Quotable

“America’s nuclear willy has to be bigger than anyone else’s, or it fails it in its task of projecting power." - George Kerevan, who writes for The National, a Scottish news daily



Thursday, July 2, 2015

Nuclear weapons contradict every principle of humanitarian law (Judge Weeramantry)

Editor's Note: I recently attended the Peace and Planet Conference in New York, held just prior to the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.  At its first plenary, Jackie Cabasso, director of Western States Legal Foundation, read the following message on the illegality of nuclear weapons from Judge Christopher Weeramantry. Judge Weeramantry was one of the 15 judges on the International Court of Justice that rendered the famous advisory opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons in 1996.

The Total Illegality of Nuclear Weapons
and
The Imperative Need for Their Abolition
 
24 April 2015
 
Judge Christopher Weeramantry
Former Vice-President, International Court of Justice
Co-President, International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms
Weeramantry International Center for Peace Education and Research
Colombo, Sri Lanka
 
It gives much pleasure to send a message to the Peace and Planet Conference, held by civil society on the eve of the 2015 NPT Review Conference.

Never since the human race evolved has it faced a danger so devastating to all its past achievements and so destructive of its future expectations as it faces today. Thousands of weapons are today assembled in the arsenals of the world, each of which, even by itself, is fraught with greater peril to all humanity and to future generations then all the brutality of all the weapons cumulatively used in the wars of past centuries. The cruelty of all the tyrants of the past pales into insignificance in comparison with the proven cruelty of the nuclear weapon.

Yet, the legal professions of the world, the governments of the world, the religious assemblies of the world, the educational systems of the world and the general public of the world, who should be crying out from the rooftops for the immediate abolition of the weapon, are not even heard in the corridors of power.

It is amazing that this danger should have continued not merely to exist but also to expand in intensity through nearly three generations after the brutality of the weapon was demonstrated to all the world through its use in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We, who should now be at the very apex of human civilization, seem on the contrary to be ready at a moment’s notice to plunge all humanity into the very depths of brutality.

This is what the nuclear weapon means to every citizen on planet earth and every citizen who will inhabit the planet for a thousand generations to come. Future generations, whose inherent rights to health and a pure environment are being trampled under-foot by our generation, would raise their hands in disbelief that a weapon of such known brutality should have been permitted to remain on the planet. They would be even more shocked to know that these weapons were permitted to increase in intensity through three generations, and even more surprisingly through three generations during which human rights and the rights of future generations have been the subject of much attention.

The next time a nuclear weapon is used it will not be on a helpless target, with no possibility of retaliation. In a world of multiple conflicts, of proliferation of nuclear weapons, of
burgeoning terrorist movements, of spreading knowledge regarding their manufacture, of easy availability of raw materials and of a plenitude of funds for this purpose, the need for control and elimination of nuclear weapons is a thousand times greater than it was in the days of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


Moreover, when the weapons start flying in both directions, all scientific studies make it patently clear that a nuclear winter will result, blotting out sunlight from large sections of the planet, devastating crops, depriving all humanity of food and reducing human life to the darkness of the Stone Age.

It is remarkable also that world religions and systems of humanitarian thought for thousands of years have condemned the use of hyper-destructive weapons. For example Hinduism, over three thousand years ago, condemned the use of a hyper-destructive weapon which was said to have the potential to ravage the enemy’s countryside and decimate its population. The Lateran Council in the twelfth century condemned the use of even the crossbow as being too cruel to be used in warfare. Islamic law condemned even the use of a poisoned arrow.

Humanitarian law has for centuries condemned the use of weapons that cause unnecessary suffering. Yet, strangely enough, the nuclear weapon defies all these prohibitions and hangs like the sword of Damocles over the entire human race. The Dum-dum bullet which explodes on entering the victim’s body was condemned in the 19 century as too cruel to be used amongst civilized nations, yet strangely enough the nuclear weapon persists.

The weapon contradicts every principle of humanitarian law, every principle of international law and every principle of religious teaching. Either its days are numbered or the days of human civilisation are numbered.

It is for us to make the choice.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Brief Case for Abolishing Nuclear Weapons

By David Hall, MD*

Nuclear arsenals are a big deal again: extravagantly expensive, militarily unusable, environmentally devastating, morally reprehensible, and now being rebuilt for threatened, accidental, or intentional use to the next century.

Nuclear weapon states have reversed course. In 2010 the USA committed to modernizing its entire nuclear weapons complex as a condition for signing the New START treaty with Russia with its small reductions in both nuclear arsenals. India and Pakistan have been steadily enlarging their small arsenals for years. China and Russia are now building new ballistic missile submarines.

