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Although the mass media failed to report it, a landmark event occurred recently in connection with resolving the long-discussed problem of what to do about nuclear weapons. On August 19, 2016, a UN committee, the innocuously-named Open-Ended Working Group, voted to recommend to the UN General Assembly that it mandate the opening of negotiations in 2017 on a treaty to ban them.
This is our lucky day for quite a few reasons. We haven't yet rendered the climate of this planet uninhabitable for our species. For those of us who are not in prison: we're not in prison -- and not because of some significant difference between us and many who are. For those of us not hungry or scared . . . (see note above re prisons). But there's another big reason that this is our lucky day -- a reason that is different in kind from these.
This is our luck day and we've had about 25,965 of them and counting. Ever since the creation of nuclear weapons there have been thousands of accidents, incidents, and close calls. Nuclear bombs have been accidentally dropped on the United States by the United States and come very close to detonating. The United States and the Soviet Union / Russia have come very close to believing the other had begun the nuclear apocalypse. In one case, the decency of a single Russian sailor, Vasili Arkhipov, probably saved the globe. Nuclear weapons have been lost in the ocean, been flown unwittingly across the country and left unguarded, and -- in an incident that is the chief focus of a new film -- accidentally blasted out of a bunker in Arkansas to land in a nearby field where the "warhead" did not explode in great part because September 19, 1980, was one of our lucky days.
Command and Control, a film based on a book by Eric Schlosser, tells the story of one weapon 600 times as powerful as the one dropped on Hiroshima. One weapon and one worker who chose one wrong tool causing him to drop one small part, causing a nuclear weapon to launch, not to hit the Soviet Union where it would have killed huge numbers of human beings and triggered an apocalypse, but instead to launch into a nearby field. As Schlosser points out, a system in which such a thing is possible is itself broken. Blaming one maintenance worker misses the problem.
The film plays out the suspenseful minute-by-minute response in Damascus, Arkansas. We watch the people who invented the term SNAFU, the U.S. military, confront the possibility that they may be about to nuke Governor Bill Clinton's Arkansas. Nobody with much useful knowledge of the weapon can apparently be found, but numerous people far removed from Arkansas get involved, and the most distant of them call the shots. The Keystone Cops, taking orders from afar, having locked themselves out of the missile silo, break their way back in but fail to prevent an explosion, after which they have to begin a search for the weapon, because -- like the U.S. Army's recently reported 6.5 trillion unaccounted for dollars -- they don't know where it went.
Harold Brown, then-Secretary of so-called Defense, is shown in the film saying that "accidents were not unusual in the Defense Department. There must have been several every day." Most were, no doubt, not nuclear. But a "Defense" Department report lists thousands of those over the years.
A television newscast from 1980 informs us that "The Titan is not to blame. It was human error." The Titan, apparently treated as an actual titan from ancient Greece, greater than a god, is the name of the inanimate weapon. The Pentagon and its media echo chamber defend the weapon from blame, choosing instead to put all the blame on members of the military.
This history of near misses with catastrophes is a well-kept secret. That the problem is structural rather than one of "a few bad apples" is a carefully avoided realization. And here's an even better buried secret: this problem is not in the past. The United States still has some 7,000 nuclear weapons, and as this film shows us, and as is generally agreed, oversight and attention to safety have gotten worse, not better, over the years.
The non-nuclear nations of the world are pushing for a ban on nuclear weapons. The United States is expanding its nuclear arsenal. Which is the right way to go? In the words of that model of lawless U.S. violence Dirty Harry, you've got to ask yourself one question: "Do I feel lucky?"
Judy Bello (pictured) is on the Administrative Committee of the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) and is a founding member of the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars. In the previous decade she has traveled with Peace Delegations to Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Syria. She has just returned from a fact finding mission in Syria with a delegation from the U.S. Peace Council.
Gar Alperovitz has had a distinguished career as a historian, political economist, activist, writer, and government official. He's been a Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland, and is a former Fellow of Kings College, Cambridge University and Harvard’s Institute of Politics. He is the author of critically acclaimed books on the atomic bomb and atomic diplomacy. Alperovitz has served as a legislative director in both houses of Congress and as a special assistant in the State Department. He is also the president of the National Center for Economic and Security Alternatives and is a co-founder of the Democracy Collaborative and co-chair of the Next System Project. And he will be speaking at No War 2016, a conference we are organizing in September in Washington DC through World Beyond War. See worldbeyondwar.org.
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According to a Wall Street Journal report, the following people and entities would like the United States to begin a nuclear war: Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, the U.K., France, Japan, South Korea, and Germany. If any of those people or entities believe they can prove a case of libel, it might be a huge one. (Are you listening, Rupert?)
According to Mr. Murdoch's newspaper, the White House has been discussing the possibility of declaring that the United States no longer has a policy of engaging in the first use of nuclear bombs. The trouble is that those individuals and nations named above object. They insist, we are told, that the United States should have the policy of beginning a nuclear war.
Have the people of the UK, France, Japan, South Korea, Germany, or the United States itself been polled on this? Has any legislature pretending to represent any of those populations voted on this? Of course not. But what we could do, perhaps, is amend the policy to read: "When the United States begins the nuclear war, it shall announce that it is doing so in the name of democracy." That should be good.
Has Mr. Kerry, Mr. Carter, or Mr. Moniz been evaluated by a psychiatrist? Was Mr. Kerry against this before he was for it? The important question, I believe, is whether they want to start the nuclear war with any hatred or bigotry in mind. If what they intend is a loving, tolerant, and multicultural nuclear war, then really what we ought to be worrying about is the unfathomable evil of Donald Trump who has said that he'd like to kill families -- and particular types of families.
Now, I am not claiming to have fathomed the evil of Mr. Trump, but it has been U.S. policy since before there was a United States to kill families. And it is my strong suspicion that a nuclear war and the nuclear winter and nuclear famine it would bring to the earth would harm at least some families of every existing type.
