Hoorah! Nothing like a good arms race to terrorize your public into blind conformity...
Rumsfeld Pushes for New Nuclear Weapons Study
By Vicki Allen
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Tuesday low-yield nuclear weapons may be useful in destroying deadly chemical and biological weapons stocks as he pressed Congress to lift a 10-year ban on research and development of smaller nuclear arms.
The Senate was debating whether to allow research on low-yield weapons with about one-third the force of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in World War II, which Democrats said would signal the United States was pursuing new battlefield weapons and would spur an arms race.
Democrats also were challenging the Pentagon's plan to continue research on a high-yield warhead to burrow into the ground, which Rumsfeld said is needed to deter countries from burying the materials for weapons of mass destruction in deep bunkers.
But Democrats said the measures, tucked into a $400.5 billion defense authorization bill, would make the use of such weapons conceivable, reversing decades of U.S. policy aimed at preventing nuclear warfare.
Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, said the administration's plan "jeopardizes the entire architecture of nuclear arms controls so carefully negotiated by our leaders over our lifetimes."
Rumsfeld and Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a Pentagon briefing the nuclear warheads may destroy deadly biological or chemical material that would be dispersed by conventional weapons.
For instance, Myers said, gamma rays may destroy anthrax spores and chemical compounds "and not develop that plume that conventional weapons might do that would then drift and perhaps bring others in harm's way."
STUDY OR DEVELOPMENT?
While Rumsfeld said the administration only wanted power to study new low-yield nuclear weapons, Democrats said it was pushing language that would permit their development.
Sen. Jack Reed said if Democrats fail to keep the ban on study of low-yield weapons, he would push an amendment to block their potential production.
"If we can limit it to research, it would be an improvement to the president's language," said Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat. After 50 years of trying to find ways to prevent nuclear warfare, he said, "Now we're really talking about using them."
Democrats said there is a misconception that so-called "mini-nukes" and the burrowing weapon would have contained effects with minimal loss of life, while they would release deadly plumes of radioactivity.
The House Armed Services Committee, writing its version of the defense authorization bill last week, passed an amendment that paves the way for research on low-yield nuclear weapons but bans any work on engineering or production of them.
The full House of Representatives was to consider the bill on Wednesday.
Study already is under way on the deep earth penetrator, or "bunker-buster," but Democrats planned to try to cut the $15.5 million the Pentagon wants to continue research.
Halting the deep earth penetrator research would tell the world "that they're wise to invest in going underground," Rumsfeld said.