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Archive for the ‘Nuclear Policy’ Category

The necessity of imagining an unimaginable war

In Nonviolence, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on December 14, 2017 at 10:05 am

Lisa Fuller, Waging Nonviolence, December 5, 2017
The prospect of nuclear war with North Korea has repeatedly been described as “unimaginable” – and in fact, most of us have literally failed to imagine it. As the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof points out, “We’re complacent — neither the public nor the financial markets appreciate how high the risk is of a war, and how devastating one could be.”

Admittedly, with biological, conventional and nuclear weapons expected to kill millions, the scenario is genuinely difficult to comprehend. We struggle to translate such high numbers into pictures of individual men, women and children suffering.

Nevertheless, we can no longer afford to be in denial. Top military and political experts warn that the risk of war is at an all-time high, the threat is imminent and the impact would be catastrophic. Even before North Korea’s latest missile test, former U.S. Army General Barry McCraffrey, Council of Foreign Relations President Richard Haass and the International Institute for Strategic Studies Executive Director Mark Fitzpatrick all estimated that the risk of war was 50 percent. General McCaffrey expects that war will breakout by summer 2018.

There is a significant risk that a war would escalate beyond a regional conflict. China has warned that it would intervene on behalf of North Korea in the case of a U.S. preemptive strike, and international security experts Nora Bensahel and David Barno argue that China may launch attacks on “U.S. bases in the region or possibly even the U.S. homeland, especially since radiation would inevitably blanket some of its territory.” China has been carrying out military drills near the Korean peninsula since July, and tested an ICBM capable of hitting the continental United States on November 6. Russia also recently publicly warned that it is preparing for war as well.

Even if the war was confined to the Korean peninsula, however, it has the “potential to cause mass starvation worldwide,” as a result of nuclear winter, according to nuclear experts Alan Robock and Owen Toon.

In other words, World War III is no longer just the stuff of sci-fi movies — it may be right around the corner.

With such high stakes, it is critical that we voluntarily imagine the “unimaginable,” as uncomfortable as it may be. Those who do imagine war are much more likely to take action to prevent it. Journalist and author Jonathan Schell advocated for this position in his 1982 book “The Fate of the Earth,” writing that “Only by descending into this hell in imagination now can we hope to escape descending into it in reality … the knowledge we thus gain cannot in itself protect us from nuclear annihilation, but without it we cannot begin to take measures that can actually protect us.”

It is no coincidence that members of Congress who are war veterans have been some of the most outspoken and active in raising the alarm over the crisis in North Korea.

Although President Reagan never personally experienced war, a movie depicting a nuclear attack on the United States was enough to activate his imagination and change his entire orientation to nuclear war. After seeing the “The Day After,” he wrote in his diary that the film “left me greatly depressed … We have to do all we can to have a deterrent and see there is never a nuclear war.” A few months later, he announced that “reducing the risk of war, and especially nuclear war, is priority number one.” His shift in perspective is often credited with being one of the most important factors in de-escalating the Cold War.

As our brains are hard-wired to protect us from thinking about large-scale suffering, we too may need to take proactive efforts to imagine a potential war. For example, we can look at pictures of Hiroshima and read the stories of atomic bomb survivors, transposing such scenarios to our own cities. We can use nuclear historian Alex Wellerstein’s Nukemap to understand what would happen if a bomb was dropped on our own cities. We can ensure that we stay updated on the crisis and that we obtain information from reliable sources with expertise.

However, while imagining the prospect of war may be necessary, it is not sufficient: Americans must mobilize quickly and effectively to address the threat. If they are able to do so, there is good reason to believe they can prevent war.

First, there are viable options to resolve the Korean crisis — the Trump administration just hasn’t tried any of them yet. In 1994, the Clinton administration successfully negotiated a framework agreement that centered on the idea of a freeze-for-freeze: North Korea suspended its nuclear program in exchange for the U.S. suspending some of its military exercises. The agreement held up until 2003 when the Bush administration — not North Korea — ended the agreement.

A new freeze-for-freeze (which North Korea has repeatedly indicated it would be open to), in combination with legislation preventing Trump from launching a pre-emptive strike, would be the best possible option to solve the current crisis. Essentially, if North Korea doesn’t feel threatened, it will probably stop threatening others.

Second, there is already an existing grassroots structure with the capabilities to organize an effective large-scale movement. Since Trump became president, “an astounding number of new grassroots groups, at least six times the number the Tea Party could boast at its height,” have formed according to grassroots leader L.A. Kauffman. Activists have already done the hard part — they have formed movements, mobilized large segments of the American population, and proven their efficacy, successfully organizing to prevent the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, for example.

Third, unlike with Obamacare, there is already bipartisan support for efforts to prevent war with North Korea. There are already over 60 co-sponsors, including two Republicans, to the “No Unconstitutional Strike against North Korea Act” in the House. Although there are only three Democrats co-sponsoring the Senate bill, several Republican senators — including Bob Corker, Jeff Flake, Dan Sullivan, and John Thune — have all publicly expressed concern about Trump’s approach to North Korea.

However, there hasn’t been any movement on the bill since it was introduced in October, nor on various other bills that would restrict Trump’s power to start a pre-emptive war. Public pressure is needed to ensure that Congress prioritizes such legislation.

Although no bills have been introduced as of yet to support a freeze-for-freeze, 61 members of Congress sent a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in August highlighting the success of the aforementioned 1994 Agreed Framework, stating that there is an “urgent need to replicate these successes.” While the Trump administration is responsible for making international treaties, Congress could still force a freeze-for-freeze by passing legislation that prevents funds from being used for the most provocative military drills.

Fourth, there is a historical precedent for a large-scale nuclear freeze movement. During the Cold War, as activist and writer Duncan Meisel explained, over a third of Americans participated in “a series of city and state referendum campaigns calling for a Nuclear Freeze.” What’s more, “Reagan’s militaristic temperament” — according to Andrew Lanham of the Boston Review — actually aided the movement’s efforts to garner support across the political spectrum.

However, all of these advantages are meaningless if activists fail to focus sufficient attention on the North Korea crisis. With so many important issues at stake, activism can feel like triage these days: Efforts tend to be focused on whatever legislative calamity is most imminent. The problem with that approach is that activists’ focus becomes determined by Congress’ agenda rather than grassroots priorities.

