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Strangelove Revisited: Or How I'm Trying
to Relax and Love the Bombs

by Jim Glover
July 25, 2004

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When it comes to bombs, our "leaders" in Washington are thinking big.

They’ve asked their friends in the war industry to develop a new bunker-buster that will weigh -- get ready for this -- 30 THOUSAND pounds. [1]

To grasp the size of this one bomb, imagine SEVEN Ford Explorer XLS SUVs, with gas tanks full. Put the weight of all of these vehicles into one bomb and you have the "Massive Ordnance Penetrator," or MOP.

Here’s another way to comprehend a 15-ton bomb. It weighs the same as 1,875 maximum-weight Brunswick “Ultimate Inferno” bowling balls. That’s enough balls to fill an average-size American bathroom to the ceiling (if you remove the toilet and sink).

If you’re still not fathoming a 30,000 pound bomb, try this one last conversion: Consider the Sammy Sosa baseball bat. If Sammy hasn’t corked them, it would take about 15,000 of his bats to equal the weight of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator. Let’s take all those bats and try the old trick of placing them end to end. At about three feet in length each, the bats would go for eight and a half miles.

And so, to summarize, the MOP will weigh the equivalent of seven and a half Sport Utility Vehicles, or a bathroom full of bowling balls, or eight and a half miles of Sammy Sosa’s (uncorked) baseball bats, take your pick.

The cost to build the MOP is also, shall we say, on a large scale. The "demonstration phase" alone will be $11.5 million. [2] That’s pocket litter for the Pentagon, whose annual budget is now approaching $500 billion. [3] But in the real world it’s a lot of dough.

Here, for example, in my hometown of Carbondale, Illinois, that kind of money is hard to fathom. A day care center in the mostly African-American , impoverished side of town is being closed (or else "privatized") because federal and state funds are no longer available to it. Funding to help poor people go to college is also drying up.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. After all, it should help ensure that our local McDonalds and Wal-marts will continue to have a large pool of undereducated and desperate people to hire at unlivable wages. It should also help one of our best local industries, prisons, by assuring an ongoing supply of non-white drug addicts to lock up.

And of course, most importantly, it should push plenty of young people into a corner from which military service looks like the only good option.

But to return to the MOP, one other factor must be mentioned. It’s a conventional weapon. It’s not a WMD. This is because, in the bizarre nomenclature of the Age of Rumsfeld, only nuclear, biological, and chemical devices made in other countries are WMDs.

It is true, of course, that the MOP will be massively destructive. And, like the bombs we dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it will release large amounts of radioactivity, thus causing unspeakable collateral damage. That’s because it will have a cone-shaped tip made of uranium, unless it is completely encased in a uranium shell. (Virtually all U.S. “bunker busters,” “penetrators,” and “armor piercers” use uranium both for its hardness and “pyrophoric qualities”). [4]

It is also true that when these bombs explode, the uranium in them vaporizes into radioactive dust particles that adhere persistently to soft animal tissue, particularly lungs. And it is true that in every place uranium alloy weapons have already been used -- in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan outbreaks of cancers, tumors, lung diseases, and grotesque birth defects have shortly followed. [5]

But, fortunately for our policy-makers and weapons makers, -- and I’ll repeat this for emphasis -- these are not -- repeat not -- nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons, you see, are those that use nuclear reactions to achieve their explosion. The MOP will not do that. It causes unspeakable carnage, destruction, and long-lasting nuclear radiation, but it’s a conventional bomb, not WMD.

And there are yet other upsides, at least for those of us fortunate enough to have more-than-minimum-wage jobs. We can profit -- literally -- from our knowledge of the weapons business. We’re free to purchase a few shares of Lockheed Martin, Boeing, or Raytheon, they are the multinational octopi that manufacture the current generation of "ground-penetrating" toys and are likely to be involved in this next one.

So here’s my advice: invest in big bombs. Then relax, sit back and watch your investment grow, like the dust cloud from the impact of a 15-ton bomb landing in some third-world city.

Jim Glover is Associate Professor in the Department of Health Education and Recreation at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. He can be reached at: