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Watch Out World: Peace May be Breaking Out!!

In Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on July 8, 2018 at 7:21 am

By Alice Slater, July 7, 2018.

Less than a week or so before Donald Trump’s groundbreaking meeting planned with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, to take place after the NATO summit in mid-July, the new Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons celebrated its first birthday on July 7 when 122 nations voted a year ago in the UN General Assembly to ban the bomb, just as we have banned biological and chemical weapons.  The new ban treaty shattered the establishment consensus that the proper way to avoid nuclear catastrophe was to follow the endless step by step path of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, now 50 years old this month, which has only led to nuclear weapons forever.

In light of the new détente Trump succeeded in negotiating with the long-despised and isolated North Korea, it just might be possible that peace is breaking out, to the great consternation and disapproval of the military-industrial-academic- congressional-media complex and the traditional neoliberal Republicrats who have been opposing any efforts of these sorts, and badmouthing and diminishing the positive effects of the encouraging news that resulted from the Korean negotiations and the possibility of its achieving any promising outcomes.  Other naysayers are the members of the US nuclear alliance including NATO states as well as Australia, South Korea, and most surprisingly, Japan, the only country to have ever suffered catastrophic nuclear bombing which was wreaked upon it twice in Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US in August 1945.

Let us do a thought experiment: 

The megalomaniacal Trump and the egomaniacal Putin decide to be the greatest heroes the world has ever known!  They recreate the negotiating environmt in Reykjavik with Reagan and Gorbachev and Putin repeats Gorbachev’s offer to the US that he is willing for both countries to rid the world of all their nuclear weapons if Reagan drops his plans to dominate and control the military use of space with Star Wars.   Trump agrees to give up his planned Space Force, converting it into an international space inspection regime in partnership with Russia and other spacefaring nations under UN supervision to make sure floating debris doesn’t injure any of our critical communications equipment orbiting in space.  Trump also agrees to sign the treaty that China and Russia have been proposing since 2008 and 2014 to keep weapons out of space which the US has blocked to date.   They both agree to sign the provision in the new ban treaty that was provided for nuclear weapons states to enter into the treaty and work out a way to verify and dismantle their arsenals, after they get agreement from the other 6 nuclear weapons states—England, France, China, India, Pakistan, and Israel.   North Korea has already agreed to denuclearize once appropriate conditions are met.   Surely the total elimination of nuclear weapons by all the other states and ratification of the ban treaty would be adequate reassurance to North Korea to get rid of its nuclear weapons as well.

Another negotiating tactic they could revisit is for Putin to repeat the offer to Trump which he made to Clinton to cut the US and Russian arsenals to 1,000 warheads each and call all the other parties to the table to eliminate nuclear weapons and reinstate the ABM Treaty, which Bush walked out of in 2002, while Trump could promise in return to remove our missiles from Romania and the ones planned for Poland and not to  put any more missiles in Eastern Europe under the newly reinstated ABM Treaty.

Putin could also remind Trump that Reagan promised that if Gorbachev didn’t object to a united East Germany entering NATO, after the wall came down and Gorbachev miraculously let go of all of Eastern Europe without a shot, the US would not expand NATO one step to the east.  In light of that broken promise and how NATO has now expanded to all of the former Soviet occupied Eastern Europe, Trump should agree to Putin’s request that he disband NATO.  (Let Trump remember, and the rest of us as well, that Russia lost 29,000,000, that’s 29 million, people to the Nazi onslaught, and feels very threatened to have NATO breathing down its neck with military maneuvers on its borders.)

One more agreement Putin might negotiate with Trump in their efforts to achieve the very greatest negotiations for peace ever!   He should remind Trump that in 2009 Obama rejected his request that the US and Russia negotiate a cyberwar ban treaty.  What could be more beneficent while saving trillions of competitive dollars chasing superiority in cyberwarfare, and wasting hundreds of thousands of IQ points on a senseless and perilously dangerous kind of  novel warfare, when the world needs all the brainpower and resources  it can use to avert the coming climate catastrophe and save Mother Earth.

Then the US could promise to commit the $1 trillion it had budgeted for new nuclear bomb factories, weapons, and delivery systems to a fund to help rebuild war torn countries, from which the largest waves of immigrants are fleeing.  Trump should ask Russia as well as other countries who are leaving NATO and giving up their nuclear weapons and joining the ban treaty to also commit to donate those funds no longer needed to support their nuclear military budgets which would more than adequately and generously support the “Keep People Safely and Happy in Their Home Countries Fund”, so we won’t need to build walls and hire police forces and homeland security guards to stop impoverished, war-torn, threatened people from migrating.   Who would ever want to leave their homeland if they could live in the land of their birth in peace and prosperity?

Now is the time to urge that another world is truly possible!

###

Alice Slater serves on the Coordinating Committee of World Beyond War

By Alice Slater, July 7, 2018.

Less than a week or so before Donald Trump’s groundbreaking meeting planned with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, to take place after the NATO summit in mid-July, the new Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons celebrated its first birthday on July 7 when 122 nations voted a year ago in the UN General Assembly to ban the bomb, just as we have banned biological and chemical weapons.  The new ban treaty shattered the establishment consensus that the proper way to avoid nuclear catastrophe was to follow the endless step by step path of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, now 50 years old this month, which has only led to nuclear weapons forever.

In light of the new détente Trump succeeded in negotiating with the long-despised and isolated North Korea, it just might be possible that peace is breaking out, to the great consternation and disapproval of the military-industrial-academic- congressional-media complex and the traditional neoliberal Republicrats who have been opposing any efforts of these sorts, and badmouthing and diminishing the positive effects of the encouraging news that resulted from the Korean negotiations and the possibility of its achieving any promising outcomes.  Other naysayers are the members of the US nuclear alliance including NATO states as well as Australia, South Korea, and most surprisingly, Japan, the only country to have ever suffered catastrophic nuclear bombing which was wreaked upon it twice in Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US in August 1945.

Let us do a thought experiment: 

The megalomaniacal Trump and the egomaniacal Putin decide to be the greatest heroes the world has ever known!  They recreate the negotiating environmt in Reykjavik with Reagan and Gorbachev and Putin repeats Gorbachev’s offer to the US that he is willing for both countries to rid the world of all their nuclear weapons if Reagan drops his plans to dominate and control the military use of space with Star Wars.   Trump agrees to give up his planned Space Force, converting it into an international space inspection regime in partnership with Russia and other spacefaring nations under UN supervision to make sure floating debris doesn’t injure any of our critical communications equipment orbiting in space.  Trump also agrees to sign the treaty that China and Russia have been proposing since 2008 and 2014 to keep weapons out of space which the US has blocked to date.   They both agree to sign the provision in the new ban treaty that was provided for nuclear weapons states to enter into the treaty and work out a way to verify and dismantle their arsenals, after they get agreement from the other 6 nuclear weapons states—England, France, China, India, Pakistan, and Israel.   North Korea has already agreed to denuclearize once appropriate conditions are met.   Surely the total elimination of nuclear weapons by all the other states and ratification of the ban treaty would be adequate reassurance to North Korea to get rid of its nuclear weapons as well.

Another negotiating tactic they could revisit is for Putin to repeat the offer to Trump which he made to Clinton to cut the US and Russian arsenals to 1,000 warheads each and call all the other parties to the table to eliminate nuclear weapons and reinstate the ABM Treaty, which Bush walked out of in 2002, while Trump could promise in return to remove our missiles from Romania and the ones planned for Poland and not to  put any more missiles in Eastern Europe under the newly reinstated ABM Treaty.

