Nuclear Madness + Leadership Acquiescence = Extreme Risk to All

Last week I asked the rhetorical question: How did NM wind up with three of our largest industries being nuclear armament, nuclear waste storage, and fossil fuel extraction? Today, we hear from the Los Alamos Study Group, offering a report on the extreme risk posed by the U.S. addiction to nuclear armament that puts us at great risk of annihilation.

Legislative UPDATE

We are four days away from the 2022 Legislative Session and we are in high gear. On our NM Legislation page, you will find:

  • Info on our next Zoom Huddle, Weds, 1/19, 6-7pm and a link to register;
  • Link to the recording of our 1/12 Huddle, with Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez and Rep. Andrea Romero describing the bills they are sponsoring;
  • A link to a summary of bills we are supporting or opposing so far and bills that look promising and are under active consideration;
  • A link to our 2022 legislative strategy and the process and criteria we use to pick bills to support — a very difficult process given our plan to limit the total number of bills we will support or oppose to 15 this year;
  • Links to sign up to be a volunteer hearing observer — something you can do from home.

Much of our day is filled with reviewing bill language, talking with legislators who sponsor bills we are considering, and beginning the process of developing the bill summaries that we use with advocates and legislators to support or oppose bills. We hope you’ll join our advocacy efforts again this year!


Game Over!

I don’t like to write about issues without offering an action related to the issue, but today I’ve got no action. Instead, I’m asking readers to offer their own comments and/or suggestions for meaningful, impactful action at the bottom of this post. Read on!

I’m not running for public office, so I do not fear reprisals at the voting booth for questioning the wisdom of Los Alamos Nuclear Lab’s (LANL) role in the continued nuclear arms build-up. But, unless I missed it, you could count on one hand the number of state or local elected legislators or other political leaders asking for even a slowing of LANL’s explosive growth. The use of the term “explosive” was intentional and apt, as this post outlines.

I can recall no NM Senator or Congressional Rep stepping forward and demanding a halt to LANL expansion. The Los Alamos Study Group and its leader Greg Mello provide a beacon of light on what is at stake in our deluded race to create national security by building more and more nuclear weapons. I will hand the post over to Greg and the Study Group after offering brief comment intended to frame what is at stake.

Consider the feeling you get in your gut when you think of the threat posed by the looming climate crisis. While, intellectually, we can barely grasp the concept of an uninhabitable planet, the anxiety caused by considering this possibility is mitigated by the decades that separate us from that reality. But nuclear arms pose the possibility of a far more immediate and non-negotiable annihilation of everything, occurring in minutes, not decades, and likely without much warning. Yet there are precious few raising the alarm.

Let’s say Russia invades Ukraine, viciously and without restraint, thumbing it’s nose at US sanction threats, with Biden putting our military on alert. For all his faults, I don’t think of Biden as being ego-driven or possessing a hair trigger. Replace the word “Biden” with “Trump” or even “Pence” and how confident are you that one threat couldn’t lead to another. In a matter of minutes public threats become lines in the sand, not unlike the line drawn around Cuba during the Cuban missile crisis. If Russia had crossed that line, off we’d have gone into nuclear hell. At my elementary school we watched on our classroom TV as Russian naval forces neared the line we had drawn, while we students rehearsed getting under our flimsy wooden desks to protect us. I remember being terrified. Fast forward 60 years, and different non-negotiable lines are crossed and an angry president does the unthinkable. Game over. With climate change, we at least have hope of acting to prevent total annihilation. At least with COVID we have vaccines, masks, and social distancing.

But once missiles start flying, there will be no net zero offsets or vaccines to prevent what would then transpire within minutes. No time to even say good-bye to most everyone you know and love. Just a few moments to shiver with fear and die. That the nuclear arms race puts us at extreme risk of such a reality while virtually no local, state, or national leader raises their voice in alarm, is frankly astonishing. In NM, if it weren’t for the Los Alamos Study Group, we’d know little about with this threat and how our great state — for a few thousand jobs and piles of federal funding — fosters our advance toward annihilation.

Today, we offer a piece from the Los Alamos Study Group, followed by a joint statement from a coalition of national and regional peace organizations.

First, from the Study Group, an introduction to the statement “A Call to Eliminate ICBMs”:

More than 60 national and regional organizations on Wednesday issued a joint statement calling for the elimination of the 400 land-based nuclear missiles now armed and on hair-trigger alert in the United States.

The statement, titled “A Call to Eliminate ICBMs,” warns that “intercontinental ballistic missiles are uniquely dangerous, greatly increasing the chances that a false alarm or miscalculation will result in nuclear war.”

Citing the conclusion reached by former Defense Secretary William Perry that ICBMs “could even trigger an accidental nuclear war,” the organizations urged the U.S. government to “shut down the 400 ICBMs now in underground silos that are scattered across five states — Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wyoming.”

“Rather than being any kind of deterrent, ICBMs are the opposite — a foreseeable catalyst for nuclear attack,” the statement says. “ICBMs certainly waste billions of dollars, but what makes them unique is the threat that they pose to all of humanity.”


