The Power of Imagination

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David KriegerAlbert Einstein, the great 20th century scientist and humanitarian, wrote, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”  Let us exercise our imaginations.

Imagine the horror and devastation of Hiroshima, and multiply it by every city and country on earth.

Imagine that a nuclear war could end human life on our planet, and that the capacity to initiate a nuclear war rests in the hands of only a few individuals in each nuclear-armed state.

Imagine that nuclear weapons threaten the future of humanity and all life.

Imagine that we are not helpless in the face of this threat, and that we can rise to the challenge of ending the nuclear weapons era.

Imagine that together we can make a difference and that you are needed to create a nuclear weapons-free world.

Imagine a world without the threat of nuclear devastation, a world that you helped to create.

There is an Indian proverb which states, “All of the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today.”  We must nurture, with all our human capacities, the seeds of peace and human dignity which have been so poorly tended for so long.

The time has come for renewed energy and leadership to end the nuclear weapons threat to humanity, to restore and maintain peace, to live up to the highest standards of human rights, and to pursue a non-killing world.  Change is coming, if we will use our imaginations, raise our voices, stand firm and persist in demanding it.

Presidential Visit

The President went to Hiroshima,
the place of the first atomic attack.
He carried his heart in an old knapsack.

He went where no sitting president
ever ventured before, journeyed
through time to a long ago war.

He stood at the very place where death
fell from the sky, where the mushroom cloud
sucked up the earth, rose higher than high.

His words poured forth like a passionate poem,
a poem filled with power, as he placed
a white wreath on a sea of white foam.

He bowed before the city’s eternal flame,
cried out for a world deeply in pain,
swore we must not let it happen again.

We must choose our vantage point well,
above the bomb or beneath,  On one side
is hubris, on the other is grief.

2016 Message to Vienna Peace Movement

Dear Friends of Peace in Vienna,

David KriegerI applaud your continuing to commemorate August 6th, the day in 1945 on which the first atomic bomb was used in warfare, dropped by the United States on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The use of that bomb took 70,000 lives immediately and 140,000 lives by the end of 1945.  It was a bomb that vaporized people, leaving behind, for some, only shadows and elemental particles.  The use of atomic weapons was a war crime and crime against humanity.  Three days later these crimes were repeated on the Japanese city of Nagasaki, killing 40,000 people immediately and 70,000 by the end of 1945.

When these atrocities were committed in August 1945, there were no additional nuclear weapons in the world.  Today there are more than 15,000 nuclear weapons, most far more powerful than those that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  And most of the world is complacent in the face of these terrible devices of mass annihilation.  In our world today, nuclear weapons bestow prestige rather than disgrace.  We are like small children playing with fire.  In our hubris, we believe that we can possess these weapons and threaten their use without adverse consequences.  But this isn’t so.  If countries continue to rely upon nuclear weapons for their security, eventually they will be used again – because we humans are fallible creatures and nuclear deterrence is a dangerous and unproven hypothesis.

Some 180 U.S. nuclear weapons are deployed in Europe, including in Turkey, where there was a recent attempted coup d’état that involved high-ranking military officers from Incirlik Air Force Base, the very base where the U.S. stores its nuclear weapons.  Mass killings occur almost daily.  The world is filled with terrorists and unstable individuals, who desire to do harm to innocent people.  This is bad enough, but the ultimate evil would be to again use nuclear weapons.  So long as they are relied upon for security, so long as they are possessed, there remains a not insignificant chance they will be used again by mistake or malice.  We must abolish these weapons before they abolish us.

Nuclear weapons must be abolished so that we can get on with the task of building a more decent world.  To achieve that more decent world we must move from apathy to empathy; from conformity to critical thinking; from ignorance to wisdom; and from denial to recognition of the dangers to all humanity posed by nuclear weapons.

On behalf of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and our 75,000 members, I send you our greetings, our good wishes and our appreciation for your reflections on this anniversary day of such significant consequence to all humanity.

Sincerely,

David Krieger
President
Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

2016 Nagasaki Peace Declaration

Nuclear weapons are cruel weapons that destroy human beings.

Mayor Tomihisa TaueThe instant that the single nuclear bomb dropped by a U.S. military aircraft on Nagasaki City at 11:02 AM on August 9, 1945, exploded in the air, it struck the city with a furious blast and heat wave. Nagasaki City was transformed into a hell on earth; a hell of black-charred corpses, people covered in blistering burns, people with their internal organs spilling out, and people cut and studded by the countless fragments of flying glass that had penetrated their bodies.

The radiation released by the bomb pierced people’s bodies, resulting in illnesses and disabilities that still afflict those who narrowly managed to survive the bombing.

Nuclear weapons are cruel weapons that continue to destroy human beings.

In May this year, President Obama became the first sitting U.S. President to visit Hiroshima, a city which was bombed with a nuclear weapon. In doing so, the President showed the rest of the world the importance of seeing, listening and feeling things for oneself.

I appeal to the leaders of states which possess nuclear weapons and other countries, and to the people of the world: please come and visit Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Find out for yourselves what happened to human beings beneath the mushroom cloud. Knowing the facts becomes the starting point for thinking about a future free of nuclear weapons.

This year at the United Nations Office at Geneva, sessions are being held to deliberate a legal framework that will take forward nuclear disarmament negotiations. The creation of a forum for legal discussions is a huge step forward. However, countries in possession of nuclear weapons have not attended these meetings, the results of which will be compiled shortly. Moreover, conflict continues between the nations that are dependent on nuclear deterrence and those that are urging for a start of negotiations to prohibit nuclear weapons. If this situation continues, then the meetings will end without the creation of a roadmap for nuclear weapons abolition.

Leaders of countries possessing nuclear weapons, it is not yet too late. Please attend the meetings and participate in the debate.

I appeal to the United Nations, governments and national assemblies, and the civil society including NGOs. We must not allow the eradication of these forums where we can discuss legal frameworks for the abolition of nuclear weapons. At the United Nations General Assembly this fall, please provide a forum for discussing and negotiating a legal framework aimed at the realization of a world without nuclear weapons. And as members of human society, I ask you all to continue to make every effort to seek out a viable solution.

Countries which possess nuclear weapons are currently carrying out plans to make their nuclear weapons even more sophisticated. If this situation continues, the realization of a world without nuclear weapons will become even more unlikely.

Now is the time for all of you to bring together as much of your collective wisdom as you possibly can, and act so that we do not destroy the future of mankind.

The Government of Japan, while advocating nuclear weapons abolition, still relies on nuclear deterrence. As a method to overcome this contradictory state of affairs, please enshrine the Three Non-Nuclear Principles in law, and create a “Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone” (NEA-NWFZ) as a framework for security that does not rely on nuclear deterrence. As the only nation in the world to have suffered a nuclear bombing during wartime, and as a nation that understands only too well the inhumanity of these weapons, I ask the Government of Japan to display leadership in taking concrete action regarding the creation of a nuclear weapons-free zone, a concept that embodies mankind’s wisdom.

The history of nuclear weapons is also the history of distrust.

In the midst of this distrust between nations, countries with nuclear weapons have developed evermore destructive weapons with increasingly distant target ranges. There are still over 15,000 nuclear warheads in existence, and there is the ever-present danger that they may be used in war, by accident, or as an act of terrorism.

One way of stemming this flow and turning the cycle of distrust into a cycle of trust is to continue with persistent efforts to create trust.

