"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." — Elie Wiesel

Saturday, February 28, 2009

BRAVO! (No Encore Please)


On March 1, 1954 the United States tested the first deliverable hydrogen bomb, code named "Bravo”, at Bikini Atoll, in the Marshall Islands. Bravo was the largest U.S. nuclear test ever exploded, with a yield of 15 megatons, 1000 times larger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima (and well beyond the predicted yield of 6 megatons; oops!). This is an opportune moment to consider the critical juncture we have reached 55 years after this test and the opportunities presented to us.
The Cold War ended nearly two decades ago; and yet the United States and Russia still maintain thousands of nuclear missiles ready to launch on warning. The President of the United States may have just a few minutes to make the fateful decision to launch nuclear weapons in case of warning of a nuclear attack. In 1995, Russia came within a few minutes of launching a nuclear counterattack after it initially interpreted the launch of a scientific rocket from Norway as a first strike. This is just the most recent known close call among those documented involving both the United States and the Soviet Union/Russia. A number of them have been just too close.

The Bush administration repeatedly refused to pledge to a "no first use" policy. President Obama has not yet explicitly stated a "no first use" policy, although he has started down the road to nuclear disarmament with the Russians (an extremely important first step) by establishing dialogue.

The 2002 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) issued by the Department of Defense under the direction of the Bush administration would lead to new nuclear capabilities, the possible resumption of nuclear testing, and plans to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states believed to have the capability to build weapons of mass destruction. Before the NPR was submitted to Congress (during the Bush Administration), the U.S. had already announced its withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) and refused to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Does this sound like a scenario for destabilization, a new and improved arms race and an increasingly unsafe world????

President Obama has the opportunity to reverse the 2002 Nuclear Posture Review, re-commit to the ABM Treaty, and ratify the CTB Treaty. He has stated his desire for nuclear disarmament. He has spoken of his desire to seek "a world without nuclear weapons" and at the same time spoke of the need to "retain a strong deterrent"..."as long as nuclear weapons exist." It is difficult to have it both ways; his rhetoric could indicate different paths. On the positive side, the draft 2010 Energy Department budget has "ZERO dollars for new nuclear weapons." However, the nation's most senior nuclear combat commander yesterday took issue with U.S. President Barack Obama's characterization of U.S. atomic weapons as being on "hair-trigger alert" and warned against reducing the arsenal's launch readiness. We need to keep pushing the President down that difficcult road towards that "world without nuclear weapons". It is attainable, although it will be a long road getting there.

The next week and a half is the final opportunity for you to sign on to the Appeal to President Obama calling for US Leadership for a Nuclear Weapons-Free World. The Appeal calls upon President Obama to "make a world free of nuclear weapons an urgent priority and to assure US leadership to realize this goal." Click here to read the Appeal, and sign it today! On Wednesday, March 11 the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation will submit the Appeal to President the Obama administration in Washington.

A world free of nuclear weapons is possible, and really is the only way to prevent a future nuclear war. We may not see the fruits of our labor in our lifetime, but by beginning now we can help rid the world of the nuclear Sword of Damocles that hangs over humanity.



Friday, February 20, 2009

Poetry of Death - From Launch to Detonation


Chances are you have never seen the official "Launch Sequence" of a Trident D-5 nuclear missile. Glen Milner, of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, acquired (through a Freedom of Information request) the document containing the sequence of events surrounding the launch of a D-5, from pushing a button to detonation of the warhead. And that is where it ends, or would end should a weapons officer on board a Trident nuclear submarine ever depress "the tactical firing trigger", starting the sequence of events that would result in a genocide of unimaginable proportions.

Of course, for those not instantly vaporized, incinerated, or torn apart by the blast and thermal effects, it would only be the beginning of the end, whether they died in minutes, hours, days or weeks due to the effects of ionizing radiation. But I digress. What Glen has done is to add his own introduction to the launch sequence, and invites us to read it as he came to see it; to quote Glen, "like the poetry of death."

Here is Glen's contribution to the world of nuclear poetry, Launch Sequence--Instructions for the End of Time.

Towards Peace,



Launch Sequence--

Instructions for the End of Time

I have been involved in anti-war work and research for over 25 years. I know that war is not the answer. We must learn to love our enemies more than ourselves.

Recently I received documents from the U.S. Navy reminding me of the importance of finding new ways to solve our differences. Sandwiched in a packet of information released through the Freedom of Information Act was the launch sequence for the Trident D-5 missile. Reading like the poetry of death was a description of the missile’s flight through the stratosphere to deliver its nuclear payload.

