Quotable

"We could, in a moment in time, destroy everything—ourselves and all that we had every touched or loved—by means of our own technology and by our own hand." -Robert Jay Lifton, psychiatrist and the author of “Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima,” and a memoir, “Witness to an Extreme Century.”


Friday, April 24, 2009

Our Biggest Hurdle: The Revolving Door

Friends,

After writing a recent post in my other blog about Trimming the President's war funding budget, I felt the need for a reality check. It came in a report I've had buried in my pile of "things to read" for several years. About Face: The Role of the Arms Lobby In the Bush Administration's Radical Reversal of Two Decades of U.S. Nuclear Policy, provides a sobering look at how the U.S. government's intimate relationship with corporate interests makes trimming (let alone questioning) any budget related to military funding (or nuclear weapons) a difficult, if not impossible task.

This special report from the World Policy Insitute, written in 2002, is a searing indictment of the role of the corporate arms lobby in shaping U.S. strategic policy, in this case as it relates to nuclear weapons. Chapter one is aptly titled,"The Bush Nuclear Policy: Making the World Safe for Nuclear Weapons?"

I don't know how many ex CEOs of Lockheed Martin President Obama has appointed to positions like Air Force Assistant Secretary, but he has appointed at least two heavys - National Security Advisor, James Jones (Director, Boeing) and Deputy Secretary of Defense, William Lynn (Lobbyist, Raytheon). Not a bad start, eh?

The Bush administration wasn't the first to pack the house with industry insiders (although it raised it to a high art), and it won't be the last. President Obama may have the best of intentions (and I believe he does) in wanting to rid the world of nuclear weapons, but he is up against an extraordinarily powerful weapons lobby. Better keep your eye on the ball on this one folks; nothing is going to change until we figure out how to close the revolving door.

I've extracted most of the players from Appendix A: Through the Revolving Door: Corporate Connections of Bush Administration Officials to the Arms and Energy Industries. It makes great late night reading.

Peace,

Leonard

P.S. - I'll research these key government appointments and report on their corporate connections in a subsequent post. It will be interesting to see if President Obama has done anything to slow down the revolving door.

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

Appendix A: Department, Rank, Name, Affiliation(s), Compensation

White House/Executive, Vice President, Dick Cheney - CEO, shareholder of Halliburton (oil, defense construction) $35.1 mil. salary, $500,001-$1 mil. deferred comp., $1-$5 mil. Cash Value Bonus Plan director, Procter & Gamble $250,001-$500,000 shareholder, restricted stock director, Brown and Root Saudi Limited Co. N/A shareholder, Anadarko Petroleum $250,001-$500,000 deferred stock payment

Lynn Cheney, wife of Vice President - director, Lockheed Martin $500,000-$1,000,000 deferred fees

White House/Executive, Deputy National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley - board member, ANSER Analytic Services, (major defense contractor) $20,000 partner, Shea and Gardner, law firm representing Lockheed Martin N/A

White House/Executive, Assistant to the President; Dir. Of Legislative Affairs, Nicholas Calio - paid consultant, Motorola (significant defense contractor) N/A

White House/Executive, Senior Advisor to the President, Karl Rove - shareholder, Enron and Boeing $100,001-$250,000 each

White House/Executive, Chief of Staff to Vice President, I. Lewis Libby - consultant, Northrop Grumman $6,000

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld director, Gilead Sciences (biotech) up to $30 million stock director, Asea Brown Boveri LTD. (nuclear energy) $148,020 limited partner, SCF-II(energy) $17,000 director, Gulfstream Aerospace (now a General Dynamics subsidiary), which specializes in corporate jets and "special mission" aircraft sold to foreign governments for military use $5,000

Defense Under Secretary for Comptroller Dov Zakheim, vice president, Systems Planning Corporation (defense consulting firm) $277,749 paid advisory board, Northrop Grumman $11,000

Defense Under Secretary for Policy Douglas J. Feith shareholder, Sunoco up to $650,000 stock president and managing partner of former law firm, Feith & Zell, clients include Loral Space and Communications Ltd, Northrop Grumman $5,000 in fees for each client, salary of $246,045 at law firm

Defense Under Secretary for Personnel & Readiness David S.C. Chu, vice president, Rand Corp.(major Pentagon consulting and research firm) $226,000

