News Release

How the ICBM Lobby is Threatening Armageddon

DANIEL ELLSBERG, ellsbergd1@gmail.com
WILLIAM HARTUNG, whartung@internationalpolicy.org
    Ellsberg is available for a limited number of interviews. He just co-authored the piece “To Avoid Armageddon, Don’t Modernize Missiles — Eliminate Them” in The Nation with IPA executive director Norman Solomon.

    Ellsberg is a former American military analyst employed by the RAND Corporation who precipitated a national uproar in 1971 when he released the Pentagon Papers. He is the author of The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner.

    Hartung is director of the Arms and Security Program at the Center for International Policy and author of “Inside the ICBM Lobby.”

    Ellsberg and Solomon write: “For many years, experts have been calling for this act of sanity that could save humanity: Shutting down all of the nation’s intercontinental ballistic missiles.

    “Four hundred ICBMs dot the rural landscapes of Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wyoming. Loaded in silos, these missiles are uniquely — and dangerously — on hair-trigger alert. Unlike the nuclear weapons on submarines or bombers, the land-based missiles are vulnerable to attack and could present the commander in chief with a sudden use-them-or-lose-them choice. ‘If our sensors indicate that enemy missiles are en route to the United States, the president would have to consider launching ICBMs before the enemy missiles could destroy them. Once they are launched, they cannot be recalled,’ former Defense Secretary William Perry warns. ‘The president would have less than 30 minutes to make that terrible decision.’

    “The danger that a false alarm on either side — of the sort that has occurred repeatedly on both sides — would lead to a preemptive attack derives almost entirely from the existence on both sides of land-based missile forces, each vulnerable to attack by the other; each, therefore, is kept on a high state of alert, ready to launch within minutes of warning. …

    “Senators from several of the states with major ICBM bases or development activities — Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, and Utah — continue to maintain an ‘ICBM Coalition’ dedicated to thwarting any serious scrutiny of the land-based weaponry. Members of the coalition have systematically blocked efforts to reduce the number of ICBMs or study alternatives to building new ones. They’re just a few of the lawmakers captivated by ICBM mega-profiteers. In a report issued this year by the Center for International Policy, nuclear weapons expert William Hartung gives readers a detailed look ‘Inside the ICBM Lobby,’ showing how ICBM contractors get their way while throwing millions of dollars at politicians and deploying battalions of lobbyists on Capitol Hill. As the recipient of the sole-source contract to build the proposed new ICBMs, Northrop Grumman has joined with other top contractors to block efforts to reduce spending on these dangerous and unnecessary systems — or even simply to pause their development. …

    “Members of Congress will need to face up to the horrendous realities about intercontinental ballistic missiles. They won’t do that unless peace, arms-control, and disarmament groups go far beyond the current limits of congressional discourse — and start emphasizing, on Capitol Hill and at the grassroots, the crucial truth about ICBMs and the imperative of eliminating them all.”