Reframing the narrative on nuclear weapons: Insights & Findings Report

Reframing the narrative on nuclear weapons: Insights & Findings Report

This new publication represents 14 months of investigation into how future nuclear weapons policy can be more relevant to the concerns and security of the next generation. Our aim has been to explore this by engaging new perspectives within the next generation of policy shapers, those with ideas unstructured by Cold War experiences, but nevertheless motivated to take action to move beyond the legacies from past generations, focused on future decisions over global policy challenges. We used a variety of tools, including focus groups, systems mapping, and expert roundtable discussions utilising different frames of reference and disciplines for comparison.

We hope this report serves as a point of departure in developing innovative ideas to engage new people within the next generation of policy shapers in the interests of furthering nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. We would like to thank the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for their foresight in funding this project with the expressed purpose of stimulating new ways of thinking and working in this field.

Read the full report here


The Russell-Einstein Manifesto Fifty Years On

In the tragic situation which confronts humanity, we feel that scientists should assemble in conference to appraise the perils that have arisen as a result of the development of weapons of mass destruction, and to discuss a resolution in the spirit of the appended draft.

Dr. Albert Einstein

We are speaking on this occasion, not as members of this or that nation, continent, or creed, but as human beings, members of the species Man, whose continued existence is in doubt. The world is full of conflicts; and, overshadowing all minor conflicts, the titanic struggle between Communism and anti-Communism. Almost everybody who is politically conscious has strong feelings about one or more of these issues; but we want you, if you can, to set aside such feelings and consider yourselves only as members of a biological species which has had a remarkable history, and whose disappearance none of us can desire. We shall try to say no single word which should appeal to one group rather than to another. All, equally, are in peril, and, if the peril is understood, there is hope that they may collectively avert it. We have to learn to think in a new way. We have to learn to ask ourselves, not what steps can be taken to give military victory to whatever group we prefer, for there no longer are such steps; the question we have to ask ourselves is: what steps can be taken to prevent a military contest of which the issue must be disastrous to all parties?




Book Review “The Path To Zero: Dialogues On Nuclear Dangers” By Richard Falk And David Krieger

This book ought to be required reading for college students everywhere in the world, and also for decision-makers.

Mushroom cloud from the atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945

It shakes us out of our complacency and makes us realize that widespread, immediate and dedicated public action is urgently needed if we are to save human civilization and the biosphere from a thermonuclear catastrophe. The book is published by Paradigm Publishers, 2845 Wilderness Place, Boulder, CO 80301, USA. ( On the back cover there are endorsements, with which I entirely agree, by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and David Ellsberg.

“We are greatly privileged, like flies on the wall, to join this conversation between two remarkable stalwarts. Richard Falk and David Krieger, in the campaign for a nuclear-free world. It is unconscionable that so many of us seem to accept the prospect of our 'mutually assured destruction', the immoral massacre of millions of civilians, and to view with equanimity such a gross violation of international law. Falk and Krieger discuss persuasively and cogently the folly of reliance on nuclear weapons that can cause apocalyptic devastation. If we want to survive in a habitable world, then we have no choice: we must heed, and do so urgently, these lovers of mankind.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Laureate

“In 'The Path to Zero', Falk and Krieger engage in a stunningly eloquent dialogue on a range of nuclear dangers, and our common responsibility to put an end to them. This is urgent reading for citizens, scientists, policy-makers and political leaders, actually for anyone who cares about the future of civilization and life on earth”, Daniel Ellsberg, Whistleblower

Other enthusiastic endorsements come from Jonathan Schell, Commander Robert Green and Maude Barlow.

The book has ten chapters: 1 The Nuclear Age; 2 Nuclear Deterrence; 3 Nuclear Proliferation; 4 Nuclear Arms Control and Nuclear Disarmament; 5 Nuclear Weapons and Militarism; 6 Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Energy; 7 Nuclear Weapons and International Law; 8 Nuclear Weapons, Culture and Morality; 9 Nuclear Weapons and Democracy; 10 The Path to Zero.

The two authors

Richard Falk is Albert G. Milbank Professor of International Law and Practice Emeritus at Princeton, where he was a member of the faculty for 40 years. Since 2002 he has been a research professor at the University of California-Santa Barbara. He has been Special Rapporteur on Occupied Palestine for the UN Human Rights Council since 2008, and served on a panel of experts appointed by the President of the UN General Assembly, 2008-2009. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including “Legality and Legitimacy in Global Affairs” (Oxford 2012).

David Krieger is a Founder of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, and has served as President of the Foundation since 1982. Under his leadership, the Foundation has initiated many innovative projects for building peace, strengthening international law, abolishing nuclear weapons, and empowering peace leaders. Among other leadership positions, he is one of 50 Councilors from around the world on the World Future Council. He is the author and editor of numerous books and articles related to achieving peace in the Nuclear Age. A graduate of Occidental College, he holds MA and PhD degrees in political science from the University of Hawaii.

Flaws in the concept of nuclear deterrence

In discussing the concept of nuclear deterrence, the two authors emphasize the fact that it violates the fundamental ethical principles of every major religion. Dr. Krieger comments:

Krieger: “Who are we? What kind of culture would be content to base its security on threatening to murder hundreds of millions of innocent people? ”

The two authors also point out that the idea of deterrence is an unproved theory, based on the assumption that accidents will not happen, and that leaders are always rational. In fact, we know historically that the world has come extremely near to accidental nuclear war on very numerous occasions, and there are also many historical instances of irrational behavior by leaders. This cannot continue indefinitely without a catastrophe. See:

The illegality of nuclear weapons

As Dr. Krieger and Prof. Falk point out, the threat or use of nuclear weapons violates international law. The fact that planning an aggressive war or conducting one is a crime according to the Nuremberg Principles is discussed. The two authors also review in detail the 1996 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice, which was asked by the UN General Assembly and the World Health Organization to rule on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons. The ICJ ruled that under almost all circumstances, the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be illegal. The only possible exception was the case where a country might be under attack and its very survival threatened. The Court gave no ruling on this extreme case. Finally, the ICJ ruled unanimously that states possessing nuclear weapons have an obligation to get rid of them within a short time-frame.

Falk: “It may be time for the General Assembly to put this question to the ICJ: What legal consequences arise from the persistent failure of the nuclear weapon states to fulfill their obligations under Article VI of the NPT. In my view, the nonnuclear states have also been irresponsible in not insisting on on mutuality of respect in the nonproliferation setting. It may be up to civil society actors to bring wider attention to this disrespect for the vital norms of international law…”

Colonialism and exceptionalism

Falk: “We need to remember that the expansion of Europe at the expense of the non-Western world rested on violence and the superiority of European weaponry and strategic logistics, including naval power. This link between Western militarism and historical ascendancy is, in my view, one of the deep reasons why there is such an irrational attachment to nuclear weaponry, making it very diffiicult to renounce as the supreme expression of political violence.”

Krieger: “I would like to add that there is a general orientation in much of Western society to subordinate international law to geopolitical desire, in other words, not to allow international law to be a limiting factor in seeking geopolitical advantage. International law is thus applied when useful and ignored when self-interest and convenience dictate. This is a striking manifestation of the double standards that have served the interests of the powerful in both the colonial and postcolonial worlds.”

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

In discussing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Prof. Falk and Dr. Krieger point out that that it has several serious flaws: It is unsymmetrical, giving a special status to the nuclear weapons states, and forbidding all others to possess these weapons. The treaty encourages the “peaceful” use of nuclear energy, which in practice opens the door to acquisition of nuclear weapons by many nations and which exposes the world to radioactive fallout from accidents like Chernobyl and Fukushima, and very long-term dangers from radioactive wastes. Finally, membership in the NPT is not universal. Here are some comments by the two authors:

Falk: “In my view, the failure of the nuclear weapon states to pursue nuclear disarmament over a period of more than forty years, despite the injunction to do so by the International Court of Justice, is a material breach of the NPT that would give any party the option of pronouncing the treaty void.”

Krieger: “It would be wonderful to see a strong and concerted effort by non-nuclear-weapon states to challenge the nuclear weapons club. I think that the most effective thing that such states could do would be to start the process of negotiating a nuclear weapons convention and, if necessary, to do it without the nuclear weapon states.”

