Archive for category Nuclear Weapons
President Obama gave a great speech at the United Nations General Assembly this morning. The rest of the world wants to believe that America has not abandoned its founding principles, and our President says we have not. If only his actions conformed to the Constitution, I’d be happy to support him.
We were inspired by the Tunisian protests that toppled a dictator, because we recognized our own beliefs in the aspirations of men and women who took to the streets.
We insisted on change in Egypt, because our support for democracy put us on the side of the people.
We supported a transition of leadership in Yemen, because the interests of the people were not being served by a corrupt status quo.
We intervened in Libya alongside a broad coalition, and with the mandate of the U.N. Security Council, because we had the ability to stop the slaughter of innocents; and because we believed that the aspirations of the people were more powerful than a tyrant.
And as we meet here, we again declare that the regime of Bashar al-Assad must come to an end so that the suffering of the Syrian people can stop, and a new dawn can begin.
We have taken these positions because we believe that freedom and self-determination are not unique to one culture. These are not simply American values or Western values – they are universal values.
American foreign policy ought to be on the side of the 99 Percent. Similarly, our government ought to stand up for the 99 Percent of Americans.
Citing Nelson Mandela, President Obama received loud applause.
And yet the turmoil of recent weeks reminds us that the path to democracy does not end with the casting of a ballot. Nelson Mandela once said: “to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” True democracy demands that citizens cannot be thrown in jail because of what they believe, and businesses can be opened without paying a bribe. It depends on the freedom of citizens to speak their minds and assemble without fear; on the rule of law and due process that guarantees the rights of all people.
In other words, true democracy – real freedom – is hard work. Those in power have to resist the temptation to crack down on dissent. In hard economic times, countries may be tempted to rally the people around perceived enemies, at home and abroad, rather than focusing on the painstaking work of reform.
And he offered this comment on the limits of American power:
Just as we cannot solve every problem in the world, the United States has not, and will not, seek to dictate the outcome of democratic transitions abroad, and we do not expect other nations to agree with us on every issue.
He implicitly rejected the neocon view of a world divided, but failed to address the violence against innocent civilians that is perpetrated by the USA:
A politics based only on anger –one based on dividing the world between us and them – not only sets back international cooperation, it ultimately undermines those who tolerate it. All of us have an interest in standing up to these forces. Let us remember that Muslims have suffered the most at the hands of extremism. On the same day our civilians were killed in Benghazi, a Turkish police officer was murdered in Istanbul only days before his wedding; more than ten Yemenis were killed in a car bomb in Sana’a; and several Afghan children were mourned by their parents just days after they were killed by a suicide bomber in Kabul.
…We know from painful experience that the path to security and prosperity does not lie outside the boundaries of international law and respect for human rights.
President Obama concluded (as he began) by citing the example of Chris Stevens, our murdered ambassador to Libya.
And today I promise you this – long after these killers are brought to justice, Chris Stevens’ legacy will live on in the lives he touched. In the tens of thousands who marched against violence through the streets of Benghazi; in the Libyans who changed their Facebook photo to one of Chris; in the sign that read, simply, “Chris Stevens was a friend to all Libyans.
They should give us hope. They should remind us that so long as we work for it justice will be done; that history is on our side; and that a rising tide of liberty will never be reversed. Thank you.
The study’s purpose was to conduct an “independent investigations into whether, and to what extent, drone strikes in Pakistan conformed to international law and caused harm and/or injury to civilians”.
In his first major foreign policy address, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney today laid out a vision for international development steeped in Tea Party ideology… Romney …threw some red meat at his base by ticking off unfavorable developments currently faced by the U.S. in the Muslim world, listing among them the fact that “the president of Egypt is a member of the Muslim brotherhood.”
…A foreign policy expert texted me a single word: “Thud.”
One of my little joys in life, one of the simple things that keeps me sane (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) is hearing or reading news items that are related, if only you have the right bits of knowledge to put them together. I love these things. It is like a personal game of six degrees I like to play when listening to the news. It makes my day.
Today I heard that astronomers have been looking at old galaxies, and discovered that dwarf stars are much more common than previously thought. And that wikileaks says that Pakistan is supporting the Taliban.
Bear with me here…
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This is essay was preceded by this one. The Perfect Storm (round one)
We have been fortunate in that the United States has not experienced a successful attack on the Motherland since 9/11. We have now in place formidable layers of protection, redundant layer after layer of interconnecting agencies of police, intelligence, satellite, espionage, and a superb military second to none. Most important of all, we possess an educated resourceful citizenry.
