Quotable

"If I had foreseen Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I would have torn up my formula in 1905." - Albert Einstein




Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Calling on Obama to Take Concrete Action in Hiroshima

Editor's Note: President Obama will visit Hiroshima this Friday after the Group of Seven economic summit in Japan. This will be the first time a U.S. president has visited the city that was devastated in the atomic bombing of August 6, 1945.

At a time when the US is modernizing its nuclear forces at an estimated cost of a trillion dollars over thirty years, the President's visit to Hiroshima is an opportunity that will likely not come again. Yet many, such as American University Professor Peter Kuznick, are concerned that Obama will "use it as a cover for his militarization of the conflict with China and his trillion dollar nuclear modernization program to make nuclear weapons more usable."

Joseph Gerson, of the American Friends Service Committee, said, “President Obama should cancel this spending, revitalize disarmament diplomacy by announcing a reduction of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and challenge Russian President Putin to join in beginning negotiations to create the nuclear weapons-free world promised in Prague and required by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

Over seventy prominent scholars and activists signed the following letter urging President Obama to visit with Hibakusha, atomic bomb survivors, and to announce concrete steps toward nuclear disarmament during his visit to Hiroshima.

Whatever the President does and says in Hiroshima, his actions going forward toward the end of his term are what will count. He can take concrete steps to either end the new, rapidly escalating arms race or continue on the current path, one that will certainly come to no good end.


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May 23, 2016

President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, DC

Dear Mr. President,

We were happy to learn of your plans to be the first sitting president of the United States to visit Hiroshima later this week, after the G-7 economic summit in Japan. Many of us have been to Hiroshima and Nagasaki and found it a profound, life-changing experience, as did Secretary of State John Kerry on his recent visit.

In particular, meeting and hearing the personal stories of A-bomb survivors, Hibakusha, has made a unique impact on our work for global peace and disarmament. Learning of the suffering of the Hibakusha, but also their wisdom, their awe-inspiring sense of humanity, and steadfast advocacy of nuclear abolition so the horror they experienced can never happen again to other human beings, is a precious gift that cannot help but strengthen anyone’s resolve to dispose of the nuclear menace.

Your 2009 Prague speech calling for a world free of nuclear weapons inspired hope around the world, and the New START pact with Russia, historic nuclear agreement with Iran and securing and reducing stocks of nuclear weapons-grade material globally have been significant achievements.

Yet, with more than 15,000 nuclear weapons (93% held by the U.S. and Russia) still threatening all the peoples of the planet, much more needs to be done. We believe you can still offer crucial leadership in your remaining time in office to move more boldly toward a world without nuclear weapons.

In this light, we strongly urge you to honor your promise in Prague to work for a nuclear weapons-free world by:

• Meeting with all Hibakusha who are able to attend;

• Announcing the end of U.S. plans to spend $1 trillion for the new generation of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems;

• Reinvigorating nuclear disarmament negotiations to go beyond New START by announcing the unilateral reduction of the deployed U.S. arsenal to 1,000 nuclear weapons or fewer;

• Calling on Russia to join with the United States in convening the “good faith negotiations” required by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty for the complete elimination of the world’s nuclear arsenals;

• Reconsidering your refusal to apologize or discuss the history surrounding the A-bombings, which even President Eisenhower, Generals MacArthur, Arnold, and LeMay and Admirals Leahy , King, and Nimitz stated were not necessary to end the war.

Sincerely,

Gar Alperovitz, Co-Chair of The Next System Project, former Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political-Economy at the University of Maryland,

Christian Appy, Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Colin Archer, Secretary-General, International Peace Bureau

Charles K. Armstrong, Professor of History, Columbia University

Medea Benjamin, Co-founder, CODE PINK, Women for Peace and Global Exchange

Phyllis Bennis, Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies

Herbert Bix, Professor of History, State University of New York, Binghamton

Norman Birnbaum, University Professor Emeritus, Georgetown University Law Center

Reiner Braun, Co-President, International Peace Bureau

Philip Brenner, Professor of International Relations and Director of the Graduate Program in US Foreign Policy and National Security, American University

Jacqueline Cabasso, Executive Director, Western States Legal Foundation; National Co-convener, United for Peace and Justice

James Carroll, Author of An American Requiem

Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

David Cortright, Director of Policy Studies, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame and former Executive Director, SANE

Frank Costigliola, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor, University of Connecticut

Bruce Cumings, Professor of History, University of Chicago

Alexis Dudden, Professor of History, University of Connecticut

Daniel Ellsberg, Former State and Defense Department official

John Feffer, Director, Foreign Policy In Focus, Institute for Policy Studies

Gordon Fellman, Professor of Sociology and Peace Studies, Brandeis University.

