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PROTEST! Guantanamo Hunger Strike DAY 57: April 3, 2013

March 31st, 2013 - by admin

The World Can’t Wait – 2013-03-31 23:26:39

http://www.sfbaycantwait.net/2013/03/#003072

PROTEST!
Guantánamo Hunger Strike DAY 57:
Obama Speaks in SF, April 3, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO (March 30, 2013) — This week, Obama comes to the Bay Area for big-time Democratic Party fundraising.

April is a month of urgent, nationwide efforts to raise the strength and voice of the movement against America’s murderous drone warfare. How many more villages will be terrorized and bombed by these remote control killing machines, how many more civilians will die, during Obama’s 48 hours in sunny California?

And the hunger striking prisoners at Guantánamo — now known to number at least 130 men out of the 166 still entombed there — are well into their eighth week without food. Many have lost 20-30 pounds and cannot stand up. They are being denied clean drinking water. All flights to Guantánamo have been shut down, so their lawyers cannot see them.

In San Francisco, the President and his donors will dine at $32,500 a plate, while the prisoners are losing consciousness, coughing up blood, and many are being shackled for nasal-tube force-feedings, as the authorities try to break this hunger strike. World Can’t Wait and other anti-war groups will be outside the Obama fundraiser.

Look for us, and join us — bearing witness and speaking out, with our drone replica overhead and plenty of signs and pictures to carry.

Look for us, and join us — in rows of people wearing the jumpsuits and hoods so that no one can say the Guantánamo prisoners are forgotten. We will have jumpsuits and hoods for those who wish to participate in making this important statement.

PROTEST ACTION: Wednesday April 3 at 4:00 PM
2870 Broadway at Baker, San Francisco, 94115
(at the residence of Gordon & Ann Getty)

NOTE: the area will be crowded, as CREDO has a 5:00 Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline rally in the same location. So come as early as you can, and gather at the drone replica. The mansion area will probably be cordoned off by the police, so KEEP THIS PHONE NUMBER WITH YOU — 415-864-5153 — so you can call to find the protest.

Why Come to this Protest?
It isn’t Bush who’s signing off on the weekly kill lists, and ordering the drones out to massacre civilians. It is Obama. It isn’t Bush who says the American President can order the assassination of anyone on earth without any legal constraints — it is Obama.

And it isn’t Bush who promised to close Guantánamo — it is Obama who presides over a $170 million construction project to render this permanent prison more permanent. It isn’t Bush who can decide that 166 men including the 86 long ago cleared for release must still be there, still waiting — now, perhaps, waiting for death as the only way America will ever let them leave this “living hell.” It is Obama.

Crimes are crimes, no matter who commits them.

So when Obama comes to town this week, join others to raise this message:
NO to the killer drones,
NO to torture,
SHUT DOWN Guantánamo, and
STOP these wars — NOW!

UPDATE:
On Friday, a World Can’t Wait crew traveled around San Francisco all afternoon to support the hunger striking Guantánamo prisoners. We were at Grace Cathedral (huge, elite, Episcopalian) and Mission Dolores (historic, Mission District, Catholic) before Good Friday services, leafleting and talking as people going into church stopped to read our banner and signs.

We also leafleted and called out to the community as we walked toward Mission Dolores, after an hour’s vigil at a busy commute-time BART stop.

At every stop, we found a huge percentage of people had known nothing about the hunger strike before seeing us. A middle-aged homeless immigrant guy helped us set up our displays, and when we marched, he walked point for us holding high a “SHUT DOWN GUANTANAMO!” sign.

A young hospital nurse listening to our bullhorn broke down weeping at what he heard (and after some impassioned conversation he left with flyers to spread to his friends and co-workers).

All kinds of people who stopped to talk were horrified and outraged hearing about the condition of the prisoners on this, Day 52 of the hunger strike.

President Obama: The Drones Don’t Work, They Just Make It Worse

March 31st, 2013 - by admin

Rafia Zakaria / Amnesty International – 2013-03-31 23:02:45

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/03/201332685936147309.html

As the Obama Administration looks to reform its drone program, it should focus on assessing its actual success rate

(March 31, 2013) — Less than two weeks after Senator Rand Paul’s filibuster of CIA Chief John Brennan’s confirmation in the US Senate, it seems that the controversy over the legality and transparency of drone attacks has finally provoked a response from the Obama Administration.

On March 19, 2013, reports published in the Daily Beast and the Wall Street Journal indicated that the controversial drone program may be shifted from the CIA to the Department of Defense.

The reports were based on statements by US officials and a yet unreleased draft document indicating that the Obama White House would like the program to be institutionalised and reformed, moving it into the command structure of the US military instead of within its spy agency.

It may be true that moving the drone program to the Department of Defense would address some of the critiques regarding transparency and legality.

Drone strikes carried out by the military, as they have been in Afghanistan, would be subject to the rules of engagement that govern the use of military force. They would also have a clearer chain of command that would disclose, at least generally, the parameters used to select targets and order strikes, both contentious points on which the CIA-run drone program has been criticised.

Unlike the CIA, the Department of Defense would not be able to classify all drone operations as “covert” or “clandestine” and would be subject to oversight from other branches of the United States government. Furthermore, while the President did not have to sign off on every strike conducted by the CIA, under a military-run program he would have, as Commander-in-chief, clear ultimate authority over the program.

Under the new formulation, operations would move gradually from the CIA to the Department of Defense, with a lengthy period of transition in which the two agencies would work together. The move would allow the CIA to move out of counter-terrorism and focus again on the collection of human intelligence, a facet of its operation that is said to have suffered.

On March 20, the Washington Post reported that a panel of White House advisors had expressed grave concerns that the CIA was paying inadequate attention to collecting intelligence on China, the Middle East, and other national security flashpoints, because of its inordinate focus on military operations and drone strikes. A move away from drone strikes, then, would free up the Agency’s resources to do the sort of traditional intelligence gathering with which it is tasked.

On their own side, White House officials are keen to change the impression that the President Obama is a champion of secret assassinations using armed drones on shaky legal grounds. A major counter terrorism speech is expected soon in which the President will define a new direction in counter-terrorism policy and deflect criticism that his Administration has been operating an illegal killing program.

While details of timing are unknown, such a speech can be seen as provoked by the questions raised in Senator Paul’s filibuster regarding the possibility of the President ordering drone strikes on US citizens based on unknown determinations.

Although Attorney General Eric Holder denied such a possibility in his response to Senator Paul, questions have continued as to the legal authority of CIA targets and the fact that United States citizens cannot demand any sort of accountability for them.

Not Really a Change
Moving the drone program from the CIA to the Department of Defense is thus being painted as a victory, even a capitulation, to those critics who have criticised the lack of transparency, accountability, and legal basis of the drone program. However, the details of the move do not suggest a reversal or even a rethinking of the strategic imperatives that the Obama Administration and the CIA have used to justify the drone program.

First, the gradual process of the transition without any publicly disclosed details of how and when it will be completed are likely to create a situation in which, at least for a time, it would be difficult if not impossible to tell which agency, the Department of Defense or the CIA, would actually be responsible for a strike.

Second, according to a government official who spoke to the Washington Post, the CIA program in Pakistan would be phased out even later “because of the complexities there” and because the program, unlike the ones in Yemen and Somalia, was actually begun by the CIA.

Finally, even if the drone program is actually moved to the Department of Defense, it will be incorporated into its most secret portion, the Joint Special Operations Command, whose top-secret operations are also covert and never released to the public.

