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Archive for the ‘Peace’ 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.

Gareth Porter: The War System

In Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Peace, Politics, War on June 21, 2017 at 11:19 am

President Donald Trump is hesitating to agree to thousands of additional troops for the war in Afghanistan as recommended by his secretary of defense and national security adviser, according to a New York Times report over the weekend.

So, it’s a good time to put aside, for a moment, the troop request itself and focus on why the United States has been fighting the Taliban since 2001 — and losing to them for well over a decade.

Some of the war managers would argue that the United States has never had enough troops or left them in Afghanistan long enough. But those very figures are openly calling for an indefinite neocolonial US military presence. The real reason for the fundamental weakness of the US-NATO war is the fact that the United States has empowered a rogues’ gallery of Afghan warlords whose militias have imposed a regime of chaos, violence and oppression on the Afghan population — stealing, killing and raping with utter impunity. And that strategy has come back to bite the Pentagon’s war managers.

The Taliban hold the same sexist ideas as many members of rural Afghan society about keeping girls out of schools and in the home. But the organization appeared in 1994 in response to the desperate pleas of the population in the south — especially in a Kandahar province divided up by four warlords — to stop the wholesale abduction and rape of women and pre-teen boys, as well as the uncontrolled extortion of tolls by warlord troops. The Taliban portrayed themselves as standing for order and elementary justice against chaos and sexual violence, and they immediately won broad popular support to drive the warlords out of power across the south, finally taking over Kabul without a fight.

Then in 2001 the United States ousted the Taliban regime — implicitly as retribution for 9/11, even though the Taliban leader Mullah Omar had not been informed of Osama bin Laden’s plot and had strongly opposed any such plotting. Instead of forcing the warlords to give up their power or simply letting Afghan society determine the Taliban’s fate, the United States helped its own warlord allies consolidate their power. President Hamid Karzai was encouraged to appoint the most powerful warlords as provincial governors and their private militias were converted into the national police. The CIA even put some of the militias on their payroll along with their warlord bosses to help track down Taliban and al Qaeda remnants.

These early US decisions created the plague of abuses by the “police” and other militias that has remained the underlying socio-political dynamic of the war ever since. Ron Neumann, US ambassador to Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007, explained the accepted rules for the warlords and the commanders of their militias toward those who are not part of their tribal in-group. “You take the people’s land, their women — you steal from them — it’s all part of one package,” he told me in a 2009 interview.

It was not long before the Taliban began to reorganize for a second resistance to the warlords. From 2003 to 2006, they were taking the offensive across the Pashtun area of the south, with a rapidly increasing tempo of attacks.

In 2006 the US-NATO command responded to the Taliban offensive by creating the “Afghan National Auxiliary Police” (ANAP). ANAP officers were given new AK-47 assault rifles and uniforms like those of regular police, but the group was in essence another warlord militia, composed of the same individuals as other warlord militias. As a senior official in the Afghan Ministry of Interior told Human Rights Watch, the ANAP “was made for the warlords.” They were “the same people, committing the same crimes, with more power.”

The ANAP program was abandoned in April 2008, an apparent failure, but the US-NATO reliance on the warlords’ militias continued. When US and British troops moved back into Lashkar Gah district of Helmand Province in mid-2009, their plan was to rely on police to reestablish a government presence there. But the police, commanded by mujahideen loyal to province warlord Sher Mohammed Akhunzadeh, had terrorized the population of the district with systematic violent abuses, including the frequent abduction and rape of pre-teen boys. The residents and village elders warned the British and Americans stationed in the district that they would again support the Taliban if necessary to protect themselves against being victimized by the police.

By September 2009 as the US commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal was pressing Obama to add 40,000 more troops, his command was no longer under any illusions about being able to regain the support of the rural Pashtun population as long as it was so closely associated with the warlords. In his initial assessment of August 2009, McChrystal referred to “public anger and alienation” toward the US and NATO troops, because of the general perception that they were “complicit” in “widespread corruption and abuse of power.”