The non-nuclear nations of this off-its-axis planet have been moving forward on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. That sort of strong and sane proposal could have something to do with the White House interest in advancing something as weak as a statement of no longer planning to be the first to start the apocalypse. But you can see the logic of the profiteers quite clearly. The same White House has laid out a plan to dump a trillion dollars in the coming years into building smaller, more "usable," nukes. If the United States commits to not using them first, as other nuclear nations have already done, and if that commitment becomes universal, well, then nobody will ever use them, and at some point in the 23rd century it might occur to some bureaucrat that if nobody's ever going to use them, it might not be the best use of unfathomable levels of spending to keep building them, and then where would we be?
But, not to worry, the Wall Street Journal and a pair of aspiring politicians have got you covered, because "a decision by Mr. Obama to press ahead with the declaration appears unlikely in his remaining months, given the controversy it would stir in the midst of a presidential election." If you believe Mr. Obama is against controversy in the election, I've got an argument for the deterrent value of nuclear weapons to sell you. If Hillary Clinton were against first-use, so would Obama be. But she isn't. Neither is His Huckstership, the Republican nominee.
Opening presidential election debates to include Jill Stein would create the controversy on this and other issues that Mr. Murdoch and his fellow media overlords would prefer to avoid. And Obama would find himself on the same side of that controversy as anyone else who has completely and utterly lost all sense of human decency.
By Gerry Condon
I am sitting in the middle of the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action on the Hood Canal near Poulsbo, Washington. It is a large and beautiful piece of property, partly forested. There is a beautiful, ample house, with a sprawling lawn and garden space, protected by tall pine and cedar trees. At the far end of the lawn is a large stone marker engraved with a Buddhist prayer for peace. As I scan this idyllic scene, small bunny rabbits come into focus on the lawn. Enjoying this space all by myself for a few hours restores a sense of inner peace.
There are scandals and then there are the things that should be scandals. Melania Trump gave a speech on Monday plagiarizing a speech by Michelle Obama, not to mention a song by Rick Astley (that, like these speeches, someone else wrote). Yes, that's funny. The accented immigrant spouse campaigning for the xenophobic bigot is funny in itself. So are her pornographic photos in the context of the Republican Party's denunciation of pornography as a major threat. But, between you and me, if you base your voting on someone's spouse's mindless cynical blather about "values," you've got worse problems than trying to choose between two parties that can swap such blather word-for-word with each other -- and so, consequently, do we all.
And if you can take a look at opening night of the Republican Convention and worry more about Melania's nonsense than about the endless repetition of the dogma that holds 96% of humanity in contempt, that declares the United States to be the only place in the world that matters, then you're missing the forest for the trees and the arsenal for the guns. Go back and watch Virginia Foxx suggesting that only in the United States does anyone value families. Or watch a crazed looking Michael Flynn declare that "the destructive pattern of putting the interests of other nations ahead of our own will end." Then please devote some moments to trying to identify all the nations whose interests the United States puts ahead of its own. Flynn, by the way, said he favored "a new American century." Should the fact that he didn't call it "the project for" really get him off the hook? Yes, yes, it's too short and common a phrase to truly count as plagiarism, but it has already killed a lot more people than Michelle's/Melania's "your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise."
Also on Monday the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May declared that she would be willing to kill a hundred thousand innocent men, women, and children, and that she would be willing to do it using a weapon that in reality is likely to kill several times that many. How is that not a scandal? If she'd said "American" men, women, and children, you can bet your fat french-fry ass it'd be the biggest roaring scandal of the week. That she is assumed to have meant some other variety of men, women, and children avoids any scandal in the U.S. media, as other people must surely be a bit more deserving of dying. However, there's a problem with that unarticulated thought process, namely that the modifier May did use was precisely this: "innocent." You can't get any more innocent than "innocent," and that's who she's willing to slaughter.
And for what purpose is Theresa "Seven Days in" May, just seven days into her prime ministership, willing to commit mass murder? In order, she says, to ensure that her enemies know she is willing to, because that knowledge will deter them from something or other. Of course, Tony Blair was warned that attacking countries would create anti-UK violence, not deter it. And that warning proved accurate. Imagine how many enemies Theresa May would have if she started nuking people? She'd have the whole surviving world for enemies. ISIS could blow its whole recruitment budget on self-flagellation or whatever ISISers do for fun. May would have it covered. In trying to defend her nuclearism, May is not just plagiarizing Genghis Kahn, but plagiarizing the false claims of her U.S. and UK predecessors, and doing so just as mindlessly as Melania Trump.
When Spain was victimized by a terrorist attack it pulled out of the war on Iraq, and the terrorist attacks stopped. That's an important lesson. And the lesson is not to do whatever a bully demands. The lesson is to stop being a bully if you don't want your victims to hit back. Spain didn't agree to commit some new crime. It just agreed to stop committing a larger crime. This was the lesson when George W. Bush pulled the U.S. troops out of Saudi Arabia or Ronald Reagan pulled them out of Lebanon. But pulling out of Saudi Arabia and moving into Iraq was not well thought through, unless the goal was chaos.
There was a bit of a scandal on Monday in the UK. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn declared that mass murder is not a good way to handle international affairs. It would have been nice last December if the Democratic or Republican Party in the United States had had a Jeremy Corbyn in it. That was when CNN's Hugh Hewitt asked Republican candidate Ben Carson if he would be willing to kill hundreds and thousands of children. To Carson's great credit, he responded by answering a question from an exam he'd taken in medical school for which the answer had only just occurred to him, and then wandered off into recounting a dream or something. But the asking of the question, the assumption that a president's basic duty is mass murder created no scandal, and won't unless someone answers it by plagiarizing Ben Carson.
