Archive for the ‘Nuclear Guardianship’ Category

Voting Result in UN on Negotiating a Treaty Banning Nuclear Weqapons

In Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on October 28, 2016 at 8:28 am

Voting result on the UN resolution L.41
October 27, 2016 From ICAN at http://www.icanw.org/campaign-news/results/

On 27 October 2016, the First Committee of the UN General Assembly adopted resolution L.41 to convene negotiations in 2017 on a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”. The voting result was 123 nations in favour and 38 against, with 16 abstentions.

Afghanistan – – – –
Albania – No – –
Algeria Yes – – –
Andorra – No – –
Angola Yes – – –
Antigua & Barbuda Yes
Argentina Yes – – –
Armenia – – Abstain –
Australia – No – –
Austria Yes – – –
Azerbaijan Yes – – –
Bahamas Yes – – –
Bahrain Yes – – –
Bangladesh Yes – – –
Barbados Yes – – –
Belarus – – Abstain –
Belgium – No – –
Belize Yes – – –
Benin – – – –
Bhutan Yes – – –
Bolivia Yes – – –
Bosnia & Herzegovina No
Botswana Yes – –
Brazil Yes – –
Brunei Darussalam Yes
Bulgaria – No – –
Burkina Faso  Yes
Burundi Yes – – –
Cabo Verde Yes
Cambodia Yes – – –
Cameroon Yes – – –
Canada – No – –
Central African Republic Ues Yes
Chad Yes – – –
Chile Yes – – –
China – – Abstain –
Colombia Yes – – –
Comoros Yes – – –
Congo Yes
Costa Rica Yes
Cote d’Ivoire Yes
Croatia – No – –
Cuba Yes – – –
Cyprus Yes – – –
Czech Republic
– No – –
DPRK (North Korea) Yes
DRC (Congo)Yes – – –
Denmark – No – –
Djibouti – – – –
Dominica Yes – – –
Dominican Republic Yes – – –
Ecuador Yes – – –
Egypt Yes – – –
El Salvador Yes – – –
Equatorial Guinea Yes – – –
Eritrea Yes – – –
Estonia – No – –
Ethiopia Yes – – –
Fiji Yes – – –
Finland – – Abstain –
France – No – –
Gabon Yes – – –
Gambia Yes – – –
Georgia – – – –
Germany – No – –
Ghana Yes – – –
Greece – No – –
Grenada Yes – – –
Guatemala Yes – – –
Guinea Yes – – –
Guinea-Bissau Yes – – –
Guyana – – Abstain –
Haiti – – – –
Honduras – – – –
Hungary – No – –
Iceland – No – –
India – – Abstain –
Indonesia Yes – – –
Iran Yes – – –
Iraq Yes – – –
Ireland Yes – – –
Israel – No – –
Italy – No – –
Jamaica Yes – – –
Japan – No – –
Jordan Yes – – –
Kazakhstan Yes – – –
Kenya Yes – – –
Kiribati Yes – – –
Kuwait Yes – – –
Kyrgyzstan – – Abstain –
Lao PDR Yes – – –
Latvia – No – –
Lebanon Yes – – –
Lesotho Yes – – –
Liberia – – – –
Libya Yes – – –
Liechtenstein Yes – – –
Lithuania – No – –
Luxembourg – No – –
Madagascar Yes – – –
Malawi Yes – – –
Malaysia Yes – – –
Maldives Yes – – –
Mali – – Abstain –
Malta Yes – – –
Marshall Islands Yes – – –
Mauritania Yes – – –
Mauritius Yes – – –
Mexico Yes – – –
Micronesia (FSM) – No – –
Monaco – No – –
Mongolia – – – –
Montenegro – No – –
Morocco – – Abstain –
Mozambique Yes – – –
Myanmar Yes – – –
Namibia Yes – – –
Nauru Yes – – –
Nepal Yes – – –
Netherlands – – Abstain –
New Zealand Yes – – –
Nicaragua – – Abstain –
Niger Yes – – –
Nigeria Yes – – –
Norway – No – –
Oman Yes – – –
Pakistan – – Abstain –
Palau Yes – – –
Panama Yes – – –
Papua New Guinea Yes – – –
Paraguay Yes – – –
Peru Yes – – –
Philippines Yes – – –
Poland – No – –
Portugal – No – –
Qatar Yes – – –
Republic of Korea – No – –
Republic of Moldova – – – –
Romania – No – –
Russia – No – –
Rwanda Yes – – –
St Kitts & Nevis Yes – – –
St Lucia Yes – – –
St Vincent & Grenadines Yes – – –
Samoa Yes – – –
San Marino Yes – – –
Sao Tome & Principe – – – –
Saudi Arabia Yes – – –
Senegal – – – –
Serbia – No – –
Seychelles – – – –
Sierra Leone Yes – – –
Singapore Yes – – –
Slovakia – No – –
Slovenia – No – –
Solomon Islands Yes – – –
Somalia Yes – – –
South Africa Yes – – –
South Sudan – – – –
Spain – No – –
Sri Lanka Yes – – –
Sudan – – Abstain –
Suriname Yes – – –
Swaziland Yes – – –
Sweden Yes – – –
Switzerland – – Abstain –
Syria – – – –
Tajikistan – – – –
Thailand Yes – – –
TFYR Macedonia Yes – – –
Timor-Leste Yes – – –
Togo Yes – – –
Tonga Yes – – –
Trinidad & Tobago Yes – – –
Tunisia Yes – – –
Turkey – No – –
Turkmenistan Yes – – –
Tuvalu Yes – – –
Uganda Yes – – –
Ukraine – – – –
United Arab Emirates Yes – – –
United Kingdom – No – –
UR Tanzania Yes – – –
United States – No – –
Uruguay Yes – – –
Uzbekistan – – Abstain –
Vanuatu – – Abstain –
Venezuela Yes – – –
Viet Nam Yes – – –
Yemen Yes – – –
Zambia Yes – – –
Zimbabwe Yes – – –
TOTAL 123 Yes   38 No   16 Abstain

UN votes to outlaw nuclear weapons in 2017

In Nuclear Guardianship, Human rights, Peace, Nuclear Policy, Justice, Nuclear abolition, War on October 28, 2016 at 7:44 am

October 27, 2016. http://www.icanw.org/campaign-news/un-votes-to-outlaw-nuclear-weapons-in-2017/

NEW YORK – The United Nations today adopted a landmark resolution to launch negotiations in 2017 on a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons. This historic decision heralds an end to two decades of paralysis in multilateral nuclear disarmament efforts.

