Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Time to Ban the Bomb
by Alice Slater
Global Momentum is building for a treaty to ban nuclear weapons! While the world has banned chemical and biological weapons, there is no explicit legal prohibition of nuclear weapons, although the International Court of Justice ruled unanimously that there is an obligation to bring to a conclusion negotiations for their total elimination.   The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), negotiated in 1970 required the five existing nuclear weapons states, the US, Russia, UK, France and China (P-5) to make “good faith efforts” to eliminate their nuclear weapons, while the rest of the world promised not to acquire them (except for India, Pakistan, Israel, who never signed the NPT).  North Korea relied on the NPT Faustian bargain for “peaceful” nuclear power to build its own bomb, and then walked out of the treaty.  
More than 600 members of civil society, from every corner of the globe, with more than half of them under the age of 30 attended a fact-filled two day conference in Vienna organized by the International Coalition to Ban Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), to learn of the devastating consequences of nuclear weapons from the bomb and from testing as well, and of the frightening risks from possible accidents or sabotage of the nine nuclear arsenals around the world.  The meeting was a follow up to two prior meetings in Oslo, Norway and Nayarit, Mexico.   ICAN members, working for a treaty to ban the bomb, then joined a meeting hosted by Austria for 158 governments in the historic Hofburg Palace, which has served as the residence of Austrian leaders since before the founding of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.
In Vienna, the US delegate, delivered a tone-deaf statement on the heels of heart-wrenching testimony of catastrophic illness and death in her community from Michelle Thomas, a down winder from Utah, and other devastating testimony of the effects of nuclear bomb testing from the Marshall Islands and Australia.  The US rejected any need for a ban treaty or a nuclear convention and extolled the step by step approach (to nuclear weapons forever) but changed its tone in the wrap-up and appeared to be more respectful of the process.   There were 44 countries who explicitly spoke of their support for a treaty to ban nuclear weapons, with the Holy See delegate reading out Pope Francis’ statement also calling for a ban on nuclear weapons and their elimination in which he said, “I am convinced that the desire for peace and fraternity planted deep in the human heart will bear fruit in concrete ways to ensure that nuclear weapons are banned once and for all, to the benefit of our common home.”.  This was a shift in Vatican policy which had never explicitly condemned deterrence policies of the nuclear weapons states although they had called for the elimination of nuclear weapons in prior statements. [i]
Significantly, and to help move the work forward, the Austrian Foreign Minister added to the Chair’s report by announcing a pledge by Austria to work for a nuclear weapons ban, described as “taking effective measures to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons” and “to cooperate with all stakeholders to achieve this goal.!   [ii]The NGO strategy now as presented at the ICAN[iii] debriefing meeting right after the conference closed, is to get as many nations as we can to support the Austrian pledge coming into the CD and the NPT review and then come out of the 70th Anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with a concrete plan for negotiations on a ban treaty.   One thought about the 70th Anniversary of the bomb, is that not only should we get a huge turnout in Japan, but we should acknowledge all the victims of the bomb, illustrated so agonizingly during the conference by Hibakusha and down winders at test sites.   We should also think about the uranium miners, the polluted sites from mining as well as manufacturing and use of the bomb and try to do something all over the world at those sites on August 6th and 9th as we call for negotiations to begin to ban nuclear weapons and eliminate them.   
Only a few days after the Vienna conference, there was a meeting of the Nobel Laureates in Rome, who after meeting with Nobel Prize winning IPPNW members Tilman Ruff and Ira Helfand,  continued the momentum created in Vienna and issued a statement which not only called for a ban on nuclear weapons, but asked that negotiations be concluded within two years! [iv]
We urge all states to commence negotiations on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons at the earliest possible time, and subsequently to conclude the negotiations within two years. This will fulfill existing obligations enshrined in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which will be reviewed in May of 2015, and the unanimous ruling of the International Court of Justice.  Negotiations should be open to all states and blockable by none. The 70th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 2015 highlights the urgency of ending the threat of these weapons.
One way to slow down this process to negotiate a legal ban on nuclear weapons would be for the NPT nuclear weapons states to promise at this five year NPT review conference to set a reasonable date to bring to a conclusion time-bound negotiations and effective and verifiable measures to implement the total elimination of nuclear weapons.   Otherwise the rest of the world will start without them to create an explicit legal prohibition of nuclear weapons which will be a powerful taboo to be used for pressuring the countries cowering under the nuclear umbrella of the nuclear weapons states, in NATO and in the Pacific, to take a stand for Mother Earth, and urge that negotiations begin for the total abolition of nuclear weapons!