Putin could also remind Trump that Reagan promised that if Gorbachev didn’t object to a united East Germany entering NATO, after the wall came down and Gorbachev miraculously let go of all of Eastern Europe without a shot, the US would not expand NATO one step to the east.  In light of that broken promise and how NATO has now expanded to all of the former Soviet occupied Eastern Europe, Trump should agree to Putin’s request that he disband NATO.  (Let Trump remember, and the rest of us as well, that Russia lost 29,000,000, that’s 29 million, people to the Nazi onslaught, and feels very threatened to have NATO breathing down its neck with military maneuvers on its borders.)

One more agreement Putin might negotiate with Trump in their efforts to achieve the very greatest negotiations for peace ever!   He should remind Trump that in 2009 Obama rejected his request that the US and Russia negotiate a cyberwar ban treaty.  What could be more beneficent while saving trillions of competitive dollars chasing superiority in cyberwarfare, and wasting hundreds of thousands of IQ points on a senseless and perilously dangerous kind of  novel warfare, when the world needs all the brainpower and resources  it can use to avert the coming climate catastrophe and save Mother Earth.

Then the US could promise to commit the $1 trillion it had budgeted for new nuclear bomb factories, weapons, and delivery systems to a fund to help rebuild war torn countries, from which the largest waves of immigrants are fleeing.  Trump should ask Russia as well as other countries who are leaving NATO and giving up their nuclear weapons and joining the ban treaty to also commit to donate those funds no longer needed to support their nuclear military budgets which would more than adequately and generously support the “Keep People Safely and Happy in Their Home Countries Fund”, so we won’t need to build walls and hire police forces and homeland security guards to stop impoverished, war-torn, threatened people from migrating.   Who would ever want to leave their homeland if they could live in the land of their birth in peace and prosperity?

Now is the time to urge that another world is truly possible!

###

Alice Slater serves on the Coordinating Committee of World Beyond War

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NEW POLL: Europeans reject US nuclear weapons on own soil

In Human rights, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on July 8, 2018 at 2:56 am
Q1HOST-nologonosource

July 6, 2018

On the first anniversary of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), new YouGov polling commissioned by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) has found an overwhelming rejection of nuclear weapons.  The poll was conducted in the four EU countries that host US nuclear weapons: Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and Italy. In each country, an overwhelming majority of people surveyed were in favour of removing the weapons from their soil, and for their countries to sign the Treaty that bans them outright.

Download the full survey here →

What did the survey find?

1. At least twice as many people are in favour of removing the weapons than keeping them.
2. At least four times as many people are in favour of their country signing the TPNW than not signing the TPNW.
3. At least four times as many people are against companies in their country investing in nuclear weapons activities than in favour of it.
4. A strong majority of people are against NATO buying new fighter jets that are able to carry both nuclear weapons and conventional weapons.

One year on, a vast majority supports the Nuclear Ban Treaty

“In their totality, the survey results show a clear rejection of nuclear weapons by those Europeans who are on the frontline of any nuclear attack: those hosting American weapons on their soil. More than simply demonstrating a ‘not in my back yard’ mentality, Europeans are even more strongly in favour of a blanket ban of all nuclear weapons worldwide than they are against simply removing the weapons from their own soil,” said Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of ICAN.

“The people of Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy all know that these weapons are a massive humanitarian disaster in waiting, and they will be on the frontline,” Ms Fihn said. “That’s why on the first anniversary of the Treaty to ban all nuclear weapons we are standing with them to push NATO leaders at next week’s Brussels summit to forge a new NATO security that rejects nuclear weapons, in line with the democratic wishes of their constituents.”

This week marks the first anniversary of 122 nations adopting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in New York on July 7th 2017. The landmark global treaty prohibits nations from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons, or allowing nuclear weapons to be stationed on their territory.



  • aiweiwei

    “Let’s act up! Ban nuclear weapons completely and unconditionally.”

    Ai Weiwei Artist and activist

On the 50th Anniversary of the Non-Proliferation Treaty: An Exercise in Bad Faith

In Human rights, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on July 1, 2018 at 1:34 am

by Alice Slater

 

On July 1, the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) will turn 50 years old.   In that agreement, five nuclear weapons states– the US, Russia, UK, France, and China—promised, a half a century ago, to make “good faith efforts” to give up their nuclear weapons, while non-nuclear weapons states promised not to acquire them.   Every country in the world agreed to join the treaty except for India, Pakistan, and Israel which then went on to develop their own nuclear arsenals.   To sweeten the pot, the NPT’s Faustian bargain promised the non-nuclear weapons states an “inalienable right” to so-called “peaceful” nuclear power.   Every nuclear power reactor is a potential bomb factory since its operation produces radioactive waste which can be enriched into bomb-grade fuel for nuclear bombs.  North Korea developed its promised “peaceful” nuclear technology and then walked out of the treaty and made nuclear bombs.  And it was feared that Iran was on its way to enriching their “peaceful” nuclear  waste to make nuclear weapons as well, which is why Obama negotiated the  “Iran deal” which provided more stringent inspections of Iran’s enrichment activity, now under assault by the US with the election of Donald Trump.

 

Despite the passage of 50 years since the NPT states promised “good faith” efforts to disarm, and the required Review and Extension conference 25 years ago, which since then has instituted substantive review conferences every five years as a condition for having extended the NPT indefinitely rather than letting it lapse in 1995, there are still about 15,000 nuclear weapons on our planet.  All but some 1,000 of them are in the US and Russia which keep nearly 2,000 weapons on hair-trigger alert, poised and ready to fire on each other’s cities in a matter of minutes.   Only this month, the Trump administration upped the ante on a plan developed by Obama’s war machine to spend one trillion dollars over the next ten years on two new nuclear bomb factories, new weapons, and nuclear-firing planes, missiles and submarines.  Trump’s new proposal for a massive Pentagon budget of $716 billion, an increase of $82 billion, was passed in the House and now in the Senate by 85 Republicans and Democrats alike, with only 10 Senators voting against it!  When it comes  to gross and violent military spending, bi-partisanship is the modus operandi!   And the most radical aspect of the budget is a massive expansion of the US nuclear arsenal, ending a 15 year prohibition on developing “more usable” low-yield nuclear warheads that can be delivered by submarine as well as by air-launched cruise missiles.  “More usable” in this case, are bombs that are at least as destructive as the atom bombs that wiped out Hiroshima and Nagasaki, since the subsequently developed hydrogen bombs in the US arsenal are magnitudes more devastating and catastrophic. 

 

Putin, in his March, 2018 State of the Nation Address, also spoke of new nuclear- weapons bearing missiles being developed by Russia in response to the US having pulled out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and then planting missiles in eastern Europe.     He noted that:

 

Back in 2000, the US announced its withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Russia was categorically against this. We saw the Soviet-US ABM Treaty signed in 1972 as the cornerstone of the international security system. Under this treaty, the parties had the right to deploy ballistic missile defence systems only in one of its regions. Russia deployed these systems around Moscow, and the US around its Grand Forks land-based ICBM base.

Together with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the ABM Treaty not only created an atmosphere of trust but also prevented either party from recklessly using nuclear weapons, which would have endangered humankind, because the limited number of ballistic missile defence systems made the potential aggressor vulnerable to a response strike.