Defense Under Secretary for Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Edward C. "Pete" Aldridge Jr., CEO, Aerospace Corp., a nonprofit defense research firm which has received more than $600 million for work at the Space and Missiles Defense Center, Los Angeles (a top 100 defense contractor) $470,000 salary United Industrial Corp.(defense), director, shareholder $35,000 fees, up to $250,000 stock director, AAI (defense) $4,000 vice president, McDonell Douglas Electronics N/A

Defense Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz co-chairman of Nunn-Wolfowitz, task force, Hughes Electronics $300,000 consultant, Northrop Grumman $6,000 fees consultant, BP Amoco $10,000 fees

Defense Undersecretary Michael Wynne, senior vice president, General Dynamics, International Planning and Development, 25 years in defense industry at GD and Martin Marietta N/A

Defense Director, Office of Independent Testing and Evaluation Thomas Christie, director, Institute for Defense Analysis (major Pentagon consulting firm), Operational Evaluation Division N/A

Air Force Secretary James Roche, former president, Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems, in charge of combat avionics, defensive systems, space systems among others, began career with Northrop Grumman in 1984 N/A

Air Force Assistant Secretary for Installations, Environment and Logistics Nelson F. Gibbs, corporate comptroller 1991-1999, Northrop Grumman N/A

Air Force Assistant Secretary Peter B. Teetsm chief operating officer, Lockheed Martin, 37 years in defense industry N/A

Navy Secretary Gordon England, former executive vice president, General Dynamics, 20 years in defense industry with GD and Lockheed N/A

Energy Administrator for Defense Programs (includes nuclear weapons work) Everet Beckner, deputy chief executive, Lockheed Martin's representative in three company consortium running Britain's nuclear weapons complex (Atomic Weapons Establishment) N/A

State Secretary Colin Powell shareholder, General Dynamics $1 to $5 mil. stock honorarium for speaking, Carlyle Group $100,000 honorariums, Arthur Andersen, GE Power Systems $59,500 each director, Gulfstream Aerospace $5,000

State Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage president and partner, Armitage Assoc. LLP(consulting for Raytheon, Boeing, Brown and Root, Science Application International and other defense contractors), also served on boards of Raytheon and Mantech $246,965 salary GE, Coastal Corp. (defense), shareholder $500,001-$1 mil. each

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta special business initiative vice president, shareholder, Lockheed Martin $130,000 salary, $80,000 stock board member, MELE Assoc., (tech consulting for Lockheed, Depts. of Energy, State, Transportation) up to $50,000 stock

Transportation Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson vice president, Lockheed Martin, chief operating officer Lockheed Martin Information and Management Services $300,000 salary, up to $500,000 severance package

Justice Solicitor General Theodore Olson private practice clients include; Hughes Electronics, Arthur Andersen $5,000 each

Sources: Center for Public Integrity, ("Bush Top 100"
http://www.publicintegrity.org/cgi-bin/whoswhosearch.asp), Whitehouse.gov, supplemented by news accounts in the New York Times, Washington Post, Denver Post, Aviation Week & Space Technology and the Los Angeles Times among others.

Note: Connections cited here represent relationships that existed prior to the individual's appointment to the administration. In the vast majority of cases these financial links have been severed pursuant to conflict-of-interest rules.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mikhail Gorbachev: Listening to our Elders

Friends,

There has been much talk (more than ever before) about what the world must do to rid itself of the scourge of nuclear weapons. President Obama has spoken seriously of his desire (and intent) to work with Russia and other nations to take the necessary steps towards disarmament and non-proliferation.

However, the issue of nuclear weapons does not exist by itself in some sort of vacuum, as if it were an issue that can be neatly extracted and eliminated. It exists within a context of a nations competing with each other for military superiority, which exists within a context of nations competing for strategic interests (generally resources), and so on. All things are interrelated. So we cannot simply cut back arsenals, re-write a few treaties and hope that all will be at peace.

I have been interested in Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev ever since he met with President Ronald Reagan in Reykjavik, Iceland in 1986 in a historic meeting regarding nuclear weapons. Gorbachev was the last General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (from 1985-1991). His attempts at reform coupled with his reaching out to the West were instrumental in bringing an end to the Cold War. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1990.

