Archive for September, 2016
September 30, 2016
CONGRESSMAN LIEU & SENATOR MARKEY INTRODUCE THE RESTRICTING FIRST USE OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS ACT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Upon introduction of this legislation, Senator Markey issued the following statement:
“Nuclear war poses the gravest risk to human survival. Unfortunately, by maintaining the option of using nuclear weapons first in a conflict, U.S. policy increases the risk of unintended nuclear escalation. The President should not use nuclear weapons except in response to a nuclear attack. This legislation enshrines this simple principle into law. I thank Rep. Lieu for his partnership on this common-sense bill during this critical time in our nation’s history.”
Upon introduction of this legislation, Mr. Lieu issued the following statement:
“Our Founding Fathers would be rolling over in their graves if they knew the President could launch a massive, potentially civilization-ending military strike without authorization from Congress. Our Constitution created a government based on checks and balances and gave the power to declare war solely to the people’s representatives. A nuclear first strike, which can kill hundreds of millions of people and invite a retaliatory strike that can destroy America, is war. The current nuclear launch approval process, which gives the decision to potentially end civilization as we know it to a single individual, is flatly unconstitutional. I am proud to introduce the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2016with Sen. Markey to realign our nation’s nuclear weapons launch policy with the Constitution.”
Praise for the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2016
William J. Perry, Former Secretary of Defense – “During my period as Secretary of Defense, I never confronted a situation, or could even imagine a situation, in which I would recommend that the President make a first strike with nuclear weapons—understanding that such an action, whatever the provocation, would likely bring about the end of civilization. I believe that the legislation proposed by Congressman Lieu and Senator Markey recognizes that terrible reality. Certainly a decision that momentous for all of civilization should have the kind of checks and balances on Executive powers called for by our Constitution.”
Tom Z. Collina, Policy Director of Ploughshares Fund – “Current US nuclear policy is undemocratic and unconstitutional. In the realm of nuclear weapons, the United States is closer to a dictatorship than a democracy. The President has absolute authority to use nuclear weapons, and Congress has been cut out. It is time to bring democracy to nuclear policy, and Rep. Lieu and Sen. Markey’s bill moves us in that direction.”
Megan Amundson, Executive Director of Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND) – “Rep. Lieu and Sen. Markey have rightly called out the dangers of only one person having his or her finger on the nuclear button. The potential misuse of this power in the current global climate has only magnified this concern. It is time to make real progress toward lowering the risk that nuclear weapons are ever used again, and this legislation is a good start.”
Catherine Thomasson, MD, Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility – “We must understand that our own nuclear weapons pose an unacceptable risk to our national security. The “successful” use of our own nuclear arsenal would cause catastrophic climate disruption around the world including here in the United States. These weapons are suicide bombs, and no one individual should have the power to introduce them into a conflict. The Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2016 is an important step to lessen the chance these weapons will be used.”
Congressman Lieu is a member of the National Security Subcommittee of the House Oversight Committee.
September 27, 2016
David Swanson via WarIsACrime.org
Wow! We’ve never had such overwhelmingly positive feedback on anything. People loved the #NoWar2016 conference!
You can now plan your own event using the videos, or just watch the videos yourself for free at home here:
We’ll be producing a highlight video too.
We owe a huge thank you to American University School of International Service, Jeff Bachman, Barbara Wien, Karen Ives, Brienne Kordis, and all of our volunteers organized by Pat Elder, and all of our speakers, MCs, workshop leaders and participants for pulling this event off, plus a lot of gratitude to all of our partners and cosponsors listed on the website and below!
We’ve been flooded with new interest and support because of this exposure.
The tough part is that we’re also being looked to now to lead the way and follow through on what we’ve started. We’re looking into launching a campaign for divestment from war industries, as well as campaigns based on the topics of the seven workshops held this pastSunday: closing foreign bases, adding U.S. to ICC, countering recruitment, banning nukes, freeing Palestine, creating friendship with Russia, and developing the work of A Global Security System: An Alternative to War.
