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Douglas Mattern: Red Alert Everyday

Red Alert Everyday

by Douglas Mattern

Terrorism of the 9/11-type tragedy is a serious and dangerous problem that people understand, and they take caution when the color alerts are issued. What's amazing is that the same people ignore a far greater terrorism that is on Red Alert everyday with millions of lives and a billion tears but an hour away.

This is the terrorism posed by nuclear weapons. The situation remains as President Kennedy stated before the UN General Assembly on September 25, 1961:

"Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us."

This warning takes on a new urgency due to the expansion of the nuclear weapons club, and, most ominous, the "preemptive" war policy of the Bush administration that includes the possible use of nuclear weapons. Military analyst William Arkin writes that the Bush administration's war planning "moves nuclear weapons out of their long-established special category and lumps them in with all the other military options."

The Bush team is also determined to build a new generation of tactical nuclear weapons. The U.S. has already resumed production of plutonium pits for nuclear bombs for the first time in 14 years, and the Bush team has plans to resume nuclear testing at the Nevada underground site.

Our compliant, corporate serving, and pusillanimous Congress has allocated the funds for this escalation in the massive 2004 military budget of $401 billion, which is more than the military spending of next 20 countries combined.

McGeorge Bundy, advisor to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, placed the nuclear danger in grim detail: "In the real world even one hydrogen bomb on one city would be a catastrophe; ten bombs on ten cities would be a disaster beyond history. A hundred or even less would be the end of civilization."

In today's Red Alert world more than 30,000 nuclear weapons are stockpiled, including thousands of U.S. and Russian nuclear warheads that are on a "hair-trigger" alert, ready to be launched in a few minutes notice that would destroy both countries, and much of civilization, within an hour

Is this the kind of civilization we want or that can endure with any promise for future generations? Surely an observer from another world would conclude the ancient Greeks were right: "Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad." Perhaps the years of this terror is too difficult to comprehend and leaves people immune to the danger, a mental numbness, if not a passive "madness." Passive or not, the nuclear madness must be ended before the weapons "abolish us" as Kennedy warned.

The criminal lunacy of retaining these weapons was emphasized in a recent BBC report that some scientists and military leaders are worried that an asteroid passing relatively close to our planet could "trigger nuclear war" if mistaken for a missile strike. To underline their concern, each year about 30 asteroids pierce the atmosphere and explode.

The miserable failure to end the nuclear madness and the criminal waste of our wealth and resources on militarism has caught up with us. Time is running out, and the reckless escalation and "preemptive" policy by the Bush administration makes it imperative that people mobilize and collectively demand immediate action before it is forever too late!

The first step is to remove all nuclear warheads from "hair-trigger" alert to end the danger of nuclear war initiated by an accidental missile launch or miscalculation. The next step is the elimination of nuclear weapons from the face of the earth, and to ensure through enforceable international law they can never be produced again. It is only on this historic day that humanity will be liberated from Red Alert and the nuclear nightmare, and be able to move forward to a better and safer world.


- Douglas Mattern is President of the Association of World Citizens, a San Francisco based international peace organization with branches in over 30 countries. email:

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