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EXCLUSIVE: US Preparing to Put Nuclear Bombers Back on 24-Hour Alert

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on October 23, 2017 at 9:40 pm

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. — The U.S. Air Force is preparing to put nuclear-armed bombers back on 24-hour ready alert, a status not seen since the Cold War ended in 1991.

That means the long-dormant concrete pads at the ends of this base’s 11,000-foot runway — dubbed the “Christmas tree” for their angular markings — could once again find several B-52s parked on them, laden with nuclear weapons and set to take off at a moment’s notice.

“This is yet one more step in ensuring that we’re prepared,” Gen. David Goldfein, Air Force chief of staff, said in an interview during his six-day tour of Barksdale and other U.S. Air Force bases that support the nuclear mission. “I look at it more as not planning for any specific event, but more for the reality of the global situation we find ourselves in and how we ensure we’re prepared going forward.”

Goldfein and other senior defense officials stressed that the alert order had not been given, but that preparations were under way in anticipation that it might come. That decision would be made by Gen. John Hyten, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, or Gen. Lori Robinson, the head of U.S. Northern Command. STRATCOM is in charge of the military’s nuclear forces and NORTHCOM is in charge of defending North America.

Putting the B-52s back on alert is just one of many decisions facing the Air Force as the U.S. military responds to a changing geopolitical environment that includes North Korea’s rapidly advancing nuclear arsenal, President Trump’s confrontational approach to Pyongyang, and Russia’s increasingly potent and active armed forces.

Goldfein, who is the Air Force’s top officer and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is asking his force to think about new ways that nuclear weapons could be used for deterrence, or even combat.

 

“The world is a dangerous place and we’ve got folks that are talking openly about use of nuclear weapons,” he said. “It’s no longer a bipolar world where it’s just us and the Soviet Union. We’ve got other players out there who have nuclear capability. It’s never been more important to make sure that we get this mission right.”

During his trip across the country last week, Goldfein encouraged airmen to think beyond Cold War uses for ICBMs, bombers and nuclear cruise missiles.

Related: ‘Is There Something Going On?’: On Scene at STRATCOM As North Korea Launches Missile

Related: Despite Objections, Pentagon Takes Step Toward Buying New Nuclear Weapons

Related: US Military Eyes New Mini-Nukes for 21st-Century Deterrence

“I’ve challenged…Air Force Global Strike Command to help lead the dialog, help with this discussion about ‘What does conventional conflict look like with a nuclear element?’ and ‘Do we respond as a global force if that were to occur?’ and ‘What are the options?’” he said. “How do we think about it — how do we think about deterrence in that environment?”

Asked if placing B-52s back on alert — as they were for decades — would help with deterrence, Goldfein said it’s hard to say.

“Really it depends on who, what kind of behavior are we talking about, and whether they’re paying attention to our readiness status,” he said.

Already, various improvements have been made to prepare Barksdale — home to the 2d Bomb Wing and Air Force Global Strike Command, which oversees the service’s nuclear forces — to return B-52s to an alert posture. Near the alert pads, an old concrete building — where B-52 crews during the Cold War would sleep, ready to run to their aircraft and take off at a moment’s notice — is being renovated.

 

Inside, beds are being installed for more than 100 crew members, more than enough room for the crews that would man bombers positioned on the nine alert pads outside. There’s a recreation room, with a pool table, TVs and a shuffleboard table. Large paintings of the patches for each squadron at Barksdale adorn the walls of a large stairway.

One painting — a symbol of the Cold War — depicts a silhouette of a B-52 with the words “Peace The Old Fashioned Way,” written underneath. At the bottom of the stairwell, there is a Strategic Air Command logo, yet another reminder of the Cold War days when American B-52s sat at the ready on the runway outside.

