Might Doesn’t Make Right (or even get a country what it wants)

May 12, 2014

With his essay “What you need to tell people when they say we should use the military,” Peace Action Board Member Larry Wittner makes a very succinct and persuasive case on History News Network that military might, especially as wielded by the United States, achieves little in international relations.

tags: Military Power

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Dr. Lawrence Wittner (http://lawrenceswittner.com) is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is a satirical novel about university corporatization and rebellion, “What’s Going On at UAardvark?

SIPRI Fact Sheet:  TRENDS IN WORLD MILITARY EXPENDITURE, 2013

Is overwhelming national military power a reliable source of influence in world affairs?

If so, the United States should certainly have plenty of influence today. For decades, it has been the world’s Number 1 military spender. And it continues in this role. According to a recent report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the United States spent $640 billion on the military in 2013, thus accounting for 37 percent of world military expenditures. The two closest competitors, China and Russia, accounted for 11 percent and 5 percent respectively. Thus, last year, the United States spent more than three times as much as China and more than seven times as much as Russia on the military.

In this context, the U.S. government’s inability to get its way in world affairs is striking. In the current Ukraine crisis, the Russian government does not seem at all impressed by the U.S. government’s strong opposition to its behavior. Also, the Chinese government, ignoring Washington’s protests, has laid out ambitious territorial claims in the East and South China Seas. Even much smaller, weaker nations have been snubbing the advice of U.S. officials. Israel has torpedoed U.S. attempts to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement, the embattled Syrian government has been unwilling to negotiate a transfer of power, and North Korea remains as obdurate as ever when it comes to scuttling its nuclear weapons program.

Of course, hawkish critics of the Obama administration say that it lacks influence in these cases because it is unwilling to use the U.S. government’s vast military power in war.

But is this true? The Obama administration channeled very high levels of military manpower and financial resources into lengthy U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and ended up with precious little to show for this investment. Furthermore, in previous decades, the U.S. government used its overwhelming military power in a number of wars without securing its goals. The bloody Korean War, for example, left things much as they were before the conflict began, with the Korean peninsula divided and a ruthless dictatorship in place in the north. The lengthy and costly Vietnam War led to a humiliating defeat for the United States — not because the U.S. government lacked enormous military advantages, but because, ultimately, the determination of the Vietnamese to gain control of their own country proved more powerful than U.S. weaponry.

Even CIA ventures drawing upon U.S. military power have produced a very mixed result. Yes, the CIA, bolstered by U.S. military equipment, managed to overthrow the Guatemalan government in 1954. But, seven years later, the CIA-directed, -funded, and -equipped invasion at Cuba’s Bay of Pigs failed to topple the Castro government when the Cuban public failed to rally behind the U.S.-instigated effort. Although the U.S. government retains an immense military advantage over its Cuban counterpart, with which it retains a hostile relationship, this has not secured the United States any observable influence over Cuban policy.

The Cold War confrontation between the U.S. and Soviet governments is particularly instructive. For decades, the two governments engaged in an arms race, with the United States clearly in the lead. But the U.S. military advantage did not stop the Soviet government from occupying Eastern Europe, crushing uprisings against Soviet domination in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, or dispatching Soviet troops to take control of Afghanistan. Along the way, U.S. hawks sometimes called for war with the Soviet Union. But, in fact, U.S. and Soviet military forces never clashed. What finally produced a love fest between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev and ended the Cold War was a strong desire by both sides to replace confrontation with cooperation, as indicated by the signing of substantial nuclear disarmament agreements.

Similarly, the Iranian and U.S. governments, which have been on the worst of terms for decades, appear to be en route to resolving their tense standoff — most notably over the possible development of Iranian nuclear weapons — through diplomacy. It remains unclear if this momentum toward a peaceful settlement results from economic sanctions or from the advent of a reformist leadership in Tehran. But there is no evidence that U.S. military power, which has always been far greater than Iran’s, has played a role in fostering it.

Given this record, perhaps military enthusiasts in the United States and other nations should consider whether military power is a reliable source of influence in world affairs. After all, just because you possess a hammer doesn’t mean that every problem you face is a nail.

- See more at: http://hnn.us/article/155550#sthash.YqVs3dTk.dpuf


When Good News Goes Unreported

May 3, 2014

Have you heard?  The deal with Iran appears to be working.  We’re almost at the half-way point of the Joint Plan of Action and Iran appears to be living up to it commitments.

The International Atomic Energy Agency reports indicate that Iran is ahead of schedule in eliminating its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium.  There are also reports that Iran may agree to alter the design of the Arak heavy water reactor to reduce its potential plutonium output which would be a major concession.

Not surprising, the media has devoted more coverage to the flap over the Obama administration’s rejection of Iran’s nominee for UN ambassador than the fact that negotiations free of threats have produced tangible success while a decade of sanctions and intimidation did not.

Further, as IAEA inspections and limitations on its nuclear program have reduced the chances of Iran developing a nuclear weapon, a final settlement would only make a nuclear breakout less likely.

The deadline for the Joint Plan of Action is July 20.  That gives opponents of diplomacy just under three months to torpedo a final settlement.

Of course, Peace Action won’t be waiting to see how this turns out.  We are organizing lobby days, Monday to Wednesday June 23-25 to put the full force of our grassroots network behind the successful resolution of the decade old crisis over Iran’s nuclear program.

Peace Action activists and our allies are making travel plans and setting up meetings with their Congressional delegations.  Citizen lobby days are a powerful tactic timed to strengthen the Obama administration’s resolve in the final weeks before the deadline.

A final deal carries with it a commitment to lift all nuclear related sanctions.  That will require approval by Congress which has demonstrated infinitely greater aptitude at levying sanctions and little appetite for lifting them.  Peace Action’s plans for a citizen lobby day will provide added political pressure on key Members of Congress to bring this crisis to a peaceful close.

Diplomacy has lessened the threat of a military strike against Iran but has not eliminated it.  Opponents to a diplomatic settlement are opposed to any accommodation with Iran.  For them, Iran should be offered two choices, knuckle under or face war with the US.  The problem is there are many in Congress who share this dangerous sentiment.  Their numbers insure the lifting of sanctions required once a deal is in place will likely come down to a close vote.  Peace Action is mobilizing its network to make sure it’s a vote we win.

Watch for information on how you can get involved in Peace Action’s Diplomacy Not War with Iran lobby days in coming weeks or call Peter Deccy at 301.565.4050 extension 326 for more information.


David vs. Goliath? The Mouse That Roared? The Republic of the Marshall Islands Sues for Nuclear Disarmament

May 2, 2014

I don’t think either analogy is perfect, but some are using these references to describe lawsuits the Republic of the Marshall Islands has filed in the World Court against the United States and the eight other nuclear weapons states (France, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, North Korea, Israel, Pakistan and India) for failing to live up their obligation to pursue nuclear disarmament under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The lawsuits, supported by our colleagues at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, have been in the works for over a year, but were filed just over a week ago in advance of the NPT Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meeting at the United Nations in New York.

I, along with many other Peace Action activists, were in New York for various meetings around the NPT PrepCom, including official government statements, a briefing on the lawsuits featuring the Marshall Islands’ foreign minister, Tony de Brum, and a public event in Manhattan featuring Hibakusha (Hiroshima and Nagasaki A-bomb survivors) telling their poignant stories of perseverance in the cause of nuclear weapons abolition.

