Quotable

“The only people who should be allowed to govern countries with nuclear weapons are mothers, those who are still breastfeeding their babies." -Tsutomu Yamaguchi, the only survivor of both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings.”


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Where’s America’s commitment to seek a world without nuclear weapons?

Editor's Note: David Krieger, President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, is a strong and trusted voice for nuclear abolition. His question(s) lay bare the hubris of the United States government and its continuing pursuit of nuclear weapons, while demonstrating no sincere commitment to leading the way to a nuclear weapons-free world. The question really is whether President Obama will demonstrate the courage to the lead us to a nuclear weapons-free world or to the brink of nuclear omnicide. We, the people, need to bring the pressure to bear on the President to make the right choice. Our children's future is at stake.

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Where’s America’s commitment to seek a world without nuclear weapons?

By David Krieger, January 30, 2015, Originally published in The Hill

Nuclear weapons do not make Americans safer. Rather, they threaten us all with their uncontrollable and unforgiving power. They are weapons of mass annihilation, indiscriminate in nature, threatening combatants and civilians alike. They kill and maim. They cause unnecessary suffering. They are immoral and their use would violate the humanitarian laws of warfare. No country should be allowed to possess weaponry that is capable of destroying civilization and ending most life on the planet, including the human species.

Nuclear weapons and human fallibility are a most dangerous mix. As long as nuclear weapons exist in the world, civilization and the human species are threatened. Nuclear deterrence is not foolproof, and time is not our friend. We must approach this task with the urgency it demands. We must confront nuclear weapons and those countries that possess and rely upon them with what Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the fierce urgency of now.”

There are still more than 16,000 nuclear weapons in the world, most in the arsenals of the United States and Russia. However, seven other countries also possess these annihilators. These countries are: the UK, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea. Even one of these weapons can destroy a city, a few can destroy a country, and an exchange of 100 of them between India and Pakistan on the other side’s cities could trigger a nuclear famine resulting in the deaths of some two billion people globally. A larger nuclear exchange between the US and Russia could return the planet to an ice age, resulting in nearly universal death.

What is needed today is for the countries of the world to engage in negotiations in good faith to end the nuclear arms race and to achieve total nuclear disarmament. That is what is required of us and the other countries of the world under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and customary international law. Unfortunately, rather than negotiating in good faith for these ends, the nuclear-armed countries are engaged in expensive programs to modernize their nuclear arsenals.

The goal of negotiations should be a universal agreement for all the nuclear-armed countries to give up their nuclear arsenals in a phased, verifiable, irreversible and transparent manner. It will require the participation of all countries, but some country will need to lead in convening these negotiations. That country should be the United States of America, given its background in developing, using and testing nuclear weapons. But, if history is a guide, that won’t happen until the people of the United States demand it of their government.

The country that has stepped up to take a leadership role in calling on the nuclear-armed nations to fulfill their obligations for nuclear disarmament is a small, courageous Pacific Island state, the Republic of the Marshall Islands. It is suing the nine nuclear-armed nations to require them to do what they are obligated to do under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and customary international law; that is, to negotiate in good faith to end the nuclear arms race and for nuclear disarmament.

The Nuclear Zero initiative of the Marshall Islands falls in this 70th anniversary year of the first use of nuclear weapons by the United States. Enough people have already suffered from nuclear weapons – those in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, those in the Marshall Islands, the Nevada Test Site, Semipalatinsk, Lop Nor and other nuclear weapon test sites around the world. It is time for humanity to take charge of its own destiny. In the Nuclear Age, ridding the world of nuclear weapons is an imperative. Our common future depends upon our shared success.

Of course, the perspective expressed above is my own. It is tragic, though, that such a perspective did not make it into the President’s 2015 State of the Union Message to the Congress and People of the United States. It was an opportunity to teach and lead that was missed by the President. Why, we might ask, is he engaged in modernizing the US nuclear arsenal, a trillion dollar project, instead of negotiating for the elimination of nuclear weapons? After all, in Prague in 2009, the president expressed boldly, “America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” What has happened to that commitment?