Letter to the editor of the NY Times to a recent story, China is Asked to Help Block Korea Hacking

It is ironic that the US is seeking help from China to help block cyberattacks from North Korea in deciding how to respond to the SONY hacking following the cancelled film premiere of a “comedy” involving a CIA planned assassination of President, Kim Jong Un of North Korea.   As Times columnist David Carr wrote today, “was it really important that the head being blown up in a comedy about bungling assassins be that of an actual sitting ruler of a sovereign state? If you want to satirize a lawless leader, there are plenty of ways to skin that cat, as Charlie Chaplin demonstrated with “The Great Dictator,” which skewered Hitler in everything but name.”

But seeking China’s help, when China and Russia tabled a proposed treaty in 2011 to develop legal rules for the peaceful use of cyberspace which was rejected out of hand by the US, seems a little late and inadequate to the task.  The US already opened a Pandora’s box in cyberspace when it boastfully participated in the Stuxnet attack on Iran’s plutonium enrichment facilities sending a signal to the rest of the world, that this kind of warfare was feasible.   Times readers should be informed of how the US rejected offers from Russia and China to negotiate an international treaty for peace in the cybersphere (as well as in space), choosing only to discuss non-binding “rules of the road”. Without this background information, how will we be able to make informed judgments on US government policies before we reap the awful consequences of our aggressive and provocative actions? 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Thinking About the New War!


It is heartbreaking to see our country embarking on another futile effort to bomb our way out of a situation that calls out for diplomacy, foreign aid, UN supervision, refugee assistance,  almost anything you can think of in place of the devastating US assaults that inevitably murder innocent civilians.  How is the evil beheading of innocent journalists any worse than the impersonal murder of innocents on the ground by a thoroughly detached computer nerd, sitting at his lap top someplace in Colorado, pulling on his joystick and destroying, by drone, unseen victims as they go about their lives tens of thousands of miles away?  
We haven’t even had a body count for all the people who died in Iraq at the point of a US weapon. Meanwhile we repeatedly honor and memorialize our dead soldiers, sent on a wild goose chase after “terrorists” whose destruction of the twin towers  was a criminal act that deserved arrest and trial, not perpetual war on two countries, soon to be three.  Echoes of 911 are constantly flung in our face like metaphysical war paint,  to stir the loins for battle and death.  At this time, sensible people should be calling for a global moratorium on all arms sales.  We need to stop the only ones who benefit from all this—the arms manufacturers and their co-conspirators in endless war and grasping Empire.  Those who truly yearn for peace on earth should also be calling for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, emulating the great success enjoyed by South Africa when it ended a potential bloodbath and years of slaughter by inviting people from all sides of the conflict to come forth, admit their wrong doing, apologize, and be granted amnesty to go free.   As long as we hold out for bringing murderers to justice, they will fight us to the last bullet, knife, bomb.  That goes not only for the irregulars in the knife slashing brigades but for our own soldiers and our leaders who ordered them into this cruel conflict as well.



Sunday, August 10, 2014


What is it about the rule of law that the US government doesn’t like?  The US is still holding out on signing the treaty to Ban Land Mines Ban, adopted in 1997,[i] and has managed to avoid joining the Law of the Seas Treaty which was negotiated in 1982.[ii]   Isn’t it time for Civil Society to mobilize for putting a treaty to ban weapons in space on the negotiating table if we’re to have any hope of truly banning the bomb?  After all, the Non-Proliferation Treaty calls for the elimination of nuclear weapons “and their delivery systems”.   Aren’t we leaving a lot out when we don’t address this issue?   And will any country be willing to negotiate for nuclear disarmament when the US blatantly proclaims its intention for full spectrum dominance and global strike capacity? 

