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Archive for the ‘Nuclear Guardianship’ Category

Divided Highways

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Politics, Public Health on October 18, 2017 at 1:22 am

By Tom Lewis, Delanceyplace.com

In 1963, the U.S. government seriously contemplated using nuclear bombs in the construction of federal highways:

“[The] Interstate [Highway System] … reflected some­thing … about mid-twentieth-century American thinking: engineering hubris. Engineers knew they had the ability to put a highway anywhere, including places where automobiles had never been, and many reveled in the sheer joy of building without attention to the consequences. Forget following the contours of the natural landscape, just pound the road through. Should a mountain prove too high, just blast the top off or tunnel through. Should a ravine prove too deep, just fill it with stone and dirt. No river, lake, or arm of the ocean should be too wide or too deep for a bridge or causeway. For many engineers the structure itself was the goal rather than the structure in relation to the land. Engineers found they were not alone, for many progressive planners regarded the highway, speed, and efficiency to be of primary importance.

“There is, perhaps, no greater example of engineering hubris than one that, thankfully, did not take place in the Bristol Mountains about mid­way between Barstow and Needles, California. In 1963, the Santa Fe Rail­road was seeking a way to shorten its route across the Mojave Desert, and the highway department was looking for a route for Interstate 40. Both the railroad and the highway were hindered by the mountains that rise sharply and suddenly about twelve hundred feet from the desert floor. In mid-1963, engineers decided to consider what they delicately called ‘the nuclear option.’ The engineers’ plan was simple: Bury twenty-two atomic bombs beneath the surface of the mountains and vaporize them. ‘Our main focus was on whether it was feasible and practical and what savings might be realized in building the Interstate,’ Robert Austin, the engineer for the project, recalled. Perhaps because the United States had tested nuclear weapons in the desert before­ though not in this area — Austin paid little attention to the effects the bombs would have had on the environment.

“Since President Kennedy had recently proposed ‘Operation Plow­share,’ an extension of Dwight Eisenhower’s ‘Atoms for Peace’ pro­gram ‘to harness the atom for the benefit of mankind,’ the Atomic Energy Commission was looking for ways to use nuclear weapons peace­fully. It was enthusiastic about the idea. Yes, the twenty-two bombs with their combined force of 1.73 million tons of TNT (133 times greater than the force of the two bombs that obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki) would produce a dust cloud that would take several days to dissipate. But engineers were more taken with the idea of moving sixty­-eight million tons of earth and rock with a single blast, almost instantly cutting a channel 325 feet wide and nearly 11,000 feet long. While it would have saved $8 million in construction costs, the explosion also would have contaminated much of the Southwest, especially Kingman, Flagstaff, and Phoenix, Arizona directly east of the site. Knowing that the nuclear explosions would evoke some public interest, Austin scouted out a place for a reviewing stand for the press and VIPs on a ridge about ten miles away from the blast site.

“Fortunately, the plan had posed one question that scientists could not answer: How long would it take for the radiation levels at the immediate blast site to return to a safe level for humans? No one could predict how many weeks or months would elapse after the explosion before it would be safe for workers to build the highway. Unable to get an answer, Austin and the California Highway Department finally abandoned the plan in 1965 and decided to build the Bristol Mountains section of Interstate 40 with conventional blasting for about $20 million. The road opened in 1973. ‘Given what we know today about radiation, it’s a good thing we didn’t do it,’ said Robert Ramey, a civil engineer who worked on the project, adding wistfully, ‘I am kind of disappointed we couldn’t have seen how an experiment of this type would have worked.'”

 

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Nobel winner says goal is to make nukes unacceptable

In Democracy, Environment, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, Public Health, War on October 10, 2017 at 10:48 pm

Associated Press, OCTOBER 09, 2017 , UNITED NATIONS
The head of the anti-nuclear campaign that won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize said Monday its goal is to make nuclear weapons unacceptable in the minds of people in every country — and have all nuclear-armed nations listen to their citizens and give up their arsenals.

Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons known as ICAN, told a news conference that for a long time nuclear weapons have been seen as “an issue of the past” that isn’t relevant.

But she said a potential nuclear arms race with nuclear nations modernizing their weapons and threats by U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un to use nuclear weapons “makes this an urgent issue again.”

“I think that this Nobel Peace Prize can really bring about a much bigger movement against nuclear weapons,” Fihn said. “This gives us an enormous opportunity to reach out to new audiences, and to mobilize people once again.”

ICAN, currently a coalition of 468 organizations in 101 countries, is expecting to expand.

Ray Acheson, an ICAN steering committee member from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, told reporters that since the Nobel prize announcement on Friday the campaign has received “a lot of new partnership requests.”

