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Archive for the ‘Nuclear Policy’ Category

Anti-nuclear bomb activists arrested at U.S. mission to U.N.

In Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on June 22, 2017 at 12:45 am

World News, June 19, 2017

More than a dozen activists were arrested for disorderly conduct after they blocked the entrances to the United States mission to the United Nations on Monday to protest Washington’s decision to boycott negotiations on a nuclear weapons ban treaty.

Chanting “U.S. join the talks, ban the bomb,” the protesters sat in front of the doors for about 10 minutes before New York police moved in. Police had repeatedly warned protesters that they would be arrested if they did not disperse.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley announced in March that the United States, Britain and France were among almost 40 countries that decided not to join talks on a nuclear weapons ban treaty at the United Nations.

A second round of negotiations is underway at the United Nations.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution in December – 113 in favor to 35 against, with 13 abstentions – that decided to “negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination” and encouraged all member states to participate.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Grant McCool)

The US Way of War continues in the same form today on both domestic and foreign land.

In Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on June 21, 2017 at 9:56 pm

Popular Resistance Newsletter, 6-21-17

We just returned from the weekend-long United National Anti-War Coalition (UNAC) conference in Richmond, VA. This is the fourth UNAC conference since its founding in 2010 to create a vibrant and active anti-war movement in the United States that opposes all wars. The theme this year was stopping the wars at home and abroad in recognition that we can’t end one without ending the others, that they have common roots and that it will take a large, broad-based and diverse movement of movements to succeed.
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Speakers at the conference ranged from people who are fighting for domestic issues – such as a $15/hour minimum wage and an end to racist police brutality and ICE raids – to people who traveled from or represented countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Hungary, Korea, the Philippines, the Congo, Iran, Syria, Colombia and Venezuela, which are some of the many countries under attack by US imperialism. At the end of the conference, participants marched to an area of Richmond called Shockoe Bottom, which is an African cemetery close to a site that was a central hub for the slave trade, to rally with activists with the Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice and Equality who are fighting to protect the land from gentrification and preserve it as a park.
The War at Home
The “US Way of War” – a brutal form of war that requires the total destruction of populations, targets the most vulnerable and wipes out their access to basic necessities such as food and water – has raged since settlers first stepped foot on the land that is now the United States and brutalized the Indigenous Peoples in order to take their lands and resources to build wealth for the colonizers and their home countries using the slave labor of Africans and indentured servants. The US Way of War continues in the same form today on both domestic and foreign land.
Castille protest of jury verdice 6-17-17There are daily reminders of the war at home, which overwhelmingly targets people of color, immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ people, the poor and workers. Over 1,000 civilians are killed by police, security personnel or vigilantes every year in the US. Black young men are nine times more likely to be victims than any other group, but, as in the case of Philando Castile, few of the killers are held accountable. Despite clear evidence that Castile was murdered by Officer Jeromino Yanez in front of his girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter during a traffic stop, Yanez was acquitted this week. Within hours of the verdict, thousands of local residents marched against the injustice and some shut down a major highway.
Black Lives Matter Chicago and other community groups filed a lawsuit this week asking for federal oversight of their police. They accuse the mayor of trying to cut a backroom deal with the Department of Justice to water down oversight of the police after a DoJ investigation “found widespread constitutional violations by the Chicago Police Department.” And recently, though Take Em Down NoLa was successful, after years of efforts, at removing several confederate statues in New Orleans, structural racism is still rampant in the school and law enforcement systems. Ashana Bigard explains, a DoJ investigation found “98.6 percent of all children arrested by the New Orleans Police Department for ‘serious offenses’ were black.”
Ralph Poynter, the widower of the great attorney-activist Lynne Stewart, spoke at the UNAC conference about the many political prisoners who have been jailed in the US for decades. He described the organizing efforts to release Stewart and the public sympathy that she was given, in part, for being a white woman. There are many people who deserve equal organizing efforts, such as Major Tillery who, after 33 years, is appealing his murder conviction. Indeed, many from the black freedom struggle of decades past remain imprisoned. Let us not forget them.
Ingrid_anibal_KitcehnMVFMAnd the Trump administration is ramping up deportations. This week, ICE Director Thomas Homan asked Congress “for more than a billion dollars to expand ICE’s capacity to detain and deport undocumented immigrants.” Homan also indicated that he would increase deportations, saying “‘no population of persons’ in the country illegally is safe from deportation.” In this interview, Ingrid Latorre describes how the Sanctuary Movement is working to protect immigrants.
Juneteenth is a Time to End the War at Home
Juneteenth, the day in 1865 when black slaves in Texas learned they were freed – two and one-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, is a little known holiday that is being celebrated this year through efforts to end racial disparities on many fronts of struggle. A coalition of organizations is working to raise awareness of the injustice of cash bail in the US. They raised over a million dollars and are using that to bail out black fathers and “black LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming people, who are overrepresented in jails and prisons and are likely to experience abuse while incarcerated.”
Other groups are organizing in cities across the country to “Take Back the Land” and call for reparations after centuries of oppression. They write:
“We are a people who have been enslaved and dispossessed as a result of the oppressive, exploitative, extractive system of colonialism and white supremacy. In this system, our labor and its products have been forcefully taken from us for generations, for the accumulation of wealth by others. This extraction of wealth – from our labor, and from the land – formed the financial basis of the modern globalized world economy and has led to compounded exploitation and social alienation of Black people to this day.”
1tbtlJessicah Pierre explains that despite more than 150 years of ‘freedom’, black people still have a long way to go. A report called “The Ever Growing Gap” found that if we continue on the current path, “black families would have to work another 228 years to amass the amount of wealth white families already hold today.”
Wealth inequality is growing globally. Paul Bucheit explains that the five richest men in the world have almost the same wealth as the bottom 50% of the world’s population, which means each one of them has the wealth of 750 million people. Bucheit also explains that they didn’t earn it, they effectively stole it. More and more, we view the US as a kleptocracy. One idea to recapture that lost wealth and share it more equally is a Citizen’s Wealth Fund. Stewart Lansley writes that they “operate like a giant community-owned unit trust, giving all citizens an equal stake in a part of the economy.”
Ending the Wars Abroad
It would be impossible to discuss all of the wars abroad in this one newsletter (our Memorial Day newsletter discusses war further), but it is important that people in the US understand how the US Way of War is being waged around the world and its domestic impacts. Much of that was discussed at the UNAC conference, which you can watch here. Here are a few items that we suggest checking out.
This week on Clearing the FOG, we spoke with FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley and journalist Max Blumenthal about “Russiagate” and the way it is being used to trick progressives into supporting conflict with Russia. We also recommend watching Oliver Stone’s series of interviews with Vladimir Putin, even though the government and even Rolling Stone urge you not to watch these excellent interviews. Abby Martin of The Empire Files traveled to Venezuela to witness the protests firsthand and the violence being perpetrated by the right wing opposition that is funded by the US. And as President Trump sheds more of his responsibilities as Commander in Chief and hands them to generals such as Masterson and Mattis, who wants to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan, it is important to read this excellent analysis, “Afghanistan: From Soviet Occupation to American ‘Liberation“, by Nauman Sadiq.
1banbombAt present, more than 130 countries are negotiating a treaty at the United Nations that would prohibit all nuclear weapons. The US, which holds the largest nuclear arsenal, is not participating but North Korea is. Diana Johnstone writes that the dangerous belief at the Pentagon is that in a nuclear war, the US “would prevail.”Will the rest of the world be able to prevent a nuclear war? A positive sign was the “Woman Ban the Bomb” marches that took place in more than 170 cities worldwide.
It’s up to us as people to organize a peace movement in our communities. People’s Organization for Progress in Newark, New Jersey and their allies are one example of what we can be doing. They are proposing monthly actions that educate the public about the connection between the wars at home and abroad.
Kevin Zeese spoke at the opening plenary of the UNAC conference about Moral Injury that is done to an individual and to a people who engage in war. He closes with this thought:
“If we do not awaken the US government and change course from a destructive military power to an exceptional humanitarian culture aiding billions who suffer – a heavy price will be paid. We should expect it.
Our job is to turn moral injury into moral outrage and transform the United States into an exceptional humanitarian nation that is a member of the community of nations that lifts people up, rather than creates chaos and insecurity around the world.”
There are opportunities right now to organize for peace in your community no matter what issue you work on. Let’s understand that the wars at home cannot end if we do not also end the wars abroad. As we build this movement of movements, let’s remember this fact and include the abolition of war and the creation of a peace economy in our list of demands.

