The New Nuclear Danger: George W. Bush's Military-Industrial Complex

The New Nuclear Danger: George W. Bush's Military-Industrial Complex

by Helen Caldicott

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A global leader of the antinuclear movement delivers “a meticulous, urgent, and shocking report” on US weapons policy and the imminent dangers it poses (Booklist).
First published in the wake of the September 11 attacks in 2001, The New Nuclear Danger sounded the alarm against a neoconservative foreign policy dictated by weapons manufacturers. This revised and updated edition includes a new introduction that outlines the costs of Operation Iraqi Freedom, details the companies profiting from the war and subsequent reconstruction, and chronicles the rampant conflicts of interest among members of the Bush administration who also had a financial stake in weapons manufacturing.
Named one of the Most Influential Women of the 20th Century by the Smithsonian and nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her antinuclear activism, Dr. Helen Caldicott’s expert assessment of US nuclear and military policy is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the precarious state of the world. After eight printings in the original edition, The New Nuclear Danger remains a singularly persuasive argument for a new approach to foreign policy and a new path toward arms reduction.
“A timely warning, at a critical moment in world history, of the horrible consequences of nuclear warfare.” —Walter Cronkite

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781565848788
Publisher: New Press, The
Publication date: 04/15/2004
Edition description: Revised Edition
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 861,819
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x (d)

About the Author

The world’s leading spokesperson for the antinuclear movement, Dr. Helen Caldicott is the co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility, a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, and the 2003 winner of the Lannan Prize for Cultural Freedom. Both the Smithsonian Institute and Ladies’ Home Journal have named her one of the Most Influential Women of the Twentieth Century. In 2001 she founded the Nuclear Policy Research Institute, which later became Beyond Nuclear, in Washington, D.C. The author of The New Nuclear Danger, War in Heaven (with Craig Eisendrath), Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer, and Loving This Planet and the editor of Crisis Without End (all published by The New Press), she is currently president of the Helen Caldicott Foundation/ She divides her time between Australia and the United States.

Read an Excerpt



The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, thedesigner of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe forSilicon Valley's technologies is called the United States Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps.

— Thomas Friedman, New York Times Magazine, March 28, 1999

IMAGINE THIS: The cold war is over. A wise and visionary young American president, elected in 1992, decides that now is the time to rid the world of nuclear weapons. Six months into his first term he flies to Moscow to meet with a pliable Russian president, who agrees to sign a treaty to eliminate Russian and American nuclear weapons within five years. The governments of France, China, England, and Israel follow suit. India and Pakistan choose not to pursue the development of nuclear armaments, a path they were about to take. The United Nations is vested by the international community with the authority and funding to prevent lateral proliferation of nuclear weapons. Hundreds of tons of deadly plutonium are removed over the next five years from the world's total of 52,972 nuclear weapons. The overwhelming relief that the world will soon be free from the threat of instant annihilation catalyzes effective international planning and cooperation to solve the problem of where and how to store the plutonium.

American tax dollars are diverted from massive Pentagon and corporate military budgets into projects designed to take care of the nation's people. A government-funded system of universal health care is instituted, and free, state-of-the-art education from kindergarten through college gradually becomes available throughout the nation. Congress passes a law mandating that all cars be built to operate at 80 miles per gallon and appropriates funding for public-transportation initiatives in every state. Legislation is enacted requiring that most buildings be retrofitted to collect solar energy, and that every new building be powered, heated, and cooled by solar energy. Generous safety nets are put in place, providing for the old, the poor, the sick, and the indigent, and the Social Security system remains immune to the work of "market forces." Every American child will be fully immunized, and no child will live below the poverty line.

Almost five decades since the dawn of the atomic age, the United States of America is on the way to becoming truly secure, no longer dependent on a nuclear barricade for its safety. The nation becomes an inspirational example to all other countries as we enter the twenty-first century.

Now blink and reenter reality.