If activists take a breath from firefighting long enough to imagine a potential war with North Korea, they may realize that they need to proactively organize to insist that Congress urgently focuses its attention on the North Korea crisis, and implements an effective legislative strategy to prevent war.

As the Bulletin of Scientists President Rachel Bronson says, “we have reversed the hands of the Doomsday Clock before. We can do it again.”

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Previous nuclear weapon plans are relevant today

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on December 13, 2017 at 12:35 am

By Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan / Albuquerque Journal. Tuesday, December 12th, 2017
In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers, thousands of pages of the Pentagon’s secret history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, exposing the government’s lies and helping to end the war. President Richard Nixon’s national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, called Ellsberg “the most dangerous man in America.”
Now at 86 years old, Ellsberg is revealing for the first time that the Pentagon Papers were not the first classified documents that he removed from his secure workplace. In his new book, “The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner,” he details his early years at the Pentagon, and why he took thousands of pages of U.S. nuclear war plans describing the lunacy of the U.S. nuclear war policy over 55 years ago. What he discovered is frighteningly relevant today.

Last July 20 at the Pentagon, President Donald Trump reportedly shocked the military staff gathered to brief him on national security issues by suggesting he wanted to increase the nuclear arsenal tenfold. It was after that meeting that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is said to have called Trump a “f-ing moron.” In August, NBC’s Joe Scarborough, citing an unnamed source, said Trump asked a foreign-policy adviser about using nuclear weapons. Scarborough said: “Three times (Trump) asked about the use of nuclear weapons. Three times he asked at one point if we had them why can’t we use them?” For over 70 years, the president has held the enormous power to launch nuclear weapons, but only one has used it: Harry Truman, ordering the dropping of two atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, killing hundreds of thousands of people. Trump, who seems to relish saber rattling and antagonizing opponents like the supreme leader of nuclear-armed North Korea, Kim Jong Un, may be pushing us to the brink of nuclear war.

Describing President Dwight Eisenhower’s nuclear war plans, which Ellsberg was tasked with improving in the early months of the Kennedy administration, the whistleblower told us on the “Democracy Now!” news hour: “They were insane. They called for first-strike, all-out war … for hitting every city – actually, every town over 25,000 – in the USSR and every city in China. … The captive nations, the East Europe satellites in the Warsaw Pact, were to be hit in their air defenses, which were all near cities, their transport points, their communications of any kind. So they were to be annihilated as well.”

Ellsberg recalled how, in 1961, the Joint Chiefs of Staff matter-of-factly predicted casualties of over 600 million people globally, when the world population was only 3 billion. “Six hundred million, that was a hundred Holocausts. I thought, ‘This is the most evil plan that has ever existed. It’s insane.’ ”

Ellsberg was summoned to the Pentagon to help manage the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, considered the closest humanity has come to nuclear annihilation. His personal experience there informs his opinion on Trump’s antagonism toward North Korea. The nuclear arsenals of both countries, he says, are “being pointed by two people who are giving very good imitations of being crazy. That’s dangerous. I hope they’re pretending. … But to pretend to be crazy with nuclear weapons is not a safe game. It’s a game of chicken. Nuclear chicken.”

Despite widespread concern with Trump’s mental stability, he remains in control of the world’s most powerful nuclear arsenal. He has promised to rain “fire and fury” on North Korea. U.S. Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, who oversees the entire nuclear arsenal, assured the audience at a public forum in November that “we’re not stupid,” that he would reject an illegal order from Trump to launch a nuclear attack.

Not satisfied to leave the check on Trump to the generals, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations held a hearing Nov. 14 to consider changing the law to forbid the president, alone, from being able to launch a nuclear attack.

We are closer to nuclear war than we have been in many decades, which is why Daniel Ellsberg’s example as a whistleblower and his call for people in government to expose current doomsday plans are more important than ever.

 

The Necessity of Imagining an Unimaginable War

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on December 11, 2017 at 11:04 pm

By Lisa Fuller

https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/why-we-must-imagine-nuclear-war-north-korea/

The prospect of nuclear war with North Korea has repeatedly been described as “unimaginable” – and in fact, most of us have literally failed to imagine it. As the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof points out, “We’re complacent — neither the public nor the financial markets appreciate how high the risk is of a war, and how devastating one could be.”

Admittedly, with biological, conventional and nuclear weapons expected to kill millions, the scenario is genuinely difficult to comprehend. We struggle to translate such high numbers into pictures of individual men, women and children suffering.

Nevertheless, we can no longer afford to be in denial. Top military and political experts warn that the risk of war is at an all-time high, the threat is imminent and the impact would be catastrophic. Even before North Korea’s latest missile test, former U.S. Army General Barry McCraffrey, Council of Foreign Relations President Richard Haass and the International Institute for Strategic Studies Executive Director Mark Fitzpatrick all estimated that the risk of war was 50 percent. General McCaffrey expects that war will breakout by summer 2018.

There is a significant risk that a war would escalate beyond a regional conflict. China has warned that it would intervene on behalf of North Korea in the case of a U.S. preemptive strike, and international security experts Nora Bensahel and David Barno argue that China may launch attacks on “U.S. bases in the region or possibly even the U.S. homeland, especially since radiation would inevitably blanket some of its territory.” China has been carrying out military drills near the Korean peninsula since July, and tested an ICBM capable of hitting the continental United States on November 6. Russia also recently publicly warned that it is preparing for war as well.

Even if the war was confined to the Korean peninsula, however, it has the “potential to cause mass starvation worldwide,” as a result of nuclear winter, according to nuclear experts Alan Robock and Owen Toon.

In other words, World War III is no longer just the stuff of sci-fi movies — it may be right around the corner.

With such high stakes, it is critical that we voluntarily imagine the “unimaginable,” as uncomfortable as it may be. Those who do imagine war are much more likely to take action to prevent it. Journalist and author Jonathan Schell advocated for this position in his 1982 book “The Fate of the Earth,” writing that “Only by descending into this hell in imagination now can we hope to escape descending into it in reality … the knowledge we thus gain cannot in itself protect us from nuclear annihilation, but without it we cannot begin to take measures that can actually protect us.”

It is no coincidence that members of Congress who are war veterans have been some of the most outspoken and active in raising the alarm over the crisis in North Korea.