We did our best to dissuade the Americans from withdrawing from the treaty. All in vain. The US pulled out of the treaty in 2002. Even after that we tried to develop constructive dialogue with the Americans. We proposed working together in this area to ease concerns and maintain the atmosphere of trust. At one point, I thought that a compromise was possible, but this was not to be. All our proposals, absolutely all of them, were rejected. And then we said that we would have to improve our modern strike systems to protect our securityhttp://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/56957

Ironically, this week the US Department of State, under the heading “Diplomacy in Action”, issued a joint statement with US Secretary of State Pompeo and the Russian and UK Foreign Ministers , extolling the NPT as the “essential foundation for international efforts to stem the looming threat—then and now—that nuclear weapons would proliferate across the globe…and has limited the risk that the vast devastation of nuclear war would be unleashed.” https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2018/06/283593.htm

All this is occurring against the stunning new development of the negotiation and passage of a new Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the culmination of a ten year campaign by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which succeeded in lobbying for  122 nations to sign this new treaty which prohibits nations from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons, or allowing nuclear weapons to be stationed on their territory.  Just as the world has banned chemical and biological weapon, as well as landmines and cluster bombs, the new treaty to ban nuclear weapons closes the legal gap created by the NPT which only requires “good faith efforts” for nuclear disarmament, and doesn’t prohibit them.

At the last NPT review in 2015, South Africa spoke eloquently about the state of nuclear apartheid created by the NPT where the nuclear “haves” hold the rest of the world hostage to their devastating nuclear threats which provided even more impetus for the successful negotiation of the ban treaty.     ICAN won the Nobel Peace Prize for their winning campaign and is now engaged in lobbying for ratification by the 50 states required by the ban treaty to enter into force.  To date, 58 nations have signed the treaty, with 10 national legislatures having weighed in to ratify it.   See, www.icanw.org    None of the nine nuclear weapons states or the US nuclear alliance nations in NATO, as well as South Korea, Australia, and surprisingly, Japan, have signed the treaty and all of them boycotted the negotiations, except for the Netherlands because a grassroots campaign resulted in their Parliament voting to mandate attendance at the ban negotiations, even though they voted against the treaty.  Grassroots groups are organizing in the five NATO states that host US nuclear weapons—Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Turkey—to remove these weapons from US bases now that they are prohibited.

There is a vibrant new divestment campaign, for use in the nuclear weapons states and their allies sheltering under the US nuclear umbrella, www.dontbankonthebomb.com   There is also a parliamentary pledge for legislators to sign who live in nuclear weapons states or allied states at http://www.icanw.org/projects/pledge/ calling on their governments to join the ban treaty.    In the US, there is a campaign to pass resolutions at city and state levels in favor of the new treaty at www.nuclearban.us  Many of these nuclear divestment campaigns are working in cooperation with the new Code Pink Divest from the War Campaign.    https://www.codepink.org/divest_from_the_war_machine

It remains to be seen whether the NPT will continue to have relevance in light of the evident lack of integrity by the parties who promised “good faith” efforts for nuclear disarmament, and instead are all modernizing and inventing new forms of nuclear terror.   The recent detente between the US and North Korea, with proposals to sign a peace treaty and formally end the Korean War, after a 65 year cease-fire since 1953,  and the proposed meeting between the two nuclear gargantuans, the US and Russia, together with the new nuclear ban treaty, may be an opportunity to shift gears and look forward to a world without nuclear weapons if we can overcome the corrupt forces that keep the military-industrial-academic-congressional complex in business, seemingly forever!     Alice Slater is the New York representative for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and serves on the Coordinating Committee of World Beyond War.

 

Rocky Flats: The refuge with a radioactive past The opening of the Rocky Flats wildlife refuge may be close, but the debate over the land’s safety lingers

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Politics, Public Health, Rocky Flats on June 25, 2018 at 7:16 am

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service believes that wildlife refuges ensure that future generations will always have an outdoor place to enjoy nature.

But some people won’t set foot on Rocky Flats once it opens as a wildlife refuge, much less allow their children or grandchildren to go there.

“It’s a shame,” said Stephanie Carroll, president and founder of Rocky Flats Worker Advocacy, “because it’s a beautiful site. But it’s a superfund site. You don’t build homes on a superfund site. And you don’t recreate on a superfund site.”

Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge is a 5,000-acre area of open land bordered by Broomfield, Boulder and Jefferson counties managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Although there is no set date, it previously was anticipated to open for public recreation late this summer.

However, seven Colorado school districts have banned field trips to Rocky Flats in the past year — Boulder Valley School District being the first one to do so last year and Denver Public Schools being the most recent, adopting its resolution on April 26. The others are Jefferson County Public Schools, Westminster Public Schools, Adams 12 Five Star, Adams 14 and St. Vrain Valley School District.

With its picturesque views and immense opportunities for viewing wildlife and diverse plants, Rocky Flats was recognized as a special place more than 20 years ago, said Michael D’Agostino, a public affairs specialist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region.

Rocky Flats will be an urban refuge, he said.

“A local place where people can reconnect with nature,” D’Agostino said. “It will be a really unique experience for people and an exciting place for outdoor enthusiasts.”

Formerly the location of the nation’s primary producer of plutonium triggers for nuclear weapons during the Cold War, the opening follows a $7 billion cleanup effort that, despite a 2007 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certification that the clean-up complied with all appropriate laws and regulations, some say still wasn’t enough.

“Public health and safety may be at risk from inadequate analysis of whether to open Rocky Flats for hiking, biking and horseback riding,” said Randall Weiner, the attorney representing the citizens groups that filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “What they want are additional environmental reviews that look at the alternatives to, and impacts of, opening Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge to the public when there is un-remediated plutonium on-site.

Jefferson County Public Health does not have an official stance on the opening of the refuge, however Dr. Mark Johnson, the executive director of Jefferson County Public Health, has a personal opinion he recently shared in a letter to the court in the lawsuit.

“I believe there was/is contamination on Rocky Flats and that some of it has escaped from Rocky Flats into the surrounding neighborhoods, but how much there is/was and what the health consequences of it are/were are not clear to me,” Johnson wrote to the court. “I honestly do not know how dangerous it is to live in its shadow. I believe we have the data to tell us the truth, but I do not believe all of it has been analyzed by truly independent sources.”

The lawsuit is currently in the process of preparing for trial. The refuge will remain closed until it is settled.

Confident in the cleanup

The Department of Energy (DOE) is responsible for the long-term surveillance and maintenance of about 1,300 acres where the core operations and productions of the former plant took place. The wildlife refuge forms a donut-shape around this area, which was formerly the plant’s buffer zone.

By law, the EPA has to conduct an environmental review, including soil and water sampling, of the land every five years to ensure its safety. This is standard practice for any superfund site, D’Agostino said. The last one at Rocky Flats took place in 2017.

“We’re confident in the cleanup and remediation,” D’Agostino said, noting the Fish and Wildlife Service will continue to work closely with the EPA and the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE). “We continue to be confident in their conclusions and recommendations. They are the public health experts.”

According to the CDPHE’s website, plutonium contamination was one of the primary concerns at Rocky Flats, but “following remediation, residual plutonium concentrations in surface soil were below levels of regulatory concern.”

Millirem (mrem) is a way to express radiation exposure.

In a document dated May 2016 produced by the EPA, CDPHE and DOE, one test that was done to gauge radiation at Rocky Flats was calculating the risks for a child and an adult who hypothetically visited the refuge 100 days a year for 2 1/2 hours per day.

“The dose estimate for plutonium for the wildlife refuge visitor child is .2 mrem per year, which is a very small fraction of the average annual dose to (the) U.S. public from all sources,” the document states.

