leroymoore

Archive for the ‘War’ Category

New Cracks in Russia-gate Foundation

In Democracy, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on August 12, 2017 at 1:03 am

The Russia-gate groupthink always rested on a fragile foundation of dubious analysis and biased guesswork, but now has been shaken by new forensic studies of the purported “hack,” as Patrick Lawrence reported at The Nation.

 

By Patrick Lawrence, The Nation, August 10, 2017

It is now a year since the Democratic National Committee’s mail system was compromised — a year since events in the spring and early summer of 2016 were identified as remote hacks and, in short order, attributed to Russians acting in behalf of Donald Trump.
A great edifice has been erected during this time. President Trump, members of his family, and numerous people around him stand accused of various corruptions and extensive collusion with Russians. Half a dozen simultaneous investigations proceed into these matters. Last week news broke that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had convened a grand jury, which issued its first subpoenas on August 3. Allegations of treason are common; prominent political figures and many media cultivate a case for impeachment.

The President’s ability to conduct foreign policy, notably but not only with regard to Russia, is now crippled. Forced into a corner and having no choice, Trump just signed legislation imposing severe new sanctions on Russia and European companies working with it on pipeline projects vital to Russia’s energy sector. Striking this close to the core of another nation’s economy is customarily considered an act of war, we must not forget.

In retaliation, Moscow has announced that the United States must cut its embassy staff by roughly two-thirds. All sides agree that relations between the United States and Russia are now as fragile as they were during some of the Cold War’s worst moments. To suggest that military conflict between two nuclear powers inches ever closer can no longer be dismissed as hyperbole.

All this was set in motion when the DNC’s mail server was first violated in the spring of 2016 and by subsequent assertions that Russians were behind that “hack” and another such operation, also described as a Russian hack, on July 5. These are the foundation stones of the edifice just outlined.

The evolution of public discourse in the year since is worthy of scholarly study: Possibilities became allegations, and these became probabilities. Then the probabilities turned into certainties, and these evolved into what are now taken to be established truths. By my reckoning, it required a few days to a few weeks to advance from each of these stages to the next. This was accomplished via the indefensibly corrupt manipulations of language repeated incessantly in our leading media.

Lost in a year that often appeared to veer into our peculiarly American kind of hysteria is the absence of any credible evidence of what happened last year and who was responsible for it. It is tiresome to note, but none has been made available. Instead, we are urged to accept the word of institutions and senior officials with long records of deception. These officials profess “high confidence” in their “assessment” as to what happened in the spring and summer of last year — this standing as their authoritative judgment.

Few have noticed since these evasive terms first appeared that an assessment is an opinion, nothing more, and to express high confidence is an upside-down way of admitting the absence of certain knowledge. This is how officials avoid putting their names on the assertions we are so strongly urged to accept — as the record shows many of them have done.

We come now to a moment of great gravity.

There has been a long effort to counter the official narrative we now call “Russiagate.” This effort has so far focused on the key events noted above, leaving numerous others still to be addressed. Until recently, researchers undertaking this work faced critical shortcomings, and these are to be explained. But they have achieved significant new momentum in the past several weeks, and what they have done now yields very consequential fruit.

Forensic investigators, intelligence analysts, system designers, program architects, and computer scientists of long experience and strongly credentialed are now producing evidence disproving the official version of key events last year. Their work is intricate and continues at a kinetic pace as we speak. But its certain results so far are two, simply stated, and freighted with implications:

There was no hack of the Democratic National Committee’s system on July 5 last year — not by the Russians, not by anyone else. Hard science now demonstrates it was a leak — a download executed locally with a memory key or a similarly portable data-storage device. In short, it was an inside job by someone with access to the DNC’s system. This casts serious doubt on the initial “hack,” as alleged, that led to the very consequential publication of a large store of documents on WikiLeaks last summer.
Forensic investigations of documents made public two weeks prior to the July 5 leak by the person or entity known as Guccifer 2.0 show that they were fraudulent: Before Guccifer posted them they were adulterated by cutting and pasting them into a blank template that had Russian as its default language. Guccifer took responsibility on June 15 for an intrusion the DNC reported on June 14 and professed to be a WikiLeaks source — claims essential to the official narrative implicating Russia in what was soon cast as an extensive hacking operation. To put the point simply, forensic science now devastates this narrative.
New Analyses

This article is based on an examination of the documents these forensic experts and intelligence analysts have produced, notably the key papers written over the past several weeks, as well as detailed interviews with many of those conducting investigations and now drawing conclusions from them. Before proceeding into this material, several points bear noting.

 

One, there are many other allegations implicating Russians in the 2016 political process. The work I will now report upon does not purport to prove or disprove any of them. Who delivered documents to WikiLeaks? Who was responsible for the “phishing” operation penetrating John Podesta’s e-mail in March 2016?

We do not know the answers to such questions. It is entirely possible, indeed, that the answers we deserve and must demand could turn out to be multiple: One thing happened in one case, another thing in another. The new work done on the mid-June and July 5 events bears upon all else in only one respect. We are now on notice: Given that we now stand face to face with very considerable cases of duplicity, it is imperative that all official accounts of these many events be subject to rigorously skeptical questioning. Do we even know that John Podesta’s e-mail was in fact “phished”? What evidence of this has been produced? Such rock-bottom questions as these must now be posed in all other cases.

Two, houses built on sand and made of cards are bound to collapse, and there can be no surprise that the one resting atop the “hack theory,” as we can call the prevailing wisdom on the DNC events, appears to be in the process of doing so.

Neither is there anything far-fetched in a reversal of the truth of this magnitude. American history is replete with similar cases. The Spanish sank the Maine in Havana harbor in February 1898. Iran’s Mossadegh was a Communist. Guatemala’s Árbenz represented a Communist threat to the United States. Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh was a Soviet puppet. The Sandinistas were Communists. The truth of the Maine, a war and a revolution in between, took a century to find the light of day, whereupon the official story disintegrated. We can do better now. It is an odd sensation to live through one of these episodes, especially one as big as Russiagate. But its place atop a long line of precedents can no longer be disputed.

Three, regardless of what one may think about the investigations and conclusions I will now outline — and, as noted, these investigations continue — there is a bottom line attaching to them. We can even call it a red line. Under no circumstance can it be acceptable that the relevant authorities — the National Security Agency, the Justice Department (via the Federal Bureau of Investigation), and the Central Intelligence Agency — leave these new findings without reply. Not credibly, in any case. Forensic investigators, prominent among them people with decades’ experience at high levels in these very institutions, have put a body of evidence on a table previously left empty. Silence now, should it ensue, cannot be written down as an admission of duplicity, but it will come very close to one.

It requires no elaboration to apply the above point to the corporate media, which have been flaccidly satisfied with official explanations of the DNC matter from the start.

Qualified experts working independently of one another began to examine the DNC case immediately after the July 2016 events. Prominent among these is a group comprising former intelligence officers, almost all of whom previously occupied senior positions. Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), founded in 2003, now has 30 members, including a few associates with backgrounds in national-security fields other than intelligence. The chief researchers active on the DNC case are four: William Binney, formerly the NSA’s technical director for world geopolitical and military analysis and designer of many agency programs now in use; Kirk Wiebe, formerly a senior analyst at the NSA’s SIGINT Automation Research Center; Edward Loomis, formerly technical director in the NSA’s Office of Signal Processing; and Ray McGovern, an intelligence analyst for nearly three decades and formerly chief of the CIA’s Soviet Foreign Policy Branch. Most of these men have decades of experience in matters concerning Russian intelligence and the related technologies. This article reflects numerous interviews with all of them conducted in person, via Skype, or by telephone.

The customary VIPS format is an open letter, typically addressed to the President. The group has written three such letters on the DNC incident, all of which were first published by Robert Parry at http://www.consortiumnews.com. Here is the latest, dated July 24; it blueprints the forensic work this article explores in detail. They have all argued that the hack theory is wrong and that a locally executed leak is the far more likely explanation.

In a letter to Barack Obama dated January 17, three days before he left office, the group explained that the NSA’s known programs are fully capable of capturing all electronic transfers of data. “We strongly suggest that you ask NSA for any evidence it may have indicating that the results of Russian hacking were given to WikiLeaks,” the letter said. “If NSA cannot produce such evidence — and quickly — this would probably mean it does not have any.”

The day after Parry published this letter, Obama gave his last press conference as President, at which he delivered one of the great gems among the official statements on the DNC e-mail question. “The conclusions of the intelligence community with respect to the Russian hacking,” the legacy-minded Obama said, “were not conclusive.” There is little to suggest the VIPS letter prompted this remark, but it is typical of the linguistic tap-dancing many officials connected to the case have indulged so as to avoid putting their names on the hack theory and all that derives from it.

Cyber-Evidence

Until recently there was a serious hindrance to the VIPS’s work, and I have just suggested it. The group lacked access to positive data. It had no lump of cyber-material to place on its lab table and analyze, because no official agency had provided any.

Donald Rumsfeld famously argued with regard to the WMD question in Iraq, “The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” In essence, Binney and others at VIPS say this logic turns upside down in the DNC case: Based on the knowledge of former officials such as Binney, the group knew that (1) if there was a hack and (2) if Russia was responsible for it, the NSA would have to have evidence of both. Binney and others surmised that the agency and associated institutions were hiding the absence of evidence behind the claim that they had to maintain secrecy to protect NSA programs.

“Everything that they say must remain classified is already well-known,” Binney said in an interview. “They’re playing the Wizard of Oz game.”

New findings indicate this is perfectly true, but until recently the VIPS experts could produce only “negative evidence,” as they put it: The absence of evidence supporting the hack theory demonstrates that it cannot be so. That is all VIPS had. They could allege and assert, but they could not conclude: They were stuck demanding evidence they did not have — if only to prove there was none.

