Nuclear wild card: Do you feel safer?

Ed Colby

Awakening in the night, I picture the angular face of J. Robert Oppenheimer, “father” of the atomic bomb. He wears a 1940s slouch hat, and his large eyes effuse sadness and regret.

Then the room glows red, and I feel the thunderous explosion of the Trinity Test. The mushroom cloud spreads across the New Mexican desert sky.

Staring in awe at what he has wrought, his voice barely louder than a whisper, Dr. Oppenheimer quotes from an ancient Hindu text: “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”

When we attack Iraq, we’ll have “bunker buster” nukes in our back pocket, just in case.

The theme of the opening salvo of the Iraq war is widely believed to be Shock and Awe Rapid Dominance, which is military-speak for, “We are going to bomb them back to the Stone Age.”

On day one, we’ll hit Baghdad with 300 to 400 cruise missiles – about one every four minutes. To put this in perspective, this is more firepower than we unleashed during the entire 40 days of Operation Desert Storm.

Day two will be a repeat of day one.

This will be the largest concentration of wartime firepower since the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The World Health Organization projects ultimate Iraq war casualties at half a million. This includes victims of disease related to the destruction of clean water supplies and sewage facilities, and radiation victims from our armor-piercing depleted-uranium munitions.

When the smoke clears, there will remain no bridges, transportation system, electricity, or running water in the city of Baghdad. There will be no significant military targets left in Iraq. According to Pentagon Shock and Awe architect Harlan Ullman, the senior Iraqi leadership will be killed or utterly demoralized. The land invasion of Iraq should be a mop-up.

Unless we find some bunkers. If we determine that Saddam Hussein is deep underground in a command headquarters, or if we suspect the Iraqis have chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons hidden deep underground, the president refuses to rule out the use of “tactical nuclear weapons” to secure our military objectives.

Uncorking the nuclear genie becomes part of the contingency plan. Without the Cold War deterrence of immediate massive retaliation by the enemy, nukes are just another tool to get the job done.

We are prepared to do to them what we fear that they might do to us – attack with weapons of mass destruction.

The ramifications of such a bold move reach beyond Iraq. Never mind that for Osama bin Laden, and 10,000 like him, nuclear vengeance would become an obsession.

Consider India and Pakistan. Since 1947, these two have waged three wars over ownership of Kashmir. Both countries possess dozens of nukes. If they fought again, one side or the other might choose to turn the tide by bringing out the big guns. Either, fearing the intentions of the other, might unleash a nuclear pre-emptive strike.

If the United States opens a nuclear Pandora’s box, can we expect other countries to exercise restraint?

Is this the future we want for our children? Will war, especially nuclear war, make us safer? Does it surprise you that even our erstwhile allies question our sanity?

The president draws a line in the sand and proclaims that nations are either “for us or against us.” Yet even in the face of the prospect of massive economic and political retaliation by the richest, most powerful nation on earth, the rest of the world shakes its head and says “no.”

In a way the president is right, of course. We all – not just nations – have to decide. Each of us must look to God – or to his or her own conscience, if you prefer – then choose, and act. Because once the missiles fly, there will be no safe haven for the undeclared soul.

– Ed Colby, of New Castle, would rather talk about bees than bombers. His e-mail address is

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