China and Russia have been proposing a joint draft treaty for the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space (PPWT) since 2008, at the UN’s Conference on Disarmament. [iii] The United States has repeatedly blocked consensus in the CD to move forward on negotiating a treaty to ban weapons in space, saying, at one point, that the proposal was “a diplomatic ploy by the two nations to gain a military advantage”.[iv] 

In June 2014, Russia and China submitted an updated draft treaty, with an accompanying paper explaining what changes they had made since the 2008 draft.  Both the Chinese and Russian Ambassadors invited further comment and feedback. [v] The US objected again, stating that the new draft “does not address the significant flaws” in the older version such as including provisions for effective verification or for dealing with land-based anti-satellite systems.  As to a legally binding treaty, the US stated that while it would consider proposals that are “equitable, effectively reliable, and enhance the national security of international participants”, the US has yet to see “any legally binding proposals that meet these criteria” and wants to focus on non-legally binding efforts such as the Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities, and some other recent UN initiatives for transparency and confidence building that will not have the force of law.[vi] 
The US has been participating since 2008 with a European Union initiative proposing a “Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities to provide a non-binding set of rules of the road for a safer environment in space.  But it recently threw up new roadblocks against even that toothless  effort.  The US now insists that the Codes’ voluntary promise to “refrain from any action which brings about, directly or indirectly, damage, or to destruction, of space objects”, be qualified with the language unless such action is justified”.  One justification given for destructive action is the UN Charter’s right to individual or collective self-defense, thus lending legitimacy and codifying the possibility for warfare in space as part of the Code’s established norm.  Although the UN Charter prohibits aggressive action by any nation without Security Council approval, it makes an exception when a nation acts in self-defense.  There have been numerous occasions where nations by-passed the Security Council to take aggressive action in the name of self-defense.   Instead of banning anti-satellite weapons development and space warfare, this US proposal for the Code would justify such warfare as long as it’s done, individually and collectively, under the guise of “self-defense”.   Thus despite lacking the force of law that would be established with a legally binding treaty, this new US proposal for the Code would create the possibility for space warfare rather than its prohibition.  Because of these new blocks, the negotiations on the Code are now stalled[vii] while at the same time the US puts up new resistance to a reasonable proposal from Russia and China to legally ban weapons in space.  In the words of Pogo, a popular US comic strip, published in the 1970s by Walt Kelly, and satirized by many, “We have met the enemy and he is us!” [viii]

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Use of Pilotless Drones for Assasinations Violates the Rule of Law


A secret US government legal memo, prepared for President Obama, was recently ordered to be released to the public by a Federal Court responding to a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.  The Administration’s legal reasoning clearly fails to justify the use of pilotless drones, controlled by a killer operator, sitting behind a desk somewhere in the US, aiming his computer joy stick at  human targets on the ground,  thousands of miles away.  The heavily edited “legal” rationale has only highlighted the disgraceful lack of respect for the very laws and constitutional protections that America has always proclaimed as its unique contribution to world order and the advancement of civilization.   

More than 4,000 people have been murdered by drones, many of them civilians-- old people, and children as well-- in attacks aimed at people selected for assassination by the President of the United States in weekly meetings with intelligence and military officials without benefit of charges, evidence, or trial.   The President of the United States, a former Constitutional professor at one of America’s most prestigious schools of law, Harvard University, acts as judge, jury and executioner all in one—a terrible violation of the US Constitution’s promise to protect the rights of individuals.   

Shortly after the court-ordered release of the memo a new bipartisan commission of former military and security officials issued a report warning that US drone policy had put us on a “slippery slope” towards a proliferation of similar actions by other countries.  They made a whole series of recommendations to help America avoid “blowback” from its unregulated use of this lethal new technology, which is easily capable of being replicated by other countries who may wish to wreak similar harm and havoc upon the US. 

There is a growing lawlessness at the highest levels of government, justified by the criminal destruction of the World Trade towers in 2001.   Instead of treating that tragic catastrophe as a criminal act, punishable in a court of law, a phony “war on terror” was declared and enabled the obscene growth of the US military-industrial complex, and a flagrant disregard for traditional American rights.  With the continued incarceration of suspects in Guantanamo prison in Cuba, America has suspended the common law tradition of the ancient Magna Carta, in which it was held that the British king had no right to lock someone away in a dungeon and throw away the key without evidence, charges, and an opportunity for a trial. This latest secret memo, now partially revealed by a court decision, which attempts to justify illegal assassinations by drones, serves only to highlight how far America has strayed from its own ideals and professed respect for the rule of law. 