Research into the DNC case took a fateful turn in early July, when forensic investigators who had been working independently began to share findings and form loose collaborations wherein each could build on the work of others. In this a small, new website called http://www.disobedientmedia.com proved an important catalyst. Two independent researchers selected it, Snowden-like, as the medium through which to disclose their findings.

One of these is known as Forensicator and the other as Adam Carter. On July 9, Adam Carter sent Elizabeth Vos, a co-founder of Disobedient Media, a paper by the Forensicator that split the DNC case open like a coconut.

By this time Binney and the other technical-side people at VIPS had begun working with a man named Skip Folden. Folden was an IT executive at IBM for 33 years, serving 25 years as the IT program manager in the United States. He has also consulted for Pentagon officials, the FBI, and the Justice Department. Folden is effectively the VIPS group’s liaison to Forensicator, Adam Carter, and other investigators, but neither Folden nor anyone else knows the identity of either Forensicator or Adam Carter. This bears brief explanation.

The Forensicator’s July 9 document indicates he lives in the Pacific Time Zone, which puts him on the West Coast. His notes describing his investigative procedures support this. But little else is known of him. Adam Carter, in turn, is located in England, but the name is a coy pseudonym: It derives from a character in a BBC espionage series called Spooks. It is protocol in this community, Elizabeth Vos told me in a telephone conversation this week, to respect this degree of anonymity.

Kirk Wiebe, the former SIGINT analyst at the NSA, thinks Forensicator could be “someone very good with the FBI,” but there is no certainty. Unanimously, however, all the analysts and forensics investigators interviewed for this column say Forensicator’s advanced expertise, evident in the work he has done, is unassailable. They hold a similarly high opinion of Adam Carter’s work.

Forensicator is working with the documents published by Guccifer 2.0, focusing for now on the July 5 intrusion into the DNC server. The contents of Guccifer’s files are known — they were published last September — and are not Forensicator’s concern. His work is with the metadata on those files. These data did not come to him via any clandestine means. Forensicator simply has access to them that others did not have. It is this access that prompts Kirk Wiebe and others to suggest that Forensicator may be someone with exceptional talent and training inside an agency such as the FBI.

“Forensicator unlocked and then analyzed what had been the locked files Guccifer supposedly took from the DNC server,” Skip Folden explained in an interview. “To do this he would have to have ‘access privilege,’ meaning a key.”

What has Forensicator proven since he turned his key? How? What has work done atop Forensicator’s findings proven? How?

The Transfer Rate

Forensicator’s first decisive findings, made public in the paper dated July 9, concerned the volume of the supposedly hacked material and what is called the transfer rate — the time a remote hack would require. The metadata established several facts in this regard with granular precision: On the evening of July 5, 2016, 1,976 megabytes of data were downloaded from the DNC’s server. The operation took 87 seconds. This yields a transfer rate of 22.7 megabytes per second.

These statistics are matters of record and essential to disproving the hack theory. No Internet service provider, such as a hacker would have had to use in mid-2016, was capable of downloading data at this speed. Compounding this contradiction, Guccifer claimed to have run his hack from Romania, which, for numerous reasons technically called delivery overheads, would slow down the speed of a hack even further from maximum achievable speeds.

What is the maximum achievable speed? Forensicator recently ran a test download of a comparable data volume (and using a server speed not available in 2016) 40 miles from his computer via a server 20 miles away and came up with a speed of 11.8 megabytes per second — half what the DNC operation would need were it a hack. Other investigators have built on this finding. Folden and Edward Loomis say a survey published August 3, 2016, by http://www.speedtest.net/reports is highly reliable and use it as their thumbnail index. It indicated that the highest average ISP speeds of first-half 2016 were achieved by Xfinity and Cox Communications. These speeds averaged 15.6 megabytes per second and 14.7 megabytes per second, respectively. Peak speeds at higher rates were recorded intermittently but still did not reach the required 22.7 megabytes per second.

“A speed of 22.7 megabytes is simply unobtainable, especially if we are talking about a transoceanic data transfer,” Folden said. “Based on the data we now have, what we’ve been calling a hack is impossible.” Last week Forensicator reported on a speed test he conducted more recently. It tightens the case considerably. “Transfer rates of 23 MB/s (Mega Bytes per second) are not just highly unlikely, but effectively impossible to accomplish when communicating over the Internet at any significant distance,” he wrote. “Further, local copy speeds are measured, demonstrating that 23 MB/s is a typical transfer rate when using a USB–2 flash device (thumb drive).”

Time stamps in the metadata provide further evidence of what happened on July 5. The stamps recording the download indicate that it occurred in the Eastern Daylight Time Zone at approximately 6:45 pm. This confirms that the person entering the DNC system was working somewhere on the East Coast of the United States.

In theory the operation could have been conducted from Bangor or Miami or anywhere in between — but not Russia, Romania, or anywhere else outside the EDT zone. Combined with Forensicator’s findings on the transfer rate, the time stamps constitute more evidence that the download was conducted locally, since delivery overheads — conversion of data into packets, addressing, sequencing times, error checks, and the like — degrade all data transfers conducted via the Internet, more or less according to the distance involved.

Russian ‘Fingerprints’

In addition, there is the adulteration of the documents Guccifer 2.0 posted on June 15, when he made his first appearance. This came to light when researchers penetrated what Folden calls Guccifer’s top layer of metadata and analyzed what was in the layers beneath. They found that the first five files Guccifer made public had each been run, via ordinary cut-and-paste, through a single template that effectively immersed them in what could plausibly be cast as Russian fingerprints. They were not: The Russian markings were artificially inserted prior to posting. “It’s clear,” another forensics investigator self-identified as HET, wrote in a report on this question, “that metadata was deliberately altered and documents were deliberately pasted into a Russianified [W]ord document with Russian language settings and style headings.”

To be noted in this connection: The list of the CIA’s cyber-tools WikiLeaks began to release in March and labeled Vault 7 includes one called Marble that is capable of obfuscating the origin of documents in false-flag operations and leaving markings that point to whatever the CIA wants to point to. (The tool can also “de-obfuscate” what it has obfuscated.) It is not known whether this tool was deployed in the Guccifer case, but it is there for such a use.

It is not yet clear whether documents now shown to have been leaked locally on July 5 were tainted to suggest Russian hacking in the same way the June 15 Guccifer release was. This is among several outstanding questions awaiting answers, and the forensic scientists active on the DNC case are now investigating it.

In a note Adam Carter sent to Folden and McGovern last week and copied to me, he reconfirmed the corruption of the June 15 documents, while indicating that his initial work on the July 5 documents — of which much more is to be done — had not yet turned up evidence of doctoring.

In the meantime, VIPS has assembled a chronology that imposes a persuasive logic on the complex succession of events just reviewed. It is this:

On June 12 last year, Julian Assange announced that WikiLeaks had and would publish documents pertinent to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
On June 14, CrowdStrike, a cyber-security firm hired by the DNC, announced, without providing evidence, that it had found malware on DNC servers and had evidence that Russians were responsible for planting it.
On June 15, Guccifer 2.0 first appeared, took responsibility for the “hack” reported on June 14 and claimed to be a WikiLeaks source. It then posted the adulterated documents just described.
On July 5, Guccifer again claimed he had remotely hacked DNC servers, and the operation was instantly described as another intrusion attributable to Russia. Virtually no media questioned this account.
It does not require too much thought to read into this sequence. With his June 12 announcement, Assange effectively put the DNC on notice that it had a little time, probably not much, to act preemptively against the imminent publication of damaging documents. Did the DNC quickly conjure Guccifer from thin air to create a cyber-saboteur whose fingers point to Russia? There is no evidence of this one way or the other, but emphatically it is legitimate to pose the question in the context of the VIPS chronology. WikiLeaks began publishing on July 22. By that time, the case alleging Russian interference in the 2016 elections process was taking firm root. In short order Assange would be written down as a “Russian agent.”

By any balanced reckoning, the official case purporting to assign a systematic hacking effort to Russia, the events of mid-June and July 5 last year being the foundation of this case, is shabby to the point taxpayers should ask for their money back. The Intelligence Community Assessment, the supposedly definitive report featuring the “high confidence” dodge, was greeted as farcically flimsy when issued January 6.

Ray McGovern calls it a disgrace to the intelligence profession. It is spotlessly free of evidence, front to back, pertaining to any events in which Russia is implicated.

‘Hand-Picked’ Analysts

James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, admitted in May that “hand-picked” analysts from three agencies (not the 17 previously reported) drafted the ICA.

 

There is a way to understand “hand-picked” that is less obvious than meets the eye: The report was sequestered from rigorous agency-wide reviews. This is the way these people have spoken to us for the past year.

Behind the ICA lie other indefensible realities. The FBI has never examined the DNC’s computer servers — an omission that is beyond preposterous. It has instead relied on the reports produced by Crowdstrike, a firm that drips with conflicting interests well beyond the fact that it is in the DNC’s employ. Dmitri Alperovitch, its co-founder and chief technology officer, is on the record as vigorously anti-Russian. He is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, which suffers the same prejudice. Problems such as this are many.

“We continue to stand by our report,” CrowdStrike said, upon seeing the VIPS blueprint of the investigation. CrowdStrike argues that by July 5 all malware had been removed from the DNC’s computers. But the presence or absence of malware by that time is entirely immaterial, because the event of July 5 is proven to have been a leak and not a hack. Given that malware has nothing to do with leaks, CrowdStrike’s logic appears to be circular.

