Is Netanyahu Planning Nuclear Attack on Iran? November 11, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Iran, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Nuclear weapons/power, War.
Tags: Iran, iran nuclear, israel, israel iran, israel nuclear, netanyahu, nuclear attack, nuclear war, roger hollander, shaul mofaz
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Published on Sunday, November 11, 2012 by Common Dreams
The Sunday Times of London is reporting that ‘Rivals fear Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu is plotting nuclear strike on Iran.’
Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz unveiling his party’s campaign slogan at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Thursday. His campaign poster says “Bibi will endanger Israel” over the image of a mushroom cloud. (Photo/Yaron Brenner)
Netanyahu thinks ballistic missiles carrying tactical nuclear warheads will be necessary to take out Iran’s Fordow uranium enrichment facility near the city of Qom. The site is buried deep beneath a mountain.
Western sources say Israel firing a Jericho-3 missile carrying a tactical nuclear warhead would be “sufficient to ‘bury’ the plant.” The United States is the only nation that has used nuclear weapons thus far.
From The Sunday Times:
Well aware of the hostile international response to even the suggestion of a nuclear attack, the option is not being debated publicly. But last week it was referred to indirectly by Shaul Mofaz, head of the Kadima party and leader of the opposition.
For some time Mr Mofaz, 64, a former defense minister and one of the few Israeli politicians privy to the country’s nuclear secrets, has believed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is playing a dangerous game.
Mr Mofaz shocked many Israelis last week when during a press conference he unveiled a poster showing a red mushroom cloud with the slogan: “Bibi will endanger Israel.”
Most Israelis assumed the poster referred to the Iranian threat. But its message may have been more subtle, hinting at an argument that Mr Mofaz cannot articulate in public: that he believes Mr Netanyahu could be considering a nuclear option.
Mr Netanyahu signaled in a television interview last week that he was prepared to strike Iran without the support of the US. “When David Ben-Gurion declared the foundation of the state of Israel, was it done with American approval?” he asked.
In Hiroshima’s Shadow August 2, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Cuba, History, Latin America, Nuclear weapons/power, War.
Tags: Cuba, cuban missile, cyberwar, hiroshima, history, iran nuclear, israel nuclear, john kennedy, Middle East, missile crisis, Nikita Khrushchev, Noam Chomsky, nuclear, nuclear war, roger hollander
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August 6, the anniversary of Hiroshima, should be a day of somber reflection, not only on the terrible events of that day in 1945, but also on what they revealed: that humans, in their dedicated quest to extend their capacities for destruction, had finally found a way to approach the ultimate limit.
This year‚ Aug. 6 memorials have special significance. They take place shortly before the 50th anniversary of, “the most dangerous moment in human history,” in the words of the historian and John F. Kennedy adviser Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., referring to the Cuban missile crisis.
Graham Allison writes in the current issue of Foreign Affairs that Kennedy, “ordered actions that he knew would increase the risk not only of conventional war but also nuclear war,” with a likelihood of perhaps 50 percent, he believed, an estimate that Allison regards as realistic.
Kennedy declared a high-level nuclear alert that authorized, “NATO aircraft with Turkish pilots … (or others) … to take off, fly to Moscow, and drop a bomb.”
None were more shocked by the discovery of missiles in Cuba than the men in charge of the similar missiles that the U.S. had secretly deployed in Okinawa six months earlier, surely aimed at China, at a moment of elevated regional tensions.
Kennedy took Chairman Nikita Khrushchev, “right to the brink of nuclear war and he looked over the edge and had no stomach for it,” according to Gen. David Burchinal, then a high-ranking official in the Pentagon planning staff. One can hardly count on such sanity forever.
Khrushchev accepted a formula that Kennedy devised, ending the crisis just short of war. The formula‚ boldest element, Allison writes, was, “a secret sweetener that promised the withdrawal of U.S. missiles from Turkey within six months after the crisis was resolved.” These were obsolete missiles that were being replaced by far more lethal, and invulnerable, Polaris submarines.
In brief, even at high risk of war of unimaginable destruction, it was felt necessary to reinforce the principle that U.S. has the unilateral right to deploy nuclear missiles anywhere, some aimed at China or at the borders of Russia, which had previously placed no missiles outside the USSR. Justifications of course have been offered, but I do not think they withstand analysis.
An accompanying principle is that Cuba had no right to have missiles for defense against what appeared to be an imminent U.S. invasion. The plans for Kennedy‚ terrorist programs, Operation Mongoose, called for, “open revolt and overthrow of the Communist regime,” in October 1962, the month of the missile crisis, recognizing that, “final success will require decisive U.S. military intervention.”
The terrorist operations against Cuba are commonly dismissed by U.S. commentators as insignificant CIA shenanigans. The victims, not surprisingly, see matters rather differently. We can at last hear their voices in Keith Bolender‚, “Voices from the Other Side: An Oral History of Terrorism Against Cuba.”
The events of October 1962 are widely hailed as Kennedy‚ finest hour. Allison offers them as, “a guide for how to defuse conflicts, manage great-power relationships, and make sound decisions about foreign policy in general.” In particular, today‚ conflicts with Iran and China.
Disaster was perilously close in 1962, and there has been no shortage of dangerous moments since. In 1973, in the last days of the Arab-Israeli war, Henry Kissinger called a high-level nuclear alert. India and Pakistan have come close to nuclear war. There have been innumerable cases when human intervention aborted nuclear attack only moments before launch after false reports by automated systems. There is much to think about on Aug. 6.
Allison joins many others in regarding Iran‚ nuclear programs as the most severe current crisis, “an even more complex challenge for American policymakers than the Cuban missile crisis,” because of the threat of Israeli bombing.
The war against Iran is already well underway, including assassination of scientists and economic pressures that have reached the level of, “undeclared war,” in the judgment of the Iran specialist Gary Sick.
Great pride is taken in the sophisticated cyberwar directed against Iran. The Pentagon regards cyberwar as, “an act of war,” that authorizes the target, “to respond using traditional military force,” The Wall Street Journal reports. With the usual exception: not when the U.S. or an ally is the perpetrator.
The Iran threat has recently been outlined by Gen. Giora Eiland, one of Israel‚ top military planners, described as, “one of the most ingenious and prolific thinkers the (Israeli military) has ever produced.”
Of the threats he outlines, the most credible is that, “any confrontation on our borders will take place under an Iranian nuclear umbrella.” Israel might therefore be constrained in resorting to force. Eiland agrees with the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence, which also regard deterrence as the major threat that Iran poses.
The current escalation of the, “undeclared war,” against Iran increases the threat of accidental large-scale war. Some of the dangers were illustrated last month when a U.S. naval vessel, part of the huge deployment in the Gulf, fired on a small fishing boat, killing one Indian crew member and wounding at least three others. It would not take much to set off a major war.
One sensible way to avoid such dread consequences is to pursue, “the goal of establishing in the Middle East a zone free from weapons of mass destruction and all missiles for their delivery and the objective of a global ban on chemical weapons,” the wording of Security Council resolution 687 of April 1991, which the U.S. and U.K. invoked in their effort to provide a thin legal cover for their invasion of Iraq 12 years later.
The goal has been an Arab-Iranian objective since 1974, regularly re-endorsed, and by now it has near-unanimous global support, at least formally. An international conference to consider ways to implement such a treaty may take place in December.
Progress is unlikely unless there is mass public support in the West. Failure to grasp the opportunity will, once again, lengthen the grim shadow that has darkened the world since that fateful Aug. 6.
© 2011 Noam Chomsky
Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.
This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.
Tags: china nuclear, diplomacy, India nuclear, iran nuclear, israel nuclear, non-proliferation, nuclear, nuclear deterrance, nuclear power, nuclear proliferation, nuclear stockpile, nuclear war, nuclear weapons, Pakistan nuclear, roger hollander, start treaty, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics, william d. hartrung
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Roger’s note: when I was a small child I was afraid of the dark, and the only way I could peacefully fall asleep was to pull my blanket over my head. Somehow, irrationally, it made me feel safe from whatever out there I was afraid of. As you will read in the article posted below, “out there” are 20,000 nuclear warheads in the hands of the governments of nine nations, some less stable than others. Enough nuclear power to blow our planet to bits a number of time. Why am I calling this to your attention? Actually, I am not sure. It just seems to me that a strategy more practical than pulling a blanket of our collective heads is called for. And good luck in getting to sleep tonight.
By William D. Hartung, TomDispatch
There was a time when nuclear weapons were a significant part of our national conversation. Addressing the issue of potential atomic annihilation was once described by nuclear theorist Herman Kahn as “thinking about the unthinkable,” but that didn’t keep us from thinking, talking, fantasizing, and worrying about it, or putting images of possible nuclear nightmares (often transmuted to invading aliens or outer space) endlessly on screen.