U.S. Conference of Mayors Unanimously Adopts Resolution “Calling on the Next U.S. President to Pursue Diplomacy with Other Nuclear-Armed States; Participate in Negotiations for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons; Cut Nuclear Weapons Spending and Redirect Funds to Meet the Needs of Cities”
Sponsors include NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser,
Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie and Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola
Mikhail Gorbachev and Barack Obama have radically different views on what is involved in doing away with nuclear weapons.
Reading Gorbachev's new book, The New Russia, is a bit disappointing, but it contains some key insights. It may also be a cure for insomnia; it's no page turner. It's part decades-long diary and travelogue, part petty self-aggrandizement (by someone in no need), and part ill-informed conservatism.
Gorby claims that Obama "honoured his promise to withdraw from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan." In fact, both are still raging, the never completed withdrawal from Iraq fell wildly short of the campaign-promise schedule, and Obama actually promised to escalate in Afghanistan, which he did, tripling the U.S. presence and making that war primarily his own in terms of deaths, days, and dollars. The fact that smart well-informed people abroad, like Gorbachev, fall for common U.S. myths is an indication of how very difficult foreign relations can be.
By Winslow Myers
If we had a nickel for everyone who has muttered some variation on “I worry about Donald Trump’s finger on the nuclear button,” we could finance an anti-Trump Super-PAC.
Obviously the temperament of the leader of any nuclear nation matters deeply. But there will be moments when it matters not whether the leader is sober and restrained, because the action will be elsewhere, further down the chain of military command and control. Thousands of military personnel around the world have access to nuclear weapons. We are told that battlefield commanders of the Pakistani army deployed in Kashmir are free to unleash their tactical nukes without the command and control of their political leaders.
One of the lesser-known pivotal moments of the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred on a Soviet submarine deep beneath the Atlantic. From an article in the Guardian, October 2012: “In late October, 1962, during the Cuban missile crisis, the decision to sidestep WWIII was taken, not in the Kremlin or the White House, but in the control room of a Soviet submarine under attack by the US fleet. The submarine’s batteries were failing, air conditioning was crippled, communication with Moscow was impossible, and Savitsky, the captain of the ship, was convinced that WWIII had already broken out. He ordered the B-59's ten kiloton nuclear torpedo to be prepared for firing against the USS Randolf, the giant aircraft carrier leading the task force. The launch of the B-59's torpedo (2/3 the power of Hiroshima) required the consent of all three senior officers aboard. Vasili Arkhipov, one of the three, was alone in refusing permission. It is certain that Arkhipov's reputation was a key factor in the control room debate. The previous year the young officer, son of peasant farmers near Moscow, had exposed himself to severe radiation in order to save K-19, a submarine with an overheating reactor. That radiation dose eventually contributed to his death in 1998. What saved us was not only Arkhipov’s clear-headedness under great stress, but the established procedures of the Soviet navy, which were respected by the officers aboard the B-59.”
How bizarre, this barely acknowledged truth: we all owe our lives to one ethical Russian man, a man already sick unto death with nuclear radiation.
Obama at Hiroshima: “We must change our mindset about war itself.”
President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima has been the subject of much commentary and debate. Peace activists, scientists and even the New York Times called on Obama to use the occasion to announce meaningful steps toward worldwide nuclear disarmament, as he famously promised before receiving his premature Nobel Peace Prize.
At Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, Barack Obama delivered the kind of eloquent speech he is known for – some say his most eloquent yet. He called for an end to nuclear weapons. He said that the nuclear powers “…must have the courage to escape the logic of fear, and pursue a world without them.” Incisively, Obama added“We must change our mindset about war itself.”
President Obama announced no new steps, however, to achieve nuclear disarmament. Disappointingly, he stated, “We may not realize this goal in my lifetime.”
Certainly not if Obama hands the next administration his initiative to “modernize” the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal. That is a 30-year program estimated to cost One Trillion Dollars, or $1,000,000,000,000. Smaller, more precise and “usable” nukes would be in the mix.
There are other bad signs. Standing next to Obama at Hiroshima was Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who is shredding Article 9 of the Japanese constitution,the “pacifist” clause that bars Japan from sending troops abroad or engaging in war. The alarmingly militaristic Abe has even hinted that Japan itself should become a nuclear power.
The Obama administration is encouraging Japan to have a more aggressive military posture, as part of a U.S. backed regional response to China’s assertion of primacy in the South China Sea. That is also the context for Obama’s announcement that he is lifting the U.S. embargo of weapons sales to Vietnam. The U.S. “normalizes” relations by selling weapons of war.
The so-called Asia Pivot, which would see 60% of U.S. military forces stationed in the Pacific, is only one current assertion of U.S. global hegemony. The U.S. is involved in multiple wars in the Middle East, it continues its longest war in Afghanistan, and it is pushing NATO, including Germany, to station significant military forces on Russia’s borders.
The U.S. nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which killed 200,000 civilians, were inexcusable and morally reprehensible, especially since, according to many U.S. military leaders, they were absolutely unnecessary,as the Japanese were already defeated and were looking for a way to surrender.
Veterans For Peace Apologizes to Japanese People and the World
U.S. presidents may never apologize for what our country did at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But we do. Veterans For Peace expresses our deepest condolences to all those who were killed and maimed, and to their families. We apologize to the Hibakusha,the survivorsof the nuclear bombings, and we thank them for their courageous, continuing witness.
We apologize to all the Japanese people and to all the people of the world. This hugely atrocious crime against humanity should never have happened. As military veterans who have come to see the tragic futility of war, we promise that we will continue working for peace and disarmament. We want to see nuclear disarmament in our lifetime.
It is a miracle that that there have been no nuclear wars since the U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We now know that the world has been close to nuclear annihilation on several occasions. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty calls on the nuclear powers (nine nations and growing), to negotiate in good faith to reduce and eventually eliminate all nuclear weapons. Nothing of the sort is taking place.
