A Nobel prize for sanity?
By David Cortright
The Nobel Peace Prize for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is a wonderful tribute to the many millions of people around the world who have struggled over the years against the insanity of nuclear weapons.
Congratulations to the courageous and far-sighted organizers who founded the campaign! And Congratulations to all who are or have been part of the worldwide movement for nuclear disarmament!
The Nobel Prize is an affirmation not only of the goal of nuclear abolition but of the essential role of civil society activism in helping to achieve that goal.
The Nobel Committee similarly honored the role of citizen activism in 1985 when it awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. The physicians’ movement played a central role in mobilizing public opinion against nuclear weapons at the time of the nuclear freeze movement in the U.S. and the disarmament campaigns of Europe. The Nobel Committee praised the role of the physicians for increasing public pressure against nuclear proliferation.
In its statement this week the Nobel Committee honors ICAN for drawing attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for ground-breaking efforts to build support for the recently adopted UN Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons.
The humanitarian issue has been crucial to the ICAN strategy and has helped to broaden the framework for addressing nuclear weapons issues. It shifts the focus from arcane conceptions of national security to the urgency of saving lives and preventing human suffering. ICAN’s emphasis on humanitarian issues follows the model of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997.
Leaders of the nuclear weapons states will ignore or scoff at this awarding of the Nobel Prize, but we will not be misled or deterred from continuing the struggle for nuclear abolition.
President Dwight Eisenhower once said, “I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it.” With this latest Nobel Peace Prize, perhaps we have moved a step closer to that day.
David Cortright, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Director of Policy Studies at Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.
ICAN’s Nobel Peace Prize is Humanities Rx for Survival
By Robert F. Dodge, M.D.
Friday’s award of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) draws attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and the global movement to abolish these weapons as the only reliable way to guarantee that they will never be used again. The award brings the reality of these consequences front and center to the world stage. The nuclear armed states with their addiction to nuclear weapons due to their misguided false sense of security in having these weapons and their refusal to proceed further with the disarmament process will now be legally bound to abide by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This award stigmatizes the nuclear armed states with their nuclear stockpiles and empowers the non-nuclear nations who have spoken out in the adoption of this summer’s Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Physicians for Social Responsibility’s international federation, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, itself a recipient of the 1985 Nobel peace prize, founded ICAN in 2007. PSR worked with ICAN presenting scientific data on the humanitarian and medical consequences of nuclear weapons at a series of three intergovernmental conferences in 2013 and 2014, the 2016 UN multilateral disarmament forum which ultimately led to the 2017 UN treaty negotiations and adoption of the landmark Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by 122 nations on July 7, 2017. The Treaty prohibits the possession, use, threat of use, development, testing, acquisition, stockpiling and transfer of these weapons and forever stigmatizes these weapons and the nations who maintain their nuclear stockpiles.
The small and mighty permanent staffing of ICAN has allowed it to be nimble and strategic in its work, engaging a diverse range of groups and working alongside the Red Cross and like-minded governments. It has built a mighty global coalition of more than 400 partners in 101 nations creating a movement that is unstoppable and along the way has reshaped the debate on nuclear weapons generating a momentum towards elimination.
ICAN typifies the often quoted words of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
The prize is a tribute to the survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the hibakusha, and victims of nuclear explosions and development around the world and their vision to prevent future generations from suffering the horror of nuclear detonation.
Until now, nuclear weapons were the only indiscriminate weapon of war that had not been banned. Chemical and biological weapons, as well as landmines and cluster munitions, have already been banned. Nuclear weapons are the greatest threat to our humanity and the U.N. The Treaty through the work of ICAN is now our prescription for survival.
Robert F. Dodge, M.D., is a practicing family physician, writes for PeaceVoice, and serves on the boards of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Beyond War, Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles, and Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions.
Should Limiting North Korea’s Nuclear Ambitions Be the Responsibility of the U.S. Government?