When these factors are considered, the effort to provide more transparency and an institutional framework for the drone program seem chimerical at best and deceptive at worst. All of them point to a continuation of a national security mindset, within the Obama Administration and the State Department, both believing that drones, cheaply bought and unmanned, are a perfect way to bombard other countries with minimal cost the United States.

With the risk of dead American soldiers reduced to nothing, military officials are also gobbling up the idea of waging remote-control wars all over the world, wherever a possible or even supposed threat can be identified.

Are Drones Effective?
Starkly absent from the debate are any meaningful critiques of the actual effectiveness of drone strikes. Figures obtained from the South Asia Terrorism Portal indicate, for example, that the drastic escalation in drone strikes in Pakistan during the Obama Administration has caused no decrease in the capacity of drone-targeted groups to carry out terrorist attacks in the region.

According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, President Obama ordered 53 drones strikes in Pakistan in 2009. These strikes were reported to have killed, among others, Tehreek-e-Taliban Commander Baitullah Mehsud and Maulvi Gul Nazeer. In turn, there were approximately 500 bomb blasts in Pakistan that year, most of which were concentrated in the northwestern tribal areas of Pakistan.

In 2010, President Obama ordered 128 drone strikes which were again reported to have killed various prominent Taliban figures and various Al-Qaeda commanders. The number of bomb blasts carried out by terrorist groups in Pakistan that year was 473, with most of them again concentrated in the tribal areas and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

In 2011, President Obama ordered 75 drone strikes which killed, among others, Al-Qaeda Chief financial officer Abu Zaid Al Iraqi and Taliban spokesperson Shakirullah Shakir. However, despite this being the third year of drone strikes, terror groups within Pakistan were still able to carry out 673 bomb blasts.

They also expanded the geographic area of the blast operations to include not only the remote and sparsely populated tribal areas, but also the urban centers of Karachi in the south and Quetta in the southwest of Pakistan.

Finally, in 2012, President Obama ordered 48 drone strikes which were alleged to have killed between 242 and 400 people. Among the dead was Taliban commander Hakimullah Mehsud, whose death was said to be a big blow to the operative capacities of the organization.

However, even despite this being the fourth year of drone strikes in Pakistan, with so many Al-Qaeda and Tehreek-e-Taliban leaders allegedly killed in strikes in past years, terrorists were nevertheless able to still carry out 652 attacks killing 1,007 people and injuring 2,687.

Not only were they able to kill more, they were also able to expand their ambit of operations into other parts of Pakistan, with terrorist attacks in Karachi and Quetta now almost equivalent in damage to the ones that occurred in the northwest, where the war against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban had once been isolated.

The move of Tehreek-e-Taliban activity from the tribal areas of Pakistan, where drones operate more effectively, to urban areas like Karachi has also been documented in a recent report issued by the United States Institute for Peace, which stated that Karachi is now the “preferred hideout of the TTP, Afghan Taliban, other extremist, and sectarian outfits” and that Karachi’s urban density and sprawl offer “the best militant hideout,” since US drone strikes cannot be enacted in Karachi, which unlike Federally Administered Tribal Area is the country’s economic and financial capital. The report further goes on to say that militants “are relocating to Karachi and are able to plan local and international operations in the city.”

That those allegedly being targeted by drones do not seem at all weakened by them seems largely absent from the discussion on drones and the preoccupations of whether the program will be snuck from the secret corners of one US agency to another.

The problem of an increase in terrorist attacks in Pakistan, even after their leaders have been hammered for years by drones, can be ignored by American officials whose interest is ostensibly limited only to protecting Americans.

However, if it is concerns of transparency and legality that are provoking the responses from the Obama Administration and the purported move to reassign the drone program to the Department of Defense, perhaps the issue of actual effectiveness can also be added to the mix.

Rafia Zakaria is on the board of directors of Amnesty International. She is a lawyer and a Political Science PhD candidate at Indiana University.

You can follow Rafia on Twitter @rafiazakaria

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Obama’s Nuke Double Standards

March 31st, 2013 - by admin

Nat Parry / Consortium News – 2013-03-31 22:51:52

Obama’s Nuke Double Standards

(March 27, 2013) — The United States continues to demonstrate double, triple and quadruple standards in its policies toward nuclear proliferation and disarmament.

On the one hand, it flouts its own obligations to disarm as spelled out in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It tolerates its ally Israel defying this treaty by maintaining an undeclared nuclear arsenal. It even adopts a policy of containment toward rogue state North Korea, which is openly threatening war against US ally South Korea and has recently threatened to use nukes against the US mainland.

The mushroom cloud of the atomic bombing over Nagasaki, Japan, on Aug. 9, 1945.

However, when it comes to Iran, which insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes and is continuing to engage in diplomatic negotiations — recently concluding what a Western official described as “useful” talks in the Kazakh city of Almaty — the United States imposes sanctions, makes threats of force and even engages in cyber-attacks that could be considered acts of war.

Speaking in Jerusalem last week, President Obama reiterated that US policy is to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, what Obama called “the world’s worst weapons,” at virtually any cost.

Israel and the United States, he said, “agree that a nuclear-armed Iran would be a threat to the region, a threat to the world, and potentially an existential threat to Israel. And we agree on our goal. We do not have a policy of containment when it comes to a nuclear Iran. Our policy is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

“We prefer to resolve this diplomatically, and there’s still time to do so. Iran’s leaders must understand, however, that they have to meet their international obligations. And, meanwhile, the international community will continue to increase the pressure on the Iranian government. The United States will continue to consult closely with Israel on next steps. And I will repeat: All options are on the table. We will do what is necessary to prevent Iran from getting the world’s worst weapons.”

On one hand it could be considered reassuring that the President is stating that the US “prefers to resolve this diplomatically,” rather than militarily, but the flip side of that, of course, is the stated insistence that “all options are on the table,” including the military option.

Also implied is that the US – as the inventor, leading stockpiler and only country to ever use nuclear weapons – could actually launch a nuclear assault in order to prevent Iran from obtaining these weapons. After all, if no option is off the table, supposedly that means that the nuclear option is on the table.

While that might be considered too extreme even for the anything-goes standards of the United States, the implicit threat is indeed clear: if Iran continues to defy the will of the US government, the US retains the right to wipe that country off the map.

What is perhaps more interesting about Obama’s statement however is his explicit reference to nukes being “the world’s worst weapons.” The unstated implication is that these weapons are in a wholly different league than any other weapon on earth. While nuclear weapons may be considered too dangerous to be used, Obama hinted, nearly any other weapon ever devised is considered fair game.

Depleted Uranium
It is noteworthy that as Obama was singling out nuclear weapons as uniquely horrific, new information was coming to light about the US’s use of depleted uranium in its war against Iraq last decade. Significantly, in Fallujah – which was targeted mercilessly by US forces in 2004 – the use of depleted uranium has led to birth defects in infants 14 times higher than in the Japanese cities targeted by US atomic bombs at the close of World War II, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

As the Huffington Post reported last week, “ten years after the start of the US invasion in Iraq, doctors in some of the Middle Eastern nation’s cities are witnessing an abnormally high number of cases of cancer and birth defects.” Scientists blame the use of depleted uranium and white phosphorus in the US military assaults.

The babies and small children suffering horribly from the US military’s reckless use of chemical weapons might consider depleted uranium and white phosphorus pretty horrible. But Obama is of course correct that nuclear weapons are indeed horrific and their effects too ghastly to truly comprehend. His implication though that they are nevertheless safe in certain hands, namely the world’s already existing nuclear powers such as the US and Israel, is dubious.

