Category Archives: Nuclear Weapons

Why the Fuck Is No One Talking About Nukes?

Alexander Zaitchik writes for VICE:

 

Image result for because it's fun t-shirt[…] Why is it so hard to talk about nuclear weapons the way we did 30 years ago?

For starters, nuclear weapons have always been synonyms for death, and people don’t like thinking about death. (This goes triple for “megadeath,” the unit-measure for every million people killed in a nuclear war.) Nuclear weapons also involve, not one, but two apparent paradoxes. The first cuts through morality and human nature: How can we be so smart, and yet so dumb? How can we barrel down a highway lined with flashing neon signs reading, “Horrific Mass Suicide, 1 mile”? The second paradox is just the physics mindfuck of it all: An atom can flatten a city. Like the vastness of our expanding universe, it doesn’t seem real. It can’t be.

Even during the Cold War, nobody wanted to think about nukes. It took Hiroshima, Nagasaki, a series of major crises, a superpower standoff, and a media focused on the gruesome details of nuclear war to spark even a modest global disarmament movement. The world of 2017 is a different place. There is no binary Cold War frame. The shared culture that could focus a conversation with something like The Day After is no more. The attention span required for sorting through our nuclear dilemma—also pretty close to gone. Nothing embodies this better than the devolution of the “peace” symbol: Born as the logo of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, a group that organized mass sit-ins in downtown London, it is now hippie marketing shorthand used to sell hazy nostalgia for a nonpolitical counterculture.

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North Korea Says Syria Airstrikes Prove Its Nukes Justified

The Associated Press reports:

TV screen broadcasting a news report on North Korea's long range rocket launch on February 7, 2016.North Korea has vowed to bolster its defenses to protect itself against airstrikes like the ones President Donald Trump ordered against an air base in Syria.

The North called the airstrikes “absolutely unpardonable” and said they prove its nuclear weapons are justified to protect the country against Washington’s “evermore reckless moves for a war.”

The comments were made by a Foreign Ministry official and carried Sunday by North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency. The report did not name the official, which is common in KCNA reports.

The airstrikes, announced shortly after Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up dinner at a two-day summit in Florida last week, were retaliation against Syrian President Bashar Assad for a chemical weapons attack against civilians caught up in his country’s long civil war.

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Mini-Nukes and Mosquito-like Robot Weapons Being Primed for Future Warfare

Jeff Daniel reports for CNBC:

A mosquito used for Zika research.Several countries are developing nanoweapons that could unleash attacks using mini-nuclear bombs and insect-like lethal robots.

While it may be the stuff of science fiction today, the advancement of nanotechnology in the coming years will make it a bigger threat to humanity than conventional nuclear weapons, according to an expert. The U.S., Russia and China are believed to be investing billions on nanoweapons research.

“Nanobots are the real concern about wiping out humanity because they can be weapons of mass destruction,” said Louis Del Monte, a Minnesota-based physicist and futurist. He’s the author of a just released book entitled “Nanoweapons: A Growing Threat To Humanity.”

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World War Three, by Mistake

Eric Schlosser, author of Command and Control, writes for The New Yorker:

[…] My book “Command and Control” explores how the systems devised to govern the use of nuclear weapons, like all complex technological systems, are inherently flawed. They are designed, built, installed, maintained, and operated by human beings. But the failure of a nuclear command-and-control system can have consequences far more serious than the crash of an online dating site from too much traffic or flight delays caused by a software glitch. Millions of people, perhaps hundreds of millions, could be annihilated inadvertently. “Command and Control” focusses on near-catastrophic errors and accidents in the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union that ended in 1991. The danger never went away. Today, the odds of a nuclear war being started by mistake are low—and yet the risk is growing, as the United States and Russia drift toward a new cold war. The other day, Senator John McCain called Vladimir Putin, the President of the Russian Federation, “a thug, a bully, and a murderer,” adding that anyone who “describes him as anything else is lying.” Other members of Congress have attacked Putin for trying to influence the Presidential election.  On Thursday, Putin warned that Russia would “strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces,” and President-elect Donald Trump has responded with a vow to expand America’s nuclear arsenal.  “Let it be an arms race,” Trump told one of the co-hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”

