I live in Port Townsend, Washington, near the Indian Island Naval Magazine, the largest munitions depot on the West Coast. Many of the munitions headed for Iraq are loaded here. Not much further away is the Trident Submarine Base in Bangor, WA. Up until now, the Tridents have been exclusively a platform for nuclear missiles. The Navy is now retrofitting some of them to be able to launch cruise missiles, with either conventional high explosives or nuclear warheads. The conventional weapons will be loaded here at Indian Island. After years of refusing to discuss where nuclear weapons are stored, the Navy has said that nuclear weapons will not be loaded at Indian Island. This statement is apparently in response to local protests against the base.
The rest of this article originally appeared as a letter to the Editor in the Jefferson County Leader.
Bringing Trident submarines to Indian Island will not significantly change anything there. It will continue to be the major port used for shipping weapons from the West Coast. It is, however, a disturbing indication of the way our military will be used in the coming years. The Tridents that will be coming here are being refitted to carry cruise missiles, which are capable of carrying either conventional warheads or tactical nuclear weapons. The idea is to allow the submarine to creep up near any coast in the world and launch missiles that could reach their target within minutes. They are also rigged to put ashore commando units, in secret, anywhere they want. Submarines are used for this kind of mission, because, unlike other kinds of forces, they are largely invisible. Covert missions are used to carry out policies without the knowledge or consent of the American people.
The Administration has asserted the right to attack anybody, anytime, anywhere in the name of the "War on Terror". These subs are just the tool they need to do that. Judging by their record so far, most of those missiles will be hitting innocent people who are unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. These attacks will only fuel anti-American feelings.
Even worse, Bush clearly would like to be able use "limited" nuclear weapons in some situations. A nuclear warhead on a cruise missile launched from a Trident without warning only a few minutes from its target would be both devastating and destabilizing. How can we expect other countries to refrain from developing or using nuclear weapons when we keep a huge arsenal of our own and assert our right to bomb anybody we choose?