In effect, the new forensic evidence considered here lands in a vacuum. We now enter a period when an official reply should be forthcoming. What the forensic people are now producing constitutes evidence, however one may view it, and it is the first scientifically derived evidence we have into any of the events in which Russia has been implicated. The investigators deserve a response, the betrayed professionals who formed VIPS as the WMD scandal unfolded in 2003 deserve it, and so do the rest of us. The cost of duplicity has rarely been so high.

I concluded each of the interviews conducted for this column by asking for a degree of confidence in the new findings. These are careful, exacting people as a matter of professional training and standards, and I got careful, exacting replies.

All those interviewed came in between 90 percent and 100 percent certain that the forensics prove out. I have already quoted Skip Folden’s answer: impossible based on the data.

“The laws of physics don’t lie,” Ray McGovern volunteered at one point.

“It’s QED, theorem demonstrated,” William Binney said in response to my question. “There’s no evidence out there to get me to change my mind.” When I asked Edward Loomis, a 90 percent man, about the 10 percent he held out, he replied, “I’ve looked at the work and it shows there was no Russian hack. But I didn’t do the work. That’s the 10 percent. I’m a scientist.”

Editor’s note: In its chronology, VIPS mistakenly gave the wrong date for CrowdStrike’s announcement of its claim to have found malware on DNC servers. It said June 15, when it should have said June 14. VIPS has acknowledged the error, and we have made the correction.

Patrick Lawrence is a longtime columnist, essayist, critic, and lecturer, whose most recent books are Somebody Else’s Century: East and West in a Post-Western World and Time No Longer: America After the American Century. His website is patricklawrence.us. [This article was originally published at The Nation at https://www.thenation.com/article/a-new-report-raises-big-questions-about-last-years-dnc-hack/ ]

MORE THAN 60 MEMBERS OF CONGRESS REJECT TRUMP STATEMENTS ON NORTH KOREA

In Democracy, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on August 12, 2017 at 12:22 am

Administration Urged to Act with Restraint and Adhere to Diplomatic Approach

Washington, D.C. – More than 60 Members of Congress, working from their home districts during recess, came together to write an urgent letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to express “profound concern” over “irresponsible and dangerous” statements made by President Trump and to urge Tillerson to do everything in his power “to ensure that President Trump and other Administration officials understand the importance of speaking and acting with the utmost caution and restraint on this delicate issue.”

The letter warns that “Congress and the American public will hold President Trump responsible if a careless or ill-advised miscalculation results in conflict that endangers our servicemembers and regional allies,” and asks the Administration to reaffirm its understanding of the longstanding Constitutional principles that pre-emptive strikes on another nation must be authorized by Congress.

The Congressmembers indicate their strong support for Tillerson’s recent statements calling for direct talks with North Korea and offering assurances that our country is not their enemy and does not seek war or regime change.

The letter notes that Tillerson’s approach accords with that urged by 64 Members of Congress in a May letter to President Trump, and is also backed by leading experts on US-North Korea policy, including former Secretary of Defense William Perry, former Secretary of State George Schultz and former Senator Richard Lugar who have stated that our country “should make clear that the United States does not have hostile intentions toward North Korea.”

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) said, “As a veteran of the Korean War, I am ashamed that our Commander-in-Chief is conducting himself in a reckless manner that endangers our troops stationed in Korea and our regional allies. Trump must immediately cease talk of pre-emptive war—which must be authorized by Congress—and commit to the diplomatic path advocated by both American experts and the South Korean government.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) said, “President Trump’s belligerent rhetoric is dangerous. Instead of saber-rattling, this Administration should pursue direct talks with North Korea to de-escalate tensions.”

Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam) said, “President Trump’s statements were unhelpful, dangerous and raised tensions with North Korea higher than we have previously seen. This has led to North Korea directly threatening nearly 168,000 American citizens living in my home district of Guam. While I have great confidence in our military’s capabilities in the Pacific and appreciate that the DoD has deployed proven missile defense systems in the region, including a THAAD battery on Guam, President Trump must show steady leadership to prevent further escalating tensions. I join Representative Conyers and my Democratic colleagues in calling on the Trump Administration to work with the international community and engage in diplomatic discussions with North Korea. It is imperative that President Trump and his Administration work towards a peaceful solution to this situation and refrain from any action that could lead toward a military conflict.”

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) said, “Now is the not the time to encourage North Korea to make additional threats. Nearly 50 members of the House recognize that we need assured leadership in regards to the situation with North Korea and urge the State Department to choose diplomacy over a show of force.”

An Economist/YouGov poll conducted from April 29 to May 2, 2017, found that 60 percent of Americans support “direct negotiations between the United States and North Korea” to end North Korea’s nuclear program, while 10 percent were somewhat opposed and 8 percent strongly opposed. 63 percent of Democrats and 65 percent of Republicans support direct negotiations with North Korea.

Today’s letter was led by Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13). Signatories include: Reps. Ro Khanna (CA-17), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Madeleine Z. Bordallo (GU), Alma S. Adams (NC-12), Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44), Karen Bass (CA-37), Don S. Beyer Jr. (VA-08), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-AL), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Salud O. Carbajal (CA-24), Judy Chu (CA-27), David N. Cicilline (RI-01), Emanuel L. Cleaver, II (MO-05), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Danny K. Davis (IL-07), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-10), Lloyd Doggett (TX-35), Michael F. Doyle (PA-14), Keith Ellison (MN-05), Dwight Evans (PA-02), Marcia L. Fudge (OH-11), Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02), Al Green (TX-09), Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03), Luis V. Gutiérrez (IL-04), Colleen Hanabusa (HI-01), Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (GA-04), Daniel T. Kildee (MI-05), Al Lawson, Jr. (FL-05), Brenda L. Lawrence (MI-14), Ted W. Lieu (CA-33), Alan S. Lowenthal (CA-47), Betty McCollum(MN-04), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-AL), Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06), Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Janice D. Schakowsky (IL-09), Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), José E. Serrano (NY-15), Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01), Louise Slaughter (NY-25), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Darren Soto (FL-09), Niki Tsongas (MA-03), Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07), Timothy J. Walz (MN-01), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Peter Welch (VT-AL), and Frederica Wilson (FL-24), John A. Yarmuth (KY-03).

Full text of the letter is available here and below.

Dear Secretary Tillerson,

We write to express our profound concern over the statements made by President Trump that dramatically increased tensions with North Korea and raised the specter of nuclear war. These statements are irresponsible and dangerous, and also senselessly provide a boon to domestic North Korean propaganda which has long sought to portray the United States as a threat to their people.

Accordingly, we respectfully but firmly urge you to do everything in your power to ensure that President Trump and other Administration officials understand the importance of speaking and acting with the utmost caution and restraint on this delicate issue. Congress and the American public will hold President Trump responsible if a careless or ill-advised miscalculation results in conflict that endangers our servicemembers and regional allies. To allay these concerns, the Trump Administration should publicly declare its agreement with the constitutional requirement that any preemptive attack on North Korea must be debated and authorized by Congress.

As 64 Members of Congress wrote in May, “Military action against North Korea was considered by the Obama, Bush and Clinton Administrations, but all ultimately determined there was no military option that would not run the unacceptable risk of a counter-reaction from Pyongyang [that] could immediately threaten the lives of as many as a third of the South Korean population, put nearly 30,000 U.S. service members and over 100,000 other U.S. citizens residing in South Korea in grave danger, and also threaten other regional allies such as Japan.” Simply put, there is no military solution to this problem.

We strongly support your recent statements calling for direct talks with North Korea and offering assurances that our country is not their enemy and does not seek war or regime change. This accords with the approach that 64 Members of Congress urged in the letter to President Trump, and is also backed by leading experts on US-North Korea policy, including former Secretary of Defense William Perry, former Secretary of State George Schultz and former Senator Richard Lugar who have stated that our country “should make clear that the United States does not have hostile intentions toward North Korea.”

An approach that includes these elements has shown promise in the past. In 1994, after North Korea’s announced their intent to withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the United States and North Korea engaged in direct diplomacy, resulting in the Agreed Framework. Under the pact, Pyongyang agreed to freeze its nuclear program, while U.S. committed to provide fuel for electricity to offset the power lost from shutting down their plutonium reactor. Despite allegations from both sides of non-compliance with the agreement, North Korea did not reopen their plutonium reactor, and in October 2000, the two countries pledged in writing that neither would have “hostile intent” towards the other. This progress was regrettably and unnecessarily halted after the Bush Administration took office, as then-Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton publicly admitted that he was “looking for [a hammer] to shatter the Agreed Framework.” We are grateful that you understand the urgent need to make a good faith effort to replicate these successes and we urge you to minimize preconditions in order to bring the North Koreans to the table and commence dialogue at the earliest possible date.

Finally, we respectfully request your assistance in receiving a response to our initial inquiry in our May letter. Kindly provide us information about the specific steps your Administration is taking to advance the prospects for direct negotiations that could lower the potential for catastrophic war and ultimately lead to the denuclearization of the peninsula. We also request any plans you may have to address important humanitarian issues of mutual concern such as the reunification of Korean and Korean-American families as well as the repatriation of the remains of US servicemen left in North Korea following the War, including whether these or other humanitarian efforts will be impeded by your newly announced travel ban.

We look forward to working with you to support crucial diplomatic initiatives and avoid catastrophic war.

US Labor peace group writes:

In Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on August 11, 2017 at 9:43 pm

“The Solidarity Peace Delegation, concluding their July 23-28 visit to South Korea, called for immediate US-South Korean action to de-escalate growing military tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The delegation was composed of Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK, Reece Chenault of US Labor Against the War, Will Griffin of Veterans for Peace, and recent Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. It was sponsored by The Channing and Popai Liem Education Foundation and the Task Force to Stop THAAD in Korea and Militarism in Asia (STIK). US Labor Against the War created new connections with the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU,) forging what we hope will be a lasting bond between organizations.”

The Korean Peninsula is rapidly approaching the boiling point.

Yesterday, North Korean officials released a statement through the Korean Central News Agency, a state-run media outlet, in response to the U.N. Security Council’s unanimous approval of sanctions on Aug. 5 to penalize the isolated regime for its nuclear and missile programs.

“Packs of wolves are coming in attack to strangle a nation,” the North Korean statement said. “They should be mindful that the D.P.R.K.’s strategic steps accompanied by physical action will be taken mercilessly with the mobilization of all its national strength,” it added, using the initials for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

North Korea said it was “carefully examining” plans to strike the US territory after Donald Trump launched a furious tirade at Kim Jong-un, warning that North Korea would be met with “fire and fury” if the rogue state continued to threaten America.

North and South Korea have lived in a perpetual wartime mobilization for decades, with the presence in the South of 83 US bases and nearly 30,000 US troops.

The Solidarity Peace Delegation, concluding their July 23-28 visit to South Korea, called for immediate US-South Korean action to de-escalate growing military tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The delegation was composed of Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK, Reece Chenault of US Labor Against the War, Will Griffin of Veterans for Peace, and recent Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. It was sponsored by The Channing and Popai Liem Education Foundation and the Task Force to Stop THAAD in Korea and Militarism in Asia (STIK). US Labor Against the War created new connections with the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU,) forging what we hope will be a lasting bond between organizations.

In times like these it is important for us to show that our bond is more than mere words, so we ask that you do the following:
· Join the emergency overnight vigil at the White House. It starts at 5 PMand will go until the following morning.
· Ask Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to reopen the lines of communication. If you want to do something immediately but don’t live in DC this is a good option. A petition is being circulated through CodePINK. Please take the time to fill it out and share with others. CodePINK.org/Tillerson
· Follow us as we continue to talk about our efforts in Korea on our blog. For information about labor in the Korean Peninsula and Reece’s recent trip, go to uslawinkorean.com as we will continue to post every day. It’s important that we know more about the struggle of our brothers and sisters so that we can be informed allies ready to answer the call when they need us. Moments like this one illustrate just how critical this connection can be.

US Labor Against the War remains committed to standing in solidarity with our brothers and sisters on the Korean Peninsula. Peace can’t just be hoped for, it must be worked toward. We in the labor movement are no strangers to hard work and will continue striving on. As our South Korean trade union allies taught us during our visit – No to war, yes to peace!

In Solidarity,

US Labor Against the War

http://www.michaelmunk.com

John Pilger: On the Beach 2017

In Drones, Environment, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on August 8, 2017 at 9:40 am

By John Pilger, Z Communications Daily Commentary
The US submarine captain says, “We’ve all got to die one day, some sooner and some later. The trouble always has been that you’re never ready, because you don’t know when it’s coming. Well, now we do know and there’s nothing to be done about it.”

He says he will be dead by September. It will take about a week to die, though no one can be sure. Animals live the longest.

The war was over in a month. The United States, Russia and China were the protagonists. It is not clear if it was started by accident or mistake. There was no victor. The northern hemisphere is contaminated and lifeless now.

A curtain of radioactivity is moving south towards Australia and New Zealand, southern Africa and South America. By September, the last cities, towns and villages will succumb. As in the north, most buildings will remain untouched, some illuminated by the last flickers of electric light.

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper

These lines from T.S. Eliot’s poem The Hollow Men appear at the beginning of Nevil Shute’s novel On the Beach, which left me close to tears. The endorsements on the cover said the same.

Published in 1957 at the height of the Cold War when too many writers were silent or cowed, it is a masterpiece. At first the language suggests a genteel relic; yet nothing I have read on nuclear war is as unyielding in its warning. No book is more urgent.

Some readers will remember the black and white Hollywood film starring Gregory Peck as the US Navy commander who takes his submarine to Australia to await the silent, formless spectre descending on the last of the living world.

I read On the Beach for the first time the other day, finishing it as the US Congress passed a law to wage economic war on Russia, the world’s second most lethal nuclear power. There was no justification for this insane vote, except the promise of plunder.

The “sanctions” are aimed at Europe, too, mainly Germany, which depends on Russian natural gas and on European companies that do legitimate business with Russia. In what passed for debate on Capitol Hill, the more garrulous senators left no doubt that the embargo was designed to force Europe to import expensive American gas.

Their main aim seems to be war – real war. No provocation as extreme can suggest anything else. They seem to crave it, even though Americans have little idea what war is. The Civil War of 1861-5 was the last on their mainland. War is what the United States does to others.

The only nation to have used nuclear weapons against human beings, they have since destroyed scores of governments, many of them democracies, and laid to waste whole societies – the million deaths in Iraq were a fraction of the carnage in Indo-China, which President Reagan called “a noble cause” and President Obama revised as the tragedy of an “exceptional people”He was not referring to the Vietnamese.

Filming last year at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, I overheard a National Parks Service guide lecturing a school party of young teenagers. “Listen up,” he said. “We lost 58,000 young soldiers in Vietnam, and they died defending your freedom.”

At a stroke, the truth was inverted. No freedom was defended. Freedom was destroyed. A peasant country was invaded and millions of its people were killed, maimed, dispossessed, poisoned; 60,000 of the invaders took their own lives. Listen up, indeed.

A lobotomy is performed on each generation. Facts are removed. History is excised and replaced by what Time magazine calls “an eternal present”. Harold Pinter described this as “manipulation of power worldwide, while masquerading as a force for universal good, a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis [which meant] that it never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest.”

Those who call themselves liberals or tendentiously “the left” are eager participants in this manipulation, and its brainwashing, which today revert to one name: Trump.

Trump is mad, a fascist, a dupe of Russia. He is also a gift for “liberal brains pickled in the formaldehyde of identity politics”, wrote Luciana Bohne memorably. The obsession with Trump the man — not Trump as a symptom and caricature of an enduring system – beckons great danger for all of us.

While they pursue their fossilised anti-Russia agendas, narcissistic media such as the Washington Post, the BBC and the Guardian suppress the essence of the most important political story of our time as they warmonger on a scale I cannot remember in my lifetime.

On 3 August, in contrast to the acreage the Guardian has given to drivel that the Russians conspired with Trump (reminiscent of the far-right smearing of John Kennedy as a “Soviet agent”), the paper buried, on page 16, news that the President of the United States was forced to sign a Congressional bill declaring economic war on Russia.

Unlike every other Trump signing, this was conducted in virtual secrecy and attached with a caveat from Trump himself that it was “clearly unconstitutional”.

A coup against the man in the White House is under way. This is not because he is an odious human being, but because he has consistently made clear he does not want war with Russia.

This glimpse of sanity, or simple pragmatism, is anathema to the “national security” managers who guard a system based on war, surveillance, armaments, threats and extreme capitalism. Martin Luther King called them “the greatest purveyors of violence in the world today”.

They have encircled Russia and China with missiles and a nuclear arsenal. They have used neo-Nazis to instal an unstable, aggressive regime on Russia’s “borderland” – the way through which Hitler invaded, causing the deaths of 27 million people. Their goal is to dismember the modern Russian Federation.

In response, “partnership” is a word used incessantly by Vladimir Putin — anything, it seems, that might halt an evangelical drive to war in the United States. Incredulity in Russia may have now turned to fear and perhaps a certain resolution. The Russians almost certainly have war-gamed nuclear counter strikes. Air-raid drills are not uncommon. Their history tells them to get ready.

The threat is simultaneous. Russia is first, China is next. The US has just completed a huge military exercise with Australia known as Talisman Sabre. They rehearsed a blockade of the Malacca Straits and the South China Sea, through which pass China’s economic lifelines.

The admiral commanding the US Pacific fleet said that, “if required”, he would nuke China. That he would say such a thing publicly in the current perfidious atmosphere begins to make fact of Nevil Shute’s fiction.

None of this is considered news. No connection is made as the bloodfest of Passchendaele a century ago is remembered. Honest reporting is no longer welcome in much of the media. Windbags, known as pundits, dominate: editors are infotainment or party line managers. Where there was once sub-editing, there is the liberation of axe-grinding clichés. Those journalists who do not comply are defenestrated.

The urgency has plenty of precedents. In my film, The Coming War on China, John Bordne, a member of a US Air Force missile combat crew based in Okinawa, Japan, describes how in 1962 – during the Cuban missile crisis – he and his colleagues were “told to launch all the missiles” from their silos.

Nuclear armed, the missiles were aimed at both China and Russia. A junior officer questioned this, and the order was eventually rescinded – but only after they were issued with service revolvers and ordered to shoot at others in a missile crew if they did not “stand down”.

At the height of the Cold War, the anti-communist hysteria in the United States was such that US officials who were on official business in China were accused of treason and sacked. In 1957 – the year Shute wrote On the Beach – no official in the State Department could speak the language of the world’s most populous nation. Mandarin speakers were purged under strictures now echoed in the Congressional bill that has just passed, aimed at Russia.

The bill was bipartisan. There is no fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans. The terms “left” and “right” are meaningless. Most of America’s modern wars were started not by conservatives, but by liberal Democrats.

When Obama left office, he presided over a record seven wars, including America’s longest war and an unprecedented campaign of extrajudicial killings – murder – by drones.

In his last year, according to a Council on Foreign Relations study, Obama, the “reluctant liberal warrior”, dropped 26,171 bombs – three bombs every hour, 24 hours a day. Having pledged to help “rid the world” of nuclear weapons, the Nobel Peace Laureate built more nuclear warheads than any president since the Cold War.