The aggressive U.S. military posture, including its development of new nuclear weapons, has prompted China and Russia to respond in kind. China will soon be launching nuclear-armed submarines to cruise the Pacific Ocean. Russia, threatened by the placement of “defensive” U.S. missile systems near its borders, is upgrading its nuclear capacities, and is touting new submarine-fired nuclear-armed cruise missiles. U.S. and Russian missiles remain on a hair-trigger alert. The U.S. reserves the right to a first strike.
Is Nuclear War Inevitable?
India and Pakistan continue to test nuclear weapons and to fight over the territory of Kashmir, constantly risking the possibility of a greater war in which nuclear weapons might be used.
North Korea, threatened by the presence of nuclear weapons on U.S. Navy ships, and by the refusal of the U.S. to negotiate an end to the Korean War, brandishes its own nuclear weapons.
Israel has as many as 200 nuclear weapons with which they intend to maintain their dominance in the Middle East.
The possession of nuclear weapons earned the former colonial powers Britain and France their seats at the UN Security Council.
Iran does not have nuclear weapons, was not even close to acquiring them, and they claim they do not want them. But one could certainly understand if they and other countries who feel threatened by nuclear powers might want to acquire the ultimate deterrent. If Saddam Hussein had actually had nuclear weapons, the U.S. would not have invaded Iraq.
There is a very real possibility that nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of terrorist organizations, or just be inherited by governments that are more militarist than the last.
In short, the danger of nuclear war, or even multiple nuclear wars, has never been greater. Given the current trajectory, nuclear war actually appears inevitable.
Nuclear disarmament will likely occur only when the powers that be, beginning with the United States, are pressured by millions of peace-loving people into abandoning militarism and adopting a peaceful, cooperative foreign policy. President Obama is right when he says that “we must rethink war itself.”
Veterans For Peace is committed to opposing U.S. wars, both overt and covert. Our Mission Statement also calls on us to expose the true costs of war, to heal the wounds of war, and to push for the elimination of all nuclear weapons. We want to abolish war once and for all.
The Golden Rule Sails for a Nuclear-Free World
Last year Veterans For Peace (VFP) dramatically stepped up our efforts to educate people about the dangers of nuclear weapons when we relaunched the historic antinuclear sailboat, the Golden Rule. The 34-foot peace boat was the star of the VFP Convention in San Diego last August, and stopped in ports along the California coast for unique public events. Now the Golden Rule is beginning a 4-1/2 month voyage (June – October) throughout the waterways of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. The Golden Rule will be sailing for a nuclear-free world and a peaceful, sustainable future.
We will make common cause with many people in the Pacific Northwest who are concerned about the devastation of climate change, and are organizing against dangerous coal, oil and natural gas infrastructure in their port towns. We will remind them that the risk of nuclear war is also a threat to the very existence of human civilization.
Veterans For Peace will encourage climate justice activists to work also for peace and nuclear disarmament. The peace movement, in turn, will grow as it embraces the movement for climate justice. We will build a profound international movement and work hopefully together for a peaceful, sustainable future for all.
Action Committee for the 71st Anniversary of the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima on August 6th
14-3-705 Noborimachi, Naka ward, Hiroshima City
Telephone/Fax: 082-221-7631 Email: email@example.com
We oppose the planned visit of the US President Barack Obama to Hiroshima on May 27th after Ise-Shima Summit.
By John LaForge
North Korea’s May 7 declaration that it would not be first to use nuclear weapons was met with official derision instead of relief and applause. Not one report of the announcement I could find noted that the United States has never made such a no-first-use pledge. None of three dozen news accounts even mentioned that North Korea hasn’t got one usable nuclear warhead. The New York Times did admit, “US and South Korean officials doubted that North Korea has developed a reliable intercontinental ballistic missile that would deliver a nuclear payload to the continental United States.”
Nuclear “first use” means either a nuclear sneak attack or the escalation from conventional mass destruction to the use of nuclear warheads, and presidents have threatened it as many as 15 times. In the build-up to the 1991 Persian Gulf bombing, US officials including then Def. Sec. Dick Cheney and Sec. of State James Baker publicly and repeatedly hinted that the US might use nuclear weapons. In the midst of the bombardment, Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., and syndicated columnist Cal Thomas both explicitly promoted nuclear war on Iraq.
Hysterical Cold-War Style US Reporting as 2 Unarmed Russian Jets Buzz US Destroyer Sailing Near Russian Port
By Dave Lindorff
US news reports on an incident Tuesday in which two Russian jet fighters buzzed very close to a US destroyer, the USS Donald Cook, in the Baltic Sea, make it sound like a serious threat in which the US might have been justified in defending itself against a simulated attack on the high seas.
Nowhere in the reports in the US was it mentioned that the Cook was itself engaging in provocative behavior.
Why I won’t be voting for Hillary in November: A Neolib Posing as a Progressive vs. a Reality TV Star Posing as a Fascist
By Dave Lindorff
I won’t be voting for Hillary Clinton if she wins the Democratic Party nomination for president, and I won’t heed Bernie Sanders if, as he has vowed to do, he calls on his supporters to “come together” after the convention, should he lose, to support Clinton and prevent Donald Trump or another Republican from becoming president.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) today concluded the preliminary phase of oral arguments in nuclear disarmament cases brought by the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) against India, Pakistan and the United Kingdom. The hearings, which took place at the ICJ from 7-16 March, were the first contentious cases on nuclear disarmament ever heard at the Court. This set of hearings addressed the respondent nations’ objections to the cases relating to questions of jurisdiction and admissibility.
This morning, India delivered its final oral arguments. India’s legal team doubled down on its assertions that its words speak louder than its actions. While repeatedly highlighting “irrefutable evidence of India’s positions in United Nations forums on disarmament,” India’s lawyers denied that test-launches of nuclear-capable missiles – including on Day One and Day Three of the ICJ’s hearings in the case against India – indicated participation in the nuclear arms race.