In line with the peaceful ethos of the Constitution of Japan, we have endeavored to spread trust throughout the world by contributing to global society through efforts such as humanitarian aid. In order that we never again descend into war, Japan must continue to follow this path as a peaceful nation.

There is also something that each and every one of us can do as members of civil society. This is to mutually understand the differences in each other’s languages, cultures and ways of thinking, and to create trust on a familiar level by taking part in exchange with people regardless of their nationality. The warm reception given to President Obama by the people of Hiroshima is one example of this. The conduct of civil society may appear small on an individual basis, but it is in fact a powerful and irreplaceable tool for building up relationships of trust between nations.

Seventy-one years after the atomic bombings, the average age of the hibakusha, atomic bomb survivors, exceeds 80. The world is steadily edging towards “an era without any hibakusha.” The question we face now is how to hand down to future generations the experiences of war and the atomic bombing that was the result of that war.

You who are the young generation, all the daily things that you take for granted – your mother’s gentle hands, your father’s kind look, chatting with your friends, the smiling face of the person you like – war takes these from you, forever.

Please take the time to listen to war experiences, and the experiences of the hibakusha. Talking about such terrible experiences is not easy. I want you all to realize that the reason these people still talk about what they went through is because they want to protect the people of the future.

Nagasaki has started activities in which the children and grandchildren of the hibakusha are conveying the experiences of their elders. We are also pursuing activities to have the bombed schoolhouse at Shiroyama Elementary School, and other sites, registered as Historic Sites of Japan, so that they can be left for future generations.

Young people, for the sake of the future, will you face up to the past and thereby take a step forward?

It is now over five years since the nuclear reactor accident in Fukushima. As a place that has suffered from radiation exposure, Nagasaki will continue to support Fukushima.

As for the Government of Japan, we strongly demand that wide-ranging improvements are made to the support provided to the hibakusha, who still to this day suffer from the aftereffects of the bombing, and that swift aid is given to all those who experienced the bombing, including the expansion of the area designated as having been affected by the atomic bomb.

We, the citizens of Nagasaki, offer our most heartfelt condolences to those who lost their lives to the atomic bomb. We hereby declare that together with the people of the world, we will continue to use all our strength to achieve a world without nuclear weapons, and to realize everlasting peace.

Tomihisa Taue
Mayor of Nagasaki
August 9, 2016

Hiroshima Survivor’s Letter to President Obama

This letter, by Hiroshima survivor and NAPF Advisory Council member Setsuko Thurlow, was delivered to President Obama via Ben Rhodes on June 6, 2016.


Dear President Obama,

Since your historic visit to Hiroshima in May, several people have been asking me to share my thoughts.  What would I have said to you directly if we’d had an opportunity to sit down and speak face to face?

Setsuko Thurlow
Setsuko Thurlow at the 2015 NAPF Evening for Peace.

The first thing that comes to mind that I would have shared with you is an image of my four-year-old nephew Eiji — transformed into a charred, blackened and swollen child who kept asking in a faint voice for water until he died in agony.  Had he not been a victim of the atomic bomb, he would be 75 years old this year. This idea shocks me. Regardless of the passage of time, he remains in my memory as a 4-year-old child who came to represent all the innocent children of the world.  And it is this death of innocents that has been the driving force for me to continue my struggle against the ultimate evil of nuclear weapons.  Eiji’s image is burnt into my retina.

Many survivors have been passing in recent years with their dreams of nuclear abolition unfulfilled.  Their motto was, “abolition in our lifetime”.  The reality of our twilight years intensifies our sense of urgency, now met with stronger commitment.  When you say: “it may not happen in my lifetime”, this gives us enormous grief.

I was not in Hiroshima when you visited, but I understand it was packed with media, and I could tell that of course your visit was carefully controlled and choreographed: who sat where; who were invited to approach you; the children and hibakusha who were hand picked by the Japanese Foreign Ministry. But still you came.  Your speech was heartfelt but it avoided the issue.  I know from my personal experience as hellish as all war is nothing can be equivalent to nuclear violence.

You said, “Mere words cannot give voice to such suffering. But we have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again.” To me your words echoed those of former German President Richard von Weizeker’s inspiring speech on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Germany’s surrender.  Many Japanese people were deeply inspired by the manner in which he confronted the past and dealt with wartime atrocities with integrity, when he said, “We Germans must look truth straight in the eye – without embellishment and without distortion… There can be no reconciliation without remembrance.”

The Japanese Government should emulate this profound sentiment in confronting the past and dealing with our as yet unresolved relationships with neighboring countries, particularly Korea and China.  Tragically, the current Abe Administration is seeking to expand Japan’s military role in the region and forsake our much-cherished Peace Constitution.

And in the United States, as you are no doubt aware, an unfortunate remembrance has been underway.  The National Park Service and the Department of Energy will establish the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.  Unlike the memorials at Auschwitz and Treblinka, the United States seeks to preserve the history of the once top-secret sites at Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, and Hanford, as a sort of celebration of that technological ‘achievement’. Among the first so-called ‘successes’ of this endeavor was creating hell on earth in my beloved Hiroshima.

Is this how we should ensure that the “memory of the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, must never fade”?

Setsuko Thurlow's family in 1937.
Setsuko Thurlow’s family in 1937.

As a 13-year-old schoolgirl, I witnessed my city of Hiroshima blinded by the flash, flattened by the hurricane-like blast, burned in the heat of 4000 degrees Celsius and contaminated by the radiation of one atomic bomb.  A bright summer morning turned to dark twilight with smoke and dust rising in the mushroom cloud, dead and injured covering the ground, begging desperately for water and receiving no medical care at all.  The spreading firestorm and the foul stench of burnt flesh filled the air.

Miraculously, I was rescued from the rubble of a collapsed building, about 1.8 kilometers from Ground Zero.  Most of my classmates in the same room were burned alive.  I can still hear their voices calling their mothers and God for help.  As I escaped with two other surviving girls, we saw a procession of ghostly figures slowly shuffling from the centre of the city. Grotesquely wounded people, whose clothes were tattered, or who were made naked by the blast.  They were bleeding, burnt, blackened and swollen.  Parts of their bodies were missing, flesh and skin hanging from their bones, some with their eyeballs hanging in their hands, and some with their stomachs burst open, with their intestines hanging out.

Through months and years of struggle for survival, rebuilding lives out of the ashes, we survivors, or ‘hibakusha’, became convinced that no human being should ever have to repeat our experience of the inhumane, immoral, and cruel atomic bombing.  And it is our mission, to warn the world about the reality of the nuclear threat; and to help people understand the illegality and ultimate evil of nuclear weapons. We believe that humanity and nuclear weapons cannot coexist.

And still today, to paraphrase President Kennedy, the sword of Damocles dangles evermore perilously.  Most experts agree that nuclear weapons are more dangerous now than at any point in our history due to a wide variety of risks including: geopolitical saber rattling, human error, computer failure, complex systems failure, increasing radioactive contamination in the environment and its toll on public and environmental health, as well as the global famine and climate chaos that would ensue should a limited use of nuclear weapons occur by accident or design.

Thus, we have a moral imperative to abolish nuclear arsenals, in order to ensure a safe and just world for future generations.  As you said in Hiroshima, “we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them.”

Why then, with all due respect to you Mr. President, is the US government boycotting the United Nations disarmament negotiations born of the Humanitarian Initiative, the most significant advance for nuclear disarmament in a generation?

