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CAUSE FOR ALARM: Nuclear weapons options being increasingly considered by Trump administration

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OKLAHOMA CITY – During the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, New Mexico in the early 1940’s, the wives of the scientists working on the atomic bomb – aka “The Gadget” – were not allowed to know exactly what it was their husbands were working on. All they knew is that secrecy was paramount and, with World War II raging, what they were working on would potentially “end all war.”

I thought of this while watching season one of the excellent 2014-15 series Manhattan, about the frenzied efforts by the U.S. government to build an atomic bomb – efforts that were successful, as we all know.

In fact, a composite character in Manhattan named Dr. Frank Winter (John Benjamin Hickey) is talking to his wife, Dr. Liza Winter (Olivia Williams) about the secret project in the vaguest of terms.

Please tell me it’s worth it,” Liza says to Frank.

If it works, we won’t just end this war. We’ll end all war. Forever.”

Do you really believe that?” she asks.

Manhattan's Dr. Frank Winter (John Benjamin Hickey) has a nightmare about what an atomic bomb could actually do. (WGN)

And with American war dead mounting by the day, and the understanding that the Nazis were racing to build their own atomic weapon, the clock was running down and stress levels were at epic levels, taking a serious toll on the scientists trying to build a workable bomb that could “end all war.”

Well, we now know that those idealistic physicists and their supporters in the U.S. military were wrong, in the long run. The Pandora’s box of nuclear weaponry was opened – like the literal box in the Robert Aldrich-directed 1955 sci-fi film noir Kiss Me Deadly – and it only led to an arms race between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. which led to more nuclear weapons being built and, with each one, taking us ever closer to nuclear Armageddon.

Gabrielle (Gaby Rodgers) opens Pandora's (nuclear) box in 1955's Kiss Me Deadly. (United Artists)

But things changed after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the Soviet Union dissolved two years later. The perilous, nuclear “Sword of Damocles” was suddenly gone, as the world reconfigured and the Communist threat was largely a thing of the past – except in volatile places like North Korea.

And because North Korea remains a threat and is testing nuclear weapons – some capable of reaching American territory, suddenly the threat of a nuclear war seems to be back on the table.


And with the Trump administration, via the year-long "Nuclear Posture Review," considering the development of “smaller, more tactical nuclear weapons that would cause less damage than traditional thermonuclear bombs,” according to Politico, and would be presented as a way to “further deter Russia, North Korea or other potential nuclear adversaries.”

The New York Post, meanwhile, reported that Ri Chun-hee, the long-time anchor of Pyongyang’s state-run Korean Central Television, will be the person who will announce “the nuclear apocalypse.” A recent device tested by the North Koreans was reportedly 140 kilotons.  For comparison, the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in August 1945 were in the 15-to-20 kiloton range. The Trinity test three weeks earlier at White Sands in New Mexico, the result of the Manhattan Project, was a 20-kiloton plutonium fission implosion.

And now, with Trump's group looking, potentially, at reintroducing "mini-nukes," that could potentially lead to the renewal of nuclear tests, something not done in the United States since 1992. 

Meanwhile, the ‘pink-clad propagandist” in Pyongyang stated on the channel after a recent nuke test: “The test of a hydrogen bomb designed to be mounted on our intercontinental ballistic missile was a perfect success. It was a very meaningful step in completing the national nuclear weapons program.”

Talking to Politico this past week, Joe Cirincione, president of the peace-minded Ploughshares Fund, said Trump’s plan is “fueled by economic, not security reasons.”

This is nuclear pork disguised as nuclear strategy,” Cirincione said. “This is a jobs program for a few government labs and a few contractors. This is an insane proposal. It would lower the threshold for nuclear use. It would make nuclear war more likely. It comes from the illusion that you could use a nuclear weapon and end a conflict on favorable terms. Once you cross the nuclear threshold, you are inviting a nuclear response.

With things getting increasingly dangerous in our world, where is the anti-war and anti-nuclear movement in 2017? Zoe Williams, writing for The UK Guardian last week, in a timely piece headlined "No more nukes? Why anti-nuclear protests need an urgent revival." In the piece Williams writes how combining peace and human rights movements, alongside the anti-nuclear efforts of the 1980's, helped to fundamentally change things, making those efforts of three decades ago a grassroots effort at its core.

In coming days, the U.S. Senate is expected to debate the issue of new nuclear options next week when it takes up the National Defense Authorization Act. We will be watching to see how U.S. Sens. James Lankford and Jim Inhofe, both Republicans, vote on this critical matter.

Here in Oklahoma City, our small "Nuclear Disarmament Now!" group is trying to garner more members to write their congressional officials and anyone who will listen and realize that we are heading down a very dangerous road. One that could only lead to death and ruin for humanity and the planet.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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