This Summer in Nuclear Threat History

By |2019-07-02T16:29:14-07:00July 2, 2019|

July 2, 1945 – On this date, U.S. Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson’s memorandum to President Harry S. Truman concluded that, “…we have enormous factors in our favor and any step which can be taken to translate those advantages into a prompt and successful conclusion of the war should be taken.” Stimson reiterated to President Truman his earlier belief that the Japanese would react positively to a warning or ultimatum for conditional surrender which also offered appropriate assurances that the Japanese emperor Hirohito (considered by almost the entirety of the Japanese people as the godhead of their Shinto religion – the 124th in direct line of descent from the sun goddess Amaterasu – in other words, a divine being or Son of Heaven) would not be charged with war crimes, deposed, or subjected to imprisonment or execution. Also critical was the Emperor’s almost unprecedented secular intervention in the form of cables (intercepted and translated by the Allies) that were sent from the Japanese Foreign Minister Togo to Ambassador Sato in Moscow on July 13-14 which stated, “His Majesty, the Emperor…desires from his heart that it [the war] may be quickly terminated.” These and related facts could have created momentum for the U.S. and its allies (with the possible exception of the Soviet Union which was bound by agreements signed with the U.S. and Britain to enter the war with Japan [which it did on August 8, 1945] spurred on in part by its desire to reacquire territory it lost in the 1905 Russo-Japanese War) to end the war with Japan before the August 6 and 9 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Instead, the excuse of dropping the bombs to prevent huge hypothetical casualties (both American and Japanese) in an upcoming invasion of Japan, an argument made largely irrelevant by the Soviet declaration of war against Imperial Japan, which convinced the Japanese that continued fighting was even more pointless, held sway both then and today. The President, Secretary of State James Byrnes, Manhattan Project director General Leslie R. Groves, a majority of the Congress (incensed with the possibility that two billion dollars were spent for a superweapon that would not be used), and other hardliners felt it was essential to demonstrate the destructiveness of the Bomb and press America’s atomic diplomatic strength in its future postwar dealings with the Soviet Union. (Source: Gar Alperovitz. “The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of An American Myth.” New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995, pp. 35, 232-35, 667-68.)

July 16-22, 1994 – 21 fragments of the shattered comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, the largest of which was approximately 2.5 miles in diameter, impacted the planet Jupiter with an approach speed of sixty kilometers a second (130,000 miles-per-hour). The explosions that followed were estimated to total in the range of six to twenty million megatons of TNT, hundreds of times more than all of the world’s nuclear weapons. Temperatures rose as high as the surface of the sun (10,000+ degrees centigrade) and fireballs 5,000 miles across spewed out through chimneys the comet fragments drilled into the gas giant planet’s atmosphere. Comment: In retrospect, humanity should realize that the tremendous chaos and violence of the Cosmos, including not only comet/asteroid impacts, but immense stellar explosions, entire galaxies wracked by deadly gamma ray bursts, and huge black holes and quasars, all pervade this gigantically large universe. Cannot humans with their intellect, wisdom, and morality recognize that our planet was always meant to be an oasis from this violence. That one purpose of our species’ evolution is to preserve, protect, and expand this zone of stability and peace. For, in our ego and superego, should we choose nuclear violence, our intellect knows that our puny efforts pale before the violence of nature. Therefore, we choose peace! The entirety of our species must recognize that nuclear devices are doomsday weapons that must never be exploded anywhere under, on, or near the Earth’s surface or above the atmosphere in near-Earth space. In future decades when humanity has dramatically reduced the number of nuclear weapons, while also verifying these global reductions by more sophisticated technical means, it may be necessary however to retain an internationally controlled arsenal of perhaps a hundred nuclear weapons to be used in the worst-case scenario, if more traditional means are unavailable, in order to divert an asteroid or comet that threatens to impact our planet. (Sources: James R. Asker. “Jupiter Comet is a Smash Hit.” Aviation Week & Space Technology. July 24, 1994, pp. 20-22, Douglas Messier. “Nuking Dangerous Asteroids Might Be The Best Protection, Expert Says.” Space.com. May 29, 2013 https://www.space.com/21333-asteroid-nuke-spacecraft-mission.html and James Reston, Jr. “Collision Course: Jupiter is About to be Walloped by a Comet.” Time, May 23, 1994, pp. 54-61.)