But by then McChrystal and the US-NATO command chose to continue to rely on their warlord clients, because the US military needed their militias to supply all the US and NATO troops in the country. In order to get food, fuel and arms to the foreign troops at over 200 forward-operating military bases and combat outposts, the command had to outsource the trucking of the supplies and the security to private companies. Otherwise the command would have had to use a large percentage of the total foreign troops in Afghanistan to provide security for the convoys, as the Russians had done in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

But the only plentiful and instantly available supply of armed forces to provide the security was in the ranks of the warlords’ own militias. So, the Pentagon designed a massive $2.16 billion annual logistics contract in 2008-09 under which about 25,000 militiamen were paid by dozens of private trucking companies and security companies owned by the warlords. The warlords were paid tens of millions of dollars a year, further consolidating their hold on the society.

The abuses by militias continued to be the primary complaint of village residents. The district governor in Khanabad district of Kunduz province told Human Rights Watch, “People come to me and complain about these arbakis [militias], but I can do nothing about this. They collect ushr [informal tax], take the daughters of the people, they do things against the wives of the people, they take their horses, sheep, anything.“

When he assumed command in Afghanistan in mid-2010, Gen. David Petraeus immediately decided to turn yet again to the same warlord source of manpower to create the “Afghan Local Police” or ALP to provide 20,000 men to patrol the villages. Each ALP unit had its own Special Forces team, which gave its officers even greater impunity. The chief of the Baghlan Province council recounted a meeting with the US Special Operations Forces officer in charge of the ALP at which he had warned that the militiamen were “criminals.” But the officer had flatly rejected his charge.

In theory, the ALP was supposed to be accountable to the chief of police in each district where it was operating. But one district chief of police in Baghlan province complained that it was impossible to investigate ALP crimes because the US Special Operations Forces were protecting them.

A Green Beret officer interviewed by the Christian Science Monitor in 2011 explained the US Special Operations Forces’ perspective on the depredations of its Afghan clients: “The ugly reality,” he said, “is that if the US wants to prevail against the Taliban and its allies, it must work with Afghan fighters whose behavior insults Western sensibilities.”

By 2013 the ALP had grown to nearly 30,000, and even the State Department annual report on human rights in Afghanistan acknowledged the serious abuses blamed on the ALP. The 2016 State Department report on human rights in Afghanistan refers to “credible accounts of killing, rape, assault, the forcible levy of informal taxes, and the traditional practice of ‘baad’ — the transfer of a girl or woman to another family to settle a debt or grievance” — all attributed by villagers to the ALP.

The linkage between warlord militia abuses and the cooperation of much of the rural population with the Taliban has long been accepted by the US command in Afghanistan. But the war has continued, because it serves powerful interests that have nothing to do with Afghanistan itself: the careers of the US officers who serve there; the bureaucratic stakes of the Joint Special Operations Command and the CIA in their huge programs and facilities in the country; the political cost of admitting that it was a futile effort from the start. Plus, the Pentagon and the CIA are determined to hold on to Afghan airstrips they use to carry out drone war in Pakistan for as long as possible.

Thus Afghanistan, the first of the United States’ permanent wars, is in many ways the model for all the others that have followed — wars that have no other purpose than to serve the US war system itself.

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and historian writing on US national security policy. His latest book, Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, was published in February of 2014. Follow him on Twitter: @GarethPorter.

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.

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.”

Militarism versus the environment

In Democracy, Environment, Justice, Peace, Politics, War on June 11, 2017 at 8:58 am

By Tom Mayer, Boulder Camera, 6-10-17

President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget calls for a significant jump in the Pentagon’s vast budget, though it falls short of the historic spending bonanza sought by more hawkish Republicans. Pentagon budget documents released on May 23 call for $574 billion in general defense funding, with an additional $65 billion for supplemental wartime spending, for a total of $639 billion. (SAUL LOEB / AFP)
Many things block significant action about climate change, but the foremost obstacle may be the world’s continuing addiction to militarism. Some 80 percent of countries maintain standing armies, but the United States is by far the world’s deepest militarist addict. U.S. military spending is over a third of the world’s total and exceeds that of the next six largest spenders combined. Whereas no foreign country has a military base in the USA, we have approximately 800 military bases in 70 different foreign countries. Our country is also the worlds leading weapons exporter.