Participants in the sold-out conference received a free copy of the new edition of that book. It lays out all of our thinking on how to replace war with nonviolent conflict resolution. It makes a terrific text book, already being used at American University. You can buy it in bulk here and we will send you the new edition. Just get 10 or more and share them or sell them at a local event. Or get a single copy from your local bookstore or Amazon.com.
World Beyond War began as a volunteer operation. It is still mostly volunteer. Our whole coordinating committee, advisory board, and all of our country coordinators around the world are volunteer. Our director is our sole part-time employee.
If we are going to take on the work that needs to be done, we’re going to need to hire a full-time organizer. We’re going to need to raise $50,000. Can you get us started by donating a little or a lot on our donate page?
Thank you for everything you’re doing to end war!
There may be a vote in the U.S. Congress tomorrow to override President Obama’s veto of the unanimously passed bill that would allow family members of 911 victims to sue Saudi Arabia. If you think war victims around the world suing war-making governments is preferable to responses of more terrorism and war, phone the U.S. Congress, both houses, and tell them to override the veto!
Partners of #NoWar2016 Included: Jubitz Family Foundation, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, RootsAction.org, Code Pink, International Peace Bureau, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Jane Addams Peace Association, Veterans For Peace, Delaware Peace Club, United for Peace and Justice.
Co-Sponsors Included: Washington Peace Center, Pace e Bene/Campaign Nonviolence,Liberty Tree Foundation, TheRealNews.com, Nonviolence International, Peace Action Montgomery, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Military Families Speak Out, Peace Action, WILPF-DC, International Movement for a Just World (JUST), Center for Bangladesh Studies, Society for Peace and Conflict Resolution at American University, Nuke Watch, Friends of Franz Jagerstatter, National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR), WILPF-DC, International Society for Inter Cultural Study and Research (ISISAR), Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice, On Earth Peace, The Virginia Defenders, UNAC, Pax Christi Metro DC-Baltimore,Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice, National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund/Peace Tax Foundation.
Help support DavidSwanson.org, WarIsACrime.org, and TalkNationRadio.org by clicking here:http://davidswanson.org/donate.
If you were forwarded this email please sign up at https://actionnetwork.org/forms/activism-alerts-from-david-swanson.
September 26, 2016
The United States government recently gave more than a million dollars to the family of one victim it had killed in one of its wars. The victim happened to be Italian. If you were to find all the Iraqi families with any surviving members who had loved ones killed by the United States it might be a million families. A million times a million dollars would be enough to treat those Iraqis in this respect as if they were Europeans. Who can tell me — raise your hand — how much is a million times a million?
That’s right, a trillion.
Now, can you count to a trillion starting from one. Go ahead. We’ll wait.
Actually we won’t wait, because if you counted one number per second you would get to a trillion in 31,709 years. And we have other speakers to get to here.
A trillion is a number we can’t comprehend. For most purposes it’s useless. The greediest oligarch doesn’t dream of ever seeing a fraction of that many dollars. Teeny fractions of that many dollars would transform the world. Three percent of it per year would end starvation on earth. One percent per year would end the lack of clean drinking water. Ten percent per year would transform green energy or agriculture or education. Three percent per year for four years, in current dollars, was the Marshall Plan.
And yet the United States government through numerous departments dumps a trillion dollars per year into preparing for war. So that works out perfectly. Take one year off and compensate Iraqi victims. Take some additional months and begin compensating Afghans, Libyans, Syrians, Pakistanis, Yemenis, Somalis, etc. I’m well aware of not listing them all. Remember the 31,709 years problem.
Of course you can never fully compensate a destroyed country like Iraq or a family anywhere that has lost a loved one. But you could benefit millions and billions of people every year and save and improve millions and billions of lives for less than is spent on preparing for more wars. And this is the number one way in which war kills — by taking away the funding for anything else. Globally it’s $2 trillion per year plus trillions in damage and destruction.
When you try to weigh the good and the bad to decide whether starting or continuing a war is justified, on the bad side has to go the cost: financial, moral, human, environmental, etc., of war preparations. Even if you think you can imagine how there could be a justifiable war some day, you have to consider whether it’s justifiable in the way that a corporation that pollutes the earth and abuses its workers and customers is profitable — namely by writing off most of the costs.