Krieger is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org). He is the author of ZERO: The Case for Nuclear Weapons Abolition.

Original source URL: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/foreign-policy/231191-wheres-americas-commitment-to-seek-a-world-without-nuclear

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Stubborn like a musk ox -- why Homo sapiens can't think straight about nuclear weapons

Editor's Note: David P. Barash is an evolutionary biologist and professor of psychology at the University of Washington. Since the early 1980s he has actively researched, promoted and practiced the field of peace studies. His op-ed in the Los Angeles times presents a unique, thought-provoking perspective on our thinking about nuclear weapons (and how we might change it "in our own self-interest). David gave permission to reprint his op-ed here, and encourages others to share it as well. I hope it will be shared widely.

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Stubborn like a musk ox -- why Homo sapiens can't think straight about nuclear weapons

By David P. Barash

Note: Originally published in the Los Angeles Times, January 24, 2015, Reprinted here with the author's permission

Most people can be forgiven for ignoring the threat posed by nuclear weapons. It might seem surprising, but we have been preprogrammed by our own evolutionary history to engage in such ignorance. The nuclear age is just a tiny blip tacked on to our very recent phylogenetic past, so when it comes to the greatest of all risks to human survival, we are more threatened by the instincts we lack than by those we possess..

And yet, we are genuinely threatened by those weapons we possess, which the United States government is planning to upgrade at an estimated cost of $1 trillion over the next three decades. Partly in response, on Thursday the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists reset its iconic Doomsday Clock from five minutes to midnight to three minutes and counting.

How does evolution create our ignorance, thereby adding to our danger? Because its two forms — biological and cultural — are disconnected, and so are we, from our own self-interest.

Homo sapiens is the product of biological evolution — a painfully slow Darwinian process — yet we are simultaneously enmeshed in its cultural counterpart, a Lamarckian phenomenon which, by contrast, is blindingly fast and proceeds under its own rules. We have one foot thrust into the cultural present and the other stuck in our biological past.

Individuals, after all, do not evolve in the Darwinian sense; only populations and lineages do. And they are shackled to the realities of genetics and reproduction, since organic evolution is a process whereby gene frequencies change over time. Accordingly, generations are required for even the smallest evolutionary step.

By contrast, cultural evolution is astoundingly rapid. Acquired characteristics can be “inherited,” a la Lamarck, in hours or days, then passed along to other individuals, modified yet again before being picked up or dropped altogether. For example, in just a few decades (less than an instant in biological time), personal computers were developed, proliferated and modified. If they had “evolved” by Darwinian, biological means, as a favorable mutation to be promoted in one or even a handful of individuals, there would currently be only a dozen or so computer users instead of billions.

Just a superficial glance at human history shows today's world is vastly different from that of a century ago, which is almost unimaginably different from 50,000 years ago. And yet a Cro-Magnon baby, magically plunked down at birth in 21st century America, could very well find herself comfortably reading on her iPad, and offspring of today's technophiles could adapt to the world of saber-toothed cats and stone axes.

Consider that stone ax. The history of civilization is, in large part, one of ever-greater efficiency in killing, as in the progression from club, knife and spear, to bow and arrow, musket, rifle, cannon, battleship, bomber and nuclear-tipped ICBM. At the same time, the human being who creates and manipulates these devices has not changed much at all.

As a biological creature, in fact, Homo sapiens is poorly adapted for killing, given his puny nails, minimal jaws and laughable little teeth. But cultural evolution has made it not only possible but easy.

