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Nuclear Disarmament

Iran And The Iowa Senators

USSenateBoth Iowa Senators, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, said they would use the 60-day evaluation period congress mandated for their approval of the agreement between Iran and the P5+1 states (United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany) to reign in the Iranian nuclear program and prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Their full statements on announcement of the agreement are below.

Many of their colleagues have already spoken against approval of the agreement, so a modicum of discretion to study the agreement is both needed and represents Iowa as well as can be expected from our two current senators.

President Obama campaigned on the idea of talking to Iran, something his predecessor was unwilling to do. He not only initiated discussions, he was a driving force behind rallying our allies to enter into negotiations to bring Iran into compliance with the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty to which they are a party. The United Nations approved the deal on Monday.

Here are some facts:

1. This is not, as Senator Ernst said, “the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran.” Germany and the members of the United Nations Security Council reached this agreement.

2. Israel, while a U.S. ally, is a scofflaw in the community of nations by virtue of its nuclear weapons program. They are not party to the NPT, nor have they officially acknowledged their nuclear weapons program. Israel is the preeminent leader in covert nuclear weapons programs.

3. If the Congress seeks to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons, killing the Iran deal is the wrong way to do it. “If the Congress kills this deal, there will be no restraints—none whatsoever—no inspections, it’s over, and the sanctions will disappear,” said Secretary of State John Kerry to Steve Inskeep on Monday. “Because our colleagues who we negotiated with will say, ‘Well, look, the United States Congress killed this, we didn’t—but now everybody’s free to do what they want.'”

4. The agreement is not about trusting Iran. “You can’t trust Iran,” said Kerry, “and nothing in this deal is based on trust. We trust that we have the ability to enforce this deal; we trust that the deal, if implemented, will do the job. And if it’s not implemented, we trust that we have every option available to us that we need.”

5. The deal does not empower Iran, enabling them to have greater influence in the Middle East. Kerry told Inskeep,

Iran without a nuclear weapon is a very different Iran than one with one, and this is why many of us are so amazed at the reaction of some people.

Israel, for instance, is much safer without an Iranian nuclear weapon. And we believe that what we have done in this deal—and even before this deal, in the last two years—is roll back Iran’s nuclear program. Before we became engaged with Iran, they had a two-month breakout time. Now they’ll be going to a year breakout time. Is Israel safer with a year, or aren’t you? I mean, this is pretty straightforward.

So, the fact is, we’ll have inspectors in the country; we’ll have restraints on what [Iran] can do, in terms of levels of enrichment, restraints on the size of their stockpile, restraint on their research and development. Clearly people are safer with those restraints in place—and forever, for lifetime, they have to live up to the access under the additional protocol of the IEA, they have to have huge restraints on the uranium production and other things.

So I believe over time we will show people in the Congress and elsewhere in the country that Israel, the Gulf states, the countries in the region are much safer with this deal than without it.

Now it the time to weigh in on the Iran deal with Senator Grassley here, and Senator Ernst here.

Senator Chuck Grassley statement on the Iran deal:

“I’ve always been skeptical about an agreement with Iran that fails to fully dismantle its nuclear program. This is a country that sponsors terrorism and has a history of hiding its nuclear program from outside inspectors. I’m concerned that Iran’s relief from international sanctions could offer a lot more carrot than stick. That would open the spigot to support Iran’s terror activities and nuclear capabilities, threatening our national security and the security of our allies in the region.

“It’s important that under the legislation Congress passed, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, Congress will have 60 days to review the agreement before the President could waive any congressionally imposed sanctions on Iran. Under the act, Congress will review every line of the agreement before approving or disapproving the deal. We need to understand all of the components of the agreement. Does the deal allow for anytime, anywhere inspections, including military sites? When and how will sanctions be lifted, and what process exists for re-imposing sanctions, should Iran violate the deal? Will sanctions on conventional arms and ballistic missile technology be lifted as a result of the agreement? Will this deal prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability and improve the security of the United States and our allies? These are just a few of the questions that come to mind.”