Of course, people like to imagine that there have been a few justifiable wars, so that the chance of another one outweighs all the destruction of endless war preparation plus all the unjustifiable wars it produces. The United States simply had to fight a revolution against England although nonviolent corrections to injustices were working well, and the reason that Canada didn’t have to have a war with England is because there are no touchdowns in hockey, or something. The United States simply had to kill three quarters of a million people and then end slavery, even though slavery did not end, because all those other countries that ended slavery, and this city we’re in that ended slavery, without killing all those people first now lack the valuable heritage of Confederate flags and bitter racist resentment that we so cherish, or something.
World War II was totally justifiable because President Roosevelt was 6 days off in his prediction of the Japanese attack he’d worked to provoke, and the U.S. and England refused to evacuate Jewish refugees from Germany, the Coast Guard chased a ship of them away from Miami, the State Department denied Anne Frank’s visa request, all peace efforts to halt the war and liberate the camps were blocked, several times the number of people who died in the camps died outside them in the war, the all-out destruction of civilians and the permanent militarization of the United States have been disastrous precedents, the fantasy of Germany taking over the Western Hemisphere just as soon as it finished conquering the Soviet Union was based on forged documents of Karl Rovian quality, the United States gave syphilis to black troops during the war and to Guatemalans during the Nuremberg trials, and the U.S. military hired hundreds of top Nazis at the end of the war who fit right in, but this was a question of good versus evil.
The new trend of pitching wars as philanthropy picks up a sliver of U.S. public support, but each such war relies on greater support from those who thirst for blood. And because no humanitarian war has yet benefitted humanity, this propaganda leans heavily on wars that did not happen. Five years ago one simply had to bomb Libya because of Rwanda — where U.S.-backed militarism had created the disaster and never would bombing anybody have helped things. A few years later U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power openly and shamelessly wrote that we had a responsibility not to look at the disaster created in Libya in order to be properly willing to bomb Syria, and we had to bomb Syria because of Rwanda. Also because of Kosovo, where the propaganda had featured a photograph of a thin man behind a fence. In reality the photographer had been behind a fence and there had been a fat man next to the thin one. But the point was to bomb Serbia and fuel atrocities in order to stop the holocaust, which the U.S. government at the time of WWII had had absolutely zero interest in stopping.
So, let’s get this straight once and for all. It’s to our credit that wars have to be marketed as good for people. But we are well-meaning fools if we believe it. Wars must end, and the even more damaging institution of war preparation must be abolished.
I don’t expect that we can and am not sure that we should abolish the U.S. military by next Thursday, but it’s important that we understand the necessity and desirability of abolishing it, so that we can begin taking steps that will move us in that direction. A series of steps might look like this:
1) Stop arming other countries and groups.
2) Create US support for and participation in institutions of law, nonviolence, diplomacy, and aid, as developed in the book in your packets, A Global Security System: An Alternative to War.
3) End ongoing wars.
4) Take the U.S. down to no more than twice the next leading military spender — investing in transition to a peaceful sustainable economy.
5) Close foreign bases.
6) Eliminate weapons that lack a defensive purpose.
7) Take the U.S. down to no more than the next leading military spender, and continue to keep pace with a reverse arms race. It is almost a certainty that the United States could trigger a universal reverse arms race if it chose to lead it.
8) Eliminate nuclear and other worst weapons from the earth. A nice step would be for the U.S. to join the convention on cluster bombs now that the U.S. has momentarily stopped producing them.
9) Establish a plan for the complete abolition of war.
Even the necessary wars? The just wars? The good and glorious wars? Yes, but if it’s any consolation, they do not exist.
There is no need to be arming the world to the teeth. It’s not economically beneficial or morally justifiable in any way. Wars today have U.S. weapons on both sides. ISIS videos have U.S. guns and U.S. vehicles. That’s not just or glorious. It’s merely greedy and stupid.