The harsh rhetoric on both sides increases the danger of miscalculations and mistakes, as do other factors. Close encounters between the military aircraft of the United States and Russia have become routine, creating the potential for an unintended conflict. Many of the nuclear-weapon systems on both sides are aging and obsolete. The personnel who operate those systems often suffer from poor morale and poor training. None of their senior officers has firsthand experience making decisions during an actual nuclear crisis. And today’s command-and-control systems must contend with threats that barely existed during the Cold War: malware, spyware, worms, bugs, viruses, corrupted firmware, logic bombs, Trojan horses, and all the other modern tools of cyber warfare. The greatest danger is posed not by any technological innovation but by a dilemma that has haunted nuclear strategy since the first detonation of an atomic bomb: How do you prevent a nuclear attack while preserving the ability to launch one?

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Bikini Was Just the Beginning, Bombs Still Threaten the Marshall Islanders

John Pilger reports for the New Internationalist:

01-12-2016-pilger-marshall-590.jpeg [Related Image]I was recently in the Marshall Islands, which lie in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, north of Australia and south of Hawaii. Whenever I tell people where I have been, they ask, ‘Where is that?’

When I mention Bikini, their reference is the swimsuit. Few seem aware that the bikini was named after the nuclear explosions that destroyed life on Bikini atoll; its Paris designer hoped his ‘unique creation’ would ‘cause an explosion right round the world’. Sixty-seven nuclear bombs – each of them massive – were exploded in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958: the equivalent of more than one Hiroshima every day for 12 years.

As my aircraft banked low over Bikini lagoon, the emerald water beneath me disappeared into a vast black hole, a deathly void. This is the crater left by the 1954 Hydrogen bomb known as Bravo. When I stepped out of the plane, my shoes registered ‘unsafe’ on a Geiger counter. Palm trees stood in unworldly formations. There were no birds.

I trekked through the jungle to the bunker where, at 6.45 on the morning of 1 March 1954, the button was pushed on the most powerful force on earth. That morning, the sun had risen; then it rose again as apocalypse. Now claimed by the undergrowth, the concrete bunker is like a capsule to modern times. There are cartons of Milkmaid powered milk, packets of Lucky Strike cigarettes and a sign that is beyond irony: ‘Please leave this property as you find it. Thank you for kindness and understanding.’

The explosion vaporized an entire island, its fall-out spreading over a vast area. There was a ‘miscalculation’, according to the official history; the wind ‘changed suddenly’. These were the first of many lies, as declassified documents and the victims’ testimony have since revealed.

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Trump Is Less Hawkish Than Hillary. Who Cares?

Micah Zenko writes for Foreign Policy:

Trump Is Less Hawkish Than Hillary. Who Cares? […] I took it upon myself this year to write several pieces assessing the sorts of Commander-in-Chief Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton would likely be. Of those, I have received the most feedback from the one titled “Hillary the Hawk: A History.” And given Clinton’s willingness to use force and belief in the power of coercive diplomacy, I do believe that she is slightly more “hawkish” than Trump.

To be perfectly clear, however, I have little doubt that Donald Trump would be a vastly more dangerous and destabilizing foreign-policy president than Hillary Clinton. The business mogul has not demonstrated a grasp of even the most basic principles, laws, and behaviors that govern the conduct of foreign policy, or the manner in which nation-states interact. Worse, he refuses to learn, proudly stating when asked who he listens to on foreign policy, “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things…. I have a good instinct for this stuff.” He simply does not.

The basis for this judgment are Trump’s own statements on foreign policy issues.

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Clinton Campaign Invokes ‘Daisy Girl’ to Attack Trump on Nuclear Weapons

Brent Griffiths reports for Politico:

Hillary Clinton’s campaign is hammering Donald Trump over his statements on nuclear weapons in a new ad. And the Democratic nominee is using one of the most recognizable moments in the attack ad arsenal to deliver the blow.

In a spot titled “Daisy,” the former secretary of state invokes the famous 1964 attack ad President Lyndon B. Johnson’s campaign used with devastating impact as footage of Trump’s comments plays throughout.