Bill Fletcher, Jr., Talk Show Host, Writer & Activist.

Norma Field, Professor Emerita, University of Chicago

Carolyn Forché, University Professor, Georgetown University

Max Paul Friedman, Professor of History, American University.

Bruce Gagnon, Coordinator Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.

Lloyd Gardner, Professor of History Emeritus, Rutgers University.

Irene Gendzier Professor Emeritus, Department of of History, Boston University

Joseph Gerson, Director, American Friends Service Committee Peace & Economic Security Program,

Todd Gitlin, Professor of Sociology, Columbia University

Andrew Gordon, Professor of History, Harvard University

John Hallam, Human Survival Project, People for Nuclear Disarmament, Australia

Melvin Hardy, Heiwa Peace Committee, Washington, DC

Laura Hein, Professor of History, Northwestern University

Martin Hellman, Member, US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering, Stanford University

Kate Hudson, General Secretary, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (UK)

Paul Joseph, Professor of Sociology, Tufts University

Louis Kampf, Professor of Humanities Emeritus MIT

Michael Kazin, Professor of History, Georgetown University

Asaf Kfoury, Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science, Boston University.

G. Peter King, Honorary Associate, Government & International Relations School of Social and Political Sciences, The University of Sydney, NSW

David Krieger, President Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

Peter Kuznick, Professor of History and Director of the Nuclear Studies Institute, American University

John W. Lamperti, Professor of Mathematics Emeritus, Dartmouth College

Steven Leeper, Co-founder PEACE Institute, Former Chairman, Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation

Robert Jay Lifton, MD, Lecturer in Psychiatry Columbia University, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, The City University of New York

Elaine Tyler May, Regents Professor, University of Minnesota

Kevin Martin, President, Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund

Ray McGovern, Veterans For Peace, Former Head of CIA Soviet Desk and Presidential Daily Briefer

David McReynolds, Former Chair, War Resister International

Zia Mian, Professor, Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University

Tetsuo Najita, Professor of Japanese History, Emeritus, University of Chicago, former President of Association of Asian Studies

Sophie Quinn-Judge, Retired Professor, Center for Vietnamese Philosophy, Culture and Society, Temple University

Steve Rabson, Professor Emeritus of East Asian Studies, Brown University, Veteran, United States Army

Betty Reardon, Founding Director Emeritus of the International Institute on Peace Education, Teachers College, Columbia University

Terry Rockefeller, Founding Member, September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows,

David Rothauser Filmmaker, Memory Productions, Producer of "Hibakusha, Our Life to Live" and "Article 9 Comes to America

James C. Scott, Professor of Political Science and Anthropology, Yale University, ex-President of the Association of Asian Studies

Peter Dale Scott, Professor of English Emeritus, University of California, Berkleley

Mark Selden, Senior Research Associate Cornell University, editor, Asia-Pacific Journal,

Martin Sherwin, Professor of History, George Mason University

Tim Shorrock, Journalist, Washington DC.

John Steinbach, Hiroshima Nagasaki Committee

Oliver Stone, Academy Award-winning writer and director

David Swanson, director of World Beyond War

Max Tegmark, Professor of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Founder, Future of Life Institute

Ellen Thomas, Proposition One Campaign Executive Director, Co-Chair, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (US) Disarm/End Wars Issue Committee

Michael True, Emeritus Professor, Assumption College, is co-founder of the Center for Nonviolent Solutions

David Vine, Professor, Department of Sociology, American University

Alyn Ware, Global Coordinator, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament 2009 Laureate, Right Livelihood Award

Jon Weiner, Professor Emeritus of Histry, University of California Irvine

Lawrence Wittner, Professor of History Emeritus, SUNY/Albany

Col. Ann Wright, US Army Reserved (Ret.), former US diplomat

Marilyn Young, Professor of History, New York University

Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics; Coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies, University of San Francisco

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Trillion Dollar Question

By Lawrence 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 thirty-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 been largely ignored 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 state 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.

