An Unexpected Calling

Gen. Lee Butler was head of the Strategic Air Command, the military structure that managed the nation's nuclear arsenal, from 1991 to 1994. Butler was interviewed on September 1, 1998, by David Cortright, former director of the peace organization SANE and currently president of the Fourth Freedom Forum, a private foundation based in Goshen, Indiana. -- The Editors

David Cortright: Would you please describe the process by which you went from commander of nuclear forces to advocate of nuclear weapons abolition?

Gen. George Lee Butler: If you have read my public statements, you'll know that I sometimes start my remarks by recalling a quote from the Southern novelist Flannery O'Connor, who once observed, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd." People trying to come to grips with how the former commander of the nation's strategic nuclear forces could become a proponent of nuclear abolition must surely think this is quite odd. But the quote begs the question: What truth did I come to know that would lead me to make such a seemingly sharp reversal in my attitude with respect to the role and utility of nuclear weapons?

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Sojourners Magazine January-February 1999
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