At the age of 77, Gorbachev has a wealth of experience, knowledge, and most importantly - wisdom. He has recently spoken out quite forcefully on subjects like NATO's Eastward Expansion (a very bad idea). Now he has spoken out about the futility of Obama speaking of nuclear disarmament when [U.S.] "military superiority would be an insurmountable obstacle to ridding the world of nuclear weapons."

The wise old sage is right. How can we move towards the goal of a nuclear weapons-free world when nations continue to to build up ridiculously monstrous conventional armed forces. The U.S. spends more on its military than all the other nations combined!!! As Gorbachev said, "Defense budgets [for many nations] far exceed reasonable security needs." He counsels that we mustn't stop moving towards nuclear disarmament because of this; we need to work on these many issues (and in particular the issue of "military superiority") "in parallel". They are all connected, and each is essential to the others' success.

"Military superiority would be an insurmountable obstacle to ridding the world of nuclear weapons," the ex-Soviet president said. "Unless we discuss demilitarization of international politics, the reduction of military budgets, preventing militarization of outer space, talking about a nuclear-free world will be just rhetorical."

Mikhail Gorbachev is one who has earned his place as wise elder one to whom we should listen, and listen carefully. One of the things he has learned over the better part of a century is that nothing exists by itself. All things (and people) are related and very much interconnected. So it is with one of the most pressing issues of our time, nuclear weapons. Just as important (and deeply interwoven with it) is the issue of militarization. As Gorbachev said, "a 'militarized' world would also be untenable.

With a (United States) military budget (and the emphasis on military solutions to every problem) continuing to rise uncontrollably, it is crucial that we continue to focus on (and pursue) alternatives. If you believe that there are no lasting military solutions to the problems we face, check out the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL). There you can learn how the U.S. can reduce its reliance on the military while actually making the nation safer in the long run. It's all about peaceful prevention of deadly conflict. There is a more effective path to lasting security, and it does not lie in military power or solutions.

At FCNL you can get engaged with this issue. Right now you can urge Congress to vote against funding for the wars (or what I would call occupations of) in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Here's to heeding the wisdom of our elders.

Peace,

Leonard

Read the article from the Associated Press: Gorbachev: US military power blocks 'no nukes'

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mom Says, Use WORDS Not WEAPONS!

Dear Friends,

Mother's Day will be here before you know it; before you go out and buy those Hallmark Cards and flowers, I thought a little history might be appropriate:

In 1858, Anna Jarvis, a young Appalachian homemaker tried to improve sanitation through what she called Mother’s Work Days. During the Civil War she organized women to work for better sanitary conditions for both sides, and in 1868 she began working for reconciliation between Union and Confederate neighbors.

In 1870, Julia Ward Howe (who is widely known for having written "The Battle Hymn of the Republic") called for women to rise up and oppose all forms of war. Believing strongly that peace and equal rights for all people were crucial global issues, Julia hoped to inspire an international movement of women for peace with her Mother's Day Proclamation of 1870.

Although she failed in her attempt to get formal recognition of a Mother's Day for Peace, Anna Jarvis’ daughter (also named Anna Jarvis) continued the pursuit of a day honoring women. The first such Mother's Day was celebrated in West Virginia in 1907 in the church where the elder Anna Jarvis had taught Sunday School. In 1914 the U.S. Congress passed a Joint Resolution, and President Woodrow Wilson signed it, establishing Mother's Day, emphasizing women's role in the family (not as activists in the public arena, as Howe's Mother's Day had been).

Interestingly enough, Anna Jarvis became increasingly concerned over the commercialization of Mother's Day: "I wanted it to be a day of sentiment, not profit." She opposed the selling of flowers and also the use of greeting cards: "a poor excuse for the letter you are too lazy to write"(http://womenshistory.about.com/).

I wouldn’t dream of calling for a boycott of flowers or greeting cards (I might get sued), but there are other ways of honoring your mother and other inspirational women in your life – ways that will make a difference in many women’s lives. You might consider making a financial contribution to an organization working for women’s issues such as the Global Fund for Women in honor of a woman (or women) who have had a positive influence on your life.

As for me, although I will be spending Mother's Day with my family, I will be spending the day before with fellow nuclear weapons abolitionists, honoring mothers and creating hope for the children by working to abolish nuclear weapons. We will be holding a nonviolent action and vigil at the gates of Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, home of the West coast Trident nuclear submarine fleet, and home to one of the largest concentrations of nuclear weapons in the world.

