How nuclear war would affect the world climate
and human health.
Photo by StrahilDimitrov/Getty Images
Warning: new nukes
increase risk of war,
but citizens possess
‘power to stop them’
SF panel hails ‘people power’
to overcome deficient media
and prevent nuclear debacle
WALL news and commentary
Plans for new nuclear weapons — such
as a low-yield submarine-launched warhead — will
appear on drawing boards at the Livermore National
Laboratory, 36 miles southeast of San Francisco, if war
planners have their way.
The so-called “low-yield” feature is meant to
make a nuclear weapon more usable. “That by itself is
uniquely dangerous,” Marylia Kelley, head of the
Livermore-based anti-nuke group Tri-Valley
CAREs, said at a San Francisco forum. “All nuclear
weapons are wrong,” but this one would be “distinctly
destabilizing and dangerous.”
She added, however, “You have it in your
power to stop it from ever being designed.” Tri-Valley has a
history of stopping bomb projects and it aims at several new
ones through “people power, public outcry … grass-roots
democracy” with technical and legal support.
On September 17, a congressional measure
called the “Hold the LYNE [low-yield nuclear explosive] Act
(Ms. Kelley’s title) was introduced in the House of
Representatives as H.R 6840 by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA-33rd CD)
and in the Senate as S. 3448 by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA).
It prohibits funds for the “Trident D5
low-yield nuclear warhead,” explaining: “A new low-yield
nuclear weapon to be carried on a ballistic missile
submarine risks lowering the threshold for nuclear use and
increasing the chance of miscalculation that could escalate
into all-out nuclear exchange.”
The House bill has 10 cosponsors (all
Democrats), the Senate bill, none. (In a Republican
Congress, bills need Republican support to pass — editor.)
In 35 years with Tri-Valley CAREs (Citizens
against a Radioactive Environment), Ms. Kelley learned that
“a program is easier to stop, the earlier you get in to stop
before it has people’s careers that are dependent upon it.”
Other proposed weapons that she condemned were the following
pair. (They are funded out of $15.2 billion allotted by
Congress on September 21 to the National Nuclear Security
Administration for fiscal 2019, a 4% increase.)
The Long-Range Stand Off weapon —
Livermore Lab is to develop a new warhead for a new missile
that the Pentagon is developing. A pilot could “stand off”
thousands of miles from his target and launch a
radar-evading sneak attack on an unsuspecting population.
“By definition, my friends, this is a first-use nuclear
The Interoperable warhead — Originally
designed for both land- and sub-based missiles, it faces
design changes at Livermore Lab that may prompt the U.S. to
resume underground nuclear testing in Nevada. Tri-Valley
CAREs convinced the Obama administration to place a 5-year
hold on this weapon. It’s back, in accord with Trump’s
Nuclear Posture Review.
Tri-Valley severely criticized Obama’s nuclear posture. “Trump’s makes things worse. It increases the circumstances under which the U.S. might respond with a nuclear weapon — including cyber attacks. It also has brand new nuclear weapons as part of it.”
“Trump closer to nuclear war as nukes
become weapons to use, not just deter,” this site,
Jan. 30, 2018.)
How low is 'low yield'?
“Low-yield” weapons, in the lexicon of nuclear war planners, have the strength of the two bombs that President Harry Truman used to devastate Hiroshima and Nagasaki and slay as many as a quarter-million people in 1945.Jacqueline Cabasso, executive director of Western States Legal Foundation, Oakland, explained that term at the San Francisco forum, whose theme was preventing nuclear war. (Held in the downtown public library on September 30, it was the main feature of the biennial meeting of the War and Law League [WALL]. The library and the WALL-organized Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament were official cosponsors.)
While Ms. Cabasso agreed that “we need to
stop this weapon,” the proposed Hold the LYNE Act’s
acceptance of the concept of nuclear “deterrence” — the
threat of nuking a country that nukes us first — is “not
good enough for us.” As she saw it, legislation should talk
about steps to the abolition of nuclear weapons.
“I just came back from the UN. How many of
you know that last Wednesday [9/26/18] was the UN International Day for the Total
Elimination of Nuclear Weapons?” she asked. “Did you
read about it in the newspapers? Did you have any idea that
56 governments, highest level representatives including
presidents and foreign ministers, spoke in a high-level
plenary in support of the total elimination of nuclear
Apathy toward the possibility of human
annihilation was not always a problem. In 1982 a million people rallied in New York
City’s Central Park against nuclear weapons, and “I was
among 1,500 people arrested for blocking gates of Livermore
National Laboratory.” That recollection by Ms. Cabasso drew
applause at the forum.
