Archive for the ‘weapons and war’ Category

Saudi Arabia and crimes against humanity

May 11, 2018

Is Saudi Arabia also amongst the terrorists? 

The News, Nigeria Dec 1 2017 By Owei Lakemfa.

I am fascinated by Saudi Arabia. It does not care what others say or think. It simply pursues its own goals and policies, submitting to no other than its master, the United States of America. To it, women are legally inferior to men and no amount of human or women rights campaigns will change that………

When I was in the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Governing Body, there were constant complaints against Saudi Arabia violating all known labour laws against migrant workers. They simply sack or deport tens of thousands especially Indians, Filipinos, Ethiopians and Pakistanis, without paying them backlog of salaries. In one operation, after rounding up migrant workers for deportation without salaries, the Saudis simply forgot them for days, leaving them stranded without water or food.

Many do not sanction capital punishment, but for the Saudis, it is a way of life. A human being can be beheaded for a sundry of reasons including murder, treason, espionage and rape. But there are others like apostasy and blasphemy. If you are an atheist, and so disclose, your head is severed. It is difficult to prove sorcery and witchcraft, but if a person is in possession of talisman, according to the Saudis, he is guilty, and is a candidate for execution. Execution is primarily, beheading with a sword called SULTHAN and the most infamous star in that art is Muhammad Saad al-Beshi, who described his first execution in 1998: “The criminal was tied and blindfolded. With one stroke of the sword I severed his head. It rolled metres away…People are amazed how fast [the sword] can separate the head from the body.”……….

the Israeli Energy Minister, Yuval Steinitz disclosed that Israel had held covert meetings with Saudi Arabia on how to jointly fight Iran. There is no love lost between Saudi Arabia which sees itself as the custodian of the Sunni Movement, and Iran which sees itself as the guardian of the Shiite Movement. So can this be the policy of ‘My enemy’s enemy, is my friend’? It should come as a surprise that a Muslim country is working out an alliance with a Jewish state to attack a sister Muslim country.

Saudi Arabia does not waste time rolling out its military might to achieve political goals. For this, it invaded Bahrain in 1994, and when there was a popular revolt against the Al-Khalifa Monarchy, Saudi Arabia on March 14, 2011, again invaded Bahrain and crushed the protests.

But it is in Yemen Saudi Arabia has most displayed it its military prowess. There had been an uprising against the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. A combination of Houthi rebels and Yemeni military loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, had removed Hadi. An angry Saudi Arabia fell on Yemen bombing large parts into near extinction. Everything is game to the Saudi bombers which first obliterated schools and hospitals then turned its fury on any gathering; markets, weddings, even funerals. It also imposed a blockade. Over 12,000 Yemeni civilians have been killed. 3.3 million children and nursing mothers are suffering from acute malnutrition, and cholera is rampant, yet Saudi Arabia and its allies will not relent. The cemeteries are over flowing so much that a good foreign investment in Yemen would be the building of new cemeteries.

Nobody is talking about crimes against humanity because the Saudis have powerful friends in the United Nations and “international community’ Many want a slice of the huge Saudi arms budget. When American President Donald Trump visited Riyadh this May, he smiled home with a $350 Billion arms contract for his country. With this, it was not difficult to get America endorse Saudi Arabia’s illegal blockade and sanctions against tiny Qatar who was told to either accept a 13-Point Saudi Demand including the closure of Al Jazeera, or face annihilation………. http://thenewsnigeria.com.ng/2017/12/is-saudi-arabia-also-amongst-the-terrorists/

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Australia’s nuclear macho men always wanted nuclear weapons, and they still do

April 2, 2018

What Dibb suggested is that Australia, under the guise of generating nuclear power or on another pretext, acquire the essential technology to produce the fissile material needed to build a nuclear weapon. The hypocrisy involved is staggering. Analysts making such proposals accuse countries like Iran and North Korea of putting such plans into practice, and support a US pre-emptive attack to eliminate the supposed threat.

Dibb is well aware that Australia is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).

before signing the NPT in 1970 and ratifying it in 1973, the Australian government drew up plans for a commercial nuclear power plant at Jervis Bay, south of Sydney, that would covertly supply the enriched uranium needed to manufacture nuclear weapons. The Jervis Bay project, which was promoted by Prime Minister John Gorton, was mothballed after he was ousted in 1971 by Billy McMahon.

This discussion is tied to a broader push to boost military spending in preparation for war.

In its 2016 defence white paper the government already foreshadowed a multi-billion dollar military expansion, lifting the defence budget to at least 2 percent of gross domestic product and purchasing advanced weapons systems. In a related move, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull yesterday announced a vast expansion of military industries in the name of a drive to export arms and become one of the world’s top ten weapons exporters.

None of these steps has anything to do with “defence” or preserving peace.

Renewed push for Australia to build nuclear weapons https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2018/01/30/aust-j30.html#pk_campaign=sidebar&pk_kwd=textlink, By Peter Symonds , 30 January 2018

A discussion has begun over the past month in Australian strategic and military circles about the necessity of building nuclear weapons, or developing the capacity to do so, against the alleged threat posed by nuclear-armed powers, above all China.

The debate, in public at least, is quite cautious, given the widespread popular hostility to war and thus the potential for protests to erupt against any move to create a nuclear arsenal. However, the very fact that the issue is actively being discussed is another sign of rapidly sharpening geo-political tensions and the accelerating arms race by major powers around the world.

The renewed push for nuclear arms is connected to a wider strategic debate about the growing danger of conflict between the US and China. For the most part, the Turnbull government and opposition parties, as well as the media and think tanks, have lined up behind the Trump administration’s bellicose stance toward China, along with North Korea. The government has backed the new US defence strategy that identifies China and Russia, not terrorism, as the over-riding threat.

