Former U.S. Defense Secretary Explains Why Nuclear Holocaust Is Now Likely


by Eric Zuesse, via Washingtons Blog:

The Stanford mathematician William J. Perry was a strategic nuclear advisor to U.S. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, and then he became U.S. Secretary of Defense under President Bill Clinton. He stated in a speech on November 28th at the National Cathedral in Washington DC, that “inexplicably to me, we’re recreating the geopolitical hostility of the Cold War, and we’re rebuilding the nuclear dangers,” and he went so far as to make clear why “I believe that the likelihood of some sort of a nuclear catastrophe today is actually greater than it was during the Cold War.”

He explained why the increase in tensions between the U.S. and Russia isn’t merely restoring those dangers, but is now exceeding them, despite the elimination of what were supposed to have been the threats that gave rise to the Cold War: the ideological threat of communism, and the threat of the monolithic Soviet bloc which ended in 1991 with the break-up of the Soviet Union, and the threat of the Soviets’ military alliance, the Soviet Union’s equivalent of America’s NATO military alliance, the Warsaw Pact — all of whose alliance-members are now, or are on the way to becoming, members of America’s NATO alliance, targeting against the now lone nation of Russia.

Since no transcript of Perry’s very important speech is yet available to the public, I’ve created my own transcript, though summarizing, or sometimes editing-out, extraneous courtesies and verbal slip-ups and corrections of himself (which self-corrections appear to have been due to difficulties he had reading from his typed text). This edited version of the speech he delivered on November 28th thus includes everything that’s of general public interest in what he said. Occasionally, I’ve added time-marks so that one can locate specific passages in the video of his address:


5:10 Secretary Perry: Till 8:00 he analogized himself to a carpenter who worked on building Noah’s Ark and who tried to warn the townspeople of the coming disaster, the flood, but who was ignored until it was too late. “I am like that carpenter who helped Noah build the ark. I am seeking to avert that disaster.” He said, however, he noted that, unlike the flood, this is a “preventable disaster.” He also noted that he had himself helped “contribute to the building of nuclear weapons for the Cold War.” So: he had participated in having created the danger, but is now at the time of his life when he is trying to un-do perhaps some of the danger that he had helped to produce. Here is his speech:

8:33 When the Cold War ended, I believed that we no longer had to take that risk [nuclear annihilation] so I put all my energy into efforts to dismantle the deadly nuclear legacy of the Cold War. During my period as the Secretary of Defense in the 90s, I oversaw the dismantlement of 8,000 nuclear weapons evenly divided between the United States and the former Soviet Union. And I thought then that we were well on our way to putting behind us this deadly existential threat, But that was not to be.

Today, inexplicably to me, we’re recreating the geopolitical hostility of the Cold War, and we’re rebuilding the nuclear dangers. … We are doing this without any serious public discussion or any real understanding of the consequences of these actions. We are sleepwalking into a new Cold War, and there’s very real danger that we will blunder into a nuclear war.

If we are to prevent this catastrophe, the public must understand what is happening. …

I’m going to justify these assertions by first looking back at the Cold War and explaining how we averted disaster then, and then I will compare it with our present situation.

10:25 When I lecture about the Cold War in my class at Stanford, a student will often ask me, ‘What led us to build 70,000 nuclear weapons? Why were that many weapons needed for deterrence? Wouldn’t a thousand have been more than enough?’ And I patiently explain that our nuclear policy was built on the assumption that the Soviet Union was planning to strike us with a surprise attack, a bolt out of the blue, which we affectionately called a BOOB, a bolt out of the blue. We assumed that the Soviet Union believed that if they could destroy 90% of our weapons in a surprise attack, we would then surrender, and they would then have conquered the world. Based on that premise, we believed that we had to build a significant excess of weapons so that enough of them would survive a first strike to still conduct our retaliatory strikes of deterrence, and then, just to be sure, we built 50% more. The Soviet Union, seeing what we were building, would assume that we must be planning a surprise attack. So they built enough weapons to survive that attack, and then, just to be sure, 50% more. And those assumptions led to an ever-escalating arms race.

Before that insanity stopped, the United States and the Soviet Union combined had reached the obscene and absurd level of 70,000 nuclear weapons.

I believe that the Cold War arms race was built on a faulty premise, that in fact neither the United States nor the Soviet Union were planning to conduct a surprise attack on the other. The real danger, and this was a very real danger during the Cold War, was that we would blunder into a nuclear war. Indeed, we came very close to a civilization-ending war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. … I was there during that crisis, and I will never forget it. I was part of a small team that worked all day analyzing the intelligence data collected that day, and by midnight, we prepared two reports for President Kennedy’s brief the next morning. So, I knew exactly what was going on. Indeed, every morning when I went into the analysis center I believed would be my last day on Earth.

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