“Betcha didn’t know,

Right here in Colorado,

49 nuclear missiles,

Are ready to go!”

— Colorado Coalition for the Prevention of Nuclear War sidewalk chant

With all the Trump administration and Kim Jong-un talk today about nuclear warfare, it’s appropriate to keep in mind that U.S. defense policy has long made Colorado and its neighbors potential targets for Russian nuclear weapons.

The “hundreds of nuclear missiles” stored across the interior West “are not meant to be launched, ever,” as Tom Collina explained for “Defense One.” Instead, the deployment was meant to force Russia to spend hundreds of its own weapons obliterating the regions’ far-flung silos, Collina argues.

“Their main purpose is to ‘absorb’ a nuclear attack from Russia, acting as a giant ‘nuclear sponge,'” he wrote. And the nation’s new secretary of defense, Jim Mattis, according to Tom Collina, agrees.

This idea likely does not apply in a confrontation with a smaller power, such as North Korea, but it’s newly relevant today as the U.S. considers the future of its intercontinental ballistic missile program.

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, each armed with one nuclear warhead ready to go.

Air Force officers, underground in bunkers 24/7, must be “upstanding, well-trained, drug-free,” waiting for word to turn the keys and fire the missiles, which can be aimed within minutes at Russia or wherever. The Russians have their equivalent. This was relevant in the long-ago past of the Cold War, and it is becoming relevant again. The missileers are probably bored, depressed, probably not drug-free and sick of their thankless jobs doing nothing.

So, and let this sink in, these missileers bear the unfathomable responsibilities of weapons that could certainly bring life as we know it to a halt, filled 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 be impossible for many forms of life to survive the extreme rapidity and degree of changes in temperature and precipitation, combined with drastic increases in UV light, massive radioactive fallout and massive releases of toxins and industrial chemicals.

Join us to say, “Absolutely not.”

The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center’s “Peace Train” runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.

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