Memo to America: You should still be terrified of World War III

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on June 20, 2017 at 11:22 pm

By Ryan Cooper, The Week, June 20,2017

Open conflict between Russia and the United States is heating up in Syria. After American forces shot down a Syrian fighter jet, Russia suspended use of an Obama-era communications line used to prevent collisions and conflict, and threatened to shoot down American planes.

America’s Syria policy was and continues to be absolutely moronic. But this alarming development is also a reminder that there is simply no alternative to diplomatic engagement with Russia, the world’s only other nuclear superpower. That’s something both the American military, and liberals fired up over Trump’s Russia scandal, would do well to remember.

In the discussion about climate change risk management, I have argued that somewhat unlikely disaster scenarios deserve serious consideration, because it’s worth a substantial cost to avoid even a small chance of a huge harm. (It’s basic insurance reasoning.) The same is true of nuclear war.

An all-out nuclear exchange between the United States and Russia is one of the few things that could threaten human extinction. Hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, would be killed in the immediate attack, blowing the world economic system apart, and beginning what would probably be several years of nuclear winter, devastating agriculture. People might survive in remote locations — perhaps Australia and New Zealand — but it’s not at all guaranteed in such an extreme scenario. It would be the worst disaster in history, by several orders of magnitude.

Such a possibility gets less attention than climate change these days, I think, because we don’t have to do anything to avoid it — merely preserve the mutually assured destruction framework that carried us through the Cold War, despite a few close calls. Ultimately a nuclear conflict would be the worst imaginable strategic outcome for both nations, and so both nations ought to be able to avoid it.

But, as we saw during the Cuban Missile Crisis, sometimes an escalating, high-stakes conflict can bring the worst-case scenario closer and closer. As Robert McNamara said regarding his experience as secretary of defense during the crisis:

At the end, we lucked out. It was luck that prevented nuclear war. We came that close to nuclear war at the end. Rational individuals — Kennedy was rational, Castro was rational, Khrushchev was rational — came that close to total destruction of their societies. And that danger exists today.

The major lesson of the Cuban Missile Crisis is this: The indefinite combination of human fallibility and nuclear weapons will destroy nations. [The Fog of War]

Ultimately what defused the crisis was a diplomatic contact between Khrushchev and JFK (in particular a remarkably candid and vivid letter from the Russian premier), and a bargain that if the Soviets took the missiles out of Cuba, the U.S. would promise not to invade Cuba, as well as a secret promise to take similar missiles out of Turkey.

