July 20, 2005

Bunker Busters Are Bad News

The U.S. Bishops Conference has issued an urgent action alert on appropriations for nuclear research. On Thursday, July 21, the Senate Appropriations Committee will vote on S. 1042, the FY06 Defense Appropriations bill. This bill includes funding for the so called "nuclear bunker buster." These earth penetrating nuclear weapons are envisioned for use against chemical and biological weapons or to destroy deeply buried bunkers.

Nuclear weapons in any form are immoral. Catholic Social Teaching is very clear on this.

Applying traditional Catholic teaching that the use of force - even in legitimate self defense - must also distinguish between combatants and non-combatants, the Second Vatican Council condemned any use of nuclear weapons as indiscriminate and therefore immoral.

Pacem in Terris also condemns nuclear weapons and the arms race: "Justice, then, right reason and consideration for human dignity and life urgently demand that the arms race should cease; that the stockpiles which exist in various countries should be reduced equally and simultaneously by the parties concerned; that nuclear weapons should be banned; and finally that all come to an agreement on a fitting program of disarmament, employing mutual and effective controls."

The US Bishops position is that these "new weapons would erode the fragile barrier against nuclear use because they are part of a strategy that contemplates first use of nuclear weapons and their use against non-nuclear threats. Smaller, more "usable" nuclear weapons would not be discriminate or proportionate in any meaningful sense. A recent study on the 'Effects of Nuclear Earth Penetrator and Other Weapons' by the National Research Council concluded that 'the weapons cannot penetrate to depths required for total containment' and would result in 'casualties' that range from 'hundreds' to 'more than a million' people. "

The message is clear. Nuclear weapons are bad. So read the action alert and do something about it.

We are approaching the 60th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9. As Pope John Paul II said on a visit to Hiroshima in 1981: "To remember the past is to commit oneself to the future. To remember Hiroshima is to abhor nuclear war. To remember Hiroshima is to commit oneself to peace."

We can do more than remember. We can act.