Dear Editor, Not quite sure where to start, but Adler's ["Nukes Are Back!," News, Jan. 16, 2004] tirade against the Bush administration's plans for possible nuclear weapons usage is full of holes. First off, he claims, "Every president since Truman relegated the bomb to a category unto itself, to be locked away unless the nation's very survival were at stake. Not so George W. Bush." Untrue. Every president, from Truman to Kennedy to Clinton, has clearly stated we would use nuclear weapons if absolutely needed, which is the same thing the Bush administration has said. Adler mentions then dismisses the nuclear threats of nations with admitted nuclear capabilities and weapons programs. He admits that there are terrorists, that they are building deep bunkers impervious to conventional weapons. He then claims, "A low-yield nuke will not burrow deep enough [ to destroy deep bunkers], and a high-yield behemoth, say, anywhere from 100 kilotons (almost five times the force of the Hiroshima bomb that immediately killed 140,000 people) ..." the yield of the nuclear weapon has absolutely no bearing on the warhead's ability to penetrate earth, and the death toll at Hiroshima was between 80,000 and 110,000. We did kill 140,000 in the Tokyo firebombings; he must have confused the two. All administrations have made "contingency plans" covering literally every imaginable scenario, it's nothing new. The world situation has changed, the nuclear threat has intensified and changed, and it is prudent that any administration realize and adjust strategies accordingly. Contrarians will find any excuse to portray anything in the worse possible light, and that is simply what Adler has done. Oddly enough, he offers no alternative solutions of his own. Perhaps he has none.
Carl T. Swanson
[William M. Adler replies: Mr. Swanson may be nuts about nukes, but he fails to consider the fundamental difference between the Bush doctrine and that of Bush's post-WWII predecessors. Bush argues for the possible preemptive use of nukes; the others, Bush Sr. included, saw nukes as a weapon of last resort.
As for the physics of bunker busters, I yield to Princeton physicist Robert W. Nelson, who wrote in a Federation of American Scientists report that using nuclear warheads to attack deeply buried facilities "does not appear possible without causing massive radioactive contamination."
As to the death toll at Hiroshima, I stand corrected. I indeed cited the figure of 140,000. But according to the city of Hiroshima's estimate, that figure was for 1945 alone; the latest toll, including those who died from radiation-induced illness and disease, is 227,000.
Incidentally, last Aug. 6, on the 58th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, 150 of the Bush administration's foremost nuclear thinkers converged at StratCom near Omaha, Neb., for a secret meeting. The draft agenda, leaked to the watchdog Los Alamos Study Group, portrayed an administration hell-bent on developing and testing its new nukes – and determined to sell their radical ideas to Congress and the public.
Congress bought 'em, and so apparently, has Mr. Swanson.]