So what are we doing in Syria to justify ratcheting up tensions with Russia? The prospect of nuclear warheads a mere few dozen miles off the American coast was at least a comprehensible strategic threat. In Syria there is not only no strategic threat, there is not even a realistic American objective of any kind.

Russia has a clear goal: Prop up the Assad regime, but avoid being drawn too far into the conflict. America is, as far as anyone can tell, fighting ISIS, attempting regime change without invasion, arming some rebels but fighting others, and trying to help Kurdish militia without annoying Turkey too much. Both Trump and the foreign policy establishment (a.k.a. “The Blob”) childishly refuse to admit that most of these goals are incompatible with one another.

In reality, I don’t think any of the actual actions really suffice to explain why America won’t stop meddling in Syria. We’re there because The Blob has a hysterical obsession with the Middle East, because interventions are a lot harder to stop than they are to start, because President Trump is an absolute chump, and above all because of the almost universal article of faith that the American military can do no wrong.

New South Korean president vows to end use of nuclear power

In Environment, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Nuclear powere, Politics, Public Health on June 20, 2017 at 9:44 am

Moon Jae-in said he would lead country
towards a ‘nuclear-free era’ following
fears of a Fukushima-style meltdown

Justin McCurry in Tokyo, The Guardian, Monday 19 June 2017
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/19/new-south-korean-president-vows-to-end-use-of-nuclear-power
South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, has vowed to phase out the country’s dependence on nuclear power, warning of “unimaginable consequences” from a Fukushima-style meltdown.
Moon, a left-leaning liberal who won last month’s presidential election by a landslide following the impeachment and arrest of Park Geun-hye, said he would increase the role of renewable energy and lead South Korea towards a “nuclear-free era”.
Speaking at an event to mark the closure of the country’s oldest nuclear plant, Kori-1, he said: “So far, South Korea’s energy policy pursued cheap prices and efficiency. “Cheap production prices were considered the priority while the public’s life and safety took a back seat. But it’s time for a change.
“We will abolish our nuclear-centred energy policy and move towards a nuclear-free era. We will completely scrap construction plans for new nuclear reactors that are currently under way.”
Moon added that he would not extend the operation of ageing reactors, many of which will come to the end of their lifespans between 2020 and 2030.
Weaning South Korea off nuclear power, however, could take decades, and there is expected to be opposition from construction companies, which have increased technology exports under Moon’s nuclear-friendly predecessors.
The country was the fifth-largest producer of nuclear energy last year, according to the World Nuclear Association, with its 25 reactors generating about a third of its electricity.
The former president Lee Myung-bak saw nuclear as an important source of clean energy, while Park wanted to increase the number of reactors to 36 by 2029.
Moon recognised the role of nuclear power in South Korea’s rapid economic development, but added that Japan’s Fukushima disaster – which prompted the evacuation of tens of thousands of people – had convinced him that his country must look to new sources of energy.
“The country’s economic status has changed, our awareness on the importance of the environment has changed. The notion that the safety and lives of people are more important than anything else has become a firm social consensus,” he said.
Anti-nuclear campaigners have long warned of the potentially disastrous consequences of a meltdown at a nuclear plant in South Korea, where many reactors are close to densely populated areas.
The public’s support for nuclear power has weakened since the 2011 Fukushima meltdown and a 2013 corruption scandal over fake safety certificates for reactor parts.
“The Fukushima nuclear accident has clearly proved that nuclear reactors are neither safe, economical nor environmentally friendly,” Yonhap news agency quoted Moon as saying.
“South Korea is not safe from the risk of earthquakes, and a nuclear accident caused by a quake can have such a devastating impact.”
He also plans to close at least 10 ageing coal-fired power plants before his term ends in 2022 and to boost renewables’ share of the energy mix to 20% by 2030.

It’s Time for a Disarmament Race

In Environment, Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, Race, War on June 20, 2017 at 8:41 am

By Archbishop Desmond Tutu, The Nation. June 12, 2017

When Nelson Mandela walked free, in 1990, after 27 grueling years behind bars, South Africa began the process of emancipating itself from not only from its brutal apartheid regime but also its arsenal of atomic bombs. Like white-minority rule, these awful weapons had weighed heavily on us all, entrenching our status as a pariah nation. Their abolition was essential for our liberation.

Today, North Korea rightly faces the same kind of stigma over its nuclear weaponry. By pursuing such arms, it is behaving as no respectable member of the family of nations should. But too seldom do we hear strong words of censure for others who wield these abominable devices. On the world stage, they present themselves, oxymoronically, as “responsible” nuclear powers.

To realize a nuclear weapon–free world, we must acknowledge that nuclear weapons serve no legitimate, lawful purpose.
All of those who wield nuclear weapons are deserving of our scorn. The development and stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction by any state is morally indefensible. It breeds enmity and mistrust and threatens peace. The radiation unleashed by an American or British or French nuclear bomb is just as deadly as that from a North Korean one. The inferno and shock waves kill and maim no less indiscriminately.

With sabres rattling and the specter of nuclear war looming large, the imperative to abolish man’s most evil creation—before it abolishes us—is as urgent as ever. Further arms races and provocations will lead us inexorably to catastrophe. The overwhelming majority of the world’s nations understand this, and are now developing a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons under international law.

They began negotiating the accord at the United Nations in March and will resume their work on June 15. Regrettably, however, all of the nuclear-armed nations, along with several of their allies, are refusing to take part. They claim that their bombs help keep the peace. But what peace can be maintained through threats of annihilation? So long as these weapons exist, we will continue to teeter on the brink.