If you live around Puget Sound, Washington, consider joining us for this event. You can read more about it below. You can also click here for a printable flyer about the event. And, you can view a slide show of the most recent vigil and action by clicking here. Check it out! And whatever you do this Mother's Day, make Mom happy while you make a difference!

Peace,

Leonard

P.S. - You can read Julia Ward Howe’s (powerful) 1870 "Mother’s Day Proclamation" by clicking here.


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

Mom Says: Use Words Not Weapons! Join the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action for a traditional vigil and direct action at the gates of Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor on Saturday, May 9, 2009. Honor our mothers, and create hope for the children, as we work together to abolish nuclear weapons.

Gather at 8:30 a.m. at the Ground Zero Center, 16159 Clear Creek Rd. NW, Poulsbo, WA, for nonviolence training and action planning. At 2:00 p.m., we'll walk or ride to the Bangor gate(s). Bring sack lunch, snacks, water, umbrella, warm clothes, money to donate, a peaceful spirit. For driving directions and more information go to http://www.gzcenter.org/. To offer or request a ride, contact Rosy Betz-Zall, 206-782-9305, or Anne Hall, 206-545-3562, .

Monday, April 13, 2009

Get the Nukes Out Of Europe!

Friends,

We STILL haven't gotten all the U.S. nuclear weapons out of Europe years after the end of the Cold War. What's up with that??? At the height of the Cold War the U.S. had thousands of tactical nuclear weapons scattered all over Europe, ready to launch, shoot, drop or bury had the Soviet Union launched an invasion of Europe. There were missiles, gravity bombs, artillery shells, and even land mines. Imagine driving over one of those!?!?!

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the German news organization, Spiegel that he wants to see all the remaining U.S. nuclear weapons removed from Germany, calling them "militarily obsolete". There are approximately 100 nuclear weapons currently stored in five European countries, and they are most likely all gravity bombs. With Trident prowling much of the Seven Seas these days, bombs are, indeed, passe.

Contrast Steinmeier with Chancellor Angela Merkel who spoke to the German Bundestag before the recent NATO summit, saying "that the German government still fully supported the NATO doctrine of 'nuclear sharing,' whereby non-nuclear states such as Germany host third-party nukes in order to get more say in decision-making. Hosting American nuclear weapons secures Berlin's "influence in the defense alliance, including in this highly sensitive area." So she's O.K. with "sharing" so long as she gets to covet a few of those bad boys. Hmmm. Sounds like nuke envy, doesn't it???

Of course, NATO is now a dinosaur; the Cold War ended long ago, and with it NATO's reason for living. But the alliance refuses to die; on the contrary, it just celebrated its 60th anniversary, and is looking for a new mission to justify its existence. And it has antagonized Russia by signing up as many ex-soviet bloc countries as it can get its hands on (not very sporting).

NATO "retains policies that promote the role of nuclear weapons and undermine the NPT. According to NATO's current Strategic Concept - up for review by 2009 - nuclear weapons provide the "supreme guarantee" of Alliance security" according to The Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy. What kind of guarantee is that? So during a war, the United States would give Belgium, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Turkey and Greece permission to use their nukes. That certainly opens up a world of (nuclear) possibilities, doesn't it? I can just see them lining up at the drive (or fly) through window; "a dozen B61's please, and could you supersize those?"

This is an issue to watch. It will be important for President Obama, as he moves forward with negotiations with Russia, to address this issue decisively, not only for U.S. relations with Russia, but also to bolster the impoverished Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that is up for review in 2o1o. Anything that undermines the NPT must be dealt with, and the issue of a nuclear NATO must be addressed directly.

Peace,

Leonard

Check out NATO's nuclear sharing: A cold war anachronism that undermines the NPT at The Acronym Institute for an in depth analysis of NATO and nuclear weapons.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Well Blow Me Down

Ahoy Mateys,

Couldn’t pass up the latest (British) Trident news; This salty dog's been keeping up with all the news what's unfit to print these days. Seems some mutinous bilge rats been holdin back on the reportin-o-incidents on the high seas.

“BRITAIN'S nuclear submarines have been involved in 14 collisions in the past 21 years, it emerged last night. The Royal Navy has also admitted there have been 237 fires on its nuclear-powered submarine fleet since 1987.”