It notes the average annual dose from all sources, including medical such as x-rays and natural such as drinking water, is 620 mrem per year.

Messy history

Still, Carroll believes opening Rocky Flats is too risky, noting the winds and soil can contain a variety of contaminants.

“What’s dangerous about that site is that it wasn’t properly characterized,” Carroll said. “There were a lot more radionuclides than just plutonium on that site.”

She believes the information the public receives is “watered down,” she said, adding, “they don’t get the whole truth.”

Carroll has been involved with advocacy for people who formerly worked with nuclear material since 2001 when she learned the ins-and-outs of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program through her grandfather, who worked at Rocky Flats.

She specializes in beryllium and working with those who may have contracted chronic beryllium disease, also called berylliosis, which is a systemic disease that primarily affects the lungs and is caused by exposure to beryllium, from former employment at Rocky Flats.

Joyce Bolton of Denver is one of the people Carroll has worked with.

“I can’t prove it, but I think it’s still out there,” Bolton said of the possible contaminants at Rocky Flats. “I don’t think they could ever get rid of it.”

Bolton, 78, worked at Rocky Flats from January 1968 until she retired in August 1992. She added she wasn’t sure if people knew the dangers of working at Rocky Flats at the time.

“Back in those days, people wanted jobs,” Bolton said. “And that was a good job — stable, and it paid very well.”

The majority of Bolton’s time was spent in the human resources department, which required her to go all over the plant — but she didn’t know the specifics of what was being made at the plant.

“No clerical person needed to know what they were manufacturing out there,” Bolton said. “We took all the safety measures, but I still got sick.”

It’s hard for the general public to understand the work that went on there, said Michelle Dobrovolny, 53, of Denver who worked at Rocky Flats as an engineering specialist and safeguards and security specialist.

“It was a national security facility. We made bombs,” Dobrovolny said. “We were always taught secrecy, secrecy, secrecy. It was bred into us.”

Dobrovolny worked at Rocky Flats for a total of 18 years, beginning in 1985 when she was 21. She said she was constantly sick while working there — strep throat, pneumonia, sinus infections — and had to take a medical leave in 2001. She has since been diagnosed with chronic beryllium disease.

Dobrovolny believes cleanup efforts at Rocky Flats were not sufficient, pointing out that she thinks “they cut corners” and shut down the cleanup about five or six years early.

According to the CDPHE’s website, cleanup of the site was a 10-year process. It included decontaminating and demolishing more than 800 structures and buildings at the plant — five of those were major plutonium facilities and two were major uranium facilities.

But Dobrovolny questions how Building 771 — a facility “notoriously known as one of the most dangerous buildings in the world because of the plutonium” — could possibly be dismantled, she said.

“They will tell you that they did,” Dobrovolny said, “but it is my opinion that they didn’t.”

Natural appeal

Arvada City Councilor Mark McGoff is an avid hiker and plans on hiking Rocky Flats once it opens.

It will be a “new area to explore on foot,” he said. “One more local place to add to my inventory of places to hike.”

He is especially excited that Rocky Flats will serve as an extension of the Rocky Mountain Greenway Trail. The Greenway Trail is a trail network that currently connects Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Commerce City and Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge in Arvada to the Great Western Open Space in Broomfield and is proposed to extend to Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park.

Well-established Boulder county open space trails to the north of the refuge would also potentially tie into the new trails.

McGoff, 78, has been involved with the Rocky Flats Stewardship Council for about seven years. The council consists of elected officials from 10 municipal governments that neighbor Rocky Flats, three community organizations and one individual. It formed in February 2006 to provide ongoing local government and community oversight of Rocky Flats while providing a public forum for sharing information concerning Rocky Flats.

McGoff mentioned he wouldn’t advocate one way or the other — he noted that some people don’t accept or agree with the findings from the studies. But for him, the presentations from the various agencies on the studies confirm that they are accurate.

“I believe in the science — the evidence is conclusive,” McGoff said. “That tells me that the refuge is safe.”

Nuclear Weapons Pose the Ultimate Threat to Mankind | The Nation

In Democracy, Environment, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on June 25, 2018 at 6:39 am

Ever since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the peace movement has seemed moribund. But in the wake of the US–North Korean summit, there are glimmers of hope that something new is stirring, with a focus on the ultimate threat to humankind: the use of nuclear weapons.

This new momentum has been sparked by some of the dark times of the past 17 months. In January 2018, citing growing nuclear risks and unchecked climate dangers, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set its iconic Doomsday Clock 30 seconds closer to midnight, the nearest to the symbolic point of annihilation that the clock has been since 1953, at the height of the Cold War. The world seems off its axis as new political forces have rekindled old animosities between nuclear rivals. The president’s disastrous decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal has led to new dangers in the Middle East. Trump’s choice of John Bolton as national-security adviser jeopardizes the prospect for enduring peace with North Korea; Bolton was one of the most rabid proponents for the invasion of Iraq and has pushed for regime change in North Korea, Iran, and Syria. Meanwhile, the nuclear-armed states are undertaking new weapons programs, and the possibility of stumbling into a calamitous war with North Korea and/or Iran has never been more real. There are nine nuclear-armed states with a combined arsenal of around 15,000 nuclear weapons. Another 59 countries possess nuclear materials and the capacity to create their own weapons programs. Even a small regional nuclear conflict could inflict catastrophic global damage. The probability of lost or stolen nuclear material, the accidental use of nuclear weapons (or terrorists acquiring them), and the threat of full-scale nuclear war all rise each time a new country decides to make weapons-grade nuclear materials.

Last year, President Trump declared that he wanted the US nuclear arsenal to be at the “top of the pack,” asserting preposterously that the US military had fallen behind in its weapons capacity. In his 2018 State of the Union address, Trump again stated his determination to modernize the nation’s nuclear stockpile. His appointments, statements, and actions—combined with the knowledge that the president has sole launch authority for these weapons—have raised global anxieties to a level not seen in a quarter-century. Google searches for “World War III” hit an all-time high in April 2017.

In response, movements for nuclear disarmament around the world are reviving the kind of activism that’s been missing for a very long time. Take Korea: The American media make too little of the role of South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the domestic movements that propelled him into office. Moon did not emerge from a vacuum; he was backed by numerous progressive forces in South Korea. Women Cross DMZ and other Korean women’s groups were part of that electoral muscle. In 2015, on the 70th anniversary of Korea’s division by the Cold War powers, Women Cross DMZ led 30 female peacemakers from 15 countries, including two Nobel Peace Prize laureates and the American feminist Gloria Steinem, across the Korean Demilitarized Zone. They held peace symposiums in Pyongyang and in Seoul, where hundreds of women discussed the impact of the unresolved Korean conflict on their lives and shared stories of mobilizing in their communities to end violence and war. They walked with 10,000 women on both sides of the DMZ, in the streets of Pyongyang, Kaesong, and Paju, calling for a formal peace treaty to end the Korean War, the reuniting of separated families, and a central role for women’s leadership in the peace process. Women are still pushing with meetings, marches, and political engagement across the Korean Peninsula. Moon’s election was partly a mandate to move forward with a new relationship with North Korea.

Peace movements in the non-nuclear states are on the rise too. In December 2017, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to advance a treaty on the prohibition of nuclear arms. In all, 122 countries have voted in favor of adopting the treaty thus far, and many are on the path to full ratification. On May 17, Vietnam became the 10th nation to ratify it; the treaty requires the ratification of 50 countries before it acquires legal standing. No nuclear state has expressed support for it yet, but the treaty stands as a moral document and is galvanizing peace movements in many countries.