The Nobel committee cited Geneva-based ICAN for its work that led to the first-ever Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons that was agreed to by 122 countries at the United Nations in July. It opened for signature on Sept. 20 and already 53 countries have signed and three have ratified.

Fihn said ICAN’s “ambitious goal” is to get the 50 ratifications needed for the treaty to enter into force before the end of 2018.

The United States, which boycotted negotiations along with other nuclear powers, reacted to ICAN’s award saying the treaty “will not make the world more peaceful, will not result in the elimination of a single nuclear weapon, and will not enhance any state’s security.”

Fihn said the U.S. reaction was “quite expected,” but it shows the treaty is having “an impact on them.”

She stressed, however, that the Nobel Peace Prize isn’t going to make Trump give up nuclear weapons.

“But I don’t think that’s really what we’re doing here,” she said. “What we’re trying to do here is to make nuclear weapons unacceptable in the minds of the people, and that’s where civil society has the power. That’s really what is changing things. And in the end, governments have to do what their people say.”

As for North Korea, Fihn said, North Korea won’t disarm as long as it thinks nuclear weapons are acceptable, legitimate and justified.

The nuclear weapon states and those countries under their nuclear umbrella currently maintain they are necessary for security, she said.

“I think that is what this treaty is about — stop allowing them to justify having weapons of mass destruction that are only meant to indiscriminately slaughter hundreds of thousands of civilians,” Fihn said.

She said it’s been during previous times of big crises that “the most progress” has been made toward nuclear disarmament.

Five years after the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, the Treaty of Tlatelolco was signed prohibiting nuclear weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, and later the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, she said. And during heightened Cold War tensions talks in Reykjavik, Iceland between then U.S. president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986 resulted in the treaty to eliminate intermediate and shorter-range nuclear and conventional missiles the following year.

Fihn said these crises, and the current escalating U.S.-North Korean tensions, “also bring about public mobilization.”

“I think that that’s where this peace prize is extremely timely, and very urgently needed attention on this issue,” she said.

 

Text of Nobel Peace Prize award to anti-nuclear campaign ICAN

In Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on October 7, 2017 at 11:13 pm

> The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).
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> The organization is receiving the award for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons.
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> We live in a world where the risk of nuclear weapons being used is greater than it has been for a long time. Some states are modernizing their nuclear arsenals, and there is a real danger that more countries will try to procure nuclear weapons, as exemplified by North Korea.
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> Nuclear weapons pose a constant threat to humanity and all life on earth. Through binding international agreements, the international community has previously adopted prohibitions against land mines, cluster munitions and biological and chemical weapons. Nuclear weapons are even more destructive, but have not yet been made the object of a similar international legal prohibition.
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> Through its work, ICAN has helped to fill this legal gap. An important argument in the rationale for prohibiting nuclear weapons is the unacceptable human suffering that a nuclear war will cause. ICAN is a coalition of non-governmental organizations from around 100 different countries around the globe.
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> The coalition has been a driving force in prevailing upon the world’s nations to pledge to cooperate with all relevant stakeholders in efforts to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons. To date, 108 states have made such a commitment, known as the Humanitarian Pledge.
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> Furthermore, ICAN has been the leading civil society actor in the endeavor to achieve a prohibition of nuclear weapons under international law. On 7 July 2017, 122 of the UN member states acceded to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
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> As soon as the treaty has been ratified by 50 states, the ban on nuclear weapons will enter into force and will be binding under international law for all the countries that are party to the treaty.
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> The Norwegian Nobel Committee is aware that an international legal prohibition will not in itself eliminate a single nuclear weapon, and that so far neither the states that already have nuclear weapons nor their closest allies support the nuclear weapon ban treaty.
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> The Committee wishes to emphasize that the next steps towards attaining a world free of nuclear weapons must involve the nuclear-armed states. This year’s Peace Prize is therefore also a call upon these states to initiate serious negotiations with a view to the gradual, balanced and carefully monitored elimination of the almost 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world.
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> Five of the states that currently have nuclear weapons – the USA, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China – have already committed to this objective through their accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons of 1970.
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> The Non-Proliferation Treaty will remain the primary international legal instrument for promoting nuclear disarmament and preventing the further spread of such weapons.
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> It is now 71 years since the UN General Assembly, in its very first resolution, advocated the importance of nuclear disarmament and a nuclear weapon-free world. With this year’s award, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to pay tribute to ICAN for giving new momentum to the efforts to achieve this goal.
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> The decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons has a solid grounding in Alfred Nobel’s will.
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> The will specifies three different criteria for awarding the Peace Prize: the promotion of fraternity between nations, the advancement of disarmament and arms control and the holding and promotion of peace congresses. ICAN works vigorously to achieve nuclear disarmament.
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> ICAN and a majority of UN member states have contributed to fraternity between nations by supporting the Humanitarian Pledge. And through its inspiring and innovative support for the UN negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons, ICAN has played a major part in bringing about what in our day and age is equivalent to an international peace congress.
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> It is the firm conviction of the Norwegian Nobel Committee that ICAN, more than anyone else, has in the past year given the efforts to achieve a world without nuclear weapons a new direction and new vigor.
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> Reporting By Alister Doyle