We are in a new global nuclear arms race as the nuclear weapon states continue to follow the US modernization initiative. The hostile or even accidental use of just one modern nuclear bomb would be globally catastrophic, many times the devastation and death toll of the 911 attacks on the US World Trade Center. If used they would violate every international humanitarian law and treaty, would constitute a crime against humanity, and so-called deterrence would have failed. Security through “deterrence” in a multilateral suicidal nuclear world is “specious and illusory.” (Pope Francis)

The trillion dollar modernization of the US arsenal does not meet basic standards for ethical, moral, or rational behavior. The driving force behind modernization is the military-industrial-Congressional complex protecting jobs building these weapons of mass murder.

“The truth is that the President only had a superficial understanding” of what would happen in a nuclear war, [Ex-Chief of Nuclear Forces General Lee ] Butler says. Congress knew even less because no lawmaker has ever had access to the war plan, and most academics could only make ill-informed guesses.”

In place of this specious and potentially suicidal policy, we must pursue cooperative global security initiatives that can address serious global threats to life on Earth - the root causes of a potential nuclear war - climate change, severe poverty, ethnic and religious intolerance - and access to loose fissile materials to make a bomb.

Continuing to upgrade and build new weapons of mass destruction invites a world like Johannesburg during apartheid with nuclear armed barriers between rich and poor.

We need a global Truth and Reconciliation Commission to bring us together before we blow ourselves back to the Dark Ages.

*Dr. David Hall is a child and family psychiatrist and a past president of local and national PSR. For over 20 years he has campaigned for the abolition of all weapons of mass destruction. He is active with Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action and its work to abolish the Trident nuclear weapon system.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Real Problem with Defense Contracting

Op-Ed by Glen Milner*

Representative Kilmer’s op-ed, “Fix broken defense contracting,” failed to address the real problem with defense acquisition (Seattle Times, April 23, 2015)

Kilmer stated that the defense sector is an economic driver in Washington State and that Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) and Naval Base Kitsap combine for more than $12 billion in economic impact per year. But this figure belies the fact that the two bases (not including 324,000 acres for JBLM at the Yakima Training Complex) take up 97,400 acres of prime real estate in Pierce and Kitsap Counties including valuable waterfront on Puget Sound. This is more acreage than the entire City of Seattle and would likely bring a greater economic gain if used by the private sector.

We are told that greater efficiency for defense acquisition will benefit our local economy. First on Kilmer’s list is to fully reverse automatic spending cuts known as sequestration for the military. However, no mention is made of the tax increases and/or cuts to social programs needed to end sequestration and increase funds for military programs.

Kilmer and other members of Congress are promoting a six-year process to streamline acquisition that will “maximize the capabilities and strengths of our military.”

The bigger problem with defense acquisition is the promotion and procurement of multiple weapons programs that become more expensive with each successive year. Nuclear weapons programs provide an example. The Air Force is currently planning for new long range nuclear bombers and replacement intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) while the Navy is building a replacement SSBN-X nuclear submarine.

These nuclear weapons delivery systems and other plans to upgrade our nuclear arsenal will cost nearly $1 trillion over the next 30 years. Many of these long range programs have already begun even though their combined costs are too expensive to complete.

 
Kilmer is a strong proponent of the Navy’s Trident nuclear submarine base in his 6th Congressional District. According to a 2015 Congressional Research Service report, the projected budget for the SSBN-X replacement submarine program for FY 2016 is $1.39 billion with the planned procurement of the first submarine in 2021. The 12 replacement submarines are expected to cost nearly $100 billion with the last submarine being placed into service in 2042.

The $100 billion for replacement submarines does not include the $1.2 billion the Navy is currently spending each year for upgrades to the existing Trident D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles. By 2042, the end of the service life of the D-5 missiles, new missiles will have to be designed, tested, and deployed. The Navy has not publicly discussed the cost for the replacement missiles for the new SSBN-X submarines.

Last year Congress created a new military account for the replacement submarines, called the “National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund.” Congress has yet to allocate funds to the account.

Never mind if our nation actually needs more advanced weapon systems. As Kilmer and other members of Congress ponder ways to simplify and streamline the acquisition process for the military, costs will continue to spin out of control.

The way to fix defense acquisition is to start making cuts in defense spending, the sooner the better.

*Glen Milner lives in Lake Forest Park and is a researcher and activist with Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action in Poulsbo. See www.gzcenter.org. Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action is also on Facebook.