Now, on a planet still overstocked with city-busting, world-ending weaponry, in which almost 67 years have passed since a nuclear weapon was last used, the only nuke that Americans regularly hear about is one that doesn’t exist: Iran’s. The nearly 20,000 nuclear weapons on missiles, planes, and submarines possessed by Russia, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, China, Israel, Pakistan, India, and North Korea are barely mentioned in what passes for press coverage of the nuclear issue.
Today, nuclear destruction finds itself at the end of a long queue of anxieties about our planet and its fate. For some reason, we trust ourselves, our allies, and even our former enemies with nuclear arms — evidently so deeply that we don’t seem to think the staggering arsenals filled with weaponry that could put the devastation of Hiroshima to shame are worth covering or dealing with. Even the disaster at Fukushima last year didn’t revive an interest in the weaponry that goes with the “peaceful” atom in our world.
Attending to the Bomb in a MAD World
Our views of the nuclear issue haven’t always been so shortsighted. In the 1950s, editor and essayist Norman Cousins was typical in frequently tackling nuclear weapons issues for the widely read magazine Saturday Review. In the late 1950s and beyond, the Ban the Bomb movement forced the nuclear weapons issue onto the global agenda, gaining international attention when it was revealed that Strontium-90, a byproduct of nuclear testing, was making its way into mothers’ breast milk. In those years, the nuclear issue became personal as well as political.
In the early 1960s, President John F. Kennedy responded to public pressure by signing a treaty with Russia that banned atmospheric nuclear testing (and so further Strontium-90 fallout). He also gave a dramatic speech to the United Nations in which he spoke of the nuclear arms race as a “sword of Damocles” hanging over the human race, poised to destroy us at any moment.
Popular films like Fail-Safe and Dr. Strangelove captured both the dangers and the absurdity of the superpower arms race. And when, on the night of October 22, 1962, Kennedy took to the airwaves to warn the American people that a Cuban missile crisis was underway, that it was nuclear in nature, and that a Soviet nuclear attack and a “full retaliatory strike on the Soviet Union” were possibilities — arguably the closest we have come to a global nuclear war — it certainly got everyone’s attention.
All things nuclear receded from public consciousness as the Vietnam War escalated and became the focus of antiwar activism and debate, but the nuclear issue came back with a vengeance in the Reagan years of the early 1980s when superpower confrontations once again were in the headlines. A growing anti-nuclear movement first focused on a near-disaster at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania (the Fukushima of its moment) and then on the superpower nuclear stand-off that went by the name of “mutually assured destruction” or, appropriately enough, the acronym MAD.
The Nuclear Freeze Campaign generated scores of anti-nuclear resolutions in cities and towns around the country, and in June 1982, a record-breaking million people gathered in New York City’s Central Park to call for nuclear disarmament. If anyone managed to miss this historic outpouring of anti-nuclear sentiment, ABC news aired a prime-time, made-for-TV movie, The Day After, that offered a remarkably graphic depiction of the missiles leaving their silos and the devastating consequences of a nuclear war. It riveted a nation.
The collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of that planetary superpower rivalry less than a decade later took nuclear weapons out of the news. After all, with the Cold War over and no other rivals to the United States, who needed such weaponry or a MAD world, either? The only problem was that the global nuclear landscape was left more or less intact, mission-less but largely untouched (with the proliferation of the weapons to other countries ongoing). Unacknowledged as it may be, in some sense MAD still exists, even if we prefer to pretend that it doesn’t.
A MAD World That No One Cares to Notice
More than 20 years later, the only nuclear issue considered worth the bother is stopping the spread of the bomb to a couple of admittedly scary and problematic regimes: Iran and North Korea. Their nuclear efforts regularly make the news and garner attention (to the point of obsession) in media and government circles. But remind me: When was the last time you read about what should be the ultimate (and obvious) goal — getting rid of nuclear weapons altogether?
This has been our reality, despite President Obama’s pledge in Prague back in 2009 to seek “the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” and the passage of a modest but important New START arms-reduction treaty between the United States and Russia in 2010. It remains our reality, despite a dawning realization in budget-anxious Washington that we may no longer be able to afford to throw money (as presently planned) at nuclear projects ranging from new ballistic-missile submarines to new facilities for building nuclear warhead components — all of which are slated to keep the secret global nuclear arms race alive and well decades into the future.
If Iran is worth talking about — and it is, given the implications of an Iranian bomb for further nuclear proliferation in the Middle East — what about the arsenals of the actual nuclear states? What about Pakistan, a destabilizing country which has at least 110 nuclear warheads and counting, and which continues to view India as its primary adversary despite U.S. efforts to get it to focus on al Qaida and the Taliban? What about India’s roughly 100 nuclear warheads, meant to send a message not just to Pakistan but to neighboring China as well? And will China hold pat at 240 or so nuclear weapons in the face of U.S. nuclear modernization efforts and plans to surround it with missile defense systems that could, in theory if not practice, blunt China’s nuclear deterrent force?
Will Israel continue to get a free pass on its officially unacknowledged possession of up to 200 nuclear warheads and its refusal to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty? Who are France and the United Kingdom targeting with their forces of 300 and 225 nuclear warheads, respectively? How long will it take North Korea to develop miniaturized nuclear bombs and deploy them on workable, long-range missiles? And is New START the beginning or the end of mutual U.S. and Russian arms reductions?
Many of these questions are far more important than whether Iran gets the bomb, but they get, at best, only a tiny fraction of the attention that Tehran’s nuclear program is receiving. Concern about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and a fear of loose nukes in a destabilizing country is certainly part of the subtext of U.S. policy towards Islamabad. Little effort has been made of late, however, to encourage Pakistan and India to engage in talks aimed at reconciling their differences and opening the way for discussions on reducing their nuclear arsenals.
The last serious effort – centered on the contentious issue of Kashmir — reached its high point in 2007 under the regime of Pakistani autocrat Pervez Musharraf, and it went awry in the wake of political changes within his country and Pakistani-backed terrorist attacks on India. If anything, the tensions now being generated by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal borderlands and other affronts, intended or not, to Pakistan’s sovereignty have undermined any possibility of Washington brokering a rapprochement between Pakistan and India.
In addition, starting in the Bush years, the U.S. has been selling India nuclear fuel and equipment. This has been part of a controversial agreement that violates prior U.S. commitments to forgo nuclear trade with any nation that has refused to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (a pact India has not signed). Although U.S. assistance is nominally directed towards India’s civilian nuclear program, it helps free up resources that India can use to expand its nuclear weapons arsenal.
The “tilt” towards India that began during the Bush administration has continued under Obama. Only recently, for instance, a State Department official bragged about U.S. progress in selling advanced weaponry to New Delhi. Meanwhile, F-16s that Washington supplied to the Pakistani military back in the heyday of the U.S.-Pakistan alliance may have already been adapted to serve as nuclear delivery vehicles in the event of a nuclear confrontation with India.
China has long adhered to a de facto policy of minimum deterrence — keeping just enough nuclear weapons to dissuade another nation from attacking it with nuclear arms. But this posture has not prevented Beijing from seeking to improve the quality of its long-range ballistic missiles. And if China feels threatened by continued targeting by the United States or by sea-based American interceptors deployed to the region, it could easily increase its arsenal to ensure the “safety” of its deterrent. Beijing will also be keeping a watchful eye on India as its nuclear stockpile continues to grow.
Ever since Ronald Reagan — egged on by mad scientists like Edward Teller and right-wing zealots like Lt. Gen. Daniel O. Graham – pledged to build a perfect anti-nuclear shield that would render nuclear weapons “impotent and obsolete,” missile defense has had a powerful domestic constituency in the United States. This has been the case despite the huge cost and high-profile failures of various iterations of the missile defense concept.
The only concrete achievement of three decades of missile defense research and development so far has been to make Russia suspicious of U.S. intentions. Even now, rightly or not, Russia is extremely concerned about the planned installation of U.S. missile defenses in Europe that Washington insists will be focused on future Iranian nuclear weapons. Moscow feels that they could just as easily be turned on Russia. If President Obama wins a second term, he will undoubtedly hope to finesse this issue and open the door to further joint reductions in nuclear forces, or possibly even consider reducing this country’s nuclear arsenal significantly, whether or not Russia initially goes along.
Recent bellicose rhetoric from Moscow underscores its sensitivity to the missile defense issue, which may yet scuttle any plans for serious nuclear negotiations. Given that the U.S. and Russia together possess more than 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons, an impasse between the two nuclear superpowers (even if they are not “super” in other respects) will undercut any leverage they might have to encourage other nations to embark on a path leading to global nuclear reductions.
