After weeks of searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, there’s still no trace of the fearsome arsenal the Administration advertised. Back in the US, however, the Bush Administration is adding to our own stockpile of weapons of mass destruction by lifting a decade-old ban on research and testing of small nuclear weapons to allow for the development of “low yield” nukes for battlefield use.

The White House’s Strangelovian nuclear policy signals a dramatic shift in US nuclear doctrine–one that undermines five decades of bipartisan efforts to delegitimize the use of nuclear weapons. What Senator Edward Kennedy called a “far-reaching and highly dangerous U-turn in our longstanding policy against the first use of nuclear weapons,” was accelerated on May 20th when the Republican-controlled Senate turned back a Democratic effort to maintain the ban. “It’s a one way street that can lead only to nuclear war,” Kennedy warned.

If anyone needs evidence that the Administration’s reckless policy is about to launch a new nuclear arms race, Russian President Vladimir Putin provided it on May 15th when he announced to the Russian Parliament his country will soon begin developing new nuclear weapons and low-yield nuclear devices of their own. His remark was met greeted by applause.

Since the end of the Cold War, the United States and Russia have worked together, slowly but steadily, to scale back their strategic nuclear arsenals. There were even baby steps taken to safeguard and reduce the former Soviet Union’s ill-secured weapons of mass destruction. Now, Bush’s unilateral assault on decades of disarmament may revive a nuclear arms race, hinder our chances to secure “loose nukes,” and lead Putin to re-invest in his country’s decrepit nuclear infrastructure. Do you feel safer?

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