“This is me in 1964,” Monique Corzilius Luiz says as footage of her as the “Daisy Girl,” named for the shot of her plucking petals of a flower, plays in the background of the Clinton ad.

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Colin Powell in Leaked Email Says Israel Has 200 Nukes

Jack Moore reports for Newsweek:

Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin PowellFormer U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell alleged that Israel has a nuclear arsenal of 200 warheads, a thorny subject that Israel never comments on, according to an email that Russian hackers leaked earlier this week.

Israel is not a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and maintains a policy of nuclear ambiguity, refusing to speak about its rumored nuclear arsenal and never even going as far as to admit that it has possession of nuclear weapons.

But Powell may have given away the size of Israel’s nuclear arsenal. Speaking to Democratic party donor Jeffrey Leeds about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the U.S. Congress focusing on the Iranian nuclear deal, he wrote that Iran would never use a nuclear weapon if it was able to develop one. He then stated that Israel has hundreds of nukes and Washington thousands, suggesting that such firepower would deter any Iranian action.

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The 50 American H-Bombs in Turkey

Eric Schlosser, author of Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, writes for The New Yorker:

B-61 nuclear bombs, the same model as those stored by the U.S. at airbases in various NATO countries, often under lax safeguards.[…] According to Hans M. Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, underground vaults at Incirlik hold about fifty B-61 hydrogen bombs—more than twenty-five per cent of the nuclear weapons in the NATO stockpile. The nuclear yield of the B-61 can be adjusted to suit a particular mission. The bomb that destroyed Hiroshima had an explosive force equivalent to about fifteen kilotons of TNT. In comparison, the “dial-a-yield” of the B-61 bombs at Incirlik can be adjusted from 0.3 kilotons to as many as a hundred and seventy kilotons.

Incirlik was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the wake of the Second World War; when Turkey joined NATO, in 1952, it became a crucial American base during the Cold War. With a flight time of about an hour to the Soviet Union, the base hosted American fighters, bombers, tankers, and U-2 spy planes. And, like many NATO bases, it stored American nuclear weapons. NATO strategy was dependent on nuclear weapons as a counterbalance to the perceived superiority of Soviet conventional forces. The threat of a nuclear attack, it was assumed, would deter Soviet tanks from rolling into NATO territory. And granting NATO countries access to nuclear weapons would strengthen the alliance, providing tangible evidence that the United States would risk a nuclear war for NATO’s defense.

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The Doomsday Clock: Nuclear Weapons, Climate Change, and the Prospects for Survival

An excerpt from Noam Chomsky’s latest book, Who Rules the World?, recently appeared at TomDispatch:

In January 2015, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists advanced its famous Doomsday Clock to three minutes before midnight, a threat level that had not been reached for 30 years. The Bulletin’s statement explaining this advance toward catastrophe invoked the two major threats to survival: nuclear weapons and “unchecked climate change.” The call condemned world leaders, who “have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from potential catastrophe,” endangering “every person on Earth [by] failing to perform their most important duty — ensuring and preserving the health and vitality of human civilization.”

Since then, there has been good reason to consider moving the hands even closer to doomsday.

As 2015 ended, world leaders met in Paris to address the severe problem of “unchecked climate change.” Hardly a day passes without new evidence of how severe the crisis is. To pick almost at random, shortly before the opening of the Paris conference, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab released a study that both surprised and alarmed scientists who have been studying Arctic ice. The study showed that a huge Greenland glacier, Zachariae Isstrom, “broke loose from a glaciologically stable position in 2012 and entered a phase of accelerated retreat,” an unexpected and ominous development. The glacier “holds enough water to raise global sea level by more than 18 inches (46 centimeters) if it were to melt completely. And now it’s on a crash diet, losing 5 billion tons of mass every year. All that ice is crumbling into the North Atlantic Ocean.”

Yet there was little expectation that world leaders in Paris would “act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from potential catastrophe.” And even if by some miracle they had, it would have been of limited value, for reasons that should be deeply disturbing.

