“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

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.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Who Are the Nuclear Scofflaws? by Lawrence Wittner

Editor's Note: Almost every day I find something in the corporate news media about Iran and its (alleged) quest for nuclear weapons. With so many wringing their hands and sounding the alarm about a nuclear Iran, one might think we're all going to need Prozac (FDA-approved for panic disorder) any day now. A major irony of this situation is that we are completely ignoring the elephant in the room - the already existing warheads (approximately 15,645) of the confirmed nuclear nations, many of which are deployed on missiles, ready to launch.

That nations (led by the US and Israel) scream and shout about Iran while essentially ignoring the clear and present danger posed by the existence of so many nuclear weapons (by nations prepared to use them) in an increasingly tense, new Cold War that is brewing, is madness and is a crime against humanity.

Enter the calm, clear voice of the respected historian of the nuclear age and the movement to abolish nuclear weapons. Lawrence Wittner wrote the following article to offer an important perspective on the current nuclear conundrum, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and the Upcoming NPT Review Conference. The big question is, "What will it take to move the nuclear weapons states in a positive direction (towards disarmament)?"

In his book Confronting the Bomb, Wittner wrote that it is not the conventional explanation of "deterrence" that has saved the world from nuclear annihilation over the past 65 years, but a "massive nuclear disarmament movement." Let us hope that we will have a “massive” presence in New York City this April to send a clear message to the nuclear weapons states that the time for disarmament is NOW!

Who Are the Nuclear Scofflaws? 

By Lawrence S. Wittner

Dr. Lawrence Wittner (http://lawrenceswittner.com) is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. He is the author of "Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement" (Stanford University Press).

Test launch of a Trident submarine-launched ballistic missile
Given all the frothing by hawkish U.S. Senators about Iran’s possible development of nuclear weapons, one might think that Iran was violating the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

But it’s not. The NPT, signed by 190 nations and in effect since 1970, is a treaty in which the non-nuclear nations agreed to forgo developing nuclear weapons and the nuclear nations agreed to divest themselves of their nuclear weapons. It also granted nations the right to develop peaceful nuclear power. The current negotiations in which Iran is engaged with other nations are merely designed to guarantee that Iran, which signed the NPT, does not cross the line from developing nuclear power to developing nuclear weapons.

Nine nations, however, have flouted the NPT by either developing nuclear weapons since the treaty went into effect or failing to honor the commitment to disarm. These nine scofflaws and their nuclear arsenals are Russia (7,500 nuclear warheads), the United States (7,100 nuclear warheads), France (300 nuclear warheads), China (250 nuclear warheads), Britain (215 nuclear warheads), Pakistan (100-120 nuclear warheads), India (90-110 nuclear warheads), Israel (80 nuclear warheads), and North Korea (10 nuclear warheads).

Nor are the nuclear powers likely to be in compliance with the NPT any time soon. The Indian and Pakistani governments are engaged in a rapid nuclear weapons buildup, while the British government is contemplating the development of a new, more advanced nuclear weapons system. Although, in recent decades, the U.S. and Russian governments did reduce their nuclear arsenals substantially, that process has come to a halt in recent years, as relations have soured between the two nations. Indeed, both countries are currently engaged in a new, extremely dangerous nuclear arms race. The U.S. government has committed itself to spending $1 trillion to “modernize” its nuclear facilities and build new nuclear weapons. For its part, the Russian government is investing heavily in the upgrading of its nuclear warheads and the development of new delivery systems, such as nuclear missiles and nuclear submarines.

What can be done about this flouting of the NPT, some 45 years after it went into operation?

That will almost certainly be a major issue at an NPT Review Conference that will convene at the UN headquarters, in New York City, from April 27 to May 22. These review conferences, held every five years, attract high-level national officials from around the world to discuss the treaty’s implementation. For a very brief time, the review conferences even draw the attention of television and other news commentators before the mass communications media return to their preoccupation with scandals, arrests, and the lives of movie stars.

This spring’s NPT review conference might be particularly lively, given the heightening frustration of the non-nuclear powers at the failure of the nuclear powers to fulfill their NPT commitments. At recent disarmament conferences in Norway, Mexico and Austria, the representatives of a large number of non-nuclear nations, ignoring the opposition of the nuclear powers, focused on the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear war. One rising demand among restless non-nuclear nations and among nuclear disarmament groups is to develop a nuclear weapons ban treaty, whether or not the nuclear powers are willing to participate in negotiations.