To realize a nuclear weapon–free world, we must first acknowledge that nuclear weapons serve no legitimate, lawful purpose. That is precisely what the new treaty will do. It will place nuclear weapons on the same legal footing as chemical and biological weapons, anti-personnel landmines, and cluster munitions—all of which the international community has declared too inhumane ever to use or possess.

Some leaders, intent on preserving the status quo, have dismissed this UN process as futile given the resistance of the so-called great powers. But what is the alternative? To wait and hope that the powerful few will one day show enlightened leadership? That would be a very poor strategy indeed for safeguarding humanity. In the absence of tremendous pressure, disarmament will remain but a fantasy.

For too long, the nuclear powers have failed us terribly. Instead of disarming—as they are duty-bound to do—they have squandered precious resources on programs to bolster their nuclear forces. They have held humankind to ransom. But nuclear-free nations are now rising up, asserting their right to live in a safe, harmonious global community, unburdened by this ultimate menace.
Of course, it was not the slaveowners who led the struggle to abolish slavery. Nor was it the Afrikaners who tore down the system of apartheid in South Africa. The oppressed fought for, and ultimately secured, their own freedom. Through collective action, we built the foundations for transformative change, to the benefit of all. This is what we are witnessing today in the arena of disarmament diplomacy.

Every nation will be better off in a world without these “terrible and terrifying weapons of mass destruction,” as Mandela so aptly described them to the UN General Assembly in 1998. Disarmament was a cause dear to his heart. He saw racism, injustice, and the bomb as inextricably linked, and he knew that the arms race, if not curtailed, could only end in oblivion. What we need now is a disarmament race.

UN Closing in on Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons

In Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on June 17, 2017 at 2:54 am

Associated Press, June 15, 2017

UNITED NATIONS —
The president of the U.N. conference drafting what could be the first treaty to ban nuclear weapons expressed confidence Thursday that with “the necessary political will” more than 130 countries supporting the initiative can reach agreement by the July 7 target.

Elayne Whyte Gomez, Costa Rica’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, told the opening of negotiations on a draft treaty circulated May 22 that delegates were representing their countries, but they were also “united together in historic commitment” to finalizing a treaty.

None of nuclear powers supports treaty

Last December, U.N. member states overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling for negotiations on a treaty that would outlaw nuclear weapons, despite strong opposition from nuclear-armed nations and their allies.

Not one of the nine countries believed to possess nuclear weapons — the U.S., Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel — is supporting a treaty.

Instead of adopting a ban, the United States and other nuclear powers want to strengthen and reaffirm the nearly half-century-old Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The NPT, considered the cornerstone of global nonproliferation efforts, aims to prevent the spread of atomic arms beyond the five original weapons powers: the U.S., Russia, Britain, France and China.

It requires non-nuclear signatory nations not to pursue nuclear weapons in exchange for a commitment by the five nuclear powers to move toward nuclear disarmament, and to guarantee non-nuclear states access to peaceful nuclear technology to produce nuclear power.

Haley: ‘Be realistic’

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said March 27 when talks began on the nuclear weapons ban treaty that “there is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons, but we have to be realistic.”

She asked if anyone thought North Korea would give up its nuclear weapons, stressing that North Koreans would be cheering a nuclear ban treaty and Americans and others would be at risk.

But U.N. disarmament chief Izumi Nakamitsu told Thursday’s opening that negotiations to achieve “the clear, legal prohibition of nuclear weapons … are truly historic.”

“Nuclear disarmament has been the longest sought objective of the United Nations dating back to the very first resolution adopted by the General Assembly in January 1946,” she said.

“We have seen some impressive gains since that time,” Nakamitsu said. “Yet, it has been more than 20 years now since the United Nations disarmament bodies have produced a multilateral legally binding instrument on nuclear weapons.”

Need for progress

She said “the need for progress is clear” and urgent, pointing to “the deteriorating international security landscape,” new awareness of the devastating consequences of using nuclear weapons, and the modernization of nuclear arsenals by some countries.

The draft treaty, among other things, says states would pledge never to develop, produce, manufacture, acquire, possess, transfer, receive, stockpile, test or use nuclear weapons or explosives. They would also endeavor to prohibit any “stationing, installation or deployment of any nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices” on their territories or in their jurisdictions.

“We are confident the treaty can be completed and adopted by July 7,” the final day of negotiations, said David Solimini, spokesman for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. “Once the treaty is adopted countries are free to join.”

Two papers to improve the UN Treaty that Bans Nuclear Weapons

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, Public Health, War on June 9, 2017 at 8:46 am

Hi all
>
> I wanted to alert you to the release of two new briefing papers about victim assistance and environmental remediation in the nuclear weapons ban treaty. Co-published by Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic and Article 36, the papers examine the need for including comprehensive and detailed provisions on these topics in the new treaty and lay out specific recommendations for what such provisions should contain.
>
> The papers are available at: http://www.article36.org/nuclear-weapons/va-er-harvard-papers/
>
> Please let me know if you have any questions. I look forward to seeing many of you in New York later this month!
>
> Best,
> Bonnie
>
>
> Bonnie Docherty
> Associate Director of Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection
> Lecturer on Law
> International Human Rights Clinic
> Harvard Law School
>

Is President Trump setting the stage for a new nuclear arms race?