Trump is a wimp by comparison. It was Obama – with his secretary of state Hillary Clinton at his side – who destroyed Libya as a modern state and launched the human stampede to Europe. At home, immigration groups knew him as the “deporter-in-chief”.

One of Obama’s last acts as president was to sign a bill that handed a record $618billion to the Pentagon, reflecting the soaring ascendancy of fascist militarism in the governance of the United States. Trump has endorsed this.

Buried in the detail was the establishment of a “Center for Information Analysis and Response”. This is a ministry of truth. It is tasked with providing an “official narrative of facts” that will prepare us for the real possibility of nuclear war – if we allow it.

What would happen if an 800-kiloton nuclear warhead detonated above midtown Manhattan?

In Environment, Nuclear Guardianship, War on August 8, 2017 at 8:00 am

By Steven Starr, Lynn Eden and Theodore A. Postol

Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles are believed to carry a total of approximately 1,000 strategic nuclear warheads that can hit the US less than 30 minutes after being launched. Of this total, about 700 warheads are rated at 800 kilotons; that is, each has the explosive power of 800,000 tons of TNT. What follows is a description of the consequences of the detonation of a single such warhead over midtown Manhattan, in the heart of New York City.

The initial fireball. The warhead would probably be detonated slightly more than a mile above the city, to maximize the damage created by its blast wave. Within a few tenths of millionths of a second after detonation, the center of the warhead would reach a temperature of roughly 200 million degrees Fahrenheit (about 100 million degrees Celsius), or about four to five times the temperature at the center of the sun.

A ball of superheated air would form, initiallly expanding outward at millions of miles per hour. It would act like a fast-moving piston on the surrounding air, compressing it at the edge of the fireball and creating a shockwave of vast size and power.

After one second, the fireball would be roughly a mile in diameter. It would have cooled from its initial temperature of many millions of degrees to about 16,000 degrees Fahrenheit, roughly 4,000 degrees hotter than the surface of the sun.

On a clear day with average weather conditions, the enormous heat and light from the fireball would almost instantly ignite fires over a total area of about 100 square miles.

Hurricane of fire. Within seconds after the detonation, fires set within a few miles of the fireball would burn violently. These fires would force gigantic masses of heated air to rise, drawing cooler air from surrounding areas toward the center of the fire zone from all directions.

As the massive winds drove flames into areas where fires had not yet fully developed,the fires set by the detonation would begin to merge. Within tens of minutes of the detonation, fires from near and far would join to form a single, gigantic fire. The energy released by this mass fire would be 15 to 50 times greater than the energy produced by the nuclear detonation.

The mass fire, or firestorm, would quickly increase in intensity, heating enormous volumes of air that would rise at speeds approaching 300 miles per hour. This chimney effect would pull cool air from outside the fire zone towards the center of the fire at speeds of hundreds of miles per hour. These superheated ground winds of more than hurricane force would further intensify the fire. At the edge of the fire zone, the winds would be powerful enough to uproot trees three feet in diameter and suck people from outside the fire into it.

The inrushing winds would drive the flames from burning buildings horizontally along the ground, filling city streets with flames and firebrands, breaking in doors and windows, and causing the fire to jump, sometimes hundreds of feet, swallowing anything not already violently combusting.

These above-hurricane-force ground winds would have average air temperatures well above the boiling point of water. The targeted area would be transformed into a huge hurricane of fire, producing a lethal environment throughout the entire fire zone.

Ground zero: Midtown Manhattan. The fireball would vaporize the structures directly below it and produce an immense blast wave and high-speed winds, crushing even heavily built concrete structures within a couple miles of ground zero. The blast would tear apart high-rise buildings and expose their contents to the solar temperatures; it would spread fires by exposing ignitable surfaces, releasing flammable materials, and dispersing burning materials.

At the Empire State Building, Grand Central Station, the Chrysler Building, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, about one half to three quarters of a mile from ground zero, light from the fireball would melt asphalt in the streets, burn paint off walls, and melt metal surfaces within a half second of the detonation. Roughly one second later, the blast wave and 750-mile-per-hour winds would arrive, flattening buildings and tossing burning cars into the air like leaves in a windstorm. Throughout Midtown, the interiors of vehicles and buildings in line of sight of the fireball would explode into flames.

Slightly more than a mile from ground zero are the neighborhoods of Chelsea, Midtown East, and Lenox Hill, as well as the United Nations; at this distance, for a split second the fireball would shine 10,000 times brighter than a desert sun at noon. All combustible materials illuminated by the fireball would spew fire and black smoke.

Grass, vegetation, and leaves on trees would explode into flames; the surface of the ground would explode into superheated dust. Any flammable material inside buildings (paper, curtains, upholstery) that was directly exposed to the fireball would burst into flame. The surfaces of the bronze statues in front of the UN would melt; marble surfaces exposed to the fireball would crack, pop, and possibly evaporate.

At this distance from the fireball, it would take about four seconds for the blast wave to arrive. As it passed over, the blast wave would engulf all structures and crush them; it would generate ferocious winds of 400 to 500 miles per hour that would persist for a few seconds

The high winds would tear structural elements from buildings and cause them to disintegrate explosively into smaller pieces. Some of these pieces would become destructive projectiles, causing further damage. The superheated, dust-laden winds would be strong enough to overturn trucks and buses.

Two miles from ground zero, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with all its magnificent historical treasures, would be obliterated. Two and half miles from ground zero, in Lower Manhattan, the East Village, and Stuyvesant Town, the fireball would appear 2,700 times brighter than a desert sun at noon. There, thermal radiation would melt and warp aluminum surfaces, ignite the tires of autos, and turn exposed skin to charcoal, before the blast wave arrived and ripped apart the buildings.

Three to nine miles from ground zero. Midtown is bordered by the relatively wide Hudson and East rivers, and fires would start simultaneously in large areas on both sides of these waterways (that is, in Queens and Brooklyn as well as Jersey City and West New York). Although the direction of the fiery winds in regions near the river would be modified by the water, the overall wind pattern from these huge neighboring fire zones would be similar to that of a single mass fire, with its center at Midtown, Manhattan.

Three miles from ground zero, in Union City, New Jersey, and Astoria, Queens, the fireball would be as bright as 1,900 suns and deliver more than five times the thermal energy deposited at the perimeter of the mass fire at Hiroshima. In Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and in the Civic Center of Lower Manhattan, clothes worn by people in the direct line of sight of the fireball would burst into flames or melt, and uncovered skin would be charred, causing third-degree and fourth-degree burns.

It would take 12 to 14 seconds for the blast wave to travel three miles after the fireball’s initial flash of light. At this distance, the blast wave would last for about three seconds and be accompanied by winds of 200 to 300 miles per hour. Residential structures would be destroyed; high-rises would be at least heavily damaged.

Fires would rage everywhere within five miles of ground zero. At a distance of 5.35 miles from the detonation, the light flash from the fireball would deliver twice the thermal energy experienced at the edge of the mass fire at Hiroshima. In Jersey City and Cliffside Park, and in Woodside in Queens, on Governors Island and in Harlem, the light and heat to surfaces would approximate that created by 600 desert suns at noon.

Wind speed at this distance would be 70 to 100 miles per hour. Buildings of heavy construction would suffer little structural damage, but all exterior windows would be shattered, and non-supporting interior walls and doors would be severely damaged or blown down. Black smoke would effuse from wood houses as paint burned off surfaces and furnishings ignited.

Six to seven miles from ground zero, from Moonachie, New Jersey, to Crown Heights, Brooklyn, from Yankee Stadium to Corona, Queens and Crown Heights, Brooklyn, the fireball would appear 300 times brighter than the desert sun at noon. Anyone in the direct light of the fireball would suffer third degree burns to their exposed skin. The firestorm could engulf neighborhoods as far as seven miles away from ground zero, since these outlying areas would receive the same amount of heat as did the areas at the edge of the mass fire at Hiroshima.

Nine miles from ground zero, in Hackensack, Bayonne, and Englewood, New Jersey, as well as in Richmond Hill, Queens, and Flatlands, Brooklyn, the fireball would be about 100 times brighter than the sun, bright enough to cause first- and second-degree burns to those in line of sight. About 36 seconds after the fireball, the shockwave would arrive and knock out all the windows, along with many interior building walls and some doors.

No survivors. Within tens of minutes, everything within approximately five to seven miles of Midtown Manhattan would be engulfed by a gigantic firestorm. The fire zone would cover a total area of 90 to 152 square miles (230 to 389 square kilometers). The firestorm would rage for three to six hours. Air temperatures in the fire zone would likely average 400 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit (200 to 260 Celsius).

After the fire burned out, the street pavement would be so hot that even tracked vehicles could not pass over it for days. Buried, unburned material from collapsed buildings throughout the fire zone could burst into flames when exposed to air—months after the firestorm had ended.

Those who tried to escape through the streets would have been incinerated by the hurricane-force winds filled with firebrands and flames. Even those able to find shelter in the lower-level sub-basements of massive buildings would likely suffocate from fire-generated gases or be cooked alive as their shelters heated to oven-like conditions.

The fire would extinguish all life and destroy almost everything else. Tens of miles downwind of the area of immediate destruction, radioactive fallout would begin to arrive within a few hours of the detonation.

But that is another story.

Editor’s note: This article is adapted from “City on Fire” by Lynn Eden, originally published in the January 2004 issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

The Nuclear Ban Treaty

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on August 1, 2017 at 12:12 am

International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms, eNews, August 2017

Approved on July 7 by a vote of 122 to 1 (Netherlands, the only NATO state to participate), with one abstention (Singapore), the nuclear ban treaty will open for signature on September 20 at the United Nations and will enter into force when 50 states have signed and ratified it.