Senator Joni Ernst statement on the Iran deal:

“The 60 days will allow Congress and the American people to thoroughly scrutinize every aspect of the agreement with Iran. While I am still reviewing the details, I have very serious concerns that this agreement concedes too much to Iran and will ultimately strengthen the pathway for Iran to achieve a nuclear weapon. The bottom line, Iran must never be allowed to develop a single nuclear weapon – not now or at any point in the future.

“Iran is the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism and has aligned themselves with groups that are hostile to the United States and our allies. Therefore, we cannot afford premature sanction relief which has helped to curb Iranian support of terrorist activity. We cannot trust that Iran won’t use additional resources as an opportunity to fund terrorism and other proxy groups which pose a direct threat to our allies and national security interests in the region.

“Iran’s quarter century effort to obtain a nuclear weapon and long-standing support for terrorism will not subside overnight. We also cannot trust that Iran is complying with limitations on their nuclear program without stronger inspections. It is paramount that we are able to verify and enforce every aspect of Iranian compliance in order to confront and contain their nuclear ambitions.

“Iran is one of the greatest threats to peace and stability of our time, and we have a duty to stand behind our friends and closest ally in the region – Israel. The stakes are too high for the United States to risk any mistakes in an agreement with Iran. I look forward to carefully reviewing this deal in Congress to make sure we preserve our own national security and the pursuit of stability in the world.”

Will Grassley And Ernst Get It Right This Time?

Ed Flaherty

Ed Flaherty

Call On Iowa Senators to Wage Peace

by Ed Flaherty

Iran has come to an interim agreement with the U.S. and five other countries to dramatically reduce its nuclear program and to allow even more intensive international inspections. A final agreement is to be complete by June 30.

Congress will soon be debating its role in this matter. Iowa’s senators Grassley and Ernst have, up to this point, expressed not only skepticism about a potential agreement, but have attempted to derail it. They will now have another opportunity to weigh in on it, both in the upcoming debates and in the congressional review of the agreement after June 30. This will be an opportunity for them to get on the right side of history, by supporting an agreement than ensures that Iran will not have the ability to build a nuclear weapon. (Despite the senators’ claims to the contrary, U.S. intelligence agencies have affirmed multiple times in the last decade that there is no evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapon program).

The alternative to an agreement will be more sanctions, more distrust and isolation, enhanced conditions for another war. In January, 1991, Senator Grassley voted against the first Gulf War. He was one of only two Republican senators to vote against the Republican president’s request, and it took courage and common sense to do it. Now is the time to ask that he exercise that courage and common sense again and support this historic agreement. His actions would also hopefully have a profound effect on the junior senator from Iowa.

It Is Five Minutes To Midnight

BAS Cover(Editor’s Note: The BAS issued a press advisory that they will announce their decision regarding setting the Doomsday Clock at 10 a.m. CST on Jan. 22).

The world has not tamed the nuclear beast and it is cause for concern.

This month, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a group formed 70 years ago by some of the physicists who worked on the Manhattan Project, will decide whether to update their Doomsday Clock which currently says, “It Is 5 Minutes to Midnight®.”

The clock has become a universally recognized indicator of the world’s vulnerability to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change, and emerging technologies in the life sciences.

Why should Iowans worry when most don’t think about this in daily life? We don’t need to freak out, but we do need to be aware that the U.S. nuclear program matters in Iowa.

In 2009, President Obama announced pursuit of a world free of nuclear weapons in Prague. Things have gone unexpectedly under his leadership.

“I note the United States does not support efforts to move to a nuclear weapons convention, a ban, or a fixed timetable for elimination of all nuclear weapons,” said Adam Scheinman, U.S. State Department delegate to a Dec. 8, 2014 international conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons in Vienna, Austria.