Those long-empty B-52 parking spaces will soon get visits by two nuclear command planes, the E-4B Nightwatch and E-6B Mercury, both which will occasionally sit alert there. During a nuclear war, the planes would become the flying command posts of the defense secretary and STRATCOM commander, respectively. If a strike order is given by the president, the planes would be used to transmit launch codes to bombers, ICBMs and submarines. At least one of the four nuclear-hardened E-4Bs — formally called the National Airborne Operations Center, but commonly known as the Doomsday Plane — is always on 24-hour alert.

Barksdale and other bases with nuclear bombers are preparing to build storage facilities for a new nuclear cruise missile that is under development. During his trip, Goldfein received updates on the preliminary work for a proposed replacement for the 400-plus Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles, and the new long-range cruise missile.

“Our job is options,” Goldfein said. “We provide best military advice and options for the commander in chief and the secretary of defense. Should the STRATCOM commander require or the NORTHCOM commander require us to [be on] a higher state of readiness to defend the homeland, then we have to have a place to put those forces.”

Marcus Weisgerber is the global business editor for Defense One, where he writes about the intersection of business and national security. He has been covering defense and national security issues for more than a decade, previously as Pentagon correspondent for Defense News and chief editor of … FULL BIO

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Anti-nuke nuns return to crime scene with a treaty and a Nobel Prize

In Human rights, Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics on October 22, 2017 at 9:50 pm

By DIANE CARMAN | The Denver Post
October 20, 2017 at 12:01 pm
It was a lovefest — warm embraces, beaming smiles, raspy renditions of old-timey peace songs and nonstop visits to military bases and nuclear weapons sites. Fifteen years to the day after they succeeded in getting themselves arrested at a Minuteman III site in Weld County, Ardeth Platte and Carol Gilbert were back, performing in a reunion tour across Colorado.
This time they didn’t end up in the slammer. Quite the contrary, in many of the places they visited this month, they were given a hero’s welcome.”

Well, not at the mayor’s office in Colorado Springs. They stopped by for a friendly visit — Catholic-to-Catholic — with John Suthers, who had prosecuted them for sabotage and destruction of federal property back when he was U.S. Attorney.

He wasn’t, um, available, so they left him a note saying their visit was “an act of love.”

In the years since they served their sentences in federal prison, the Dominican sisters, hardly deterred by the threat of future incarceration, have become pop culture icons.

A character on “Orange is the New Black” is based on Platte, who practiced yoga at Danbury Federal Correctional Institution with Piper Kerman, author of the book on which the series is based.

Gilbert had her own brush with celebrity. She struck up a friendship with Martha Stewart when they served their sentences at Alderson Federal Prison.

The women are the subject of a documentary called “Conviction,” and The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post and numerous international publications have told their story.

Another Dominican sister, Jackie Hudson, who participated in the Weld County demonstration and also served time in federal prison, died of cancer in 2011.

“She’s with us here in spirit,” said Platte.

They wish she could have been here to share the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, which was announced on Oct. 6 while they were visiting Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming.

The prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, or ICAN, which succeeded in getting 69 nations to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The sisters spent weeks at the U.N. working with ICAN, meeting with world leaders from Ireland, Sweden, Cuba and other countries, and lobbying foreign ministers to get the treaty enacted.

The United States was not among the signers. U.S. diplomats boycotted the U.N. conference along with foreign ministers from the other nuclear nations.

Gilbert and Platte were not surprised by the boycott, and they flatly refuse to be discouraged. They remain fiercely determined to see the treaty ratified and, to get the word out, they are delivering copies to military commanders across the country. They even thoughtfully left one for Suthers in his absence.

“This is an urgent time for us,” said Platte, who advertises her cause on a shirt that proclaims “I’m already against the next war.”

With the Trump administration threatening to “totally destroy North Korea” and Kim Jong-un responding by calling Trump a “dotard” and ordering more ballistic missile tests, Gilbert and Platte said nuclear anxiety has helped generate overwhelming support for their work, especially on college campuses.

“The young people want to live in a nuclear-free world, a world without war,”

Gilbert said. “Everywhere we went, we felt such hope for the future because of the young people.”