Meanwhile, peace activists are taking a page from the fossil-fuel divestment movement. Don’t Bank on the Bomb identifies corporations that produce key components for nuclear weapons and presses major institutions to divest from them. The Dutch pension fund ABP, the fifth-largest in the world, announced in January that it would divest from all nuclear-weapons producers. Twenty-two major global institutions have already done just that.

Back home in the United States, Beyond the Bomb is a new effort focused on grassroots advocacy to reduce the threat of nuclear conflict. To date, the campaign involves Win Without War and Global Zero, but it aims to enlist a much broader network of groups. The primary focus is to pass emergency legislation that will curtail the president’s sole authority to use nuclear weapons. Few things are more terrifying than Donald Trump’s continual proximity to the so-called nuclear football—a briefcase with codes for launching nuclear missiles. When Trump threatened to rain “fire and fury like the world has never seen” on North Korea, Beyond the Bomb gained momentum. The campaign is also working with others to block the United States’ proposed $1.7 trillion nuclear-weapons modernization program, and to support the adoption of no-first-use declarations as well as increased funding to clean up nuclear contamination in frontline communities.

The current global dynamics of fear, dysfunctional governments, and capitalism run amok are helping to drive the nuclear-arms race. But long-standing groups like Nuclear Watch New Mexico and Tri-Valley Cares, located near nuclear labs and production facilities, are mobilizing with a new intensity against the restarting of industrial-scale plutonium-pit manufacturing. On May 8, the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, gave a groundbreaking speech in Washington, DC, that was reminiscent of Martin Luther King’s 1967 anti-war speech at Riverside Church in New York City. Barber invoked the moral necessity to resist militarism, the war economy, and nuclear weapons. Iraq Veterans Against the War is speaking forcefully against Trump’s abandonment of the Iran nuclear deal, while Veterans for Peace has condemned the continuing US occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. Young progressives are linking their concerns about the violence directed against women, immigrants, indigenous communities, and African Americans with their outrage over gun violence, ecological destruction, and US militarism. John Qua, senior campaigner for Beyond the Bomb, observes that “many young people see a seamless connection among these movements,” including the need to address the ultimate form of violence—the use of nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, many older Americans perceive a unifying theme here: the need to press for and protect a safe future for our children. Together, this incipient network of old and young alike is beginning to challenge government policies that have left us stranded for too long on the brink of nuclear conflict.

Betsy Taylor helped found the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign and Iraq Peace Fund and is the president of Breakthrough Strategies & Solutions.

Security Council Resolution 2231 and the JCPOA: Next Steps

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on June 25, 2018 at 3:12 am
The International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA) has released a statement entitled “Nuclear Crossroads: The Urgent Need for Action to Prevent Catastrophe” (htmlpdf). It addresses US-Russian nuclear arms racing, the North Korea situation, US violation of the agreement and Security Council resolution regarding Iran’s nuclear program, and ongoing risks of accidents and miscalculations.
The United Nations is now coming to grips with next steps on Iran-related instruments, with a Security Council meeting on the matter scheduled for June 27. Given these discussions, we particularly draw your attention to the following section of the IALANA statement:
The US declaration that it will no longer implement the Joint Common Plan of Action and will reimpose sanctions on Iran inconsistent with the JCPOA is a major blow to international governance and to peace and disarmament in the region and the world. The JCPOA, para. 28, provides that the parties to it “commit to implement this JCPOA in good faith and in a constructive atmosphere, based on mutual respect, and to refrain from any action inconsistent with the letter, spirit and intent of this JCPOA that would undermine its successful implementation.” A viable international order requires good-faith execution of agreements whether considered political or legal. Success in international cooperation is not possible if promises and representations cannot be relied upon.
The IAEA has found that Iran is in compliance with the JCPOA, and no extraordinary circumstances otherwise justify the US action. Further, the UN Security Council unanimously endorsed and incorporated the agreement in Resolution 2231 of 2015. The JCPOA likewise provides for its integration with Security Council action. Under the JCPOA, para. 34(ii), “this JCPOA and the commitments in this JCPOA come into effect” ninety days after endorsement of the JCPOA by the Security Council, as was done by Resolution 2231. The resolution establishes a mechanism linked to Iran’s implementation of the JCPOA for the lifting of Security Council imposed sanctions against Iran. The last provision of its preamble “[u]nderscor[es] that Member States are obligated under Article 25 of the Charter of the United Nations to accept and carry out the Security Council’s decisions.”
In para. 2, Resolution 2231 “calls upon” UN member states to take “actions commensurate with the JCPOA and this resolution” and to refrain from “actions that undermine implementation of commitments under the JCPOA.” Paragraph 26 “urges” all states “to cooperate fully with the Security Council in its exercise of the tasks related to this resolution.” Though the resolution does not label either paragraph a “decision” of the Security Council, in adopting them the Council without question was acting to fulfil its “primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security” conferred by Article 24 of the UN Charter. In a 1971 advisory opinion, the International Court of Justice, taking into account “all circumstances”, held legally binding a provision of a Security Council resolution which provision “calls upon all States” to refrain from acts inconsistent with the Council’s determination that “the continued presence of the South African authorities in Namibia is illegal.” Similarly here, under all the circumstances, paras. 2 and 26 of Resolution 2231 are legally binding directives of the Security Council.*
The US is acting contrary to those directives, thereby undermining the effectiveness of the Security Council in addressing issues of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament in Iran and generally. We suggest consideration of a UN General Assembly request for an International Court of Justice advisory opinion on the legal consequences of Resolution 2231 and the JCPOA. Such an opinion would provide important guidance, inter alia, regarding US sanctions imposed on non-US enterprises engaged in commercial dealings in Iran and with Iranian enterprises.
The other parties to the JCPOA – Iran, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, Germany, and European Union – must work to ensure the continued implementation of the agreement. And all nations and global civil society should make clear that US contravention of the JCPOA and Resolution 2231 is unacceptable and dangerous and must be reversed.
*Hans Corell, former Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and the Legal Counsel of the United Nations, has expressed the view to IALANA that both paras. 2 and 26 are legally binding on all UN member states. The German parliamentary research service reached the same conclusion regarding para. 2 in “Völkerrechtliche Bewertung der Aufkündigung des Iran-Nuklearabkommens durch die US-Administration,” Wissenschaftliche Dienste, Deutscher Bundestag, WD 2 – 3000 – 074/18, 2018.
The IALANA statement also makes a number of recommendations for actions by civil society actors, among them:

  • Support continued full implementation of Security Council Resolution 2231 and the JCPOA by Iran, UK, France, Russia, China, Germany, and European Union, and also urge the US to recommit to their full implementation;
  • Urge their governments to condemn the US actions in relation to Resolution 2231 and the JCPOA and to support a resolution to that effect in the General Assembly and its First Committee;
  • Ask their governments for an assessment of the legal status of Resolution 2231 and the JCPOA;
  • Suggest that their governments consider a UN General Assembly request that the International Court of Justice render an advisory opinion on the legal consequences of Resolution 2231 and the JCPOA.
 

Presbyterian Church says no to nuclear weapons, yes to Ban Treaty!

In Democracy, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on June 23, 2018 at 7:37 am

By Ralph Hutchison

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, USA, the largest presbyterian ecclesiastical body in the United States, has called on the US government to “begin immediately the process of complete, irreversible and verifiable nuclear disarmament in compliance with our obligations…and the requirements of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons” passed last summer at the United Nations.