Falk: “My proposal is a two-year ultimatum by as many nonnuclear states as possible, threatening to withdraw from the NPT unless serious nuclear disarmament negotiations get underway.”

Dr. Krieger is not in complete agreement with Prof. Falk regarding such an ultimatum. He feels that even though it is flawed in many ways, it is still so valuable that its continuation ought not to be threatened.

Krieger: “One of the great problems with the NPT is that it encourages the peaceful use of nuclear energy, which actually opens the door to nuclear weapons proliferation. It ends up making the treaty work against itself. Of course, Israel is not a party to the treaty, nor are India and Pakistan. This demonstrates a fundamental weakness of international law, that is, the exemption of nations that do not sign a treaty from the law. This would be unworkable in domestic law, and it is equally so in international law.”

Krieger: “The nuclear plant operators are willing to downplay for short-term gain the catastrophic risks that are involved in the use of nuclear reactors to boil water. They are wiling to generate wastes that will adversely affect the health and well-being of of untold generations to follow us on the planet. ¡K The tragedy is that governments embrace and support this industry, demonstrating that they also do not place the interests of their people and the future at the forefront of their planning and decision making.”

No first use; no hair-trigger alerted missiles

In their concluding chapter, the two authors agree that a No First Use declaration could be a useful first step. Prof. Falk comments:

Falk: “What conceivable justification, consistent with a deterrence rationale for the retention of nuclear weapons, is there for not assuring other governments that the United States will only use such weaponry in retaliation a prior attack with nuclear weaponry? It is rather clear that such a declaration, especially if backed up by non-nuclear deployments, would both give the United States some new claim to leadership with respect to the weaponry and exert enormous psychological pressure on other nuclear weapon states to follow the American lead.”

This, of course, could be linked to taking all nuclear weapons systems off hair-trigger alert, which is probably the most important first step towards avoiding the catastrophe of an accidental nuclear war. Dr Krieger comments:

Krieger: “Those responsible for maintaining nuclear arsenals on hair-trigger alert are delusional if they think that it can be maintained indefinitely without dire consequences.”

Developments since the publication of the book

Since the publication of Prof. Falk and Dr. Krieger's book in 2012, several events have taken place which the authors probably would have discussed if they had occurred earlier. For example, on 2 April, 2013, the Arms Trade Treaty was passed by a massive majority by a direct vote in the UN General Assembly. The ATT had remained blocked for more than 10 years in the consensus-bound Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. Its passage gives us hope that a Nuclear Weapons Convention can similarly be passed by a direct vote in the UN General Assembly, where the vast majority of nations are in favor of the complete abolition of nuclear weapons. Even if bitterly opposed by the nuclear weapons states, a Nuclear Weapons Convention would have great normative value.

Another development which Prof. Falk and Dr. Krieger would certainly have discussed, had it occurred earlier, is an heroic law suit by the Republic of the Marshall Islands, suing the nuclear weapons states for violation of Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In fact Dr. Krieger and his organization, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, are actively supporting the Marshall Islands in this David-versus-Goliath-like law suit.

Finally, the two authors would probably have discussed the hubris of Washington's power-holders in threatening war with both Russia and China. The effect of this colossally misguided US action has been to firmly unite China and Russia. In fact the BRICS countries, with their vast resources, are now moving away from using the dollar as a reserve currency for international trade. The probable effect will be the collapse of the already-strained US economy, and as a consequence, the fall of the US Empire. Prof. Falk and Dr. Krieger both wonder whether they have been too America-centric in their discussions of nuclear abolition. The probable fall of the United States from its present position of global hegemony may mean that US leadership will not, in the future, be the key to nuclear abolition.

Some conclusions

When the Cold War ended in 1991, many people heaved a sigh of relief and concluded that they no longer had to worry about the threat of a nuclear Armageddon. Prof. Falk and Dr. Krieger show us that this comforting belief is entirely false, that the dangers are greater than ever before, and that it is vital to bring this fact to the urgent attention of today's young people, who were born long after the tragic nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or perhaps even born after the end of the Cold War.