A partial list of references:

http://choosewashingtonstate.com/why-washington/our-key-sectors/military-defense

http://www.defenseone.com/management/2015/04/pentagon-we-cant-afford-replace-aging-icbms-bombers-subs/110134

http://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/fix-broken-defense-contracting

http://kilmer.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/major-defense-bill-passes-house-with-kilmer-backed-initiatives

http://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2015/02/obamas-trillion-dollar-nuclear-weapons-gamble/104217

http://www.dodbuzz.com/2015/01/07/pentagon-ohio-replacement-funding-300-ship

http://fas.org/sgp/crs/weapons/R41129.pdf

http://www.armscontrol.org/blog/ArmsControlNow/2015-03-12/Nuclear-Weapons-Could-Require-10-percent-of-Defense-Budget

http://www.answers.com/Q/How_many_acres_is_the_city_of_Seattle  Seattle is 91,200 acres compared to the 97,400 acres for the two military bases. I checked this figure with the 142.5 square miles at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seattle and other sources.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Arresting the Wrong Suspects

Contributed by John LaForge

NEW YORK, NY – Here at the United Nations, talk is focused on the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (N-P.T.). At about 11 a.m. Apr. 28, I was handcuffed with 21 other nuclear realists after blocking an entrance to the US Mission. I say “realists” because US media won’t pay much attention to US violations of nuclear weapons treaties unless somebody is taken off to jail.
Barrels of ink are used detailing Iran’s non-existent nuclear arsenal. The US has about 2,000 nuclear weapons ready to launch and used as ticking time bombs every day by presidents — the way gunslingers can get the dough without ever pulling the trigger. Deterrence it is not.

(l to R) Carol Gilbert, John LaForge and Ardeth Platte showing the 450 U.S.
land-based missiles that hold the world under the threat of nuclear omnicide.
When we were ordered to leave or face arrest, we called ourselves crime-stoppers and asked the officers to arrest the real scofflaws. We were packed into vans and driven to the 17th Precinct. Our band of nuclear abolitionists concluded long ago that US nuclear banditry and pollutionism was worth dramatizing for a day, or a month, or a lifetime.


We talked while the cops worked through the booking routine. David McReynolds, 85, the long-time staff member of War Resisters League (Ret.), asked us all to watch when he exited the van to see that he didn’t lose his balance. I wondered if I’d have the guts to keep doing these actions if I get to the wobbly decades.


The day before, Sec. of State John Kerry double-spoke to the Gen. Assembly, promising both to continue with US nuclear posturing and to dream of a nuclear-free world. I skipped his puffery and went to hear Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico explain the US government’s plans for three new H-bomb factories (one each in Tenn., Kansas and New Mexico), and plans for building 80 new plutonium warheads every year until 2027. In 1996, the World Court declared the N-P.T.’s pledge to eliminate nuclear weapons to be a binding, unequivocal and unambiguous legal obligation. Our arrest citation is ironic because it’s the US that has “refused a lawful order.”



Back in the police truck, time dragged. Somebody said we should share a few political jokes. Q: “Why are statistics just like prison inmates?” A: “If you torture them enough, they’ll tell you anything you want to hear.” Bad prison puns are easy to come by among political dissidents.

Finally inside the precinct, I sat in the holding cell next to Jerry Goralnick, a playwright with The Living Theatre, who is trying to get a script staged involving the jail-house relationship between Dorothy Day and a colleague who shared a cell for 90 days. Day, a founder of the Catholic Worker movement, and her friend were jailed in New York City for refusing to obey civil defense officers and go down into fallout shelters. It was during the delusional era of “winnable” nuclear war. Their defiance was a simple case of refusing to lie about nuclear weapons. They were realists who knew that the 10-square-mile firestorms ignited by H-bombs suck all the air out of fallout shelters where the huddled then suffocate. They knew there is no defense under such nuclear conflagration, that survivors would envy the dead.

These days, nuclear war planning goes on 6 stories below Strategic Command HQ at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha. Deep in Strat-Com’s sub-basements, technicians with the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff select people and places to be incinerated if need be. The targets are lands belonging to US trading partners, allies and friends that have the Bomb — China, Russia, India, Pakistan — and non-nuclear countries like Iran and North Korea (which may have 3 nukes but have no way to deliver them).

This target planning has been going on for decades. A few thousand hard-bitten, nuclear-obsessed optimists have been crying “foul” about it the whole while. I was in custody with 21 of them for a few hours. It was a relief to be there.

Our complaint, which should be on display at the June 24 court arraignment, is that nuclear weapons producers, deployers and trigger men in the US (the ones we’re responsible for), are criminal gangsters, dangerous sociopaths, members of a global terror cell making non-stop bomb threats that they disguise with a theatrical hoax called “deterrence.”