Within the last five years, I have witnessed the rapid development of a global movement involving states without nuclear weapons and NGOs working together to achieve the elimination of nuclear weapons.  This movement has shown beyond all doubt that nuclear weapons are first and foremost a grave humanitarian problem, and that the terrible risks of these weapons cast all techno-military considerations into irrelevance. Following three International Conferences on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons – inexcusably boycotted by your administration – 127 nations have joined the Humanitarian Pledge to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons. These nations are calling on Nuclear Weapon States and those who stand with them, to begin a process for nuclear disarmament.

To repeat the words of Richard von Weizeker: “We must look truth straight in the eye – without embellishment and without distortion.”  The truth is, we all live with the daily threat of nuclear weapons. In every silo, on every submarine, in the bomb bays of airplanes, every second of every day, nuclear weapons, thousands on high alert, are poised for deployment threatening everyone we love and everything we hold dear.

Last month in Japan you poignantly said: “That is why we come to Hiroshima. So that we might think of people we love. The first smile from our children in the morning. The gentle touch from a spouse over the kitchen table. The comforting embrace of a parent. We can think of those things and know that those same precious moments took place here, 71 years ago.”

I beg you to reframe this profound sentiment to understand that the people we love, our smiling children, the embrace of loved ones, these precious moments and precious people are all under threat of annihilation because of the existence of nuclear weapons, and the policy of deterrence that you currently authorize and provide for nations under the US nuclear umbrella, including my home country Japan.  This perversion, in its truest sense, means that the only nation to have suffered a nuclear attack in war now seeks its own protection through far more diabolical hydrogen bombs.  And you Mr. Obama, the only sitting US President to visit Hiroshima, came accompanied by a duty bound officer with the nuclear briefcase, should you need the codes to command a remote missileer to insert a floppy disc as a prelude to the end of life on earth.

If you truly wanted to hasten our “own moral awakening” through making nuclear disarmament a reality, here are three immediate steps:

  1. Stop the U.S. boycott of international nuclear disarmament meetings and join the 127 countries that have endorsed the Humanitarian Pledge to create a new legal instrument and new norms for a nuclear weapons ban treaty as a first step in their elimination and prohibition.
  1. Stop spending money to modernize the US nuclear arsenal, a staggering $1 trillion over the next three decades, and use this money to meet human needs and protect our environment.
  1. Take nuclear weapons off high alert and review the aging command and control systems that have been the subject of recent research exposing a culture of neglect and the alarming regularity of accidents involving nuclear weapons.

President Obama, you uniquely have the power to enact real change.  This could be your legacy. To usher in an era of real disarmament where lifting the threat of nuclear war could ease all people to “go through their day in peace. What a precious thing that is. It is worth protecting, and then extending to every child.”

Yours sincerely,

Setsuko Thurlow

More Than Profit Is at Stake in Modernization

A few days ago, the U.S. Air Force announced that it is seeking proposals from “industry” to replace its nuclear weapons and delivery systems. While the Air Force’s plans for nuclear weapons “modernization” aim to please the for-profit weapons industry, the stakeholders it should be considering are the people and the planet.

The People

Will the people benefit from $1 trillion being spent on new nuclear weapons, delivery systems and production infrastructure?

Let’s ask Pope Francis. In a December 2014 message to the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, he said:

Spending on nuclear weapons squanders the wealth of nations. To prioritize such spending is a mistake and a misallocation of resources which would be far better invested in the areas of integral human development, education, health and the fight against extreme poverty. When these resources are squandered, the poor and the weak living on the margins of society pay the price.

pope_ungaNow, $1 trillion over 30 years might sound like a lot of money to spend on nuclear weapons. That’s approximately $4 million per hour for three decades. However, we must also keep in mind that this is only the additional money that the U.S. will be spending to “modernize” its nuclear arsenal. It will also be spending money to maintain and deploy its systems, to the tune of tens of billions more dollars annually.

Also, the U.S. is not the only country engaged in nuclear weapons modernization. Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea are all engaged in some level of modernization of their own nuclear forces.

The Planet

Will the planet benefit from a new generation of nuclear weapons?

landfillLet’s ask the people of St. Louis, Missouri, where an underground landfill fire is approaching buried radioactive waste created over 70 years ago during the Manhattan Project. Community members living near the West Lake Landfill have been organizing to have this extraordinarily dangerous issue addressed as a matter of top priority to the nation, but every day the uncontrolled fire creeps closer to buried radioactive waste.

There are many other sites in the U.S. that are similarly — and in many cases more — contaminated from nuclear weapons production. Again, the U.S. is but one of nine nuclear-armed countries, and sadly this legacy of environmental carelessness has played out all over the world.

Profit

Next time you hear an Air Force general or a member of Congress say just how urgent and necessary it is to modernize U.S. nuclear weapons, think about what they are really saying, and where their priorities truly lie.

Our collective future should not be held hostage by profit-driven corporations enabled by politicians who believe in the fantasy of indefinite global security through the threat of mass annihilation. As we reflect on the 71st anniversaries of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki this week, we are offered a reminder of what nuclear weapons are really designed to do: indiscriminately kill hundreds of thousands of people in an instant.

2016 Hiroshima Peace Declaration

hiroshima1945, August 6, 8:15 a.m. Slicing through the clear blue sky, a previously unknown “absolute evil” is unleashed on Hiroshima, instantly searing the entire city. Koreans, Chinese, Southeast Asians, American prisoners of war, children, the elderly and other innocent people are slaughtered. By the end of the year, 140,000 are dead.

Those who managed to survive suffered the aftereffects of radiation, encountered discrimination in work and marriage, and still carry deep scars in their minds and bodies. From utter obliteration, Hiroshima was reborn a beautiful city of peace; but familiar scenes from our riversides, patterns of daily life, and cultural traditions nurtured through centuries of history vanished in that “absolute evil,” never to return.

He was a boy of 17. Today he recalls, “Charred corpses blocked the road. An eerie stench filled my nose. A sea of fire spread as far as I could see. Hiroshima was a living hell.” She was a girl of 18. “I was covered in blood. Around me were people with skin flayed from their backs hanging all the way to their feet—crying, screaming, begging for water.”

Seventy-one years later, over 15,000 nuclear weapons remain, individually much more destructive than the one that inflicted Hiroshima’s tragedy, collectively enough to destroy the Earth itself. We now know of numerous accidents and incidents that brought us to the brink of nuclear explosions or war; today we even fear their use by terrorists.

Given this reality, we must heed the hibakusha. The man who described a living hell says, “For the future of humanity, we need to help each other live in peace and happiness with reverence for all life.” The woman who was covered in blood appeals to coming generations, “To make the most of the life we’ve been given, please, everyone, shout loudly that we don’t need nuclear weapons.” If we accept these appeals, we must do far more than we have been doing. We must respect diverse values and strive persistently toward a world where all people are truly “living together.”

When President Obama visited Hiroshima in May, he became the first sitting president of the country that dropped the atomic bomb to do so. Declaring, “… among those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear, and pursue a world without them,” he expressed acceptance of thehibakusha’s heartfelt plea that “no one else should ever suffer as we have.” Demonstrating to the people of the U.S. and the world a passion to fight to eliminate all remaining nuclear weapons, the President’s words showed that he was touched by the spirit of Hiroshima, which refuses to accept the “absolute evil.”

