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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.
No more veterans!: November 11 or Armistice Day Began as a Time to Contemplate Peace, Not to Celebrate War and Warriors
By Dave Lindorff
John Bordne, a resident of Blakeslee, Penn., had to keep a personal history to himself for more than five decades. Only recently has the US Air Force given him permission to tell the tale, which, if borne out as true, would constitute a terrifying addition to the lengthy and already frightening list of mistakes and malfunctions that have nearly plunged the world into nuclear war.
The story begins just after midnight, in the wee hours of October 28, 1962, at the very height of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Then-Air Force airman John Bordne says he began his shift full of apprehension. At the time, in response to the developing crisis over secret Soviet missile deployments in Cuba, all US strategic forces had been raised to Defense Readiness Condition 2, or DEFCON2; that is, they were prepared to move to DEFCON1 status within a matter of minutes. Once at DEFCON1, a missile could be launched within a minute of a crew being instructed to do so.
Bordne was serving at one of four secret missile launch sites on the US-occupied Japanese island of Okinawa. There were two launch control centers at each site; each was manned by seven-member crews. With the support of his crew, each launch officer was responsible for four Mace B cruise missiles mounted with Mark 28 nuclear warheads. The Mark 28 had a yield equivalent to 1.1 megatons of TNT—i.e., each of them was roughly 70 times more powerful than the Hiroshima or Nagasaki bomb. All together, that’s 35.2 megatons of destructive power. With a range of 1,400 miles, the Mace B's on Okinawa could reach the communist capital cities of Hanoi, Beijing, and Pyongyang, as well as the Soviet military facilities at Vladivostok.
Several hours after Bordne's shift began, he says, the commanding major at the Missile Operations Center on Okinawa began a customary, mid-shift radio transmission to the four sites. After the usual time-check and weather update came the usual string of code. Normally the first portion of the string did not match the numbers the crew had. But on this occasion, the alphanumeric code matched, signaling that a special instruction was to follow. Occasionally a match was transmitted for training purposes, but on those occasions the second part of the code would not match. When the missiles' readiness was raised to DEFCON 2, the crews had been informed that there would be no further such tests. So this time, when the first portion of the code matched, Bordne’s crew was instantly alarmed and, indeed, the second part, for the first time ever, also matched.
The United States keeps nuclear weapons in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Turkey, in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which bans the transfer of nuclear weapons from a nuclear weapon state to a non-nuclear weapon state. Now, the U.S. wants to upgrade its nukes in Europe, to make them "precision" and "guided," and therefore more likely to be used, even as tensions build between the United States and Russia.
The U.S. plans to deploy newly designed type B 61-12 nuclear bombs. Instead it should remove existing nuclear bombs. The NATO strategy of so-called "nuclear sharing" is a violation of Articles 1 and 2 of the NPT. Those provisions state that every party to the treaty promises "not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly" and also promises that every "non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to receive the transfer from any transferor whatsoever of nuclear weapons."
The policy of placing U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe also violates local laws. For example, the German Parliament (the Bundestag) voted in March 2010, by a large majority, that the German Government should "press for the withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Germany."
People in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Turkey, the United States, and elsewhere have signed this petition:
To: The Governments of Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Turkey
Do not upgrade the U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe. Remove them. People in the United States and around the world would support you in this.
The petition will be delivered in each country. Before it is, please add your name.
The same petition in German is here.
Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College of New York, is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet. Grossman is an associate of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.
Grossman discusses a proposed change in policy by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that would permit nuclear radiation on the grounds that it is safe or even good for us. Submit your comment here:
Or write to Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001, Attention:Rulemakings and Adjudications Staff. Docket ID. Needed to be noted on any letter is the code NRC-2015-0057.
Some articles by Grossman:
Radiation Is Good for You, and Other Tall Tales of the Nuclear Industry
The Nuclear Cult
Nuclear Rubberstamp Commission
Nuclear Power/Nuclear Weapons
Embracing Nuclear Power Like a Religion
Money is the Real Green Power: The Hoax of Eco-Friendly Nuclear Energy
Nuclear Power Through the Fukushima Perspective
Nuclear Power Can Never Be Made Safe
The Perils of Nuclear-Powered Space Flights
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Campaigners aim to prosecute British state
On 1st October campaigners will begin a new and ambitious project to institute a citizen’s prosecution of the Government and specifically the Secretary of State for Defence for breaching international law by its active deployment of the Trident nuclear weapon system.
PICAT is co-ordinated by Trident Ploughshares and will involve groups across England and Wales in a series of steps which will hopefully lead to the Attorney General’s consent for the case to go before the courts.
Groups will begin by seeking an assurance from the Secretary of State for Defence that the UK’s nuclear weapons will not be used, or their use threatened, in such a way as to cause wholesale loss of civilian life and damage to the environment.