This article was originally published in the Huffington Post, March 17, 2016, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lawrence-wittner/the-trillion-dollar-question_b_9481432.html 

*Lawrence Wittner (http://www.lawrenceswittner.com) 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?

Sunday, January 31, 2016

POLITICAL RESPONSIBILITY IN THE NUCLEAR AGE: AN OPEN LETTER TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE


Prefatory Note [by Richard Falk]: What follows below is An Open Letter to the American People: Political Responsibility in the Nuclear Age. It was jointly written by myself in collaboration with David Krieger and Robert Laney. The three of us have been long connected with the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. For further information on the work of the foundation see wagingpeace.org. The NAPF focuses its effort on the menace posed by nuclear weaponry and the urgency of seeking nuclear disarmament. The nuclear agreement with Iran and the North Korean nuclear test explosion are reminders of the gravity of the unmet challenge, and should serve as warnings against the persistence of complacency, which seems to be the prevailing political mood judging from the policy debates that have taken place during the early stages of the 2016 presidential campaign. This complacency is encouraged by the media that seems to have forgotten about nuclear dangers since the end of the Cold War, except for those issues arising from the real and feared proliferation of the weaponry to countries hostile to the United States and the West (Iran, North Korea). Our letter proceeds on the assumption that the core of the problem is associated with the possession, development, and deployment of the weaponry, that is, with the nine nuclear weapons states. The essence of a solution is to eliminate existing nuclear weapons arsenals through a phased, verified process of nuclear disarmament as legally mandated by Article VI of the Nonproliferation Treaty (1968, 1970).

We would be grateful if you could help us reach the widest possible audience through reposting and dissemination via social media networks.


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by Richard Falk, David Krieger and Robert Laney

Dear fellow citizens:

By their purported test of a hydrogen bomb early in 2016, North Korea reminded the world that nuclear dangers are not an abstraction, but a continuing menace that the governments and peoples of the world ignore at their peril. Even if the test were not of a hydrogen bomb but of a smaller atomic weapon, as many experts suggest, we are still reminded that we live in the Nuclear Age, an age in which accident, miscalculation, insanity or intention could lead to devastating nuclear catastrophe.

What is most notable about the Nuclear Age is that we humans, by our scientific and technological ingenuity, have created the means of our own demise. The world currently is confronted by many threats to human wellbeing, and even civilizational survival, but we focus here on the particular grave dangers posed by nuclear weapons and nuclear war.

Even a relatively small nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan, with each country using 50 Hiroshima-size nuclear weapons on the other side’s cities, could result in a nuclear famine killing some two billion of the most vulnerable people on the planet. A nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia could destroy civilization in a single afternoon and send temperatures on Earth plummeting into a new ice age. Such a war could destroy most complex life on the planet. Despite the gravity of such threats, they are being ignored, which is morally reprehensible and politically irresponsible.

We in the United States are in the midst of hotly contested campaigns to determine the candidates of both major political parties in the 2016 presidential faceoff, and yet none of the frontrunners for the nominations have even voiced concern about the nuclear war dangers we face. This is an appalling oversight. It reflects the underlying situation of denial and complacency that disconnects the American people as a whole from the risks of use of nuclear weapons in the years ahead. This menacing disconnect is reinforced by the media, which has failed to challenge the candidates on their approach to this apocalyptic weaponry during the debates and has ignored the issue in their television and print coverage, even to the extent of excluding voices that express concern from their opinion pages. We regard it as a matter of urgency to put these issues back on the radar screen of public awareness.

We are appalled that none of the candidates running for the highest office in the land has yet put forward any plans or strategy to end current threats of nuclear annihilation, none has challenged the planned expenditure of $1 trillion to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and none has made a point of the U.S. being in breach of its nuclear disarmament obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In the presidential debates it has been a non-issue, which scandalizes the candidates for not raising the issue in their many public speeches and the media for not challenging them for failing to do so. As a society, we are out of touch with the most frightening, yet after decades still dangerously mishandled, challenge to the future of humanity.