Studies like Erica Chenoweth’s have established that nonviolent resistance to tyranny is far more likely to succeed, and the success far more likely to be lasting, than with violent resistance. So if we look at something like the nonviolent revolution in Tunisia in 2011, we might find that it meets as many criteria as any other situation for a supposedly Just War, except that it wasn’t a war at all. One wouldn’t go back in time and argue for a strategy less likely to succeed but likely to cause a lot more pain and death.Despite the relative scarcity of examples thus far of nonviolent resistance to foreign occupation, there are those already beginning to claim a pattern of success there too. I’ll quote Stephen Zunes:
“During the first Palestinian intifada in the 1980s, much of the subjugated population effectively became self-governing entities through massive noncooperation and the creation of alternative institutions, forcing Israel to allow for the creation of the Palestine Authority and self-governance for most of the urban areas of the West Bank. Nonviolent resistance in the occupied Western Sahara has forced Morocco to offer an autonomy proposal “. In the final years of German occupation of Denmark and Norway during WWII, the Nazis effectively no longer controlled the population. Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia freed themselves from Soviet occupation through nonviolent resistance prior to the USSR’s collapse. In Lebanon ” thirty years of Syrian domination was ended through a large-scale, nonviolent uprising in 2005.”
End quote. He has more examples. And one might, I think, look at numerous examples of resistance to the Nazis, and in German resistance to the French invasion of the Ruhr in 1923, or perhaps in the one-time success of the Philippines and the ongoing success of Ecuador in evicting U.S. military bases, and of course the Gandhian example of booting the British out of India. But the far more numerous examples of nonviolent success over domestic tyranny also provide a guide toward future action.
On the side of choosing a nonviolent response to an attack is its greater likelihood of succeeding and of that success lasting longer, as well as less damage being done in the process. Sometimes we get so busy pointing out that anti-U.S. terrorism is fueled by U.S. aggression — as it is — that we forget to point out that the terrorism fails in its objectives just as the larger U.S. terrorism fails in its objectives. Iraqi resistance to U.S. occupation is not a model for U.S. resistance to some fantasized invasion of the United States by Vladimir Putin and Edward Snowden leading a wild band of Muslim Hondurans to come and take our guns away.
The right model is nonviolent noncooperation, the rule of law, and diplomacy. And that can begin now. The chance of violent conflicts can be greatly minimized.
In the absence of an attack, however, while claims are being made that a war should be launched as a supposed “last resort,” nonviolent solutions are available in infinite variety and can be tried over and over again. The United States has never actually reached the point of attacking another country as an actual and literal last resort. And it never can.
If you could achieve that, then a moral decision would still require that the imagined benefits of your war outweigh all the damage done by maintaining the institution of war, and that’s an incredibly high hurdle.
What we need, in order to bring nonviolent pressure to bear on whoever occupies the White House and the Capitol four months from now is a larger, more energized movement for the abolition of war, with a vision of what we could have instead.
During World War II, before the United States maintained a permanent state of war, a Congressman from Maryland suggested that after the war the Pentagon could be turned into a hospital and thereby put to some useful purpose. I still think that’s a good idea. I may try to mention it to the Pentagon staff when we visit there at 9 a.m. on Monday.
This is the vision we need to advance, one in which a new and valuable purpose must be found, as in these necklaces made from recycled nuclear weapons, for everything that used to be part of the immoral criminal enterprise that was known as war.
|The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
September 26, 2016
Dr Jim Green
20th September 2016
The clean-up after the February 2014 explosion at the world’s only deep underground repository for nuclear waste in New Mexico, USA, is massively over budget, writes Jim Green – and full operations won’t resume until at least 2021. The fundamental cause of the problems: high level radioactive waste, poor regulation, rigid deadlines and corporate profit make a dangerous mix.
The facility was never designed to operate in a contaminated state. It was supposed to open clean and stay clean, but now it will have to operate dirty. Nobody at the Energy Department wants to consider the potential that it isn’t fixable.
An analysis by theLos Angeles Timesfinds that costs associated with the February 2014 explosion at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) could total US$2 billion.