In his 1960s ode to nuclear proliferation, “Who’s Next?” Tom Lehrer included the line “Israel’s getting tense, wants one in self-defense.” In fact, Israel was the first — and for now the only — Middle Eastern nation to get the bomb, with reports that it can deliver a nuclear warhead not only from land-based missiles but also via cruise missiles launched from nuclear submarines. Whatever it may say about Israel’s technical capabilities in the military field, Israel’s nuclear arsenal may also be undermining its defense, particularly if it helps spur Iran to build its own nukes. And irresponsible talk by some Israeli officials about attacking Iran only increases the chance that Tehran will decide to go nuclear.
It is hard to handicap the grim, “unthinkable,” but hardly inconceivable prospect that August 9, 1945, will not prove to be the last time that nuclear weapons are used on this planet. Perhaps some of the loose nuclear materials or inadequately guarded nuclear weapons littering the globe — particularly, but not solely, in the states of the former Soviet Union — might fall into the hands of a terrorist group. Perhaps an Islamic fundamentalist government will seize power in Pakistan and go a step too far in nuclear brinkmanship with India over Kashmir. Maybe the Israeli leadership will strike out at Iran with nuclear weapons in an effort to keep Tehran from going nuclear. Maybe there will be a miscommunication or false alarm that will result in the United States or Russia launching one of their nuclear weapons that are still in Cold War-style, hair-trigger mode.
Although none of these scenarios, including a terrorist nuclear attack, may be as likely as nuclear alarmists sometimes suggest, as long as the world remains massively stocked with nuclear weapons, one of them — or some other scenario yet to be imagined — is always possible. The notion that Iran can’t be trusted with such a weapon obscures a larger point: Given their power to destroy life on a monumental scale, no individual and no government can ultimately be trusted with the bomb.
The only way to be safe from nuclear weapons is to get rid of them — not just the Iranian one that doesn’t yet exist, but all of them. It’s a daunting task. It’s also a subject that’s out of the news and off anyone’s agenda at the moment, but if it is ever to be achieved, we at least need to start talking about it. Soon.
William D. Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, a TomDispatch regular, and the author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex. (To catch Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Hartung discusses the upside-down world of global nuclear politics, click here or download it to your iPod here.)
A Farewell to Nuclear Arms October 14, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Nuclear weapons/power, War.
Tags: arms control, cold war, emt.reykjavik summit, mikhairl gorbachev, nonproliferatiion, nuclear deterrence, nuclear disarmament, nuclear war, nuclear weapons, roger hollander, ronald reagan, start agree, test ban treaty, war
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For all our differences, Reagan and I shared the strong conviction that civilized countries should not make such barbaric weapons the linchpin of their security.
Even though we failed to achieve our highest aspirations in Reykjavik, the summit was nonetheless, in the words of my former counterpart, “a major turning point in the quest for a safer and secure world.”
The next few years may well determine if our shared dream of ridding the world of nuclear weapons will ever be realized.
Critics present nuclear disarmament as unrealistic at best, and a risky utopian dream at worst. They point to the Cold War’s “long peace” as proof that nuclear deterrence is the only means of staving off a major war.
As someone who has commanded these weapons, I strongly disagree. Nuclear deterrence has always been a hard and brittle guarantor of peace. By failing to propose a compelling plan for nuclear disarmament, the US, Russia, and the remaining nuclear powers are promoting through inaction a future in which nuclear weapons will inevitably be used. That catastrophe must be forestalled.
As I, along with George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger, Sam Nunn, and others, pointed out five years ago, nuclear deterrence becomes less reliable and more risky as the number of nuclear-armed states increases. Barring preemptive war (which has proven counterproductive) or effective sanctions (which have thus far proven insufficient), only sincere steps toward nuclear disarmament can furnish the mutual security needed to forge tough compromises on arms control and nonproliferation matters.
The trust and understanding built at Reykjavik paved the way for two historic treaties. The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty destroyed the feared quick-strike missiles then threatening Europe’s peace. And, in 1991, the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) cut the bloated US and Soviet nuclear arsenals by 80% over a decade.
But prospects for progress on arms control and nonproliferation are darkening in the absence of a credible push for nuclear disarmament. I learned during those two long days in Reykjavik that disarmament talks could be as constructive as they are arduous. By linking an array of interrelated matters, Reagan and I built the trust and understanding needed to moderate a nuclear-arms race of which we had lost control.
In retrospect, the Cold War’s end heralded the coming of a messier arrangement of global power and persuasion. The nuclear powers should adhere to the requirements of the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty and resume “good faith” negotiations for disarmament. This would augment the diplomatic and moral capital available to diplomats as they strive to restrain nuclear proliferation in a world where more countries than ever have the wherewithal to construct a nuclear bomb.
Only a serious program of universal nuclear disarmament can provide the reassurance and the credibility needed to build a global consensus that nuclear deterrence is a dead doctrine. We can no longer afford, politically or financially, the discriminatory nature of the current system of nuclear “haves” and “have-nots.”
Reykjavik proved that boldness is rewarded. Conditions were far from favorable for a disarmament deal in 1986. Before I became Soviet leader in 1985, relations between the Cold War superpowers had hit rock bottom. Reagan and I were nonetheless able to create a reservoir of constructive spirit through constant outreach and face-to-face interaction.
What seem to be lacking today are leaders with the boldness and vision to build the trust needed to reintroduce nuclear disarmament as the centerpiece of a peaceful global order. Economic constraints and the Chernobyl disaster helped spur us to action. Why has the Great Recession and the disastrous meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan not elicited a similar response today?
A first step would be for the US finally to ratify the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). President Barack Obama has endorsed this treaty as a vital instrument to discourage proliferation and avert nuclear war. It’s time for Obama to make good on commitments he made in Prague in 2009, take up Reagan’s mantle as Great Communicator, and persuade the US Senate to formalize America’s adherence to the CTBT.
This would compel the remaining holdouts – China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, North Korea, and Pakistan – to reconsider the CTBT as well. That would bring us closer to a global ban on nuclear tests in any environment – the atmosphere, undersea, in outer space, or underground.
A second necessary step is for the US and Russia to follow up on the New START agreement and begin deeper weapons cuts, especially tactical and reserve weapons, which serve no purpose, waste funds, and threaten security. This step must be related to limits on missile defense, one of the key issues that undermined the Reykjavik summit.
A fissile material cut-off treaty (FMCT), long stalled in multilateral talks in Geneva, and a successful second Nuclear Security Summit next year in Seoul, will help secure dangerous nuclear materials. This will also require that the 2002 Global Partnership, dedicated to securing and eliminating all weapons of mass destruction – nuclear, chemical, and biological – is renewed and expanded when it convenes next year in the US.
Our world remains too militarized. In today’s economic climate, nuclear weapons have become loathsome money pits. If, as seems likely, economic troubles continue, the US, Russia, and other nuclear powers should seize the moment to launch multilateral arms reductions through new or existing channels such as the UN Conference on Disarmament. These deliberations would yield greater security for less money.
But the buildup of conventional military forces – driven in large part by the enormous military might deployed globally by the US – must be addressed as well. As we engage in furthering our Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) agreement, we should seriously consider reducing the burden of military budgets and forces globally.
US President John F. Kennedy once warned that “every man, woman, and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment.” For more than 50 years, humanity has warily eyed that lethal pendulum while statesmen debated how to mend its fraying cords. The example of Reykjavik should remind us that palliative measures are not enough. Our efforts 25 years ago can be vindicated only when the Bomb ends up beside the slave trader’s manacles and the Great War’s mustard gas in the museum of bygone savagery.
Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2011.
Tags: atomic bomb, enola gay, hiroshima, hiroshima deaths, hiroshima photos, little boy, nuclear war, robin wauters, roger hollander, war, world war II, ww iii
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Robin Wauters currently works as a staff writer for TechCrunch and lead editor of Virtualization.com. Aside from his professional blogging activities, he’s an entrepreneur, event organizer, occasional board adviser and angel investor but most importantly an all-round startup champion. Wauters lives and works in Belgium, a tiny country in Europe. He can often be found working from his home or… → Learn More
Every once in a while, we interrupt our regular live coverage of breaking news about Internet companies from around the world to highlight amazing photography. In 2009, we featured the world’s largest spherical photo, and earlier this year, the world’s largest photo ever taken indoors.
Today, 360Cities published a series of historical 360° photos of Hiroshima, taken six months after the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb codenamed “Little Boy” on the Japanese city (on August 6, 1945). It was the first time an atomic bomb was used as a weapon.
According to Wikipedia, “Little Boy” directly killed an estimated 80,000 people, and by the end of the year, injury and radiation brought total casualties to 90,000–166,000. Approximately 69 percent of the city’s buildings were completely destroyed, and about 7 percent severely damaged.
You can see the chillingly devastating effect of the bombing in 5 panoramic photos (one, two, three, four, five), courtesy of the Hiroshima Peace Museum. The images were shot by three different American photographers, and one Japanese photographer.
