November 5, 2007: This website is an archive of the former website,, which was created 10 years ago by Charles Jenks. It became one of the most populace sites in the US, and an important resource on the antiwar movement, student activism, 'depleted' uranium and other topics. Jenks authored virtually all of its web pages and multimedia content (photographs, audio, video, and pdf files. As the author and registered owner of that site, his purpose here is to preserve an important slice of the history of the grassroots peace movement in the US over the past decade. He is maintaining this historical archive as a service to the greater peace movement, and to the many friends of Traprock Peace Center. Blogs have been consolidated and the calendar has been archived for security reasons; all other links remain the same, and virtually all blog content remains intact.

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New Nukes, New Wars

By David Keppel


This is an address that David Keppel will deliver at the Bloomington Peace Action

Coalition forum at the Monroe County Public Library, Bloomington, IN at 6:30

PM August 4, 2004.


Fifty-nine years after the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the

danger of nuclear war is rising.  And once again, it may be the United

States that uses these indefensible weapons.


On July 12th, President Bush gave a speech defending his decision to attack

Iraq in quest of weapons of mass destruction it did not have.  Some of you

may recall just where Mr. Bush gave this speech: at Oak Ridge National

Nuclear Laboratory, after inspecting gas centrifuges to enrich uranium for

new US nuclear weapons.  You remember the notorious Iraqi aluminum tubes

that the US falsely charged were for centrifuges.


The irony of George Bush's Oak Ridge speech reaches beyond the deceptions of

the Iraq war.  New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd recently wrote an

article titled, "Right Axis, Wrong Evil."  She argued - correctly - that the

tired Iraq of 2003 was far less dangerous than the other members of Bush's

Axis, Iran and North Korea.  North Korea does have nuclear weapons and Iran

may have a serious program.  But Dowd's argument is itself dangerous.

Though intended to ridicule Bush on Iraq, it could also goad him (or

possibly John Kerry) on Iran and North Korea.


If we want to prevent the next war, we are going to have to address the

issue of global nuclear and biological weapons proliferation.  We are going

to have to look at the specter Bush raised - a 9/11 with weapons of mass

destruction - and identify where the real risks lie.


Ever since Hiroshima, the United States has been the driving force in the

nuclear arms race.  The attack on Hiroshima was intended to frighten the

Soviets, but it frightened them only into acquiring the weapons themselves.

The US then justified each innovation as catching up with the Russians, even

though we were always ahead.  Yet the Russians always followed and so did

others.  When the USSR (and our justification) collapsed in 1991, rogue

states run by madmen and in alliance with terrorists appeared in the nick of



Lest anyone get the wrong impression because of its disappearance from the

news, the Cold War nuclear arms race has not gone away.  The United States

still has 5,886 strategic nuclear warheads, such as the first strike weapons

on the Trident II submarines, to fight a nuclear war with Russia or China.

The oversold Moscow Treaty of 2002 is really just a way of phasing out

obsolete weapons while we modernize.  The Bush administration's renunciation

of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and its embrace of space weapons will

push Russia and China to a new arms race and hair-trigger launch-on-warning

policies.  But the new obsessive threat, rogue states, serves to legitimize

new, more usable weapons to target smaller countries.


On June 15th, the United States Senate rejected an amendment, offered by

Diane Feinstein of California, to prohibit the use of funds for support of

new nuclear weapons development - specifically, the so called Robust Nuclear

Earth Penetrator and  Advanced Concept nuclear weapons.  Only one

Republican - Chafee of Rhode Island - voted for the amendment.  And only

four Democrats, including Dixiecrat Zell Miller of Georgia, voted against

the amendment and for the weapons.  You know where I'm going: one of them

was Indiana's Evan Bayh.


I received an April 21 letter from Senator Bayh explaining his position.

Many of you may have identical letters.  Senator Bayh writes: "Classical

deterrence as practiced against the Soviet Union does not apply to

individuals or groups who value neither their own life or" - I'm quoting

verbatim - "those they intend to harm.  The United States must have

appropriate defense tools to combat this new threat."  End quote.


How on Earth, Senator, is a nuclear weapon an "appropriate defense tool"

against a non-state actor?  Do you realize that any nuclear weapon,

earth-penetrating or not, would send up a plume of radioactive dirt fatally

contaminating hundreds of thousands or millions in the nation on whose soil

it was used and beyond?


Perhaps Senator Bayh meant that the United States should use nuclear weapons

on a nation, such as North Korea or Iran, from which terrorists might obtain

nuclear devices or materials or perhaps biological weapons.  And I think we

have to take the risk of a US or (in the Iranian case) also possibly Israeli

preemptive bombing very seriously.  Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times

has reported that the Pentagon has contingency plans for nuclear strikes on

North Korea.


But let's start with the most obvious problem:  What if we hit the wrong

target?  In the beginning of the war last year, the US bombed a number of

sites based on urgent intelligence that Saddam Hussein was there - only he

wasn't.  How much greater a travesty, tragedy, and crime that would have

been with nuclear weapons.  And if you did find a real cache of biological

weapons, and just grazed it with a nuclear earth-penetrator, your plume of

dirt would also be a plume of germs.