Young people were with them when the sisters returned to the missile site, opened the gates and left a copy of the treaty not far from the spot where they were arrested in 2002.

“That was a highlight for me, having all those people with us,” said Platte. “That was touching.”

After decades of anti-nuke activism, marches, die-ins, prayer vigils, fasts, acts of civil disobedience and countless arrests, Platte, 81, and Gilbert, 69, admit it was nice to feel the love.

Because, after all, that’s the whole point.

No matter how craven the politics, how divided the country, how hateful the speeches and tweets become, these sisters of resilience and resistance fight their battles with messages of peace.

“This is our vow,” said Gilbert. “It’s why we keep on keeping on. We will never give up.”

Platte nodded in agreement.

“I refuse to have an enemy,” said the gentle convicted felon, her face suddenly breaking into a beatific smile.

“I simply won’t.”

Diane Carman is a communications consultant and a regular columnist for The Denver Post.

The Real Reason Behind Trump’s Angry Diplomacy in North Korea

In Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on October 21, 2017 at 12:19 am

by Ramzy Baroud

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/10/18/the-real-reason-behind-trumps-angry-diplomacy-in-north-korea/

To understand the United States’ stratagem in the Pacific, and against North Korea in particular, one has to understand the fundamental changes that are under way in that region. China’s clout as an Asian superpower and as a global economic powerhouse has been growing at a rapid speed. The US’ belated ‘pivot to Asia’ to counter China’s rise has been, thus far, quite ineffectual.

The angry diplomacy of President Donald Trump is Washington’s way to scare off North Korea’s traditional ally, China, and disrupt what has been, till now, quite a smooth Chinese economic, political and military ascendency in Asia that has pushed against US regional influence, especially in the East and South China Seas.

Despite the fact that China has reevaluated its once strong ties with North Korea, in recent years, it views with great alarm any military build-up by the US and its allies. A stronger US military in that region will be a direct challenge to China’s inevitable trade and political hegemony.

The US understands that its share of the world’s economic pie chart is constantly being reduced, and that China is gaining ground, and fast.

The United States’ economy is the world’s largest, but not for long. Statistics show that China is blazing the trail and will, by 2030 – or even sooner – win the coveted spot. In fact, according to an International Monetary Fund report in 2014, China is already the world’s largest economy when the method of measurement is adjusted by purchasing power.

This is not an anomaly and is not reversible, at least any time soon.

The growth rate of the US economy over the past 30 years has averaged 2.4 percent, while China soared at 9.3 percent.

Citing these numbers, Paul Ormerod, an economist and a visiting professor at University College, London, argued in a recent article that “if we project these rates forward, the Chinese economy will be as big as the American by 2024. By 2037, it will be more than twice the size.”

It is no wonder why Trump obsessively referenced ‘China’ in his many campaigning speeches prior to his election to the White House, and why he continues to blame China for North Korea’s nuclear weapons program to this day.

As a business mogul, Trump understands how real power works, and that his country’s nuclear arsenal, estimated at nearly 7,000 nuclear weapons, is simply not enough to reverse his country’s economic misfortunes.

In fact, China’s nuclear arsenal is quite miniscule compared to the US. Military power alone is not a sufficient measurement of actual power that can be translated into economic stability, sustainable wealth and financial security of a nation.

It is ironic that, while the US threatens to ‘totally destroy North Korea,’ it is the Chinese government that is using sensible language, calling for de-escalation and citing international law. Not only did fortunes change, but roles as well. China, which for many years was depicted as a rogue state, now seems like the cornerstone of stability in Asia.

Prudent US leaders, like former President Jimmy Carter understand well the need to involve China in resolving the US-North Korean standoff.

In an article in the Washington Post, Carter, 93, called for immediate and direct diplomatic engagement with North Korea that involves China as well.

He wrote on October 4, the US should “offer to send a high-level delegation to Pyongyang for peace talks or to support an international conference including North and South Korea, the United States and China, at a mutually acceptable site.”

