Security Guards at U.S. Nuclear Weapons Base Used LSD

Nuclear weapons are an existential threat to humanity, as even one of the strong ones going off could cause a dangerous nuclear winter. Also, while it’s not necessarily a problem that people are experimenting with hallucinogens, it should clearly not be at a nuclear weapons facility. The Doomsday Clock — measuring the risk of widespread human catastrophe by nuclear weapons — is already at its most dire reading in over half a century.

There are a lot of safe and responsible places people have found over the years to ingest hallucinogens in order to experience their pleasures  and explore the challenges their potent properties can present, but it’s a judgement statement to declare that a U.S. military base which houses some of the world’s most powerful atomic weapons would qualify as such a place.

Nevertheless, the Associated Press reports Thursday that U.S. service members charged with guarding U.S. nuclear weapons at a “highly secure” military facility in Wyoming “bought, distributed and used the hallucinogen LSD and other mind-altering illegal drugs as part of a ring that operated undetected for months.”

Those accused of involvement in the drug ring were “from the 90th Missile Wing, which operates one-third of the 400 Minuteman 3 missiles that stand ‘on alert’ 24/7 in underground silos scattered across the northern Great Plains.”

When military investigators broke up the ring, one airmen reportedly fled the country. “Although this sounds like something from a movie, it isn’t,” said Capt. Charles Grimsley, the lead prosecutor of one of several courts martial the resulted from the case.

The AP story is based on internal military documents the news agency obtained and is just the latest example of frightening cracks in the way the U.S. military manages and protects its vast nuclear arsenal.

While the reporting notes that none of those court martialed were charged with being under the influence while “on duty,” the transcripts from the files show one soldier admitting he “felt paranoia, panic” for hours after dropping acid and at one point said he “didn’t know if I was going to die that night or not.” Another soldier confessed, “I absolutely just loved altering my mind.”

As the story hit the AP wire, this was a common sentiment on social media: “Nuclear weapons and LSD seem a bad combination, but that’s just my opinion.”

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Nuclear Weapons – The Ongoing Threat to Humanity

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Many people have a vague awareness that nuclear weapons exist and have immense destructive potential, but too few are aware of how likely that destruction is to occur.

Consider the Doomsday Clock, which since 1947 has brought together serious scientists and policy experts to determine the threat nuclear weapons pose. The Clock measures the probability of widespread human catastrophe by its minute hand’s closeness to midnight, with more closeness to midnight indicating a higher chance of annihilation. It used to measure only nuclear weapons, but since 2007, it has also accounted for the threat of climate change and technological advances gone wrong.

The Clock was originally set at 7 minutes to midnight in at the beginning of the Cold War, and it’s oscillated back and forth at various lengths ever since. For reference, the farthest that it’s ever been from midnight was 17 minutes in 1991, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the closest it’s ever been (before 2018) was 2 minutes when the United States and USSR detonated thermonuclear weapons in 1953.

The Doomsday Clock is now back to being set at being 2 minutes to midnight, and had it been updated a few months later – considering the Trump regime’s dangerous nuclear posture review that expands use cases for nukes – it would likely have been set even closer to midnight. That’s what the world faces in 2018 – a scenario where the immediate threat of catastrophe from nuclear weapons is about as high as ever, but this rarely receives much attention at all.

As a former Pentagon chief and respected nuclear weapons analyst has put it: “Today, the danger of some sort of a nuclear catastrophe is greater than it was during the Cold War, and most people are blissfully unaware of this danger.”

Recognizing the mounting risks, North Korea has now even said that it will give up its nuclear weapons program if the U.S. promises not to invade while officially ending the Korean War, which is technically still ongoing since a peace agreement was never reached. These are such simple and obviously good terms for reducing the risks of disaster for most people, but the warmongering national security adviser to the terrible current U.S. president actually has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that advocates bombing North Korea, so of course those terms aren’t that likely to be accepted soon.

It’s also amazing that no nuclear disasters since the atomic bombings of Japan in 1945 have occurred. There have been a handful of incidents that could have caused a nuclear disaster though, including one in 1983, where a Soviet officer read a warning system that said multiple nuclear weapons had been sent by the United States. This officer chose to disobey orders by not informing his superiors, and since the warning had been a false alarm, this ended up saving the world from witnessing a nuclear war. Other incidents where the brush with nuclear war was all too close are similar — in other words, a few different people in those positions could have resulted in the losses of tens or hundreds of millions of people. The immediate damage the nuclear weapons (which are exponentially stronger today than in decades past) would cause wouldn’t be the only harm either, as there would be negative atmospheric effects that would spread elsewhere.

And as seen with the recent false alarm in Hawaii and various examinations of the highly flawed or insecure nuclear weapons systems used today, the personnel is put at higher risk of making mistakes through the design of the technology. And the U.S. and Soviet Union maintaining absurd amounts of nuclear weapons means that there are more people vulnerable to making those dangerous mistakes.

There is no rational reason to keep hundreds or thousands of nuclear weapons. At the very least, countries could drastically reduce their nuclear stockpiles so that they only keep several of them. More ideally though, it would be better to just not keep them after binding international agreements are reached. Other non-nuclear weapons are already powerful enough today to be highly destructive, and every year that humanity engages in war is another year of year of risking the potential of war to end humanity. And with regards to nuclear weapons, the world shouldn’t bet on another 70 year miracle of escaping the damage they can cause.

 

North Korea to Abandon Its Nuclear Weapons if the U.S. Promises Not to Invade

Nuclear weapons are the deterrent for North Korea against threats of invasion. Promising not to invade in light of that is such an obviously good and easy decision, but who wants to bet that that doesn’t happen soon?

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has pledged to abandon his nuclear weapons if the United States agrees to formally end the Korean War and promises not to invade his country. This announcement comes after a historic meeting Friday between Kim Jong-un and South Korean leader Moon Jae-in at the Demilitarized Zone between the two countries. During the meeting, which was broadcast live on the Korean Peninsula and around the world, the two leaders held hands and pledged to work for peace and replace the 1953 armistice with a formal peace treaty. They also joked with each other, with Kim Jong-un promising he wouldn’t wake up Moon Jae-in anymore with early-morning missile launches. On Sunday, North Korea’s state media said Kim had vowed to immediately suspend nuclear and missile tests, and would dismantle one of its nuclear test sites.

U.S. to Spend Billions on Nuclear Bombs That are a Security Liability

Nuclear weapons — the ongoing existential threat to humanity.

The US is to spend billions of dollars upgrading 150 nuclear bombs positioned in Europe, although the weapons may be useless as a deterrent and a potentially catastrophic security liability, according to a new report by arms experts.

A third of the B61 bombs in Europe under joint US and Nato control are thought to be kept at Incirlik base in Turkey, 70 miles from the Syrian border, which has been the subject of serious concerns.

The threat to the base posed by Islamic State militants was considered serious enough in March 2016 to evacuate the families of military officers.

During a coup attempt four months later, Turkish authorities locked down the base and cut its electricity. The Turkish commanding officer at Incirlik was arrested for his alleged role in the plot.

A report on the future of the B61 bombs by arms control advocacy group the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) , made available to the Guardian, said the 2016 events show “just how quickly assumptions about the safety and security of US nuclear weapons stored abroad can change”.

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However, the NTI report argues they are also serious liabilities, because of the threat of terrorism or accident, and because they could become targets in the early stages of any conflict with Russia.

“Forward-deployed US nuclear weapons in Europe increase the risk of accidents, blunders, or catastrophic terrorism and invite pre-emption. Given these added risks, it is past time to revisit whether these forward-based weapons are essential for military deterrence and political reassurance,” the Obama administration energy secretary Ernest Moniz and the former Democratic senator Sam Nunn, both NTI co-chairmen, argue in the preface to the report.

Recent Nuclear Posture Review Increases Risk of Widespread Nuclear Annihilation

Nuclear weapons are more dangerous in this era than at quite arguably any other point in human history, but many people still remain unaware of this. There’s a lot that can and should be done to prevent nuclear disaster, including passing the Nuclear Sanity Act in the U.S., which would legally forbid a U.S. president from launching nuclear weapons without the approval of at least a few other cabinet officials.

When the Pentagon on Friday released its new Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) (pdf), as Common Dreams reported, peace and disarmament groups in the U.S. and around the world expressed immediate alarm at the document and its implications.

“Who in their right mind thinks we should expand the list of scenarios in which we might launch nuclear weapons?” asked Peace Action in a statement. “Who let Dr. Strangelove write the Nuclear Posture Review?”

In a column for CNN—titled “Give Trump more nuclear weapons and more ways to use them? Not a good idea“—Tom Collina, policy director of the anti-nuclear Ploughshares Fund, noted a recent poll showing that 60 percent of Americans do not trust Trump with nuclear weapons and argued:

The public is right to distrust Trump with nuclear weapons, and we all need to speak up and oppose these new, dangerous policies. People don’t tend to think of nuclear war as a policy choice, but it is, just like health care or immigration.

The Trump administration’s policies are increasing the risk of nuclear war. Sure, you could build a bomb shelter and hide, but that does not lower the risk of war, and it is highly unlikely to save you. Instead, we need to prevent nuclear war in the first place by changing government policy.

Statement from Peace Action:

In response to the release of the Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review scheduled for today, Paul Kawika Martin, Senior Director for Policy and Political Affairs at Peace Action, released the following statement:

“Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review runs diametrically counter to the longstanding international and bipartisan consensus that nuclear-armed nations should work to reduce and eliminate their nuclear arsenals.

“Who in their right mind thinks it’s a good idea to make nuclear weapons ‘more usable’? Who in their right mind thinks we should expand the list of scenarios in which we might launch nuclear weapons? Who let Dr. Strangelove write the Nuclear Posture Review?

“On top of increasing the likelihood of nuclear weapons use, the expansion of our nuclear arsenal called for in the Nuclear Posture Review would cost the American taxpayers an estimated $1.7 trillion adjusted for inflation over the next three decades. With the Doomsday Clock now at 2 minutes to midnight, we’re essentially being asked to pay for our own increasingly likely destruction.”

Another news report statement, as the issue of nuclear weapons is tremendously important enough to warrant posting it:

The Trump administration has unveiled its new nuclear weapons strategy, which involves spending at least $1.2 trillion to upgrade the United States’ nuclear arsenal, including developing a new nuclear-armed, sea-launched cruise missile. The Nuclear Posture Review calls for developing low-yield warheads, which critics say blur the lines between nuclear and non-nuclear weapons, meaning they are more likely to be used. It also reportedly seeks to expand the number of scenarios under which the United States might consider the use of nuclear weapons, including in response to a major cyberattack. Trump’s nuclear policy has alarmed arms control experts around the globe and been openly criticized by Iran, Russia and China.

Questioning the Effectiveness of Nuclear Deterrence

An interesting article appeared recently that challenges the established narrative that nuclear weapons are effective at preventing war. Among conflicts between states with nuclear weapons, it admittedly might have been effective, but at the huge risk of causing massive catastrophe to the human species. There are doubtlessly better methods at maintaining peace than keeping nukes though.

In any case, agree with the article’s basic premise or not, the world could at least drastically reduce its nuclear stockpile to reduce the risks of disaster. Also, in reference to ongoing wars, I would add that the World Peace Index notes that there are only a dozen or so countries that are “free from conflict.”

Second, deterrence requires that each side’s arsenal remains invulnerable to attack, or at least that such an attack would be prevented insofar as a potential victim retained a ‘second-strike’ retaliatory capability, sufficient to prevent such an attack in the first place. Over time, however, nuclear missiles have become increasingly accurate, raising concerns about the vulnerability of these weapons to a ‘counterforce’ strike. In brief, nuclear states are increasingly able to target their adversary’s nuclear weapons for destruction. In the perverse argot of deterrence theory, this is called counterforce vulnerability, with ‘vulnerability’ referring to the target’s nuclear weapons, not its population. The clearest outcome of increasingly accurate nuclear weapons and the ‘counterforce vulnerability’ component of deterrence theory is to increase the likelihood of a first strike, while also increasing the danger that a potential victim, fearing such an event, might be tempted to pre-empt with its own first strike. The resulting situation – in which each side perceives a possible advantage in striking first – is dangerously unstable.

Third, deterrence theory assumes optimal rationality on the part of decision-makers. It presumes that those with their fingers on the nuclear triggers are rational actors who will also remain calm and cognitively unimpaired under extremely stressful conditions. It also presumes that leaders will always retain control over their forces and that, moreover, they will always retain control over their emotions as well, making decisions based solely on a cool calculation of strategic costs and benefits. Deterrence theory maintains, in short, that each side will scare the pants off the other with the prospect of the most hideous, unimaginable consequences, and will then conduct itself with the utmost deliberate and precise rationality. Virtually everything known about human psychology suggests that this is absurd.

Important: Doomsday Clock Now Only 2 Minutes to Midnight

The Doomsday Clock measures the probability of widespread human catastrophe, with the closeness to midnight representing the likelihood of that. Midnight on the Doomsday Clock represents at least a very large portion of humanity — and quite possibly all of it — being finished, destroyed beyond reasonable recovery, resulting in many millions of lost lives and massive damage. Originally designed to measure the dangerousness of nuclear weapons in 1947, the Doomsday Clock now also accounts for the threat of climate change as an existential threat to human survival. The closest to midnight the clock has ever been previously was in 1953, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union detonated thermonuclear weapons, and now the Doomsday Clock is at the same ominous level of closeness — only 2 minutes to midnight.

In response to rising nuclear tensions and concerns about inadequate action to address the climate crisis, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced Thursday the hands of the Doomsday Clock have been moved and it is now just two minutes midnight, a signal to the world that international scientists and policy experts are increasingly worried about the likeliness of global catastrophe.

“In 2017, world leaders failed to respond effectively to the looming threats of nuclear war and climate change, making the world security situation more dangerous than it was a year ago—and as dangerous as it has been since World War II,” said a statement from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

The Bulletin was established decades ago by creators of the atomic bomb and aims to keep the world informed “about threats to the survival and development of humanity from nuclear weapons, climate change, and emerging technologies in the life sciences.”

“North Korea’s nuclear weapons program appeared to make remarkable progress in 2017, increasing risks for itself, other countries in the region, and the United States. Hyperbolic rhetoric and provocative actions on both sides have increased the possibility of nuclear war by accident or miscalculation,” the statement continued. “On the climate change front, the danger may seem less immediate, but avoiding catastrophic temperature increases in the long run requires urgent attention now.”