In an Age of “Smart” Weapons, We Can Live Without Nukes

This article was originally published by UPI.

Concern about the dangers of nuclear weapons is nothing new. But with the Republican National Convention in Cleveland about to nominate Donald Trump as its candidate for president, many people are feeling increasingly trapped — a feeling that was intensified this week when the ghost writer for Trump’s book The Art of the Deal said, “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”

Regardless what you think about Trump, it is certainly true that the world is getting increasingly dangerous. The Islamic State, sudden coup attempts, instability throughout the Middle East, tensions with Russia and China, strongmen replacing democratic rule — across the board there seems to be cause for concern. One Pulitzer Prize winning historian recently wrote a piece with the despairing title, “Nuclear weapons mess: We’re all in it together but don’t know how to get out alive.”

 It seems like a genuine conundrum. If everyone really wants nuclear weapons, and if the world is getting more dangerous and human beings are fallible, then somewhere down the road there is a nuclear war waiting for us. This pessimistic view is generally shared by almost all in the nuclear weapons community and by many thoughtful people throughout the world.
But the situation is, in fact, not that dire. It is not time to despair. There are actually sound, pragmatic reasons to reject nuclear weapons. The ideas we use to guide us in thinking about nuclear weapons are actually wrong. The assumptions shared by most members of the nuclear community and that they have assiduously taught the rest of us for 70 years are muddled and mistaken. The reasoning behind our nuclear policy, and the nuclear mindset that generated that reasoning, was developed during a time of intense fear and — like most thinking done when you’re terrified — isn’t very sound.
But it has been rarely challenged. The anti-nuclear movement has had massive protests, it has had passionate denunciations, it has had dedicated, long-suffering activists, but the one thing it has never brought forward is a serious challenge to the ideas behind the nuclear weapons mindset. The assumptions behind the notion that “everyone wants nuclear weapons” because they are some sort of “ultimate” weapon have simply never been given careful scrutiny.
And in point of fact, it is high time that they were challenged because they are doubtful, problematic and not very realistic. The nuclear mindset is taught in international relations courses and grad schools, and repeated in think tanks and the corridors of government. The media and public mostly repeat the conclusions the experts have arrived at. But the nuclear mindset is grown in an airtight intellectual compartment where uncomfortable facts, new ideas, and obvious contradictions rarely find their way in. It is carried on in the closed circle of nuclear believers. It is classic groupthink.

And the results are unsound.

Take the oft-repeated notion that “you can’t disinvent nuclear weapons.” This is an argument that is rarely questioned and is a key element in the argument that disarmament is impossible. It seems plausible on the face of it, but look closer and you’ll see there’s nothing there. No technology goes away by disinvention. It’s an imaginary process. How is it supposed to work? Does a guy in a white coat sit down at a bench and “disinvent” ancient IBM PCs? Technology goes away because people abandon it. It’s not about technology, it’s about social preference.

Nuclear believers have disguised this argument because they want the assertion that nuclear weapons are desirable dressed up as a law of technology evolution. The disguise is necessary because the idea that “everyone wants nuclear weapons” is easily and powerfully challenged by the facts. More countries have had programs to build nuclear weapons and abandoned them or had actual nuclear weapons in hand and given them up, than have built nuclear arsenals. The “you can’t disinvent nuclear weapons” argument is a trick designed to hide a questionable assumption.

The entire nuclear mindset is like this. Dubious assertions about human nature (“decision makers will be more rational in a crisis because they know the stakes are higher”) dressed up in jargon and arcane theories. Dicey interpretations of history (“nuclear deterrence has never failed”) boldly stated as fact. Of course nuclear deterrence has failed in the past. I know we’ve never had a nuclear war, but that isn’t proof. Imagine that you are driving in your car, your brakes fail, you swerve and weave crazily through oncoming traffic and by some miracle end up unhurt in the field on the other side of the road. Do you then get out of your car and say, “Well, I know my brakes didn’t fail, because I didn’t end up dead.” Just because we’ve never ended up in a nuclear war, doesn’t mean the mechanism of nuclear deterrence has never failed.

It is high time to challenge the nuclear mindset, to understand that nuclear weapons are clumsy, awful weapons rather than “ultimate” weapons, and to see that it’s possible to break free from the dilemma. After all, if nuclear weapons are lousy weapons — too big for any practical purpose — then elimination is just common sense. And as we continue to develop “smart” weapons — tiny, accurate, discriminate drones, for example — a world without nuclear weapons looks increasingly possible. Which would you rather have? Smart, small, discriminate, useful weapons? Or big, clumsy, dangerous, not very useful weapons like nuclear weapons?

There does appear to be dark danger ahead. Increasingly, “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” But we can get out of this alive. We are not trapped. As usual, American pragmatism points the way out of the maze. Americans know you don’t have to keep tools that are dangerous and too big for any real-world job. That’s not dreamy utopian thinking. That’s just common sense.


Ward Wilson is director of the Rethinking Nuclear Weapons project of BASIC (the British American Security Information Counsel) and the author of “Five Myths About Nuclear Weapons.” He is a NAPF Associate.

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. Here are ten lessons drawn from the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters.

  1. Nuclear power is a highly complex, expensive and dangerous way to boil water. Nuclear power does nothing more than provide a high-tech and extremely dangerous way to boil water to create steam to turn turbines.
  1. Accidents happen and the worst-case scenario often turns out to be worse than imagined or planned for. Although the nuclear industry continues to assure the public that nuclear power plants are safe, the plants continue to have accidents, some of which exceed worst-case projections.
  1. The nuclear industry and its experts cannot plan for every contingency or prevent every disaster. Although it was known that Fukushima is subject to earthquakes and tsunamis, the nuclear industry and its experts did not plan for the combination of a 9.0 earthquake and the larger-than-expected tsunami that followed.
  1. Governments do not effectively regulate the nuclear industry to assure the safety of the public. Government regulators of nuclear industry often come from the nuclear industry and tend to be too close to the industry to regulate it effectively.
  1. Hubris, complacency and high-level radiation are a deadly mix. Hubris on the part of the nuclear industry and its government regulators, along with complacency on the part of the public, have led to the creation of vast amounts of high-level radiation that must be guarded from release to the environment for tens of thousands of years, far longer than civilization has existed.
  1. Nuclear power plants can catastrophically fail, causing vast human and environmental damage. The corporations that run the power plants, however, are protected from catastrophic economic failure by government limits on liability, which shift the economic burden to the public. If the corporations that own nuclear power plants had to bear the burden of potential financial losses in the event of a catastrophic accident, they would not build the plants because they know the risks are unacceptable. It is government liability limits, such as the Price-Anderson Act in the US, that make nuclear power plants possible, leaving the taxpayers responsible for the overwhelming monetary costs of nuclear industry failures. No other private industry is given such liability protection.
  1. Radiation releases from nuclear accidents cannot be contained in space and will not stop at national borders. The wind will carry long-lived radioactive materials around the world and affect the people and environment of many countries and regions. The radiation will also affect the oceans of the world, which are the common heritage of humankind.
  1. Radiation releases from nuclear accidents cannot be contained in time and will adversely affect countless future generations. The radioactive materials from nuclear power plant accidents, as well as from radioactive wastes, are a legacy we are bequeathing to future generations of humans and other forms of life on the planet.
  1. Nuclear energy, as well as nuclear weapons, and human beings cannot co-exist without the risk of future catastrophes. The survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have long known that nuclear weapons and human beings cannot co-exist. The Fukushima accident, like that at Chernobyl before it, makes clear that human beings and nuclear power plants also cannot co-exist without courting future disasters.
  1. The accidents at Fukushima and Chernobyl are a wake-up call to phase out nuclear energy and replace it with energy conservation and more human- and environmentally-friendly forms of renewable energy. For decades it has been clear that various forms of renewable energy are needed to replace both nuclear and fossil fuel energy sources. Now it is clearer than ever. The choice is not between nuclear and fossil fuels. The solution is to disavow both of these forms of energy and to move as rapidly as possible to a global energy plan based upon various forms of renewable energy: solar cells, wind, geothermal, ocean thermal, currents, tides, etc.