2017 Nobel Peace Prize to ICAN is wake up call to humanity

In Environment, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on October 6, 2017 at 11:19 pm

by IPPNW, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, October 6, 2017
Breaking news
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
Announcement and explanation of award at nobelpeaceprize.org

In honoring the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) as this year’s Nobel Peace Laureate, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has reaffirmed that prohibiting and eliminating nuclear weapons is the most urgent security priority of our time.

ICAN was launched in 2007 by International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the 1985 Nobel Peace Laureate, and now comprises 468 civil society organizations and thousands of campaigners in 101 countries.

ICAN mounted an extraordinarily effective and diverse global campaign that helped secure the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, adopted by 122 UN member states on July 7, 2017. The landmark agreement declares nuclear weapons illegal because of their catastrophic consequences and based on the principles of international humanitarian law. The Treaty was achieved through the collective effort of civil society, international organizations, and non-nuclear-weapon states.

“The Hibakusha, who have borne constant witness to the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons since the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, played a pivotal role in ICAN’s work to support the negotiations for the Ban Treaty,” noted IPPNW co-president and ICAN’s founding co-chair Tilman Ruff. “Their voices—and those of the victims of nuclear testing—can be heard clearly in the Treaty’s preamble, which cites ‘the unacceptable suffering of and harm caused to the victims of the use of nuclear weapons.’”

“This year’s Nobel Peace Prize does more than recognize the Ban Treaty as a major step forward in nuclear disarmament,” said IPPNW co-president Ira Helfand. “It reminds us that we remain hostage to what can only be considered suicide bombs. Now that nuclear weapons have been stigmatized and prohibited, it’s up to all of us to increase the legal, moral and political pressure on the nuclear-armed and nuclear-dependent states. Our task will not be finished until the last nuclear weapon has been eliminated from the last arsenal on Earth.”

The enormous cost of more nuclear weapons

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on October 6, 2017 at 12:51 am

Is the expansion of our nuclear arsenal in America’s best interest, or is it just Trump’s latest boastful display?

GUY T. SAPERSTEIN, KELSEY ABKIN
10.05.2017• Salon
This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

An analysis by the Arms Control Association of U.S. government budget data projects the total cost over the next 30 years of the proposed nuclear modernization and maintenance at between $1.25 trillion and $1.46 trillion. This expenditure is not included in our defense budget of $700 billion, which leads the world in military spending and represents more than the spending of the next seven countries combined – three times what China spends and seven times what Russia spends on defense.
To put this into perspective, this number exceeds the combined total federal spending for education; training, employment, and social services; agriculture; natural resources and the environment; general science, space, and technology; community and regional development (including disaster relief); law enforcement; and energy production and regulation.
With climate change deemed by the Pentagon as an immediate national security threat, healthcare costs rising, and an increasing number of natural disasters, one might think nuclear weapons would lose their place as the top recipient of federal spending. But this is far from the case and there is a reason why.
As long as other countries continue to harbor nuclear weapons, we will do the same. And vise versa. As Donald Trump said at the start of his campaign, “If countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack.”
This sentiment followed him into his presidency. The Trump administration just last week considered proposing additional, smaller, more tactical nuclear weapons that would cause less damage than traditional thermonuclear bombs. However, these mini-nukes are not some new, profound proposal. We have had nuclear weapons capable of being dialed down to the power of “mini nukes” since the 80’s. The 15-kiloton bomb dropped on Hiroshima would now be classified as a “mini-nuke” yet its destruction was monumental. Adding more, smaller nukes is an unnecessary, potentially dangerous addition. Proponents of the proposal claim these “mini-nukes” would give military commanders more options; critics, however, contend that it will also make the use of atomic arms more likely. Christine Parthemore, International Affairs Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, says, “Our investments should be careful lowering our threshold of use.” Further, the proposed addition will only add trouble to the already fraught international conversation opposing nuclear weapons.

