Though he has toned down his rhetoric somewhat in recent weeks, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has issued innumerable threats over the past year to visit nuclear Armageddon upon the United States with destructive intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Unsurprisingly, that has people living in the state of Washington, particularly around the Seattle area, more than a little concerned about their prospects for survival in the event of a nuclear attack, according to the Los Angeles Times.
That is due in part to the fact that, aside from being within range of North Korean missiles, Seattle also provides a rather tempting target, given its dense population, confluence of major high-tech corporations and the vicinity of a significant naval base which is home to a fleet of nuclear missile-equipped submarines that patrol the Pacific, the largest concentration of deployed nuclear weapons in the U.S.
The prospect of being on the “front lines” of any potential nuclear exchange has sparked concern among some residents as well as a renewed interest in underground bomb shelters and decades-old civil-defense drills in case of a nuclear attack — but those residents are alone in their plans to deal with a potential strike, as the state is forbidden by law from giving the people any guidance or making preparations.
In 1984, near the tail end of the Cold War, the Washington state legislature passed a symbolic law which specifically stated that the state’s Military Department — which oversees the National Guard and emergency operations — shall “not include preparation for emergency evacuation or relocation of residents in anticipation of nuclear attack” as part of their comprehensive emergency preparations and guidelines.
According to The Seattle Times in April (updated in Sept.) 2017, the passage of the measure came at a time when the federal government was urging states and cities across the U.S. to make plans for a possible nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union. Washington’s decided refusal to do so prompted the feds to withhold $1.4 million in emergency services funding.
“We’re prevented from coming up or preparing a specific plan to address a nuclear attack,” said Karina Shagren, spokeswoman for the state’s Military Department, who added that the state’s comprehensive emergency plan was intended to cover any and all potential emergencies without specificity.
A former state representative from Seattle who sponsored the 1984 law, Dick Nelson, explained some of the thinking behind the deliberate departure from what the federal government and rest of the country was doing at that time.
“We were feeling better about our relationship with the Soviet Union in the ’80s — that’s before it collapsed — and we had nuclear treaties with them to reduce nuclear weapons,” recalled Nelson.
“Anything that was a prescription for more concern, like civil-defense exercise, was felt to be nonproductive,” he continued. “People didn’t want to be in any sort of posture that people were anticipating more (nuclear) threats. We wanted to reduce the threat.”
Nelson further explained that the goal of the law was to compel the state to focus on threats that were believed to be “real,” an assessment that may require some adjustment in the current day.
“Now, maybe things have reverted to another, earlier concern, which is realistic in some respects,” Nelson admitted. “I have doubt (North Korean) missiles are going to hit us in the near future, but clearly we want to be cautious about that.”
It is worth noting that the L.A. Times reported on a current effort by state Sen. Mark Miloscia to repeal the old law, which will be taken up during the next session of the legislature.
Miloscia, who flew B-52 bombers during the Cold War, said the prohibition on preparations for a nuclear attack on the state “puts like a big ‘stop’ order on any sort of planning we have to do to prepare for the unthinkable.”
We couldn’t agree more, and hope that wiser heads will prevail in Washington state and this ridiculous “feel good” measure that prevents the state from taking proper steps to prepare their citizenry for a potential nuclear disaster is tossed by the wayside.
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