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.

Are We in for Another Increase in Military Spending?

At the present time, an increase in U.S. military spending seems as superfluous as a third leg.  The United States, armed with the latest in advanced weaponry, has more military might than any other nation in world history.  Moreover, it has begun a $1 trillion program to refurbish its entire nuclear weapons complex.  America’s major military rivals, China and Russia, spend only a small fraction of what the United States does on its armed forces―in China’s case about a third and in Russia’s case about a ninth.  Furthermore, the economic outlay necessary to maintain this vast U.S. military force constitutes a very significant burden.  In fiscal 2015, U.S. military spending ($598.5 billion) accounted for 54 percent of the U.S. government’s discretionary spending.

Certainly most Americans are not clamoring for heightened investments in war and war preparations.  According to a Gallup poll conducted in February 2016, only 37 percent of respondents said the U.S. government spent too little “for national defense and military purposes,” compared to 59 percent who said it spent too much (32 percent) or about the right amount (27 percent).

These findings were corroborated by a Pew Research Center survey in April 2016, which reported that 35 percent of American respondents favored increasing U.S. military spending, 24 percent favored decreasing it, and 40 percent favored keeping it the same.  Although these latest figures show a rise in support for increasing military spending since 2013, this occurred mostly among Republicans.  Indeed, the gap in support for higher military spending between Republicans and Democrats, which stood at 25 percentage points in 2013, rose to 41 points by 2016.

Actually, it appears that, when Americans are given the facts about U.S. military spending, a substantial majority of them favor reducing it.  Between December 2015 and February 2016, the nonpartisan Voice of the People, affiliated with the University of Maryland, provided a sample of 7,126 registered voters with information on the current U.S. military budget, as well as leading arguments for and against it.  The arguments were vetted for accuracy by staff members of the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees on defense.  Then, when respondents were asked their opinion about what should be done, 61 percent said they thought U.S. military spending should be reduced.  The biggest cuts they championed were in spending for nuclear weapons and missile defense systems.

When it comes to this year’s presumptive Presidential candidates, however, quite a different picture emerges.  The Republican nominee, Donald Trump, though bragging about building “a military that’s gonna be much stronger than it is right now,” has on occasion called for reducing military expenditures.  On the other hand, his extraordinarily aggressive foreign policy positions have led defense contractors to conclude that, with Trump in the White House, they can look forward to sharp increases in U.S. military spending.  Indeed, insisting that U.S. military power has shrunk to a pitiful level under President Obama, he has promised that, under his presidency, it would be “funded beautifully.”  In March 2016, when Trump appeared on Fox News, he made that commitment more explicit by promising to increase military spending.

Given the considerably more dovish orientation of the Democratic electorate, one would expect Hillary Clinton to stake out a position more opposed to a military buildup.  But, thus far, she has been remarkably cagey about this issue.  In September 2015, addressing a campaign meeting in New Hampshire, Clinton called for the creation of a high-level commission to examine U.S. military spending.  But whether the appointment of such a commission augurs increases or decreases remains unclear.  Meanwhile, her rather hawkish foreign policy record has convinced observers that she will support a military weapons buildup.  The same conclusion can be drawn from the “National Security” section of her campaign website, which declares:  “As president, she’ll ensure the United States maintains the best-trained, best-equipped, and strongest military the world has ever known.”

Although the big defense contractors generally regard Clinton, like Trump, as a safe bet, they exercise even greater influence in Congress, where they pour substantially larger amounts of money into the campaign coffers of friendly U.S. Senators and Representatives.  Thus, even when a President doesn’t back a particular weapons system, they can usually count on Congress to fund it.  As a Wall Street publication recently crowed:  “No matter who wins the White House this fall, one thing is clear:  Defense spending will climb.”

Will it?  Probably so, unless public pressure can convince a new administration in Washington to adopt a less militarized approach to national and international security.


Dr. Lawrence Wittner (http://www.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? He is also a NAPF Associate.

British Parliament Voting on Trident Replacement Next Week

For Immediate Release

Contact:
Rick Wayman or Sandy Jones
(805) 965-3443
rwayman@napf.org or sjones@napf.org

Breaking News:

British Parliament Voting on Trident Replacement Next Week

On Monday, July 18, the UK parliament will vote on whether or not to replace Trident, the UK’s nuclear weapon system.

It is yet unknown whether MPs will be asked to support replacement in principle, or whether they will be asked to consent to the building of four new submarines, at a cost of roughly $53 billion. The lifetime cost of Trident replacement is believed to be at least $266 billion. The UK has already spent over $4 billion on Trident replacement, before the vote has occurred.

Since 1969, a British submarine carrying nuclear weapons has always been on patrol in the world’s oceans. The UK’s current nuclear-armed fleet consists of four submarines. The subs carry up to 16 Trident II D5 missiles, and each can be fitted with a number of nuclear warheads directed at different targets. Currently, the government spends approximately 6% of its annual defense budget on Trident.

What is not widely known is the fact that the UK does not own the Trident missiles, but rather leases them from the United States. British subs must regularly visit the US Navy’s base at King’s Bay, Georgia, for maintenance or re-arming. And since Britain has no missile test site of its own, it tries out its weapons under US supervision at Cape Canaveral, off the Florida coast.

Kate Hudson, General Secretary of the UK-based Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, (CND) expressed the feeling of many when she said, “It is quite extraordinary that our government should commit itself to such profligate spending when the utility of such submarines–in defense technology terms–has long passed. The government, and all supporters of Trident replacement, are to be condemned for their short-sighted, head-in-the-sand approach to Britain’s defense.”

At present, the UK is being sued in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the highest court in the world, by the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI). The case aims to hold the UK accountable for violating international law by failing to uphold its nuclear disarmament obligations under the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and customary international law. Replacement of Trident would clearly violate the UK’s obligation to bring the nuclear arms race to an early end and is further evidence the UK considers itself above the law and does not take seriously its treaty commitments.

David Krieger, President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, and a consultant to the RMI in its lawsuit, commented, “We support the people of the UK in their move to end the government’s dangerous and expensive plans to replace their Trident submarine fleet. The UK could use this unprecedented opportunity of the vote in parliament to do the right thing by voting down the Trident replacement and commencing negotiations for total nuclear disarmament. This vote is not only about Trident. A ‘NO’ vote will help protect the future of civilization.”

For more information about the RMI’s lawsuit against the UK at the International Court of Justice, visit nuclearzero.org.

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The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation was founded in 1982. Its mission is to educate and advocate for peace and a world free of nuclear weapons and to empower peace leaders. The Foundation is a non-partisan, non-profit organization with consultative status to the United Nations and is comprised of individuals and groups worldwide who realize the imperative for peace in the Nuclear Age.

Anniversary of World Court Advisory Opinion

The International Court of Justice (“Court,” or “ICJ”), the world’s highest court, issued its Advisory Opinion on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons on July 8, 1996. Thus, this week marks the 20th anniversary of that momentous opinion.