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As former Secretary of State George Shultz so eloquently put it, “proliferation begets proliferation.” One state’s nuclear acquisitions only drive its adversaries to follow suit. The reality is adding to our nuclear arsenal will only force our international opponents to defensively order a mad dash for the bomb.
In today’s political arena, as Russia remains volatile and North Korea’s threat grows, is funding the expansion of our nuclear arsenal in the country’s best interest or just Trump’s latest boastful display of American power?
Having a nuclear arsenal is supposed to ensure the raw principle behind nuclear deterrence: You won’t destroy us because we can destroy you. As Andrew Weber, Former Assistant Secretary of Defense & former Director of the Nuclear Weapons Council, says, “The sole purpose of having a nuclear arsenal is to deter an attack on the United States of America.”
This cold war era mindset relies on the relationship between acting and reacting. With the recognition that retaliation is likely, if not guaranteed, nuclear weapons are supposed to restrain the possibility of action on behalf of nuclear leaders. They are supposed to make them cautious, regardless of which states we are talking about or how many weapons they might possess.
According to a 2017 report by the Arms Control Association, The United States currently maintains an arsenal of about 1,650 strategic nuclear warheads deployed on Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs), and Strategic Bombers and some 180 tactical nuclear weapons at bomber bases in five European countries.

NO ONE CAN STOP TRUMP FROM WAGING NUCLEAR WAR WITH NORTH KOREA, NOT EVEN HIS GENERALS

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on September 29, 2017 at 1:05 am

BY JEFF STEIN, Newsweek,  9/27/17 AT 3:36 PM

One nightmare scenario goes like this: Donald Trump emerges from his White House bedroom in the middle of the night, cellphone in hand, enraged by the latest taunt from North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. He spots the military aide sitting in the corridor with a black valise in his lap. It’s called the nuclear football.

“I’m gonna take care of this son of a bitch once and for all,” Trump growls. “Big-time. Gimme the codes.”

The aide cracks open the valise and hands the president a loose-leaf binder with a colorful menu of Armageddon options. They range from all-out, total annihilation plans for Russia and China down to a variety of strikes tailored just for North Korea.

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“I’ll take that one,” Trump says. The aide hands him an envelope with a set of numbers and letters, the ones that verify it’s really him when he calls Defense Secretary James Mattis. It’s the same code that will go down to theater commanders, B-1 bombers, Wyoming missile silos and submarines lurking off North Korea.

“Do it,” he tells Mattis. “Wipe him the hell out.”

Related: What war with North Korea looks like

What was once just a nervous joke among Washington policymakers and military experts when Trump ran for the presidency has suddenly crept closer to a horrendous range of possibilities, judging from a Newsweek survey of former Pentagon officials and experts.

And no one knows where the confrontation is headed after weeks of increasingly personal insults and military provocations from both sides.

On Tuesday, four days after the Pentagon sent a flight of B-1 bombers and fighter escorts off North Korea in a display of military force, Pyongyang “moved a small number of fighter jets, external fuel tanks and air-to-air missiles to a base on its eastern coast,” according to multiple reports. Trump threatened Pyongyang once again, saying “we are totally prepared for” a military “option,” which would be “devastating.”

Analysts with long experience in the region say they fear an accident—a collision of jets, ships, a wayward artillery shell—could quickly cause the situation to spiral, especially with Trump and North Korean officials exchanging insults. In his United Nations speech on September 19, Trump called Kim “Rocket Man,” followed by “Little Rocket Man.” Kim responded by calling Trump a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard,” a word long out of use that sent millions scurrying for their dictionaries. (It means someone decrepit and senile.) Trump then vowed that Kim and his foreign minister “won’t be around much longer.”

“I think this tit-for-tat Trump has ginned up is not only dangerous and unnecessary, but creating an escalation spiral that is increasing the odds of miscalculation,” says Robert A. Manning, a former senior U.S. intelligence expert on Korea and strategic weapons in the George W. Bush and Obama administrations. “It’s not just a war of words,” he tells Newsweek. “We keep flying B-1s up their kazoo.” That, along with Trump calling Kim names, says Manning, now a senior fellow with the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council, “inflates” his ego. It’s “mind-bogglingly stupid.”

As if to make the point, on September 25, North Korea’s foreign minister buffed Trump’s crude threats into a formal declaration of war. “That’s absurd,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. The regime also vowed to “take countermeasures, including the right to shoot down bombers.”

But so far, there have been no signs that North Korea is preparing to attack Seoul, U.S. bases in the region or U.S. ally Japan, even as it threatens to explode a hydrogen bomb somewhere over the Pacific. With the acrimony deepening, however, an increasing number of Washington veterans now fear something less lethal but profoundly dangerous: a constitutional crisis, provoked by an impulsive Trump order in the middle of the night for a pre-emptive strike.

“Someone in the chain would say no,” declares a former senior Pentagon official, sharing his views with Newsweek on condition of anonymity due to the issue’s sensitivity. “That’s what I believe, having worked with these guys”—meaning military leaders from Mattis on down to the U.S. forces commander in South Korea, General Vincent Brooks.