She described “a growing danger of nuclear
war” as well as some promising developments.
Notwithstanding the possession by Russia and
the U.S. of 15,000 nuclear bombs, 92 percent of all those in
the world, enough to destroy all life on earth,
President-elect Trump tweeted, “The United States must
greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capabilities.” He
accepts and enhances Obama’s $1 trillion, 30-year program to
maintain and “modernize” U.S. nuclear bombs and systems.
Other nuclear powers have followed suit.
Envisioning reliance on nuclear forces
indefinitely, Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review, released last
February, “is an anti-disarmament program.” It calls for
deployment of “low-yield” warheads and submarine-based
missiles and contemplates nuclear response to non-nuclear
Last January, Bulletin of the Atomic
Scientists moved the hands of its metaphoric Doomsday
Clock to two minutes to midnight, “30 seconds closer to the
end of humanity,” as close as it has ever been in seven
“Tensions between the U.S. and Russia have
risen to levels not seen since the cold war.” The two giants
confront each other in Ukraine, Eastern Europe, and Syria.
They accelerate military exercises, both conventional and
nuclear. Risky close encounters proliferate.
As for Korea, however, “The Singapore summit
appears to have greatly reduced immediate tensions.” The
speaker credited South Korean President Moon’s “leadership
and vision,” rather than Trump or Kim Jong-un. She had hope
for denuclearization on both sides, “but the path ahead is
Also promising: the Treaty On the Prohibition
of Nuclear Weapons (Ban Treaty). Fifty years ago in Article
VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty, nuclear and
other nations agreed to seek a treaty for nuclear
disarmament. In 1996 the International Court of Justice at
The Hague (World Court) declared them obligated to draw one
The ruling inspired lawyers, scientists, and
activists to draft a model Ban Treaty, which the UN
circulated. The General Assembly adopted a resolution
calling for negotiations for such a treaty and repeated the
resolution year after year. Last November, the International
Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons won the Nobel Peace
“The Treaty’s prohibition of the threat of
use is an essential point for the peace movement to
highlight in antinuclear education and advocacy,” said Ms.
Cabasso. “The ideology of nuclear deterrence must be
delegitimized and stigmatized to make progress in abolishing
nuclear weapons.” (See sidebars “Mayors oppose nuclear
weapons” and “Treaty bans the bombs… .”)
Mankind’s near-end recounted.
in Ukraine and Iran.
its 1996 opinion, the World Court found the use of
nuclear weapons, as well as the threat of using them, to be
contrary to international humanitarian law.
The threat to respond in kind to a nuclear
attack is the essence of deterrence, also known as “mutual
assured destruction” or MAD. It is a basic principle of
“national security” for the U.S. and other nuclear powers.
Although meant to make one’s nation secure, it has brought
humanity many close calls.
Aside from the risk of scrapping democracy
and entrusting the decision to one man, like Trump or Putin,
and apart from the moral issue of slaying millions of people
to punish their leader, deterrence is technically defective.
We may never be able to discern a real attack from some
other event or error — until bombs fall.
Dr. Helen Caldicott has cited a flock of
geese, a solar storm, a weather satellite, and a war-games
tape among causes of alarms that nearly provoked nuclear
war. At the forum, Ray McGovern, retired CIA
analyst, who holds a master’s degree in Russian studies from
Fordham University, related these comparable incidents:
Up to now, the
world has been incredibly fortunate in avoiding nuclear war,
Mr. McGovern said, but “there’s no reason to believe our
luck will hold out, given the people who are in power on
this side of the Atlantic… . We could all be extinguished.
What could do it? Well, if you build up a masterful
propaganda campaign, as we have done here, blackening Putin,
making him the equivalence of the devil, it can become very,
Moscow would not be America’s only adversary:
“If there’s trouble between the U.S. and Russian forces in
Ukraine or in Syria, there’s going to be trouble in the
South China Sea as well…. China and Russia have a virtual
alliance now,” something this 27-year CIA veteran never
expected to see.
For a short time, Russo-American relations
were good, after “Putin pulled Obama’s chestnuts out of the
fire in Syria,” getting Syria’s chemical weapons destroyed
and thus averting a U.S. attack, for a while. (Obama
attacked later, and Trump did so too.). Half a year later,
anti-Russian officials in Obama’s State Department were
overheard discussing the overthrow of the Ukraine government
and its replacement with one that was pro-U.S.