Peace Palace
Photograph: CIJ-ICJ/UN-ONU, Capital Photos/Frank van Beek – Courtesy of the ICJ. All rights reserved.

The Court found in a split vote (7 to 7), with the casting vote of the Court’s president Mohammed Bedjaoui deciding the matter, that the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be illegal under international law. The Court could not determine whether it would be legal or illegal to threaten or use nuclear weapons “in an extreme circumstance of self-defense, in which the very survival of a State would be at stake.”

Three of the judges voting to oppose general illegality, however, were concerned with the word “generally” and wanted the Court to go further and remove any ambiguity about the illegality of threat or use of nuclear weapons. Judge C.G. Weeramantry, for example, argued in a brilliant dissenting opinion “that the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is illegal in any circumstances whatsoever.” Thus, in actuality, ten of the fourteen judges supported either general illegality or total illegality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons.

The Court also found unanimously that any threat or use of nuclear weapons must be compatible with the United Nations Charter and must also be compatible with the international law of armed conflict and particularly with “the principles and rules of international humanitarian law.” This means that the threat or use of nuclear weapons must be capable of distinguishing between combatants and civilians and must not cause unnecessary suffering. It is virtually impossible to imagine any use of nuclear weapons that could meet such limiting criteria.

Finally, the Court concluded, “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.” Unfortunately, despite this obligation, such negotiations have not taken place in the past twenty years.

The tiny Pacific Island country, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, has cited the Court’s conclusion regarding this legal obligation in bringing contentious lawsuits against the nine nuclear-armed countries at the International Court of Justice and separately against the United States in U.S. federal court. In the ICJ, only the cases against the UK, India and Pakistan are currently going forward, since the other six nuclear-armed countries do not accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court and have not opted to accept the Court’s jurisdiction in this matter.

The cases brought by the Marshall Islands in the ICJ are currently awaiting the Court’s ruling on preliminary objections filed by the three respondent countries. The case against the U.S. was dismissed in U.S. federal district court on jurisdictional grounds, and is currently on appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Nuclear weapons are devices of mass annihilation. The ICJ found these weapons to be generally illegal and to require good faith negotiations leading to total nuclear disarmament. All nine nuclear-armed countries are in breach of this obligation to the detriment of the people of the world, including the citizens of their own countries. The Republic of the Marshall Islands has had the courage to bring this matter back to the ICJ as contentious cases.

On the illegality of nuclear weapons, the then Court President, Mohammed Bedjaoui, stated: “Nuclear weapons, the ultimate evil, destabilize humanitarian law, which is the law of the lesser evil.  The existence of nuclear weapons is therefore a challenge to the very existence of humanitarian law, not to mention their long-term effects of damage to the human environment, in respect to which the right to life can be exercised.”

On the 20th anniversary of the ICJ Advisory Opinion on threat or use of nuclear weapons, the people must wake up, stand up and speak out. Nuclear weapons are illegal as well as immoral and costly.  They are not even weapons, but instruments of mass annihilation. They serve no useful purpose and endanger all countries, all people, and all future generations. It is past time to end the nuclear era.


David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org). He is the author of Zero: The Case for Nuclear Weapons Abolition.

Sunflower Newsletter: July 2016

Issue #228 – July 2016

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  • Perspectives
    • Ten Worst Acts of the Nuclear Age by David Krieger
    • The Pentagon’s Real Strategy: Keeping the Money Flowing by Andrew Cockburn
  • Nuclear Disarmament
    • U.S. Conference of Mayors Unanimously Passes Nuclear Disarmament Resolution
  • U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy
    • Largest Concentration of Nuclear Weapons Just 20 Miles from Seattle
    • Scientists Call for End to Hair-Trigger Alert
  • Nuclear Proliferation
    • Brexit Vote Will Not Affect U.S.-UK Nuclear Weapons Partnership
    • Biden Says Japan Could Go Nuclear “Virtually Overnight”
    • North Korea Conducts Missile Tests
  • Nuclear Energy and Waste
    • TEPCO Head Apologizes for Fukushima Meltdown Coverup
    • California’s Last Nuclear Power Plant to Close by 2025
  • Nuclear Insanity
    • Five More Added to Drug Probe at Air Force Nuclear Base
    • Fifty Years Later, U.S. Air Force Still in Denial Over Palomares Nuclear Accident
    • Nuclear Security Firm Employed Orlando Shooter
  • Nuclear Modernization
    • Amidst Opposition, Long Range Standoff Warhead Moves Ahead
    • Strategic Deterrent Coalition Meets in New Mexico
  • Nuclear Zero Lawsuits
    • Marshall Islands’ Lawsuits Get Coverage in France
    • 20th Anniversary of World Court Advisory Opinion
  • Resources
    • July’s Featured Blog
    • This Month in Nuclear Threat History
    • The Employment Implications of Canceling Trident Replacement
    • Nuclear Heartland: A Guide to the 450 Land-Based Missiles of the United States
  • Foundation Activities
    • NAPF 2015 Annual Report Now Available
    • Paul K. Chappell to Speak on Ethical Realities of War at Chautauqua Institution
    • Noam Chomsky to Receive NAPF Distinguished Peace Leadership Award
    • Sadako Peace Day on August 9
    • Take Action: The Olympics Are for Peace
  • Quotes

 

Perspectives

Ten Worst Acts of the Nuclear Age

The ten worst acts of the Nuclear Age described below have set the tone for our time. They have caused immense death and suffering; been tremendously expensive; have encouraged nuclear proliferation; have opened the door to nuclear terrorism, nuclear accidents and nuclear war; and are leading the world back into a second Cold War. These “ten worst acts” are important information for anyone attempting to understand the time in which we live, and how the nuclear dangers that confront us have been intensified by the leadership and policy choices made by the United States and the other eight nuclear-armed countries.

To read more, click here.

The Pentagon’s Real Strategy: Keeping the Money Flowing

After 15 years of grinding war with no obvious end in sight, U.S. military operations certainly deserve such obloquy. But the pundit outrage may be misplaced. Focusing on Washington rather than on distant war zones, it becomes clear that the military establishment does indeed have a strategy, a highly successful one, which is to protect and enhance its own prosperity.

Ongoing and dramatic programs to invest vast sums in meaningless, useless, or superfluous weapons systems are the norm. There is no more striking example of this than current plans to rebuild the entire American arsenal of nuclear weapons in the coming decades, Obama’s staggering bequest to the budgets of his successors.

To read more, click here.

Nuclear Disarmament

U.S. Conference of Mayors Unanimously Passes Nuclear Disarmament Resolution

The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM), for the 11th consecutive year, adopted a strong resolution in support of nuclear disarmament. The USCM “calls on the next President of the United States, in good faith, to participate in or initiate… multilateral negotiations for the elimination of nuclear weapons as required by the 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.”

The resolution commends President Obama for visiting Hiroshima and concluding negotiations with Iran, but notes that “the Obama Administration has laid the groundwork for the United States to spend one trillion dollars over the next three decades to maintain and modernize its nuclear bombs and warheads, production facilities, delivery systems, and command and control,” and that “federal funds are desperately needed in our communities to build affordable housing, create jobs with livable wages, improve public transit, and develop sustainable energy sources.” The USCM “calls on the next President and Congress of the United States to reduce nuclear weapons spending to the minimum necessary to assure the safety and security of the existing weapons as they await disablement and dismantlement, and to redirect those funds to address the urgent needs of cities and rebuild our nation’s crumbling infrastructure.”

Jackie Cabasso, “U.S. Conference of Mayors Unanimously Adopts Resolution,” Mayors for Peace, June 28, 2016.

