Kate Hudson, chair of the London-based Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, issued a grave warning after the collision of a British and a French nuclear-armed submarine patrolling the mid-Atlantic a couple of weeks ago.

“This is a nuclear nightmare of the highest order,” she said. “The dents on the British sub show the boats were no more than a couple of seconds away from a total catastrophe.”

The collision, Hudson added, “could have released vast amounts of radiation and scattered scores of nuclear warheads across the seabed.”

She called on British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to “end continuous patrols, building on Barack Obama’s recent move to downgrade the alert status of U.S. nukes.”

The U.S. deploys 14 nuclear subs, each with scores of nuclear warheads, on constant patrol around the world. Russia has a similar number and is said to be developing more. (Russia’s nuclear-armed Kursk submarine sank in 2000, killing all sailors aboard.) Britain and France each have four nuclear-armed subs, each capable of carrying up to 16 missiles.

These submarines are relics of the Cold War that supposedly ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Eighteen years later, why do we still have these enormous arsenals of weapons of mass destruction, some on hair-trigger alert? What justification is there for the U.S. Senate to refuse to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty? Why does the U.S. deploy 5,535 nuclear warheads on intercontinental missiles, nuclear-armed aircraft and 14 submarines? Why is Defense Secretary Robert Gates advocating development and deployment of a new generation of nuclear warheads? And why is the Pentagon still hell-bent on a futile project of developing a missile capable of shooting down ballistic missiles? Why do they push forward with a crazed scheme of deploying anti-missile “shields” in the Czech Republic and Poland? What war are they preparing to fight?

Nuclear weaponry promoters are still alive and well in Washington and in military corporate suites, dreaming of hefty profits and U.S. global domination based on nuclear terror. Kate Hudson is right that the collision of those two nuclear subs is a wake-up call. It is time to build on President Obama’s initiative to move toward international agreements that ultimately abolish all nuclear weapons.

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