Militarism harms the environment in many different ways. It undermines the trust and cooperative spirit necessary for coordinated action about climate change. At this very moment, militarism is poisoning the relations of the United States with both Russia and China. Yet without environmental collaboration between these three countries no decisive action about climate change is possible. Apparently world political leaders would rather feed their military addictions than rescue the planet from impending disaster.

Militarism is enormously expensive. American military expenditures consume 54 percent of all discretionary federal spending and, in 2015, equaled $1,854 per capita. Such spending expropriates resources desperately needed for building a clean and sustainable economic infrastructure. Moreover, militarism pushes technological innovation in energy-squandering directions rather than along the resource-conserving paths required by a sustainable environment. Military innovations use technologies that make prodigal use of fossil fuels and/or nuclear energy.

Military establishments are dreadful polluters. The Pentagon is the world’s largest institutional consumer of fossil fuels as well as the world’s largest source of greenhouse gasses. The U.S. military uses (on average) over one million barrels of oil per day and generates about 5 percent of current global warming emissions. The Pentagon devours about one-quarter of the world’s jet fuel. Ecologists estimate that the world’s combined militaries produce fully two-thirds of the ozone depleting chlorofluorocarbon (CFC-113) in our planets atmosphere. Military devices are notorious gas guzzlers. An F-16 Fighter Jet uses 28 gallons per minute. A U.S. battleship consumes 98 gallons per minute. A B-52 Stratocruiser burns 500 gallons in a single minute.

Militarism perpetuates the threat of nuclear warfare, which — needless to say — would have devastating consequences for our planet. A limited nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan would kill around 50 million people. A massive nuclear war would cure the problem of global warming and impose an omnicidal (life destroying) nuclear winter in its stead. The United States has committed itself to a trillion-dollar modernization of nuclear weapons. This means that the nuclear nightmare threatening the Earth will be extended for several generations at least.

Even without warfare, military pollution is staggering. Almost 900 of the EPA’s 1,300 superfund sites are abandoned military bases, weapons production facilities, or weapons testing sites. Nuclear weapons pollution is particularly problematic. Over 5,000 Department of Energy nuclear weapons facilities have required environmental remediation. The former Hanford, Wash., nuclear weapons facility may be the world’s largest environmental cleanup site with a projected budget in excess of $100 billion.

Militarism and the military industrial complex is closely associated with the fossil fuel corporate complex. The U.S. military establishment guarantees energy corporations access to fossil fuel resources. Energy corporations return the favor by endorsing bloated military budgets and supporting the weapons industry. The upshot of this institutional nexus is an environment-corrupting global imperialism. The project of building an American world empire has, since the end of World War II, fomented U.S. aggression in Iran, Guatemala, Cuba, Congo, Brazil, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Greece, Yugoslavia, Chile, Afghanistan, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Iraq, Libya, and Syria (among other places).

And last, but certainly not least, militarism systematically generates warfare, which is catastrophic for both human beings and the environment. Wars have killed about 200 million human beings since 1900 and have wrecked ecological damage that will require centuries to mitigate. The pace of warfare with its concomitant calamities does not appear to be slackening.

In his valuable book “The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism” (2009), Barry Sanders writes: “[T]he awful truth” is that “even if every person, every automobile, and every factory suddenly emitted zero emissions, the Earth would still be headed first and at full speed toward total disaster for one major reason. The military — that voracious vampire — produces enough greenhouse gases, by itself, to place the entire globe, with all its inhabitants large and small, in the most imminent danger of extinction” (p.22).

(http://www.dailycamera.com/guest-opinions/ci_31051257/tom-mayer-militarism-versus-environment)

Tom Mayer is a professor emeritus at University of Colorado

 

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
>

Viking Economics: Review

In Cost, Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Peace, Politics, Public Health, Race, War on June 8, 2017 at 9:17 am

Review of George Lakey’s Viking Economics: How the Scandinavians Got It Right – and How We Can, Too (2016)

By LeRoy Moore, June 2017

In  January 1979 I met George Lakey at a two-week nonviolence workshop of the Movement for a New Society in Philadelphia. Lakey is a Quaker who for many years taught at Swarthmore College. Author of many books, the latest is Viking Economics. He writes on this topic because we in the U.S. can learn much from the Scandinavian countries about revamping our economy, strengthening democracy, abolishing poverty and creating a society which is fair and just for all.

At the turn of the 20th century the Scandinavian countries were marked by economic hardship, lack of jobs, low wages, long working hours, no security, no health care and education only for those who could pay for it. In the 1970s, when Lakey visited Norway, he found full employment, scant poverty, an efficient infrastructure, plus free health care, education and retirement benefits for all its citizens. His book is a history of what happened, with pointers on how the U.S. might follow their example.

The biggest recent change in the economy of the U.S. and Britain was the 1980s move of Reagan and Thatcher to free corporations to make money that purportedly would trickle down to benefit everyone. This “neoliberal gospel” rapidly spread across the world. By the end of the 20th century it was practiced in the U.S. not only by virtually all Republicans but also by many Democrats, like Bill Clinton. “Too often,” Lakey says, “governments have implemented support measures without charging those responsible for the problems properly,” resulting in “privatization of profits and socialization of costs.”

After the global economic collapse of 2008 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) urged austerity, “bailing out the owning class at the expense of the majority of the people.” Iceland countered this with its own strategy: “Increase taxes on the rich, reduce taxes on the working class, force banks to write off mortgages for households under water.” The IMF, referring to health care as a “luxury good,” urged the Icelandic government to cut its health-care funding. Challenging the IMF, ordinary Icelanders refused “to accept responsibility for the frenzied behavior of their bankers.” Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, said, “Where everyone else bailed out the bankers and made the public pay the price, Iceland let the banks go bust and actually expanded its social safety net.” Iceland was the hero of the 2008 economic crisis. It survived better than any other nation.

Norway’s story is quite distinct. Late in the 19th century its workers union created the Labor Party that admitted only union members. They rejected the Marxist idea of collectivizing agriculture in favor of protecting family farms. After the Russian revolution of 1917, they joined the Communist International at Lenin’s invitation. By the 1930s the country was highly polarized, as evidenced by Vidkun Quisling’s founding a pro-Nazi political party with a uniformed paramilitary wing that attacked striking workers for their employers. This spurred an increase of conscientious objection which in time led to the Labor Party’s “completely socialist society” that laid the foundation for what Lakey found in Norway in the 1970s. A U.S. economist wrote, “The three things we Americans worry about – education, retirement and medical expenses – are things the Norwegians don’t worry about.”

Researcher Markus Jantti wondered about the chance for upward mobility for young people. How could those from families in the bottom fifth of earners leap to the top fifth. He found that both males and females in Norway, Denmark and Sweden had a much better chance of making this leap than their counterparts in the UK and USA. In Lakey’s words, “It turns out that freedom (shown by mobility and innovation) and equality are not necessarily opposed. In fact, . . .equality supports freedom.” In the Nordic economic design, “the more equality, the more freedom.”

Scandinavian countries had powerful trade unions at just the time unions were being weakened and destroyed in the U.S., England and other countries. They also had far more cooperatives, including banks. “Co-op banks,” says Lakey, “are financially more stable and less likely to fail than shareholder-owned institutions, . . . since they aren’t driven by a need to make profits for investors and huge bonuses for managers.” There are co-ops in all realms: industry, agriculture, dairy, housing, utilities, as well as wholesale and retail operations, and more.