The treaty prohibits the development, manufacture, possession, and use and threatened use of nuclear arms. There are several pathways for nuclear-armed states to join the treaty provided that they verifiably eliminate their arsenals (the US, UK, and France together declared that they will never join). There are also obligations of assistance to victims of nuclear use and testing and of environmental remediation of contaminated areas.

Origins and Significance

At a minimum, the nuclear ban treaty is a powerful and eloquent statement of the political, moral, and legal standards enjoining non-use and elimination of nuclear arms. It is grounded in an understanding of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear explosions, and innovatively acknowledges the suffering of the victims of the use of nuclear weapons (Hibakusha) and of their testing, as well as the disproportionate impact of nuclear weapons activities on indigenous peoples.

At a maximum, the treaty will serve as a framework for the achievement of a world free of nuclear weapons. In this aspiration, it reflects the aim of the 1997 Model Nuclear Weapons Convention whose drafting LCNP coordinated. If the treaty is not itself used as such a framework, at least it points the way toward a convention – a comprehensive agreement on the permanent global elimination of nuclear arms.

The ban treaty effort grew out of conferences on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear explosions held in 2013 and 2014 in Oslo; Nayarit, Mexico; and Vienna. It has deeper roots in the formation of regional nuclear weapon free zones, starting with the 1967 Treaty of Tlatelolco establishing such a zone in Latin America and the Caribbean; in General Assembly resolutions, notably resolution 1653 of 1961, in which a sharply divided Assembly declared the use of nuclear weapons to violate the UN Charter and other international law; the General Assembly’s request to the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion on the legality of threat or use of nuclear weapons; and in persistent efforts by non-nuclear weapon states in Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review meetings to extract a commitment from the nuclear weapon states to commence a concrete process of negotiating disarmament. With the nuclear ban treaty, countries largely of the nuclear-weapon-free Global South, joined by Austria and Ireland, have escalated the struggle, declaring that nuclear weapons must be legally prohibited and eliminated as has been done with biological weapons, chemical weapons, landmines, and cluster munitions.

As the Japanese affiliate of IALANA has observed, a principal task now is to convince countries dependent on nuclear arms of the values and logic underlying the nuclear ban treaty. For reflections on the contradiction between the attachment of the world’s major powers and their closest allies to nuclear arms and the ban treaty, see this excellent piece by Richard Falk, a member of the LCNP Board of Directors, “Challenging Nuclearism: The Nuclear Ban Treaty Assessed.”

Elements

The nuclear ban treaty includes a number of the elements LCNP/IALANA advocated for in three conference working papers; in remarks LCNP Executive Director John Burroughs made when on two expert panels sponsored by the conference president, Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gómez of Costa Rica; and in civil society statements to the conference made by LCNP President Emeritus Peter Weiss, Consultative Council member Jacqueline Cabasso, and Burroughs.
Those elements include:
* a preambular reaffirmation of the need for all states at all times to comply with international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law
*a preambular recitation of relevant principles and rules of IHL, including the rule of distinction, the prohibition of indiscriminate attacks, the requirements of proportionality and precaution in attack, the prohibition of weapons that cause unnecessary suffering, and rules for protection of the environment
*a preambular recognition of the existing illegality of use of nuclear weapons under international humanitarian law;
* a prohibition of threatened use as well as use of nuclear weapons
* a preambular reaffirmation of the disarmament obligation as formulated by the International Court of Justice – “pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament”
It is likely that our advocacy made a difference as to inclusion of some elements, in particular the prohibition of threatened use. In his statement, Weiss observed: “Threat is the twin sister of deterrence. For what is deterrence, but the threat to use? … It cannot hurt to reaffirm a prohibition that would ensure the survival of the human race.” In a piece in the Nuclear Ban Daily published by Reaching Critical Will, Burroughs wrote: “As is the case with the prohibition of use of nuclear weapons, inclusion of a prohibition of threat of nuclear weapons would apply, reinforce, and specify existing law set forth in the UN Charter and international humanitarian law treaties and elaborated by the International Court of Justice in its advisory opinion on nuclear weapons. However, the application of existing law is complicated because it is not spelled out comprehensively in the UN Charter and in IHL treaties. Inclusion of a prohibition of threat of nuclear weapons would therefore provide desirable clarity.” Jonathan Granoff, President of the Global Security Institute and a member of the LCNP Board of Directors, also made compelling comments on the immorality and illegality of using and threatening to use nuclear arms in a statement and in working papers.

Especially with the threat prohibition included, read as a whole the treaty repudiates ongoing reliance on ‘nuclear deterrence’ as an alleged basis for international security. For more on threat and deterrence, see this Japan Times story.

For background on issues before the negotiators, see Burroughs’ June Arms Control Today article. The adoption of the treaty generated some mainstream news coverage, including this New York Times story, “A Treaty Is Reached to Ban Nuclear Arms. Now Comes the Hard Part”.

Lawyers’ Letter on the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons

At a nuclear ban treaty conference side event, we released the Lawyers’ Letter on the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons. It declares that “the nuclear ban treaty effort constitutes an important affirmation of the norms against nuclear weapons” and that the treaty will be a “major step towards negotiation of a comprehensive agreement on the achievement and permanent maintenance of a world free of nuclear arms.” It also observes: “People are capable of good-faith, law-guided, problem solving at all levels of society: family, neighborhood, national, international. Cooperative global systems have been devised for the protection of human rights, protection of the environment and prevention of climate change, prohibition of specific weapons, and more. These skills must now be applied to the next obvious step: the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.”

The now more than 500 signatories from more than 40 countries include Geoffrey Palmer, former Prime Minister of New Zealand; Herta Däubler-Gmelin, former Minister of Justice of Germany; and Phon van den Biesen, counsel before the International Court of Justice in Bosnia’s genocide case and the Marshall Islands’ nuclear disarmament cases. The letter has relevance beyond the negotiations, and we continue to urge members of the legal profession to sign it.

Looking Ahead

In the weeks and months to come, LCNP will analyze and publicize the principles and objectives of the nuclear ban treaty and support the efforts of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons to promote its early entry into force. And we will advocate vigorously with respect to US policy, including for:
Reaffirmation in the new Nuclear Posture Review now under preparation of US legal and policy commitments to the achievement of a world free of nuclear weapons, and endorsement of corresponding measures, including ending plans for acquisition of new, more capable, air-launched cruise missiles and land-based missiles. For our initial comment, see the IALANA statement made at this spring’s NPT PrepCom in Vienna, “Defend the Unequivocal Undertaking to Eliminate Nuclear Arsenals”.
Peaceful resolution of the US-North Korean confrontation, as set out in an LCNP statement authored by LCNP President Guy Quinlan. It calls on the United States to drop its insistence on a North Korean commitment to denuclearization as a precondition for negotiations. See also this insightful piece in Truthout by Andrew Lichterman, Senior Research Analyst, Western States Legal Foundation, and a member of the IALANA Board of Directors, “As the US Threatened North Korea, 122 Countries Voted to Ban Nuclear Weapons”.

 

Recommended Reading –
Humanization of Arms Control: Paving the Way for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons

In this new book published by Routledge Press, Daniel Rietiker, a lecturer at the University of Lausanne and a member of the IALANA Board of Directors, explores an alternative approach to nuclear disarmament focusing on the human dimension rather than on states’ security. He analyzes the positive experiences of the movements against chemical weapons, anti-personnel mines, and cluster munitions, and explores whether they can be replicated in the nuclear weapons field. He also examines the legality of use of nuclear weapons, with special attention to international human rights law, in light of developments since the 1996 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice. The book can be ordered at http://www.routledge.com.

Why Canada Should Sign the Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons

In Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on July 31, 2017 at 1:44 am

By Douglas Roche, Special to the Globe and Mail, July 29, 2017 http://tinyurl.com/yd65caa7

Douglas Roche is a former senator and a former Canadian ambassador for disarmament and honourary citizen of Hiroshima.

I was 16 when the first atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early August, 1945. It was only years later, when I visited Japan as a member of Parliament, that I realized the unspeakable horror and scale of destruction possible in the new nuclear age.

That experience changed my life as I began to understand that the threat to use the immense killing power of modern nuclear weapons challenges all human rights. Through the years, the movement to abolish nuclear weapons ebbed and flowed, and few people thought the elimination of all 15,000 nuclear weapons was a practical political goal.

But new hope emerged July 7, when 122 countries – 63 per cent of all countries – adopted at the United Nations a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The new treaty prohibits the development, testing, production, manufacturing and possession of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons have been unconditionally stigmatized as standing outside international humanitarian law.

The treaty was achieved through the work of leading states – such as Ireland, Austria and Mexico – working in collaboration with highly informed members of civil society. They recognized the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences” of any use of nuclear weapons, which would pose grave implications for the environment, the global economy, the health of current and future generations and for human survival itself.

When 50 countries have ratified it, the new treaty will enter into force and all the signatory states will be committed to “measures for the verified, time-bound and irreversible elimination of nuclear-weapon programmes.”

The UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Izumi Nakamitsu, has hailed the “historic adoption” of the treaty as “a beacon of hope for all those who have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of a nuclear-weapon-free world.”

However, the road ahead will be difficult because the nuclear-weapons states oppose the new treaty, just as they have refused to honour their legal obligations under the longstanding Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to negotiate “in good faith” the elimination of nuclear weapons. A statement issued by the United States, Britain and France – the three Western nuclear-weapons states – arrogantly said they “do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to [the new treaty].”

Thus, world opinion is split between those who believe the military doctrine of nuclear deterrence (“mutual assured destruction”) is necessary to preserve peace and those who hold that nuclear weapons, with their immense destructive power, are the major threat to peace.