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on June 5, 2017 at 6:41 am

By Christopher Rowland GLOBE STAFF JUNE 03, 2017
WASHINGTON — President Trump has called for a new global arms race, and the Pentagon is ready. It has a nuclear weapon on the drawing board that the military considers essential but that critics fear could put the United States on the inside lane to Armageddon.

The new weapon is the planned update of the Air Force’s nuclear cruise missile. Price tag: at least $20 billion. Fear factor for arms-control advocates: maximum.

Trump’s newly released budget for 2018 contains hundreds of millions of dollars to speed up development of the Long Range Stand Off missile — a jet-propelled nuke designed to be launched from an airborne bomber and stealthily zip to a target virtually anywhere in the world.

It will carry a “variable yield’’ warhead that can be adjusted to deliver an atomic blast ranging from 5 to 150 kilotons — that is, from about one-third of a Hiroshima-sized bomb to as much as 10 Hiroshima bombs.
The ability to limit the scope of devastation and highly flexible targeting offer a powerful allure to Air Force generals, but are also precisely what worry antiproliferation specialists. They contend these capabilities make the idea of a “limited’’ nuclear strike on a target like Iran or North Korea — aggressive provocateurs but not superpowers — more likely, with a high risk for catastrophic escalation. It could also give Pentagon planners an intriguing option as they study ways to deter Russia’s ambitions to reassert sway over Eastern Europe.

The new missiles are part of a $1 trillion upgrade of America’s nuclear arsenal kicked off by President Barack Obama, replacing missiles, submarines, and planes that have been in service for decades. Now Trump is positioning the military to pursue those plans aggressively, with $1 billion in his new budget to keep the Pentagon on an accelerated course for updating warheads, including a refurbished warhead for the 1,000 new, improved cruise missiles.

“It is very dangerous to have this excessive, unnecessary rebuilding of the arsenal take place under the Trump administration,’’ said Tom Collina, policy director at the Ploughshares Fund, a nonprofit organization that advocates for the reduction and elimination of nuclear weapons development. “The United States wants a new arms race, and is willing to push for it, and willing to pay for it, and we’re going to see other countries including Russia respond in kind, which is not good for global security.’’

The potential for nuclear brinkmanship and a war “goes up when you have weapons that are perceived as less risky to use in a first strike,’’ he said.

Under an order Trump signed soon after he took office, the Pentagon is beginning a Nuclear Posture Review, due for completion by the end of the year. It gives the new administration a chance to articulate the president’s nuclear vision and decide what atomic weapons and strategies he deems most important.

President Trump spoke last week in the Rose Garden. Said Trump in December: “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.’’

Trump’s White House has not yet provided details of the president’s views, but in some of his remarks, he appears prepared to push the United States closer to a Cold War footing, a shift in tone and possibly in tactics that could have an impact on global nuclear security long after he leaves office.

“Let it be an arms race,’’ Trump, then president-elect, was quoted by MSNBC as saying in December. “We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.’’

Tough talk, or something more? Certainly the tone runs sharply counter to the trend over the last three decades. Since the destruction of the Berlin Wall, there has been a sharp reduction in nuclear arms deployed by the United States and Russia.

Obama’s own 2010 Nuclear Posture Review concluded that the United States should continue seeking to reduce the balance of nuclear weapons in the post-Cold War era, not add new nuclear weapons systems to the mix of intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-based missiles, and missiles on long-range bombers. But to win Republican support for the ratification of the New START arms control treaty with Russia in 2010 — which limited both sides to 1,550 strategic warheads and set up new inspection regimes — Obama softened his stance and agreed to the sweeping modernization of the smaller nuclear force. The $1 trillion price tag, coming due over 30 years, includes new strategic bombers, submarines, and rebuilt intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Among all the nuclear systems, the plan to update the air-launched cruise missile is the most controversial, because of what critics consider its “destabilizing’’ effect. The missile is designed to be used in a survivable, limited nuclear conflict — survivable, meaning it doesn’t result in mutual annihilation. Intended to replace an existing, less capable system built in the 1980s, it would be widely deployed by 2030, with the first one ready by 2025.

It could be shot thousands of miles away from enemy territory, and then fly low and fast to its target. The new version will have a stealthy profile and skin, making it difficult to detect by radar.

Proponents in the Air Force have said the missile is indispensable because it eliminates the need for long-range strategic bombers to enter enemy airspace. They contend it can act as an even stronger deterrent than ballistic missiles.

“We want our adversaries to think we have the capability — and the will — to use our nuclear weapons,’’ said Adam Lowther, director of the Air Force’s School for Advanced Nuclear Deterrence Studies, at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. With the new missile, he said, “we’re not in a situation where it is all or nothing.’’

It is in America’s interest to keep the Russians guessing if the “crazy Americans’’ will pull the trigger, he said. Enemies know that America will be extremely reluctant, he said, to deliver an atomic blast from an ICBM, given the almost certain retaliation that would follow.

Unlike Obama’s review, which called for reductions in the risks of global annihilation, the Trump review is expected to highlight the benefits of nuclear weapons to America’s power, Lowther predicted. He anticipates the review will be “a more positive view of the role of nuclear weapons, and nuclear deterrence.’’

Critics say the cruise missile makes the frightening logic of deterrence all the more fragile.

“This weapon makes fighting nuclear wars even more possible. Its accuracy and potency will be greater. We don’t need it. It’s dangerous. And the weapons that we have already can do the job,’’ said Senator Edward Markey, the Massachusetts Democrat and longtime proponent of a freeze and reduction on nuclear weapons.

“We’re going to ask other countries to engage in restraint while we’re making . . . nuclear war-fighting even more possible, even more imaginable,” he said.

