July 1, 1998 – A New York Times article by Matthew L. Wald, “U.S. Nuclear Arms Costs Put At $5.48 Trillion,” published on this date summarized the conclusions of a new book by nuclear analyst Stephen Schwartz, who then worked as the director of the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Cost Study Project at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. The book “Atomic Audit,” itemized in great detail the cost to U.S. taxpayers in 1996 dollars, for the period from 1940-96, of the research, development, storage, upkeep, maintenance, deployment, and dismantling of more than 70,000 nuclear weapons,. including the partial cleanup of huge volumes of the resulting radioactive and toxic wastes generated in this expensive, hazardous, and dangerous U.S. enterprise in the first six decades of the nuclear arms race. Comments: Trillions more have been spent and may be spent in future decades by the nine nuclear weapons states to accomplish what mainstream advocates of deterrence claim is war prevention by threatening to murder hundreds of millions of denizens of this Pale Blue Dot. However, an increasing number of nuclear strategists, global politicians, scientists, soldiers, philosophers, medical professionals, and ordinary citizens are questioning the saneness of this irrational mindset. The risks of failure of deterrence are far too great to rely on this flawed equation indefinitely. The extinction of the human species or at least global civilization is likely unless we drastically reduce nuclear armaments with the goal to eliminate these doomsday weapons by 2025. In doing so, we not only end the horrendous waste of our precious global wealth and treasure, but make great strides in preserving our species and redirecting military expenditures to mitigate and reduce global warming, eliminate poverty, educate our youth, and cure disease and ignorance.
July 8-9, 2016 – At the NATO Summit in Warsaw, Poland, President Barack Obama expressed an “unwavering commitment to the defense of Europe.” He also chided his European allies for not spending a higher percentage of GDP (two percent or more) on military defenses against Russia. The 44th President also encouraged NATO member states to purchase U.S. arms and trade only with U.S. dollar allies and not Russia. In response, former Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev warned, “The world has never been closer to nuclear war than it is at present.” German politicians including Social Democrats and Christian Democrats accused NATO of “war mongering.” Even more conservative voices such as former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry declared that, “NATO is threatening and trying to provoke nuclear war in Europe by putting bombers and nuclear missiles on the border with Russia.” Comments: Except for a plethora of terrifying comments about accelerating the nuclear arms race and promoting the proliferation of nuclear weapons to allies like Japan and South Korea, President Trump’s relations with Russia (including possibly illegal pre-election collusion with Russian officials to influence U.S. election results) could be interpreted by some as less aggressive than the policies of his predecessor. However, that assessment is highly debatable for it seems that, taken as a whole, the 45th President’s first 20 weeks in office have evidenced a clearly higher risk of expanding the failed Global War on Terrorism as well as accelerating the risk of nuclear Armageddon. (Source: Jessica Desvarieux Interview with Professor Michael Hudson. “U.S.-NATO Border Confrontation with Russia Risks Nuclear War and Loss of European Partners.” The Real News Network. July 17, 2016 http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31<emid=74&jumival=16755 accessed June 19, 2017.)
July 15, 1962 – The nonviolent, peace organization, Women Strike for Peace, founded in 1961 by lawyer, social activist, and future Congressional representative (20th District of New York, 1973-77) Bella Abzug (1920-1998) and illustrator of children’s books Dagmar Wilson (1916-2011), conducted a two-hour peace march to Camp Mercury, New York to protest nuclear testing. Eight months prior to this action, on November 1, 1961, the organization helped guide another nuclear protest that counted 50,000 women participating in sixty global cities (including a crowd of 1,500 at the Washington Monument) under the slogan “End the Arms Race, Not the Human Race.” Organizers of the march received support letters from First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and the wife of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Later, United Nations Secretary-General U Thant and President Kennedy acknowledged that the group was a factor in the adoption of the Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963. Representatives of Women Strike for Peace were among the first Americans to oppose the Vietnam War. On June 12, 1982, they helped organize one million people who marched in Central Park to call for an end to the nuclear arms race. In 1991, they protested the first Persian Gulf War. Comments: Many women, and their spouses, friends, family members, supporters, and colleagues are continuing the tradition of antiwar and antinuclear protests as evidenced by last month’s Women’s March to Ban the Bomb held in downtown Manhattan on June 17, 2017. (Sources: Amy Swerdlow. “Women Strike for Peace: Traditional Motherhood and Radical Politics in the 1960s.” University of Chicago Press, 1993 and Elaine Woo. “Dagmar Wilson Dies at 94; Organizer of Women’s Disarmament Protesters.” Los Angeles Times. Jan. 30, 2011 http://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-dagmar-wilson-20110130-story.html accessed June 16, 2017.)