Although President Reagan never personally experienced war, a movie depicting a nuclear attack on the United States was enough to activate his imagination and change his entire orientation to nuclear war. After seeing the “The Day After,” he wrote in his diary that the film “left me greatly depressed … We have to do all we can to have a deterrent and see there is never a nuclear war.” A few months later, he announced that “reducing the risk of war, and especially nuclear war, is priority number one.” His shift in perspective is often credited with being one of the most important factors in de-escalating the Cold War.

As our brains are hard-wired to protect us from thinking about large-scale suffering, we too may need to take proactive efforts to imagine a potential war. For example, we can look at pictures of Hiroshima and read the stories of atomic bomb survivors, transposing such scenarios to our own cities. We can use nuclear historian Alex Wellerstein’s Nukemap to understand what would happen if a bomb was dropped on our own cities. We can ensure that we stay updated on the crisis and that we obtain information from reliable sources with expertise.

However, while imagining the prospect of war may be necessary, it is not sufficient: Americans must mobilize quickly and effectively to address the threat. If they are able to do so, there is good reason to believe they can prevent war.

First, there are viable options to resolve the Korean crisis — the Trump administration just hasn’t tried any of them yet. In 1994, the Clinton administration successfully negotiated a framework agreement that centered on the idea of a freeze-for-freeze: North Korea suspended its nuclear program in exchange for the U.S. suspending some of its military exercises. The agreement held up until 2003 when the Bush administration — not North Korea — ended the agreement.

A new freeze-for-freeze (which North Korea has repeatedly indicated it would be open to), in combination with legislation preventing Trump from launching a pre-emptive strike, would be the best possible option to solve the current crisis. Essentially, if North Korea doesn’t feel threatened, it will probably stop threatening others.

Second, there is already an existing grassroots structure with the capabilities to organize an effective large-scale movement. Since Trump became president, “an astounding number of new grassroots groups, at least six times the number the Tea Party could boast at its height,” have formed according to grassroots leader L.A. Kauffman. Activists have already done the hard part — they have formed movements, mobilized large segments of the American population, and proven their efficacy, successfully organizing to prevent the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, for example.

Third, unlike with Obamacare, there is already bipartisan support for efforts to prevent war with North Korea. There are already over 60 co-sponsors, including two Republicans, to the “No Unconstitutional Strike against North Korea Act” in the House. Although there are only three Democrats co-sponsoring the Senate bill, several Republican senators — including Bob Corker, Jeff Flake, Dan Sullivan, and John Thune — have all publicly expressed concern about Trump’s approach to North Korea.

However, there hasn’t been any movement on the bill since it was introduced in October, nor on various other bills that would restrict Trump’s power to start a pre-emptive war. Public pressure is needed to ensure that Congress prioritizes such legislation.

Although no bills have been introduced as of yet to support a freeze-for-freeze, 61 members of Congress sent a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in August highlighting the success of the aforementioned 1994 Agreed Framework, stating that there is an “urgent need to replicate these successes.” While the Trump administration is responsible for making international treaties, Congress could still force a freeze-for-freeze by passing legislation that prevents funds from being used for the most provocative military drills.

Fourth, there is a historical precedent for a large-scale nuclear freeze movement. During the Cold War, as activist and writer Duncan Meisel explained, over a third of Americans participated in “a series of city and state referendum campaigns calling for a Nuclear Freeze.” What’s more, “Reagan’s militaristic temperament” — according to Andrew Lanham of the Boston Review — actually aided the movement’s efforts to garner support across the political spectrum.

However, all of these advantages are meaningless if activists fail to focus sufficient attention on the North Korea crisis. With so many important issues at stake, activism can feel like triage these days: Efforts tend to be focused on whatever legislative calamity is most imminent. The problem with that approach is that activists’ focus becomes determined by Congress’ agenda rather than grassroots priorities.

If activists take a breath from firefighting long enough to imagine a potential war with North Korea, they may realize that they need to proactively organize to insist that Congress urgently focuses its attention on the North Korea crisis, and implements an effective legislative strategy to prevent war.

As the Bulletin of Scientists President Rachel Bronson says, “we have reversed the hands of the Doomsday Clock before. We can do it again.”

Lisa Fuller spent the past eight years as a senior staff member and a civilian peacekeeper at Nonviolent Peaceforce, working in war zones such as Iraq, South Sudan, and Sri Lanka. She currently writes about civilian peacekeeping and conflict prevention. Follow her on Twitter: @gigipurple.

Nuclear annihilation ‘one tantrum away’, Nobel peace prize winner warns

In Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on December 11, 2017 at 10:52 pm

Ben Doherty, The Guardian, Sunday 10 December 2017

Australian-founded International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons urges support for UN treaty banning them.

The destruction of humankind is one “impulsive tantrum away”, the Australian-founded winner of the Nobel peace prize, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, warned overnight on Sunday as the United States and North Korea exchange threats over Pyongyang’s nuclear testing regime.

“Will it be the end of nuclear weapons, or will it be the end of us?” the Ican head, Beatrice Fihn, said in Oslo after receiving the peace prize on behalf of the anti-nuclear group.

“The only rational course of action is to cease living under the conditions where our mutual destruction is only one impulsive tantrum away,” Fihn said. “[Nuclear weapons] are a madman’s gun held permanently to our temple.”

Aftershocks detected after North Korea nuclear test moved Earth’s crust

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have escalated as Pyongyang has ramped up its missile and nuclear tests, and the accompanying political rhetoric has grown increasingly bombastic: North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un taunted Donald Trump as a “dotard”, while the US president dubbed his rival “Little Rocket Man” and a “sick puppy”.

Ican led the campaign for a global treaty banning nuclear weapons that resulted in a UN treaty being adopted in July this year, under which states committed to never “develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons”.

One hundred and twenty-three countries voted for the treaty at the UN general assembly in July. So far, 56 countries have signed up to it and three have ratified it. The ban treaty will come into force when 50 countries have signed and ratified it.

Ican was established in Melbourne in 2007. Its founding chair, Dr Tilman Ruff, associate professor at the Nossal institute for global health at the University of Melbourne, said in Oslo the Nobel was recognition for the millions of campaigners who had worked over decades for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

“That particularly includes the survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – the hibakusha – and victims of nuclear test explosions, including in Australia and the Pacific, whose painful personal testimonies have played such a crucial role.”

Australia has not supported nor signed the treaty.

But Ruff – who was also a member of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War when that organisation won the peace prize in 1985 for its work highlighting the catastrophic health consequences of atomic war – urged Australia to follow the lead of New Zealand, Indonesia and other countries in the Asia-Pacific and sign and ratify the accord.