Mr. Amandeep Gill, Co-Agent of India, expressed dismay that Tony de Brum, Co-Agent of the Marshall Islands, told the Court that India’s nuclear arsenal threatens the world. “What else,” asked Mr. Gill, “could be more political, more contrived and more artificial than this allegation of a threat to the world?” A 2013 report by International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War entitled “Nuclear Famine: Two Billion People at Risk” shows that, even in a “limited” nuclear war using as few as 100 nuclear weapons anywhere in the world, the global climate and agricultural production would be disrupted so severely that the lives of more than two billion people would be in jeopardy.
Mr. Alain Pellet, Counsel to India, wondered aloud why the Marshall Islands is now “making such a big fuss” about the International Court of Justice’s 1996 Advisory Opinion. The ICJ ruled in that opinion that for all nations, “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.”
In the afternoon session, the Marshall Islands presented its final oral arguments in the case against the United Kingdom. Phon van den Biesen opened the session by answering the question posed by Judge Bennouna at the Court last Friday. Mr. van den Biesen presented numerous examples to the judges illustrating the Marshall Islands’ interpretation of Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) at the time that its Application against the United Kingdom was filed (24 April 2014).
Tony de Brum, Co-Agent and former Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands, concluded today’s arguments against the United Kingdom. He said, “The States possessing nuclear weapons that joined the NPT made a legally binding promise, in accordance with the goals they expressly adopted in the NPT Preamble, to pursue in good faith negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament and cessation of the nuclear arms race, pursuant to Article VI. The dispute in this case is over whether the UK is in breach of that bargained-for, legal obligation.”
He continued, “At the end of the day, the UK position boils down to an assertion that the RMI has no legally enforceable rights under NPT Article VI. If that were true, the Strategic Bargain of the NPT is illusory.” The strategic bargain to which Mr. de Brum referred is, at its core, that NPT signatories that possess nuclear weapons promise to negotiate the elimination of all nuclear weapons in exchange for non-nuclear-armed signatories agreeing never to acquire such weapons.
Mr. de Brum again asked the Court “to adjudge and declare that the Court has jurisdiction over the claims of the Marshall Islands submitted in its Application of 24 April 2014; and to adjudge and declare that the Marshall Islands’ claims are admissible.”
The 15 judges of the ICJ, along with judge-ad-hoc Mohammed Bedjaoui, will now deliberate on jurisdiction and admissibility issues raised in the written and oral pleadings. The Court will announce its decisions in a public sitting at a date to be announced.
By Lawrence S. Wittner
Isn’t it rather odd that America’s largest single public expenditure scheduled for the coming decades has received no attention in the 2015-2016 presidential debates?
The expenditure is for a 30-year program to “modernize” the U.S. nuclear arsenal and production facilities. Although President Obama began his administration with a dramatic public commitment to build a nuclear weapons-free world, that commitment has long ago dwindled and died. It has been replaced by an administration plan to build a new generation of U.S. nuclear weapons and nuclear production facilities to last the nation well into the second half of the twenty-first century. This plan, which has received almost no attention by the mass media, includes redesigned nuclear warheads, as well as new nuclear bombers, submarines, land-based missiles, weapons labs, and production plants. The estimated cost? $1,000,000,000,000.00—or, for those readers unfamiliar with such lofty figures, $1 trillion.
Critics charge that the expenditure of this staggering sum will either bankrupt the country or, at the least, require massive cutbacks in funding for other federal government programs. “We’re . . . wondering how the heck we’re going to pay for it,” admitted Brian McKeon, an undersecretary of defense. And we’re “probably thanking our stars we won’t be here to have to have to answer the question,” he added with a chuckle.
Of course, this nuclear “modernization” plan violates the terms of the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which requires the nuclear powers to engage in nuclear disarmament. The plan is also moving forward despite the fact that the U.S. government already possesses roughly 7,000 nuclear weapons that can easily destroy the world. Although climate change might end up accomplishing much the same thing, a nuclear war does have the advantage of terminating life on earth more rapidly.
This trillion dollar nuclear weapons buildup has yet to inspire any questions about it by the moderators during the numerous presidential debates. Even so, in the course of the campaign, the presidential candidates have begun to reveal their attitudes toward it.
On the Republican side, the candidates—despite their professed distaste for federal expenditures and “big government”—have been enthusiastic supporters of this great leap forward in the nuclear arms race. Donald Trump, the frontrunner, contended in his presidential announcement speech that “our nuclear arsenal doesn’t work,” insisting that it is out of date. Although he didn’t mention the $1 trillion price tag for “modernization,” the program is clearly something he favors, especially given his campaign’s focus on building a U.S. military machine “so big, powerful, and strong that no one will mess with us.”
His Republican rivals have adopted a similar approach. Marco Rubio, asked while campaigning in Iowa about whether he supported the trillion dollar investment in new nuclear weapons, replied that “we have to have them. No country in the world faces the threats America faces.” When a peace activist questioned Ted Cruz on the campaign trail about whether he agreed with Ronald Reagan on the need to eliminate nuclear weapons, the Texas senator replied: “I think we’re a long way from that and, in the meantime, we need to be prepared to defend ourselves. The best way to avoid war is to be strong enough that no one wants to mess with the United States.” Apparently, Republican candidates are particularly worried about being “messed with.”
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has been more ambiguous about her stance toward a dramatic expansion of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Asked by a peace activist about the trillion dollar nuclear plan, she replied that she would “look into that,” adding: “It doesn’t make sense to me.” Even so, like other issues that the former secretary of defense has promised to “look into,” this one remains unresolved. Moreover, the “National Security” section of her campaign website promises that she will maintain the “strongest military the world has ever known”—not a propitious sign for critics of nuclear weapons.
Only Bernie Sanders has adopted a position of outright rejection. In May 2015, shortly after declaring his candidacy, Sanders was asked at a public meeting about the trillion dollar nuclear weapons program. He replied: “What all of this is about is our national priorities. Who are we as a people? Does Congress listen to the military-industrial complex” that “has never seen a war that they didn’t like? Or do we listen to the people of this country who are hurting?” In fact, Sanders is one of only three U.S. Senators who support the SANE Act, legislation that would significantly reduce U.S. government spending on nuclear weapons. In addition, on the campaign trail, Sanders has not only called for cuts in spending on nuclear weapons, but has affirmed his support for their total abolition.
