That's good, since the issues at hand — the secure destruction of the nation's aging stockpile and the safety of workers and residents — are paramount to this ongoing discussion. Though there are
wide disagreements between those who advocate neutralization, those who prefer incineration and those who do not trust
the Army to manage its part of the destruction program, healthy debate of these topics isn't an evil to be wholly avoided.
That said, it was pleasing to learn that a federal judge sided with the Army and threw out a suit brought by a Kentucky watchdog group that claimed the Army had not sufficiently researched new and safer alternatives. The Chemical Weapons Working Group had filed suit in 2003, the same year Anniston's incinerator went online, seeking an injunction that would halt weapons destruction by incineration.
The judge did not issue the injunction, saying the group's case lacked evidence to support its claim.
Nevertheless, imagine the Calhoun County scenario had the judge ruled against the Army. More than half of Anniston's stockpile — almost 57 percent — is now destroyed. Gone are the deadly nerve-agent munitions once stored at Anniston Army Depot, as is nearly all of the public danger. Mustard-agent weapons, which pose less of a public threat, are now being eliminated.
A court-ordered stop to the incineration program would have not been in the best interest of either the Calhoun County community or the ultimate goal of ridding it of its chemical-weapon collection.
This editorial page, which long ago vigorously researched the various methods of destruction, continues to believe that incineration is the best and safest process of the available choices. Nothing that has occurred at Anniston's incinerator, or within the chemical-weapons program during the last six years, has changed our opinion. Others, of course, disagree.
Communities with weapons stockpiles are correct to question the Army's methods and decisions. In Kentucky, the Lexington Herald-Leader's editorial page took the appropriate stance this summer when it criticized the Army for its handling of a whistleblower at Blue Grass Army Depot. At that facility, possible agent releases went unmonitored for two years, the newspaper said, and the depot scientist who exposed these shortcomings was passed over for raises, reprimanded and demoted.
Such actions do nothing but erode public trust in the program, regardless of the method each facility uses. The Herald-Leader's condemnation was warranted.
So, too, was the federal judge's ruling last week. Though that debate isn't likely to end anytime soon.