Thursday, July 21, 2011

National Park Status for Nuke Labs?

Since 2004, parts of the Department of Energy nuclear weapons R&D centers at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Hanford Nuclear Reservation have been under consideration by the National Park Service, as candidates for NPS sites commemorating the creation of nuclear weapons. 

Recently, in July, 2011, and after much study by the NPS, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar recommended to the US Congress that they proceed with the writing of legislation bestowing National Park Service status on these three sites. Materials relating to this NPS recommendation may be found at

A spokesperson for the NPS points out that there are many precedents for the incorporation of sites commemorating war related events into the NPS. Such sites have been in the form of National Monuments, National Memorials, and National Military Parks.

What is unusual is that the new NPS recommendation is for the creation of a National Park to commemorate the Manhattan Project. But, past national parks have been designated to protect and preserve, for the enjoyment of future generations, areas of surpassing natural beauty, not areas associated with the massacre of 100,000's of noncombatants, in the nuclear heat of past battles.

It seems to be true, however, that some advances in military science and/or practice may always be deemed by some military enthusiasts to be worthy of some public recognition in perpetuity.

And, this may be a problem for President Barack Obama, who strives to limit the rate of spread of nuclear weapons technology, and promotes the goal of abolishing nuclear weapons, but also must placate the most militaristic members of the US Senate.

After all, how better to move toward the abolition of nuclear weapons than to try to marginalize ideas of their military usefulness while also attempting to stigmatize the role that they play in the formation of national policy? But it is difficult to imagine stigmatizing the holding and R&D of nuclear weapons, while at the same time celebrating their creation. That is, it is difficult to imagine celebrating the creation of nuclear weapons without also celebrating their continued existence. Difficult but, I suppose, not impossible. So, good luck with that Mr. President!

Finally, as a contribution to the general bemusement, I recapitulate here remarks made during the finale of the US Senate debate on the New Start Treaty (recorded in the US Senate on 12-22-10). These remarks were in the nature of heartfelt objections to the Treaty by Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama. According to the cherubic Sen. Sessions: 

 1) The Treaty is a step on the road toward President Obama's goal of ridding the world of nuclear weapons, which is a leftist goal and a dangerous fantasy.

 2) The notion that the Treaty will make Russia more cooperative in its relations with the US is false. Russia has shown itself to be uninterested in cooperation with the US since it blocked United Nations Security Council attempts to condemn North Korea and, in 2008, attacked its neighbor Georgia.

 3) The Obama Administration has unilaterally given away US missile defense bases in Poland and the Czech Republic, thus, showing itself to be insufficiently committed to missile defense.

 4) The US Senate should state clearly that the goal of zero nuclear weapons is undesirable and even impossible.

 5) The goal of zero nuclear weapons is a cock-a-mammy and dangerous idea.

 6) The idea of a world without nuclear weapons is ominous and chilling.

 7) In the Nuclear Posture Review of this past spring, Pres. Obama made clear that his goal is a world without nuclear weapons. However, ex-Sec. of Defense Schlesinger has said that he believes that a world without nuclear weapons is a utopian idea.

 8) The maintenance of a large US arsenal of nuclear weapons is the best way to encourage the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. If the US continues to reduce the numbers of nuclear weapons in its arsenal, this will lead other nations, which don't now have nuclear weapons, to develop their own.

 9) The Obama Administration has made it clear that the New Start Treaty is a step on the road toward its goal of a world without nuclear weapons. But, to me this is not a dream, it's a nightmare!

 10) By reducing the numbers of nuclear weapons in its arsenal, the US is relinquishing its leadership role in the world.

More recently, and also from Alabama, the following story has emerged, as reprinted by The Tennessean and The Tuscaloosa News from an Associated Press report, dated July 20, 2011, and datelined Mountain Creek, Alabama:

"The last of the more than 60,000 Confederate veterans who came home to Alabama after the Civil War died generations ago, yet residents are still paying a tax that supported the neediest among them."

"Despite fire-and-brimstone opposition to taxes among many in a state that still has 'Heart of Dixie' on its license plates, officials never stopped collecting a property tax that once funded the Alabama Confederate Soldiers' Home, which closed 72 years ago. The tax now pays for Confederate Memorial Park [Park Director Bill Rambo], which sits on the same 102-acre tract where elderly veterans used to stroll."

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