The War Budget

February 13, 2008

The president’s budget for this year includes nearly $2 billion to fund a new supply of nuclear pits. “Pits” are smaller bombs to set off bigger nuclear bombs. Each one has an explosive power of about 15,000 tons of TNT, equal to the devastation that leveled Hiroshima. They are not so small, really. Now the president wants to increase our pit production from last year’s 11 to about 80 a year. The idea is to replace so-called “aging” pits in the stockpile.

Nuclear bombs are of practically no use in the so-called war on terror. Although this is the war that we have, this is not the war that pits can be used for. Nuclear bombs cannot be used in Islamabad, or in Mosul, or to protect nightclubs in London or Bali. They can’t be used in Al Anbar province and they can’t be used—except to level the mountains—in Waziristan; they can’t be used to uncover subversive cells in the United States and they can’t be used against the Chinese or the Russians without starting a final holocaust. They aren’t practical for anything at all except as a jobs program for the defense oligarchy.

Government studies, according to The New Mexican, (Feb. 5, 2008), tell us that existing pits—the ones to be replaced—will not become dysfunctional for about 100 years. We are therefore to fund new pits in 2009 in order to be prepared for the possible malfunction of existing pits in 2109.

This One Hundred Year Plan may seem rational to John McCain who recently announced that if he takes over we might keep troops in Iraq for all that time. By then, at this funding level, we could have produced some 8,000 new pits, and—since they will have been refreshed maybe 80 or 90 years before then—surely one of them, at least, will still go off.

As a trade off, the budget does call for the rest of us to sacrifice. On the same page of The New Mexican that reports the budget for pits there is a second report that the president requests zero funding for the Valles Caldera National Preserve, (in the forests just above Los Alamos), zero funding for the water pipeline to get water from the San Juan River to the Navajos and zero for Santa Fe’s Buckman water diversion project. The president would also squeeze out of Amtrak more than $1.2 billion, nearly the same amount he would add to making nuclear bombs. Transportation for now does not rank as high as reliable triggers then.

Building bombs creates the impression of great danger. Assuming great danger gives excuse for assuming absolute authority. Assuming absolute authority, Mr. Bush regularly says that he will suspend all, or parts, of laws with which he disagrees. It does not matter that a statute has been enacted exactly as the Constitution requires; if Mr. Bush does not—or thinks he may not some time in the future—agree, he issues a signing statement saying that he will not enforce that law. In so doing he attempts to suspend, not only the law, but also Articles I and III of the Constitution which were intended to give legislative and interpretive authority to the congress and courts. He just plain, flat out, restructures government. The Boston Globe reports that he has declared his intention to suspend legislation over 1,000 times.

When the constitution of the republic is willingly overridden, when the priorities are to build bombs rather than find the water, or fund the trains, or maintain the forests, when a ruling oligarchy of defense contractors is funded while at the same time ignoring all those who actually educate, carry the rifles for, and feed our nation, ignoring all those who wrap up our wounds and inspire us with poetry and song, the time has come to find someone else to draw up the budget.