There are nine countries that currently possess nuclear weapons. Five of these nuclear-armed countries are parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (U.S., Russia, UK, France and China), and are obligated by that treaty to negotiate in good faith for a cessation of the nuclear arms race and for nuclear disarmament. The other four nuclear-armed countries (Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea) are subject to the same obligations under customary international law. None of the nine nuclear-armed countries has engaged in such negotiations, a reality that should be met with anger and frustration, and not, as is now the case, with indifference. It is not only the United States that is responsible for the current state of denial and indifference. Throughout the world there is a false confidence that, because the Cold War is over and no nuclear weapons have been used since 1945, the nuclear dangers that once frightened and concerned people can now be ignored.

Rather than fulfill their obligations for negotiated nuclear disarmament, the nine nuclear-armed countries all rely upon nuclear deterrence and are engaged in modernization programs that will keep their nuclear arsenals active through the 21st century and perhaps beyond. Unfortunately, nuclear deterrence does not actually provide security to countries with nuclear arsenals. Rather, it is a hypothesis about human behavior, which is unlikely to hold up over time. Nuclear deterrence has come close to failing on numerous occasions and would clearly be totally ineffective, or worse, against a terrorist group in possession of one or more nuclear weapons, which has no fear of retaliation and may actually welcome it. Further, as the world is now embarking on a renewed nuclear arms race, disturbingly reminiscent of the Cold War, rising risks of confrontations and crises between major states possessing nuclear weapons increase the possibility of use.

As citizens of a nuclear-armed country, we are also targets of nuclear weapons. John F. Kennedy saw clearly that “Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident, or miscalculation, or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.” What President Kennedy vividly expressed more than 50 years ago remains true today, and even more so as the weapons proliferate and as political extremist groups come closer to acquiring these terrible weapons.

Those with power and control over nuclear weapons could turn this planet, unique in all the universe in supporting life, into the charred remains of a Global Hiroshima. Should any political leader or government hold so much power? Should we be content to allow such power to rest in any hands at all?

It is time to end the nuclear weapons era. We are living on borrowed time. The U.S., as the world’s most powerful country, must play a leadership role in convening negotiations. For the U.S. to be effective in leading to achieve Nuclear Zero, U.S. citizens must awaken to the need to act and must press our government to act and encourage others elsewhere, especially in the other eight nuclear-armed countries, to press their governments to act as well. It is not enough to be apathetic, conformist, ignorant or in denial. We all must take action if we want to save humanity and other forms of life from nuclear catastrophe. In this spirit, we are at a stage where we need a robust global solidarity movement that is dedicated to raising awareness of the growing nuclear menace, and the urgent need to act nationally, regionally and globally to reverse the strong militarist currents that are pushing the world ever closer to the nuclear precipice.

Nuclear weapons are the most immediate threat to humanity, but they are not the only technology that could play and is playing havoc with the future of life. The scale of our technological impact on the environment (primarily fossil fuel extraction and use) is also resulting in global warming and climate chaos, with predicted rises in ocean levels and many other threats – ocean acidification, extreme weather, climate refugees and strife from drought – that will cause massive death and displacement of human and animal populations.

In addition to the technological threats to the human future, many people on the planet now suffer from hunger, disease, lack of shelter and lack of education. Every person on the planet has a right to adequate nutrition, health care, housing and education. It is deeply unjust to allow the rich to grow richer while the vast majority of humanity sinks into deeper poverty. It is immoral to spend our resources on modernizing weapons of mass annihilation while large numbers of people continue to suffer from the ravages of poverty.

Doing all we can to move the world to Nuclear Zero, while remaining responsive to other pressing dangers, is our best chance to ensure a benevolent future for our species and its natural surroundings. We can start by changing apathy to empathy, conformity to critical thinking, ignorance to wisdom, denial to recognition, and thought to action in responding to the threats posed by nuclear weapons and the technologies associated with global warming, as well as to the need to address present human suffering arising from war and poverty.

