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Celebration of Ellsworth Bombers Shows South Dakota’s Deep-Seated Culture of Death

South Dakota’s pro-life Republican leaders have all cheered the installation of new weapons of death at Ellsworth Air Force Base. (Tim Johnson would have been cheering, too, if he were still Senator.) Celebrating a “bad ass airplane” that “has all of our enemies seriously shaking in their boots” sends a clear signal about South Dakota’s morality: we love death!

It’s interesting how one seldom hears any politician speak about the basic mission of Ellsworth and a new bomber, standing ready to deliver nuclear weapons on any deserving adversary. Nor will they address the moral or ethical issues of possessing, with the intention to use, nuclear weapons. It’s also amazing how ignorant many are who live in the heart of nuclear retaliation and annihilation [Carl Kline, “We Need a Revolution to Alter the Revolting Amount of Environmental Damage Caused by Military Investments,” South Dakota Standard, 2021.07.02].

The Department of Defense reports that the United States killed 23 civilians and injured another 10 in its warmaking in 2020. That DOD report does not appear to include three children killed in a U.S. airstrike against the Taliban last October. The Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs at Brown University reports that the U.S. and other pro-government forces in Afghanistan killed an average of 1,134 civilians per year from 2017 through 2019. The Watson Institute estimates that our endless War on Terror and caused 335,000 violent civilian deaths.


  1. Loren 2021-07-06 08:58

    Life? Death? Nah, follow the money!

  2. Donald Pay 2021-07-06 09:09

    Wasn’t it great when they closed the missile wings? I appreciate we need a military defense, but I think we have vastly overspent on it. The best thing would be to cut nuclear weapons, not continue to build them up. I thought we were on the right track in reducing those weapons, but those efforts seem to have stalled out.

    Ellsworth is a huge polluter. I could never figure out how to address those issues when I lived in South Dakota. Sorry to say I never put the time and effort into it that I did other issues. I used to know the chief environmental guy out there when I lived in Rapid City. He told me some of the issues and what was being done. He was a good guy, but I got the feeling he didn’t have all the support he needed to address all the issues.

  3. leslie 2021-07-06 11:49

    Where to start? Owning, carrying, concealing guns to kill humans. Las Vegas shooter covered in depth by ABC, NBC and CBS, not Fox news.

    FBI agents and behavioral specialists believe perp was in part influenced by the memory of his father, a bank robber and fugitive who at one point was on the FBI’s most wanted list.***high-stakes gambler who rained down a hail of gunfire, killing 58 people from his high-rise casino suite wanted infamy and mass destruction, the FBI said ….ABC

    George Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld rained down “shock and awe” on Iraq which they labeled “axis of evil”. Shades of Rupert Murdoch. Republicans excel in messaging. Nothing else.

    Fox news is all Rapid City conservatives digest. EAFB, as i routinely remind here, low flies downtown RC many mornings and afternoons per month, on afterburner. 130 decibels. They used to low fly Bear Butte. Harleys routinely (hundreds-thousands a day) produce 100 decibels.

    The Founders designed a government that would resist mob rule. They didn’t anticipate how strong the mob could become. Atlantic 2018

    Twice as many Republicans refuse to vaccinate.

  4. Mark Anderson 2021-07-06 13:26

    Well it goes back to Guernica, no not the painting but the actual event. America condemned it, but it was just a few years and we made it look like the baby step that it was. The fire bombing of Tokyo was the worst. Killing as many innocents as possible in a political system that they had absolutely no power in anyway. You have to wonder, since America itself has never been bombed, how that affects the thinking. Mutual destruction has worked so far but its not something we think about at all. Wait until a couple of clevers manage to launch a missile. Then all those Ellsworthians could launch and help destroy the world. Don’t worry, there’s a good chance that won’t happen, its like winning the lottery. Of course living in Sioux Falls would be better than Rapid, but at that point, I’d take Highmore again. My wife and I live about 50 miles as the crow flys from McDill so its wipeout time too.

  5. John Dale 2021-07-06 13:31

    But a bioweapon from Wuhan followed by a dangerous experimental shot that is dropping people like flies is .. well .. okay?

    I celebrate weapons of self defense.


