By STEPHANIE HILLER, LifeStory Publishing
Last week, after a brief victory over healthcare, we suffered two blows that have catapulted us into the realization that we are facing a steamroller we may be unable to stop; and if that is the case, what to do?
The resistance worked hard, urging Congress to stop the appointment of Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, but despite lots of congressional opposition and a filibuster, the Repubs passed the bizarre “nuclear option,” which then allowed them to confirm the retro judge.
That defeat for progressives was immediately followed by Trump’s rapid retaliatory response to a horrifying explosion in Syria using an as-yet unidentified chemical weapon.
Suddenly moved by the anguish of children – “babies, beautiful babies” — dying grizzly deaths, Trump issued an emotional statement that exhibited the first sense of human feeling we’ve seen from this extraordinary actor. Blaming Syrian president Assad for the illegal attack on his own people with nothing in the way of evidence and without any discussion in Congress, Trump immediately, in a matter of hours, ordered a “targeted” attack on the military airport that had allegedly delivered the gas attack, blowing up several planes and killing six people.
Fifty-nine Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles or TLAMs were fired from two US warships in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Tomahawk missiles were first used in the 2003 Iraq war; there were allegations at the time that the missiles have depleted uranium tips which vaporize on impact, releasing a radioactive gas that may be inhaled by civilians in the vicinity. The material sinks to the ground and into the water, where it remains radioactive for millions of years, polluting essential food and drinking sources. That is what we did to Iraq and Afghanistan.
It is not known whether these TLAMs contain depleted uranium; but DU has been the weapon of choice in recent theaters, including Libya, though seldom mentioned in the press.
But bigger and worse than that, a specter is lurking in the shadow of the Middle East, the specter that haunts us all, the threat of nuclear war. Have we reached that ultimate standoff?
Hillary Clinton responded to the Syrian gas incident the day before Trump acted, saying she would bomb Syria in response, putting her suddenly on the same side of history as Trump.
The world has gone mad, but not just today and not last week: it’s been getting steadily crazier since the US utilized nuclear weapons to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki, extinguishing some 200,000 lives in sizzling fires equivalent to hell on earth.
Unlike chemical weapons, nuclear weapons have still not been banned more than 70 years after their use even though they are far more catastrophic (and harder on beautiful babies) than chemical weapons despite many attempts that have been made to eliminate them. What stops a ban every time is fear that someone will use them first, now enshrined and glorified in the totally unproven theory of deterrence created in the 1950s by a brilliant political scientist named Bernard Brodie at the RAND Corporation.
Currently an energetic humanitarian effort to ban the bomb, originated by the Red Cross and Red Crescent and a number of nonprofits including the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, has made it to the UN. Last month, 132 nations voted in the General Assembly to write a treaty to abolish the nuclear agony. The world wants no more nuclear weapons, no more nuclear bombs hanging over our heads like the sword of Damocles, as JFK put it in his speech ending above ground bomb tests.
Of course, the nine nuclear nations did not attend, did not even send an official, snubbing an honorable institution and actually breaking the rules of a treaty they signed in 1970 in which they vowed to do everything in their power to disarm. Nice words, seldom heeded.
Officials from the nine nations that possess nuclear weapons ought to come to the table to watch footage of the incineration of the two Japanese cities, no alcoholic drinks allowed.
The world has gone mad ever since “man,” geniuses of science, split the atom in two parts, disturbing the basic building blocks of all matter, thereby setting off a chain of reactions that goes on for centuries, destroying human tissues (causing them to experience abnormal growth) and creating the biggest medical bills in history.
We have exceeded ourselves in developing more and more sophisticated ways to destroy each other. During the decade that followed Hiroshima-Nagasaki, the US and the USSR tested thousands of bigger and better bombs, releasing tons of radioactive fallout into the atmosphere, which fell all over the earth. It will be thousands and thousands of years before that radiation is gone, yet we act as if it will disappear if we don’t speak of it.
Thus are sowed the seeds of deep, deadly neurosis. Contemplating the end of the world is not a pleasant activity. So we don’t do it. We drink. We lounge in the hot tub dreaming of sex and snorting cocaine like Charlie Wilson. We turn on the TV.