But we face daunting and utterly dedicated adversaries with one huge and ultimately almost surely successful strategy. In all past wars, the defense had it all over the offense: we usually assume that three, or even five or six times as many offensive forces are needed to defeat a well-defended adversary. This was true in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World Wars 1 and 2; Korea, Vietnam. But with terrorism, including non-nuclear attacks, a thousand failed attempts will, inevitably, finally be followed by a successful strike. And if the past is prologue to the future, there probably will be two, three, or ten related plots to hit instantly, terrifying the people. And if nuclear weapons are used; of any size and delivery system: from missiles to bombs in a sack, one such weapon is a city-killer. Launch a few score; or hundreds; or thousands. The defense must try to shoot a bullet with a bullet. The offense can literally drench the offense. No contest. No defense, no contest.
Why would terrorists ever be induced to use weapons of mass destruction, against all teachings the all major religious traditions? No doubt, we have been spared dozens or hundreds of times already, due to precisely this fact of humanity in every nation, ethnic group, and religion. But there are forces in every faith and nation fighting against the moderate middle. The center cannot forever hold when zealots attack from both right and left. Examine for one minute the fratricide within the Republican and Democratic Parties right now, with outrageously incompetent people seemingly in total control within Republican ranks; and every person of the center seeming to run for cover. Watch the Supreme Court hearings. Republican senators who before supported the nominee will desert her en masse. Watch Hatch after Bennett’s defeat by piss- poor candidates. Now take that vision world-wide, with very much more at stake, namely, our national survival.
Have no doubt that terrorists are already trained to do all that is necessary to transport and detonate thermonuclear bombs. Over a half-century since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there are few secrets only we can answer, at least in the relatively unsophisticated way a terrorist would likely act, that is, to bring a bomb here. Ever since transistor radios, we have developed the capacity to miniaturize essentially everything. Computers, and everything else.. A thermonuclear bomb would nicely fit in any of your luggage. Even though it takes considerable sophistication to launch ICBM’s, let alone build them; and though it also takes some know-how to deliver tactical nuke’s (the little stuff….like Hiroshima and Nagasaki) by missiles, there is simply too much nuclear material, enriched uranium and plutonium; and thousands of nukes of whatever size, to think that enemies, beyond rogue states, could not build or otherwise buy this stuff, off the shelf ; and indeed, may have already done so. That genie is out of the bottle. A “dirty bomb”, that is, a fission-fusion-fission bomb, would do huge damage to any city, with New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., being among the prime targets. The effects upon our economic system, even upon our capacity to retain a modest degree of civil society, and medical services, even food supplies for a time, of one bomb so placed, would be catastrophic.
Since the end of the Cold War, we have made substantial progress in making existing stockpiles and weaponry already deployed more secure, and cut back upon existing stockpiles, under Bush and Obama.
But we are far far short of really limiting the risks. We have been able seriously to lower stockpiles only since the late eighties and the fall of the USSR. I was a Fulbright professor in the Soviet Union just as it expired. The Soviets had ICBM’s in six of its European republics. Tactical nuc’s were much more pervasive. It so happened that our small group was in each of several European Republics when they declared their independence, or redefined their role in the former USSR. . As this drama unfolded, things really fell apart. I believe that almost anyone could buy a tank during this time. Or about anything else. The complete welfare state had come unglued. The situation was so bad that complete social meltdown was feared. I had pneumonia while there. A major hospital in Moscow gave me their last shot of antibiotic, more symbolic than helpful. The security of nuclear weapons was dangerously lessened, by simple incapacity to do so much that needed to be done. Though of lesser importance, the same was true, I suspect, as to the security of chemical and biological weapons, the so called “poor man’s” weapons of mass destruction. Thousands of engineers, including those working on matters nuclear, were unemployed and without income. Selling themselves, or materials and bombs, was possible. Ditto many physicists. The government simply disintegrated, with no real alternative government for years. Security around nuclear facilities, in storage or deployed, was at risk. These problems still exist in other states, including Russia and Pakistan.