A newly elected young president — touched paradoxically with both hubris and timidity — who had never acquired an in-depth knowledge of matters military or nuclear was handicapped by a severe leadership impediment: He had evaded the Vietnam draft. In his own mind he never overcame this apparent character deficit, and the military that he allegedly commanded made sure that he never forgot it. To exacerbate this situation, several acute personal problems of a deeply embarrassing — not to mention compromising — nature occupied this president, to the point where he contemplated possible resignation and faced actual impeachment.

Partly to compensate for these "deficiencies," Clinton used U.S. military force overseas — in Bosnia, Iraq, and Kosovo, among other places — more frequently than any other U.S. president of the last twenty years. Further, his was the only administration since Eisenhower's that did not negotiate a single significant nuclear arms control treaty.

Bill Clinton's basic disinterest, distraction, draft handicap, and lack of vision allowed the military — Pentagon, nuclear scientists, and military corporations — to move into this presidential vacuum. They wooed, seduced, and bought Congress and the administrative staff, and the opportunity for nuclear disarmament was tragically lost. Ironically, as we enter the twenty-first century, after eight years of a Democratic administration, the world is in a position even more dangerous than it was at the height of Reagan's buildup of nuclear weapons and Star Wars dreams. It is against this unfortunate backdrop that the events of September 11, 2001, took place, adding ominously to the possibility of international nuclear war or nuclear accidents, as the U.S. nuclear arsenal was placed on the highest state of alert and international tensions rose. U.S. nuclear policy and weaponry has never been more aggressive:

• The U.S. currently has 2000 intercontinental land-based hydrogen bombs, 3456 nuclear weapons on submarines roaming the seas 15 minutes from their targets, and 1750 nuclear weapons on intercontinental planes ready for delivery. Of these 7206 weapons, roughly 2500 remain on hair-trigger alert, ready to be launched at the press of a button. Russia has a similar number of strategic weapons, with approximately 2000 on hair-trigger alert. In total there is now enough explosive power in the combined nuclear arsenals of the world to "overkill" every person on earth 32 times.

• The U.S. currently has in place plans to fight and win a nuclear war, and is prepared to use nuclear weapons first if necessary. Winning a nuclear war with Russia, for example, requires the use of antisatellite weapons to destroy Russian early warning systems, a secret preemptive first strike attack to destroy Russian missiles before they can be launched from their silos, and preemptive destruction of Russian nuclear subs in port and at sea, all of which capabilities are currently in place. (Any Russian missiles escaping the initial attack would have to be destroyed en route to the U.S. in space, using a newly developed U.S. ballistic missile defense system.)

• The Pentagon's official targeting plan, the single integrated operational plan (SIOP), has been upgraded since 1989: Instead of a total of 2500 targets there are now 3000. These include 2260 Russian sites, 1100 of which are ostensibly "nuclear facilities," 160 of which are "leadership" targets — government offices and military command centers (in a country almost devoid of leadership) — and 500 of which are disintegrating factories that produced almost no arms last year.

• China is now included in SIOP for the first time in twenty years, despite the fact that the U.S. Senate moved to normalize relations with China by granting it permanent normal trading relations status (PNTR) in September 2000. (This country of 1.3 billion people, potentially a huge market for the U.S., has only twenty nuclear missiles capable of reaching America.)

• Non-nuclear nations such as Iran, Iraq, and North Korea are also targeted with nuclear weapons for the first time. (Before the nineties, the U.S. had targeted only other countries with nuclear weapons.)

• The U.S. department of energy's nuclear laboratories — Los Alamos and Sandia in New Mexico, and Lawrence Livermore in California — are embarked on a second "Manhattan Project"— a massive scientific undertaking costing 5 to 6 billion dollars annually for the next ten to fifteen years, to design, test, and develop new nuclear weapons under the guise of ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S.'s current stockpile of nuclear weapons. This is twice the cost of the original Manhattan Project, which developed the first three atom bombs in the early forties, and significantly more than the annual average of 3.8 billion dollars spent on nuclear weapons during the cold war.

