"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

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Time to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty


Every now and then I go back and watch this video (see below) to remind myself just how much additional ionizing radiation the world's nuclear powers have added to our small planet since 1945.  That there are clear reasons, including the additional radiation burden, to ensure that no nation tests nuclear weapons ever again should be obvious.

The United States is one of few nations that have not yet ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) that bans all nuclear explosions in all environments, for military or civilian purposes. The CTBT was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on September 10, 1996.

The CTBT will formally enter into force after 44 designated “nuclear-capable states” have deposited their instruments of ratification with the UN secretary-general. So far, 183 states have signed and 157 have ratified the treaty. Yet of the 44 specified countries, India, Pakistan, and North Korea still have not signed, and only 36 have ratified the treaty.

The history of nuclear weapons testing is one of human suffering and environmental degradation.  Additional testing would only start this cycle once again, as well as lead to more nuclear weapons.

Help move the CTBT to full ratification.  Sign The ATOM Project Petition and let the world's leaders know you demand an absolute end to nuclear-weapons testing.

Towards a nuclear-weapons free world,


Source URL for the YouTube video: http://youtu.be/LLCF7vPanrY 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Finally - An Award for Preventing (Nuclear) War!!!

Picture a smartly uniformed military officer, bristling with medals and ribbons for participation and valor in war.  Then try to picture that same individual receiving a medal for preventing a war.  But not just any war... the ultimate world ending kind - Full Scale Thermonuclear War between the Soviet Union and the U.S.  

On Sept. 26, 1983, Stanislov Petrov, then an officer at a Soviet nuclear early-warning system command center, went well beyond his direct responsibilities (which were to simply report incoming missiles to his superiors).  Petrov carefully (yet quickly) analyzed the situation he was seeing on his radar screen and chose to ignore the report rather than blindly accepting the raw data.

Had Petrov instead passed on the "obvious" information, his superiors would have most likely ordered a retaliatory strike, and World War III would have begun.  What if another officer had been sitting in Petrov's chair that day???

The implications are obvious.  Whether the Cuban Missile Crisis or any of the countless incidents over the past nearly seven decades, nearly every one could have resulted in the end of life as we know it.  In each case people intervened and made decisions that were either counter intuitive or against established rules.  But it was people, and not technology, that brought humanity back from the brink.

And so, an individual who most likely saved the world (or at least gave it a reprieve) will finally be recognized - not for bravery under fire, but for preventing the ultimate fire.  Although he's not being recognized by his own country's military, it is nevertheless a well-earned recognition.

To learn Petrov's full story, read the article below.


Soviet Officer Wins Award for Preventing Nuclear War

In RIA NOVOSTI, 11/16/2012


MOSCOW, November 16 (RIA Novosti) – A retired Soviet lieutenant colonel whose self-control prevented a nuclear war from being triggered by a long-classified accident in 1983 was named on Friday a recipient of a German anti-war prize.

Stanislav Petrov, 73, won the fourth Dresden-Preis (Dresden Prize), which comes complete with a check for 25,000 euro ($32,000), prize organizers said on their website, Friendsofdresden-deutschland.com.

The prize is to be bestowed at a ceremony in Dresden on Feb. 17, the anniversary of the Dresden bombing in 1945, the organizers said.

Ironically for a military officer, Petrov shot to fame for ignoring his direct responsibilities. The officer served at a command center of the Soviet nuclear early-warning system outside Moscow, which reported the launch of five nuclear missiles from US territory on Sept. 26, 1983.

Cold War tensions were riding high at the time, boosted by the Soviet Union’s fears about the US Strategic Defense Initiative – “the Star Wars program” – and the international incident caused by the Soviet air defense shooting down a Korean passenger plane earlier in September that year.

Petrov’s duty was to report the incoming missiles to his superiors, who were likely to order a snap retaliatory strike. However, he chose to ignore the report, ruling it an equipment malfunction and reckoning five missiles insufficient for a proper war.