A group of 30 young people from 23 countries met in Hiroshima in August 2015 to work together for the abolition of nuclear weapons.
A group of 30 young people from 23 countries met in Hiroshima in August 2015 to work together for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Is it not time to honor the spirit of Hiroshima and clear the path toward a world free from that “absolute evil,” that ultimate inhumanity? Is it not time to unify and manifest our passion in action? This year, for the first time ever, the G7 foreign ministers gathered in Hiroshima. Transcending the differences between countries with and without nuclear weapons, their declaration called for political leaders to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki, for early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, and fulfillment of the obligation to negotiate nuclear disarmament mandated by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This declaration was unquestionably a step toward unity.

We need to fill our policymakers with the passion to solidify this unity and create a security system based on trust and dialogue. To that end, I once again urge the leaders of all nations to visit the A-bombed cities. As President Obama confirmed in Hiroshima, such visits will surely etch the reality of the atomic bombings in each heart. Along with conveying the pain and suffering of the hibakusha, I am convinced they will elicit manifestations of determination.

The average age of the hibakusha has exceeded 80. Our time to hear their experiences face to face grows short. Looking toward the future, we will need our youth to help convey the words and feelings of the hibakusha. Mayors for Peace, now with over 7,000 city members worldwide, will work regionally, through more than 20 lead cities, and globally, led by Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to promote youth exchange. We will help young people cultivate a shared determination to stand together and initiate concrete action for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Here in Hiroshima, Prime Minister Abe expressed determination “to realize a world free of nuclear weapons.” I expect him to join with President Obama and display leadership in this endeavor. A nuclear-weapon-free-world would manifest the noble pacifism of the Japanese Constitution, and to ensure progress, a legal framework banning nuclear weapons is indispensable. In addition, I demand that the Japanese government expand the “black rain areas” and improve assistance to the hibakusha, whose average age is over 80, and the many others who suffer the mental and physical effects of radiation.

Today, we renew our determination, offer heartfelt consolation to the souls of the A-bomb victims, and pledge to do everything in our power, working with the A-bombed city of Nagasaki and millions around the world, to abolish nuclear weapons and build lasting world peace.


August 6, 2016
MATSUI Kazumi
Mayor
The City of Hiroshima

Sunflower Newsletter: August 2016

Issue #229 – August 2016

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  • Perspectives
    • Ten Lessons from Chernobyl and Fukushima by David Krieger
    • NATO: Increasing the Role of Nuclear Weapons by Susi Snyder
    • Looking Back: The 1996 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice by John Burroughs
  • Nuclear Disarmament
    • Open Ended Working Group to Conclude in Geneva
  • U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy
    • Attempted Coup in Turkey Shines Light on U.S. Nuclear Weapons
    • Whistleblowers at Risk
    • U.S. Navy Returns to New Zealand After 30-Year Nuclear Weapons Disagreement
  • Nuclear Proliferation
    • Russia Claims to Be Developing Outer Space Nuclear Bomber
  • Missile Defense
    • Definition of Success Is Fluid
  • Nuclear Insanity
    • British Prime Minister Writes “Letter of Last Resort”
    • South Korean Lawmaker Urges Nuclear Armament
    • Japan Opposes a U.S. “No First Use” Policy
  • Nuclear Modernization
    • Senators Speak Out on Nuclear Modernization
    • UK Parliament Votes to Replace Trident Nuclear Weapons System
  • Resources
    • August’s Featured Blog
    • This Month in Nuclear Threat History
    • Book Review: Almighty
  • Foundation Activities
    • Sadako Peace Day on August 9
    • Noam Chomsky to Receive NAPF Distinguished Peace Leadership Award
    • Peace Leadership in Minneapolis
    • Take Action
  • Quotes

 

Perspectives

Ten Lessons from Chernobyl and Fukushima

George Santayana famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The same may be said of those who fail to understand the past or to learn from it. If we failed to learn the lessons from the nuclear power plant accident at Chernobyl more than three decades ago or to understand its meaning for our future, perhaps the more recent accident at Fukushima will serve to underline those lessons.

The nuclear power plant accident at Chernobyl was repeated, albeit with a different set of circumstances, at Fukushima. Have our societies yet learned any lessons from Chernobyl and Fukushima that will prevent the people of the future from experiencing such devastation? As poet Maya Angelou points out, “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage doesn’t need to be lived again.” We need the courage to phase out nuclear power globally and replace it with energy conservation and renewable energy sources. In doing so, we will not only be acting responsibly with regard to nuclear power, but will also reduce the risks of nuclear weapons proliferation and strengthen the global foundations for the abolition of these weapons.

To read more, click here.

NATO: Increasing the Role of Nuclear Weapons

The Heads of State and Government that participated in the NATO summit in Warsaw Poland on 8-9 July 2016 issued a series of documents and statements, including a Summit Communiqué and the Warsaw Declaration on Transatlantic Security. Whereas the majority of countries worldwide are ready to end the danger posed by nuclear weapons and to start negotiations for a treaty banning nuclear weapons, both NATO documents reaffirmed the NATO commitment to nuclear weapons, and the Communiqué included a return to cold war style language on nuclear sharing.

The summit documents weaken previously agreed language on seeking a world without nuclear weapons by tacking on additional conditions. Instead of simply saying that NATO is seeking to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons, now NATO is seeking to create the conditions “in full accordance with the NPT, including Article VI, in a step-by-step and verifiable way that promotes international stability, and is based on the principle of undiminished security for all.” Not only that, but instead of creating conditions for further reductions, now the alliance only remains “committed to contribute to creating the conditions for further reductions in the future on the basis of reciprocity.”

To read more, click here.

Looking Back: The 1996 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice

The 1996 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) was the culmination of a decades-long debate on the legality of nuclear weapons. In recent years, it has shaped how international law is invoked by the initiative focused on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons use and served as a foundation for the nuclear disarmament cases brought by the Marshall Islands in the court.

To read more, click here.

Nuclear Disarmament

Open Ended Working Group to Conclude in Geneva

The Open Ended Working Group taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations, which met in February and May 2016, will conclude with four days of meetings in August. At the August session, delegates are expected to approve a report to the United Nations General Assembly that calls for the start of multilateral negotiations to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons.

A draft report of the Open Ended Working Group is available on the UN website. The report details the substantive issues discussed and presents proposals for moving forward.

U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy

Attempted Coup in Turkey Shines Light on U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Europe

The recent attempted military coup in Turkey has brought a pressing issue into the spotlight: the safety of U.S. nuclear stockpiles abroad.

The question of nuclear security has been raised before, but is substantially more present now. As a NATO member, Turkey claims the “right” to nuclear-sharing provided by the United States, whose nuclear umbrella spreads throughout Europe. Turkey actively houses an estimated 50 B-61 nuclear bombs at its Incirlik Air Base in Adana, the most of any other NATO state. Other nations housing U.S. nuclear weapons are Belgium, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands.

The attempted coup also raises questions of whether or not Turkey can maintain NATO status. The unprecedented coup presents NATO with many problems it may not have previously considered. As Aaron Stein of Atlantic Council think tank stated, “It says a lot about the ability of Turkey to operate in coalition operations if its army can’t be trusted.” The lack of stability in the region has existed for quite some time, but the attempted coup introduces a wealth of new problems and doubts.