A Call to Eliminate ICBMs

Intercontinental ballistic missiles are uniquely dangerous, greatly increasing the chances that a false alarm or miscalculation will result in nuclear war. There is no more important step the United States could take to reduce the chances of a global nuclear holocaust than to eliminate its ICBMs.

As former Defense Secretary William Perry has explained, “If our sensors indicate that enemy missiles are en route to the United States, the president would have to consider launching ICBMs before the enemy missiles could destroy them; once they are launched, they cannot be recalled. The president would have less than 30 minutes to make that terrible decision.” And Secretary Perry wrote: “First and foremost, the United States can safely phase out its land-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force, a key facet of Cold War nuclear policy. Retiring the ICBMs would save considerable costs, but it isn’t only budgets that would benefit. These missiles are some of the most dangerous weapons in the world. They could even trigger an accidental nuclear war.”

Rather than being any kind of deterrent, ICBMs are the opposite — a foreseeable catalyst for nuclear attack. ICBMs certainly waste billions of dollars, but what makes them unique is the threat that they pose to all of humanity.

The people of the United States support huge expenditures when they believe the spending protects them and their loved ones. But ICBMs actually make us less safe. By discarding all of its ICBMs and thereby eliminating the basis for U.S. “launch on warning,” the U.S. would make the whole world safer — whether or not Russia and China chose to follow suit.

Everything is at stake. Nuclear weapons could destroy civilization and inflict catastrophic damage on the world’s ecosystems with “nuclear winter,” inducing mass starvation while virtually ending agriculture. That is the overarching context for the need to shut down the 400 ICBMs now in underground silos that are scattered across five states — Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wyoming.

Closure of those ICBM facilities should be accompanied by major public investment to subsidize transition costs and provide well-paying jobs that are productive for the long-term economic prosperity of affected communities.

Even without ICBMs, the formidable U.S. nuclear threat would remain. The United States would have nuclear forces capable of deterring a nuclear attack by any conceivable adversary: forces deployed either on aircraft, which are recallable, or on submarines that remain virtually invulnerable, and thus not subject to the “use them or lose them” dilemma that the ground-based ICBMs inherently present in a crisis.

The United States should pursue every diplomatic avenue to comply with its obligation to negotiate nuclear disarmament. At the same time, whatever the status of negotiations, the elimination of the U.S. government’s ICBMs would be a breakthrough for sanity and a step away from a nuclear precipice that would destroy all that we know and love.

“I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction,” Martin Luther King Jr. said as he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Nearly 60 years later, the United States must eliminate its ICBMs to reverse that downward spiral.


Closing Comments from Greg Mello, Los Alamos Study Group

Ground-based strategic missiles uniquely detract from US security, rather than add. The US can safely be rid of them, unilaterally. Such a step would show real leadership, save mountains of money, and make America much safer.

Even short of that, there are enough modern warheads for all the proposed new ground-based missiles now under development. Novel warheads add nothing in terms of safety and security — provided the option of uploading additional warheads onto these missiles is foregone. At present, the US can rapidly double the number of ICBM warheads by putting three older warheads on half of the deployed missiles. Abandon that one crazy option — multiple warheads — and the rationale for the present crash program in pit production falls apart.

As long as the US has nuclear weapons, pits will eventually be needed — but they aren’t needed for many years to come. The crash program to produce new missiles, with the option to add two more warheads per missile, creates a need for a crash program to produce new pits. That’s the only reason for it. This is nothing more than a potentially world-ending, death-oriented addiction to a mirage of power, and of course money — literally hundreds of billions of dollars that should be going to the real needs in our society.

US citizens have little idea what lies behind these programs. There is a small cabal in the Pentagon which controls debate within government on these issues. Rubber-stamp congressional committee chairs are afraid to ask the tough questions on behalf of the American people. That Pentagon cabal really believes in fighting and winning nuclear wars, as does STRATCOM. President Biden and his team aren’t engaging on this issue; leadership is absent. The US is paying a terrible price for this failure already and the danger of great-power war is increasing rapidly.

Citizens need to rise up forcefully, and understand the links between issues across party lines. Much of what most people expect in a democracy is being stripped away and sacrificed to this and other predatory factions. In the name of a few nuclear weapons jobs in a few locations, everyone is made poorer and what John F. Kennedy called the nuclear sword of Damocles hangs by an increasingly frayed thread.

On another note, journalists should ask themselves, why aren’t more organizations signed onto this call? Major organizations refused to sign this statement. Why? You should ask them.


Thank, you Greg. To extend your thought, how many New Mexican political leaders would sign on in support of this declaration?

