May 3, 1947 – Twenty one months after the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a new postwar Japanese constitution, promulgated on Nov. 3, 1946, was established on this date. The most notable section of this document, and one tied inexorably to the fact that Japanese militarism eventually resulted in their people being subjected to the horrors of nuclear attack, was and is Chapter 2: The Renunciation of War, which is framed by Article 9: “…the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes…the right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.” Nevertheless, the Japanese did recognize the need to establish Self-Defense Forces, as well as participate in United Nations’ peacekeeping operations in the ensuing decades after the Second World War ended. However, in July of 2014, due in part to long-time pressure applied by the U.S. and other Western allies, the government of Japan approved a reinterpretation of this clause to allow Japan’s Self-Defense Forces to defend other nations, although some Japanese politicians and citizens argued that this change was illegitimate or unconstitutional. Then, in September of 2015, the Japanese National Diet made the reinterpretation of Article 9 official by passing several laws to allow Japanese military units to provide material support to allies engaged in combat. Comments: Despite these changes to the War Renunciation section of the Japanese Constitution, that historic clause represents a precedent internationally for the eventual end of not only all nation-state war but even all resort to the use of military force – a development that is necessary, along with the phasing-out of national sovereignty, and the transition to peaceful global sovereignty that must include full and universal democratic representation in a global parliament of all peoples, ethnicities, racial and cultural groupings of humanity. Global military forces will be transitioned to a planetary defense component essential to peacefully exploring the solar system and defending our planet from threats such as diverting incoming asteroids. A parallel and equally powerful precedent, along with the War Renunciation Clause, was the July 7, 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Obviously, much more progress needs to be made before the era of armaments and war ends, but at least our species can see the light at the end of the tunnel. (Sources: “The Constitution of Japan (1947).” Hanover Historical Texts Project. https://history/hanover.edu/texts/1947con.html, Reuters. “Japan Takes Historic Step From Postwar Pacifism, Okays Fighting For Allies.” July 1, 2014 and Erik Slaven. “Japan Enacts Major Changes to Its Self-Defense Laws. Stars and Stripes. Sept. 18, 2015. https://www.stripes.com/news/pacific/japan-enacts-major-changes-to-its-self-defense-laws-1.3688783 all of which were accessed on April 17, 2018.)
May 11, 1969 – On this date, one of the key components of the U.S. nuclear bomb making complex suffered a serious accident. The sprawling Rocky Flats production facility, run by the Atomic Energy Commission’s contractor Dow Chemical Company, and its large buffer area which covered eleven square miles, located in Golden, Colorado about 16 miles northwest of downtown Denver, experienced a serious fire in Building 776-777 when five kilograms of plutonium ignited and spread from a containment area causing what was then the costliest industrial accident ever to occur in the United States. It took two years to complete the clean-up of this toxic event which involved the dispersal of highly radioactive particles of plutonium 239-240, uranium, beryllium, a carcinogenic cleaning solvent called carbon tetrachloride, and other dangerous chemicals too numerous to list here. This was possibly the first time that people living in and around Denver became aware of containment releases from the plant where it was later revealed that since 1952 workers had been fabricating nuclear weapons triggers called “pits,” which were, in turn, shipped to the Pantex plant near Amarillo, Texas to be incorporated into thermonuclear warheads. Twenty years later, on June 6, 1989, FBI, Justice Department, and EPA representatives raided the Rocky Flats plant to investigate allegations of environmental crimes. After large-scale public outcry, nuclear weapons production at the plant was stopped and clean-up of the site began in 1992. Comments: This is just one of dozens if not hundreds of serious accidents that have occurred in the bomb making factories of the nine nuclear weapons states and with a commitment by all or most of these nations to modernize and expand the production of their nuclear arsenals in the next 20-30 years, there is the need to strengthen growing opposition by global citizenry against the renewed Cold War II effort to build even more doomsday weapons. Recently the Pentagon told the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) that it must produce 80 new plutonium cores per year by 2030 just to sustain existing nuclear weapons and obviously even more “pits” consistent with a renewed nuclear modernization and expansion commitment made by both Presidents Obama and Trump. But NNSA has responded that only Los Alamos National Laboratory is able now to produce the cores even though a Center for Public Integrity analysis found that there were not enough personnel able to safely handle plutonium at the laboratory. This is just one of many related concerns that justify the logical conclusion that it is well past time to reduce and eliminate global nuclear arsenals rather than ratchet up the already high risks of nuclear war, deadly radioactive accidents, and further contamination of our fragile ecosystem. (Sources: David Brennan. “U.S. Nukes Will Be Useless Without More Plutonium, Military Warns.” Newsweek. March 22, 2018, Government of the State of Colorado. “What is the History of Rocky Flats: A Study of Rocky Flats Exposures.” https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/sites/default/files/HM_st-rocky-flats-exposures-study-history-of-site.pdf, and Laura Snider. “Looking Back on Mother’s Day Fire at Rocky Flats.” Boulder Daily Camera. May 10, 2009.)
