The Weaponization of Falsehood: America’s Embrace of Propaganda in the Ukraine War

Perhaps the most sinister development in America’s involvement in the war in Ukraine is the steady expansion of a propaganda campaign supporting the Zelensky government. Not only has the intensity of this effort been increasing, but there have been explicit statements from media and government sources attempting to normalize falsehood as a proper weapon of war. U.S. journalists now acknowledge that the Zelensky government is issuing propaganda as part of “information operations.”

“It’s a war — everything they do and say publicly is designed to help them win the war. Every public statement is an information operation, every interview, every Zelensky appearance broadcast is an information operation,” said another source familiar with western intelligence. “It doesn’t mean they’re wrong to do it in any way.”

U.S. propagandists, aware of the availability of accurate reports of events from independent Internet sources, are now boldly declaring that propaganda lies are justified in wartime. Since the U.S. is now engaged in a proxy war with Russia, actively arming Ukraine and applying damaging economic sanctions against Russia, the weaponization of anti-Russian propaganda is being defended as patriotic. Thus, the Russians are depicted as barbaric war criminals and American news on the war is dominated by stories of Russian atrocities that are often unsubstantiated Ukrainian claims. Meanwhile, documented atrocities committed by Ukrainians are ignored by the major U.S. media outlets.

The eager participation of U.S. mainstream media in this propaganda campaign is reminiscent of the lead up to the invasion of Iraq, during which doctored intelligence was uncritically accepted as justification for a disastrous military adventure that devastated a nation that had no connection to the 9/11 attacks. The current biased MSM coverage of the war in Ukraine is further undercutting the diminishing credibility of mainstream news sources.

The U.S. intelligence agencies, whose reputation was damaged by their failures in regime change wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria, are now further injuring their reputations by abandoning objectivity in favor of a commitment to information war. A recent comment from a government source indicated how intelligence is now manipulated to support the information war against Russia:

“It doesn’t have to be solid intelligence when we talk about it,” a U.S. official said. “It’s more important to get out ahead of them — Putin specifically — before they do something. It’s preventative. We don’t always want to wait until the intelligence is 100 percent certainty that they are going to do something. We want to get out ahead to stop them.”

The CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies were established to provide accurate information to guide the policies of the government. By entering a gray zone where accurate information is mingled with engineered disinformation, the value of these organizations has become questionable. How can our nation trust “intelligence” that has been corrupted by political expediency?

The corrosive effects of official normalization of falsehood by a government is a serious problem. If lying is deemed a worthy patriotic defense of the nation, then when is it not justified? Should America lie about its economic statistics? Should our government lie about our national health and crime information? Where does the political justification for falsehood end? A major reason for the collapse of the Soviet Union was widespread public distrust of a government that lied about everything to preserve the regime.

The normalization of lying destroys social capital, the valuable store of trust among individuals and institutions. When citizens believe that everyone is lying to secure their own interests, trust diminishes, cooperation declines, and discord spreads. Corruption flourishes in low-trust societies, with damaging economic consequences, while high-trust societies tend to have superior economic performance. Americans in leadership positions would do well to consider an old maxim from Plato: But above all things, truth beareth away the victory.

America’s Neocons Betray the Plutocracy

As the Ukraine conflict expands into an economic war between the U.S. and Russia, it has become clear that U.S. foreign policy no longer serves the interests of the U.S. plutocracy. The following developments, engineered by Washington’s Neocons, will inflict increasing harm on the business interests of the United States:

  • Freezing of the assets of the Russian central bank. More than $100 billion of Russian central bank assets held in U.S. financial institutions have been seized, resulting in permanent damage to trust in the safety of U.S. dollar deposits.
  • Blocking Russian petroleum imports. Although the U.S. is less dependent on imports of Russian oil, there will be inflation of petroleum and commodity prices in the U.S., leading to reduced economic growth.
  • Removing Russian financial institutions from the SWIFT electronic payments network. Russia, China, and India will resort to alternative electronic trading networks that will bypass SWIFT and reduce the role of the dollar in world trade.
  • Encouraging dozens of U.S. corporations to abandon their Russian business operations. This action has nullified decades of U.S. investment in Russia and will likely lead to the permanent displacement of those businesses by competitors from other nations.

In 1953, a General Motors executive famously said that what was good for GM was good for America, indicating that there was no conflict between the goals of the U.S. government and U.S. business. Today, America’s Neocon ideologues are pursuing policies clearly detrimental to American business and damaging to the U.S. economy. How did this strange situation arise?

The Neocon project, originating with the collapse of the Soviet Union, was to forcibly spread liberal democracy worldwide, with the corresponding expansion of markets for U.S. global corporations. Launched as a response to the 9/11 attacks, the Neocon Global War on Terror was a military campaign aimed at imposing democracy and economic exploitation on the Mideast. After some initial success, this scheme turned into a costly series of stalemated and abandoned wars that spread ruin and chaos in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria.

Having been frustrated in military power projection, the Neocons have increasingly turned to economic warfare, imposing sanctions on unfriendly nations that cannot be cowed by threats of invasion. Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, and Yemen have been subjected to crippling economic sanctions causing vast human suffering but yielding no geopolitical triumphs. Thus, it came as no surprise that Russia’s attack on Ukraine would trigger massive economic sanctions from the U.S. and its NATO/EU allies.