Jaws dropped at the tone-deaf statement in a room where people had gathered to hear the witness of Hibakusha who survived the nuclear explosions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Here’s the problem. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the administration plans to spend $355 billion over the next 10 years to modernize our nuclear arsenal. This is an absurd waste of taxpayer dollars on weapons that should never be used. These are our tax dollars, over $1,100 from every person.

The Doomsday Clock is a reminder that we can’t afford the luxury of an incremental approach to nuclear disarmament, and in Iowa it matters.

Advocating For Nuclear Abolition

Photo Credit Al Viola

Photo Credit Al Viola

During their annual remembrance of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Frank Cordaro’s dwindling collection of nuclear abolitionists staged another vigil near the Bellevue, Nebraska military complex that is the command and control center for U.S. nuclear weapons. Cordaro reported to his lists in an Aug. 16 email:

A total of 13 people made it out for some time during our annual 3-1/2 day ‘shake and bake’ August Vigil at STRATCOM, reaching double digits just once at the end of the vigil on Aug 9 when we gathered around for a public reading of Tomas Merton’s “Original Child Bomb.”

Not a lot to report. The weather was cool and overcast the whole time, a little wet at first.

Not a lot to report Doesn’t mean not much happen. Check out Mark Kenney’s account of his encounter with a young mother and her three small kids at the vigil.

You old timers, check out Corey Zimmer’s new beard in photo slideshow.

Frank Cordaro
Phil Berrigan CW House

Interest in advocating for nuclear abolition is waning in the U.S., and the retirement of U.S. Senator Tom Harkin is a bellwether. He wrote at length about the need for nuclear disarmament in his 1990 book Five Minutes To Midnight: Why the Nuclear Threat is Growing Faster Than Ever.

Harkin wrote that the threat of nuclear war is not with the former Soviet Union. In fact he characterized that risk as “negligibly small,” and with the exception of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, he said it probably always has been. The nuclear threat is with states that have far less nuclear capability than the U.S. and Russia, or with those states who don’t possess nuclear weapons, but would provoke those that do to use them. In any case, Harkin’s voice on nuclear disarmament is expected to be stilled with his retirement.

“In the United States, the nuclear abolition movement has failed to generate much popular support,” wrote Eric Schlosser in his recent book, Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Incident, and the Illusion of Safety. “The retired officials (George Schultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn) who jump-started the debate in 2007 had an average age of seventy-nine. Many of the issues at stake seem hypothetical and remote. Almost half the American population were not yet born or were children when the Cold War ended.”

“Support for nuclear abolition is hardly universal,” Schlosser added.

For long-time advocates of nuclear abolition, there are no easy answers to the question what next? Organizations that grew out of the Reagan-inspired nuclear freeze movement still work toward a world free of nuclear weapons. However, in an age of competition for financial resources, the number of foundations and private donors willing to support nuclear abolition work has decreased. The voices of Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association and Joe Cirincione of the Ploughshares Fund are still heard, but theirs are often the only voices.

The risk we face is that right wing, war hawks will get their way with the absence of resistance, and grow the American nuclear complex unnecessarily, lining the pockets of defense contractors as they do. We’ve come a long way from President Obama’s hopeful April 5, 2009 speech in Prague, the light of which has dimmed with each successive year of his presidency.

What next for nuclear abolition advocacy? It’s an open question, the answer to which is elusive. It is hopeful news that the International Red Cross/Red Crescent Society and Rotary International have expressed interest in nuclear abolition for humanitarian reasons. But international initiatives fail to gain traction in the U.S. Remember, the head of the U.S. Red Cross is a political appointment, and the administration has resisted abolition work by the Red Cross.

Without U.S. participation in nuclear disarmament action, there is little hope of getting to zero nuclear weapons. Those of us who believe it is the right path have our work cut out for us. Like the small band of folks at STRATCOM, we are unlikely to give up.

69th Anniversary Of Hiroshima

Iowa City Nuclear Free SignAug. 6 marks the 69th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan when between 60,000 and 80,000 people were killed instantly, with a final death toll estimated at 135,000.