The majority of countries now agree that the faulty doctrine of nuclear deterrence must be replaced with a sincere desire to build a global security architecture without nuclear weapons. This is a struggle of titanic proportions.

It is dismaying that the Government of Canada, the first country in the world to declare it would not develop nuclear weapons, took a stand in Parliament opposing the new treaty as “premature.” How can it be “premature” to ban nuclear weapons after seven decades of their existence?

The real reason for Canada’s opposition is because the U.S. government instructed its partners in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to resist on the grounds that the treaty “delegitimizes the concept of nuclear deterrence.” That is exactly the aim of the treaty advocates, who maintain that the measure is a head-on rejection of nuclear hegemony.

The new treaty also shores up the non-proliferation treaty, which is continually being weakened by the major powers’ refusal to abide by its obligation to negotiate the elimination of nuclear arsenals. Prohibiting nuclear weapons is an essential step toward their elimination. Thus, the Government of Canada should sign and ratify the new prohibition treaty as a concrete step toward the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.

The government must face the fact that NATO nuclear policies are a huge obstacle to achieving a nuclear-weapons-free world. Canada once tried to get NATO to change these policies; it should try again. It will not be easy to challenge the NATO doctrine, but it must be done because it is right to do so. It is wrong for NATO to maintain the nuclear weapons doctrine when most of the world wants to prohibit such instruments of evil.

As an old man now looking back in the distance to the horrors of Hiroshima, I never want to lose my sense of hope that an enlightened humanity can fight back against the shrill voices of fear still clamouring for the false security of nuclear weapons.

Nuclear power for your home and business

In Climate change, Environment, Nonviolence, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Nuclear powere, Peace, Politics, War on July 20, 2017 at 8:36 am

Dear friends –

Regardless of any other public and career commitments each of us may have, it is now essential for everyone who is, or could be, involved in the public sphere to address themselves in one way or another to the global climate crisis.

We will review the reasons for this in the next Bulletin, if they are not already clear. In a letter to local members earlier this year we said,
Today, our long inaction in the face of converging environmental and social disasters requires us to consider our lives and actions…All that we are and do, and would do, must be weighed sub specie Terrae – from the perspective of Earth…[T]he biggest story and struggle of our time and our greatest, most salient struggles, lie in the nexus of climate, energy, economics, and environment. These connected crises have now thoroughly converged…We now need to anchor all our politics, including nuclear disarmament politics, in the work of saving our only home and the creatures in it, who have come this long way with us and made us who we are. This is not just “another issue.” It is the master predicament that we and our children are facing. (1/7/17)
One small part of our collective response deserves highlighting first, and all by itself for clarity’s sake, because it is so straightforward and has so many personal, political, and economic advantages (micro and macro – both).

I am talking about nuclear power. Fusion power, that long-sought miracle of energy abundance. For your home and business or those of your friends. From the sun.

As Los Alamos gadfly and peace activist Ed Grothus used to say, the reactor location is ideal, at 93 million miles away; the power output is essentially infinite; and the distribution is universal.

Solar energy is almost perfectly accessible – almost too good to be true, and much better than almost any alternative. Google’s Sunroof algorithms estimate that just our city, Albuquerque, has 188,000 roofs that are suitable for photovoltaic installations (93% of the total), with a combined potential capacity of 3.5 gigawatts. This is more than one-third of the total summer generation capacity in the whole state (8.4 GW). (About one quarter of NM’s electricity is exported). That’s just Albuquerque roofs. It does not include parking lots (many of which would benefit from solar shade structures), or all the suitable vacant land within and around the city, which together would dwarf the solar potential of the roofs alone.

The marginal cost of a solar kilowatt-hour is, once a solar generation facility is installed, zero. Nuclear-generated electricity finally is, in that sense, “too cheap to meter.” The cost is really a capital investment, not an operating expense, and a big hunk of it makes jobs and builds skills in your community.

We here at the Los Alamos Study Group are laser-focused on the political and social changes we can foster that will help save the planet and strengthen our communities. Especially now that it is cheap, and especially here in sunny New Mexico, solar energy is an enabling technology.

Solar energy is a core part of the Gandhian “constructive program” in our time and place. He emphasized that constructive program far more than nonviolent resistance. That program, and the radical simplicity that was and is a necessary part of it, is a face of the active nonviolence we need.

We need a lot of renewable energy – distributed renewable energy, with associated ownership, skills, and renewed community institutions – quickly. For some people and institutions, it will be a “gateway” (as in, “gateway drug,” but in a positive sense) to other transitions, personal and political.

In general, and of course with exceptions, we do not see the ephemeral, convenient protests that are habitual on the political left as being at all politically effective. (Long-term protests and true nonviolent resistance are quite another matter.) Organizing people to boycott as much planetary ecocide as possible – necessarily starting with one’s own household and business – would be far more effective than showing up for the typical protest.

Of course constructive action alone is not enough. Renewable energy, even 100% renewable energy, is not enough in itself to save the climate and halt the Sixth Great Extinction. We also need effective resistance. We need radical simplicity and connection with others.

But renewable energy is necessary; it is necessary now; it is necessary on a large scale; and it is necessary that it not be controlled by a few. The process of making this happen is politically potent and fruitful across the whole range of our converging crises.

Let me be very clear. We are asking you to consider adding solar generating capacity on your home or business. We think it is politically important.

As we said last year (Bulletin 226), the Study Group has chosen to have a financial “confluence of interest” in this transition, because we believe strongly in it. It is program and fundraising, both. We are working with two employee-owned New Mexico companies:
Positive Energy: very high efficiency, long-life, hassle-free solar guaranteed installations, including all permitting and paperwork. “Smart,” long-life, battery systems. $100 to LASG for any consultation (which are free to customers); an additional $400 with system installation.
McCune Solar Works: ultra-long life, low-cost PV modules and systems; systems tailored for renters; long-life, non-toxic battery systems; much more. Free consultations. $500 to the Study Group with system installation.
If you don’t live in New Mexico, that’s fine. We still want you to think about solar energy, for all the above reasons.
If you rent, there are ways of approaching the solar energy proposition that may work for you and your landlord.

More than this, we are asking you to become climate and solar “ambassadors,” educating and connecting with others about our climate crisis and undertaking to produce a concerted response in your own circles, which will include renewable energy, especially solar energy.

Some of you have very small electric bills, which is great. There are now cheap, small solar systems with easy-to-wire AC output, which may have demonstration value for others as well as yourself.

The federal investment tax credit is still 30% until the end of 2019. The credit applies to any necessary new roofing and to carports, parking lot structures, etc. Nonprofits and churches can create LLCs to benefit from these credits.

As a result of our summer climate and solar ambassador program, we know a little bit about this industry. Talk to one of us (at 505-265-1200) if you have questions, but we will want to connect you with the real pros, who can best analyze your situation in detail.

Greg and Trish, for the Los Alamos Study Group

Testing Fate: The Implications of Resumed Nuclear Weapons Testing

In Environment, Human rights, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on July 18, 2017 at 9:51 pm

By Joseph Rodgers, July 17, 2017

From 1945 to 1992, the United States conducted 1,032 nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere, under the ocean and below ground. These tests took their toll on the environment and communities downwind from test sites, with certain radioactive materials, such as Strontium-90, still measurable in our bodies.

In the quarter century since the last explosive nuclear test, cold war realities like “duck and cover” have faded from the public consciousness. To today’s young professionals, they seem quaint icons of a bygone era. However, while there is no technical requirement for a U.S. nuclear test, this 20th century pursuit is getting new consideration in the current administration. We would be well advised to examine the geopolitical context and the risks that would accompany any U.S. return to testing.

This past May, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) embarked on another review cycle to assess its status and implementation. During these negotiations in Vienna, the vast majority of states expressed strong support for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

The verification regime created by the CTBT is one of the strongest in the world, involving over 321 International Monitoring Stations (IMS) and 16 laboratories that continually search for signs of nuclear testing. This sophisticated system of sensors has a variety of applications outside of the nuclear realm, ranging from tracking whale migration in the Indian Ocean to detecting asteroid impacts.

The United States signed the CTBT in 1996, but Congress has yet to ratify the treaty. Despite signing the CTBT, there is a small, yet growing, number of nuclear weapons aficionados in the United States calling for the resumption of a nuclear weapons test readiness posture and even the commencement of explosive testing itself. Testing nuclear weapons, and even allocating substantial money to test readiness, would undercut United States and international security.

North Korea remains the only country to have tested a nuclear weapon since 1998. The international community has strongly condemned North Korean testing as a violation of the testing taboo. If the United States resumes testing, we will lose a significant amount of international political leverage against the regime in Pyongyang.

There are other reasons why United States resumption of nuclear weapons testing would be a dangerous geopolitical move. Testing by the United States would almost certainly light an international fuse, triggering other states with nuclear weapons to resume testing. Russia is making substantial infrastructure investments at their old Novaya Zemlya testing facility, and could be expected to detonate a test soon after the United States does. China would likely follow. Additionally, India and Pakistan have collectively completed five nuclear weapons tests and would see new opportunities in renewed global testing. Of all the nuclear states, India and Pakistan have the most scientific knowledge to gain from a resumption of testing. A recommencement of nuclear testing would result in widespread environmental damage and a more dangerous, less politically stable world.

Arguments for renewed nuclear weapons testing by certain nuclear weapons experts, such as former Sandia National Lab President C. Paul Robinson, are appearing because the United States is planning to spend one trillion dollars modernizing every aspect of its nuclear arsenal.

This costly modernization project is aimed at enhancing nuclear weapons capabilities. For example, the B61-12 gravity bomb received a new guided tail kit, making the bomb more accurate. The W76-1/Mk4A warheads on the Trident II Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile received new arming, fuzing and firing mechanisms, dubbed “super fuzes”, significantly increasing their ability to destroy hardened targets. The Long Range Standoff Air Launched Cruise Missile is slated to receive new stealth capabilities.