Although Iran has not invaded another country in hundreds of years, the US has launched dozens of covert actions and wars of aggression since rising to superpower status following World War II. Likewise, Israel has frequently attacked its neighbors, including Lebanon, Iraq and Syria, not to mention the regular assaults it commits against Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

If there are countries that truly can’t be trusted with the world’s worst weapons, some might say that it is the countries that actually launch aggressive wars on a regular basis. Further, while nukes certainly have a unique capability of delivering devastation unlike any other weapon in the world, they have also long been considered a stabilizing force by nuclear security strategists.

In short, because they are so uniquely destructive, they can provide a powerful deterrent to would-be aggressors. This, of course, is the primary reason why countries may seek to obtain nuclear weapons — and the main reason why only full disarmament can ever truly eliminate the threat of proliferation.

North Korea has made this perfectly clear in its ongoing bluster issued against the United States. Earlier this month, North Korea’s foreign ministry said the country will exercise its right to “pre-emptive nuclear strikes on the headquarters of the aggressors” because Washington is pushing to start a nuclear war against it.

While this threat was roundly — and rightly — condemned by the international community, in substance it is not drastically different than official US policy, which indicates that the United States retains the right to a first nuclear strike. The Obama administration’s own defense strategy published last year clearly states that the US will maintain its nuclear arsenal as long as these weapons exist, and if necessary, will use them.

“As long as nuclear weapons remain in existence,” it says, “we will field nuclear forces that can under any circumstances confront an adversary with the prospect of unacceptable damage, both to deter potential adversaries and to assure US allies and other security partners that they can count on America’s security commitments.”

Although North Korea boasts of nuclear bombs and pre-emptive strikes, it is not thought to have mastered the ability to produce a warhead small enough to put on a missile capable of reaching the United States. It is nevertheless striking how different the US treats this semi-nuclear power in comparison to countries that don’t have the ability to inflict damage against the United States, such as Iran.

The Iran Anomaly
When it comes to Iran, Obama insists that “they have to meet their international obligations,” and if they don’t, the US just might launch a military assault. Left unsaid, of course, is that the US, as a nuclear power, also has international obligations, namely to move towards complete nuclear disarmament.

As the most recent Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference reminded states parties to the treaty in 2010:

“The Conference recalls that the overwhelming majority of States entered into legally binding commitments not to receive, manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices in the context, inter alia, of the corresponding legally binding commitments by the nuclear-weapon States to nuclear disarmament in accordance with the Treaty.”

The Conference further regretted that nuclear-armed countries such as the United States have failed to live up to their end of the NPT bargain:

“The Conference, while welcoming achievements in bilateral and unilateral reductions by some nuclear-weapon States, notes with concern that the total estimated number of nuclear weapons deployed and stockpiled still amounts to several thousands. The Conference expresses its deep concern at the continued risk for humanity represented by the possibility that these weapons could be used and the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from the use of nuclear weapons.”

When it comes to disputes over compliance with the treaty, however, for example Western suspicions that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons or Iranian complaints that the US is failing to disarm, the Review Conference reiterated the obligation that only diplomatic means should be pursued, and that “attacks or threats of attacks” must be avoided:

“The Conference emphasizes that responses to concerns over compliance with any obligation under the Treaty by any State party should be pursued by diplomatic means, in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty and the Charter of the United Nations….

“The Conference considers that attacks or threats of attack on nuclear facilities devoted to peaceful purposes jeopardize nuclear safety, have dangerous political, economic and environmental implications and raise serious concerns regarding the application of international law on the use of force in such cases, which could warrant appropriate action in accordance with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations. The Conference notes that a majority of States parties have suggested a legally binding instrument be considered in this regard.”

While the United States continues to flout its NPT obligations to disarm, other nations of the world continue to press for the nuclear powers to live up to their promises. As the Inter Press Service reported on March 7,

“For the first time, ‘humanitarian diplomacy’ is being deployed to drive home the need for banning nukes – though under the self-imposed exclusion of the P5, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, who own a crushing majority of the 19,000 nuclear weapons capable of destroying the world many times over.

“A first step toward humanitarian diplomacy was taken in Oslo at a Mar. 4-5 conference convened by the government of Norway. Mexico will host a follow-up meeting ‘in due course’ and ‘after necessary preparations,’ Juan José Gómez Camacho, the country’s ambassador to the UN announced.

“Participants in the conference included representatives of 127 states, the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement and civil society, with the International Campaign for Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) in the forefront.”

While this is indeed a hopeful step, it’s difficult to say how successful it can be without the United States and the other nuclear powers. The P5, not Iran, should be the primary targets of nuclear non-proliferation efforts, as there are no other countries on earth that have flouted the NPT as routinely since the treaty was signed.

Pressure needs to be brought to bear particularly on the United States, as the inventor of nuclear weapons, the country with the least scruples about using military force (including the use of horrific weapons such as depleted uranium, white phosphorus and cluster bombs), and the world’s leading exporter of conventional weapons.

Nat Parry is the co-author of Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush. [A version of this article appeared at Compliance Campaign.]

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

ACTION ALERT: Ban the Bomb; Balance the Budget

March 31st, 2013 - by admin

Jon Rainwater / Peace Action West & Chris Schneidmiller / Global Security Newswire – 2013-03-31 01:26:18

http://www.peaceactionwest.org/

ACTION: Finally — A Use for Nukes
Jon Rainwater / Peace Action West

(March 28, 2013) — For decades, our useless, good-for-nothing nuclear stockpile has just sat there, mooching off billions of taxpayer dollars. Finally, here’s a chance for it to get off the couch and do something useful for a change.

It can help us balance our budget.

Once the president releases his budget in a couple weeks, congressional battles over funding will begin. Will you click here to support our work right now to make sure nukes get the ax?

If Congress pushed the Pentagon to cancel expensive and unnecessary plans to build a new fleet of nuclear submarines, bombers, and a lot of other useless hardware, we could save more than $58 billion over the next 10 years. [See story below] We could save billions more if the Department of Energy cut funds for unnecessary upgrades to the nuclear weapons complex.

That could mean saving many of the programs that are now in jeopardy – programs that millions of Americans rely on. It could mean preventing cuts that some economists say could send all of us back into recession.

We’ve already started generating phone calls to members of the House and Senate who sit on key decision-making committees, and our work to raise a mighty ruckus in their home offices will intensify over the coming months.

We are also coordinating a coalition of more than 150 organizations across the country to influence members of Congress through their constituents, through leaders in their districts, and through the media.

Jon Rainwater is Executive Director of Peace Action West. Peace Action West • 2201 Broadway, Ste 321 Oakland, CA 94612 • 800.949.9020


Pentagon Can Slash $58 Billion From Nuke Spending Over Decade
Chris Schneidmiller / Global Security Newswire

WASHINGTON, DC (March 20, 2013) — The Defense Department can save $50 billion by reducing nuclear arms spending through the coming decade even without cutting the size of the arsenal beyond levels set by a US-Russian arms control treaty, according to a new expert analysis.

A smaller stockpile reportedly being considered by the Obama administration could increase savings to $58 billion, the Washington-based Arms Control Association said on Tuesday.

Turning those projections into reality would require the Pentagon to cut back plans for a new fleet of ballistic missile submarines and delay development of a new strategic bomber and ICBM, among other measures.

“We’re only looking at the next 10 years here. A lot of the significant savings from reductions would come beyond the 10-year window,” Tom Collina, ACA research director, said during a panel discussion of the organization’s analysis.

“What this shows is that arms reductions are going to save us money already and can save us a lot of money if we plan it smartly and if we are efficient about it and if we don’t build things too soon before we know how much we need.”