The richer countries are challenged by migrant flows of desperate people that number in the millions and by the realization that as many as a billion people on the planet are chronically hungry and another two billion are malnourished, resulting in widespread growth stunting among children and other maladies. While ridding the world of nuclear weaponry is our primary goal, we are mindful that the institution of war is responsible for chaos and massive casualties, and that we must also challenge the militarist mentality if we are ever to enjoy enduring peace and security on our planet.

The fate of our species is now being tested as never before. The question before us is whether humankind has the foresight and discipline necessary to forego some superfluous desires, mainly curtailing propensities for material luxuries and for domination of our fellow beings, thereby enabling all of us and succeeding generations to live lives worth living. Whether our species will rise to this challenge is uncertain, with current evidence not reassuring.

The time is short and what is at risk is civilization and every small and great thing that each of us loves and treasures on our planet.

The authors are affiliated with the Santa Barbara based Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

Vaya aquí para la versión española.

Original Source URL: https://www.wagingpeace.org/political-responsibility-in-the-nuclear-age-an-open-letter-to-the-american-people/


Thursday, January 21, 2016

King & Obama: A Tale of Two Legacies

Friends,

On January 26th the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists will announce whether the minute hand of the historic “Doomsday Clock” will be adjusted. . The Doomsday Clock is that icon of the nuclear age that, since 1947, has conveyed “how close we are to destroying our civilization with dangerous technologies of our own making.” The hands of the clock are currently at 3 Minutes to Midnight, and one can only hope they will not be set closer to that fateful hour.


Much of the world knows Dr. King as one of the great peacemakers of all time. What many people are not aware of is just how deep was King's opposition not only to war, but also to nuclear weapons.

Dr. King warned us, in his famous “World House” essay that:
When scientific power outruns spiritual power, we end up with guided missiles and misguided men.
As we consider the current and pending position of the minute hand on the Doomsday Clock in the context of Dr. King's recent birthday it is hard not to consider the stark contrast between his legacy and the legacy being created by U.S. President Barack Obama. Two Nobel Peace Prize recipients - two radically different paths.

Dr. King was an extraordinary orator. His words flowed deep from within his spiritual consciousness that was rooted in the struggles of human beings for their basic rights. They inspired people to come together in the spirit of nonviolence to build a better world. He most certainly lived out the words he spoke.

On the other hand President Obama, a prisoner of the National Security State and Military-Industrial Complex, is quite the orator, although his rhetoric has fallen far short. In his famous 2009 Prague speech Obama stated, “America's commitment to see the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” and specified that the United States would “reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, and urge others to do the same.” Nearly seven years later these words are nothing but empty promises.

Rebuilding the infrastructure that develops, builds and maintains nuclear weapons is not "progress." Rebuilding nuclear warheads and bombs is not “progress.” Moving ahead with plans to build a new generation of ballistic missile submarines, bombers, and land based missiles is most certainly not “progress.”



As the President begins his last year in office, and with the greatest nuclear weapons modernization effort (since the end of the Cold War) underway, we must ask what legacy will he leave?

What would Dr. King say to President Obama as he approaches final year in office? I imagine him speaking of the President's two daughters and asking,"Mr. President, what legacy do you want to leave for your children Malia and Sasha, and indeed what legacy do you want to leave for all the children of the world? Mr. President, just when is our nation going to truly lead the world to peace? When will we learn to live together in this great big World House that we all share? You and I know, Mr. President, that the alternative to disarmament is the dark abyss of annihilation? So Mr. President, what legacy will it be?"

Getting back on track toward Obama's vision in his Prague speech will require extraordinary vision, engagement and decisive action. Engagement and action already face strong opposition on many levels in both the civilian and military sectors of the government and on Wall Street. The President will not be moved to lead the world toward disarmament without significant prodding from civil society.

Certainly, since the end of the Cold War, a malaise set in as people assumed the peace dividend had eradicated the nuclear menace, and so they went about business as usual. Yet, the few in control of humanity's destiny have continued to make preparations for the unspeakable.

It is time for all citizens, and not just a small percentage, to be informed about the issues surrounding nuclear weapons and how they affect all of us. It is time for citizens to step forward and become engaged in decisions that were never in their hands in the first place, but should have been. It is time to bring nuclear weapons into the center of a public dialogue and debate, and for the citizenry to make its voice heard loud and clear in the halls of The White House, Congress and the Pentagon (and beyond).