Ultimately, the complete abolition of nuclear weapons is linked with a change of heart, the replacement of narrow nationalism by loyalty to humanity as a whole, and the replacement of militarism by a just and enforcible system of international law.

John Avery received a B.Sc. in theoretical physics from MIT and an M.Sc. from the University of Chicago. He later studied theoretical chemistry at the University of London, and was awarded a Ph.D. there in 1965. He is now Lektor Emeritus, Associate Professor, at the Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen. Fellowships, memberships in societies: Since 1990 he has been the Contact Person in Denmark for Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. In 1995, this group received the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts. He was the Member of the Danish Peace Commission of 1998. Technical Advisor, World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe (1988- 1997). Chairman of the Danish Peace Academy, April 2004. He can be reached at

Suggestions for further reading:

Ban Ki-moon. “The United Nations and security in a nuclear-weapon-free world.” Address to the East-West Institute, October 24, 2008.

Green, Robert, “Breaking Free from Nuclear Deterrence.” Santa Barbara: Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, 10th Annual Frank K. Kelly Lecture on Humanity's Future, 2011,

“Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons.” Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice, The Hague, July 8, 1996.

McCloy-Zorin Accords. “Joint Statement of Agreed Principles for Disarmament Negotiations,” signed on September 20, 1961, unanimously adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 20, 1961.

Model Nuclear Weapons Convention. “Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Testing, Production, Stockpiling, Transfer, Use and Threat of Use of Nuclear Weapons and their Elimination, April 2007.”

Obama, Barak, Remarks of President Barak Obama, Hradcany Square, Prague, Czech Republic, April 5, 2009.

Rotblat, Joseph, “Remember Your Humanity”, Nobel Lecture, Oslo, Norway, December 10, 1995,

Russell-Einstein Manifesto, issued in London, July 9, 1955,

Santa Barbara Declaration, “Reject Nuclear Deterrence: An Urgent Call to Action,”

Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, entered into force on March 5, 1970.

Vancouver Declaration. “Law's Imperative for the Urgent Achievement of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World,” Vancouver, Canada, March 21, 2011.


No nuclear waste: Fuel of future produced at Russia’s high-tech underground plant

Russia’s ‘Breakthrough’ energy project enables closed a nuclear fuel cycle and a future without radioactive waste. The first batch of MOX nuclear fuel has been manufactured for the world’s only NPP industrially power generating breeder reactors.

The first ten kilograms of the mixed-oxide fuel (MOX) – a mixture of plutonium and uranium dioxides (UO2 and PuO2), have been industrially produced by Russia’s nuclear monopoly, Rosatom, at the Mining & Chemical Combine (GKhK) in the Krasnoyarsk region.

Mixed-oxide fuel (MOX

A world first, tablets of the fuel of the future have been put on serial production and are destined for Russia’s next generation BN-800 breeder reactor (880 megawatts), currently undergoing tests at the Beloyarskaya nuclear power plant.

The production line, now undergoing start-up and adjustment, was assembled in a mine 200 meters underground and will become fully operational by the end of 2014.

Fast fission reactors solve the problem of depleted uranium nuclear fuel on the planet. They can ‘burn’ not only ‘classic’ uranium-235, (scarce and already coming to an end), but also uranium-238, which is abundant, and expands the world’s nuclear fuel capacity by an estimated 50 times.

Fuel for breeder reactors could even be made from nuclear waste, which from an ecological point of view is a priceless advantage.

The GKhK facility will be equipped with a unique dissolvent reactor that will break down nuclear waste containing plutonium and extract plutonium dioxide to be used in MOX-fuel production.

Also, while producing electric energy, breeder reactors actually generate more fissile material, and that one also can be used as nuclear fuel.

The GKhK plant is Russia’s leading full nuclear fuel cycle complex, processing nuclear waste from power generating nuclear reactors to establish future nuclear fuel ring closure.

MOX-fuel for previous versions of fast breeder reactors in the USSR and Russia had limited production at Russia’s oldest Mayak nuclear processing facility.

Starting from 2016, industrial-level MOX-fuel production in Russia will run at full capacity.