The United States spends roughly $31 billion each year on its nuclear weapons and associated infrastructure, according to a 2012 analysis from the Henry L. Stimson Center. Close to $23 billion is spent by the Pentagon, with the rest at the Energy Department.

Both departments are faced with deep funding reductions under the federal budget sequester that took effect on March 1.

Defense alone could be forced to absorb as much as $1 trillion in budget losses over the next decade. Pentagon officials have already warned that such cuts could endanger plans for the next-generation bomber and undermine other strategic operations; recently retired Defense Secretary Leon Panetta even suggested in late 2011 the sequester could force elimination of all ICBMs.

The Pentagon had by press time not offered comments about its nuclear development and spending plans.

Collina said there were two guiding principles for his analysis – the United States should be more efficient in deploying its nuclear assets and should avoid buying new weapons before they are needed

Today, the United States has about 1,700 deployed long-range nuclear warheads; the New START treaty with Moscow requires that number to be reduced to 1,550 on no more than 700 fielded delivery systems by 2018.

The Arms Control Association’s “Cost-Effective New START” proposal aims for savings from 2013 to 2022 without changing the warhead count allowed by the accord.

Cutting the existing fleet of 12 Ohio-class submarines to eight would save an estimated $3 billion. Building no more than eight planned replacement vessels, and delaying initial acquisition by two years to 2023, would take out $15 billion from the projected $350 billion price tag for building and operating the next-generation fleet, the analysis states.

There is room for loading more warheads onto fewer boats to avoid shrinking the arsenal, Collina noted.

Another $18 billion in savings could be derived from postponing development of new strategic bombers from this decade to the mid-2020s, given that existing B-2 and B-52 aircraft will remain operational for decades to come.

A “more modest” version of the $10.4 billion life-extension program for 400 B-61 gravity bombs could produce $5 billion in further savings, the Arms Control Association said. Such a move would entail a “minimal upgrade” to the B-61 Mod 7 strategic bomb and holding off on any decision on updating the tactical systems deployed in Europe, Collina said.

The final identified spending reduction of $9 billion comes from action the Pentagon has taken as of last week – canceling plans for a next-generation Standard Missile 3 interceptor that was to be deployed under the US-NATO ballistic missile shield for Europe.

The group also put forward a “New START II” option which supposes the administration achieves its reported aspiration to reduce the strategic arsenal to roughly 1,000 warheads alongside Russia. The Pentagon is said to have backed a stockpile count of 1,000 to 1,100 weapons in an implementation study for the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review; the document has not been made public.

The extra $8 billion in savings come from deferring $5 billion in spending by delaying the reduced B-61 life-extension into the mid-2020s and dropping deployment of ICBMs from about 400 to 300 for another $3 billion in cut costs.

Given Washington’s need to reduce expenses, there is a good chance that some or all of these measures will be taken up, Collina said. Delaying work on parts of the nuclear triad could allow for reduced production and future savings, “but at some point we will need new subs and bombers, so you can only delay so long,” he acknowledged by e-mail after Tuesday’s meeting.

Further reductions in the size of the nation’s nuclear arsenal remain a subject of intense debate in Washington.

“If President Obama is right, and there is peace and security in a world without nuclear weapons, it seems every other country with nuclear weapons or, like Iran, the aspiration to develop them has missed the memo,” House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subommittee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) said in an opening statement for a Tuesday hearing on the nuclear deterrent and sequester.

The lawmaker cautioned Obama against stepping back from his $85 billion nuclear arms complex modernization pledge, made as the president sought GOP support for New START. Nuclear powers China and Russia are developing more sophisticated weapons within their own nuclear deterrents, Rogers noted.

Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments President Andrew Krepinevich dismissed some perceived benefits of a US nuclear drawdown, including that such a move would lead other nations to follow suit.

A nuclear-armed Iran might also require the United States to cover Middle Eastern allies with the so-called “nuclear umbrella” — an increasing burden even as the size of the stockpile shrinks, Krepinevich said in his prepared statement to the panel.

“The implied assumption here is that the United States has a large surplus of nuclear weapons, and that it can readily meet its expanding nuclear commitments with a substantially smaller arsenal than called for under New START,” he said.

Global Zero co-founder Bruce Blair countered that even a 900-warhead nuclear arsenal — as recommended in a 2012 report from the disarmament movement — “would fulfill reasonable requirements of deterrence vis-à-vis every country considered to pose a potential WMD threat to the United States.”

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

The Need for A Nuclear Weapons Convention

March 31st, 2013 - by admin

David Krieger / Nuclear Age Peace Foundation – 2013-03-31 01:00:41

http://www.wagingpeace.org/articles/db_article.php?article_id=45

A Nuclear Weapons Convention
David Krieger / Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
This speech was delivered by David Krieger to the 4th Nagasaki Global Citizens’ Assembly for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons on February 22, 2010.

A Nuclear Weapons Convention is a treaty to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons. Such a treaty does not yet exist, except in the form of a model treaty developed by non-governmental organizations and introduced by Costa Rica and Malaysia to the United Nations General Assembly. The model treaty shows that a Nuclear Weapons Convention is possible from a technical perspective. What it does not demonstrate is its feasibility from a political perspective.

If the goal is a world free of nuclear weapons, then a Nuclear Weapons Convention is the best vehicle for achieving this goal. When speaking about a Nuclear Weapons Convention, I generally add “a treaty for the phased, verifiable, irreversible and transparent elimination of nuclear weapons.” Let’s discuss those qualifiers.

Many leaders express concern about nuclear disarmament occurring too rapidly, without sufficient preparation, and thus being potentially dangerous and destabilizing. Of course, that concern must be compared to the considerable dangers of current nuclear weapons policies, including proliferation, terrorism, and inadvertent or intentional use. However, to avoid destabilization in the process of nuclear disarmament, the proposal is for phased elimination of nuclear weapons, which would allow for confidence building in each phase.

As certain steps were accomplished in each phase, confidence in the system would be strengthened. For example, reductions in numbers of weapons can be set out for the various phases. Safeguards can be strengthened in phases, and so forth. There are many ways in which the phases can be designed, related to the number of phases, their length, and what is to be accomplished in each phase.

A principal concern related to nuclear weapons abolition is cheating. Thus, any disarmament system must be subject to verification. Ronald Reagan famously said, “Trust, but verify.” There need to be systems of inspection and verification so that there is confidence that cheating is not occurring. Individual states should not be allowed to control the methods of inspection and verification on their territories.

Verification must not have limiting factors. It must allow for full inspections. Countries must be prepared to open their facilities to challenge inspections at any time and in any place. The right to full inspections to assure against cheating must be understood as a basic requirement for a Nuclear Weapons Convention.

There are many ways in which verification procedures can be organized and designed, related to issues such as what entities would authorize and conduct inspections, and the timing and scope of the inspections.

Making disarmament irreversible is an important element of the process of moving to zero nuclear weapons. It is one of the 13 Practical Steps for Nuclear Disarmament agreed to at the 2000 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.

Irreversibility is a matter of principle in order to hold on to the gains that are made in the process of disarmament and not allow for the possibility of backsliding. Some technical questions may be involved, including the determination of what constitutes irreversibility.

The final element I would stress is transparency. A Nuclear Weapons Convention should make the process of nuclear disarmament transparent so that all parties will have confidence that the required steps are actually being taken. This is an element that must be carefully thought through, however, so as not to increase the vulnerability of states as the number of weapons is reduced. There is a delicate balance between security and transparency that must be considered.