This biology-culture disconnect is especially acute in the realm of nuclear weapons. At the one-year anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, Albert Einstein famously noted that “the splitting of the atom has changed everything but our way of thinking; hence we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”

He might have been talking about musk oxen. These shaggy Arctic beasts have long employed a very effective strategy when confronted by their enemies: wolves. They herd the juveniles into the center while the adults face outward, arrayed like the spokes of a wheel. Even the hungriest wolf finds it intimidating to confront a wall of sharp horns and bony foreheads, backed by a thousand pounds of angry pot roast. For countless generations, their behavior served musk oxen well.

But in more modern times, their primary threat hasn't been wolves, but human hunters carrying high-powered rifles. Today, musk oxen would do better if they spread out and high-tailed it toward the horizon, but instead they respond as previous generations always have — forming their trusted defensive circle — and are easily slaughtered.

Human actions changed everything but the musk ox way of thinking; as they clung to their biology they drifted toward unparalleled catastrophe, until another human action (conservation) intervened.

Humans also cling to (or remain unconsciously influenced by) our biology. That stubbornness is especially evident when it comes to thinking, or not thinking, about nuclear weapons.

Take, for example, this widespread difficulty: When told something is “hot,” most of us readily think in terms of boiling water or burning wood. The biological creature within cannot effectively grasp the meaning of millions of degrees. Before the artificial splitting of uranium and plutonium atoms, nuclear explosions had never occurred on Earth. Even in the wake of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we are unprepared to wrap our minds around them, including the vast scale of destruction, deaths by the millions, and in minutes.

And so the conflict between our biological natures and our cultural products cloaks nuclear weapons in a kind of psychological untouchability.

But does this mean that things are hopeless, that we are the helpless victims of this aspect of our human natures? As Carl Sagan emphasized, eliminating nuclear weapons — certainly not building more or upgrading what we have — is a basic requirement of species-wide sanity and good planetary hygiene.

The missiles, bombers, bombs and warheads in our nuclear arsenal are our own creation, our own responsibility, not something imposed upon us by a malignant God. And we are the most adaptable of all creatures, probably the only ones capable of acting, consciously, in our own self-interest. Once we stop acting like musk oxen.

Original source URL: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-barash-nuclear-weapons-evolution-20150125-story.html

Thursday, January 22, 2015

It is 3 minutes to midnight (and counting)!!!

Earlier today the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced that it was moving the hands of the famous Doomsday Clock ahead, from 5 minutes to midnight to 3 minutes to midnight.


The Bulletin created the Doomsday Clock in 1947 "using the imagery of apocalypse (midnight) and the contemporary idiom of nuclear explosion (countdown to zero) to convey threats to humanity and the planet." Each year the distinguished scientists of the Bulletin's Science and Security Board decide whether or not to move the minute hands of the Doomsday Clock.

This year's decision considered many factors, and nuclear weapons figure prominently in it. The optimism that came with the end of the Cold War has disappeared due to two principal factors - "nuclear weapons modernization programs and nuclear disarmament machinery that has ground to a halt." The world is on the brink of a new and dangerous nuclear arms race.

The announcement begins with this:
In 2015, unchecked climate change, global nuclear weapons modernizations, and outsized nuclear weapons arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity, and world leaders have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from potential catastrophe. These failures of political leadership endanger every person on Earth. 
In 1984, as the United States began a major defense build-up that included the pursuit of a potentially destabilizing ballistic missile defense system, relations between the United States and the Soviet Union reached an icy nadir. "Every channel of communications has been constricted or shut down; every form of contact has been attenuated or cut off. And arms control negotiations have been reduced to a species of propaganda," the Bulletin wrote then, in explaining why the hands of the Doomsday Clock had been moved to three minutes to midnight, the closest they had been to catastrophe since the early days of above-ground hydrogen bomb testing. 
Today, more than 25 years after the end of the Cold War, the members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Science and Security Board have looked closely at the world situation and found it highly threatening to humanity—so threatening that the hands of the Doomsday Clock must once again be set at three minutes to midnight, two minutes closer to catastrophe than in 2014.
Today's announcement focuses on the current and potential risks posed to humanity by nuclear weapons, climate change and emerging technologies. These risks, when combined, pose extraordinary challenges to the very survival of humanity, and it is the "stunning governmental failures [that] have imperiled civilization on a global scale." The scientists of the Bulletin make it clear that time is short, and that we as citizens must demand that our nations' leaders take action before it is too late.


