Monday, February 18, 2019

 THE BLIND LEADING THE DOOMED

Tomgram: James Carroll, How Many Minutes to Midnight?

"Consider it a marriage made in hell. Start with the groom, Donald Trump, the man who once wondered why in the world we make nuclear weapons if we can’t use them; who wouldn’t rule out using nukes, even in Europe; who insisted that a president should be “unpredictable” on the subject; who suggested that it might not be “a bad thing for us” if Saudi Arabia, Japan, and South Korea all became nuclear powers; who threatened North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen” before he became a chummy correspondent with its dictator; and who called for a nearly 10-fold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal (among many other, often contradictory, comments he’s made on nuclear matters).

Now, think about the bride, National Security Advisor John Bolton, a “statesman” who never saw a nuclear agreement he didn’t want to nuke. Those included President Richard Nixon’s Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, President Bill Clinton’s Agreed Framework with North Korea, President Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal (all of which he helped to deep-six), and most recently President Ronald Reagan’s Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, Treaty (a pact that had actually resulted in thousands of ready-to-use nuclear weapons being scrapped). With the help of his neocon bro, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Bolton recently succeeded in sticking a knife directly in the back of that treaty. He’s undoubtedly now eying the New START treaty, which put limits on long-range nukes and is up for renewal in 2021. (The president has already called it “one of several bad deals negotiated by the Obama administration.”)

As TomDispatch regular and former Boston Globe columnist James Carroll points out today, the first new member of Trump's and Bolton's nuclear family, a “low-yield” nuke, was only recently born and given the less-than-apocalyptic name, W76-2. It looks as though, in nuclear terms, they are headed for a grim version of connubial bliss. To mix a metaphor or two in the fashion of our president, you might even think of that first progeny of theirs as a minute hand on a ticking clock heading for midnight. Tom" 

(James Carroll at Tom Dispatch.com)

"Last month, the National Nuclear Security Administration (formerly the Atomic Energy Commission) announced that the first of a new generation of strategic nuclear weapons had rolled off the assembly line at its Pantex nuclear weapons plant in the panhandle of Texas. That warhead, the W76-2, is designed to be fitted to a submarine-launched Trident missile, a weapon with a range of more than 7,500 miles. By September, an undisclosed number of warheads will be delivered to the Navy for deployment.

What makes this particular nuke new is the fact that it carries a far smaller destructive payload than the thermonuclear monsters the Trident has been hosting for decades -- not the equivalent of about 100 kilotons of TNT as previously, but of five kilotons. According to Stephen Young of the Union of Concerned Scientists, the W76-2 will yield “only” about one-third of the devastating power of the weapon that the Enola Gay, an American B-29 bomber, dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Yet that very shrinkage of the power to devastate is precisely what makes this nuclear weapon potentially the most dangerous ever manufactured. Fulfilling the Trump administration’s quest for nuclear-war-fighting “flexibility,” it isn’t designed as a deterrent against another country launching its nukes; it’s designed to be used.  This is the weapon that could make the previously “unthinkable” thinkable."

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