“It would be really hard for Trump to be capricious about a spur-of-the-moment attack,” the former official continues. “He’d have to make it a major strategy thing that’s been long planned, in consultation with Mattis and Dunford.” General Joseph Dunford is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The former official adds that Brooks, especially, who has won a wide circle of admirers for his forthright yet nuanced views on the intersection of domestic politics and military strategy, would not follow such a midnight order. “My personal opinion is that if Brooks truly felt Trump was just saying, ‘Fuck it, I want to attack today’—that if there was not a truly imminent threat to U.S. forces and the homeland, he might refuse the order.” Brooks could not immediately be reached for comment.

It’s not likely a Trump order would get that far, analysts say. People who know Mattis tell Newsweek he would resign rather than carry out an impulsive order from Trump to attack North Korea, with nuclear weapons or not. Trump could fire Mattis, but the media and Congress would likely hear about it in a nanosecond, setting off “a political firestorm and even a constitutional crisis that could prevent prompt execution of the order,” says Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association in Washington, D.C.

All of which is prompting longtime Washingtonians to recall the crisis that President Richard Nixon sparked by ordering his attorney general, Elliot Richardson, to fire the special counsel overseeing investigations into the crimes that became known as Watergate. Richardson refused and resigned, as did his deputy. Nixon finally found somebody to carry out that deed, but the move backfired, inflaming the impeachment drive and forcing him from office 10 months later.

Even more relevant to Trump, says a growing chorus of commentators, is another incident from Nixon’s final days, when, according to various accounts, his chief of staff Alexander Haig, an army general, asked military commanders to check back if they received any unusual directives from the deeply depressed, heavily drinking president.

Chris Whipple, author of The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency, tells Newsweek that Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, “needs to take a page from that…and just be sure that he’s in the loop when it comes to the nuclear football.”

There’s no rule stopping Trump from firing Mattis and continuing down the chain of command until he finds someone to attack North Korea, analysts say. Any defense secretary, notes Kathleen Hicks, a former principal deputy undersecretary for policy at the Pentagon, is merely “a check in the system against overenthusiasm” on the president’s part for letting loose the nukes. Under the rules of the National Command Authority, the only weapon Mattis has to stop Trump’s launch order is persuasion. If he blocks it, “then the President may in his sole discretion fire” him, it says, and tap the next person in the chain of command to carry it out. If he wants, he can reach right down to a general heading a regional command. The Uniform Code of Military Justice requires sworn officers to carry out a bad but lawful order, setting up the kind of dilemma dramatized in the hit 1992 court martial drama A Few Good Men.

“To say that the Secretary of Defense and his subordinates have a legal duty to comply with presidential orders is not to say that they should do so,” Jack Goldsmith, who held high positions in the Justice and Defense departments, wrote recently. But “they have to be prepared to accept the consequences of defiance,” which include “resigning…resisting until fired, informing congressional leaders (in or out of public), or quietly coordinating with the Vice President and others for presidential removal under the 25th Amendment.”

“All of this uncharted territory,” says Reif.

Compounding the legal, military and political complexities of the situation, some analysts envision Kim hitting first with a limited strike, such as a barrage of rocket and artillery fire on Seoul, which would kill tens of thousands of people, prompting U.S. and South Korean counterfire. But then, Kim could sit back and let Trump make the next big move. “President Trump would then be faced with an unimaginable decision: continue the attack and see potentially millions more die, or give in to Kim’s demands and stop,” wrote retired Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Davis (who served under White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster in Iraq). Given North Korea’s hardened defenses, massive rocket supplies and nuclear weaponry, “the interests of the United States would be gravely harmed no matter what choice Trump makes at that point,” Davis says.

Judging by the erratic leadership he’s demonstrated so far, Trump doesn’t look prepared for that. No president really is, Whipple says. “Every White House chief of staff can probably tell you in chilling detail about the day the chairman of the joint chiefs came in and explained to the president and his chief the operation of the nuclear codes. It’s a gut-check moment for every chief and obviously, one would hope, every president.”

Even some of Trump’s most accomplished, sophisticated fans had little idea of the license a president has to unleash a civilization-ending nuclear war, Whipple tells Newsweek. On a trip with former George W. Bush chief of staff Andrew Card to give a talk, they encountered a corporate CEO who said he planned to vote for Trump. “And I said, ‘You know you’re giving this guy the nuclear codes, and there’s nothing to prevent him from using them?’ And he said, ‘Well, I’m not too worried about that.’”

Whipple turned to Card. “Andy, tell him,” he said. Card then told the CEO, “in chilling detail,” about the guidance Bush got on the eve of his 2001 inauguration, and how nobody had any authority to stop him from activating the football. “And Andy said to this guy, ‘There’s nothing—nothing—to prevent the president from doing this on his own.” Card did not respond to a request for comment.