Under conditions of the mounting danger of war, however, doubts have been expressed about the willingness and capacity of the United States to come to the aid of Australia, including in the event of a nuclear attack.Hugh White, who previously advocated encouraging the US to cut a deal with China to ease tensions, wrote an extensive article in the Quarterly Essayentitled “Without America: Australia in the New Asia.” He argued that in the not too distant future the US will not be able to match China militarily and Australia will have to go it alone.

White, a professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University (ANU), bluntly declared: “The chilling logic of strategy therefore suggests that only a nuclear force of our own, able credibly to threaten an adversary with major damage, would ensure that we could deter such a threat [from China] ourselves.” Having raised the issue, however, he qualified the remark, writing that he was neither “predicting nor advocating that Australia should acquire nuclear weapons.”

Paul Dibb, an emeritus professor of strategic studies at the ANU, made a similar suggestion obliquely in an article in the Australian last October, entitled “Our nuclear armament position is worth reviewing.” Dibb said Australia did not require nuclear weapons at present, but times were changing and “it would be prudent to revisit reducing the technological lead time.”

Australian currently has no commercial power reactors and only one research establishment, at Lucas Heights in Sydney run by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). On paper, this facility is devoted to the peaceful use of nuclear technology. As a result, the infrastructure to obtain the basic ingredient for a nuclear weapon—enriched uranium or plutonium—is lacking and would take years to build.

What Dibb suggested is that Australia, under the guise of generating nuclear power or on another pretext, acquire the essential technology to produce the fissile material needed to build a nuclear weapon. The hypocrisy involved is staggering. Analysts making such proposals accuse countries like Iran and North Korea of putting such plans into practice, and support a US pre-emptive attack to eliminate the supposed threat.

Dibb is well aware that Australia is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). He noted that it would be difficult to argue under its “supreme interests” clause that Australia is facing an existential threat. Any move by Australia to “reduce the lead time” also could “seriously concern the US and other countries … and might stimulate further nuclear proliferation.”

In fact, before signing the NPT in 1970 and ratifying it in 1973, the Australian government drew up plans for a commercial nuclear power plant at Jervis Bay, south of Sydney, that would covertly supply the enriched uranium needed to manufacture nuclear weapons. The Jervis Bay project, which was promoted by Prime Minister John Gorton, was mothballed after he was ousted in 1971 by Billy McMahon.

Associate Professor Wayne Reynolds, author of the book Australia’s Bid for the Atomic Bomb, told the Australian last year in that period “Germany, Italy, the Netherlands—all wanted nuclear weapons but Australia was top of the list because of our uranium resources, our scientists and our enrichment program.”

While White and Dibb, who both held senior positions in the Australian defence and intelligence establishment, are chary about openly pushing for nuclear weapons, others are calling for the matter to be discussed and for steps to be taken.

In an article entitled “Wrestling a nuclear-armed 800-pound gorilla” on December 9, Andrew Davies, director of the defence and strategy program at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), chided White and Dibb for their “coyness and willingness to defer grappling with the logical conclusion of their arguments.”

Davies wrote: “The key question, which we shouldn’t dance around, is whether we judge the risk of an attack from China to be high enough and serious enough to warrant developing an independent nuclear deterrent.” While not answering the question, he declared that “there is a serious strategy discussion to be had.” ASPI receives funds from the government and armaments companies.Fellow ASPI analyst Malcolm Davis, in an article “Going nuclear?” on January 9, added a note of urgency: “To deter nuclear threats requires nuclear weapons, and having such a capability would reinforce any future non-nuclear deterrent … Australia would not consider such a step lightly, but don’t expect much time for deep consideration if our policy makers are forced to confront this option.”

Lowy Institute analyst Peter Layton proposed in an article on January 17 that Australia consider “sharing nuclear weapons” rather than developing an independent arsenal. He suggested the placement of US nuclear weapons on Australian soil on the same basis as in Germany, Belgium, Holland, Italy and Turkey, or alternatively, cost-sharing with Britain to build its fleet of Dreadnought-class nuclear submarines, armed with Trident nuclear missiles.

This discussion is tied to a broader push to boost military spending in preparation for war. Retired Major-General Jim Molan, soon to be confirmed as a Liberal Party senator, argued in the Australian on January 4 that US military capacity had declined markedly. Australia must “address our critical vulnerabilities on fuel security and high-end weapons holdings. Without doing so, we could be reduced to impotence in less than a week. In the medium to longer term, we need more stable security guarantees.”

In its 2016 defence white paper the government already foreshadowed a multi-billion dollar military expansion, lifting the defence budget to at least 2 percent of gross domestic product and purchasing advanced weapons systems. In a related move, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull yesterday announced a vast expansion of military industries in the name of a drive to export arms and become one of the world’s top ten weapons exporters.

None of these steps has anything to do with “defence” or preserving peace. Rather in a world where geo-political tensions are accelerating, Australia is seeking the military means to pursue its own imperialist interests, either in league with the US, as it has done since World War II, or independently if need be. The military and political establishment is coming to the conclusion that in order to do this it needs the ultimate in “high-end weapons”—a nuclear arsenal.

