Everyone in the military knows there’s an officer who follows the President of the United States around with a special briefcase known as the “football.” Since John F. Kennedy was in office, the Presidential Aide accompanied the office holder with this briefcase containing everything needed to launch a nuclear strike.
Now, Congress may be looking to tie the president’s hands in the use of nuclear weapons. At least, it’s looking at tying his ability to launch a first strike.
Democrats from the House of Representatives and the Senate introduced legislation that will formally enact a “No First Use” policy in regard to nuclear weapons. The U.S. military is, predictably, not thrilled about the idea. The law is intended to avert an accidental nuclear war in case the great power rivalry with China or Russia starts to heat up.
“This bill would strengthen deterrence while reducing the chance of nuclear use due to miscalculation or misunderstanding,” Rep. Adam Smith, chair of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. “Codifying that deterring nuclear use is the sole purpose of our nuclear arsenal strengthens U.S. national security and would renew U.S. leadership on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament.”
US Strategic Command, the branch of the US military responsible for America’s nuclear arsenal, tweeted the following on Tuesday:
“The spectrum of conflict today is neither linear nor predictable. We must account for the possibility of conflict leading to conditions which could very rapidly drive an adversary to consider nuclear use as their least bad option.”
The statement, which STRATCOM called a “preview” of the Posture Statement it submits to US Congress every year, was a bit intense for Twitter and sparked a lot of alarmed responses. This alarm was due not to any inaccuracy in STRATCOM’s frank statement, but due to the bizarre fact that our world’s increasing risk of nuclear war barely features in mainstream discourse.
Dozens of House Democrats are calling on President Biden to relinquish sole control over the country’s nuclear arsenal and the ability to launch a strike using those weapons.
Politico reports that the Democrats, led by Rep. Jimmy Panetta (CA) and Rep. Ted Lieu (CA), wrote a letter warning that “vesting one person” with the authority to initiate a nuclear war “entails real risks.”
“While any president would presumably consult with advisors before ordering a nuclear attack, there is no requirement to do so,” the letter explains.
“The military is obligated to carry out the order if they assess it is legal under the laws of war,” they add. “Under the current posture of U.S. nuclear forces, that attack would happen in minutes.”
The Pentagon has raised to $95.8 billion the estimated cost of fielding a new fleet of land-based nuclear missiles to replace the Minuteman 3 arsenal that has operated continuously for 50 years, officials said Monday.
The estimate is up about $10 billion from four years ago.
The weapons, known as intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, are intended as part of a near-total replacement of the American nuclear force over the next few decades at a total cost of more than $1.2 trillion.
Some, including former Defense Secretary William J. Perry, argue that U.S. national security can be ensured without ICBMs, but the Pentagon says they are vital to deterring war. The Trump administration affirmed its commitment to fielding a new generation of ICBMs in a 2018 review of nuclear policy.
The House on Monday moved to prohibit the resumption of nuclear weapons testing by passing Rep. Ben McAdams’s amendment to a bill funding the Department of Defense.
The amendment, which bars the use of any funding to test nuclear weapons, passed nearly along partisan lines 227-179, with one Republican and one independent supporting the amendment.
Utah GOP Reps. Rob Bishop, John Curtis and Chris Stewart opposed the effort to halt nuclear tests.
Every year during the first two weeks of August the mass news media and many politicians at the national level trot out the “patriotic” political myth that the dropping of the two atomic bombs on Japan in August of 1945 caused them to surrender, and thereby saved the lives of anywhere from five hundred thousand to 1 million American soldiers, who did not have to invade the islands. Opinion polls over the last fifty years show that American citizens overwhelmingly (between 80 and 90 percent) believe this false history which, of course, makes them feel better about killing hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians (mostly women and children) and saving American lives to accomplish the ending of the war.
The Forward reports today that U.S. presidents have signed secret documents that “Israelis saw as an American commitment not to ask them to give up their undeclared nuclear arsenal.”
According to its website, the Forward is “the most influential nationwide Jewish media outlet today.”
When Helen Thomas asked President Obama at his first presidential press conference whether any country in the Middle East had nuclear weapons, he evaded the question (video here). Finally in 2015, in a move ignored by most U.S. media, the Pentagon finally publicly admitted that Israel has nuclear weapons.
While the Israel lobby promotes fears about a possible Iranian nuclear program (U.S, intelligence agencies have found no evidence that this exists), U.S. media and politicans turn a blind eye to Israel. Numerous groups have tried to raise the issue.
An American thinktank, Institute for Research: Middle East Policies (IRMEP) has filed a “39-page federal lawsuit challenging the secrecy of a gag order that forbids all U.S. government agency employees and contractors from discussing Israel’s nuclear weapons program.”