Congressional Record: March 10, 2003 (Senate)
Page S3405


  Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, in the mid-1960s, during the height of 
the Vietnam War, the Department of Defense commissioned a study to 
determine the feasibility and advisability of the use of tactical 
nuclear weapons in that conflict. A copy of that 1967 study, ``Tactical 
Nuclear Weapons in Southeast Asia'', has just been declassified, and 
lays out in terrifying detail what might have happened if the United 
States had used tactical nuclear weapons during the Vietnam war.
  The bottom line of the study is that the use of nuclear weapons in 
Vietnam--to block the Ho Chi Minh trail, kill large numbers of enemy 
soldiers, or destroy North Vietnamese air bases and seaports--would 
have offered no decisive military advantages to the United States but 
would have had grave repercussions for US soldiers in the field and US 
interests around the world.
  The study was prepared by four physicists associated with the Jason 
Division of the Institute of Defense Analyses, a group of scientists 
who met frequently to provide classified advice to defense officials. 
The study's conclusions were presented to then-Secretary of Defense 
Robert McNamara.
  ``The political effects of US first use of TNW (tactical nuclear 
weapons) in Vietnam would be uniformly bad and could be catastrophic,'' 
the scientists wrote.
  They warned that US first-use of tactical nuclear weapons could lead 
China or the Soviet Union to provide similar weapons to the Viet Cong 
and North Vietnam, raising the possibility that US forces in Vietnam 
``would be essentially annihilated'' in retaliatory raids by nuclear-
armed guerrilla forces.
  If that happened, they wrote, ``insurgent groups everywhere in the 
world would take note and would try by all available means to acquire 
TNW for themselves.'' First-use of nuclear weapons in Southeast Asia, 
the scientists warned, was ``likely to result in greatly increased 
long-term risk of nuclear guerrilla operations in other parts of the 
world,'' including attacks on the Panama Canal, oil pipelines and 
storage facilities in Venezuela and the Israeli capital of Tel Aviv.
  ``US security would be gravely endangered if the use of TNW by 
guerrilla forces should become widespread,'' they concluded.
  Thirty-six years later some American officials are, according to 
press reports, once again contemplating the use of nuclear weapons, and 
seeking to repeal US prohibitions on the developments of smaller 
nuclear weapons, including so-called ``low-yield'' bombs and deep-
penetration ``bunker-busters.''
  Writing recently in the Los Angeles Times, military analyst William 
Arkin disclosed the US Strategic Command in Omaha and the Joint Chiefs 
of Staff are secretly drawing up nuclear target lists for Iraq. 
``Target lists are being scrutinized, options are being pondered and 
procedures are being tested to give nuclear armaments a role in the new 
U.S. doctrine of `preemption,' '' Arkin reported.
  There have also been reports that tactical nuclear weapons, 
particularly ``bunker busters,'' have been considered by Pentagon 
planners in the context of the escalating nuclear crisis with North 
Korea. Moreover, many US analysts believe there is a great danger that 
North Korea, if its survival was at stake, would be willing to sell its 
nuclear arsenal to the highest bidder.
  North Korea itself apparently believes the United States may be 
planning nuclear strikes of its own, and on March 1 warned that a war 
on the Korean peninsula would quickly ``escalate into a nuclear war.''
  I sincerely believe that any first use of nuclear weapons by the 
United States cannot and should not be sanctioned. As the Jason 
scientists argued in the 1960s, U.S. nuclear planning could serve as a 
pretext for other countries and, worse, terrorist groups such as al-
Qaida, to build or acquire their own bombs. If we are not careful, our 
own nuclear posture could provoke the very nuclear-proliferation 
activities we are seeking to prevent.
  This study, ``Tactical Nuclear Weapons in Southeast Asia'', was 
released this past weekend by the Nautilus Institute of Berkeley, CA, 
and I would urge those with an interest in reading it in full to 
contact them directly.
  The conclusions of the Jason report are as valid, realistic and 
frightening today as they were in 1967. As we contemplate the future 
course of our nation's national security policy, I believe that it is 
important to look at past events, to learn from them, and to benefit 
from the counsel of history.