The weapons proliferation risks of thorium nuclear reactors

April 2, 2018

Dispelling Claim 3: Thorium use has hardly any proliferation risk   Thorium ‒ a better fuel for nuclear technology? Nuclear Monitor,   by Dr. Rainer Moormann  1 March 2018

The proliferation problem of Th / U-233 needs a  differentiated analysis ‒ general answers are easily misleading. First of all, one has to assess the weapon capability of U-233. Criteria for good suitability are a low critical mass and a low rate of spontaneous fission. The critical mass of U-233 is only 40% of that of U-235, the critical mass of plutonium-239 is around 15% smaller than for U-233. A relatively easy to construct nuclear explosive needs around 20 to 25 kg U-233.

The spontaneous fission rate is important, because the neutrons from spontaneous fission act as a starter of the chain reaction; for an efficient nuclear explosion, the fissile material needs to have a super-criticality of at least 2.5 (criticality is the amount of new fissions produced by the neutrons of each fission.)

When, because of spontaneous fissions, a noticeable chain reaction already starts during the initial conventional explosion trigger mechanism in the criticality phase between 1 and 2.5, undesired weak nuclear explosions would end the super-criticality before a significant part of the fissile material has reacted. This largely depends on how fast the criticality phase of 1 to 2.5 is passed. Weapon plutonium (largely Pu-239) and moreover reactor plutonium have – different from the mentioned uranium fission materials U-235 and U-233 – a high spontaneous fission rate, which excludes their use in easy to build bombs.

More specifically, plutonium cannot be caused to explode in a so-called gun-type fission weapon, but both uranium isotopes can. Plutonium needs the far more complex implosion bomb design, which we will not go into further here. A gun-type fission weapon was used in Hiroshima – a cannon barrel set-up, in which a fission projectile is shot into a fission block of a suitable form so that they together form a highly super-critical arrangement.   Here, the criticality phase from 1 to 2.5 is in the order of magnitude of milliseconds – a relatively long time, in which a plutonium explosive would destroy itself with weak nuclear explosions caused by spontaneous fission.

One cannot find such uranium gun-type fission weapons in modern weapon arsenals any longer (South Africa’s apartheid regime built 7 gun-type fission weapons using uranium-235): their efficiency (at most a few percent) is rather low, they are bulky (the Hiroshima bomb: 3.6 metric tons, 3.2 meters long), inflexible, and not really suitable for carriers like intercontinental rockets.

On the other hand, gun-type designs are highly reliable and relatively easy to build. Also, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reckons that larger terror groups would be capable of constructing a nuclear explosive on the basis of the gun-type fission design provided they got hold of a sufficient amount of suitable fissile material.1

Bombs with a force of at most 2 to 2.5 times that of the Hiroshima bomb (13 kt TNT) are conceivable. For that reason, the USA and Russia have tried intensively for decades to repatriate their world-wide delivered highly enriched uranium (HEU).

A draw-back of U-233 in weapon technology is that – when it is produced only for energy generation purposes – it is contaminated with maximally 250 parts per million (ppm) U-232 (half-life 70 years).2 That does not impair the nuclear explosion capability, but the uranium-232 turns in the thorium decay chain, which means ‒ as mentioned above ‒ emission of the highly penetrating radiation of Tl-208. A strongly radiating bomb is undesirable in a military environment – from the point of view of handling, and because the radiation intervenes with the bomb’s electronics.

In the USA, there exists a limit of 50 ppm U-232 above which U-233 is no longer considered suitable for weapons.

Nevertheless, U-232 does not really diminish all proliferation problems around U-233. First of all, simple gun-type designs do not need any electronics; furthermore, radiation safety arguments during bomb construction will hardly play a role for terrorist organisations that use suicide bombers.

Besides that, Tl-208 only appears in the end of the decay chain of U-232: freshly produced or purified U-233/U-232 will radiate little for weeks and is easier to handle.2 It is also possible to suppress the build-up of uranium-232 to a large extent, when during the breeding process of U-233 fast neutrons with energies larger than 0.5 MeV are filtered out (for instance by arranging the thorium in the reactor behind a moderating layer) and thorium is used from ore that contains as little uranium as possible.

A very elegant way to harvest highly pure U-233 is offered by the proposed molten salt reactors with integrated reprocessing (MSR): During the breeding of U-233 from thorium, the intermediate protactinium-233 (Pa-233) is produced, which has a half-life of around one month. When this intermediate is isolated – as is intended in some molten salt reactors – and let decay outside the reactor, pure U-233 is obtained that is optimally suited for nuclear weapons.

An advantage of U-233 in comparison with Pu-239 in military use is that under neutron irradiation during the production in the reactor, it tends to turn a lot less into nuclides that negatively influence the explosion capability. U-233 can (like U-235) be made unsuitable for use in weapons by adding U-238: When depleted uranium is already mixed with thorium during the feed-in into the reactor, the resulting mix of nuclides is virtually unusable for weapons.

However, for MSRs with integrated reprocessing this is not a sufficient remedy. One would have to prevent separation of protactinium-233.9

The conclusion has to be that the use of thorium contains severe proliferation risks. These are less in the risk that highly developed states would find it easier to lay their hands on high-tech weapons, than that the bar for the construction of simple but highly effective nuclear explosives for terror organisations or unstable states will be a lot lower.

 

WHAT ARE SALTED BOMBS?

April 2, 2018

Daily Mail UK, 17 Feb 18   A ‘salted bomb’ is a type of nuclear weapon that has been branded ‘highly immoral’ by some experts. The device aims to spread deadly radioactive fallout as far as possible rather than maximise explosive force.

The result is lasting environmental damage and vast areas of land left uninhabitable for decades.
Salted bombs take their name from the phrase ‘to salt the earth’, meaning to render soil unable to host life.

They are able to contaminate a much larger area than a traditional ‘dirty’ atomic bomb, like those used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.To increase the radioactive destruction of salted bombs, certain radioactive isotopes are added to the device.