At a meeting of the First Committee of the UN General Assembly, which deals with disarmament and international security matters, 123 nations voted in favour of the resolution, with 38 against and 16 abstaining.

The resolution will set up a UN conference beginning in March next year, open to all member states, to negotiate a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”. The negotiations will continue in June and July.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a civil society coalition active in 100 countries, hailed the adoption of the resolution as a major step forward, marking a fundamental shift in the way that the world tackles this paramount threat.

“For seven decades, the UN has warned of the dangers of nuclear weapons, and people globally have campaigned for their abolition. Today the majority of states finally resolved to outlaw these weapons,” said Beatrice Fihn, executive director of ICAN.

Despite arm-twisting by a number of nuclear-armed states, the resolution was adopted in a landslide. A total of 57 nations were co-sponsors, with Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa taking the lead in drafting the resolution.

The UN vote came just hours after the European Parliament adopted its own resolution on this subject – 415 in favour and 124 against, with 74 abstentions – inviting European Union member states to “participate constructively” in next year’s negotiations.

Nuclear weapons remain the only weapons of mass destruction not yet outlawed in a comprehensive and universal manner, despite their well-documented catastrophic humanitarian and environmental impacts.

“A treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons would strengthen the global norm against the use and possession of these weapons, closing major loopholes in the existing international legal regime and spurring long-overdue action on disarmament,” said Fihn.

“Today’s vote demonstrates very clearly that a majority of the world’s nations consider the prohibition of nuclear weapons to be necessary, feasible and urgent. They view it as the most viable option for achieving real progress on disarmament,” she said.

Biological weapons, chemical weapons, anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions are all explicitly prohibited under international law. But only partial prohibitions currently exist for nuclear weapons.

Nuclear disarmament has been high on the UN agenda since the organization’s formation in 1945. Efforts to advance this goal have stalled in recent years, with nuclear-armed nations investing heavily in the modernization of their nuclear forces.

Twenty years have passed since a multilateral nuclear disarmament instrument was last negotiated: the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which has yet to enter into legal force due to the opposition of a handful of nations.

Today’s resolution, known as L.41, acts upon the key recommendation of a UN working group on nuclear disarmament that met in Geneva this year to assess the merits of various proposals for achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world.

It also follows three major intergovernmental conferences examining the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, held in Norway, Mexico and Austria in 2013 and 2014. These gatherings helped reframe the nuclear weapons debate to focus on the harm that such weapons inflict on people.

The conferences also enabled non-nuclear-armed nations to play a more assertive role in the disarmament arena. By the third and final conference, which took place in Vienna in December 2014, most governments had signalled their desire to outlaw nuclear weapons.

Following the Vienna conference, ICAN was instrumental in garnering support for a 127-nation diplomatic pledge, known as the humanitarian pledge, committing governments to cooperate in efforts “to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons”.

Throughout this process, victims and survivors of nuclear weapon detonations, including nuclear testing, have contributed actively. Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing and an ICAN supporter, has been a leading proponent of a ban.

“This is a truly historic moment for the entire world,” she said following today’s vote. “For those of us who survived the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it is a very joyous occasion. We have been waiting so long for this day to come.”

“Nuclear weapons are absolutely abhorrent. All nations should participate in the negotiations next year to outlaw them. I hope to be there myself to remind delegates of the unspeakable suffering that nuclear weapons cause. It is all of our responsibility to make sure that such suffering never happens again.”

There are still more than 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world today, mostly in the arsenals of just two nations: the United States and Russia. Seven other nations possess nuclear weapons: Britain, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea.

All nine nuclear-armed nations either voted against the UN resolution or abstained. [Correction: North Korea voted for the resolution.] Many of their allies, including those in Europe that host nuclear weapons on their territory as part of a NATO arrangement, also failed to support the resolution.

But the nations of Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and the Pacific voted overwhelmingly in favour of the resolution, and are likely to be key players at the negotiating conference in New York next year.

On Monday, 15 Nobel Peace Prize winners urged nations to support the negotiations and to bring them “to a timely and successful conclusion so that we can proceed rapidly toward the final elimination of this existential threat to humanity”.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has also appealed to governments to support this process, stating on 12 October that the international community has a “unique opportunity” to achieve a ban on the “most destructive weapon ever invented”.

“This treaty won’t eliminate nuclear weapons overnight,” concluded Fihn. “But it will establish a powerful new international legal standard, stigmatizing nuclear weapons and compelling nations to take urgent action on disarmament.”

In particular, the treaty will place great pressure on nations that claim protection from an ally’s nuclear weapons to end this practice, which in turn will create pressure for disarmament action by the nuclear-armed nations.

Historic UN Vote on Banning Nuclear Weapons

In Nuclear Guardianship, Human rights, Peace, Nuclear Policy, Justice, Nuclear abolition, War on October 28, 2016 at 7:39 am

Joe Cirincione, Plowshares Foundation, October27, 2016
History was made at the United Nations today. For the first time in its 71 years, the global body voted to begin negotiations on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons.

All nine nations with nuclear arms (the United States, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea) opposed the resolution. [CORRECTION: North Korea voted for the resolution, and China, India and Pakistan abstained.] However, with a vote of 123 for, 38 against and 16 abstaining, the First Assembly decided “to convene in 2017 a United Nations conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.”

