David Krieger: A Call to Eliminate All Nuclear Weapons
By Jane Ayers, Reader Supported News
04 December 14
An interview with David Krieger, president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation(Santa Barbara, California)
Jane Ayers: Over the years, nuclear expert Daniel Ellsberg has clearly illustrated and explained the threat to our mainland security if we continue to have land-based Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) nuclear weapons arsenals, which inevitably makes them a target of a nuclear strike from other countries. What do you think about the ongoing testing of these long-range missiles, especially since another ICBM was recently test-launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in late September?
David Krieger: It is a shared societal insanity that we take these nuclear missile tests as “business as usual,” with the testing going under the radar of the media and population. It is done in an environment of complacency. The testing of the Minuteman III ICBMs is provocative and actually undermines our security.
Ayers: Do you think it was a slap in the face to the U.N. Day for Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons which occurred a few days later?
Krieger: I do. The test was badly timed. This kind of test is totally unnecessary. The Air Force wants to test for effectiveness, readiness, and accuracy. But what is an effective launch? How do you measure effectiveness of a missile test? I would say that readiness is what should be tested for with the launch officers who are in the missile silos. So, even on their own terms, it comes down to accuracy, and with nuclear weapons you don’t need to be very accurate to destroy an intended target. The reason is that these are powerful nuclear weapons of indiscriminate mass destruction.
The test zone that is usually the target in the Marshall Islands is not “safe,” and makes the inhabitants insecure. With the reliability issues, if missiles will hit a target, how many times do they have to test them? No one assumes “no reliability” of hitting a long range target.
The testing seems to me about something else. Essentially, it is about sending a message to other nuclear nation states that we are powerful, but the testing is very badly timed. The U.S. and Russia are locked in an ongoing conflict over the Ukraine right now, and it seems excessively dangerous to be flexing our nuclear muscles with an ICBM missile test during a conflict with Russia. Rather we should be de-escalating the tensions with Russia over the Ukraine. Both sides need to back off from making provocative remarks and taking provocative actions, such as nuclear weapons tests.
Ayers: Why do you think ongoing nuclear missile tests are unnecessary?
Krieger: The U.S. needs to do far more to fulfill its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and end the nuclear arms race, and focus more on nuclear disarmament. Rather than fulfilling its obligation, The New York Times reported that the U.S. is modernizing its nuclear arsenal and infrastructure, and plans to spend $1 trillion over the next three decades doing so.
The U.S. has a long-term program in progress and shows no signs of being willing to meet its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and this is exactly why the Marshall Islands recently sued the U.S. and the other eight nuclear-armed countries. They sued them because they are modernizing their nuclear arsenals, and are refusing to negotiate in good faith for nuclear disarmament. It is tragic that the American people don’t understand how dangerous the stakes are: nuclear weapon installations are to protect us, but they actually make us targets for future attacks.
Ayers: So you are saying that modernizing our nuclear arsenals is an actual danger to our homeland?
Krieger: In September, on the International Day of Peace, 400,000 people marched in New York City for climate change, to prevent climate chaos. This is important, but the American people (and the people of the world) need to understand how high the stakes are with continual reliance on nuclear weapons. It is like we are always playing nuclear roulette, putting nuclear weapons in the barrel of a large one-tap gun, and then pointing it at the head of humanity.
Rather than continue to tests its Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, the U.S. needs to become serious about meeting its obligations to achieve a world free of nuclear threats. This would require a world free of nuclear weapons, and is every bit as important as ending the dangers of climate change.
Ayers: The Marshall Islands has filed a lawsuit against the nuclear nation states for not living up to their obligations to end the use of nuclear weapons. In late October, the judge pushed the case to January 2015 to give the decision on the U.S. Motion to Dismiss. Do you see this lawsuit as effective if heard?
Krieger: September 26th was the International Day for Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, declared by the United Nations. Again, the U.S. should have been focusing on negotiating total nuclear disarmament rather than letting the Air Force conduct nuclear missile tests with dummy warheads days before. It reminds me of a quote by Martin Luther King Jr: “We have guided missiles, and misguided men.” We need this wisdom today much more than we need the hubris involved in rattling our nuclear sabre.
The Marshall Islands is a small area with 70,000 remarkable people. It is one of the five countries in the Pacific that are most susceptible to destruction from climate change and which were terribly misused by the U.S. nuclear weapons testing program that took place there from 1946 to 1958. During this period, the U.S. conducted 67 nuclear and thermonuclear weapons tests. These tests had an explosive power equivalent to 1.6 Hiroshima bombs dropped daily for 12 years.
Now the Marshall Islanders are trying to rally global support to halt climate change, and by filing the lawsuit they want to also assure that the nine nuclear-weapon states fulfill their obligations under international law to negotiate a world without nuclear weapons. It is astounding that one small country is taking this battle on for all of humanity’s future.
In comparison with the amount of energy and intelligence that the Marshall Islanders are putting into the two survival issues for humanity, the modest steps taken by the U.S. in these areas are shameful.
The U.S. is actually taking some steps in the wrong direction rather than finding solutions to these problems. You can see clearly the global leadership of the Marshall Islands, but where is the global leadership of the U.S. on these critical issues?
Ayers: Didn’t President Obama run for the presidency on the premise of nuclear disarmament?
Krieger: Yes, in Prague, President Obama stated with conviction, “America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” He has not moved very far on that promise. In that same speech, President Obama went on to say that he wasn’t naïve, and that that promise would likely not be fulfilled in his lifetime. Given his lack of progress on this issue, he was actually making a self-fulfilling prophecy. I still believe President Obama has good intentions, but he has not had the necessary support in the political realm (or even from the American people) to be successful in even initiating negotiations for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
Ayers: Why do you think nuclear deterrence is flawed?
Krieger: The whole enterprise of nuclear deterrence is badly flawed, yet it is widely accepted at all government levels. Nuclear deterrence is basically a hypothesis about human behavior. We don’t know if it works or not because we might have just been lucky in not having a nuclear war, by accident or design, to this point. To argue that we have not had a nuclear war because of nuclear deterrence is not logical. We can’t just assume that, because we threatened the use of nuclear weapons, a nuclear war did not start. In logic, you can’t prove the causation of a negative (no nuclear war).
The intersections of climate issues and nuclear issues should be looked at more. Many nuclear plants are on coastlines because they use the water for coolant. As predicted, as the sea levels rise, there will be flooding of nuclear plants, which could lead to nuclear core meltdowns and radiation contamination. Climate dangers will also lead to more refugees crossing national borders or being militarily prevented from doing so, bringing more potential for war and the use of nuclear weapons.
Ayers: Are you concerned about the dangers of terrorist groups targeting nuclear power plants?
Krieger: One of the issues that hasn’t been looked into enough is the potential threat of the destruction of nuclear power plants as an act of war or terrorism. If a country at war or a terrorist group decided to take out a nuclear power plant, it would be horrific. It has been common to take out electrical power plants of an enemy in war, but taking out a nuclear power plant is far more dangerous and would instill panic due to the released radioactive materials.
It is important to recognize how much is at stake with both nuclear weapons and climate chaos. We must awaken and take steps to end these two major threats to humanity’s future.
Jane Ayers is an independent journalist (USA Today, Los Angeles Times Interview, San Francisco Chronicle, The Nation, etc.) and Director of Jane Ayers Media. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.
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