Are our “Departments of Defense” really defending us? Absolutely not! Their very title is a lie. The military-industrial complex sells itself by pretending to defend civilians. It justifies enormous and prohibitive budgets by this claim; but it is a fraud. For the military-industrial complex, the only objective is money and power. Civilians like us are only hostages. We are consumables. We are pawns in the power game, the money game.
Nations possessing nuclear weapons threaten each other with “mutually assured destruction”, which has the aptly acronym MAD. What does it mean? Does this mean that civilians are protected? Not at all. Instead, they are threatened with complete destruction. Civilians here play the role of hostages in the power games of their leaders.
A thermonuclear war today would not only be genocidal but also omnicidal. He would kill people of all ages, babies, children, young people, mothers, fathers and grandparents, without any regard for guilt or innocence. Such a war would be the ultimate ecological disaster, destroying not only human civilization but also much of the biosphere.
There is great concern today about climate change, but an ecological catastrophe of equal or greater magnitude could be produced by nuclear war. You can get a small idea of what it would look like by thinking about the radioactive contamination that has rendered an area half the size of Italy near Chernobyl permanently uninhabitable. The Fukushima disaster also reminds us of the dangerous long-term effects of radioactivity.
Hydrogen bomb testing in the Pacific half a century ago continues to cause cancer and birth defects in the Marshall Islands today. This too can give us some idea of the environmental effects of a nuclear war. But the radioactivity produced by a nuclear war would be enormously greater.
In 1954, the United States tested a hydrogen bomb in Bikini. The bomb was 1,300 times more powerful than the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Fallout from the bomb contaminated Rongelap Island, one of the Marshall Islands 120 kilometers from Bikini. The islanders suffered from the radiation and many died of cancer. Even today, more than half a century later, the inhabitants and animals of Rongelap and other nearby islands suffer from birth defects. The most common defects are “jellyfish babies”, born without bones and with transparent skin. Their beating brains and hearts can be seen. Babies usually live a day or two before they stop breathing.
The environmental effects of a nuclear war would be catastrophic. A war waged with hydrogen bombs would produce radioactive contamination of the kind we have already seen in the areas around Chernobyl and Fukushima and in the Marshall Islands, but on a vastly increased scale. We must remember that the total explosive power of nuclear weapons in the world today is 500,000 times greater than the power of the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. What is threatened by nuclear war today is the complete collapse of human civilization.
In addition to spreading deadly radioactivity around the world, a nuclear war would inflict catastrophic damage on global agriculture. Firestorms in burning cities would produce several million tons of black, thick, radioactive smoke. The smoke would rise into the stratosphere where it would spread around the earth and stay there for a decade. Prolonged cold, decreased sunlight and precipitation, and massive increases in harmful ultraviolet light would shorten or eliminate growing seasons, producing nuclear starvation. Even a small nuclear war could endanger the lives of a billion people who today suffer from chronic undernourishment. A full-scale war waged with hydrogen bombs would mean that most humans would starve to death. Many animal and plant species are also threatened with extinction.
Incidents in which a global catastrophe is a hair’s breadth away occur constantly. For example, on the night of September 26, 1983, Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov, a young software engineer, was on duty at a monitoring center near Moscow. Suddenly, the screen in front of him turned bright red. An alarm has gone off. It’s a huge piercing sound filling the room. A second alarm followed, then a third, fourth, and fifth, until the noise was deafening. The computer showed that the Americans had launched a strike against Russia. Petrov’s orders were to pass the information through the chain of command to General Secretary Yuri Andropov. Within minutes, a nuclear counterattack would be launched. However, due to some inconsistent characteristics of the alarm, Petrov disobeyed orders and reported it as a computer error, which it was. Most of us probably owe our lives to his cold, brave decision and knowledge of software systems. The narrowness of this escape is compounded by the fact that Petrov was only on duty due to the illness of another officer with less knowledge of software, who would have accepted the alarm as real.
Narrow escapes like this make it clear to us that in the long run, the combination of Space Age science and Stone Age politics will destroy us. We urgently need new political structures and new ethics to match our advanced technology.
Recently, the United States has taken provocative measures that seriously risk starting a war with Russia that could turn into a nuclear war. These include sending arms and military advisers to Ukraine, and NATO exercises on the Russian border.
At the same time, the United States is taking aggressive measures to try to “contain China”.
Thus, those in power in Washington are threatening war on both Russia and China. The effect of these colossally misguided US actions has been to firmly unite China and Russia. In fact, the BRICS countries, with their vast resources, are now moving away from using the dollar as a reserve currency for international trade. The likely effect will be the collapse of the already strained American economy and, consequently, the fall of the American empire.
What could be the reason for these actions, which seem to border on madness? One of the reasons can be found in the power-drunk thinking of the “Project for a New American Century,” one of whose members was US Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz.
The Wolfowitz Doctrine states that “Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, which poses a threat on the order of that once posed by the ‘Soviet Union. This is an overriding consideration that underpins the new regional defense strategy and demands that we strive to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power. . https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfowitz_Doctrine
In other words, the Wolfowitz Doctrine is a statement that the United States intends to control the entire world through military power. No thought is given to the protection of civilian populations, whether in the United States or elsewhere. Civilians are mere hostages in the power game.
Gambling is important too. A great driving force behind militarism is the almost unimaginable river of money that buys politicians’ votes and mainstream media propaganda. Numbed by propaganda, citizens allow politicians to vote for obscenely inflated military budgets, which further enrich the corporate oligarchs, and the circular flow continues.
The giant, immensely wealthy and politically powerful arms manufacturers of the military-industrial complex don’t really want war. What they want is the threat of war. As long as tensions are maintained; as long as there is a threat of war, the military-industrial complex gets the money it covets, and politicians and journalists get their blood money. The safety of civilians plays no part in the money game. We are only hostages.
There is a danger that our world, with all the beauty and value it contains, will be destroyed by this cynical game for power and money, in which civilians are held hostage to militarism. Are we going to let this happen?
*John Scales Avery, Ph.D., who was part of a group that shared the 1995 Nobel Prize of Peace for his work in organizing the Pugwash conferences on science and global affairs, is a member of the TRANSCEND network and associate professor emeritus at the HC Ørsted Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He is president of the Danish national group Pugwash and of the Danish Academy of Peace and received his training in theoretical physics and theoretical chemistry at MIT, the University of Chicago and the University of London. He is the author of numerous books and articles both on scientific subjects and on broader social issues. His most recent books are Information theory and evolution and The Crisis of Civilization in the 21st Century (pdf). Website: https://www.johnavery.info/
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS)