Wild Turkey With H-Bombs: Failed Coup Heightens Calls for Denuclearization
July 29, 2016
John LaForge / AntiWar.com
An explosive cocktail of political instability mixed with 90 US H-bombs raises the specter of accidental or suicidal nuclear detonation in or near Turkey. This risk was brought into sharp relief by the attempted military coup there in mid-July.
Wild Turkey With H-Bombs: Failed Coup
Heightens Calls for Denuclearization
John LaForge / AntiWar.com
(July 28, 2016) -- An explosive cocktail of political instability mixed with 90 US H-bombs raises the specter of accidental or suicidal nuclear detonation in or near Turkey. This risk was brought into sharp relief by the attempted military coup there in mid-July.
In June, I warned that the Pentagon's 180 thermonuclear B61 gravity bombs deployed across Europe -- 50 to 90 are at Incirlik Air Force Base in Turkey -- are too dangerous deploy in the age of terrorism. Turkey's B61s are 100 miles from Islamic State territory, a war zone. Now the Los Angeles Times, the Japan Times, Foreign Policy, the San Antonio Express News and other major papers see the Pentagon's outsourced B61s in Turkey as a hot topic.
As Tobin Harshaw reported July 25, "Until recently, the question of whether the United States should continue to station nuclear missiles [sic] in Turkey was of interest only to a passel of national-security geeks and nonproliferation advocates. One failed coup later, the discussion has spread to CNN, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post and elsewhere."
Jeffrey Lewis argued July 18, that in the wake of the botched coup, "Turkey is not a sensible base for nuclear deterrence." But in the irrational realm of nuclear war planning, US B61s are being stored at Incirlik, where the coup was planned, because US hawks insist, Harshaw wrote, on "maintaining the capability to attack Iran" with H-bombs. Never mind the ensuing cataclysm as Russia and Pakistan could retaliate with nuclear weapons if the US used its own against Iran.
The bloody, hapless coup inside Turkey amplifies the reasons why US proliferation of nuclear weapons to other countries amounts to nuclear madness. The B61s' uselessness and vulnerability have been reported by major news outlets from New York to Tokyo. Antiwar protesters have often snuck past security into NATO bases where they are stored. After 20 terrorist attacks inside Turkey, reasons for its denuclearization have gone mainstream:
1) The Los Angeles Times saidJuly 23 that Incirlik AFB "was an operational center of the attempted coup," which, US military experts said, demonstrated "a worrying level of instability in Turkey's military command close to the B61s." The base's top commanders were all arrested.
2) US B61s stored at Incirlik are designed for the McDonnell Douglas Corp's F-15E jet fighter and for Lockheed Martin's F-16, according to the Washington Post. Yet, "The US does not have aircraft at Incirlik qualified to deliver the weapons," the LA Times noted.
"In order for the weapons to actually be used, the US would have to fly a squadron of aircraft into Incirlik to load the bombs, all of which would be observed by Russia and possibly make the base a target for a first strike." These bombs only endanger their owners and everyone around them!
3) The B61 bombs are designed with safeguards to prevent unauthorized use known as "use controls" and "permissive action links." But the LA Times reports that Robert Peurifoy, who "designed the first use controls on weapons based in Europe" while at Sandia National Laboratory warns that "use controls may only impede and delay a terrorist. . . . Either you keep custody or you should expect a mushroom cloud."
4) General Eugene Habiger, USAF Ret., a former commander of all long-range nuclear weapons who led Strategic Command from 1996 to 1998, told the San Antonio Express News July 22 "the [B61] bombs no longer have any military usefulness."
And Habiger said, "It's a very, very dangerous weapon in terms of military consequences, political consequences, and I think what happened in Turkey highlights the potential unintended consequences of having nuclear weapons forward deployed if there is no military requirement."
Because conventional bombs are devastating enough, Gen. Habiger asks, "Why does NATO need nuclear weapons?" As Jeffrey Lewis noted: "After the events of the past weekend, leaving them in place seems positively terrifying." Terrifying to us that is, since the B61s in Turkey have no delivery system. As such, wild Turkey becomes that latest and best reason ever to permanently remove US nuclear weapons from Europe.
Undeterred: Amid Terror Attacks in Europe,
US H-bombs Still Deployed There
John LaForge / AntiWar.com
(June 19, 2016) -- "A little more than 60 miles from Brussels airport," Kleine Brogel Air Base is one of six European sites where the United States still stores active nuclear weapons, William Arkin wrote last month.
The national security consultant for NBC News Investigates, Arkin warned that these bombs "evade public attention to the extent that a post-terror attack nuclear scare in Belgium can occur without the bombs even being mentioned."