To heighten the pressure for the abolition of nuclear weapons, nuclear disarmament groups are staging a Peace and Planet mobilization, in Manhattan, on the eve of the NPT review conference. Calling for a “Nuclear-Free, Peaceful, Just, and Sustainable World,” the mobilization involves an international conference (comprised of plenaries and workshops) on April 24 and 25, plus a culminating interfaith convocation, rally, march, and festival on April 26. Among the hundreds of endorsing organizations are many devoted to peace (Fellowship of Reconciliation, Pax Christi, Peace Action, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Veterans for Peace, and Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom), environmentalism (Earth Action, Friends of the Earth, and 350NYC), religion (Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Unitarian Universalist UN Office, United Church of Christ, and United Methodist General Board of Church & Society), workers’ rights (New Jersey Industrial Union Council, United Electrical Workers, and Working Families Party), and human welfare (American Friends Service Committee and National Association of Social Workers).

Of course, how much effect the proponents of a nuclear weapons-free world will have on the cynical officials of the nuclear powers remains to be seen. After as many as 45 years of stalling on their own nuclear disarmament, it is hard to imagine that they are finally ready to begin negotiating a treaty effectively banning nuclear weapons―or at least their nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, let us encourage Iran not to follow the bad example set by the nuclear powers. And let us ask the nuclear-armed nations, now telling Iran that it should forgo the possession of nuclear weapons, when they are going to start practicing what they preach.

Originally published in History News Network, original source URL:  http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/158896

Monday, March 30, 2015

THE MERRY-GO-ROUND, by David Krieger

Editor's Note: The world stands, nearly 70 years since the dawn of the nuclear age (and the first use of nuclear weapons), at a crossroads. Will we take the road that leads to disarmament and hope for future generations, or will we sink into the deep well of hopelessness and despair by accepting the twisted logic of continued Cold War thinking and concepts like "strategic nuclear deterrence"? A new Cold War is brewing, and it must be stopped for humanity's sake. The US and Russia can lead the other nuclear nations either toward the brink, or away from it. What is required is massive and consistent pressure from civil society brought to bear on the leaders of all nuclear nations, but in particular the US and Russia.

One could write forever on the facts and concepts and theories, and yet... sometimes it takes something creative to awaken us from our slumber. David Krieger, President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, just published this poem about nuclear weapons that I believe does just that. With thanks to David.



It could begin with a missile launched by accident.
And then the response would be deliberate, as would be
the counter-response, and on and on until we were all


Or, it could be deliberate from the outset, an act
of madness by a suicidal leader, setting the end in motion.

First, the blasts and mushroom clouds. Then the fires
and burning cities and the winds driving the fires, turning
humans into projectiles, and all of it mixed with deadly
radiation. Finally, for the last act, the soot from destroyed
cities rising into the upper stratosphere, blocking the sunlight
and the temperatures falling into a frozen Ice Age, followed
by mass starvation.

If any humans were left to name it, they might call it
“Global Hiroshima,” but none would be left to bear witness.
It would be ugly for a while, but there would be no one left to see.
It would be eerily still and silent for some stretch of time,
but there would be no one left to notice. The Earth would go on
rotating around the sun and the universe would go on expanding.

Only we humans would be off the merry-go-round.

David Krieger
March 2015

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

We DON"T need a new Cold War!!!

Editor's Note: Just how dangerous is the underlying U.S. - Russian confrontation related to the Ukraine and Crimean peninsula? With both countries bristling with nuclear weapons, it could be very dangerous indeed. A new Cold War appears to be heating up, even as we approach the 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. Lawrence Wittner's article (that follows) presents a sobering reflection on the situation.


Are the U.S. and Russian Governments 
Once Again on the Nuclear Warpath?

by Lawrence S. Wittner

Originally published in the History News Network on January 15, 2015

Dr. Lawrence Wittner (http://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?

A quarter century after the end of the Cold War and decades after the signing of landmark nuclear arms control and disarmament agreements, are the U.S. and Russian governments once more engaged in a potentially disastrous nuclear arms race with one another? It certainly looks like it.

With approximately 15,000 nuclear weapons between them, the United States and Russia already possess about 93 percent of the world’s nuclear arsenal, thus making them the world’s nuclear hegemons. But, apparently, like great powers throughout history, they do not consider their vast military might sufficient, especially in the context of their growing international rivalry.

