New Nukes Increase Risk of War, But Citizens Possess the 'Power to Stop Them'
October 17, 2018
Paul W. Lovinger / War And Law League News
The nuclear peril never went away. Mankind is 2 minutes to 'midnight.' New nukes increase risk of war, but citizens possess 'power to stop them' according to speakers at a San Francisco panel that argues 'people power' can overcome the failures of a deficient media and prevent nuclear debacle. Speakers at the recent anti-nuclear forum included Ray McGovern, Marylia Kelley, and Jacqueline Cabasso.
Warning: New Nukes Increase Risk of War,
But Citizens Possess the 'Power to Stop Them'
SF panel hails 'people power' to overcome deficient media
and prevent nuclear debacle
Paul W. Lovinger / War And Law League News
(October 7, 2018) -- Plans for new nuclear weapons -- such as a low-yield submarine-launched warhead-- will appear on drawing boards at the Livermore National Laboratory, 36 miles southwest of San Francisco, if war planners have their way.
The so-called "low-yield" feature is meant to make a nuclear weapon more usable. "That by itself is uniquely dangerous," Marylia Kelley, head of the Livermore-based anti-nuke group Tri-Valley CAREs, said at a San Francisco forum. "All nuclear weapons are wrong," but this one would be "distinctly destabilizing and dangerous."
She added, however, "You have it in your power to stop it from ever being designed." Tri-Valley has a history of stopping bomb projects and it aims at several new ones through "people power, public outcry . . . grass-roots democracy" with technical and legal support.
On September 17, a congressional measure called the "Hold the LYNE [low-yield nuclear explosive] Act (Ms. Kelley's title) was introduced in the House of Representatives as H.R 6840 by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA-33rd CD) and in the Senate as S. 3448 by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA).
It prohibits funds for the "Trident D5 low-yield nuclear warhead," explaining: "A new low-yield nuclear weapon to be carried on a ballistic missile submarine risks lowering the threshold for nuclear use and increasing the chance of miscalculation that could escalate into all-out nuclear exchange."
The House bill has 10 cosponsors (all Democrats), the Senate bill, none. (In a Republican Congress, bills need Republican support to pass -- WALL editor.)
In 35 years with Tri-Valley CAREs (Citizens against a Radioactive Environment), Ms. Kelley learned that "a program is easier to stop, the earlier you get in to stop it . . . before it has people's careers that are dependent upon it." Other proposed weapons that she condemned were the following pair. (They are funded out of $15.2 billion allotted by Congress on September 21 to the National Nuclear Security Administration for fiscal 2019, a 4% increase.)
The Long-Range Stand Off weapon -- Livermore Lab is to develop a new warhead for a new missile that the Pentagon is developing. A pilot could "stand off" thousands of miles from his target and launch a radar-evading sneak attack on an unsuspecting population. "By definition, my friends, this is a first-use nuclear weapon."
The Interoperable warhead -- Originally designed for both land- and sub-based missiles, it faces design changes at Livermore Lab that may prompt the US to resume underground nuclear testing in Nevada. Tri-Valley CAREs convinced the Obama administration to place a 5-year hold on this weapon. It's back, in accord with Trump's Nuclear Posture Review.
Tri-Valley severely criticized Obama's nuclear posture. "Trump's makes things worse. It increases the circumstances under which the US might respond with a nuclear weapon -- including cyber attacks. It also has brand new nuclear weapons as part of it." (See: "Trump closer to nuclear war as nukes become weapons to use, not just deter." WALL, Jan. 30, 2018.)
"How many of you know that [September 26] was the
International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons?
Did you read about it in the newspapers?
Did you have any idea that 56 governments . . .
spoke in support of the total elimination of nuclear weapons?"
-- Jacqueline Cabasso
How Low Is 'Low-yield'?
How about Abolition?
"Low-yield" weapons, in the lexicon of nuclear war planners, have the strength of the two bombs that President Harry Truman used to devastate Hiroshima and Nagasaki and slay as many as a quarter-million people in 1945.
Jacqueline Cabasso, executive director of Western States Legal Foundation, Oakland, explained that term at the San Francisco forum, whose theme was preventing nuclear war. (Held in the downtown public library on September 30, it was the main feature of the biennial meeting of the War and Law League [WALL]. The library and the WALL-organized Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament were official cosponsors.)
While Ms. Cabasso agreed that "we need to stop this weapon," the proposed Hold the LYNE Act's acceptance of the concept of nuclear "deterrence" -- the threat of nuking a country that nukes us first -- is "not good enough for us." As she saw it, legislation should talk about steps to the abolition of nuclear weapons.
"I just came back from the UN. How many of you know that last Wednesday [9/26/18] was the UN International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons?" she asked. "Did you read about it in the newspapers? Did you have any idea that 56 governments, highest level representatives including presidents and foreign ministers, spoke in a high-level plenary in support of the total elimination of nuclear weapons?"
Apathy toward the possibility of human annihilation was not always a problem. In 1982, a million people rallied in New York City's Central Park against nuclear weapons, and "I was among 1,500 people arrested for blocking gates of Livermore National Laboratory." That recollection by Ms. Cabasso drew applause at the forum.