“Produced MOX-fuel tablets fully conform to the technical specifications,” Rosatom’s statement said, adding that the fuel will now be thoroughly tested.

Energy from here to eternity

Humankind has already produced so much nuclear waste that it would take decades, if not hundreds of years to process and recycle it. As of now, the only light at the end of the tunnel is fast-neutron reactor technology.

The fast-neutron nuclear – or breeder – reactors use technology that enables the use of a wider range of radioactive elements as fuel, thus considerably enlarging the potential stock of nuclear fuel for electric power generation.
Russia is the only country that operates fast neutron reactors industrially.

After decades of research, practically all breeder reactor projects around the world, including in the US, France, Japan and several other countries possessing nuclear energy technologies, were closed down. The only country that currently has operating breeder reactor power generation is Russia.

Over the last 50 years the USSR, then Russia, introduced a number of industrial and research fast neutron reactors. One of them, the BN-600 (600 megawatt), running at the Beloyarskaya nuclear power plant since 1980, is the only fast neutron reactor in the world that generates electricity on an industrial scale. The BN-600 is also the most powerful operable fast neutron reactor in the world.

The Beloyarskaya nuclear power plant is in Zarechny, some 45 kilometers from the regional center of Yekaterinburg, in the Urals region.

This year a new BN-800 breeder reactor will become operable at the Beloyarskaya plant.

The service life of the BN-800 breeder reactor is expected to be 45 years. Every month it will produce 475 million kilowatt hours of electricity, enough to ensure constant supply to 3.15 million families (the average monthly consumption of a family of three is 150 kilowatt hours).

The BN-800 uses liquid metal sodium (Na) as a coolant heat transfer agent. Commercial operation of the new reactor is planned to start in early 2015.

Russian physicists have already elaborated the next step for the revolutionary technology: a BN-1200 breeder reactor that is set to be assembled at the same Beloyarskaya nuclear power plant by 2020.

Overall, eight BN-1200 breeder reactors are expected to be constructed by 2030, which means that Russia is the only nation that is entering a new era of nuclear energy power generation – the closed nuclear fuel cycle, in other words truly clean and practically unlimited nuclear power generation. More



High-level Event Discusses Renewable Energy in SIDS

News: High-level Event Discusses Renewable Energy in SIDS

1 September 2014: Participants recognized sustainable energy for all as a tool for eradicating poverty, combating climate change, creating economic opportunities and achieving sustainable development for all small island developing States (SIDS), at a high-level side event, titled ‘Linking SIDS and Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL): From Barbados to Samoa, and Beyond.' The event took place on the sidelines of the Third International Conference on SIDS, in Apia, Samoa, on 1 September 2014.

The SE4ALL side event aimed to build on commitments from the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20+) and the Barbados SIDS High-Level Conference on SE4ALL, to take stock of progress since these events and chart the way forward to ensure sustainable energy for all SIDS.

Speaking at the event, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said achieving the three targets of the SE4ALL initiative is an important part of putting the world on a pathway for keeping temperature rise below two degrees Celsius. He outlined the need for a new energy paradigm, particularly for SIDS, who he said are particularly vulnerable to climate change and faced inflated energy costs due to their remoteness, and he welcomed the proposal of a dedicated Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on sustainable energy for all with a focus on access, efficiency and renewables. Ban encouraged all leaders to “bring bold actions and ideas and strong political vision and political will” to the UN Climate Summit.

“SIDS are creating opportunities and examples that, if replicated worldwide, could lead the transition from fossil fuel energy to renewable and sustainable energy,” said UN General Assembly President John Ashe in his remarks.

The panel was moderated by Helen Clark, UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator, and featured: Adnan Amin, Director-General, International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA); Camillo Gonsalves, Foreign Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Salvatore Bernabei, General Manager, Enel Green Power Chile and Andean Countries; Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility (GEF); and Reginald Burke, Caribbean Policy Development Centre. Key messages included the importance of reducing risk to catalyze private investment, the leadership being taken by SIDS, and various SIDS initiatives on sustainable energy, such as SIDS Dock and IRENA's SIDS Lighthouse project.