Although, in early 2009, President Barack Obama announced his “commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” the U.S. government today has moved well along toward implementing an administration plan for U.S. nuclear “modernization.” This entails spending $355 billion over a ten-year period for a massive renovation of U.S. nuclear weapons plants and laboratories. Moreover, the cost is scheduled to soar after this renovation, when an array of new nuclear weapons will be produced. “That’s where all the big money is,” noted Ashton Carter, recently nominated as U.S. Secretary of Defense. “By comparison, everything that we’re doing now is cheap.” The Obama administration has asked the Pentagon to plan for 12 new nuclear missile-firing submarines, up to 100 new nuclear bombers, and 400 land-based nuclear missiles. According to outside experts and a bipartisan, independent panel commissioned by Congress and the Defense Department, that will bring the total price tag for the U.S. nuclear weapons buildup to approximately $1 trillion.

For its part, the Russian government seems determined to match―or surpass―that record. With President Vladimir Putin eager to use nuclear weapons as a symbol of Russian influence, Moscow is building, at great expense, new generations of giant ballistic missile submarines, as well as nuclear attack submarines that are reportedly equal or superior to their U.S. counterparts in performance and stealth. Armed with nuclear-capable cruise missiles, they periodically make forays across the Atlantic, heading for the U.S. coast. Deeply concerned about the potential of these missiles to level a surprise attack, the U.S. military has already launched the first of two experimental “blimps” over Washington, DC, designed to help detect them. The Obama administration also charges that Russian testing of a new medium-range cruise missile is a violation of the 1987 INF treaty. Although the Russian government denies the existence of the offending missile, its rhetoric has been less than diplomatic. As the Ukraine crisis developed, Putin told a public audience that “Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers,” and foreign nations “should understand it’s best not to mess with us.” Pravda was even more inflammatory. In an article published in November titled “Russia prepares a nuclear surprise for NATO,” it bragged about Russia’s alleged superiority over the United States in nuclear weaponry.

Not surprisingly, the one nuclear disarmament agreement signed between the U.S. and Russian governments since 2003―the New START treaty of 2011―is being implemented remarkably slowly. New START, designed to reduce the number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons (the most powerful ones) in each country by 30 percent by 2018, has not led to substantial reductions in either nation’s deployed nuclear arsenal. Indeed, between March and October 2014, the two nations each increased their deployed nuclear forces. Also, they maintain large arsenals of nuclear weapons targeting one another, with about 1,800 of them on high alert―ready to be launched within minutes against the populations of both nations.

The souring of relations between the U.S. and Russian governments has been going on for years, but it has reached a very dangerous level during the current confrontation over Ukraine. In their dealings with this conflict-torn nation, there’s plenty of fault on both sides. U.S. officials should have recognized that any Russian government would have been angered by NATO’s steady recruitment of East European countries―especially Ukraine, which had been united with Russia in the same nation until recently, was sharing a common border with Russia, and was housing one of Russia’s most important naval bases (in Crimea). For their part, Russian officials had no legal basis for seizing and annexing Crimea or aiding heavily-armed separatists in the eastern portion of Ukraine.

But however reckless the two nuclear behemoths have been, this does not mean that they have to continue this behavior. Plenty of compromise formulas exist―for example, leaving Ukraine out of NATO, altering that country’s structure to allow for a high degree of self-government in the war-torn east, and organizing a UN-sponsored referendum in Crimea. And possibilities for compromise also exist in other areas of U.S.-Russian relations.

Failing to agree to a diplomatic settlement of these and other issues will do more than continue violent turmoil in Ukraine. Indeed, the disastrous, downhill slide of both the United States and Russia into a vastly expensive nuclear arms race will bankrupt them and, also, by providing an example of dependence on nuclear might, encourage the proliferation of nuclear weapons to additional nations. After all, how can they succeed in getting other countries to forswear developing nuclear weapons when―47 years after the U.S. and Soviet governments signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, in which they pledged their own nuclear disarmament―their successors are engaged in yet another nuclear arms race? Finally, of course, this new arms race, unless checked, seems likely to lead, sooner or later, to a nuclear catastrophe of immense proportions.

Can the U.S. and Russian governments calm down, settle their quarrels peacefully, and return to a policy of nuclear disarmament? Let’s hope so.

Source URL:  http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/158159