She described "a growing danger of nuclear war" as well as some promising developments.
Notwithstanding the possession by Russia and the US of 15,000 nuclear bombs, 92 percent of all those in the world, enough to destroy all life on earth, President-elect Trump tweeted, "The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capabilities." He accepts and enhances Obama's $1 trillion, 30-year program to maintain and "modernize" US nuclear bombs and systems. Other nuclear powers have followed suit.
Envisioning reliance on nuclear forces indefinitely, Trump's Nuclear Posture Review, released last February, "is an anti-disarmament program." It calls for deployment of "low-yield" warheads and submarine-based missiles and contemplates nuclear response to non-nuclear attacks.
Last January, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the hands of its metaphoric Doomsday Clock to two minutes to midnight, "30 seconds closer to the end of humanity," as close as it has ever been in seven decades.
"Tensions between the US and Russia have risen to levels not seen since the cold war." The two giants confront each other in Ukraine, Eastern Europe, and Syria. They accelerate military exercises, both conventional and nuclear. Risky close encounters proliferate.
As for Korea, however, "The Singapore summit appears to have greatly reduced immediate tensions." The speaker credited South Korean President Moon's "leadership and vision," rather than Trump or Kim Jong-un. She had hope for denuclearization on both sides, "but the path ahead is very unsure."
Also promising: the Treaty On the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (Ban Treaty). Fifty years ago in Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty, nuclear and other nations agreed to seek a treaty for nuclear disarmament. In 1996 the International Court of Justice at The Hague (World Court) declared them obligated to draw one up.
The ruling inspired lawyers, scientists, and activists to draft a model Ban Treaty, which the UN circulated. The General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for negotiations for such a treaty and repeated the resolution year after year. Last November, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons won the Nobel Peace Prize.
"The Treaty's prohibition of the threat of use is an essential point for the peace movement to highlight in antinuclear education and advocacy," said Ms. Cabasso. "The ideology of nuclear deterrence must be delegitimized and stigmatized to make progress in abolishing nuclear weapons." (See sidebars "Mayors oppose nuclear weapons" and "Treaty bans the bombs . . . .")
The panel debunked two falsehoods concerning Iran:
(1) That Iran is working on a nuclear weapon.
According to US intelligence, the country has not
worked on such a program since 2003.
(2) That Iran is the primary supporter of international terrorism.
That dishonor goes to Saudi Arabia.
Mankind's Near-end Recounted.
US Meddles in Ukraine and Iran
In its 1996 opinion, the World Court found the use of nuclear weapons, as well as the threat of using them, to be contrary to international humanitarian law.
The threat to respond in kind to a nuclear attack is the essence of deterrence, also known as "mutual assured destruction" or MAD. It is a basic principle of "national security" for the US and other nuclear powers. Although meant to make one's nation secure, it has brought humanity many close calls.
Aside from the risk of scrapping democracy and entrusting the decision to one man, like Trump or Putin, and apart from the moral issue of slaying millions of people to punish their leader, deterrence is technically defective. We may never be able to discern a real attack from some other event or error -- until bombs fall.
Dr. Helen Caldicott has cited a flock of geese, a solar storm, a weather satellite, and a war-games tape among causes of alarms that nearly provoked nuclear war. At the forum, Ray McGovern, retired CIA analyst, who holds a master's degree in Russian studies from Fordham University, related these comparable incidents:
* A Soviet submarine off Cuba nearly started a nuclear war with the US during the missile crisis of 1962. When a US destroyer dropped nonlethal depth charges to prompt the sub to surface, the sub's captain assumed that war had begun and ordered a nuclear torpedo prepared for firing. Its launch required consent of all three senior officers aboard. Only Vasili Aexandrovich Arkhipov withheld consent, averting nuclear war.
* In August 1983, a Korean airliner strayed into the path taken by US spy planes, and the Soviets shot it down, killing all 269 aboard. "They immediately recognized it was a horrible mistake," but the State Department lied that the USSR -- which Reagan was calling the "evil empire" -- had done it knowingly. In November1983 the US and NATO put on a military exercise so massive and realistic, Moscow expected an attack. The CIA had to tell the White House, "Knock it off. They're taking it as real."
* Up to now, the world has been incredibly fortunate in avoiding nuclear war, Mr. McGovern said, but "there's no reason to believe our luck will hold out, given the people who are in power on this side of the Atlantic . . . . We could all be extinguished. What could do it? Well, if you build up a masterful propaganda campaign, as we have done here, blackening Putin, making him the equivalence of the devil, it can become very, very dangerous."
Moscow would not be America's only adversary: "If there's trouble between the US and Russian forces in Ukraine or in Syria, there's going to be trouble in the South China Sea as well . . . . China and Russia have a virtual alliance now," something this 27-year CIA veteran never expected to see.