The resolution effort, led by Mexico, Austria, Brazil and Thailand, was joined by scores of others.

“There comes a time when choices have to be made and this is one of those times,” said Helena Nolan, Ireland’s director of Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, “Given the clear risks associated with the continued existence of nuclear weapons, this is now a choice between responsibility and irresponsibility. Governance requires accountability and governance requires leadership.”


Nuclear-Armed Foes Unite Against a UN Call to Shed Their Weapons

In Human rights, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on October 28, 2016 at 12:25 am

By Kambiz Foroohar, Bloomberg, October 26, 2016

U.S, Russia, North Korea all join effort to defeat resolution
It’s awkward for Obama, whose advocacy won a Nobel Peace Prize

For all the divisions among world powers, one concern unites Russia and the U.S., India and Pakistan, North Korea and Israel at the United Nations: Keeping their nuclear weapons.
Those nuclear-armed states and the three others — China, France and the U.K. — are working to head off a resolution calling for a global conference to establish a binding “legal process” to ban the manufacture, possession, stockpiling and use of the weapons. They’re bucking a popular cause backed by 50 nations, from Ireland to Brazil, which say the measure could win as many as 120 votes in the 193-member General Assembly.
While the resolution to be voted on Thursday would be non-binding, opposing its call for a nuclear-free world is awkward for world leaders, and none more so than U.S. President Barack Obama. He’s preparing to leave office seven years after he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in large part for what the award panel called his “vision of, and work for, a world without nuclear weapons.”
The U.S. plans to vote “no” on the resolution and would refuse to participate in the negotiations over a nuclear ban if it passes, Robert Wood, the U.S. special representative to the UN’s Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament, said Oct. 14.
‘Regional Security’
“How can a state that relies on nuclear weapons for its security possibly join a negotiation meant to stigmatize and eliminate them,” Wood said in an address at the UN. Because nuclear weapons play a role in maintaining peace and stability in some parts of the world, a “ban treaty runs the risk of undermining regional security,” he said.
Echoing that view, Matthew Rowland, the U.K.’s representative to the disarmament conference, said the same day that his country’s nuclear deterrence must be maintained “for the foreseeable future” because of the “risk that states might use their nuclear capability to threaten us, try to constrain our decision-making in a crisis or sponsor nuclear terrorism.”
After international efforts to ban the use of biological and chemical weapons, land mines and cluster bombs, arms control advocates say it’s time to deal with nuclear bombs as the remaining weapons of mass destruction that aren’t prohibited. Sponsors of the resolution include Austria, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa.
“Given the tremendous humanitarian consequences of any nuclear explosion, we have to take action,” Thomas Hajnoczi, Austria’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, said in an interview. “Nuclear weapons states always say it’s too early for such a treaty but we think time is right to create legal norms to ban weapons of mass destruction.”
The initiative comes 70 years after a resolution was adopted in 1946 establishing a commission to make proposals for “the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction.” It also comes a year after the formal adoption of the deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program that was negotiated by some of the same nations opposing the new resolution.
U.S.-Russia Treaty
In 2011, Obama negotiated a nuclear treaty with Russia requiring each country to reduce its arsenal to 1,550 operational warheads, and that accord remains intact. But amid worsening relations between the Cold War rivals, the Pentagon plans to spend $1 trillion over the next 30 years to modernize its air-land-sea triad of nuclear weapons. And Russian President Vladimir Putin has suspended a nuclear nonproliferation treaty and vowed to develop new arms systems to neutralize the U.S.’s missile defense shield, which he sees as a breach of the nuclear balance.
Faced with a more assertive China in the South China Sea and the rapid advances of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, the U.S. is lobbying NATO allies such as the Netherlands to vote against the resolution, according to European diplomats.
Land Mines Ban
“Successful nuclear reductions will require participation from all relevant parties, proven verification measures, and security conditions conducive to cooperation,” Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, said. “We lack all three factors at this time.”

Supporters of the resolution cite the success of efforts to ban land mines. The Ottawa Convention, which prohibited their manufacture and use, was drafted in 1997 and more than 160 countries have ratified it. While Russia, China and the U.S. refused to sign it, the Obama administration announced in 2014 that it planned to comply with the ban outside the Korean Peninsula, and to destroy its stockpile there if it wasn’t needed for the defense of South Korea.
“The resolution can help to further delegitimize nuclear weapons,” said Susie Snyder, a nuclear disarmament program manager at PAX, an advocacy group. “It will pass. The question is how many will vote yes and will participate in the conference.”


In Nuclear Guardianship, Human rights, Peace, Nuclear Policy, Justice, Nuclear abolition, War on October 27, 2016 at 9:58 pm

The Obama administration once sought a nuclear-free world. Now it’s fighting a ban on those very weapons.

By Colum Lynch, Foreign Policy, October 21, 2016

Almost eight years after President Barack Obama pledged in a landmark speech in Prague to seek “a world without nuclear weapons,” U.S. diplomats are mounting an aggressive campaign to head off a bid by non-nuclear states to ban such atomic arms.

American diplomats say the increasing belligerence of China and Russia — from the South China Sea to Syria to the Baltic — as well as the advancing pace of North Korea’s nuclear weapons development, make it untenable for the United States and its allies to support such a far-reaching commitment to scrap their nukes.

“The security climate is not such that it is conducive to nuclear disarmament,” said a senior U.S. official, asserting that a treaty could undermine the nuclear deterrent in Europe and Asia.

“Until we have a relaxation of these tensions, and you’ve got a Russia that is willing to engage in further nuclear disarmament, it’s going to be difficult to make progress,” he said.

But supporters of the ban, including delegates from non-nuclear states and arms control experts, say that Washington is exaggerating the risks. They believe a ban would increase pressure on the world’s major nuclear powers to abide by their decades-long obligation to dismantle their nuclear weapons arsenals, the cornerstone of global efforts at limiting nuclear proliferation.