A few days leader, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, quoted Carter’s article, and reasserted her country’s position that only a diplomatic solution could bring the crisis to an end.

In a recent tweet, Trump claimed that “Presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years, agreements made and massive amounts of money paid … hasn’t worked.”

He alleged that North Korea has violated these agreements even “before the ink was dry”, finishing with the ominous warning that “only one thing will work!”, alluding to war.

Trump is a bad student of history. The ‘agreements’ he was referring to is the ‘Agreed Framework’ of 1994, signed between President Bill Clinton and Kim Jong-il – the father of the current leader Kim Jong-un. In fact, the crisis was averted, when Pyongyang respected its side of the agreement. The US, however, reneged, argued Fred Kaplan in ‘Slate’.

“North Korea kept its side of the bargain, the United States did not,” Kaplan wrote. “No light-water reactors were provided. (South Korea and Japan were supposed to pay for the reactors; they didn’t, and the U.S. Congress didn’t step in.) Nor was any progress made on diplomatic recognition.”

It took North Korea years to react to the US and its partners’ violation of the terms of the deal.

In 2001, the US invaded and destroyed Afghanistan. In 2003, it invaded Iraq, and actively began threatening a regime change in Iran. Iraq, Iran and North Korea were already blacklisted as the “axis of evil” in George W. Bush’s infamous speech in 2002.

More military interventions followed, especially as the Middle East fell into unprecedented chaos resulting from the so-called Arab Spring in 2011. Regime change, as became the case in Libya, remained the defining doctrine of US foreign policy.

This is the actual reality that terrifies North Korea. For 15 years they have been waiting for their turn on the US regime change path, and their nuclear weapons program is their only deterring strategy in the face of US military interventions. The more the North Korean leadership felt isolated regionally and internationally, the more determined it became in obtaining nuclear devices.

This is the context that Trump does not want to understand. US mainstream media, which seems to loathe Trump in every way except when he threatens war or defends Israel, is following blindly.

Current news reports of North Korea’s supposed ability to kill “90% of all Americans” within one year is the kind of ignorance and fear-mongering that has dragged the US into multiple wars, costing the economy trillions of dollars, while continuing to make bad situations far worse.

Indeed, a recent Brown University Study showed that, between 2001 and 2016, the cost of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan has cost the US $3.6 trillion.

Perhaps, a better way of fending against the rise of China is investing in the US economy instead of wasting money on protracted wars.

But if a Trump war in North Korea takes place, what would it look like?

US Newsweek magazine took on this very disturbing question, only to provide equally worrying answers.

“If combat broke out between the two countries, American commanders in the Pacific would very quickly exhaust their stockpiles of smart bombs and missiles, possibly within a week,” military sources revealed.

It will take a year for the US military to replenish their stockpile, thus leaving them with the option of “dropping crude gravity bombs on their targets, guaranteeing a longer and bloodier conflict for both sides.”

Expectedly, North Korea would strike, at will, all of the US allies in the region, starting with South Korea. Even if the conflict does not escalate to the use of nuclear weapons, the death toll from such a war “could reach 1 million.”

Both Trump and Kim Jong-un are unsavory figures, driven by fragile egos and unsound judgement. Yet, they are both in a position that, if not reigned in soon, could threaten global security and the lives of millions.

Calls for diplomatic solutions made by Carter and China must be heeded, before it is too late.

Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London). His website is: ramzybaroud.net

Divided Highways

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

By Tom Lewis, Delanceyplace.com

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

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

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

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

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

 

Nobel winner says goal is to make nukes unacceptable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump Enters Quagmire

In Democracy, Peace, Politics, War on October 6, 2017 at 8:48 am

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese

https://zcomm.org/zmagazine/trump-enters-quagmire/

 

A quagmire is defined as a complex or unpleasant position that is difficult to escape. President Trump’s recently announced war plans in Afghanistan maintain that quagmire. They come at a time when U.S. Empire is failing and its leadership in the world is weakening. The U.S. will learn what other empires have learned, “Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires.” During the presidential campaign, some became convinced that Trump would not be an interventionist president. His tweets about Afghanistan were one of the reasons. In January 2013, he tweeted, “Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghanis we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA.” Now, we see a president who carries on the interventionist tradition of U.S. Empire.

