Stunned By Pentagon Report About U.S. Nuclear Missile Arsenal: 'I Had No
Idea We Had So Many Weapons. What Do We Need Them For?
Rumsfeld Brings in Reagan Staffer Perle to Help With Arsenal Reduction; 'I Want The Lowest Number Possible ...
The Truth Is We Are Never Going to Use Them.'
NEW YORK, June 17 /PRNewswire/ -- President George W. Bush was stunned last month by a briefing he received that showed the extent of the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal was far greater than he imagined, a White House insider tells Newsweek. "I had no idea we had so many weapons," Bush said. "What do we need them for?"
(Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20010617/HSSU002 )
The briefing heightened Bush's dedication to cut the nuclear arsenal in conjunction with building a missile defense shield. But an impediment to Bush's reduction plan may be his own Pentagon, Newsweek reports in the current issue.
That's what Dick Cheney found out in the spring of 1989, a few weeks after he had taken over as secretary of Defense for Bush's father. Cheney was given a slide-show on the SIOP (Single Integrated Operating Plan) laying out the sequence of strikes planned in a nuclear war. Each strike was repeated with a red dot. By then, the number of Soviet targets had shrunk to 12,500 from a mid-80's high of 16,000. Cheney watched dumbstruck as the red dots multiplied across the Soviet Union. Finally, he said, "Who ordered all of this?" The Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Larry Welch, answered, "You did, sir. You and your predecessors."
An accompanying graphic in the current issue is the first to show in detail the devastating impact of just one part of the U.S. nuclear war plan against Russia, the SIOP. The graphic models the consequences of an attack on the Kozelsk ICBM field, about 180 miles west of Moscow: a radiation plume some 400 miles long and a likely total of 13.3 million casualties. The information was compiled by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a Washington advocacy group. In a two-year project, the NRDC took declassified U.S. data on U.S. forces and Russian nuclear targets, and used customized computer software to combine these with other official declassified data on weapons effects, radiation patterns and Russian climate.
As secretary of Defense, Cheney actually tried to whittle down the SIOP. The 12,500-target list was cut to 10,000. Air Force, Gen. George (Lee) Butler, was sent to Omaha to run the Strategic Command and found the SIOP to be "all 'Alice in Wonderland' stuff," Newsweek reports. Every time the Pentagon bought a new weapons system to match the Soviets, the generals needed to add new targets for the new weapons, until they were aiming at targets as small and insignificant as rural railroad sidings. Butler started cutting the SIOP, yet, today, it's actually 20 percent larger than it was after he had finished. His successors kept adding targets back in, Newsweek reports.
Now, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has brought back Butler as a consultant and tapped Richard Perle, a veteran of the Reagan administration who has radical views on nuclear weapons, to help with Bush's plan for nuclear arsenal reduction. A preliminary review of America's nuclear posture, ordered by Rumsfeld a few months ago, is "a disappointing document, wholly without vision," says a knowledgeable source. In an interview with Newsweek before he was lured back to the Pentagon as an adviser, Perle said, "I see no reason why we can't go well below 1,000. I want the lowest number possible, under the tightest control possible." Why? "The truth is we are never going to use them.
The Russians aren't going to use theirs either," report Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas and National Security Correspondent John Barry in the June 25 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands Monday, June 18).
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