Nevertheless, given the failure of the presidential debate moderators to raise the issue of nuclear weapons “modernization,” the American people have been left largely uninformed about the candidates’ opinions on this subject. So, if Americans would like more light shed on their future president’s response to this enormously expensive surge in the nuclear arms race, it looks like they are the ones who are going to have to ask the candidates the trillion dollar question.
Dr. Lawrence Wittner, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is a satirical novel about university corporatization and rebellion, What’s Going On at UAardvark?
By Winslow Myers
The silence is breathtaking. Not once has a professional journalist raised the question about the issue in all the debates of either party. If any citizen broached a concern about it in close encounters with candidates during the primaries, it’s news to me.
I’m speaking, of course, about the plans of the United States government to spend upwards of a trillion dollars over the next few decades to renew our already bloated nuclear arsenal.
In the long, painful history of war, every weapon invented has eventually been used. There is no reason nuclear weapons will be any different—sadly we witnessed this in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
But wait, maybe there is a reason it could be different with nukes. That reason is a ray of hope and sanity: computer models suggest that a war that used as few as .05% of nuclear weapons in the world’s arsenals could cause worldwide climate change and subsequent famine. What makes this hopeful, and not a further nightmare?
Because the absolute negativity of nuclear winter is something all nations share as the context of negotiation toward less and less rather than more and more, or newer and newer, weapons systems. Our military rationalizes renewal by saying they are developing smaller and more precise nuclear weapons. This only makes more likely the possibility of crossing the nuclear threshold in the midst of battle. The hope that escalation can be controlled is a mirage.
Many of us have serious reservations about letting someone like Mr. Trump anywhere near such weapons. The truth is that they are way too powerful for any human, no matter how smart or professionally trained, to use as a strategic tool.
Obsolete establishment logic goes like this: the only way to make sure these horrendous weapons will never be used is for the U.S. to possess overwhelming nuclear superiority. Politicians cling to this unworkable status quo because disarmament plans with teeth are a political third rail. Admitting the futility of nuclear strategy suggests to the electorate appeasement or cowardice, leaving aside the threat to the bottom line of weapons manufacturers. Dr. Ashton Carter, our Secretary of Defense, recently gave a speech to the Commonwealth Club firmly declaring the unavoidability of the trillion-dollar upgrade.
We don’t have to be experts to see that this is nonsense posing as sober-sided necessity. Carter’s confident assertion only becomes an incentive for other nuclear powers to keep up. We build, they build, toward an inevitable omega-point of misunderstanding, misjudgment, and mass death.
Meanwhile where is that trillion dollars really needed, if we are to have any realistic chance of preventing tragedy? Wouldn’t it be to mitigate the effects of global climate change, the disruptions of which strategists predict will be the major cause of future conflicts? Wouldn’t it be to accelerate the process of global transition to sustainable energy and agriculture? A trillion would be more than enough.
Whether in Russia or China, in Israel or North Korea, in India or Pakistan, in Britain or the U.S., the empire of deterrence has no clothes. The U.S. should lead by example and begin to cut back on present levels of armaments, instead of doing just the opposite as the primary driver of a race toward the ever-receding goal of superiority.
We should participate vigorously in existing conferences on nuclear weapons built around helping the nine present nuclear powers to live up to our obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. We should aggressively advocate for new conferences, weapons sales bans, and weapons-free areas. Twenty-four American cities or counties, points of common sense in a sea of darkness, have declared themselves nuclear-free zones.
The community of nations—and without nuclear weapons we would indeed be more of a community—choosing together to turn away from certain mass death and toward life for all will be a useful precedent for finding solutions to other international challenges including global climate instability.
Let’s mention the unmentionable, and urge candidates to tell us where they stand on nuclear weapons renewal as a crucial test of our national vision.
Winslow Myers, the author of Living Beyond War: A Citizen’s Guide, writes on global issues and serves on the advisory board of the War Prevention Initiative.
Isn’t it rather odd that America’s largest single public expenditure scheduled for the coming decades has received no attention in the 2015-2016 presidential debates?
By Jackie Cabasso, Den Hague
From 1948 – 1956 the United States detonated 67 nuclear weapons test explosions over the Marshall Islands, a tiny nation in the South Pacific. During this period, the equivalent of 1.7 Hiroshima-sized bombs were detonated daily. Several islands were vaporized, others will remain uninhabitable for thousands of years. Many Marshallese died, babies were born with birth defects never seen before, and residents of the islands are still battling with cancers and other radation related diseases.
From March 7 – 16 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, the judicial branch of the United Nations, will hear oral arguments in the Marshall Islands’ cases against the UK, India and Pakistan.* The cases concern whether the UK is complying with Article VI of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and whether India and Pakistan are complying with what the Marshall Islands contends, building on the 1996 ICJ opinion, is a customary international law obligation to pursue negotiations in good faith on nuclear disarmament, including cessation of the nuclear arms race.
Tony DeBrum, former Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands will be making opening statements on behalf of the Marshall Islands on Monday and Tuesday.
These hearings concern preliminary issues as to whether the cases are suitable for adjudication on the merits. While the cases will concern preliminary issues, the substance of the cases will certainly come up in various ways.
I will be in The Hague, working with Rick Wayman of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation to support the Marshall Islands by doing media outreach and social media. Here’s how you can follow the hearings from wherever you are.
· Sign up to receive Rick’s daily updates: https://www.wagingpeace.org/
· Follow me on Twitter @JackieCabasso and retweet. I’ll be live tweeting, using the hashtag #NuclearZero
· Like and share my Facebook posts at https://www.facebook.com/
· Watch the hearings for yourself. Video webcasts will broadcast live and posted on the International Court of Justice website at: www.icj-cij.org/multimedia
· Read the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s March 2 press release at https://www.wagingpeace.org/
· For more information about the cases see www.nuclearzero.org.