Unfortunately for the Western business community, impairing the Russian economy through financial and trade sanctions also harms the U.S. and European economies. The Europeans will suffer disproportionally because of their dependence on Russian energy imports, but the U.S. will also suffer because of commodity price inflation; damage to the role of the U.S. dollar; and distrust sown among trading partners. If the economic war expands to China, there will be much more economic damage.

America’s plutocrats are slowly awakening to the fact that in enabling the Neocons, they have created a monster that is now damaging their vital interests, but it is too late for them to tame this monster. Neocon ideology has fully permeated the U.S. political establishment and the media, and opposition to the Neocon economic warfare agenda is now branded as unpatriotic if not treasonous. It is now generally accepted in Washington that America has a right and a duty to bend all other nations to our will by any means necessary, whatever the cost.

The Neocons will not go gently into the night of their failed ideology. Their organizations, reputations, and livelihoods are at stake. They will cling to even the smallest possibility of a final triumph, doubling down at every opportunity rather than accepting defeat. Unlike the plutocrats, they have no financial capital at risk; only their careers are at stake. To this day, the advocates of the disastrous War on Terror regime change invasions are fully in control of U.S. foreign policy and are ratcheting up conflict with Russia and China.

History shows that once a nation becomes dominated by a pernicious ideology, its business community is powerless to change the course of foreign policy. This was the case in WWII Germany and Japan, as business leaders, who earlier supported expansionist militarism, watched helplessly as their assets were destroyed in losing wars. It remains to be seen whether the damage inflicted on the U.S. by the Neocons will be limited to years of economic decline or will extend to the catastrophe of a nuclear war. The American plutocracy sowed the wind by backing the Neocons, and it will now reap the whirlwind of Neocon foreign policy folly.

Haig Hovaness

Co-Chair, U.S. Green Party Peace Action Committee

Statement on Ukraine Crisis

Russia’s military buildup around the borders of Ukraine has raised the prospect of a major war in Eastern Europe. The tensions between Ukraine and Russia are largely the product of a misguided U.S. foreign policy aimed at displacing Russia’s influence in the former republics of the USSR. In Ukraine, the U.S. has engaged in saber-rattling through substantial military assistance and provocative naval and aircraft maneuvers. The Russians believe Ukraine is moving toward becoming a de-facto NATO member and a threat to their security. The NeoCon ideologues who directed two decades of disastrous foreign policy have now maneuvered the U.S. into confronting a nuclear-armed nation with massive conventional armed forces poised to strike.

Unable to respond militarily to this crisis, the U.S. is threatening to impose extreme economic sanctions on Russia, which would inevitably strengthening economic and military ties between Russia and China, further weakening U.S. global influence. None of this matters to the Blob, the Washington military-industrial-congressional complex, which seeks endless international conflict as a sure means of continuing and expanding U.S. weapons sales worldwide.

GPAX calls for the U.S. government to end the policy of deliberate aggravation of international conflicts in Ukraine, Taiwan, and the Mideast. The risk of one or more of these conflicts erupting into a disastrous large-scale war is too great to ignore in order to please arms makers and bellicose politicians. Specifically, in the matter of Ukraine, the U.S. should negotiate a reduction of military forces in the conflict zone and a halt to NATO expansion. U.S. economic aid to Ukraine should be conditioned on acceptance of the Minsk accords, which would grant partial autonomy to the breakaway provinces in the Donbass region. This would end the current military confrontation between Ukraine and Russia.

Ever since the end of WWII, the United States has squandered its wealth on a series of futile regional wars. These wars have been justified by vague threats and dubious theories and have wasted trillions of dollars and cost millions of lives. It is time to stop what has become a pathological foreign policy and to return to responsible statecraft that serves the interests of the American public and not the greed of arms merchants and the ambitions of cynical politicians.

 

Haig Hovaness

Secretary, Green Party U.S. Peace Action Committee

1/24/2022

 

The Future of Militarism: A Fatal Prognosis

By Haig Hovaness

Despite the gross failures of a 20-year “War on Terror,” American foreign policy in 2021 showed no change from the militaristic ideology which has characterized it since WWII. Indeed, in 2021 the U.S. government approved a record $750 billion defense budget, rewarding the armed services for enabling a remarkably costly and fruitless series of foreign misadventures. The Washington policy elite is handling the debacles of the post-9/11 regime change wars with media messaging intended to make their “mistakes” disappear through public amnesia. Meanwhile, this establishment (now regularly referred to as the Blob) has found new targets for military confrontation in Russia, and China, while remaining in a state of economic war with Iran.

Based on current events, a casual observer might conclude that U.S. militarism is an invincible ideology impervious to any contrary developments. However, the relentless advance of technology has changed the character of armed conflict in ways that render militaristic foreign policy futile, dangerous, and ultimately doomed. The reasons for this assertion are the increasing infeasibility of large-scale use of modern weapons, and the instability of sustained conflict brinkmanship.

Unusable weaponry

The supreme irony of the vast efforts made by major powers to develop and deploy advanced weaponry is the increasingly self-limiting character of much of this arsenal. Over the last decade, non-nuclear weapons have achieved a potential for mass destruction rivaling that of nuclear weapons. This has resulted from dramatic advances in the range, speed, and targeting precision of guided missiles and the emergence of cyber-warfare. Today, even a non-nuclear war between advanced nations would result in rapid and widespread destruction of military and civilian facilities, imposing an unacceptable cost on the belligerents. Moreover, such a devastating “conventional” war could easily escalate into a nuclear conflict if vital defense assets were destroyed.

