Archive for the ‘Democracy’ Category

Congressman Lieu & Senator Markey Introduce the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act

In Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace on September 28, 2016 at 5:16 am

Washington – Today, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-Los Angeles County) and Senator Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) introduced the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2016. This legislation would prohibit the President from launching a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress. The crucial issue of nuclear first use – discussed in last evening’s Presidential Debate – is all the more urgent given the fact that a majority of Americans do not trust Republican Nominee Donald Trump with our nation’s nuclear arsenal.
Upon introduction of this legislation, Senator Markey issued the following statement:
“Nuclear war poses the gravest risk to human survival. Unfortunately, by maintaining the option of using nuclear weapons first in a conflict, U.S. policy increases the risk of unintended nuclear escalation. The President should not use nuclear weapons except in response to a nuclear attack. This legislation enshrines this simple principle into law. I thank Rep. Lieu for his partnership on this common-sense bill during this critical time in our nation’s history.”
Upon introduction of this legislation, Mr. Lieu issued the following statement:
“Our Founding Fathers would be rolling over in their graves if they knew the President could launch a massive, potentially civilization-ending military strike without authorization from Congress. Our Constitution created a government based on checks and balances and gave the power to declare war solely to the people’s representatives. A nuclear first strike, which can kill hundreds of millions of people and invite a retaliatory strike that can destroy America, is war. The current nuclear launch approval process, which gives the decision to potentially end civilization as we know it to a single individual, is flatly unconstitutional. I am proud to introduce the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2016 with Sen. Markey to realign our nation’s nuclear weapons launch policy with the Constitution.”

Praise for the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2016
William J. Perry, Former Secretary of Defense – “During my period as Secretary of Defense, I never confronted a situation, or could even imagine a situation, in which I would recommend that the President make a first strike with nuclear weapons—understanding that such an action, whatever the provocation, would likely bring about the end of civilization. I believe that the legislation proposed by Congressman Lieu and Senator Markey recognizes that terrible reality. Certainly a decision that momentous for all of civilization should have the kind of checks and balances on Executive powers called for by our Constitution.”
Tom Z. Collina, Policy Director of Ploughshares Fund – “Current US nuclear policy is undemocratic and unconstitutional. In the realm of nuclear weapons, the United States is closer to a dictatorship than a democracy. The President has absolute authority to use nuclear weapons, and Congress has been cut out. It is time to bring democracy to nuclear policy, and Rep. Lieu and Sen. Markey’s bill moves us in that direction.”
Megan Amundson, Executive Director of Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND) – “Rep. Lieu and Sen. Markey have rightly called out the dangers of only one person having his or her finger on the nuclear button. The potential misuse of this power in the current global climate has only magnified this concern. It is time to make real progress toward lowering the risk that nuclear weapons are ever used again, and this legislation is a good start.”
Catherine Thomasson, MD, Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility – “We must understand that our own nuclear weapons pose an unacceptable risk to our national security. The “successful” use of our own nuclear arsenal would cause catastrophic climate disruption around the world including here in the United States. These weapons are suicide bombs, and no one individual should have the power to introduce them into a conflict. The Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2016 is an important step to lessen the chance these weapons will be used.”
Congressman Ted W. Lieu serves on the House Committees on the Budget and Oversight & Government Reform.
He is also the Democratic Freshman Class President and a Colonel in the Air Force Reserves.

It’s Time to Ban and Eliminate Nuclear Weapons

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace on September 27, 2016 at 9:56 pm

By Kazumi Matsui, September 26, 2016

The mayor of Hiroshima calls for a global security paradign based on dialogue, mutual understanding, and cooperation, instead of doomsday threats.

September 26, the United Nations International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, is a fitting time to take stock of current nuclear dangers and rededicate ourselves to the urgent task of abolishing nuclear weapons. I encourage all readers of The Nation to take this opportunity to listen to the earnest message of the atomic-bomb survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (hibakusha) who have been telling their tragic real-life experiences, expressed in their words that “no one else should ever again suffer as we have.”

The August 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki incinerated tens of thousands of children, the elderly, women, and men in an instant, with their fierce heat rays, blast, and radiation. By the end of that year, more than 210,000 people were dead. Among them were many Koreans, as well as international students from China and Southeast Asia, and American prisoners of war. Nuclear weapons are indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction. Even today, 71 years after the atomic bombings, the hibakusha and their families continue to suffer physical, psychological, and sociological effects of the bombings.

More than 15,000 nuclear weapons, most an order of magnitude more powerful than the bombs that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, continue to pose an intolerable threat to humanity. Not only that, but all of the nuclear-armed nations are modernizing their arsenals with plans to maintain them for the foreseeable future. As global awareness of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons expands, the international community has also learned through a series of international conferences that the risks of inadvertent nuclear weapons use due to accident or miscalculation are quite high. And we cannot ignore the possibility of nuclear terrorism.

As a result, more members of the international community, especially those of non-nuclear-armed states, have started paying attention to the firsthand experiences of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki hibakusha, and have developed a keen awareness that they themselves could become victims of nuclear detonations caused by accident or miscalculation, if not by a limited or all-out nuclear war. In response to this shared awareness and these growing concerns, the United Nations earlier this year convened an Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG), open to all UN member states, to develop proposals to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations for the achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons. The OEWG met three times in Geneva. As president of Mayors for Peace, an international non-governmental organization with a current membership of 7,132 cities in 161 countries representing over a billion people worldwide, I had the privilege of addressing the OEWG about the urgent need to promote nuclear disarmament.

International security still depends on the threatened use of nuclear weapons as prescribed by the doctrine of “nuclear deterrence”—a notion based on mutual distrust and the unspeakable horror the term implies. However, this theory’s power exists only in the minds of its policy-makers. Not only does nuclear deterrence offer no effective solution to the global security challenges we face, nuclear weapons are useless both in preventing and responding to terrorism—rather, their very existence brings new risks of use each day.

In order to address emerging challenges, world leaders must solidify their commitment to seek security without relying on nuclear weapons, with a sense of urgency based on a deep understanding that people at the grassroots level expect them to do so. Along the way, these leaders will also come to understand that the wider international community places great emphasis on uniting through a growing awareness that we all belong to the same human family.

It is time for the policy-makers of the world to change their perspective and exercise the decisive leadership required for the prohibition of nuclear weapons. It is only with such decisiveness that nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation initiatives can be accelerated. We believe that efforts to conclude a nuclear weapons convention will advance when government representatives who have understood the fervent desire of the hibakusha for nuclear disarmament can reach out to others to transcend their differences and overcome the obstacles to nuclear abolition.