 

Markey has sponsored Senate legislation that would cap development money for the next-generation nuclear cruise missile at current levels until Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review is complete. The bill has little chance of passage. Most of the Republicans who control Congress and a number of Democrats whose states depend on jobs and military bases that support nuclear weapons favor a full-speed-ahead approach.

North Dakota is home to the B-52 bombers that carry the old nuclear cruise missiles. Both of the state’s senators, Democrat Heidi Heitkamp and Republican John Hoeven, were among a bipartisan group who wrote the Pentagon last summer urging that the full nuclear modernization continue.

They wrote the letter after published reports said Obama was thinking about scaling back the modernization in his last year in office, including canceling the new cruise missile.

“We must modernize these forces to preserve their deterrent capabilities,’’ Hoeven, Heitkamp, and the other senators wrote. “We . . . need a new [air-launched cruise missile] to hold the broadest possible array of targets at risk.’’

The gears of Pentagon procurement bureaucracy are already turning, supported by weapons manufacturers.

Early development of the cruise missile’s updated warhead is under way at Sandia National Laboratories . Requests for bids for the full missile systems were issued last year; prime bidders are expected to be Waltham-based Raytheon, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed Martin, according to defense trade journals.

Why 3,000 Scientists Think Nuclear Arsenals Make Us Less Safe

In Environment, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, Public Health, War on June 2, 2017 at 9:50 pm

By Max Tegmark, Scientific American, May 26, 2017

Despite what you hear in the news, an atomic war between the superpowers is still the biggest threat.

Delegates from most United Nations member states are gathering in New York next month to negotiate a nuclear weapons ban, and 30 Nobel Laureates, a former U.S. Secretary of Defense and over 3,000 other scientists from 84 countries have signed an open letter in support. Why?
We scientists like to geek out about probabilities, megatons and impact calculations, so we see the nuclear situation differently than many politicians and pundits. From the public debate, one might think that the cold war threat is over and that the most likely way to be killed by a nuke is by being attacked by Iran, North Korea or terrorists, but that’s not what nerdy number crunching reveals. Those media-dominating scenarios could potentially kill millions of people—except that Iran has no nukes and North Korea lacks missiles capable of reliably delivering their dozen or so Hiroshima-scale bombs.
But scientific research has shown that a nuclear war between the superpowers might kill hundreds or potentially even thousands of times more people, and since it’s not a hundred times less likely to occur, the laws of statistics tell us that it’s the nuke scenario most likely to kill you.
Why is superpower nuclear war so risky? First of all, massive firepower: there are more than 14,000 nuclear weapons today, some of which are hundreds of times more powerful than North Korea’s and those dropped on Japan. Over 90 percent of these belong to Russia and the US, who keep thousands on hair-trigger alert, ready launch on minutes notice. A 1979 report by the US Government estimated that all-out war would kill 28-88 percent of Americans and 22-50 percent of Soviets (150-450 million people with today’s populations).
But this was before the risk of nuclear winter was discovered in the 1980’s.Researchers realized that regardless of whose cities burned, massive amounts of smoke could spread around the globe, blocking sunlight and transforming summers into winters, much like when asteroids or supervolcanoes caused mass extinctions in the past. A peer-reviewed analysis published by Robock et al (2007) showed cooling by about 20°C (36°F) in much of the core farming regions of the US, Europe, Russia and China (by 35°C in parts of Russia) for the first two summers, and about half that even a full decade later. Years of near-freezing summer temperatures would eliminate most of our food production. It is hard to predict exactly what would happen if thousands of Earth’s largest cities were reduced to rubble and global infrastructure collapsed, but whatever small fraction of all humans didn’t succumb to starvation, hypothermia or epidemics would probably need to cope with roving, armed gangs desperate for food.
There are large uncertainties in Nuclear Winter predictions. For example, how much smoke is produced and how high up it rises would determine its severity and longevity. Given this uncertainty, there is no guarantee that most people would survive. It has therefore been argued that the traditional nuclear doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) be replaced by Self-Assured Destruction (SAD): even if one of the two superpowers were able to launch its full nuclear arsenal against the other without any retaliation whatsoever, nuclear winter might still assure the attacking country’s self-destruction. Recent research has suggested that even a limited nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan could cause enough cooling and agricultural disruption to endanger up to 2 billion people, mostly outside the warring countries.
The fact that nuclear powers are taking the liberty to endanger everyone else without asking their permission has led to growing consternation in the world’s non-nuclear nations. This has been exacerbated by a seemingly endless series of near-misses in which nuclear war has come close to starting by accident, and leaders of many non-nuclear nations feel less than thrilled by the idea of being destroyed by something as banal as a malfunctioning early warning-system in a nation that they are not threatening.
Such concerns prompted 185 non-nuclear nations to sign the 1970 Non-Proliferation-Treaty (NPT), promising to remain nuke-free in return for the nuclear nations phasing out theirs in accordance with NPT Article VI, whereby each party “undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control”. Nearly 50 years later, many of these “have-nots” have concluded that they were tricked, and that the “haves” have no intention of ever keeping their end of the bargain. Rather than disarming, the U.S. and Russia have recently announced massive investments in novel nuclear weapons. Russia has recently touted a cobalt-encased doomsday bomb reminiscent of the dark comedy “Dr. Strangelove,” and the U.S. plans to spend a trillion dollars replacing most of its nuclear weapons with new ones that are more effective for a first strike.
Adding insult to injury, India, Pakistan and Israel have been allowed to join the nuclear club without major repercussions. “The probability of a nuclear calamity is higher today, I believe, that it was during the cold war,” said former U.S. Secretary of Defense William J. Perry, who signed the open letter.
This disillusionment from the “have-nots” prompted 123 of them to launch an initiative in the United Nations General Assembly, where the nuclear nations lack veto power. In late 2016, they voted to launch the aforementioned UN negotiations that may produce a nuclear weapons ban treaty this summer. But a ban obviously wouldn’t persuade the nuclear “haves” to eliminate their nukes the next morning, so what’s the point of it?
The way I see it, most governments are frustrated that a small group of countries with a minority of the world’s population insist on retaining the right to ruin life on Earth for everyone else with nuclear weapons. Such “might makes right” policy has precedent. In South Africa, for example, the minority in control of the unethical Apartheid system didn’t give it up spontaneously, but because they were pressured into doing so by the majority. Similarly, the minority in control of unethical nuclear weapons won’t give them up spontaneously on their own initiative, but only if they’re pressured into doing so by the majority of the world’s nations and citizens. The key point of the ban is to provide such pressure by stigmatizing nuclear weapons.
Nuclear ban supporters draw inspiration from the 1997 Ottawa treaty banning landmines. Although the superpowers still refuse to sign it, it created enough stigma that many people now associate mines not with national security, but with images of children who have had limbs blown off while playing in peace-time. This stigma caused leading arms manufactures to half production in response to investor pressure and dwindling demand. In 2014, the Pentagon announced that it was halting landmine use outside of the Korean peninsula. Today, the global landmine market has nearly collapsed, with merely a single manufacturer (South Korean Hanwa) remaining.
The “have-not” negotiators hope that a nuclear ban treaty will similarly stigmatize nuclear weapons, persuading us all that we’re less safe with more nukes—even if they are our own. If this happens, it will increase the likelihood that the “haves” trim their nuclear arsenals down to the minimum size needed for effective deterrence, reverting from SAD back to MAD and making us all safer.
Here is the text of the letter. A list of some of the notable signatories follows.
AN OPEN LETTER FROM SCIENTISTS IN SUPPORT OF THE UN NUCLEAR WEAPONS NEGOTIATIONS