I view these four elements — phased, verifiable, irreversible and transparent — as being essential for a Nuclear Weapons Convention. They are necessary for building confidence that the abolition of nuclear weapons can be accomplished. They will be guideposts in negotiating the treaty, but before there can be a treaty we must first get to the negotiating table.

Over the years, there have been many calls for a Nuclear Weapons Convention. In 1995, when the Abolition 2000 Global Network was formed following the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review and Extension Conference, they called in their founding statement for the NPT nuclear weapon states to “[i]nitiate immediately and conclude… negotiations on a nuclear weapons abolition convention that requires the phased elimination of all nuclear weapons within a timebound framework, with provisions for effective verification and enforcement.”

In 1996, the International Court of Justice issued an Advisory Opinion on the illegality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons. The Court stated unanimously: “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.” In effect, the Court said there is a legal obligation to pursue a Nuclear Weapons Convention.

On the opening day of the of the 2000 NPT Review Conference, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation published an Appeal in the New York Times signed by, among others, 35 Nobel Laureates, including 14 Nobel Peace Laureates. The Appeal called upon the nuclear weapon states to “[c]ommence good faith negotiations to achieve a Nuclear Weapons Convention requiring the phased elimination of all nuclear weapons, with provisions for effective verification and enforcement.”

In 2008, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued an Action Plan for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Nuclear Disarmament, emphasizing that the two are strongly interrelated. The first of his five actions is “[a] call for all NPT parties to pursue negotiations in good faith — as required by the treaty — on nuclear disarmament either through a new convention or through a series of mutually reinforcing instruments backed by a credible system of verification.”

The Mayors for Peace Hiroshima-Nagasaki Protocol calls for negotiations for a Nuclear weapons Convention or a comparable Framework Agreement to eliminate nuclear weapons by the year 2020. They have promoted this among their 3,500 member cities.

The most important issue confronting us is not the elements of a Nuclear Weapons Convention. These can be worked out through negotiations. The most important issue is how to generate the political will to commence negotiations. I believe that such political will must come from demands by the people.

I also believe that the United States should lead the way, and this places a special responsibility upon the shoulders of Americans. If the US does not lead, it is hard to imagine the Russians joining; if the Russians don’t join, it is hard to imagine the Chinese joining, and so forth.

President Obama has called for the US, as the only country to have used nuclear weapons, to lead on achieving a nuclear weapons-free world. Unfortunately, though, he doesn’t believe the goal can be achieved in his lifetime. It is up to people everywhere to make their voices heard on this issue and to encourage him to convene negotiations for a Nuclear Weapons Convention with a sense of urgency.

President Obama has expressed strong concern about nuclear terrorism. He must be convinced that the threat of nuclear terrorism will only be eliminated when nuclear weapons are eliminated.

If the United States does not act in convening negotiations for a Nuclear Weapons Convention, Japan could take the lead. As the victims of the first atomic attacks, Japan has an equal, if not more valid, claim to leadership and responsibility on this issue. Most important, the voices of the bomb survivors, the hibakusha, must be ever present in the debate on achieving a world free of nuclear weapons.

In a Briefing Booklet that the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation is preparing for the 2010 NPT Review Conference, we describe a spectrum of perspectives toward nuclear weapons. At one end of the spectrum are the Nuclear Believers, those who believe the bomb has been a force for peace.

At the other end of the spectrum are the Nuclear Abolitionists, those who believe that nuclear weapons threaten the annihilation of the human species and most forms of life. In the center is the category of the Nuclear Disempowered, those who are confused, ignorant and apathetic. People in this category are often fatalistic and are inclined to defer to “experts.” It is this enormous group of disempowered individuals that must be awakened, empowered and engaged in seeking a world free of nuclear weapons.

This is our challenge as abolitionists. If we can succeed in building a solid base of support for nuclear weapons abolition, a Nuclear Weapons Convention will be the vehicle to take us to the destination.

David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and a Councilor on the World Future Council.

(c) Nuclear Age Peace Foundation 2013. www.WagingPeace.org

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

ACTION ALERT: For Nuclear Security Beyond Seoul, Eradicate Land-Based ‘Doomsday’ Missiles

March 31st, 2013 - by admin

Democracy in Action & David Krieger and Daniel Ellsberg / Waging Peace – 2013-03-31 00:54:47

http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/6357/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=13500#.UVSsD2LZR2Q.facebook

ACTION: President Obama’s Window of Opportunity
Democracy in Action & Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

(March 29, 2013) — President Obama has the opportunity in his second term to put the world squarely on track to achieve the abolition of nuclear weapons. It is important for us to keep up the pressure and let him know that this is an issue of vital importance to us.

Please take a moment to send President Obama a message today asking him to take three actions that will make the US and the world safer:

1. Take away Russia’s incentive to target the US with nuclear weapons by decommissioning our land-based nuclear arsenal.

2. Clarify US nuclear posture by announcing that the US will not use nuclear weapons first under any circumstances.

3. Commence good faith negotiations for a treaty banning nuclear weapons in accordance with our obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

While these three steps alone will not achieve the goal of nuclear weapons abolition, they are steps that can be taken immediately, which will set the tone for significant further accomplishments during President Obama’s final term in office.

Take Action Now on Nuclear Disarmament

THE LETTER
I am counting on you to take significant steps in leading the world to the abolition of nuclear weapons. Your window of opportunity to lead on this issue is limited. Below are three steps that can be taken immediately to further this goal:

1. Take away Russia’s incentive to target the US with nuclear weapons by decommissioning our land-based nuclear arsenal.

2. Clarify US nuclear posture by announcing that the US will not use nuclear weapons first under any circumstances.

3. Commence good faith negotiations for a treaty banning nuclear weapons in accordance with our obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

President Barack Obama — Phone: (202) 456-1111.
Fax:(202) 456-2461


For Nuclear Security Beyond Seoul, Eradicate Land-Based ‘Doomsday’ Missiles
David Krieger and Daniel Ellsberg / Waging Peace

(March 27, 2012) — President Obama and other world leaders gathered at the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea, this week to address threats posed by unsecured nuclear material. If Mr. Obama is truly concerned about nuclear safety, he should seriously consider doing away with the 450 inter-continental ballistic missiles deployed and ready to fire at Russia on a moment’s notice.

Last month we were among 15 protesters who were arrested in the middle of the night at Vandenberg Air Force Base, some 70 miles north of Santa Barbara, Calif. We were protesting the imminent test flight of a Minuteman III inter-continental ballistic missile.

The Air Force rationale for doing these tests is to ensure the reliability of the US nuclear deterrent force; but launch-ready land-based nuclear-armed ballistic missiles are the opposite of a deterrent to attack. In fact, their very deployment has the potential to launch World War III and precipitate human extinction — as a result of a false alarm.

We’re not exaggerating. Here’s why: These nuclear missiles are first-strike weapons — most of them would not survive a nuclear attack. In the event of a warning of a Russian nuclear attack, there would be an incentive to launch all 450 of these Minuteman missiles before the incoming enemy warheads could destroy them in their silos.

If the warning turned out to be false (there have been many false warnings), and the US missiles were launched before the error was detected, World War III would be underway. The Russians have the same incentive to launch their land-based missiles upon warning of a perceived attack.

Both US and Russian land-based missiles remain constantly on high-alert status, ready to be launched within minutes. Because of the 30-minute flight times of these missiles, the presidents of both the US and Russia would have only approximately 12 minutes to decide whether to launch their missiles when presented by their military leaders with information indicating an imminent attack (after lower-level threat assessment conferences).

