Bush nuclear weapons policy’s “failure to launch”
The seven years of the Bush administration have provided many challenges for the peace movement, but one area in which we have seen great success is defeating Bush’s dangerous and provocative nuclear weapons policy. One of the reasons we’ve had this success is through strong bipartisan opposition to taking our nuclear weapons policy in the wrong direction. Mother Jones magazine has a fascinating article about Rep. David Hobson (R-OH) and his instrumental role in cutting funding for several nuclear weapons programs. Here they discuss his successful move to wipe out the funding for nuclear “bunker-busters”:
Such scientific concerns reinforced Hobson’s skepticism of the new bombs. "The physics of it didn’t work and they sent the wrong signal to the world," he says. "It gave people a lot of reasons to build their own weapons."
He also found it puzzling that while civilian Pentagon officials were clamoring for the new weapon, their uniformed colleagues seemed uninterested in it. Hobson visited the headquarters of the U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha, the nuclear-war nerve center, to see what its staff would say about the concept. "They never mentioned it, like it just didn’t matter," he recalls. In October 2004, he convinced his subcommittee to kill funding for the bunker buster. The message to the White House, he thought, was clear.
A few weeks later, one of the subcommittee’s senior staffers, Scott Burnison, stumbled upon a routine work authorization from the Sandia weapons lab showing that researchers there were spending thousands of dollars building a concrete wall for a crash test of the rnep’s hardened shell. Hobson was furious. He called Energy secretary Samuel Bodman and demanded that the test be stopped.
"They tried to go around me," he says, still visibly angry about it. "They lost their credibility." Brooks confirms the episode, but says the administration saw the test as harmless background research: "It never occurred to us that this would be an issue." Hobson, he insists, "overreacted."
By now, news of Hobson’s failure to rubber-stamp the administration’s agenda was getting attention at the top. Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld summoned Hobson to see him, alone; the congressman politely replied that he would only come with key aides.
On March 15, 2005, Hobson and two subcommittee staffers sat down for a breakfast meeting at the Pentagon. Waiting for them were Rumsfeld and Bodman, as well as General Joseph Cartwright, the head of the Strategic Command, and a phalanx of senior defense officials. Rumsfeld, according to several of those who attended, was calm but insistent: The Pentagon needed the bunker buster, and it was going to get it—one way or another.
Recalls Hobson, in an account confirmed by others, "I said to him, ‘Look, you’re not going to be able to do this, and if you want to take this to a vote and embarrass the president of the United States, fine. I’ll beat you. Because one thing I do know how to do is count votes.’ Rumsfeld said, ‘Bah, you might win this year but you won’t win next year.’ And I said, ‘We’ll see.’"
"Here’s the thing you’ve got to know about Dave," explains Kasich, Hobson’s former Ohio colleague. "I’ve never met anyone more interested in encouraging other people’s success. But if you screw with him, that’s a big mistake. And they misled him. They treated him like any other congressman. He isn’t any other congressman."
I highly recommend reading the entire article, as it gives a good history of the evolution of the Bush administration’s aggressive nuclear weapons policy, from Advanced Concepts and the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator through the Reliable Replacement Warhead, which was defeated in Congress in December. Through years of effective grassroots organizing and lobbying, the disarmament movement has helped foster strong opposition in Congress to new nuclear weapons. With several presidential candidates discussing the elimination of nuclear weapons as part of their platforms, now is the time to build on our success and take proactive steps toward a nuclear free world.