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    Tuesday, February 27, 2024

    On Friday, ‘Say no to nuclear weapons’

    REGION :: Smith :: 5/19/21 :: Elizabeth McAlister, center left, and her daughter, Frida Berrigan, center, both of New London, against nuclear weapons and military spending, and Madeline Labriola, of Westerly, right, a member of Pax Chirsti, a Catholic movement for peace, and fellow protesters gather at McKinley Park next to the Coast Guard Academy where President Joseph Biden was keynote speaker at the graduation ceremony Wednesday, May 19, 2021, in New London. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    It was a long time ago, but it is still important. On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped a new bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. It was morning, children were walking to school and adults were headed to work. When the bomb dropped, tens of thousands of people were turned to ash in an instant; human beings became shadows on the wall.

    A few days later, on August 9, the U.S. dropped another nuclear bomb on Nagasaki.

    The two bombs killed as many as 210,000 people instantly, destroyed most of the city centers and poisoned countless people with radiation. In the last seven decades, nine countries have come to possess these powerful, nation-destroying weapons. The Soviet Union, which engaged in a decades long Cold War and nuclear arms race with the United States, was joined in the nuclear club by China, France, the United Kingdom, Israel, Pakistan, India and North Korea.

    But most of the firepower is in the possession of the U.S. and Russia, the former super-power rivals.

    In January 2021, the world celebrated the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Under international law, it is now illegal to possess, use, or threaten to use nuclear weapons. This is a huge step towards abolition — but the United States, Russia and the other nuclear weapons states stand outside the international consensus that nuclear weapons are an existential and unconscionable threat to the future.

    Nuclear weapons have cost the United States more than $5.5 trillion since 1945, according to the Brookings Institution. Over the next decade, it is projected that the United States will spend another $634 billion on nuclear weapons research and development. So, while our government has not detonated another weapon in war since 1945, that choice to spend so much money on building and perfecting nuclear superiority means that so many key priorities — from environmental protection to infrastructure restoration — have been underfunded or not funded at all.

    People living and working in poor communities say: the bomb goes off every day in my neighborhood.

    Here in New London, General Dynamics/Electric Boat is making massive profits designing and building nuclear-powered and armed submarines. The new Columbia-class submarine is another boon to the company, which is the sixth largest U.S. military contractor. CEO Phebe Novakovic personally earned almost $19 million in 2020.

    Meanwhile, the median income in New London is less than $36,000 a year. But it isn’t just about money, it's about what these weapons are capable of: massive destruction and the grim future that will result from spending so much on weaponry and not nearly enough to solve the big problems that face us and future generations.

    Each of the 12 new Columbia Class submarines are designed to be armed with up to 16 Trident D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles, or SLBMs, which have a range of 4,500 miles. Those D-5s can each carry as many as 14 W-76-1 thermonuclear warheads. Each one of those warheads is six times more powerful than the atomic bomb that the U.S. military detonated at Hiroshima all those years ago.

    Multiply 12 times 16 times 14 times 6 and the potential carnage is almost unfathomable.

    The best way to understand the Columbia class submarine, then, is as a $100 billion-plus initiative that aims to deliver 16,128 Hiroshimas.

    On this 76th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, we must say no to nuclear weapons. We call for abolition. We say yes to a better future. Nuclear weapons do not make us secure. A better future must include affordable health care, housing, education, a universal basic income, a functional and modern infrastructure, and sustainable solutions to the climate crisis.

    Frida Berrigan is a New London resident and a member of the Connecticut Committee for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It is organizing a public witness on Friday, Aug. 6 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the intersection of Howard and Bank streets. Demonstrators will call on General Dynamics to honor the victims of seven decades of nuclearism by converting its operations to the long overdue work of repairing infrastructure and addressing the climate crisis. For more information, email joanne@warresisters.org.

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