Every president since Truman longed to have the opportunity that no American president possessed, truly to deal decisively with nuclear weaponry. Eisenhower, whose presidency many in my political party underrates, I believe, wanted very much to have the chance later presidents had, briefly. Clinton lost a chance to be a great president by throwing all his prestige into his own political survival to avoid impeachment. What he did was not, in my opinion, an impeachable offense. But it was surely reason to resign. We would have had Al Gore, and a future free of the worst president in American history, George W. Bush. That window opened in the late eighties and closed again, the Kairos moment passed, I believe. Rather than declaring victory and ensuring a serious drop in nuclear weapons and material, we went on a spending spree and invented new enemies. Until our century of huge mistakes in our own foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East, gave birth to real big-time terrorists. Until we can define ourselves without the “benefit” of an enemy, we’re cooked. And by “we”, I mean the world.
Nuclear weapons are not like conventional weapons, where more weapons, and better weapons, give the possessor an advantage. More weaponry renders each state all the more vulnerable; both in inviting a preemptive attack, and increasing the likelihood of accident, mistake, or miscalculation.
Our hope of keeping all nuclear weapons in the possession only of nation-states, and ditto fissile materials, is I fear no longer possible to insure. We will answer this only, I suspect, in disastrous retrospect. No weapons system of which I am aware has ever been possessed for a significant time and not been used.
Would any terrorist group, or for that matter, any nuclear state, really want to set off such a universally hated weapon? Such rationality may or may not deter Iran. I think they would not use such weapons unless a major attack was first used upon them. With North Korea, I am not so sanguine. And Pakistan, whose government George W. Bush disastrously undermined by starting two wars of choice, is my choice for the most dangerous place in the world. I travel through Kashmir each time I have gone to work for the Tibetan government of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. The Jammu airport , in Kashmir’s major city, is very dangerous. The waiting room was machine-gunned with many deaths, just after one trip through. An Indian ambassador was blown to pieces on the one road going from Deli to Jammu, just before another trip for me. The war between India and Pakistan goes fitfully forward, ever since the recognition of Pakistan, following the end of WW2. With Pakistan, we face a nuclear Islamic state. If nuclear war starts between nation-states, here is my candidate for where it all starts. It will start by the use of nuclear weapons by either Pakistan or India. The reaction by China, Russia, the U.S., and Israel could determine the nature of world society thereafter.
Terrorists are another matter. Many seem willing to reach heaven or hell, and take much of their own people with them. And to assume rationality, as in a sense we must presume, even regarding their own identification of their own self-interest, is a great jump.
World War 1 devastated all of European society. The lights went out and never came on again in the same world. England was Germany’s most important financial trading partner, and vice versa. The monarchies were interrelated, much like a fundamentalist Mormon community (with some of the same genetic results). And yet a totally irrational war, which was of no one’s self-interest, began and then dominated the entire 20th century. Not much choice for an American president, from Wilson to the mid-nineteen nineties, to end that killing machine. Reagan had a chance. He wanted to take that chance. For one great moment in time, it seemed that rationality, and humanity, had turned a revolutionary corner. But the military and political operatives around him prevailed, and all humanity lost.
So the line from 1914 to 1989 was a time without hope. We had that marvelous time for which we all hope: when true and lasting peace can be enjoyed by all: 1989—to perhaps the end of the century. After that, we linked up, once again, to the century of total war. After 1918, everyone in Germany, and in France, England, Russia, Turkey, the United States, et all, knew that an armistice was just that: a pause before the slaughter began again. In a world-wide Depression, and in Germany that most awful inflation the world has ever known, came the rise of Hitler. WW 2 had a completely defensible cause, facing a savage Germany. Even so, with the end of WW 2, a Cold War began, punctuated by proxy wars and nationalistic wars we sometimes misinterpreted as Soviet-backed. Only the fall of the Soviet Union allowed us even to dream of a nuclear-free world.
Can we depend upon rationality and a well-sensed conception of our own national interests still save us? We must hope so. But
examine your own life, and the degree which rationality and a fine-tuned definition of your real self-interest explains your life. America’s finest scholar of the Soviet Union, Robert Conquest, was asked to predict the Kremlin’s actions, even in the short-term. He said: “Imagine that the Soviet government was overthrown and seized by a cabal of their most savage enemies.” This prognosis is true of any corporation of which I am aware. Churches, Mobil Oil, the state of Utah, whatever. We have to limit the savagery our own government can do with nuke’s, along with the other nuclear states. The sanguine assumption of enlightened self-interest is a frail reed.
Add to this little pool of horrors, the fact that a nuclear war could well start by accident, miscalculation, or malfunction of a weapon or a computer. We don’t deter accidents by threat of attack if they have such. We don’t say, “Sally, if you drop your plate one more time, I will cleave your skull down to your belly-button!” Sally will not be thus deterred.