A growing number of policymakers are visiting the A-bombed cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in response to the persistent call of Mayors for Peace and hibakusha to do so. On May 27, President Obama visited Hiroshima where he called for a “world without nuclear weapons” and declared: “[A]mong those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear, and pursue a world without them.”

Regrettably, none of the nuclear-armed states took part in the OEWG. However, in August the nearly 100 participating states adopted a final report with recommendations that will be forwarded to the UN General Assembly for action this fall. These recommendations include pursuing additional efforts to elaborate concrete effective legal measures, legal provisions and norms that will be needed to attain and maintain a world without nuclear weapons, and implementing various measures relating to reducing and eliminating the risks of nuclear-weapons use, enhancing transparency about nuclear weapons, and increasing awareness of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. In addition, the working group, with “widespread support,” called on the General Assembly “to convene a conference in 2017, open to all States, with the participation and contribution of international organizations and civil society, to negotiate a legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading to their elimination.”

Mayors for Peace welcomes the outcome of the OEWG, in particular its clear mandate for the commencement of negotiations in 2017 on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. While we understand that the nuclear-armed states and states under their “nuclear umbrellas” oppose starting these negotiations, the serious sense of crisis shared by the majority of the international community must not be neglected. When government representatives gather at the UN General Assembly’s First Committee to consider the recommendations of the OWEG, they must engage in cooperative dialogue, overcome their political and ideological differences, and bring us closer to achieving a world without nuclear weapons. We especially expect the nuclear-armed states and their allies to take innovative approaches and demonstrate decisive leadership.

Mayors for Peace, with a wide range of civil-society partners, wholeheartedly supports initiatives by world leaders to develop a new global security paradigm based on dialogue, mutual understanding, and cooperation, instead of doomsday threats. We will also intensify our efforts to promote such understanding and cooperation within international society. Now is the time for state and city governments, as well as diverse civil-society actors, to consolidate their efforts and promote the legal prohibition of nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.

Storing nuclear waste: Is ‘consent’ OK when future generations can’t weigh in

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Public Health on September 23, 2016 at 6:55 am

PUBLISHED: September 21, 2016 at 8:52 am | UPDATED: September 21, 2016 at 8:57 am

There are barbs about “mobile Chernobyls” and “floating Fukushimas,” fears of “coerced consent” and “economic racism,” and deep philosophizing about the nature of “consent” itself. Is such a thing possible when generations unborn will be impacted by decisions made today?

“‘Consent’ to dump nuclear waste in America’s back yard is not going to be approved by the American people no matter how your PR strategists massage the lipstick on that pig,” David Osinga told the U.S. Department of Energy in an email.

The DOE’s latest idea for figuring out where to stash millions of pounds of nuclear waste garnered more than 10,000 comments from concerned citizens nationwide, according to documents released last week. And while many disagree vehemently on the particulars, they are largely united on one point: After decades of dithering, the federal government must finally take action on its long-broken promise to permanently dispose of highly radioactive spent fuel.

This collection of carping and commentary (“I’ve seen people grow old in this business of trying to solve the nuclear waste problem”) is part of DOE’s new push to create temporary nuclear waste storage sites in regions eager for the business, such as West Texas and New Mexico. Several such sites could be up and running while the prickly question of finding a location for a permanent repository – the root of the present paralysis in nuclear waste disposal – is hashed out.

That could mean removing spent fuel from the bluffs beside the shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station a decade or so earlier than currently envisioned, which is now 2049, according Southern California Edison’s decommissioning plan.

Across America, some 165 million pounds of spent nuclear fuel cools at 75 commercial reactor sites, due to the federal government’s failure to honor the contractual promise it made to utilities back in 1982. But more on that in a minute.


The day before this treasure trove of public opinion was compiled, nuclear power’s future in America was the focus of a hearing before a subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

There, Sen. Dianne Feinstein expressed deep frustration.

“I can’t just support nuclear power generation if there is no strategy for the interim storage and long-term disposal of the waste,” she said.

“If we can’t properly store the waste, we shouldn’t build the reactors.”

Feinstein, a Democrat, and Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee – who dearly wants to see more reactors as part of a clean energy future – have worked across the aisle for five years in an effort to break bureaucratic paralysis on nuclear waste policy. So far, they have gotten nowhere.

“This is one of my great disappointments,” Feinstein said.

Some 130 million people live within 50 miles of a nuclear storage site in the U.S., she said – more than 2 in 5 Americans. In California alone, there are nearly 8,000 highly radioactive spent fuel assemblies stored in pools and dry casks at four sites, including San Onofre and Diablo Canyon. All are shut down, or will close shortly, leaving behind what is known in the industry as “stranded waste.”

“The future of nuclear power in this country depends on a solution to the waste problem,” Feinstein said. “Public safety and public acceptance of nuclear power, I believe, depend on it.”

The lesson of the moribund Yucca Mountain repository – largely a waste of time and $10 billion – is that state governments and local communities must be willing to host a repository, she said.

Storage should also be far from population centers. “We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact we’re dealing with very dangerous materials,” she said. “Problems at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico are a prime example of the risks we face.”

That New Mexico plant is a deep geologic repository to permanently dispose of waste from nuclear weapons research and production. On Valentine’s Day in 2014, radioactive materials leaked from a damaged storage drum. Cleanup could top $2 billion and still is not complete.

“Here we have one of the premier laboratory facilities in world, at Los Alamos, making a basic chemistry error on the packaging of waste drums,” Feinstein said. “One mistake in a single drum contaminated more than a third of the entire site.

“That, to me, is really striking. If we can’t trust these experts to handle radioactive waste safely, what confidence can we have in other efforts to manage this material safely and securely, long-term, at 78 sites around the country?”

The same question was raised in many ways in the public comments to DOE.


By the end of December, the Department of Energy will publish details on how the consent-based siting process will work, as well as “considerations for interim storage and deep geologic repositories,” Secretary of Energy Ernest J. Moniz told Feinstein’s committee last week.

The department’s 2017 budget sets aside $39.4 million for the consent-based siting effort, including $25 million for grants to interested states, Native American tribal nations and local governments. The money will help communities learn more about nuclear waste management and explore their potential roles in the effort.

