By Tony Magliano

A New Moment for Nuclear DisarmamentYou are within 30 minutes of being incinerated from nuclear weapons! This very real possibility exists for anyone living in or near a large U.S. city or major military installation. And when radiation fallout is considered, nearly everyone is in harm’s way.

Dr. Bruce Blair, former launch officer responsible for 50 Minuteman nuclear missiles in Montana, and now co-founder of Global Zero – an international organization dedicated to eliminating all nuclear weapons – explained to me that both the United States and Russia each have approximately 1,000 nuclear warheads still aimed at each other. And that these weapons of mass destruction are dangerously programmed at launch ready alert – otherwise known as hair-trigger alert.

Because Russian and American land-based nuclear missiles can reach their targets in just 30 minutes, Blair said “the president, after a very short briefing, would have just 12 minutes max, and more plausibly only five minutes to decide whether to launch a nuclear attack against Russia.”

And Blair said that Russia has a very similar system, except that much of theirs is antiquated, thus increasing the chance of a nuclear exchange based on misinformation or technical malfunction.

In fact, there have been several situations where Russia and the United States came to within a few minutes of nuclear war due to sloppy communications and/or computer errors.

There is absolutely no morally sound reason to ever use, or threaten to use, nuclear weapons!

The world’s Catholic bishops at the Second Vatican Council declared in the most forceful language that “Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.”

A nuclear attack from either side will absolutely be met with a counter-attack, guaranteeing what used to be called Mutually Assured Destruction or MAD. We are playing American – Russian roulette with nuclear weapons!

Blair strongly requested that we write President Obama by going to and clicking “contact us.” He asked that we urge the president to keep his election campaign promise to de-alert – in concert with Russian President Medvedev – the approximately 1,000 nuclear warheads presently on launch-ready/hair-trigger alert. Request that he order the actual removal of all nuclear warheads from their missiles.

Blair also asked that we urge the president to invite heads of state to a nuclear weapons world summit to launch negotiations aimed at the  elimination of all 21,000 nuclear weapons worldwide – 96 percent of them held by the U.S. and Russia – by no later than 2030 as outlined by Global Zero.

Please also e-mail and phone your two U.S. senators and congressperson (Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121) urging them to work for the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and to suspend all nuclear weapons spending, except for funding required to safely secure these weapons until they can be totally eliminated.

Blair said the world spends $100 billion annually on nuclear weapons, with the U.S. alone spending $60 billion of that yearly amount. Just imagine the good that could be done with that money. We could eliminate extreme poverty from the face of the earth!

Finally, please go to click “get involved” and sign the declaration urging the elimination of all nuclear weapons.

The time surrounding August 6 and August 9 – when we remember the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – is the most appropriate time to commit ourselves to pray and work for the day when the last nuclear weapon is dismantled and destroyed.

Tony Magliano is a columnist whose work appears in diocesan papers throughout the United States. If your diocesan paper does not carry his column, we encourage you to call them and request that they do.

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