“I would argue this [nuclear weapons ban] is consistent with Obama’s vision of having a world without nuclear weapons,” Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association, told Foreign Policy. “The legal prohibition of nuclear weapons is by no means a substitute for the disarmament actions that need to be taken, but it can contribute to further delegitimization of nuclear weapons.”

The U.S. diplomatic blitz against the proposed ban, which includes strong pressure on allies inside NATO and in East Asia, reflects mounting pessimism in the Obama administration about realizing the president’s vision of a nuclear-free world. Paradoxically, U.S. resistance means Washington is aligning with Beijing, Moscow, London, and Paris — nuclear powers that seek to preserve their atomic prerogatives and vow not to participate in negotiations on the proposed ban. What’s more, the heavy-handed U.S. push seems to be backfiring in some cases, driving non-nuclear countries to openly support banning nuclear weapons.

Austria, Brazil, Mexico, and South Africa have spearheaded the drive for a resolution calling for the formal launch of negotiations on a nuclear ban in 2017. The U.N. General Assembly is expected to vote on the resolution as early as next week. Proponents expect it to pass easily; success, they say, would mean winning 120 votes in the 193-member assembly.

The 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the foundation of nuclear disarmament efforts, struck a critical bargain: The five major nuclear powers would gradually dismantle their arsenals in exchange for a commitment from other governments to forgo such weapons. South Africa and Brazil, for example, developed nuclear weapons starting in the 1960s and 1970s but scuttled their programs.

Kimball said that non-nuclear states, including some of the more than 40 co-sponsors of the resolution, have grown increasingly frustrated by what they see as the slow pace of nuclear disarmament and the recent efforts of nuclear powers to revitalize their nuclear arsenals.

The United States, for example, plans to spend as much as $1 trillion over 30 years to modernize its nuclear arsenal. China, Russia, and the United States are reportedly developing the next generation of nuclear weapons, or upgrading the technical capability of existing weapons.

The United States maintains that the NPT has been a major success. It has greatly limited the number of countries pursuing nuclear weapons even though it has not prevented outliers that never ratified the treaty — including Israel, Pakistan, India, and North Korea — from developing nuclear weapons programs. The NPT has driven generations of disarmament pacts that have eliminated 85 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons. It also provided a legal basis to pressure Iran to place its nuclear program under international scrutiny to prevent Tehran from developing a secret nuclear weapons program.

That’s one reason Washington is lobbying so hard against the resolution. U.S. officials argue that the proposed ban would do nothing to further global disarmament because it wouldn’t include the nuclear powers.

“A treaty banning nuclear weapons will not lead to any further reductions because it will not include the states that possess nuclear weapons,” Robert Wood, the U.S. representative to the U.N. Conference on Disarmament, told foreign delegates at the U.N. on Oct. 14. The United States, he pledged, will vote no on the resolution and refuse to participate in negotiations. “We urge all others to do the same,” he added.

Susie Snyder, a nuclear disarmament program manager at PAX, an advocacy group devoted to a nuclear free world, said Washington has faced setbacks in its diplomatic campaign. On Oct. 18, Wood pressed his case to African ambassadors behind closed doors at the U.N. to oppose the resolution. In the days following that meeting, four African countries — Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, and Sierra Leone — agreed to co-sponsor the resolution, bringing the number of co-sponsors to 44, she said.

“The arguments used by the U.S. against a ban treaty are just scare-mongering and threats,” she told FP. “The really interesting thing is that their efforts are backfiring.”

Despite plentiful apparent support for the resolution, the United States and its nuclear peers hope to peel off enough support to persuade the sponsors to withdraw it, or at least slow the momentum for a ban.

Washington has pressured treaty allies, including Japan and South Korea and fellow NATO members Norway and the Netherlands, to vote against the resolution. U.S. diplomats say a yes vote by NATO members would be “incompatible” with their obligations as members of the alliance, according to a senior European diplomat. The diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Washington has warned states considering voting in favor of the resolution that a ban could jeopardize defense arrangements with allies around the globe.

The diplomatic pressure has fallen heavily on the Netherlands, a stalwart NATO ally whose Parliament strongly supports a nuclear weapons ban. Europeans outside of NATO, like Sweden, are also facing pressure to vote no or at least abstain. But Sweden, which participates in a number of cooperation agreements with the alliance, has vowed to vote yes on the resolution. Norway and Japan, meanwhile, are said to be on the fence. But officials say Washington has gained ground with its close allies, including the vast majority of NATO members, which are expected to vote no.

“The Americans are tough,” the diplomat added. “They are saying, ‘You can’t do anything else but vote no, because you are part of an alliance. It would be completely incompatible and irresponsible to support that [ban]. It’s a threat to the core of our security doctrine.’”

Why President Hillary Will Not Stop the Slaughter in Syria

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on October 27, 2016 at 9:24 am

By Steve Weissman


“I’m going to continue to push for a no-fly zone and safe havens within Syria,” Hillary Clinton repeated again in the third presidential debate. “Not only to help protect the Syrians and prevent the constant outflow of refugees, but to, frankly, gain some leverage on both the Syrian government and the Russians so that perhaps we can have the kind of serious negotiation necessary to bring the conflict to an end and go forward on a political track.”

Clinton has pushed a no-fly zone and safe havens in Syria since the early days of her campaign in the Democratic primaries. But over the last month her remarks have revealed why these measures have little chance of ending the slaughter in Syria, whether in Aleppo or elsewhere in the hideously ravaged country.

“The situation in Syria is catastrophic,” she said in the second debate. “Every day that goes by, we see the results of the regime, by Assad in partnership with the Iranians on the ground and the Russians in the air, bombarding places, in particular Aleppo, where there are hundreds of thousands of people, probably about 250,000 people still left. And there is a determined effort by the Russian Air Force to destroy Aleppo in order to eliminate the last of the Syrian rebels who are really holding out against the Assad regime.”