We’ve experienced many scores of nuclear accidents, called “broken arrows,” since the 1940′s. The Soviets, who have usually had to play catch-up, have likely had even more scary events, since fail-safe devices can only be indulged if you can ride out an attack and still pose a credible deterrent. Such redundant layers of safety delays a decision for launch until launch has occurred. It was in our interest to help them in command and control, lest accident takes out Europe. As stated before, nuclear weapons are not like conventional weapons in many ways, especially in regard to the idea that “more” and “better” nuc’s don’t necessarily mean an advantage to the possessing state. Now, we are like climbers on Everest, roped together. Together we reach the summit, or together we fall into an abyss. “Better” weapons means more payload or more accuracy. Better accuracy means a state must strike first, to pre-empt, since the opponent could take out an entire nuclear force if ever a launch were ordered. More nuclear actors, and more nuclear weapons, raises the ante on the likelihood of war, by deliberate act, or accidental launch, or miscalculation. More may very well mean much less.
Yet we must assume rationality in any agreement made, between states or “terrorists.” But provision must be had, by limiting qualitative improvement if it renders the world less stable. This is largely done by forbidding future testing of nuc’s. We don’t deploy what we can’t test, and test successfully. The quantitative limits are obvious: avoid proliferation of bombs and fissile material. We must go forward together. We all, like nations proceeding up Everest, are, in this world, always bound together. Together we live, together we die. – Ed Firmage
Several events may well cause the perfect storm of chaos and catastrophe. The use of nuclear weapons will occur again. And probably sooner than later. Terrorist use of a single nuclear weapon, placed with know-how, could paralyze a nation. Use of several tactical nuclear weapons (the small stuff) by one state against another would produce Nuclear Winter for at least four years. Use of their big brothers, ICBM’s, would result in Nuclear Winter for decades. See in mind’s eye the simultaneous burning of the world’s major cities and forests, together with nuclear debris, including us, swirling above any who remained, for decades, blotting out the Sun. Think of one volcano and times it by a few thousand. We turn down the heat and turn off the lights and among other things, photosynthesis stops. Huge numbers of life forms die, never to return, vegetable and animal.
And no, this is not the solution for global warming. We will live, I fear, to see both simultaneously, likely in my short life-span. No weapon ever developed was not eventually used; and likewise used by non-state actors, terrorists and other criminals. We are drenched in nuclear weapons, especially tactical, poorly secured. If you want to build your own, there certainly is no nuclear secret and we are submerged in huge amounts of enriched uranium and plutonium. We have long passed the tipping point of inevitability on the use of nuclear weapons; and I believe we are very close to that tipping point regarding global warming.
Add all this to a looming water shortage throughout the West and Southwest, with huge and unreasonable burdens placed upon the Colorado River, our aquifers, and all our river systems. When rivers and lakes and dams become dead pools it’s too late. Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles will sustain themselves only by dehydrating the West, and even then deserts will claim their own. When even one of the above little list of horrors actually happens, we almost surely will be propelled into a double- dip depression.
There we have it. The spread and ultimately the use of nuclear weapons; global warming; a devastating long-term recession morphing into a world-wide depression; and finally a huge life-threatening shortage of water in the West. And if I am right–then we shall surely see two or three, perhaps even all these four horsemen of the apocalypse cutting huge swaths of death and destruction throughout the world. We now face, fellow citizens, such cosmic catastrophes of biblical proportions that human civilizations that we now enjoy may never be known again. Even life itself, world-wide, is at risk. We cannot avoid some of these calamities. But we may still mitigate them, and dodge others, if we act now.
Ed Firmage is the Samuel Thurman Professor of Law, emeritus, at the University of Utah, and the author, with Wormuth, of To Chain the Dog of War: the War Power of Congress, published by Illinois Press; and editor of a casebook on International Law. He has published hundreds of articles and chapters on war, weaponry, arms control, disarmament and human rights. With others, he helped defeat the basing of the MX missile in the Great Basin of Nevada and Utah.
