Nuclear Weapons: From Opposition to Abolition

by John M Repp

Tom Rogers got a draft notice to go into the army in 1966 during the Vietnam war, so he visited a Navy recruiting office and signed up. He had been studying engineering, so he then decided to train to run a nuclear submarine power plant. He did well, serving on four nuclear subs, eventually becoming the captain of the USS Pogy in 1988. He retired in 1998. While still in the Navy, he questioned why our national security strategy was based on weapons that would cause a global holocaust. He knew that a limited nuclear war was not possible, because the strategy was “counterforce”, taking out all the enemy nuclear weapons before they could fire back.

Rogers joined up with Ground Zero for Nonviolent Action after he retired. Now he has outlined for us a plan on how we can eliminate nuclear weapons from the earth. You can see his 58-minute presentation on YouTube, posted by Ed Mays of Pirate TV.  Roger’s plan is a step-by-step process, beginning with the United States and Russia dismantling non-deployed warheads. Non-deployed weapons are weapons that are stored away from missiles or airplanes that could deliver them.  Out of the total 12, 720 warheads in the world, 9868 are non-deployed, the majority of which belong to United States and Russia. Getting rid of non-deployed warheads will not affect readiness but demonstrate intent.

An important part of the whole effort is verification, which has been part of the START i.e., Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, passed in 1994. The basics of the verification procedures go back to the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of nuclear weapons (NPT). Verification procedures include continuous visits to warhead factories and flyover rights to observe what is happening on the ground.

Trump was going to let START expire two weeks after his 2021 presidential inauguration that didn’t happen, and he had done nothing to negotiate a new treaty. With Biden’s action, START will now be in force until 2026. After non-deployed weapons are eliminated, we need to start negotiations for a new START treaty.

Each step of the abolition process is intended to establish trust between the nuclear armed nations. We often forget that in 1986 there were over 70,000 warheads in the world and the world has eliminated thousands through negotiations. Now we are back down to 12,270 according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. But now we have more nuclear weapons possessing countries. And in 2021, the total number of warheads started to creep back up. (see the graphic below)

In Patrick Mazza’s article about Tom Rogers, Mazza quotes Rogers: “the national security strategy is written by defense contractors and high ranking officers that are going to work for defense contractors and lobbyists.” These 23 words must be a wake-up call for all of us. Private for-profit corporations, if not regulated by a strong government working for the common good of the people, are threatening the destruction of our world in two ways: climate chaos, the slow way, and nuclear war, the fast way. Tom Rogers believes that we the people will not dislodge the awful power of the big corporations without campaign finance reform. So now we must build a strategy that includes doing that.

Go to Nuclear Notebook – Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (thebulletin.org) to see this graph with more features including each individual nation’s portion of the total.