Monday, January 25, 2021


Annamaria on Monday

Nukes are back in the news because newly installed President Biden is moving toward a five-year extension of the START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) with Russia.  UN officials are calling nuclear weapons "obsolete," a word that drew my attention.  I was a baby when my country became the only nation on earth to use them.  I have lived with their threat all my life.

By the time I first learned of their existence, US bombs had been dropped on Japan.  Those attacks were being credited as the reason the US won that war.  The destruction, it was postulated, had convinced the Japanese to surrender, negating any need for an invasion of Japan and thereby saving the lives of a million Allied fighting men.

There was also talk, of course of the dreadful loss of life in Japan, which was countered at the time with reminders of the enormous cruelty of the Japanese toward the populations of countries they conquered, most notably in China. I had desperately missed my daddy while he was away fighting in the Pacific and was so happy that I got him back. My father, I eventually understood, was one of those million who might have died invading Japan.  I harbored ever afterwards a guilty relief that the bomb that destroyed so many had preserved him.

By then the threat of nukes was part of the air one breathed.  All public buildings had designated fall-out shelters.  People were digging them in their own backyards.  School children were put through drills.

A relic of that age still displayed on the stairwell of the building where I live.

I grew up, of course, completely opposed to the very existence of hideous nukes. Come the 60s and 70s, when I became a peacenik, I joined many efforts to do away with them.  The most successful of those, took place on 12 June 1982. Then President Reagan, an avowed military hawk, was in the White House. Many, many people wanted to send him a strong message.  They came from all over the US to join with New Yorkers and staged the, until then, largest peaceful protest ever to gather anywhere.

A million people showed up!  A million in Central Park!  Here is what it looked like where I was:

Ronald Reagan, who professed to be against nukes, then chose a strange way to eliminate their danger.  He shocked the world by what he called a Strategic Defence - the creation of an anti-missile system to shield the USA. Nobody ever thought that would do the trick.  What it did do was calm down the fears in enough people and, by doing so, took a lot of the steam out of the anti-nuke movement.

The current ready bottle

My husband David and I once discussed what we would do if we got word that an ICBM carrying a nuclear warhead was on its way to us.  We knew that New York would be a prime target.  We also understood that, though there would be a considerable warning period, we would never be able to escape our densely populated island home in time.  We decided we would just sit on our stoop and drink champagne.  We, and now I, have kept a chilled bottle on hand ever since.  If it is drunk for some pleasant other reason, I quickly replace it.

When the Cold War ended, an opportunity arose for world powers to deal with the nuke threat.  But there was no political will anywhere to do that deed. The moment was wasted. Johnathan Schell writing in The Nation said it was, "as if people believed that a mortal illness could be dealt with by forgetting about it."

Then, during Bush 1, the first START was negotiated and signed. It does not banish nukes.  But it does control them.

President Obama negotiated and signed START 2.

Trump was too busy doing other things at the end of his term in office to pay attention to the fact that the 10-year span of  START 2 was just about up. President Biden (how I love typing those words together) is looking to rectify the omission.

There is a connection between nukes and other ills of our society.  One surfaced in 1982, pointing to the the link between the money Reagan was spending on nukes and the depth of poverty in Black communities. As in the 80s, people are now raising awareness of the connection between the economics of nukes and societal ills like race and gender inequality.

Influential people in the United States and Europe are saying that the weapons are obsolete because they are so morally reprehensible the countries that have them could never survive the shame of using them.

A nice thought, but we know that heads of state are quite capable of making morally reprehensible or just plain stupid decisions.

Dangers still exist.  No country that has nuclear capability has, thus far, been attacked by a country that does not possess them.  This makes countries that don't have them want them.  Stopping nuclear wannabes from developing them is a chancy game as we are well aware, given the news from Iran and North Korea.  Pakistan and India both have them and also have some awful mutual grievances.

And then is the lively black market in plans for making them and for the materials needed.

Attention needs to be paid.


  1. Good points! It's easy to focus on the immediate and real threat of the virus, and "forget about" other threats. Hopefully President Biden (I also love putting those two words together!) and his team will have the time and energy to address SALT and climate change issues urgently as well.

    1. They are already on this case, Michael. As well as those others. Unlike his predecessor, President Biden has appointed competent people to head the departments. This creates circumstances where the government can multitask because it has skilled hands to work on the many issues that need attention. We used to have that. Hopefully the Republicans in the House and Senate will cooperate. If they treat Joe the way they treated Obama, they will retard progress. They took that strategy to absurd limits and then gave us their boy Trump. Some of them seem to have learned a lesson from that debacle. I hope there are enough of those to get things done.

  2. I seem to recall that the fact the UK had nukes did not prevent non-nuclear Argentina from attacking the Falklands, a British colony, although the lunatic fringe in the UK did call for Buenos Aires to be nuked. Although not noted for her restraint, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher didn't take that path!

    Prior to this, Britain and Argentina had a long history of good relations, and there's a significant number of people in Argentina descended from British colonists, mainly the Welsh, in Patagonia. :))

    1. Harking back to your blog yesterday, Zoe, the lunatic fringe is evident in my country as well as yours. And Argentina certainly has at the very least its fair share. It has to the lunatic who thought they could "take back" the Falklands. Or the canny who desperately need something to distract the Argentinos from someone's fingers in the national cashbox.

      I went deep into Argentina's history while I was researching "Blood Tango." I know well the history of the Brits in Argentina. It began with the Brits hunger for beef and Patagonia's pasture land producing great quantities of the best there is. I wrote a blog about it when Blood Tango launched, called something like "How Refrigeration Invented Juan Peron." One of those interesting historical chestnuts that never makes it into the book, but becomes fodder for the blogger in search a something, anything that might make a decent short essay. :))

  3. What struck me in reading this is how desperately the world needs one to DOCTOR it, be the thought ever so STRANGE, my LOVE.

    1. Okay, Bro, if we are going in that direction, I'll play Miss Scot (the only female part) if you take the role of Colonel Bat Guano.
      (You might have guessed that I know that film by heart!)

  4. I was there at Central Park in 1982, and also met a Japanese delegation in the 1990s who came here to appeal for an end to nuclear weapons.
    The first issue I knew about as a child was the nuclear bomb and I was against it at age 7 and also against air raid drills because "they wouldn't save us from radiation" if a bomb fell.

    I have a different view on the Falklands. It was long past due that "colonies" be given up by Europe. The Falklands (Malvinas) are very close to Argentina and thousands of miles from Britain. It makes no sense for Britain to hold onto a "colony" half a world away. Yes, the Empire is shrinking.

    I mean, what if Germany declared an island off the coast of the U.S. belonged to it?

    1. I agree , Kathy, that the Malvinas more logically belong to Argentina, when it comes to geography. But I also think it was useless for Argentina to try to take them back by armed attack. It wasted a lot of money. And accomplish nothing. Poor Argentinians! They have never had a government that did its duty by the people. Every head of state that I can think of did nothing but line his or her own pockets, put the country into debt by doing so, ruined the economy, and made the people suffer. When it comes to natural advantages, Argentina should be rich, but the ordinary people never benefit from any of that. That’s why I said what I said.

  5. Well, I worked in an office where the workers were split when this war was going on. The white folks supported Britain. The people of color supported Argentina. It became an argument against European colonialism or defense of it. Where did I side? It's obvious.