Heavy metals like gold, cobalt or tantalum can be used. Incorporating these metals into an atomic bomb would send high-energy neutrons at the stable element and turn it into a highly radioactive version. The radioactive isotope would then contaminate huge swathes of land.

A salted bomb is believed to be of lesser energy than other bombs due to these changes but could cause more long-term damage.

The idea of a salted bomb was first proposed by Hungarian-American physicist Leo Szilard during the Cold War.

Along with Albert Einstein, the scientist was instrumental in the beginning of the Manhattan Project.

No intentionally salted bomb has ever been atmospherically tested but the UK tested a 1 kiloton bomb incorporating a small amount of cobalt as an experimental radiochemical tracer in 1957. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-5400191/China-building-highly-immoral-salted-nuclear-bomb.html

USA nuclear tests – a hidden weapon against its own people – radioactive milk

April 2, 2018

Five men at atomic ground zero

RADIOACTIVE MILK US nuclear tests killed far more civilians than we knew, Quartz, https://qz.com/1163140/us-nuclear-tests-killed-american-civilians-on-a-scale-comparable-to-hiroshima-and-nagasaki/21 Dec 17 

Tim Fernholz When the US entered the nuclear age, it did so recklessly. New research suggests that the hidden cost of developing nuclear weapons were far larger than previous estimates, with radioactive fallout responsible for 340,000 to 690,000 American deaths from 1951 to 1973.

The study, performed by University of Arizona economist Keith Meyersuses a novel method (pdf) to trace the deadly effects of this radiation, which was often consumed by Americans drinking milk far from the site of atomic tests.

From 1951 to 1963, the US tested nuclear weapons above ground in Nevada. Weapons researchers, not understanding the risks—or simply ignoring them—exposed thousands of workers to radioactive fallout. The emissions from nuclear reactions are deadly to humans in high doses, and can cause cancer even in low doses. At one point, researchers had volunteers stand underneath an airburst nuclear weapon to prove how safe it was:

The emissions, however, did not just stay at the test site, and drifted in the atmosphere. Cancer rates spiked in nearby communities, and the US government could no longer pretend that fallout was anything but a silent killer.

The cost in dollars and lives

Congress eventually paid more than $2 billion to residents of nearby areas that were particularly exposed to radiation, as well as uranium miners. But attempts to measure the full extent of the test fallout were very uncertain, since they relied on extrapolating effects from the hardest-hit communities to the national level. One national estimate found the testing caused 49,000 cancer deaths.

Those measurements, however, did not capture the full range of effects over time and geography. Meyers created a broader picture by way of a macabre insight: When cows consumed radioactive fallout spread by atmospheric winds, their milk became a key channel to transmit radiation sickness to humans. Most milk production during this time was local, with cows eating at pasture and their milk being delivered to nearby communities, giving Meyers a way to trace radioactivity across the country.

The National Cancer Institute has records of the amount of Iodine 131—a dangerous isotope released in the Nevada tests—in milk, as well as broader data about radiation exposure. By comparing this data with county-level mortality records, Meyers came across a significant finding: “Exposure to fallout through milk leads to immediate and sustained increases in the crude death rate.” What’s more, these results were sustained over time. US nuclear testing likely killed seven to 14 times more people than we had thought, mostly in the midwest and northeast.

A weapon against its own people

When the US used nuclear weapons during World War II, bombing the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, conservative estimates suggest 250,000 people died in immediate aftermath. Even those horrified by the bombing didn’t realize that the US would deploy similar weapons against its own people, accidentally, and on a comparable scale.

And the cessation of nuclear testing helped save US lives—”the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty might have saved between 11.7 and 24.0 million American lives,” Meyers estimates. There was also some blind luck involved in reducing the number of poisoned people: The Nevada Test Site, compared to other potential testing facilities the US government considered at the time, produced the lowest atmospheric dispersal.

The lingering affects of these tests remain, as silent and as troublesome as the isotopes themselves. Millions of Americans who were exposed to fallout likely suffer illnesses related to these tests even today, as they retire and rely on the US government to fund their health care.

“This paper reveals that there are more casualties of the Cold War than previously thought, but the extent to which society still bears the costs of the Cold War remains an open question,” Meyers concludes.

America’s trillions of dollars militaristic economy

April 2, 2018

The US Military Is the Biggest “Big Government” Entitlement Program on the Planet , December 10, 2017, By JP Sottile, Truthout |The US economy is caught in a trap. That trap is the Department of Defense: an increasingly sticky wicket that relies on an annual, trillion-dollar redistribution of government-collected wealth. In fact, it’s the biggest “big government” program on the planet, easily beating out China’s People’s Liberation Army in both size and cost. It is not only the “nation’s largest employer,” with 2.867 million people currently on the payroll, but it also provides government benefits to 2 million retirees and their family members. And it actively picks private sector winners by targeting billions of dollars to an elite group of profit-seeking contractors.

The top five overall recipients collectively pulled in $109.5 billion in FY2016, and their cohorts consistently dominate the government’s list of top 100 contractors. They reap this yearly largesse through a Rube-Goldberg-like system of influence peddlers, revolving doors and wasteful taxpayer-funded boondoggles. Finally, it is all justified by a deadly feedback loop of perpetual warfare that is predicated on a predictable supply of blowback.

But this belligerent cash machine doesn’t just produce haphazard interventions and shady partnerships with a motley assortment of strongmen, proxies and frenemies. It also has Uncle Sam caught in a strange cycle of taxpayer-funded dependence that may ultimately be the most expensive — and least productive — jobs program in human history………

Too Big to Fail?

