A Giant Step For Mankind

Presidents Obama and Medvedev Sign Strategic Arms Treaty 


Although President Obama’s signing of the new Strategic arms treaty cutting US and Russian nuclear arsenals – which contain 96% of all  atomic weapons – and barring the building of new ones, is certain to be greeted with hysterical cries from the right that he has sold the country out, and cynics on the left will dismiss the treaty as little more than window dressing since each side still retains the capacity to wipe out the world, it nevertheless remains true that this treaty is an important step toward the goal of ridding the world of these dooms day weapons. 

Already we have been provided a glimpse of how the Republicans, those perennially backward looking political anachronisms with no vision for human progress, will greet this historic diplomatic achievement. Rudolph Giuliani, the former New York Mayor who aspired to be President, has dismissed the desire to rid our world of nuclear weapons: “This is a sixty year fantasy of the left, just like a national health care program,” he proclaimed without irony or shame.  Although he worked for the Reagan Administration, Giuliani’s statement ignores the fact that Ronald Reagan passionately denounced the use of nuclear weapons and called for their elimination during a speech in Communist China!

Considering that this is one of the milder criticisms from the Republicans – the utterances of Pat Buchanan and Michel Bachman were far worse – we have further evidence of why Republican control of the national government represents a menace to America and the world.  To be sure, this is not the end of the road in the struggle to dismantle standing nuclear arsenals or prevent proliferation of these weapons capable of the instantaneous destruction of our civilization and annihilation of our species. 

This treaty is also not free of booby traps that could eventually blow everything apart in the future.  For instance, the US commitment to building a anti-missile defense system in countries that used to be a part of the Warsaw Pact, an activity the Russians adamantly oppose, has the potential to wreck the agreement in the future.  Another stumbling block in President Obama’s effort to eliminate nuclear weapons will arise in his attempt to get the Russians to support American designed sanctions against Iran.  And given the physical proximity of Iran to Russia, the Russians will never agree to a nuclear attack on Iran. 

Furthermore, with twenty million Muslims within their borders, and millions more perched just outside their borders, Russian national interest dictates a dramatically different posture toward Iran from the US. As the eminent Russian expert Stephen Cohen recently pointed out: “There is no evidence that the Iranians have ever promoted Islamic radicalism within Russia.” For which, given their present problems with terrorism, we can be sure the Russian are genuinely grateful.  On the other hand, while there is no possibility of the Iranians striking the US with a nuclear missile, they could easily hit Russia.  The obvious lesson here is that if the Russians can co-exist with a nuclear armed Iran…so can we.  No matter what the Chicken Littles on the right say.

 “Fat Boy” Explodes On Nagasaki Japan


 July, 1945: Never Again!

There is a grave danger in allocating too much importance to the threat posed by small countries who may be working on their first atomic bomb, or the troubling existence of suitcase nuclear bombs somewhere out there in the world; lest we forget that it is the strategic nuclear weapons that pose a danger to the continued existence of life on this planet.  The first, and only, time an atomic bomb was used I was only three years old.  This means that I have lived under the terror of atomic war for my entire life. 

 When I was a boy growing up in Florida in the 1950’s we regularly had A-bomb drills, so that we would know what to do in case the Russians dropped an atomic bomb on St. Augustine.   Although the idea strikes me as the acme of absurdities when I reflect upon it in retrospect, at the time it seemed a very real possibility.  And we lived in terror of it.  It was not uncommon to hear kids say “If I grow up” rather than “when I grow up.”  In a kind of bizarre gallows humor, laughing to keep from crying, we even made up jokes about the atomic bomb drills.  

 For instance we would create these instructional manuals with construction paper, which had a fold over cardboard top that read:” In case of an atomic attack lift this tab.” People would inevitably raise the tab to see what was beneath it, and they would be greeted with another sign that said:” “Not now jackass, it said in case of atomic attack!”  There was another popular instruction that parodied the actual instructions we were given in our civil defense packets.  We handed out leaflets and posted signs that said: ”In case of an atomic attack, bend over and pull your head between your legs as tight as possible, then kiss yo black ass goodbye!”

Even then, as children, we knew that possession of nuclear weapons in a world full of belligerent countries could easily lead to disaster.  And just a few years later, I was assigned to the  the Strategic Air Command and granted a “Top Secret” security clearance at the apex of the Cold War.  It was here that I recieved a full fledged education on nuclear weapons.  I concluded at the time that the use of nuclear weapons is a crime against humanity; now I have come to believe it is a monstrous crime to merely posesss such weapons and black mail other nations by threatening to use them unless they comply with our demands. 

At the time people organized anti-nuke rallies because the contest for global hegemony by the US and Russia threated the lives of people all over he globe!  But most people have developed a false sense of security because the nuclear threat has been played down since then, even as the danger multiplies. For instance “Fat Boy” was equivalent to approximately 20 thousand tons of high explosive TNT.  But the Thermonuclear Hydrogen bombs of today have the explosive capacity of 100 million tons of TNT!  Hence the human species cannot survive an all out nuclear war with strategic weapons.  And so long as hostile nations have each other targeted with such weapons, the fate of man will remain problematic. It can all be over in a flash.  The most pressing need in regard to the nuclear danger, aside from total nuclear disarmament, is to put the subject back on the agenda for serious discussion to remind people that a nuclear sword of Damocles continues to hang over our heads.  That’s why the signing of the new strategic arms limitations treaty today is a giant step for mankind.

Dooms Day!


 This Thermo-Nuclear Explosion Makes Fat Boy Look Like A Toy


Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York 

April 8, 2010

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