“Yats is the guy,” Victoria Nuland, assistant
secretary of state, told Geoffrey Pyatt, ambassador to
Ukraine, in an intercepted phone conversation. A couple of
weeks later came a coup in Kiev and Arseniy Yatsenyuk took
over. The hostile action on Russia’s doorstep provoked a
military response from Moscow and a new cold war.
While the U.S. escaped devastation in World
War II, the Soviet Union lost as many as 27 million people.
“That statistic is not widely known, and I think we need to
know that because it gives us a feel for how Russians
experience war and how they’re hell-bent on avoiding another
Mr. McGovern debunked two falsehoods
concerning Iran: (1) That it is working on a nuclear weapon.
According to U.S. intelligence, the country has not worked
on such a program since 2003. (2) That it is the primary
supporter of international terrorism. That dishonor
goes to Saudi Arabia.
Addressing the War and Law League in 2006,
Mr. McGovern expected a U.S. attack on Iran. A dozen years
later, members of the Trump administration, notably John
Bolton, national security advisor, still advocate attacking
Iran, despite prohibitions against aggression in U.S.
Mr. McGovern told the 2018 forum: “Bush and
Cheney were fully intending to strike Iran during their last
year in office, 2008. Thankfully there was an honest manager
of national intelligence [Tom Finger] who did a bottom-up
assessment of where Iran was and the conclusion was
unanimous with high confidence that Iran stopped working on
a nuclear weapon at the end of 2003 and had not resumed… .
“Is there an honest manager of national
intelligence now? … I would be surprised if there were,
because I know who’s heading up that agency and she’s the
torturer-in-chief.” He was referring to Gina Haspel, new CIA
director. At her confirmation hearing last May, when Mr.
McGovern as a spectator brought up the matter of torture,
cops threw him to the floor and dragged him off to jail.
Media’s performance deplored.
urged to disperse info.
Why have activists been ignoring the nuclear
peril? When the Soviet regime expired, ending the cold war,
Ms. Kelley recalled, she heard some say, “Nuclear weapons
are not an issue any more.” Her comment: “Nuclear weapons
left the 6 o’clock news. They did not leave the country, and
they shouldn’t have left our consciousness.”
Mr. McGovern responded that the mainstream
media were the culprits. “I’ve never seen it so bad. I’ve
been in Washington 55 years now … . The biggest change by far
is the fact that we no longer have a free media.
“Here’s Trump off to Helsinki… . He stands up
with Putin and somebody asks him that loaded question, and
he’s his own worst enemy; he doesn’t know how to handle
those things. ‘Mr. Putin says they didn’t meddle.’ … Headline in
the Times next day: ‘Trump, With Putin, Attacks 2016
Intelligence.’ ” (See sidebar “Back from the brink.” See
also article “Seeking
peace is not ‘treasonous,’ ” this site, 7/27/18.)
Mr. McGovern scorned “the
complex. That’s the new element; the media are completely on
their side.” In his view, “You’ve got real problems if
you’re not really perspicacious about what you take from The
New York Times or Washington Post or Wall
Street Journal as truth.” He recommended alternative
web sites, particularly
and his own RayMcGovern.com. (See also Antiwar.com
for pertinent articles from many sites.)
On the International Day for the Total
elimination of Nuclear Weapons, said Ms. Cabasso, “The UN
was crawling with international media,” while U.S. news
media ignored it. “Opening week of the General Assembly for
most countries of the UN is a big deal; this is the top
story for the week. We did hear that Trump spoke, but that’s
about all we heard.”
Ms. Kelley regretted the consolidation of the
news media into fewer and fewer corporate hands until “a very small
number of corporations own most of the news outlets and they
have fewer reporters.” Her organization meets that problem
by writing monthly letters to newspapers. “So if there
aren’t enough reporters to cover our issue, we cover them in
snippets. Letters to the editor are short, but they get
published a lot.”
She stressed the importance of getting
information out to people, “whether you choose to talk to
your friends and neighbors,, write a letter to the editor,
[or] write an article for a newsletter for an organization … .” (Radio
talk shows offer another medium open to the public.)
Whatever the method, the first step is to research the
information, making sure that what one says is accurate.
She does a lot of speaking, and “it does not matter to whom I’m speaking. When people understand what’s going on in their name and with their money, they become upset.” Some Republicans who come up to her after a talk “feel the most betrayed and most angry.”
By Paul W. Lovinger
October 7, 2018