(The week’s post is excerpted from a longer article written by lifelong peace activist Frida Berrigan about some of her reflections living in a community so strongly shaped by the military-industrial complex. General Dynamics Electric Boat in New London-Groton, Connecticut is one of the biggest employers in the area, has been the primary submarine builder for the US Navy for over a century, and was the first in the world to build a nuclear missile submarine. In direct reaction to the construction of these super-weapons, the Committee for Nonviolent Action organized a summer of protest and education in New London-Groton in 1960. The organizations that were founded in southeastern Connecticut in the wake of Polaris Action Summer have over the decades established a legacy of resistance to nuclear arms, militarism, and all other attending social issues. The excerpt here describes in plain language how nonsensical the continued production of nuclear arms clearly is, and how that industry has shaped the immediate area around it. To read the whole article, including the deeply personal and complex feelings caused by living and working in such a community, visit the following page: http://tomdispatch.com/meatball-subs-not-nuclear-subs/)
Groton and New London, Connecticut, are home to about 65,000 people, three colleges, the Coast Guard Academy, 15 nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed submarines capable of destroying the world many times over, and General Dynamics’ Electric Boat, a multi-billion-dollar private corporation that offers stock options to its shareholders and mega-salaries to its top executives as it pockets taxpayer dollars and manufactures yet more of those stealthy, potentially world-ending machines. Whew! That was a long sentence!
Naval Submarine Base New London stretches along the east side of the Thames River, straddling the towns of Groton and Ledyard. Occupying at least 680 acres, the base has more than 160 major facilities. The 15 subs based there are the largest contingent in the nation. They’re manufactured just down the river at Electric Boat/General Dynamics, which once built the Polaris and Trident nuclear submarines, employs more than 12,000 people in our region, and is planning to hire another 2,400 this year to meet a striking “demand” for the newest version of such subs.
Some readers might already be asking themselves: Are submarines still a thing? Do we really still put men (and women) far beneath the ocean’s surface in a giant metal tube, ready to launch a nuclear first strike at a moment’s notice? At a time when the greatest threats to human life may be viruses hidden in our own exhales, our infrastructure is crumbling, and so much else is going wrong, are we really spending billions of dollars on submarines?
Back in 2010, the Department of Defense’s Nuclear Posture Review called for a “recapitalization of the nation’s sea-based deterrent,” as though we hadn’t been spending anything on submarines previously. To meet that goal, the Obama administration, the Trump administration, and now the Biden administration all agreed that, on a planet already filled with devastating nuclear weapons, the U.S. must begin construction of a new class of 12 Columbia ballistic missile submarines.
The Navy’s 2021 budget submission estimates that the total procurement cost for that 12-ship class of subs will be $109.8 billion. However, even a number that big might prove nothing but rough back-of-the-napkin figuring. After all, according to the Navy’s 2022 request, the cost estimate for the first submarine of the 12 they plan to build, the lead ship in its new program, had already grown from $14.39 billion to $15.03 billion. Now, that may not sound like a lot, but string out all those zeros behind it and you’ll realize that the difference is more than $640 million, just a little less than what Baltimore — a city of more than 600,000 people — will get in federal pandemic relief aid.
Swirling around those submarines are descriptions citing “strategy” and “capability.” But don’t be fooled: they’ll be potential world killers. Each of those 12 new subs will be armed with 16 Trident D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles, or SLBMs, which have a range of 4,500 miles and can carry 14 W-76-1 thermonuclear warheads. Each one of those warheads is six times more powerful than the atomic bomb that the U.S. military detonated over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Start multiplying 12 times 16 times 14 times 6 and there isn’t enough world to destroy with math like that. After all, the single Hiroshima bomb, “small” as it was, killed an estimated 140,000 people and turned the city into rubble and ash.
The best way to understand the Columbia class submarine, then, is as a $100 billion-plus initiative that aims to deliver 16,128 Hiroshimas.
Submarine Capital of the World
My family and I live in New London and evidence of the military is everywhere here. There’s a cannon planted amid the roses at the entrance to the motel right off the highway near our house. And another in front of the laundromat. Huge American flags flap at the car dealership that offers special financing to Navy personnel.
Signs declaring New London/Groton to be the “Submarine Capital of the World” festoon the highways into town. The huge naval submarine base and the General Dynamics/Electric Boat yards dominate the Groton side of the Thames River. There’s a massive garage for half-built submarines, painted a very seventies shade of green, that chews up most of the scenery on the Groton side of the river, alongside cranes and docks and industrial buildings in various hues of grey. It’s dismal. New London’s waterfront homes and private beaches look out on three generations of military-industrial-complex architecture. We wouldn’t want to live in Groton, but at least they feast their eyes on our quaint downtown and the parks that stretch along our side of the river.
On the New London side, General Dynamics/Electric Boat looks more like a corporate campus than a shipyard. It employs a lot of people, but there are still plenty of New Londoners who work at jobs that have nothing to do with the military or the business of building and designing submarines. Unfortunately, that seems to be changing, because General Dynamics is ramping up its engineering and manufacturing operations in order to build that new fleet of submarines.
Local developers smell money in the air, which means that our downtown is getting a makeover intended to attract the sort of young professionals who will design and oversee the production of those subs. A new development right near New London’s General Dynamics complex is now renting studio apartments for $1,300 a month, even though ours is the fifth poorest city in Connecticut…
(Read more here: http://tomdispatch.com/meatball-subs-not-nuclear-subs/)
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