Julian Borger, “Turkey Coup Attempt Raises Fears Over Safety of U.S. Nuclear Stockpile,” The Guardian, July 17, 2016.

Whistleblowers at Risk

On July 14, 2016, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report charging the Department of Energy (DOE) with unlawful retaliation against nuclear whistleblowers. The report came shortly after the firing of Sandra Black, the head of Savannah River Site’s employee complaints program. Colleagues of Black had come to her expressing grievances about unsafe, illegal, and wasteful practices at the nuclear site. After following through with her colleagues’ complaints, Black was fired.

The GAO report was the product of an investigation into whistleblower retaliation complaints made two years earlier at Washington’s Hanford nuclear facility. Though the investigation initially sought only to investigate Hanford, its scope eventually increased to include 87 complaints by workers at 10 major DOE nuclear facilities.

While a pilot program was built for whistleblower protection at nuclear sites, the investigation reports that neither Savannah River Site nor Hanford administrations had attempted to implement the program–leaving workers and whistleblowers unprotected. To date, over 186,000 nuclear workers have been exposed to recordable levels of radiation while on the job. But many remain silent, fearing that voicing concerns will cost them their livelihoods. “They will make an example of anyone who challenges them” said one nuclear worker. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), who helped initiate the GAO report, said, “It’s clear that DOE contractors are going to amazing lengths to send the message to their employees that when you blow the whistle it’s going to be the end of your career.”

Lindsay Wise and Sammy Fretwell, “Report: Department of Energy Fails to Protect Nuclear Whistleblowers,” McClatchy, July 14, 2016.

U.S. Navy Returns to New Zealand After 30-Year Nuclear Weapons Disagreement

The U.S. Navy plans to make a port call in New Zealand for the first time since 1985. Thirty years ago, the New Zealand government refused a port call request by the USS Buchanan because the U.S. would neither confirm nor deny the presence of nuclear weapons on board the ship.

Explaining the decision to overturn 30 years of New Zealand’s anti-nuclear laws, Prime Minister John Key said that it is not necessary for a nation to declare a ship nuclear-free if it can be ascertained from the ship’s specifications.

Seth Robson, “U.S. Navy to Return to New Zealand After 30-Year Rift Over Nukes,” Stars and Stripes, July 21, 2016.

Nuclear Proliferation

Russia Claims to Be Developing Outer Space Nuclear Bomber

The Russian Strategic Missile Forces Academy is developing a nuclear bomber capable of striking from outer space, Lt. Col. Aleksei Solodovnikov reported in July. The weapon will be able to travel at hypersonic speed and is expected to have the capability of reaching any point on Earth from outer space in less than two hours.

“The idea is that the bomber will take off from a normal home airfield to patrol Russian airspace,” Colonel General Sergei Karakayev stated this month. He continued, “Upon command it will ascend into outer space, strike a target with nuclear warheads and then return to its home base.”

Regardless of the veracity of this specific claim, it shows that Russia continues to rely heavily on nuclear weapons for its perceived security, and is invested in the new nuclear arms race.

New Russian Bomber to Be Able to Launch Nuclear Attacks from Outer Space,” Sputnik International, July 13, 2016.

Missile Defense

Definition of Success Is Fluid

On January 28, the Missile Defense Agency conducted a flight test of a new and supposedly improved thruster, a key component of the interceptors that make up the U.S. missile defense system. Shortly after the test, the agency released a statement calling it a “successful flight test.” However, the test was anything but a success. The closest the interceptor came to the target was a distance 20 times greater than what was expected.

In a letter to the editor published on July 9, NAPF President David Krieger wrote, “Perhaps raking in more than $40 billion from taxpayers since 2004 to produce a useless product is what the Missile Defense Agency and its contractors define as success.”

David Willman, “A Test of America’s Homeland Missile Defense System Found a Problem. Why Did the Pentagon Call It a Success?Los Angeles Times, July 6, 2016.

Nuclear Insanity

British Prime Minister Writes “Letter of Last Resort”

One of the first acts of a new British Prime Minister is to write a “letter of last resort” that is kept locked in a safe in each of the UK’s four nuclear-armed submarines. Only the Prime Minister or another individual designated by the Prime Minister may give an order to launch British nuclear weapons. The letter of last resort is to be used by submarine commanders if these people are no longer alive or are completely out of contact.

Prior to writing the letter, the Prime Minister is briefed by the chief of the defense staff, who explains the damage that could be caused by a nuclear strike.

Adam Taylor, “Every New British Prime Minister Pens a Handwritten ‘Letter of Last Resort’ Outlining Nuclear Retaliation,” Washington Post, July 13, 2016.

South Korean Lawmaker Urges Nuclear Armament

Rep. Won Yoo-chul of South Korea’s ruling Saenuri Party plans to initiate a forum on nuclear armament in hopes of achieving lawmaker consensus. Set to begin on August 4, Won hopes this forum will generate a new sense of urgency in the wake of North Korean threats.

The lawmaker promotes a strategy that would lead to automatic nuclear armament once North Korea conducts its next nuclear test. Won also explained the “need” for South Korea to develop a nuclear arsenal can be credited to Donald Trump’s claims that South Korea and Japan should increase their payments for deployed U.S. troops.

Jun Ji-hye, “Pro-Park Lawmaker Planning Forum for Nuclear Armament,” Korea Times, July 25, 2016.

Japan Opposes a U.S. “No First Use” Policy

The Japanese government has expressed concern over reports that the Obama administration may be planning to implement a policy of “No First Use,” meaning that the U.S. would pledge never to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict. A senior Japanese government official said, “From the [standpoint of] Japan’s security, it is unacceptable.”

The Japanese government believes strongly in the idea of nuclear deterrence, relying on the U.S. nuclear umbrella for its national security.

Japan Seeks Talks With U.S. Over ‘No First Use’ Nuclear Policy Change,” Kyodo, July 15, 2016.

Nuclear Modernization

Senators Speak Out on Nuclear Modernization

Groups of U.S. Senators have sent letters in favor of and in opposition to the country’s plans to spend $1 trillion to modernize its nuclear arsenal. On July 8, 14 senators, including Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee Tim Kaine, wrote to Defense Secretary Ash Carter seeking the Pentagon’s continued outspoken support for the vast program of nuclear modernization. The Senators who signed the letter are Hoeven (R-ND), Daines (R-MT), Tester (D-MT), Hatch (R-UT), Donnelly (D-IN), Heitkamp (D-ND), Rubio (R-FL), Warner (D-VA), Vitter (R-LA), Heinrich (D-NM), Barrasso (R-WY), Fischer (R-NE), Reed (D-RI), and Kaine (D-VA).

In a very different tone, 10 senators wrote to President Obama encouraging him to take numerous steps to reduce nuclear weapons spending and reduce the risk of nuclear war. The Senators who signed this letter are Markey (D-MA), Warren (D-MA), Feinstein (D-CA), Boxer (D-CA), Franken (D-MN), Merkley (D-OR), Brown (D-OH), Leahy (D-VT), Wyden (D-OR), and Sanders (I-VT).

To read the pro-nuclear weapons letter, click here. To read the letter from 10 senators encouraging a less aggressive approach to nuclear policy, click here.

UK Parliament Votes to Replace Trident Nuclear Weapons System

On July 18, Prime Minister Theresa May and the Conservative party won the vote to update current British nuclear capabilities. The vote, which Members of the House of Commons passed 472-117, clears the way for the UK to replace its four Trident nuclear-armed submarines with a new system at a cost of up to $250 billion.