Here is how the announcement wraps it up:
The threat is serious, the time short. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists does not move the hands of the Doomsday Clock for light or transient reasons. The clock ticks now at just three minutes to midnight because international leaders are failing to perform their most important duty—ensuring and preserving the health and vitality of human civilization. 
During the past several years, the Bulletin's Science and Security Board has grown increasingly concerned as world political leaders dithered, leaving an undeniable threat to the future of mankind—climate change—largely unaddressed. In 2014, leaders in the nuclear weapons countries have consented to a mad dash down an expensive and dangerous path toward "modernizing" their nuclear arsenals; in the process, they turned away from reasonable disarmament efforts and allowed an economic dispute between Ukraine and Russia to turn into an East-West confrontation that hinders cooperation on worldwide nuclear security, arms control, and nonproliferation. 
These stunning governmental failures have imperiled civilization on a global scale, and so we, the members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Science and Security Board, implore the citizens of the world to speak clearly, demanding that their leaders: 
  • Take actions that would cap greenhouse gas emissions at levels sufficient to keep average global temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. The 2-degree target is consistent with consensus views on climate science and is eminently achievable and economically viable—if national leaders show more interest in protecting their citizens than in serving the economic interests of the fossil fuel industry. 
  • Dramatically reduce proposed spending on nuclear weapons modernization programs. The United States and Russia have hatched plans to essentially rebuild their entire nuclear triads in coming decades, and other nuclear weapons countries are following suit. The projected costs of these "improvements" to nuclear arsenals are indefensible, and they undermine the global disarmament regime.  
  • Re-energize the disarmament process, with a focus on results. The United States and Russia, in particular, need to start negotiations on shrinking their strategic and tactical nuclear arsenals. The world can be more secure with much, much smaller nuclear arsenals than now exist—if political leaders are truly interested in protecting their citizens from harm.  
  • Deal now with the commercial nuclear waste problem. Reasonable people can disagree on whether an expansion of nuclear-powered electricity generation should be a major component of the effort to limit climate change. Regardless of the future course of the worldwide nuclear power industry, there will be a need for safe and secure interim and permanent nuclear waste storage facilities.  
  • Create institutions specifically assigned to explore and address potentially catastrophic misuses of new technologies. Scientific advance can provide society with great benefits, but the potential for misuse of potent new technologies is real, unless government, scientific, and business leaders take appropriate steps to explore and address possible devastating consequences of those technologies early in their development. 
Last year, with the Doomsday Clock at five minutes to midnight, the members of the Science and Security Board concluded their assessment of the world security situation by writing: "We can manage our technology, or become victims of it. The choice is ours, and the Clock is ticking." 
In 2015, with the Clock hand moved forward to three minutes to midnight, the board feels compelled to add, with a sense of great urgency: "The probability of global catastrophe is very high, and the actions needed to reduce the risks of disaster must be taken very soon."
The scientists of the Bulletin have provided the blueprint for moving ahead. They have also made clear what many of us have been saying for years - that governments will not take the necessary steps unless we, as global citizens, demand it of them. They have, for far too long, been locked in the grip of massive corporate machines that serve only their own interests. It is high time that those who govern begin the work of "ensuring and preserving the health and vitality of human civilization.



The people who make the decision to move the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock ahead do not do so lightly. These are scientists, not alarmists. They employed sound, scientific reasoning to reach their decision, and we must listen and understand the gravity of the situation. As they concluded, "The probability of global catastrophe is very high," and the consequences to humanity would be unacceptable. We must take action, and we must take it now.