“Nuclear weapons pose an existential threat in any hands and the risks of nuclear war are as high now as they have ever been.

“Yet the current Australian government has done all it can to get in the way of efforts to end this existential threat to humanity.”

Australians won the Nobel peace prize! No thanks to the weasels

The Australian government has maintained a longstanding opposition to a nuclear weapons ban treaty.

As a key plank of its foreign policy, Australia has consistently maintained that, as long as nuclear weapons exist, it must rely on the protection of the extended deterrent effect of the US’s nuclear arsenal, the second largest in the world.

Australia was a key agitator in preliminary meetings in trying to get the resolution establishing treaty negotiations defeated.

But the push for a treaty won massive global support, with 123 nations voting in favour, 38 opposing and 16 abstaining.

Australia joined the nuclear weapons states Russia, the US, Israel, France and the UK to vote against the resolution. China abstained.

The treaty will not offer a practical path to effective disarmament or enhanced security, a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman told the Guardian during negotiations.

“Australia regards the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons as the cornerstone of global non-proliferation and disarmament efforts.”

But the nuclear ban treaty has widespread community – and growing political – support.

A September poll by ReachTel found 73% of Australians support the ban on nuclear weapons and believe nuclear weapons pose a threat to global security.

Seventy-three parliamentarians – including 60 members of the Labor party, eight Greens, one Liberal and one National – have signed Ican’s global parliamentary pledge, which commits parliamentarians “to work for the signature and ratification of this landmark treaty by our respective countries”.

Have we got just three months to avert a US attack on North Korea?

“We consider the abolition of nuclear weapons to be a global public good of the highest order and an essential step to promote the security and well-being of all peoples,” the pledge says.

The nuclear ban treaty is supported by the majority of the nations on earth but it has no backing from the nine known nuclear states – the US, China, France, Britain, Russia, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea – which include the veto-wielding permanent five members of the security council.

Critics argue that a treaty cannot succeed without the participation of the states that possess nuclear weapons.

But proponents say a nuclear weapons ban will create moral suasion – in the vein of the cluster weapons ban and landmine conventions – for nuclear weapons states to disarm and establish an international norm prohibiting the development, possession and use of nuclear weapons.

Non-nuclear states have expressed increasing frustration with the sclerotic movement towards disarmament.

With nuclear weapons states modernising and in some cases increasing their arsenals, instead of discarding them, more states are becoming disenchanted with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and lending their support for an outright ban.

US senator on North Korea: “Most Americans don’t realize how close we are to this war”

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on December 9, 2017 at 9:29 am

By Zack Beauchamp@zackbeauchampzack@vox.com Dec 7, 2017

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a decorated veteran of the Iraq War, is scared — scared that the Trump administration may be getting the US into a devastating war with North Korea without much of the public noticing or seeming to care.

“Most Americans,” she says, “don’t realize how close we are to this war.”

Duckworth, who lost both of her legs after her helicopter was shot down by insurgents, has closely followed both aggressive rhetoric from the White House and the way the US military has been approaching the Korean Peninsula. She believes the events of the past six months indicate that President Trump might be willing to actually launch a preventive strike on North Korea, despite the real chance that it could trigger a nuclear exchange.

This line of reasoning would be worrying if it were coming from an outside analyst or expert. But coming from a US senator and veteran, someone who knows war and has top-level security clearances, it’s truly disturbing — an indication that we need to be having a much bigger debate over Trump’s North Korea policy than we are.

What follows is a transcript of my conversation with Duckworth, edited for length and clarity.

Zack Beauchamp
How worried are you about the rhetoric coming from the White House about war with North Korea?

Tammy Duckworth
I’m extremely worried — not just based on what I’m hearing out of the White House but also what I’m hearing out of the defense community. We are far closer to actual conflict over North Korea than the American people realize.

In August, we had a meeting between Defense Secretary [James] Mattis and his counterparts in South Korea to discuss the use of US nuclear first strike. In the same time frame, we permanently moored a nuclear submarine in South Korea. Everything we’re doing shows a military that, in my personal opinion, has turned the corner from “we need to try to prevent this from happening” to a military that’s saying the president is likely to make this decision [to attack] and we need to be ready.

I don’t think they want a conflict. I don’t think they think we’re going to have one tomorrow. But with what the president and the White House has been saying, they are now preparing for one.

Zack Beauchamp
The fear here is that President Trump launches an intentional, preventive strike on North Korea, not some kind of miscalculation or accidental war. Right?

Tammy Duckworth
Right. But a preventive first strike from us will result in a massive response from the North Koreans. We know this because a high-ranking defector from North Korea testified in front of Congress last month; one of the things that would happen is a preemptive first strike from the United States or South Korea would result in an automatic massive response.

Our military has war-gamed this out. My concern is that our president is either ignoring this information or not getting this information, because he’s out there saying “the time for negotiations is over” and frankly seems eager, in my opinion, to launch a first strike.

Zack Beauchamp
That’s what I find baffling, even terrifying. It seems like he wants to, and that the aides who are supposed to be reining him in, most notably National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, aren’t actually doing it.

If anything, McMaster’s talk about irrationality indicates that he supports a first strike on North Korea. If they’re irrational, it means they can’t be allowed to have nukes.

Tammy Duckworth
I think that the president is playing to a segment of the population and, I think, relying on the fact that most Americans don’t realize how close we are to this war.

Look: I’m not someone who’s going to avoid war at all costs. That’s not me. But I want the American people to know what this will cost.

We went through this with Iraq. When Gen. [Eric] Shinseki, with absolute courage, said in testimony that it’s going to take 300,000 troops to invade Iraq, he was fired for it — because the Bush administration and Vice President Cheney were selling the lie that it would be over in two weeks and the Iraqi population would greet us with flowers and chocolates. I remember that.

And here we are again. We don’t have the troops in the region, on the ground, to do what would need to be done to fully contain [North Korea’s] nuclear capabilities. Just ramping up — prepositioning troops, stocks, and logistics in a place where we could do it — could prompt the North Koreans to do something.

 

Hyping U.S. Missile Defense Capabilities Could Have Grave Consequences

In Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on December 5, 2017 at 9:21 am

In response to North Korea’s latest ballistic missile test, which flew higher and farther than any of its previous launches, President Trump told Americans not to worry. “We will take care of it,” he said. “It is a situation that we will handle.”
The big question is how. Unfortunately, Trump’s assertion may rest on his unwarranted confidence in the U.S. missile defense system. During a recent interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity about the threat posed by a potential North Korean nuclear strike, he declared that the United States has “missiles that can knock out a missile in the air 97 percent of the time.”