Such interim storage facilities would allow the federal government to begin meeting its contractual waste management commitments; enable the permanent removal of spent nuclear fuel from shutdown reactors like San Onofre; provide crucial flexibility for the overall nuclear waste management system, such as the ability to conduct thermal management activities and repackage spent nuclear fuel; and be a useful learning experience with research on the behavior of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste over time, he said.

Private initiatives are in addition to the DOE’s efforts and may accelerate the schedule to remove spent fuel from the shutdown reactor sites, Moniz said.

“These initiatives present a novel approach that is distinctly different from DOE’s consent-based siting approach, as they essentially already include an aspect of community, state and tribal consent,” he said. “DOE is encouraged by the opportunities presented by these private initiatives, and we are preparing to seek public input on how a privately owned storage facility could fit into the overall integrated waste management system.”

That will move us toward a solution, and avoid leaving the burden to future generations, he said.


To encourage the development of nuclear power, Congress passed the Nuclear Waste Act in 1982. It promised to accept and dispose of spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste from commercial reactors by Jan. 31, 1998. In return, utilities operating nuclear plants promised to make quarterly payments into a Nuclear Waste Fund to pay for disposal.

The utilities, and consumers, held up their end of the bargain – pumping about $750 million a year into the fund – but the DOE has not accepted a single ounce of commercial nuclear waste for permanent disposal.

Saddled with decades’ worth of waste, utilities sued the DOE for breach of contract and won. The federal government has paid more than $3.7 billion to utilities thus far, and taxpayers could fork over another $21 billion to $50 billion before Uncle Sam figures it all out, according to the Government Accountability Office.

The Nuclear Waste Fund cannot collect more money. A federal judge said DOE couldn’t charge for a service it not only wasn’t providing, but wouldn’t provide for many decades. In 2014, utilities all across America stopped charging customers the disposal fee (some 20 cents a month on the average electric bill).

About $41 billion had been collected by the Nuclear Waste Fund over three decades. Some $30 billion remains in the fund, after spending $10 billion on a Yucca Mountain disposal site.

Southern California Edison, San Onofre’s owner, has recovered more than $300 million from the federal government over this failure. Dry storage is being built on a bluff above the Pacific, and spent waste will remain there until the government finds a solution.


The Department of Energy received more than 10,000 comments on its plans for interim, consent-based storage for nuclear waste. Full text with attribution can be found here, but here are some highlights:

“Two key questions for reaching a siting agreement are who negotiates and who decides?”

“There is a fine line between incentives and coerced consent. We need to acknowledge that line, and walk it carefully.”

“Economically disadvantaged communities are especially at risk. Special effort must be made to inform and engage disadvantaged groups that could possibly be affected.”

“We are talking about something that stays toxic and dangerous for generations to come. How can one generation give ‘consent’ for future generations?”

“I think this process is going to work for DOE. It just has to be done carefully and tactfully to be a success. Benefits of accepting a site must be communicated to communities.”

“My concern is what I feel is the lack of urgency in dealing with this…. We’ve already been dealing with this problem for 70 years. It’s time to get the solution done, resolved and unless we can’t get it done very quickly, I contend that we need to stop making this stuff.”

“I’m tired of hearing DOE talk about being in the early stages of something we’ve been at for decades.”

A Light Shines in the Dakotas

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Peace, Public Health, Race on September 21, 2016 at 10:07 am

By Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune

September 14, 2016

Regardless of what happens next, the Dakota Access pipeline protest has already made history. More than 200 tribes and thousands of Native American activists have gathered at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in a remarkable and virtually unprecedented show of unity. Yesterday, thousands of people protested in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux in more than 100 cities across the country. The source of the outrage is simple: The U.S. government attempted to fast-track a dangerous pipeline without properly and respectfully consulting the sovereign tribal nation whose ancestral lands and water it threatens.

But the government agent in this case — the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — overlooked two things. First, for the Standing Rock Sioux, this is a life and death issue: “Mni Wiconi” (meaning “Water is life,” in Lakota). Second, for the greater Native American community, the Dakota Access fast-tracking has resonated as yet another injustice by those who, having seized the land, would then despoil it with equal measures of greed and indifference.

The Standing Rock Sioux and their allies exposed this injustice in the bright prairie sunlight for the entire world to see, until — finally — the government blinked. Last Friday, the U.S. Department of the Interior, Department of Justice, and Army Corps of Engineers issued a joint statement that, in effect, will temporarily halt 20 miles of pipeline construction bordering Lake Oahe on the Missouri River pending further study and possible reform of the consultation process with Native tribes.

This is a tremendous victory and sets a powerful legal precedent for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and for all of Indian Country, and I’m proud the Sierra Club has stood beside the tribe and been able to help in a small way. But what does this decision mean for the future of this pipeline, not to mention other dirty fuel projects?

Despite President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline last year, the system for approving such major projects remains rigged for disaster. A key problem highlighted by what’s happened in the Dakotas is the fast-track permitting process where the Army Corps of Engineers treats one huge pipeline as if it were a series of much smaller pipelines. By using what are called “nationwide permits,” which are supposed to cover small projects like residential developments and road crossings, the Corps has been able to circumvent both the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Rather than conduct a fair assessment of the risks posed by an entire pipeline to ancestral homelands, sacred sites, climate, air, and water, the Corps divides it into hundreds of individual segments and then concludes that each of them (surprise, surprise) is too insignificant to worry about.

This creative and dishonest use of nationwide permits sure sounds like something that would have been cooked up during the Bush/Cheney years, but that’s not the case. It happened on President Obama’s watch, beginning in 2012, and the Sierra Club, along with many other environmental groups, is demanding that it be stopped. Maybe, just maybe, the administration’s partial retreat on the Dakota Access pipeline approvals signals a change of direction.

At a minimum, though, the entire Dakota Access pipeline should be reevaluated based on the laws that were circumvented the first time it was approved. Had that been done, then complying with the Clean Water Act might have nixed the idea of routing it under the Missouri River, where a spill would have catastrophic effects on the sole drinking water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux. It’s inconceivable that the project was approved without a thorough and meaningful consultation with the first inhabitants of this land.

Likewise, under NEPA, the Army Corps of Engineers would need to do a proper environmental impact statement for the entire pipeline. In fact, that’s not a lot to ask. It’s how exactly how things worked prior to 2012 — often for pipelines that were much smaller and less controversial than this one.