Each of us needs to stand up and pressure our government to take action on the issues raised by the Bulletin. Send a copy of the Bulletin's announcement to President Obama, your representatives in Congress, and anyone else you think should read it. Ask them to read it and reply to you, explaining how they plan to respond to the Bulletin's call to action. Do not settle for anything less than a full commitment to action.

We cannot turn back the hands of time, and we certainly cannot undo the damage we have already done. We can, however, make the difficult, yet critical, choices that will provide a livable world for future generations, and thereby turn back the hands of the Doomsday Clock.

Time is short, and "the clock is ticking."

Click here to read the full text of today's announcement.

Click here to watch today's announcement and press conference.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Cheerleading for nukes in the corporate press

If you read the glorious propaganda piece in the November 29th Los Angeles Times (New nuclear weapons needed, many experts say, pointing to aged arsenal) you might be tempted to think that the U.S. nuclear enterprise is "rusting" away and in dire need of replacement. Rest assured that this is not the case by any stretch of propagandists' imaginations; it is alive and well and being modernized at this very moment. Infrastructure - like the Y-12 facility, Kansas City bomb plant and more - are being rebuilt. Warheads - like the W-76 used on the Trident II D-5 deployed on Trident subs - are being "refurbished". And don't forget the new weapons delivery systems on the drawing boards and those currently in research and development such as the OHIO Class Replacement. All this is being done at phenomenal taxpayer expense.

Ve must build brand new warheads Mr. President
Robert Koehler has written an excellent response to this bit of journalistic tripe (and the two. It was first published on December 5th in Common Dreams, and I'm reprinting it here. Koehler sums up the real "rust" in the nuclear enterprise when he says that, "What is desperately outmoded and nearing collapse isn't our nuclear infrastructure but our thinking about national security." Bottom line - There is NO security in nuclear weapons, and it is high time for us to face that truth before we face the unspeakable horror of their actual use.

By the way, two previous LA Times articles on nuclear weapons preceeded this most recent one, and are just as creative. You can tell by their titles - As U.S. nuclear arsenal ages, other nations have modernized and Aging nuclear arsenal grows ever more costly. David Krieger, President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, wrote an appropriate response to these earlier bits of fiction.

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Originally published on Friday, December 05, 2014 by Common Dreams

Beyond M.A.D.: Reviving Nuclear War

by Robert C. Koehler

“Some of the key technocrats and scientists of the Cold War say the nation has become overly confident about its nuclear deterrence. The nuclear enterprise, they say, ‘is rusting its way to disarmament.’”

Let’s meditate on this irony — that disarmament, finally, means no more than growing old and weak and pathetic.

What brilliant Cold War Revival propaganda, masquerading, in the Los Angeles Times last week, as objective reporting. Let’s meditate on the dark chuckles of the Cold War technocrats, as they attempt to summon an extra trillion dollars or so from the national coffers to restore America’s nuclear weapons program to the glory of the 1960s and push on vigorously with the design and development of the next generation of nukes: our national strength, the foundation of our security. All that’s missing from the article — “New nuclear weapons needed, many experts say, pointing to aged arsenal” — is Slim Pickens screaming “Ya-hoo!” as he rides the bomb into human oblivion at the end of Dr. Strangelove.

The ostensible focus of the article, as well as a second article published two weeks earlier, both by Ralph Vartabedian and W.J. Hennigan, is the decrepitude of the American nuclear arsenal, with its myriad sites and delivery systems hampered with out-of-date technology and indifferent maintenance, e.g.: “Today, the signs of decay are pervasive at the Pantex facility in Texas, where nuclear weapons are disassembled and repaired. Rat infestation has become so bad that employees are afraid to bring their lunches to work.”