July 16, 1945 – In the first-ever test of what Manhattan Project scientists referred to as the “Gadget”, a fission bomb designed as a plutonium implosion device, was detonated before dawn at the Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range, 230 miles south of the town of Los Alamos, New Mexico in a remote area of the Jornada Desert. The code name of the test, Trinity, was created by the Director of the Los Alamos Laboratory, J. Robert Oppenheimer – it was a reference to a poem by John Donne. President Truman’s personal journal of July 25 recorded that, “We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world…An experiment in the New Mexico desert…caused the complete disintegration of a steel tower 60 feet high, created a crater six feet deep and 1,200 feet in diameter, knocked down a steel tower half a mile away and knocked down men 10,000 yards away. The explosion was visible for more than 200 miles and audible for 40 miles and more.” Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson’s report to the president noted that, “I estimate that the energy generated to be in excess of the equivalent of 15,000 to 20,000 tons of TNT…there were tremendous blast effects…there was a lighting effect within a radius of 20 miles equal to several suns in midday; a huge ball of fire was formed which lasted for several seconds. This ball mushroomed and rose to a height of over 10,000 feet.” Physicist Ernest O. Lawrence, an eyewitness to the blast, described his experience of a, “gigantic ball of fire rising rapidly from the earth…The grand, indeed almost cataclysmic proportion of the explosion produced a kind of solemnity in everyone’s behavior immediately afterwards. There was a restrained applause, but more a hushed murmuring bordering on reverence in manner as the event was commented upon…” The “Gadget,” which exploded with an estimated force of 15-20 kilotons, slightly more than the Hiroshima bomb, was a rehearsal for the August 6-9 atomic bombings of two Japanese cities and it represented the first of 1,030 nuclear tests conducted by the United States and one of over 2,000 such tests conducted by the nine Nuclear Weapons Club members in the last 72 years. Before the blast, a wager was made by Manhattan Project scientist Enrico Fermi that the explosion would ignite the atmosphere and devastate New Mexico and possibly the whole of the planet’s biosphere. Thankfully, Fermi lost his wager. But that vision of deadly apocalypse came true for hundreds of thousands of people in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6th and 9th who were vaporized, burned to death, blown into objects and buildings at horrific speed, lacerated, mutilated, and irradiated. They suffered and some continue to suffer today from the unconscionable use of fission weapons on civilian noncombatants. Comments: While many U.S. military and scientific observers celebrated the beginning of the Nuclear Age, others realized that this event may have represented the beginning of the end of the human species. (Sources: Jack Mendelsohn and David Grahame, editors. “Arms Control Chronology.” Washington, DC: Center for Defense Information, 2002, pp. 5, 24. and Gar Alperovitz. “The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb: And the Architecture of An American Myth.” New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995, pp. 250-251 and “Trinity Test – 1945.” Atomic Heritage Foundation. June 18, 2014. http://www.atomicheritage.org/history/Trinity-Test-1945 accessed June 20, 2017.)
July 25, 1980 – Despite Jimmy Carter’s pre-election and inauguration rhetoric about the need to eliminate nuclear weapons, the 39th President was convinced by Secretary of Defense Harold Brown and his hawkish National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski to sign Presidential Directive (PD) – 59 on this date. Referred to as “The Countervailing Strategy,” this directive placed renewed emphasis on counterforce “limited” nuclear war targeting (attacking military formations and defenses, particularly nuclear weapons sites rather than countervalue targets, i.e., populated areas) against Soviet-led Warsaw Pact military forces. It also reinforced the ability to launch U.S. nuclear weapons on warning rather than waiting until Soviet nuclear warheads impacted U.S. military assets or population centers. The new directive supposedly increased the flexibility and survivability of the U.S. nuclear deterrent by pushing the development of the mobile MX missile (later ironically renamed the “Peacekeeper”), the Pershing II medium-range ballistic missile (which was already being sent to NATO forces in Europe), the B-2 bomber, the Trident submarine, and the Tomahawk cruise missile for possible first use “against a broad spectrum of targets,” during a theoretical, protracted nuclear war that somehow avoided escalation to an all-out conflict. Comments: PD-59, when combined with the more extreme anti-Soviet rhetoric and much larger military buildup of the next administration, that of President Ronald Reagan, led to the second most dangerous period of Cold War tensions and near-nuclear war in human history (next to the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962) in the early to mid-1980s. Today, unfortunately, we may be living in another similar high-risk period as evidenced by a commitment by all nine nuclear weapon states to modernize and upgrade their nuclear arsenals over the next thirty years or so. Humanity has been fortunate to avoid a thermonuclear doomsday before, but our luck won’t hold out forever. That is why it is imperative that nuclear weapons be drastically reduced in the short-term and eliminated entirely in the next decade or so.
July 29, 1993 – In one of the twenty known incidents of the attempted illicit sale of Russian bomb-grade fissile materials in the last 25 years, especially since the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, local police arrested several suspects in Andreeva Guba, Russia on this date for the attempted transfer of 1,800 grams of highly enriched uranium to a group of buyers who were in actuality undercover policemen. In April 2015, the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Deputy Director Anne Harrington testified at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Strategic Forces that, “Of the roughly 20 documented seizures of nuclear explosive materials since 1992, all have come out of the former Soviet Union.” Another area of concern is the fact that in 2015-16, President Putin began cutting back his nation’s overall nuclear security cooperation with Washington as part of the long-standing Nunn-Lugar nuclear reduction partnership program, also known as the Soviet Nuclear Threat Reduction Act, on the grounds that it no longer needed U.S. financial or technical assistance to safeguard its fissile material stockpile. However, in June 2015, Kirill Komarov, the first deputy director of Rosatom, the state-owned corporation that runs Russia’s nuclear energy and weapons plants, countered that, “You know very well that a very operational system of controlling nuclear materials has been established worldwide, none of them are out of control. Their movements are always strictly controlled.” Nevertheless, the Center for Public Integrity’s November 2015 investigative report concluded that, “In fact, some 99 percent of the world’s weapons-grade materials have been secured. But one percent or more is still out there, and it amounts to several thousand pounds that could be acquired by any one of several terrorist organizations.” 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 U.N. and other international fora to prevent the use of fissile materials in dirty bombs or primitive small-yield fission weapons whether the materials diverted come from civilian nuclear plants or military nuclear weapon 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, Nov. 12, 2015 reprinted in Courier: The Stanley Foundation Newsletter, Number 86, Spring 2016, pp. 7-14.)