Massive Deaths by Nukes... and Close Calls

December 25, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper |


On December 22 and 23, Donald Trump stated his future policy on nuclear weapons: “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” and “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”


Nuclear weapons were introduced into war when the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. At Ground Zero in Hiroshima, almost everything was simply destroyed and every human being died. Even two miles from the blast, human skin was severely burned. The wind blew at 1,000 miles per hour—shattering the bodies of thousands of people as it hurled them through the air or brought buildings crashing down upon them. When the firestorm died down, the former city was a scorched plain. A heavy black rain brought radioactive dust back down to earth. Some of the dead had been vaporized, many others lay where they died, in their thousands and thousands.

When President Harry Truman was told of the Hiroshima bombing, he said, “This is the greatest thing in history.” (See “American Crime Case #97: August 6 and 9, 1945—The Nuclear Incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”)

In the decades that followed, there were repeated incidents that came within a hair-trigger of setting off such a nuclear war. During the Cuba Missile Crisis, in 1962, “a series of misperceptions, miscalculations, and command-and-control problems almost started an accidental nuclear war—despite the determination of both John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev to avoid one. In perhaps the most dangerous incident, the captain of a Soviet submarine mistakenly believed that his vessel was under attack by U.S. warships and ordered the firing of a torpedo armed with a nuclear warhead. His order was blocked by a fellow officer. Had the torpedo been fired, the United States would have retaliated with nuclear weapons.” U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara was quoted as saying of that incident: “I feared I might never live to see another Saturday night.” (“World War Three, By Mistake,” Eric Schlosser, The New Yorker, December 23, 2016)

In the period that followed, a “nuclear arms race” like the one Trump is frothing at the mouth over, consumed a huge amount of the resources created by humanity. At its peak, both the United States and the Soviet Union each had well over 5,000 nuclear weapons. Each one more efficient, more deadly, and more “deliverable” than the bombs used to vaporize Hiroshima and Nagasaki and terrorize Japan. In preparing for a broadcast in 1982, Ronald Reagan “joked,” “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” The Soviet Union responded by putting their nuclear launch protocol on high alert for 30 minutes, according to a Tokyo newspaper.

With the unexpected collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. and the Russian Federation (which succeeded the Soviet Union) began negotiations to reduce their nuclear arsenals to the point that each one was assured they could destroy the other. Despite the reduction in the number of nukes, the danger of a nuclear war was not reduced. Aging nuclear weapons, rapid escalation in the ability to hack into computer systems, misreading of signals sent by the U.S. and Russia, highly automated alerts that are frequently false, and a whole range of potential accidents and “human error” have led to repeated close calls where nuclear war almost started. Earlier this month, former Secretary of Defense William Perry said, “The nuclear danger today is more acute than at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.”

Further, with the proliferation of nuclear technology, a whole range of regional actors, with conflicts of their own, face off with nuclear weapons, including Pakistan and India. And it is highly likely that between his declarations that the U.S. will back anything Israel does, and his ghoulish embrace of nuclear weapons, a Trump presidency would send a green light to Israel to use their substantial nuclear arsenal.

This is the stage onto which Donald Trump would set foot. If he is allowed to assume the presidency.


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