Finally, any environmental assessment of a major pipeline such as this one should absolutely consider how it will affect climate change. That’s not just my opinion. President Obama’s own Council on Environmental Quality said as much in the guidance for federal agencies that it issued earlier this month: “Climate change is a fundamental environmental issue, and its effects fall squarely within NEPA’s purview.”

A 1,168-mile fracked oil pipeline has no honest chance of passing that test. The administration should go back and do this the right way. Once that happens, the Dakota Access pipeline should be canceled in its entirety.

Most important of all, the same rigorous standard needs to be applied every proposed fossil fuel infrastructure project (and there are many of them, with more on the way) so that we can leave dirty fuels in the ground and complete the transition to clean, renewable energy sources as quickly as possible.

Frustrating the War Lobby

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Peace, War on September 19, 2016 at 2:30 am

By Stephen Kinzer Boston Globe, September 14, 2016

By trying to block a $1.15 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, a
bipartisan group of US senators is challenging one of the key forces
that shape American foreign policy: the arms industry. Their campaign
shines a light on the role that this industry plays in whipping up fears
of danger in the world. How do Americans know that Saudi Arabia is a
peace-loving country dedicated to fighting terrorism? The same way we
know that Russia is a snarling enemy on a rampage of conquest: The arms
industry tells us so.

“We must respond to the rise of ISIS terrorism, Russian aggression on
NATO’s doorstep, provocative moves by Iran and North Korea, and an
increasingly powerful China,” the Aerospace Industry Association
recently declared. Issuing warnings through its own mouthpieces, though,
is not enough to shape public opinion. The industry also sponsors “think
tanks” that obligingly issue alarming reports warning of increasing
peril everywhere. Many are run by former diplomats or military
commanders. Their scary warnings, which seem realistic given the
warners’ personal prestige and the innocent-sounding names of their
think tanks, are aimed at persuading Americans and foreign governments
to spend more billions of dollars on weaponry.

The ludicrously misnamed United States Institute for Peace, for example,
is run by Stephen Hadley, a former national security adviser who also
earns hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for his service on the
board of Raytheon, a leading arms maker. Another arms maker, Lockheed
Martin, which has just sold Poland an air-to-surface missile system and
wants to sell more, has given the institute $1 million. It’s been a good
investment. Hadley has urged that the United States “raise the cost for
what Russia is doing in Ukraine” because “even President [Vladimir]
Putin is sensitive to body bags.” The Institute of Peace wants European
countries to double their military spending and also favors sending more
weapons into the Ukraine powder keg.

The US Committee on NATO was founded by a former Lockheed executive and
pushed successfully to expand the NATO alliance onto Russia’s doorstep.
That sharply increased tension in Europe, which produces a handsome
profit for the arms industry. Another influential think tank, the
Atlantic Council, is funded by Raytheon and Lockheed. It faithfully
produces articles with headlines like “Why Peace is Impossible With
Putin,” and urges the United States and European countries to “commit to
greater defense spending” and confront “a revanchist Russia.”

Critics of wasteful military spending have bitterly denounced the
trillion-dollar project to produce a new fighter jet, the F-35, arguing
that it is already obsolete in the age of drone warfare. Nonsense,
replied the director of the Lexington Institute. In a recent article he
called the F-35 “a revolutionary platform” with “capabilities that far
exceed any current Western fighter.” Left unspoken was the fact that the
Lexington Institute is another front for the arms industry, supported by
contributions from Lockheed — the manufacturer of the F-35 — and from
Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and other “defense” contractors.

The kingmaker club

Washington think tanks are only part of the matrix that promotes the
American weapons industry. The roughly 50 companies that make up the
industry shower members of Congress with millions of dollars in campaign
contributions. They also parcel out contracts across the country, in
order to employ people in as many congressional districts as possible.
Components for the F-35, for example, are being made in 46 states. This
practice is fiendishly effective in assuring that members of Congress
continue to support new weapons projects, no matter how ill conceived.

The congressional rebellion against a new arms deal with Saudi Arabia is
extraordinary. Four senators — two from each party — have offered a
resolution that would force a Senate vote on the deal. Sixty-four
members of the House of Representatives have signed a letter warning
that the deal would have “a deeply troubling effect on civilians” in
Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is conducting a fierce military campaign. The
United Nations has estimated that the Saudi-led coalition bombing Yemen
is responsible for “twice as many civilian casualties as all other
forces put together.” Yet the Obama administration wants to sell the
Saudis 153 battle tanks made by General Dynamics, some of which are to
be used in Yemen, as well as machine guns, grenade launchers, and other

Since taking office in 2009, Obama has made 42 arms deals with Saudi
Arabia, worth a staggering $115 billion. For some members of Congress,
the latest deal is a breaking point. They are reluctant to send weapons
that will be used first in Yemen and then in other ways that support
Saudi interests — which are not necessarily those of the United States.
“There is an American imprint on every civilian life lost in Yemen,”
said Senator Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat who is a cosponsor of
the resolution to block the deal. Another cosponsor, Republican Senator
Rand Paul of Kentucky, called the deal “a recipe for disaster and an
escalation of an ongoing arms race in the region.”

Not surprisingly, the arms industry has mobilized its considerable power
on Capitol Hill to block this Senate resolution. “We are fighting
General Dynamics,” one supporter of the resolution said last week. A
vote could come soon. Blocking this arms sale would be a rebellion
against one of Washington’s richest lobbies. That would send welcome
chills through the corridors of power in the Pentagon, the war industry,
and Saudi Arabia.

Stephen Kinzer is a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for
International and Public Affairs at Brown University. Follow him on
Twitter @stephenkinzer.

Marjorie Cohn: Perpetual ‘War on Terror’

In Democracy, Drones, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Peace, War on September 15, 2016 at 9:44 am


Fifteen years ago, 19 men committed suicide and took more than 3,000 people with them. The 9/11 attacks constituted crimes against humanity and should have been treated as such, with investigations and prosecutions of those who helped plan and finance the horrific crimes.

If they had been armed attacks by another country, George W. Bush could have lawfully used military force in self-defense under the United Nations Charter. But they were not. Neither Afghanistan nor Iraq had attacked the United States or any other UN member country. In fact, Iraq had not invaded any country for 11 years, since it went into Kuwait. Neither Afghanistan nor Iraq posed an imminent threat to any nation.

None of the hijackers hailed from Afghanistan or Iraq. In fact, 15 came from Saudi Arabia. Nevertheless, the Bush administration invaded both Afghanistan and Iraq and changed their regimes, killing and injuring untold numbers of people. The resulting vacuum in Iraq has been filled by Islamic State, which formed and became powerful after the US invaded that country.