His guess was right: an investigation proved the warning to be a false report by a monitoring satellite confused by sunlight reflecting off high-altitude clouds.

Petrov was neither promoted nor disciplined and continued his service, while the story remained classified until 1998. He later said he was denied an award because the incident was investigated by the officers responsible for the malfunction.

After the story was made public, Petrov received several international prizes. He has stubbornly denied all attempts to label him a hero, saying in an interview to The Moscow News in 2004 that “he was just doing his job, at the right place at the right time.”

The annual Dresden-Preis was incepted in 2010 and is awarded for anti-war effort. Recipients include the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, pianist Daniel Barenboim, active in promoting Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation, and US war photographer James Nachtwey.

The United States had 13,100 strategic nuclear warheads as of 1983, and the Soviet Union 9,700.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Bibi's Gone Bomby!!!

Israel continues to ratchet up nuclear tensions in the Middle East.

Yesterday the Associated Press announced that "attempts to find Arab-Israeli common ground on banning weapons of mass destruction from the Mideast have failed, and high-profile talks on the issue have been called off."

Today we learned that because "much of Iran’s Fordow enrichment site near the city of Qom is now deep underground in a 'zone of immunity' safe from conventional air strikes," Israel could be considering "the use of ballistic missiles carrying small tactical nuclear warheads."

It is deeply disturbing that Israel might remotely consider such a plan.  It is a well known fact that the U.S. supplied Israel with conventional bunker buster bombs (GBU-28 Hard Target Penetrators) in 2011.  What is yet unknown is whether Israel possesses nuclear bunker busters (such as the B61-11 nuclear bunker buster in the U.S. arsenal).  It is safe to say that Israel is technologically capable of producing such a weapon.

Using such a weapon on deeply buried targets in Iran would be disastrous.  Even a low yield weapon with the ability to penetrate deep underground would still blow out a massive crater of highly radioactive material, spreading lethal radiation over a large radius from the target.  The depths reached by the most effective earth penetrating weapon simply cannot contain the resulting nuclear explosion. According to the Federation of American Scientists, "Even a 0.1 KT burst must be buried at a depth of approximately 230 feet to be fully contained."

Furthermore, because the material kicked up into the atmosphere by a nuclear bunker buster would be more directly exposed to the intense radiation emanating from the underground explosion, the resulting fallout would be much more highly radioactive than the fallout from an above ground detonation. The radioactive contamination could very well reach major population centers, and even spread to other countries.

Should Israel use even a single nuclear weapons against Iran, it would become a pariah state.  The use of nuclear weapons is a crime against humanity.  Besides the immorality of it, the International Court of Justice in 1996 determined that "the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law."

It is obscenely ironic that Israel might consider using nuclear weapons of any sort against a sovereign nation that does not even have nuclear weapons.  There is absolutely no sane argument for their use against Iran by any stretch of the imagination.  Israel is the only state in the Middle East to possess nuclear weapons, and does not abide by any treaty, in particular the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. 

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin (aka "Bibi") Netanyahu, should be called to account and should immediately and publicly declare a no first strike policy regarding nuclear weapons. 

The Middle East needs to become a Nuclear Weapon Free Zone, and NOT a Radioactive Wasteland.  And since Israel is the only nuclear-armed nation in the Middle East, it would seem that the responsibility lies with Israel to lead the way.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Eliminate Land Based Missiles Now!

A rehearsal for the apocalypse.


Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles are on 24/7 hair-trigger alert in silos in Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota. They carry thermonuclear warheads at least eight times more powerful than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.

  • They are located in fixed silos, making them easy targets for attack;
  • There is an incentive to “use them first or lose them”;
  • The high-alert status of these weapons could lead to accidental nuclear war;
  • The U.S. government consistently criticizes other countries for conducting missile tests;
  • These tests are dangerous to the target country, the Marshall Islands;
  • Testing these missiles encourages other countries to develop and test their own missiles and nuclear weapons.