By Lawrence Wittner
In recent months, advances in the North Korean government’s nuclear weapons program have led to a sharp confrontation between the government leaders of the United States and of North Korea. This August, President Donald Trump declared that any more threats from North Korea “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” In turn, Kim Jong Un remarked that he was now contemplating firing nuclear missiles at the U.S. territory of Guam. Heightening the dispute, Trump told the United Nations in mid-September that, if the United States was forced to defend itself or its allies, “we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” Soon thereafter, Trump embellished this with a tweet declaring that North Korea “won’t be around much longer.”
From the standpoint of heading off nuclear weapons advances by the North Korean regime, this belligerent approach by the U.S. government has shown no signs of success. Every taunt by U.S. officials has drawn a derisive reply from their North Korean counterparts. Indeed, when it comes to nuclear weapons policy, escalating U.S. threats seem to have confirmed the North Korean government’s fears of U.S. military attack and, thus, bolstered its determination to enhance its nuclear capabilities. In short, threatening North Korea with destruction has been remarkably counter-productive.
But, leaving aside the wisdom of U.S. policy, why is the U.S. government playing a leading role in this situation at all? The charter of the United Nations, signed by the United States, declares in Article 1 that the United Nations has the responsibility “to maintain international peace and security” and, to that end, is “to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace.” Not only does the UN charter not grant authority to the United States or any other nation to serve as the guardian of the world, but it declares, in Article 2, that “all members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.” It’s pretty clear that both the U.S. and North Korean governments are violating that injunction.
Moreover, the United Nations is already involved in efforts to limit North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. The UN Security Council has not only condemned the behavior of the North Korean government on numerous occasions, but has imposed stiff economic sanctions upon it.
Will further UN action have any more success in dealing with North Korea than the Trump policy has had? Perhaps not, but at least the United Nations would not begin by threatening to incinerate North Korea’s 25 million people. Instead, to ease the tense United States-North Korea standoff, the United Nations might offer to serve as a mediator in negotiations. In such negotiations, it could suggest that, in exchange for a halt to the North Korean nuclear weapons program, the United States agree to a peace treaty ending the Korean War of the 1950s and halt U.S. military exercises on North Korea’s borders. Giving way to a UN-brokered compromise rather than to U.S. nuclear blackmail might well be appealing to the North Korean government. Meanwhile, the United Nations could keep moving forward with its Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons―a measure both Kim and Trump despise (and might, in their opposition to it, even bring them closer together), but is very appealing to most other countries.
Critics, of course, say that the United Nations is too weak to deal with North Korea or other nations that ignore the will of the world community. And they are not entirely incorrect. Although UN pronouncements and decisions are almost invariably praiseworthy, they are often rendered ineffective by the absence of UN resources and power to enforce them.
But the critics do not follow the logic of their own argument for, if the United Nations is too weak to play a completely satisfactory role in maintaining international peace and security, then the solution is to strengthen it. After all, the answer to international lawlessness is not vigilante action by individual nations but, rather, the strengthening of international law and law enforcement. In the aftermath of the vast chaos and destruction of World War II, that’s what the nations of the world claimed they wanted when, in late 1945, they established the United Nations
Unfortunately, however, as the years passed, the great powers largely abandoned a United Nations-centered strategy based on collective action and world law for the old-fashioned exercise of their own military muscle. Unwilling to accept limits on their national power in world affairs, they and their imitators began engaging in arms races and wars. The current nightmarish nuclear confrontation between the North Korean and U.S. governments is only the latest example of this phenomenon.
Of course, it’s not too late to finally recognize that, in a world bristling with nuclear weapons, savage wars, accelerating climate change, rapidly-depleting resources, and growing economic inequality, we need a global entity to take the necessary actions for which no single nation has sufficient legitimacy, power, or resources. And that entity is clearly a strengthened United Nations. To leave the world’s future in the hands of nationalist blowhards or even prudent practitioners of traditional national statecraft will simply continue the drift toward catastrophe.
Dr. Lawrence Wittner, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press).