Bush declared a “war on terror.” Terrorism is a tactic, not an enemy and you don’t declare war on a tactic. Yet Bush invoked the 9/11 attacks to shred the Constitution. And although he avoids using the phrase “war on terror,” Barack Obama is continuing Bush’s perpetual war.

Bush’s War on Civil Liberties

Bush did not confine his war on terror to other countries. He mounted a wholesale assault on civil liberties here in the United States.

He rammed the USA PATRIOT Act through a shell-shocked Congress that had rejected its provisions prior to 9/11. The act enhanced the government’s ability to conduct surveillance and created a crime of “domestic terrorism,” which was used to target political activists who protest government policies. It is defined so broadly that it has been used to go after environmental and animal rights groups.

Bush inaugurated a new program of COINTELPRO-style surveillance, in which the government used wiretapping without judicial authorization. A similar policy was banned by a Republican-controlled Congress with the passage of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) after the FBI used it to target civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr.

In violation of FISA and the Fourth Amendment, Bush signed an executive order establishing the Terrorist Surveillance Program. It authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to wiretap people within the United States with no judicial review. The NSA has eavesdropped on untold numbers of private conversations. It has combed through large volumes of telephone and internet communications flowing into and out of the United States, collecting a vast amount of personal information that has nothing to do with national security.

Bush ordered federal agencies to refuse to honor requests under the Freedom of Information Act, an important vehicle for citizens to hold the government accountable by requesting, receiving and publicizing public records.

In particular, three developments on Bush’s watch have had a chilling effect on protected First Amendment activity: the shift from reactive to preemptive law enforcement; the enactment of domestic antiterrorism laws; and the relaxation of FBI guidelines on the surveillance of Americans.

Bush also indefinitely detained hundreds of men and boys of Arab, Muslim and South Asian descent in the United States and Guantánamo, Cuba, without charges or suspicion of terrorist ties.

Bush & Co.’s Illegal Torture Program

Nearly 800 individuals have been held indefinitely at Guantánamo, most without charge, in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which the US has ratified.

Prisoners released from Guantánamo report having been tortured and subjected to cruel treatment. They describe assaults, prolonged shackling in uncomfortable positions and sexual abuse. There are accounts of prisoners being pepper-sprayed in the face until they vomited, fingers being poked into their eyes, and their heads being forced into the toilet pan and flushed.

Those who engaged in hunger strikes were brutally force-fed, a practice that the United Nations Human Rights Commission called torture. Thirty-two attempted suicides took place in an 18-month period.

As evidence of torture leaked out of Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, a Guantánamo-Iraq torture connection was revealed. General Geoffrey Miller, implicated in setting torture policies in Iraq, had been transferred from Guantánamo to Abu Ghraib specifically to institute the same harsh interrogation procedures he had put in place at Guantánamo.

In late 2014, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a 499-page executive summary of its torture report. It said the CIA used “rectal feeding” without medical necessity on prisoners. A mixture of pureed hummus, pasta and sauce, nuts and raisins was forced into the rectum of one detainee. “Rectal rehydration” was also utilized to establish the interrogator’s “total control over the detainee.”

The interrogation policy that permitted torture and abuse came from the top. Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and John Yoo admitted they participated in decisions to subject prisoners to waterboarding. This involves pouring water into the nose and mouth to make victims feel like they’re drowning. Waterboarding has long been considered torture, which is a war crime. Indeed, the United States hung Japanese military leaders for the war crime of torture after World War II.

The CIA engaged in extraordinary rendition, sending men to other countries where they were viciously tortured, in violation of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. That treaty, which the US has ratified, is unequivocal. It says, “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

Yet the Bush administration’s legal mercenaries, including John Yoo and Jay Bybee, wrote memos with twisted reasoning that purported to justify torture, and advised high government officials how to avoid criminal liability under the US War Crimes Act.

Obama Continues the War on Terror

When the US ratified the Torture Convention and the Geneva Conventions, it agreed to punish those who commit torture and war crimes.

And the Constitution mandates that the president “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” But Obama has refused to prosecute the Bush administration war criminals, saying, “We need to look forward, as opposed to looking backward.”

Like his predecessor, Obama uses the “state secrets” privilege to block judicial inquiry into the US’s extraordinary rendition and surveillance programs.

Obama continues to wage the war on terror, although he doesn’t use that moniker.

Declaring the whole world a battlefield, the Obama administration has vastly expanded the use of armed drones that began during the Bush administration. Deadly missiles are killing and maiming people in seven countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. And Obama continues to fight the war in Afghanistan, leaving 8,400 US troops and special operations forces there.

Like Bush’s fateful regime change in Iraq, Obama’s invasion of and regime change in Libya created space for Islamic State to proliferate.

Under the Obama administration, the US military continues to force-feed hunger-striking prisoners at Guantánamo.

Terror as Blowback Against US Foreign Policy

Both the Bush and Obama administrations have conducted the war on terror by combating the symptoms of terrorism rather than grappling with its root causes. They have succeeded in maintaining an atmosphere of fear, shifting the national discourse away from the reasons why the US is hated.

That hatred dates back to the stationing of US troops at the holy sites of Islam in Saudi Arabia, the killing of one million Iraqis — half of them children — with punishing sanctions during the 1990s, and the United States’ uncritical support of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands. The hatred is exacerbated by the perpetual war the US is waging in Afghanistan and much of the Middle East.

Contrary to his periodic proclamations about transparency, Obama has continued his wars in obscurity, except in cases where he has been forced to reveal information through the Freedom of Information Act.

We owe a debt of gratitude to courageous whistleblowers like Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, John Kiriakou and others, who have stripped the veil of secrecy from the US torture, drone and surveillance programs. Obama has responded to their truth-telling with prosecutions under the Espionage Act, rivaling all prior presidents combined in his aggressive pursuit of whistleblowers.

Meanwhile, with some 800 US military bases abroad, the tentacles of American Empire are reaching further and tightening their grasp.

In the words of Andrew Bacevich, “There is no strategy [for the war on terror]. None. Zilch. We’re on a multitrillion dollar bridge to nowhere, with members of the national security establishment more or less content to see where it leads.”

But there is a strategy for the American people to stand up to endless war. As Phyllis Bennis has suggested, we must call for “a massive reduction of the military budget,” slated at $619 billion this year. We must also “demand to replace the so-called global War on Terror with nonmilitary solutions,” since “killing people simply creates more terrorists.” And finally, we must “broaden efforts to end the US support — military, economic and diplomatic — for Israeli occupation and apartheid.”

