Issue #242 – September 2017
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What Factors Make Nuclear War More Likely?
We know that the risk of nuclear war is not zero. Humans are not capable of creating foolproof systems. Nuclear weapons systems are particularly problematic since the possession of nuclear weapons carries an implicit threat of use under certain circumstances. In accord with nuclear deterrence theory, a country threatens to use nuclear weapons, believing that it will prevent the use of nuclear weapons against it.
Nearly 15,000 nuclear weapons are currently under the control of nine countries. Each has a complex system of command and control with many possibilities for error, accident or intentional use.
Given the catastrophic consequences of nuclear war, including destruction of civilization and human extinction, identifying and eliminating the factors making nuclear war likely or even possible is imperative. There are simply too many possibilities for failure in such a complex system of interactions.
To read more, click here.
2017 Hiroshima Peace Declaration
On August 6, at 8:15 a.m., absolute evil was unleashed in the sky over Hiroshima. Let’s imagine for a moment what happened under that roiling mushroom cloud. Pika—the penetrating flash, extreme radiation and heat. Don—the earth-shattering roar and blast. As the blackness lifts, the scenes emerging into view reveal countless scattered corpses charred beyond recognition even as man or woman. Stepping between the corpses, badly burned, nearly naked figures with blackened faces, singed hair, and tattered, dangling skin wander through spreading flames, looking for water. The rivers in front of you are filled with bodies; the riverbanks so crowded with burnt, half-naked victims you have no place to step. This is truly hell. Under that mushroom cloud, the absolutely evil atomic bomb brought gruesome death to vast numbers of innocent civilians and left those it didn’t kill with deep physical and emotional scars, including the aftereffects of radiation and endless health fears. Giving rise to social discrimination and prejudice, it devastated even the lives of those who managed to survive.
This hell is not a thing of the past. As long as nuclear weapons exist and policymakers threaten their use, their horror could leap into our present at any moment. You could find yourself suffering their cruelty.
To read more, click here.
Can the World Come to Its Senses on Nuclear Weapons?
President Trump, who is the ultimate commander of the U.S.’s nuclear arsenal, believed to consist of 6,800 warheads, has threatened North Korea with “fire and fury.” North Korea has threatened to attack the U.S. territory of Guam, in the Pacific Ocean. The threat of nuclear attack has become a bargaining chip, a threat spoken about all too easily and lightly.
These weapons of mass destruction are designed for one purpose only: war. Their use and even the threat of their use poses an existential threat to all life on our precious planet.
In this time where the threat of war has become thinkable again, world governments must use it as an impetus to come to their senses and disarm.
To read more, click here.
Remembering Tony de Brum
Tony de Brum, former Foreign Minister of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, passed away on August 22. Ambassador de Brum was a selfless leader in the movements for nuclear weapons abolition and climate sanity, and he will be dearly missed.
In 2014, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, led by Minister de Brum, filed the Nuclear Zero Lawsuits in the International Court of Justice and U.S. Federal Court, landmark cases against the nine nuclear-armed nations “for failing to comply with their obligations under international law to pursue negotiations in good faith for the worldwide elimination of nuclear weapons.”
Tony de Brum was a member of the NAPF Advisory Council and received the Foundation’s 2012 Distinguished Peace Leadership Award for his tireless work for justice and a world free of nuclear weapons.
Tributes to de Brum have been written from all over the world, including articles by Robert C. Koehler, the Washington Post, and The New York Times.
U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy
President Trump Threatens “Fire and Fury” Against North Korea
On August 8, President Trump warned that North Korea would face “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if it continues to threaten the United States. Later that week, he threatened North Korea again, this time on Twitter. He wrote, “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely.”
The same week, he told reporters, “Let’s see what he [Kim Jong-un] does with Guam. If he does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody’s seen before, what will happen in North Korea.” He added that his comments on Guam were not a “dare,” just a “statement of fact.”
Jacob Pramuk, “Trump: Maybe ‘Fire and Fury’ Statement on North Korea Wasn’t Tough Enough,” CNBC, August 10, 2017.
U.S. Warns Sweden Not to Sign Nuclear Ban Treaty
U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis sent a letter to Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist warning Sweden of a negative impact on relations should they sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
According to Svenska Dagbladet, the Swedish newspaper that originally reported the story, “The implication is that if the government signs the convention banning nuclear weapons, including on Swedish territory, it would impact both defense cooperation during peace time and the possibility of military support from the USA in a crisis situation.”
The treaty opens for signature at the United Nations on September 20.
“U.S. Defense Secretary Mattis Warned Sweden Not to Sign Anti-Nuclear Weapons Treaty: Report,” The Local, August 30, 2017.