While Afghanistan has been a never-ending active war since 9-11, making the 16-year war the longest in U.S. history, the truth is the United States became directly involved with Afghanistan some 38 years ago, on July 3, 1979. As William Rivers Pitts writes, “On that day, at the behest of National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter signed the first directive in an operation meant to destabilize the Soviet-controlled government of Afghanistan.” In fact, when the U.S. dropped the MOAB bomb, Trump was bombing tunnels built with the assistance of the CIA in the 1980s for the mujaheddin and Bin Laden.

Trump’s Afghan policy is inaccurately described as a new approach but has only one element that is new—secrecy, as Trump will not tell us how many soldiers he will send to this war. His so-called new strategy is really a continuation of the permanent war quagmire in Afghanistan, which may be an intentional never-ending war for the empire’s geopolitical goals. Ralph Nader reviewed 16 years of headlines about Afghanistan, and called it a “cruel boomeranging quagmire of human violence and misery…with no end in sight.”

Another Afghan Review Leads To Same Conclusion: More War

During his campaign for president, Trump called for the U.S. to pull out of Afghanistan. Early in his administration, President Trump announced a review of the Afghanistan war. When he announced the escalation of the war, Trump noted this was his instinct. Unfortunately, the president did not trust his previous instincts and missed an opportunity to end the war.

We have seen how President Trump refuses to admit mistakes, so it is highly unlikely he will change course from this mistaken path. His rationale is so many U.S. soldiers have given their lives that we must stay until the United States wins. This is the quandary—the U.S. must continue the war until we win because soldiers have died but continuing the war means more will die and the U.S. must stay committed to war because more have died.

After we read President Trump’s Afghanistan war speech, we went back and re-read President Obama’s Afghanistan war speech given in March 2009. It is remarkable how similar the two speeches are. When Russian president Putin was interviewed by filmmaker Oliver Stone—as well as when he was interviewed by Megyn Kelly—he made a point proven by U.S. policy in Afghanistan: “Presidents come and go, and even the parties in power change, but the main political direction does not change.”

Both presidents conducted a lengthy review early in their administration and both talked with generals and diplomats who convinced them to escalate rather than end the war. Both presidents put forward what they claimed was a new strategy but, in reality, was just doing the same thing over again: more troops, building up Afghanistan’s military by working closely with them, using economic and diplomatic power and putting pressure on Pakistan not to be a safe haven for the Taliban and those fighting against the United States.

To ensure a quagmire, both presidents said that decisions would not be based on a timeline but on conditions on the ground. Both promised victory, without clearly defining what it would mean; both raised fears of the Taliban and other anti-U.S.militants using Afghanistan to attack the United States again. Trump had the advantage of knowing that President Obama’s approach had failed despite repeated bombings in Pakistan and working with Afghan troops, but that didn’t alter his course.

According to Mike Ludwig, since President Obama approved a troop surge in 2009, the war in Afghanistan has claimed at least 26,512 civilian lives and injured nearly 48,931 more. In July, the United Nations reported that at least 5,243 civilians have been killed or injured in 2017, including higher numbers of woman and children than in previous years. Trump seems less concerned than previous presidents with killings of civilians.

Trump noted that the Afghanistan-Pakistan region was now the densest part of the world when it comes to anti-U.S. militants, saying there were 20 terrorist groups in the area. President Obama added tens of thousands of troops to the Afghanistan war, dropped massive numbers of bombs and the result was more terrorism. The U.S. was killing terrorists but the impact was creating more anti-American militants. Trump failed to connect these dots and understand that more U.S. attacks create more hatred against the United States.

