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Up in arms: Test will aggravate nuclear threat

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Up in arms: Test will aggravate nuclear threat
Salt Lake Tribune
May 10, 2006
Editorial

It’s called the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. So why is it laboring so hard to increase the threat of nuclear aggression?

Maybe the people who work there have taken the title to mean that they are supposed to reduce any threat to the American defense establishment – the Military-Industrial Complex, Ike called it – by frightening unfriendly nations into hurriedly, and publicly, making new and more horrible weapons of their own.

Take the just-delayed weapons test known as Divine Strake. It’s a plan to blow up 700 tons of Timothy McVeigh-style chemical explosives at the Nevada Test Site northwest of Las Vegas, roiling up a 10,000-foot mushroom of dust from the very place where we used to test nuclear weapons.

The DTRA has repeatedly issued two equally unconvincing reassurances for those concerned about their plans. One is that the dust raised by the test won’t include radioactive debris, and that it won’t follow the downwind path that threatened Utahns and others in generations past.

Such a promise suggests a control of the elements that would be divine indeed.

A lawsuit filed by the Winnemucca Indian Colony is holding up the test, at least until June 23. Even Utah’s Sen. Orrin Hatch, seldom heard to question the administration on anything involving national security, is demanding more information.

DTRA also insists that the project is not a prelude to a new generation of bunker-busting nuclear weapons. It just wants to know what impact such a blast would have on hardened, underground military facilities such as those that, oh, say, might be used by Iran’s justly feared nuclear weapons program.

But, unless the Pentagon plans to use the data to construct a kind of nuclear weapon that is now banned by Congress – or has hidden in Area 51 an aircraft that can carry a 700-ton bomb – a new round of the nuclear arms race is the only logical explanation.

And if you are running Iran, or any other antagonistic don’t-tread-on-me country, the only logical reaction to Divine Strake is to accelerate your own nuclear program so you will have a credible deterrent to stand against whatever it is our government is trying to invent in the Nevada desert.

Regardless of what that invention is, no threats are being reduced.

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