Bonus link: 2011 “The Peace Declaration”, penned by Matsui Kazumi, Mayor of Hiroshima
(Thanks to Jeffrey Martin from 360Cities for the heads up)
Truman Lied, Hundreds of Thousands Died August 8, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in History, Nuclear weapons/power, Peace, War.
Tags: anti-war, atomic bomb, david swanson, eisenhower, harry truman, hiroshima, history, nagasaki, nuclear arms, nuclear war, nuclera nonproliferation, peace, roger hollander, world war II, world war two
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On August 6, 1945, President Harry S Truman announced: “Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, an important Japanese Army base. That bomb had more power than 20,000 tons of TNT It had more than two thousand times the blast power of the British ‘Grand Slam’ which is the largest bomb ever yet used in the history of warfare.”
When Truman lied to America that Hiroshima was a military base rather than a city full of civilians, people no doubt wanted to believe him. Who would want the shame of belonging to the nation that commits a whole new kind of atrocity? (Will naming lower Manhattan “ground zero” erase the guilt?) And when we learned the truth, we wanted and still want desperately to believe that war is peace, that violence is salvation, that our government dropped nuclear bombs in order to save lives, or at least to save American lives.
We tell each other that the bombs shortened the war and saved more lives than the some 200,000 they took away. And yet, weeks before the first bomb was dropped, on July 13, 1945, Japan sent a telegram to the Soviet Union expressing its desire to surrender and end the war. The United States had broken Japan’s codes and read the telegram. Truman referred in his diary to “the telegram from Jap Emperor asking for peace.” Truman had been informed through Swiss and Portuguese channels of Japanese peace overtures as early as three months before Hiroshima. Japan objected only to surrendering unconditionally and giving up its emperor, but the United States insisted on those terms until after the bombs fell, at which point it allowed Japan to keep its emperor.
Presidential advisor James Byrnes had told Truman that dropping the bombs would allow the United States to “dictate the terms of ending the war.” Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal wrote in his diary that Byrnes was “most anxious to get the Japanese affair over with before the Russians got in.” Truman wrote in his diary that the Soviets were preparing to march against Japan and “Fini Japs when that comes about.” Truman ordered the bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th and another type of bomb, a plutonium bomb, which the military also wanted to test and demonstrate, on Nagasaki on August 9th. Also on August 9th, the Soviets attacked the Japanese. During the next two weeks, the Soviets killed 84,000 Japanese while losing 12,000 of their own soldiers, and the United States continued bombing Japan with non-nuclear weapons. Then the Japanese surrendered.
The United States Strategic Bombing Survey concluded that,”… certainly prior to 31 December, 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November, 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.” One dissenter who had expressed this same view to the Secretary of War prior to the bombings was General Dwight Eisenhower. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral William D. Leahy agreed: “The use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender.”
Whatever dropping the bombs might possibly have contributed to ending the war, it is curious that the approach of threatening to drop them, the approach used during a half-century of Cold War to follow, was never tried. An explanation may perhaps be found in Truman’s comments suggesting the motive of revenge:
“Having found the bomb we have used it. We have used it against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl Harbor, against those who have starved and beaten and executed American prisoners of war, and against those who have abandoned all pretense of obeying international law of warfare.”
Truman could not, incidentally, have chosen Tokyo as a target — not because it was a city, but because we had already reduced it to rubble.
The nuclear catastrophes may have been, not the ending of a World War, but the theatrical opening of the Cold War, aimed at sending a message to the Soviets. Many low and high ranking officials in the US military, including commanders in chief, have been tempted to nuke more cities ever since, beginning with Truman threatening to nuke China in 1950. The myth developed, in fact, that Eisenhower’s enthusiasm for nuking China led to the rapid conclusion of the Korean War. Belief in that myth led President Richard Nixon, decades later, to imagine he could end the Vietnam War by pretending to be crazy enough to use nuclear bombs. Even more disturbingly, he actually was crazy enough. “The nuclear bomb, does that bother you? … I just want you to think big, Henry, for Christsakes,” Nixon said to Henry Kissinger in discussing options for Vietnam.
President George W. Bush oversaw the development of smaller nuclear weapons that might be used more readily, as well as much larger non-nuclear bombs, blurring the line between the two. President Barack Obama established in 2010 that the United States might strike first with nuclear weapons, but only against Iran or North Korea. The United States alleged, without evidence, that Iran was not complying with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), even though the clearest violation of that treaty is the United States’ own failure to work on disarmament and the United States’ Mutual Defense Agreement with the United Kingdom, by which the two countries share nuclear weapons in violation of Article 1 of the NPT, and even though the United States’ first strike nuclear weapons policy violates yet another treaty: the UN Charter.
Americans may never admit what was done in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but our country had been in some measure prepared for it. After Germany had invaded Poland, Britain and France had declared war on Germany. Britain in 1940 had broken an agreement with Germany not to bomb civilians, before Germany retaliated in the same manner against England — although Germany had itself bombed Guernica, Spain, in 1937, and Warsaw, Poland, in 1939, and Japan meanwhile was bombing civilians in China. Then, for years, Britain and Germany had bombed each other’s cities before the United States joined in, bombing German and Japanese cities in a spree of destruction unlike anything ever previously witnessed. When we were firebombing Japanese cities, Life magazine printed a photo of a Japanese person burning to death and commented “This is the only way.”
By the time of the Vietnam War, such images were highly controversial. By the time of the 2003 War on Iraq, such images were not shown, just as enemy bodies were no longer counted. That development, arguably a form of progress, still leaves us far from the day when atrocities will be displayed with the caption “There has to be another way.”
Combating evil is what peace activists do. It is not what wars do. And it is not, at least not obviously, what motivates the masters of war, those who plan the wars and bring them into being. But it is tempting to think so. It is very noble to make brave sacrifices, even the ultimate sacrifice of one’s life, in order to end evil. It is perhaps even noble to use other people’s children to vicariously put an end to evil, which is all that most war supporters do. It is righteous to become part of something bigger than oneself. It can be thrilling to revel in patriotism. It can be momentarily pleasurable I’m sure, if less righteous and noble, to indulge in hatred, racism, and other group prejudices. It’s nice to imagine that your group is superior to someone else’s. And the patriotism, racism, and other isms that divide you from the enemy can thrillingly unite you, for once, with all of your neighbors and compatriots across the now meaningless boundaries that usually hold sway.
If you are frustrated and angry, if you long to feel important, powerful, and dominating, if you crave the license to lash out in revenge either verbally or physically, you may cheer for a government that announces a vacation from morality and open permission to hate and to kill. You’ll notice that the most enthusiastic war supporters sometimes want nonviolent war opponents killed and tortured along with the vicious and dreaded enemy; the hatred is far more important than its object. If your religious beliefs tell you that war is good, then you’ve really gone big time. Now you’re part of God’s plan. You’ll live after death, and perhaps we’ll all be better off if you bring on the death of us all.
But simplistic beliefs in good and evil don’t match up well with the real world, no matter how many people share them unquestioningly. They do not make you a master of the universe. On the contrary, they place control of your fate in the hands of people cynically manipulating you with war lies.
And the hatred and bigotry don’t provide lasting satisfaction, but instead breed bitter resentment.
This is excerpted from “War Is A Lie”
The Obama Doctrine and the Dangers of the $185 Billion Increase in US Nuclear War Preparations August 5, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Nuclear weapons/power, War.
Tags: arms race, bric, first-strike, joseph gerson, military budget, nuclear, nuclear proliferation, nuclear war, nuclear weapons, obama doctrine, peace movement, roger hollander, test ban, test ban treaty, U.S. imperialism, war, war president
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Roger’s note: below this article I have posted Gar Alperovitz’s arugment against the official rational for droping the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
We continue to face the urgent imperative of eliminating the world’s nuclear arsenals before they eliminate us.
World Conference Against A- and H- Bombs, Hiroshima, August 3, 2011
Minosan Konichi-wa. I come with deep sympathy for all that the people of Japan have suffered as a result of the March 11 catastrophes and I am inspired by the resilience of the Japanese people and the Japanese peace movement.
I return to Hiroshima with humility and anger at what the government that speaks in my name has inflicted here and is preparing for the future. And, who cannot but feel rage at the ways Japanese lives have been sacrificed and your economy undermined. Like the decision to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki, human ambition and greed, not simply nature, were responsible for what you, your friends and communities have suffered from Fukushima.
Also see: “Nuclear War or Real Security?“
Let me begin with a few words about the US political landscape, the fluid state of the global (dis)order and the emerging Obama Doctrine.
The sad truth is that President Bush has been succeeded by another US war president. The US remains at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama escalated the Pakistan and Yemen wars and the aggressive military exercises in the Yellow and South China Seas. Washington has deepened its alliances across the Asia-Pacific with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, Australia and India and in Europe with NATO’s new “strategic concept.”