German Candidate Pledges to Remove U.S. Nuclear Weapons from German Soil
Germany’s center-left Social Democratic Party leader, Martin Fultz, promised to remove 20 U.S. nuclear warheads that are kept in the country under the auspices of NATO if elected as Chancellor in September. Fultz and the Social Democrats face rival Angela Merkel and her conservative Christian Democratic Union party, and are reportedly down 39%-25% in the polls with one month left to campaign.
Schulz said that President Trump’s conflict with North Korea “shows us more than ever before how urgently we need to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons and encourage disarmament.”
Erik Kirschbaum, “German Rival of Chancellor Merkel Vows to Remove U.S. Nuclear Weapons from the Country,” Los Angeles Times, August 23, 2017.
War and Peace
North Korea Fires Missile Over Japan
In one of its most provocative missile tests to date, North Korea fired a ballistic missile that flew over the island of Hokkaido, Japan, on the morning of August 28. The test sparked outrage and fear across Japan, where officials halted trains and warned residents under its path to take cover. Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe requested an emergency meeting of the UN security council to address the increasingly aggressive actions taken by North Korea.
North Korean state media said the launch was “the first step of the military operation of the (North Korean military) in the Pacific and a meaningful prelude to containing Guam,” a U.S. territory in the Pacific.
Brad Lendon and Joshua Berlinger, “Next Target Guam, North Korea Says,” CNN, August 30, 2017.
White House Pressuring Intelligence Officials to Find Iran in Non-Compliance with Nuclear Deal
The White House is reported to have been putting pressure on intelligence agencies to find evidence that Iran has not been in compliance with the terms of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The deal, negotiated with Iran and five other countries, dictated that Iran would dramatically scale down its nuclear infrastructure and fuel stockpiles in exchange for an easing of economic sanctions.
President Trump, who has repeatedly bashed the deal as too conciliatory to Iran, seems determined to negate the deal. Yet despite Trump’s outspoken dislike for the deal, the consensus across the nation’s intelligence agencies, governmental departments, and the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)— which is in charge of inspecting Iran’s compliance with the deal— is that Iran has not violated the terms of the deal.
Julian Borger, “White House ‘Pressuring’ Intelligence Officials to Find Iran in Violation of Nuclear Deal,” The Guardian, August 28, 2017.
U.S. Awards Contracts for Nuclear “Modernization” Programs
Lockheed Martin and Raytheon have been chosen to design and build the next generation of air-launched nuclear cruise missiles for the U.S. military. Individual $900 million dollar contracts have been provided to both companies to develop the new weapon, known as the Long Range Standoff weapon (LRSO). The Air Force is expected to order 1,000 of the missiles. The current estimated cost for the system is $10 billion.
The Pentagon has additionally recently awarded contracts to weapons companies Boeing and Northrup Grumman to begin work on a new land-based Intercontinental Ballistic Missile system. The total cost of “modernizing” the U.S. nuclear arsenal is expected to exceed $1 trillion over the next thirty years.
David E. Sanger and William J. Broad, “Trump Forges Ahead on Costly Nuclear Overhaul”, The New York Times, August 27, 2017.
U.S. Conducts Additional Tests of New B61-12 Nuclear Bomb
On August 8, the U.S. Air Force conducted two flight tests of its new B61-12 nuclear bomb at the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada. The test assemblies, which were dropped from an F-15E based at Nellis Air Force Base, evaluated the weapon’s non-nuclear functions and the aircraft’s capability to deliver the weapon.
The B61-12 is a new nuclear bomb that combines four previous variants of the B61. It introduces new military capabilities to the U.S. arsenal, contributing to the nuclear arms race among the world’s nine nuclear-armed nations.
“B61-12 Continues to Meet Qualification Test Schedule,” National Nuclear Security Administration, August 28, 2017.
Nuclear Energy and Waste
Low Enriched Uranium Fuel Bank Opens in Kazakhstan
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) opened a “fuel bank” for low enriched uranium (LEU) on August 29 in Kazakhstan. The $150 million facility is designed to discourage countries from enriching their own nuclear fuel.
“The LEU Bank will serve as a last-resort mechanism to provide confidence to countries that they will be able to obtain LEU for the manufacture of fuel for nuclear power plants in the event of an unforeseen, non-commercial disruption to their supplies,” IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said in a statement on Monday.
While the new fuel bank may discourage countries from developing their own uranium enrichment facilities, the issues of catastrophic accidents and an inability to safely, permanently store radioactive waste continue to pose threats to people around the world.
“UN Nuclear Watchdog Opens Uranium Bank in Kazakhstan,” Reuters, August 29, 2017.
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 threats that have taken place in the month of September, including a September 14, 1954 Soviet nuclear test in which 45,000 Soviet troops were purposely exposed to a ground detonation of a 30-kiloton nuclear device.
To read Mason’s full article, click here.
