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Don’t Leave Nukes on the Shelf. Use Them!

Don’t Leave Nukes on the Shelf. Use Them!

Photograph Source: United States Department of Energy – Public Domain

On June 20, the London Guardian ran a curious headline: “Nuclear Weapons: Experts Alarmed by New Pentagon ‘War-Fighting Doctrine.” Last week, a report from the Joint Chiefs of Staff was briefly available to the public on the Pentagon’s website. Titled “Nuclear Operations,” the report describes nuclear war in such upbeat terms that you will almost look forward to it.

Before it was yanked, the report was captured and is available on the website of the Federation of American Scientists. A Pentagon spokesman told the Guardian that the report had been deleted because of a decision that the publication should be available “for official use only.” Translation: the public got to see the report because somebody in the Pentagon goofed.

According to the Guardian: “Arms control experts say [the report] marks a shift in US military thinking towards the idea of fighting and winning a nuclear war.” No, it doesn’t. Although the US has not used nuclear weapons since its bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, it has come close several times.

General Douglas MacArthur, the UN commander during the Korean War, asked for atomic bombs a mere two weeks into the war. Later, MacArthur asked President Truman for fifty or so atomic bombs to be dropped on the border between North Korea and China to create an impassable cordon unsanitaire.

President Truman wisely said no, but at a November 30, 1950 press conference, Truman had said that the atomic bomb had always been under “active consideration” for use in the war. In July 1950, shortly after North invaded the South, Truman had sent two B-29 bomber groups to the UK and Guam. Once armed with their fissile plutonium cores, which remained in the US until needed, the atomic bombs on board the B-29s could be dropped on the USSR and China. (US tactical nuclear weapons would be stationed in South Korea from 1958 to 1991.)

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