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UK Has ‘Secretly’ Upgraded Trident Arsenal and Developed an Entirely New Warhead, Report Finds

The Telegraph reports:

The Trident nuclear submarine HMS Victorious is pictured near Faslane in ScotlandThe row over Trident is set to reignite after it emerged Britain has been secretly upgrading its arsenal of nuclear weapons and developed an entirely new warhead.

A report from the Nuclear Information Service revealed ministers have already authorised £85 million for the more accurate and destructive Mark 4A warhead without consulting Parliament.

According to the report, the costs and the timetable of the program have not been revealed to Parliament. David Cameron is now facing calls for an urgent vote on the issue of Trident’s renewal following the EU referendum.

The independent research body said work has already been undertaken at the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston, and new warheads have been tested at Sandia National Laboratories in the US.

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Hillary Clinton Positions Herself to the Right of Trump in Major National Security Speech: Interview with Phyllis Bennis

Jaisal Noor speaks to Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies who says although Clinton rightfully used her national security speech to condemn the bigotry and outlandishness of Trump’s positions, she laid out a much more militaristic foreign policy. (The Real News)

A.Q. Khan: ‘Pakistan Had the Ability to Conduct a Nuclear Test in 1984’

Raza Khan reports for Dawn:

Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear programme, said Pakistan had the ability and had planned to conduct a nuclear test in 1984, but General Zia opposed the idea as it would have curtailed international aid Pakistan was receiving due to the ongoing Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

“We were able and we had a plan to launch nuclear test in 1984 however; then President General Zia had opposed the move,” said the father of the country’s nuclear programme.

General Zia was of the opinion that the world would stop military aid if Pakistan opted for the nuclear test, Khan added. He also said that Pakistan is able to target Dehli from Kahuta in five minutes.

Khan was addressing a gathering on the occasion of Youm-i-Takbeer.

“Without my services Pakistan would never have been the first Muslim nuclear nation. We were able to achieve the capability under very tough circumstances, but we did it,” said Khan.

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Silencing America As It Prepares For War

John Pilger writes:

obamaphones.jpg[…] The 2016 election campaign is remarkable not only for the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders but also for the resilience of an enduring silence about a murderous self-bestowed divinity. A third of the members of the United Nations have felt Washington’s boot, overturning governments, subverting democracy, imposing blockades and boycotts. Most of the presidents responsible have been liberal – Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, Obama.

The breathtaking record of perfidy is so mutated in the public mind, wrote the late Harold Pinter, that it “never happened …Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. It didn’t matter… “. Pinter expressed a mock admiration for what he called “a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.”

Take Obama. As he prepares to leave office, the fawning has begun all over again. He is “cool”. One of the more violent presidents, Obama gave full reign to the Pentagon war-making apparatus of his discredited predecessor. He prosecuted more whistleblowers – truth-tellers – than any president. He pronounced Chelsea Manning guilty before she was tried. Today, Obama runs an unprecedented worldwide campaign of terrorism and murder by drone.

In 2009, Obama promised to help “rid the world of nuclear weapons” and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. No American president has built more nuclear warheads than Obama. He is “modernising” America’s doomsday arsenal, including a new “mini” nuclear weapon, whose size and “smart” technology, says a leading general, ensure its use is “no longer unthinkable”.

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Reduction of Nuclear Arsenal Has Slowed Under Obama, Report Finds

William J. Broad reports for The New York Times:

A new census of the American nuclear arsenal shows that the Obama administration last year dismantled its smallest number of warheads since taking office.

The new figures, released by the Pentagon, also highlight a trend — that the current administration has reduced the nuclear stockpile less than any other post-Cold War presidency.

On Thursday, the Federation of American Scientists, a private group in Washington that strongly supports arms control, issued an analysis of the new figures on its Strategic Security blog. The annual Pentagon release did not appear to be linked to President Obama’s visit Friday to Hiroshima, Japan, which was destroyed by an American atomic bomb almost 71 years ago.

Still, the new figures and private analysis underscored the striking gap between Mr. Obama’s soaring vision of a world without nuclear arms, which he laid out during the first months of his presidency, and the tough geopolitical and bureaucratic realities of actually getting rid of those weapons.

The lack of recent progress in both arms control and warhead dismantlement also seems to coincide with the administration’s push for sweeping nuclear modernizations that include improved weapons, bombers, missiles and submarines. Those upgrades are estimated to cost up to $1 trillion over the next three decades.

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Unjust Cause

Andrew Cockburn recently interviewed historian Gar Alperovitz for Harpers on the decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki:

As advertised, President Obama did not apologize for the U.S. nuclear strike that destroyed the city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, on his recent visit to the city. Instead, he issued a vacuous call for the courage to “spread peace and pursue a world without nuclear weapons.” Steering clear of any specific reference as to why the United States chose to incinerate over 100,000 Japanese, he orated that “We come to ponder the terrible forces unleashed in the not so distant past. We come to mourn the dead … their souls speak to us and ask us to look inward. To take stock of who we are and what we might become”—a rhetorical exercise that in essence amounted to little more than Donald Rumsfeld’s infamous “stuff happens.” Seventy years after World War II, it seems the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are still a matter for evasion, justified by U.S. officials as the only way to end the war and save American lives. To fill in Obama’s omissions, I turned to the historian Gar Alperovitz. His 1995 book The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of An American Myth is the most definitive account we are likely to see of why Hiroshima was destroyed, and how an official history justifying that decision was subsequently crafted and promulgated by the national security establishment. As he explained, the bomb not only failed to save Americans lives, it might actually have caused the needless deaths of thousands of U.S. servicemen.

  • Let’s start with the basic question: was it necessary to drop the bomb on Hiroshima in order to compel Japanese surrender and thereby save American lives?

Absolutely not. At least, every bit of evidence we have strongly indicates not only that it was unnecessary, but that it was known at the time to be unnecessary. That was the opinion of top intelligence officials and top military leaders. There was intelligence, beginning in April of 1945 and reaffirmed month after month right up to the Hiroshima bombing, that the war would end when the Russians entered [and that] the Japanese would surrender so long as the emperor was retained, at least in an honorary role. The U.S. military had already decided [it wanted] to keep the emperor because they wanted to use him after the war to control Japan.

Virtually all the major military figures are now on record publicly, most of them almost immediately after the war, which is kind of amazing when you think about it, saying the bombing was totally unnecessary. Eisenhower said it on a number of occasions. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs said it—that was Admiral Leahy, who was also chief of staff to the president. Curtis LeMay, who was in charge of the conventional bombing of Japan, [also said it]. They’re all public statements. It’s remarkable that the top military leaders would go public, challenging the president’s decision within weeks after the war, some within months. Really, when you even think about it, can you imagine it today? It’s almost impossible to think of it.

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Bombing Hiroshima Changed The World, But It Didn’t End World War II

Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick write for the Los Angeles Times:

1945 aerial photo of atomic explosion's aftermath in New MexicoPresident Obama’s visit to Hiroshima on Friday has rekindled public debate about the U.S. atomic bombings of Japan — one largely suppressed since the Smithsonian cancelled its Enola Gay exhibit in 1995. Obama, aware that his critics are ready to pounce if he casts the slightest doubt on the rectitude of President Harry S. Truman’s decision to use atomic bombs, has opted to remain silent on the issue. This is unfortunate. A national reckoning is overdue.

Most Americans have been taught that using atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 was justified because the bombings ended the war in the Pacific, thereby averting a costly U.S. invasion of Japan. This erroneous contention finds its way into high school history texts still today. More dangerously, it shapes the thinking of government officials and military planners working in a world that still contains more than 15,000 nuclear weapons.

Truman exulted in the obliteration of Hiroshima, calling it “the greatest thing in history.” America’s military leaders didn’t share his exuberance. Seven of America’s eight five-star officers in 1945 — Gens. Dwight Eisenhower, Douglas MacArthur and Henry Arnold, and Adms. William Leahy, Chester Nimitz, Ernest King and William Halsey — later called the atomic bombings either militarily unnecessary, morally reprehensible, or both. Nor did the bombs succeed in their collateral purpose: cowing the Soviets.

Leahy, who was Truman’s personal chief of staff, wrote in his memoir that the “Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender…. The use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan.” MacArthur went further. He told former President Hoover that if the United States had assured the Japanese that they could keep the emperor they would have gladly surrendered in late May.