  6. Scott 2021-07-06 15:38

    These B-21 bombers will never happen. Congress will come to see that One Billion each is simply to much for a weapon that will require wildly expensive maintenance and support and will never be used. As well, the tankers required to refuel them are not for a moment stealthy. Cyber War is already happening. The Taliban can topple governments with Toyota pickups!! We are preparing for events that will never happen.

  7. Mark Anderson 2021-07-06 17:00

    Oh John, I have a brain, thats the only self defense I need against you.

  8. leslie 2021-07-06 17:01

    30 existing B-2s are $2B each

  9. Steve Hickey 2021-07-06 18:10

    There is no integrity behind your complaint here, Cory, since your own life ethic remains inconsistent. I changed my mind, you can too. All human life is sacred regardless of stage of development, level of dependence, degree of deformity or disability, or even in its depravity. I’ve called for Ellsworth to be shut down along with at least half our bases around the world. That base can serve well as a regional trade and training center for natives, a plan I outlined . We lie to ourselves and our sons and daughters telling ourselves our wars have anything to do with our defending our freedoms.

    No more death penalty, euthanasia or abortion. The decision who lives and who dies isn’t the State’s.

  10. Mark Anderson 2021-07-06 19:03

    Well Steve Hickey, since you bring up both abortion and euthanasia those are an individual choice, not yours. The state doesn’t enter in at all. Sacredness is also an an individual choice. A dead clock is correct twice a day.

  11. Bob Newland 2021-07-06 19:43

    Steve, your final sentence happens to be accurate, but probably not for the reasons you believe. If your god wanted to end misery, she could. The fact that she doesn’t is evidence that you don’t give a thought to the logic of your affirmations.

  12. Steve Hickey 2021-07-06 21:41

    I’ll clarify my intent with my last sentence above. Life and death is God’s domain alone. It is wrong for any individual to take their own life or decide for another.

  13. Arlo Blundt 2021-07-06 21:50

    well…we are in a constant state of war and we are facing peoples around the world who would reduce us to living in total misery if they could….at least that’s the view of the military industrial complex that I grew up with in post WWII South Dakota. At the Boy Scout jamboree we were issued books with the profile of Russian bombers and fighters and enlisted (apparently) as Junior Air Wardens to be on the look out for bogies that had slipped through our strategic air command radar net.Attack was imminent and apparently still is. The bad guys are still the bad guys seeking global domination. One lesson we have learned is that if we have a weapon, we will, when an occasion arises, use it.

  14. Donald Pay 2021-07-06 21:55

    Scott, you make too much sense, which is why Congress will never understand your logic. In fact the logic of Congress will be that $1 billion for each bomber is not enough, so a new bomber that costs $3 billion each will be authorized.

  15. mike from iowa 2021-07-07 07:59

    Good morning, Reverend. Hate to burst your bubble (not really), but. there is no god. If there were a god, none of you alleged Kristian magats would be in existence. God (She) would have smited all you phony k’;s with your own jawbones along about the time Ronnie Raygun stole the 1980 election dealing with Iran for hostages before the election, among other crimes..

  16. Steve Hickey 2021-07-07 15:56

    Mike from Iowa.

    Your comment tells me you have only been exposed to a very small world and that your world is very small, limited to things natural. There is so much out there, supernatural encounters and experiences that are genuine and even routine for many people globally. A fool says in his heart there is no God.

  17. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-07-07 16:36

    Pastor Steve, my critique of our elected officials who chant pro-life slogans right alongside their Ellsworth war cries is at least as valid of your critique of me. Perhaps Thune, Rounds, Noem, Goodwin, and I should all be thrown out (though I’m not in any office out of which to be thrown, but propose alternative defenestrations for me) and replaced with the small handful of theologians like yourself who have achieved ultimate moral purity (I’m only quarter-mocking, but if you show me a group who have achieved more consistent and humane moral thinking, why shouldn’t I call for that group to lead?).

    But my critique is likely more valid and relevant, because I don’t pretend to have some God-blessed morality that warrants my perpetual reëlection over ungodly competitors. Unlike the ruling class who speak in cheap slogans while failing to live deeply the meaning of the religion they invoke, I sit outside of power, confessing my ungodliness and the slogan-defying complications of my moral and political reasoning.