Recall that during last winter’s Korean crisis, the US sent the nuclear powered and nuclear capable USS George Washington into the Yellow Sea, which Beijing claims as its exclusive territorial waters. As former US Ambassador R. Stapleton Roy put it, “we poked China in the eye because we could.” Whether we agree with Beijing’s claim or not, competing international claims should be addressed through law and diplomacy, not by signaling possible future nuclear attacks.
The strategic debate in US elite circles focuses on the relative US decline and the rise of China and the other BRIC [Brazil, Russia, India and China] nations. The dominant question is whether war with rising powers – especially China – is inevitable or if there are alternatives. Of course, the Know Nothings of the Tea Party are focused on cutting essential human services, and some may not even know where to find Japan or China on a map.
It is in this context that a recent article in Foreign Affairs asserted that after an initial phase of “multilateral entrenchment, we now have an Obama Doctrine: aggressive “counterpunching.”
Obama arrived at the White House with the US having become an isolated pariah nation. His initial priorities were to “Wind down [the Iraq and Afghanistan] wars, reestablish American standing and leadership … and focus on a broader set of priorities, from Asia and the global economy to a nuclear-nonproliferation regime.”(1) This included embracing the G-20, re-engaging Asia-Pacific multilateral organizations and Obama’s Prague and Cairo speeches. The BRICs were unimpressed.
Now, having revitalized its alliances, especially in the Asia-Pacific and Europe, Obama and company have turned to “counterpunching,” reasserting US power and influence across the world “when challenged by other countries, reassuring allies and signaling resolve to potential rivals ….”(2) In addition to the poking of China in its Yellow Sea eye, this includes deepening economic and military ties with most of China’s neighbors, declaring freedom of navigation in the South China Sea a core US interest and the accelerated pace of “military exercises” in contested waters.
In the Middle East, the Obama administration has used military and other leverage to limit the Arab Spring. In North Africa, Libya is the first of NATO’s new “strategic concept” wars, with European allies having increased war-fighting responsibilities.
Where do nuclear weapons fit into this picture and why was the deal made with Congressional Republicans to spend an additional $185 billion to “modernize” the US nuclear arsenal and its delivery systems?
While some believe that, “the Obama administration’s nuclear weapons policy appears to be schizophrenic,” that is not the case. Obama’s Prague speech was part of a diplomatic offensive designed to achieve the nation’s pre-eminent strategic goal: preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and thus reducing the risk of nuclear attacks against the United States. Following the recommendations of Shultz, Kissinger, and others, Obama acknowledged the Untied States’ Article VI NPT abolition obligations and demonstrated commitments to at least limited disarmament. We had Prague, Obama’s special Security Council session, the Nuclear Security Summit, New START and preparations for CTBT ratification.
But there is a less visible operational side to US nuclear strategies: the first strike doctrine and the administration’s commitment that “as long as nuclear weapons exist, we the United States will maintain a[n] … effective nuclear arsenal.” The US is building the nuclear arsenal needed to enforce empire for decades to come. The deal that secured New START ratification committed Obama to “a major modernization effort to revitalize” the nation’s genocidal strategic nuclear warheads and its massive arsenal of stockpiled nuclear weapons. The extra $185 billion will pay to expand the nuclear weapons production infrastructure, train a new generation of nuclear weapons designers and technicians, extend the murderous “life” of aging nuclear warheads and replace so-called “old delivery systems.”(3)
While it seems counterintuitive, in addition to maintaining enough strategic warheads to completely destroy Russia or China and bring on nuclear winter, the Pentagon will be modernizing low-yield nuclear weapons and make them deliverable by the new nuclear-capable F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and cruise missiles. B-61 nuclear bombs will be converted to lower-yield warheads. Funding will be there to replace the fleet of Trident submarines and to increase the accuracy of the missiles they carry. There are also plans for a new generation of nuclear-capable drones and air launched cruise missiles.
We are warned that “as nuclear weapons proliferate, it becomes increasingly likely that the United States will find itself in conventional conflicts with nuclear-armed adversaries. So, senior analysts tell us that “deterring weak, desperate adversaries from using their nuclear trump card will be a major challenge” and that the US “must possess nuclear weapons that a president might actually use.”(4) The $185 billion program is there to reinforce US nuclear threats and to increase the probability that future US presidents will not fear pushing the nuclear button.
Of course, Washington is not the only power preparing for nuclear war. Despite last year’s NPT Review Conference, all the nuclear powers are modernizing and/or expanding their arsenals. We continue to face the urgent imperative of eliminating the world’s nuclear arsenals before they eliminate us.
In the US, both elite and community-based forces are campaigning for abolition. Our movement is committed to winning negotiation of a nuclear weapons abolition convention, and we have long made the links between nuclear weapons and nuclear power. Some are preparing for Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty ratification.
But with the massive US budget reductions and the resulting loss of essential government services, our greatest chance for near-term success lies in the growing movement to cut Pentagon spending so that human needs are met. President Obama and the Tea Party Republicans are rehashing the policies that led to the Great Depression. The military budget – already 60 percent of discretionary spending is being increased, while trillions needed for under funded schools, railways, health care, jobs and environmental safety are being cut.
Reinforced by the calls of the US Council of Mayors for abolition and to slash Pentagon spending, we now have a growing popular wave of organized labor, faith communities and the peace movement demanding “Move the Money” and “Fund Our Communities – Not War!” One of AFSC’s [American Friends Service Committee's] unique contributions is highlighting the need to put spending for nuclear weapons on the chopping block.
Other organizing includes an extended national Nuclear Free Future month. We began early in Boston with a Nuclear Free Festival on Trinity Day. There, as an expression of solidarity with your responses to Fukushima and Gensuikyo’s abolition campaigning, activists signed this banner. In the fall, we will be exhibiting Hiroshima Hibakusha Kayashige Junko’s paintings at Harvard University. And to build the our movement’s capacity to challenge militarization in the Asia-Pacific, we have organized a Peace Forum with the Chinese People’s Association for Disarmament and Peace, in which Gensuikyo will play leading roles.
Friends, none of this is enough. The 3-11 catastrophes mark a third great turning point in modern Japanese history, after the Black Ships and the Meiji Revolution and the 15-Year War and its resulting calamities. How will Japan recreate itself? With the peace marchers from Tohoku and this World Conference we are assured that the people of 21st-century Japan will continue to serve as the vanguard for the abolition of nuclear weapons and nuclear power.
Together, with imagination and persistence, WE SHALL OVERCOME!
No More Fukushimas! No More Hiroshimas! No More Nagasakis! No More Hibakusha!!
1. Daniel W. Drezner, “Does Obama Have a Grand Strategy?” Foreign Affairs, July/August 2011.
3. Keir A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press, “The Case for Modernizing America’s Nukes,” Foreign Affairs, July 6, 2011.
Dr. Joseph Gerson is disarmament coordinator of the American Friend Service Committee and director of its Peace and Economic Security Program. His most recent book is “Empire and the Bomb: How the US Uses Nuclear Weapons to Dominate the World.”
On the Sixty-Sixth Anniversary of the Bombing of Hiroshima
Today is the 66th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. Though most Americans are unaware of the fact, increasing numbers of historians now recognize the United States did not need to use the atomic bomb to end the war against Japan in 1945. Moreover, this essential judgment was expressed by the vast majority of top American military leaders in all three services in the years after the war ended: Army, Navy and Army Air Force. Nor was this the judgment of “liberals,” as is sometimes thought today. In fact, leading conservatives were far more outspoken in challenging the decision as unjustified and immoral than American liberals in the years following World War II.
By the summer of 1945 Japan was essentially defeated, its navy at the bottom of the ocean; its air force limited by fuel, equipment, and other shortages; its army facing defeat on all fronts; and its cities subjected to bombing that was all but impossible to challenge. With Germany out of the war, the United States and Britain were about to bring their full power to bear on what was left of the Japanese military. Moreover, the Soviet Union—at this point in time still neutral—was getting ready to attack on the Asian mainland: the Red Army, fresh from victory over Hitler, was poised to strike across the Manchurian border.
Long before the bombings occurred in August 1945—indeed, as early as late April 1945, more than three months before Hiroshima—U.S. intelligence advised that the Japanese were likely to surrender when the Soviet Union entered the war if they were assured that it did not imply national annihilation. An April 29 Joint Intelligence Staff document put it this way: “If at any time the U.S.S.R. should enter the war, all Japanese will realize that absolute defeat is inevitable.”
For this reason—because it would drastically shorten the war—before the atomic bomb was successfully tested (on July 16, 1945) the U.S. had strongly and repeatedly urged the Soviet Union to join the battle as soon after the defeat of Hitler as possible. A target date of three months after Germany’s surrender was agreed upon—which put the planned Red Army attack date at roughly August 8, the war in Europe having ended on May 8. (In late July the date was temporarily extended by a week.)