Nuclear arms are the only weapons of mass destruction not yet prohibited by an international convention, even though they are the most destructive and indiscriminate weapons ever created. We scientists bear a special responsibility for nuclear weapons, since it was scientists who invented them and discovered that their effects are even more horrific than first thought. Individual explosions can obliterate cities, radioactive fallout can contaminate regions, and a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse may cause mayhem by frying electrical grids and electronics across a continent. The most horrible hazard is a nuclear-induced winter, in which the fires and smoke from as few as a thousand detonations might darken the atmosphere enough to trigger a global mini ice age with year-round winter-like conditions. This could cause a complete collapse of the global food system and apocalyptic unrest, potentially killing most people on Earth – even if the nuclear war involved only a small fraction of the roughly 14,000 nuclear weapons that today’s nine nuclear powers control. As Ronald Reagan said: “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”
Unfortunately, such a war is more likely than one may hope, because it can start by mistake, miscalculation or terrorist provocation. There is a steady stream of accidents and false alarms that could trigger all-out war, and relying on never-ending luck is not a sustainable strategy. Many nuclear powers have larger nuclear arsenals than needed for deterrence, yet prioritize making them more lethal over reducing them and the risk that they get used.
But there is also cause for optimism. On March 27 2017, an unprecedented process begins at the United Nations: most of the world’s nations convene to negotiate a ban on nuclear arms, to stigmatize them like biological and chemical weapons, with the ultimate goal of a world free of these weapons of mass destruction. We support this, and urge our national governments to do the same, because nuclear weapons threaten not merely those who have them, but all people on Earth.
William J. Perry, mathematician, US Secretary of Defense 1994-97, AAAS fellow
Peter Ware Higgs, University of Edinburgh, Emeritus Professor of Theoretical Physics, 2013 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Leon N. Cooper, Brown University, Professor of Science, 1972 Physics Nobel Laureate
Sheldon Glashow, Boston University, Professor of Physics & Mathematics, 1979 Physics Nobel Laureate
Wolfgang Ketterle, MIT, Professor of Physics, 2001 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Edvard I. Moser, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Professor of Neuroscience, 2014 Nobel Laureate in Physiology/Medicine
May-Britt Moser, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Professor of Neuroscience, 2014 Nobel Laureate in Physiology/Medicine
David Gross, Kavil Institute For Theoretical Physics, Professor of Theoretical Physics, 2004 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Leland Hartwell, Arizona State University, Professor, 2001 Nobel Laureate in Physiology/Medicine
Jerome I. Friedman MIT, Emeritus Professor of Physics, 1990 Nobel Laureate in Physics 1990
Paul Greengard, The Rockefeller University, Professor of Neuroscience, 2000 Nobel Laureate Physiology/Medicine, Member, National Academy of Sciences
Roy J. Glauber, Harvard University, Professor of Physics, Emeritus, 2005 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Richard J. Roberts, New England Biolabs, Chief Scientific Officer, 1993 Nobel Laureate in Physiology/Medicine
David Politzer, Caltech, Professor of Physics, 2004 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Frank Wilczek, MIT, Professor of Physics, 2004 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Jack Steinberger, CERN, Physicist, 1988 Nobel Laureate in Physics
J. Michael Bishop, UCSF, Professor Emeritus of Microbiology and Immunology, 1989 Nobel Laureate in Physiology/Medicine
Eric Kandel, Columbia University, University Professor, 2000 Nobel Laureate in Physiology/Medicine
Martin Chalfie, Columbia University, University Professor, 2008 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
George F. Smoot, University of California at Berkeley, Professor of Physics, Director, 2006 Nobel Laureate in Physics
David J. Weinland, 2012 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Dudley Herschbach, Harvard, 1986 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, Emeritus Prof. of Chemistry, 1986 Chemistry Nobel Laureate
Joseph Hooton Taylor, Jr, Princeton University, James S McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of Physics, Emeritus, 1993 Nobel Laureate in Physics
H. Robert Horvitz, MIT, Professor of Biology, 2002 Nobel Prize in Medicine, 2002 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine
Serge Haroche, Collège de France, Paris, Professor Emeritus, Nobel Prize in Physics 2012, 2012 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, 1997 Physics Nobel Laureate, Professor of Physics
John C. Mather, Senior Astrophysicist, NASA 2006 Nobel Laureate in Physics
John L Hall, University of Colorado, Boulder CO USA, Professor, 2005 Nobel Laureate in Physics, Republic of France Légion d’Honneur (2004)
Robert W. Wilson, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Senior Scientist, 1978 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Klaus von Klitzing, Director, Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research, Stuttgart, Germany, Professor of Physics, Nobel Prize in Physics 1985
John Polanyi University of Toronto, Professor of Chemistry, 1986 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
Stephen Hawking, Director of research at Dept. of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at Cambridge, 2012 Fundamental Physics Prize Laureate for his work on quantum gravity
Edward Witten, Institute for Advanced Study, Professor of Physics, 1990 Fields Medalist, U.S. National Medal of Science, Kyoto Prize, Breakthrough Prize, NAS member
Sir Michael Atiyah, Edinburgh University & Trinity College Cambridge, Professor of Mathematics, 1966 Fields Medalist
Curtis T. McMullen, Harvard University, Cabot Professor of Mathematics, 1998 Fields Medalist, NAS Member