There is little doubt that the permanent war on terror will continue in a Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump administration, stealing precious resources that could be used to fight climate change, enhance our educational and healthcare systems, and rebuild our crumbling infrastructure.

It is up to all of us to speak out, write and protest against endless war. That means pressuring Congress and the White House, holding demonstrations and inserting our opposition into the media and public debate. Our very survival depends on it.


Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild and on the advisory board of Veterans for Peace. Her books include Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law; The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse and Drones; and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues. Visit her website: MarjorieCohn.com. Follow her on Twitter: @MarjorieCohn.

How the Trump Organization’s Foreign Business Ties Could Upend U.S. National Security

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Peace on September 15, 2016 at 8:24 am


An investigative report by Newsweek on how “almost every foreign
policy decision (a President Trump) makes will raise serious conflicts
of interest and ethical quagmires.”

For the full report, go to



Thanks to Dave Anderson for sending this to me.

Stand with Standing Rock

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Peace, Public Health, Race on September 10, 2016 at 8:11 am

Copyright Sept. 9, 2016 – Eco-Justice Ministries

Yesterday, I joined with a great crowd in downtown Denver to stand in solidarity with the Native American “protectors” encamped near the Standing Rock reservation, in North Dakota. Perhaps 2,000 of us marched from the four directions, and converged at the State Capitol for prayers, songs, and voices of witness.

My commitment to the ethical principles of eco-justice made it imperative that I attend the march, and that I continue to act in solidarity with those who oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) near the Standing Rock reservation.

There are many reasons why I believe it is important to support this cause. Today, I will highlight two general factors, and four reasons specific to this issue. Also, I’ll suggest several ways that you can join with this movement. (Touching on so many points does mean that this Notes will be longer than usual — headings will allow you to skim the main topics.)

BREAKING NEWS: This afternoon, a federal judge ruled against the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s request to immediately halt work on the Dakota Access Pipeline.

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Some brief background — The Dakota Access Pipeline, now under construction, is planned to run from northwestern North Dakota to southern Illinois. It is designed to carry more than 500,000 barrels of oil per day from the Bakken oil fields near the Canadian border.

At the core of the Standing Rock dispute are two issues about the routing of the pipeline: it would cross under the Missouri River just north of the reservation, and it crosses land that the Sioux tribe considers sacred.

On April 1 of this year, tribal citizens founded the Sacred Rock Spirit Camp along the path of the pipeline. In recent weeks, thousands of Native Americans, representing more than 250 tribes from across North America, have gathered at the camp, seeking to block the pipeline. A violent conflict last weekend between the private security forces of the pipeline company and some of the Native Americans catapulted the protest into national and international news. (On Wednesday of this week, the Washington Post published a fairly comprehensive story about the Standing Rock movement)

As one speaker last night said, “This in now a global issue, not a tribal issue.” There are two general principles and four specific reasons why I think people of faith and conscience need to “stand with Standing Rock.” Many of these factors are cited in recent statements from US denominations and church leaders. (Thanks to our friends at Creation Justice Ministries for links to those statements.)

1) Take Native claims seriously. As a matter of justice, I have been giving attention to this issue for several months because it is one arising from Native peoples, and dealing with Native lands. In Christian ethics, there is the principle of a “preferential option for the poor”, which calls on us to take very seriously the experiences and the voices of those who have been marginalized and oppressed. We are called to seek justice for “the least of these”, which surely includes those whose ancestral lands have been taken, and who experience high levels of poverty and despair.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery, a set of moral and legal principles which justified the exploitation of native peoples in the Americas. Any sense of repudiating — or even questioning — that doctrine requires that we honor the legal and moral claims of those people, and that we take seriously their cultural and religious views about the meaning of land and water. The claims of the Lakota and other native people provide us with a set of beliefs and values that are in sharp contrast to the dominant American culture, which must be respected on their own terms.

2) Ties to the larger climate movement. Regardless of the details of the Standing Rock challenge to DAPL, I am inclined to honor that protest as part of the larger climate movement. We join with them as allies in a cause that is larger than this one pipeline. The Standing Rock message is not a “not in my backyard” call to put the pipeline somewhere else. It is a call to leave fossil fuels in the ground, and turn toward a way of life that protects ecosystems, and provides justice for those most impacted by petroleum development.

As Bill McKibben wrote this week in the New Yorker, “The fight for environmental sanity — against pipelines and coal ports and other fossil-fuel infrastructure — has increasingly been led by Native Americans, many of whom are in that Dakota camp today.” We stand with Standing Rock, because they are providing vision and courageous leadership for the global climate justice movement.

The specifics of the DAPL also make this a compelling struggle for justice.

3) Permitting process and lack of consultation. The tribe’s legal claims include distressing details about irregularities in the process by which the pipeline received federal permits. A lawsuit filed in July says that the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers used a “fast track” permitting process that circumvented a comprehensive environmental review. The the Crop approved the permit on July 26. The tribe received only a “48-hour notice” that construction would begin immediately adjacent to the reservation.

The tribe claims that consultations about the pipeline’s impacts to sacred sites and culturally important landscapes — required under the National Historic Preservation Act — were not taken seriously. These violations of laws and fair processes provide strong cause to support the legal challenges of the Standing Rock tribe.

4) Risk of the pipeline at river crossings. The Dakota Access Pipeline would be buried under the Missouri River just to the north — upstream — of the Standing Rock reservation. The river is the primary source of water for the reservation, for domestic uses, agriculture, and ecological health. The risk of the pipeline leaking oil into the river is a primary motivation for the protests, because it would be catastrophic for the tribe’s 8,000 residents, and for millions of other people downstream.

The fears of damage to water supplies are not ungrounded. Within the past few years, there have been several large oil spills into rivers, causing extreme damage and difficult remediation. In a very telling detail, the Bismark (ND) Tribune reported in August that “An early proposal for the Dakota Access Pipeline called for the project to cross the Missouri River north of Bismarck, but one reason that route was rejected was its potential threat to Bismarck’s water supply”. It is unconscionable that pipeline proponents trivialize the tribe’s concerns about risks to the river, when the same risks were decisive in protecting the water supply of the state’s capitol city.