July 27, 1956 – During a training exercise, a U.S. B-47 bomber crashed into a storage bunker holding three Mark 6 nuclear bombs at Lakenheath Air Force Base near Suffolk, England killing the entire crew. Bomb disposal experts later determined that it was a miracle that one Mark 6 bomb (with a potential yield in the range of 6-180 kilotons) with an unprotected, exposed nuclear detonator did not explode. If it had, this “Broken Arrow” nuclear accident might have inadvertently triggered World War III! Many years later, Sandia National Laboratory reported that at least 1,200 nuclear weapons were involved in significant accidents just in the period between 1950 and 1968. In 1968 alone it was reported that approximately seventy missiles armed with nuclear warheads had been struck by lightning. Comments: Many of the thousands of serious violations of security protocols, accidents, and other nuclear weapons incidents involving all nine nuclear weapons states still remain partially or completely classified and hidden from public scrutiny. These near-nuclear catastrophes provide an additional justification for reducing dramatically and eventually eliminating global nuclear weapons arsenals. (Source: Eric Schlosser. “Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Incident, and the Illusion of Safety.” New York: Penguin Press, 2013, pp. 170, 327-329, 556.)

August 3-31, 2019 – Pentagon spokespersons indicated on March 13, 2019 that the United States military will take advantage of the Trump Administration’s withdrawal from the 1987 INF Treaty (U.S. adherence to the treaty technically ends on August 2, 2019) by testing two new non-treaty compliant short- to intermediate-range tactical nuclear weapons, specifically a low-flying advanced ground-based cruise missile with a potential range of 1,000 kilometers during the month of August. The other weapon system, to be tested in the coming months after August 2019 will be another non-treaty complaint weapon, a 3,000 to 4,000 kilometer-range ballistic missile. Neither would be nuclear-armed a Pentagon official told reporters but of course those systems are obviously nuclear-capable. Equipped with conventional or “low-yield” nuclear warheads, these platforms would be capable of striking Russian weapons or command and control targets with very little warning. The spokesperson said that these newly deployed weapons will give the U.S. more flexibility “to tailor the approach of deterring one or more potential adversaries in difficult circumstances.” This capability would allow the Pentagon to use nuclear weapons in a wider range of potential scenarios which presumably would include responding to a cyberattack on U.S. command and control facilities or even a general cyberattack on the U.S. homeland by exploding a nuclear weapon a hundred miles above our nation, which would cause an EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) effect to negatively impact not only U.S. military computers but also e-commerce and e-utilities in the U.S. or an allied nation. The Pentagon thinks these new non-treaty compliant weapons will make such attacks less likely. Comments: Experts like Michael Klare argue that the dangers of such a policy are stark. These deployments could result in destabilizing nuclear deterrence by having the Russian and Chinese, and possibly other nuclear weapons states that see the U.S. as a threat, adopt a policy of launch-on-warning. Klare also argues that, “No Russian leader could ever assume an American president would refrain from retaliating with nuclear arms against a Russian nuclear strike (however ‘low yield’).” And Klare notes that if escalation toward a larger nuclear war is somehow avoided, “even the unlikely use of just one so-called low yield nuclear device will produce a humanitarian catastrophe so vast as to outweigh any conceivable advantage from their deployment or single use.” Similarly House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) noted that, “If you introduce them (low-yield nuclear weapons), you cannot predict what your adversaries are going to counter with (hypersonic offshore SLBMs, orbital nuclear bombs like the old Soviet FOBs, etc) and an all-out nuclear war is the likely result, with the complete destruction of the planet.” (Sources: Robert Burns. “Pentagon Plans Tests of Long-Banned Types of Missiles.” Associated Press. March 13, 2019 https://www.militarytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2019/03/13/pentagon-plans-tests-o… and Michael T. Klare. “Making Nuclear Weapons Menacing Again.” The Nation. March 21, 2019 http://www.thenation.com/article/us-nuclear-arsenal-triad/?link_id=9&can_id=943a553d03… both accessed April 17, 2019.)

