I went to a talk about nuclear weapons at Notre Dame University’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies yesterday. Retired General William Burns, who advocates for an incrementally scaled back U.S. nuclear arsenal, offered some relatively startling numbers. The one that particularly caught my attention was: In the year 2008, the U.S. spent $50 billion (that’s right, billion as with a b) on simply maintaining — not even upgrading — our nuclear weapons. During the Q&A period, I noted that the Catholic Bishops in America had issued a statement that nuclear proliferation in the face of world poverty is a social justice travesty. In “average Joe” terms, I noted that there are 24,000 people who starve to death every day in the world. Yet we just spent $50 billion last year to keep ourselves protected. Given this, do we become spiritually culpable for many of these peoples’ deaths? It wouldn’t take a moral theologian to, well… I also asked General Burns, based on his years of worldwide nuclear diplomacy, that if the U.S. disarmed all our nuclear weapons tomorrow, would we be nuked? He said no. Note: During a small dinner gathering with General Burns after the talk, I asked him how we can tell these other countries they can’t have nuclear weapons — while not only do we have them, but some are aimed at these other countries? The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty notwithstanding, he said because we think we’re right and they’re not. I couldn’t help but think how ‘right’ it is to spend 50 billion bucks to tremendously over protect ourselves, while little starving children in Uganda are taking their last breaths while their moms and dads look on helplessly?