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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

How it happens that taxpayer $trillions are spent on nuclear weapons –  Follow the money.

Who’s Really Driving Nuclear-Weapons Production? Follow the money. By William D. Hartung [This piece has been updated and adapted from William D. Hartung’s “Nuclear Politics” in Sleepwalking to Armageddon: The Threat of Nuclear Annihilation, edited by Helen Caldicott and just published by the New Press.] 14 Nov 17

“………..BUILDING A NUCLEAR COMPLEX

Why the desire for so many nukes? There is, in fact, a dirty little secret behind the massive US arsenal: It has more to do with the power and profits of this country’s major weapons makers than it does with any imaginable strategic considerations.

It may not surprise you to learn that there’s nothing new about the influence the nuclear weapons lobby has over Pentagon spending priorities. The successful machinations of the makers of strategic bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles, intended to keep taxpayer dollars flowing their way, date back to the dawn of the nuclear age and are the primary reason President Dwight D. Eisenhower coined the term “military-industrial complex” and warned of its dangers in his 1961 farewell address.

Without the development of such weapons, that complex simply would not exist in the form it does today. The Manhattan Project, the vast scientific-industrial endeavor that produced the first such weaponry during World War II, was one of the largest government-funded research and manufacturing projects in history. Today’s nuclear warhead complex is still largely built around facilities and locations that date back to that time.

The Manhattan Project was the first building block of the permanent arms establishment that came to rule Washington. In addition, the nuclear arms race against that other superpower of the era, the Soviet Union, was crucial to the rationale for a permanent war state. In those years, it was the key to sustaining the building, funding, and institutionalizing of the arms establishment.

As Eisenhower noted in that farewell address of his, “a permanent arms industry of vast proportions” had developed for a simple enough reason. In a nuclear age, America had to be ready ahead of time. As he put it, “We can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense.” And that was for a simple enough reason: In an era of potential nuclear war, any society could be destroyed in a matter of hours. There would be no time, as in the past, to mobilize or prepare after the fact.

In addition, there were some very specific ways in which the quest for more nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles drove Eisenhower to give that farewell address. One of his biggest fights was over whether to build a new nuclear bomber. The Air Force and the arms industry were desperate to do so. Eisenhower thought it a waste of money, given all the other nuclear delivery vehicles the United States was building at the time. He even cancelled the bomber, only to find himself forced to revive it under immense pressure from the arms lobby. In the process, he lost the larger struggle to rein in the nation’s nuclear buildup and corral the burgeoning military-industrial complex.

At the same time, there were rumblings in the intelligence community, the military establishment, the media, and Congress about a “missile gap” with the Soviet Union. The notion was that Moscow had somehow jumped ahead of the United States in developing and building intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). There was no definitive intelligence to substantiate the claim (and it was later proved to be false). However, a wave of worst-case scenarios leaked by or promoted by intelligence analysts and eagerly backed by industry propaganda made that missile gap part of the everyday news of the time.

Such fears were then exaggerated further, thanks to hawkish journalists of the era like Joseph Alsop and prominent Democratic senators like John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, as well as Stuart Symington, who just happened to be a friend and former colleague of an executive at the aircraft manufacturing company Convair, which, in turn, just happened to make ICBMs. As a result, he lobbied hard on behalf of a Pentagon plan to build more of that corporation’s Atlas ballistic missiles, while Kennedy would famously make the nonexistent missile gap a central theme of his successful 1960 campaign for the presidency.

Eisenhower couldn’t have been more clear-eyed about all of this. He saw the missile gap for the fiction it was or, as he put it, a “useful piece of political demagoguery” for his opponents. “Munitions makers,” he insisted, “are making tremendous efforts towards getting more contracts and in fact seem to be exerting undue influence over the Senators.”

Once Kennedy took office, it became all too apparent that there was no missile gap, but by then it hardly mattered. The damage had been done. Billions of dollars more were flowing into the nuclear-industrial complex to build up an American arsenal of ICBMs already unmatched on the planet.

The techniques that the arms lobby and its allies in government used more than half a century ago to promote sky-high nuclear weapons spending continue to be wielded to this day. The twenty-first-century arms complex employs tools of influence that Kennedy and his compatriots would have found familiar indeed—including millions of dollars in campaign contributions that flow to members of Congress and the continual employmentof 700 to 1,000 lobbyists to influence them. At certain moments, in other words, there have been nearly two arms lobbyists for every member of Congress. Much of this sort of activity remains focused on ensuring that nuclear weapons of all types are amply financed and that the funding for the new generations of the bombers, submarines, and missiles that will deliver them stays on track.

When traditional lobbying methods don’t get the job done, the industry’s argument of last resort is jobs—in particular, jobs in the states and districts of key members of Congress. This process is aided by the fact that nuclear weapons facilities are spread remarkably widely across the country. There are nuclear weapons labs in California and New Mexico; a nuclear weapons testing and research site in Nevada; a nuclear warhead assembly and disassembly plant in Texas; a factory in Kansas City, Missouri, that builds nonnuclear parts for such weapons; and a plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, that enriches uranium for those same weapons. There are factories or bases for ICBMs, bombers, and ballistic missile submarines in Connecticut, Georgia, Washington State, California, Ohio, Massachusetts, Louisiana, North Dakota, and Wyoming. Such a nuclear geography ensures that a striking number of congressional representatives will automatically favor more spending on nuclear weapons.

In reality, the jobs argument is deeply flawed. As the experts know, virtually any other activity into which such funding flowed would create significantly more jobs than Pentagon spending. A study by economists at the University of Massachusetts, for example, found infrastructure investment would create one and one-half times as many jobs as Pentagon funding and education spending twice as many.

In most cases it hasn’t seemed to matter that the jobs claims for weapons spending are grotesquely exaggerated and better alternatives litter the landscape. The argument remains remarkably potent in states and communities that are particularly dependent on the Pentagon. Perhaps unsurprisingly, members of Congress from such areas are disproportionately represented on the committees that decide how much will be spent on nuclear and conventional weaponry…….. https://www.thenation.com/article/whos-really-driving-nuclear-weapons-production/

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November 15, 2017 - Posted by | business and costs, Reference, USA, weapons and war

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