In the recent regional war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Karabakh, the use of sophisticated drones and precision-guided munitions by Azerbaijan resulted in the destruction of almost half of Armenia’s military assets in Karabakh in the first hour of the conflict. On the modern battlefield, there is no place to hide, and anything that can be detected can be targeted and destroyed quickly by precision weapons. A large-scale conflict between two modern armies would entail massive destruction and heavy casualties, but unlike world wars 1 and II, this would take place in days, not years. Unfortunately, the new realities of high-tech warfare have outpaced the political thinking of leaders committed to militarism.  The telescoping of the time domain in which modern wars would be fought could enable events to outrun political deliberations and raises the possibility of runaway escalation of hostilities. Leaders persist in believing that they can control the scope of armed conflict and avoid catastrophe, but this is a dangerous delusion.

Unsustainable Instability

 The conventional wisdom in national foreign policy circles is that a state of antagonistic foreign relations on the brink of war can be maintained indefinitely because prudent leaders will carefully modulate provocative behavior to avoid war while preserving the benefits of militaristic policies. These benefits accrue to the military leadership, arms makers, and politicians, but the general public bears the heavy financial cost of militarism and would pay the bloody price of war. Despite ample evidence that accidental nuclear war has been narrowly avoided many times since 1945, the fortuitous avoidance of nuclear war is considered “proof” of the success of militarism in maintaining peace.

The advent of increasingly destructive non-nuclear weapons, and their continued unrestrained deployment will make the brinkmanship required to sustain militaristic policies unsustainable. The new weaponry is destabilizing because it magnifies the consequences of human error; increases proliferation danger; introduces greater potential for malfunctions; and amplifies the dangers of escalation.

Human error in military use of anti-aircraft missiles has been responsible for the destruction of three civilian airliners in recent years: Iran Air flight 665 (1988); Malaysia Airlines flight 17 (2914); Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 (2020). A total of 764 civilians died in these incidents. They were killed by militarism. In each case, a military officer mistakenly responded to a perceived threat from a military adversary without a declared state of war.  The high-tech weaponry being developed and deployed today will increase the probability of erroneous use because it amplifies the destructive power available to local military commanders. Junior officers can now control weapons with a range of hundreds of miles. A fear of “decapitating” pre-emptive strikes by an adversary will motivate leaders to disperse launch authority widely through lower ranks of the military hierarchy. Today, a single precision-guided missile or torpedo can sink a ship in a matter of minutes. Sustaining a high level of international tension in a world flooded with hair-trigger, high-speed weapons is a recipe for disaster.

Proliferation of weapons technology is an inevitable process that raises the potential for global violence as weapons fall into the hands of rogue states and non-state organizations. Precision-guided missiles are slowly entering the arsenals of groups like Hezbollah, and cyber-weapons leaked from U.S. government agencies have already been used by criminals for ransomware attacks. The longer unrestrained high-tech arms racing continues the more danger exists of reckless actors using these weapons to wreak destruction.

Malfunctioning of weapons is a function of their complexity. An unfortunate characteristic of computer programming is that non-trivial software cannot be exhaustively tested, and military software is extensive and complex. (The U.S. F35 fighter jet is estimated to have eight million lines of software code.) Moreover, the competitive pressure of arms racing can cause new high-tech weapons to be rushed into production with hidden software failure modes that can have catastrophic consequences.

Escalation in military conflict occurs when adversaries exchange progressively more damaging blows. In the past, the pace of escalation was limited by the slow movement of troops and supplies necessary to expand the scale of fighting. Today, the speed of high-tech weapons delivery and the efficiency of command-and-control communications makes possible an accelerated tempo of escalation. This speed-up of combat is especially dangerous for nuclear-armed powers because the end of the escalation ladder is a massive exchange of nuclear strikes. If future weapons and battle management systems are increasingly computer-controlled, there will be a danger of runaway escalation.

 Conclusion

The long era of militarism is approaching an end. Enormous expenditures on advanced weaponry and large military establishments have no practical value if the consequences of employing such weapons are intolerable. Thus, the elimination of militarism should be a high priority in the agenda of all political parties and national governments. If militarism persists, with its need to sustain dangerous international tensions, disastrous armed conflict is inevitable, by design, accident, or error. The end of militarism will come – either from policy reform or military disaster. The only question is how many will die needlessly before this pernicious ideology vanishes.

 

US MILITARISM: A CONSTANT ACROSS DECADES OF WARS

By Madelyn Hoffman and Ryan Swan

From the Old Cold War to the War on Terror

The four and half decades following World War II were characterized by intense competition with the Soviet Union, which saw the cultivation of weaponry capable of ending all life on earth multiple times over.  Massive resources were poured into nuclear weapons and sophisticated delivery systems, before the Kennedy Administration’s Flexible Response Strategy shifted focus to development of advanced conventional capabilities to enable more “credible” military threats.  President George H. W. Bush promised these enormous Cold War military investitures would yield a “peace dividend,” realizable upon the dissolution of the Soviet apparatus.  However, this high-priced peace was to be short-lived.

The Clinton Administration quickly began to preoccupy itself with transnational organizations in the Middle East (whom the Central Intelligence Agency had provided with extensive funding during the Soviet-backed government’s control of Afghanistan).  It undertook bombings in Afghanistan and Sudan in 1998 and, by the time the Bush Administration came to power, a new national security paradigm centered around transnational actors – dubbed “terrorist organizations” – was reaching maturity.  9/11 solidified this with President Bush proclaiming the “war on terror” to begin with al Qaida, but “not [to] end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.”