Clinton was telling part of the truth, and masking the rest. Crushing Aleppo as it earlier crushed the Chechen rebels in Grozny, Russia and its Syrian allies were refusing to pull their punches just because the rebels were using a quarter of a million civilians in east Aleppo as human shields. But Clinton never mentioned that American and coalition air forces similarly killed thousands of human shields in conquering Fallujah and will likely kill many thousands more in their current attempt to capture Mosul. The Saudis have been doing the same in Yemen, enabled by weapons, refueling, intelligence, and increasingly direct participation from Britain and the United States. Horrific in the extreme, the medieval-like siege of Aleppo follows the modern logic of asymmetric warfare ‒ the rich and powerful have air forces while the rebels generally do not, though they are beginning to use drones.

Like most mainstream American pols and pundits, Clinton also failed to mention that the rebels – armed and supported by the US, Qatar, and the Saudis ‒ have fired back, killed civilians, cut off the water supply, and done extensive damage to west Aleppo, which Assad’s forces now hold. Nor did she admit that as many as 900 of the rebels “holding out” in east Aleppo were militants of the former Jabhat al-Nusra, which ostensibly separated from al-Qaeda in July and rebranded itself as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham. Nor did she explain why Washington’s Saudi and Qatari allies had also funded the Islamic State (ISIS), or how her making the fight against Assad a priority over fighting ISIS ensured that the slaughter would go on and on, as the Sunni kingdoms of the Gulf continue to pursue their Washington-backed campaign to force regime change in Syria.

Wrapping herself in the holy cloth of humanitarianism, Clinton has also kept a tight lip about one of the more telling aspects of the campaign. The White Helmets, who were loudly touted for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, turn out to have a highly suspect relationship with the jihadis, as the tireless Max Blumenthal recently documented. The White Helmets also played a central role in providing the heart-rending photograph of five-year-old Omran Daqneesh and eyewitness testimony and other purported evidence that the Russians and/or Syrians bombed the UN’s humanitarian aid convoy.

As most Western media have conveniently failed to report, a “former” British intelligence officer, James Le Mesurier, created and still runs the White Helmets operation, and most of the funding comes from USAID, the British Foreign Office, and a host of Western nations. Welcome to the world of humanitarian aid.

Clinton continues to play down the Saudi, Qatari, and covert parts of her plans for Syria. What she plays up is her focus on Vladimir Putin and the Russians. She does this to discredit Donald Trump as a Putin puppet, shamefully echoing America’s long history of red-baiting. But even more disturbing, she is building public support for either a new Cold War with Russia, or a very hot one.

In the third and final debate, host Chris Wallace asked Clinton about her plans to impose a no-fly zone in Syria. “President Obama has refused to do that because he fears it’s going to draw us closer or deeper into the conflict,” Wallace reminded her. “And General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says you impose a no-fly zone, chances are you’re going to get into a war ‒ his words ‒ with Syria and Russia.”

“If you impose a no-fly zone and a Russian plane violates that,” asked Wallace, “does President Clinton shoot that plane down?”

This was one of the most consequential questions of the debate, and Clinton ducked it completely, sounding more like Trump and his hopes of doing a deal with Putin. “I think we could strike a deal and make it very clear to the Russians and the Syrians that this was something that we believe was in the best interests of the people on the ground in Syria, it would help us with our fight against ISIS,” she said.

Is Clinton suddenly pulling back from the war-like ways that our country’s foreign policy elite and some of our military mavens, like Gen. David Petraeus, now favor? Or, as seems far more likely, is she simply side-stepping any discussion of a likely military conflict with a nuclear-armed Russia? Either way, the American people need to know, as do the Syrians.

A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he is researching a new book, Big Money and the Corporate State: How Global Banks, Corporations, and Speculators Rule and How to Nonviolently Break Their Hold.

Presidential debate should include nuclear weapons discussion

In Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on October 19, 2016 at 10:19 pm

By Tom Le, The Hill, October 18. 2016

Last May, I traveled to Japan to observe President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Hiroshima. Obama stopped short of an apology for the use of atomic bombs that took the lives of 140,000 in Hiroshima and 80,000 in Nagasaki, but he delivered a lengthier and more substantive speech than many predicted.

The President’s remarks highlighted the dangers of technology and the need for interdependence and strong institutions to promote cooperation and avoid conflict.
In August, I returned to Hiroshima the “Obama buzz” was still in the air as the president mulled a no-first-use policy for the U.S. But when that idea faded away, so did attention to the dangers of nuclear weapons.
Now another grueling U.S. presidential campaign is passing by with scant mention of this life-and-death issue. Some may argue that the use of nuclear weapons is unlikely and there are more immediate concerns to be discussed, such as jobs and terrorism.

Yet, nuclear weapons are an expensive tax on the domestic economy and pose significant costs when managing global security. Even though the reduction of the U.S. nuclear arsenal has slowed down under Obama, the US is expected to spend $1 trillion over the next 30 years upgrading its arsenal.

Currently, nine nations possess approximately 15,000 nuclear weapons, 90% of which are held by the U.S. and Russia. North Korea has already conducted two nuclear weapons test this year and Iran’s nuclear ambitions have only recently been stalled.

U.S.-Russia relations have not been this frail since the Cold War and terrorism and proliferation are ever present dangers to the U.S. and global security. However, from the tone of this year’s presidential election, it seems neither candidate nor the public are particularly concerned about this threat.

Throughout the campaign, political commentary on the U.S. nuclear arsenal and global anti-proliferation measures has been almost non-existent. During the Republican Primary, nuclear weapons were only mentioned in relation to Donald Trump’s temperament and his lack of qualifications to be president.

Questioning Trump’s temperament is a valid concern, but there needs to be genuine discussion of whether anyone is qualified to use nuclear weapons. What specific qualifications does Clinton have that suggest she is prepared to use weapons that are hundreds of times more powerful than the ones dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

In their first debate, Trump and Clinton were asked whether they supported Obama’s consideration of ending the U.S.’s long-standing policy on first use, and neither gave a comprehensive answer.