Participants highlighted: energy costs and energy security; climate change; and challenges and vulnerabilities faced by SIDS, including their small size and the high costs of importing fossil fuels. They stressed SIDS' renewable energy potential and the importance of addressing energy access and efficiency, highlighting the role of partnerships to address these issues. [UN Press Release] [UN Secretary-General Statement] [UNDP Administrator Remarks] [IISD RS Meeting Coverage, 1 September] [IISD RS Sources]

read more:


All in the Timing: The Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone in the Middle East – Patricia Mary Lewis

The Helsinki Conference process established by the 2010 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference is the most significant opportunity to increase stability and prevent nuclear catastrophe in the Middle East that has presented itself in recent years. If states fail to take this opportunity, the consequences will be severe.

The Helsinki Conference process established by the 2010 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference is the most significant opportunity to increase stability and prevent nuclear catastrophe in the Middle East that has presented itself in recent years – coming at a time when the Iranian nuclear capabilities issue is being seriously and sustainably addressed, and when the instability in the region is all too plain to see. If states fail to take this opportunity, the consequences will be severe. Now is a time for leadership. Serious efforts to forge an agreement between Israel and Egypt would make all the difference and could help the region’s security in a time of considerable danger.

However, progress towards a weapons of mass destruction (WMD) free zone in the Middle East has been sporadic. A deadline of December 2012 was not met and no follow-on date has yet been announced for the Helsinki conference. There are three main scenarios that could play out in the period leading up to the next NPT Review Conference in April 2015. They are:

  • a Helsinki conference that has a successful outcome and leads to a process towards a WMD free zone negotiation that includes regional security measures to support the zone,
  • a Helsinki conference that results in no positive outcome and no follow-on process, and
  • no Helsinki conference before the 2015 Review Conference.

In the event of a successful Helsinki conference before 2015 there are a number of proposals to develop the zone.

  • Begin regional negotiations through a set of working groups or committees that divide the workload into nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, biological weapons, means of delivery including missiles, supportive measures/confidence- and security-building measures, wider regional security issues, and verification and other technical measures.
  • Install capacity-building measures to implement and verify the WMD free zone, such as training inspectors, developing common methodologies and learning how to use technical instruments for monitoring.
  • Involve civil society and the general public in the debate, and foster a wide discussion among all segments of the societies in the region, including young political leaders, young scientists and young journalists.

In the event of a failed or abandoned Helsinki conference it may still be possible to undertake the following measures.

  • Revamp the 1991 Madrid peace process and the multilateral tracks that it established which led to the Oslo Peace Accord and the Israeli–Jordanian Peace Treaty and see if the approach taken at that time could be adapted for today. This will require Egypt and Israel to enter into direct negotiations in order to get the ball rolling.
  • Revert to the UN Security Council to request a consideration of Resolution 687 that established the ceasefire in Iraq in 1991, which contains references to the Middle East WMD free zone.
  • Employ the UN General Assembly by building on the UN resolution that has been adopted annually calling for the ‘Establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region of the Middle East’.
  • Establish a building-blocks approach aiming to establish a zone through a set of parallel or sequential commitments to sign and ratify the extant treaties such as the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), the NPT and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Other measures could include a highly-enriched-uranium-free zone, separate agreements on non-attack of nuclear facilities (including cyber attacks), missile tests launch notifications, nuclear security assurances and transparency measures.

Research Paper: All in the Timing: The Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone in the Middle East


Noam Chomsky, Why National Security Has Nothing to Do With Security

Think of it as the true end of the beginning. Last week, Theodore “Dutch” Van Kirk, the final member of the 12-man crew of the Enola Gay, the plane (named after its pilot’s supportive mother) that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, died at age 93.

Paul Tibbetts, Jr. in cockpit

When that first A-bomb left its bomb bay at 8:15 on the morning of August 6, 1945, and began its descent toward its target, the Aioli (“Live Together”) Bridge, it was inscribed with a series of American messages, some obscene, including “Greetings to the Emperor from the men of the Indianapolis.” (That ship had delivered to the Pacific island of Tinian parts of the very bomb that would turn Hiroshima into an inferno of smoke and fire — “that awful cloud,” Paul Tibbetts, Jr., theEnola Gay's pilot, would call it — and afterward was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine with the loss of hundreds of sailors.)

