"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, March 31, 2015

Who Are the Nuclear Scofflaws? by Lawrence Wittner

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

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

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

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

Who Are the Nuclear Scofflaws? 

By Lawrence S. Wittner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 30, 2015

THE MERRY-GO-ROUND, by David Krieger

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

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



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


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

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

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

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

David Krieger
March 2015

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

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

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


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

by Lawrence S. Wittner

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

Dr. Lawrence Wittner (http://lawrenceswittner.com) is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is a satirical novel about university corporatization and rebellion, "What’s Going On at UAardvark?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Court to hear Transform Now Plowshares appeal

Editor's Note: The following press release was just issued regarding the Transform Now Plowshares appeal to be heard tomorrow. The March 9th issue of The New Yorker magazine has a feature article by Eric Schlosser (Author of Command and Control) on the Transform Now Plowshares action. Click here to read BREAK-IN AT Y-12.



Five days after President Barack Obama’s March 7, 2015, speech on the Edmund Pettis Bridge, praising the courageous leadership of nonviolent demonstrators, modern day nonviolent activists languish in Leavenworth, McKean, and Brooklyn federal prisons, serving terms from three to five years, for the July 28, 2012, Transform Now Plowshares action at the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Embarrassed by the security breach at the bomb plant, Obama’s Justice Department charged Megan Rice, then 82 years old, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed with sabotage, invoking a little used statute originally intended for wartime saboteurs.

The Transform Now Plowshares three were convicted in 2013, imprisoned, and sentenced in 2014; Rice received a sentence of 35 months; Boertje-Obed and Walli, veterans of previous nonviolent plowshares actions, received sentences of five years. Rice, now 85, is currently incarcerated in Brooklyn, NY; Walli in McKean prison in Bradford, PA; Boertje-Obed in Leavenworth, KS.

Attorneys for the Transform Now Plowshares activists will have fifteen minutes on Thursday, March 12, 2015 to argue before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio, that the government’s misapplication of the sabotage statute was inappropriate and the sentences of Rice, Walli and Boertje-Obed should be recalibrated.

Like John Lewis and the Selma demonstrators fifty years ago, the Transform Now Plowshares action was designed to call attention to the failure of the United States government to live up to its ideals: in this case, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, in which the US promised, in 1970, to negotiate an end to the nuclear arms race and complete nuclear disarmament “at an early date.”

When Boertje-Obed, Rice and Walli learned of US plans to build a new multi-billion dollar nuclear weapons production facility—the Uranium Processing Facility—at the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, they selected the site for the Transform Now Plowshares action. Fully aware of the grave personal risk they were taking, they entered the high security, deadly-force-authorized security zone at Y-12 and painted biblical peace slogans on the walls of the nation’s radioactive nuclear bomb material storehouse—the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility. They surrendered peacefully when accosted by security.

“The President, on the Bloody Sunday anniversary, might well have been speaking of Walli, Rice and Boertje-Obed when he said: ‘It’s the idea held by generations of citizens who believed that America is a constant work in progress; who believed that loving this country requires more than singing its praises or avoiding uncomfortable truths. It requires the occasional disruption, the willingness to speak out for what is right, to shake up the status quo. That’s America. That’s what makes us unique.’” said Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance.

Hutchison and other supporters from around the country will be in Cincinnati for the court hearing on Thursday, March 12, 2015. The hearing will be held at the federal courthouse, 100 East Fifth Street, beginning at 9:00am.

“Courageous agents of social change are often praised decades later,” Hutchison said. “Sometimes they get apologies. Sometimes, like Rosa Parks, they get medals. We believe it is an injustice to imprison them in the meantime. What the President said in Selma is true in Cincinnati today: ‘What greater expression of faith in the American experiment than this, what greater form of patriotism is there than the belief that America is not yet finished, that we are strong enough to be self-critical, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals?’”

During motions hearings in federal court in Knoxville in 2013, former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark testified the United States is not keeping its Nonproliferation Treaty commitment made while he was serving as Attorney General and declared the weapons production activity at the Y12 complex “unlawful.”

The Transform Now Plowshares action was one of several events that have so far thwarted plans for the new UPF bomb plant in Oak Ridge. Despite having spent more than $1.5 billion on design plans, no plan has yet been approved, and construction has not yet begun.

Two and a half years after the action, its effects continue to resonate; the March 8, 2015 issue of the New Yorker carries a major article by Eric Schlosser about the action.

for more information on Transform Now Plowshares, the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Complex or the Uranium Processing Facility: Ralph Hutchison 865 776 5050, orep@earthlink.net