“The way to win an atomic war is to make certain it never starts. And the way to make sure it never starts is to abolish the dangerous, costly nuclear stockpiles which imprison mankind.” - General Omar Bradley in 1948

August will be the 75th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We need to do more than just remember these tragic and unnecessary events. We must work to abolish nuclear weapons.

We are the nation that created nuclear weapons. We are the ONLY COUNTRY to use them. We used them primarily against a civilian population which is a war crime under international law.

During the Cold War we created an arms race with the former Soviet Union that resulted in some 15,000 nuclear warheads being produced. This was enough destructive power to literally destroy the world. We seem to have no remorse for having unleashed this evil on the world.

We still think we need nuclear weapons for our defense. Despite all the evidence, and the testimony of many experts, we think nuclear weapons keep us safe and are a deterrence to war. General George Lee Butler, head of US Strategic Nuclear Forces from 1991-1994, disagrees. He has said,

“It is my profound conviction that nuclear weapons did not, and will not, of themselves prevent major war. To the contrary, I am persuaded that the presence of these hideous devices unnecessarily prolonged and intensified the Cold War. In today’s security environment, threats of their employment have been fully exposed as neither credible nor of any military utility.”

Although so far the world has avoided a nuclear holocaust, these weapons have not prevented conventional war. Korea, Vietnam and many deadly “proxy” wars by the superpowers in Asia, Africa and Latin America occurred during the Cold War. Some  politicians and military leaders actually advocated USING nuclear weapons to “win” some of these conflicts.

Then there is the threat of a nuclear exchange between Pakistan and India. A regional nuclear conflict would have severe consequences for the rest of the world regardless of its length or intensity. Israel having nuclear weapons is a similar threat.

A small country surrounded by more populous “enemies” might feel compelled to use nuclear weapons. The existence of Israeli nuclear weapons also drives Iran’s desire to become a nuclear power.       

The very existence of nuclear weapons is a threat to the safety and well being of everyone. Given the power of nuclear weapons, the environmental damage caused by their production, and the record of accidents involving them, this is not just hypothetical rhetoric.

In his book "Command and Control," Eric Schlosser discusses the history of nuclear weapons and efforts to control them. The book details some of the 1,200 accidents between 1950 and 1968 involving nuclear weapons or the nuclear strike force.

There were bombs dropped by mistake, bombers catching on fire or crashing, missiles exploding, computers miscalculating, and people jumping to wrong conclusions and almost launching attacks. The Cuban missile crisis was not the only time we almost had a nuclear war.

The bottom line is we would be more secure by eliminating all nuclear weapons. General John Sheehan, the former commander of NATO, agrees and has said, “These weapons have increased global uncertainty and it is time for the global community to work toward a regime that eliminates their existence and possible use.”

Nuclear weapons are not necessary for defending our country or for preventing war. In fact nuclear weapons are the ONLY weapons that are deliverable and powerful enough to actually destroy our country.

No foreign power has the capacity to actually invade the United States with conventional forces. But even a few nuclear bombs would wreak havoc regardless of who “won.”

But rather than abolishing these weapons of mass destruction, we are making them easier to use.

The Obama administration started this “modernization” program. The plan included redesigned nuclear warheads, new nuclear bombers, submarines, land-based missiles, weapons labs and nuclear production plants.

The current administration’s fiscal 2021 budget calls for a $46 billion increase in this spending. In the next three decades, buying and maintaining the new arsenal could cost an astonishing $1.5 to $2 trillion.

This budget proposal is a 20% in-crease on nuclear weapons while cut-ting funds for the Centers for Disease Control and other public health agencies.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper recently called modernization of U.S. nuclear forces a “top priority ... to protect the American people and our allies.”

Given that more than 150,000 American are now dead from COVID-19, this is a bizarre priority.    

Retired Lt. Gen. Robert Gard, Jr. who now works for the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation says, “Perhaps the most egregiously wasteful defense expenditure is the excessive budget for the entire nuclear weapons complex...This includes expenditures for unnecessary infrastructure, nuclear warhead modernization, and new and expensive delivery systems at a time that we are reducing the role of nuclear weapons in our defense strategy.”

Eliminating nuclear weapons is not a Utopian fantasy. It is possible. The United Nations has a treaty to ban them and people around the world are working to get this treaty ratified by all nations.

Again, General George Lee Butler has said, “It is a measure of arrogance to assert that a nuclear weapons-free world is impossible when 95% of the nations of the world are already nuclear-free. There is no security in nuclear weapons. IT IS A FOOL’S GAME.”(emphasis added.)

For decades we have had a bi-partisan aggressive, militarized foreign policy. It makes no difference which party is in control.

Currently we are reigniting an arms race with Russia over nuclear weapons modernization. The current administration is creating conflict with China on trade and on control of the South China Sea.

We don’t need more conflict in the world. We need a new foreign policy that “projects” cooperation and peaceful problem solving rather than military power.

We can’t wait for the politicians to end nuclear weapons. Nothing will happen unless people demand action.