The bomb, dubbed Little Boy, that had gestated in the belly of the Enola Gay represented not only the near endpoint of a bitter global war of almost unimaginable destruction, but the birthing of something new. The way for its use had been paved by an evolution in warfare: the increasing targeting of civilian populations from the air (something that can be seen again today in the carnage of Gaza). The history of that grim development extends from German airship bombings of London (1915) by way of Guernica (1937), Shanghai (1937), and Coventry (1940), to the fire bombings of Dresden (1945) and Tokyo (1945) in the last year of World War II. It even had an evolutionary history in the human imagination, where for decades writers (among others) had dreamed of the unparalleled release of previously unknown forms of energy for military purposes.

On August 7, 1945, a previous age was ending and a new one was dawning. In the nuclear era, city-busting weapons would be a dime a dozen and would spread from the superpowers to many other countries, including Great Britain, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel. Targeted by the planet’s major nuclear arsenals would be the civilian inhabitants not just of single cities but of scores and scores of cities, even of the planet itself. On August 6th, 70 years ago, the possibility of the apocalypse passed out of the hands of God or the gods and into human hands, which meant a new kind of history had begun whose endpoint is unknowable, though we do know that even a “modest” exchange of nuclear weapons between India and Pakistan would not only devastate South Asia, but thanks to the phenomenon of nuclear winter also cause widespread famine on a planetary scale.

In other words, 70 years later, the apocalypse is us. Yet in the United States, the only nuclear bomb you're likely to read about is Iran’s (even though that country possesses no such weapon). For a serious discussion of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, those more than 4,800 increasingly ill-kept weapons that could incinerate several Earth-sized planets, you need to look not to the country’s major newspapers or news programs but to comic John Oliver — or TomDispatch regular Noam Chomsky. Tom

How Many Minutes to Midnight?

Hiroshima Day 2014

If some extraterrestrial species were compiling a history of Homo sapiens, they might well break their calendar into two eras: BNW (before nuclear weapons) and NWE (the nuclear weapons era). The latter era, of course, opened on August 6, 1945, the first day of the countdown to what may be the inglorious end of this strange species, which attained the intelligence to discover the effective means to destroy itself, but — so the evidence suggests — not the moral and intellectual capacity to control its worst instincts.

Day one of the NWE was marked by the “success” of Little Boy, a simple atomic bomb. On day four, Nagasaki experienced the technological triumph of Fat Man, a more sophisticated design. Five days later came what the official Air Force history calls the “grand finale,” a 1,000-plane raid — no mean logistical achievement — attacking Japan’s cities and killing many thousands of people, with leaflets falling among the bombs reading “Japan has surrendered.” Truman announced that surrender before the last B-29 returned to its base.

Those were the auspicious opening days of the NWE. As we now enter its 70th year, we should be contemplating with wonder that we have survived. We can only guess how many years remain.

Some reflections on these grim prospects were offered by General Lee Butler, former head of the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), which controls nuclear weapons and strategy. Twenty years ago, he wrote that we had so far survived the NWE “by some combination of skill, luck, and divine intervention, and I suspect the latter in greatest proportion.”

Reflecting on his long career in developing nuclear weapons strategies and organizing the forces to implement them efficiently, he described himself ruefully as having been “among the most avid of these keepers of the faith in nuclear weapons.” But, he continued, he had come to realize that it was now his “burden to declare with all of the conviction I can muster that in my judgment they served us extremely ill.” And he asked, “By what authority do succeeding generations of leaders in the nuclear-weapons states usurp the power to dictate the odds of continued life on our planet? Most urgently, why does such breathtaking audacity persist at a moment when we should stand trembling in the face of our folly and united in our commitment to abolish its most deadly manifestations?”

He termed the U.S. strategic plan of 1960 that called for an automated all-out strike on the Communist world “the single most absurd and irresponsible document I have ever reviewed in my life.” Its Soviet counterpart was probably even more insane. But it is important to bear in mind that there are competitors, not least among them the easy acceptance of extraordinary threats to survival.