Trump stated that the U.S. was “not keeping up with other countries” and would “certainly not do for a strike,” but would not “take anything off the table” when it comes to first use. Clinton used her two minutes to assure U.S. allies that she would honor mutual defense treaties and said nothing concerning first use, non-proliferation, or the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

In the second presidential debate, Clinton briefly mentioned nuclear weapons when elaborating on her successes, such as negotiating treaties to reduce nuclear weapons and Iran’s nuclear program. Donald Trump countered by saying that the U.S. nuclear program had “fallen behind” and was “old” and “tired.”

Clinton was not given a chance to respond and North Korea’s nuclear program was not mentioned once in the debate.

Clinton has largely been silent on non-proliferation, while Trump has been absolutely flippant on the prospects of using nuclear weapons. According to one report, during a meeting with a foreign policy expert Trump asked three times why the U.S. could not use nuclear weapons if it had them.

During one interview, Trump stated that he would consider using nuclear weapons against ISIS, the stateless terrorist entity with a footprint in several states. In another interview, Trump openly advocated for proliferation, suggesting that Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia acquire their own nuclear weapons.

Trump would undo decades of hard work in mere seconds. These answers are consistent with his general lack of knowledge on nuclear weapons, demonstrated back in the Republican Primary when he had no idea what the “nuclear triad” was. Clinton’s position is consistent with long standing U.S. policy, focus on horizontal proliferation and downplay vertical proliferation.

The U.S. inability to take a firm stance on proliferation worries non-nuclear states, weakens the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and halts any momentum for meaningful changes in how we thinkabout nuclear weapons. Seven decades of not using nuclear weapons may have led to us to forget how immediate and devastating a nuclear attack would be.

Nuclear weapons breed distrust in the international community and their production and maintenance cause immeasurable environmental damage. And the threat of increases with each passing day as the likelihood of use increases, whether due to terrorism, accidental launch or conflict.

In Obama’s Hiroshima speech, he said, “We have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again.”

Critical examination cannot come only during momentous visits or anniversaries; it needs to be constant because nuclear weapons will always be a threat in the here and now. The mushroom cloud casts a long shadow and completely defined the way the U.S. conducts international relations.

In order to “do things differently to curb such suffering again”, we must urge our presidential candidates to have the intellectual honesty and the moral strength to make nuclear weapons a front and center issue of this election for the sake of lasting world peace.


Le is an assistant professor of politics at Pomona College whose research interests include Japanese security policy, militarism norms, military/security balance in East Asia and war memory and reconciliation. He was a Sasakawa Peace Foundation non-resident fellow at Pacific Forum CSIS and a Fulbright Fellow at Hiroshima City University.

Why the resolution on a ban treaty matters to me

In Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy on October 17, 2016 at 10:37 pm

Dear friend,

When I speak about my experience of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, often the first thing that comes to mind is an image of my four-year-old nephew Eiji —transformed into a charred, blackened and swollen child who kept asking in a faint voice for water, until he died in agony.

Had he not been a victim of the atomic bomb, he would be 76 years old this year. This idea still shocks me. Regardless of the passage of time, he remains in my memory as a 4-year-old child who came to represent all the innocent children of the world. And it is the image of massive death of innocents that has been the driving force for me to continue my struggle against nuclear weapons.

Many survivors of the nuclear bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been passing in recent years with their dreams of nuclear abolition unfulfilled. Their motto was, “abolition in our lifetime”.

Nuclear weapons are far from abolished. As you know, the nuclear-armed states are continuing to upgrade and modernize their nuclear arsenals, and disarmament negotiations continue to be blocked while international tensions are on the rise.

But the world now has an historic opportunity to achieve something remarkable.

Over the past five years, I have witnessed the mounting momentum of a global movement involving states without nuclear weapons and NGOs working together to achieve the elimination of nuclear weapons.

This movement has shown beyond all doubt that nuclear weapons are first and foremost a grave humanitarian problem, and that the terrible risks of these weapons cast all techno-military considerations into irrelevance.

Thanks to the work of ICAN and committed people around the world, the proposal for negotiating a treaty banning nuclear weapons is now on the table

At the end of this month, all governments will vote yes or no to starting negotiations of a treaty that will prohibit nuclear weapons. With every fiber of my being, I support this resolution and I am working to get all governments to vote yes. You can contact your government too, and do the same here.

The number of people who experienced the catastrophic humanitarian suffering caused by nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki are rapidly diminishing. This is an historic moment for us, for you, and for the world.

Let us seize this opportunity to ban nuclear weapons – in our lifetime. Together, we have the power to make this happen.

Yours sincerely,

Setsuko Thurlow
Survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and anti-nuclear activist

Copyright © 2016 International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons,

Gorbachev: Nuclear weapon-free world is not a utopia, but a necessity

In Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace on October 17, 2016 at 7:10 am

Tass, Russian News Agency, October 10, 2016

Mikhail Gorbachev’s address to participants in the International Conference devoted to the 30th anniversary of the Reykjavik meeting of leaders of the USSR and the US

First of all, I want to thank the government of Iceland for invitation to participate in the conference marking the 30th anniversary of the Reykjavik summit of the leaders of the USSR and the United States.
I extend greetings to veterans of international politics and diplomacy, eminent scientists and respected experts who have gathered in the capital of Iceland.
You have gathered at a crucial moment. In moments like this, we keenly feel the continuity of time, as the past engages in dialogue with the present and the future. Therefore, this date is not only an occasion to remember this historic event but also an opportunity for serious reflection on what to do in our troubled times.
How and why did the idea of meeting in Reykjavik come about? In the summer of 1986, I received a letter from President Reagan, which concerned the US-Soviet negotiations on nuclear disarmament, and the draft reply prepared by our foreign ministry. I found both texts totally unsatisfactory.
I once again became convinced that the negotiations between our delegations in Geneva were turning into a routine, bogging down in technical details, becoming a screen behind which nothing significant was happening while the nuclear arms race continued.
In spite of all the drama, Reykjavik is not a failure – it is a breakthrough. For the first time, we looked over the horizon
Yet, just a few months before, at our first summit in Geneva, the US President and I had made a statement: Nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought; our countries will not seek military superiority.
But that statement was not followed by decisive steps to stop the nuclear arms race.
The overall situation in our relations was also causing grave concern. Many thought that relations were sliding back into a Cold War. US Navy ships were entering our territorial waters; the United States had tested a new, highly powerful nuclear weapon. The tensions were aggravated by hostile rhetoric and “spy scandals.”