The US stands alone as a globe-spanning empire with 787 overseas bases, “lily pad” deployments and host country facilities in 88 nations and territories, according to the most recent accounting by scholar David Vine. At home, a Google Maps search reveals another 603 bases, depots, arsenals and assorted military facilities peppered around the 50 states. The US dominates the land, sea and skies, and is moving to dominate space…….

taxpayers’ only end product is a larger military with more bases and more weapons. However, without a serious shift toward non-defense government priorities, cutting the defense budget would mean, in the immediate term, many Americans losing their jobs. In the absence of non-military jobs programs and other forms of robust social spending, these workers depend on military tax dollars to fund their livelihoods, their health care and their kids’ educations. Tax dollars sustain the military-driven local and regional economies within which they live and work. Not coincidentally, this misallocated investment in a “war and weapons-based economy” is, as Major Gen. (Ret.) Dennis Laich and Col. (Ret.) Lawrence Wilkerson write, also reflected in the inherent “unfairness” that feeds off the “all-volunteer force.”……….

So, what are the options now that the US finds itself stuck in this paradigmatic trap? There are three possible alternatives.

One is to simply slash the budget. The downside is that it will dislocate millions of people who rely directly and indirectly on defense spending. The upside is that it will force an immediate retreat from both empire and military Keynesianism. This also could stoke some economic growth if the half to three-quarters of a trillion in annual savings was “returned” to taxpayers in the form of a rebate check. Basically, Americans would finally get the “peace dividend” almost 30 years after the Cold War ended.

The second option is the post-WWII demobilization model. That influx of manpower was met with the GI Billtax breaks for new homeowners and investments in infrastructure. This is a truly Keynesian solution. Infrastructure jobs and educational subsidies would provide relief to Americans currently reliant on military Keynesianism for their livelihoods. The original GI Bill “returned $7 to the American economy for every $1 invested in the GI Bill,” notes Jared Lyon of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families. And a study by Costs of War Project determined allocating resources to “clean energy and health care spending create 50 percent more jobs than the equivalent amount of spending on the military,” and “education spending creates more than twice as many jobs” as defense spending.

Frankly, either of these two solutions is far better than the third option, which is to continue to misallocate hundreds of billions in precious capital away from the productive economy while wreaking havoc at home and abroad. And that’s the ultimate no-win situation for a militarized economy that has manufactured its share of bloody, no-win situations since the end of World War II. http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/42829-the-us-military-is-the-biggest-big-government-entitlement-program-on-the-planet

 

How it happens that taxpayer $trillions are spent on nuclear weapons –  Follow the money.

April 2, 2018

Who’s Really Driving Nuclear-Weapons Production? Follow the money. By William D. Hartung [This piece has been updated and adapted from William D. Hartung’s “Nuclear Politics” in Sleepwalking to Armageddon: The Threat of Nuclear Annihilation, edited by Helen Caldicott and just published by the New Press.] 14 Nov 17

“………..BUILDING A NUCLEAR COMPLEX

Why the desire for so many nukes? There is, in fact, a dirty little secret behind the massive US arsenal: It has more to do with the power and profits of this country’s major weapons makers than it does with any imaginable strategic considerations.

It may not surprise you to learn that there’s nothing new about the influence the nuclear weapons lobby has over Pentagon spending priorities. The successful machinations of the makers of strategic bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles, intended to keep taxpayer dollars flowing their way, date back to the dawn of the nuclear age and are the primary reason President Dwight D. Eisenhower coined the term “military-industrial complex” and warned of its dangers in his 1961 farewell address.

Without the development of such weapons, that complex simply would not exist in the form it does today. The Manhattan Project, the vast scientific-industrial endeavor that produced the first such weaponry during World War II, was one of the largest government-funded research and manufacturing projects in history. Today’s nuclear warhead complex is still largely built around facilities and locations that date back to that time.

The Manhattan Project was the first building block of the permanent arms establishment that came to rule Washington. In addition, the nuclear arms race against that other superpower of the era, the Soviet Union, was crucial to the rationale for a permanent war state. In those years, it was the key to sustaining the building, funding, and institutionalizing of the arms establishment.

As Eisenhower noted in that farewell address of his, “a permanent arms industry of vast proportions” had developed for a simple enough reason. In a nuclear age, America had to be ready ahead of time. As he put it, “We can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense.” And that was for a simple enough reason: In an era of potential nuclear war, any society could be destroyed in a matter of hours. There would be no time, as in the past, to mobilize or prepare after the fact.

In addition, there were some very specific ways in which the quest for more nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles drove Eisenhower to give that farewell address. One of his biggest fights was over whether to build a new nuclear bomber. The Air Force and the arms industry were desperate to do so. Eisenhower thought it a waste of money, given all the other nuclear delivery vehicles the United States was building at the time. He even cancelled the bomber, only to find himself forced to revive it under immense pressure from the arms lobby. In the process, he lost the larger struggle to rein in the nation’s nuclear buildup and corral the burgeoning military-industrial complex.

At the same time, there were rumblings in the intelligence community, the military establishment, the media, and Congress about a “missile gap” with the Soviet Union. The notion was that Moscow had somehow jumped ahead of the United States in developing and building intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). There was no definitive intelligence to substantiate the claim (and it was later proved to be false). However, a wave of worst-case scenarios leaked by or promoted by intelligence analysts and eagerly backed by industry propaganda made that missile gap part of the everyday news of the time.

