- Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad
Euripides (480-406 BC)

Perhaps Euripides had it right.  How else to describe the strange apathy over the daily threat posed by nuclear weapons? In a recent article entitled “Apocalypse Now,” former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara states: “We are at a critical moment in history” with the main concern on nuclear weapons and proliferation of states possessing these weapons.  And still there is little concern expressed by the general public.  This situation is remindful of Hurricane Katrina.  The warnings were clear that it was only a matter of time before a killer Hurricane of Katrina’s magnitude would strike New Orleans, and yet the action required to withstand such a storm was not taken.  

It’s the same dreadful situation with nuclear weapons.  Unless there is a dramatic change in the present course of events, it is only a matter of time until a missile strike carrying nuclear weapons occurs somewhere in the world.  Moreover, such a cataclysmic event could soon spiral out of control, leading to a nuclear tsunami that could envelop much of the world.

Regarding North Korea and Iran, no one should want these nations to possess nuclear weapons.  However, efforts by the two major nuclear powers to deter such action are clouded in a sea of hypocrisy.  For example, while the U.S. and Russia were decrying North Korea’s missile test, both were testing  long-range missiles of their own that are designed to carry nuclear warheads.

As reported by the Associated Press on June 14, 2006, the U.S. Air Force successfully tested a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile.  It was launched fromVandenberg Air Force Based in California and traveled 4,800 miles striking targets at the Kwajalein Missile Range in the Marshal Islands.  The purpose was to test the weapons effectiveness.  The U.S. has about 500 Minuteman missiles in Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota.

Also in June, as reported by the Associated Press (6/30),  Russia tested a ballistic missile launched from a Delta IV-type submarine that traveled 5,000 miles and hit its target on the Kamchatka peninsula.  Both countries are modernizing their weapon systems, although neither Russia nor any country spends anywhere near the astronomical amount the U.S. spends on nuclear weapons and missiles every year.  The Bush Administration’s federal budget for 2007 calls for $6.4 billion to be allocated for nuclear weapons activities.  By contrast, the Los Angeles Times reports that Russia’s official 2005 budget proposal allocated just $300 million for the nuclear-weapons sector.

With all the posturing about other countries having or wanting nuclear weapons, it is the U.S. and Russia that possess over 95 percent of the 30,000 nuclear weapons now stockpiled in the world.  And it is the U.S. and Russia that have some 4,000 nuclear warheads on a hair-trigger alert, ready for launch in a few minutes notice.  A recent study by the Rand Corporation reported these weapons could destroy both countries in an hour. 

Such a doomsday scenario could result from an accidental missile launch, an early warning system error, or miscalculation. There have been many close calls to a nuclear war starting by accident over the years; therefore, to retain thousands of nuclear warheads on a hair-trigger alert, only minutes from launch, is criminal, if not the utter madness expressed by Euripides 2500 years ago.  

The long nuclear nightmare must be ended before it is forever too late.  And there is only one acceptable (and sane) goal: the complete elimination of nuclear weapons from the face of the earth.   Only then will humankind be liberated from this ultimate terrorism that poses the daily threat of complete ruin for civilization and human history. This is the number one priority, and in the coming congressional elections, and all that follow, no candidate should receive a single vote unless they vow to work toward this goal.

With the today's dreadful political leadership, both here and most of the world, it is impertive that concerned and informed people take the lead so the political leaders can follow.

Douglas Mattern is president of the Association of World Citizens and author of LOOKING FOR SQUARE TWO - Moving from War and Violence to Global Community.  The publisher's release date for this book is 22 July when it will  be available in bookstores and amazon.com  The publisher is American Book Publishing.