Survival in the Early Cold War Years

According to received doctrine in scholarship and general intellectual discourse, the prime goal of state policy is “national security.” There is ample evidence, however, that the doctrine of national security does not encompass the security of the population. The record reveals that, for instance, the threat of instant destruction by nuclear weapons has not ranked high among the concerns of planners. That much was demonstrated early on, and remains true to the present moment.

In the early days of the NWE, the U.S. was overwhelmingly powerful and enjoyed remarkable security: it controlled the hemisphere, the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and the opposite sides of those oceans as well. Long before World War II, it had already become by far the richest country in the world, with incomparable advantages. Its economy boomed during the war, while other industrial societies were devastated or severely weakened. By the opening of the new era, the U.S. possessed about half of total world wealth and an even greater percentage of its manufacturing capacity.

There was, however, a potential threat: intercontinental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads. That threat was discussed in the standard scholarly study of nuclear policies, carried out with access to high-level sources — Danger and Survival: Choices About the Bomb in the First Fifty Years by McGeorge Bundy, national security adviser during the Kennedy and Johnson presidencies.

Bundy wrote that “the timely development of ballistic missiles during the Eisenhower administration is one of the best achievements of those eight years. Yet it is well to begin with a recognition that both the United States and the Soviet Union might be in much less nuclear danger today if [those] missiles had never been developed.” He then added an instructive comment: “I am aware of no serious contemporary proposal, in or out of either government, that ballistic missiles should somehow be banned by agreement.” In short, there was apparently no thought of trying to prevent the sole serious threat to the U.S., the threat of utter destruction in a nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

Could that threat have been taken off the table? We cannot, of course, be sure, but it was hardly inconceivable. The Russians, far behind in industrial development and technological sophistication, were in a far more threatening environment. Hence, they were significantly more vulnerable to such weapons systems than the U.S. There might have been opportunities to explore these possibilities, but in the extraordinary hysteria of the day they could hardly have even been perceived. And that hysteria was indeed extraordinary. An examination of the rhetoric of central official documents of that moment like National Security Council Paper NSC-68 remains quite shocking, even discounting Secretary of State Dean Acheson’s injunction that it is necessary to be “clearer than truth.” Read More


Ukraine shows uselessness of NATO nukes in Europe

Many people in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands wonder why there are still US tactical nuclear weapons on their soil. These B-61 nuclear gravity bombs were stationed in Europe during the Cold War to deter the Soviet threat, but while this may (or may not) have once made sense, most pundits nowadays agree that at least from a military point of view, the weapons are irrelevant. More


Given the tremendous damage the we humans have already done to the Earth, our home planet, the use of nuclear weapons in a conflict would be beyond insane.

We have already gone a long way to poisoning our atmosphere, making our oceans, one of the major sources of food, so acidic that we may be at a tipping point that will wipe out the shellfish and crustaceans that compose a large part of the ocean food chain. Fish stocks are in many areas depleted leading the FAO to suggest banning commercial fishing in some areas of some oceans.

We also have to face global heating which may bring with it changing rainfall patterns, which may lead to water and food shortages. Many inhabitants of our world are already living on barely enough food and water to keep them alive. Furthermore, the planetary population is growing and heading for nine billion by mid-century. Experts are questioning whether or not we will be able to feed this many.

We have to keep in mind that we have only this small fragile planet. A planet in a backwater of our local galaxy. There are no inhabitable worlds to go to nor the transport to get there on. If we do not take care and preserve our world, which will take a global effort to accomplish, the human race may perish. Think of your children and family members,your friends and colleagues If we use nuclear weapons all will certainly perish.

Chernobyl and Fukushima and all the nuclear testing carried out by the UN's P5 have spread more than enough nuclear pollution through the planet. A nuclear conflict would seal our fate.

Pope Francis said recently, “Even today we raise our hand against our brother… We have perfected our weapons, our conscience has fallen asleep, and we have sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves as if it were normal we continue to sow destruction, pain, death. Violence and war lead only to death”.

As H.H. 14th Dalai Lama said, “Peace does not mean an absence of conflicts; differences will always be there. Peace means solving these differences through peaceful means; through dialogue, education, knowledge; and through humane ways.” Editor