US Bomb Tests and Bidding Wars Herald New (Unlawful) $1.5 Trillion Nuclear Weapons Complex
By John LaForge
While much of the world pursues the abolition of nuclear weapons — embraced by the adoption July 7 by 122 nations of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons — the militarized Trump White House is pursuing plans for a trillion-dollar rebuild of the entire US nuclear weapons complex. The enormous, extravagant program is designed to produce 80 new nuclear warheads every year, including three new warhead types, a new $20 billion nuclear-armed Long Range Standoff (LRSO) weapon, a new $12 billion B61 nuclear gravity bomb, a new fleet of nuclear-armed submarines, and a new $100 billion intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system.
As WallStreet.com online reported recently, “A review by the Arms Control Association, a nonpartisan, nuclear weapons watchdog, [found] the total 30-year cost of the program could rise to $1.5 trillion” — $500 billion beyond what the Obama Administration first proposed in 2016. Beyond the colossal expense, the program appears to be a flagrant violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
The Trump administration must believe that urgent domestic and global humanitarian crises can be solved using guns since traditionally civilian White House Chief of Staff is Marine Corps General James Kelly, his National Security Advisor is Army General HR McMaster, and his Defense Secretary is Marine Corps General James “Mad Dog” Mattis.
On Aug. 8, the militarized Energy Dept. and US Air Force conducted two tests of the new “B61-12” gravity bomb at Nevada’s Tonopah Test Range. The unarmed bomb test — using an F-15E jet fighter, currently employed in wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Libya — demonstrated the jet’s ability to wage nuclear war. The B61-12 program “is progressing on schedule,” said Phil Calbos, the Acting Deputy Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration. NNSA builds and maintains US nuclear warheads. Although NNSA is nominally a civilian agency, Mr. Calbos graduated from West Point and studied at the Pentagon’ National War College.
The B61-12 bomb test involved new “tailfin” hardware designed by Boeing Corp. NNSA wants the first B61-12s to be finished in 2022 and to ship 180 of them to five “nuclear sharing” NATO partners in Europe — replacing the ones already there. Critical German, Dutch, and Belgian politicians have called for the permanent removal of all US nuclear weapons, and the Air Force itself may soon remove its B61s from Turkey. Another 400 to 600 of the new B61s are set to be built to replace those now used on long-range Air Force B-52 and B-1 bombers.
The Air Force also granted $349 million in contracts to Boeing, and $329 million to Northrop Grumman in August, and put the two giant weapons contractors into competition to replace today’s arsenal of 450 Minuteman III ICBMs. Popular Mechanics reports that “Northrop Grumman and Boeing each have been awarded just under $350 million to churn out Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction studies before the Air Force picks a single winner.” One of the two can expect to win the plum $100 billion contract to build the new ICBMs, dubbed Ground Based Strategic Deterrent.
This push for a replacement ICBM flies in the face of authoritative calls for their abolition. In January 2015, General/Secretary Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee, “You should ask, ‘Is it time to reduce the triad … removing the land-based missiles?’” Speaking Dec. 3, 2015, former Defense Secretary William Perry called for retiring land-based missiles altogether saying, “ICBMs aren’t necessary … they’re not needed. Any reasonable definition of deterrence will not require that third leg.” (Other “legs” are submarines and long-range bombers.) Sec. Perry’s commentaries in the New York Times and the Washington Post last year were titled respectively, “Why It’s Safe to Scrap America’s ICBMs,” and “Mr. President, kill the new Cruise missile” (the LRSO).
Additionally, a blue-ribbon commission chaired in 2012 by Gen. James Cartwright, a former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called for eliminating the ICBM system, not replacing it. At a Senate hearing later in 2012, Gen. Cartwright testified that the ICBMs could be scrapped without leaving the US at risk. Cartwright’s commission report was signed by then Senator and soon-to-be Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and recommended a US nuclear arsenal with none left on ICBMs.
