What Iowans Need to Hear about National Security

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What Iowans Need to Hear
about National Security

imageby Paul Deaton

As a country we face the threat of unchecked nuclear
proliferation and this threat defines our national security challenges today. This
is a message we don’t hear often enough in the corporate media. It is a message
Iowans may not like, but need to hear.

I was speaking to a group of peace activists in western Iowa last weekend and
they were uncomfortable with the amount of money in the President’s proposed
budget to maintain the United States nuclear stockpile, infrastructure and
workforce: more than $7 billion and $600 million more than was approved last
year. They asked, “If we want to get to zero nuclear weapons in the world, why
do we need to continue to spend so much?” These same activists question the
administration’s spending on the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and other forms of

The answer to their question was not what they wanted to hear, that the
administration is committed to maintaining the national security
infrastructure. As a country we face the threat of unchecked nuclear
proliferation and this threat defines our national security challenges today. This
is a message we don’t hear often enough in the corporate media. It is a message
Iowans may not like, but need to hear.

The tangible commitment to national security in the post September 11, 2001
era, when the threat of nuclear terrorism grew and nuclear weapons proliferated,
is encouraging. Despite all of the national media coverage of hawks like Dick
Cheney and John Bolton, the reality is that the world became a much more
dangerous place during the time after the terrorist attacks on New York and
Washington. We realize the importance of the national security infrastructure
to dealing with 21st century national security threats.

That the world has changed since the fall of the Berlin Wall is unmistakable.
The change was highlighted during last year’s commemoration
of the 50th anniversary of the Nikita Khrushchev visit to Iowa. (Khrushchev’s
son is now an American citizen). For many Americans, the Cold War standoff between the United States and Russia is
on the back burner.
When I speak to Iowans about the START
(Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) negotiations currently underway between the
United States and Russia, they say they don’t hear much about nuclear
weapons these days.

While some elected officials have framed the threats we
face in terms of nuclear deterrence, in a changed world, national security
will come from a cooperative, multilateral effort to reduce the nuclear threat.
That includes reducing the number of nuclear weapons in Russian and the United
States arsenals. It also means dealing with the threat of nuclear terrorism and
nuclear test explosions. These things are exactly what the administration is

There is a bipartisan consensus of people who agree upon the need for nuclear
disarmament. This group includes Cold Warriors like George Schultz, Henry
Kissinger and Sam Nunn who have endorsed the steps that have been taken to
negotiate START and to ban nuclear weapons testing. It also includes people who
have changed their mind about nuclear weapons like Linton Brooks, former
Assistant Director for Strategic and Nuclear Affairs at the U.S. Arms Control
and Disarmament Agency under President George H. W. Bush and chief negotiator
of the first START treaty with Russia. Former Utah Senator Jake Garn points out
that many political and technical realities have changed since the Senate
declined to approve the test ban treaty in 1999, including significantly enhanced
treaty verification and advances in stockpile stewardship programs that help to
maintain the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Detractors of the administration’s national security plan are simply out of
touch with the realities of national security in the 21st century.
It is also clear that the statements of Cheney and Bolton are more ideological
than realistic. If they were more in touch with reality when they were in
power, perhaps they would have done more to protect our national security

Deaton is a native Iowan living in rural Johnson County.
out his blog,
Grove Garden
.    E-mail Paul Deaton

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