August 2, 2007 – Three presidential election campaigns ago, then Democratic presidential candidate Barack H. Obama, who later was elected the 44th President of the United States, was asked an unusual yet seminal question about nuclear weapons, a matter that strangely isn’t usually considered a paramount issue by the mainstream corporate news media. Candidate Obama was asked if elected whether he might use nuclear weapons in Afghanistan or Pakistan to defeat terrorism and specifically target Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. He replied, “I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance…involving civilians.” While this was at least a good starting place to begin to answer this question from the perspective of the global nuclear abolition movement, he should have also discussed the short- and long-term impact of the horrific impact of the use of even a so-called smaller yield nuclear weapon (including blast effects, shock waves, and radioactive fallout spread by the winds to potentially a very large geographic area in the region) on the large number of innocent noncombatant civilians in the target zone as well as the tremendous potential for first use (in combat since 1945) to serve as a trip-wire for other nations’ likelihood of striking their enemies with these unconscionable weapons. However, apparently not wanting to appear too much of a dovish future commander-in-chief, he quickly added, “Let me scratch that. There’s been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That’s not on the table.” His Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, then responded to Obama’s statement by informing a Reuters’ reporter, “Presidents never take the nuclear option off the table.” Almost a decade later, then candidate Donald Trump on March 30, 2016 said essentially the same thing to reporter Chris Matthews while also adding some hair-raising, shocking rhetoric about the possibility that he might actually pull the nuclear trigger for any number of reasons if he was elected president. Comments: These frightening comments by recent political candidates to include two sitting presidents, especially those by former President Barack Obama who specifically spoke out numerous times about eliminating nuclear weapons and won a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts, are particularly disturbing. Unfortunately, it seems clear that the military-industrial-Congressional-corporate news media-Democratic-Republican complex will not legitimize candidates who express any substantial doubt, reservation, or even modest adjustments to the long established and worshipped U.S.-fabricated theory of nuclear deterrence. But in the current era of a rejuvenated Cold War and a commitment by essentially all nine nuclear weapons states to modernize and expand their existing nuclear arsenals, it is paramount that this dire global state of affairs must change. And this change must come now in the midst of the 2020 U.S. presidential election campaign! The stakes are too high to allow only a small clique of top political and military leaders to tell the rest of humanity what should and should not be true regarding these doomsday weapons and the so-called promises of the flawed, imperfect theory of nuclear deterrence that we have put so much misguided faith in. The late planetary astronomer, science educator, and nuclear winter theorist, Carl Sagan (1934-1996) may have said it best, “For we are the local embodiment of the Cosmos grown to self-awareness…Our loyalties are to the species and the planet. We speak for Earth. Our obligation to survive is owed not just to ourselves but also to that Cosmos, ancient and vast, from which we spring.” (Sources: Daniel Ellsberg. “The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner.” New York: Bloomsbury, 2017, pp. 329, 331, and 382 and various mainstream and alternative news media sources.)

