Evil Gap

Image of chemical canisters.

Image by Fulvio Ciccolo.

In the 1950s we were warned that the Soviet Union had so many more strategic bombers than we did it was a “bomber gap.” So Congress voted a huge increase in the bomber budget for the war contractors to build more bombers for the Air Force.

But the gap was actually in “favor” of the US. The bomber gap was a lie told to the American people but highly profitable to corporations in the bomber business.

It worked. So, employing the same fake news template in the 1960s, we were told there was a “missile gap” and the Soviets had many more and were fixin’ to wipe us out. So Congress voted much more funding for many more missiles and the war profiteers rolled in the cost-plus and no-bid contracts that made them obscenely wealthy.

But, again, the only missile gap was that the US had more missiles than anyone.

Of course, as has been attributed to Aeschylus, the Father of Greek Tragedy, “In war, truth is the first casualty.” That clearly includes merely preparing to go to war.

Are the politicians, like Biden, who claim now that Russia has far more nuclear weapons than the US or anyone else has, are they liars now?

Probably not, since international monitoring of nuclear weapons by far more independent agencies is more credible than in the distant past.

But still, there is that endless justification for more nuclear weapons, and almost every US president and Congress has voted for and signed for increases in budgets to “upgrade” the arsenal.

How do we upgrade evil?

The US finally finished the destruction of its last chemical weapons, the sort of evil arsenal used to blind, choke, and suffocate soldiers in their trenches in World War I. Vietnam suffered US chemical warfare by some 19 million gallons of cancer-causing defoliants which poisoned some 12,000 square miles of land, and domestically in the US there were incidents, such as the one that killed thousands of animals when chemical agents “accidentally” released from Dugway Proving Ground. Ending that evil is clearly a Good Thing.

No country on Earth admits to developing or possessing biological weapons, the US ending that arsenal in 1969. Of course, biological weapons have been used since at least the Middle Ages, when diseased animal carcasses were catapulted into enemy walled cities–not to mention the infamous British army distribution of smallpox-infected blankets, “gifts” to Native people that decimated entire villages. Putin fires up the gaslights now and then, such as his 2022 baseless claim that the US was helping Ukraine develop biological weapons.

The history of the US developing biological weapons from 1943-1969, unfortunately, and then failing to notify the public when the US military conducted mock biological attacks on US airports, subway systems, schools, and more, is an ongoing invitation to Putin, the Chinese government, and QAnon to create new fantastic claims.

WMD are known as NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical). We’ve essentially eliminated the B and C, but we are moving in the wrong direction again on the N, as is Putin, the UK, China, India, Pakistan, France, Israel, and obviously North Korea. Thanks to Trump ending the Iran deal, that country is close to becoming a nuclear power too.

When will these evil gaps finally close forever? These are the most unsoldierly weapons imaginable, the sort of weapons that would kill far more civilians than military, that would poison the Earth for millennia, that would irradiate and cause crop failure across the planet leading to mass starvation, and that would guarantee that exactly no country would win, at all, in a nuclear war.

This should be a nonpartisan issue and it should be top priority. Most of humanity has voted in favor of a total ban, but the countries with these weapons are willing to be scofflaw, criminal nations.

It is by far the most serious species suicidal threat to humankind ever and each day we don’t end our species is a miracle. Basic common decency, common sense, dictates we fix this.

Tom H. Hastings is core faculty in the Conflict Resolution Department at Portland State University and founding director of PeaceVoice