Well, blow me down (just don’t blow me up)!!! Seein as how I didn’t get me ration-o-rum this early morn I’m mighty miffed. This old sea dog woulda had his insurance policy with Loyds oh London cancelled had I had that many accidents with me Mini Cooper while on shore leave (or any leave for that matter); and no doubt I woulda been keel hauled fer keeping all them accidents under me pea coat fer so long. Ooh aargh!

It’s good to know that “the only collision with another submarine was the one in February with a French vessel in the mid-Atlantic.” The others was just things like groundings and altercations with icebergs. Well me heartys, I’m mighty relieved; just little stuff, eh?

Don’t know bout them fires though (237 of em since 1987)! Hmm… Me thinks they should stop smoking in the lavatories (and especially round them missiles). That oughta be a floggin offense, don’t ya think matey’s?

Well, you can read all about it yerselves at The Scotsman.

If Her Majesty’s Navy was previously hidin that many incidents, it kinda makes one wonder how many the U.S. Navy’s been keeping under wraps!?!?!?! Well blow me down; even as I write, I just seen this here news that the USS Hartford, a Los Angeles class nuclear submarine collided with the USS New Orleans, an amphibious assault ship, on March 20th; couldn't hide that one. Shoulda been lookin in the rear view mirror if you ask me. By the by; the Hartford was also involved in a serious grounding incident in 2003 that the Navy unsuccessfully tried to cover up. Shiver me timbers!

Avast! Tis time to abandon ship if ya ask me mateys. As the Scottish National Party's Westminster leader, Angus Robertson, said, "Any collision is one collision too many, especially when it involves weapons of mass destruction. The possible consequences of such a collision do not bear thinking about. The time is now right to scrap Trident and rid Scotland of nuclear weapons."

Aye laddy; I'm with you Angus! Hard to starboard!

Peace,

Leonard

Photo Credit: U.S. Navy photo of the Los Angeles-class submarine USS San Francisco (SSN 711) that ran aground while submerged approximately 350 miles south of the island of Guam in January, 2005. This photo was taken in dry dock before the sub got a major nose job.

Additional Reading: Check out Wikipedia for a brief description of every major submarine incident since 2000.

Monday, April 6, 2009

They've Got Missiles so We've Got Missiles, or Where Do We Go From Here?

Friends,

As with much of President Obama's Eurofest, the Czechs rolled out the red carpet this past weekend, but he was also welcomed by significant crowds representing the 70 percent of Czechs who do not want any part of the U.S. missile defense shield in their country, and helped topple their pro-missile defense government not long before the President's visit.

President Obama is not ready to let this folly of the U.S. Military-Industrial Complex go quite yet (or perhaps he's channeling Ronald Reagan); during his speech in Prague, he spoke of going forward with European missile defense (invoking Iran as its raison d'etre), and praised the Czech Republic for agreeing to host the radar system (he must have missed the recent news).

As expected, the President threw out some heavy rhetoric about North Korea's launch of a Taepo-dong 2 missile on the same day as the President's speech. He also focused on "Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile activity." He made all the predictable statements, among them, "Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something. The world must stand together to prevent the spread of these weapons." All very presidential.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1718 does prohibit North Korea from shooting off missiles (like the Taepo-dong 2) that could carry nasty things like nuclear warheads. Despite the evidence that the North Koreans have a long way to go in becoming a serious nuclear contender, has anyone considered the fact that while President Obama is chiding the North Koreans for shooting off another dud, the U.S. regularly lobs ballistic missiles from its shores all the way to the Marshall Islands (and quite successfully too)???

The 30th Space Wing, 576th Flight Test Squadron at Vandenberg Air Force Base, located on the Southern California coast, conducts regularly scheduled quarterly operational test launches of ballistic missiles so they can be confident when the time comes to launch the real thing, that everything will work. So they ship one of those bad boys, a Trident D5 or a Minuteman III, to Vandenberg where they reassemble it with a dummy warhead (phew!), and then lob it 4,800 miles away to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

Of course, besides all the other data they gather about the functioning of the missile, the most important thing is to see how close the re-entry vehicle will come to its intended target. After all, when they shoot one off containing a real nuclear warhead they want it hit dead on. Of course, what's a few metres when you're talking about an explosive yield of 335 kilotons (W78 warhead)???