The direct cost of the clean-up is now estimated at US$640 million, based on a contract modification made in July with contractor Nuclear Waste Partnership.
The cost-plus contract leaves open the possibility of even higher costs as the clean-up continues and, as the LA Times notes, it does not include the complete replacement of the contaminated ventilation system (which failed after the 2014 explosion) or any future costs of operating the repository longer than originally planned.
The lengthy closure following the explosion could result in waste disposal operations extending for an additional seven years, at an additional cost of US$200 million per year or US$1.4 billion (€1.25b) in total. Thus direct (clean-up) costs and indirect costs could exceed US$2 billion.
And further costs are being incurred storing waste at other nuclear sites pending the re-opening of WIPP. Federal officials hope to resume limited operations at WIPP by the end of this year, but full operations cannot resume until a new ventilation system is completed in about 2021.
As expensive as the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster
The US$2 billion figure is similar to the costs associated with the 1979 Three Mile Island disaster. The clean-up of Three Mile Island was estimated to cost US$1 billion by 1993, or US$1.7 billion adjusted for inflation today.
Yet another cost for the federal government was a US$74 million (€66m) settlement paidto the state of New Mexico in January 2016. The negotiated agreement relates to the 14 February 2014 explosion and a truck fire that took place nine days earlier.
It sets out corrective actions that Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL – the source of the waste drum that exploded) and WIPP must take to resolve permit violations. The US$74 million settlement is in lieu of fines imposed on the federal government by the state of New Mexico for the two incidents.
Given that the February 2014 fire and explosion exposed multiple levels of mismanagement and slack regulation, it was no surprise that the immediate response to the incidents was problematic. As discussed previously in The Ecologist, everything that was supposed to happen, didn’t – and everything that wasn’t supposed to happen, did.
And in light of the systemic problems with management and regulation, it is no surprise that clean-up operations over the past 2.5 years have been problematic.
GAO identifies a host of problems
An August 2016 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the federal Department of Energy (DOE) did not meet its initial cost and schedule estimates for restarting nuclear waste disposal operations at WIPP, resulting in a cost increase of about US$64 million (€57m) and a delay of nine months.
Worse still, mismanagement of the clean-up has involved poor safety practices. Last year, the DOE’s Independent Office of Enterprise Assessments released a report that found that WIPP clean-up operations were being rushed to meet the scheduled reopening date and that this pressure was contributing to poor safety practices.
The report states: “The EA analysis considered operational events and reviews conducted during May 2014 through May 2015 and identified a significant negative trend in performance of work. During this period, strong and unrealistic schedule pressures on the workforce contributed to poor safety performance and incidents during that time are indicators of the potential for a future serious safety incident.”
The report points to “serious issues in conduct of operations, job hazard analysis, and safety basis.” Specific problems identified in the report include:
- workers incorrectly changing filters resulting in five safety violations;
- waste oil left underground for an extended period despite a renewed emphasis on combustible load reduction;
- fire water lines inadequately protected against freezing;
- inadequate processes leading a small fire underground, followed by the failure of workers and their supervisor to report the fire;
- an operator improperly leaving a trainee to operate a waste hoist, the hoist being improperly used, tripping a safety relay and shutting down the hoist for hours;
- an engineer violating two safety postings to remove a waste hoist safety guard;
- workers removing a grating to an underground tank and not posting a barricade, causing a fall hazard;
- a backlog of hundreds of preventive maintenance items; and
- failing to properly track overtime such that “personnel may be working past the point of safety”.
The Office of Enterprise Assessments’ report concludes: “The issues discussed above could be leading indicators of a potentially serious incident in the future. Many more issues involving conduct of operations, maintenance, and inadequate controls also raise concerns about the possibility of a serious incident.”
Earlier this year, clean-up work in two underground areas was suspended for one month due to poor air quality. Work was stopped on February 22 after equipment detected elevated levels of carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds.
Radioactive contamination of the underground remains a problem, albeit the case that the size of the restricted area has been significantly reduced. “The facility was never designed to operate in a contaminated state,” said Don Hancock from the Southwest Research and Information Center.
