Monday, January 27, 2014

(Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty)


In answer to your question, What’s a “fair” CTBT?”, a fair CTBT would forbid laboratory testing of nuclear weapons and sub-critical underground tests where plutonium is blown up with high explosives to help in designing and improving nuclear weapons even though there’s no chain reaction.  The US has done 26 of them since we signed the treaty and Russia does them at Novaya Zemlya. The US has been modernizing and designing new nuclear weapons, regardless of the CTBT.    I’m not sure about China.   France closed its test site but it and the UK do laboratory tests on nuclear designs.   So the original P-5  have a technological advantage over the new members of the nuclear club and that’s the reason that India gave when it blocked consensus in the Committee on Disarmament when the test ban was negotiated.  India’s Ambassador Ghosh argued at that time that if the CTBT didn’t forbid laboratory testing and other advanced technology India would vote against it.   Amazingly, for the first time in history, Ambassador Richard Butler of Australia brought the treaty to the UN for signature, breaking all precedent by acting without consensus.   Shortly thereafter, India did its underground nuclear tests, swiftly followed by Pakistan.  (India quietly acquired the bomb in 1974 or so, but did not want to be left behind in the high-tech race for bigger and better bombs.) The US plans to spend one trillion dollars over the next 30 years to build two new bomb factories, new planes, missiles and submarines to deliver their lethal payloads,  and to keep the immoral nuclear weapons complex up and running! 

Astonishingly, the CD is looking to break consensus again for only the second time in history, rather than let Pakistan block the negotiations on a treaty to cut off fissile material production for weapons purposes!! Yet when the US was the only country to block consensus in the CD on beginning negotiations on a treaty to ban weapons in space, proposed for several years by Russia and China, no one threatened to override consensus to bring it to the General Assembly for negotiation as was done with the CTBT and as nations are threatening to do with the FMCT.   It’s time to give the old colonial boys network a taste of their own medicine and disregard consensus and bring the space treaty to the UN for negotiations.   And everyone should be calling for nuclear disarmament and a total halt to the new weapons development going on despite the CTBT, the NPT. Indeed, I hope India and Pakistan will come to the nuclear disarmament meeting hosted by Mexico on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear war, just as they were the only nuclear weapons states to attend the Oslo meeting last year.    Let’s hope we can come out of Mexico this year with a mandate to negotiate a treaty to ban the bomb, followed by a nuclear weapons convention to provide for their total elimination.   Let’s give the earth a Valentine in Mexico on February 14th.   Let’s tell Mother Earth we love her and come out of that meeting with worldwide call to our governments to abolish nuclear weapons.  Perhaps Asia will lead the way!! 

Sunday, January 26, 2014


On the Death of Shulamit Aloni

I met Shulamit Aloni when I went to visit Israel in 1976 as part of my job working as a fundraiser for ADL.  As part of our Jewish education, ADL set up meetings for our group of 8 American ADLers to learn about all aspects of Israeli life.   We had lunch with Rabin; visited with Myron Ben Venisti an important scholar and thinker; saw the first settlement in Hebron settled by Jews from Brooklyn and Chicago affiliated with Meir Kahane; and were scolded by Shulamit Aloni, who came on like gangbusters, like Bela Abzug with a Hebrew accent,  saying “you American Jews!   You’re such hypocrites!!  Don’t you people  know we have a Peace Now party?!   Why do you support every stupid  thing this government does?!”   It was news to me!   I had never heard a critical word about Israel before.  

When we met the settler in Hebron, an American from Chicago wearing a yarmulke and living in an apartment building in the midst of a city teeming with Arabs, surrounded by Israeli soldiers with guns,  I asked him why he was living here with his wife and children in the middle of hostile territory    After all, Israel had just returned the Sinai to Egypt and how would Israel make peace if they were settling in these all-Arab cities?   He replied, “We don’t care.   The bible says Judea and Samaria belong to the Jewish people!”  I thought to myself, “You are a dead man.”  This is what Shulamit Aloni was warning us about in 1976  I am so sad to learn of her passing.


