The US nuclear arsenal includes 450 land-based Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) armed with thermonuclear warheads. These ICBMs are deployed in hardened silos in North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. They are easily detected and targeted.
The missiles cannot prevent a nuclear attack on the United States – there is no way to preemptively eliminate all of an adversary’s nuclear weapons. A launch would ensure retaliation by a nuclear adversary.
These missiles are on high alert every moment of every day. The decision to launch would be made by the President in 13 minutes or less if he believed there was an impending attack. The Washington Post recently called this "13 minutes to doomsday." Thirteen minutes with the very real possibility that false information, an electronic glitch or bad signal, or an error in human judgment would bring the world as we know it to an end.
An immediate step that could be taken would be to de-alert the missiles so that 24 to 72 hours would be needed to launch. This would increase our security by eliminating the possibility of accidental or unauthorized launch. Since the Minuteman lll missiles are easily identified and targeted and since the Trident submarine and our bombers can effectively complete the unspeakable destruction we are contemplating, it is worth strongly noting the Minuteman lll missiles are obsolete even from a military standpoint and decrease rather than increase the effectiveness of our military. Clearly the decision to retire and dismantle all land-based ICBMs needs to be implemented. They are expensive to maintain and do not address 21st century threats.
In a major unilateral nuclear attack without retaliation from the other side, the smoke from burning cities would block sunlight sufficiently to destabilize the environment, reduce warming sunlight to the lowest levels in at least 1000 years, shorten growing seasons and decrease sustainable agriculture, lower food production and create nuclear famine worldwide. Simply put, even a one-sided attack without retaliation would be tantamount to suicide.
Nuclear weapons have no application without inflicting harm on oneself. It is time we fully understand that any nuclear war that attacked another side’s cities would have consequences for the well-being of everyone on the planet, regardless of wealth, political affiliation, race, etc. The United States and the world would be far more secure by eliminating nuclear weapons, beginning with the Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic missiles.
John Amidon is a member of Veterans For Peace from Albany, N.Y., currently facing trial in California for protesting the launching of a Minuteman III missile.