May 12, 2018 – “Two Minutes to Midnight: How Do We Move from Geopolitical Conflict to Nuclear Abolition?” a conference organized by the International Peace Bureau, Peace and Planet, the Campaign for Peace Disarmament and Common Security, the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, American Friends Service Committee, Peace Action New York State, and Brooklyn for Peace will be held at the Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square South & Thompson Street, in New York City. Speakers include Noam Chomsky, University of Arizona; Daniel Ellsberg; Christine Hong, UC-Santa Cruz and others. Comments: This conference’s subject matter is of utmost importance and its paramount topic should be routinely discussed in U.N. and other forums as well as in the U.S. and the other eight nuclear weapons states at regular conferences that include top military, political, and scientific participants as well as arms control and civil society activists. The nuclear threat is growing due to large-scale nuclear modernization by the Nuclear Club members and thus the world is facing an increasing risk of the triggering of the nuclear doomsday machine through miscalculation, misperception, accident or unintentional causes, or the growing likelihood of a terrorist WMD event that might also trigger a larger nuclear catastrophe. Even if humanity’s luck continues to hold out and we avoid such disasters (an increasingly unlikely scenario as each year passes, unfortunately), the growing radioactive threat caused by existing and new enrichment activities associated with a new generation of nuclear bomb making and the continued buildup of toxic nuclear wastes associated with military and civilian nuclear power plants, which contaminates the human gene pool as well as the larger ecosphere, makes the abolition of nuclear weapons and nuclear power the penultimate priority for the human species in the early 21st century. (Source: Anthony Wier and Abigail Stowe-Thurston, Editors. “Nuclear Calendar.” Friends Committee on National Legislation, April 2018. http://www2.fcnl.org/Nuclear/Calendar/index/php accessed April 17, 2018.)
May 26, 1972 – On the same day that the U.S. and Soviet Union signed the SALT I Treaty that placed a ceiling on the number of offensive nuclear weapons, both Cold War antagonists also signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty which limited strategic defense launchers and interceptors. A later July 3, 1974 ABM Treaty Protocol cut the number of ABM deployment areas permitted to each side from two to one and the number of launchers and interceptors from 200 to 100. The SALT II Treaty signed in 1979 further reduced strategic offensive nuclear weapons. Despite President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative proposal of March 23, 1983 and subsequent commitments to spend tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars on space- and land-based strategic defenses, the ABM Treaty survived and further strategic offensive reductions were mandated in the July 31, 1991 START Treaty and the January 3, 1993 START II agreement. However, on Dec. 13, 2001, President George W. Bush announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the ABM Treaty and carried forward with this promise in 2002. Although another offensive reduction treaty, New START, was signed by the U.S. and Russia in 2010, that treaty’s reductions have lapsed since February of this year. Comments: Due to missile defense developments by both Russia and the U.S. and its allies, especially the deployment of dozens of U.S. strategic defense interceptors in Alaska and California, as well as tactical missile defense systems deployed along the borders separating NATO countries and Russia, it appears that the lifting of restrictions on missile defenses, triggered by U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty in 2002, has accelerated not only strategic defenses but also the strategic offensive arms race. Comments: In a March 1, 2018 address to the Russian Federal Assembly, President Vladimir Putin outlined the development of new Russian nuclear weapons systems including the Sarmat ICBM equipped with multiple warheads, an intercontinental undersea drone, new long-range cruise missiles and two hypersonic weapons – the Kinzhal air-launched cruise missile and the Avangard glide vehicle. Putin specifically described the rationale for the weapons largely in terms of U.S. withdrawal from the 1972 ABM Treaty and concern about U.S. missile defense systems. In turn, American military and political leaders are demanding from Congress even more funding for strategic offensive and defensive weapons. The arms race cycle continues and now without restrictions on defenses, even more money will be spent to fuel riskier strategic instability. The only alternative is to end this 21st century race to nuclear Armageddon before it is too late. (Sources: “Missile Defense Agency Fact Sheet: Ground-based Midcourse Defense.” Jan. 12, 2018. https://mda.mil/global/documents/pdf/bmds.pdf, Jack Mendelsohn and David Grahame, editors. “Arms Control Chronology.” Washington, DC: Center for Defense Information, 2002, pp, 2-4, 84-85, Kingston Reif. “New Russian Weapons Raise Arms Race Fears.” Arms Control Today. Arms Control Association. April 2018. https://www.armscontrol.org/act/2018-04/news-russian-weapons-raise-arms-race-fears, both websites accessed April 17, 2018.)