If you’re in nearby Europe, please consider coming to The Hague to support the Marshall Islands by your presence in the courtroom. Three press releases issued by the ICJ (one for each of the cases) provide the hearing schedule and admission procedures to the court. There is no advance registration procedure.
· Marshall Islands v. United Kingdom http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/
· Marshall Islands v. Pakistan http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/
· Marshall Islands v. India http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/
Please help spread the word. WE STAND WITH THE MARSHALL ISLANDS: NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT HEROES!
*You may be wondering why only three cases only are going forward. In April 2014 the Marshall Islands filed lawsuits against all 9 nuclear-armed states. Regrettably, the United States, Russia, China, France, Israel and North Korea do not accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ and are ignoring the cases brought against them.
By Sam Husseini
By Mel Gurtov
North Korea continues to rattle the cages of both friend and foe. Despite near-universal condemnation of its fourth nuclear test and a deplorable human rights record, Kim Jong-un defiantly disregards the major powers and the United Nations. And now, adding insult to injury, the UN Secretary-General reports that North Korea has notified various UN agencies of its intention to launch a satellite, apparently to test its ballistic missile technology.
Continued nuclear testing by North Korea is its way of demonstrating independence of action. Nuclear weapons are the DPRK’s “insurance policy,” David Sanger writes – its last best hope for regime survival and legitimacy, and the most dramatic way to insist that the North’s interests should not be neglected. All one has to do is, through North Korean blinkers, see what has happened in Iraq, Iran, and Libya, where dictators did not have a nuclear deterrent. Two of them were invaded, and all had to surrender their nuclear-weapon capability.
The longstanding US approach to North Korea’s nuclear weapons is way off the mark. The Obama administration’s strategy of “strategic patience” shows little attention to North Korean motivations. The US insistence that no change in policy is conceivable unless and until North Korea agrees to denuclearize ensures continuing tension, the danger of a disastrous miscalculation, and more and better North Korean nuclear weapons. The immediate focus of US policy should be on trust building.
Increasing the severity of punishment, with threats of more to come, is representative of a failed policy. When the White House press secretary acknowledged recently that the US goal of defanging North Korea had not been reached but that “we have succeeded in making North Korea more isolated ever before,” he was actually acknowledging the failure. The task is, or should be, not to further isolate North Korea but rather to bring it out of its isolation, starting by accepting the legitimacy of its security concerns. The more isolated the regime is and the more it is driven into a corner, the more likely it is that it will resort to provocations and shows of strength.
Demanding that China step up and use its relationship with North Korea as leverage to get it to agree to denuclearize is a fool’s errand. Secretary of State John Kerry has chided his Chinese counterpart to abandon “business as usual” with the North and join in enacting sanctions on shipping, banking, and oil. Over many years, Chinese leaders have made plain that North Korea’s nuclear and missile testing endanger China’s as well as Korean peninsula security. They have shown their displeasure by resuming trilateral Japan-South Korea-China security dialogue after three years, and by condemning North Korea’s latest nuclear test in statements from Beijing and in a UN Security Council press statement.
But with all that, the Chinese are not about to dump Kim Jong-un. Political distancing, yes, but no serious (i.e., destabilizing) economic sanctions such as the US is now demanding. While in Beijing in late January, Kerry threatened that the US, with South Korea’s possible approval (a reversal of position), would go ahead with installing a theater missile defense system (THAAD) that the Chinese have long regarded as actually aimed at neutralizing their own missiles rather than only North Korea’s. Rest assured that all such a threat will accomplish is to harden Chinese views of US strategy in Asia, lately strained further by heightened US patrolling in the South China Sea, and lessen their commitment to imposing sanctions on the North.
The DPRK’s possession of an increasingly sophisticated nuclear program that aims at miniaturizing bombs is no small matter. As Sigfried Hecker, former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, points out, the North Koreans “may have enough bomb fuel for 18 bombs, with a capacity to make 6 to 7 more annually. That, combined with the increased sophistication they surely achieved with this test, paints a troublesome picture.” Sanctions, threats, and “half-hearted diplomacy,” Hecker observes, have failed to change the nuclear picture.
Serious engagement with North Korea remains the only realistic policy option for the United States and its allies. To be effective, however (i.e., meaningful to the other side), engagement must be undertaken strategically—as a calculated use of incentives with expectation of mutual rewards, namely in security and peace. And it should be undertaken in a spirit of mutual respect and with due regard for sensitivity in language and action.
Here are three elements of an engagement package:
First is revival of the Six-Party Talks without preconditions and with faithfulness to previous six-party and North-South Korea joint declarations—in particular, the principle contained in the Six-Party Joint Statement of September 2005: “commitment for commitment, action for action.” At a new round of talks, the US and its partners should present a package that, in return for verifiable steps to neutralize North Korea’s nuclear, provides the North with security assurances, a proposal for ending the Korean War, a nonaggression pact with big-power guarantees (with China on board), and meaningful economic assistance from both NGOs and governments. Such a major departure from “strategic patience” would be in line with Kim Jong-il’s message to President George W. Bush in November 2002: “If the United States recognizes our sovereignty and assures nonaggression, it is our view that we should be able to find a way to resolve the nuclear issue in compliance with the demands of a new century. . . .If the United States makes a bold decision, we will respond accordingly.”