• The Bush administration is pledged to fast-track plans for a new national missile defense system. This runs the risk of destabilizing the many arms-control treaties already negotiated between Russia and America.

Who are the enemies that America is so frantically and expensively arming against at the dawn of the twenty-first century? Until September 11, 2001, America had no enemies with the potential to wreak real harm on its land or people. It has friendly countries to the north and south, and vast oceans to the east and west. Under the current configuration, no foreign nation would ever think of invading the U.S. But it is now apparent that America has terrorist enemies — amorphous, difficult to track and locate, and almost impossible to extinguish by firepower or enormous arsenals of weapons.

The Pentagon and State Department justify the extraordinary U.S. military expenditure — now 310 billion dollars annually — with potential threats from North Korea, Iraq, Iran, China, Russia, and possibly Libya. But of these, only the 5000 strategic nuclear weapons in Russia — half of which could hit U.S. cities thirty minutes after launching — pose a major threat to American security. More relevantly, as recent events have made all too clear, the largest nuclear stockpile in the world can accomplish little in the face of terrorists armed with box cutters, except, possibly, offering the potential for terrifying escalation of any ensuing conflict between nations. America currently spends 22 times as much on its military forces as all the other so-called rogue states or "states of concern"— Iraq, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Cuba, and Libya — put together, when nullification of any threat they might pose could be achieved for a fraction of that amount.

Other possible explanations for America's immense military expenditure include:

• It fattens the coffers of weapons makers.

• It is a direct result of the rivalry between the air force, the army, the navy, and the marines, each of whom want their own weapons systems.

• It elevates the prestige of top lawmakers within Congress and the White House who are the recipients of huge donations from weapons manufacturers as they legislate for more weapons.

• A huge conventional and nuclear arsenal allows America to do what it will around the world with impunity — it is the iron hand in the velvet glove of U.S. corporate globalization.

All of this is why Clinton's failure to seize the opportunity to eliminate or pare down the number of nuclear weapons in the world through rapid and realistic negotiation with Russia — at a time when this was possible — is so deeply tragic. Ironically, it may well be the very fact of the September 11 attack, and the U.S.'s resulting need to adopt a more conciliatory stance toward Russia, that leads George W. Bush to enact the stockpile reductions that eluded Clinton in calmer times.

The nuclear weapons establishment has four arms — the nuclear scientists, the military corporations, Congress plus the White House, and the Pentagon. Subsequent chapters look at each of these in turn. But first, let's set the stage by imagining what nuclear war might really be like.



WHAT WILL LIKELY BE the final conclusion to incessant nuclear-war planning? The destruction of the planet. And such an event could be triggered tonight or tomorrow by human or computer error, or even by a terrorist attack.

What would nuclear war be like?


If launched from Russia, nuclear weapons would explode over American cities thirty minutes after takeoff. (China's twenty missiles are liquid-fueled, not solid-fueled. They take many hours to fuel and could not be used in a surprise attack, but they would produce similar damage if launched. Other nuclear-armed nations, such as India and Pakistan, do not have the missile technology to attack the U.S.) It is assumed that most cities with a population over 100,000 people are targeted by Russia. During these thirty minutes, the U.S. early-warning infrared satellite detectors signal the attack to the strategic air command in Colorado. They in turn notify the president, who has approximately three minutes to decide whether or not to launch a counterattack. In the counterforce scenario the U.S. government currently embraces, he does launch, the missiles pass mid-space, and the whole operation is over within one hour.

Landing at 20 times the speed of sound, nuclear weapons explode over cities, with heat equal to that inside the center of the sun. There is practically no warning, except the emergency broadcast system on radio or TV, which gives the public only minutes to reach the nearest fallout shelter, assuming there is one. There is no time to collect children or immediate family members.