This opened-ended objective, given near carte blanche authorization by the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), introduced the war in Afghanistan, an expansive complex of military and clandestine operations spanning more than 70 countries and revamped national security infrastructure, including introduction of the Patriot Act and creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the National Counterterrorism Center and the Director of National Intelligence.

Together with the 2003 invasion of Iraq – perhaps the gravest war crime of the new millennium, the US counterterrorism paradigm has consumed the 21st century with perpetual American force employment against an expansive list of self-identified threats.  The toll has been severe in terms of human life (240 thousand civilians and  15 thousand US armed service members between 2003 and 2018 just in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan – not to mention innumerable more lost and affected lives in other regions scourged by US operations) and financial costs (Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs estimates expenditures for post-9/11 wars between fiscal years 2001 and 2019 to be $5.9 trillion, with an additional $808 billion predicted over the next four years; the long term healthcare costs of the veterans of just Afghanistan and Iraq are expected to increase the tab by another $1.8 trillion over the coming years).

What has the United States gained during the past nearly 20 years of continual war – a war that former vice-president Dick Cheney predicted back in 2001 “would not end in our lifetimes?” US militarism has led to the destruction of ancient cities throughout the Middle East and South Asia. This militarism has resulted in the creation of the largest number of refugees worldwide since the end of World War II, many from nations experiencing conflict as the result of US aggression.

Millions of people took to the streets in 2002 and 2003 to oppose the invasion of Iraq, knowing full well that the invasion was based on lies and the violation of international law. The creation of a coalition for the operation of “shock and awe” set off a chain of events that leave us almost twenty years later wondering how to stop the on-going cycle of violence. Those who protested in opposition to these wars knew that the use of military action in Afghanistan and Iraq, in addition to being illegal, immoral and unjustified, was of suspect strategic calculus given the illogic of ending “terror” through war – itself an act of state-sponsored “terror.”

Retired General Wesley Clark publicized the strategy of the Project for a New American Century described in their late 20th century publication “Rebuilding America’s Defenses.” He discussed what he was told by his superiors shortly after 9/11. He reported that there were plans to replace the governments of seven countries within five years – Iraq, Syria, Lebanon,  Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and finishing off with Iran.

The absurdity of this strategy was evidenced on February 26, 2021 when the Biden administration bombed Syria (a country the U.S. is in illegally and against the will of the Syrian people) in retaliation for, as stated in the official explanation, an Iranian bombing of a US military base in Iraq (another country the US is in illegally and against the will of the Iraqi people), an action that the Iranians said was in retaliation for the illegal assassination of General Soliemani of Iran while he was in Iraq.

From the War on Terror to the New Cold War

For all its overt focus on the Middle East counterterrorism wars, the Bush Administration also quietly went about needling newly Putin-controlled Russia.  In 2002, it unilaterally withdrew from the landmark Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty to act upon a reinvigorated Reagan-era interest in extravagant (albeit operationally dubious) missile defense concepts, markedly increasing spending in this area.  The claim that this new missile defense program, with installations in former Soviet bloc nations, was directed at Iran and North Korea was but a thinly veiled challenge directed at Russia and China, which viewed these systems as a direct threat.  Furthermore, the Administration indulged its appetite for (selective) democracy promotion, lavishing funds on movements in Georgia and Ukraine directed against pro-Russian leaders and floating the idea of possible North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) membership.

The Obama Administration picked right up where its predecessors left off, only this time in less discrete fashion with unabashed enthusiasm for pro-Western regime change in Ukraine and the proclaimed “pivot to Asia” policy.  The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) was concluded in 2011, but President Obama’s Nobel Prize-wining “Prague Vision” for a world without nuclear weapons translated in practice into the introduction of a trillion dollar nuclear modernization program, contributing in no small measure to renewed nuclear tensions with Russia and China. The stated goal of this so-called modernization program is to create an arsenal both larger and more powerful than what existed at the height of the first Cold War, at a time when the world should be headed in the opposite direction. While loudly advertising the (unrealized) objective of winding down the post-9/11 wars, the Administration effectively cemented the foundation for a return to Cold War-like rivalry with Russia, and now China.

The Trump Administration then officially announced the paradigmatic shift with its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review boldly proclaiming the “return of major power competition.”  Established arms control frameworks were liquidated and plans for arms racing in the old nuclear and new high tech domains was openly shared.  Just two months into office, the Biden Administration is making clear its maintenance of the charted course toward increasingly adversarial relations with Russia and China.  This was as predictable as it is dangerous. During the 2020 presidential campaign, candidate Biden criticized Donald Trump for not being tough enough on China. In addition, steady referral to alleged “Russian meddling in U.S. elections” obscures the fact that the US is the global champion in such matters and deliberately adds to the tension between the two countries. Biden’s calling Putin a “killer” without agreeing to any ensuing diplomatic discussions reflects poorly on his intentions and does nothing to de-escalate the tension.

A new Cold War with attendant arms racing in traditional and novel domains only needlessly increases the risk of confrontation (either intentional or inadvertent) involving the use of calamitous weapons capabilities (e.g., nuclear, large-scale cyber, etc.). It advances strategically suspect goals. War is not fightable between major powers without incursion of drastic costs. These costs far outweigh any possible benefits gained. Such an arms race also fails to yield durable strategic advantages – particularly between economically well-matched adversaries, like the US and China. It also results in tremendous economic waste (allocation of finite state resources to dangerous and useless means at a time when funding is desperately needed for provision of basic social services, infrastructure improvements, public health measures, and more).