Such fears were then exaggerated further, thanks to hawkish journalists of the era like Joseph Alsop and prominent Democratic senators like John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, as well as Stuart Symington, who just happened to be a friend and former colleague of an executive at the aircraft manufacturing company Convair, which, in turn, just happened to make ICBMs. As a result, he lobbied hard on behalf of a Pentagon plan to build more of that corporation’s Atlas ballistic missiles, while Kennedy would famously make the nonexistent missile gap a central theme of his successful 1960 campaign for the presidency.

Eisenhower couldn’t have been more clear-eyed about all of this. He saw the missile gap for the fiction it was or, as he put it, a “useful piece of political demagoguery” for his opponents. “Munitions makers,” he insisted, “are making tremendous efforts towards getting more contracts and in fact seem to be exerting undue influence over the Senators.”

Once Kennedy took office, it became all too apparent that there was no missile gap, but by then it hardly mattered. The damage had been done. Billions of dollars more were flowing into the nuclear-industrial complex to build up an American arsenal of ICBMs already unmatched on the planet.

The techniques that the arms lobby and its allies in government used more than half a century ago to promote sky-high nuclear weapons spending continue to be wielded to this day. The twenty-first-century arms complex employs tools of influence that Kennedy and his compatriots would have found familiar indeed—including millions of dollars in campaign contributions that flow to members of Congress and the continual employmentof 700 to 1,000 lobbyists to influence them. At certain moments, in other words, there have been nearly two arms lobbyists for every member of Congress. Much of this sort of activity remains focused on ensuring that nuclear weapons of all types are amply financed and that the funding for the new generations of the bombers, submarines, and missiles that will deliver them stays on track.

When traditional lobbying methods don’t get the job done, the industry’s argument of last resort is jobs—in particular, jobs in the states and districts of key members of Congress. This process is aided by the fact that nuclear weapons facilities are spread remarkably widely across the country. There are nuclear weapons labs in California and New Mexico; a nuclear weapons testing and research site in Nevada; a nuclear warhead assembly and disassembly plant in Texas; a factory in Kansas City, Missouri, that builds nonnuclear parts for such weapons; and a plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, that enriches uranium for those same weapons. There are factories or bases for ICBMs, bombers, and ballistic missile submarines in Connecticut, Georgia, Washington State, California, Ohio, Massachusetts, Louisiana, North Dakota, and Wyoming. Such a nuclear geography ensures that a striking number of congressional representatives will automatically favor more spending on nuclear weapons.

In reality, the jobs argument is deeply flawed. As the experts know, virtually any other activity into which such funding flowed would create significantly more jobs than Pentagon spending. A study by economists at the University of Massachusetts, for example, found infrastructure investment would create one and one-half times as many jobs as Pentagon funding and education spending twice as many.

In most cases it hasn’t seemed to matter that the jobs claims for weapons spending are grotesquely exaggerated and better alternatives litter the landscape. The argument remains remarkably potent in states and communities that are particularly dependent on the Pentagon. Perhaps unsurprisingly, members of Congress from such areas are disproportionately represented on the committees that decide how much will be spent on nuclear and conventional weaponry…….. https://www.thenation.com/article/whos-really-driving-nuclear-weapons-production/

Secret tragedy of Britain’s nuclear bomb tests – UK’s soldiers in the Pacific

March 31, 2018

ground crews who washed down planes that flew through the cloud soon began falling sick and low levels of radiation were detected all over Australia.

In 2007 it was found nuclear veterans had the same DNA damage as Chernobyl survivors.

Wives had three times the normal numbers of miscarriage and children 10 times more birth de­­­fects. 

The secrets behind Britain’s first atomic bomb – and the heartbreaking aftermath The detonation of the plutonium bomb in 1952 was hailed a national success, but many of the servicemen involved were left permanently damaged by the fallout BY SUSIE  BONIFACE, MIRROR UK, 6 OCT 2017 

A blinding flash, an eerie silence, and then the sky cracked.

The sound reached those wat­ching at the same time as the blast – a scorching 600mph wind carrying with it the long, grumbling roar of the worst weapon known to humankind.

It was 65 years ago this week – 9.30am local time on October 3, 1952 – that Britain detonated its first nuclear bomb .

Winston Churchill was jubilant, the scientists bursting with pride. But on a tiny island off Australia the cost of the radioactive fallout from Operation Hurricane had yet to be counted.

Many of the servicemen present that day went on to suffer heartbreaking consequences.

Royal Engineer Derek Hickman, now 84, was there. He says: “We had no pro­­tective clothing. You wore shorts and sandals and if you remembered your bush hat, that was all you had.” The blast took place on HMS Plym, an old frigate anchored 300 yards off Trimouille, one of the Monte Bello islands. Troops and scientists lived and worked for months on a small fleet that accompanied her on her final mission.

Derek remembers: “They ordered us to muster on deck – I was on HMS Zeebrugge – and turn our backs to the Plym. We put our hands over our eyes and they counted down over the Tannoy.

“There was a sharp flash and I could see the bones in my hands like an X-ray. Then the sound and the wind and they told us to turn and face it. We watched the mushroom cloud just melt away. They gave us five photos as a memento.

“All that was left of the Plym were a few pieces of metal that fell like rain and her outline scorched on the sea bed.”………

In 1951 Aus­­tralia agreed the blast could take place at Monte Bello.   ….

Thousands of UK and Aussie servicemen saw the mushroom cloud dis­­perse before dozens of planes flew through it to collect dust samples.

The press had been given a viewing tower 55 miles away. The Mirror announced: “This bang has changed the world”.

No official statement was made until October 23 when PM Churchill told the Commons: “All concerned are to be warmly congratulated on the successful outcome of an historic episode.”