President Bush and Senator Bayh also neglect the political fallout of a US

nuclear strike.  If the target were Iran, al Qaeda would have countless new

recruits eager to unleash nuclear terrorism on US soil.  If the target were

North Korea, a million North Korean soldiers would descend on Seoul and not

only the Korean Peninsula, but also US relations with China, would be in

chaos.  All taboos on nuclear weapons anywhere in the world would be gone in

a mushroom cloud.


The North Korean and possibly Iranian nuclear programs are objectively

worrisome, but it won't make us any safer to exaggerate them.  If war would

be disastrous - and it would be - and if we're going to reach a negotiated

solution, then we must stop using US pressure to bring about regime change.

With North Korea, for example, Pyongyang is not likely to give its nuclear

weapons to terrorists, but it might sell them.  That's why our economic

noose on North Korea only increases the danger to ourselves.  It is time to

end the last Korean War rather than beginning a new one.  As South Korea has

been trying to tell us, it is reduced tension and increased exchange that

are most likely to bring greater democracy to the North.


With Iran, we must stop using the territory of occupied Iraq to destabilize

Tehran, as journalist Seymour Hersh reports we are doing.  And if we want

Iran to forswear nuclear weapons, we must work for a nuclear-free Middle

East - and that includes Israel's two hundred nuclear weapons.  We are

already committed to that goal in UN Security Council Resolution 687 - the

one we used so often against Iraq.


The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was a grand bargain, where others

abstained only if existing nuclear powers moved towards disarmament.  Yet

the Administration's Nuclear Posture Review threatens nuclear strikes even

against non-nuclear states.


Ultimately our own nuclear and biological weapons programs, as well as

civilian nuclear reactors, pose the greatest risk for terrorism.  Dangerous

nuclear materials cross the country on trucks; they also lie in the spent

fuel pools of civilian reactors; and a lesser grade of material - but enough

to make a terrifying "dirty bomb" with a conventional explosive dispersing

radioactive waste - is far more common.  It is ironic and tragic that the US

military's use of depleted uranium artillery is already a form of

radiological warfare, as you will hear in tonight's presentations.  And even

our most sensitive nuclear weapons installations are vulnerable to an inside




The 2001 anthrax attacks (which provided the backdrop to Congressional panic

and almost unanimous passage of the PATRIOT Act) appear to have been just

that, an inside job, by someone with access to the US military's Ames strain

of that disease.  Yet the Pentagon - in a project with the Orwellian name

Jefferson - is genetically engineering anthrax and other germ weapons and is

building laboratories to experiment with deadly communicable diseases such

as Ebola.  Many experts consider the US biodefense program objectively

offensive.  The possibilities for sabotage or accident are incalculable, and

Americans are highly likely to be among the victims.


Meanwhile, in our obsession with terror, we neglect far greater dangers.

The dilapidated US and global public health system is unprepared for a

deadly influenza epidemic that experts think could kill millions.  Global

warming will accelerate the emergence of new diseases.  A billion people

globally lack safe drinking water and thus provide an ideal launch point for

germs to gain virulence.  If an epidemic arises among the global poor,

Americans may regard them as virtual biological terrorists, and the logic of

exterminism could snuff out our own remaining humanity.


And yet, for some of us, Hiroshima Day is the most hopeful of the year.

Hiroshima did more than unleash nuclear weapons; it also unleashed human

consciousness of life's vulnerability on this beautiful planet.  It

unleashed a human chain reaction - the global peace movement.


There are ways out of danger.  We not only must, we also can abolish nuclear

and biological weapons.  The first step is for us to insist that the United

States join the pledge never to use nuclear weapons first and stop building

weapons so designed.  The hope and power of one true step could begin to

turn the world from fear, hate, and terror to the work and love and joy of

caring for each other and at last creating a culture celebrating life.


David Keppel


August 4, 2004


Note:  There's an apparent contradiction: while Senators voted for new

nuclear weapons development (miscalled research), an attack on North Korea

or Iran might come much sooner.  If it is nuclear, it would use existing

nuclear weapons such as the B-61-11.  In part, the new nuclear weapons have

an ideological function: suggesting that nuclear weapons can be small and

clean.  Any nuclear weapon, new or old, will be dirty and destructive.

Meanwhile, our exaggerated fear of "rogues" legitimizes the arms race, which

is also directed against China and Russia.

The Kristof column on North Korea appeared 02/28/03.  The article on

mistaken targeting of Saddam is Jehl and Schmitt, ""Errors are Seen in Early

Attacks on Iraqi Leaders."  NYT 06/13/04.


September 11th should have taught the United States that the Bush

Administration's new Maginot Line - a multibillion dollar missile shield -

will not protect us against a terrorist nuclear attack, while it will only

stimulate major nuclear powers, such as Russia and China, to build more

weapons to overwhelm it.



Mr. Keppel is a writer, activist and an Indiana state coordinator for MoveOn. He lives in Indiana and is a frequent contributor to this website and has written Op-Ed articles for the Indianapolis Star.