If this United States in which we live is to be a true democracy, then it is up to us as citizens to make it so. And there is no greater issue, in terms of the survival of humanity, in which we can (and must) become engaged than the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Dr. King once said that "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." King understood that change (at least lasting change) does not occur overnight. It is a long, hard struggle, as evidenced by every struggle for human rights throughout history.

Therein lies one major difference between Dr. King and President Obama. In his Prague speech, Obama recognized that, "This goal will not be reached quickly –- perhaps not in my lifetime." The difference is that Dr. King didn't stop working toward his goals even though he knew they may not be realized in his lifetime.

We, as citizens, must remind President Obama that he needs to change course and be in this for the long haul - for the sake of his children and all the children of the world. And – We must do it now!

So - Happy Birthday Martin. May our gift to you be our commitment to a nonviolent world free of the scourges of war and nuclear weapons.

Peace,


Leonard

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Nuclear War: No Cure - Only Prevention (A Call to Medical Professionals)

Editor's Note: This is an important perspective from physicians deeply invested in ridding the world of the scourge of nuclear weapons. They know quite well that for nuclear war, there is no cure - only prevention. Medical professionals have a particular responsibility to support the movement to abolish nuclear weapons, and this letter is a direct appeal. It was recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine

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Perspective
Docs and Nukes — Still a Live Issue
Ira Helfand, M.D., and Victor W. Sidel, M.D.
October 14, 2015 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1509202

Seventy years ago, the medical profession alerted the world to the devastating effects of nuclear weapons. Just weeks after the bombing of Hiroshima, Dr. Marcel Junod, a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Japan, visited the devastated city and sent back one of the first eyewitness reports to reach the outside world: “The center of the city was a sort of white patch, flattened and smooth like the palm of a hand. Nothing remained.”

Ever since that time, members of the medical profession have played a key role in warning governments and the public about the danger of nuclear war and the urgent need to abolish nuclear weapons. During the period of intense international tension that preceded the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Journal devoted the issue of May 31, 1962, to articles prepared by members of the newly formed Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), detailing the medical consequences of nuclear war.

During the period of increased Cold War tension in the early 1980s, the medical community mobilized again to educate the public about the enormous threat to public health posed by the arms race. Working with PSR, medical schools throughout the country organized public symposia to explain what would actually happen if nuclear weapons were used. A newly formed global federation called the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), of which PSR became the U.S. affiliate, carried out similar educational work around the world. Doctors met with Presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev to urge them to end the arms race that had brought the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation.

These efforts had a profound impact. In his memoirs, Gorbachev described the effect his meetings with physicians had on his thinking about nuclear weapons when he was launching the series of initiatives, ultimately embraced by the United States, that led to the end of the arms race. For this work, and in recognition of the special role and responsibility that physicians have had in preventing nuclear war, the IPPNW was awarded the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize.

In the years since the end of the Cold War, the medical community has paid far less attention to this issue. We, like most of the world, have acted as though the danger of nuclear war were a thing of the past. To the extent that we have considered the matter, we have focused on the possibility that terrorists or “rogue states” such as North Korea and Iran will acquire nuclear weapons. Although these are important threats, it is critical that we understand that the greatest danger is posed by the arsenals of the countries that already have nuclear weapons. There remain in the world today more than 15,000 nuclear warheads, 95% of which are in the arsenals of the United States and Russia.(1) Of these warheads, some 2000 are on hair-trigger alert. They can be fired in less than 15 minutes and can destroy their targets across the globe 30 minutes later.

These weapons pose an existential threat to humanity. A 2002 study showed that if just 300 Russian warheads got through to targets in the United States, 75 million to 100 million people would die from the blast and heat effects in the first half hour.(2) In addition, the entire economic infrastructure on which we depend would be destroyed. The public health system, the communications network, the electric grid, the banking system, the food distribution system — all would be gone. In the months after such an attack, the vast majority of Americans not killed in the initial attack would die from starvation, radiation sickness, epidemic disease, or exposure to the elements. A corresponding U.S. attack would create the same devastation in Russia, and if NATO were drawn into the war, much of Europe would suffer the same fate.

