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SORRY STATE: Listless nuclear disarmament movement does little in face of burgeoning arms race

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A Trident II missile, like this one, would be fired from an Ohio-class U.S. Navy nuclear submarine.
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OKLAHOMA CITY—“Nuclear abolition itself is being abolished.”

So wrote James Carroll, rather soberly, in a Mother Jones magazine piece in 2014, in a piece where he wrote about the sorry state of global nuclear disarmament.

And a lot of this can be laid at the feet of President Barack Obama. Way back in 2009, he was telling the world, via a foreign policy speech in Prague, that America was committed “to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

Yeah, right.

Ever since then, Obama has worked alongside the Senate Republicans to “modernize” the US nuclear arsenal, notes Carroll. New multi-billion dollar nuclear bombers (Long Range Strike Bomber, etc.) and 12 Ohio-class submarines – made to order for the Air Force and Navy, of course – would feature “next-generation missiles” and the arms race would recommence.

Russia, commenting on recent B61-12 atomic bomb "dummy" tests as "provocative" and "irresponsible." 

We heartily agree with our Russian friends in this case. 

As World Socialist Web Site noted today, “Each submarine carries 24 Trident II missiles, with each missile carrying eight warheads with a yield six times greater than the “Little Boy” bomb that killed over 100,000 people in the U.S. bombing of Nagasaki, Japan in 1945.

Continuing, the article notes that these Trident II missiles have “an effective range of more than 7,465 miles” and that “a single Ohio-class submarine in the waters outside of San Diego could obliterate 192 cities in western China, with a combined population of 400 million people.

And the White House has already given the “go-ahead” for replacing the older nuclear submarines. Note this New York Times article from Monday, headlined "As U.S. Modernizes Nuclear Weapons, 'Smaller' Leaves Some Uneasy."

Here in the infancy of 2016, days after North Korea claims it has tested a hydrogen bomb, and the situation in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and the western Pacific are worsening, the mainstream “talkers” and “pundits” are focusing on armaments of a smaller variety – the handgun – and so forth. 

And while the issue of gun violence in America’s cities (and smaller communities) is of concern, this issue of bulking up our nuclear arsenal, particularly at a time when states like Oklahoma are struggling to pay for the education of its children, this is a far bigger problem. The so-called "guns in the sky" may not quite exist, but Reagan's Star Wars legacy lives on. You can feel it. At least Britain has Labour Party opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has criticized the UK's embrace of the Trident program.

As Robert Koehler wrote over at this week, in his piece “Taking on the Nuclear Goliath,” reminds readers that the United States – and all of the nine nations that possess nuclear weapons – were called out in a lawsuit by the Pacific island nation of the Marshall Islands as not complying with the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which was supposed to lead to global nuclear disarmament. Red Dirt Report praised the Marshall Islands in 2014 for their bold position on this manner, since they have been so horribly affected by the legacy of atomic testing.

Koehler’s piece is well-worth reading and explains the Marshall Islands suit and its implications in further detail. 

But are we counting on the very small Marshall Islands to do the heavy lifting? Where is today's nuclear disarmament movement? Oklahoma City has Nuclear Disarmament Now!, but it is a very, very small organization. There are a few groups in the U.S., but not a movement of any consequance, like the old Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. People used to get organized in those days.


As I write this, the world is mourning the death of David Bowie. This as a rainbow appeared over New York City ("Central Park to Shantytown") on the same day and Bowie's Blackstar album appears headed for number one in the U.S. His first. Amazing final act.

One World Trade (Freedom Tower). Where the world witnessed "horror beyond comprehension in 2001" when it was the Twin Towers. (Photo by Karen Trott)

Since this was announced, I have been refamiliarizing myself with the more obscure corners of his catalogue. One of the albums that really has caught my attention is Lodger, from 1979.

The first song on Lodger – “Fantastic Voyage” – is essentially an anti-nuclear war song, featuring lyrics about a potentially "depressed" person willing to push the nuclear button. As Bowie sings: "It's a very modern world, but nobody's perfect / It's a moving world, but that's notreason to shoot some of those missiles." 

Reportedly, Bowie wrote “Fantastic Voyage” while watching news footage of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) II talks between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. It seems to resonate, even today. 

As noted at the Pushing Ahead of the Dame Bowie blog, when addressing “Fantastic Voyage,” it goes into depth about the mood behind this important Bowie song. 

What apparently roused Bowie out of himself was the renewed threat of nuclear war (’79, the year of Afghanistan, was in retrospect the start of the final innings of Cold War madness—the MX missiles, Reagan’s “we begin bombing in five minutes” joke, the Korean airliner downing, etc.) So “Fantastic Voyage” was the harbinger of the run of early ’80s Cold War answer records, youth against homicidal statesmen: The Young Marble Giants’ “Final Day,” XTC’s “Living Through Another Cuba,” Prince’s “1999,” the Fixx’s “Stand or Fall,” Alphaville’s “Forever Young.” Even “99 Luftballoons.”

But unlike then, today you would be hard pressed to find any popular musicians addressing the seriousness of our current geopolitical situation. Bowie knew, though. He was concerned with these matters that we have been facing for more than four decades, during much of Bowie's career.

Recall that in 2006, Bowie appropriately played Nikola Tesla in the film The Prestige. Tesla was famously quoted in his lifetime as saying: "You will live to see man-made horrors beyond your comprehension."

If you care to go deeper, this Bowie-minded Christian blog notes Bowie’s “toying” with the idea of the clash of civilizations on 1984’s “Loving the Alien,” writing, “And indeed, the Islamic shadow-form has been building for some time, (ever since Zbigniew Brzezinski activated the jihad archetype in 1979 as a means to overextending the Soviet Empire with ‘their own Vietnam’). 

Diabolical characters like Brzezinski are still with us, unfortunately. Perhaps not fully influencing foreign policy as he and others did in other administrations, but those ideas still percolate and find followers and promoters in Washington. Boeing and other defense contractors are major contributors to the morning news shows, including NBC's Meet the Press. Do you expect Chuck Todd and his guests to critcize the military-industrial complex that essentially writes his paycheck? 

Keep it small. Domestic. Oh, and show those "Jihadi Johns," dressed like the "man in the black pajamas, worthy fuckin' adversary," as Walter Sobchak tells his bowling buddies in The Big Lebowski, and scare the shit out of the rubes in Hooterville. Depends on what the meaning of "ISIS" is, to fracture a quote by a certain former president. 

And after all, as Hillary Clinton's mentor Secretary of State "Mad" Madeleine Albright: "What's the point of having this superb military that you're always talking about if we can't use it?"

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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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About Red Dirt Report

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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