U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy

Largest Concentration of Nuclear Weapons Just 20 Miles from Seattle

For the next eight weeks, fourteen Seattle busses will warn the city’s public of their close proximity to the largest nuclear weapons complex in the United States, Naval Base Kitsap. The bus advertisements ‒ purchased by local peace group, Ground Zero for Nonviolent Action ‒ were produced to bring public attention to the construction of a new underground nuclear storage complex. Located at the Strategic Weapons Facility, Pacific (SWFPAC), the new complex was constructed only 20 miles from downtown Seattle.

Though construction of the facility was completed in 2012, the cost of the facility ‒ $294 million ‒ and its explosive power ‒ over 14,000 Hiroshimas ‒ has escaped public attention. The underground complex was designed to better protect nuclear weapons that were before stored in aboveground igloos and bunkers.

Hans Kristensen, “Navy Builds Underground Nuclear Weapons Storage Facility; Seattle Busses Carry Warning,” Federation of American Scientists, June 27, 2016.

Scientists Call for End to Hair-Trigger Alert

Over 90 prominent scientists, including many Nobel Laureates, have sent a letter to President Obama, calling for action on nuclear weapons. The coalition of scientists is urging President Obama to take U.S. land-based missiles off “hair-trigger alert,” which enables their rapid launch. Keeping these weapons on hair-trigger alert allows for potentially reckless behavior, a lack of time constraints leading to swift and impulsive decision-making. The letter, sent on June 21, categorizes the risk of hair-trigger-alert as “unacceptably high.”

The policy of hair-trigger alert can be traced back to the Cold War. It was, in its time, a practice used for immediate retaliation for Soviet attacks against the U.S. and vice-versa. When the fear of a first-strike attack was in the minds of all, a swift response would have been necessary (as was claimed at the time). However, the outdated practice is now the cause for growing concern. There have been a wealth of problems associated with hair-trigger alert — false alarms, human error, and technical failures all being cited as causes for near-use. Ambiguity associated with sensors is also great reason for concern, both Russia and the U.S. coming frighteningly close to launching based on misinterpreted data.

Lisbeth Gronlund, “Top Scientists Call for Obama to Take Nuclear Missiles off Hair-Trigger Alert,” Union of Concerned Scientists, June 22, 2016.

Nuclear Proliferation

Brexit Vote Will Not Affect U.S.-UK Nuclear Weapons Partnership

The United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union will not affect the UK-U.S. nuclear relationship, according to Vice Adm. Terry Benedict, director of the U.S. Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs. He expressed no concern regarding the recent vote and is confident that nuclear weapons collaboration will continue.

The U.S. and UK have maintained a “special relationship” for decades. The two countries claim that this special relationship permits them to share nuclear weapons systems and technology. The U.S. currently leases Trident II D5 missiles to the UK to use on its Vanguard class nuclear-armed submarines.

The two navies are currently working on developing missile compartments for planned replacement nuclear-armed submarines. The new submarines would be deployed through the 2080s.

Otto Kreisher, “Benedict: UK Exit from European Union Won’t Hinder Nuclear Sub Collaboration,” USNI News, June 24, 2016.

Biden Says Japan Could Go Nuclear “Virtually Overnight”

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden told Chinese President Xi Jinping that Japan has the ability to develop nuclear weapons overnight. This statement was made as a tactic to urge President Xi to influence North Korea to halt its nuclear weapons program.

In response, Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko said at a news conference in Tokyo that Japan “can never possess nuclear weapons.” Seko said the three non-nuclear principles of not producing, possessing or allowing nuclear weapons on Japanese territory are an important basic policy of the Japanese government.

Japan Could Get Nuclear Weapons ‘Virtually Overnight,’ Biden Tells Xi,” Kyodo, June 24, 2016.

North Korea Conducts Missile Tests

In June, North Korea conducted two controversial missile tests. The first launch failed, while the second missile landed 400 kilometers from the launch site, sinking into the ocean near Japan’s exclusive economic zone, which extends 200 nautical miles from the Japanese coast.

Believed to be a Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile that can fly up to 4,000 kilometers, this weapon could strike Japan or Guam. B-52 strategic bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons are hosted by the U.S. military in Guam. The Japanese Defense Ministry states that the Musudan can fly faster than the previous-generation Rodong mid-range ballistic missile, raising concerns that its defense may not be able to intercept the Musudan in the event that Japan is targeted.

The UN Security Council released a statement condemning the tests, saying, “The members of the Security Council deplore all DPRK ballistic missile activities noting that such activities contribute to the DPRK’s development of nuclear weapons delivery systems and increase tension.” The permanent five members of the UN Security Council (United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France and China) regularly test nuclear-capable missiles without UN Security Council comment.

N. Korea Missile Landed ‘In Target Zone’ Outside EEZ,” The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 24, 2016.

Nuclear Energy and Waste

TEPCO Head Apologizes for Fukushima Meltdown Coverup

Over five years after the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant crisis began, TEPCO President Naomi Hirose publicly apologized for his predecessor’s order to not use the phrase “core meltdown” in March 2011. A report revealed that TEPCO’s then-President Masataka Shimizu told the vice president to instead use the euphemistic phrase “core damage” to describe the conditions of the crippled reactors. TEPCO continued to use the less serious phrase “core damage” for two months, until finally using the term “meltdown” in May 2011.

Mr. Hirose said, “It is extremely regrettable. People are justified in thinking it as a coverup.”

TEPCO’s internal manual considered a meltdown as damage to more than five percent of the fuel. However, TEPCO initially did not address it as a meltdown even when the March 2011 report indicated that the event damaged 25 to 55 percent of the fuel rods.

Tepco Head Apologizes for 3/11 Ban Issued on ‘Meltdown’,” Kyodo, June 21, 2016.

California’s Last Nuclear Power Plant to Close by 2025

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) has announced that it will close the two reactors at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant and, in their place, will develop more solar, wind, and other clean power sources. Located along the ocean cliffs of Avila Beach, Diablo Canyon has provided electricity for more than 1.7 million homes in Central and Northern California.

Various groups such as Friends of the Earth collaborated with PG&E to reach an agreement that the power plant will be closed after the current operating licenses expire in November 2024 and August 2025. This deal will contribute to California’s goal of generating 50% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

Ivan Penn and Samantha Masunaga, “PG&E to Close Diablo Canyon, California’s Last Nuclear Power Plant,” Los Angeles Times, June 21, 2016.

Nuclear Insanity

Five More Added to Drug Probe at Air Force Nuclear Base

Five more airmen are under investigation for illegal drug activity at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming. The total number of airmen under investigation for illegal drug activity has now reached 19.

All airmen under investigation are members of the 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren Air Force Base. The base manages 150 Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. Sixteen of the airmen are responsible for securing Minuteman III missile fields in Wyoming, Colorado, and Nebraska as well as transportation oversight of the missiles.

Robert Burns, “5 Added to Drug Probe at Air Force Nuclear Base,” Associated Press, June 15, 2016.

Fifty Years Later, U.S. Air Force Still in Denial Over Palomares Nuclear Accident

In 1966, an aircraft accident above the Spanish coast set four hydrogen bombs plummeting into the small farming village of Palomares. The U.S. Air Force – responsible for the B-52 bomber handling the weapons – would waste no time making sure “one of the biggest nuclear accidents in history” was swept under the rug. Though many of the 1,600 veterans recruited for the cleanup would go on to report the agonizing effects of plutonium poisoning – cancers, blood diseases, tremors, neurological disorders – they would find themselves cleansed from Air Force medical records.