Aug. 9 will mark the anniversary of Nagasaki where about 40,000 people were killed instantly by an atomic bomb, with a final death toll of about 50,000.

We won the war and the world changed forever.

What has become of our nuclear weapons program?

The report isn’t good.

Late night comedians ridicule the state of our nuclear complex, the foibles of its officers, and the many accidents it produced. An example was Vice Admiral Tim Giardina, the STRATCOM deputy chief in Bellevue, Nebraska, who was fired by President Obama last October after being caught passing counterfeit poker chips at a Council Bluffs casino. Comedy is not reality, and Giardina’s situation isn’t that funny.

Last week, information was made public that Russia violated the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, which was signed by President Reagan, and ratified in 1988, by testing a ground-launched cruise missile. Cruise missiles are delivery systems for nuclear warheads.

While the treaty violation does not comprise a new threat in the tense relationship between the U.S. and Russia, it is troubling.

“It suggests that Russia is moving away from a long U.S.-Russia tradition of restraining the most dangerous weapons even as they have serious disagreements on all sorts of issues,” said Daryl Kimball, of the Arms Control Association.

Life is scary enough without nuclear weapons, so what’s an Iowan to do?

It’s time to prevent what we cannot cure, and call for nuclear disarmament.

~ Paul Deaton is a member of the Iowa Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, U.S. affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, a 1985 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

#NoNukes Roundup

This video by comedian John Oliver is making the rounds of District of Columbia nuclear disarmament folks today, and is worth sharing.

Eric Schlosser, author of Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Incident, and the Illusion of Safety plays a cameo role in the clip, and is a likely source of some of the information about the the problems with the U.S. nuclear complex. Read the New York Times Book Review here.

There Can Be No Winners In A Nuclear War

Iowa City Nuclear Free Sign(Editor’s Note: This article by colleague Steven Starr first appeared on June 11 in Truthout. Starr summarized why there is a real threat of nuclear war, and how it would be devastating. While Starr is a bit alarmist, he reminds us that we must commit ourselves to preventing what we can not cure and abolish nuclear weapons).

There Can be No Winners in a Nuclear War
By Steven Starr

Nuclear war has no winner. Beginning in 2006, several of the world’s leading climatologists (at Rutgers, UCLA, John Hopkins University, and the University of Colorado-Boulder) published a series of studies that evaluated the long-term environmental consequences of a nuclear war, including baseline scenarios fought with merely 1% of the explosive power in the US and/or Russian launch-ready nuclear arsenals. They concluded that the consequences of even a “small” nuclear war would include catastrophic disruptions of global climate and massive destruction of Earth’s protective ozone layer. These and more recent studies predict that global agriculture would be so negatively affected by such a war, a global famine would result, which would cause up to 2 billion people to starve to death.

These peer-reviewed studies – which were analyzed by the best scientists in the world and found to be without error – also predict that a war fought with less than half of US or Russian strategic nuclear weapons would destroy the human race. In other words, a US-Russian nuclear war would create such extreme long-term damage to the global environment that it would leave the Earth uninhabitable for humans and most animal forms of life.

Click here to read the rest of Starr’s article.

Hiroshima Day 2013 Events

Nuclear weapons are bad for human beings and other living creatures. We should never again detonate such a weapon.

Monday, Aug. 5

  • Hiroshima/Nagasaki Observance Program organized by Dubuque Peace and Justice, Dubuque. 6 until 6:30 p.m. at the corner of 6th and Locust (Multicultural Family Center in case of rain).

Tuesday, Aug. 6

  • Annual Observance of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at 7:30 p.m. Japanese Bell at the Iowa State Capitol. Sponsored by Catholic Peace Ministry, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, American Friends Service Committee.
  • Hiroshima Day Candlelight Vigil on the River organized by Workers for Peace Iowa. 8:30 until 9 p.m. They’ll start setting out and lighting luminaries around 8:15 p.m. Center of First Ave Bridge over Cedar River in Cedar Rapids.
  • Annual 3-1/2 Day Vigil at STRATCOM, Offutt Air Force Base, Bellevue, Neb. organized by Veterans for Peace, Chapter 163 and the Phil Berrigan Catholic Worker House, Des Moines. Tuesday, Aug. 6 until  Thursday, Aug. 8, from  8 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the STRATCOM Kenny Gate.