The bomb, or bombs — because most major cities will be hit with more than one explosion — will gouge out craters 200 feet deep and 1000 feet in diameter if they explode at ground level. Most, however, are programmed to produce an air burst, which increases the diameter of destruction, but creates a shallower crater. Half a mile from the epicenter all buildings will be destroyed, and at 1.7 miles only reinforced concrete buildings will remain.

At 2.7 miles bare skeletons of buildings still stand, single-family residences have disappeared, 50 percent are dead and 40 percent severely injured. Bricks and mortar are converted to missiles traveling at hundreds of miles an hour. Bodies have been sucked out of buildings and converted to missiles themselves, flying through the air at 100 miles per hour. Severe overpressures (pressure many times greater than normal atmospheric pressure) have popcorned windows, producing millions of shards of flying glass, causing decapitations and shocking lacerations. Overpressures have also entered the nose, mouth, and ears, inducing rupture of lungs and rupture of the tympanic membranes or eardrums.

Most people will suffer severe burns. In Hiroshima, which was devastated by a very small bomb — 13 kilotons compared to the current 1000 kilotons — a child actually disappeared, vaporized, leaving his shadow on the concrete pavement behind him. A mother was running, holding her baby, and both she and the baby were converted to a charcoal statue. The heat will be so intense that dry objects — furniture, clothes, and dry wood — will spontaneously ignite. Humans will become walking, flaming torches.

Forty or fifty miles from the explosion people will instantly be blinded from retinal burns if they glance at the flash. Huge firestorms will engulf thousands of square miles, fanned by winds from the explosion that transiently exceed 1000 miles per hour. People in fallout shelters will be asphyxiated as fire sucks oxygen from the shelters. (This happened in Hamburg after the Allied bombing in WWII when temperatures within the shelters, caused by conventional bombs, reached 1472 degrees Fahrenheit.)


Most of the city and its people will be converted to radioactive dust shot up in the mushroom cloud. The area of lethal fallout from this cloud will depend upon the prevailing wind and weather conditions; it could cover thousands of square miles. Doses of 5000 rads (a rad is a measure of radiation dose) or more experienced by people close to the explosion — if they are still alive — will produce acute encephalopathic syndrome. The cells of the brain will become so damaged that they would swell. Because the brain is enclosed in a fixed bony space, there is no room for swelling, so the pressure inside the skull rises, inducing symptoms of excitability, acute nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, severe headache, and seizures, followed by coma and death within twenty-four hours.

A lower dose of 1000 rads causes death from gastrointestinal symptoms. The lining cells of the gut die, as do the cells in the bone marrow that fight infection and that cause blood clotting. Mouth ulcers, loss of appetite, severe colicky abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea occur within seven to fourteen days. Death follows severe fluid loss, infection, hemorrhage, and starvation.

At 450 rads, 50 percent of the population dies. Hair drops out, vomiting and bloody diarrhea occurs, accompanied by bleeding under the skin and from the gums. Death occurs from internal hemorrhage, generalized septicemia, and infection. Severe trauma and injuries exacerbate the fallout symptoms, so patients die more readily from lower doses of radiation. Infants, children, and old people are more sensitive to radiation than healthy adults. Within bombed areas, fatalities will occur from a combination of trauma, burns, radiation sickness, and starvation. There will be virtually no medical care, even for the relief of pain, because most physicians work within targeted areas.


The United States owns 103 nuclear power plants, plus many other dangerous radioactive facilities related to past activities of the cold war. A 1000-kiloton bomb (1 megaton) landing on a standard 1000megawatt reactor and its cooling pools, which contain intensely radioactive spent nuclear fuel, would permanently contaminate an area the size of western Germany. The International Atomic Energy Agency now considers these facilities to be attractive terrorist targets, post-September 11, 2001.


Excerpted from "The New Nuclear Danger"
by .
Copyright © 2002 Helen Caldicott.
Excerpted by permission of The New Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Title Page,
Discretionary Budget, Fiscal Year 2001,
Chapter Five - MANHATTAN II,
Copyright Page,

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