It begins:

Launch and Flight Sequence.
2 Upon completion of missile prepare, the weapons officer depresses the tactical firing trigger to initiate the launch command. This causes the coded charge and trigger signals to be routed to the launch gas generator firing unit, resulting in gas generator ignition. The following sequence of events will then occur during a normal launch and flight:

1. The missile is ejected from the submarine launch tube by a mixture of gas and steam.

2. After the missile travels a specified distance, the first stage rocket motor ignites and the aerospike deploys.

3. For flight, guidance issues steering commands to align the missile in order to achieve the desired trajectory.

4. During first stage flight, the RB launch accelerometer closes and latches, the RB long life thermal battery is activated and the intent word is sent from flight control electronics to each RB to enable the first dual stronglink assembly safing wheel.

5. The second stage rocket motor ignites and first stage separation occurs.

6. The missile nose fairing is separated and ejected clear of the missile flight path.

7. The third stage rocket motor ignites and second stage separation occurs.

8. The guidance subsystem determines that the missile is on course and, at the proper time, sends the signals for third stage separation.

9. During missile flight, the flight control electronics creates an in-flight profile word based on six critical trajectory events. Subsequent to third stage separation, the in-flight profile word is used to enable the second dual stronglink assembly safing wheel in each RB.

10. The maneuverable equipment section, following a stellar guidance update, flies to its required position, releases an RB, and proceeds to its next position. These steps are repeated until all RBs have been released. Each RB receives a safe-to-arm signal (STAS) at release.

11. Each RB continues on its ballistic trajectory and stabilizes upon reentering the atmosphere.

12. The reentry thermal battery (RTB) is activated.

13. The arming signal is sent to the fire set when all fuzing conditions have been satisfied.

14. The warhead is fully armed.

15. Depending on the selected burst option, the firing signal is generated by one of several components.

16. The warhead detonates.

Glen Milner lives in Seattle and is a member of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action in Poulsbo, Washington. Please see web page http://www.gzcenter.org/.

1 Note that an RB (reentry vehicle) in this description is one of eight reentry bodies on a D-5 missile, each containing a nuclear warhead and designed for reentering the earth’s atmosphere.
There are over 1,600 nuclear warheads deployed at Naval Submarine Base Bangor. Each, when mated with its delivery system--the Trident D-5 missile, can travel distances of over 4,500 miles and strike within 300 feet of their intended targets. During flight, the missile attains speeds in excess of 20,000 feet per second, delivering warheads to targets in 10 to 15 minutes. The warheads stationed at Bangor are currently all 100 kiloton Mark-4/W76 type but will include 475 kiloton Mark-5/W88 warheads with the deployment of the new D-5 missiles, scheduled for Bangor in 2002.
The bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, Japan in 1945 was approximately 15 kilotons.

2 Freedom of Information Act response dated October 31, 2001 to Glen Milner from the Chief of Naval Operations, Nuclear Weapon System Safety Group Report of the Operational Safety Review of the Trident II (D-5) Strategic Weapon System with W88-0/MK5 Reentry Body Assemblies and/or W76-0/MK4 Reentry Body Assemblies, NWSSG Report 1037-3, pages 2-10 through 2-12. August 21, 1991.

Monday, February 16, 2009

French Sub Mistakens British Sub for Shipping Container; Really!


Picture this. Deep down in the murky depths of the Atlantic Ocean two nuclear powered submarines, one British and the other French, are on patrol. These huge, yet nimble giants (roughly the length of one and a half football fields), with some of the most advanced technology available, are bristling with nuclear armed missiles (each one with enough megatonage to incinerate an entire, large continent). Their crews monitor the waters around them as they cruise silently (really, really silently), deep beneath the surface.

Wham!!! The next you know, it's general quarters with klaxons clanging and sailors frantically securing hatches, determining the extent of damage, and generally trying to figure what the hell just happened. Crew members have lots of things on their minds, not the least of which are the condition of the nuclear reactor as well as the 16 nuclear armed missiles nestled in their launch tubes, not to mention whether they will ever see sunlight again.

When the dust settles everybody takes a deep breath, while somebody asks about their insurance carrier. They have just had the most expensive fender bender in history. On February 3, 2009 the British submarine, HMS Vanguard, collided with the French submarine, Le Triomphant in the Bay of Biscay. The damage to Le Triomphant's front end (the sonar dome to be precise) has been estimated at roughly $73 million; good thing it was a "low speed" collision (according to France's defense ministry); thank God for five mile-an-hour bumpers.

And that's not all. They didn't know they had hit each other. The French sub commander immediately surfaced and radioed that "I have hit something. I think it was a [shipping]container, so I am heading back to Brest." I am sure the British would get a little huffy having the French refer to one of their Trident subs as a shipping container; after all, they are "shipping"the same Trident missiles as American Trident submarines. So much for international relations.