That’s only 12 minutes or less for the president to decide whether to launch global nuclear war. While this scenario is unlikely, it is definitely possible: Presidents have repeatedly rehearsed it, and it cannot be ruled out due to the graveness of its potential consequences.

Russia came close to launching its missiles based on a warning that came Jan. 25, 1995. President Yeltsin was awakened in the middle of the night and told a US missile was headed toward Moscow. Fortunately, Yeltsin was sober and took longer than the time allocated for his decision on whether to launch Russian nuclear-armed missiles in response.

In the extended time, it became clear that the missile was a weather sounding rocket from Norway and not a US missile headed toward Moscow. Disaster was only narrowly averted.
Here is the really compelling part of the story: If all 450 US land-based Minuteman III missiles with thermonuclear warheads were ever launched at Russia — with many of the targets in or near cities, as now planned — most Americans would die as a result, along with most of humanity. Our own weapons would contribute as much or more to these deaths in America and the rest of the globe as any Russian warheads launched.

This is because smoke from the enormous nuclear firestorms created by even a “successful” US nuclear first-strike would cause catastrophic disruption of global climate and massive destruction of the Earth’s protective ozone layer, leading to global famine.

Recent peer-reviewed studies, done by atmospheric scientists Alan Robock (Rutgers), Brian Toon (University of Colorado-Boulder), Richard Turco (UCLA) and colleagues, predict that such an attack would create immense firestorms that would quickly surround the planet with a dense stratospheric smoke layer.

The black smoke would be heated by the sun, lofted like a hot air balloon, and would remain in the stratosphere for at least 10 years. There it would block and prevent a large fraction of sunlight from reaching the Earth’s surface. The sharp reduction of warming sunlight would rapidly produce global Ice Age weather conditions. This would eliminate or dramatically reduce growing seasons for a decade and would likely cause the starvation of most or all humans.

Along with other effects — including prolonged destruction of the ozone layer — most complex life on Earth could be destroyed. Scientists say the process would be similar to when an asteroid hit the Earth some 65 million years ago, raising a global dust cloud that reduced sunlight, lowering temperatures and killing vegetation. That caused the extinction of the dinosaurs and 70 percent of the Earth’s species.

The cause of extinction in our case would not be an external, celestial event, but rather the launching of thermonuclear weapons we had created by our own cleverness, supposedly for our own security.

The Minuteman III missile tests from Vandenberg Air Force Base are thus really tests of an American Nuclear Doomsday Machine.

Nuclear weapons do not make the US or the world more secure. In particular, the Minuteman III missiles — land-based, vulnerable, on high alert, and susceptible to being triggered by a false alarm — make us less secure. Anyone who cares about humankind having a future should protest these tests and call for the elimination of all nuclear-armed inter-continental ballistic missiles as an initial step toward the total abolition of nuclear weapons.

If the US did away now with its nuclear-armed land-based missile force, it would still have 288 invulnerable submarine-launched ballistic missiles (armed with approximately 1,152 warheads) to act as a retaliatory threat to nuclear attack. But it would no longer have tempting targets for the Russians to strike preemptively in a time of tension or in the event of a false warning of attack.

It would still be imperative to reduce US (and Russian) total warheads to levels that do not threaten the possibility of causing human extinction.

And even the smaller existing nuclear arsenals of India and Pakistan threaten global disaster. Professor Robock and his colleagues have estimated that in a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan in which each side used 50 Hiroshima-size bombs (each side now has more than that number), the smoke rising into the stratosphere could cause a global reduction of sunlight and destruction of ozone leading to crop failures and global famine.

By comparison, the launch-ready thermonuclear forces of the US and Russia contain roughly 500 times the explosive power of the 100 atomic bombs of India and Pakistan.

Now is the time for the people and nations of the world to stand up against the potential extinction of the human species and demand that political leaders pursue the path to zero nuclear weapons, a path mandated by the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the International Court of Justice. Until then, protest and civil resistance will be necessary.

We should seek two principal goals: first, a commitment by the existing nuclear weapon states to forego launch-on-warning and first use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances; and second, good faith negotiations for a new treaty for the phased, verifiable, irreversible, and transparent elimination of nuclear weapons.

It is our hope that by committing nonviolent civil resistance, being arrested, going to federal court, and explaining our actions to the public, we will help to awaken and engage the American people on this issue of utmost importance to our common future.

David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Daniel Ellsberg is a Distinguished Fellow at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and a former strategic analyst for the Department of Defense. He released the Pentagon Papers in 1971.

This article was originally published by the Christian Science Monitor.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Iraq: Ten Years After the Invasion

March 31st, 2013 - by admin

Inside Story / Al Jazeera & Fault Lines / Al Jazeera – 2013-03-31 00:39:13

http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestory/2013/03/201332052243696359.html

Iraq: Ten Years After the Invasion
Inside Story / Al Jazeera

“Just another day, just another bombing … there is nothing special about today …. For the Iraqis, the anniversay doesn’t mean that much, but simply the bombing which we witness today is a message that Iraq is still unstable, that the American adventure in Iraq didn’t succeed at all. “
— Ghassan al-Attiyah, the founder of the Iraq Foundation for Development and Democracy

(March 20, 2013) — Car bombs and suicide attacks have shattered Iraq’s capital on the tenth anniversary of the invasion that removed Saddam Hussein.

It is a stark reminder of the fragile state of security in a country still struggling with insurgency, sectarian division, political instability and stuttering along the road to recovery. Recovery from an invasion based on the premise that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction, which have ever been found.

Many Iraqis complain that after 10 years of rebuilding, they still lack basic public services. The United Nations says almost seven million Iraqis, almost a quarter of the population, are living in poverty. Electricity supplies remain unreliable. On average an Iraqi household receives just eight hours of power a day.

Four out of every 10 people in Iraq do not have access to clean water. And despite improvements, most Iraqis only have limited primary healthcare. It is estimated that up to half of all doctors have left the country.

Estimates vary widely about the cost of the war. The non-partisan Congressional Research Service puts the financial cost at just over $800 billion but other estimates suggest it could rise to anything between $1.7 trillion and $3 trillion. A total of $60 billion has been spent on reconstruction and development by the US government. But a report by the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction says that $8 billion dollars of that was wasted.

“The infrastructure has been totally neglected under the previous regimes and the damage is enormous. There’s a need of rebuilding everything and that requires tens of billions of dollars — in total, perhaps about more than 200 billion,” says Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister Hussein al-Shahrastani.

So was the war a success? Or are Iraq and the countries involved in the conflict still suffering the consequences?

Joining presenter Jane Dutton on Inside Story to discuss the reality of life in Iraq and the cost of war are guests: Noof Assi, a blogger and radio host, who was 13 at the time of the US-led invasion; Ghassan al-Attiyah, the founder of the Iraq Foundation for Development and Democracy; and Matthew Duss, a foreign policy analyst and director of Middle East Progress at the Centre for American Progress.


“It was a war conceived in Washington as a quick response to the so-called terror threat from Saddam Hussein. But ten years later, the costs of the war are still being felt in Iraq and beyond. Over 100,000 people killed, billions of dollars squandered, and a generation of Iraqis dealing with its legacy.

The initial US and British-led invasion ended with tanks entering the centre of Baghdad three weeks later and Saddam Hussein’s hold on the country quickly collapsed. But Iraq was far from stable and US President George Bush’s now infamous declaration of victory was in contrast to the long and violent insurgency that was to follow, and with no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq, the main pretext for the war had been discredited.
— Hazem Sika, Al Jazeera Correspondent


Iraq: After the Americans
Fault Lines travels across Iraq to take the pulse of a country and its people after nine years of occupation.