Congressional pleas for austerity, fiscal responsibility, and budget cutting should be lampooned and rejected unless the $ trillion-plus nuclear weapons plan — prohibited now by the Non-Proliferation Treaty and soon by the Nuclear Weapon Treaty Ban — is zeroed out first.
– John LaForge writes for PeaceVoice, is co-director of Nukewatch—a nuclear watchdog and environmental justice group—and lives at the Plowshares Land Trust out of Luck, Wisconsin.
Today is the day
By Robert F. Dodge, M.D.
Today, September 26, is the International Day for the Total Abolition of Nuclear Weapons. This day, first proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2013, draws attention to the international commitment to global nuclear disarmament by the majority of the world’s nations as expressed in Article 6 of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It also highlights the lack of progress by the nine nuclear nations who hold the rest of the world hostage with their nuclear arsenals.
Albert Einstein said in 1946, “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our mode of thinking and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.” This drift has perhaps never been more perilous than at the present time. With careless rhetoric of threatened use of nuclear weapons, fire and fury, and total destruction of other nations, the world has recognized that there are no right hands to be on the nuclear button. Total abolition of nuclear weapons is the only response.
Global nuclear disarmament has been a goal of the United Nations since its inception in 1945. With the passage of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1970, the world’s nuclear nations committed to work in “good faith” eliminate all nuclear weapons. The NPT treaty which is been a cornerstone of nuclear disarmament lacked the legal framework to achieve this goal. This reality in a world with 15,000 nuclear weapons coupled with the recognition of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences if nuclear weapons are ever used again has coalesced a worldwide movement of civil society, indigenous peoples, victims of atomic attacks and testing, in a global campaign focused on the unacceptability of the existence and use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances.
This multi-year process has resulted in the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which was adopted at the United Nations on July 7, 2017 and provides the legal framework necessary to achieve the abolition of nuclear weapons. At the opening day of the UN General Assembly last week on September 20, the Treaty was opened for signature. There have now been 53 nations who have signed the Treaty, and three who have ratified the Treaty. When 50 nations have finally ratified or formally adopted the Treaty it will go into force 90 days thereafter thus making nuclear weapons illegal to possess, stockpile, use or threaten to use, test, develop or transfer, just as all other weapons of mass destruction have been.
The world has spoken and the momentum toward complete nuclear abolition has shifted. The process is unstoppable. Each of us and our nation has a role to play in bringing forth this reality. Each of us must ask what is our role in this effort.
“Top German politicians want US nuclear weapons out” — Did anti-nuclear actions propel issue into national elections?
By John LaForge
A series of anti-nuclear weapons actions between March and August at Air Base Büchel in Germany brought widespread media attention to the 20 US nuclear weapons still deployed there. Surprising demands for the bombs’ removal soon came from high-ranking political leaders including Germany’s foreign minister. A timeline of events between July 12 and 18, involving a Nukewatch-organized delegation of 11 US peace activists, shows how the work may have moved the officials to speak out.
July 12 — Upon its arrival, four members of the US group held a press conference in Frankfurt accompanied by Marion Küpker, international coordinator for DFG-VK — Germany’s oldest anti-war group — and organizer of the five-month peace camp. News of the unprecedented US group was reported in the daily Frankfurt Journal (“Activists from the US land in Frankfurt: Campaign against US nuclear weapons”), the online magazine FOCUS (“Nuclear fighters receive support from the US”) and picked up around the country.
July 15 — Headlines like “Today in Büchel: Action day against nuclear weapons,” and “Konstantin Wecker sings for the peace,” was news across southwest Germany when the well known singer-songwriter drew about 400 to his performance near base’s main gates. The US delegates all spoke briefly to the gathering through interpreters.
July 17 — Five activists including four from the US snuck deep into the air base at night, clipping four chain-link fences, and climbed to the top of a large nuclear weapons bunker. The five went undetected on base for more than two hours, before they themselves alerted guards. Detained by military and civilian police, the group was released around 3 a.m. without charges, and none have been leveled.