Although the French sub was able to limp back home, the British sub had to call for a tow; how humiliating. Fortunately for both crews, there were evidently no injuries, and neither the pressure hulls, the reactors, nor the nuclear weapons were compromised. But what if??? What if the submarines had been cruising at a higher rate of speed, and what if one had impacted the other amidships rather than "clipping" the sonar dome. One expert quoted said that, "It's like two blindfolded men creeping around a room. Eventually they are going to bump into each other." Isn't it more like blind people driving two big diesel trucks containing high explosives around a parking lot?

What ended up being an embarrassing and expensive accident might have been a catastrophe. As for the probability of this event, the MailOnline quoted "naval sources" as saying "it was a million to one unlucky chance both subs were in the same patch of sea." That, in itself, is a very important statement. Everything carries some risk. There is no such thing as absolute safety. In terms of the potential for a collision between two nuclear submarines, or even an accidental detonation of a nuclear weapon, there is always some risk, whether due to a problem with the weapon or human error. And even when that risk is infinitesimal, as in the case of one chance in a million, there is still (always) that minute probability of failure or accident. In the case of an accident involving the detonation of a nuclear weapon (or perhaps an accidental launch), is that a risk that we can consider acceptable???

These two subs were cruising around on what the French defence ministry called their "nuclear deterrence missions". One has to wonder what these behemoths (loaded with the most destructive force the world has ever known) present - a deterrent or a liability. In a post Cold War world, big submarines loaded with nuclear armed missiles are, indeed, an impressive (and expensive) show of force. But what is their practicality? How much of a deterrent are they in the new world order? Are these denizens of the deep perhaps dinosaurs destined for extinction?



The submarine pictured above is the Le Triomphant, photo by the French Navy, via Reuters.

References: You can read various news reports of the accident at the links below:
Mail Online, February 16, 2009, Worldpress.org, February 17, 2009, New York Times, February 16, 2009, Global Security Newswire, February 17, 2009

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Congress Listened - No Nuclear Stimulus!


GREAT NEWS! I've just learned that the United States Congress listened to the people. Isn't that a refreshing change?

The $1 billion in the economic stimulus package destined for nuclear weapons was totally eliminated, as was $50 billion in loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants. That isn't exactly small change; and it is a significant statement about the power of grassroots organizing against some very powerful, entrenched military and corporate interests.

None of this money would have created much in the way of jobs, and would have benefited only limited government and corporate interests.

Thanks to action alerts from at least four organizations, Council for a Liveable World, Faithful Security, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF), and Pax Christi, people took action and made it happen. If you aren't keeping up-to-date on issues like this one but want to, you can get involved through any of these organizations . You can sign up for the NAPF Action Alert Center by clicking here. There is great power in our collective voice.



Note: The "No Nukes" image is courtesy of Global Voices Online.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A National Security Council for the National Security State

Question: How does the President of the United States give his National Security Council more power than ever before? Answer: Appoint a National Security Advisor like General James Jones, and give him carte blanche to expand "its membership and increasing its authority to set strategy across a wide spectrum of international and domestic issues." (Washington Post, 2/8/09)
The National Security Council hearkens back to President Harry Truman. The National Security Act of 1947, designed to back up the Truman Doctrine of containing Communism, created the National Security Council. The National Security State, which arose out of the ideology and institutions thus created, gave the military ever increasing powers along with the private (corporate) institutions that supported it.

Today, the National Security State is more powerful than ever; just look at the percentage of government spending on the military. And it seems that President Obama is setting up a situation that will promote an ever increasing role for the military at a time when the U.S. desperately need to focus on serious domestic problems as well as global ones (problems that do not have military solutions, and that military actions worsen). We simply cannot afford it (financially or otherwise)!

Judging by today's article in the Washington Post, the President is giving his new National Security Advisor and his National Security Council some pretty sweeping power and reach. What does this mean for the future? With over 700 overseas military bases (and counting) in over 120 countries, new military commands in Africa AND in the U.S., and a commitment to building an extensive array of new weapons systems, it is clear that the military is not prepared to cut back anytime soon (even with the economy in a shambles).

As for the positive "power" of any serious diplomacy coming from the U.S. State Department, things are looking bleak. The following paragraph from the Post article sums things up.

Although Jones said he strongly supports increased resources for the State Department, which is increasingly dwarfed by the size and expanding missions of the Defense Department, he has long been an outspoken proponent of a "pro-active military" in noncombat regions. He has advocated military collaboration with the oil and gas industry and with nongovernmental organizations abroad.

I would certainly like to hear General Jones elaborate on what he means by a "pro-active military". Jones' statement on "collaboration with the oil and gas industry" most certainly confirms what many have suspected for years - that our military is a U.S. global oil protection force. Throw a bone to the (State Department) poodle on the chain while the pack of big dogs gets a side of beef. If history is our guide, "pro-active" means finding any (and every) reason to justify military actions.

