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Thursday, May 29, 2003
I'm probably just being a worrywart liberal, but this kind of alarms me:

Backed by Congressional sentiment favoring a new approach to nuclear weapons, the Bush administration is taking steps that could lead to revamping the nation's cold-war-era atomic arsenal to meet what officials describe as more imminent modern threats.

The House and Senate last week approved a series of provisions sought by the White House and the Pentagon that could open the door to development of new nuclear weapons. Administration officials say the changes, which include relaxing a ban on research into smaller nuclear weapons, would not violate any existing arms treaties, though that is disputed by others.

Did anyone else's heart kind of skip a beat when they read that? Mine sure did. It's almost funny, y'know? Like, there's this stereotype of Bush as the warmongering Reagan-worshipper, but all the stuff has been kind of piddly so far, on a military scale anyway. (Iraq clearly not being piddly on a diplomatic scale.) So you might joke, "Oh haha, next thing you know they're going to be starting up with the atom bombs!" And then...whoops! There they go again! I mean...fucking nuclear weapons, OK? And how is that going to fight terrorism exactly? "Don't blow up Yankee Stadium, you towelhead motherfuckers, or so help us we've got some fucking neutron bombs strapped to this shit and we will obliterate the entire fucking Bronx!"

OK, OK. I'm overreacting. They haven't actually made any bombs yet, and like that. So let's examine what's going on. First, here is what they're actually doing:

Officials said that existing, congressionally imposed restrictions on research were chilling potential progress in the field of nuclear weapons science. Linton Brooks, chief of the National Nuclear Security Administration, said: "We want to look at advanced concepts, not because we want to do anything in the near term, but so that we can look at future options. But now we can't do any sort of research without getting the lawyers involved."

Yeah, the lawyers. You mean the public? So they can say, "Nuclear weapons? What the fuck is wrong with you?"

Sorry, sorry, getting worked up again. OK. Here's what the dems have to say:

Opponents are not reassured by promises by the administration that its sole aim is the study of nuclear potential. They point to position papers, testimony by officials and other declarations of the need for new nuclear thinking.

"It is unrealistic to think we are going to go ahead and even test but not use these nuclear weapons, particularly with the expressions and statements that have been made by the administration," Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, said.

Mr. Kennedy and his allies, who in a series of votes last week were unable to block the provisions that opened the door to new nuclear research, say the push for new nuclear capacity is reckless and ill-conceived, given the White House demand that other nations disavow nuclear force. In a floor speech, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, called the juxtaposition diabolical.

As it adopted a larger defense measure last week, the House eased a 10-year-old ban on research into smaller nuclear weapons while the Senate lifted it entirely.

Uh...hmm. Well, I guess it has been a while since we've broken a treaty. OK, so why are nuclear weapons necessary now?

Administration officials say that they have made no decision to produce the first new nuclear weapons since the 1980's and that further Congressional debate and approval would be needed to do so. But they say an enormous nuclear capability to deter a rival superpower fortified with its own intercontinental missiles could be an outdated concept in the current world environment.

Instead, they say, a new generation of nuclear weapons may be needed to destroy facilities that could be constructed underground where biological and chemical weapons are being developed or stored.

What? Uh, how does that work, exactly? Maybe I just need to be more of a military nerd or something.

Does this administration have a public policy or is it just one long practical joke?