Oh, the horror. Rats and nukes. Next up, Godzilla? Any serious challenge to nuclear weapons as the ultimate manifestation and symbol of national strength is absent from these articles; so is any rational account of the danger their hair-trigger presence poses to humanity — not to mention the insanity of their ongoing development. For instance:

“John S. Foster Jr., former director of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and chief of Pentagon research during the Cold War, said the labs should design, develop and build prototype weapons that may be needed by the military in the future, including a very low-yield nuclear weapon that could be used with precision delivery systems . . .” (emphasis added).

During the Cold War, the primary justification for our gargantuan nuclear arsenal was contained in the acronym M.A.D.: mutually assured destruction. No more world wars, boys and girls! With the Cold War superpowers in possession of the means to destroy the human race, the only wars we could wage were relatively small, proxy wars in Third and Fourth World countries.

“Those who like peace should love nuclear weapons,” said Kenneth Waltz, Cold War academic extraordinaire and founder of the school of neorealism (as quoted recently by Eric Schlosser in The Guardian). “They are the only weapons ever invented that work decisively against their own use.”

But seven decades into the nuclear era, mission creep is making its presence felt along with the rust and rats. Link low-yield nuclear weapons with a word like “precision” and their use in a real war starts to feel almost justifiable — and so much more satisfying, apparently, than simply maintaining a nuclear arsenal for the purpose of never using it. Threat is power in the abstract. But a mushroom cloud over Central Asia or the Middle East is power made manifest, especially if one lacks the mental and spiritual capacity to grasp the consequences.

The nuclear era, Noam Chomsky wrote this past August, reflecting on the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, “opened on August 6, 1945, the first day of the countdown to what may be the inglorious end of this strange species, which attained the intelligence to discover the effective means to destroy itself, but — so the evidence suggests — not the moral and intellectual capacity to control its worst instincts.”

The mission that our mainstream media has claimed for itself is to continually reflect back to us our inability to control our worst instincts. Thus, write Vartabedian and Hennigan, “The incoming Republican-controlled Congress could be more open to exploring new (nuclear) weapons.”

They proceed to quote Texas Republican Rep. Mac Thornberry, chairman-elect of the House Armed Services Committee. Voicing his concern about our aging arsenal and his support for renewed nuclear testing, he said, “You don’t know how a car performs unless you turn the key over. Why would we accept anything less from a weapon that provides the foundation for which all our national security is based on?”

And that brings me back to the rust. What seems desperately outmoded and nearing collapse isn’t our nuclear infrastructure but our thinking about national security. The United States of America, nation of Manifest Destiny, was built on conquest and exploitation. This is the basis of its inability to believe that security could be based on anything except near-absolute power and the reason why, in the corridors of political power, disarmament is synonymous not with sanity but neglect.

Unless the paradigm shifts and we redefine ourselves as a nation — and we redefine our relationship to other nations, including our alleged enemies — our future is nuclear weapons we can use.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His new book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound is now available. Contact him at koehlercw@gmail.com or visit his website at commonwonders.com.

Source URL for Koehler's article: http://www.commondreams.org/views/2014/12/05/beyond-mad-reviving-nuclear-war

Source URL for LA Times article: http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-new-nukes-20141130-story.html#page=1

Thursday, November 20, 2014

"Don't modernize nukes, eliminate them"

Editor's Note: The following opinion by Patrick Hiller, a Professor in the Conflict Resolution Department at Portland State University, Portland, OR, in The Cap Times is the perfect response to this week's announcement by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel about plans to pour yet more money into the government's already out-of-control nuclear weapons spending spree. Hagel once again parroted the indefensible party line (this is beginning to sound like a broken record): “Our nuclear deterrent plays a critical role in securing U.S. national security.”

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Patrick T. Hiller: Don't modernize nukes, eliminate them

Did you notice? Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel just announced plans to massively “upgrade” the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Should we numbly accept new plans by our government to revitalize systems which without doubt are the greatest threat to human survival? Did we forget that our president told the world in Prague in 2009 that America is committed to seeking peace and security by creating a world without nuclear weapons, and for that announced intention received a Nobel Peace Prize?