George Kerevan, a Member of Parliament who is part of the Scottish National Party, asked Prime Minister May during the debate whether she is “personally prepared to authorize a nuclear strike that can kill 100,000 innocent men, women, and children.” Ms. May responded, “Yes…the whole point of a deterrent is that our enemies need to know that we would be prepared to use it.”

The UK’s Trident system is based in Scotland; 58 out of 59 Scottish Members of Parliament voted against replacing Trident.

Dan de Luce, “British Parliament Votes to Spend Big on Nukes,” Foreign Policy, July 18, 2016.

 Resources

August’s Featured Blog

This month’s featured blog is “All Things Nuclear,” by the Union of Concerned Scientists. Recent titles include: “Japan Can Accept No First Use“; “U.S. Missile Defense: In Worse Shape than You Thought“; and “Nuclear Merger.”

To read the blog, click here.

This Month in Nuclear Threat History

History chronicles many instances when humans have been threatened by nuclear weapons. In this article, Jeffrey Mason outlines some of the most serious threats that have taken place in the month of August, including the August 29, 2007 incident in which six nuclear-armed cruise missiles were mistakenly loaded on a B-52 bomber and flown from North Dakota to Louisiana, where they sat unguarded on the tarmac for hours.

To read Mason’s full article, click here.

For more information on the history of the Nuclear Age, visit NAPF’s Nuclear Files website.

Book Review: Almighty

Almighty, by Dan Zak, is a compelling new book that exposes the intimate truths behind the 2012 Y-12 break-in through the lens of the peace-activist perpetrators.  Fluidly weaving between the past and the present, this intriguing account resembles a thriller novel. As the unique background of the three activists, Sister Megan Rice, Michael Walli, and Greg Boertje-obed, unfolds, the egregious history of nuclear weapons elucidates the United States’ futile attempt at non-proliferation.

To read the full review by NAPF summer intern Madeline Atchison, click here.

Foundation Activities

Sadako Peace Day on August 9

The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation will host its 22nd Annual Sadako Peace Day commemoration on Tuesday, August 9, at 6:00 p.m. at La Casa de Maria in Montecito, California. The event – featuring music, poetry and reflection – remembers the victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and all innocent victims of war.

Sadako Sasaki was a two-year-old girl living in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, the morning the atomic bomb was dropped. Ten years later, she was diagnosed with leukemia. Japanese legend holds that one’s wish will be granted upon folding 1,000 paper (origami) cranes. Sadako set out to fold those 1,000 cranes, writing, “I will write peace on your wings, and you will fly all over the world.”

Students in Japan were so moved by her story, they began folding cranes, too. Today the paper crane is a symbol of peace. A statue of Sadako now stands in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. And to this day, we honor Sadako’s fervent wish for a peaceful world. For more information, click here.

Noam Chomsky to Receive NAPF Distinguished Peace Leadership Award

Noam Chomsky, one of the greatest minds of our time, will be honored with NAPF’s Distinguished Peace Leadership Award at this year’s Evening for Peace on Sunday, October 23, in Santa Barbara, California.

We’re calling the evening NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH because that’s what Chomsky is about– truth. He believes humanity faces two major challenges: the continued threat of nuclear war and the crisis of ecological catastrophe. To hear him on these issues will be highly memorable. Importantly, he offers a way forward to a more hopeful and just world. We are pleased to honor him with our award.

The annual Evening for Peace includes a festive reception, live entertainment, dinner and an award presentation. It is attended by many Santa Barbara leaders and includes a large contingent of sponsored students.

For more information and tickets, click here.

Peace Leadership in Minneapolis

As a West Point graduate, Iraq war veteran, and former U.S. army captain who has struggled through extreme childhood trauma, racism, and rage, NAPF Peace Leadership Director Paul K. Chappell will bring his hopeful message of equity in education, our shared humanity, and the skills of peace literacy to the Minneapolis area November 1-5, 2016. He will address the plenary session of the annual Missing Voices conference at St. Mary’s University on November 3. The audience will include 350 educators, administrators, and students.

To read more about this upcoming trip, click here. For a full list of Paul’s upcoming lectures and workshops, click here.

Take Action

The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s latest action alert encourages you to send a message to President Obama regarding the many things he could do during his last months in office to make a difference for nuclear disarmament. Proposed actions include declaring a No First Use policy, removing U.S. nuclear weapons from foreign soil, cutting funding for nuclear weapons “modernization,” and commencing good faith negotiations for the elimination of nuclear weapons worldwide.

To read more and take action, click here.

Quotes

 

“What the Hiroshima survivors are telling us is that no one else should ever go through the experience they suffered. An atomic bombing creates a living hell on Earth where the living envy the dead.”

Tadatoshi Akiba, former Mayor of Hiroshima. This quote appears in the book Speaking of Peace: Quotations to Inspire Action, which is available for purchase in the NAPF Peace Store.

 

“If keeping and renewing our nuclear weapons is so vital to our national security and our safety, then does the Prime Minister accept the logic of that position is that every other country must seek to acquire nuclear weapons? And does she really think that the world would be a safer place if they did? Our nuclear weapons are driving proliferation, not the opposite.”

Caroline Lucas MP, speaking during the UK parliamentary debate over whether to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system.

Editorial Team

 

Madeline Atchison
Will Brown
Ricky Frawley
Erika Ito
David Krieger
Carol Warner
Rick Wayman

Book Review: Almighty

“Nukes, in other words, would be America’s third-highest national priority, ever. Along the way, the weapons would evolve from a strategy into a policy into a faith.” –Dan Zak, Almighty, p. 23


almightyAlmighty, by Dan Zak, is a compelling new book that exposes the intimate truths behind the 2012 Y-12 break-in through the lens of the peace-activist perpetrators.  Fluidly weaving between the past and the present, this intriguing true-story resembles more of a thriller novel than that of a mundane biography. As the unique background of all three activists, Sister Megan Rice, Michael Walli, and Greg Boertje-obed, unfolds the egregious history of nuclear weapons elucidates the United States’ futile attempt at non-proliferation.

A house painter, a Vietnam War veteran, and an 82 year old Catholic sister, broke into the “Fort Knox of Uranium” (Y-12) in an act of civil disobedience for the sake of mankind. Considered to be one of the most secure facilities in the world, Y-12 was easily penetrated with wire cutters and a courageous death wish. The three peace activists hoped to stop the production of nuclear weapons or, simply, bring awareness to their cause. However, inadvertently, the success of their mission spawned significant national security concerns and shed light on the inherent fault in nuclear facilities: human error.

The novel is broken down into three sections: action, reaction, and relativity/uncertainty. In Part I, Action, Zak describes the history and intricacies of the Manhattan Project as well as provides an in-depth description of the Y-12 break-in. Created by the intellectual elite of Columbia University, the Manhattan Project outlined a clear and destructive path to combat the fear and rise of the Third Reich. The atom became a destructive force displayed in the acts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, “ All the while, a counterforce pushed back. Men and women of science, and of faith, believed that humanity was too fragile to tangle with the almighty. The mere possession of nuclear weapons, to them, was a wish for death” (p. 24). In the time of scientific innovation, Manhattan became the soil in which Megan Rice sprouted her anti-nuclear activism.