5) Actions by the state of North Dakota to shut down the protest. As the Sacred Stone Camp drew more protectors, and as the protest started to gain more visibility — largely through social media, not the mainstream press — North Dakota officials took actions to shut down the protest. Governor Jack Dalyrmple declared a state of emergency on August 19. Highways leading to the site were closed, water supplies were blocked, and service crews for emptying the porta-potties were not allowed access to the site. The actions of government agencies to silence the protest are a reason for people of conscience to join in amplifying the message.

6) Actions by the pipeline contractor desecrating sacred lands. A decisive turning point happened last weekend, when the conflict escalated into acts of desecration and violence.

Last Friday, a legal filing by the tribe described the location of a sacred and historic site, including a Native burial ground, near the Sacred Stone Camp, and in the path of the pipeline. On Saturday, over the Labor day weekend, the pipeline contractors moved two bulldozers from another construction site quite a distance away, and intentionally graded a 150 foot wide swath across the location that the tribe had described. As the Washington Post reported, “When tribe members and others tried to prevent the action, they were stopped by private security workers for Dakota Access who used guard dogs and pepper spray to drive them back.” The images of dogs attacking the tribal members, including children and pregnant women, have often been compared to powerful photos from the Civil Rights movement in Selma and Birmingham — photos that outraged the nation, and gave strength to the movement’s call for transformation.

These blatant acts against the tribe — taken just before legal decisions about an injunction stopping that section of the pipeline’s construction — demand that all people speak strongly for justice.

Both in broad considerations of justice for Native peoples and climate action, and in numerous specific details about the Standing Rock tribe’s situation, principles of eco-justice and Christian ethics demand that we stand in solidarity and support with those protesting the pipeline in North Dakota.

+ + + + +

What can we do to join in solidarity with the Standing Rock people?

Next Tuesday, September 13, a wide variety of environmental and justice organizations are organizing a “#NoDAPL Day of Action” in many locations across the US. If there is an event near you, join it. If there isn’t a close-at-hand event, consider launching one.
Contributions are needed to support the Standing Rock legal defense fund, and the Sacred Stone Camp supply fund. (I made a contribution today.)
Contact the White House (by phone at 202-456-1111, or on-line telling President Obama to rescind the Army Corps of Engineers’ Permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Lift up the Standing Rock cause in your postings to social media — the hashtag #NoDAPL is encouraged — on in a letter to the editor.
Raise the Standing Rock fight for justice in your congregation, in prayers or newsletters. Feel free to link to this Eco-Justice Notes [http://www.eco-justice.org/E-160909.asp] or to hand out printed copies of this message.
Because of last weekend’s violence, and with legal decisions about to be announced, Standing Rock is in the news, and is presented to us as a matter of justice. Each of us must decide where we stand, and how we will act.

I have chosen to Stand with Standing Rock in word, deed, and with cash. I pray that you will join with me, and with the protectors at the Sacred Stone Camp.

Rev. Peter Sawtell
Executive Director, Eco-Justice Ministries

We welcome your comments and feedback on these newsletters — whether on Facebook on in emailed replies. Peter Sawtell reads all of the responses, and tries to reply to all substantive comments.
Eco-Justice Notes is only one of the e-mail publications from Eco-Justice Ministries.
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IMPORTANT CHANGE: Today, September 9, at about 5:30 I received the following:


I have great news!

Today, the federal government announced a halt on construction of a critical stretch of the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Reservation until additional environmental assessments on the project are complete.

This is a big deal!

The fight to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline is far from over, but we should celebrate this incredibly significant victory.

The federal government didn’t take these actions on their own. They were responding to unrelenting pressure from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other Native American leaders from across the country.

In fact, the gathering at the Sacred Stones Camp is the largest gathering of Native Americans in more than 100 years. What happened there over the last several days inspired a nation — a nation that too often forgets and neglects the original inhabitants of this land.

That’s why I started the petition demanding an investigation into the security guards who attacked the land protesters at the camp. While Sioux Tribe and other activists took action to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, I wanted to ensure that the American public had their back. I wanted to make sure that while the tribe and other Native leaders were taking a stand and risking so much for the land, we were taking a stand for them.

And I have more good news on that as well.

The North Dakota media is reporting that the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board will investigate the use of dogs last week by private security guards at the Dakota Access Pipeline construction site.

The article announcing the investigation specifically cites our petition as a reason why the security guards will be investigated.

Without you signing this petition, I believe these “security guards” would have gotten away with their heinous actions.

Today proves that the more people who speak out, the bigger the impact we can have.

We still have a long fight ahead, and we’re not going anywhere. I’ll send you updates about how you can stay involved, but in the meantime be sure to follow these groups on Facebook for more information about how you can support their work.
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
Sacred Stone Camp
Red Warrior Camp
Thanks again for your support!


Matt A. Hildreth

P.S. Please be part of the national day of action against the Dakota Access Pipeline on Tuesday, September 13!



America’s New Nuclear-Armed Missile Could Cost $85 Billion

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy on September 7, 2016 at 10:33 pm

By Andy Capaccio, Bloomburg

September 6, 2016 —

Pentagon estimate rises from preliminary Air Force projection
Acquisition chief warns of ‘significant uncertainty’ on cost