Tuesday, May 27, 2014

New Campaign for a Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons Gains Momentum

New Campaign for a Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons Gains Momentum 
by Alice Slater

 The 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),  extended indefinitely in 1995 when it was due to expire, provided that five nuclear weapons states which also happened to hold the veto power on the Security Council (P-5)-- the US, Russia, UK, France, and China-- would  “pursue negotiations in good faith”[i] for nuclear disarmament.  To buy the support of the rest of the world for the deal, the nuclear weapons states “sweetened the pot” with a Faustian bargain promising the non-nuclear weapons state an “inalienable right”[ii] to so-called “peaceful” nuclear power, thus giving them the keys to the bomb factory. [iii]  Every country in the world signed the new treaty except for India, Pakistan, and Israel, which went on to develop nuclear arsenals.  North Korea, an NPT member, took advantage of the technological know-how it acquired through its “inalienable right” to nuclear power and quit the treaty to make its own nuclear bombs.  Today there are nine nuclear weapons states with 17,000 bombs on the planet, 16,000 of which are in the US and Russia!

In 2012, the International Committee of the Red Cross made an unprecedented  breakthrough effort to educate the world that there was no existing legal ban on the use and possession of nuclear weapons despite the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from nuclear war, thus renewing public awareness about the terrible dangers of nuclear holocaust. [iv]  A new initiative, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) [v] was launched to make known the disastrous effects to all life on earth should nuclear war break out, either by accident or design, as well as the inability of governments at any level to adequately respond.  They are calling for a legal ban on nuclear weapons, just as the world had banned chemical and biological weapons.

 Norway also took up the call of the International Red Cross in 2013, hosting a special Conference on the Humanitarian Effects of Nuclear Weapons.  The Oslo meeting took place outside of the usual institutional settings such as the NPT, the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva and the First Committee of the General Assembly, where progress on nuclear disarmament has been frozen because the nuclear weapons states are only willing to act on non- proliferation measures, while failing to take any meaningful steps for nuclear disarmament. This, despite a host of empty promises made over the 44 year history of the NPT, and nearly 70 years after the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The P-5 boycotted the Oslo conference, issuing a joint statement claiming it would be a “distraction” from the NPT!  Two nuclear weapons states did show up—India and Pakistan, to join the 127 nations that came to Oslo and those two nuclear weapons states again attended this year’s follow-up conference hosted by Mexico, with 146 nations. 

There is transformation in the air and a shift in the zeitgeist in how nations and civil society are addressing nuclear disarmament.  They are meeting in partnership in greater numbers and with growing resolve to negotiate a nuclear ban treaty which would prohibit the possession, testing, use, production and acquisition of nuclear weapons as illegal, just as the world has done for chemical and biological weapons. The ban treaty would begin to close the gap in the World Court decision which failed to decide if nuclear weapons were illegal in all circumstances, particularly where the very survival of a state was at stake.    This new process is operating outside of the paralyzed institutional UN negotiating structures, first in Oslo, then in Mexico with a third meeting planned in Austria, this very year, not four years later in 2018 as proposed by the non-aligned movement of countries which fail to grasp the urgent need to move swiftly for nuclear abolition, and has not received any buy-in from the recalcitrant P-5. Indeed, the US, France and UK didn’t even bother to send a decent representative to the first high level meeting in history for heads of state and foreign ministers to address nuclear disarmament at the UN’s General Assembly last fall.  And they opposed the establishment of the UN Open Ended Working Group for Nuclear Disarmament that met in Geneva in an informal arrangement with NGOs and governments, failing to show up for a single meeting held during the summer of 2013. 

At Nayarit, Mexico, the Mexican Chair sent the world a Valentine on February 14, 2014 when he concluded his remarks to a standing ovation and loud cheers by many of the government delegates and the NGOs in attendance saying:
The broad-based and comprehensive discussions on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons should lead to the commitment of States and civil society to reach new international standards and norms, through a legally binding instrument. It is the view of the Chair that the Nayarit Conference has shown that time has come to initiate a diplomatic process conducive to this goal. Our belief is that this process should comprise a specific timeframe, the definition of the most appropriate fora, and a clear and substantive framework, making the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons the essence of disarmament efforts. It is time to take action. The 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks is the appropriate milestone to achieve our goal. Nayarit is a point of no return (emphasis added).    