Fault Lines / Al Jazeera

“For the first time in nine years there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. After a decade of war that’s cost us thousands of lives and over a trillion dollars, the nation we need to build is our own.”
— Barack Obama, the US President

(July 31, 2012) — In keeping with Barack Obama’s presidential campaign promise, the US has withdrawn its troops from Iraq and by the end of 2012 US spending in Iraq will be just five per cent of what it was at its peak in 2008.

In a special two-part series, Fault Lines travels across Iraq to take the pulse of a country and its people after nine years of foreign occupation and nation-building.

Now that US troops have left, how are Iraqis overcoming the legacy of violence and toxic remains of the US-led occupation, and the sectarian war it ignited? Is the country on the brink of irreparable fragmentation?

Correspondent Sebastian Walker first went to Baghdad in June 2003 and spent the next several years reporting un-embedded from Iraq. In the first part of this Fault Lines series, he returns and travels from Basra to Baghdad to find out what kind of future Iraqis are forging for themselves.

After almost a decade the US war in Iraq is over. From Basra to Baghdad a new balance of power has emerged, but many people are living in precarity.

In the second part of the special series Fault Lines continues on a journey across Iraq from South to North, to take the pulse of a country and its people after the Americans.

Fault Lines can be seen on Al Jazeera English each week at the following times GMT: Tuesday: 2230; Wednesday: 0930; Thursday: 0330; Friday: 1630; Saturday: 2230; Sunday: 0930; Monday: 0330; Tuesday: 1630.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

US ‘Hard Line’ on North Korea Could Lead to Attacks on South

March 30th, 2013 - by admin

Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & David Chance and Ju-min Park / Reuters – 2013-03-30 18:07:30

Experts: US ‘Hard Line’ on North Korea Could Lead to Attacks on South

Experts: US ‘Hard Line’ on North Korea Could Lead to Attacks on South
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com

(March 29, 2013) — With North Korea not having the warheads or missiles to actually launch such an attack, threats to nuke the US mainland have mostly been shrugged off by the Obama Administration, with officials reacting with a hard line against “provocations.”

North Korea’s inability to hit the US directly may be all well and good, but experts are warning that as the rhetoric continues to ratchet up, the US may force North Korea to react by hitting South Korean targets, since they very easily could do that.

South Korean government officials thrive on this exchange of threats, and seem to be egging the US on in this, including getting them to sign a deal obliging the US to start a war over any attacks by North Korea.

The North Korean government’s own position, however, has always relied on making mostly empty threats and occasionally lashing out at South Korea if things get too heated, which inevitably gets other regional powers interested enough to cool things off.

Yet with those threats hitting a new all-time high, and the new pact suggesting things could escalate a lot more, a lot faster, the violent blow-off could also be a lot worse, and the US hard line could cost South Korea dearly.


South May Pay As US Hardens Line on North Korea
David Chance and Ju-min Park / Reuters

SEOUL | Fri Mar 29, 2013) — Washington’s decision to fly B-52 and stealth bomber missions over Korea this week in a warning to Pyongyang risks pushing the North into staging an attack on the South just as its threats may have been on the cusp of dying down.

New leaders in Seoul, Beijing and most importantly, an untested 30-year-old in Pyongyang who has to prove he is capable of facing down a perceived threat from the United States, have raised the stakes in a month-long standoff that risks flaring into a conflict.

“It seems that Kim Jong-un is in the driving seat of a train that has been taken on a joyride,” said Lee Min-yong, North Korea expert at Sookmyung Women’s University in Seoul.

With the looming April 15 celebrations to commemorate the birthday of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of the current ruler, and large chunks of North Korea’s peasant army due to head to farms for spring planting, the crisis may have been lurching to a close before the American bombers’ flights on Thursday.

Instead, pictures of Kim Jong-un released by the state-owned KCNA news agency showed him sketching out a response to the stealth bomber flights and depicted the possible paths of North Korean missile attacks on US bases in the Pacific and on the United States itself

The missile threat to US bases in the Pacific and certainly to the continental United States may be overstated, given the untested nature of North Korea’s longer-range missiles. But the risk to South Korea is real.

Seoul is just over 40 km (25 miles) from the massed artillery and battle-proven short-range Scud missiles placed north of the demilitarised zone that separates the two sides. And North Korea has proved, as recently as 2010, that it is capable of launching strikes on the South.

In that year, it was charged with sinking a South Korean naval vessel and shelled an island close to the maritime border.

A study by the International Institute for Strategic Studies says North Korea keeps 80 percent of its estimated firepower within 100 km (60 miles) of the zone. This includes approximately 700,000 troops, 8,000 artillery systems and 2,000 tanks, it said.

STAMP OUT LIKE AN ANT
Deng Yuwen, deputy editor at the Study Times, a newspaper published by China’s Central Party School which trains rising officials, believes neither side intends to wage a full-scale war in which the “Americans will stamp him (Kim) out like an ant and crush him” but says the risk of conflict has risen.

“This doesn’t rule out the risk of misfiring, this kind of accident cannot be ruled out,” Deng said.

While Pyongyang has a new Kim in charge, South Korean President Park Geun-hye and China’s new leader Xi Jinping took office just this year.

Before becoming president, Park pledged engagement in return for the North giving up its nuclear ambitions. Just a week before she took office, Pyongyang literally exploded those policies when it carried out its third nuclear test on February 12.

While Park has no option but to sit and wait, China’s Xi will have to navigate a tricky path that seeks to restrain and punish the North, as it did by backing United Nations sanctions imposed after the test. But, as the North’s only major ally and its supplier of food and fuel, Beijing will not go too far.

“If the Chinese take too stringent measures, the situation in North Korea will be even more unstable,” said Deng.

However, the script of the Korean Peninsula being on the verge of widespread conflict has been played out many times after the 1950-53 war. American B-52 bombers were used to pressure the North in the 1970s.

In 1976, a US decision to remove a tree in the demilitarised zone that separates the two Koreas saw two American soldiers bludgeoned to death with axe handles. This was followed by a show of military force that included the bombers. That incident passed without major conflict even though North Korea subsequently fired on an American helicopter.

North Korea’s state media has a long history of antagonistic rhetoric, threatening to turn Seoul into a “sea of fire” and dubbing one South Korean President a “rat-bastard.” Even its recent repudiation of the armistice agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War has happened before.

FARM SUPPORT
If it was not for the American bomber flights, North Korea may have been willing to tone down tensions around now because of the spring thaw. This is the time of year its peasant army helps with planting, a key task in a country that suffers from perennial food shortages.

While that doesn’t affect missile units and the core elite troops, experts in Seoul say that large parts of the North’s 1.2 million-strong armed forces spend about a month on the farm from mid-April onwards.

“The soldiers are sent for ‘farm support.’ They stay on the farms and engage in planting like all the other farming population. They usually stay until around May 20 and leave once they are done,” said Ahn Chan-il, a high-ranking North Korean defector who now lives in Seoul.

Washington’s bomber flights appear to have been aimed at reassuring key allies in South Korea and Japan that it stood beside them amid the North’s sabre-rattling.

President Barack Obama, who closely controls all major national security decision-making within the White House, has shown himself to be reluctant to involve the United States in foreign conflicts.

He has stayed largely on the sidelines in the Syrian civil war, minimized US involvement in Libya and rebuffed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to press him for military action against Iran’a nuclear program.

New Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was wounded in combat in a earlier war in Asia, in Vietnam, and has spoken of the need to use military force only as a last resort.