Fifty years later, many veterans report segments of their medical documentation missing and have begun speaking out. Accounts of Geiger counters showing high levels of radioactivity at the site have emerged, and many veterans report having been instructed to pick up radioactive fragments with their bare hands. Though their stories and suffering bodies remain potent evidence of the fallout released during the 1966 crash, many veterans still find themselves barred access to medical treatment, by an Air Force that disputes their claims of exposure.

The Spanish people of Palomares have also been affected by the accident. The area is still contaminated by plutonium released during the 1966 crash. Although in 2015 the United States agreed to clean up the remaining plutonium, currently no plan of action exists and all operations remain at a standstill.

Dave Philipps, “Decades Later, Sickness Among Airmen After a Hydrogen Bomb Accident,” The New York Times, June 19, 2016.

Nuclear Security Firm Employed Orlando Shooter

Omar Mateen, the man who killed 49 people at a Florida nightclub last month, worked for the company G4 Security Solutions (G4S) for nine years. G4S is a private security firm that has “partnered with more than 90 percent of U.S. nuclear facilities.” The firm employed Mateen for nine years, arming him with a gun despite warnings from co-workers that he claimed connections with Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and the Boston Marathon bombers. Mateen also landed himself on the FBI’s terrorist watch list for threatening a local sheriff. Though G4S was ordered to fire the unstable security guard, Mateen was instead transferred to another post where he retained his license to carry a gun.

Although G4S claims they were unaware of Mateen’s presence on the FBI’s terrorist watchlist, this is not the first time that the company has been charged with security negligence. In 2006, G4S guards at the Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station in Florida were reported sleeping on the job. A year later, 12 security guards from the company were videotaped sleeping at the Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station in Pennsylvania. In 2012, the Y-12 National Security Complex  ‒ “protected” by G4S security guards ‒ was broken into by three peace activists, including an 82-year-old nun. Investigations following the incident found broken security cameras, and that G4S guards ignored all alarms that sounded.

Eric Schlosser, “The Security Firm that Employed the Orlando Shooter Protects American Nuclear Facilities,” The New Yorker, June 27, 2016.

Nuclear Modernization

Amidst Opposition, Long Range Standoff Warhead Moves Ahead

Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, attempted to amend the 2017 defense authorization bill by proposing a $75.8 million cut to the proposed Long Range Standoff Warhead (LRSO). Unfortunately, his efforts were undercut by Democrats and Republicans alike, with his amendment failing 159-261.

There is also important opposition to the LRSO in the Senate. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) recently published an op-ed in The New York Times entitled “A Nuclear Weapon That America Doesn’t Need.” In it, she raised three questions that should have been addressed in the initial stages of LRSO research and development: Does the military need a new cruise missile? What role will it serve? What are the costs? Critical analysis of the LRSO plan is crucial, seeing as investment itself could be interpreted as aggressive rather than an act of deterrence.

Feinstein called on “Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to…provide Congress with an analysis of alternatives to this missile. In particular, we want to know if the Defense Department has studied whether existing nuclear and conventional weapons are sufficient to strike enemy targets. He should also certify that the sole objective of the weapon is nuclear deterrence. We want to eliminate any ambiguity that this new missile would be an offensive weapon. And he should provide a public cost estimate. If taxpayers are expected to foot the bill, the price should not be shrouded in secrecy.”

Joe Gould and Aaron Mehta, “After Nuclear Missile Loss, Dems Vow to Keep Fighting,” Defense News, June 25, 2016.

Strategic Deterrent Coalition Meets in New Mexico

Admiral Cecil D. Haney, Commander of U.S. Strategic Command, promoted the $1 trillion “modernization” of the U.S. nuclear arsenal at the 2016 Strategic Deterrent Coalition Symposium in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Speaking to over 250 academics, military officials, contractors, and defense employees, Haney cited the age of current U.S. nuclear weapons as problematic. “We’re fast approaching the point where having an effective nuclear deterrent will be put at risk [if the weapons are not modernized],” he said.

Haney called for a robust nuclear modernization program in response to the actions of Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. He did not address whether he thinks that U.S. nuclear modernization is spurring a nuclear arms race with the other nuclear-armed nations, nor whether he believes that nuclear weapons can effectively deter non-state actors such as ISIS and al-Qaeda.

Charles Brunt, “U.S. Must Maintain Nuclear Capability, Commander Warns,” Albuquerque Journal, June 22, 2016.

Nuclear Zero Lawsuits

Marshall Islands’ Lawsuits Get Coverage in France

France is one of the nine nuclear-armed nations sued by the Republic of the Marshall Islands at the International Court of Justice for breaches of international law that require negotiations for an end to the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament. France does not accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, and has thus far declined to accept the jurisdiction of the Court in this particular case.

For French-speaking readers of The Sunflower, Jean-Marie Collin, director of the French section of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, has written an excellent article in Le Monde Diplomatique, a widely-read journal in France about diplomacy and international affairs.

Jean-Marie Collin, “La Bombe Juridique des Iles Marshall Contre les Puissances Nucléaires,” Le Monde Diplomatique, June 2016.

20th Anniversary of World Court Advisory Opinion

July 8 will mark the 20th anniversary of the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the illegality of nuclear weapons. The 1996 Advisory Opinion has played a large role in the Marshall Islands’ cases against the United Kingdom, India and Pakistan that are currently before the ICJ.

The Advisory Opinion states in part, “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.” To read the full opinion, click here.

In Sydney, Australia, from July 6-8, there will be an International Peoples Tribunal on the Nuclear Powers and the Destruction of Human Civilization. The tribunal will examine nuclear weapons policies of the nine nuclear-armed countries, outline the risks and consequences of nuclear weapons use, and apply current law to these policies to determine legality.

 Resources

July’s Featured Blog

This month’s featured blog is chomsky.info. While not a blog in the traditional sense, the site contains links to numerous recent articles by Noam Chomsky, including “Rogue States and Nuclear Dangers,” and “The Doomsday Clock, Nuclear Weapons, Climate Change, and the Prospects for Survival.”

Noam Chomsky is a member of the NAPF Advisory Council, and will receive the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s 2016 Distinguished Peace Leadership Award in Santa Barbara on October 23.

Click here to visit the site.

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 July, including the July 28, 1957 incident in which two Mark V hydrogen bombs on board a U.S. Air Force plane were intentionally dropped in the Atlantic Ocean 50-75 miles off the coast of Atlantic City, never to be recovered. The plane was experiencing mechanical trouble and had to shed weight in order not to crash.

To read Mason’s full article, click here.

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

The Employment Implications of Canceling Trident Replacement

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) has published a new report about the employment implications if the United Kingdom decides not to replace its Trident nuclear weapons system. The report, written by economist Michael Burke, reveals the significant potential for industrial development and jobs creation in the UK if the £205 billion planned for Trident is invested elsewhere in the economy.

The report states: “It is also argued that the current [nuclear weapons] system and its replacement provide civilian jobs, some of them highly-skilled and well paid, many in deprived areas where alternative employment of the same quality is scarce. While this is true, the extent of this job creation is tiny relative to the sums involved. In effect, they are among the most costly jobs in history.”

To read the full report, click here.

Nuclear Heartland: A Guide to the 450 Land-Based Missiles of the United States

Buried beneath the “Land of the Free” are 450 land-based nuclear missiles that hold American democracy and the future of humanity hostage. Hidden from the public eye, the dangers of the Nuclear Age are eclipsed by a perception of safety – ushered into the American consciousness by a small group of beneficiaries. Twenty-seven years after its initial release, Nukewatch’s Nuclear Heartland, revised edition, serves as a chilling reminder that hundreds of indiscriminate weapons still lurk beneath the surface of American soil. These “metal gods” wait patiently out of sight for a signal that would plunge our world into a state of total destruction.

