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Mind-blowing nuclear budget is based on fantasy.

Legend has it that the Chinese continued to build the Great Wall of China for generations after the hordes that were perceived to be their enemies had vanished into history.

There is gloomy evidence that the United States is making the same fatal mistake. It becomes clearer every day that the country's present military posture is obsolete and useless.

Listen to these numbing facts:

1. The United States will spend $38 billion in 1993 and up to $350 billion in the next decade to prepare for nuclear war. There will, of course, be no nuclear war from Russia or in all probability from any nation. India, Pakistan and Israel are suspected of having nuclear weapons. They do not pose a threat to the United States. Even if more countries do possess nuclear weapons, that would not justify large U.S. nuclear forces.

2. The United States still has its nuclear triad of land-based missiles, submarine-based missiles and bombers. For many years experts have argued persuasively that such a capacity was redundant and dangerous.

The United States insisted in the Start II negotiations on retaining a minimum of 3,500 strategic nuclear weapons. The U.S. held to the 3,500 warheads as necessary for America's retaliatory capabilities. Add 5,000 tactical nuclear weapons to the 3,500 strategic weapons, and the United States in the year 2000 will have explosive power equal to 80,000 Hiroshimas!

3. In 1993, the Department of Energy plans to spend at least $1.5 billion to create new nuclear weapons. The Department of Energy also has estimated that it may cost about $150 billion to clean up the 3,700 sites polluted by the production of new nuclear weapons. Congress has budgeted $4.8 billion in 1993 for this type of cleanup.

4. The fantasies behind the Reagan-initiated Strategic Defense Initiative continue to be funded. Weapons to destroy incoming ballistic missiles - a Maginot Line in the sky - are being developed as a type of "Star Wars." Apparently, President Clinton is prepared to spend $5 billion annually on SDI.

The nations of the earth now possess 48,000 nuclear warheads with a total explosive power of 900,000 Hiroshima bombs. Even if all the planned cuts are carried out, there will still be 20,000 nuclear weapons 10 years from now.

The Center for Defense Information a Washington-based think tank staffed by retired military officers, continues to lobby for a sharply reduced military budget. CDI also urges the reduction of strategic nuclear weapons to 1,000 - to be deployed exclusively on submarines.

For more than 30 years the Council for a Livable World has been focusing attention on the terrors of nuclear war. One of its techniques is contributing to the campaign funds of senators who subscribe to the priorities of the CLW. This farsighted group now has 42 members of the Senate whom it has helped to get elected. The council and all of us have good reasons to feel that the Clinton administration will continue the moratorium on nuclear tests, remove all nuclear weapons from Europe, pursue treaties with all nuclear powers to dismantle all tactical nuclear weapons and halt the production of fissile materials.

The CLW is sympathetic to the proposal of William W. Kaufmann, a former Pentagon official now at the Brookings Institution, who has a plan to reduce the defense budget by the year 2002 to $135 billion. Kaufmann reasons that the containment of the Soviet Union accounted for more than 50 percent of the military budget during the Cold War. With that objective gone, the budget should be based on actual needs in a radically changed universe.

But the leadership to accomplish all these things has to come from the grass roots. The peace movement that came together during the Vietnam War, the religious forces for peace that were energized by the Catholic bishops' peace pastoral, and the millions who want to take advantage of the collapse of the Cold War must come together in a new coalition. If the people are mobilized for peace, the first 30 months of the Clinton administration could undo many of the absurdities that came about during the past 30 years of Cold War.

Jesuit Father Robert Drinan is professor of law at Georgetown Law Center.
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Author:Drinan, Robert F.
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Feb 19, 1993
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