Meanwhile, the Chernobyl nuclear accident had been a vivid reminder to all of us of the nuclear danger that we faced. I have often said that it divided my life into two parts: before and after Chernobyl. The Soviet leadership unanimously agreed on the need to stop and reverse the nuclear arms race, to get the stalled nuclear disarmament talks off the ground.
The negotiations needed a strong impetus from the very top, and it could only be the result of a joint effort. A meeting between the leaders of the two countries was needed.
I proposed to President Reagan that we meet somewhere midway between Moscow and Washington: in London or Reykjavik. We settled on Reykjavik and, almost immediately, started preparations so as to come to the meeting with proposals that could open the way to a breakthrough. This was the task we set to our experts. The Politburo unanimously endorsed this approach.
As a result of discussions, we developed a concept which was set out in the Directives I took with me to Reykjavik.
We proposed a clear and coherent framework for an agreement: cutting in half all the components of the strategic triad, including a 50-percent reduction in heavy land-based missiles, which the United States viewed from the start as “the most destabilizing.” We were also ready to accept a zero option for intermediate and shorter-range missiles.
But of course, while putting an end to the offensive nuclear arms race, we insisted that a space weapons race, a missile defense race must not be allowed.

I will not give here a detailed account of our talks with the President; their records have been published.
I appreciated the fact that President Reagan, during the course of our discussions, spoke out resolutely, and I believe sincerely, in favor of ridding the world of weapons of mass destruction, of all types of nuclear weapons. In this, we found common ground.
Experts led by Akhromeyev and Nitze worked overnight and found many points of convergence based on our constructive position.
Nevertheless, we were not able to conclude an agreement. President Reagan wanted, not just to continue the SDI program, but to obtain our consent to the deployment of a global missile defense system.
I could not agree to that.
As we were saying good-bye, the President and I were, frankly, not in the best of spirits. The photos published the following day on the front pages of the world’s newspapers, are evidence of that. Secretary of State George Shultz, prior to departure from the airport, hastened to call our summit a failure.
I was aware of that assessment when I entered the hall in which the press conference was to take place. Looking into the eyes of hundreds of journalists, I said to myself that we had no right to disappoint people, deprive them of hope for ending the arms race.
The key message in my statement for the press was: “In spite of all the drama, Reykjavik is not a failure – it is a breakthrough. For the first time, we looked over the horizon.” This is the view I still hold today.

It was the breakthrough at Reykjavik that set off the process of real reduction of nuclear weapons. The unprecedented agreements we reached with Presidents Reagan and Bush on strategic and medium-range nuclear arms and on tactical weapons have made it possible to reduce the stockpiles and eliminate thousands of nuclear warheads – more than 80 percent of Cold War arsenals, as Russia and the United States reported to the Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference.
In 2010, the Presidents of Russia and the United States concluded the New Start Treaty.
Nevertheless, we have to recognize that the process of nuclear disarmament has slowed down.
I am concerned and alarmed by the current situation. Right before our eyes, the window to a nuclear weapon-free world opened in Reykjavik is being shut and sealed.
New, more powerful types of nuclear weapons are being created. Their qualitative characteristics are being ramped up. Missile defense systems are being deployed. Prompt non-nuclear strike systems are being developed, comparable in their deadly impact to the weapons of mass destruction. The military doctrines of nuclear powers have changed for the worse, expanding the limits of “acceptable” use of nuclear weapons. It is mostly due to this that the risk of nuclear proliferation has increased.
Right before our eyes, the window to a nuclear weapon-free world opened in Reykjavik is being shut and sealed
But the worst thing that has happened in recent years is the collapse of trust in relations between major powers which according to the United Nations Charter bear the primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security and which still possess vast stockpiles of nuclear weapons and must reduce them until their complete elimination. This is still their binding commitment under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The problems and conflicts of the past two decades could have been settled by peaceful, political and diplomatic means. Instead, attempts are being made to resolve them by using force. This was the case in the former Yugoslavia, in Iraq, in Libya, in Syria. I want to emphasize that this has not resulted in the resolution of these issues. It resulted in the erosion of international law, in undermining trust, in militarization of politics and thinking, and the cult of force.
In these circumstances, it is becoming increasingly difficult to speak of moving towards a nuclear-free world. We must be honest and recognize it. Unless international affairs are put back on a normal track and international relations are demilitarized, the goal that we jointly set in Reykjavik will become more distant rather than closer.
I am deeply convinced that a nuclear weapon-free world is not a utopia, but an imperative necessity. We need to constantly remind world leaders of this goal and of their commitment.
As long as nuclear weapons exist, there is a danger that someday they will be used: as a result either of accident or technical failure, or of evil intent of man – an insane person or terrorist. We must therefore reaffirm the goal of prohibiting and eliminating nuclear weapons.

Let me reiterate: this can only be achieved if international politics and international relations are demilitarized. Politicians who think that problems or disputes can be resolved through the use of military force (even as a “last resort”) must be rejected by society; they must leave the stage.
I am urging veteran leaders and diplomats, scientists, experts, and the global civil society to state in the strongest and unequivocal terms: Nuclear weapons must be prohibited. Even more: War must be prohibited.
Of all the principles of international law, the principles of non-use of force in international relations and peaceful settlement of disputes must be considered paramount.
To make it a reality, the existing mechanisms, such as the United Nations, the International Court of Justice, the Conventions, should be strengthened, and new ones created if necessary.
I believe that the question of prohibiting nuclear weapons should be submitted for consideration of the International Court of Justice.