At the Kleine Brogel base, there are an estimated 20 US B61 nuclear bombs to be carried and delivered by the Belgian Air Force's F-16 fighter jets. Yet these weapons "did not come up in news coverage following the [March 22] Islamic State bombings in Brussels," Arkin wrote for NewsVice. The B61s weren't mentioned in reports of the shooting death of a Belgian nuclear reactor guard, Arkin said, or in stories about lax security at Belgium's power reactors.
Today, only 180 -- out of more than 7000 US nukes once deployed in Europe -- are still kept at the ready: in Belgium, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, and Turkey. "And," Arkin notes, "Soviet nuclear weapons have even been removed from Eastern Europe."
If "nuclear weapons could be removed from the Korean Peninsula, certainly they don't need to be physically present in Europe," he said. "Other NATO nuclear partners have denuclearized. In 2001, the last nuclear weapons were withdrawn from Greece. US nuclear weapons were even withdrawn from Britain in 2008."
Other experts have also spotlighted what the commercial press treats as taboo terror scenarios. Hans M. Kristensen, Director of the Nuclear Information Project of the Federation of American Scientists, warned last month that, "Suspected terrorists have had their eye on one of the Italian bases [two of which house US B61 bombs], and the largest nuclear stockpile in Europe [the 90 US B61s at Incirlik] is in the middle of an armed civil uprising in Turkey less than 70 miles from war-torn Syria.
Is this really a safe place to store nuclear weapons?" The answer is No, especially considering that since 9/11 terrorists have hit Belgium three times, Germany and Italy once each, and Turkey at least 20 times -- and all four NATO partners are current B61 outposts.
Big Business Behind New H-bombs
Large majorities of Europeans, prominent NATO ministers and generals, and Belgian and German parliamentary resolutions have all demanded permanent removal of the B61s. The holdup is not public opinion, security needs or deterrence theory, but big business.
Nuclear Watch New Mexico reports that the US National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) receives around $7 billion a year for maintaining and "enhancing" nuclear weapons.
The Air Force wants 400-500 new B61-12s to be built, 180 of which are scheduled to replace existing versions known as the B61-3, -4, -7, -10, and -11 currently in Europe. In 2015, NNSA estimated the cost of replacing the B61s at $8.1 billion over 12 years. Budget increases are sought every year.
Our nuclear weapons laboratories promote and feed from this gravy train, as Nuclear Watch NM notes, specifically the Sandia National Lab (a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corp.) and Los Alamos National Lab, both in New Mexico, which oversee the design, manufacture and testing of the B61-12.
William Hartung, a Fellow at the Center for International Policy, reports that major weapons contractors like Bechtel and Boeing reap huge profits from weapons upgrades.
Lockheed Martin "gets two bites at the apple," Hartung says, because it also designs and builds the F-35A fighter bomber, "which will be fitted to carry the B61-12, as will the F-15E (McDonnell Douglas), F-16 (General Dynamics), B-2A (Northrop Grumman), B-52H (Boeing), Tornado (Panavia Aircraft) and future long-range striker bombers."
Although the United States has promised not to build new nuclear weapons, Kristensen, and Matthew McKinzie, the Nuclear Program Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, report that, "The capability of the new B61-12 . . . seems to continue to expand, from a simple life-extension of an existing bomb, to the first US guided nuclear gravity bomb, to a nuclear earth-penetrator with increased accuracy."
These complex nuclear weapons changes cost enormous amounts of tax money. And the money keeps coming because it fuels and rewards the perceived power and prestige that nuclear weapons workers carry up to corporate, academic, military and political elites.
Summer-long Protests Underway at
Buchel Air Base, Home to 20 US H-bombs
The German group Nuclear-Free Büchel has launched its 19th annual series of actions against the 20 B61 bombs deployed at Büchel Air Force Base in West-central Germany. This year's rallying cry for the 20-week-long event: "Büchel is Everywhere."
The occupation began March 26 -- the anniversary of the German Bundestag's 2010 resolution calling for withdrawal of the B61s -- and continues through Aug. 9, Nagasaki Day.
Just outside the main gate, oversized banners, placards and artwork recall a successful effort 30 years ago that ousted 96 US nuclear-armed Cruise missiles from Hunsrück, Germany: On Oct. 11, 1986, more than 200,000 people marched there against NATO plans to use nuclear detonations inside Germany against a Warsaw Pact invasion, i.e. the military genius of destroying Germany to save it. It seems the more things change . . . .
John LaForge, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and is co-editor with Arianne Peterson of Nuclear Heartland, Revised: A Guide to the 450 Land-Based Missiles of the United States.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.