One obstacle that is becoming apparent to the success of achieving a broadly endorsed ban treaty is the position of “nuclear umbrella” states such as Japan, Australia, South Korea and NATO members. They ostensibly support nuclear disarmament but still rely on lethal “nuclear deterrence”, a policy which demonstrates their willingness to have the US incinerate cities and destroy our planet on their behalf. 

Achieving a ban treaty negotiated without the nuclear weapons states would give us a cudgel to hold them to their bargain to negotiate for the total elimination of nuclear weapons  in a reasonable time by shaming them for not only failing to honor the NPT but for totally undermining their “good faith” promise for nuclear disarmament.  They continue to test and build new bombs, manufacturing facilities, and delivery systems while Mother Earth is assaulted with a whole succession of so-called “sub-critical” tests, as these outlaw states continue to blow up plutonium underground at the Nevada and Novaya Zemlya test sites.  The P-5’s insistence on a “step by step” process, supported by some of the nuclear “umbrella states”, rather than the negotiation of a legal ban demonstrates their breathtaking hypocrisy as they are not only modernizing and replacing their arsenals, they are actually spreading nuclear bomb factories around the world in the form of nuclear reactors for commercial gain, even ”sharing” this lethal technology with India, a non-NPT party, an illegal practice in violation of the NPT prohibition against sharing nuclear technology with states that failed to join the treaty.  

With a follow up meeting coming in Austria, December 8th and 9th of this year, we should be strategic in pushing the impetus forward for a legal ban. We need to get even more governments to show up in Vienna, and make plans for a massive turnout of NGOs to encourage states to come out from under their shameful nuclear umbrella and to cheer on the burgeoning group of peace-seeking nations  in our efforts to end the nuclear scourge! 

Check out the ICAN campaign to find out how you can participate in Vienna.  www.icanw.org




[i] "Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament."
[ii] Article IV:  Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination…”

Monday, March 24, 2014

Time for a 21st Century US Foreign Policy



Published on Monday, March 24, 2014 by Common Dreams

Time for a 21st Century US Foreign Policy


With 16,000 of the world’s 17,000 nuclear bombs in the US and Russia, the US should certainly not be fanning the fires for a new cold war after the distressing events in Crimea and the Ukraine.  

Rather, we should acknowledge our broken promise to Gorbachev that we wouldn’t expand NATO if Russia didn’t object to a reunified Germany’s entry into NATO when the wall came down, and promise not to invite the Ukraine or Georgia to become members of our old Cold War military alliance.  

We should be disbanding NATO and working for reform of the UN system so that it can fulfill its peacekeeping mission without archaic reliance on regional military competitive alliances.   Further, we should remove our missiles from Poland, Romania and Turkey and negotiate the space weapons ban which China and Russia repeatedly proposed, and which only the US blocked for several years in the UN’s committee on Disarmament in Geneva which requires consensus.  

We should also reinstate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty which Bush walked out of in 2001 and take up Russia’s offer to negotiate a treaty to ban cyberwarfare, which it proposed after the US boasted about its virus attack on Iran’s enrichment facilities and which the US rejected out of hand.  

We need to stop being the world’s bully, as described last week by Jack Matlock, Reagan and Bush’s Ambassador to Russia who has examined our provocative actions towards Russia which resulted in these terrible events in Crimea.

It’s ironic that Obama is now in the Hague at his third “Nuclear Security Summit” to talk about locking down and securing loose bomb-making materials, without any discussion about how to honor our Non-Proliferation Treaty promise to eliminate our massive nuclear arsenal, for which we are planning to spend $640 billion over the next ten years for two new bomb factories, and new lethal delivery systems—missiles, planes, submarines.

The sad history of our bad faith relationships with Gorbachev and Putin and our aggressive military provocations, including today’s announcement that NATO will be doing military war games in Poland, will do nothing to make our world a safer, more peaceful place.

The US needs more creative 21st century thinking on how to relate to the rest of the world.