In the case of no response or an unsatisfactory one groups will then approach their local magistrates to lay a Criminal Information (1). If consent for the case is not forthcoming from the Attorney General the campaign will then consider approaching the International Criminal Court.
Veteran peace campaigner Angie Zelter (2), who has developed the project along with international lawyer Robbie Manson (3), said:
By Alice Slater
The stirring condemnation of nuclear weapons by Pope Francis today at the United Nations and his call for their prohibition and complete elimination in compliance with promises made in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), signed by the US in 1970, 45 years ago, should give new momentum to the current campaign to start negotiations on a ban treaty. This initiative endorsed by 117 non-nuclear weapons states to sign the Humanitarian Pledge being circulated initially by Austria, to “fill the legal gap” for nuclear disarmament and ban the bomb just as the world has banned chemical and biological weapons would create a new legal norm, which was not established in the NPT which provided that the five nuclear weapons states (US, Russia, UK, France, China) would make “good faith” efforts for nuclear disarmament, but didn’t prohibit their possession, in return for a promise from all the other nations not to acquire nuclear weapons. Every nation in the world signed the treaty except India, Pakistan, and Israel who went on to get nuclear weapons. North Korea took advantage of the NPTs Faustian bargain to give “peaceful” nuclear power to nations who promised not to make bombs and walked out of the treaty using the keys it got to its own bomb factory to make weapons.
At the NPT five year review conference this spring, the US, Canada, and the UK refused to agree to a final document because they couldn’t deliver Israel’s agreement on a promise made in 1995 to hold a Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone conference for the middleeast. South Africa, condemned the nuclear apartheid enshrined in the double standard of the NPT which allowed the five signers to not only keep their nukes but to continue to modernize them with Obama pledging one trillion dollars over the next thirty years for two new bomb factories, delivery systems and new nuclear weapons. Indeed, on the eve of the Pope’s UN talk, it was reported that the US is planning to upgrade its nuclear weapons stationed at a German NATO base, causing Russia to rattle a few nuclear sabers of its own. The obvious bad faith of the nuclear weapons states is paving the way for even more non-nuclear weapons states to create the legal taboo for nuclear weapons just as the world has done for other weapons of mass destruction. Inspired by the Pope’s talk, this may be a time to finally give peace a chance.
Alice Slater is New York Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and serves on the Coordinating Committee of World Beyond War
When all is said and done, what the recently-approved Iran nuclear agreement is all about is ensuring that Iran honors its commitment under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) not to develop nuclear weapons.
But the NPT—which was ratified in 1968 and which went into force in 1970—has two kinds of provisions. The first is that non-nuclear powers forswear developing a nuclear weapons capability. The second is that nuclear-armed nations divest themselves of their own nuclear weapons. Article VI of the treaty is quite explicit on this second point, stating: “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”
By John LaForge
Plutonium was named after Pluto, “god of the underworld,” Hades, or hell. It was created inside faulty reactors, concentrated, and machined by US scientists into the most devastating and horrifying of all weapons. Photos of what the Manhattan Project’s plutonium bomb did to human beings at Nagasaki prove the point. There is radioactive blowback in the fact that the thousands of tons of plutonium created since 1945 is so dangerously hot and long-lived that, like the underworld itself, nobody knows how to handle it at all -- except maybe to trivialize it.
Hoping perhaps to show that the bomb from hell can be transformed from a vengeful, self-destructive, nightmare demon, into a benign, peace-loving, fairy-tale prince, nuclear propagandists and their friends in Congress are establishing nuclear war theme parks -- without the taint of mass destruction -- at former bomb factories and nuclear weapons launch pads all across the country.
Tours are being offered at the “B Reactor,” on the Hanford Reservation in Washington State which in 2008 was declared a National Historic Landmark. Plutonium production reactors for the nuclear arsenal were sloppily operated there for decades, releasing large amounts of radioactive fallout and causing permanent tainting of groundwater which now threatens the Columbia River—cover it up, make it a destination.
By Paul DiRienzo
In a remote place in the desert of West Texas, outside the small town of Andrews, something dirty has been going on which threatens the water supply of nearly a third of America’s farmland (and perhaps the millions of people who eat the food grown using that water).
U.S. Bows Out After Plowshares Conviction is Vacated: Appeals Court Ill-Informed on Nuclear Overkill
By John LaForge
The 2012 Transform Now Plowshares anti-nuclear action made the “Fort Knox” of weapons-grade uranium look like “F Troop.” Three senior peace activists got through four chain-link fences and past multiple “lethal force” zones before stringing banners, spray-painting slogans and pouring blood on the Highly-Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee – all without being noticed by guards.