None of the global problems faced by humanity can be solved by military means. Our common challenges – further reduction of nuclear weapons, non-proliferation¸ fighting terrorism, prevention of environmental catastrophe, overcoming poverty and backwardness – again need to be put on top of the agenda.
We need to resume dialogue. Essentially abandoning it in the last two years was the gravest mistake. It is high time to resume it across the entire agenda, without limiting it to the discussion of regional issues on which there are disagreements.
We need to understand once and for all: A safe and stable world cannot be built at the will or as a project of one country or group of countries. Either we build together a world for all, or mankind will face the prospect of new trials and tragedies.

I would not want to sound pessimistic. The current generation of world leaders can be seriously criticized; nevertheless, they still have a chance to make history by putting international politics back on a positive track, thus opening the way to a world without nuclear weapons. It would be a great mistake not to take this opportunity.
This is what we – political veterans, civil society, academics, all who are not indifferent – should say to our leaders, urging them to act.
I hope you have a fruitful discussion. May it contribute to positive changes which are so much needed today and which, I am sure, are possible.


Nuclear Standoff: Human Conscience Dismissed on a Technicality

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on October 16, 2016 at 3:25 am

by Robert Koehler, AntiWar.Com, October 15, 2016

Values the size of Planet Earth are at stake, as the American presidential election grows ever smaller, ever pettier, ever more certain that rancor triumphs over relevance.

Can you imagine, let us say, an issue the size of global nuclear disarmament emerging in this race, somewhere between the groper tapes and the hacked DNC emails? What if – my God – we lived in a country in which such a matter were seriously and publicly discussed, not shunted off to the margins with a grimace and a smirk? The only thing that has mainstream credibility in this country is business as usual, which comes to us wrapped in platitudes about strength and greatness but in reality is mostly about war and profit and the destruction of the planet.

Meanwhile it’s three minutes to midnight.

And the Republic of the Marshall Islands has lost its case in the International Court of Justice. On a technicality, no less! Phon van den Biesen, lead attorney for the tiny island nation, which had sued the world’s nine nuclear powers – the United States, Russia, China, Great Britain, France, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea – to begin real nuclear disarmament negotiations, said the case was dismissed earlier this month on a “microformality,” which in my layman’s grasp of the matter might be called, instead, a desperate legal copout.

The case, which, technically, was brought against only three of the nine nuclear powers, Great Britain, India and Pakistan (because those are the only three nations that acknowledge the binding authority of the ICJ), was dismissed – in a split decision that could be called the First World against the rest of humanity – on the grounds that there wasn’t sufficient evidence of a dispute between the parties, so the court had no jurisdiction to hear the case on its merits.


The ICJ’s dissenting judges (in the case against Great Britain, the verdict to dismiss was 9-7, against India and Pakistan it was 8-8), expressed as much incredulity as I did on hearing the news.

The Marshall Islands lawsuits (a second suit was also filed, specifically against the United States, in U.S. federal court, and is still pending) demanded compliance with Article VI of the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, signed by the US in 1970, which reads: “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

“General and complete disarmament – do these words actually have meaning?” I asked last January. “Right now the Marshall Islands stand alone among the nations of Planet Earth in believing that they do.”

This tiny nation of islands and atolls – this former US territory – with a population of about 70,000, was the scene of 67 nuclear test blasts in the 1950s, back when bigger was better. Some people’s homes were destroyed for eternity. The islanders suffered ghastly and often lethal levels of radiation and were essentially regarded, by their US overlords, as human guinea pigs – a fantastic opportunity to study the effects of nuclear fallout. Eventually the US atoned for its destruction by paying the Republic of the Marshall Islands a pathetic $150 million “for all claims, past, present and future.”

Now this nation is trying to save the rest of the planet by insisting that nuclear disarmament negotiations must get underway.

In a dissenting opinion, ICJ Judge Antônio Augusto Cançado Trindade of Brazil lamented that the world needed to recognize the “prevalence of human conscience” over national interests.

“A world with arsenals of nuclear weapons, like ours, is bound to destroy its past, dangerously threatens the present, and has no future at all,” he wrote. “Nuclear weapons pave the way into nothingness. In my understanding, the International Court of Justice, as the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, should, in the present Judgment, have shown sensitivity in this respect, and should have given its contribution to a matter which is a major concern of the vulnerable international community, and indeed of humankind as a whole.”

As Rick Wayman of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation pointed out, of the ICJ justices who voted not to hear the case on its merits, six were from nuclear-armed nations (the US, Russia, China, France, Great Britain and India) and the other two from nations (Japan, Italy) “deeply invested in the US‘nuclear umbrella.’”

The nations of the dissenting judges included Brazil, Somalia, Jamaica, Australia and Morocco.

This week, as if in sync with the Marshall Islanders, a group called the Native Community Action Council convened the Native American Forum on Nuclear Issues, addressing half a century of lingering horror at another nuclear testing site, in Nevada. The forum addressed such issues as abandoned uranium mines and the proposed high-level nuclear waste disposal site under Yucca Mountain, “in the heart of the Western Shoshone Nation (and) a sacred site for Shoshone and Pauite peoples,” according to the organization’s press release.

“Because of US nuclear testing in Nevada, the Western Shoshone Nation is already the most bombed nation on earth’” the release continues. “They suffer from widespread cancer, leukemia and other diseases as a result of fallout from more than 1,000 atomic explosions on their territory.”

This is the reality we ignore. We’ve been ignoring it for the last seventy years and, indeed, much longer. We’ve reached the end of our ability to treat the planet, and much of its people, as disposable. Much of humanity knows this, but its leaders are refusing to listen. The human conscience is dismissed on a technicality.


Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His new book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound is now available. Contact him at koehlercw@gmail.com or visit his website at commonwonders.com. Reprinted with permission from PeaceVoice.