February 2007, No. 8 - A World Free of Nuclear Weapons?
From: John Burroughs, Executive Director
In this eNews:
1) A World Free of Nuclear Weapons – Says Who?
Here at the Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy, we don’t really like to be a voice crying in the wilderness. So we were glad to see the January 4 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger, and Sam Nunn, "A World Free of Nuclear Weapons." We were similarly glad to see the follow-up piece by Mikhail Gorbachev in the January 31 Wall Street Journal entitled "The Nuclear Threat."
Gorbachev welcomes the Shultz et al. op-ed and says: “We must put the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons back on the agenda, not in a distant future but as soon as possible. It links the moral imperative - the rejection of such weapons from an ethical standpoint - with the imperative of assuring security. It is becoming clearer that nuclear weapons are no longer a means of achieving security; in fact, with every passing year they make our security more precarious.” To Gorbachev’s mention of morality and ethics we would add law - the illegality of threat or use of nuclear weapons and the legal obligation of their elimination. See “The Legal Framework for Non-Use and Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.”
The op-eds are not isolated expressions of opinion. To similar effect is the report of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission chaired by Hans Blix, Weapons of Terror: Freeing the World of Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Arms, released in June 2006. Our response, an analysis of the report, its implications for U.S. policy, and more, by LCNP, Western States Legal Foundation, and Reaching Critical Will/Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, will be available in March and is entitled Nuclear Disorder or Cooperative Security? U.S. Weapons of Terror, the Global Proliferation Crisis, and Paths to Peace. You can pre-order at www.WMDreport.org. On October 17, we previewed our findings in an event at the United Nations, “Civil Society Responds to Weapons of Terror,” at which Hans Blix was the respondent.
Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was also very eloquent on the subject, as in his November 28, 2006 speech on ending “mutually assured paralysis” on disarmament and non-proliferation, as I explained on our blog DisarmamentActivist.org.
And then there’s the UN General Assembly, which in 2006 as in past years called for abolition of nuclear weapons. See my blog posting, “Trampling on the Opinions of Humankind” and LCNP program associate Michael Spies’ analysis of the negative U.S. record.
Finally, on January 18 the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the hand on the Doomsday Clock from seven to five minutes to midnight. Stephen Hawking, a BAS sponsor, professor of mathematics at the University of Cambridge, and a fellow of The Royal Society, said: "As scientists, we understand the dangers of nuclear weapons and their devastating effects, and we are learning how human activities and technologies are affecting climate systems in ways that may forever change life on Earth. As citizens of the world, we have a duty to alert the public to the unnecessary risks that we live with every day, and to the perils we foresee if governments and societies do not take action now to render nuclear weapons obsolete and to prevent further climate change."
One person not persuaded is Linton Brooks, former head of the National Nuclear Security Administration. In a January 31, 2007 letter to the New York Times, he defends the Reliable Replacement Warhead program. A letter by Peter Weiss not published by the Times starts as follows: "'US Selecting Hybrid Designs for Warheads' (front page, Jan. 7) exposes in all its starkness the arrogance and absurdity of the current United States policy on nuclear weapons."
As the stagnation on reduction and elimination of nuclear arsenals persists, solutions regarding Iran’s quest to acquire a uranium-enrichment capability have yet to be found. See Michael Spies’ analysis of the December 2006 Security Council resolution on Iran. At least there is a widening recognition that stagnation on disarmament and potential proliferation are related - but that recognition needs to be translated into action.
2) Disarmament Activism Alive and Well in Seattle
From January 22 to January 26, 2007, three individuals with the Ground Zero Center - Brian Watson, CarolAnn Barrows, and Shirley Morrison - were on trial in a local court in Port Orchard, Washington, for their anti-Trident direct actions in May and August of 2006. They were charged with the misdemeanor of obstructing traffic into the Trident nuclear submarine base at Bangor, Washington, “without lawful authority.” Unusually, the judge allowed David Hall, former national president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, and me to offer expert testimony on January 24. The defendants also testified at length about the reasons for their actions. The jury, while sympathetic as revealed by post-trial comments, failed to seize the opportunity and instead convicted, as the Kitsap Sun reported.
Another Kitsap Sun story described my testimony. It is somewhat garbled, but does convey the gist. I certainly did not say that international law allows use of nuclear weapons defensively! Nor did I indicate that citizens who fail to write letters in theory could be convicted of complicity! I did not get to all of it, and simplified quite a lot, but if you’re interested here’s the written outline of my testimony.
The Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action is doing a magnificent job of organizing, and participation and interest is on the rise. On January 15, 2007, Martin Luther King day, 12 people were arrested at the submarine base, with over 200 there in total. In connection with the trial, they organized several events. I did a talk on “From Auschwitz to Trident” on January 20 at the Seattle Town Hall, with about 200 in attendance. You can see it on YouTube; the slides for the talk are here. I also was on Seattle’s National Public Radio affiliate KUOW on Jan 24, with a Center for Defense Information expert, Philip Coyle - here’s the audio.Washington state is not the only place with vibrant anti-Trident activism. In Faslane, Scotland, Angie Zelter and others have organized a constant presence opposing the replacement/upgrade of the UK’s Trident system.
It was sobering for me personally, for all the time I spend on these issues, to think about the nine Trident submarines based at Bangor. Based on Natural Resource Defense Council estimates, each carries 144 warheads, six per each of the 24 missiles on the submarine. The warheads mostly are 100 kiloton, about seven times the yield of the bomb with which the U.S. destroyed Hiroshima; some are around 450 kilotons, 30 times the Hiroshima bomb. About one-half of the subs are thought to be on patrol at a given time. For more on this and links, see my DisarmamentActivist.org post.
In a separate event in Tacoma, Washington, on January 21 I described U.S. nuclear hypocrisy in a presentation at the Citizens Hearing on the Legality of U.S. Actions in Iraq. While the Citizens Hearing was focused on issues of war crimes and aggressive war relevant to the upcoming court martial of Lt. Ehren Watada, to their credit the organizers allowed speakers like myself to place the invasion and occupation in a larger context.
3) Saving the Department for Disarmament Affairs
We’ve been so busy we have not managed to get out an eNews for a long time. But rest assured that LCNP is working hard. For example, here in New York, we have been working with other civil society organizations to save the UN Department for Disarmament Affairs from new Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s plans for “management reform,” as illustrated by this IPS story.
Here’s hoping that we all have a very productive year.
Lawyers' Committee on Nuclear Policy