Wholly new concepts are being considered, including warheads with launch “interoperability” from multiple platforms. The farther away the stockpile moves from pedigreed (certified) weapons into uncharted novelty designs, the louder the voices to resume explosive nuclear weapons testing will become. Instead, if a particular design change would introduce a significant uncertainty about its explosive reliability, that should be a “stop” sign, not a “blow it up to see what happens” signal.

Testing is unnecessary for the prudent maintenance of the modern United States nuclear arsenal. The existing Stockpile Stewardship program uses supercomputers that model nuclear explosions based off of the data collected from our 1,032 previous nuclear weapons tests. While our stockpile does not necessitate nuclear weapons testing, a resumption of testing would galvanize other states’ nuclear weapons programs.

If testing does recommence, the Nevada Test Site, where the majority of nuclear weapons detonated on United States soil occurred, is the facility most likely to be used. Nevada citizens should stand against nuclear weapons testing in their communities. Nuclear weapons testing should become a political third rail. Testing in Nevada would cause ecological devastation and carry an enormous economic cost. With Las Vegas just 80 miles away from the Nevada Test Site, tourism to Nevada would certainly decline.

Resuming nuclear weapons testing is politically untenable, internationally destabilizing, and environmentally catastrophic. Modernization of nuclear weapons by introducing novel design elements is provocative and is already contributing to an arms race. Testing will accelerate the nuclear dangers without commensurate benefit to the United States and will make our nation and the world less safe.

Joseph Rodgers is a Master’s Candidate in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS). Rodgers also serves as a Nuclear Policy Analyst at Tri-Valley CAREs, based in Livermore, California and as a Research Assistant at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at MIIS.

 

After the nuclear weapons ban treaty: A new disarmament politics

In Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on July 18, 2017 at 8:28 am

By Zia Mian, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July 7, 2017

A treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons was adopted by an overwhelming vote and met with loud cheers this week at the United Nations. More than 70 years in the making, the treaty offers widely agreed principles, commitments, and mechanisms for ending the nuclear weapons age. Getting here was not easy, and achieving nuclear disarmament will still be a long struggle. But the new treaty creates space and means for a creative new disarmament politics based on law and ethics and democracy that go beyond well-trodden debates on the dangers and costs of nuclear weapons and traditional practices of arms control based on step-by-step reductions that limit only the size of arsenals.

Having achieved their goal of negotiating a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons and aiming explicitly at their elimination, officials from more than 120 countries and countless peace activists who have been engaged in the talks now need to take up the political challenge of having the treaty quickly and widely adopted and owned by publics and governments around the world. The treaty will open for signature on September 20. The treaty adopted this week requires 50 states to formally join before it enters into force. This should occur soon. In the vote at the United Nations, 122 states voted in favor, and only the Netherlands, which hosts nuclear weapons belonging to the United States, voted against.

The treaty is in many ways an attempt to reaffirm—and hold humanity to—the highest universal ideals of a world of peace and justice based on law. It exposes the fundamental contradiction between nuclear weapons and the existing international system. The treaty opens with the simple declaration that the countries adopting it are “[d]etermined to contribute to the realization of the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

Signed on June 26, 1945 in San Francisco, the charter says, in Article 1.1 that “[t]he purposes of the United Nations are: To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace.”

Given this purpose, it should be no surprise that the United Nations has always struggled with the question of nuclear weapons and has been the primary forum for international demands to eliminate these weapons, which more than any other human instrument constitute a threat to international peace and security. This struggle began in the very first meeting of the United Nations, on January 24, 1946, when the newly formed General Assembly took up as its first order of business the need for specific proposals “for the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons.” This historic demand is recalled in the preamble to the new nuclear weapons ban treaty.

In framing the obligations of states under the treaty, and by implication the conduct of all states, the preamble makes a case that nuclear weapons are in fundamental conflict with basic humanitarian sensibilities and international law. If the treaty is to ultimately be successful, this view will have to become the common sense of the world.

The treaty’s foundational claims are that “any use of nuclear weapons would be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, in particular the principles and rules of international humanitarian law,” and that “any use of nuclear weapons would also be abhorrent to the principles of humanity and the dictates of public conscience.” Put simply, any use of nuclear weapons would by any reasonable measure be illegal and immoral, and so they should have no place in national policies or human affairs.

On this foundation are built the core obligations of the treaty—which must now become common knowledge. Article I of the treaty states that each state party undertakes never under any circumstances to:

Develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess, or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.
Transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices, directly or indirectly.
Receive the transfer of or control over nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices directly or indirectly.
Use or threaten to use nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.
Assist, encourage, or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a state party.
Seek or receive any assistance, in any way, from anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a state party.
Allow any stationing, installation or deployment of any nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices in its territory or at any place under its jurisdiction or control.
These obligations break new ground. The prohibition on threatening to use nuclear weapons, for example, sets up a fundamental challenge to all policies based on nuclear deterrence. From now on, deterrence advocates are on the wrong side of the law, as understood and accepted by the majority of countries in the world.

The treaty also requires that nuclear weapons, weapon programs, and weapon facilities be eliminated, in agreed verifiable, irreversible, time-bound plans. It requires any treaty signatory that has nuclear weapons to “immediately remove them from operational status and destroy them, as soon as possible but not later than a deadline to be determined by the first meeting of states parties, in accordance with a legally binding, time-bound plan for the verified and irreversible elimination of that State Party’s nuclear-weapon programme, including the elimination or irreversible conversion of all nuclear-weapons-related facilities.”

There are no such disarmament plans, but ban treaty states can now begin to outline them together in their regular conference of parties. And, as George Perkovich has argued, “nuclear-armed states will not credibly meet their disarmament obligations unless and until they seriously define what a feasible, comprehensive, verifiable, and enforceable nuclear disarmament regime would entail.” The goal must be for these processes to converge.

The challenge of nuclear disarmament politics going forward will be getting publics and policy makers in nuclear weapon states (and their allies) to set aside their long held, deeply institutionalized sense of nuclear superiority and moral exceptionalism and accept the treaty’s humanitarian imperative, its lawfulness, and the obligations that follow. The nine countries with nuclear weapons all stayed away from the talks, and some of them will work hard to prevent the treaty gaining ground. The key to long-term progress will be the United States, which more than any other country has set the global nuclear agenda since it made the first nuclear weapons and remains the only country ever to have used them in war. It is also the country most responsible for the existing international system.

In a potentially powerful obligation, the ban requires the states that sign up to make membership of the treaty part of their political engagement with the nuclear weapon states. Article 12 of the treaty mandates that states practice disarmament diplomacy and more. It declares that “[e]ach State Party shall encourage States not party to this Treaty to ratify, accept, approve or accede to the Treaty, with the goal of universal adherence of all States to the Treaty.” This will require new kinds of official and public engagement with weapons states and opens the door for new kinds of transnational citizen diplomacy on disarmament. A key step in the new disarmament politics must be discussion of the forms that this encouragement can take, and what role citizens of ban treaty states and of nuclear weapon states can and should play in this effort.

But persuading nuclear weapons countries to join the treaty will not be easy. It will require that governments and citizens use new forms of international politics that the treaty empowers.

For example, politically charged demands for nuclear disarmament—perhaps avoided as too sensitive a topic in the past—can now be brought up as a matter of course when presidents and prime ministers from ban treaty states meet with their counterparts in nuclear weapon states. Along with trade and investment and tourism and sports delegations, ban treaty countries can now sponsor disarmament delegations, to explain why they signed the treaty—and why weapon states should do the same. Along with these types of engagement, of course, there can also be sanctions and boycotts. The ban treaty permits a politics of nuclear naming and shaming, shunning and divestment. These tools are well established when it comes to human rights and war crimes; they can be applied with new force to nuclear weapon sites, institutions, officials, and employees.

Peace activists must prepare for ban treaty states to triangulate, to balance interests in their relations with the weapon states. Most of the countries that sign up for the ban will see nuclear weapons issues as only one item on a larger agenda. The diplomats who negotiated the treaty work within national political systems, in which disarmament demands will have to compete with urgent needs for aid and trade and good political relations with nuclear weapon states, who are among the richest and most powerful countries in the world.

If they are to prevail, the ban treaty states will need to hold together and expand their coalition and keep working with civil society groups. Together they will need to present unified demands—at the General Assembly and in other international forums—that weapon states join the treaty. They can hold joint Article 12 summits and support campaigns in the weapon states to focus attention and build support for the treaty.

Ban treaty states could seek to further embed the treaty’s prohibitions into international law by seeking an amendment to the statute of the International Criminal Court to make the use of nuclear weapons a war crime. The court’s statute permits such an amendment if it relates to “weapons, projectiles and material and methods of warfare which are of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering or which are inherently indiscriminate in violation of the international law of armed conflict, provided that such weapons, projectiles and material and methods of warfare are the subject of a comprehensive prohibition.” The ban treaty is a comprehensive prohibition, and many ban states are signatories of the International Criminal Court statute and could build a majority in support of such an amendment.

Above all, to be taken seriously by the nuclear-weapon states, the growing community of ban treaty states and peace activists worldwide must be willing to continue to be bold and take political risks, as they did in getting the treaty. They must put at the heart of their relationship with the weapon states the treaty’s acknowledgment of “the ethical imperatives for nuclear disarmament and the urgency of achieving and maintaining a nuclear-weapon-free world, which is a global public good of the highest order, serving both national and collective security interests.” Having prohibited nuclear weapons as an ethical imperative, there is now no way back.