With his longstanding military experience along with his strong corporate ties (on the boards of both Chevron and Boeing), General Jones is at the heart of the National Security State. In such a position I see little incentive for him to seek alternative ways of approaching the foreign policy and "national security" issues facing the U.S.

The Post article said that, In his initial conversations with Obama before taking the job, Jones confirmed, he insisted on being "in charge" and having open and final access to the president on all national security matters. I wonder if Secretary of State Clinton will have equal, open and just as "final" access to the President??? If not, one can see that every potential foreign policy problem will have a military solution.

So the Obama scales keep tipping from the idealist to the pragmatist, and rather than changing course from the old ways, it is full speed ahead into the sea of icebergs. Stop this ship of fools; I want to get off!



Credits: Obama's NSC Will Get New Power: Directive Expands Makeup and Role Of Security Body, Washington Post, Sunday, February 8, 2009, Page A1. Photo of General James Jones by Linda Davidson, The Washington Post

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Obama's Got the Football; Time to Call the Game


Another Superbowl is history. If you think the best seats were in those Sky Boxes, think again. President Obama hosted some members of the House and Senate at his White House Superbowl soiree. And speaking of football (even though the President is more of a basketball fan) there is a football carried by a military officer just steps from the President 24 hours a day (anybody for a little pick-up game of touch football in the West Wing?). Is that cool or what?

Well, not really. You see; this euphemistic football is actually a sophisticated (and deadly) briefcase containing everything the President needs to begin World War III, or at least order the launch of a whole lotta nukes. And this ain't no game!

Among the nifty items in the briefcase is a playbook of sorts, but this playbook gives the President all the nuclear weapons launch options as formulated in the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP). Let's see... Who are we going to incinerate today???

I'm just thankful that we now have a President who will think twice (or hopefully more) before launching any nukes. My hope, however, is that there will come a time when the only "football" the President tosses is one made of (artificial) pigskin.

Fortunately, President Obama seems serious about working with the Russian leadership to take both U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons of hair trigger alert. During his campaign for President he said, “A world without nuclear weapons is profoundly in America’s interest and the world’s interest. It is our responsibility to make the commitment, and to do the hard work to make this vision a reality. That’s what I’ve done as a Senator and a candidate, and that’s what I’ll do as President.”

And now, President Obama is making the initial overtures that could lead to the United States AND Russia demonstrating leadership in seriously cutting back both nations' nuclear arsenals, thereby setting the example for other nations. It MUST start here!

The President is ready to engage Russia in serious talks that would be aimed at an 80% reduction in both nations nuclear arsenals. That would be a momentous beginning. There WILL be some sticking points however, such as European missile defense. That will be a tough one for the President to turn around since there is major pressure from the Pentagon (and many in Congress) as well as the weapons industry to continue this futile program.

The President needs to hear from everyone who supports dialogue between the U.S and Russia aimed at major reductions in both nuclear arsenals! CLICK HERE to send an email to President Obama (courtesy of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation) encouraging him to directly engage the Russians and provide leadership for a nuclear weapons-free world.

After you send your email, please share this with others. We must let the President know that he is not alone on this one! He will be (and is already) getting resistance from the Pentagon and some in Congress. He needs the people behind him (pushing) all the way.



Monday, February 2, 2009

Events in the Seattle Area Commemorating the "Bravo" Test


Here is an announcement that will interest nuclear abolitionists living in Seattle, Washington and its environs. Please share it widely.

In commemoration of the 55th anniversary of the U.S. "Bravo" nuclear bomb detonation at Bikini Atoll, the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, the Pacific Life Community, and Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility invite the public to two events:

A public presentation entitled "Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific: An International Law Perspective" at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 26, at University Lutheran Church, 1604 NE 50th, Seattle. Speakers include Motarilavoa Hilda Lini, Chief of the Turaga Nation of the Republic of Vanuatu and former Minister of Justice and Minister of Health; and Anabel Dwyer of the Lawyers' Committee on Nuclear Policy. Chief Lini received The Nuclear-Free Future Award in 2005. Dr. David Hall of Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility will moderate the forum. Admission is free; donations are welcome. More information at http://www.pacificlifecommunity.wordpress.com/.

A vigil and nonviolent direct action at the gates of the Bangor Trident nuclear submarine base on Sunday, March 1. Participants will gather at the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action (GZ), 16159 Clear Creek Rd. NW, Poulsbo, WA, at 10:30 a.m., leave for the gate at noon, and return to GZ for a closing circle at 2:00. For directions to GZ go to http://www.gzcenter.org/. For more information contact Anne Hall at 206-545-3562 or Sue Ablao and Jackie Hudson, 360-377-2586.

The Pacific Life Community is committed to ending nuclear weapons and war-making through nonviolent direct action along the Pacific Rim in collaboration with the global peace movement. Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action is committed to nonviolent resistance to Trident and the abolition of all nuclear weapons.