TREATY TO BAN NUCLEAR WEAPONS

In Environment, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on June 2, 2017 at 5:42 am

You probably won’t read about it in the commercial mass media, but a very important event is taking place at the United Nations this month. From June 17 –July 7, a conference of the UN General Assembly is scheduled to negotiate a treaty to ban nuclear weapons!

The draft treaty was released on May 22 by Costa Rica’s ambassador to the UN, Elayne Whyte Gómez in her capacity as chair of the United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination. The new draft treaty is based on the proposals put forth in the negotiations of the Conference in March. It would require the states to “never under any circumstances … develop, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess, or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices … use nuclear weapons … carry out any nuclear weapon test”. States would also be required to destroy any nuclear weapons they possess and be prohibited from transferring nuclear weapons to any other recipient.

The negotiating conference was established after a series of meetings in Norway, Mexico, and Austria with governments and civil society to examine the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear war. The meetings were inspired by the leadership and urging of the International Red Cross to look at the horror of nuclear weapons, not just through the frame of strategy and “deterrence”, but to grasp and examine the disastrous humanitarian consequences that would occur in a nuclear war.

The first session of the ban treaty negotiations took place on Feb 16, 2017, considered procedural matters such as the election of officers, agenda for the negotiations, rules of procedure and participation of NGOs. More substantive negotiations on the proposed ban treaty took place March 27-31.

According to an analysis of votes of the UN Member States, a majority are in favor of the treaty, including the countries of Latin America, Africa, and most of the Arab States and the smaller states of Asia-Pacific.

However, there is still a long road to putting the treaty into practice. All of the nuclear powers (United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France, Israel, Pakistan, India and North Korea) are opposed to the treaty, along with their allies, includiing most European countries.

The longer we wait to abolish nuclear weapons, the harder it becomes. As WILFP (the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom) has testified to the UN conference: “All of the nuclear-armed states . . . are investing in the expansion, development, or so-called modernisation of their nuclear arsenals. These programmes are not just about “increasing the safety and security” of nuclear weapon systems, which is what the nuclear-armed states claim. The “upgrades” in many cases provide new capabilities to the weapon systems. They also extend the lives of these weapon systems beyond the middle of this century, ensuring that the arms race will continue indefinitely.”

In addition to WILPF, many other civil society organizations are pushing the UN Member States to adopt the treaty. A forum this month in Brooklyn will include speakers from a number of organizations including Peace Action, MoveOn and the American Friends Service Committee. And on June 17, there will be a Women’s March to Ban the Bomb to the United Nations in New York, a women-led initiative building on the momentum of movements at the forefront of the resistance, including the Women’s March on Washington.

The annual meeting of Abolition 2000, an international organization dedicated to nuclear disarmament, gave support to the Women’s March, and heard reports from their projects, working groups and affiliated campaigns, including De-alerting and nuclear risk reduction, Don’t Bank on the Bomb, Economic Dimensions of Nuclearism, ICAN, Interfaith action, International law and nuclear weapons, Mayors for Peace, Missile control, Nuclear Weapon Free Zones, Nukes Out of Europe, Parliamentary Outreach, Peace and Planet, UNFOLD ZERO and Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. They established a new working group to build support from civil society and governments for the United Nations High Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament, which will take place in 2018.

As Alice Slater concludes in her article, Time to Ban the Bomb, “We need to get as many countries to the UN as possible this June, and pressure our parliaments and capitals to vote to join the treaty to ban the bomb. And we need to talk it up and let people know that something great is happening now! “