Recommendations

In observing the impact of the US permanent war economy on the global and domestic population, the anti-war, pro-peace and justice movement in the United States proposes the following ways of stopping these endless wars:

  1. The US government can cut the military budget by 75% as proposed by the Green Party’s presidential candidate, Howie Hawkins. Even with such a cut in the budget, the U.S. would still spend more on its military budget than the next 8 countries combined. These cuts should include shutting down of many of the more than 800 U.S. military bases operating overseas. With a military budget currently at approximately $740 billion, such a cut would free up $555 billion to spend on programs to help our communities in such possible areas as public education, single-payer healthcare, fighting against climate change, rebuilding roads and bridges, tuition-free college, an end to student loan debt, and a continuation of the moratorium on rents and evictions, especially during the on-going pandemic.
  2. The US government and the Russian government should lead the rest of the nuclear weapons possessing countries toward signing and ratifying the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which became law at the end of January 2021. Over 120 countries initially supported conclusion of the Treaty and 52 have now signed and ratified it, leading to its entry into legal force. There is no good reason for the US to reject this Treaty. It works in conjunction with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to accomplish abolition of nuclear weapons, something the majority of the world’s population understands is a threat to all humanity and life on earth.
  3. The US needs to honor the wishes of the people of Iraq and Afghanistan and withdraw its troops from both countries immediately.
  4. The US must not only stop selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, but it must make sure that the Saudi government stops the bombing of Yemen, which many international humanitarian organizations consider to be the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today. Additionally, the U.S. and its proxies, including Saudi Arabia, must withdraw their troops from Syria, where the troops are neither wanted nor needed.
  5. The US must also withdraw its support for the Israeli government until their brutal occupation of Palestine is ended and the practice of continuing to annex more Palestinian land ends. In addition, the creation of a nuclear weapons free Middle East could help, as it would subject Israeli nuclear weapons to international scrutiny.

In conclusion, the post-9/11 world is in dire need of redirection away from increased militarization and confrontation and more toward peace and recovery from a global pandemic. The expenditure of trillions of dollars on war and preparation for war, not only by the US, but by all who are at risk due to heightened tensions and US unilateral imposition of economic sanctions, needs to stop. Funds need to be removed from weapons development and other aggressive ends and instead used to reclaim that long-lost and much needed “peace dividend.”

For more information about these and other issues, please view the UN Green Party Peace Action Committee’s March 18th webinar titled “Post-9/11: A Twenty Year Retrospective” (the video begins at about 2 minutes in).

Madelyn Hoffman is co-chair of the Green Party USA’s Peace Action Committee and was the Green Party of New Jersey’s candidate for U.S. Senate in 2018 and 2020. She was the director of NJ Peace Action  (formerly NJ SANE founded in 1957) from 2000 to 2018.

Ryan R. Swan serves as California Representative on the Peace Action Committee of the Green Party of the United States. He holds a J.D. from the UCLA School of Law and an M.Phil. in international relations and politics from Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He is an incoming researcher in arms control and emerging technologies at the Bonn International Center for Conversion in Germany.  

Two Treaties to Abolish Nuclear Weapons by Dianne Blais

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW)

The TPNW, enters into force Jan. 22, 2021 for the first 50 countries that ratified it. Some countries/organizations (namely, the U.S.) have criticized the TPNW saying that it detracts/counteracts the NPT.  This resource guide will show that this is definitely not the case – that the TPNW is a natural result of the NPT and that both treaties play important roles in achieving nuclear disarmament.

This short guide is broken up into 5 sections – each section centered and bolded. A bonus/necessity of the compactness of this guide is listing on-line sources for more complete information.

Origins and UN endorsement of the NPT and the TPNW

By 1960, nuclear weapons technology had the potential to become widespread although only three countries had them – the U.S., Britain, and the Soviet Union.  A ban on the distribution of nuclear technology was first proposed by Ireland in a meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1961. In June, 1968, the United Nations General Assembly (UN GA) endorsed the NPT with a vote of 95 to 4 with 21 abstentions.  Basic info including text of the NPT: https://www.un.org/disarmament/wmd/nuclear/npt/.  Under the treaty, all states-parties commit to pursue general and complete disarmament, and the non–nuclear weapon states (NNWS) agree to forgo developing or acquiring nuclear weapons. These are the first two “pillars” of the treaty. The third pillar ensures that states-parties can access and develop nuclear technology for peaceful applications.

The TPNW is the product of the past fifty years of politics regarding the NPT – the dissatisfaction of the NNWS of the lack of disarmament of the nuclear-weapon states (NWS) and the reasonable fear that the NNWS will suffer due to the NWS. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), launched in 2007 seeks to shift the disarmament debate to focus on the humanitarian threat posed by nuclear weapons drawing attention to their unique destructive capacity, their catastrophic health and environmental consequences, their indiscriminate targeting, the debilitating impact of a detonation on medical infrastructure and relief measures, and the long-lasting effects of radiation on the surrounding area  The road to a world free of nuclear weapons (https://www.icanw.org/history_of_the_tpnw) has pictures and text of the history of the TPNW starting with the weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) that have been outlawed.  The General Assembly decided to convene in 2017 a United Nations conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.  The conference adopted the TPNW on 7/7/2017 with 122 states in favor. Basic info including text of the TPNW: https://www.un.org/disarmament/wmd/nuclear/tpnw/

Signatories and Entry In to Force (EIF) of the NPT and the TPNW

On July 1, 1968, the NPT opened for signature and was signed by the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Article IX of the treaty established that entry into force would require the treaty’s ratification by those three countries (the treaty’s depositories) and 40 additional states. In 1970 the NPT entered into force with 46 states-parties.