It was not the atomic evisceration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that ended the Pacific war. Instead, it was the Soviet invasion of Manchuria and other Japanese colonies that began at midnight on Aug. 8, 1945 — between the two bombings.

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U.S. Nuclear Force Still Uses Floppy Disks

BBC News reports:

File image of an 8in floppy diskThe US nuclear weapons force still uses a 1970s-era computer system and 8-inch floppy disks, a government report has revealed.

The Government Accountability Office said the Pentagon was one of several departments where “legacy systems” urgently needed to be replaced.

The report said taxpayers spent $61bn (£41bn) a year on maintaining ageing technologies.

It said that was three times more than the investment on modern IT systems.

The report said that the Department of Defence systems that co-ordinated intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear bombers and tanker support aircraft “runs on an IBM Series-1 Computer – a 1970s computing system – and uses eight-inch floppy disks”.

“This system remains in use because, in short, it still works,” Pentagon spokeswoman Lt Col Valerie Henderson told the AFP news agency.

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Noam Chomsky on Obama’s Visit to Hiroshima and Presidential Legacy: “Nothing to Rave About”

Amy Goodman speaks with world-renowned political academic Noam Chomsky about President Obama becoming the first serving U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, Japan, where the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb toward the end of World War II on what Chomsky calls “the grimmest day I can remember.” Chomsky examines the U.S. role in launching the nuclear age, Obama’s role in continuing it, and the rest of his legacy. “I don’t usually agree with Sarah Palin, but when she was ridiculing this—what she called this ‘hopey-changey stuff,’ she had a point. There were a few good things. … But opportunities that were available, especially in the first two years when he had Congress with him, just were not used. By the standards of U.S. presidential politics, it’s kind of nothing special either way, nothing to rave about, certainly.” (Democracy Now!)

As John Kerry Visited Hiroshima, U.S. Quietly Launching $1 Trillion Upgrade to Nuclear Arsenal: Interview with Marylia Kelley

Amy Goodman talks to Marylia Kelley of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, which just published a report titled, Trillion Dollar Trainwreck: Out-of-control U.S. nuclear weapons programs accelerate spending, proliferation, health and safety risks. John Kerry recently became the first secretary of state to visit Hiroshima, the Japanese city destroyed by a U.S. nuclear bomb on August 6, 1945. Three days after the Hiroshima bombing, the U.S. dropped another nuclear bomb on the city of Nagasaki. Hundreds of thousands were killed. The United States is the only country ever to drop an atomic bomb. Kerry offered no apology for the U.S. nuclear attack but called for “a world free from nuclear weapons.” Despite his remarks, the Obama administration has been quietly upgrading its nuclear arsenal to create smaller, more precise nuclear bombs as part of a massive effort that will cost up to $1 trillion over three decades. (Democracy Now!)

U.S. Radioactive Weapons Fueling Birth Defects in Iraq: Interview with Barbara Koeppel

Jessica Desvarieux talks to investigative journalist Barbara Koeppel who is the author of a recent article in the Washington Spectator which examines how the U.S. is getting away with using radioactive weapons that are causing spikes in birth defects and cancer in both Iraqi citizens and U.S. veterans. (The Real News)

Conflicting Reports: Who Rejected United States-North Korea Peace Talks?

Ben Ariel reports for Arutz Sheva:

An undated photo of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un released by the country’s Korean Central News Agency.There were conflicting reports on Sunday regarding a recent proposal for United States-North Korea peace talks which was allegedly made before North Korea’s recent nuclear test.

The State Department insisted that Washington rejected a North Korean proposal to discuss a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War because it did not address denuclearization on the peninsula, according to Reuters.

But a report earlier in the Wall Street Journal suggested the opposite – that it was the United States that offered the peace treaty and that Pyongyang had been the one to reject it.

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BBC Imagines World War III

Gilbert Doctorow reports for Consortium News:

Now, with a nuclear strike on London imminent, military commanders and senior Government figures in a Whitehall bunker must choose whether to launch our Trident missiles in response, having already decided against a nuclear strike at an earlier stage in the crisisThe documentary film “World War Three: Inside the War Room was described in advance by the BBC as a “war game” detailing the minute-by-minute deliberations of the country’s highest former defense and security officials facing an evolving crisis involving Russia.

What gave unusual realism and relevance to their participation is that they were speaking their own thoughts, producing their own argumentation, not reading out lines handed to them by television script writers.

The mock crisis to which they were reacting occurs in Latvia as the Kremlin’s intervention on behalf of Russian speakers in the south of this Baltic country develops along lines of events in the Donbas as from summer 2014. When the provincial capital of Daugavpils and more than 20 towns in the surrounding region bordering Russia are taken by pro-Russian separatists, the United States calls upon its NATO allies to deliver an ultimatum to the Russians to pull back their troops within 72 hours or be pushed out by force.

This coalition of the willing only attracts the British. After the deadline passes, the Russians “accidentally” launch a tactical nuclear strike against British and American vessels in the Baltic Sea, destroying two ships with the loss of 1,200 Marines and crew on the British side. Washington then calls for like-for-like nuclear attack on a military installation in Russia, which, as we understand, leads to full nuclear war.

The show was aired on Feb. 3 by BBC Two, meaning it was directed at a domestic audience, not the wider world. However, in the days since its broadcast, it has attracted a great deal of attention outside the United Kingdom, more in fact than within Britain. The Russians, in particular, adopted a posture of indignation, calling the film a provocation.

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UK needs Trident to play ‘outsized’ role in world affairs, says US defence secretary

Press Association reports:

Britain must keep its Trident nuclear deterrent to maintain its “outsized” role in the world, the US defence secretary, Ash Carter, has said.

Carter said the nuclear-armed submarines were an “important part of the deterrent structure of Nato”.

MPs are expected to vote on government plans to renew the weapons system, an issue on which Labour is split.

The Ministry of Defence estimates that acquiring four new submarines to carry the Trident deterrent would cost £31bn over the course of the 20-year procurement programme, with a further £10bn set aside to meet any additional unexpected cost increases.

Carter told the BBC that Trident enabled Britain to “continue to play that outsized role on the global stage that it does because of its moral standing and its historical standing”.

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Beware of Obama’s Nuclear Weapons Plan

Stephen Kinzer writes for the Boston Globe:

 Americans are in near-panic over the danger posed by Islamic terrorists. That danger, however, pales beside an emerging new one. President Obama has proposed a frighteningly wrongheaded plan to “modernize” our nuclear arsenal at the unfathomable cost of about $1 trillion over the next 30 years. Terror will never reach even 1 percent of our population. Nuclear “modernization” increases the prospect of true devastation.

The nuclear threat seems diffuse and faraway, while the prospect of a deranged fanatic shooting up a cinema is as vivid as today’s news. Perhaps we have been lulled into security by the fact that no nuclear weapon has been used since 1945. Voices trying to alert us to the true threat are drowned out in a frenzy of over-the-top campaign speeches and TV rants about crazed Muslims.

The most sobering of these voices belongs to William Perry, who during the 1970s and ’80s directed the development of air-launched nuclear cruise missiles and later became secretary of defense. Now Perry is campaigning against Obama’s plan to develop and buy 1,000 new missiles with adjustable nuclear capacity, 100 new long-range bombers, and a new fleet of nuclear-armed submarines. He warns that if the plan becomes real, disputes among nations will be “more likely to erupt in nuclear conflict than during the Cold War.”

When Perry was directing America’s last nuclear buildup, he and others argued that it was necessary to compensate for NATO’s relatively weak conventional power in countries around the Soviet Union. That rationale evaporated when the Cold War ended, but it still shapes our defense policy.

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China Dismisses US Criticism, Blames Them for North Korea Troubles

Jason Ditz reports for Anitwar:

This week’s atomic weapons test by North Korea fueled a round of condemnation by the US against them, and also against China, with Secretary of State John Kerry declaring that China’s policies toward the north had failed and it was time for new strategy.

Chinese officials today dismissed that, saying that the US-led efforts to isolate North Korea have only made matters worse, and that China shouldn’t be expected to solve the entire problemby themselves.