For more information on the history of the Nuclear Age, visit NAPF’s Nuclear Files website.
Nuclear Close Calls
NAPF summer intern Sarah Witmer has published an extensive list of close calls involving nuclear weapons, including incidents in which nuclear weapons were misplaced, stolen, damaged, or even detonated.
Many of these incidents resulted in casualties, including innocent civilians, and many others nearly led to nuclear war. These close calls emphasize the lack of proper security for nuclear weapons, and the lack of training and overall competence of militaries and leaders who possess nuclear weapons. There have been far more incidents than those listed here, and likely many that militaries and world leaders withhold as classified.
To read the report, click here.
New Books Now Available
In August, new books were published by NAPF President David Krieger and NAPF Peace Leadership Director Paul K. Chappell. The fourth edition of Speaking of Peace: Quotations to Inspire Action, was edited by David Krieger. The book features hundreds of quotes organized into ten chapters related to war, peace, nuclear weapons, and the human future.
Chappell’s new book, Soldiers of Peace: How to Wield the Weapon of Nonviolence with Maximum Force, is the sixth book in his Road to Peace series. This book offers a new paradigm in human understanding by dispelling popular myths and revealing timeless truths about the reality of struggle, rage, trauma, empathy, the limitations of violence, the power of nonviolence, and the skills needed to create lasting peace.
Evening for Peace: A Prescription for a Nuclear-Free World
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s 34th Annual Evening for Peace will take place on Sunday, October 22, in Santa Barbara, California. The theme of this year’s event is “A Prescription for a Nuclear-Free World.” The Foundation will honor Dr. Ira Helfand and the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War with its Distinguished Peace Leadership Award.
For more information, including sponsorship opportunities and tickets, click here.
Peace Literacy Moves Forward
After a successful five-day summer workshop with 27 participants from around the United States and Canada, NAPF’s Peace Literacy Initiative has begun reaching a broad audience. Participants included teachers, ministers, psychologists, activists, and students. Feedback from fellow participants allowed Shari Clough, a professor of philosophy at Oregon State University, to re-organize and re-launch the Peace Literacy website.
The website, www.peaceliteracy.org, features lesson plans for different age groups that anyone can download for free. Clough said, “Kids need to learn peace in a sustained fashion – in the same way that they are taught to read and write. And for us adults, too, we have much to learn. It is never too late.”
To read more about the Peace Literacy summer workshop and the new Peace Literacy website, click here.
Letter in The New York Times
On August 1, The New York Times published a letter to the editor from Rick Wayman, NAPF’s Director of Programs. The letter was in response to an article about the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet stating that he would obey an order to launch a nuclear strike against China.
In the letter, Wayman wrote, “Would you willingly initiate the indiscriminate slaughter of hundreds of thousands or millions of people, risking a massive nuclear exchange that could end human civilization as we know it? That is the deeper meaning of the question that Adm. Scott Swift answered in the affirmative.”
To read the full letter, click here.
Sign the Open Letter to Congress: Act to Prevent Nuclear Catastrophe
This may be the most dangerous time in human history. The Roman emperor Nero is remembered for having fiddled while Rome burned. We may be witnessing the far more dangerous Nuclear Age equivalent to Nero’s fiddling in the form of the nuclear threat exchanges between Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.
Add your name to this Open Letter to members of Congress that calls on them to act urgently to prevent a nuclear catastrophe. Click here to take action.
“All warfare is based on deception.”
— Sun Tzu. This quote appears in the book Speaking of Peace: Quotations to Inspire Action. The revised 4th edition of this book has just been published. Order copies today in the NAPF Peace Store at a 25% discount.
“I would like to de-nuke the world. I know that President Obama said that global warming is the biggest threat. I totally disagree. I say that it’s a simple one: nuclear is our greatest threat worldwide. Not even a question, not even close. So I’d like to de-nuke the world. I would like Russia, and the United States, and China, and Pakistan, and many other countries that have nuclear weapons to get rid of them. But until such time as they do, we will be the most powerful nuclear nation on Earth by far.”
— U.S. President Donald Trump, in a media briefing on August 10, 2017.
“I worry about, frankly, the access to the nuclear codes. [If] in a fit of pique he [President Trump] decides to do something about Kim Jong Un, there’s actually very little to stop him. The whole system is built to ensure rapid response if necessary. So there’s very little in the way of controls over exercising a nuclear option, which is pretty damn scary.”
— James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence, in an interview with CNN.
“The DPRK (North Korea) will continue to strengthen its defensive capability with nuclear force, as long as U.S. … does not stop military drills on the doorstep of the DPRK. U.S. pressure and provocative acts only justify the DPRK’s measure to strengthen its self-defense capabilities.”
— Han Tae Song, North Korea’s Ambassador to the United Nations.