To read the full book review by NAPF summer intern Ricky Frawley, click here.

Foundation Activities

NAPF 2015 Annual Report Now Available

The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s 2015 Annual Report is now available online. The report includes an interview with 2015 summer intern McKenna Jacquemet, a recent graduate of Hendrix College, who talks about how her experience at NAPF has helped to shape her future. The report also summarizes NAPF’s advocacy and outreach programs, including the Peace Leadership Program, public events, and our work at the United Nations and the International Court of Justice.

To download a copy of the report, click here.

Paul K. Chappell to Speak on Ethical Realities of War at Chautauqua Institution

Paul K. Chappell, NAPF Peace Leadership Director and West Point graduate who served as a captain in Iraq, has been invited by the Chautauqua Institution to be the final speaker for their week-long summer series on “The Ethical Realities of War.” This closing lecture will take place in Chautauqua, New York, on the afternoon of August 19, 2016 in the Hall of Philosophy, an outdoor venue that can seat up to 1,400 people.

To read more about this prestigious event, click here.

Noam Chomsky to Receive NAPF Distinguished Peace Leadership Award

Noam Chomsky, one of the greatest minds of our time, will be our Distinguished Peace Leadership honoree 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 very proud to honor him with our award.

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

For more information and tickets, click here.

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 pm at La Casa de Maria in Santa Barbara, 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.

Take Action: The Olympics Are for Peace

In support of the mayor and people of Hiroshima, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation has initiated a petition to Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee, asking him to allow a minute of silence at the opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The opening ceremony will be at 8:00 pm on August 5. In Japan, it will be 8:00 am on the 6th. At 8:15 am on the 6th, the people of Hiroshima will observe one minute’s silence in memory of the victims of the atomic bomb that exploded over their city that day and at that time, 71 years ago, killing 70,000 people immediately and 140,000 by the end of 1945.

Over 2,200 people from 41 different countries have already signed the petition. To add your name, click here.

Quotes

 

“Hope for the Earth lies not with leaders, but in your own heart and soul. If you decide to save the Earth, it will be saved. Each person can be as powerful as the most powerful person who ever lived–and that is you, if you love this planet.”

Dr. Helen Caldicott. This quote appears in the book Speaking of Peace: Quotations to Inspire Action, which is available for purchase in the NAPF Peace Store.

 

“President Obama ought to shed the straitjacket of the Washington national security playbook and implement both reforms. Taking the nuclear first-use and quick-launch options off the table would be controversial, but he would have reason and morality on his side.”

Bruce Blair, in a June 22 article in Politico Magazine.

 

“How do we know what’s inside those launchers? All one needs to do is reprogram [the system], which is an absolutely inconspicuous task.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, explaining the danger and suspicion that he feels toward the United States’ recently deployed ballistic missile defense installation in Romania.

 

“We are groups of fasters who have decided to forego nourishment for at least 4 days, from August 6th, the anniversary of Hiroshima, till August 9th, the anniversary of Nagasaki, to express our total opposition to nuclear weapons, and to call for their complete abolition.”

— Part of the call from an international group of activists who will be fasting from August 6-9. For more information and to join them, click here.

Editorial Team

 

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

July: This Month in Nuclear Threat History

July 1, 1991 – On this date, the Warsaw Pact (established in 1955 as a response to the 1949 establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization), also known in the Soviet bloc as The Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance signed by Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and the Soviet Union, formally dissolved as a communist military alliance.  Yet NATO, 1949-present, not only continues to exist but has grown and expanded in order to further “contain Russia and protect former Soviet republics and Eastern European nations from Russian military aggression.”  But from Moscow’s perspective, not just current President Putin but former General Secretary of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev and many other Russians and Western scholars too, this eastern NATO expansion has violated an agreement made during the George H. W. Bush (1989-1993) presidency.  According to long-time Soviet/Russian scholar Professor Stephen Cohen, “President George H.W. Bush and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl made an agreement (May 17, 1990) with General Secretary Gorbachev that if the Soviet Union withdrew its forces from Eastern Europe and East Germany in particular and ended the Warsaw Pact, in return NATO would not expand east.  Gorbachev also allowed the reunification of Germany (September 12, 1990 treaty), and that nation’s inclusion in NATO as long as the Western Alliance would not expand as then U.S. Secretary of State James Baker promised, ‘one inch east.’”  Although a number of other experts say there was no such written agreement or even a so-called “verbal gentleman’s agreement” to circumvent NATO military expansion east (see Steven Pifer.  “Did NATO Promise Not to Enlarge?  Gorbachev Says No.” The Brookings Institution, Nov. 6, 2014), the debate continues.  Nobel Peace Prize winner and retired Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s testimony has been used by both sides to argue the case.  In October 2014, Gorbachev stated, “The decision for the U.S. and its allies to expand NATO into the east was decisively made in 1993.  I called this a big mistake from the very beginning.  It was definitely a violation of the spirit of the statements and assurances made to us in 1990.”  Comments:  Professor Cohen and a plethora of other anti-nuclear scholars, activists, politicians, experts, and global citizenry are deeply concerned that this expansion (and Russian moves in Ukraine and elsewhere) have substantially increased the risk of nuclear war.  The buildup of NATO forces (including the unprecedented stationing of a German regiment “on the Eastern front”), accompanying Russian countermeasures, and the deployment of tactical nuclear forces by both sides brings the world a step closer to unintentional, accidental, unauthorized, or even intentional nuclear conflict triggered by another “trip wire” like the Ukraine Crisis of 2014-15.  (Sources:  Thom Hartmann. “Why is the Western Media Ignoring the New Cold War? with Professor Stephen Cohen.”  RT.com, June 8, 2016, Maxim Korshunov.  “Mikhail Gorbachev:  I am Against All Walls.” Russia Beyond the Headlines. http://rbth.com/international/2014/10/16/mikhail_gorbachev_i_am_against_all_walls_40673.html, and Editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica.  “Warsaw Pact.” www.britannica.com/event/Warsaw-Pact accessed June 15, 2016.)

July 9, 1962 – Before the 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty, negotiated by President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev and approved by Congress in an amazingly short period of approximately six weeks, outlawed nuclear testing in the atmosphere and in outer space, the U.S. conducted one of five nuclear weapons test explosions hundreds of miles above Earth.  A test, code-named Starfish Prime, was conducted on this date at approximately 240 miles altitude with a magnitude of 1.4 megatons from a Thor missile launched from Johnston Island in the Pacific Ocean.  The atomic blast caused unanticipated electromagnetic pulse (EMP) impacts over a large region knocking out 300 street lights and shutting down telephone lines in Hawaii and damaging six satellites.  Comments:  This incident brings to light a serious concern.  Would the U.S. or other members of the Nuclear Club resist responding with nuclear strikes on nations or subnational entities responsible for exploding nuclear weapons in outer space high above those nations’ territories despite the extensive EMP damage inflicted on e-commerce as well as other elements of the targeted nation’s military and civilian infrastructure?  In the interests of peace and the paramount avoidance of future nuclear escalation and conflicts, not to mention the need for public transparency, the U.S. and other Nuclear Club members should open this matter to public scrutiny and debate in order to seek broad international consensus opposing nuclear retaliation to EMP or other related attacks such as cyberwar infrastructure strikes as clear violations of international and humanitarian law.  (Source:  Phil Plait.  “The 50th Anniversary of Starfish Prime:  The Nuke That Shocked the World.”  Discover Magazine.  July 9, 2012, http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2012/07/09/the-50th-anniversary-of-starfish-prime-the-nuke-that-shook-the-world/#.V2Ge1eTmqM8 accessed June 15, 2016.)