The guard that finally spotted the three activists – Sr. Megan Rice, 85, of New York City, Greg Boertje-Obed, 60, of Duluth, and Michael Walli, 66, of Washington, D.C. – testified that he knew a peace protest when he saw one. He had watched a lot of them while on duty at Rocky Flats, the former plutonium warhead factory near Denver, Colorado. That’s why he shrugged off official protocol and didn’t draw his gun on Greg, Megan and Michael that night.
By Dave Lindorff
I don’t know which is worse: President Obama asserting, in defense of the nuclear deal he and his Secretary of State John Kerry negotiated with Iran, that “The choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy and some form of war, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not three months from now, but soon,” or the fact that most Americans, and most American pundits, seem to accept that limited choice of options as a given.
This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week,
By David Swanson, Telesur
This August 6th and 9th millions of people will mark the 70th anniversary of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in those cities and at events around the world. Some will celebrate the recent deal in which Iran committed not to pursue nuclear weapons, and to comply with the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) and with requirements not imposed on any other nation.
Yet, those nations that have nuclear weapons are either violating the NPT by failing to disarm or by building more (U.S., Russia, U.K., France, China, India), or they have refused to sign the treaty (Israel, Pakistan, North Korea). Meanwhile new nations are acquiring nuclear energy despite possessing an abundance of oil and/or some of the best conditions for solar energy on earth (Saudi Arabia, Jordan, UAE).
Nuclear missiles containing more than the entire bombing power of World War II in a single bomb are aimed by the thousands at Russia from the United States and vice versa. A thirty-second fit of insanity in a U.S. or Russian president could eliminate all life on earth. And the United States is playing war games on Russia's border. The acceptance of this madness as normal and routine is part of the continued explosion of those two bombs, begun 70 years ago and rarely properly understood.
The dropping of those bombs and the explicit threat ever since to drop more is a new crime that has given birth to a new species of imperialism. The United States has intervened in over 70 nations -- more than one per year -- since World War II, and has now come full-circle to the re-militarization of Japan.
The history of the first U.S. militarization of Japan has been brought to light by James Bradley. In 1853 the U.S. Navy forced Japan open to U.S. merchants, missionaries, and militarism. In 1872 the U.S. military began training the Japanese in how to conquer other nations, with an eye on Taiwan.
Charles LeGendre, an American general training the Japanese in the ways of war, proposed that they adopt a Monroe Doctrine for Asia, that is a policy of dominating Asia in the way that the United States dominated its hemisphere. In 1873, Japan invaded Taiwan with U.S. military advisors and weaponry. Korea was next, followed by China in 1894. In 1904, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt encouraged Japan in attacking Russia. But he broke a promise to Japan by refusing to go public with his support for its Monroe Doctrine, and he backed Russia's refusal to pay Japan a dime following the war. The Japanese empire became seen as a competitor rather than a proxy, and the U.S. military spent decades planning for a war with Japan.
Harry Truman, who would order the nuclear bombings in 1945, spoke in the U.S. Senate on June 23, 1941: "If we see that Germany is winning," he said, "we ought to help Russia, and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible." Did Truman value Japanese lives above Russian and German? There is nothing anywhere to suggest that he did. A U.S. Army poll in 1943 found that roughly half of all GIs believed it would be necessary to kill every Japanese person on earth. William Halsey, who commanded U.S. naval forces in the South Pacific, vowed that when the war was over, the Japanese language would be spoken only in hell.
On August 6, 1945, President Truman announced: "Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, an important Japanese army base." Of course it was a city, not an army base at all. "Having found the bomb we have used it," Truman declared. "We have used it against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl Harbor, against those who have starved and beaten and executed American prisoners of war, and against those who have abandoned all pretense of obeying international law of warfare." Truman said nothing about reluctance or the price necessary for ending the war.
In fact, Japan had been trying to surrender for months, including in its July 13th cable sent to Stalin, who read it to Truman. Japan wanted only to keep its emperor, terms the United States refused until after the nuclear bombings. Truman's advisor James Byrnes wanted the bombs dropped to end the war before the Soviet Union could invade Japan. In fact, the Soviets attacked the Japanese in Manchuria on the same day as the Nagasaki bombing and overwhelmed them. The U.S. and the Soviets continued the war on Japan for weeks after Nagasaki. Then the Japanese surrendered.
The United States Strategic Bombing Survey concluded that, "… certainly prior to 31 December, 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November, 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated." One opponent of the nuclear bombings who had expressed this same view to the Secretary of War prior to the bombings was General Dwight Eisenhower. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral William D. Leahy agreed: "The use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender."