For a short time, Russo-American relations were good, after "Putin pulled Obama's chestnuts out of the fire in Syria," getting Syria's chemical weapons destroyed and thus averting a US attack, for a while. (Obama attacked later, and Trump did so too.). Half a year later, anti-Russian officials in Obama's State Department were overheard discussing the overthrow of the Ukraine government and its replacement with one that was pro-US
"Yats is the guy," Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state, told Geoffrey Pyatt, ambassador to Ukraine, in an intercepted phone conversation. A couple of weeks later came a coup in Kiev and Arseniy Yatsenyuk took over. The hostile action on Russia's doorstep provoked a military response from Moscow and a new cold war.
While the US escaped devastation in World War II, the Soviet Union lost as many as 27 million people. "That statistic is not widely known, and I think we need to know that because it gives us a feel for how Russians experience war and how they're hell-bent on avoiding another war."
Mr. McGovern debunked two falsehoods concerning Iran: (1) That it is working on a nuclear weapon. According to US intelligence, the country has not worked on such a program since 2003. (2) That it is the primary supporter of international terrorism. That dishonor goes to Saudi Arabia.
Addressing the War and Law League in 2006, Mr. McGovern expected a US attack on Iran. A dozen years later, members of the Trump administration, notably John Bolton, national security advisor, still advocate attacking Iran, despite prohibitions against aggression in US treaties.
Mr. McGovern told the 2018 forum: "Bush and Cheney were fully intending to strike Iran during their last year in office, 2008. Thankfully there was an honest manager of national intelligence [Tom Finger] who did a bottom-up assessment of where Iran was and the conclusion was unanimous with high confidence that Iran stopped working on a nuclear weapon at the end of 2003 and had not resumed . . . .
"Is there an honest manager of national intelligence now? . . . I would be surprised if there were, because I know who's heading up that agency and she's the torturer-in-chief." He was referring to Gina Haspel, new CIA director. At her confirmation hearing last May, when Mr. McGovern as a spectator brought up the matter of torture, cops threw him to the floor and dragged him off to jail.
Media's Performance Deplored.
Individuals Urged to Disperse Info
Why have activists been ignoring the nuclear peril? When the Soviet regime expired, ending the cold war, Ms. Kelley recalled, she heard some say, "Nuclear weapons are not an issue any more." Her comment: "Nuclear weapons left the 6 o'clock news. They did not leave the country, and they shouldn't have left our consciousness."
Mr. McGovern responded that the mainstream media were the culprits. "I've never seen it so bad. I've been in Washington 55 years now . . . . The biggest change by far is the fact that we no longer have a free media.
"Here's Trump off to Helsinki . . . . He stands up with Putin and somebody asks him that loaded question, and he's his own worst enemy; he doesn't know how to handle those things. 'Mr. Putin says they didn't meddle.' . . . Headline in the Times next day: 'Trump, With Putin, Attacks 2016 Intelligence.' " (See sidebar "Back from the brink." See also article "Seeking peace is not 'treasonous,' " this site, 7/27/18.)
Mr. McGovern scorned "the military-industrial-congressional-intelligence-media complex. That's the new element; the media are completely on their side." In his view, "You've got real problems if you're not really perspicacious about what you take from The New York Times or Washington Post or Wall Street Journal as truth." He recommended alternative web sites, particularly ConsortiumNews.com and his own RayMcGovern.com. (See also Antiwar.com for pertinent articles from many sites.)
On the International Day for the Total elimination of Nuclear Weapons, said Ms. Cabasso, "The UN was crawling with international media," while US news media ignored it. "Opening week of the General Assembly for most countries of the UN is a big deal; this is the top story for the week. We did hear that Trump spoke, but that's about all we heard."
Ms. Kelley regretted the consolidation of the news media into fewer and fewer corporate hands until "s very small number of corporations own most of the news outlets and they have fewer reporters." Her organization meets that problem by writing monthly letters to newspapers. "So if there aren't enough reporters to cover our issue, we cover them in snippets. Letters to the editor are short, but they get published a lot."
She stressed the importance of getting information out to people, "whether you choose to talk to your friends and neighbors, write a letter to the editor, [or] write an article for a newsletter for an organization . . . ." (Radio talk shows offer another medium open to the public.) Whatever the method, the first step is to research the information, making sure that what one says is accurate.
She does a lot of speaking, and "it does not matter to whom I'm speaking. When people understand what's going on in their name and with their money, they become upset." Some Republicans who come up to her after a talk "feel the most betrayed and most angry."
Treaty Bans the Bombs;
Nine Nations Don't Care
A treaty under which nations pledge never to use, threaten to use, produce, possess, or allow on their territory any nuclear explosive came out of the United Nations on 7/7/17.
Mandating also the destruction of existing bombs and safeguards to insure compliance, it won the support of 122 national governments.
There was just one problem: All nine governments possessing nuclear weapons boycotted the proceedings, and US officials have vowed never to sign the treaty.
Those facts do not faze Marylia Kelley of Tri-Valley CAREs. She expects nuclear nations to adopt the treaty's principles:
"The US still has not signed the land-mine treaty, but it changed international norms, and the US now follows all the prohibitions to the letter."
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