Nor was there any doubt that the Soviet Union would join the war for its own reasons. At the Potsdam Conference in July (before the successful atomic test) President Truman entered the following in his diary after meeting with Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin on July 17: “He’ll be in the Jap War on August 15. Fini Japs when that comes about.”
The next day, July 18, in a private letter to his wife, the President wrote: “I’ve gotten what I came for—Stalin goes to war August 15 with no strings on it…I’ll say that we’ll end the war a year sooner now…”
The President had also been urged to offer assurances that the Japanese Emperor would be allowed to remain in some form of powerless figurehead role by many top advisers—including, importantly, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, the man who oversaw the development of the atomic bomb. Before the bomb was used he explicitly urged the President that in his judgment the war would end if such assurances were given—without the use of the atomic bomb.
Nor were there insuperable political obstacles to this approach: Leadings newspapers like the Washington Post, along with leaders of the opposition Republican Party were publically demanding such a course. (Moreover, the U.S. Army wanted to maintain the Emperor in some role so as to use his authority both to order surrender and to help manage Japan during the occupation period after war’s end—which, of course, is what, in fact, was done: Japan still has an Emperor.)
As the President’s diary entry and letter to his wife indicate, there is little doubt that he understood the advice given by the intelligence experts as to the likely impact of the upcoming Russian attack. Further evidence is also available on this central point: The American and British Joint Chiefs of Staff—the very top military leaders of the two nations—also met at Potsdam to consolidate planning for the final stages of the war in the Pacific. General Sir Hastings Ismay, Chief of Staff to the British Minister of Defence, summarized the latest (early July) combined US-UK intelligence evidence for Prime Minister Churchill this way: “[W]hen Russia came into the war against Japan, the Japanese would probably wish to get out on almost any terms short of the dethronement of the Emperor.”
The July joint intelligence finding, of course, for the most part simply restated what had been the essential view of American intelligence and many of the President’s top advisers throughout the spring and summer months leading up to the July meeting at Potsdam.
Among the many reasons the shock of Soviet entry was expected to be so powerful were: first, that it would directly challenge the Japanese army in what had been one of its most important strongholds, Manchuria; second, it would signal that there was literally no hope once the third of the three Great Powers was no longer neutral; and third, and perhaps even more important, with the Japanese economy in disarray Japanese leaders were extremely fearful that leftist groups might be powerfully encouraged, politically, if the Soviet Union were to play a major role in Japan’s defeat.
Furthermore, U.S. intelligence had broken Japanese codes and knew Japanese leaders were frantically hoping against hope as they attempted to arrange some form of settlement with Moscow as a mediator. Since their strategy was so heavily focused on what the Russians might or might not do, this further underscored the judgment that when the Red Army attacked, the end would not be far off: the illusory hope of a negotiation through Moscow would be thoroughly dashed as Soviet tanks rolled into Manchuria.
Instead, the United States rushed to use two atomic bombs at almost exactly the time that an August 8 Soviet attack had originally been scheduled: Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9. The timing itself has obviously raised questions among many historians. The available evidence, though not conclusive, strongly suggests that the atomic bombs may well have been used in part because American leaders “preferred”—as Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Martin Sherwin has put it—to end the war with the bombs rather than the Soviet attack. Impressing the Soviets during the early diplomatic sparring that ultimately became the Cold War also appears likely to have been a significant factor.
Some modern analysts have urged that Japanese military planning to thwart an invasion was much more advanced than had previously been understood, and hence more threatening to U.S. plans. Others have argued that Japanese military leaders were much more ardently committed to one or more of four proposed ‘conditions’ to attach to a surrender than a number of experts hold, and hence, again, would likely have fought hard to continue the war.
It is, of course, impossible to know whether the advice given by top U.S. and British intelligence that a Russian attack would likely to produce surrender was correct. We do know that the President ignored such judgments and the advice of people like Secretary of War Stimson that the war could be ended in other ways when he made his decision. This, of course, is an important fact in its own right in considering whether the decision was justified, since so many civilian lives were sacrificed in the two bombings.
Moreover, many leading historians who have studied both the U.S. and Japanese records carefully (including, among others, Barton Bernstein and Tsuyoshi Hasegawa) have concluded that Japan was indeed in such dire straits that–as U.S. and British intelligence had urged long before the bombings–the war would, in fact, have likely ended before the November invasion target date once the Russians entered.
It is also important to note that there was very little to lose by using the Russian attack to end the war. The atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and August 9. There were still three months to go before the first landing could take place in November. If the early August Russian attack did not work as expected, the bombs could obviously have been used anyway long before any lives were lost in the landing.
(Since use of the atomic bombs and Russia’s entry into the war came at almost exactly the same time, scholars have debated at great length which factor influenced the surrender decision more. This, of course, is a very different question from whether using the atomic bomb was justified as the only way to end the war. Still, it is instructive to note that speaking privately to top Army officials on August 14 the Japanese Emperor stated bluntly: “The military situation has changed suddenly. The Soviet Union entered the war against us. Suicide attacks can’t compete with the power of science. Therefore, there is no alternative…” And the Imperial Rescript the Emperor issued to officers and soldiers to make sure they would lay down their arms stated: “Now that the Soviet Union has entered the war, to continue under the present conditions at home and abroad would only result in further useless damage… Therefore…I am going to make peace.”)
The most illuminating perspective, however, comes from top World War II American military leaders. The conventional wisdom that the atomic bomb saved a million lives is so widespread that (quite apart from the inaccuracy of this figure, as noted by Samuel Walker) most Americans haven’t paused to ponder something rather striking to anyone seriously concerned with the issue: Not only did most top U.S. military leaders think the bombings were unnecessary and unjustified, many were morally offended by what they regarded as the unnecessary destruction of Japanese cities and what were essentially noncombat populations. Moreover, they spoke about it quite openly and publicly.
Here is how General Dwight D. Eisenhower reports he reacted when he was told by Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson that the atomic bomb would be used: “During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives.”
In another public statement the man who later became President of the United States was blunt: “It wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.”
General Curtis LeMay, the tough cigar-smoking Army Air Force “hawk,” was also dismayed. Shortly after the bombings he stated publically: “The war would have been over in two weeks. . . . The atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war at all.”
Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, went public with this statement: “The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace. . . . The atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military standpoint, in the defeat of Japan.”
I noted above the report General Sir Hastings Ismay, Chief of Staff to the British Minister of Defence, made to Prime Minister Churchill that “when Russia came into the war against Japan, the Japanese would probably wish to get out on almost any terms short of the dethronement of the Emperor.” On hearing that the atomic test was successful, Ismay’s private reaction was one of “revulsion.”
Shortly before his death General George C. Marshall quietly defended the decision, but for the most part he is on record as repeatedly saying that it was not a military decision, but rather a political one. Even more important, well before the atomic bombs were used, contemporary documents record show that Marshall felt “these weapons might first be used against straight military objectives such as a large naval installation and then if no complete result was derived from the effect of that, he thought we ought to designate a number of large manufacturing areas from which the people would be warned to leave–telling the Japanese that we intend to destroy such centers….”
As the document concerning Marshall’s views suggests, the question of whether the use of the atomic bomb was justified turns not only on whether other options were available, and whether top leaders were advised of this. It also turns on whether the bombs had to be used against a largely civilian target rather than a strictly military target—which, in fact, was the explicit choice since although there were Japanese troops in the cities, neither Hiroshima nor Nagasaki was deemed militarily vital by U.S. planners. (This is one of the reasons neither had been heavily bombed up to this point in the war.) Moreover, targeting was aimed explicitly on non-military facilities surrounded by workers’ homes. Here we can gain further insight from two additional, equally conservative military leaders.
Many years later President Richard Nixon recalled that “[General Douglas] MacArthur once spoke to me very eloquently about it, pacing the floor of his apartment in the Waldorf. He thought it a tragedy that the Bomb was ever exploded. MacArthur believed that the same restrictions ought to apply to atomic weapons as to conventional weapons, that the military objective should always be limited damage to noncombatants. . . . MacArthur, you see, was a soldier. He believed in using force only against military targets, and that is why the nuclear thing turned him off.”
Although many others could be cited, here, finally, is the statement of another conservative, a man who was a close friend of President Truman’s, his Chief of Staff (as well as President Roosevelt’s Chief of Staff), and the five star Admiral who presided over meetings of the Combined U.S.-U.K. Chiefs of Staff during the war—William D. Leahy: “[T]he use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender. . . . [I]n being the first to use it, we . . . adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.”
Gar Alperovitz is the Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland and co-founder of the Democracy Collaborative. Among his most recent books are America Beyond Capitalism and (with Lew Daly) Unjust Deserts: How the Rich Are Taking Our Common Inheritance and Why We Should Take It Back.
The Indoctrination of Missile Launch Officers August 2, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Nuclear weapons/power, War.