August 28, 2018 – The California State Senate, which passed Assembly Joint Resolution 33 earlier in August, on this date formally adopted this resolution which called upon the federal government and other national leaders to work toward signing and ratifying the July 7, 2017 United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The resolution also urged the U.S. government to make nuclear disarmament the centerpiece of national security policy and spearhead a global effort to prevent nuclear war which, “poses(s) an intolerable risk to human survival.” Like dozens of other similar resolutions adopted by numerous global jurisdictions including U.S. cities and states such as Baltimore and Los Angeles in 2018, Washington, DC, Salt Lake City, Hawaii and Oregon in 2019 many of these critical legislative enactments also propose U.S. renunciation of the first use of nuclear weapons, ending the President’s sole unchecked authority to launch a nuclear attack, taking nuclear weapons off their highly dangerous hair-trigger alert status, cancelling the U.S. plan to modernize and replace its entire nuclear arsenal with enhanced weapons (at an estimated cost of $1.7 trillion over the next 30 years), and actively pursuing a verifiable agreement among nuclear-armed states to recognize the real long-term threat of nuclear war by miscalculation, accident, misperception, or unauthorized launch by taking concrete steps to eliminate all nuclear arsenals on the planet. Comments: Over the many decades since nuclear weapons were first invented, powerful, entrenched elites that have enriched the One Percent and brainwashed the other 99 Percent into believing that the only way to survive for countless generations and guarantee antiquated nation-state sovereignty is to threaten to kill hundreds of millions of other inhabitants of the planet, are very slowly but also very methodically losing support for their bankrupt mantras of “Peace Through Strength” and “Nuclear Weapons Keep Us Safe.” Global antinuclear activism has spread from a small group of Manhattan Project physicists to include a plethora of business, legal and scientific leaders, celebrities, and politicians and is growing exponentially to include hundreds of millions of average global citizenry. Legislative, philosophical, scientific, environmental, medical, psychological, and other rationales are daily convincing larger and larger numbers of inhabitants of our fragile planet to reject so-called common sense wisdom about these doomsday weapons and trigger the beginning of the end of the Era of Nuclear Terror that has plagued the human species since 1945. Many antinuclear struggles remain to be fought and won but a dim light at the end of the tunnel is growing brighter each and every day. (Sources: Monique Limon. “California Assembly Joint Resolution 33 – Full Text.” Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. August 29, 2018 (https://www.wagingpeace.org/california-assembly-joint-resolution-33-full-text/?link_id-=17… accessed April 17, 2019 and other mainstream and alternative news sources.)

September 5, 1945 – Less than thirty days after the horrendous atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan by U.S. aircraft, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) became one of the first global organizations to call for the elimination of nuclear weapons – a position that it has consistently held for almost 75 years. The ICRC website notes that, “Since its creation in 1863, the organization’s sole objective has been to ensure protection and assistance for victims of armed conflict and other forms of organized violence. Its story is about the development of humanitarian action, the Geneva Conventions (the First Geneva Convention was enacted by a dozen nations in August of 1864 in order to mandate the compulsory care for all wounded soldiers on the battlefield regardless of which side they were on), and the Red Cross and the Red Crescent Movement.” Comments: Countless number of organizations, governmental bodies, private groups, and individuals have embraced nuclear abolition including most especially the global medical community which has long recognized how utterly impossible it would be to address a post-apocalypse scenario, even a so-called “limited” nuclear war. For that reason, the World Medical Association, through a number of Declarations made in the last few decades at Geneva, Helsinki, and Tokyo has asserted that it is the duty of medical professionals worldwide to work toward the elimination of nuclear weapons. (Sources: Ira Helfand, et.al., “The Growing Threat of Nuclear War and the Role of the Health Community.” World Medical Journal. Vol.62, No. 3, October 2016, p. 91 http://lab.arstubiedriba.lv/WMJ/vol62/3-october-2016/slides/slide-7.jpg and “Eliminating Nuclear Weapons.” International Committee for the Red Cross, May 1, 2015 https://www.icrc.org/en/document/nuclkear-weapons-conference and “History.” International Committee for the Red Cross. https://www.icrc.org/en/who-we-are/history
all of which were accessed on April 27, 2019.)

