Nuclear Weapons: Harmful to Your Health
Dateline: Medellin, Colombia
February 21, 2010
Why should anyone in Colombia be concerned about nuclear weapons? After the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, there have been no nuclear weapons in Latin America. With poverty, physical security, FARC, the El Niño drought and global warming, it seems that the national government already has plenty to do.
There are good reasons for the Colombian Foreign Ministry to urge nuclear weapons abolition: 1) accidental war, 2) nuclear winter, 3) terrorism, and 4) poverty elimination.
Little spoken in the defense establishment is the probability for accidental war. Referring to nuclear weapons, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara observed that the nuclear powers have been lucky rather than smart. On September 26, 1983, the world came close to a nuclear exchange when the Soviet Air Defense identified one then later four more missiles headed to the Soviet Union. Lieutenant coronel Stanislav Petrov reasoned that this was a false alarm. If the US were launching an attack, there would be hundreds or thousands of missiles, not five. Furthermore, the launch detection system was new and, in Petrov’s view, not entirely trustworthy. According to some accounts, he did not notify his superiors because the standard procedure in these cases was an immediate nuclear counter-attack. Later investigation showed that a rare sunlight alignment on high clouds and the Molniya satellites orbits caused the false alarms.
Not a single intelligence agency had any idea how close the world had come to nuclear war. It was only in the 1990s when Coronel General Yury Votintsev, one time Soviet Air Defense Missile Defense Unit commander, published his memoirs that the world learned about the incident.
Some scientists project that in a nuclear war between the United States and Russia that nuclear winter would result pushing temperatures below freezing during the summer in major agricultural areas reducing the world food supply causing terrible death to billions. Some scientists in their modeling predict in less drastic effects.
With some 23,000 nuclear weapons in the world, terrorists have a ready supply of less secure sites and corrupt officials to help their search for an atom bomb.
At the World Peace Conference in Bogota, October 1-4, 2009, several speakers observed that reducing the world military by 10% and transferring the 10% savings into social investments would provide the necessary funding for education, health and environmental projects that would wipe out poverty.
A Nuclear Free World
On January 4, 2007 and again on January 15, 2008, George P. Schultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger and Sam Nunn wrote articles in the Wall Street Journal asking for a nuclear free world and offering practical measures to this lofty goal and intermediate steps to improve the world’s security until then. The January 15, 2008 article refers to president Ronald Reagan desire and efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons. These men are neither hippies nor Quakers. Mr. Schultz was secretary of state from 1982 to 1989. Mr. Perry was secretary of defense from 1994 to 1997. Mr. Kissinger was secretary of state from 1973 to 1977. Mr. Nunn is former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Now it is time for President Uribe and other world leaders to work for nuclear weapons elimination. The sooner, the better.
Formerly a Houston resident, Ed O’Rourke is a certified public accountant, now living in Medellin, Colombia.