The General Assembly took its action by adopting an Overture entitled “On Seeking God’s Peace Through Nuclear Disarmament in the 21st Century;” the Overture was approved on the consent agenda of the General Assembly on Wednesday, June 20, 2018 at the church’s biannual meeting in St. Louis, Missouri.

The Overture, which originated in the Peacemaking Committee of the Presbytery of East Tennessee, was sent to the General Assembly by New Hope Presbytery in Raleigh, North Carolina, in February, and received concurrences from the Presbytery de Christo and Muskingham Presbytery before arriving at the church’s national assembly.

Building on the church’s long-standing position of opposition to nuclear weapons, the General Assembly’s action recognizes the urgency of the present moment, when nuclear weapons present a greater threat than at any time in the last fifty years, and the equally unprecedented opportunity presented by the movement to ban nuclear weapons. One hundred twenty-two nations approved the Nuclear Ban Treaty last summer at the United Nations; the United States boycotted the treaty negotiations at the UN and the vote.

The Presbyterian Church also calls on its members to “take actions in defense of God’s creation and our own security, which is inextricably bound to the security of the rest of the world,” and calls on the church to provide resources to educate and mobilize its members in collaboration with other faith communities to work for the elimination of nuclear weapons from the earth.

The Presbyterian Church’s action coincides with budget deliberations in the US Congress. The church calls for the elimination of funding for the Life Extension Program for existing nuclear weapons as well as plans for new nuclear weapon production facilities—the Uranium Processing Facility bomb plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and plutonium pit fabrication facilities proposed for Los Alamos (NM) and the Savannah River Site (SC).

“The action of the Presbyterian Church follows on the strong statements coming from the Vatican over the last three years,” said Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance which provided resource support during the drafting of the Overture. “We hope it will serve as a model for other faith communities to reawaken a powerful voice that can press our government to make the world safer and more secure.”

The Overture also calls for the Presbyterian Church to work collaboratively with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), winner of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, and other nongovernmental organizations working for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Star Wars Redux: Trump’s Space Force

In Cost, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Nuclear powere, Peace, Politics, War on June 23, 2018 at 12:54 am

If Donald Trump gets his way on formation of a Space Force, the heavens would become a war zone. Inevitably, there would be military conflict in space.

The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 which designates space as the global commons to be used for peaceful purposes—and of which Russia and China, as well as the United States, are parties—and the years of work facilitating the treaty since would be wasted.

If the U.S. goes up into space with weapons, Russia and China, and then India and Pakistan and other countries, will follow.

Moreover space weaponry, as I have detailed through the years in my writings and TV programs, would be nuclear-powered—as Reagan’s Star Wars scheme was to be with nuclear reactors and plutonium systems on orbiting battle platforms providing the power for hypervelocity guns, particle beams and laser weapons.

This is what would be above our heads.

Amid the many horrible things being done by the Trump administration, this would be the most terribly destructive.

“It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space,” Trump said at a meeting of the National Space Council this week.

“Very importantly, I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon,” he went on Monday, “to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces; that is a big statement. We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force, separate but equal, it is going to be something.”

The notion of the U.S. moving into space with weaponry isn’t new.

It goes back to the post-World War II years when the U.S. government brought former Nazi rocket scientists from Germany to the U.S.—mainly to the U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama—to use “their technological expertise to help create the U.S. space and weapons program,” writes Jack Manno, who retired last year as a professor at the State University of New York/Environmental Science and Forestry College, in his book Arming the Heavens: The Hidden Military Agenda for Space, 1945-1995.

 “Many of the early space war schemes were dreamt up by scientists working for the German military, scientists who brought their rockets and their ideas to America after the war,” he relates. “It was like a professional sports draft.”

Nearly 1,000 of these scientists were brought to the U.S., “many of whom later rose to positions of power in the U.S. military, NASA, and the aerospace industry.” Among them were “Wernher von Braun and his V-2 colleagues” who began “working on rockets for the U.S. Army,” and at the Redstone Arsenal “were given the task of producing an intermediate range ballistic range missile to carry battlefield atomic weapons up to 200 miles. The Germans produced a modified V-2 renamed the Redstone….Huntsville became a major center of U.S. space military activities.”

Manno writes about former German Major General Walter Dornberger, who had been in charge of the entire Nazi rocket program who, “in  1947, as a consultant to the U.S Air Force and adviser to the Department of Defense…wrote a planning paper for his new employers. He proposed a system of hundreds of nuclear-armed satellites all orbiting at different altitudes and angles, each capable or reentering the atmosphere on command from Earth to proceed to its target. The Air Force began early work on Dornberger’s idea under the acronym NABS (Nuclear Armed Bombardment Satellites).”

For my 2001 book, Weapons in Space, Manno told me that “control over the Earth” was what those who have wanted to weaponize space seek. He said the Nazi scientists are an important “historical and technical link, and also an ideological link….The aim is to…have the capacity to carry out global warfare, including weapons systems that reside in space.”

But then came the Outer Space Treaty put together by the U.S., Soviet Union and the United Kingdom. In the 2001 TV documentary I wrote and narrate, “Star Wars Returns.”

Craig Eisendrath, who had been a U.S. State Department officer involved in its creation, notes that the Soviet Union launched the first space satellite, Sputnik, in 1957 and “we sought to de-weaponize space before it got weaponized…to keep war out of space.”

Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1966, it entered into force in 1967.  It has been ratified or signed by 123 nations.

It provides that nations “undertake not to place in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in space in any other manner.”

Atomic physicist Edward Teller, the main figure in developing the hydrogen bomb and instrumental in founding Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, pitched to Ronald Reagan, when he was governor of California visiting the lab, a plan of orbiting hydrogen bombs which became the initial basis for Reagan’s “Star Wars.” The bombs were to energize X-ray lasers. “As the bomb at the core of an X-ray battle station exploded, multiple beams would flash out to strike multiple targets before the entire station consumed itself in in a ball of nuclear fire,” explained New York Times journalist William Broad in his 1986 book Star Warriors.

Subsequently there was a shift in “Star Wars” to orbiting battle platforms with nuclear reactors or “super” plutonium-fueled radioisotope thermoelectric generators on board that would provide the power for hypervelocity guns, particle beams and laser weapons.

The rapid boil of “Star Wars” under Reagan picked up again under the administrations George H. W. Bush and son George W. Bush. And all along the U.S. military has been gung-ho on space warfare.

A U.S. Space Command was formed in 1982.

“US Space Command—dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect US interests and investment. Integrating Space Forces into war-fighting capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict,” it trumpeted in its 1998 report Vision for 2020. It laid out these words to resemble the crawl at the start of the Star Warsmovies. The U.S. Space Command was set up by the Pentagon to “help institutionalize the use of space.” Or, as the motto of one of its units declares, to be “Master of Space.”

Vision for 2020states, “Historically, military forces have evolved to protect national interests and investments-both military and economic.” Nations built navies “to protect and enhance their commercial interests” and during “the westward expansion of the United States, military outposts and the cavalry emerged to protect our wagon trains, settlements and railroads. The emergence of space power follows both of these models. During the early portion of the 2lst Century, space power will also evolve into a separate and equal medium of warfare.”

“It’s politically sensitive, but it’s going to happen,” remarked U.S. Space Command Commander-in-Chief Joseph W. Ashy in Aviation Week and Space Technology (8/9/96):

“Some people don’t want to hear this, and it sure isn’t in vogue, but—absolutely—we’re going to fight in space. We’re going to fight fromspace and we’re going to fight intospace…. We will engage terrestrial targets someday—ships, airplanes, land targets—from space.”