One of the most intriguing sections in Almighty is Part II, Reaction. In this section, an entire chapter is dedicated to the background and history of Oak Ridge.  Oak Ridge, an eerie Cold-War era community dedicated to the production of Uranium at Y-12, prides itself on ‘protecting America’s future’.  City festivals and moments of silence commemorate the city’s important role in producing nuclear weapons as well as act as a tool of societal enforcement with regards to the acceptance of nuclear weapons. Historically, Y-12 was a community secret and often employees were unknowingly contributing to the production of uranium. One Oak Ridge citizen recalls, “Her grandmother, who worked at Y-12, was told she was helping to make ice cream” (p.185).

Almighty continues into the aftermath of the Y-12 break-in where the three peace activists were tried for criminal trespassing and destruction of federal property. The court trials touch on the American nuclear weapons paradox regarding morality and the façade of national security. As the judge deliberates between motive, morality, and actions, the reader is taken through the labyrinth that is the jaded American nuclear debate.  To illustrate the complexities of the American nuclear relationship, Zak references the youthful Barack Obama in 1983 at Columbia University. In Obama’s student newspaper article Breaking the War Mentality, “His last sentence envisioned a peace ‘that is genuine, lasting, and non-nuclear (p.148).” Yet, the Obama administration has provided little support towards this approach. Clearly the discourse regarding both the struggle to justify nuclear weapons or encourage non-proliferation is inadequate. The activists answered this challenge with radical action.

Almighty covers substantial nuclear weapon modern history, and the morality behind these destructive human designs. Topics further discussed include the court proceedings, life and background of the activists, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Marshall Islands, and the Iran-Nuclear Deal.

Armed with a few hammers and a heavy conscience, these religiously motivated peace-activists hung banners, graffitied biblical verses, and streaked human blood across the exterior of Y-12.  Their motivations and respective moral compasses are eloquently revealed in the pages of such chaos. Binding American power, the case for nuclear weapons transforms into 2016 relevance through Almighty.

August: This Month in Nuclear Threat History

August 1, 1976 – Protesters occupied part of the Seabrook, New Hampshire nuclear power plant site to protest the dangers of nuclear power.  This was just one of thousands of nonviolent protests or demonstrations staged worldwide over the last sixty years since dangerous nuclear power reactors were introduced into the energy grid.  In addition to high-profile deadly accidents at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima, many other frequent leaks, accidents, discharges to water aquifers, rivers and oceans, along with the terrorist targeting threat and proliferation risks make civilian nuclear power plants a completely unreasonable, nontransparent risk to global populations.  Comments:  Although California has taken the lead in declaring itself the first nuclear-free-state after the last nuclear plant in that state at Diablo Canyon is scheduled to shut down permanently in 2025, there remain serious concerns about nuclear safety at many U.S. civilian power plants and military nuclear weapons production facilities (such as the leaking million gallon nuclear waste tanks at Hanford Reservation, Washington), private for-profit nuclear waste dumps in Texas, and even at research reactors across the nation and the planet.  The dramatic decrease in solar energy costs have largely made nuclear  power uneconomical despite the fact that the nuclear lobby, the Obama Administration, and many in Congress continue to support using government-funded taxpayer subsidies to build new reactors such as the Bechtel Corporation’s multi-billion dollar Unit 2 reactor at Watts Bar, Tennessee, completed in 2015.  (Sources:  Harold Marcuse.  “Seabrook, NH Plant Occupation Page.”  July 30, 2007 updated Feb. 18, 2012, http://www.marcuse.org/harold/page/seabrook.htm, Aaron Miguel Cantu.  “New Yorkers Fear Gas Pipeline Near Nuclear Reactors Could Spell Disaster.”  Dec. 3, 2015, http://america.aljazeera.com/multimedia/2015/ny-pipeline-near-nuclear-reactor-sparks… and Fred de Sousa.  “Bechtel Salutes TVA, Work Force on Major Milestone for U.S. Nuclear Plant.”  Aug. 15, 2015,  http://www.bechtel.com/newsroom/releases/2015/08/bechtel-milestone-watts-bar-substantially-complete/ accessed July 21, 2016.)

August 8, 1994 – – In one of the twenty known incidents of the attempted illicit sale of Russian bomb-grade fissile materials in the last 25 years since the breakup of the Soviet Union, security officials at Munich International Airport in Germany arrested individuals who were caught in possession of 363.4 grams of plutonium – enough to make one or more radiological weapons or dirty bombs. Extensive forensic analysis by U.S. and French nuclear scientists have shown that several samples of fissile materials offered up for sale in the past two decades in a number of Western and former Soviet bloc nations have reportedly come from the same stockpile – the Russian nuclear weapons facility known as Mayak Production Association located in Ozersk in the Ural Mountains almost 1,000 miles east of Moscow.  Athough Russian President Putin has steadily cut back his nation’s overall nuclear security cooperation with Washington in 2015-16 on the grounds that it no longer needs U.S. financial or technical assistance to safeguard its fissile material stockpile, a recent CIA report reaffirmed a long-held U.S. position that it is unlikely that Russian authorities have been able to recover all of the stolen nuclear materials.  Comments:  Although some significant progress in securing and protecting nuclear materials from theft or diversion has been allegedly confirmed by Russia and other Nuclear Club nations at the four biennial nuclear security summits (2010-16), much more needs to be accomplished in the United Nations and other international fora to prevent the use of fissile materials to unleash weapons of mass destruction whether the materials diverted come from civilian nuclear plants or military nuclear weapons facilities.  In addition to concerns about the resulting mass casualties and short- and long-term radioactive contamination from such a catastrophe, there is also the frightening possibility that in times of crisis such an attack might inadvertently trigger nuclear retaliation or even precipitate a nuclear exchange.   (Source:  Douglas Birch and R. Jeffrey Smith.  “The Fuel for a Nuclear Bomb is in the Hands of an Unknown Black Marketeer from Russia, U.S. Officials Say.”  Center for Public Integrity, November 12, 2015 reprinted in Courier:  The Stanley Foundation Newsletter, Number 86, Spring 2016, pp. 7-14.)

August 9, 1945 – Before Japanese leaders had time to assess the tens of thousands of deaths (130,000) and injuries that resulted from the August 6th U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and after the Soviet Union’s August 8th declaration of war against Japan and resulting extensive attack on Japanese-occupied Manchuria (also on August 8), the United States dropped a second atomic bomb on the largely civilian population of Nagasaki killing another 70,000 people and injuring tens of thousands more.  U.S. Army Air Force Major Charles Sweeney commanded the B-29 bomber nicknamed “Bock’s Car” which dropped the plutonium-fueled atomic bomb (“Fat Man”) at 11:02 a.m. local time.  The bomb exploded 1,650 feet above the city of Nagasaki with the equivalent force of 22,000 tons of TNT.  Many military and scientific leaders believed the atomic bombings were unnecessary and excessively cruel.   Before the bombings, General and later President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, argued, “It wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing…”  Years after the war ended, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral William D. Leahy publicly stated, “It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan.”  Nevertheless President Truman and his closest advisers disregarded these objections focusing instead on the need to intimidate the Soviet Union in the postwar years by demonstrating this super weapon in time of war. The human impact of these two atomic bomb attacks was horrendous, from the initial super-heated vaporizing blast to other terrifying effects including the impact of thermal radiation on people farther from ground zero.  Other results of the explosions were the shock wave and the short- and long-term biological impacts of the ionizing radiation as well as the long-lasting social and psychological impacts on the surviving habakushas.  In subsequent decades, tens of thousands more Japanese died as a result of debilitating cancers and long-term illnesses inflicted on hundreds of thousands of survivors of the August 1945 atomic bombings. (Sources:  Dan Drollette, Jr. “Hiroshima and Nagasaki:  The Many Retrospectives.”  The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. Aug. 8, 2014.  http://thebulletin.org/hiroshima-and-nagasaki-many-retrospectives7366, Gar Alperovitz.  “The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb:  And the Architecture of An American Myth.”  New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1995, pp. 3-6, 15, 672, and Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick.  “The Untold History of the United States.”  New York:  Gallery Books, 2012.)