The Marshall Islands, which suffered horrible human and environmental consequences from U.S. nuclear weapons testing in the 1950s and 60s (dramatically chronicled in the film Nuclear Savage), are in a unique position to hold the U.S. and other nuclear states accountable for not only their lack of commitment to abolishing nukes, but that all are now engaged in working to “modernize” their nuclear weapons. A terrific website about the lawsuit is at nuclearzero.org

The United States offered this very weak list of bullet points allegedly demonstrating its commitment to nuclear disarmament:

1. Reduced U.S. nuclear stockpile by 85 percent since 1967.

2. Open to further reductions with Russia of up to one-third of deployed strategic weapons and of tactical weapons.

3. Participated in P5 conferences (editor’s note: P5 refers to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, also all nuclear weapons states).

4. Would like to ratify the CTBT.

5. May sign the Central Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty and the Southeast Asian NWFZT. Support a conference on a Middle East NWFZT.

The full U.S. official statement to the PrepCom is at http://papersmart.unmeetings.org/media2/2927499/us.pdf

Plans for next year’s NPT Review Conference, which happen every five years, will soon be underway. Peace Action, along with national and international allies, will work to improve on our impressive organizing around the 2010 Review Conference, which included a conference at Riverside Church of over 1000 people (half from outside the U.S.) addressed by UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon and a rally and march with thousands of people demonstrating for peace and disarmament in midtown Manhattan.

-Kevin Martin, Executive Director


Third Time’s the Charm? Letter to President Obama on nuclear disarmament opportunities

April 18, 2014

Readers of the Peace Blog may recall  two similar group sign-on letters to the president on nuclear disarmament matters, last year around the UN High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament and earlier this year around the Mexico conference on humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. In addition to those letters, on the former we did a petition campaign that netted about 25,000 signers, and on the latter an email campaign that generated close to 10,00 emails to the White House. We never received a substantive response from the Administration on either occasion.

Not giving up of course, please see this newest, fairly comprehensive letter in advance of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee (NPT PrepCom), which convenes April 28-May 9 at the UN in New York. It is open for circulation, distribution, etc. and may be published as an Open Letter.

Thanks to our colleague Jackie Cabasso of Western States Legal Foundation for writing and circulating the letter. She is also seeking a group meeting with US officials around the PrepCom, we’ll report on any progress.

April 16, 2014

 

Dear President Obama,

 

During the closing session of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague on March 25, 2014, you cited a number of concrete measures to secure highly-enriched uranium and plutonium and strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation regime that have been implemented as a result of the three Nuclear Security Summits, concluding: “So what’s been valuable about this summit is that it has not just been talk, it’s been action.”

 

Would that you would apply the same standard to nuclear disarmament! On April 5, 2009 in Prague, you gave millions of people around the world new hope when you declared: “So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” Bolstered by that hope, over the past three years, there has been a new round of nuclear disarmament initiatives by governments not possessing nuclear weapons, both within and outside the United Nations. Yet the United States has been notably “missing in action” at best, and dismissive or obstructive at worst. This conflict may come to a head at the 2015 Review of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

 

We write now, on the eve of the third Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meeting for the 2015 Review Conference of the NPT, which will take place at UN headquarters in New York April 28 – May 9, 2014, to underscore our plea that your administration shed its negative attitude and participate constructively in deliberations and negotiations regarding the creation of a multilateral process to achieve a nuclear weapons free world.  This will require reversal of the dismal U.S. record.

 

  • The 2010 NPT Review Conference unanimously agreed to hold a conference in 2012, to be attended by all states in the region, on a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear and other Weapons of Mass Destruction. The U.S. was a designated convener, and a date was set for December 2012 in Helsinki. The Finnish ambassador worked feverishly, meeting individually with all of the countries in the region to facilitate the conference. Suddenly, on November 23, 2012, the U.S. State Department announced that the Helsinki conference was postponed indefinitely.

 

  • In March 2013, Norway hosted an intergovernmental conference in Oslo on the Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons, with 127 governments in attendance. Mexico hosted a follow-on conference in Nayarit, Mexico in February 2014, with 146 governments present. The U.S. boycotted Oslo and Nayarit. Austria has announced that it will host a third conference, in Vienna, late this year.

 

  • In November 2012, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) established an “Open-Ended” working group open to all member states “to develop proposals to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations for the achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons,” and scheduled for September 26, 2013, the first-ever High-Level meeting of the UNGA devoted to nuclear disarmament. The U.S. voted against both resolutions and refused to participate in the Open-Ended working group, declaring in advance that it would disregard any outcomes.

 

  • The U.S. did send a representative to the UN “High-Level” meeting, but it was the Deputy Secretary for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, rather than the President, Vice-President or Secretary of State. Worse, the U.S. joined with France and the U.K. in a profoundly negative statement, delivered by a junior British diplomat: “While we are encouraged by the increased energy and enthusiasm around the nuclear disarmament debate, we regret that this energy is being directed toward initiatives such as this High-Level Meeting, the humanitarian consequences campaign, the Open-Ended Working Group and the push for a Nuclear Weapons Convention.”

 

  • In contrast, Dr. Hassan Rouhani, the new President of Iran, used the occasion of the High-Level Meeting to roll out a disarmament “roadmap” on behalf of the 120 member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). The roadmap calls for: “early commencement of negotiations, in the Conference on Disarmament, on a comprehensive convention on nuclear weapons for the prohibition of their possession, development, production, acquisition, testing, stockpiling, transfer, use or threat of use, and for their destruction; designation of 26 September every year as an international day to renew our resolve to completely eliminate nuclear weapons;” and “convening a High-level International Conference on Nuclear Disarmament in five years to review progress in this regard.” The NAM roadmap was subsequently adopted by the UNGA with 129 votes in favor. The U.S voted no.

 

Meanwhile, your Administration’s FY 2015 budget request seeks a 7% increase for nuclear weapons research and production programs under the Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). NNSA’s “Total Weapons Activities” are slated to rise to $8.2 billion in FY 2015 and to $9.7 billion by 2019, 24% above fiscal year 2014. Your Administration is also proposing a $56 billion Opportunity Growth and Security Initiative (OGSI) to be funded through tax changes and spending reforms. OGSI is to be split evenly between defense and non-defense spending, out of which $504 million will go to NNSA nuclear weapons programs “to accelerate modernization and maintenance of nuclear facilities.” With that, your FY 2015 budget request for maintenance and modernization of nuclear bombs and warheads in constant dollars exceeds the amount spent in 1985 for comparable work at the height of President Reagan’s surge in nuclear weapons spending, which was also the highest point of Cold War spending.

 

We are particularly alarmed that your FY 2015 budget request includes $634 million (up 20%) for the B61 Life Extension Program, which, in contravention of your 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, as confirmed by former U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff, General Norton Schwartz, will have improved military capabilities to attack targets with greater accuracy and less radioactive fallout.[1]

 

This enormous commitment to modernizing nuclear bombs and warheads and the laboratories and factories to support those activities does not include even larger amounts of funding for planned replacements of delivery systems – the bombers, missiles and submarines that form the strategic triad, which are funded through the Department of Defense.  In total, according to the General Accounting Office, the U.S. will spend more than $700 billion over the next 30 years to maintain and modernize nuclear weapons systems. The James Martin Center places the number at an astounding one trillion dollars. This money is desperately needed to address basic human needs – housing, food security, education, healthcare, public safety, education and environmental protection – here and abroad.