California Representative Ted Lieu and Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, both Democrats, want to take the freelance nuclear option out of Trump’s hands. In January, they introduced a bill that would prohibit a president from launching a pre-emptive nuclear strike without a congressional declaration of war. It’s not going anywhere in the Republican-controlled Congress.

“I would certainly not do first strike,” Trump declared a year ago during one of his presidential debates with Hillary Clinton. But moments later, he circled back with a contradictory response: “At the same time, we have to be prepared. I can’t take anything off the table.” Since then, with every North Korean provocation, he’s increasingly tilted more toward the “fire and fury” he pledged to rain down on Pyongyang if it endangers U.S. interests.

Nobody knows how he’ll feel when he wakes up to find Kim that has tested another H-bomb, flung a missile over Japan or needled him with another insult. All we know is that when he wanders out in his bathrobe and opens the nuclear football, he’s got the keys to Armageddon in his hands.

US rejects North Korea war allegations as ‘absurd’

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on September 27, 2017 at 12:13 am

As war of words heats up, regional leaders warn that war on Korean Peninsula will have ‘catastrophic consequences’.

The US has dismissed North Korea’s accusation that President Donald Trump has declared war against the country, calling it “absurd”.

The comments come as South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) said that Pyongyang had moved to bolster its coastal defences by relocating its warplanes along the east coast.

Regional leaders on Tuesday warned that war on the Korean Peninsula would result in “catastrophic consequences”.

The warnings came after Pyongyang said on Monday that it was ready to defend itself by shooting down American bombers, and accusing Trump of declaring war on the country.

Speaking to reporters outside his New York hotel, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho responded to Trump tweeting at the weekend that North Korea’s leadership “won’t be around much longer” if it keeps up its threats.

Ri, who attended this year’s UN General Assembly session, said the international community had hoped that a “war of words” would “not turn into real actions”.

“However, last weekend, Trump claimed our leadership would not be around much longer,” Ri said. “He declared a war on our country.”

Later on Monday, the White House rejected Ri’s interpretation of Trump’s tweets.

“We have not declared war against North Korea and frankly the suggestion of that is absurd,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

Alarm over Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes dominated this year’s gathering of world leaders at the UN, amid fears the heated rhetoric could accidentally trigger a war.

Those fears were sharpened after US bombers flew off the coast of North Korea on Saturday – going the furthest north of the demilitarised zone that any US aircraft has flown this century.

“Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to take counter-measures including the right to shoot down US strategic bombers even when they are not yet inside the airspace border of our country,” Ri said.

“The question of who won’t be around much longer will be answered then.”

A Pentagon spokesman stressed on Monday that the bombers flew in international airspace and had every right to do so.

As the rhetoric heated up, South Korea appealed for an easing of tensions, with Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha saying that further provocations can be expected from Pyongyang but must not be allowed to get out of control.

“It is imperative that we, Korea and the US together, manage the situation … in order to prevent further escalation of tensions or any kind of accidental military clashes which can quickly go out of control,” Kang said in Washington.

South Korea has reacted with unease to Trump’s threat to “totally destroy” North Korea as its densely-populated capital Seoul is located just 56 kilometres from the demilitarised zone dividing the Korean Peninsula.

In his UN address last week, Trump delivered the blunt threat, deriding leader Kim Jong-un as “Rocket Man” and declaring he was “on a suicide mission”.

Kim hit back with a personal attack on Trump, branding him “mentally deranged” and a “dotard” and warning he would “pay dearly” for his threat.

There have been repeated appeals for calm from the United Nations, Russia and China.

On Tuesday, China said that war on the Korean Peninsula will have no winner.

Lu Kang, the spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, said Beijing hopes that US and North Korean politicians can realise that resorting to military means would never be a viable way out.

Russia’s foreign ministry also said on Tuesday that a military conflict on the Korean Peninsula would lead to “catastrophic consequences”.

It added that it would work behind-the-scenes to find a political solution to the rising tensions with North Korea, and that the US approach is a “dead in”.

Earlier this month, the UN Security Council imposed new sanctions on North Korea over its sixth and most powerful nuclear test. In recent months, Pyongyang also test-fired intercontinental missiles – saying it needs to defend itself against the threat of a US invasion.

Asked about the North Korean minister’s latest remarks, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said: “When you have the rise of tension, the rise of rhetoric, so does the risk of miscalculation.”

In his UN address, Ri warned that Trump’s threat to destroy North Korea made “our rockets’ visit to the entire US mainland all the more inevitable”.

The rhetoric comes as international alarm mounts over Pyongyang’s weapons ambitions – including a suggestion by Ri last week that the country is considering detonating an H-bomb over the Pacific.

US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has said such a move would be a “shocking display of irresponsibility.”