August 15, 1984 – A Vladivostok-based Soviet army unit was reportedly issued a coded message placing units on a war-footing but the order was withdrawn a short time later.  This followed a joking reference the previous day by President Ronald Reagan that he had signed legislation “outlawing the Soviet Union,” adding that, “We begin bombing in five minutes.”  Comments: President Reagan unwisely made this radio gaffe despite serving for over three years as President and after holding the office of Governor of California.   Although he reportedly was emotionally scarred by the November 20, 1983 ABC-TV dramatization of a nuclear war (“The Day After”), with these reckless comments, he nevertheless made light of a possible nuclear world war.  Consider the tasteless jokes, the off-the-cuff or made-in-anger rash public comments, tweets, and unabashedly reckless and/or inaccurate statements made over the last few decades by Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump, a person who has never in his entire life served the public interest in any political office.  Now imagine this individual as Commander-in-Chief of all U.S. armed forces with access to the Nuclear Codes.  Objectively it appears certain that the ongoing risks of accidental, unintentional, inadvertent, or even intentional nuclear war will increase if Donald Trump is elected the 45th President of the United States.  While the Democratic Presidential candidate supports spending $1 trillion over the next thirty years to modernize and expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal and laboratory complex and has made a few objectionable nuclear threats against Iran, the risks of nuclear war increasing are not nearly as high with Hillary Clinton as President as compared to Donald Trump.  (Source:  “Soviet War Alert in August Reported by Japanese Newspaper.”  The Baltimore Sun.  Oct. 2, 1984, p. 4.)

August 20, 2010 – In a Scientific American article titled, “Laying the Odds on the Apocalypse,” former National Security Agency director Admiral Robert Inman estimated that there was a one in thirty chance of a global thermonuclear war in the next decade in which hundreds of millions of people would die.  An even less optimistic assessment by MIT Professor of Cryptography and Information Theory, Dr. Martin Hellman, placed the odds of such a war at ten percent!  Comments:  Mainstream news media and politicians, especially since the Cold War ended in 1991, predominantly downgrade the odds of a nuclear war and charge those expressing concerns about its likelihood as appeasers or unrealistic peaceniks, but serious thinkers including historians, political scientists, philosophers, and other scientists clearly recognize that time is not on humanity’s side in regards to the nuclear threat.  John Scales Avery, a theoretical chemist and historian of science, Nobel Peace Prize-winning activist, and Associate Professor of Quantum Chemistry at the University of Copenhagen makes a powerful argument along these lines, “The elimination of nuclear weapons is a life or death question.  We can see this most clearly when we look far ahead.  Suppose that each year, there is a certain finite chance of a nuclear catastrophe, let us say two percent.  Then in a century, the chance of survival will be 13.5 percent, and in two centuries, 1.8 percent, in three centuries, 0.25 percent, in four centuries, there would be only a 0.034 percent chance of survival and so on.  Over many centuries, the chance of survival would shrink almost to zero.  Thus, by looking at the long-term future, we can clearly see that if nuclear weapons are not entirely eliminated, civilization will not survive.”

August 27, 2016 – Approximate date that the initial eight-week long advertising campaign (which began in late June) on 14 King County Metro Transit buses by the local peace group Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action publicizing the U.S. Navy’s construction of a new $294 million taxpayer-funded underground nuclear storage complex located just 20 miles west of the city of Seattle will end.  This massive facility will eclipse a similar base with six nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) located at Kings Bay in Georgia which houses the SWFLANT (Strategic Weapons Facility Atlantic) storage facility.  The new Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific (SWFPAC) and the eight Ohio-class SSBNs with Trident II nuclear-armed missiles, homeported at the adjacent Bangor Submarine Base, are located just a few miles outside downtown Seattle.  The SWFPAC and the locally based submarines are thought to store more than 1,300 nuclear warheads with a combined explosive power equal to more than 14,000 Hiroshima-sized bombs.  After the New START Treaty requires a downsizing of the submarine missile tubes from 24 to 20, the warhead total will drop to about a thousand.  Nevertheless, this Naval Base Kitsap Complex (the SWFPAC and the Bangor Submarine Base) will remain the largest and most important nuclear weapons base in the U.S. in the ensuring decades.  Comments:  A growing citizen’s movement to substantially reduce and make significant progress toward zeroing out global nuclear arsenals is not only an American phenomenon but a planet-wide one as well.  The newly-elected 45th President of the U.S. will be heavily pressured to not only enforce existing arms control agreements such as the New START Treaty but to push harder for even greater multilateral, bilateral, and unilateral actions that will:  (1) De-alert the hair-trigger alert status of U.S., Russian, Chinese and other nuclear arsenals including Israel’s; (2) Declare a No-First-Use Policy; (3) Ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; (4) Reduce Overseas Basing of Military Forces; (5) Phase-Out Global Nuclear Power By 2030; and enact other changes to realize a truly global peace dividend that was never fully implemented after the Cold War ended in 1991. (Source: Hans M. Kristensen. “Navy Builds Underground Nuclear Weapons Storage Facility; Seattle Buses Carry Warning.” Federation of American Scientists.  June 27, 2016, http://fas.org/blogs/security/2016/pacific-ssbn-base/ accessed July 21, 2016.)

August 29, 2007 – Six nuclear-armed cruise missiles were mistakenly loaded onboard a B-52 bomber named “Doom 99” at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota and flown 1,500 miles to Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana and offloaded where they sat unguarded on the tarmac for nine hours.  This incident violated a long-standing rule that live nuclear weapons should not overfly U.S. territory.  Another serious violation of security protocols was the fact that no one noticed the weapons were missing for 36 hours or more.  A February 2008 Defense Science Board report on the incident concluded that investigators found “a basic lack of understanding on the safety and authorization required to handle nuclear weapons.”   Comments:  Many of the thousands of serious violations of security protocols, accidents, and other nuclear weapons incidents involving all nine nuclear weapons states still remain partially or completely classified and hidden from public scrutiny.  These near-nuclear catastrophes provide an additional justification for reducing dramatically and eventually eliminating global nuclear weapons arsenals.  (Sources: Eric Schlosser.  “Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Incident, and the Illusion of Safety.”  New York:  Penguin Press, 2013 and U.S. Department of Defense.  Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics.  “The Defense Science Board Permanent Task Force on Nuclear Weapon Surety:  Report on the Unauthorized Movement of Nuclear Weapons.” February 2008. http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/defenseReviews/NPR/DSB_TF_on_NWS_Welch_Feb_2008.pdf  accessed July 23, 2016.)

Committed to a World Free of Nuclear Weapons