UT shouldn’t help further this nation’s nuclear goals

By Robert Jensen

Published in Austin American-Statesman · August, 2005

[This article appeared in the Austin American-Statesman, August 6, 2005.]

Last month, the University of Texas and Lockheed Martin submitted a bid to
manage the nation’s Los Alamos nuclear weapons lab.

Today — the anniversary of the moment in 1945 when the United States first
created a nuclear hell on earth in the city of Hiroshima — is an appropriate
day to ponder the implications of that proposal.

Much of the public discussion of the bid obfuscates the project’s reality. UT
Chancellor Mark Yudof talks of the “world-class scientific and technological
expertise” behind the bid. Lockheed official C. Paul Robinson extols the
virtues of “a superb leadership team” that can manage “the world’s premier
science laboratory.”

Science is good, as is technological expertise. Leadership is essential. All of
this contributes to the nation’s defense, right? What could be the problem?
Simple: All those goods are being applied to perpetuating evil.

Contemporary politicians and pundits these days talk easily in terms of good
<>and evil. So, let’s be honest: Nuclear weapons are evil. They are weapons even more
indiscriminate than other horrific killing devices created by modern humans.
They are terrorist weapons that threaten civilians for political purposes.

Whether used by “civilized” nations that have their own stockpiles or by
<>“rogue” groups that might acquire a bomb, the use or threatened use of nuclear weapons
is terrorism.

International law acknowledges the fundamental illegitimacy of nuclear weapons
in the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which was signed by the United States. But
since the treaty went into effect in 1970, the United States (and the other
nuclear powers) has been in open violation of Article VI: “Each of the parties
to the treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective
measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to
nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under
strict and effective international control.”

Has the United States — the nuclear giant of the world, and hence the nation in
the strongest position to take a leadership role — acted in “good faith” to
eliminate its own nuclear weapons and encourage others to do the same? Do our
nation’s actions indicate any intention to honor its provisions?

Sadly, the answer is no. Instead, the United States seems bent on creating, and
threatening the use of, nuclear weapons. Continuing work on a “Robust Nuclear
Earth Penetrator” — the so-called “bunker buster” — indicates U.S. intentions
to pursue new nuclear weapons.

The Bush administration’s January 2002 Nuclear Posture Review laid out a
<>nuclear policy that calls for the development of low-yield weapons, or so-called
“mini-nukes,” and integrates nuclear weapons with conventional strike options.
The review discusses possible first-use of nuclear weapons, even against
non-nuclear countries, if the United States believes a country may use chemical
or biological weapons against the United States or its allies. The language —
“U.S. nuclear forces will continue to provide assurance to security partners,
particularly in the presence of known or suspected threats of nuclear,
biological, or chemical attacks or in the event of surprising military
developments” — should terrify us.

If UT becomes part of the U.S. nuclear weapons research and production
infrastructure, it will be a key participant in this rejection of international
law. The university will become a direct actor in the perpetuation of this
nuclear insanity.

The United States should honor basic legal and moral obligations. And UT should
not seek to participate in promoting nuclear nightmares.

What does that nightmare look like? We can still ask some who survived it. On
this 60th anniversary of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, UT
leaders can join a remembrance ceremony that will feature Satoru Konishi, a
survivor of that attack, at 6:30 p.m. today at the Zilker Park Peace Grove
(near the soccer field, off Barton Springs Road).

Konishi also will speak at a forum hosted by Austin Area Interreligious
Ministries at 1 p.m. Sunday at Austin Presbyterian Seminary’s McCord Center
dining hall. For more information, go to www.HiroshimaDay.org.