The world in harm’s way: Nuclear weapons still threaten

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You are within 30 minutes of being incinerated from nuclear weapons.

If you live in or near a large U.S. city or major military installation, you are in harm’s way. And when considering that radiation fallout from a nuclear attack would hurt virtually everyone, we are all threatened by nuclear weapons.

Dr. Bruce Blair, a former officer responsible for 50 Minuteman nuclear missiles in Montana, and now co-founder of Global Zero (www.globalzero.org) – an international organization dedicated to eliminating all nuclear weapons – shared with me a dangerous little known fact: Both the United States and Russia each have approximately 1,000 nuclear warheads still aimed at each other. What’s even worse, these weapons of mass destruction are programmed at launch ready alert, otherwise known as hair-trigger alert.

Women pray for victims of the 1945 atomic bombing during a Mass at the Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki, Japan, on Aug. 9 last year.. (CNS photo/Kyodo, Reuters)
Women pray for victims of the 1945 atomic bombing during a Mass at the Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki, Japan, on Aug. 9 last year.. (CNS photo/Kyodo, Reuters)

Because Russian and American land-based nuclear missiles can reach their targets in just 30 minutes, Blair said “the president, after a very short briefing, would have just 12 minutes max, and more plausibly only five minutes to decide whether to launch a nuclear attack against Russia. And if a reported Russian attack is launched from sea, the president would only have seconds to make a decision.

Blair said that Russia has a similar system, except that much of theirs is antiquated, thus increasing the chance of a nuclear exchange based on misinformation or technical malfunction.

In fact, due to sloppy communications and/or computer errors, Russia and the U.S. have come within minutes of nuclear war more than once.

When we factor in that seven other nations possess nuclear weapons, the chance of nuclear war increases significantly, especially when we consider the very unstable regimens of Pakistan and North Korea.

On August 6, 1945, over 70,000 people, mostly civilians, were killed when a U.S. B-29 bomber dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.

Then on August 9, 1945, the U.S. dropped a second atomic bomb, this time on the Japanese city of Nagasaki, killing at least 60,000 people, again mostly civilians. Nagasaki was the center of Japanese Catholicism.

The tremendous death and destruction caused by these two nuclear weapons is small in comparison to the carnage that would result today from the detonation of two far more powerful modern nuclear weapons.

Global Zero has developed a plan to completely eliminate the world’s approximate 16,000 nuclear weapons by 2030. To learn how you can help, go to http://www.globalzero.org/our-movement.

Global Zero co-founder Blair said that an international conference of all nuclear countries, and would be nuclear countries, needs to be convened to work out a process towards a world without nuclear weapons.

Also, Russia and the U.S. need to take the missiles aimed at each other off hair-trigger alert by physically removing the warheads form each missile, said Blair.

Please contact President Obama urging him to convene an international nuclear weapons elimination conference, and to enter into negotiations with Russia to take the missiles aimed at each other off hair-trigger alert.

Recently canonized St. John XXIII would like to weigh in here. In his prophetic encyclical Pacem in Terris (“Peace on Earth”) he wrote, “Justice, then, right reason and consideration for human dignity and life urgently demand that the arms race should cease … that nuclear weapons should be banned.”

Let’s pray and work that justice, right reason, consideration for human dignity and life prevail.

 

Tony Magliano is a syndicated social justice and peace columnist who lives in the Diocese of Wilmington.