But ground crews who washed down planes that flew through the cloud soon began falling sick and low levels of radiation were detected all over Australia.

James Stephenson, 85,remembers being given an unexplained posting to Aber­­­gavenny. The former Royal Engineers soldier says: “We went for train­­ing and they started weeding us out, re­­­moving lads they thought were Communist sympathisers or not up to it.

“Nobody told us what it was about. When we embarked in Portsmouth we had to load machinery ourselves, they wouldn’t let the dockers do it.”James left with the first wave of vessels in January 1952. They were fol­­lowed six months later by HMS Plym carrying the bomb.

Derek explains: “It was a plutonium bomb – the dirtiest. A few years later I went to the doctor and mention­­­ed Monte Bello.

“He asked if I was mar­­ried. I said ‘Yes’ and he replied ‘My advice is ne­­­­v­­­er have children’. He wouldn’t say why.”

It was a warning Derek, now living alone in Crediton, Devon, couldn’t ignore. He says: “My wife wanted children and in the end I walked away from the marriage.

“She never blamed me but it’s the worst thing I’ve ever done. Since then I’ve discovered my friends’ wives suffered many miscarriages and their children had deformities.

“It’s given me a small comfort that at least we avoided that.”

In 2007 it was found nuclear veterans had the same DNA damage as Chernobyl survivors.

Wives had three times the normal numbers of miscarriage and children 10 times more birth de­­­fects. James, from Taunton, Devon, had two healthy children. But he was lucky.

He says: “I know people whose children were born with organs outside their bodies. It made me worry about my grandchildren. Thank God they’re fine.”

Hurricane had an explosive yield of 25 kilotons – 15 kilotons had flattened Hiroshima and killed 126,000. But less than four weeks later the US detonated a hydrogen bomb 400 times more powerful than Hurricane.

The UK was back out in the cold and would not be accepted at the nuclear top table until 1958 when it finally developed its own H-bomb.

In all 22,000 servicemen took part in Britain’s nuclear tests which ended only in 1991. Derek and James are among the 2,000 or so who survive and are still coming to terms with the chain reaction unleashed at Monte Bello.

James says: “Nobody really knew what they were doing, not us or the scientists. It was just a job we had to do.”

The Monte Bello islands are now a wildlife park but visitors are warned not to stay for more than an hour or take home the fragments of metal that can still be found – radioactive pieces of a long-forgotten Royal Navy warship that unleashed a hurricane. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/secrets-behind-britains-first-atomic-11300935

Thousands of UK and Aussie servicemen saw the mushroom cloud dis­­perse before dozens of planes flew through it to collect dust samples.

The press had been given a viewing tower 55 miles away. The Mirror announced: “This bang has changed the world”.

No official statement was made until October 23 when PM Churchill told the Commons: “All concerned are to be warmly congratulated on the successful outcome of an historic episode.”

But ground crews who washed down planes that flew through the cloud soon began falling sick and low levels of radiation were detected all over Australia. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/secrets-behind-britains-first-atomic-11300935

Text of Nobel Peace Prize award to anti-nuclear campaign ICAN

March 31, 2018

https://au.news.yahoo.com/a/37375277/text-of-nobel-peace-prize-award-to-anti-nuclear-campaign-ican/   OSLO 

(Reuters) (Reporting By Alister Doyle), 6 Oct 17 – Following is the text of the Nobel Peace Prize award on Friday to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons:

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

The organization is receiving the award for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons.
We live in a world where the risk of nuclear weapons being used is greater than it has been for a long time. Some states are modernizing their nuclear arsenals, and there is a real danger that more countries will try to procure nuclear weapons, as exemplified by North Korea.

Nuclear weapons pose a constant threat to humanity and all life on earth. Through binding international agreements, the international community has previously adopted prohibitions against land mines, cluster munitions and biological and chemical weapons. Nuclear weapons are even more destructive, but have not yet been made the object of a similar international legal prohibition.

Through its work, ICAN has helped to fill this legal gap. An important argument in the rationale for prohibiting nuclear weapons is the unacceptable human suffering that a nuclear war will cause. ICAN is a coalition of non-governmental organizations from around 100 different countries around the globe.

The coalition has been a driving force in prevailing upon the world’s nations to pledge to cooperate with all relevant stakeholders in efforts to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons. To date, 108 states have made such a commitment, known as the Humanitarian Pledge.

Furthermore, ICAN has been the leading civil society actor in the endeavor to achieve a prohibition of nuclear weapons under international law. On 7 July 2017, 122 of the UN member states acceded to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

As soon as the treaty has been ratified by 50 states, the ban on nuclear weapons will enter into force and will be binding under international law for all the countries that are party to the treaty.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee is aware that an international legal prohibition will not in itself eliminate a single nuclear weapon, and that so far neither the states that already have nuclear weapons nor their closest allies support the nuclear weapon ban treaty.

The Committee wishes to emphasize that the next steps towards attaining a world free of nuclear weapons must involve the nuclear-armed states. This year’s Peace Prize is therefore also a call upon these states to initiate serious negotiations with a view to the gradual, balanced and carefully monitored elimination of the almost 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world.

Five of the states that currently have nuclear weapons – the USA, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China – have already committed to this objective through their accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons of 1970.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty will remain the primary international legal instrument for promoting nuclear disarmament and preventing the further spread of such weapons.

It is now 71 years since the UN General Assembly, in its very first resolution, advocated the importance of nuclear disarmament and a nuclear weapon-free world. With this year’s award, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to pay tribute to ICAN for giving new momentum to the efforts to achieve this goal.

The decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons has a solid grounding in Alfred Nobel’s will.