I’ve seen this legal argument succeed in court only twice, but those two not-guilty verdicts convince me that the law is on our side. Dum-dum bullets, nerve gas, landmines, cluster bombs, chemical agents, biological weapons and poison are all illegal — banned by Treaties. Nuclear warheads do all the harm of these outlawed weapons combined — plus mutagenic and teratogenic damage to multiple generations. Our State Department man says the Bomb is unfortunate and legal — but the Secretary Has No Clothes.

The Isaiah Wall, across the street from the UN, during the vigil prior to the
nonviolent blockade of the U.S. Mission to the UN
While UN member states argue over whether the possession of H-bombs violates the N-P.T., I’ll stay with the realists just out of handcuffs — at least until the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff and Mr. Kerry are charged with disturbing the peace.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
— John LaForge works for Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog group in Wisconsin, edits its Quarterly newsletter, and is syndicated through PeaceVoice.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

We the people: for a better world

Editor's Note: I have just returned from New York where I participated in a host of activities surrounding the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. I am not naïve; I know that the NPT was conceived out of avarice and power, and a desire of the nuclear weapons states (led by the U.S.) to keep others out of the exclusive nuclear club. 45 years of empty promises has convinced me that the nuclear weapons states will not live up to their moral or legal responsibilities to disarm without a groundswell of global citizen-led pressure. Ray Acheson's editorial below is a concise perspective on our responsibility in navigating the road ahead.

Ray Acheson is Director of Critical Will, a project of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Learn more (and keep up with this year's NPT Review Conference) at the Reaching Critical Will website.

*******************

Editorial: We the people

Ray Acheson | Reaching Critical Will of WILPF

Last week more than 900 women and men from 80 countries gathered in The Hague to celebrate 100 years of peacemaking with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and to set a new agenda for peace for the 21st century. Now WILPF is in New York at the NPT Review Conference. Our participation in these very different conferences has one thing in common: our intention is to confront and challenge the structures of power that privilege the few over the many, that undermine international law, and that impede human security.

WILPF’s 100th anniversary conference strongly confronted the corporate and military take-over of governments and the resulting preservation of power over the protection of human beings. “The UN Charter states ‘We the people,’ not ‘I, the hegemonic nation state’,” declared Madeleine Rees, WILPF’s Secretary General. The Charter and the rest of the UN system and body of international law surrounding it are designed to promote peace over violence, law over war.

But this system is not working effectively against the structures of power that prevent the achievement of peace and justice. The NPT has also failed in this regard.

The NPT demands that every effort be made to “avert the devastation of a nuclear war” and to take measures that would “safeguard the security of peoples”. It requires the cessation of the manufacture of nuclear weapons and the total elimination of all stockpiles of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems.

Yet five states parties continue to possess and even modernise and extend the lives of their nuclear weapons, while another 30 or so include nuclear weapons in their security doctrines.

The possession of nuclear weapons, argued South Africa’s delegation, privileges the security interests of a few states “at the expense of the rest of humanity.” And these few are so far unwilling to relinquish this particular tool of domination. The five NPT nuclear-armed state parties reiterated last week that “an incremental, step-by-step approach is the only practical and realistic option for making progress towards nuclear disarmament, while upholding global strategic security and stability.” 26 of their nuclear-dependent allies proclaimed the need to work “methodically and with realism,” imperiously asserting, “There are no short cuts.”

If these states were actually engaged in serious, concrete, time-bound, transparent, verifiable actions for nuclear disarmament, they might have a leg to stand on. But they are not. And their security doctrines assert the importance of nuclear weapons for security—principally, for deterring conflict by threatening massive nuclear violence.

The idea that nuclear weapons can prevent conflict or afford security to anyone has been firmly rejected by the vast majority of governments. And there is a new sense of empowerment developing amongst the peoples and governments of countries that reject nuclear weapons. While some states, such as Belgium, continue to believe that “nuclear disarmament will happen when nuclear-weapon states will no longer feel the need to have them,” most have shaken off this submissive position and are demanding real change, now.

We are told that we are being divisive by doing so. But just as we must stand up to those who abuse and then blame their victims for their abhorrent behaviour, we must reject this accusation. We must not accept a framing that a ban treaty is polarising or divisive, said the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) in its statement to the Review Conference. “Adopting a new international legal standard to prohibit nuclear weapons is a responsibility.”

It is everyone’s responsibility to challenge power and privilege and to fight for the rights of humanity over the interests of a few states. Whether we are at a women’s peace conference aimed at stopping war and violence or at a treaty review conference focused on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, this responsibility lies at the centre of all of our actions. Whether banning nuclear weapons or standing up to patriarchy we are demanding and designing a better world for all.