Skip to main content

Why are the billionaires always laughing?

Because they know the corporate media will never call bullshit on their bullshit.

Why are the billionaires laughing?

It’s easy to laugh when the corporate press treats you as a glorious success instead of the epitome of a broken social order. Billionaires laugh because they know the corporate media prefers to fawn over them rather than hold them to account.

Today, we ask you to support our nonprofit, independent journalism because we are not impressed by billionaires flying into space, their corporations despoiling our health and planet, or their vast fortunes safely concealed in tax havens across the globe. We are not laughing.

We are hard at work producing journalism for the common good. With our Fall Campaign underway, please support this mission today. We cannot do it without you.

Support Our Work -- Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Every donation—large or small—helps us bring you the news that matters.

A flight test body for a B61-12 nuclear weapon. (Photo: Jerry Refern /Reveal)

Does Obama's Nuclear Modernization Make the Unthinkable 'Thinkable'?

Even those who have advised President Obama on his modernization plan are concerned about the risks posed by the updated weapons

Lauren McCauley

A new investigative report on Monday sheds light on the United States' modernization of its nuclear arsenal and the details are troubling: weapons that are smaller, more accurate, and potentially more likely to be used—and a president who, critics say, has turned his back on hope for a global weapons ban.

Under President Obama, the Energy Department and the Pentagon have been modernizing existing weapons to produce "a smaller, more reliable arsenal," write New York Times reporters William Broad and David Sanger, which allows Obama to claim allegiance to his 2010 pledge to end the development of new U.S. nuclear warheads or capabilities.

One such model, the B61 Model 12, "is the first of five new warhead types planned as part of an atomic revitalization estimated to cost up to $1 trillion over three decades," the Times reports. "As a family, the weapons and their delivery systems move toward the small, the stealthy and the precise."

Last year the bomb was flight-tested by the U.S. government in the Nevada desert. At the time, Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov slammed the tests as "irresponsible" and "openly provocative."

Internally, the updated arms have set off concerns that the once "unthinkable" deployment of a nuclear warhead may now enter the realm of the possible.

Though he backed the upgrades, Gen. James E. Cartwright, one of the president's most influential nuclear strategists and former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged to the reporters that "what going smaller does...is to make the weapon more thinkable."

In a subsequent interview, Cartwright expressed concern that the overall modernization plan, and the new precision of the weapons, could alter how military officials assess the risk of using nuclear weapons. "Does it make them more usable?" Cartwright asked. "It could be."

A similar concern was voiced by the Federation of American Scientists, which in early 2014 argued that "the high accuracy and low destructive settings [of the B61 Model 12] meant military commanders might press to use the bomb in an attack, knowing the radioactive fallout and collateral damage would be limited."

Another updated weapon, a nuclear-tipped cruise missile—which the Times describes as "a 'standoff weapon' that bombers can launch far from their targets"—has set off additional alarm.

Andrew C. Weber, a former assistant secretary of defense, and William J. Perry, a secretary of defense under President Clinton and advocate for nuclear draw-down, co-authored a recent article that argued that the new cruise missile might compel a future president to consider "limited nuclear war."

Such warnings are particularly resonant as some U.S. presidential hopefuls have expressed an eagerness to employ the country's nuclear arsenal.

Weber told the Times that, with the new modernization plan, Obama has passed on a real chance at arms control.

"The president has an opportunity to set the stage for a global ban on nuclear cruise missiles," Weber said. "It’s a big deal in terms of reducing the risks of nuclear war."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'When We Organize, We Win': Ocasio-Cortez Joins India Walton at Rally in Buffalo

The two progressives joined striking hospital workers on the picket line at Mercy Hospital after the early voting rally.

Julia Conley ·


Fatal Film Set Shooting Followed Outcry by Union Crew Members Over Safety Protocols

"When union members walk off a set about safety concerns, maybe 'hiring scabs' isn’t the solution you think it is."

Julia Conley ·


New Whistleblower Sparks Calls to 'Crack Down on Facebook and All Big Tech Companies'

Hours after another ex-employee filed a formal complaint, reporting broke on internal documents that show the tech giant's failure to address concerns about content related to the 2020 U.S. election.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Catastrophic and Irreparable Harm' to Wolves Averted as Wisconsin Judge Cancels Hunt

"We are heartened by this rare instance of reason and democracy prevailing in state wolf policy," said one conservation expert.

Brett Wilkins ·


West Virginia Constituents Decry 'Immorality' of Joe Manchin

"West Virginia has been locked into an economy that forces workers into low-wage jobs with no hope for advancement, and after decades of this our hope is dwindling," said one West Virginian. "The cuts that Sen. Manchin has negotiated into the agenda hurt our state."

Julia Conley ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo