, Salem, MA

January 13, 2014

A look at what others are saying

The Salem News

---- — The following are excerpts from editorials published in other newspapers across New England:

Americans shuddered at news of the horrific twin suicide bombings in the Russian city of Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad. The first bomb killed 17 at the city’s train station. The second, a day later, blew up a trolley, killing 14.

Our hearts go out to the victims’ families. Americans feel a sense of solidarity in revulsion to brutality. We trust that U.S. intelligence services will reciprocate the assistance offered by their Russian counterparts after last year’s Boston Marathon bombing. The alleged perpetrators were Russian émigrés with ties to terrorist groups in the same violent region east of the Black Sea, where Sunday’s attacks are widely believed to have originated.

No group has claimed responsibility, but the style of the attacks is said to point to separatist organizations in the Caucasus region, east of Volgograd. The city is a transportation hub 400 miles north of Sochi, Russia, a resort city on the Black Sea where the Winter Olympics start in six weeks.

Security arrangements there are already intense. Observers suspect that Volgograd may be a target — another suicide bombing rocked the city earlier this year — because it is the gateway to the Sochi area. Another factor may the city’s deep symbolic importance to Russians.

Stalingrad is where the Soviet Union repulsed Hitler’s armies during World War II, achieving the nation’s greatest military victory since its defeat of Napoleon outside of Moscow in 1812.

Attacks on innocent civilians are evil regardless of the motive, and despite the recent frost in relations between the U.S. and Russia under the latter’s odious President Vladimir Putin, Americans should offer whatever assistance we can in bringing the bombers to justice and succoring the victims of their crime.

— The Providence (R.I.) Journal

Today, when we think about nuclear weapons, we think of rogue states such as Iran and North Korea. Or, perhaps, we worry about a terrorist attack here involving a nuclear weapon, such as the much-discussed “suitcase bomb.”

But several events in 2013 show we need to pay more attention to the safety and security of our own nuclear weapons.

In November, the U.S. Air Force relieved Maj. Gen. Michael Carey for “personal misbehavior” in a foreign country, namely excessive drinking, sexual escapades and gambling.

It later turned out that Carey was on assignment in Russia when he went on a bender.

Carey isn’t just any general, he was the man responsible for 450 nuclear missiles at land stations across the U.S. He is an official responsible for safely maintaining our nation’s most destructive weapons and setting an example for the thousands of soldiers beneath him.

Only days after Carey was disciplined, the Navy demoted Vice Adm. Tim Giardina and relieved him of his post as second in command of U.S. nuclear forces.

Giardina was accused of using fake gambling chips at a casino in Iowa.

All this follows the publication of a book in 2013 by Eric Schlosser tracing incidents of nuclear mishaps back to the 1940s.

The list of accidents is remarkably long and includes nuclear bombs inadvertently dropped over the U.S. or destroyed in accidents. A variety of other nuclear weapons have been lost at sea.

Schlosser makes the point that the U.S. has courted nuclear disaster any number of times over the past 60 years, sometimes escaping either by luck or God’s grace.

This track record is even more frightening when we consider that India, Russia, Pakistan and North Korea also maintain nuclear warheads.

But the problem in the U.S. should not be underestimated. In November, The Associated Press reported on burnout, low morale and “rot,” as one officer put it, inside the U.S. nuclear force.

As the U.S. and Russia gradually reduce their stockpiles of weapons, nuclear warfare is no longer seen as a viable career path for the military’s best officers.

Meanwhile, missile crews become bored from years of maintaining 24-hour shifts doing little more than staring at computer screens while monitoring the missiles in their charge.

“It’s a real problem to keep those young men and women interested in going on alert three or four times a month for 24 hours at a time when it’s hard to explain to them who the enemy is,” a retired Air Force general told the AP.

The U.S. has more than 2,000 deployed warheads here and around the world.

The time has come to ask some hard questions about how many we really need and how we can best ensure their safety.

— The Sun Journal of Lewiston, Maine