The war wasn't just over. The new American empire was launched. "The revulsion against war ... will be an almost insuperable obstacle for us to overcome," said General Electric CEO Charles Wilson in 1944. "For that reason, I am convinced that we must begin now to set the machinery in motion for a permanent wartime economy." And so they did. Although invasions were nothing new to the U.S. military, they now came on a whole new scale. And the ever-present threat of nuclear weapons use has been a key part of it.
Truman threatened to nuke China in 1950. The myth developed, in fact, that Eisenhower's enthusiasm for nuking China led to the rapid conclusion of the Korean War. Belief in that myth led President Richard Nixon, decades later, to imagine he could end the Vietnam War by pretending to be crazy enough to use nuclear bombs. Even more disturbingly, he actually was crazy enough. "The nuclear bomb, does that bother you? … I just want you to think big, Henry, for Christsakes," Nixon said to Henry Kissinger in discussing options for Vietnam. And how many times has Iran been reminded that "all options are on the table"?
A new campaign to abolish nuclear weapons is growing fast and deserves our support. But Japan is being remilitarized. And once again, the U.S. government imagines it will like the results. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with U.S. support, is reinterpreting this language in the Japanese Constitution:
"[T]he Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. ... [L]and, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained."
The new "reinterpretation," accomplished without amending the Constitution, holds that Japan can maintain land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, and that Japan will use war or threaten war to defend itself, to defend any of its allies, or to take part in a U.N.-authorized war anywhere on earth. Abe's "reinterpretation" skills would make the U.S. Office of Legal Counsel blush.
U.S. commentators are referring to this shift in Japan as "normalization" and expressing outrage at Japan's failure to engage in any wars since World War II. The U.S. government will now expect Japan's participation in any threat or use of war against China or Russia. But accompanying the return of Japanese militarism is the rise of Japanese nationalism, not Japanese devotion to U.S. rule. And even the Japanese nationalism is weak in Okinawa, where the movement to evict U.S. military bases grows stronger all the time. In remilitarizing Japan, rather than demilitarizing itself, the United States is playing with fire.
By Alice Slater
On this fateful day, 70 years ago, the first of the only two atomic bombs ever used was dropped on the city of Hiroshima, with a second catastrophic detonation wreaked on Nagasaki on August 9th , killing over 220,000 people by the end of 1945, with many tens of thousands of more dying from radiation poisoning and its lethal after effects over the years. Yet despite these horrendous cataclysms in Japan, there are still 16,000 nuclear weapons on the planet, all but 1,000 of them held by the US and Russia. Our legal structures to control and eliminate the bomb are in tatters, as the five recognized nuclear weapons states in the Non-Proliferation Treaty—the US, UK, Russia, France, China--cling to their nuclear deterrents, asserting they are needed for their “security” despite the promises they made in 1970, 45 long years ago, to make good faith efforts to eliminate their nuclear arms. This “security” in the form of nuclear “deterrence” is extended by the United States to many more countries in the NATO nuclear alliances as well as to the Pacific states of Japan, Australia, and South Korea. Non-NPT states, India, Pakistan and Israel, as well as North Korea which left the NPT, taking advantage of its Faustian bargain for “peaceful” nuclear power, to make nuclear weapons similarly claim their reliance on nuclear “deterrence” for their security.
The rest of the world is appalled, not only at the lack of progress to fulfill promises for nuclear disarmament, but the constant modernization and “improvement” of nuclear arsenals with the US announcing a plan to spend one trillion dollars over the next 30 years for two new bomb factories, delivery systems and warheads, having just tested a dummy nuclear bunker-buster warhead last month in Nevada, its B-61-12 nuclear gravity bomb! At this last NPT Review Conference in May, which broke up when the US, UK, and Canada refused to agree to an Egyptian proposal for a conference on a Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone, made to fulfill a 1995 promise as part of the commitments from the nuclear weapons states for an indefinite extension of the 25 year old NPT, the non- nuclear weapons states took a bold step. South Africa expressed its outrage at the unacceptable nuclear apartheid apparent in the current “security” system of nuclear haves and have nots—a system holding the whole world hostage to the security doctrine of the few.
In the past two years, after three major conferences with governments and civil society in Norway, Mexico and Austria to examine the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear war, over 100 nations signed up at the end of the NPT to the Austrian government’s Humanitarian Pledge to identify and pursue effective measures to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons. There are now 113 countries willing to move forward to negotiate a prohibition and ban on nuclear weapons to stigmatize and delegitimize these weapons of horror, just at the world has done for chemical and biological weapons. See www.icanw.org It is hoped that countries harboring under their nuclear umbrellas will also be pressured by civil society to give up their alliance with the nuclear devil and join the Humanitarian Pledge. This August, as we remember and commemorate around the world the horrendous events in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it’s long past time to ban the bomb! Let the talks begin!!