Second is creation of a Northeast Asia Security Dialogue Mechanism. We might recall that such a group was anticipated in the final statements of the Six-Party Talks, and that South Korea’s President Park has proposed a similar peace initiative. In the absence of honest brokers for disputes in Northeast Asia, the NEASDM can function as a “circuit breaker,” able to interrupt patterns of escalating confrontation when tensions in the region increase—as they are now. But the NEASDM would not focus exclusively on North Korean denuclearization. It would be open to a wide range of issues related to security in the broadest sense, such as environmental, labor, poverty, and public health problems; a code of conduct to govern territorial and boundary disputes; military budget transparency, weapons transfers, and deployments; measures to combat terrorism and piracy; creation of a nuclear-weapon free zone (NWFZ) in all or part of Northeast Asia; and ways to support confidence building and trust in the dialogue process itself. Normalization of relations among all six countries should be a priority; full recognition of the DPRK by the United States and Japan costs nothing but is an important incentive for meaningful North Korean participation.
Third is significant new humanitarian assistance to North Korea. The US and South Korean emphasis on sanctions punishes the wrong people. Kim Jong-un’s complete disregard for human rights, vigorously condemned in a UN commission of inquiry report in 2014, is before the General Assembly and will be debated in the Security Council despite China’s disapproval. (The vote to debate was 9-4 with two abstentions.) But neither human rights deprivations nor nuclear testing should affect humanitarian aid to North Korea—food, medicine, medical equipment, technical training—which at least helps some portion of its population and sends the message that the international community cares about the North Korean people. Humanitarian assistance to the DPRK is pitifully little—under $50 million in 2014, and declining every year.
The same kind of steady, patient, and creative diplomacy that led to the nuclear deal with Iran is still possible in the North Korea case. As the Under Secretary-General of the UN, Jeffrey Feltman, said, Iran shows that “diplomacy can work to address non-proliferation challenges. There is strong international consensus on the need to work for peace, stability and denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula. To achieve this goal, dialogue is the way forward.”
By Andrew Moss
In 1946, George Orwell decried the abuse of language in his classic essay, “Politics and the English Language,” declaring famously that “it [language] becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.” Orwell reserved his sharpest criticism for corrupted political language, which he called the “defense of the indefensible,” and in the years that followed, others writers took up similar critiques of political discourse, adjusting their focus according to the circumstances of the time.
One particular critique has focused on the language of nuclear weapons, and I argue that this language should be of particular concern to us today. Called “Nukespeak” by its critics, it is a highly militarized discourse that obscures the moral consequences of our policies and actions. It is a language used by military officials, political leaders, and policy experts – as well as by journalists and citizens. The language creeps into our public discussions like an invasive species, casting shadows on the way we think about our collective present and future.
For example, in a recent New York Times article, “Smaller Bombs Adding Fuel to Nuclear Fear” two Times reporters, William J. Broad and David E. Sanger, describe the ongoing debate within the Obama administration regarding the so-called modernization of our nuclear arsenal, a transformation that would result in atomic bombs with greater accuracy and a capacity for their operators to increase or decrease the explosive capability of any single bomb. Proponents argue that modernizing the weapons will reduce the likelihood of their use by increasing their deterrence to would-be aggressors while critics claim that upgrading the bombs will make their use even more tempting to military commanders. The critics also cite the costs of the modernization program – up to $1 trillion if all the related elements are taken into account.
Throughout the article, Broad and Sanger frame these issues in the language of Nukespeak. In the following sentence, for example, they include two euphemisms: “And its yield, the bomb’s explosive force, can be dialed up or down depending on the target, to minimize collateral damage.” The euphemisms, “yield” and “collateral damage,” erase the human presence – a voice, a face – from the equation of death. Though the authors do define the term “yield” as “explosive force,” the word’s presence in the text still unnerves with its contrast between benign meanings, i.e. a harvest or monetary profit, and the demonic sense of a lethal reaping. And the phrase “collateral damage” has long been recognized for its sheer mendacity, its omission of the unspeakable from any consideration.
The sentence also contains another feature of Nukespeak: an amoral fascination with deadly gadgetry. It is one thing for a person to dial down the thermostat of her home; it is another to “dial down” a payload of death. When I taught an undergraduate course on the literature of war and peace, my students and I studied in one of our units the literature of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We read President Truman’s announcement of the dropping of the first atomic bomb, exploring how Truman discussed the genesis of the new weapon and the scientific collaboration that went into making it “the greatest achievement of organized science in history.” At the same time, we read stories by Japanese writers who managed to survive the inferno and still continue to write. One such writer, Yoko Ota, has the narrator of her short story, “Fireflies,” return to Hiroshima seven years after the bomb and encounter a number of fellow survivors, including a young girl, Mitsuko, who had been horribly disfigured by the atomic explosion. Despite the disfigurement that makes her presence in public emotionally painful, Mitsuko displays an extraordinary resilience and a “desire to grow up faster and help people who’re having a hard time.”
The psychiatrist and author Robert Jay Lifton has written that even within the nuclear shadow, we can find redemptive possibilities in the traditional “wisdom of the seer: the poet, painter, or peasant revolutionary, who, when the current world view failed, turned the kaleidoscope of his or her imagination until familiar things took on a wholly different pattern.” Lifton wrote those words in 1984, and since then the need for cooperation on a planetary scale has grown ever more urgent. Today, as before, it is the artist and seer who can recognize the human presence hidden behind the lying façade of Nukespeak. It is the artist and seer who can find the words to say: there is madness in this so-called rationality – and that, indeed, we have the capacity to find another way.
Andrew Moss, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is an emeritus professor at the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, where he taught a course, “War and Peace in Literature,” for 10 years.
A fight now underway over newly-designed U.S. nuclear weapons highlights how far the Obama administration has strayed from its commitment to build a nuclear-free world.
When Americans think about nuclear weapons, they comfort themselves with the thought that these weapons’ vast destruction of human life has not taken place since 1945—at least not yet. But, in reality, it has taken place, with shocking levels of U.S. casualties.
By Paul DeRienzo
The latest in a series of troubling mishaps at the aging Indian Point nuclear power plant a week ago Saturday prompted a shutdown or “trip” of one of the two operating reactor units on the site and the dispatch of inspectors from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.