The TPNW opened for signature in September 2017.  In celebration of the International Day of the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, a global conference on generating intergenerational support for the TPNW and its EIF was held in September 2020:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7C3Gu3kq00&t=1s.  This conference had twelve guest speakers and discussed the inclusiveness of nations, genders and indigenous peoples in creating this treaty.  The TPNW got the needed 50 countries ratifications Oct. 24, 2020 so the EIF – 90 days later – is Jan. 22, 2021. WILPF’s own Ray Acheson, director of Reaching Critical Will, the disarmament program of WILPF, wrote in the Oct. 27, 2020 Nation Nuclear Weapons Have Always Been Immoral.  Now They’re Illegalhttps://www.thenation.com/article/world/tpnw-nuclear-ban/.

Comparison of the NPT and TPNW

The first five articles in the NPT differentiate between the NWS and the NNWS.  A good discussion of the NPT’s first ten Articles is https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/nptfact.

The TPNW does not differentiate between NWS and NNWS – a sign of its inclusiveness but a reason that no NWS has signed it. The TPNW is about twice the length of the NPT as it lists a greater number of reasons for its being and has more specifications for those countries that ratify it.  Article 1 prohibits each state party to develop, test, produce, manufacture, transfer, station, possess, or stockpile nuclear weapons – and also makes it illegal to assist, encourage, or induce anyone else to do any of those things.

Post-EIF of the NPT and TPNW

Regret about the lack of progress towards nuclear disarmament was expressed at all the NPT review conferences starting in 1975 even as more countries became parties to the Treaty: https://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/disarmament-fora/npt/history-of-the-npt-1975-1995 .  The NPT was indefinitely extended in 1995 and calls for a continuation of a review conference every five years.  The latest conference was scheduled for last April (twelve WILPFers were planning on attending) but was delayed due to Covid. The NPT now has the widest adherence of any arms control agreement, with 191 parties to the treaty – this alone makes the NPT an important tool in nuclear disarmament.

Regarding the TPNW, the wonderful Dec, 16, 2020 webinar by Timmon Wallis, Executive Director of NuclearBan.US, is a must-see.   NuclearBan.US also put out a fact sheet that has some of the info that  https://www.icanw.org/here_are_five_examples_of_the_type_of_activities_that_will_be_illegal_under_international_law_on_22_january_2021has.

ICAN has more than 500 partner organizations in over 100 countries.The Executive Director of ICAN, Beatrice Fihn,is interviewed in the Dec. 7, 2020 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists https://thebulletin.org/premium/2020-12/beatrice-fihn-how-to-implement-the-nuclear-weapons-ban-treaty/. Fihn lays out a possible future in which nuclear weapons countries are persuaded to decide that it is best to give up the most fearsome weapons ever created—in those countries’ own interests.

An article written by two members of the Green Party’s Peace Action Committee (GPAX) was published on Jan. 05, 2021 in Common Dreams. https://www.commondreams.org/views/2021/01/05/treaty-prohibition-nuclear-weapons-road-there-and-road-ahead encourages us to seize this moment of the EIF of the TPNW to push for greater TPNW awareness and apply pressure on NWS.

Conclusion

The NPT, signed and ratified by most of the world’s countries, has not lessened the threat of nuclear war as hoped as evidenced by the Doomsday Clock now closer to midnight than ever before. The TPNW strengthens and supports the NPT and is now perhaps our best hope to decrease the threat of nuclear catastrophe although the NPT is still an important tool in this effort.

Sources:https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/Timeline-of-the-Treaty-on-the-Non-Proliferation-of-Nuclear-Weapons-NPT

https://www.amacad.org/publication/nuclear-disarmament-without-nuclear-weapon-states-nuclear-weapon-ban-treaty

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Campaign_to_Abolish_Nuclear_Weapons

The Greatest Nuclear Disaster You Never Heard Of

By Rusty Tomlinson

During the fall semester of 2007, I was in Gallup, New Mexico, teaching a reading program to the teachers in the two high schools in the Gallup, McKinley County School District, geographically, the largest school district in the nation. At some 6000 feet, Gallup is in a beautiful high desert. It was a favorite location for western movies. Extremely culturally diverse, Gallup is 44% Native, mostly Navajo, with quite a few Zuni, 34% Hispanic and 21%  Caucasian. Some 15 miles west of Gallup is the Arizona line. Somewhere before that, is the border of the Navajo Reservation, the largest in the nation. The Navajo call themselves Dine’ and their rez Dinetah. Less than five miles east of Gallup is Red Rock State Park, with some beautiful sandstone formations, the highest of which is the steeple shaped Church Rock. East of there is the Dine’ town of Churchrock, New Mexico. Red Rock State Park was a favorite playground of ours. We often went there to hike and climb. 