The facts, however, tell a different story.

The reality is that the U.S. Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system has succeeded in destroying a mock enemy missile in only 56 percent of its tests since 1999. And, as I’ll explain, none of the tests approached the complexity of a real-world nuclear launch.

What’s more, ever since the George W. Bush administration, the GMD program has been exempt from routine Pentagon oversight and accountability procedures. The result? Fifteen years later, all available evidence indicates that it is still not ready for prime time, and may never be.

Of course, Trump is prone to exaggeration. In fact, he has averaged more than five lies per day since taking office. But it is critical to understand the potential ramifications of this particular Trumparian boast: It could lull Americans into a false sense of security and, even more alarming, embolden Trump to start a war. As veteran military reporter Fred Kaplan pointed out, if the president truly believes the U.S. missile defense system is infallible, “he might think that he could attack North Korea with impunity. After all, if the North Koreans retaliated by firing their nuclear missiles back at us or our allies, we could shoot them down.”

Such wishful thinking could clearly lead to a disastrous miscalculation. And what’s worse, Trump just may believe his preposterous claim because he’s not the only one making it.

If You Repeat a Lie Often Enough…

Missile defense advocates have a long history of hyperbole. A 2016 report by the Union of Concerned Scientists included an appendix with a selected list of some three dozen statements administration and military officials have made extolling the GMD system’s virtues. They are incredibly consistent, and given the facts, consistently incredible.

In March 2003 — before the GMD system was even deployed — then-Undersecretary of Defense Edward Aldridge assured the Senate Armed Services Committee that its “effectiveness is in the 90 percent success range” when asked if it would protect Americans from the nascent North Korean threat.

Seven years later, in December 2010, then-Missile Defense Agency Director Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly told the House Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces subcommittee that “the probability will be well over in the high 90s today of the GMD system being able to intercept” an Iranian intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) targeting New York City.

Fast forward to April 2016, when Brian McKeon, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces subcommittee. “The U.S. homeland,” he maintained, “is currently protected against potential ICBM attacks from states like North Korea and Iran if it was to develop an ICBM in the future.”

Wrong, wrong, and yet again, wrong. As Washington Post “Fact Checker” columnist Glenn Kessler wrote in mid-October, the claim that the GMD system has a success rate in the “high-90s” is based on “overenthusiastic” math. Although the system has succeeded only 56 percent of the time over the last two decades, the calculation is predicated on a hypothetical, never-been-tested launch of four GMD interceptors with a 60-percent success rate producing a 97-percent chance of destroying one incoming ICBM. If one interceptor missed because of a design flaw, however, the other three would likely fail as well. “The odds of success under the most ideal conditions are no better than 50-50,” Kessler concluded, “and likely worse, as documented in detailed government assessments.”

No surprise, defense contractors also wildly overstate the GMD system’s capabilities.

This September on CNBC’s Squawk Box, Leanne Caret, president and CEO of Boeing’s Defense, Space & Security division, stated unequivocally that the GMD system would “keep us safe” from a North Korean attack. The system is “doing exactly what is needed,” Caret said, but added that it will ultimately require even more rocket interceptors from her company, the prime GMD system contractor since 1996. There are currently 40 interceptors in underground silos at Fort Greely in Alaska and four at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Southern California, all made by Boeing.

Raytheon CEO Thomas Kennedy, whose company produces the “kill vehicle” that sits atop Boeing’s interceptor, was equally sanguine about the GMD system when he appeared on Squawk Box the following month. “I say relative to the North Korean threat, you shouldn’t be worried,” Kennedy said. “But you should ensure that you’ve talked to your congressman or congresswoman to make sure they support the defense budget to the point where it can continue to defend the United States and its allies.”

Given such glowing reviews, it’s no wonder President Trump asked Congress for $4 billion for the GMD system and other programs, such as the ship-based Aegis system, designed to intercept short- to intermediate-range missiles. In a November 6 letter to lawmakers, Trump wrote: “This request supports additional efforts to detect, defeat, and defend against any North Korean use of ballistic missiles against the United States, its deployed forces, allies, or partners.”

The House of Representatives apparently is even more enthused about the GMD system’s much-touted capabilities. It passed a $700-billion defense authorization bill on November 14 that includes $12.3 billion for the Missile Defense Agency — more than triple what Trump requested. Some of that money would cover the cost of as many as 28 additional GMD interceptors, but lawmakers asked Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to develop a plan to add 60, which would increase the overall number of interceptors to 104.

Unrealistic, Carefully Scripted Tests

If members of Congress bothered to take a closer look at the GMD system’s track record, they would hopefully realize that committing billions more is throwing good money after bad. Even the most recent test, which the Missile Defense Agency declared a success, would not inspire confidence.

That test, which took place on May 30, resulted in a GMD interceptor knocking a mock enemy warhead out of the sky. At a press conference afterward, then-Missile Defense Agency Director Vice Adm. James Syring claimed it was “exactly the scenario we would expect to occur during an operational engagement.”

Not exactly. Yes, the Pentagon did upgrade its assessment of the GMD system in light of the May exercise, but — like previous tests — it was not held under real-world conditions.

In its 2016 annual report, the Pentagon’s Operational Test and Evaluation office cautioned that the GMD system has only a “limited capability to defend the U.S. homeland from small numbers of simple intermediate range or intercontinental ballistic missile threats launched from North Korea or Iran.” The “reliability and availability of the operational [interceptors],” it added, “are low.” After the May test, however, the office issued a memo stating that “GMD has demonstrated capability to defend the U.S. homeland from a small number of intermediate-range or intercontinental missile threats with simple countermeasures.”

Despite this rosier appraisal, Laura Grego, a Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) physicist who has written extensively about the GMD system, is not convinced that the latest test represents a significant improvement. After analyzing an unclassified Missile Defense Agency video of the May 30 exercise, she concluded that it was clearly “scripted to succeed.”

As in previous tests, system operators knew approximately when and where the mock enemy missile would be launched, its expected trajectory, and what it would look like to sensors, she said. And, like the previous tests, the one in May pitted one GMD interceptor against a single missile that was slower than an ICBM that could reach the continental United States, without realistic decoys or other countermeasures that could foil U.S. defenses.