Tags: anti-nuclear, david drieger, just war, madd, morality, nazi scientists, nuclear deterrence, nuclear missiles, nuclear war, nuclear weapons, omar bradley, roger hollander, war, wernher von braun
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The US Air Force has a history of indoctrinating its missile launch officers to assure that these officers will have no moral qualms about following orders to use weapons of mass annihilation. In a PowerPoint presentation used in the training, the Air Force makes absurd arguments for the morality of war and the use of nuclear weapons. It includes numerous quotations from both the Old and New Testaments to make the case for the morality of war. For example, “Jesus Christ is the mighty warrior.” (Revelation 19:11)
The Air Force training acknowledges the devastation caused at Hiroshima and then raises questions for the young officers to contemplate, in seeking to assure that they are not hindered in their assignment to launch nuclear weapons if ordered to do so. Among the questions are those below with my own response to each of them in italics.
- Can you imagine a set of circumstances that would warrant a nuclear launch from the U.S., knowing it would kill thousands of noncombatants?
No, I can’t imagine such a circumstance, and with nuclear weapons, the number of civilians killed could reach far beyond thousands into the millions.
- Can we exercise enough faith in our decision makers, political and military, to follow through with the orders that are given to us?
No, I can’t exercise such faith in our decision makers. I know, for example, that in my lifetime, US leaders have not always been honest and have led us into aggressive and illegal wars on false grounds.
- Can we train physically, emotionally, and spiritually for a job we hope we never have to do?
Why not put our efforts where our hopes and our consciences are instead of training for a job that would cause untold death and suffering?
- To accomplish deterrence, we must have the capability and the will to launch nuclear weapons. Do we have the will now? What about fifty years from now?
Deterrence has many flaws. The capability and the will to launch nuclear weapons are not sufficient to assure that nuclear deterrence will be effective. It requires, for example, rationality and clear communications. The will required is the will to massively slaughter innocent people. Nuclear weapons are immoral instruments and nuclear deterrence is an immoral doctrine that could result in mass annihilation. We profess to have the will to use nuclear weapons now, and I can only respond by continuing to work to assure that we will have moved beyond nuclear weapons and the theory of deterrence long before fifty years have passed.
- Bonus question: Are we morally safer in other career fields, leaving the key turning to someone else?
Bonus answer: We are morally safer working to eliminate all nuclear weapons than to maintain them, assuring that no one has either the capacity or the moral indoctrination to launch these weapons of mass annihilation.
To bolster its argument for the morality of using nuclear weapons, the Air Force training quotes former Nazi rocket scientist Wernher von Braun: “We wanted to see the world spared another conflict such as Germany had just been through, and we felt that only by surrendering such a weapon to people who are guided by the Bible could such an assurance to the world be best secured.” It is a fine touch to turn to a former Nazi scientist for moral standards.
Captain Charles Nicholls, Electronic Warfare Officer of the 328th Bombardment Squadron, is quoted in the PowerPoint as stating: “Each of us in the strategic nuclear deterrence force must establish a moral foundation for our service. Our will to unhesitatingly fulfill our duty will strengthen deterrence, the morally best choice of action to assure peace and freedom.” He calls, in essence, for a moral foundation to unhesitatingly choose the morality of massive nuclear annihilation.
The PowerPoint presentation also includes a quote from General Omar Bradley: “Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount.” The Air Force would do well to reflect upon General Bradley’s statement.
The Air Force seems to have been comfortable with attempting to demonstrate its nuclear prowess in combination with its ethical infancy. It has just announced, however, that it has taken this PowerPoint out of its curriculum “to have a good hard look at it and make sure it reflected views of modern society.” It would be a significant step forward if it were to find that society’s views, long after the end of the Cold War, reflected the morality of a desire to urgently achieve the phased, verifiable, irreversible and transparent elimination of nuclear weapons.
ARTIST: Tom Lehrer TITLE: Wernher Von Braun Lyrics and Chords Gather round while I sing you of Wernher von Braun A man whose allegiance is ruled by expedience Call him a Nazi, he won't even frown "Ha, Nazi schmazi," says Wernher von Braun / G7 - C - / G7 C G7 C / G7 - C A7 / Dm C G7 C / Don't say that he's hypocritical Say rather that he's apolitical "Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down That's not my department," says Wernher von Braun / B7 - Em - / / G7 - C A7 / Dm C G7 C / Some have harsh words for this man of renown But some think our attitude should be one of gratitude Like the widows and cripples in old London town Who owe their large pensions to Wernher von Braun You too may be a big hero Once you've learned to count backwards to zero "In German oder English I know how to count down Und I'm learning Chinese," says Wernher von Braun
Tags: afghanistant war, congress, dadt, gays in military, Iraq war, JOHN T. BENNETT, military, military budget, nuclear, nuclear war, nuclear weapons, roger hollander, start, war
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Roger’s Note: A single word: INSANE.
Roger PS: DEFENSE spending? I am old enough to remember when it was more accurately called the WAR DEPARTMENT. I am not joking, kiddies.
by John T. Bennett
The House Armed Services Committee early Thursday approved a spending measure that clears the Pentagon and Energy Department to spend nearly $700 billion next fiscal year.
The panel approved a baseline Pentagon spending level of $553 billion, matching the Obama administration’s request. It also authorized the Energy Department to spend $18 billion on nuclear weapons projects, and cleared the military to spend $118 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The $690 billion defense authorization measure is expected to hit the House floor the week of May 23, according to aides.
The marathon markup began Wednesday morning and stretched into the early morning hours of Thursday.
As one day became another, the committee approved an amendment aimed at delaying a repeal of the ban on openly gay military service members. Democrats threw out the so-called “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy last year during a lame-duck legislative session, against the wishes of most Republicans.
The provision approved by the panel would add the four service chiefs to the list of military leaders that must certify the military to official end the ban. The services are in the midst of training personnel on how they should behave in the post-“Don’t ask” era.
Experts see the amendment — which has brought the ire of gay groups — as a delaying tactic, with even those who supported it acknowledging the chiefs inevitably will sign on.
Panel Republicans pushed through language reiterating that the U.S. is at war with al Qaeda and the Taliban, with Democrats charging they are looking to use it as a tool in the policy debate over detainees.
The committee engaged in a sometimes-testy partisan debate over various amendments brought by Republicans that would put a number of stipulations on the New START nuclear weapons reduction treaty the Obama administration hammered out last year with Russia. The Senate has ratified that pact, but House GOP members want to make sure this — and future — presidents live up to terms of the deal made to secure ratification.
To get GOP support in the Senate, President Obama agreed to spend billions to upgrade America’s existing nuclear arsenal.
The House Armed Services panel approved several amendments that would require presidential notification if specific aspects of the nation’s nuclear targeting strategy are changed and keep “forward-deployed nuclear forces … based in Europe.”
Another New START amendment would limit the executive branch’s ability to spend funds between 2011 and 2017 to retire any system covered by the U.S.-Russia treaty. Democrats charged the amendment was too broad and undefined, with several claiming it would “tie the hands” of Obama and future presidents.
It does, however, contain an out for the executive branch, stating such retirements can move forward if the secretaries of Energy and Defense “may jointly waive the limitation” in a written notification to Congress.
On Wednesday afternoon, the committee adopted a provision that would trigger a competition to build F-35 fighter engine if certain improvements are made to the primary power plant. The panel also killed an amendment to strip $380 million from the F-35 program by cutting the planned buy of the Marines’ B variant by two jets.
On nearly all major hardware programs, the committee’s bill includes the funding levels sought by the Obama administration.
One exception was a big-ticket missile program, however.
After a heated exchange between senior Democratic and Republican panel members, the committee agreed to propose adding $100 million to the Ground Based Midcourse Defense missile program. As a part of that debate, Republicans agreed to add the same amount to the bill for National Guard and Reserve equipment by taking $100 million from a troubled project to place an advanced sensor on a C-12 aircraft.
The debate got so intense that, at its conclusion, panel Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.) advised his members to “calm down” as the committee prepared for a dinner break.
Tags: atomic bomb, atomic war, eisenhower, ira chernus, military industrial, nuclear, nuclear blast, nuclear bomb, nuclear detonation, nuclear fallout, nuclear radiation, nuclear threat, nuclear war, roger hollander, terrorism, war
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Monday 27 December 2010
Good news! You’ve got a pretty good chance of surviving a terrorist’s nuclear blast in your city — especially if you’re a rich white man. Women, ethnic minorities and lower socioeconomic classes are more likely to be “stricken by psychiatric disorders,” and once they start going crazy they’re less likely to survive.
That’s just one of the startling revelations in the new second edition of “Planning Guidance for Response to a Nuclear Detonation,” a 130-page report produced, thanks to your tax dollars, by the Obama administration’s National Security Staff Interagency Policy Coordination Subcommittee for Preparedness and Response to Radiological and Nuclear Threats. (I’m not making this up, honest.)