Pronounced pwayrko and being the Spanish word for pork, puerco is the name of a river, which flows westward through Churchrock, through Gallup, less than a mile to the north of where we lived and on into Arizona. Most of the time we were there, the Puerco River was dry. In the whole time we were there, no one ever told me that it was the site of the worst nuclear disaster in US history.
Uranium is ubiquitous, in nature. If you pick up a handful of soil, you are holding some uranium. While the concentration of uranium varies from place to place, the ratio of U238, known as depleted uranium, and U235 is invariable. In nature, uranium is always found in the ratio of 7000 parts U238 to one part U235. This is why uranium is put through a series of centrifuges. After going through the centrifuges until it is 99.something% U235, it is called weapons grade uranium, but in nature, being mostly U238, heavy metal toxicity is much more hazardous than radiation. In order to be harmful, it must be on your food, in your drink or inhaled.
As I said above, I never heard of the Churchrock nuclear accident, while we were in Gallup. I first heard of it from  Chris Shuey, a researcher with the Southwest Research and Information Service on the podcast Nuclear Hotseat.
The date July 16 is a big date in nuclear history; it is the date of the Trinity Test, which was also in New Mexico. Less well known is July 16, 1979. On that date, mere weeks after the Three Mile. Island disaster, a dam holding uranium tailings was somehow breached near Churchrock, releasing eleven hundred tons of uranium mill tailings and 94 million gallons of water into the Puerco River. In addition to the radiation and the heavy metal toxicity, the water had a ph of 1.5, the same as battery acid, so any person or animal who got into the water was burned. The Puerco River carried the contamination through Gallup and as far as Sanders Arizona, which is located in the New Lands, land which was given to the Dine’ to compensate them for the land they gave to the Hopi.
So, why was the Three Mile Island accident big news, and nobody has ever heard of the larger Churchrock spill just weeks later? Could it be that the Three Mile Island disaster endangered whites while Churchrock endangered a predominantly Native population?
Most Dine’ can choose between three careers; they can herd sheep, join the military or work in the uranium mines which are scattered throughout Dinetah. Poor health is rampant throughout the Rez. One doesn’t have to work in the mines, to be exposed to uranium. Shuey and other researchers took urine samples from newborns and found uranium in the urine, disproving the long held belief that the placenta protects the fetus from all contamination. The researchers found that ill health increases as the homes get nearer the uranium mines and dumps. They found hazardous levels of uranium in the dust from 86% of the homes they analyzed.
A disease which is prevalent among the Dine’ is called Navajo Neuropathy. It is a gradual loss of the  ability to use the extremities, especially the hands. It usually results in death by age four. The Indian Health Services think it is caused by a genetic trait of the Dine’, but the researchers want to test to see if it could have an environmental cause. They have been unable to do this, because the Dine’ medicine people consider DNA sacred and inviolate. The medicine people are highly respected. In Gallup’s Indian Medical Center, modern medicine and such traditional healing arts as sand painting are  practiced simultaneously. The Dine’ government are talking with the medicine people to try to find a way that the research can be done without offending.
So, why do the Dine not leave? Many have, but the Dinetah is sacred to many. Four sacred mountains mark its corners. When a baby is born, it’s umbilical is buried, symbolizing a bond with the land, which is as strong as the bond to a mother.
The Dine’ are not the only New Mexico Natives adversely affected by work being done with radioactive materials. The Los Alamos National Laboratory is very near some streams which are tributaries of the Rio Grande. Pueblo Natives have lived along the Rio Grande’ since the time of their Anasazi ancestors. There is an abnormally high rate of cancer among the Pueblo people. A few years ago, I read that the Federal Government was refusing to fund any research into the reasons for the cancer. I don’t know whether that is still true.
New Mexico’s official nickname is the Land of Enchantment. You have to go there to see how apt that is. The natural beauty is so intense, it seems mystical. It is a land of multiple cultures and languages. It has a unique architecture, using sand and mud to symbolize the close ties the people have with the earth. But it is being poisoned by the nuclear industry, as are other natural wonderlands, such as Colorado, the Columbia River and Tennessee.
One of the things Shuey’s research team wants to do, is to provide opportunities for the Dine’ to continue the research. They want to enable the Dine’ to gain the education necessary to become doctors, health care workers and researchers. What would happen if they were given the opportunity to support themselves, without having to go down into the mines? What would happen?

Target Raytheon: Using the Divestment Weapon Against Arms Makers

By Haig Hovaness

The government of Saudi Arabia is using munitions sold by U.S. weapons makers to prosecute a brutal campaign against a faction in the Yemen civil war. The weapons in question are laser-guided bombs manufactured by a subsidiary of Raytheon, one of the top weapons makers in the U.S.

GBU-12 Paveway II bomb

The precision guidance capabilities of these bombs are irrelevant to the destruction they wreak on civilians if they are used indiscriminately. The bomb does not choose its aim point. It will accurately strike a school bus, a hospital, or an apartment building if that is where it is aimed, The Saudi military and its Gulf allies have used such high-tech weaponry indiscriminately to inflict death and injury on thousands of innocent Yemeni civilians.

The Saudi government is an oil-rich tyranny heavily influenced by the fundamentalist Wahabi sect of Islam. Saudi Arabia is a nation in which women’s rights activists are arrested and tortured. It is a country with no national elections and no synagogues. Its authoritarian absolute monarchy and intolerant clergy are anathema to American values, yet the U.S. eagerly sells weapons to this regime. We sell them because weapons makers like Raytheon welcome profits from blood money.

The prime directive motivating Raytheon, and all other corporate weapons merchants, is maximizing shareholder value. They have no interest in promoting peace or minimizing human suffering. Indeed, the more their weapons are consumed with devastating effects, the greater their profits. Their corporate hands are stained with the blood of countless victims of the indiscriminate use of their weapons. Maximizing weapons sales is accomplished by influencing the U.S. and foreign governments to adopt policies resulting in stockpiling and use of weapons of war.