Meanwhile our deranged species continues to generate tons of radioactive waste from nuclear reactors with no safe way to dispose of the stuff. The most recent storage facility, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, deep in the bowels of the salt mines of New Mexico, blew a leak in 2014 and was shut down. WIPP was reopened last January. Chernobyl is an Exclusion Zone still being cleaned up thirty years after the explosion that shut it down in 1986. Fukushima, on the other hand, cannot be contained.
But something must be done with the tons of high-level nuclear waste generated by the 102 American power plants, and predictably, the nuclear energy companies won’t take responsibility for dealing with it.
Now a new plan is in the offing.
Two private companies, Holtec International and Waste Control Specialists, have presented proposals to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to store all the nuclear waste that is produced by US power plants in the next 30 years in facilities in New Mexico and Texas – not far from the shuttered salt mines. Can we trust that the waste will be carefully monitored? What, like Hanford? Los Alamos? Sandia? Ask Dave McCoy of Citizen Action about the Mixed Waste Landfill, just upstream from the growing city of Albuquerque. Will the feds – that is to say, us, cover the exorbitant price tag? Private companies that run our nuclear weapons labs are well paid.
Texas has objected to the storage plan in its back yard, God bless them, but New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, presiding over the sacrifice zone that NM is destined to become, has stated support.
Most nuclear power plants are in the east. That means nuclear waste will be traveling by ship, rail, and highway across the country to these storage locations. The New Mexico site, located halfway between Carlsbad and Hobbs and 15 miles north of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, is just off Highway 62. How convenient. Will they run a train track down there, too, when fuel becomes too expensive? Used to be money in trains.
Ask the real experts what is at stake in a project like this. Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety has been watching these fiascos for decades. Writes Joni Arends, its founding director, on the CCNS website:
“The emergency preparedness and response required for a radiation release is lacking. It is estimated that a small accidental release of radiation could minimally contaminate 42-square miles and cost $9.5 billion to cleanup contamination in a large city, and $620 million in a rural area.”
You can trust that no one will come up with that money.
Refusal to address a life-threatening situation such as that posed by nuclear weapons has also been our governments’ response to climate change. At the COP21 held in Paris in December 2015, states finally made an agreement, albeit a weak one, to begin to deal with the global threat that the current administration now denies. This week, the Trump administration’s vacillation on that agreement blocked a statement on climate change by the G7 nations.
Naomi Klein, in This Changes Everything, her massive study of climate change politics, has pointed out that heads of energy companies recognize the real threat of climate change: if addressed it would mean the end of their affluent way of life. So they’ve been broadcasting lies disguised as science to persuade the public that nothing is really known about the cause of climate change. False facts, anyone?
Trump and his cronies, whether truly ignorant of the reality of climate change or choosing to suppress the science in order to stay in business, have chosen to reverse what little progress has been made toward dealing with it.
Now they’ve actually taken steps to throw out the science!
There will be many more suffering babies in the decades to come if these twin evils, nuclear war and climate change, are left unattended.
The insanity, too – the utter incoherence of American foreign policy, the delusion that we can return to the happy days of white male supremacy, the misguided faith that as we approach the ultimate crisis Jesus will appear before the faithful – all this nonsense will continue. It will be reflected in the psychopathology of growing numbers of Americans suffering widespread addiction to drugs and alcohol, increased reliance on mind-changing pharmaceutical treatments for depression, as well as sporadic acts of violence by terrorists and others seeking simplistic solutions to oppression and poverty, only intensifying suffering.
Will humanity continue to deny the problems it faces, allowing itself to be catapulted over the cliff into the very fires of hell? Hard to tell. This may be a holocaust that we cannot avert; if so, we had best take steps to protect ourselves from the roiling impacts that are sure to hit as social services are cut to pay for this military fandango.
A little prayer wouldn’t hurt either. We’ve gotten ourselves into something we may not be able to get out of on our own. Time to invoke the deities we’ve ignored for so long.