for nuclear overkill may be reined in,
however, as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld prepares at the
Pentagon to implement Bush's stated goal of streamlining and
downsizing the arsenal.
Rumsfeld has brought back retired Gen. George (Lee) Butler
and former Reagan administration national security guru Richard
Perle to spearhead an effort to reduce the arsenal to safer,
more manageable and more cost efficient levels, Newsweek said.
``I see no reason why we can't go well below 1,000''
warheads, Perle told the magazine. ``I want the lowest number
possible under the tightest control possible.''
``The truth is we are never going to use them,'' Perle added.
''The Russians aren't going to use theirs either.''
Copyright © 2001 Reuters Limited