The will specifies three different criteria for awarding the Peace Prize: the promotion of fraternity between nations, the advancement of disarmament and arms control and the holding and promotion of peace congresses. ICAN works vigorously to achieve nuclear disarmament.
ICAN and a majority of UN member states have contributed to fraternity between nations by supporting the Humanitarian Pledge. And through its inspiring and innovative support for the UN negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons, ICAN has played a major part in bringing about what in our day and age is equivalent to an international peace congress.

It is the firm conviction of the Norwegian Nobel Committee that ICAN, more than anyone else, has in the past year given the efforts to achieve a world without nuclear weapons a new direction and new vigor.

How America tested ionising radiation on its citizens, during the Cold War.

March 31, 2018

Cold War radiation testing in U.S. widespread, author claims Three members of Congress are demanding answers after a St. Louis scholar’s new book revealed details of how the U.S. government sprayed, injected and fed radiation and other dangerous materials to countless people in secret Cold War-era testing.

The health ramifications of the tests are unknown. Lisa Martino-Taylor, an associate professor of sociology at St. Louis Community College who wrote “Behind the Fog: How the U.S. Cold War Radiological Weapons Program Exposed Innocent Americans,” acknowledged that tracing diseases like cancer to specific causes is difficult.

 But three congressmen who represent areas where testing occurred — Democrats William Lacy Clay of Missouri, Brad Sherman of California and Jim Cooper of Tennessee — said they were outraged by the revelations.

Martino-Taylor used Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain previously unreleased documents, including army records. She also reviewed already public records and published articles. In an interview, she said she found that a small group of researchers, aided by leading academic institutions, worked to develop radiological weapons and later “combination weapons” using radioactive materials along with chemical or biological weapons.

Her book, published in August, was a follow-up to her 2012 dissertation that found the government conducted secret testing of zinc cadmium sulfide in a poor area of St. Louis in the 1950s and 1960s. The book focuses on the mid-1940s to the mid-1960s.

An army spokeswoman declined comment, but Martino-Taylor’s 2012 report on testing in St. Louis was troubling enough to spur an army investigation. The investigation found no evidence that the St. Louis testing posed a health threat.

Martino-Taylor said the offensive radiological weapons program was a top priority for the government. Unknowing people at places across the U.S. as well as parts of England and Canada were subjected to potentially deadly material through open-air spraying, ingestion and injection, Martino-Taylor said.

“They targeted the most vulnerable in society in most cases,” Martino-Taylor said. “They targeted children. They targeted pregnant women in Nashville. People who were ill in hospitals. They targeted wards of the state. And they targeted minority populations.”

The tests in Nashville in the late 1940s involved giving 820 poor and pregnant white women a mixture during their first pre-natal visit that included radioactive iron, Martino-Taylor said. The women were chosen without their knowledge. Blood tests were performed to determine how much radioactive iron had been absorbed by the mother, and the babies’ blood was tested at birth. Similar tests were performed in Chicago and San Francisco, Martino-Taylor said.

Cooper’s office plans to seek more information from the Army Legislative Liaison, said spokesman Chris Carroll.

“We are asking for details on the Pentagon’s role, along with any cooperation by research institutions and other organizations,” Carroll said. “These revelations are shocking, disturbing and painful.”

In California, investigators created a radiation field inside a building at North Hollywood High School during a weekend in the fall of 1961, Martino-Taylor said. Similar testing was performed at the University of California, Los Angeles and at a Los Angeles Police Department building.

Sherman said he wants a survey of people who graduated from the school around the time of the testing to see if there was a higher incidence of illness, including cancer. He also said he will seek more information from the Department of Energy.

“What an incredibly stupid, reckless thing to do,” said Sherman, whose district includes North Hollywood High School.

Among those who recall the testing is Mary Helen Brindell, 73. She was playing baseball in a St. Louis street in the mid-1950s when a squadron of green planes flew so low overhead that she could see the face of the lead pilot. Suddenly, the children were covered in a fine powdery substance that stuck to skin moistened by summer sweat.

Brindell has suffered from breast, thyroid, skin and uterine cancers. Her sister died of a rare form of esophageal cancer.

“I just want an explanation from the government,” Brindell said. “Why would you do that to people?”

Clay said he was angered that Americans were used as “guinea pigs” for research.

“I join with my colleagues to demand the whole truth about this testing and I will reach out to my Missouri Delegation friends on the House Armed Services Committee for their help as well,” Clay said in a statement.

St. Louis leaders were told at the time that the government was testing a smoke screen that could shield the city from aerial observation in case of Soviet attack. Evidence now shows radioactive material, not just zinc cadmium sulfide, was part of that spraying, Martino-Taylor said.

Doris Spates, 62, was born in 1955 on the 11th floor of the Pruitt-Igoe low-income high-rise where the army sprayed material from the roof. Her father died suddenly three months after her birth. Four of her 11 siblings died from cancer at relatively young ages. She survived cervical cancer and suffers from skin and breathing problems.

“It makes me angry,” Spates said. “It is wrong to do something like that to people who don’t have any knowledge of it.”

According to Martino-Taylor, other testing in Chicago; Berkeley, California; Rochester, New York; and Oak Ridge, Tennessee, involved injecting people with plutonium-239.

She said her book shines a light on the team of mostly young scientists tasked with developing radiological weapons. They worked in a closed world with virtually no input from anyone “who could say, ‘This isn’t right,’ or put some sort of moral compass on it,” she said.

She hopes her book prompts more people to investigate.

“We haven’t gotten any answers so far,” Martino-Taylor said. “I think there’s a lot more to find out.”