Five hundred nuclear Minute Man III Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) are located in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, North Dakota and Montana, according to "Nuclear Heartland." Colorado has 49. The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War released a new report that concludes that more than 2 billion people would be at risk of starvation in the event of a limited nuclear exchange — between India and Pakistan, for example.
Air Force officers, underground in bunkers 24/7 for 50 years must be upstanding, well-trained, drug-free, waiting for word to turn the keys and fire the missiles, aimed currently at Russia, which has their equivalent arsenal aimed at us. This was relevant in the long ago past of the Cold War, but that is all over and the bombs, the bunkers and the idea of nuclear deterrence are all costly, dangerous relics. The missileers are bored, probably depressed and sick of their thankless jobs doing nothing.
Now, consider these recent headlines:
Two missile-launch crew at US base in Montana suspended in drug probe — Reuters
Drug probe undercuts Hagel pep talk to nuke force — Associated Press
Air Force drug probe widened to include cheating — Associated Press
And, Wednesday's news: Air Force: 34 missile officers in cheating scandal — Associated Press.
So — and let this sink in — these missileers bear the unfathomable responsibilities of weapons that could bring life as we know it to a halt, filling it with nuclear fallout and a deep shadow over the earth blotting out the sun from burning debris, creating "nuclear winter," according to Joseph Cirincione, in an abstract from the Global Catastrophic Risks Conference.
It would all be over in one hour, Cirincione said.
A glaring example of all of this is the case of Major General Michael Carey who was fired in October from his job as commander of the whole ICBM force because of drinking heavily, complaining about his bosses, drunkenly insulting his Russian hosts and lamenting publicly about the low state of morale in the ICBM force, according to the Associated Press.
At the very least, we must get these relics off "hair-trigger" alert and get the frustrated and bored officers out of their bunkers. Now is the time. Senators Udall and Bennet, Pentagon, do you hear us?
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center's "Peace Train" runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.