 

The Good Faith Challenge

 

This our third letter to you calling on the U.S. government to participate constructively and in good faith in all international disarmament forums. On June 6, 2013, we wrote: “The Nuclear Security Summit process you initiated has been a success. However, securing nuclear materials, while significant, falls well short of what civil society expected following your Prague speech.”[2] In that letter, we urged you to you speak at the September 26, 2013 High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament at the United Nations; to endorse UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Five-Point Proposal on Nuclear Disarmament; to announce your convening of a series of Nuclear Disarmament Summits; to support extending the General Assembly’s Open-Ended Working Group to develop proposals to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations for the achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons; and to announce that the U.S. would participate in the follow-on conference on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons in Mexico in early 2014.

 

In our second letter, dated January 29, 2014, we urged that you direct the State Department to send a delegation to the Mexico conference and to participate constructively; and that your administration shed its negative attitude and participate constructively in deliberations and negotiations regarding the creation of a multilateral process to achieve a nuclear weapons free world. And we called on the United States to engage in good faith in efforts to make the Conference on Disarmament productive in pursuing the objective for which it was established more than three decades ago: complete nuclear disarmament; and to work hard to convene soon the conference on a zone free of WMD in the Middle East promised by the 2010 NPT Review Conference.[3]

 

Since our last letter, the U.S. – Russian relationship has deteriorated precipitously, with the standoff over the Crimea opening the real possibility of a new era of confrontation between nuclear-armed powers. The current crisis will further complicate prospects for future arms reduction negotiations with Russia, already severely stressed by more than two decades of post-Cold War NATO expansion, deployment of U.S. missile defenses, U.S. nuclear weapons modernization and pursuit of prompt conventional global strike capability.

 

Keeping Our Side of the NPT Bargain

 

Article VI of the NPT, which entered into force in 1970, and is the supreme law of the land pursuant to Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, states: “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

 

In 1996, the International Court of Justice, the judicial branch of the United Nations and the highest and most authoritative court in the world on questions of international law, unanimously concluded: “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.”

 

Forty-four years after the NPT entered into force, more than 17,000 nuclear weapons, most held by the U.S. and Russia, pose an intolerable threat to humanity. The International Red Cross has stated that “incalculable human suffering” will result from any use of nuclear weapons, and that there can be no adequate humanitarian response capacity.[4]  Declaringthat “our nation’s deep economic crisis can only be addressed by adopting new priorities to create a sustainable economy for the 21st century,” the bi-partisan U.S. Conference of Mayors has called on the President and Congress to slash nuclear weapons spending and to redirect those funds to meet the urgent needs of cities.[5]

We reiterate the thrust of the demands set forth in our letters of June 13, 2013 and January 29, 2014, and urge you to look to them for guidance in U.S. conduct at the 2014 NPT PrepCom. We stress the urgent need to press the “reset” button with Russia again. Important measures in this regard are an end to NATO expansion and a halt to anti-missile system deployments in Europe.

 

  • We urge you to work hard to fully implement all commitments you made in the Nuclear Disarmament action plan agreed by the 2010 NPT Review Conference and to convene the promised conference on a zone free of WMD in the Middle East at the earliest possible date.

 

  • We urge you again to take this opportunity to endorse UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Five-Point Proposal on Nuclear Disarmament, to announce your convening of a series of Nuclear Disarmament Summits, and to engage in good faith in efforts to make the Conference on Disarmament productive in pursuing the objective for which it was established more than three decades ago: complete nuclear disarmament.

 

  • We call on you to declare that the U.S. will participate constructively and in good faith in the third intergovernmental conference on humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons to be held in Vienna late this year.

 

  • As an immediate signal of good faith, we call on your Administration to halt all programs to modernize nuclear weapons systems, and to reduce nuclear weapons spending to the minimum necessary to assure the safety and security of the existing weapons as they await disablement and dismantlement.

 

Mr. President: It’s time to move from talk to action on nuclear disarmament. There have never been more opportunities, and the need is as urgent as ever.

 

We look forward to your positive response.

 

Sincerely,

 

Initiating organizations:

 

Jacqueline Cabasso, Executive Director, Western States Legal Foundation

 

[contact for this letter: wslf@earthlink.net; (510) 839-5877

655 – 13th Street, Suite 201, Oakland, CA 94612]

 

John Burroughs, Executive Director, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy

 

Kevin Martin, Executive Director, Peace Action

 

David Krieger, President, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

 

Joseph Gerson, Disarmament Coordinator, American Friends Service Committee(for identification only)

 

Alicia Godsberg, Executive Director, Peace Action New York

 

Endorsing organizations (national):

 

Robert Gould, MD, President, Physicians for Social Responsibility

 

Tim Judson, Executive Director, Nuclear Information and Resource Service

 

Michael Eisenscher, National Coordinator, U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW)

 

Michael McPhearson, Interim Executive Director, Veterans for Peace

 

David Swanson, WarIsACrime.org

 

Jill Stein, President, Green Shadow Cabinet

 

Terry K. Rockefeller, National Co-Convener, United for Peace and Justice

Hendrik Voss, National Organizer, School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch)

 

Alfred L. Marder, President, US Peace Council

 

Robert Hanson, Treasurer, Democratic World Federalists

 

Alli McCracken, National Coordinator, CODEPINK

 

Margaret Flowers, MD and Kevin Zeese, JD, Popular Resistance

 

Endorsing organizations (by state):

 

Marylia Kelley, Executive Director, Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment) Livermore, California

 

Blase Bonpane, Ph.D., Director, Office of the Americas, California

 

Linda Seeley, Spokesperson, San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, California

 

Susan Lamont, Center Coordinator, Peace and Justice Center of Sonoma County, California

 

Chizu Hamada, No Nukes Action, California

 

Lois Salo, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Peninsula Branch, California

 

Rev. Marilyn Chilcote, Beacon Presbyterian Fellowship, Oakland, California

 

Margli Auclair, Executive Director, Mount Diablo Pleace and Justice Center. California

 

Roger Eaton, Communications Chair, United Nations Association-USA, San Francisco Chapter, California

 

Dr. Susan Zipp, Vice President, Association of World Citizens, San Francisco, California

Michael Nagler, President, Metta Center for Nonviolence, California (for identification only)

 

Rev. Marilyn Chilcote McKenzie, Parish Associate, St. John’s Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, California (for identification only)

 

James E. Vann, Oakland Tenants Union, California (for identification only)

 

Vic and Barby Ulmer, Our Developing World, California (for identification only)

 

Judith Mohling, Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, Colorado

 

Bob Kinsey, Colorado Coalition for the Prevention of Nuclear War

 

Medard Gabel, Executive Director, Pacem in Terris, Delaware

 

Roger Mills, Coordinator, Georgia Peace & Justice Coalition, Henry County Chapter

 

Bruce K. Gagnon, Coordinator, Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, Maine
Lisa Savage, CODEPINK, Maine

 

Natasha Mayers, Whitefield, Maine Union of Maine Visual Artists

 

Shirley “Lee” Davis, GlobalSolutions.org, Maine Chapter

 

Lynn Harwood, the Greens of Anson, Maine

 

Dagmar Fabian, Crabshell Alliance, Maryland

 

Judi Poulson, Chair, Fairmont Peace Group, Minnesota

 

Marcus Page-Collonge, Nevada Desert Experience, Nevada

 

Gregor Gable, Shundahai Network, Nevada

 

Jay Coghlan, Executive Director, Nuclear Watch New Mexico

 

Joni Arends, Executive Director, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, New Mexico

 

Lucy Law Webster, Executive Director, The CENTER FOR WAR/PEACE STUDIES, New York

 

Alice Slater, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, New York

 

Sheila Croke, Pax Christi Long Island, chapter of the international Catholic peace movement, New York

 

Richard Greve, Co Chair, Staten Island Peace Action, New York

 

Rosemarie Pace, Director, Pax Christi Metro New York

 

Carol De Angelo, Director of Peace, Justice and Integrity of Creation, Sisters of Charity of New York (for identification only)

 

Gerson Lesser, M.D., Clinical Professor, New York University School of Medicine (for identification only)

 

Ellen Thomas, Proposition One Campaign, North Carolina

 

Vina Colley, Portsmouth/Piketon Residents for Environmental Safety and Security, Ohio

 

Harvey Wasserman, Solartopia, Ohio

 

Ray Jubitz, Jubitz Family Foundation, Oregon

 

Cletus Stein, convenor, The Peace Farm, Texas

 

Steven G. Gilbert, PhD, DABT, INND (Institute of Neurotoxicology & Neurological Disorders), Washington

 

Allen Johnson, Coordinator, Christians For The Mountains, West Virginia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

cc:

 

John Kerry, Secretary of State

 

Rose Gottemoeller, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security

 

Thomas M. Countryman, Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and

Nonproliferation

 

Susan Rice, National Security Advisor

 

Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor

 

Samantha Power, Permanent Representative to the United Nations

 

Christopher Buck, Chargé d’Affaires, a.i., Conference on Disarmament

 

Walter S. Reid, Deputy Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament

 

[1] http://blogs.fas.org/security/2014/01/b61capability/

 

[2] http://www.lcnp.org/files/060613_Obama.docx

 

[3] http://www.lcnp.org/pubs/Letter-to-Obama-Mexico-Conference-on-IHL.pdf

 

[4] http://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/resolution/council-delegates-resolution-1-2011.htm

 

[5] http://www.usmayors.org/resolutions/81st_Conference/international02.asp

 

 

 


Noam Chomsky – “eliminate all nuclear weapons”

April 10, 2014

Professor Chomsky is, not surprisingly, a longtime Peace Action member and has spoken at Peace Action sponsored events in New Jersey and Massachusetts. This interview is courtesy of our colleagues Reader Supported News and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

Prof. Noam Chomsky, linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist and activist. (photo: Va Shiva)

Noam Chomsky: ‘Eliminate All Nuclear Weapons’

By Jane Ayers, Reader Supported News

05 April 14

 

Professor Noam Chomsky, the world-renowned political theorist and Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at MIT, recently delivered the prestigious Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s (NAPF) 13th Annual Frank K. Kelly Lecture on Humanity’s Future. His lecture, entitled “Security and State Policy” was delivered to a capacity audience at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara, California on February 28th. After his lecture, Chomsky was also presented the foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

David Krieger, President of NAPF, stated, “He is one of the world’s wise men. The depth of his knowledge about the complex and varied crises that confront humanity is more than impressive. He is a truth teller to those in power, to other intellectuals, and to the people of the world.” Professor Chomsky has recently joined the Advisory Council of NAPF, which also includes members Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Jane Goodall, Queen Noor of Jordan, Daniel Ellsberg, Bianca Jagger, and H.H. the Dalai Lama.

In his lecture Chomsky pointed out, “It is hard to contest the conclusion of the last commander of the Strategic Air Command, General Lee Butler, that we have so far survived the nuclear age by some combination of skill, luck, and divine intervention, and I suspect the latter in greatest proportion.”

For a full transcript of his Frank K. Kelly lecture, go to NAPF:http://www.wagingpeace.org/security-and-state-policy 

Before Prof. Chomsky’s lecture, I conducted a phone interview with him in which he addressed some of today’s important nuclear issues.

~ Jane Ayers

: General Lee Butler, the former commander in chief of the Strategic Air Command, retired his post in 1996, calling for the worldwide abolition of nuclear weapons. I interviewed him at the time, and he emphasized his concern about the fragility of the world’s nuclear first alert systems, and especially with Russia. At that time he called for total abolition of nuclear weapons, yet now years later promotes a responsible global reduction of nuclear dangers. Are you concerned about the fragility of the first alert systems?

Chomsky: Yes, he also pointed out that the 1960 U.S. nuclear war plan, called the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP), was the most outrageous document in human history, except perhaps for the Russian counterpart, which we knew nothing about. This U.S. nuclear war plan, if our first alert system had alerted a Soviet strike, would have delivered 3200 nuclear weapons to 1060 targets in the Soviet Union, China, and allied countries in Asia and Europe. Even with the end of the Cold War, because of the ongoing superpower nuclear arms race, Gen. Butler bitterly renounced the current nuclear programs/systems as a death warrant for the species.

Q: In his address at the National Press Club in February, 1998, Gen. Butler referred to “the grotesquely destructive war plans and daily operational risks” of our current nuclear systems, and emphasized “a world free of the threat of nuclear weapons is necessarily a world devoid of nuclear weapons.” He also referred to the “mind-numbing compression of decision-making under the threat of a nuclear attack.” Do you think these concerns are still valid today?

Chomsky: Yes, General Lee Butler recanted his whole career, and gave elegant speeches about the numbers of nuclear missiles devoted to nuclear deterrence being an abomination. Yes, the current nuclear dangers still remain quite high.

Q: During the Bush administration, in August of 2007, there was the unauthorized movement of nuclear bombs from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. Six AGM-129 Advanced Cruise Missiles (ACMs), each loaded with W80-1 nuclear warheads, were moved and left unprotected for 36 hours, violating the strict checks and balances of nuclear weapons storage. Investigations later concluded that the nuclear weapons handling standards and procedures had not been followed. Are these the kind of dangers you are referring to?

Chomsky: How dangerous the first alert system is remains only a tiny portion of the overall dangers. To understand more of the dangers of nuclear weapons, definitely read journalist Eric Schlosser’s book, “Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety.” (Eric Schlosser is National Security Correspondent for The Nation Magazine.) In his book, there are many details of near-accidents that have happened, and that could have been catastrophic. The possibilities of close calls due to human error were probably even worse on the Russian side. There have been many times we have been extremely near to having a nuclear war.

The U.S. has an automated response system with data coming in about possible missile attacks. However, it is still left to civilians to make the major decision to destroy the world, and usually with just a few minutes to make that decision. To launch a nuclear war is essentially in the hands of the president. We can’t survive something like that, and especially with so many other nuclear powers worldwide. With India and Pakistan, the same tensions can easily blow up in that region.

We also have to address these issues of unauthorized movement of nuclear bombs, and also the reality of simple human error. The record is hair-raising. There are very high standards worldwide that can’t be met, or aren’t being met, and there is too much room for human error. There have also been many circumstances where the authorization to launch missiles have been delegated to lower-level commanders. Even though there is a two-person requirement, if one does lose control and wants to destroy the world, then the fate of the world is the hands of the other person.

Q: The Obama administration is calling for a reduction of troops across the board (Army, Navy, Air Force, etc.), and emphasizes that the U.S. now has so much might and strength from U.S. missile technology, that we no longer need so many troops. What do you think of this?

Chomsky: A reduction to the amount in the world today? Well, the two major wars, the Bush wars, have been winding down so a lesser amount of troops are needed now. We are also letting go of numbers of troops that we needed to fight two wars simultaneously. We have the biggest military budget in the world, and it is equal to the rest of the world’s military budget combined. War-making is now being transferred to other domains, i.e., drone warfare, etc.

In The New York Times recently, there was a debate about whether the U.S. should murder [with drones] an American in Pakistan. In the article, there is no question raised about killing of non-Americans. These citizens in other countries are all apparently fair game. For example, if anyone is holding their cell phone that day, the drone can easily kill them. But when an action like that occurs, it immediately creates more terrorists. The irony is that while fighting terrorism, we are carrying out a version of a global terrorist campaign ourselves, and are also creating additional dangers for our own country.