The concerns outlined by Hagel could have provided an excellent opportunity to significantly implement the needed steps away from nuclear weapons. Cheating scandals on qualification tests or misconduct by top officers overseeing key nuclear programs certainly are worrisome. Even more worrisome is the fact that nuclear weapons still exist and are not considered an abnormality. The more troubling aspect of Hagel’s announcement is the broader nuclear modernization program. Making sure the so-called triad of strategic deliver systems grows, the Pentagon can plan for plenty of new missile submarines, new bombers, and new and refurbished land-based missiles. The Monterey Institute of International Studies sums up their well-documented report: “Over the next 30 years, the United States plans to spend approximately $1 trillion maintaining the current arsenal, buying replacement systems, and upgrading existing nuclear bombs and warheads.”

Even the most doubtful among us will see the contradiction between the commitment of seeking a world without nuclear weapons and “revamping the nuclear enterprise” as Hagel noted in his keynote speech at the Reagan National Defense Forum last week.

It appears that the absence of the Cold War and the soothing rhetoric about a world without nuclear weapons keeps us complacent — can anyone imagine one million people demonstrating against nuclear weapons as they did in New York City in 1982? That same year was the largest exercise in direct democracy (voting on an issue rather than representatives to decide "our" view) when voters in referendums in about half the states decided overwhelmingly to call for a freeze on research, development, production and deployment of nuclear weapons. I think we the people should make ourselves heard again. We should say:

First, nuclear deterrence is a myth and ought to be rejected by all people and governments. In the Santa Barbara Declaration by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, the major problems outlined with nuclear deterrence are: 1) its power to protect is a dangerous fabrication; 2) the assumption of rational leaders; 3) the threatening of mass murder is illegal and criminal; 4) it is immoral; 5) it diverts badly needed human and economic resources; 6) its ineffectiveness against non-state extremists; 7) its vulnerability to cyber-attacks, sabotage and error; and 8) setting an example to pursue nuclear weapons as deterrence.

Second, diminish the role of nuclear weapons in security policies. Once the “unthinkable” nuclear option no longer plays a central role in security planning, and once the nuclear weapons are de-coupled from conventional military forces, the elimination of nuclear arsenals can be facilitated.

Third, don’t wait for conditions to be ripe. There is statistical certainty that a nuclear weapon will be used at some point. The only way to make sure it does not happen is to eliminate all.

Fourth, encourage compliance with all international treaties and create new ones that will ban and eliminate all nuclear weapons worldwide.

Fifth, move our government toward unilateral disarmament. Without a nuclear arsenal we are not making anyone less secure. What if the United States would take the lead in a global “disarmament race”? After decades of international military interventionism the United States might become a loved and respected country again.

Sixth, recognize the role of nuclear weapons in the chain of global violence ranging from hand guns on the streets to catastrophic environmental and humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use. Violence and the threat of violence on all levels perpetuates violence.

No Russian takeover of the Ukraine, Chinese territorial claims, or even Pakistani expansion of nuclear arsenal makes it any more logical to revitalize our nuclear arsenals. We can reject the myth of nuclear deterrence and we can help the government shift the spending priorities to health care, education, infrastructure, the environment, renewable energy, low-income housing and many more important areas. Currently our public conscience is lacking urgency with regard to nuclear weapons. We owe it to ourselves and our children to activate this urgency and make the elimination of nuclear weapons a step toward a world beyond war.

Patrick. T. Hiller, Ph.D., Hood River, Oregon, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a conflict transformation scholar, professor, on the Governing Council of the International Peace Research Association, and director of the War Prevention Initiative of the Jubitz Family Foundation. This column was provided by PeaceVoice.

Source URL:  http://host.madison.com/ct/news/opinion/column/patrick-t-hiller-don-t-modernize-nukes-eliminate-them/article_8168fbd0-4221-54e9-b48b-6120bb94f7b9.html