After Obama failed to “win” the war by adding tens of thousands of troops, with more than 100,000 fighting in Afghanistan at its peak, Trump should have asked his generals how adding thousands more (reports are between 4,000 and 8,000 soldiers) would change failure to success. Wasn’t there anyone in the room who would tell Trump there is nothing new in the Trump strategy that Obama and Bush had not already tried.

The policy of working more closely with the Afghan military in order to build them up ended in disaster in the Obama era. The New Yorker wrote in 2012: “We can’t win the war in Afghanistan, so what do we do? We’ll train the Afghans to do it for us, then claim victory and head for the exits.” But, the U.S. discovered that it could not train the Afghans in the “American way of war.” In 2012, the Obama administration ended the program of fighting alongside Afghan soldiers to train them because those soldiers were killing U.S. soldiers. How many U.S. soldiers will die because Trump was ignorant of this lesson?

Trump also took the wrong lesson from the Iraq war and occupation. He inaccurately described the so-called withdrawal from Iraq as hasty. He points to the rise of ISIS as created by the vacuum in Iraq when the U.S. reduced its numbers of troops. Trump said the U.S. “cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistake our leaders made in Iraq.”

In fact, ISIS rose up because the killing of hundreds of thousands—some reports say more than a million—of Iraqis, displacement of more than a million more, the destruction of a functioning government as well as war crimes like the Abu Gharib torture scandal made it easy to recruit fighters. Furthermore, the training and supply of weapons to Sunnis during the Awakening created armed soldiers looking for their next job.

It was war and occupation that created ISIS. The seeds had been planted, fertilized and were rapidly growing before the U.S. reduced its military footprint. Trump is repeating the mistake of more militarism, and in the end ISIS or some other form of anti-U.S. militancy will thrive.

The U.S. does not want to face an important reality—the government of the United States is hated in the region for very good reasons. Bush lied to us about 9-11 when he claimed they hate us for our freedoms. No, they hate the U.S. because U.S. militarism kills hundreds of thousands of people in the region, destroys functioning governments and creates chaos.

Victory Means Something Different to an Empire

In trying to understand why the U.S. is fighting a war—a war that has been unwinnable for 16 years—it helps to look at a map and consider the resources of an area.

Larry Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former adviser, predicts the U.S. will be in Afghanistan for the next 50 years. Indeed, that may be the “victory” the empire seeks. Afghanistan is of geopolitical importance. It is a place where the U.S. can impact China’s “One Belt One Road” to Europe, where China can take the place of Russia and the United States in providing wealthy Europeans with key commodities like oil and gas. Just as the United States has stayed in Germany, Italy, other European states and Japan after WW II, and in Korea after the Korean war, the empire sees a need to be in Afghanistan to be well positioned for the future of the empire. Terrorism is not the issue, economic competition with China, which is quickly becoming the leading global economic power, is the real issue.

And competition with Russia and China is at the top of the list of the bi-partisan war party in Washington. Pepe Escobar points out that, “Russia-China strategic partnership wants an Afghan solution hatched by Afghans and supervised by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (of which Afghanistan is an observer and future full member). So from the point of view of neocon/neoliberalcon elements of the War Party in Washington, Afghanistan only makes sense as a forward base to harass/stall/thwart China’s Belt and Road Initiative.”

Afghanistan is next to China, India and Pakistan, three nuclear powers that could pose military risks to the United States. Having multiple bases in Afghanistan, to allegedly fight terrorists, will provide the forward deployment needed to combat each of those nations if military action is needed.

Afghanistan also borders on Iran, which could be a near-future war zone for the United States. Positioning the U.S. military along the Afghanistan-Iran border creates a strategic advantage with Iran as well as with the Persian Gulf where approximately 18.2 million barrels of oil per day transit through the Strait of Hormuz in tankers.