So we are now utilizing a new form of warfare with the use of drones. Drones are assassinating people worldwide, without these people being proven guilty first in a court of law. They are just killed by a drone. Gone. Our president decides it.

In addition, with the reduction of numbers of overall troops, it still causes an increase of Special Forces operations on the ground. So what kind of operations are they doing now? Read Jeremy Scahill’s book, “Dirty Wars.” [Jeremy Scahill is National Security Correspondent for The Nation Magazine.] He points out how all of these operations are causing the United States to be the most feared country in the world.

Recently, there was an international poll conducted by a major polling organization in which they asked, “Which country is the greatest threat to world peace?” “The U.S.” was answered the most. The whole world sees us that way nowadays. Around the world, the U.S. is viewed as its own terrorist operation, and these actions create anger in other countries. It is becoming a self-generating system of terrorism itself (while fighting terrorism). Even if the U.S. reduces the number of soldiers needed for the invasion of other countries, we still continue to use drones now too. It creates a lot of anger worldwide against the U.S. when innocent citizens internationally are continually being killed, and/or no court of law is first ruling the suspected terrorists are guilty before being killed by the drones.

Q: A Russian armed intelligence-gathering vessel, the Victor Leonov SSV-175 Warship, conducted a surprise visit to Cuba on the same day Russia announced plans to expand their global military presence – establishing permanent bases in Cuba, Nicaragua, Vietnam, and Singapore. Amid the rising tensions with Putin over the Ukraine, do you think the U.S. could have another version of the Cuban Missile Crisis, or an escalation of war in the Ukraine, especially with NATO troop movement in Eastern Europe?

Chomsky: Ukraine is one issue right now that is very sensitive. Cuba is another target of US campaigns against it. The U.S. has conducted major, official governmental campaigns against Cuba, especially financial warfare, for fifty years. The former Cuban Missile Crisis was to deter an invasion of the U.S.

The sudden presence of a Russian ship in Cuba at the beginning of the Ukraine situation was probably a symbolic move. Russia is surrounded by U.S. military bases and nuclear missiles. We have one thousand military bases around the world with nuclear missiles aimed at all our potential enemies. The country of Ukraine is split right now: Western-oriented and Russian-oriented. It’s located on the Russian border, so there are major security issues for Putin. Ukraine has the only naval base leading to water (the Black Sea) in Crimea, so from Russia’s point of view, the Ukraine situation is a security threat to them, especially with NATO moving into Eastern Europe. If the Ukraine joins the EU, then Russia will have hostile relations at their border. Ukraine has historically been part of the Russian empire, so with the demands being made right now by the U.S., and Russia’s counter-demands, and with the presence of Russian troops, the clash might even blow up to a threat of a major war, which of course, could lead to a nuclear missile confrontation.

Q: Is nuclear disarmament really possible?

Chomsky: It is very possible to take away the nuclear threats to mankind and human survival. In the case of eliminating all nuclear weapons worldwide, it only takes everyone agreeing to do it. We know what can be done to eliminate the nuclear weapons threats to humankind. The U.S., like all nuclear nations, has an obligation of good faith efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons entirely.

However, with environmental catastrophes, it is not so obvious what the world must do to avoid the accumulative dangers. But one important measure of what to do is to realize that the longer we delay stopping the use of fossil fuels, the worse the worldwide environment will be that we are leaving to our grandchildren. They just won’t be able to deal with it later. However, with nuclear weapons, we can most definitely disarm, and we have a responsibility to do this.

Jane Ayers is an independent journalist (stringer with USA Today, Los Angeles Times, etc.), and Director of Jane Ayers Media. She can be reached at JaneAyersMedia@gmail.com or http://www.wix.com/ladywriterjane/janeayersmedia


Could Scotland lead on global nuclear disarmament?

April 7, 2014

Scotland lead toward abolishing nuclear weapons worldwide, you say? How’s that? Here’s a letter to the editor I sent to the New York Times (not published) in response to Roger Cohen’s March 31 op-ed “The Case for Scotland” about the likelihood of Scottish voters choosing independence from the United Kingdom in a September referendum (and then kicking the UK;s nuclear weapons out of Scotland).

April 2, 2014

To the editor,

Roger Cohen’s read on the possibility of Scottish voters choosing independence in a referendum this September (“The Case for Scotland,” March 31) generally rang true, but omitted entirely a key issue – staunch Scottish opposition to nuclear weapons.

The United Kingdom’s nuclear arsenal consists of 225 thermonuclear warheads on missiles aboard Trident submarines based at Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde, generally known as Faslane, a mere twenty-five miles northwest of Glasgow. Scotland has long been a leader in promoting global nuclear disarmament, and the Scottish National Party (SNP) is dead serious about removing the nuclear submarines if the people vote for independence. SNP Leader Alex Salmond recently stated, “Our ­opposition to nuclear weapons is not a campaign tactic or a negotiating position – it is one of the reasons for Scotland being ­independent.”

London appears to have no ready alternative basing plan for the Tridents, so an independent Scotland’s kicking the subs out of Faslane would force the UK into unilateral nuclear disarmament for a period of twenty years while a new base was constructed, according to a 2012 Parliament committee report. And where would they be temporarily based for two decades? The U.S.? France? Local opposition to such a scheme would no doubt be fierce.

It would be far better to decommission and dismantle the submarines, missiles and warheads rather than spend an exorbitant amount of money to maintain and relocate them. Such a development would be cheered not only in Scotland, but in the rest of Britain and around the world. While the UK’s nuclear arsenal is dwarfed by those of the United States and Russia, an acknowledged nuclear power giving up these weapons it surely doesn’t need would boost lethargic efforts toward getting the world to nuclear zero.

Sincerely,

Kevin Martin

Executive Director


Report on Nuclear Abolition International Meetings in Mexico

March 4, 2014

aliciaConference Reports: 

Second Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)  in Nayarit, Mexico

 By Alicia Godsberg, Executive Director, Peace Action NYS

 From 11-12 February the government of Mexico hosted the 2nd Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in Nayarit. The first such conference was held in Oslo, Norway in March 2013. In all, 19 more countries registered to attend in Nayarit than were in Oslo, and before the conference officially began the government of Austria announced it would host a third follow up conference in Vienna before the end of 2014.

 The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) organized a civil society conference around the governmental conference in Mexico to focus on advocacy for a treaty banning nuclear weapons. ICAN is a coalition of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) with 331 partners in 80 countries. Their conference focused on lobbying delegations during the governmental conference to support a ban treaty and on what campaigners could do in their home countries between Mexico and Vienna to strengthen support for a nuclear ban treaty. More than 100 NGO representatives attended the ICAN conference, a few of whom were not members of ICAN and some not in favor of their ban treaty approach.

The ultimate goal of a nuclear ban treaty is to lead to the prohibition and complete elimination of nuclear weapons. The ban treaty should be seen as the instrument with which to pressure the process of the elimination of nuclear weapons; it is a framework under which elimination could be pursued. Such a treaty would not have to be overly technical or include the resolution of complex problems related to nuclear disarmament. By contrast, a Nuclear Weapons Convention would require the support and ratification of the nuclear armed states to be effective and would need to address those complexities in detail. The ban treaty is a way for non-nuclear weapon states, all but nine of the international community, to take responsibility for ridding the world of nuclear weapons instead of waiting for the so-called “step-by-step” process of nuclear disarmament to make significant changes to the status quo.