Organizations Signing This Declaration

  • Action Corps
  • Alaska Peace Center
  • American Committee for U.S.-Russia Accord
  • Arab American Action Network
  • Arizona Chapter, Physicians for Social Responsibility
  • Back from the Brink Coalition
  • Backbone Campaign
  • Baltimore Phil Berrigan Memorial Chapter, Veterans For Peace
  • Beyond Nuclear
  • Beyond the Bomb
  • Black Alliance for Peace
  • Blue America
  • Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security
  • Center for Citizen Initiatives
  • Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility
  • Chicago Area Peace Action
  • Code Pink
  • Demand Progress
  • Environmentalists Against War
  • Fellowship of Reconciliation
  • Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
  • Global Zero
  • Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility
  • Historians for Peace and Democracy
  • Jewish Voice for Peace Action
  • Just Foreign Policy
  • Justice Democrats
  • Lawyers Committee on Nuclear PolicyLinus Pauling Chapter, Veterans For Peace
  • Los Alamos Study Group
  • Maine Physicians for Social Responsibility
  • Massachusetts Peace Action
  • Muslim Delegates and Allies
  • No More Bombs
  • Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
  • Nuclear Watch New Mexico
  • Nukewatch
  • Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility
  • Other98
  • Our Revolution
  • Pax Christi USA
  • Peace Action
  • People for Bernie Sanders
  • Physicians for Social Responsibility
  • Prevent Nuclear War Maryland
  • Progressive Democrats of America
  • RootsAction.org
  • San Francisco Bay Physicians for Social Responsibility
  • Santa Fe Chapter, Veterans For Peace
  • Spokane Chapter, Veterans For Peace
  • U.S. Palestinian Community Network
  • United for Peace and Justice
  • Veterans For Peace
  • Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility
  • Western North Carolina Physicians for Social Responsibility
  • Western States Legal Foundation
  • Whatcom Peace and Justice Center
  • Win Without War
  • Women Transforming Our Nuclear Legacy
  • World Beyond War
  • Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation
  • Youth Against Nuclear Weapons

I’m interested in hearing from our readers in comments below. What can be done? Retake quite intentionally chooses to maintain a NM focus because we feel within the state we can make a difference. But while LANL rests in NM, it is a federal program largely untouchable by actions by state or local government. Not that there exists any state or local government eager to challenge LANL. We have only indirect capacity to slow its growth. Use the box below “Leave a Reply” to offer your thoughts.

In solidarity and hope,

Paul & Roxanne



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8 replies

  1. Sigh…I would prefer that Retake keep a focus on New Mexico and not take positions on nuclear weapons or US strategic nuclear strategy more generally. No one can disagree that whatever the USG decides to do with regard to nuclear pits, it has to be done safely and in an environmentally sound way. The lives of workers and others in New Mexico cannot be put at risk, our water and soil and air must remain clean, there must be no ‘sacrifice zones’ affecting citizens and communities in New Mexico (or anywhere else). If Retake in addition to this takes the position that the US should reconfigure its strategic forces, say to eliminate the land-based (ICBM) leg of the triad, (something I personally support), then any strong position Retake has on environment and safety concerns will be suspect because critics will argue that environmental concerns are a disguise for other goals. This will be even more true if Retake advocates for complete nuclear disarmament. I do not think we have the expertise or bandwidth to engage on these complicated issues.

    • Well stated, Adam. I would not enter into this debate without the expertise of LANL Study Group because, as you note, we lack the expertise. I raised it to point out the degree to which NM id used by the military industrial exploits NM’s poverty and need for jobs an revenue. We already have been and remain the nation’s largest sacrifice zone.

  2. I believe the question is: Why are we home to nuclear weapon production, nuclear waste disposal and fossil fuel extraction? All life ending activities we have an opportunity to correct and to “make a difference” in the small, beautiful state of New Mexico. Cooperate, coordinate, and fight the evil these things have become is the only possible answer, IMO.

  3. I strongly agree with Charles Rudolph. We have plenty of expertise to guide us in taking a stand against the nuclear weapons and nuclear waste industries. As well as Los Alamos Study Group, there is Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Norteños for Peaceful and Resilient Futures, …

    Focusing on New Mexico alone, vis a vis nuclear weapons and waste, won’t work. Tug on one thread, and it leads to another.

  4. I also urge Retake to sign this. I am appalled that no one in leadership even
    mentions this extremely serious subject. I’m grateful for your inclusion of the Los Alamos Study Group.

  5. On January 13, 2022, various news sources such as NPR and CNN reported the USA defense scrambled for several minutes thinking a North Korean test missile was a possible incoming intercontinental nuclear missile. This happened, ironically, while a million Hawaiian residents remembered January 13, 2018. A day of infamy, when a supposed nuclear attack was broadcast on TV and cell phones throughout the Hawaiian islands.. For half an hour, phone calls were made with tearful goodbyes to loved ones or hasty escapes into Honolulu manholes. All this in a futile attempt to avoid mass incineration. Thankfully, it was false alarm but for 76 years, our planet has had several near miss armageddons, How much longer can our luck last? Please sign the petition and also support ICAN! ICANW.ORG
    Nuclear weapons are the #1 existential threat to humanity and our planet’s biodiversity. The $ billions now being spent on weapons of mass extinction must be diverted for humanitarian and sustainable industries. As Pope Francis has said, “Nuclear weapons are immoral”. A nuclear war can never be won.

  6. As the Rio Grande and Ogalala Aquifer goes, so goes NM, TX, and Chihuahua. The transportation, handling, manipulation, reprocessing, and storage of plutonium threatens the air, water, and land of NM. DOE must clean up Sandia and Los Alamos, and not manufacture plutonium weapons in this state!

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