Depleted uranium is obtained during the process of destroying nuclear weapons. Depleted uranium was used in the first Gulf War. The United States coated with depleted uranium, 1000 anti-tank artillery projectiles and the Brit’s 100. A depleted uranium missile cuts through a tank like a hot knife through butter. At the moment of impact the missile so coated turns what was a tank into thousands of shards of radioactive porcelain, which spreads over the vast sands of that sad state, virtually forever. Now, in Gulf War II, the numbers are hugely greater. Iraqi and now Afghanistan’s people are literally, cooked. Young Iraqi and Afghan women, in their sandals, trudging though the sands, will die terrible deaths. Their children, those who live, may well be born with savage birth defects. Afghan and Iraqi peoples will suffer through endless centuries for our wars of aggression. Birth defects in Fallujah have already increased ten fold.
In simpler times, a state would declare war and thereafter the war would end. Now, we make wars upon whole nations though a very small number of combatants are our supposed enemies. These the macabre gifts that keep on giving for hundreds of years, thousands of years, and in the case of depleted uranium, for millions of years. We are, in effect, making wars that will never end. Thousands of years from now, we will still be slaughtering people in these two wars of choice gifted us by two presidents named George Bush.
Now our leaders want us to accept millions of tons of depleted uranium here in Utah. Depleted uranium is in fact already here. Much more is on the way. We are now being told that foreign waste will be on the way too. And we find that the state of Utah has no real choice in this matter. Our two Senators from Energy Solutions, Hatch and Bennett, protect their money spigot by lamenting that our cause is just but they can do nothing for us, pointing to Utah politicians. Police power, that is, the power and the obligation to protect our health and well-being, does reside here and the Governor should stop all trains with depleted uranium and demand that the train turn right around and go back where this deadly poison came from. But real power is with Hatch and Bennett. The Commerce Power of Congress will trump anything the state can do to preclude entry of this most toxic of poisons. These two villains are bought and paid by Energy Solutions. One of our congressmen has been a paid employee of Energy/Solutions. Hatch and Bennett are the only people who have the law…the Commerce Clause…by which all these issues will be judged and determined.
If Osama Bin Laden and his henchmen had planned this idea of bringing nuclear material into our country’s innards he would be captured and imprisoned. Just how do the owners and all who profit by destroying our land, water, and all life forms, and the politicians who make this atrocity possible, stay out of jail when quite obviously they are among the most successful terrorists in our history?
Salt Lake City, Utah
The Bush administration proposed a missile defense system that doesn’t work, to be deployed to the Czech Republic and Poland to (supposedly) counter Iranian ICBM’s that don’t exist. Eastern Europeans didn’t want it. Our Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff don’t want it. It pissed off the Russians. The Obama administration just canceled it. It was an easy call if there ever was one. Naturally the neocons are screaming about it.
On Faux News Charles Krauthammer complained that Russia can now take over all of eastern Europe, and the Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes warned hysterically that Obama’s decision might lead to a situation worse than the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
Originally proposed in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan, ballistic missile defense (aka “Star Wars”) is an enormous waste of money. It’s supposed to work like the scene in “Wanted” (2008) when a gunfight culminates in both shooters’ bullets colliding in mid-air, twice! That just doesn’t happen without Hollywood special effects. The Missile Defense Agency has spent well over $120 billion to prove that the system Reagan envisioned can’t work in the real world.
The right wants us to at great expense build a missile shield that doesn’t work, in places it’s not wanted, to protect Western Europe from Iranian missiles that don’t exist, in order to antagonize the Russians.
Speaking at the Brookings Institution today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that criticism of the Obama plan is “not yet connected to the facts. We are not, quote, ’shelving’ missile defense. We are deploying missile defense sooner than the Bush administration planned to do so.”
Rather than building huge, fixed ground-based interceptor (GBI) complexes in Eastern Europe, President Obama wants to buy more small, mobile Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) weapon systems and place them, initially, on the U.S. Navy’s Aegis cruisers. The SM-3s are capable of shooting down short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, unlike the GBI, which is designed to shoot down ICBMs (but can’t).
More info: Fact Sheet on U.S. Missile Defense Policy.
Glen’s post about the American empire seems to cross with the ataxia argument I made earlier. Any suggestion that our military even tighten the belt is generally met by screams of “traitor” by the general public. “We need our military” they cry, “the world is dangerous” they yell.
Well, if anyone would know, it would be Rove, eh? Tonight’s Hypocrisy Watch: Lest we forget.
On the last day of the Bush presidency, let’s review the greatest shame of his regime.
It’s almost 11 minutes in length, but extremely important. We must never forget. Will these criminals ever face justice?
Readers, please add your own links and videos in the comments. There are just too many to even narrow them down to the most succinct.