“It was supposed to open clean and stay clean, but now it will have to operate dirty. Nobody at the Energy Department wants to consider the potential that it isn’t fixable.”
Los Alamos National Laboratory at fault as well
While a number of reports have exposed problems at WIPP, others have exposed serious problems at LANL. An April 2015 report by DOE’s Accident Investigation Board (AIB) concluded that a culture of lax oversight and inadequate safety protocols and training at LANL led to the February 2014 explosion at WIPP.
“If LANL had adequately developed and implemented repackaging and treatment procedures that incorporated suitable hazard controls and included a rigorous review and approval process, the [February 2014] release would have been preventable”, the AIB report states.
“The ineffectiveness and weaknesses in the oversight activities were at all levels,” said Ted Wyka, the DOE safety expert who led the investigation.
The AIB report points to the failure of LANL to effectively review and control waste packaging, train contractors and identify weaknesses in waste handling. The board also found that LANL, contractor EnergySolutions and the National Nuclear Security Administration office at LANL failed to ensure that a strong safety culture existed at the lab.
The AIB found that workers did not feel comfortable raising safety issues and felt pressured to “get it done at all costs.” LANL employees also raised concerns that workers were brought in with little or no experience and rushed through an inadequate training program.
“As a result,” the AIB report states, “there was a failure to adequately resolve employee concerns which could have identified the generation of non compliant waste prior to shipment” to WIPP.
‘Lessons were not learned’
The immediate cause of the 14 February 2014 explosion ‒ mixing nitrate wastes with an organic absorbent (kitty litter) ‒ was recognised as a potential problem in 2012, if not earlier. One worker told the AIB that when concerns were raised over the use of organic kitty litter as an absorbent, the employee was told to “focus on their area of expertise and not to worry about the other areas of the procedure.”
Workers noticed foaming chemicals and orange smoke rising from containers of nuclear waste at LANL, but supervisors told them to “simply wait out the reaction and return to work once the foaming ceased and the smoke subsided,” the AIB report states. “Lessons were not learned.”
No doubt some lessons have been learned as a result of the underground explosion at WIPP. But Greg Mello from the Los Alamos Study Group points to a problem that is likely to recur. LANL receives bonuses from the DOE for meeting goals such as removing nuclear waste by a certain deadline.
That deadline pressure was very much in evidence at LANL in the lead-up to the WIPP accident and it will likely weaken safety practices in future. “You can’t just say everyone has to try harder,” Mello said. “Mixing profit, deadlines and dangerous radioactive waste is incompatible.”
A February 2016 report from the DOE’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) was equally scathing of LANL. “Overall, we found LANL’s corrective action program did not always adequately address issues, did not effectively prevent their recurrence, and did not consistently identify systemic problems,” the report said.
LANL managers said they agreed with the OIG findings and were working to resolve problems. “The Laboratory is working closely with National Nuclear Safety Administration to address the findings of the audit report”, LANL said in a statement.
But the National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA) – a semi-autonomous agency within the DOE – is itself a big part of the problem of systemic mismanagement of nuclear sites. A June 2015 Government Accountability Office report strongly criticised NNSA oversight of contractors who manage the nation’s nuclear weapons facilities.
The report points to a litany of ongoing failures to properly oversee private contractors at eight nuclear sites, including those managing LANL. The report found that the NNSA lacked enough qualified staff members to oversee contractors, and it lacked guidelines for evaluating its contractors.
Greg Mello from the Los Alamos Study Group was blunt in his criticism of the NNSA: “An agency that is more than 90 percent privatized, with barely enough federal employees to sign the checks and answer the phones, is never going to be able to properly oversee billion-dollar nuclear facilities of vast complexity and danger.”
Dr Jim Green is the national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia and editor of the newsletter, where a version of this article was originally published.
Nuclear Monitor, published 20 times a year, has been publishing deeply researched, often critical articles on all aspects of the nuclear cycle since 1978. A must-read for all those who work on this issue!