But I digress (as usual). The point is that we're screaming at the top of our lungs about the North Koreans shooting a missile or two, and here we are shooting them off right and left. I am not trying to defend the North Korean government; it would be nice if they could feed their people rather than building death machines. But let's face it; until the nuclear powers start making real progress towards disarmament, the six-party talks might as well be the five-party talks (not much of a party, eh?).

I believe President Obama knows that this is the historical moment in which we may have the last opportunity to begin the new and difficult journey towards the abolition of nuclear weapons. If we miss this opportunity, the future could well be a grim one indeed. This President is one who I see as the marriage of idealism and pragmatism, a marriage that creates a most difficult tension when dealing with an issue such as nuclear weapons. How he approaches every aspect of this subject is of critical importance; an error of judgement on just a single aspect could negate progress on many other aspects.

While we must (as nuclear abolitionists) keep the pressure on President Obama on every issue of importance, it will also be extremely important to support him in every positive proposal (and thank him as well). Much of what the President said in his Prague speech was extremely positive; he laid out a clear vision of a nuclear weapons-free world and demonstrated (for the first time in recent years) real U.S. leadership on this most important issue

It will be important to gain as much Congressional support for the President's positive measures. You can advocate by contacting your Senators and Representative and signing a petition at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, and you can also send a personalized email courtesy of the Campaign for a Nuclear Weapons Free World .

It wouldn't be a bad idea to send an email (or letter) to President Obama thanking him for his commitment to a nuclear weapons-free world, and sharing your priorities regarding nuclear weapons. He is going to need both our support and prodding in this journey in which he faces opposition from deeply entrenched interests in both government and industry. Let's stay with him all the way!

Peace,

Leonard



CLICK HERE to read the full text of President Obama's speech on nuclear issues delivered in Prague (courtesy of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation).

CLICK HERE to watch the entire speech on video (at the BBC).

Photo Notes/Credits: (1) Posters hanging from a bridge in Prague over the Vltava river protest the possible construction on Czech soil of a U.S. radar tracking system (By Petr David Josek -- Associated Press); (2) A minuteman III ICBM launches from a silo at Vandenberg AFB. (30th Space Wing Public Affairs, USAF)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Non-Proliferation or Non-Existence

Friends,

Wow! When was the last time you heard the President of the United States give a major speech (or any speech for that matter) on ANYTHING related to nuclear weapons??? Well, President Obama is scheduled to give a major speech on nuclear proliferation while in Prague, Czech Republic this Sunday, April 5th at 10:00 a.m Central European Time (4:00 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time). It may be broadcast on C-SPAN or C-SPAN2, and possibly CNN (according to FCNL's Nuclear Calendar). If you miss it, video of the speech will be posted on the White House website.

It is timely that the President will speak from the Czech Republic, considering that the Czech government recently fell after a no-confidence vote in mid-March by the Czech Parliament. The government had doggedly supported U.S. plans to site missile defense radar within its borders, but a nonviolent campaign made up of citizens and various groups (including a couple hundred Czech mayors) finally (after more than two years) convinced enough members of the Czech Parliament to oppose the plans; polls showed 70 percent of Czechs opposed the plans. Although some of the news coverage has focused on the government's poor handling of the economic crisis, the missile defense issue WAS a key issue in the government's ouster.
This was absolutely revolutionary - nuclear weapons abolitionists take note - that the Czech people, utilizing non-violent means helped bring down a government and sent a clear message to the United States: We do not support your military-industrial complex or your flaky (and destablilizing) missile defense plans! The proposed missile defense radar plans WILL be on the agenda during President Obama's meeting with Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek; that should be interesting.

I am sure that all of us working for the abolition of nuclear weapons will be watching and listening carefully to President Obama's speech. This is a pivotal moment, and this speech will be an opportunity for the President to show his leadership by stating a firm U.S. commitment to real disarmament measures, and not just calling on other nations (like North Korea and Iran) to pull back. The U.S. (and Russia) must commit to definite, immediate and quantifiable measures to show a firm commitment to non-proliferation, and only then will they have the right call on nations like North Korea and Iran to join in these efforts.