September 11, 2001 – Nineteen hijackers, 15 of whom were Saudi nationals, crashed four commercial aircraft onto U.S. territory destroying the World Trade Center in New York City and partially damaging the Pentagon in Washington, DC in an attack that killed nearly 3,000 people. If the 9-11 attack had been conducted using a nuclear weapon, the impact would have been incredibly worse. For instance, if Manhattan Island was struck by a 150 kiloton terrorist-fabricated nuclear fission bomb (although experts think it more likely the yield would be significantly smaller) exploded in the heart of downtown during daytime hours, the results would be devastating. Estimated fatalities would be over 800,000 people with at least another 900,000-plus injuries not including those caused by later post-blast firestorms. The bombing would result in 20 square miles of property damage not to mention catastrophic impacts on global financial markets if Wall Street was located in or near ground zero. Comments: While the U.S. and other nuclear weapon states are presumably continuing a long-term commitment to prevent theft and illicit diversion of fissile materials needed by terrorists, subnational groups, or smaller nation-states to fabricate nuclear devices, ironically it appears that the 9-11 attack may have made it more likely that a nuclear war could occur. Garrett M. Graff’s book “Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself While the Rest of Us Die” has pointed out that thousands of leaders in the U.S. (and by inference, probably the other eight nuclear weapon states) have spent many billions of dollars since the nuclear age began in 1945, and reenergized such spending after September 11, 2001, to ensure the Continuity of Government (COG) and Continuity Of Operations Plan (COOP). Or in more blunt terms (although also somewhat inconsistent with the Nuclear Winter Theory that holds that nuclear wars will trigger the deaths of billions due to the huge amount of post-nuclear strike dust, debris, and firestorm residue that will cloud the Earth’s atmosphere and blot out the sun causing temperatures to plummet and agricultural yields to zero out), the leaders of these nations have created a decades-old secret world of hundreds of hidden bunkers that Graff argues, “is more expansive, powerful, and capable today of ensuring their survival” (as well as many of their family members and professional staff), while at the same time the public has absolutely no hope of surviving a full-scale nuclear conflict. The seminal question that must be asked is: Do these selfish, amoral leaders of the U.S., Russia and other Nuclear Club members really and truly believe that the destruction of global civilization and up to ninety-nine percent or more of our species could in any way be justified rationally? Even the remotest possibility that these set of beliefs exist should make the whole of humanity redouble its efforts to prevent this scenario from ever occurring by pushing even harder for the total elimination of these doomsday weapons. (Sources: Garrett M. Graff. “Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself While the Rest of Us Die.” New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017, p. xxiv. and Carrie Rossenfeld, Chris Griffith, et al., “New York City Example.” Nuclear Pathways Project, National Science Foundation’s National Science Digital Library. See www.atomicarchive.com/Example/Example1 accessed April 24, 2019.)

September 18-19, 1980 – At nuclear launch complex 374-7 located near Little Rock Air Force Base, in Southside, a few miles north of Damascus, Arkansas, a maintenance accident involving a Titan II intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) resulted in three separate explosions that caused a W53 nine megaton nuclear warhead to be thrown several hundred feet from its silo. A technician from the 308th Strategic Missile Wing of the U.S. Air Force, while manipulating an airborne disconnect pressure cap, accidentally dropped a socket wrench which fell 70 feet and ricocheted off the Titan II missile causing a fuel leak that later triggered the explosions that killed or injured several airmen. Thankfully fail-safe devices on the warhead prevented an unintended nuclear explosion. Comments: Hundreds of nuclear incidents including Broken Arrow accidents, involving many armed nuclear devices, have occurred over the decades despite some innovative safety measures pushed on the Pentagon by U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories and nongovernmental experts. Nevertheless, the safest long-term solution to preventing an accidental or unintentional nuclear war is the total or near-total global elimination of these weapons of mass destruction. (Source: Eric Schlosser. “Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Incident, and the Illusion of Safety.” New York: Penguin Press, 2013.)