And there’s more good news. Even if you are not rich, white and male, a nuke detonated in a major U.S. city is “is more survivable than most people think.” That’s what “an official deeply involved in the planning” told the New York Times’ William Broad, that intrepid reporter of all things nuclear, who broke the story.
If you are a fan of Kafka or Alice in Wonderland, you might want to read the whole report for yourself (though first you’ll have to memorize the 50-plus acronyms it uses). For the rest of you, here are just a few of the more surreal tidbits:
If a terrorist detonates a nuclear weapon in your city, you’ll have “a few seconds” after seeing the flash “to take limited protective measures.” But “five seconds … is enough time for a person with the right information to seek basic shelter (e.g., duck and cover),” the authors assure us, although they admit that when the government promoted “duck and cover” during the Cold War era it left the public “skeptical of preparedness messages.” Are you skeptical yet?
You can get “the right information” from this report, stuff you might not have figured out on your own, like “Survivors should not seek shelter in buildings that are on fire.”
And there will be plenty of buildings on fire, especially in the MD (Moderate Damage) zone, estimated to be a half-mile to a mile from the blast point. (The SD [Severe Damage] zone, within a half-mile of ground zero, will be obliterated, so it gets little attention in this manual for emergency responders.) In the MD “fires fed by broken gas lines, ruptured fuel tanks, and other sources will be prevalent … a major threat to survivors” and to responders rushing to the rescue.
Nevertheless, “search and rescue missions should be practicable in the MD zone,” and “many casualties will survive.” The MD will be “the focus of early life-saving operations,” since that’s where survivors “will benefit most from urgent medical care.”
Responders apparently won’t be deterred by the fires, nor by the “elevated radiation levels, unstable buildings and other structures, downed power lines, ruptured gas lines, hazardous (perhaps airborne) chemicals, sharp metal objects, broken glass … substantial rubble and crashed and overturned vehicles in streets.”
“Passage of rescue vehicles [will be] difficult or impossible” in the MD. “It will take a concerted effort to get responder resources to keep pushing forward.” Their path will have to be cleared by “heavy equipment and debris removal capabilities.” Oh, and “radiation levels in the MD zone may be very high.” All in all, “responder units within one or two miles from ground zero may be compromised or completely nonfunctional” while thousands lie dying.
The responders will be moving in from the LD (Low Damage) zone, where the streets will be filled with broken glass, but anyone wounded by the flying glass will be ignored as long as they are “ambulatory.” Of course responders will face that pesky little problem of EMP (electromagnetic pulse): “Communications equipment (cell towers, etc.) electronics destroyed or disrupted, computer equipment electrical components destroyed, control systems electrical components destroyed, water and electrical system control components destroyed or disrupted, and other electronic devices damage.” Up to four miles from ground zero, “it may be days before communications capabilities are reestablished. Within this area, all communications capabilities will be destroyed or severely hindered.”
Yet the report is filled with detailed plans for “search and rescue missions” and “urgent medical care” somehow being carried out in the MD, all supposedly coordinated with impressive precision by “incident commanders,” because “delays in issuing and implementing recommendations (or orders) could result in a large number of unnecessary fatalities.” How they’ll get all those orders issued with no functioning communication system remains unexplained.
As the Citizen Corps Web site points out, “given the daytime population density of a large modern city, the number that would be hurt by prompt effects of the blast or threatened by fallout particles could be in the hundreds of thousands.” And it’s obvious that in the real world — as opposed to the report’s fantasy world — the vast majority would get no medical care and thus would die.
But wait. There is still more good news: “Response capabilities more than five miles away from ground zero are likely to be only nominally affected by blast and EMP and should be able to mobilize and respond, provided they are not within the path of dangerous fallout levels.” And the DF (Dangerous Fallout) zone will extend only a mere “10 – 20 miles” (though there will be a “larger contaminated area beyond the DF zone” too). What’s more, all the dangerous fallout will come down “within about 24 hours.” So the millions in that zone will be pretty safe if they quickly get inside the closest “robust shelter” and stay there for more than a day. (That includes survivors in the MD, apparently — if they can find any robust buildings that aren’t burning.)
Of course “effective decontamination” is required before entering a shelter. What’s “effective”? At one point, the report says that “simply brushing off outer garments will be sufficient to protect oneself and others.” But at other points the advice is quite different: “Remove clothes and shower … place your clothing in a plastic bag and seal or tie the bag … put on clean clothing, if available.”
No clean clothes (and probably no showers) in that handy shelter building? Don’t worry. All those naked folks can “assume that the dominant behavioral response will likely be … pro-social, altruistic behaviors.” Why, it might even be fun.
Sooner or later, “effective decontamination methods that are easiest to implement” will begin: vacuuming, fire hosing, steam cleaning, and the like. If that doesn’t work, the authorities will proceed to “sandblasting” and “road resurfacing.” As they say in Australia, no worries, mate.
To be fair, the report does admit there are some big problems to solve: “People will not be able to discern which shelters are more adequate than others.” Plus there’s “the natural instinct to run from danger” rather than duck into the nearest building. The answer is advance education, now: “Response planners should implement public messaging prior to the disaster.”
One good way to get the word out is to target “grade school students who can bring the information home … in the form of school calendars and book bags labeled with safety tips.” And parents should be informed about schools’ plans to keep their kids “sheltered-in-place” — even though (in bold letters) “procedures that separate children from parents will be unsuccessful.”
By the way, all this planning assumes only a 10-kiloton explosion, which puts “several hundred thousand people at risk of death” if they don’t get the word about shelter within a few minutes. Of course 10K is a mere firecracker in terms of today’s nuclear arsenals. But the study assumes terrorists won’t be able to manage anything bigger.
Why make such an assumption? I found a clue in my research on President Eisenhower’s approach to nuclear danger. Ike was determined that in case of a nuclear attack the U.S. should be prepared for “digging ourselves out of ashes, starting again,” and winning a nuclear war. “If we assumed too much damage,” he told subordinates, “there would be little point in planning.” So he directed civil defense planners to keep their “assumptions as to the extent of damage within limits which provide a basis for feasible planning,” rather than dealing with what would really happen. Maybe the same unreality prevails in the Obama administration?
Today’s planners certainly sound a lot like Eisenhower, who wanted to teach Americans to be “resolute survivors… a concerted national effort at patriotic renewal and spiritual advance.” The big problem, in his view, was “how you get people to face such a possibility without getting hysterical.”
In 2010, the head of FEMA told the Times’ William Broad: “We have to get past the mental block that says it’s too terrible to think about. … We have to be ready to deal with it.” The director for preparedness policy at the National Security Council declared that the administration wants “to enhance national resilience — to withstand disruption, adapt to change and rapidly recover.”
Broad seems eager to promote the upbeat message: “The big surprise was how taking shelter for as little as several hours made a huge difference in survival rates. ‘This has been a game changer,’ Brooke Buddemeier, a Livermore health physicist, told a Los Angeles conference.” If everyone living a mile or more from ground zero of an attack took shelter “at the core of a big office building or in an underground garage, ‘We’d have no significant exposures,’ Mr. Buddemeier told the conference, and thus virtually no casualties from fallout.”
Of course they’d actually have to stay sheltered for at least 24 hours and maybe “several days,” according to the report — without food, many bleeding from the flying glass, some blinded from seeing the flash. Then there would be all those women, ethnic minorities, and lower socioeconomic folks who would be going crazy. Oh, and did I mention that “many people will be relocated for months to years at great distances downwind?” The report mentions it only very incidentally. No worries, mate.
Reading this report reminded me of my days doing research in the Eisenhower Library, trying to master the art of laughing and crying at the same time. The tragedy of Eisenhower was that, as he created an image of a president pursuing peace, he blocked possibilities for disarmament and Cold War reconciliation at every turn. Instead he expanded the nuclearized military-industrial complex (and then on his last day in office fooled history into thinking he opposed it) while making fantasy plans for surviving and winning a nuclear war.
Now the Obama administration wants us to learn to accept the prospect of a major American city destroyed. Its report never even mentions the possibility of averting disaster by changing the U.S. policies that enrage people, whether abroad or at home. Maybe the administration has another interagency task force working on that problem.
But I doubt it. They would have to treat those who dream of using nukes as monstrous people who may nonetheless have rational grievances worth paying attention to. Remember that our own government has reams of plans to use nukes in the worst-case scenario if its grievances are ignored. But the fundamental principle of U.S. foreign policy since World War II has been to divide all humanity into two groups: people like us, the good guys, who are by definition rational even when planning to use, or actually using, nuclear weapons; and the bad guys, the irrational evildoers bent on wreaking destruction for the sake of destruction. In that scenario, there’s no point in even thinking about the bad guys’ motivating grievances, much less trying to address them constructively.
No administration can even hint at challenging that principle and hope to get its leader re-elected. Politically it’s so much safer just to spread the good news that a nuke in your city is more survivable than you thought — especially if you’re a rich white man.