Or as Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space Keith R. Hall told the National Space Club in 1997: “With regard to space dominance, we have it, we like it and we’re going to keep it.”

The basic concept of the Pentagon’s approach to space is contained in The Future of War: Power, Technology & American World Dominance in the 2lst Century. Written by “arms experts” George and Meredith Friedman, the 1996 book concludes: “Just as by the year 1500 it was apparent that the European experience of power would be its domination of the global seas, it does not take much to see that the American experience of power will rest on the domination of space. Just as Europe expanded war and its power to the global oceans, the United States is expanding war and its power into space and to the planets. Just as Europe shaped the world for a half a millennium [by dominating the oceans with fleets], so too the United States will shape the world for at least that length of time.”

Or as a 2001 report of the U.S. Space Commission led by then U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asserted: “In the coming period the U.S. will conduct operations to, from, in and through space in support of its national interests both on the earth and in space.”

Nuclear power and space weaponry are intimately linked.

“In the next two decades, new technologies will allow the fielding of space-based weapons of devastating effectiveness to be used to deliver energy and mass as force projection in tactical and strategic conflict,” stated New World Vistas: Air and Space Power for the 21st Century, a 1996 US Air Force board report. “These advances will enable lasers with reasonable mass and cost to effect very many kills.” However, “power limitations impose restrictions” on such space weaponry making them “relatively unfeasible,” but “a natural technology to enable high power is nuclear power in space.” Says the report: “Setting the emotional issues of nuclear power aside, this technology offers a viable alternative for large amounts of power in space.”

Or as General James Abrahamson, director of the Strategic Defense Initiative, put it at a Symposium on Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion, “without reactors in orbit [there is] going to be a long, long light [extension] cord that goes down to the surface of the Earth” to power space weaponry.

Thus nuclear power would be needed for weapons in space.

Since 1985 there have been attempts at the UN to expand the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 to prohibit not only nuclear weapons but all weapons from space. This is called the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) treaty and leading in urging its passage have been Canada, Russia and China. There has been virtually universal backing from nations around the world for it. But by balking, U.S. administration after administration has prevented its passage.

Although waging war in space was hotly promoted by the Reagan and Bush administrations and ostensibly discouraged by the Obama administration and Clinton administration, all U.S. administrations have refused to sign on to the PAROS treaty.

In my book Weapons in Space, I relate a presentation I gave at a conference at the UN in Geneva in 1999 on the eve of a vote the next day on PAROS. I spoke about the “military use of space being planned by the U.S.” being “in total contradiction of the principles of peaceful international cooperation that the U.S. likes to espouse” and “pushes us—all of us—to war in the heavens.”

I was followed by Wang Xiaoyu, first secretary of the Delegation of China, who declared: “Outer space is he common heritage of human beings. It should be used for peaceful purposes…It must not be weaponized and become another arena of the arms race.”

The next day, on my way to observe the vote, I saw a U.S. diplomat who had been at my presentation. We approached each other and he said he would like to talk to me, anonymously. He said, on the street in front of the UN buildings, that the U.S has trouble with its citizenry in fielding a large number of troops on the ground. But the U.S military believes “we can project power from space” and that was why the military was moving in this direction. I questioned him on whether, if the U.S. moved ahead with weapons in space, other nations would meet the U.S. in kind, igniting an arms race in space. He replied that the U.S. military had done analyses and determined that China was “30 years behind” in competing with the U.S. militarily in space and Russia “doesn’t have the money.” Then he went to vote and I watched as again there was overwhelming international support for the PAROS treaty—but the U.S. balked. And because a consensus was needed for the passage of the treaty, it was blocked once more.

And this was during the Clinton administration.

With the Trump administration, there is more than non-support of the PAROS treaty but now a drive by the U.S. to weaponize space.

It could be seen—and read about—coming.

“Under Trump, GOP to Give Space Weapons Close Look,” was the headline of an article in 2016 in Washington-based Roll Call. It said “Trump’s thinking on missile defense and military space programs have gotten next to no attention, as compared to the president-elect’s other defense proposals….But experts expect such programs to account for a significant share of what is likely to be a defense budget boost, potentially amounting to $500 billion or more in the coming decade.”

Intense support for the plan was anticipated from the GOP-dominated Congress. Roll Call mentionedthat Representative Trent Franks, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and an Arizona Republican, “said the GOP’s newly strengthened hand in Washington means a big payday is coming for programs aimed at developing weapons that can be deployed in space.”

In a speech in March at the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station near San Diego, Trump declared: “My new national strategy for space recognizes that space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air, and sea. We may even have a Space Force—develop another one, Space Force. We have the Air Force; we’ll have the Space Force.”

Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, notes that Trump cannot establish a Space Force on his own—that Congressional authorization and approval is needed.  And last year, Gagnon points out, an attempt to establish what was called a Space Corps within the Air Force passed in the House but “stalled in the Senate.”

“Thus at this point it is only a suggestion,” said Gagnon of the Maine-based Global Network.

“I think though,” Gagnon went on, “his proposal indicates that the aerospace industry has taken full control of the White House and we can be sure that Trump will use all his ‘Twitter powers’ to push this hard in the coming months.”

Meanwhile, relates Gagnon, there is the “steadily mounting” U.S. “fiscal crisis…Some years ago one aerospace industry publication editorialized that they needed a ‘dedicated funding source’ to pay for space plans and indicated that it had come up with it—the entitlement programs. That means the industry is now working to destroy Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and what little is left of the welfare program. You want to help stop Star Wars and Trump’s new Space Force. Fight for Social Security and social progress in America. Trump and the aerospace industry can’t have it both ways—it’s going to be social progress or war in space.”

As Robert Anderson of New Mexico, a board member of the Global Network, puts it: “There is no money for water in Flint, Michigan or a power grid in Puerto Rico, but there is money to wage war in space.”

Or as another Global Network director, J. Narayana Rao of India, comments: “President Donald Trump has formally inaugurated weaponization of space in announcing that the U.S. should establish a Space Force which will lead to an arms race in outer space.”

Russian officials are protesting the Trump Space Force plan, “Militarization of space is a way to disaster,”Viktor Bondarev, the head of the Russian Federation Council’s Defense and Security Committee, told the RIA news agency the day after the announcement. This Space Force would be operating in “forbidden skies.” He said Moscow is ready to “strongly retaliate” if the US violates the Outer Space Treaty by putting weapons of mass destruction in space.

And opposition among legislators in Washington has begun. “Thankfully the president cannot do it without Congress because now is NOT the time to rip the Air Force apart,” tweeted Senator Bill Nelson of Florida.

“Space as a warfighting domain is the latest obscenity in a long list of vile actions by a vile administration,” writes Linda Pentz Gunter, who specializes in international nuclear issues for the organization Beyond Nuclear, this week. “Space is for wonder. It’s where we live. We are a small dot in the midst of enormity, floating in a dark vastness about which we know a surprising amount, and yet with so much more still mysteriously unknown.”

“A Space Force is not an aspiration unique to the Trump administration, of course,” she continued on the Beyond Nuclear International website of the Takoma Park, Maryland group, “but it feels worse in his reckless hands.”

After decades of secrets, Rocky Flats still gives me pause

In Democracy, Environment, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Plutonium, Politics, Public Health, Rocky Flats on June 17, 2018 at 1:19 am

Denver Post, June 16, 2018

I most likely owe my very existence to the atomic bomb.