The days of the nuclear haves and have nots is over. The infamous (and once exclusive) nuclear club is no longer exclusive. And the nations of the world have to make a choice; continue building these omnicidal weapons and face nonexistence or beat all our (nuclear) swords into ploughshares as a major step in building a world of nonviolence. Let us choose nonviolence.


Peace,

Leonard

Photographic Notes/Credits:
Photo of Czech demonstrators courtesy of Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.
The bronze sculpture "Let Us Beat Our Swords into Ploughshares," was created by Soviet artist Evgeny Vuchetich, and presented to the United Nations on 4 December 1959 by the Government of the USSR. The sculpture, depicting the figure of a man holding a hammer aloft in one hand and a sword in the other, which he is making into a ploughshare, is meant to symbolize man's desire to put an end to war, and to convert the means of destruction into creative tools for the benefit of mankind. It is located in the North Garden of the United Nations Headquarters. (UN Photo/Andrea Brizzi)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Let the Talks Begin - No Fooling

Friends,

This is a historic day; President Obama and Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev met, talked and agreed to move forward on negotiations aimed at reducing the numbers of both nations' nuclear weapons. NO JOKE! You can read the Joint Statement (below) posted today at The White House Website. And NO, President Obama didn't claim to be able to see into Medvedev's soul (unlike his predecessor, who claimed to see into Vladimir Putin's soul; I'm sorry, but that was just way too creepy).

Soul searching aside, they did find common ground. And though this is just a beginning, today's meeting and Joint Statement is a major step in reversing the return-to-the-Cold-War relationship that the previous administration brewed up by abrogating treaties, stirring up ex-soviet bloc nations, and vigorously pursuing European missile defense (and that's just a partial list). Can't you already feel the tension easing? Of course, the European missile defense piece will likey be a key item on the agenda as the U.S. and Russia go forward in these negotiations. And sooner or later (whether in these or future negotiations) the subject of weapons in space will have to come up.

Today's joint statement is a significant milestone, and an extremely hopeful sign that the two leaders will take their leadership roles regarding nuclear weapons seriously enough to assign the highest level negotiators, and take a personal role. It will be up to us to keep the pressure on these leaders to negotiate a treaty that will be truly binding and will demonstrate to the rest of the world our nations' pursuit of a world free of nuclear weapons.

If you are not already engaged with this issue, please consider it. We need every one's voice raised in the pursuit of a nuclear weapons-free world. Morally, it has always been the right thing. And now, with the world economy in a downward spiral, it is even more critical that we stop throwing money down the drain in preparation for the ultimate genocide, or what some have referred to as omnicide. We simply can't afford it.

Be sure to get involved with at least one of the organizations listed in the Hot Links section of my blog; from Abolition 2000 to Zero Nukes, there is sure to be an organization for you! At many of them you can sign up to receive action alerts and stay engaged in a positive way to build a nuclear weapons-free world. Check them out today!

Towards a nuclear weapons-free world (and Peace),

Leonard
******************
Joint Statement by
Dmitriy A. Medvedev, President of the Russian Federation, and
Barack Obama, President of the United States of America,
Regarding Negotiations on Further Reductions in Strategic Offensive Arms


The President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, and the President of the Russian Federation, Dmitriy A. Medvedev, noted that the Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START Treaty), which expires in December 2009, has completely fulfilled its intended purpose and that the maximum levels for strategic offensive arms recorded in the Treaty were reached long ago. They have therefore decided to move further along the path of reducing and limiting strategic offensive arms in accordance with U.S. and Russian obligations under Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

The Presidents decided to begin bilateral intergovernmental negotiations to work out a new, comprehensive, legally binding agreement on reducing and limiting strategic offensive arms to replace the START Treaty. The United States and the Russian Federation intend to conclude this agreement before the Treaty expires in December. In this connection, they instructed their delegations at the negotiations to proceed on basis of the following:

- The subject of the new agreement will be the reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms;

- In the future agreement the Parties will seek to record levels of reductions in strategic offensive arms that will be lower than those in the 2002 Moscow Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions, which is currently in effect;

- The new agreement will mutually enhance the security of the Parties and predictability and stability in strategic offensive forces, and will include effective verification measures drawn from the experience of the Parties in implementing the START Treaty.

They directed their negotiators to report on progress achieved in working out the new agreement by July 2009.
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Photo Credit: Presidents Obama and Medvedev on April 1, 2009, by AFP/Saul Loeb