The U.S. Air Force’s program to develop and field a new intercontinental ballistic missile to replace the aging Minuteman III in the nuclear arsenal is now projected to cost at least $85 billion, about 36 percent more than a preliminary estimate by the service.
Even the $85 billion calculated by the Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office is a placeholder number that’s at the low end of potential costs, according to an Aug. 23 memo from Pentagon weapons buyer Frank Kendall to Air Force Secretary Deborah James. It includes $22.6 billion for research and development, $61.5 billion for procurement and $718 million for related military construction.
Lockheed Martin Corp., Boeing Co. and Northrop Grumman Corp. are all competing to build the new ICBMs. But the latest estimate may add to debate about the cost and need for the planned modernization of all three legs of the U.S. nuclear triad of land, air and sea weapons. The nuclear modernization plan contributes to what defense analysts call a gathering “bow wave” of spending in the coming decade on major weapons that the next presidents will face.
At this stage of the ICBM program “there is significant uncertainty about program costs” because “the historical data is limited and there has been a long gap since the last” such development program, Kendall wrote.
The $85 billion estimate must be revised no later than March 2018 once missile designs are more advanced, technical risks are reduced and the service has a better understanding of overall costs, Kendall said in the memo.
Earlier Story: Pentagon Poised to Approve Work on Missile
Nonetheless, Kendall approved proceeding with early development and efforts to reduce technology risks of the new ICBM. He directed the service to move toward buying 642 missiles at an average cost of $66.4 million each to support a deployed force of 400 weapons and to budget at least $1.25 billion annually from 2036 to 2040 for operations and support costs.
The Pentagon’s ability to estimate the cost of the new Ground Based Strategic Deterrent was limited by the “incompleteness and significant age of” the “data for comparable ICBM and submarine launched ballistic missiles dating back to the 1960s through the early 1990s,” Kendall wrote.
‘Greater Risk’
The Pentagon and Air Force are “accepting greater risk by going with” the $85 billion estimate that’s at the lower end of its calculations, Kingston Reif, an analyst with the Arms Control Association in Washington who follows the program, said in an e-mail. “From a good-government perspective” it is “better to build in contingency and plan for and prioritize around a bigger bill now, lest a sudden big cost increase threaten to wreck the budget and the program five to 10 years from now.”
Kendall wrote that inflation assumptions and the defense industry’s capability to produce the missiles are major sources of cost uncertainty. Still, he said the $85 billion placeholder is “the most reasonable estimate of program cost at this point.”
In addition to the new nuclear systems, the bow wave of coming costs includes nine Air Force conventional systems and plans for increased construction of naval vessels such as a second Ford-class aircraft carrier.
For the air component of the nuclear triad, Northrop defeated a Lockheed-Boeing team in October for the right to build a new dual-use bomber that can carry both nuclear and conventional weapons, a project valued at as much as $80 billion.
At sea, the Navy is planning to replace its Ohio-class nuclear-armed submarines through a production program now estimated at $122 billion, which doesn’t include development.
That estimate will be updated by year’s end as the Pentagon reviews moving the program into full development.
Official Beginning
Kendall’s decision to let the ICBM program move forward marks the official beginning of the technology development stage, with spending increasing from about $75 million this year to $1.6 billion in 2021 and $2.6 billion in 2022, according to the Pentagon estimate.
The “program plans to buy enough missiles to maintain a 400-missile deployed force through 2075,” Air Force spokeswoman Leah Bryant said in an e-mail. “The overall number of missiles acquired in the inventory may vary depending on testing, evaluation, maintenance,” she said.
The Air Force made its early estimate last year that the new ICBM program would cost $62.3 billion for research, development and production as well as command and control systems and infrastructure. That number, as well as the new $85 billion estimate, is calculated in so-called “then-year,” or current-year, dollars.
Bryant said “it is important to keep in mind that at this stage,” as “in any acquisition program, there can still be some uncertainty about projected” ICBM costs because “the historical data used for estimates, whether ours or another organization’s estimate, are limited and very dated.” The last ICBM development occurred in the 1980s, she said.
Kendall’s memo was provided to the staff of the Senate and House defense committees last week.

Controversial New U.S. Nuclear Bomb Moves Closer to Full-Scale Production

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy on September 7, 2016 at 9:54 pm

By Len Ackland, Rocky Mountain PBS News, August 23, 201

The most controversial nuclear bomb ever planned for the U.S. arsenal – some say the most dangerous, too – has received the go ahead from the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

The agency announced on Aug. 1 that the B61-12 – the nation’s first guided, or “smart,” nuclear bomb – had completed a four-year development and testing phase and is now in production engineering, the final phase before full-scale production slated for 2020.

This announcement comes in the face of repeated warnings from civilian experts and some former high-ranking military officers that the bomb, which will be carried by fighter jets, could tempt use during a conflict because of its precision. The bomb pairs high accuracy with explosive force that can be regulated.

President Barack Obama has consistently pledged to reduce nuclear weapons and forgo weapons with new military capabilities. Yet the B61-12 program has thrived on the political and economic clout of defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin Corp., as documented in a Reveal investigation last year.

The B61-12 – at $11 billion for about 400 bombs the most expensive U.S. nuclear bomb ever – illustrates the extraordinary power of the atomic wing of what President Dwight D. Eisenhower called the “military industrial complex,” which has now rebranded itself the“nuclear enterprise.” The bomb lies at the heart of an ongoing modernization of America’s nuclear arms, projected to cost $1 trillion over the next 30 years.

Virtually everyone agrees that as long as nuclear weapons exist, some modernization of U.S. forces is needed to deter other countries from escalating to nuclear weapons during a conflict. But critics challenge the extravagance and scope of current modernization plans.

In late July, 10 senators wrote Obama a letter urging that he use his remaining months in office to “restrain U.S. nuclear weapons spending and reduce the risk of nuclear war” by, among other things, “scaling back excessive nuclear modernization plans.” They specifically urged the president to cancel a new nuclear air-launched cruise missile, for which the Air Force is now soliciting proposals from defense contractors.

While some new weapons programs are farther down the road, the B61-12 bomb is particularly imminent and worrisome given recent events such as the attempted coup in Turkey. That’s because this guided nuclear bomb is likely to replace 180 older B61 bombs stockpiled in five European countries, including Turkey, which has an estimated 50 B61s stored at Incirlik Air Base. The potential vulnerability of the site has raised questions about U.S. policy regarding storing nuclear weapons abroad.

But more questions focus on the increased accuracy of the B61-12. Unlike the free-fall gravity bombs it will replace, the B61-12 will be a guided nuclear bomb. Its new Boeing Co. tail kit assembly enables the bomb to hit targets precisely. Using dial-a-yield technology, the bomb’s explosive force can be adjusted before flight from an estimated high of 50,000 tons of TNT equivalent force to a low of 300 tons. The bomb can be carried on stealth fighter jets.

“If the Russians put out a guided nuclear bomb on a stealthy fighter that could sneak through air defenses, would that add to the perception here that they were lowering the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons? Absolutely,” Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists said in the earlier Reveal coverage.

And General James Cartwright, the retired commander of the U.S. Strategic Command told PBS NewsHour last November that the new capabilities of the B61-12 could tempt its use.

“If I can drive down the yield, drive down, therefore, the likelihood of fallout, etc., does that make it more usable in the eyes of some – some president or national security decision-making process? And the answer is, it likely could be more usable.”


Ackland can be reached at lenackland@gmail.com. He wrote this story for Reveal, from the Center for Investigative Reporting.
Len Ackland is a former newspaper reporter and editor of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists magazine. He wrote a book about the Rocky Flats nuclear bomb factory near Denver. This current assignment’s most haunting memory was his visit to the desert Trinity site in New Mexico where the nuclear weapons age burst upon us 70 years ago.