Iowans Arrested at KC Nuke Plant Protest

Peace Now, Please(UPDATED July 16, 2013) Iowa Catholic Workers Frank Cordaro, Ed Bloomer, Elton Davis, and Jessica Reznicek were among two dozen people who were arrested Saturday morning for trespassing at the entrance to the National Nuclear Security Administration’s new south Kansas City complex in a peaceful protest against the nuclear weapons that will soon be built there.

David Goodner, also a Des Moines Catholic Worker, reported this morning,

“A group of priests, nuns, Catholic Workers, and other faithful took nonviolent direct action at a Kansas City nuclear weapons plant over the weekend.  23 were arrested including Father Carl Kabat, the head of his order, other priests and nuns, and many Catholic Workers from around the Midwest and country.

Most have been released, however, Frank Cordaro of Des Moines is still being held because of prior warrants and will see a judge today.”

Read more about the protest from Channel 41 in Kansas City by clicking here.

Obama’s Baby Steps Forward

Photo Credit Washington Post

Photo Credit Washington Post

President Obama spoke in Berlin this week, and I have been waiting to listen to the speech, doing so this morning. Friends have been talking about Obama’s call for a new series of steps toward nuclear abolition. One friend, who is not an Internet user, called and left a voice mail message saying he hoped that Obama’s speech would generate new energy around nuclear abolition within Veterans for Peace. I don’t know about that. The speech was less than inspiring, even if filled with lofty ideas, many of which have been heard from this president before. Referring to the global AIDS initiative, Obama spoke about peace with justice,

“Peace with justice means meeting our moral obligations. […] Making sure that we do everything we can to realize the promise– an achievable promise– of the first AIDS-free generation. That is something that is possible if we feel a sufficient sense of urgency.”

That last part, “a sufficient sense of urgency,” is always the problem in our consumer society, isn’t it? At the same time, we can’t ignore the president’s call for new energy around what threatens life as we know it— nuclear proliferation, a warming and increasingly polluted planet, and social injustice. Obama touched on all three in the speech.

The heavy lift of the New START Treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation was a signature achievement of Obama’s first term. I was proud to have been part of the effort toward ratification. There was a sense in the conference calls with key State Department leaders, even shortly after Russia’s parliament ratified the treaty, that it was the last big thing regarding nuclear abolition for this president. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s how I heard it from people in a position to know.

Nuclear abolition matters, so it is important to consider the president’s announcement in Berlin, his plan to move forward in slowing nuclear proliferation. The U.S. will negotiate further reductions in deployed strategic nuclear weapons, by up to one third, with the Russian Federation; the U.S. will negotiate with Russia a reduction in tactical nuclear weapons in Europe; we must reject the nuclear weaponization that North Korea and Iran may be seeking; the U.S. will host a summit in 2016 to secure nuclear materials in the world; the administration will build support for ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; and the president called on all nations to begin negotiations on a treaty that ends the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons. These are all continuations of previous administration policies: baby steps forward.

The day after the speech at the Brandenburg Gate, Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, posted an article in Foreign Policy titled, “Death by Cuts to a Thousand.” He wrote, “while (the president’s) remarks are overdue and welcome, the pace and scope of his proposals for further nuclear reductions are incremental at best and changes in the U.S. nuclear war plan are less than meets the eye.” I met Kimball in Washington in Fall 2009, and he is a key person among the non-governmental organizations that work on nuclear weapons issues. One suspects he was putting the best face on what was a disappointing policy announcement.

Despite this, as Kimball wrote in the article, “doing nothing in the face of grave nuclear weapons threats is not an option.” My work with others toward nuclear abolition will go on. It is a core part of working toward sustainability in a turbulent world.