    Even if the poor man on the street were naked as he cried out, “The emperor has no clothes!” the poor man’s critique would still be not only valid but socially important and useful, in that it calls out harmful lies from above.

  18. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-07-07 16:38

    You’ve got to remember: I’m not the story: the lying bastards in power are. As we saw with the last guy in the White House, powerful lying bastards cloaking themselves in piety do far more damage to Christianity than I ever will.

  19. mike from iowa 2021-07-07 16:55

    Reverend, at least I don’t imbibe the god swill and call it god’s will. I live in reality and truth and I can see with my own eyes.

  20. MD 2021-07-07 18:42

    Kennedy’s speech at American University in 1963 is still extremely relevant

    “I speak of peace because of the new face of war. Total war makes no sense in an age when great powers can maintain large and relatively invulnerable nuclear forces and refuse to surrender without resort to those forces. It makes no sense in an age when a single nuclear weapon contains almost ten times the explosive force delivered by all the allied air forces in the Second World War. It makes no sense in an age when the deadly poisons produced by a nuclear exchange would be carried by wind and water and soil and seed to the far corners of the globe and to generations yet unborn.

    Today the expenditure of billions of dollars every year on weapons acquired for the purpose of making sure we never need to use them is essential to keeping the peace. But surely the acquisition of such idle stockpiles–which can only destroy and never create–is not the only, much less the most efficient, means of assuring peace.“

  21. Bob Newland 2021-07-07 18:58

    Yeah! What Cory said in his reply to Hickey a few posts back. While Hickey is good at heart, I think, I hope, much of his posturing betrays, at best, a childish acceptance of the impossible. My discussions with him have been unsatisfying because whenever he gets shown an inherent contradiction in something he wants to believe he believes, he soaps up and squirts out, only to begin his harangue again across the street.

  22. Donald Pay 2021-07-07 21:27

    As far as Hickey’s morality is concerned, I think it’s fine. I can agree with him on a lot of stuff. But I think we need to judge God as severely as he would judge us. We really need to stand in judgement of the Biblical God, admit he is wrong in a lot of things. When I used to read the Bible, I found most of the killing being done by God or by a human who God somehow persuaded to do his killing for him. God seemed to delight in massacring people. The flood was genocide, something God deserves to be condemned for.

    We are told to walk with God. Hell, no, I won’t. He’s a bad influence. God said some things I agree with, but he seems to forget them from time to time. Kind of like my school buddy Pete. We called him “Pete, The Cheat.” For example, God said, “Thou shalt not kill.” Fine, but God did a piss poor job of following his own rule. That was just like Pete. He would make up some rules on the ball diamond, but somehow they never applied to him. The thing is, though, Pete never killed anyone. His sins were minor, compared to God’s. I’ll walk with Pete, thank you.

  23. Steve Hickey 2021-07-08 22:52

    Donald, try to get your head around the fact that if there is a god, your intellect is no match for his/hers. Consider that the factors at play for god in the world are far more complex than you can get your little mind around. God’s ways are not our ways and his thoughts at not our thoughts. In other words, we can’t make sense of what we think he does or doesn’t do. So to judge him according to your vantage point is for the mosquito to make sense of you or me. We need him to live and have no real awareness of the good he emits our way. Every drop of water this side of a just eternity apart from the refreshing life God is his mercy. The age old question of why God allows and even does seemingly bad things that we’d never do begins to resolve when significant other factors are understood as being in play also. For starters; a good and holy (set apart from his fallen creation) God is justified to deal decisively with bad. Why does God allow an innocent person to suffer? That only happened once and he volunteered for assignment (the Cross to take on himself what we all deserved) . To get your head around the fallen nature of humanity and the holiness of a good God who can’t co-exist with bad is a challenge. But if God is just and good, and also okay with bad (people – all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God), he is neither just nor good. Lots of good scholarship these days on these questions particularly Greg Boyd’s two volume Crucifixion of the Warrior God where he uses a cruciform hermeneutic to sort out the tough Old Testament God texts that seem antithetical to the nature and teaching of Jesus. The violence in the Old Testament under a retributive justice system the people asked for is understood through the Cross, a redemption system. All that to say, who are we to sit in judgment over God? A better question is what is man that he is mindful of us? And so merciful, and patient with our fallen state.

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