My father was in what was supposed to be the first wave of soldiers to occupy Japan in World War II. Based on the battles of Iwo Jima, Guam, and Okinawa, they had been told by their commanding officers that there was little chance they would survive. It had been estimated that the U.S. would lose at least a million soldiers in the occupation. My father figured he would be one of them.

My father strongly believed that more lives were saved than were lost by our use of nuclear weapons. Over the years he convinced me that was true.

I am, however, opposed to nuclear contamination.

Rocky Flats has become infamous for nuclear contamination. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and anyone else who has studied Rocky Flats admits that there was massive nuclear and hazardous waste contamination at the site. They also admit that the contamination was both inside and outside the boundaries of the plant.

The contamination, mostly from plutonium fires and corroding drums full of nuclear hazardous waste, was kept secret from the public by the DOE and its contractors until 1969. The highly visible billowing black smoke from a fire that year made it obvious to outside observers that nuclear contamination was escaping from the site. Independent tests were performed to assess the extent of contamination. When the civilian monitoring teams challenged government officials with the observed measurements, they were told that actually, most of the offsite contamination had come from a more catastrophic fire in 1957. It was the first time anyone in the public had been made aware of that disaster.

Due to Cold War fears and the growing number of military targets identified behind the Iron Curtain, DOE pushed its contractors hard to produce more and more plutonium triggers faster and faster. Safety for workers and the community was secondary, or an afterthought. The contractors were given blanket immunity by the federal government for most lawsuits, should problems occur. This attitude led to numerous accidents and unnecessary exposures for workers, as well as growing piles of waste that had to be stored onsite. Plutonium was handled in such a haphazard fashion that more than a ton of it was eventually lost, or unaccounted for. This culture led to Rocky Flats being ranked by the DOE as the most dangerous nuclear site in the United States. Two of its buildings made the list of the ten most contaminated buildings in America. Building 771 at Rocky Flats was number one.

In 1989, based on information from a plant whistle-blower alleging environmental crimes, the FBI and EPA raided Rocky Flats. This eventually led to the closure of the site and a special grand jury which, after more than 3 years of testimony, sought to criminally indict three government officials and five employees of the plant contractor. The Department of Justice refused to indict, however, and instead negotiated a plea bargain with the contractor, who was required to pay an $18.5 million fine. This was less than they collected in bonuses from the DOE that year, despite more than 400 environmental violations being identified. The evidence and findings of the grand jury were sealed by court order.

When Rocky Flats closed, the DOE estimated that it would take over $35 billion and 70 years to adequately clean the site. Congress appropriated them only $7 billion, and clean-up began.

What is contested is how much contamination remains on- and offsite after the clean-up, and what risk, if any, may persist. The government has reams of data and multiple exhibits supporting their claim that the risk is low. Concerned community groups and anti-nuclear activists also have data supporting their claim that the risk is not negligible.

I do not know where the truth lies. There is credible science and support on both sides. What I do know is that two of the men who have seen the most evidence concerning the level of contamination at Rocky Flats, the lead agent for the FBI raid and the foreman of the grand jury, continue to advocate for the prohibition of public access to the site. This gives me great pause.

When I was a kid, I guess I watched too many westerns.

They led me to believe that it was a noble thing to stand up to powerful forces when you thought they may be wrong, or when you felt you needed more information before you could support them. They lied to me. In real life, what I have found is that when I have the temerity to question the government’s claims, or ask for additional, independent information to help me decide where the truth may lie, I am labeled a “general of the scare brigade”, “reckless” and “irresponsible”.

I just wish I had the level of certainty that they have who feel so confident in publicly shaming my search for truth.

Mark B. Johnson, MD, MPH, is executive director of Jefferson County Public Health.

A Blow to Interventionists, as US and North Korea Move Toward Peace by Jeffrey Sommers – Peter Paik

In Environment, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on June 15, 2018 at 7:26 am
Critics and pundits have been reacting dismissively to President Donald Trump’s engagement with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. A few weeks ago Donald Trump was going to start World War III with the Korean peninsula’s “Rocket Man,” or so observers said. Now, the prospect for peace, which has never been formally codified by treaty with North Korea since 1953, seems to have critics equally vexed and upset.

Yet, hoping for peace to fail in order to prevent Trump from gaining a victory is to engage in precisely the type of behavior his critics accuse him of displaying.

It is premature to determine the ultimate outcome of this meeting between Trump and Kim. But such a meeting is precisely what President Barack Obama suggested doing in 2008. The GOP derided Obama for this proposal, and many Democrats likely scorned it at the time as well, and they certainly are now.

Engaging North Korea is challenging. First, there is the legacy of the war from 1950-53, in which the North was completely bombed into rubble. The end of the Cold War did little to alleviate tensions; indeed, North Korea had nowhere to turn when it suffered a deadly famine in the 1990s that took anywhere from 500,000 to 3.5 million lives in a country with a population of 22 million.

After 9-11, President George W. Bush named North Korea along with Iraq and Iran as the “Axis of Evil.” Bush intended to send a strong message to North Korea’s then-Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Il. Yet, the elder Kim drew another conclusion, which was to accelerate development of nuclear weapons in order to prevent regime change. North Korea carried out its first successful test of an atom bomb in October 2006.

The fates of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, executed by hanging, and of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, whose killing and mutilation was filmed by a rebel militia, further fixed in mind the lesson that to protect one’s regime it is necessary to possess weapons of mass destruction. After all, Gaddafi unilaterally gave up his chemical and nuclear weapons programs to improve Libya’s relations with the West. The uprisings of the Arab Spring, however, led the liberal interventionists in Washington and Europe to back the forces seeking his overthrow.

But, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to President Trump, is willing to denuclearize. What might be his reasons for disarming and trusting the US, when doing so led Gaddafi to a bloody and gruesome end? And what are the grounds for trusting North Korea this time, when the arms control agreements of the past have fallen apart?

The current situation hints that conditions in North Korea may have shifted in decisive ways. Much of the population in the North appears to have attained a higher standard of living through illegal or semi-legal trade. Such gains are threatened by US-led sanctions, and the triage measures taken by North Korea in the past may not be as effective in keeping the country afloat. Although North Korea remains in principle a socialist state, nevertheless, the government has built complexes for its citizens to engage in this unofficial commerce.

Second, the US proposal to halt military exercises with South Korea is a goodwill gesture that assuages North Korea’s concern for its security and gives neighbors China and Russia greater incentive to cooperate with the US.

Third, Trump’s embrace of Obama’s 2008 strategy to talk with leaders “hostile” to the US, along with rejection of regime change policies of neoconservatives and liberal interventionists may bring about greater regional stability by reducing the risk of armed conflict, a prospect that China and Russia are certain to welcome along with the two Koreas.

Finally, the administration of Moon Jae-in in South Korea has committed itself to engaging the North, breaking with the hardline stances of the two previous presidents. What should not be expected is for North Korea to dismantle its nuclear industry. Nuclear technology can be used to generate electricity and is a prestige item for the North generally.

In short, neoconservatives and liberal interventionists aside in the United States, there is much to cautiously herald in the current moves by Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump toward peace in North Korea.


Jeffrey Sommers is Professor of Political Economy & Public and Senior Fellow, Institute of World Affairs of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is Visiting Professor at the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga. His book on the Baltics (with Charles Woolfson), is The Contradictions of Austerity: The Socio-economic Costs of the Neoliberal Baltic Model.  

Peter Paik is a Professor at the Institute of Humanities at Yonsei University in Seoul; and Comparative Literature and Global Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.