Editorial – Nonsense of nuclear war

Those of us who spent our formative years in the 1950s or 1960s remember “living with the bomb,” as some sociologists called it back then.

In elementary school, we routinely practiced getting under our desks and covering our heads with our arms and hands — the famous “duck and cover” drills. We were preparing for the “flash” of the atomic bomb.

We were told, believe it or not, in pamphlets distributed to school kids and their parents by the U.S. government, that we could survive a war by taking a door off of our house, digging a three-foot-deep hole, then covering ourselves in dirt.

No one ever described how we were to cover ourselves with dirt once we were in the hole underneath the door. Apparently that was but a technicality.

We were also told in all seriousness that following an all-out nuclear war, the delivery of mail might be delayed by as many as three our four days.

It was all nonsense, of course, made to reassure people that even if the worst happened, we’d find ways to carry on.

Yet there was — and still is — a school of people who not only want to keep nuclear weapons around, but think in their heart of hearts that the use of such weapons isn’t such a bad idea, tactically speaking.

Their ilk was led by a physicist named Herman Kahn who even authored a book in 1963 called “Thinking about the Unthinkable.” In it, Kahn, a member of the Hudson Institute think-tank, argued that not only was the use of nuclear bombs a viable military option, but that an all-out nuclear war was winnable.

It makes one think of that preposterously laughable scene in “Dr. Strangelove,” in which General Buck Turgeson tells the president of the United States pretty much the same thing — that such a nuclear exchange with the then-super-power Soviet Union was winnable. “I’m not saying we won’t get our hair mussed a little,” George C. Scott’s character says. “But I can guarantee you 10 or 20 million people killed … tops!”

Throughout those years of “winnable nuclear war” nonsense, Catholics were proud that many members of church leadership not only condemned the use of nuclear weapons but condemned their very existence. And they still do.

It should be noted — with pride — that the Holy See has once again come down on the side of logic, reason and humanity in welcoming the recent U.S.-Iran accord intended to keep the latter nation from obtaining nuclear weapons.

There are, of course, political arguments on both sides of this issue. Some say the agreement, rather than prohibiting Iran’s acquisition of “the bomb,” will instead make it more likely. That debate will be left for platforms other than this one.

The point to be made here is that the church views nuclear weapons and their possible use as the evil they truly are. According to the Catholic News Service (CNS), Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, said the agreement between the U.S. and Iran “is viewed in a positive light by the Holy See.”

“It constitutes an important outcome of the negotiations carried out so far,” he said, “although continued efforts and commitment on the part of all involved will be necessary in order for it to bear fruit.”

Hours after the agreement was announced, CNS reported, the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace “also welcomed the agreement in a letter to members of the U.S. Congress.” The chairman, Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, N.M., encouraged Congress to “support these efforts to build bridges and foster peace and greater understanding” between nations.

Pope Francis has joined a long line of pontiffs who recognize the dangers and evils of nuclear weapons.

“The time has come,” he said recently, “to embrace the abolition of nuclear weapons as an essential foundation of collective security.”

The church has consistently stated that the use of nuclear weapons is immoral, and time and again church leaders have called for nations to abandon the notion of nuclear deterrence. Just as the nation abandoned the nonsensical “duck and cover” defense.

Glenn Rutherford
Record Editor Emeritus

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