“From the US point of view, it is appropriate to reassure South Korea of US continuing commitment, especially in these times where some people may doubt that commitment due to the financial crisis,” said Denny Roy, an expert on Asia-Pacific security at the East-West Center think tank In Hawaii.

(Additional reporting by Sui-Lee Wee in BEIJING; Jack Kim and Christine Kim in SEOUL; Warren Strobel and Paul Eckert in WASHINGTON; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Pentagon’s ‘Unprecedented’ B-2 Nuclear Bombing Exercise ‘Not Intended to Provoke North Korea’

March 30th, 2013 - by admin

The Associated Press – 2013-03-30 17:58:48

http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/world/Hagel+flights+intended+provoke+North+Korea+part+normal/8169787/story.html

WASHINGTON (March 29, 2013) — The unprecedented US decision to send nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers to drop dummy munitions during military drills with South Korea this week was part of normal exercises and not intended to provoke a reaction from North Korea, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said.

Hagel acknowledged, however, that North Korea’s belligerent tones and actions in recent weeks have increased the danger in the region, “and we have to understand that reality.”

North Korea’s leader said Thursday his rocket forces are ready “to settle accounts with the US” in response to the B-2 bombers. State media said Kim Jong Un ordered rockets on standby to strike the US mainland, South Korea, Guam and Hawaii.

Speaking to reporters earlier, both Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the B-2 bombers were a message intended more for allies than Pyongyang.

“The North Koreans have to understand that what they’re doing is very dangerous,” Hagel said. “I don’t think we’re doing anything extraordinary or provocative or out of the … orbit of what nations do to protect their own interests.” The US, he added, must make it clear to South Korea, Japan and other allies in the region that “these provocations by the North are taken by us very seriously, and we’ll respond to that.”

US Forces Korea announced in a statement Thursday that two B-2 stealth bombers flew from an air base in the US and dropped dummy munitions on a South Korean island range before returning home. The Pentagon said this was the first time dummy munitions had been dropped over South Korea, but late Thursday it was unclear whether there ever had been any B-2 flights there.

The joint drills are likely to heighten the escalating tensions between the US and North Korea in recent weeks, including Pyongyang’s threat to carry out nuclear strikes on Washington and Seoul. North Korea also is angry at new U.N. sanctions over its latest nuclear test last month.

Asked if the US has seen North Korea take any actual threatening military steps in response to the bombers, Dempsey said the North has moved some artillery units across the demilitarized zone from Seoul and some maritime units along the coasts. But so far, he said, “We haven’t seen anything that would cause us to believe they are movements other than consistent with historic patterns and training exercises.”

The military drills are only the latest US response to what officials see as a growing North Korean threat. The Pentagon is also planning to strengthen its defences against a potential North Korean missile attack on the US

Hagel announced earlier this month that over the coming four years the Pentagon will add 14 missile interceptors to the 26 it already has in place at a base in Alaska, at an estimated cost of $1 billion.

Hagel said there are a lot of “unknowns” with North Korea and its new president Kim. “But we have to take seriously every provocative, bellicose word and action that this new, young leader has taken so far since he’s come to power,” he said.

Experts say a full-blown North Korean attack is not likely. But there are persistent worries about a more localized conflict, such as artillery attacks or a naval skirmish in the disputed Yellow Sea waters. There have been three naval clashes since 1999.

“You may see some shelling of South Korean islands that are very close to the North Korean coast. They’ve done that in the past, they killed four people the last time they did this. That could happen again,” said retired Air Force Col. Cedric Leighton, a North Korean intelligence expert who served on the Joint Staff and the National Security Council.

Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

More Pentagon Provocation: US Nuclear-equipped Vessels to Remain Near South Korea

March 30th, 2013 - by admin

Jeong Yong-soo and Kim Hee-jin / Mesh Nation – 2013-03-30 17:48:54

http://meshnation.com/us-nuclear-equipped-vessels-to-remain-near-south-korea/

(March 14, 2013) — After two Korea-US joint military drills end, American vessels equipped with nuclear weapons will stay in South Korean waters to fully guarantee the US “nuclear umbrella” in case North Korea attacks.

A high-ranking South Korean government official told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday, “If North Korea makes a nuclear attack, retaliation can come from US nuclear weapons stationed in Okinawa or Guam. But considering the time that might take, we need to have a nuclear weapon near the Korean Peninsula.

“By not withdrawing US weapons participating in the Korea-US military exercises, we decided to let them stay a while and see what happens in North Korea,” he said.

The joint Key Resolve exercises began yesterday and will continue through March 21. Roughly 10,000 South Korean troops and 3,500 US soldiers will take part in the exercises, along with some high-end US aircraft and submarines.

The drill practices the swift reinforcement of US troops to the peninsula in case of an emergency like an outbreak of war with the North.

The Foal Eagle exercise that started on March 1 will run through April 30.

For days, Pyongyang has threatened attacks on South Korea and the United States over the drills, including “precise nuclear attacks.” It has also threatened to nullify the 1953 armistice that halted the Korean War.

“We decided to convene another Korea-US submarine drill after the Foal Eagle training ends at the end of April,” the official told the JoongAng Ilbo. “We are still negotiating [with Washington] how to utilize the nuclear weapons after then.”

The official did not specify which warships would remain behind with nuclear weapons.

Sources in the South Korean military told the JoongAng Ilbo that a nuclear-armed submarine is a strong candidate.

“Since the third nuclear test by North Korea in February, there have been calls for us to possess a nuclear weapon,” a South Korean military official said. “Among various options – our own development, adoption of tactical nuclear weapons and utilizing the US nuclear umbrella – the third is the most realistic.”

In 1991, US forces withdrew their tactical nuclear weapons from South Korea.

Key Resolve has deployed some advanced US weapons and systems, including F-22s, the most advanced stealth fighter in the United States, and the USS Lassen (DDG-82), a guided missile destroyer.

The Ministry of Unification, which is in charge of most inter- Korean issues, said yesterday that North Korea didn’t answer any calls coming from five hotlines between Seoul and Pyongyang.

“However, it doesn’t mean that Pyongyang indeed cut off the lines,” a Unification Ministry official told reporters. “The lines are still connected, but no one picks up the phone.”

The North threatened to “scrap” the 1953 armistice agreement if the joint exercises began and to “block all liaison lines” between the two Koreas. The Unification Ministry official said there is still one line that the regime answers, which is used for communication regarding the Kaesong [Kaeso’ng] Industrial Complex.

“Every day, we use the line to report on commuters entering the complex,” the official said. “The complex and the line were both working yesterday.”

The official added the industrial complex, to which hundreds of South Korean workers and businessmen commute, was operating as usual.

Tensions were also high at the Blue House [ROK Office of the President], the presidential mansion. President Park Geun-hye [Pak Ku’n-hye] convened her first Cabinet meeting yesterday and expressed her worries.

“When it comes to provocations from North Korea, we should sternly respond to them, but we also should not stop our efforts to start a trust-building process on the Korean Peninsula,” she said, according to her spokesman Yoon Chang-jung.

Although the head of the National Security Council and the minister of national defence have not been formally appointed, Park held talks with the nominee s for the positions.

The Nodong Sinmin, the newspaper of the ruling Workers’ Party of North Korea, did more sabre-rattling yesterday in an editorial.

“Starting today, March 11, the Choson Armistice Agreement has been entirely rescinded,” it said. “Now, the day of final showdown has come.”

However, Kim Chun-sig, deputy unification minister of South Korea, said the armistice agreement can’t be scrapped unilaterally by North Korea. “Any revision of the agreement should be agreed by both signing parties.”

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