As envisioned by ICAN, a ban treaty would be an international instrument making the possession, use, stockpiling, development, and transfer of nuclear weapons illegal. Banning weapons systems has historically preceded their elimination, not the other way around. A ban treaty changes discourse away from nuclear deterrence and focuses instead on the impact these weapons would have on people and our planet if used intentionally or accidentally. This impact includes unmanageable crises for the environment, infrastructure, international economy, transportation, health care, and food production. ICAN has not provided its ideas for the terms of a ban treaty, as they feel states are more likely to adopt a treaty they themselves have negotiated.

A ban treaty could be negotiated within the UN system but it will probably be negotiated elsewhere, as nuclear armed states and some of their allies are likely to block any nuclear disarmament treaty process in the UN as they have done for nearly 70 years. To cite one example, the Conference on Disarmament – which is the UN’s sole treaty negotiating body – has not taken action on any programme of work in the 18 years since negotiating the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). A more likely scenario for the negotiation of a nuclear ban treaty would model itself after the process that successfully banned anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions and take place outside of the UN system. How and where the ban treaty will be negotiated and the exact details of the treaty will be up to the negotiating states.

Most, but not all, in civil society attended to support ICAN in its call for a nuclear ban treaty. However, some members of civil society favored an approach to nuclear abolition through the negotiation of a Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC) in the CD. Negotiating a NWC would necessarily involve the nuclear armed states that have thus far been unwilling to start serious negotiations on abolishing nuclear weapons. The group of states known as the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) supports the NWC approach, which is reflected in their UN General Assembly resolution adopted last October. That resolution calls for the commencement of negotiations of a NWC in the CD this year and the convening of a high-level meeting to track its progress no later than 2018. One real problem with the NWC approach to pursuing nuclear disarmament is that it relies on the good faith of the nuclear armed states to negotiate in the CD, which has been stalemated for 18 years.

Another perspective from those at the conference who were not part of ICAN was that civil society should focus on the already established illegality of nuclear weapons and the existing international legal framework and law that has already answered the question of legality. This approach seeks to de-legitimize nuclear weapons through focusing on their already established illegality under international law, including the 1996 International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons, and does not favor the negotiation of any new treaty, such as a ban treaty. Attention was also called to the need to address the fact that many non-nuclear weapon states are economically and/or militarily tied to nuclear armed states and that within nuclear-armed states there are entrenched institutions and corporations that also have to be dealt with that a ban treaty does not necessarily address.

The government conference focused on some familiar themes, such as the impact of the 1945 atomic bomb explosions on the people of Japan and effects of nuclear tests on various populations. Some new issues were explored as well, including the risk calculation of nuclear use (whether accidental or intentional), climate effects of nuclear detonations, and sloppy stewardship of the world’s nuclear arsenals. Expert testimony was given by scientists, policy analysts, representatives of international aid organizations, and members of civil society. Of the world’s nine nuclear-armed states, only India and Pakistan sent representatives to the conference.

The governmental conference began with a panel of Hibakusha, or survivors of the 1945 nuclear weapons exploded over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Their testimonies were powerful, as always, and reminded the delegates and members of civil society that humanity and nuclear weapons cannot co-exist and “it is our moral imperative to abolish nuclear weapons in order to secure a safe, clean and just world for future generations.” One survivor poignantly spoke about the inhumanity of reducing the deaths from nuclear weapons to numbers, as each number was really a person with a name and a family that loved them. Another called on nuclear weapon states and their allies to make a bold decision not to rely any longer on nuclear deterrence.

This presentation was followed by interventions from the floor, including from several countries where citizens were subjected to the fallout of nuclear weapons testing.

The next panel focused on the effects nuclear weapon detonations would have on our global climate and social and financial institutions. Terrifying statistics were given about the effects of a relatively small single nuclear detonation over various cities around the world – the kilometers of fireball emanating from the center of the blast, the burning of everything flammable, the radioactive cloud that would spread, the reduction of operational capacity to deal with the ensuing crisis (infrastructure, people, electricity, food, water, medicine, etc.), and the millions of people who would be affected around the world.

Another panelist referenced Reaching Critical Will’s report, Unspeakable Suffering, which outlined three areas of costs relating to a nuclear detonation: destruction costs in the area of the blast; disruption costs in wider society; and reaction costs, both political and economic. The presentation described how local infrastructure and international financial systems would collapse even with a single detonation. The effects would be severe and long-lasting and there is no real way to estimate the actual damage that could be done. That damage could not be reduced merely to some monetary value.

A climate change expert reported on what would happen to the climate if a moderate nuclear exchange were to occur. Smoke from fires would spread around the planet, absorbing sunlight and reducing the temperature of the ground, leading to nuclear winter and the elimination of the protection of the ozone layer. Crops would die and there would be global famine. With only the use of 50 nuclear weapons the earth would cool for more than 10 years, decreasing food production in that time up to 40%.

Another panelist talked about the consequences of Soviet nuclear tests at Semipalatinsk, which is now part of Kazakhstan. More than 1 million people lived within 100 kilometers of the test site, all potentially exposed to radiation from the 468 tests done there between 1949 and 1989. Their research found a high infant mortality rate and high rates of leukemia in children around the area, as well as a high incidence of cancer, premature aging, and decreased life expectancy. Since the early 1990s, the government of Kazakhstan has been helping those exposed by issuing them “radiation passports” to receive compensation from the state, depending on the risk of their area (money, extra holiday time and free hospital treatment). Over a million people have these passports.

Bruce Blair of Global Zero opened up the second day by talking about the risks nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence pose to us all every day. He talked about the “phenomenally fast” decision making time the president would have after the warning of a nuclear attack (a 60 second briefing and between 6-12 minutes to choose an option) and that cybercrime could infiltrate our nuclear control and generate false alarms or transmit launch orders to crews or weapons themselves, especially if someone inside colluded with hackers. His talk ended by saying that shrinking arsenals alone does not protect us from these risks and we need to reject nuclear deterrence as the basis of security.

The next panelists were from Chatham House and discussed the uncomfortable fact that cases of near nuclear use have resulted mostly from errors in human judgment and not accidents. There have been a “disturbing number of close calls” in which nuclear weapons were almost used, making the risk posed by nuclear weapons real and present. The presenters described in detail a number of times when one person or the intuition of a few key people saved the world from nuclear destruction. They also commented on the misconduct and sloppy practices of nuclear stewards that have recently been in the news, concluding our command and control over these weapons is not iron-clad. The underlying message of this presentation was that the probability nuclear weapons could be used has been underestimated because inadvertent use and accidents have not been factored into the risk equation. This means the probability of use is higher today than we have realized, while the consequences of use remain just as high.

Three international aid organizations also made presentations during the conference: the International Organization for Migration, UNDP, and UNIDR. All expressed that the multiple challenges their agencies would face after a nuclear detonation could not be adequately met. Assets and trained staff would likely not be able to be mobilized and the displacement of people would be unorganized and frantic, with no opportunity to return home.

Of the 146 countries in attendance, about 60 made interventions from the floor on a variety of topics. Nearly half that spoke expressed some kind of support for a ban treaty, and only approximately ten spoke out specifically against the treaty, saying “simply negotiating a ban treaty” will not lead to nuclear abolition. These countries were either part of nuclear security alliances or were nuclear armed states themselves, and spoke in favor of the current step-by-step approach to nuclear disarmament. Civil society was also allowed to intervene from the floor and ICAN was given time to show a short video they produced advocating for a ban treaty.