July 14, 2015 – The Iran nuclear deal negotiated in the “P5 + 1 Talks” by China, France, Germany, the U.K., U.S., and Russia with the Islamic State was concluded in Vienna on this date and was later approved as “The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” by the U.S. Congress in September.  According to the U.S. Department of State website “Under the agreement, Iran agreed to eliminate its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium, cut its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98 percent, and reduce by about two-thirds the number of its gas centrifuges for 13 years. For the next 15 years, Iran will only enrich uranium up to 3.67 percent.  Iran also agreed not to build any new heavy-water facilities for the same period of time. Uranium-enrichment activities will be limited to a single facility using first-generation centrifuges for 10 years. Other facilities will be converted to avoid proliferation risks. To monitor and verify Iran’s compliance with the agreement, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will have regular access to all Iranian nuclear facilities. The agreement provides that in return for verifiably abiding by its commitments, Iran will receive relief from U.S., European Union, and the U.N. Security Council’s nuclear-related sanctions.”  Comments: Statements by presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton (pending the final vote of the Super Delegates on July 25, 2016) over the last decade give cause for concern, especially her nuclear-saber rattling on ABC-TV’s Good Morning America program on April 22, 2008, “…if Iran launched a nuclear attack on Israel, the U.S. would retaliate against the Iranians,”  adding, “In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them.”  This criticism comes despite the recognition of the seriousness of Iran’s longstanding public pronouncements to destroy Israel.  More recently at the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) meeting in Washington, D.C., Ms. Clinton stated that, “The U.S. should provide Israel with the most sophisticated defense technology so that it can deter and stop any threats.  That includes bolstering Israeli missile defenses with new systems like Arrow Three and David’s Sling.”  While this statement is much less confrontational and troubling, it does bring up the issue of America’s quiet, covert support of Israel’s nuclear arsenal (numbering 50-300 warheads).  While it is certainly true that publicly the U.S. government has never openly supported an Israeli nuclear capability, it is also true that it has rarely mentioned this issue creating a silent assent to the Jewish State’s arsenal.  However by not acknowledging Israel’s nuclear arsenal, the U.S. can’t ever hope to reduce and eliminate it.  And, inadvertently, by not publicly forcing Israel to acknowledge its existence, it creates a hidden incentive for Iran and other Arab nations to acquire its first nuclear weapon in order to deter Israel, or, in the case of Pakistan, an incentive to enlarge its arsenal to counter both traditional rival India and a potential future rival in Israel.  (Source:  “Hillary Clinton’s AIPAC Speech.” Time.com, March 2, 2016, http://time.com/4265947/hillary-clinton-aipac-speech-transcript accessed June 15, 2016.)

July 21, 1948 – A top secret Pentagon briefing on the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s future war plans was given on this date.   The briefing discussed Operation Halfmoon, a short-range emergency war plan to prevent Soviet takeover of Western Europe by dropping 50 (a figure later amended to 133) atomic bombs on Soviet cities including eight warheads on Moscow and seven on Leningrad.  Comments:  Over the last 70 years, in addition to false alerts, Broken Arrows and hundreds of nuclear accidents by the members of the Nuclear Club as well as extensive planning for preemptive nuclear war, and related nuclear crises like the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, the NATO Able Archer exercise of November 1983, and the Black Brant Incident of January 1995, the world is extremely fortunate that no nuclear weapons have been used in combat since the two atomic bombings of Japan in August 1945.  (Source:  Eric Schlosser. “Command and Control:  Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Incident, and the Illusion of Safety.” New York:  Penguin Press, 2013, p. 83.)

July 25-28, 2016 – One week after the Republican Party’s National Convention is to meet (July 18-21) in Cleveland to select their party’s presidential candidate, the Democratic Party will hold their presidential nominating convention in Philadelphia during these dates. Comments:  While secret presidential policy positions on the seminal political issues confronting the American people won’t become public knowledge until later, the official website of the Democratic Party (https://www.democrats.org) lists just 12 issues and nuclear weapons, the nuclear threat, or reducing the U.S. and/or global nuclear arsenals are not mentioned! Note that under the banner “National Security” are the words, “…modernizing our nuclear arsenal is a top priority.”  And this is consistent with President Obama’s recent commitment (publicly supported by Hillary Clinton) to spend $1 trillion over the next 30 years to modernize our nuclear arsenal by building new nuclear weapons platforms like a new long-range bomber and new cruise missiles.  Also part of this package are new smaller “more usable” nuclear warheads.  The only positive is under the same banner of national security:  “…strengthen our ability to keep nuclear and biological weapons out of the hands of terrorists.”  Although Bernie Sanders has committed to campaigning for Hillary Clinton and he has allegedly done so only after obtaining a promise that the party platform will be far more progressive in scope than that envisioned by mainstream Democrats, even he has not extensively mentioned reducing and eliminating nuclear weapons during his campaign speechmaking.  One of possible many exceptions (as the mainstream media usually has a bias against reporting progressive topics) to this is Sanders’ statement during his April 8, 2016 appearance on The Today Show:  “The goal is to move to get rid of nuclear weapons, not to get into an arms race.  We have other more important things to spend our money on.”  Four years ago, the 2012 Democratic Party Platform did mention “preventing the spread and use of nuclear weapons,” but such platitudes weren’t backed up by actual executive or legislative action during the two terms of the Obama Administration to substantially work toward Global Zero.  For the sake of the planet, human civilization, our species and  countless other creatures living on this Pale Blue Dot, let’s all hope that the 45th  President of the United States and the newly elected Congress will make substantial progress on these critical nuclear issues:  ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, forging a newly enhanced Fissile Materials Cutoff Treaty, eliminating nuclear weapons modernization with the exception of extensive improvements in safeguarding the existing arsenal by enhancing safety protocols until it can be substantially reduced through a new multilateral agreement with Russia, de-alerting the U.S. arsenal in concert with similar Russian moves, phasing out all civilian nuclear power plants globally by 2025-30 with the U.S. military-industrial-complex converting substantially from arms production to nuclear remediation, dismantling, decommissioning and cleaning up thousands of global military and civilian nuclear and related toxic wastes, and other similar tasks.  (Source:  “Bernie Sanders on the Issues.” http://berniesanders.com/issues accessed June 15, 2016.)

July 28, 1957 – Two of the three Mark V hydrogen bombs on board a U.S. Air Force C-124 Globemaster cargo aircraft, which departed from Dover Air Force Base, were jettisoned from the plane when two of the four engines lost power and the aircraft suffered a significant loss of altitude.  To ensure the survival of the aircraft and its crew, the pilot had no choice but to quickly lessen the weight of the plane by dropping two H-bombs into the Atlantic Ocean.  Thankfully, no nuclear or conventional (of the high explosive charges bracketing the core of the warhead) explosions ensued.  This incident occurred about 100 miles southeast of Naval Air Station, Pomona, New Jersey, where the aircraft landed safely. One bomb is believed to have sunk 50 miles off the coast of Atlantic City and the other 75 miles away from land.  Although the U.S. Air Force, over the years since this incident (and others), claims the bombs did not contain plutonium capsules, many nuclear experts like retired Colonel Derek Duke have pointed out that in November of that same year, SAC Commander General Thomas Powers bragged to the news media that, “Day and night, I have a certain percentage of my command in the air (and the), planes are bombed up and they don’t carry bows and arrows.” Comments:  While it is very unlikely that these long-lost and probably corroded nuclear bombs could detonate in a fusion explosion, there remain deadly serious concerns about very long-term radioactive contamination from this incident and hundreds of other similar Broken Arrows. These nuclear threats can impact human and other species virtually forever unless these devices are found and disposed of properly. After all, the radioactive isotopes found in thermonuclear weapons or in the reactor cores of naval surface ships and submarines lost at sea since 1945 possess an extremely long half-life of decay – 713 million years for uranium-235 and 4.5 billion years for uranium-238!  (Source:  Colonel Derek L. Duke, Retired, “Chasing Loose Nukes.” Dungan Books, 2007, http://www.fdungan.com/duke.htm  accessed June 15, 2016.)

