Give peace a chance

Pardon me for interrupting your summer reverie, and we’ll both get back to our frozen margaritas in a moment, but I have to ask one small, nagging question: Does it at all bother you that U.S. foreign policy is based on a fundamentally insane, wildly expensive, hopelessly outdated notion that may get us all killed?

Nah, forget it. But in case you are mildly curious, I am talking about nuclear missiles. When I was a tyke we worried about “The Bomb” all the time, though back then, nukes were all pretty much controlled by a bunch of old guys who liked the status quo. Now, when it is much more dangerous, few of us ever think about them.

“Do we still have atom bombs?” one of my students asked me recently.

“Not really. Only 10,000 or so,” I told him. Those bombs cost, by the way, about $4.5 billion a year to maintain. Even if the Metro Times paid me the $1 million a year I deserve, it would take 4,500 years to come up with that much. Additionally, we’re building around 80 new nuclear weapons a year. My student was properly horrified, and you should be too. Fortunately, the silver lining in this radioactive trough is a group called Peace Action (formerly Sane/Freeze) which is trying to keep candidates’ feet to the fire by forcing them to give answers about war and peace and their policies, issues some candidates would rather not talk about.

Incidentally, before you write me off as a mushy-headed Pollyanna, let me say that I am neither a member of Peace Action, nor am I arguing for disarmament. But since we already have enough nukes to destroy the planet several times over, it is hard to see why we need more, since ... psst! the Cold War is over. Now, I’m not privy to any secret diplomatic cables, but I’ve nailed this much down:

• The bad ol’ Soviet Union no longer exists, and the missiles in its successor state — Russia — are no longer automatically targeted at us. Russia, by the way, is as broke as an unemployed single parent in any state now undergoing “welfare reform.” Meanwhile, we seem to be working hard at what amounts to a partial economic merger with China, which would seem to give that particular set of screaming godless commies less incentive to start a suicidal nuclear holocaust.

• None of our current officially designated “enemies” — Iraq, Serbia, Cuba, etc., have nuclear weapons, or are likely to, anytime soon.

• Washington refuses to recognize the world has changed. Eight years ago, we voted for Clinton partly in order to stop “Star Wars,” a terribly expensive and probably useless “missile defense shield” promoted by a half-senile Ronald Reagan.

Surprise, surprise; it’s back. Both Clinton and his puppet, Al Gore, are, in the vice president’s words, “committed to developing a limited National Missile Defense System.”

Limited, that is to $60 billion ... for starters. The system seems limited in other ways. Fifty U.S. Nobel Prize winners wrote the president July 6, urging him to dump Star Wars, as it “would offer little protection and would do grave harm to this nation’s core security interests.” Nonsense, the Ozark Einstein snorted: Watch this. The next day they tested it. Not only did the “kill vehicle” not hit the target, it never even separated from its booster rocket. The whole thing blew up, costing the taxpayers $100 million.

Nevertheless, they are pushing on. Bush minor, Republican presidential nominee in waiting, thinks Clinton’s a wimp. He would spend ten times as much on Star Wars.

Meanwhile, Congress rejected the comprehensive test-ban treaty, refused to close the notorious School of the Americas, where we train Latin American armies to oppress their own people, and we give vats of military aid to human rights violators such as Colombia.

This might never have happened if we had a Democratic president, but hey.

Anyway — what Peace Action is trying to do, national board member Al Fishman told me, is try to make a difference by focusing on a few key races around the country.

“We aren’t supporting candidates,” said Fishman, a Detroiter who has been fighting to make this a better world for more than a half-century. “We want to get them on the record on some key issues, and then let the voters know where they stand.”

Peace Action got an unexpected boost earlier this year when an anonymous angel gave the group $100,000 — and a challenge. If Peace Action raises another $50,000 from its members by this summer, they get another $100,000.

That seed money allowed Peace Action to run its first-ever TV spots this spring, urging voters to call U.S. Sen. Spencer Abraham and tell him to vote against Star Wars, for example. They hope to be back on the air in September, holding candidates’ feet to the fire in California, New Jersey and Illinois, as well as Michigan.

That’s an awesome public service. You can depend on the mainstream media to update you on all the candidates’ sex lives. But if you are interested in how Diane Byrum or Debbie Stabenow would vote on the test-ban treaty, you might send a few dollars to Peace Action of Michigan, 195 W. Nine Mile Rd., No. 208, Ferndale, MI 48220. Later this fall I’ll be back with a report on what kind of answers the candidates are giving.

Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]
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