The Chair’s summary of the conference ended with this remarkable and inspiring statement:

It is the view of the Chair that the Nayarit Conference has shown that time has come to initiate a diplomatic process conducive to this goal. Our belief is that this process should comprise a specific timeframe, the definition of the most appropriate fora, and a clear and substantive framework, making the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons the essence of disarmament efforts.

It is time to take action. The 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks is the appropriate milestone to achieve our goal. Nayarit is a point of no return.

The day following the governmental conference ICAN held a debrief session and the general mood was that ICAN achieved all it set out to do and more. There were many successful interactions with government delegations, some of whom used ICAN language in their interventions from the floor. There was also quite a bit of international press in Nayarit, and ICAN received a lot of attention from various media outlets. One campaigner was able to get a group of states from Latin America to agree they would meet before the NPT Review Conference in 2015 to come up with a common statement regarding nuclear abolition and the ban treaty to present a unified position at that important event.

The final ICAN session was a breakout by region or nuclear weapon status to decide what to do between now and Vienna to advocate for a ban treaty. I went to the nuclear armed states session, which was attended by representatives from the U.S., U.K., India, and France. We discussed whether or not we wanted to advocate for our countries to come to Vienna given that so much progress has been made thus far without them and knowing that they would try to block any progress toward achieving a ban treaty if they did attend. The consensus was that we would publicly ask them to come but privately not encourage them to do so. This way, we would not feed into their narrative that they are trying to do everything they can toward nuclear disarmament.

We also decided to work on counter lobbying states that are dependent on nuclear weapons in security arrangements and to tailor our messages to different audiences (governments, grassroots, media, etc.). We agreed to share the things we learned about the risks of nuclear weapons use by accident or intent and to talk about the cost implications of nuclear forces and their lack of utility for military and security purposes. We also agreed to do public outreach with these different messages, even creating some messaging for younger people to use in the classroom. In addition, we agreed to work on building our allies within nuclear states, acknowledging that governments do not hold monolithic views on nuclear weapons. To that end we agreed to ask individual Parliamentarians and members of the Mayors for Peace network to come Vienna.

 

 


Update: U.S. Skips Mexico conference on humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons

February 13, 2014

Disappointing, as there evidently was consideration within the Administration about going to the Mexico conference, but not all that surprising they are skipping it. We aren’t though, Alicia Godsberg, e.d. of Peace Action of NY State, is there and we look forward to her reports.

The Hill, February 13, 2014, 02:08 pm

http://thehill.com/blogs/global-affairs/un-treaties/198353-obama-knocked-for-skipping-nuke-conference
Obama knocked for skipping nuke conference

By Julian Pecquet

The Obama administration is skipping a nuclear arms conference for the second time in a row, irritating arms-control advocates.
The U.S. and the four other original nuclear states – Russia, China, France and Britain – are all boycotting this week’s meeting in Mexico because of concerns that it could be used as a forum to push for the elimination of their stockpiles. All five also declined to send a delegation to the inaugural Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, held last year in Oslo.

“The absence of the five original nuclear weapons states in Mexico will only deepen the frustration of the nonnuclear-weapon states about the slow pace of progress toward the fulfillment of the nuclear-weapon states disarmament commitments,” said Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association. “Rather than dismiss or boycott conferences on the topic, the United States should actively participate and join other nations in a statement on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use and the need to prevent any exchange of nuclear weapons.”

Kimball said the goal of the conference was never to launch negotiations on a nuclear weapons ban, since it would never go anywhere without the participation of nuclear-armed states anyway. Rather, the purpose is to highlight the devastating humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use and the need to prevent any exchange of nuclear weapons.
The decision to skip the conference comes as the Obama administration prepares to commemorate the fifth anniversary of his historic speech calling for a world free of nuclear weapons – rhetoric that helped get him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009. The administration strongly denied Thursday that the president was backsliding on those goals.

“After careful consideration, the United States has decided not to attend Mexico’s February 13-14 conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. Our decision does not indicate any lessening support for nuclear disarmament,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told The Hill in an email.

“We continue to take very seriously the consequences of nuclear weapons use,” Harf said. “It is in our interest, as well as the interest of all nations, to extend the nearly 70-year record of nuclear weapons non-use forever. We remain committed to practical step-by-step disarmament and will continue to take steps toward securing a world without nuclear weapons.”

Harf pointed to the elimination of 85 percent of the U.S. nuclear stockpile since its Cold War peak and and the recent New START Treaty with Russia as signs of progress. She added that Obama has “reaffirmed his desire to take additional steps along the path to achieving a world without nuclear weapons” and that this would be a topic of discussion during next month’s Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague.

While the Obama administration’s decision to skip the conference has been discrete, in Britain by contrast it has set off a firestorm of criticism against Prime Minister David Cameron from lawmakers on all sides.

“We should be there. I cannot understand why we are not [going]“, The Guardian quoted former Defense minister and  chairman of the defense committee James Arbuthnot as saying.

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Will the U.S. Skip Another International Conference on Nuclear Weapons?

February 11, 2014

-Kevin Martin, Executive Director

When professed nuclear dove Barack Obama was elected president, hopes were high in this country and globally for serious progress toward global nuclear disarmament. However, other than the modest New START  arms reduction treaty with Russia, there is little to show so far for his five years in office.

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, signed by President Clinton in 1996, was rejected by the U.S. Senate in 1999. While the Obama Administration would like to get Senate advice and consent, garnering the 2/3 vote in the Senate the Constitution for ratification appears a very tall order given the prevailing hyper-partisan gridlock. (Could the president get 2/3 of the Senate to agree the sky is blue?)

Much worse, the Administration has proposed a Dr. Strangelovian “nuclear weapons modernization” program that could cost over $1 trillion over the next thirty years. This unconscionable boondoggle, if fully funded and implemented, would upgrade the entire U.S. nuclear weapons complex, soup to nuts – new nuclear weapons production facilities capable of designing nuclear warheads with new capabilities, increased warhead production capacity, and new bombers, missiles and submarines. Predictably, other nuclear weapons states have followed suit and are concocting their own “modernization” programs. It’s not hard to see how this undercuts our credibility, and U.S. and global security, when it comes to the urgent problem of nuclear proliferation. And the opportunity cost of that $1 trillion not going to human and environmental needs is scandalous.

The United States is getting it wrong not just on substance, but also on process. The U.S., and the other nuclear weapons states, generally scoff at efforts by non-nuclear states and the international community to get the process of nuclear disarmament unstuck. There is a new emphasis, in both governmental and non-governmental processes, on raising up the (horrific) humanitarian and environmental consequences of nuclear weapons. Recent studies project even a “modest” regional nuclear war could not only kill tens of millions of people, but also threaten a regional or even global “nuclear famine” that could affect hundreds of millions or billions more through severe agricultural impacts.

The Norwegian government hosted a conference on this subject about a year ago. The U.S. and the other members of the “P-5” – the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, all nuclear powers – boycotted the confab.

Last September, the Non-Aligned Movement sponsored the first ever UN High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament at the General Assembly, and has formed an Open-Ended Working Group on nuclear weapons abolition. The U.S. and other nuclear states participated (they could hardly have boycotted a General Assembly meeting), but unfortunately in the most condescending, arrogant manner. The U.S., United Kingdom and French statements at the meeting were an embarrassing display of nuclear colonialism, as they scolded the Non-Aligned states for wasting their time and not trusting the nuclear states to take care of nuclear disarmament in their own good time in processed dictated by the nuclear haves. (See my bog post No Right Hands for the Wrong Weapons – Arrogance, Denial, Nuclear Colonialism, and the Persistence of Hope by the 98%, Reflections on the UN General Assembly’s first ever High Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament)

This Thursday and Friday, the Mexican government will host the follow-up to the Norway conference, again focusing on the humanitarian and environmental consequences of nuclear weapons. An activist NGO conference, organized by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) will convene before and after the governmental conference in Nuevo Vallarta. While informed sources had said the Obama Administration was considering attending the conference, there has been no announcement one way or the other, which doesn’t appear to bode well for those hoping the U.S. would show up.

