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LETTER: Nuclear weapons deserve our utmost atention

Monday, April 12, 2010 | 7:57 p.m. CDT; updated 5:57 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Years ago, philosopher Jean Paul Sartre said that "the biggest crime of our time was to make the concrete abstract." Experience indicates that the crime of which he spoke is widespread today in this country and in other parts of the world as well.

Contrary to such behavior is the fact that if only 1 percent of the nuclear weapons ready for war were detonated in large cities of the world, including St. Louis and Kansas City, they would vastly devastate the environment, climate, ecosystems and a very large segment of the population of planet Earth.

One American who has addressed that problem very concretely is General George Lee Butler, who was commander of all U.S. nuclear forces from 1992-94.

He said: "...(to) those who believe nuclear weapons desirable or inevitable, I would say these devices exact a terrible price even if never used. Accepting nuclear weapons as the ultimate arbiter of conflict condemns the world to live under a dark cloud of perpetual anxiety. Worse, it codifies mankind's most murderous instincts as an acceptable resort when other options for resolving conflict fail ... We are not condemned to repeat the lessons of forty years at the nuclear brink. We can do better than condone a world in which nuclear weapons are accepted as commonplace. The price already paid is too dear, the risks run too great. The task is daunting, but we cannot shrink from it. The opportunity may not come again. "

In coming months as the U.S. Senate debates the provisions of the new successor START treaty agreed to by Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev, let's pray that senators solicit the testimony of General Butler and some 20 other U.S. admirals and generals who support the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Bill Wickersham is a Columbia resident and a member of the MU Nuclear Disarmament Education Team as well as an associate of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.


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