Join us at www.wagingpeace.org/goto/vandenberg to ask the president to stop these provocative nuclear missile tests and to decommission these missiles immediately.

Protest at 12 noon on Tuesday, November 13 at the corner of State & Anapamu in Santa Barbara.

The Air Force tests missiles under the cover of darkness.
We are protesting them in the light of day.
Let’s stop this danger to humanity.
www.wagingpeace.org – (805) 965-3443

Friday, November 2, 2012

Time to Debunk Deterrence Doctrine

DETERRENCE!!!  The American Heritage Dictionary defines deterrence as, "measures taken by a state or an alliance of states to prevent hostile action by another state." The Random House Dictionary, in sync with the nuclear age, defines it as "the act of deterring, esp. deterring a nuclear attack by the capacity or threat of retaliating." Finally, the American Heritage Dictionary of Cultural Literacy calls deterrence, "a military capability sufficiently strong to discourage any would-be aggressor from starting a war because of the fear of retaliation. (See balance of terror.)" Phew!!!

As deterrence evolved during the Cold War with the United States and Soviet Union aiming tens of thousands of nuclear weapons at each other, one can certainly understand the balance of terror that existed. The Cold War ended, and with it went any reason for deterrence. The threat of the Communists taking over the world (the dominant paradigm in which those of us growing up in those days were indoctrinated) was done, finished, kapput!

Not so quick!!!  The U.S. and Russia still maintain the vestiges of deterrence with huge nuclear arsenals ready to launch (on warning): land-based missiles, along with their submarine launched counterparts (TRIDENT in the U.S.) hiding beneath the deep blue seas. Yes, we could launch them if we think someone has launched missiles towards us, or we could launch in a preemptive strike to destroy a nation's nuclear weapons infrastructure. Either way, it's not a pretty picture.

 As It is ever so hard to give up that which we have held on to so strongly for so long, a concept on which politicians and military planners have staked their careers (and our lives) for nearly seven decades. And so deterrence lives on, and is given new meaning in an increasingly meaningless context. As with any long-held belief, we must find new reasons to hang on to it.

It is in this context that David Ochmanek, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Development, said (in 2009) that "the nation should continue to view nuclear deterrence as broadly capable of preventing both conventional and unconventional conflict."  In response to reporters' questions at a session with the Defense Writers Group, he said that, "It's probably unwise to draw artificial distinctions between what nuclear weapons deter and don't deter... I think it's better to think about the deterrent qualities of our force in a more holistic way."  

Hmmm... It just might be a bit of a stretch applying the concept of holism in the context of omnicidal weapons. Whatever people's perception of deterrence might have been previously, we live in a different world, a world in which any number of nuclear weapons mean nothing to some, and may or may not present a deterrent in many circumstances among nations. Might it be time to commit the concept of deterrence to the historical trash bin and pursue a different path - in which we develop relationships that involve more than ensuring our access to resources - in dealing with other nations. As for terrorists, the way to prevent a nuclear disaster is to ensure that nuclear materials don't get into their hands.

I have only scratched the surface of a discussion of deterrence, and I encourage people to engage in a much deeper discussion (and debate) of the subject.  Too much is at stake here.  In fact, the very survival of life as we know it on this small planet is at stake.  As David Krieger notes in Ten Serious Flaws in Nuclear Deterrence Theory, deterrence is not foolproof, and "Its failure would be catastrophic." The other nine flaws in David's article are also pretty compelling indictments of deterrence theory.

Albert Einstein once said that "no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it." And THAT will be one of our greatest challenges - to create a new level of consciousness that will allow people to see nuclear abolition as an opportunity and not a liability.  Only then will we be able to move beyond archaic concepts (like deterrence) that perpetuate our nuclear addiction and bring us closer, once again, to the precipice.