As incomprehensible as these direct effects are, they are only a part of the picture. The fires created by the use of nuclear weapons over urban targets would loft enormous quantities of black soot into the atmosphere, disrupting climate worldwide. A war involving the strategic weapons deployed today by the United States and Russia would generate some 150 million tons of soot, enough to reduce temperatures around the world by an average of 8°C. In the interior regions of North America and Eurasia, temperatures would drop by as much as 30°C, to levels not seen in 18,000 years, since the coldest point of the last ice age.(3) Food production would collapse, the vast majority of the human race would starve, and it's possible that our species would become extinct.

For 25 years, since the end of the Cold War, we have been told that we did not need to worry about war between the United States and Russia. The deepening crisis in Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin's repeated nuclear threats give the lie to these assurances: armed conflict between the nuclear superpowers remains a real possibility. Even if neither side ever uses its nuclear weapons deliberately, there remains the very real danger of accidental nuclear war. We know of at least five times since 1979 when either Moscow or Washington prepared to launch nuclear weapons in the mistaken belief that it was already under attack by the other side. U.S. military leaders now warn that cyberterrorists might be able to launch a U.S. or Russian nuclear missile.

Even a much more limited, regional nuclear war, as might take place between India and Pakistan, would have catastrophic consequences worldwide. Studies have shown that a war involving only 100 Hiroshima-sized weapons, less than 0.3% of the world's nuclear arsenals, would cause temperatures to fall an average of 1.25°C around the world.(4) Climate disruption of this magnitude would cause major declines in world agricultural output. At this time, there are some 800 million people who are malnourished and 300 million who get adequate nutrition but live in countries that depend on food imports that would not be available in the event of such a war. There are also about 1 billion people in China, which would see particularly severe effects on food production, who have not shared in China's recent economic growth. All these people, some 2 billion, would be at risk in the “nuclear famine” that would follow even a limited nuclear war.(5)

In recognition of this grave threat to human survival, governments around the world have come together over the past 3 years in a series of extraordinary conferences to discuss the medical consequences, what they have called the humanitarian impact, of nuclear war. A total of 116 countries have signed the Humanitarian Pledge to seek a new treaty to fill a key gap in international law, which does not yet prohibit the possession of these weapons, and to push for their abolition.

We believe the medical community has a responsibility to support this movement. The American Medical Association recently passed a resolution calling on all nations to “ban and eliminate nuclear weapons,” and the World Medical Association is considering a similar resolution at its Moscow meeting in October. Physicians need to act on these resolutions, sounding the alarm for a world that has grown dangerously complacent about the nuclear peril as we drift closer to an unimaginable catastrophe. We need to again educate our patients, the general public, and our political leaders about the medical consequences of nuclear war and the urgent need to abolish these weapons before they are used.

Disclosure forms provided by the authors are available with the full text of this article at NEJM.org.

This article was published on October 14, 2015, at NEJM.org. Source URL: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1509202#t=article

From Physicians for Social Responsibility, Washington, DC (I.H., V.W.S.); the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Somerville (I.H., V.W.S.), Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Leeds (I.H., V.W.S.), and the Family Care Medical Center, Springfield (I.H.) — all in Massachusetts; and the Department of Social Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center, New York (V.W.S.).

References

1) Federation of American Scientists. Status of world nuclear forces (http://fas.org/issues/nuclear-weapons/status-world-nuclear-forces/).

2) Helfand I, Forrow L, McCally M, Musil R. Projected US casualties and destruction of US medical services from attack by Russian nuclear forces. Med Glob Surviv 2002;7:68-76

3) Robock A, Oman L, Stenchikov GL. Nuclear winter revisited with a modern climate model and current nuclear arsenals: still catastrophic consequences. J Geophys Res 2007;112:xD13107-xD13107 (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/wol1/doi/10.1029/2006JD008235/full).

4) Robock A, Oman L, Stenchikov GL, Toon OB, Bardeen C, Turco RP. Climatic consequences of regional nuclear conflicts. Atmos Chem Phys 2007;7:2003-2012
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5) Helfand I. Nuclear famine: two billion people at risk? International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (http://www.ippnw.org/nuclear-famine.html).