July 30, 1980 – In an Independent News Alliance article (“Flaws in Systems of Command and Control: Nuclear War by Accident.”) published on this date, Professor Louis Rene Beres noted that a spring 1977 test, code-named Prime Target, of the Pentagon’s World Wide Military Command and Control System found that serious computer problems and failures occurred 62 percent of the time.  These failures included false alerts and incidents of detection of nonexistent Soviet first strike nuclear attacks on the U.S. and/or its allies.  Comments:  While most observers would reasonably assume that much more sophisticated, accurate, and modern high-tech hardware and software has virtually eliminated these problems with the U.S. nuclear command and control system, such an assumption would be in error.  In point of fact, a recent GAO (Government Accountability Office) report released on May 25, 2016 (“Information Technology:  Federal Agencies Need to Address Aging Legacy Systems.”) noted that a Pentagon system used to send and receive emergency action messages for U.S. nuclear forces is running on a 1970s-era IBM computing platform that still requires the use of antiquated eight-inch floppy disks to store data.  Comments:  So it appears that saving money is more important than the safety, security, and reliability of the most dangerous weapons ever invented.  The same was true in 1980 and unfortunately in today’s world.  Because of this revelation and other flaws in the command and control systems of the Nuclear Club members, there remain very credible concerns that an unauthorized, accidental, or unintentional nuclear war could be triggered especially today during the heightened tensions of Cold War II.  (Source: Louis Rene Beres. “Apocalypse:  Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics.” Chicago and London:  The University of Chicago Press, 1980.)

Paul K. Chappell to Speak on Ethical Realities of War at Chautauqua Institution

Paul K. Chappell, NAPF Peace Leadership Director and West Point graduate who served as a captain in Iraq, has been invited by the Chautauqua Institution to be the final speaker for their week-long summer series on “The Ethical Realities of War.” This closing lecture will take place in Chautauqua, New York, on the afternoon of August 19, 2016 in the Hall of Philosophy, an outdoor venue that can seat up to 1,400 people.

One of the oldest educational summer camps in the United States, the Chautauqua Institution was founded in 1874 on the shores of Lake Chautauqua in western New York. Its programs also include religion and the arts, with public events in popular entertainment, theatre, symphony, ballet, and the visual arts.

Other speakers for the series include Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock, Research Professor of Theology and Culture, Founder and Co-Director of the Soul Repair Center at Brite Divinity school, and co-author of Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury after War and Jonathan Shay, M.D, Ph.D, MacArthur Fellow, author of Achilles in Vietnam and Odysseus in America, and 2009 Omar Bradley Chair of Strategic Leadership, U.S. Army War College.

Will War Ever End by Paul K. ChappellJonathan Shay, who will speak at the week-long series on Tuesday, August 16, commented on Chappell’s first book, Will War Ever End? A Soldier’s Vision of Peace for the 21st Century, and said, “The abolition of war is possible, providing we do the work of creating trustworthy structures of collective security and waging peace as Captain Chappell models for us.”

Chappell, whose half-white half-black father served in the Korean and Vietnam wars and would later suffer from extreme war trauma, tells us, “Since my earliest memories, I have been obsessed with war,” and, “Affected by my father’s violent behavior, at an early age I began thinking about the problem of war and why it has to end.”

Chappell explains, “Although I have learned that war is not inevitable, I have realized that a peaceful future is also not inevitable. War will not magically end on its own, and our world will never know peace if we sit around and do nothing. War will only end if we end it.”

To Be or Not to Be with the Brexit Turmoil

“To guarantee peace, there is a remedy which would in a few years make all Europe free and happy. It is to re-create the European family, or as much of it as we can, and to provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom. We must build a kind of United States of Europe.” — Winston Churchill, 1946

Many questions have been brought to the forefront after witnessing the unprecedented event of the UK voting to separate from the EU. Why do humans destroy what strengthens us, to kill what we love and obliterate everything that we have built? Why would a country like the UK make a decision that could lead to their own destruction? Why is this xenophobic enthusiasm embraced by the masses instead of looking for solutions? Through culture we can solve the basic problems of coexistence, one of which is the individual’s relationship with the community, or in this case, a Nation with fellow Nations.

We know that our identity depends on the sense of belonging to a people, to a religion, to a culture. But what if that culture becomes corrupt? What if that society becomes oblivious? How do you escape the social pressure without falling into ethical autism? Must we evaluate cultures, subject societies to a “test of intelligence”?

We are a species that likes to create conflict because we let our decision-making be made by the least rational side of our brain. We like to live in a world of hopes and dreams. We believe that reality, when it doesn’t suit our wishes, should be dynamited, although that explosion could cost us the loss of limbs. And when reality does suit our wishes, it is also worthy of being dynamited, because we are bored, we want more, “something else”, always on the path of self-destruction. The engine is the thirst for power, vanity and selfishness of a few, and the need to take advantage of the rest of the people. Unfortunately, most of the time we end up taking collective decisions that are not rational. In the case of the UK vote, the withdrawal was set in motion even though we had built institutions and tools to protect us from our foolishness. Destruction is inevitable because we can not bear to be our own vigilantes, we are converted into oppressors, reaching the point where our instinct of “agents of change” overwhelm us. The most powerful motivation to lead societies to self-destruction is hate speech, and is always a hidden revenge.

Today, millions of Britons – mostly young – are disappointed and regret the result of seeing that they were able to burn down their own house. They were unsuited to understand that significant changes are the product of reason, strategy, intelligence, planning and cooperation; not the cave man tendency to believe that everything works out with brutality, anger and the use of force. We must accept that we are not the most advanced or the most intelligent beings on Earth. What other species destroys everything in its path, including all the cultural heritage built through centuries and millennia? What other species periodically engage in terrible wars, destroying, rebuilding and destroying on a vicious cycle?


Ruben. D Arvizu is Director for Latin America of NAPF, Director General for Latin America of Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society and Ambassador Global Cities Covenant on Climate.

Noam Chomsky to Receive the NAPF Distinguished Peace Leadership Award

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Noam Chomsky, one of the greatest minds of our time, will be our Distinguished Peace Leader at this year’s Evening For Peace on Sunday, October 23.

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 more than memorable. Importantly, he offers a way forward to a more hopeful and just world. We are very proud to honor him with our award.

The annual Evening for Peace includes a festive reception, live entertainment, dinner and an awards ceremony. It is attended by many residents of Santa Barbara, peace activists, those interested in our work, local businesses and philanthropists.

Register today

WHEN
Sunday, October 23, 2016 from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM (PDT) Add to Calendar

WHERE
La Pacifica Ballroom and Terrace, Four Seasons Resort, the Biltmore – 1260 Channel Drive, Santa Barbara, California 93103

Committed to a World Free of Nuclear Weapons