President Joe Biden and top subordinates have refused to publicly acknowledge the danger of nuclear war — even though it is now higherThere has been no other time in the past 60 years like this. Their silence is both insidiously and powerful, making grassroots activism even more crucial for human survival.
John F. Kennedy was more open in the aftermath of 1962’s Cuban missile crisis. American University was the venue where he spoke. said: “A single nuclear weapon contains almost 10 times the explosive force delivered by all the allied air forces in the Second World War.” Kennedy also noted, “The deadly poisons produced by a nuclear exchange would be carried by wind and water and soil and seed to the far corners of the globe and to generations yet unborn.” Finally, he added, “All we have built, all we have worked for, would be destroyed in the first 24 hours.”
Kennedy was not a dove. He reiterated his willingness to use nuclear weapons. But his speech offered some essential honesty about nuclear war — and the need to seriously negotiate with the Kremlin in the interests of averting planetary incineration — an approach sorely lacking from the United States government today.
At the time of Kennedy’s presidency, nuclear war would have been indescribably catastrophic. Now — with large arsenals of hydrogen bombs and what scientists know about “nuclear winter” — experts have concluded that a nuclear war would virtually end agriculture and amount to omnicide(The destruction and destruction of human life).
In interviewAfter publication of his book The Doomsday MachineDaniel Ellsberg, whistleblower at Pentagon Papers, summarised what he learned from being an insider during Kennedy’s administration:
What I discovered — to my horror, I have to say — is that the Joint Chiefs of Staff contemplated causing with our own first strike 600 million deaths, including 100 million in our own allies. Now, that was an underestimate even then because they weren’t including fire, which they found was too incalculable in its effects. Of course, fire is the most deadly effect of thermonuclear arms. So the real effect would’ve been over a billion — not 600 million — about a third of the Earth’s population then at that time.
It turned out that the high ceiling of a few billion was incorrect, as proved by climate scientists and other environmental scientists 20 years later. Even if the cities were considered military targets, firing weapons on them would cause firestorms that would lift into the stratosphere millions of tons of black smoke and soot from the burning cities. It wouldn’t be rained out in the stratosphere. It would travel fast around the world and reduce sunlight to as much as 70%. This would cause temperatures similar to those of the Little Ice Age. It probably wouldn’t cause extinction. We’re so adaptable. Only 1 percent of our 7.4 billion current population could survive, but the rest (98 percent) would not.
The risks of nuclear annihilation worldwide were high even before the Russian invasion in Ukraine four months ago. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists issued its January edition. Doomsday ClockAt a mere 100 second from apocalyptic Midnight. This is compared to six minutes a year ago. As Russia’s horrific war on Ukraine has persisted and the U.S. government has bypassed diplomacy in favor of massive arms shipments, the hazards of a nuclear war between the world’s two nuclear superpowers have increased.
But the Biden administration has not only remained mum about current nuclear war dangers; it’s actively exacerbating them. The U.S. foreign policy elite are not learning the lessons President Kennedy learned from the 1962 confrontation with Russia over Cuba’s nuclear missiles. “Above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war,” Kennedy said. “To adopt that kind of course in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy — or of a collective death-wish for the world.”
In sync with the overwhelmingly hawkish U.S. media, members of Congress and “national security” establishment, Biden has moved into new Cold War overdrive. The priority aim is to make shrewd moves on the geopolitical chessboard — not to engage in diplomacy that could end the slaughter in Ukraine and prevent the war from causing widespread starvationMany countries.
Alfred McCoy is a scholar wrote, “With the specter of mass starvation looming for some 270 million people and, as the [United Nations]Recently warned, political instability growing in those volatile regions, the West will, sooner or later, have to reach some understanding with Russia.” Only diplomacy can halt the carnage in Ukraine and save the lives of millions now at risk of starvation. The dangers of nuclear warfare can be reduced by rejecting the idea of a military solution to Ukraine’s conflict.
The Russian government has made veiled threats to use nukes in recent months. The U.S. has been shipping huge quantities of weaponsUkraine, while Washington has been involved in escalating the dangerous rhetoric. President Biden doubled down on conveying that he seeks regime change in Moscow, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has declared that the U.S. wants the Russian military “weakened” — an approach that is opposite from Kennedy’s warning against “confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war.”
We’d be gravely mistaken to wait for Washington’s officialdom to level with us about nuclear war dangers, much less take steps to mitigate them. The power corridors along Pennsylvania Avenue won’t initiate the needed changes. Organizing grassroots is the only way to create the political pressure and initiatives.
A new “Defuse Nuclear War” coalition of about 90 national and regional organizations (which I’m helping to coordinate) launched in mid-June with a livestream videoA variety of activists and other speakers were brought together by the imperative to prevent nuclear war. They included antiwar activists, organizers and scholars, including writers Daniel Ellsberg and Mandy Carter. Jerry Brown.
The U.S. government’s willingness to boost the odds of nuclear war is essentially a political problem. It pits the interests of the people of the world — in desperate need of devoting adequate resources to human needs and protection of the environment — against the rapacious greed of military contractors intertwined with the unhinged priorities of top elected officials.
The Biden administration and the bipartisan leadership in Congress have made clear that their basic approach to the surging danger of nuclear war is to pretend that it doesn’t exist — and to encourage us to do the same. For individuals, such avoidance may seem like a good way to cope. But for a government facing off against the world’s other nuclear superpower, the denial heightens the risk of exterminating almost all human life. There’s got to be a better way.