The Latest: Kim 1st NKorean ruler to directly address world

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on September 25, 2017 at 2:02 am

SEPTEMBER 21, 2017 11:01 PM

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA
The Latest on North Korea’s nuclear program (all times local):

11:40 a.m.

South Korea says Kim Jong Un’s rebuke against U.S. President Donald Trump marked the first time a North Korean leader directly issued a statement to the international community under his name.

Seoul’s Unification Ministry said Friday neither of the two men who ruled North Korea before Kim Jong Un — his father, Kim Jong Il, and his grandfather and national founder Kim Il Sung — issued any similar statement.

 

Ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun says North Korea should stop provocations that would “lead to its own isolation and demise.”

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11:20 a.m.

South Korea calls North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s direct rebuke of President Donald Trump a “reckless provocation” that would deepen his country’s international isolation and lead to its demise.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun told reporters Friday that North Korea must immediately stop such a provocation and return to talks on its nuclear disarmament.

Earlier Friday, Kim issued a rare statement calling Trump “deranged” and said he will “pay dearly” for his threats to destroy North Korea.

During his speech before the U.N. General Assembly earlier this week, Trump vowed to “totally destroy North Korea” if provoked.

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10:15 a.m.

South Korean media report North Korea’s top diplomat says his country may test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean to fulfill leader Kim Jong Un’s vow to take the “highest-level” action against the United States.

Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho comments Thursday on the sidelines of a United Nations gathering followed an extraordinary direct statement by Kim in response to President Donald Trump’s threat to “totally destroy” North Korea.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reports that Ri told reporters in New York that a response “could be the most powerful detonation of an H-bomb in the Pacific.”

Ri reportedly added that “We have no idea about what actions could be taken as it will be ordered by leader Kim Jong Un.”

Such a test would be considered a major provocation by Washington and its allies.

Threats of Total Destruction Are Unlawful and Extremely Dangerous; Direct Diplomacy between the United States and North Korea Is Essential to Avert Disaster

In Democracy, Nonviolence, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on September 23, 2017 at 9:45 am

Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy and Western States Legal Foundation
September 22, 2017

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”
– President Donald Trump, speech at United Nations, September 19, 2017

President Trump’s threat of total destruction of North Korea is utterly unacceptable. Also unacceptable are similarly threatening statements made in pieces carried by North Korea’s state-owned news agency. Instead of making apocalyptic threats, the two governments should agree on a non-aggression pact as a step toward finally concluding a peace treaty formally ending the 1950s Korean War and permanently denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.

The U.S. and North Korean threats are wrong as a matter of morality and common sense. They are also completely contrary to bedrock requirements of international law – law which is part of the law of the land under the U.S. Constitution. Both countries, by engaging in a cycle of threats and military posturing, violate prohibitions on the threat of force to resolve disputes and on threats to use force outside the bounds of the law of armed conflict. Trump’s threats carry more weight because the armed forces of the United States, capped by its immense nuclear arsenal, could accomplish the destruction of North Korea in short order.

Threats of total destruction negate the fundamental principle that the right to choose methods and means of warfare is not unlimited:
Under the law of armed conflict, military operations must be necessary for and proportionate to the achievement of legitimate military objectives, and must not be indiscriminate or cause unnecessary suffering. Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions prohibits threatening an adversary that there will be no survivors or conducting hostilities on that basis. The Nuremberg Tribunal found the Nazi concept of “total war” to be unlawful because it runs contrary to all the rules of warfare and the moral principles underlying them, creating a climate in which “rules, regulations, assurances, and treaties all alike are of no moment” and “everything is made subordinate to the overmastering dictates of war.”
Conducting a war with the intention of destroying an entire country would contravene the Genocide Convention, which prohibits killing “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group ….”
Limits on the conduct of warfare apply to both aggressor and defender states. Thus Trump’s statement that total destruction would be inflicted in defense of the United States and its allies is no justification. Moreover, the U.S. doctrine permitting preventive war, carried out in the illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq, means that Trump’s reference to “defense” does not necessarily rule out U.S. military action in the absence of a North Korean attack or imminent attack.
North Korea has explicitly threatened use of nuclear weapons. While the United States likely would not use nuclear weapons first in the Korean setting, it remains true that Trump’s references to “fire and fury” and “total destruction” raise the specter of U.S. employment of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons cannot be used in compliance with the law of armed conflict, above all the requirement of discrimination, as the recently adopted Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons recognizes. Threats of use of nuclear weapons are likewise unlawful. The illegal character of the threat or use of nuclear weapons is especially egregious where the express intent is to “totally destroy” an adversary, a purpose that from the outset rules out limiting use of force to the proportionate and necessary.
U.S. and North Korean threats of war are also unlawful because military action of any kind is not justified. The UN Charter prohibits the threat or use of force except in self-defense against an armed attack or subject to UN Security Council authorization:
Article 51 of the UN Charter permits the use of force as a matter of self-defense only in response to an armed attack. No armed attack by either side has occurred or is imminent.
The Security Council is addressing the matter and has not authorized use of force. Its most recent resolution imposing further sanctions on North Korea was adopted pursuant to UN Charter Article 41, which provides for measures not involving the use of force. There is no indication whatever in that and preceding resolutions of an authorization of use of force. Moreover, the resolution emphasizes the need for a peaceful resolution of the dispute with North Korea. That approach is mandated by the UN Charter, whose Article 2(3) requires all members to “settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.”
It is urgent that diplomatic overtures replace threats. In the nuclear age, the first principle of diplomacy should be that adversaries talk to each other to the maximum possible extent, and in moments of crisis directly and unconditionally. We learned during the Cold War that even when the prospects for any tangible progress seem dim, negotiations between nuclear-armed adversaries have other positive results. They allow the military and political leaderships of the adversaries to better understand each other’s intentions, and their fears. They build broader channels of communication between military and government bureaucracies that can be of tremendous value when tensions rise.