The key takeaway? The GMD system has destroyed its target in only four of 10 tests since it was fielded in 2004, even though all of the tests were held under improbably ideal conditions. If the tests had been more realistic, the GMD system likely would be zero for 10. Moreover, the system’s record has not improved over time. Indeed, it flunked three of the four tests preceding the one in May, and not because the Missile Defense Agency made the tests progressively more difficult.

According to the 2016 UCS report Grego co-authored, a primary reason for the GMD system’s reliability problems is not funding, but lack of oversight. In its rush to get the system up and running, the George W. Bush administration exempted the program from standard military procurement rules and testing protocols. That ill-advised decision has not only run up the system’s price tag, which to date amounts to more than $40 billion, it also has produced a system that is incapable of defending the United States from a limited nuclear attack.

“Regardless of what President Trump and other missile defense boosters want us to believe, the data show that we can’t count on the current system to protect us,” said Grego. “We need to reduce the risk of a crisis escalating out of control. Only diplomacy has a realistic chance of doing that.”

Elliott Negin is a senior writer at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Nuclear disarmament now a ‘moral imperative’ as Pope Francis rejects deterrence

In Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on December 4, 2017 at 11:18 pm

In a landmark statement on nuclear arms on Nov. 10, Pope Francis has categorically condemned not only “the threat of their use” but also “their very possession.”

Nuclear weapons, he told participants at a Vatican symposium on “integral disarmament,” exist “in the service of a mentality of fear that affects not only the parties in conflict but the entire human race.”

His audience included representatives from the United States and Russia. He told them that “international relations cannot be held captive to military force, mutual intimidation and the parading of stockpiles of arms.”
World leaders are meeting at the Vatican to discuss nuclear weapons. Here’s why.
Kevin Clarke

He said that “weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, create nothing but a false sense of security. They cannot constitute the basis for peaceful coexistence between members of the human family, which must rather be inspired by an ethics of solidarity.”

He is the first pope ever to condemn the possession of nuclear weapons since they were initially developed at the end of World War II and then used twice by the United States at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, causing the deaths of 210,000 people.

Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego told America, “Pope Francis was clear that because of the significant risks of even an anticipated or accidental war, and of the gargantuan and devastating effects of nuclear war, and of provoking other nations to perhaps use them, the possession itself of these weapons is now condemned, regardless of the intention.”

“International relations cannot be held captive to military force, mutual intimidation and the parading of stockpiles of arms.”
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He called the pope’s statement “new and, of course…very significant.” “It is going beyond the questions raised before about the ethic of nuclear deterrence not being warranted in the present day,” Bishop McElroy said. “It’s really going beyond that to the possession itself being morally wrong.”

The bishop said that “the moral imperative” for Catholics and indeed the whole world is a move “progressively and dramatically toward getting rid of nuclear arms.”

Ambassador Douglas Roche, who served as Canada’s ambassador on disarmament to the United Nations (1984-89) and was elected chairman of the United Nations Disarmament Committee in 1988, told America: “I consider Pope Francis’ categorical condemnation of the possession of nuclear weapons to be of a historic nature, a breakthrough. It’s the strongest statement that a pope has made in opposition to the very holding of nuclear weapons, as distinct from their very use.”

Ambassador Roche noted that the United States is currently leading a fight against a recent U.N. treaty supporting the global abolition of nuclear weapons, a position which just took a “big hit” because of the pope’s condemnation.

“Now along comes Pope Francis who gives his moral authority to [nuclear abolition], too,” he said. “This removes the last band the United States had in justifying nuclear weapons, which was John Paul II’s statement in 1982 in which the church gave a limited acceptance for deterrence as long as it would not become permanent.”

He believes the pope’s statement “was a courageous step because he knows that he’s got a lot of bishops that are going to be extremely uneasy about this,” and “the governments [who possess nuclear arms] will not like it at all and especially the United States, where there is a very significant Catholic population.”

“The Holy See has said this before, but putting the words in the mouth of the pope gives it a whole new standing,” said Drew Christiansen, S.J., of Georgetown University, who delivered a talk at the symposium. “This is a very dramatic break from the popular mind; the church has dropped the other shoe and said it is wrong to possess nuclear weapons.”

The Holy See, for its part, is fully aware that there is no movement among those who possess nuclear arms toward negotiating their elimination. On the contrary, they are making significant new investments in their modernization.

Pope Francis’ condemnation of nuclear weapons represents a significant departure from the stance taken by his predecessors. St. John Paul II had accepted the ethic of deterrence with the understanding that the nations who possessed nuclear arms intended to move forward from deterrence to disarmament as outlined in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (Article VI) signed in 1968.

Pope Francis’ condemnation of nuclear weapons represents a significant departure from the stance taken by his predecessors.
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Bishop McElroy told the conference on Nov. 11 that Pope Benedict had recognized the great risk nuclear weapons posed to humanity and called for an effective demilitarization. But that has not happened.

Bishop McElroy said, “In 2008, Pope Benedict, surveying the nuclear landscape in the world, lamented that an ethic of complacency and even a toleration of limited nuclear expansion had become inextricably intertwined with the ethic of deterrence.” Pope Benedict, he said, observing that possession of nuclear weapons “was increasingly becoming a sign of great power status,” saw them as “a temptation for newly emerging powers to defend their interests and their peoples, and a spur to modernization.”

Pope Francis’ condemnation of the possession of nuclear weapons came in his keynote address to the 350 participants at this Vatican symposium on “perspectives for a world free from nuclear arms and for integral disarmament,” organized by the Dicastery for the Promoting Integral Human Development.

The pope began his address by underlining the importance of their discussion at this moment in history when “a climate of instability and conflict” is growing and the prospects of a world without nuclear arms seems “increasingly remote.” He said that “the arms race continues unabated and the price of modernizing and developing weaponry, not only nuclear weapons, represents a considerable expense for nations.”

As a result, Francis said, “the real priorities facing our human family, such as the fight against poverty, the promotion of peace, the undertaking of educational, ecological and health care projects, and the development of human rights are relegated to second place.”

His condemnation came from a realization of “the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental effects of any employment of nuclear devices” and “the risk of an accidental detonation as a result of error of any kind.”

Faced with this situation, Francis said, “the threat of their use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned.”