May 28, 2000 – America’s Defense Monitor, a half-hour documentary PBS-TV series that premiered in 1987, released a new film, “Dark Cloud: Our Strange Love Affair With the Bomb,” produced by the Center for Defense Information, a non-partisan and nonprofit organization and independent monitor of the Pentagon, founded in 1972, whose board of directors and staff included retired military officers (Rear Admiral Eugene Carroll, Jr.), former U.S. government officials (Philip Coyle, who served as assistant secretary of defense), and civilian experts (Dr. Bruce Blair, a former U.S. Air Force nuclear missile launch control officer). This episode, as described in a press release, focused on, “Nukes as portable infantry weapons, Nukes for digging tunnels, Nuclear decontamination with a whisk broom. Secret government films of the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s form the backdrop for this darkly entertaining exploration of America’s fascination with the Bomb. At times, humorous, strange, and disturbing, these films reveal how the culture of nuclear weapons shaped American society during the Cold War, and how the advocates of nuclear culture sought to make atomic weapons a part of everyday life. This show provides a valuable lesson in media literacy by exploring the nature of propaganda and deconstructing its messages.” Comments: Public acceptance and even affection for militarism and the myth that nuclear weapons have “kept the peace” and “made America great” is commonplace in 2018. Films and television programs increasingly focus on post-apocalyptic nuclear scenarios and even the language of officialdom is contaminated by militarism and love of the Bomb. The term used for over a decade to describe changing U.S. Senate procedural rules to enable judicial and executive nominees to be confirmed with 51 votes, a simple majority, rather than 60 is termed, “the nuclear option.” The good news is, as this television documentary proposed almost twenty years ago, through peace education and literacy, a growing number of denizens of our Pale Blue Dot are seeing war, doomsday weapons, and military speak as counterproductive to the long-term survival of our species.
Late May-Early June 2018 – A hopeful breakthrough for peace on the Korean Peninsula may occur sometime in this time period when U.S. President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Essential precursor steps toward a permanent treaty ending the nearly seventy year old Korean Conflict were taken in March when Mr. Kim secretly visited Beijing, China and met with President Xi Jinping and when South Korean President Moon Jae-in proposed and Mr. Kim accepted an offer to meet Mr. Moon at Peace House, a South Korean building inside the truce village at Panmunjom on April 27th. When the North Korean leader met with the Chinese President in March, Mr. Kim proposed “phased, synchronized moves toward denuclearization,” which is the same approach that saw negotiating successes as well as setbacks in past discussions with Washington. Comments: President Trump would be wise to accept the advice of 93-year old former President Jimmy Carter who helped prevent two wars during his tenure – a possible violent insurgency in Panama nipped in the bud by his push for the Panama Canal Treaty of 1977 and another Mideast war between Egypt and Israel circumvented by his personal diplomacy culminating in the Camp David Accords of 1978. The 39th President, who called President Trump’s selection of war hawk John Bolton to the post of National Security Adviser, “a disaster for our country,” nevertheless urged that Trump’s negotiators listen closely to the North Koreans for the core of their demands. The best-selling author, Carter Center founder, and former peace envoy who travelled to Pyongyang to lay the groundwork for the 1994 Agreed Framework denuclearization deal signed by North Korea, delivered this specific advice to the 45th President, “What the North Koreans have wanted for a long time is just assurance confirmed by the Six Powers Agreement – with China, Russia, Japan, South Korea and so forth – that the U.S. will not attack North Korea as long as North Korea stays at peace with its neighbors.” President Carter noted that this may require concessions by the U.S. including a draw-down of U.S. troop levels in South Korea or an agreement to forego annual military exercises conducted off the coast of North Korea. Considering Mr. Trump’s past belligerent rhetoric toward Mr. Kim and vice versa, as well as the history of failed Korean negotiations, it seems unlikely that the result of the Trump-Kim meeting will be a resolution of long-standing issues, but it is obviously better for the two men to meet peacefully rather than mutually escalate past nuclear threats. (Sources: Susan Page. “Jimmy Carter Calls Trump’s Decision to Hire Bolton ‘A Disaster’ for Our Country.” USA Today. March 26, 2018. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/03/26/jimmy-carter-decries-donald-trump-decision, Choe Sang-Hun. “North and South Korea Set a Date for Summit Meeting at Border. The New York Times. March 29, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/29/world/asia/north-korea-south-summit-border.html, and Anthony Wier and Abigail Stowe-Thurston, Editors. “Nuclear Calendar.” Friends Committee on National Legislation, April 2018. http://www2.fcnl.org/Nuclear/Calendar/index/php, all of which were accessed April 17, 2018.)