Friday, January 17, 2014

US Rejects Rule of Law: Proposes Space "Code of Conduct" Instead of Binding Treaty

The most important lesson one can acquire about US foreign policy is the understanding that our leaders do not mean well. They do not have any noble goals of democracy and freedom and all that jazz. They aim to dominate the world by any means necessary. And as long as an American believes that the intentions are noble and honorable, it's very difficult to penetrate that wall. That wall surrounds the thinking and blocks any attempt to make them realize the harm being done by US foreign policy.  William Blum, former member of the US State Department, author of Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions since World War II[i]

More than 5,000 satellites have been launched into orbit since the space age began[ii]. Today, eleven countries have space launch capability, with over sixty countries operating about 1,100 active satellites orbiting the earth providing a constant stream of data and information relied upon for critical civilian communications as well as for military operations by some.[iii]   As we grow ever more dependent on the ability of these satellites to perform their essential functions without interruption, there are growing concerns that this useful technology is giving rise to a new battleground in space for the purpose of sabotaging or destroying the vital services our space-based communications now provide.  

The US and Russia have been testing anti-satellite technology (ASAT) since the space age began, and have even contemplated using  nuclear tipped ballistic missiles to destroy space assets.    In 1967, the US and Russia  realized it would be in their interest to support the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which banned the placement of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in space, although they failed to ban the use of conventional weapons in space.   And in 1972 they agreed to sign the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) to slow down the space race and the ability to harm each other’s assets in space.  Unfortunately, George Bush walked out of the ABM treaty in 2002, and the race to weaponize space was on once again in full force.  China is getting into the act too, having launched, in 2007, a device which destroyed one of its aging weather satellites orbiting in space.   The US followed suit in 2008, destroying a non-functioning satellite, while both nations denied any military mission for their acts, claiming they were merely trying to destroy outdated satellites that no longer functioned.

With the proliferation of military spacecraft such as imaging and communications satellites and ballistic missile and anti- missiles systems which often pass through outer space, there have been numerous efforts in the UN Committee on Disarmament (CD) to outlaw the weaponization of space through a legally binding treaty.    But the United States is having none of it.  In the CD, which requires consensus to take action, the US has been the only nation to block every vote to begin negotiations on such a treaty, with Israel generally abstaining in support.   Russia and China actually prepared a draft treaty to ban weapons in space in 2008, but the US blocked the proposal, voting against it each year thereafter when it was reintroduced for consideration, saying the proposal was “a diplomatic ploy by the two nations to gain a military advantage”.[iv]

While continuing to block a legally binding treaty to ban weapons in space, the US has recently begun to work with a group of nations in a new initiative that began in the European Union in 2008, proposing a “Code of Conduct  for Outer Space Activities“  which would lay out a non-binding set of rules of the road for a safer and more responsible environment in space.  Some of its key objectives are to mitigate damage to satellites that could be caused by space debris orbiting the earth,  to avoid the potential of destructive collisions, and to manage the crowding of satellites and the saturation of the radio-frequency spectrum, as well as to address direct threats of hostility to assets in space. [v]   At first, the US rejected any support for the Code, but has now agreed to participate in drafting a new version based on the third iteration from the European Union.   Obama’s Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, Rose Gottemoeller, acknowledged in 2012 the necessity for a Code to deal with orbital debris and “other irresponsible actions in space”,  while at the same time, noting that,
 It is important to clarify several points with respect to the code. It is still under development, we would not subscribe to any code unless it protects and enhances our national security, and the code would not be legally binding. [vi] 

In addition, the US is insisting on a provision in this third version of the Code of Conduct that, while making a voluntary promise to “refrain from any action which brings about, directly or indirectly, damage, or destruction, of space objects”, qualifies that directive with the language unless such action is justified”. One justification given for destructive action is “the Charter of the United Nations including the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense”, thus lending legitimacy and codifying the possibility for warfare in space as part of the Code’s established norm.  And while the Charter of the United Nations prohibits aggressive action by any nation without Security Council approval unless a nation acts in self-defense, we know there have been numerous occasions where nations have by-passed the Security Council to take aggressive action, often protesting they were acting in self-defense.   Instead of banning ASAT development and warfare, this Code justifies 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 version of the Code creates, as the norm it is proposing, a possibility for space warfare.   Our world deserves better!