The two-day symposium (Nov. 10 to 11), whose sponsors included the German and Japanese bishops’ conferences, the Nuclear Threat Initiative and Georgetown University and the University of Notre Dame, brought together 11 Nobel Peace laureates and experts in the field of nuclear arms from civil society, states and international organizations as well as influential academics.

Beatrice Fihn, the Swedish-born executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which was awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, told America that the pope “is giving moral leadership” on nuclear disarmament.

She hailed the fact that under his leadership the Holy See “ratified the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons so quickly.” This was a reference to the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear arms, which was approved at a U.N. conference on July 7. Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the secretary for Relations with States, signed the treaty on behalf of the Holy See and the Vatican City State on Sept. 20 in what Ms. Fihn described as “a strong signal to the world.”

Ms. Fihn told America: “I am not a religious person, and I am usually not very impressed with celebrities, but I was very taken with Pope Francis, and when he came into the room I was very moved by his presence. He was very warm when I greeted him, and I asked him to ask people to pray for the abolition of nuclear weapons on Dec. 10, international human rights day, when we receive the Nobel Peace Prize.”

Ms. Fihn was “delighted” to have been invited to this conference, which, she said, “is a sign that Pope Francis and the Vatican are taking this seriously, and that it’s one of their priority issues now.” She emphasized that the movement to abolish nuclear weapons “is going to need the support of religious communities if we are going to be able to take this forward.” She believes there is “an opportunity” to do so now because of “the tensions between the United States and North Korea and the growing fear of a confrontation.”

Today nine states possess nuclear arms: the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea. The United States and Russia together have 14,000 out of the 15,000 nuclear weapons known to exist in the world, 2,000 of which “are still on high alert,” according to Mohamed El Baradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and one of the main speakers at the symposium.

Mr. El Baradei described the argument that nuclear weapons have kept the peace as “bogus.”

“A peace that hangs on a doctrine of mutually assured destruction,” he said, “is underpinned by human fallibility and, in addition, is irrelevant to extremists. It is a peace that is unsustainable and highly perilous.”

Nuclear weapons, he warned, “are the most urgent threat facing humanity today, and the risk of their use is higher than at any time in the recent past.”

According to Mr. El Baradei, “The entire landscape is frightening and shameful. It shows no genuine commitment whatsoever to nuclear disarmament.”

He said, “A U.S. or Russian president has a mere seven to eight minutes to respond to a ‘reported’ nuclear attack, with the odds of miscalculation increasing exponentially as a result of cyber-manipulation.”
World leaders are meeting at the Vatican to discuss nuclear weapons. Here’s why.
Kevin Clarke

Alexei Georgevich Arbatov, who has spent most of his life working on these issues and now heads the Center for International Security at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations in Russia, agreed with Mr. El Baradei. “The nuclear arms control regime of the last 50 years is disintegrating,” he said.

Several other speakers, including Jody Williams, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for leading the successful campaign to get an international treaty banning anti-personnel landmines, emphasized the need for all-out global mobilization to get more and more states to sign and ratify the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons. Everyone recognizes that it is a steep, uphill struggle, but there is confidence that it can be done.

A number of participants called for Pope Francis to write an encyclical on this subject, as a companion to “Laudato Si’.” But others, like Northern Ireland Nobel Peace laureate Mairead Corrigan-Maguire, told America they would like the issue to be part of an encyclical on “non-violence.” Cardinal Peter Turkson, the head of the Vatican’s integral human development office, said he has heard these calls but believes his dicastery must first work on a revision of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church on the question of nuclear arms.

As this important and energizing symposium drew to a close, Wada Masako, a “Hibakusha”—the Japanese name for the survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—gave a deeply moving testimony. She recalled that she was 22 months old when Nagasaki, the city where she lived, was devastated. She went on to narrate in graphic detail what her mother had told her about “the hellish scenes” she witnessed then. When she concluded her testimony with a passionate appeal for the abolition of nuclear weapons, she was given a standing ovation.

Pope decries ‘irrational’ attitude towards nuclear weapons

In Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on December 4, 2017 at 11:02 pm

Philip Pullella

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Saturday urged world leaders to turn back from the brink of possible human annihilation, suggesting that some of them had an “irrational” attitude towards nuclear weapons.

Pope Francis gestures during a news conference on board of the plane during his flight back from a trip to Myanmar and Bangladesh, December 2, 2017. REUTERS/Vincenzo Pinto/Pool
The pope made his comments to reporters aboard the plane taking him back to Rome from a trip to Myanmar and Bangladesh, which was dominated by the crisis of Rohingya refugees affecting both countries.

In a speech last month, the pope suggested that he was ready to officially harden the decades-old Church teaching that possessing nuclear weapons as a deterrence was morally acceptable as long as the ultimate goal was their elimination.

In that speech on Nov. 10, Francis said even the mere possession of nuclear weapons should now be condemned because there appeared to be little or no intention by world leaders to reduce their numbers.

Aboard the plane, he was asked what had prompted him to consider changing the official Church position and specifically, what he felt about the war of words between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“What has changed is the irrationality (of the attitude toward nuclear weapons),” Francis said.

”Today we are at the limit,“ he said. It can be debated but it is my opinion, my conviction, that we have reached the limit of the (moral) licitness of having and using nuclear weapons,” he said.

“Why? Because today, with such a sophisticated nuclear arsenal, we risk the destruction of humanity or at least a great part of humanity,” he said.

The pope has in the past suggested that a third nation should try to negotiate a deal between the United States and North Korea and had urged both sides to cool down the rhetoric and stop trading insults.

”We are at the limit, and because we are at the limit, I ask myself this question … Today, is it licit to keep nuclear arsenals as they are, or today, in order to save creation, to save humanity, is it not necessary to turn back?

South Korea said on Friday that North Korea’s latest missile test puts Washington within range, but Pyongyang still needs to prove it has mastered critical missile technology, such as re-entry, terminal stage guidance and warhead activation.

The test prompted a warning from the United States that North Korea’s leadership would be “utterly destroyed” if war were to break out, a statement that drew sharp criticism from Russia.

Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Richard Balmforth
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Reach High for a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World

In Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on December 4, 2017 at 2:37 am

Youth appeal to world leaders to participate constructively in the 2018 UN High Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament

Participants of the Reaching High conference* in Prague, November 27-29, 2017 express our;

  1. Alarm at the risks of nuclear weapons use by accident, miscalculation or intent, especially in these times of increasing conflict;
  2. Concern at the catastrophic human, economic and environmental consequences the use of nuclear weapons would have, possibly ending civilization as we know it;
  3. Sorrow at the extensive impact already caused by the production and testing of nuclear weapons on human health and the environment, and the fact that such impact will last for generations;
  4. Agreement with the notion that ‘There are no right hands for wrong weapons’ and that nuclear weapons are wrong weapons as they could not be used without affecting civilians, the environment and future generations;
  5. Opposition to the $100 billion spent annually on nuclear weapons, when such funds are sorely needed for climate protection, to achieve the sustainable development goals, and for other social and economic need;
  6. Support for efforts to slash nuclear weapons spending directly through budget allocations and indirectly through ending investments of public funds and banks in nuclear weapons corporations;
  7. Affirmation that the goal of nuclear disarmament is a universal goal that transcends differences in politics, nationalities, religions, cultures and ages;
  8. Insistence that nuclear weapon states and their allies fulfill their obligation to nuclear disarmament by replacing nuclear deterrence with common security approaches, such as those outlined in the UN Charter of diplomacy, negotiation, mediation, adjudication and application of international law;
  9. Highlight the important role of civil society, including all ages from youth to seniors, in the promotion of nuclear disarmament and participation in international disarmament forums such as the 2018 UN High- Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament;

10. Encourage governments to work with civil society organisations to educate and engage public in nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament as agreed by governments in the final report of the United Nations Study on Disarmament and Nonproliferation Education.

And in particular we call on:

  1. All governments to participate at the highest level (Prime Minister, President, Foreign Minister or Minister for Disarmament) in the 2018 UN High-Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament;
  2. Non-nuclear countries to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at the 2018 UN High- Level Conference, if they have not already done so, in order to secure 100 signatories by the end of the conference;
  3. Nuclear reliant countries (nuclear armed countries and their allies) to adopt a declaration at the conference to never use nuclear weapons first, and to ensure that all nuclear weapons systems are taken off high-readiness to use, and to commit to negotiations on phased nuclear disarmament.

* The Reaching High for a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World conference, held at the Charles University in Prague, included university students, young academics, policy analysts and activists from Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Portugal, Russia, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States. The conference was organised by the Abolition 2000 Youth Network. Co-sponsored by the Basel Peace Office, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament (PNND), Prague Vision Institute for Sustainable Security, Centre for Security Policy at Charles University (SBP) and UNFOLD ZERO.

Statement by a Harvard Physician about Treatment of Those Receiving the Nobel Prize for the Nuclear Ban Treaty

In Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on December 3, 2017 at 8:22 am

While this is unfortunate but not surprising, this is actually very mild compared to the reaction of the U.S. and some allies, and much of the Western media, at the time of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize to IPPNW.

We actually have made enormous progress since then.

Among other things from 1985:

1. US Senate

The US Senate approved a resolution condemning the awarding of the Prize to IPPNW, and the official Congressional Record still contains that resolution, which was something along the lines of “…Whereas IPPNW Co-President Dr. Yevgueni Chazov is a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, whereas he therefore shares responsibility for…[then a long list, including the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, human rights abuses, etc. etc.], the U.S. Senate condemns the award and requests that the Nobel Committee rescind…”

We (IPPNW) chose to ignore that, since protesting would just draw more attention to it.

2. German Foreign Minister

The German Foreign Minister asked the Nobel Committee to rescind the award, and my memory is that then Chair of the Nobel Committee Egil Aarvik, when asked by the media about this, replied something along the lines of “We stand by our decision. The last time such a high-ranking German official asked us to rescind an award was when Adolf Hitler asked us…and we didn’t change our mind that time, either.”

3. Official Nobel Press Conference in Oslo

Almost all that the Western media wanted to talk about was Andrei Sakharov, 1975 Nobel Peace laureate, and why Dr. Chazov was not insisting that he be released from internal exile. It was a very heated press conference, in a very warm room, and at one point a few feet away from me a Soviet correspondent, Lev Novikov, collapsed to the floor. Western media around me called out things along the lines of “Ignore him, he’s faking, he’s just trying to interrupt the press conference, we need our questions answered!!” Dr. Lown and Dr. Chazov, both cardiologists, rushed from the dias to join Drs. Jim Muller and Marcia Goldberg, who had found that he was in cardiac arrest, and while others around kept calling out that he was faking, the IPPNW doctors performed prolonged CPR during the extensive time it took emergency medical personnel to arrive to take him by ambulance to the hospital, where fortunately he survived and largely recovered. (See UPI story here, including report that the US and German Ambassadors would be boycotting the Nobel Ceremony the next day.)

4. Other Western Media coverage

Two Wall Street Journal editorials condemning the award were titled “Nobel Peace Fraud” and “Embarrassment in Oslo”. An editorial condemning the award in the Detroit Free Press (USA) called us “Heirs to Joseph Mengele”, because one of our senior Soviet colleagues, Dr. Marat Vartanyan, was one of the most senior psychiatrists in the Soviet Union, and since we were working with him in IPPNW we were therefore guilty of promoting Soviet psychiatric abuses of dissidents.

5. Years Earlier: Albert Schweitzer (1952 Nobel Peace laureate)

When Dr. Albert Schweitzer spoke out against nuclear weapons testing in the 1950’s, condemning equally US and Soviet nuclear test explosions, the US government stole his mail and did all it could to destroy his reputation — this was the exact time that stories started appearing in the media about “Schweitzer the racist” and “Schweitzer the colonialist”, which still circulate on the internet.

Lesson/Conclusion:

The most important lesson for us from this history – apart from the fact that these attacks from nuclear weapons states and their allies are inevitable, and are really just evidence that they take our work very seriously – is that when President Kennedy signed the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the White House then bragged about Dr. Schweitzer’s support. President Kennedy wrote a letter to Dr. Schweitzer in which he wrote “You are one of the transcendent moral influences of our century.”

I think Beatrice Fihn’s comments are exactly right. We should stay focused on our mission. We have both scientific facts behind us and the moral high ground, and just need to keep successfully recruiting support from the people of the world, from growing numbers of nation states, and one day even from all of today’s nuclear weapons states.

–Lachlan

Lachlan Forrow, MD

Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Past Board Chair and CEO
International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW
1985 Nobel Peace Prize laureate organization and Founding Partner Organization of ICAN, 2017 Nobel Peace Prize laureate