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Just say ‘no’ to renewing nuclear tests

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Is the Bush administration preparing to break out of the nuclear weapons testing moratorium?

Recent statements and actions by top players within the administration and its shadow cabinet of unreconstructed Cold Warriors may just be trial balloons to test the waters to see if anyone will object to a resumption of testing and abrogation of treaties subscribed to by the United States.

If these are only trial balloons, they must be pierced now before they take flight, and the Utah congressional delegation has a moral responsibility to wield the pins.

In the last week of June, the Bush team ordered nuclear weapons scientists to study a range of options to "reduce lead times" to resume nuclear bomb explosions at the Nevada Test Site. The weapons laboratories argue that testing is needed to assure that the stockpile is reliable, and some fear that the long lead times to prepare tests give political opponents opportunities to prevent renewed testing.

Frank Gaffney, a former defense official and prominent conservative analyst and adviser, stated in May that "we're going to have to resume on a limited basis underground testing of our nuclear arms."

In a March 12 letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms called on the administration to repudiate the signed but unratified Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The New York Times reported May 9 that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld seems more inclined to deploy missile defenses and develop nuclear forces than to negotiate with Russia or China.

In April and May, the U.S. accused the Chinese of preparing for a nuclear weapons test, according to Washington Times reports in April and May, and similar accusations have been leveled at the Russians, as reported in the New York Times.

In the meantime, the Bush administration is putting on the diplomatic pressure to dismantle the ABM Treaty to pave the way for ballistic missile defense. Rumsfeld has stated that there may be a dozen different components to BMD, including the stationing of weapons in space. Not only would this constitute a unilateral abrogation of the Outer Space Treaty, it would likely involve a resumption of nuclear testing to complete development of Nuclear Directed Energy Weapons projects the national weapons labs have experimented with for two decades.

Taken together, these developments lead to an inescapable suspicion — that the U.S. is preparing to unilaterally jettison a less than perfect arms control regime fostered by every president since Eisenhower that has kept Armageddon at bay. These policy maneuverings threaten a costly and dangerous new arms race and are alarming to our allies as well as our adversaries. Most alarming to the constituents of Utah's congressional delegation is the prospect of more nuclear tests upwind, especially those who have suffered painful losses and grievous wrongs from being unwitting "active participants in the nation's nuclear weapons program." Despite the commendable efforts of Utah's congressmen to achieve a greater measure of justice for the downwinders, uranium miners, atomic veterans, and defense workers exposed to radiation in the name of national security, allowing testing to begin again promises new generations of victims even as the those sick and dying from the last round hold their government- issued IOUs.

The people will not tolerate being bombed again! No political spin, no tortured logic, no fear mongering that the Russians or the Chinese or the North Koreans will be here in the morning, no assurance that "there is no danger" will suffice this time.

The assurances we need are that our elected representatives will do everything in their power to prevent a resumption of nuclear testing. Utahns must demand this now!

Steve Erickson of Salt Lake City is director of the Citizens Education Project. Preston J. Truman is director of Downwinders.