There is a clear chain of political influence reaching from the boardrooms of companies like Raytheon through the well-paid lobbying firms of the Washington beltway into the campaign financing of powerful congressional representatives and the career advancement of government officials who authorize arms purchases. This primary mechanism of influence is augmented by extensive subsidies to supposedly independent defense experts at numerous think tanks and academic institutions. These experts provide intellectual respectability to the feeding frenzy of the weapons makers at the enormous trough of the U.S. defense budget.

Raytheon, like other arms makers, publicly asserts that it has no role in shaping foreign policy. Meanwhile its lobbyists privately tie crucial votes in Congress to the promise of large campaign contributions and participate in revolving door career maneuvers that place industry advocates in powerful government positions. This duplicity is so common that it has been normalized as a permanent feature of the U.S. Military-Industrial Complex. The improper influence has become so egregious that a Raytheon lobbyist, Mark Esper, was appointed Secretary of Defense in the Trump administration, and Biden’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, sits on the Raytheon board of directors. With control of both houses of Congress and the Executive branch, Raytheon has nothing to fear from U.S. government oversight over its lavish funding. But there is something that Raytheon would fear: investor activism.

Senior corporate executives are increasingly compensated by stock grants and stock options. Thus, anything that depresses the stock price of their companies directly affects their earnings. This explains the widespread practice of companies buying back their own stock to boost stock prices instead of reinvesting their profits in productive business capabilities. In the past, investors were reluctant to punish companies for socially irresponsible behavior because the conventional economic wisdom was that nothing should interfere with market forces. Motivated only by profit, weapons makers have used campaign contributions to engineer steady increases in U.S. defense spending for decades, with utter indifference to the damage inflicted by the ill-advised use of their weaponry. But the winds of change are reshaping the priorities of investors.

After the sharp recession of 2008, the magic of the marketplace was partially discredited because unchecked exploitation of deregulated mortgage markets had led to a global financial collapse.  Moreover, the looming danger of climate change led economists and investors to add consideration of “externalities,” factors not directly reflected on a corporation’s income statement, to the evaluation of investments. The result has been the growth of socially responsible investing, a practice that balances the profitability of an investment with the associated impacts on society. Initially, the focus of this movement has been on hydrocarbon and mining companies, but there is no reason why this new calculus of investment valuation could not be extended to the arms makers.

I submit that a divestment campaign targeting Raytheon Corporation would be the most direct and efficient means of halting this company’s improper manipulation of U.S. foreign policy and reducing the carnage caused by the indiscriminate use of its weapons in war zones like Yemen. The divestiture of large amounts of Raytheon stock by major public pension funds, academic endowments, and mutual funds, would significantly depress the company’s stock price and lead Raytheon management to heed the following demands:

    • Halt all campaign contributions to elected officials.
    • Halt all contributions to policy organizations advocating aggressive military action.
    • Halt the marketing of weapons to regimes engaged in human rights violations
    • Redirect lobbying funds to foreign aid efforts aimed at relief for war refugees

Although Raytheon is not the only weapons maker engaging in corrupt and harmful practices endangering lives and undermining peace, it is a prominent example of such misconduct, and effective concentrated action against it would send a powerful message to other corporate giants in the Military Industrial Complex, such as  Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman. For too long, the invisible hand of marketplace power has kept the U.S. government on the path of war. It is time for investors to use their economic power to turn arms makers away from being political advocates and enablers of war and limit them to functioning as responsible guardians of peace.

 

 

Winkin’ n Nod: What Biden’s Choice of Blinken for Secretary of State Can Tell Us

By Rusty Tomlinson

In Truthout, Stephen Zunes examined some of the history of Anthony Blinken, President Elect Biden’s designee for Secretary of State. 

Biden and Blinken have worked together for many years. In 2002, when W. went to Congress asking for the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, Biden chaired the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Blinken was the Democratic staff director of that committee. Together, they limited the hearings on the authorization to a day and a half and ensured that all the testimony would come from hawks, allowing no Middle East experts or weapons inspectors to testify. Thus, we were thrust into an unnecessary, illegal and disastrous war.

The Authorization for the Use of Military Force has yet to be repealed, meaning that W., Obama and Trump all had absolute authority to determine the use and disposition of the military. So will Biden, until it is repealed.

Blinken complained that we didn’t send enough forces to the Syrian Civil War and he opposed withdrawing from Syria. He even went against Biden, when Biden opposed our involvement in the Libyan Civil War.

Along with Michele Flournoy.  Biden’s choice for Secretary of Defense, Blinken founded West Exec Advisors, a consulting firm, whose client list is secret, but is thought to include military contractors and  an Israeli artificial intelligence firm with close ties to the military.

Another position Blinken shares with Biden is a refusal to make billions in aid and arms to Israel dependent upon Israel’s compliance with international humanitarian laws. Both Blinken and Biden have often criticized the Palestinian Authority, but not Israel. 

 Israeli authorities are very happy with the choice of Blinken. Former Israeli ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, said, “I can think of no finer choice.” Biden’s  and Blinken’s opposition to making aid to Israel dependent upon Israel’s adherence to humanitarian international law draws into question whether they will insist upon such adherence from other allies.

In 2015, John Kerry made a Palestinian/Israeli peace proposal. Despite Palestine’s recognition of the Israeli State and Israel’s flat refusal to recognize the Palestinian State