Accordingly, the United States should declare itself ready and willing to engage in direct talks with North Korea, and a commitment to denuclearization should not be a precondition for such talks. To facilitate negotiations, the United States and South Korea should immediately cease large-scale military exercises in the region, providing North Korea with an opportunity to reciprocate by freezing its nuclear-related testing activities. The immediate aim of negotiations should be a non-aggression pact, as a step toward a comprehensive peace treaty bringing permanent closure to the Korean War and providing for a nuclear-weapon-free Korean peninsula. Success in denuclearizing the Korean peninsula will be much more likely if the United States, Russia, China and other nuclear-armed states also engage, as they are obligated to do, in negotiations for a world free of nuclear weapons.

51 countries line up to sign UN treaty outlawing nuclear weapons

In Democracy, Drones, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on September 22, 2017 at 6:02 am

Channel News Asia, September 21, 2017

UNITED NATIONS: With the North Korean nuclear crisis looming large, 51 countries on Wednesday (Sep 20) lined up to sign a new treaty outlawing nuclear weapons that has been fiercely opposed by the United States and other nuclear powers.

The treaty was adopted by 122 countries at the United Nations in July following negotiations led by Austria, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and New Zealand.

None of the nine countries that possess nuclear weapons – the United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel – took part in the negotiations.

NATO condemned the treaty, saying that it may in fact be counter-productive by creating divisions.

As leaders formally signed on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hailed as historic the first multilateral disarmament treaty in more than two decades.

But Guterres acknowledged that much work was needed to rid the world of its stockpile of 15,000 atomic warheads.

“Today we rightfully celebrate a milestone. Now we must continue along the hard road towards the elimination of nuclear arsenals,” said Guterres.

The treaty will enter into force when 50 countries have signed and ratified it, a process that could take months or years.

“At a time when the world needs to remain united in the face of growing threats, in particular the grave threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear programme, the treaty fails to take into account these urgent security challenges,” the 29-nation Western alliance said.

It added: “Seeking to ban nuclear weapons through a treaty that will not engage any state actually possessing nuclear weapons will not be effective, will not reduce nuclear arsenals, and will neither enhance any country’s security, nor international peace and stability.

REJECTING NEED FOR NUCLEAR WEAPONS

Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz of Austria, one of the few Western European nations that is not in NATO, rejected the idea that nuclear weapons were indispensable for security.

“If you look at the world’s current challenges, this narrative is not only false, it is dangerous,” he told AFP.

“The new treaty on the prohibition on nuclear weapons provides a real alternative for security: a world without any nuclear weapons, where everyone is safer, where no one needs to possess these weapons,” he said.

Brazilian President Michel Temer was the first to sign the treaty. Others included South African President Jacob Zuma and representatives from Indonesia, Ireland and Malaysia as well as the Palestinian Authority and the Vatican.

But even Japan, the only nation to have suffered atomic attack and a longstanding advocate of abolishing nuclear weapons, boycotted the treaty negotiations.

Japan is a top target of North Korea, which has triggered global alarm over its rapidly progressing drive to develop nuclear weapons, following its sixth and most powerful nuclear test and the firing of two intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The signing ceremony came a day after President Donald Trump threatened to “totally destroy North Korea” if the United States is forced to defend itself or its allies Japan and South Korea.

Nuclear powers argue their arsenals serve as a deterrent against a nuclear attack and say they remain committed to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

That decades-old treaty seeks to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. It recognises the right of five nations – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – to maintain them, while encouraging them to reduce their stockpiles.

Read more at http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/51-countries-line-up-to-sign-un-treaty-outlawing-nuclear-weapons-9234648