Afghanistan’s land also contains $3 trillion in rare earth minerals needed for computers and modern technology including rich deposits of gold, silver, platinum, iron ore and copper. The U.S. has spent $700 billion in fighting a failed war and President Trump and empire strategists are looking to make sure U.S. corporations get access to those minerals. Since the U.S. Geological Survey discovered these minerals a decade ago, some see Afghanistan as the future “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a raw material used in phone and electric car batteries. U.S. officials have told Reuters that Trump argued at a White House meeting with advisers in July that the United States should demand a share of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth.

Jeffrey St. Clair reminds us not to forget the lucrative opium trade. Afghanistan is the largest source for heroin in the world. He writes: “Since the start of Operation Enduring Freedom, opium production has swelled, now accounting for more than one-third of the wrecked Afghan economy. In the last two years alone, opium poppy yields have doubled, a narcotic blowback now hitting the streets of American cities from Amarillo to Pensacola. With every drone strike in the Helmond Province, a thousand more poppies bloom.” The firing of Steve Bannon just before the meeting that decided Afghanistan’s future was not coincidence as he was the opponent of escalation. Glenn Greenwald writes in the Intercept that this permanent power structure has been working since his election to take control of foreign policy. He also points to the appointment of Marine General John Kelly as chief of staff and how National Security Adviser, General McMaster, has successfully fired several national security officials aligned with Steve Bannon and the nationalistic, purportedly non-interventionist foreign policy. The deep state of the permanent national security complex has taken over and the Afghan war decision demonstrates this reality.

With these geopolitical realities, staying in Afghanistan may be the victory the Pentagon seeks—winning just by being there. The Intercept reported that the Taliban offered to negotiate peace, but peace on the terms of the Taliban may not be what the U.S. is seeking.

Call for an End to War for Empire

It would be a terrible error for people to blame Trump for the Afghanistan war, which began with intervention by Jimmy Carter, became a hot war after 9-11 under George Bush, escalated under Obama and now continues the same polices under Trump. The bi-partisan war hawks in Congress have supported these policies for nearly 40 years. Afghanistan is evidence of the never-ending policy of full spectrum dominance sought by the U.S. empire

Throughout recent decades the United States has failed to show what Kathy Kelly called the courage we need for peace and continues the cowardice of war. In fact, many ask why are we still at war in Afghanistan: Osama bin Laden is dead, other alleged 9-11 attack attackers are caught or killed. This shows that calling Afghanistan the longest running Fake War in U.S. history—is right—fake because it was never about terrorism but about business. If terrorism were the issue, Saudi Arabia would be the prime U.S. enemy, but Saudi Arabia is also about business.

We share the conclusion of human rights activist and Green vice presidential candidate in 2016 Ajamu Baraka who wrote for the Black Alliance for Peace that: “In an obscene testament to U.S. vanity and the psychopathological commitment to global white supremacy, billions have already been wasted, almost three thousand U.S. lives lost and over 100,000 dead. It is time to admit defeat in Afghanistan and bring the war to an end. Justice and common sense demand that the bloodletting stop.”

 

Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese are political activists and participants in the Popular Resistance organization and co-directors of Our Economy.

Bernie’s foreign policy looking better everyday

In Democracy, Environment, Peace, Politics, War on October 6, 2017 at 3:52 am

By Dave Anderson

October 5, 2017, Boulder Weekly

 

Filmmaker Michael Moore says Trump “will take us to war.” He’s afraid
that centrist liberals and the mainstream media will support him like
they did when Bush invaded Iraq. “Liberals and Democrats,” he regrets,
“often are afraid of being accused of being wimps or weak,
weak-willed, not strong, not pro-America. And so they’re so eager to
just hop on, so nobody questions their patriotism.”

If Moore is right, we are in trouble because there isn’t much of a
peace movement anymore. The military industrial complex is stronger
than ever. We are involved in several wars right now. The sprawling
U.S. empire has more than 800 military bases in over 70 nations. U.S.
Special Operations are being deployed in more than a hundred
countries. The military is America’s most trusted public institution
today.

Paradoxically, anti-war feelings are also quite strong and the
American people are receptive to a diplomatic and demilitarized
foreign policy. When Obama negotiated the Iran nuclear deal and
started to establish normal relations with Cuba, he was popular.

