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Euripides Updated: The Trojan War With Nukes

Euripides Updated: The Trojan War With Nukes

By Douglas Mattern

In the upcoming presidential debates, President Bush and Senator Kerry must be challenged to respond to the critical issue of nuclear weapons escalation, and the irresponsible waste of our resources and talent on over-bloated military spending.

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children..."

- President Dwight Eisenhower

The reference to "theft" is appropriate considering the bloated U.S. military budget that exceeds the military spending of the next 20 countries combined. In 2004, the U.S. war industry will receive over $100 billion to build and develop new weapons. At the same time 34.6 million Americans live in poverty and 43 million are without health insurance.

U.S. military spending is more than 40 percent of the world total, which in 2004 will approach $1 trillion. Meanwhile, half of humanity lives in poverty, existing on less than $2 a day. An average of 24,000 people die from hunger every day, and 30,000 children die every day from preventable causes.

In the midst of this global misery, billions of U.S. dollars are being allocated to build a new class of tactical nuclear weapons, along with the "star war" missile defense scheme, and the planned militarization of space, which is the dream of never ending profits for the war industry.

In response to this onslaught, Russia has announced plans to build a new generation of weapons that President Putin says will be "unrivaled in the world."

This escalation is underway even though 30,000 nuclear weapons are stockpiled, including thousands of U.S. and Russian warheads on a "hair-trigger" alert, ready to be launched in a few minutes notice that would destroy both countries within an hour.

In reference to the slaughter in the Trojan War, the great Greek playwright Euripides (480-406 BC) made his historical statement: "Whom the Gods would destroy, they first make mad."

In 2004, this statement surely applies to the "hair-trigger" status of nuclear weapons and the current escalation. How else can we describe a condition where every single day we are threatened with nuclear incineration that could be started by miscalculation, computer error, an accidental missile launch, or by design.

What kind of civilization allows this "madness" to continue year after year with such passive silence? We know there have been several documented close calls to nuclear war over the years and luck has played a role in averting disaster. But luck does not endure and we are running out of time.

The immediate priority is to get all the warheads off "hair-trigger" alert before it is too late. Moreover, this is the first step toward the only acceptable goal: the total elimination of nuclear weapons from the face of the earth.

This is imperative, for no matter how horrendous the damage done by the world's current wave of terrorists, it pales in comparison to the nightmare of terror and death that even one hydrogen bomb on one city would create..

Let's demand that Bush and Kerry offer their plan to end this ultimate madness, and how they will gain the support of other nations to direct our resources toward solving our social and environmental problems rather than producing weapons to destroy each other. This is the first step to establish a world community for the 21st century, in which disputes between nations and peoples (and dealing with terrorists) are settled through the civilized framework of enforceable international law.

There is no alternative to this goal other than an eventual updating of Euripides statement in a scenario that the great Greek playwright could never have imagined in his worst playwriting nightmare.


- Doug Mattern is president of the Association of World Citizens, a San Francisco based international peace organization with branches in over 30 countries

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