The United States should be there, if it is serious about nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. Ninety-eight percent of the world’s countries eschew nuclear weapons, as does the solid majority of the world’s population.

Nearly 10,000 people have emailed the president on this issue, and it’s not too late to convince him that he, or more likely a high-level representative of his administration, should go to the Mexico conference. In his recent State of the Union Address, President Obama stated,  “America must get off a permanent war footing.” I couldn’t agree more, and nukes are a great place to start. You can make your thoughts known to the president by email, please see this action alert


Letter from 32 peace organizations to the president urging U.S. participation in Mexico conference on nuclear weapons

February 6, 2014

This letter is a follow-up to one we sent the president last year, as well as a petition campaign that garnered over 25,000 signatures, urging U.S. participation in multilateral nuclear disarmament fora. Next week, governmental and non-governmental reps will convene in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico for the second conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons (the U.S. and other nuclear states skipped last year’s meeting in Oslo, Norway). Reliable sources had said the U.S. was considering participating in the Mexico conference, but there has been no announcement on this to date. Last week’s email action alert generated over 2200 Peace Action supporters’ emails to the president (thank you!) and other organizations including Physicians for Social Responsibility and Nuclear Age Peace Foundation have also generated emails to President Obama on the Mexico conference. The letter below is also posted on the website of our colleague organization, the Lawyers Committee for Nuclear Policy.

–Kevin Martin

January 29, 2014
President Barack Obama

The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Washington, DC 20500

Mr. President,
The 2010 Nuclear Posture Review Report rightly declared: “It is in the U.S. interest and that of all other nations that the nearly 65-year record of nuclear non-use be extended forever.” On February 13-14 in Mexico, governments will gather for a second conference on the consequences of nuclear explosions. The point is to develop and disseminate understanding of the consequences, and the inability to respond adequately to them, so as to reinforce the determination, well expressed in the Report, that nuclear weapons must never be used again.
The United States should be there. The aim – and the focus on catastrophic consequences – is completely in accord with your speeches in Prague, Berlin, and elsewhere. In Prague you said: “One nuclear weapon exploded in one city – be it New York or Moscow, Islamabad or Mumbai, Tokyo or Tel Aviv, Paris or Prague – could kill hundreds of thousands of people. And no matter where it happens, there is no end to what the consequences might be – for our global safety, our security, our society, our economy, to our ultimate survival.”
As representatives of organizations working for the global elimination of nuclear weapons, we respectfully urge that you direct the State Department to send a delegation to the Mexico conference and to participate constructively.
We last wrote you by letter dated June 6, 2013 to urge that you speak at the September 26, 2013 United Nations High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament. While regrettably there was no high-level US representative at the meeting, the United States did make a statement and also joined in a statement made by a UK mission policy advisor (!) on behalf of the United Kingdom, France, and United States.
It would have been better if the joint statement had not been made at all. It conveyed a profoundly negative attitude toward the multiple efforts being made in international forums to stimulate progress on achieving and sustaining a world free of nuclear weapons, stating: “And while we are encouraged by the increased energy and enthusiasm around the nuclear disarmament debate, we regret that this energy is being directed toward initiatives such as this High-Level Meeting, the humanitarian consequences campaign, the Open-Ended Working Group and the push for a Nuclear Weapons Convention.”

In the remaining three years of your Presidency, we strongly urge that your administration shed that negative attitude and participate constructively in deliberations and negotiations regarding the creation of a multilateral process to achieve a nuclear weapons free world. Opportunities will arise in the Conference on Disarmament, the NPT Review Process, and the UN General Assembly.
Regarding the Conference on Disarmament, in December 2013 the General Assembly adopted a new resolution following up on the High-Level Meeting. The resolution calls for “the urgent commencement of negotiations, in the Conference on Disarmament, for the early conclusion of a comprehensive convention” to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons. Rather than reflexively rejecting that call, the United States should engage in good faith in efforts to make the Conference on Disarmament productive in pursuing the objective for which it was established more than three decades ago: complete nuclear disarmament.
Finally, your administration should work hard to convene soon the conference on a zone free of WMD in the Middle East promised by the 2010 NPT Review Conference. Prospects for movement on substantive issues are appreciably higher now than they were a year ago, due to the praiseworthy US-Russian initiative on disarmament of the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal and the encouraging progress on reaching a permanent settlement of disputes over Iran’s nuclear program.
We would appreciate a reply to this letter, and would be happy to meet to discuss the matters it addresses.
Sincerely,
John Burroughs, Executive Director, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy
[contact for this letter: johnburroughs@lcnp.org; (212) 818-1861;
866 UN Plaza, Suite 4050, New York, NY 10017]
Joseph Gerson, Disarmament Coordinator, American Friends Service Committee
Kevin Martin, Executive Director, Peace Action
Jacqueline Cabasso, Executive Director, Western States Legal Foundation
David Krieger, President, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

Ashish Sinha, Program Director, Alliance for Nuclear Accountability
Henry Lowendorf, Chair, Greater New Haven Peace Council
Alfred L. Marder, Honorary President, International Association of Peace Messenger Cities
Alice Slater, Director, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, New York
Marylia Kelley, Executive Director, Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment)
Tim Judson, Acting Executive Director, Nuclear Information & Resource Service
Baria Ahmar, Canada/Lebanon coordinator, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament
Blase Bonpane, Ph.D., Director, Office of the Americas
Sr. Patricia Chappell, SNDdeN, Executive Director, Pax Christi USA
Sheila Croke, Pax Christi Long Island Council
The Rev. David W. Good, Tree of Life Educational Fund
Nydia Leaf, Granny Peace Brigade (New York)
Paul Hodel, Promoting Enduring Peace
Odile Hugonot Haber, Co-Chair, Middle East Committee, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom – US
Alan Haber, The Megiddo Peace Project.
David Hartsough, Executive Director, PEACEWORKERS, San Francisco
Valerie Heinonen, o.s.u., Director, Shareholder Advocacy, Dominican Sisters of Hope, Mercy Investment Services, Inc. and Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk, U.S. Province
Margaret Melkonian, Executive Director, Long Island Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives

Sr. Rosemarie Pace, Pax Christi New York
Rob van Riet, Coordinator, Disarmament Program, World Future Council
Ellen Rosser, President, World Peace Now
Rev. Kristin Stoneking, Executive Director, Fellowship of Reconciliation
Dr. Kathleen Sullivan, Program Director, Hibakusha Stories
David Swanson, cofounder, WarIsACrime.org
Carol Urner, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, 2014 Nuclear Weapons Abolition Campaign.
Alyn Ware, Member, World Future Council
Bill Wickersham, Adjunct Professor of Peace Studies, University of Missouri – Columbia
cc:
John Kerry, Secretary of State
Rose Gottemoeller, Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security
Thomas M. Countryman, Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation
Susan Rice, National Security Advisor
Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor
Samantha Power, Permanent Representative to the United Nations
Christopher Buck, Chargé d’Affaires, a.i., Conference on Disarmament


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