The military has become much more clever about framing its story and
filtering information. Bombings in America’s many wars are secret.
Wars are funded by credit card. Americans don’t like soldiers to be
killed so drones and private mercenaries are used.

Daniel May argues in The Nation that the peace movement has a great
deal of difficulty organizing people when there isn’t a big noticeable
intervention like the Iraq War to oppose:

“A D.C.-based network loosely gathered under the ‘peace and security’
label advances a diplomacy-first approach. The anti-war base organizes
against intervention. Talented organizers and very smart thinkers lead
a variety of crucial institutions, but the constituency usually
emerges as a political power only in opposition to large-scale
interventions. There were and remain important exceptions to this
trend: the anti-nuke movement and opposition to military involvement
in Central America in the 1980s, and organizing against the Israeli
occupation today. But over the past several decades, popular
opposition to militarism has generally been confined to those moments
that look like what we expect war to look like.”

May wants a peace movement that emphasizes the economic, social and
political costs to Americans of the gigantic military machine. He
says, “we need a movement that can speak to the anger that so many
Americans feel toward the corporate powers that dominate our politics.
Such a movement would expose how militarism is not immune to that
influence but is particularly beholden to it.”

May says that younger activists in the new growing movements such as
the Movement for Black Lives, for immigrant rights and against
Islamophobia see their struggles as intertwined with a fight against
militarism and empire.

What kind of a foreign policy should progressives advocate? Sen.Bernie
Sanders recently offered his views in a speech at Westminster College
in Fulton, Missouri.

“In my view, the United States must seek partnerships not just between
governments, but between peoples,” he said. “A sensible and effective
foreign policy recognizes that our safety and welfare is bound up with
the safety and welfare of others around the world.”

Sanders said, “Foreign policy must take into account the outrageous
income and wealth inequality that exists globally and in our own
country. … There is no moral or economic justification for the six
wealthiest people in the world having as much wealth as the bottom
half of the world’s population — 3.7 billion people. There is no
justification for the incredible power and dominance that Wall Street,
giant multi-national corporations and international financial
institutions have over the affairs of sovereign countries throughout
the world.”

Sanders denounced America’s war on terror, calling it a “disaster for
the American people and for American leadership.”

“In addition to draining our resources and distorting our vision, the
war on terror has caused us to undermine our own moral standards
regarding torture, indefinite detention and the use of force around
the world,” Sanders said, “using drone strikes and other airstrikes
that often result in high civilian casualties.”

Sanders said he disagreed with those in Washington “who continue to
argue that ‘benevolent global hegemony’ should be the goal of our
foreign policy, that the U.S., by virtue of its extraordinary military
power, should stand astride the world and reshape it to its liking. I
would argue that the events of the past two decades — particularly the
disastrous Iraq War and the instability and destruction it has brought
to the region — have utterly discredited that vision.

“The goal is not for the United States to dominate the world,” he
said. “Nor, on the other hand, is our goal to withdraw from the
international community and shirk our responsibilities under the
banner of ‘America First.’ Our goal should be global engagement based
on partnership, rather than dominance.”

However, he warned that “Far too often, American intervention and the
use of American military power has produced unintended consequences
which have caused incalculable harm.” He cited the CIA coups in Iran
(1953) and Chile (1973) against democratically elected governments,
which led to enormous suffering. He asked, “What would Iran look like
today if their democratic government had not been overthrown? What
impact did that American-led coup have on the entire region? What
consequences are we still living with today?”

He proposed American intervention in the global South similar to the
Marshall Plan, which rebuilt Europe after World War II. He praised the
Iran nuclear deal and said the U.S. should work with the U.N.

Bernie’s ideas are so sensible that they might catch on. After all, he
played a big role in shifting our domestic politics to the left.
Perhaps he can do that with foreign policy as well.

The enormous cost of more nuclear weapons

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

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

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

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

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