Monday, December 5, 1988

Crying out for a world
without nuclear weapons

The cold north wind is blowing and members of the Peace Park Antinuclear Vigil in front of the White House are bracing themselves for another winter.

The vigil had been continuous, 24 hours a day, for over seven years. This winter is special: the second inauguration. A time of reflection, tucked in the northeast corner of Lafayette Park while the President's Inaugural Committee constructs quarter-million-dollar bleachers to be used by the wealthy on January 20 as Bush's cavalcade marches.

Under strict regulation, vigilers are not permitted to have possessions that might be construed as "living accommodations." Yet these vigilers survive—along with countless homeless—with one or two blankets, a sheet of plastic, and dumpster-dive fare for food.

Unlike many homeless, though, members of the vigil are here for a specific purpose, displaying signs and literature, consulting the passersby.

Many people ignore us. Of those who don't, some ask: "Why are you here?" Some say, "You're wasting your time! "


We wonder, if we had our way, and there were no nuclear devices; anywhere in this world, would pro-nuclear advocates spend even one night out here in the snow and rain? Would they spend 2,700 nights?

It's not easy to have faith in this world, or to have hope that our vision—for a more just, caring society—will ever be realized. Day in and day out we ask for petition signatures. We call out for people to turn around—for a moment—to face reality: dozens of wars, maimed and, starving children, burgeoning arms sales, and the profound lack of good sense.

Let me give some important examples. Many have brought the notion that we can only negotiate for disarmament from a position of strength.

But when do we stop strengthening and begin disarming? The INF treaty should have been a good start. Yet new U.S. systems are being financed as the old are dismantled.

Never do Reagan, Bush nor any arms contractors, ever plan to stop producing weapons. And when they speak of spending only for research, you can bet that anything the government has spent research money on will then be produced and deployed.

In 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev made a significant gesture, challenging President Reagan to negotiate a comprehensive nuclear test ban (CTB) by declaring a unilateral ban which lasted for 18 months. Reagan's response was to invite Gorbachev to view an U.S. test.

Neither is it likely that George Bush would care to negotiate a CTB. Bush seems intent on pulling the bow further back. In fact, in a 1980 interview with Robert Scheer of The Los Angeles Times, Bush stated his belief that it is possible, if not probable, to win a nuclear war.

Bush: "Yes, if you believe there is no such thing as a winner in a nuclear exchange, that argument makes little sense. I don't believe that."

Scheer: "How do you win a nuclear exchange?"

Bush: "You have a survivability of command and control, survivability of industrial potential, protection of a percentage of your citizens, and you have a capacity that inflicts more damage on the opposition than it can inflict on you. That's the way you can have a winner, and the Soviets' planning is based on the ugly concept of a winner in a nuclear exchange."

Scheer: "Do you mean 5 percent would survive? Two percent?"

Bush: "More than that—if everybody fired everything he had, you'd have more than that survive."

In his 1988 presidential campaign, Bush effectively ducked this issue.

Another foolish notion: that increasing our "first-strike" capabilities will increase our national security. This is to imagine that two archers with arrows aimed at each other will become safer as they draw further back an their bow.

Both the Soviet Union and United States have had to place a greater amount of dependency on their "launch-on-warning" (LOW) computer systems; thus, we are pulling our bows further back, and the fingers will soon lose grip.

Who first? We all hear about how inept the Soviet Union's technology is. We laugh when they spy on us to acquire computer technology. We laugh when they cannot get their elevators to work right, or when their submarines run aground. But when the Soviets fire their missiles at us because of computer error, no one will be laughing.

As well as putting us on a hair trigger, these first-strike weapons are costing us a lot of money. For example, the stealth bomber, just one weapons program, is projected to cost the U.S. taxpayer half a billion dollars apiece.

Now, for the price of only four of these stealth bombers, we could feed the world's famine victims for a year!

But we will not spend the money to feed the world's famine victims for a year. We will, however, spend the money for approximately 100 stealth bombers, none of which will make us any more secure—only less secure. As we achieve the ability to slip through radar, undetected, the Soviets will respond accordingly. And as we move the arms race into space, we will cut our "launch on warning" decision time from minutes to seconds.

And all this time we are squandering our national budgets.

The cold north wind is blowing, and members of the Peace Park Antinuclear Vigil are bracing themselves for a long winter—four years, perhaps, if we live that long.

Song, AKA Brett Hamrick,
is a member of the
Peace Park Antinuclear Vigil.