The Nordic countries have virtually wiped out poverty. How did they do this? When it comes to work and poverty, these countries are refreshingly different. In Norway, “jobs, free training and support are available, and working is important for self-respect and the economic productivity of the country. In short, the government’s policy is full employment.” Single parents are encouraged “to hold jobs by having free or affordable childcare available at the work site or near the home.” In addition, “all babies can be born in birth centers and hospitals without regard to income, and all moms and dads can take time off from work with pay to care for the young ones. All parents have access to day care. All parents, whatever their means, get a family allowance for children below the age of 18. . . . Education is free for all. . . . Public transportation is subsidized for all.”

Scandinavians rejected the welfare state and replaced it with “universal services” – “a cooperative system for meeting needs that most people have at various points in their lives.” Instead of regarding the poor as needy, they treat everyone as equal. All work, and all benefit. How they treat crime is important. Rather than punish those who have done wrong, they rehabilitate them, so they can rejoin the community and become taxpayers as soon as possible. The best way to eliminate crime is to give the criminal a job. A study showed “a high association between employment and staying out of trouble.”

Getting everyone to work actually reduces the hours that an individual works. Norwegians work the least number of hours of all the countries of Europe. They are entitled to 25 vacation days every year. There is gender equity. Fathers get a paid leave to care for children. Parents receive a total of 52 weeks of parental leave with full pay. A new mother “has the right to two hours of break time each day to permit breast-feeding.” Also, “either parent has the right to stay home with sick children at least twenty days per year.”

Health care is available to everyone, paid for by the community, not the individual. Lakey says the “so-called ‘market efficiency’” of the U.S. “is actually ‘market wastefulness’ So wasteful in fact that despite the Affordable Care Act (so-called ‘Obama Care’) tens of millions of Americans don’t get covered at all, and countless others who are insured still don’t get the treatment they need.”

Of course, quality health care, free education, good housing, convenient transportation, etc. are expensive. Taxes are high in the Nordic countries. But for them “it’s a truism that paying high taxes results in getting high value.” They seek equality by reducing taxes of the working and middle classes and increasing taxes on the rich – the opposite of what the IMF recommends and what often happens in the U.S. British researchers found that “inequality highly correlates with negative statistics in physical health, mental health, drug abuse, education, imprisonment, obesity, social mobility, violence, teenage pregnancy, and child well-being.”

To again consider violence, Norway experienced a terrorist attack in 2011, when Anders Breivik massacred 69 young people of the Workers’ Youth League and injured 110 more. Labor Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, in a speech the next day, said “the proper response to the violence was ‘more democracy, more openness.’” At the memorial service he quoted a girl in the Youth League: “If one man can show so much hate, think how much love we could show, standing together.”

Lakey’s final chapter focuses on the U.S. He thinks the reason we don’t have universal health care is “because special interests prevented the majority from getting what it was ready for.” He says so much of the U.S. government is out of touch with ordinary citizens. The Supreme Court’s “Citizens United decision . . . opened the floodgates for billions of dollars to enter the electoral system.” But the problem is deeper. An AARP study found that where there are differences “the economic elite – and not the majority—almost always got their way. . . . (T)he majority does not rule – at least in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes.”

“It is obvious,” Lakey says, “that the United States is falling in international ratings of equality and freedom and that the policies of both parties are dominated by the economic elite.” But he sees hope in our history of social change by nonviolent means, our growing experience with worker-owned cooperatives, our increased positive appraisal of socialism, and our increasing awareness of the Nordic alternative (to which his book contributes much).

“Change,” he says, “requires hard work. . . . Movements need organizers, communicators, advocates, funders, nurturers, musicians and artists, nonviolent warriors, and ‘foot soldiers,’ as well as visionary designers. All those were present in the Nordic movements that challenged a thousand years of poverty and oppression, took the offensive, and built democracy.”

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.