China was an historical ally of North Korea, but tends to see the nation as more of a headache these days, trying to keep them from starting any big wars or collapsing outright, and leading to a massive influx of refugees into China.

North Korea, for its part, is said to be courting more help from China after today’s test, saying they need to come up with a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War, and warning they will continue their nuclear tests until a peace deal happens. US officials have repeatedly ruled out a peace deal with North Korea.

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North Korea Bomb Test Challenges U.S. Policy in Asia

Carol E. Lee reports for The Wall Street Journal:

North Korea’s fourth nuclear weapons test spread alarm through the U.S. and allied countries, reigniting concerns about Pyongyang’s advancements and thrusting the country back into the diplomatic spotlight.

The Obama administration on Wednesday disputed North Korea’s declaration that it had detonated a hydrogen bomb, a thermonuclear device with far greater destructive power than a conventional atomic bomb. But even if the device is proven smaller than that claimed by North Korea, the test indicates Pyongyang has continued to advance its nuclear program.

President Barack Obama, despite a diplomatic pivot aimed at increasing U.S. clout in Asia, has seen North Korea perform three of its four nuclear tests during his time in office. The isolated communist country has long been resistant to diplomatic pressure, despite international sanctions that exacerbate the grinding poverty there.

The blast underscores both the strategic significance and the complications of the U.S. relationship with China. Despite Washington’s recent efforts to counter Beijing’s influence in the region, it is precisely China’s influence that the U.S. most needs to address North Korea’s continuing nuclear bomb work.

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How ‘Crazy’ Are the North Koreans?

Joel S. Wit, a former State Department official, writes for The New York Times:

As someone who has spent most of the past 25 years of his professional life in the United States government, think tanks and academia trying to stop the North Korean nuclear weapons program, I found last week’s nuclear test and the events that followed depressingly familiar. They reminded me of Captain Renault’s famous line from “Casablanca” just before he shuts down Rick’s Café: “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” The reactions to North Korea’s 2006, 2009 and 2013 nuclear tests were the same — shock. Yet a decade has gone by and the North Korean nuclear threat has only grown.

I probably shouldn’t say this, but I take my hat off to the North Koreans. They have played their cards extremely well. Despite this episodic outrage, they have managed to become a full-fledged small nuclear power with a growing and increasingly sophisticated arsenal. Moreover, even as they have moved down the nuclear path, they have maintained fairly normal political, economic and other relations with many countries from China to Ethiopia. In effect, a large number of countries have tacitly accepted North Korea as a nuclear weapons state.

How has the North been able to do this? There are, of course, wonky answers: Unilateral and multilateral sanctions haven’t been forceful enough, negotiators haven’t been tough enough. But a big reason you will not often hear is that Americans and the international community have a comic book image of North Korea. We simply don’t take them seriously.

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North Korea cites Muammar Gaddafi’s ‘destruction’ in nuclear test defence

AFP reports:

North Koreans celebrate the nuclear test in Pyongyang's Kim Il-sung square on Friday.[…] A commentary published by the official KCNA news agency late on Friday said Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test was a “great event” that provided North Korea with a deterrent powerful enough to secure its borders against all hostile forces, including the United States.

“History proves that powerful nuclear deterrence serves as the strongest treasured sword for frustrating outsiders’ aggression,” the commentary said.

North Korea said the test was of a miniaturised hydrogen bomb – a claim largely dismissed by experts who argue the yield was far too low for a full-fledged thermonuclear device.

The KCNA commentary said the current international situation resembled the “law of the jungle” where only the strongest survive.

“The Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq and the Gaddafi regime in Libya could not escape the fate of destruction after being deprived of their foundations for nuclear development and giving up nuclear programmes of their own accord,” it said.

Both had made the mistake, the commentary argued, of yielding to Western pressure led by a United States bent on regime change.

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Could Iran Nuke Deal Help Create Way to Address North Korean Crisis? Interview with Joe Cirincione and Christine Ahn

Amy Goodman speaks to Joe Cirincione, president of Ploughshares Fund and author of Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before It is Too Late, and Christine Ahn, founder and executive director of Women Cross DMZ, a global movement of women mobilizing to end the Korean War. (Democracy Now!)