July 26 — News of the “go-in” action reaching a bunker was reported widely. The daily Rhein-Zeitung’s headline used Nukewatch’s moniker: “‘Prison Gang’ Inspects Büchel Air Force Base — Peace movement claims five activists succeeded in penetrating the inner security area.” (The reference was to seven of the US delegates who have served a combined total of 36 years in jail and prison for anti-war actions.)
July 28 — Journalists asked experts and military officials in Berlin whether the go-in group got near the US “B61” thermo-nuclear bombs. Air Force headquarters in Berlin assured the press that “security had been maintained,” and this news went nation-wide. Yet the information center of the Air Force in Berlin did acknowledge the breach of security. One paper reported, “The Luftwaffe confirmed that on the night of 18 July, five persons were in the military security area of the airport, where they illegally gained access by cutting fences with cutting tools, RZ reported,” referring to the regional daily Rhein-Zeitung. Another widely reported story quoted, “Military expert [Otfried] Nassauer: ‘Prison Gang’ was probably not in the sensitive area of the Büchel airfield.”
July 29 — The daily paper of Nuremberg, with a circulation of 300,000, interviewed four of the US delegates and its article was headlined: “At night on the atom bunker” — Joint protest of peace activists from the region and the USA.”
August 7 — Public criticism of lax security at Büchel went national when the Green Party Bundestag Deputy (Member of Congress) Tabea Rössner openly lambasted the base for not stopping the fence-cutting action. Rössner’s call for an investigation prompted the headline: “Is Air Base Büchel just as safe as an amusement park?”
Accounts of Rössner’s statement, circulated widely on social media, reported, “The Greens demanded information about the safety situation at Büchel air base. The reason is an action by activists who entered the inner security area of the airbase.” Rössner’s statement said in part, “The federal government must fully explain the incident. If peace activists are in the inner security area of the Tactical Air Force squadron, Luftwaffe, Büchel, then that can mean only one thing: The security concept is more than bumbling.”
“This is not a trifle,” Rössner said, “even if those responsible would try to downplay the incident. It is more than frightening that at a time of significantly increased terror, the safety measures of such a site fall below the level of a theme park.”
August 22 — The US H-bombs then burst into the national election campaign when Martin Schulz, the head of the Social Democrat Party (SDP) and candidate for Chancellor in this month’s elections, unexpectedly called for the ouster of the US nuclear weapons. Reuters, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Politico and major German media reported, “German rival of Chancellor [Angela] Merkel vows to remove US nuclear weapons from the country,” “Searching for another point of difference, Schulz pledged on Aug. 22 to have US nuclear weapons withdrawn from German territory if, against the odds, he defeats Merkel,” and “Germany’s Schulz says he would demand US withdraw nuclear arms.” Schulz had said, “As chancellor, I’d push for the ejection of nuclear weapons stored in Germany.”
August 29 — Conservative politicians and editors attacked Schulz as uninformed or naive, but the criticism was short-lived when Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel made a surprise endorsement of Schulz’s proposal. At a press conference with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington, Gabrial joined Schulz’s call for withdrawal of the US weapons. The foreign minister’s surprise announcement included his blunt admission that, “I agreed with Mr. Schulz’s point that we need to get rid of the nuclear weapons that are in our country.” The news startled media around the world, which reported: “Foreign Minister joins call to withdraw US nukes from Germany,” and “German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has supported Social Democrat (SPD) leader Martin Schulz’s pledge that he will push for the removal of US nuclear warheads from Germany if elected Chancellor.”
The International Business Times and the Financial Tribune online declared on Aug. 31, “Top German Politicians Want US Nuclear Weapons Out.” The papers noted that “Germany’s top diplomat has backed the suggestion of SPD leader and Chancellor hopeful Martin Schulz, who has pledged to rid his country of US nukes.”
To help the Germans see the permanent elimination of US nukes, the movement here has to generate enough push-back to cancel Congress’s plan to replace — instead of retire — the US H-bombs in Europe. Nixing the B61-12 plan would save at least $12 billion.