Nuclear Escalation Not Needed

Iran has recently switched to using the euro instead of the dollar and major military contracting stocks such as Raytheon and Lockheed Martin are up in the past few days. The stocks are up because the stock market measures the value of future expected corporate profits, and there’s an expectation that these corporations will receive more weapons contracts with another war. Also, there’s a history of military confrontations involving the U.S. (see Libya) with detachments from U.S. financial interests.

Iran — like North Korea — has threatened to build nuclear weapons as a deterrent against a U.S. invasion. Now Saudi Arabia, backed by the U.S. in the devastation it’s causing Yemen, says it will build one if Iran will. But if the U.S. wouldn’t be a militaristic threat to Iran, Iran has no reason to have a nuclear weapon. And more nuclear weapons simply equates to more risks of widespread annihilation.

Another Warning About the Threat of a U.S. War With Iran

Going to war with Iran — a serious possibility and a very unwise idea.

“Don’t do it,” declare our allies, Britain, France, and Germany—signatories to the Iran accord along with China and Russia. “Don’t do it,” say former secretaries of state and secretaries of defense from both Republican and Democratic administrations. “Don’t do it,” says Trump’s own Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, and Trump’s chief of staff, General John Kelly.

All of the above say Iran is in compliance with the accord’s demand to stop its nuclear arms program and allows thorough inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. All parties agree that if Trump disrupts this accord, even more havoc will break loose in that volatile region. This is what both Israel and some Persian Gulf nations may desire, as long as the U.S. bears the burden of this reckless action and plunges into another deep quagmire to add to those in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.

[…]

Both Trump and Netanyahu paint Iran as the most dangerous terrorist state in the world. Really? It wasn’t the Iranian regime that illegally cost over one million Iraqi civilian lives and blew that country apart. It was George W. Bush and Dick Cheney becoming major war criminals whose actions cost the lives of over 5,000 American soldiers, injured or made sick well over 100,000 more, and wasted trillions of dollars continuing to this day.

Iran wants its sphere of influence. The country has memories. For example, in 1953, the U.S. overthrew Iran’s democratically elected prime minister and reinstalled the dictatorial Shah who ruled despotically for the next 26 years. In 2002, George W. Bush targeted Iran, Iraq, and North Korea, referring to them as the “axis of evil.” Iran saw what he did to Iraq and didn’t want to take chances by surrendering its security perimeter.

The U.S. has Iran militarily surrounded on its eastern, western, and southern borders. Israel has working spies in Iran, creating secret sabotage and mayhem. Israel, which has illegally bombed civil war-wracked Syria (no threat to Israel) dozens of times, has recently hit locations known to have Iranian advisors to Bashar Assad, Syria’s ruler, while fighting ISIS, along with U.S. forces there. Iranians have been killed in these raids.

So who is the aggressor here? Unlike Israel’s many invasions and military incursions, Iran, a poor country, has not invaded any country for over 250 years. Iraq’s dictator invaded Iran in 1980, with U.S. backing, costing Iran an estimated 500,000 lives.

[…]

Will enough American people, including knowledgeable retired national security and military officials, stand up to stop this slide toward another conflagration that will likely produce blowback in the U.S.?

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.

 

On the Dangerous Potential of War With Iran

It’s a real possibility that the United States may soon become involved in a war with Iran. This is quite concerning for a number of reasons, one of which is that U.S. military intervention since the end of WWII has typically been disastrous for the invaded country. There’s the killing of civilians and bombing of civilian infrastructure (notably the dams) in North Korea, the Vietnam war that people there are still suffering from (estimates are that “at least 350,000 tons of live bombs and mines” remain there), and the criminal invasion of Iraq that resulted in a few hundred thousand deaths, just to name a few examples. So there’s this record of disaster for American military adventures, and there might soon be yet another one to add.

There’s also the U.S. backed overthrow of the democratically elected Iranian government in 1953, which lead to the dictatorial Shah ruling Iran until 1979. It was recently revealed through declassified documents that — surprise surprise — the reason for the U.S. doing this was for oil contracts that would benefit American oil corporations. But shouldn’t the American government be nicer to Iran based on what it did to it in the past?

It should be, but it hasn’t been. And the CIA backed overthrow may be the most significant U.S. event against Iran, but it isn’t even the only one. There are at least two more events.

One of them is when the U.S. supported Saddam Hussein’s government when it used a chemical weapons attack against Iran. As shown with the outrage over the recent chemical weapons attacks around Syria, it is a heinous type of attack and correctly condemned as an atrocity in war. How interesting it then is that the U.S. government knowingly supported a military that did this, and how interesting how seldom this is mentioned today.

The other event is when the U.S. shot down a civilian Iranian plane in 1988, which killed the 290 civilians on board. The U.S. government maintained that it was an accident, and maybe it was, but it’s difficult to trust that’s the truth considering what else the U.S. was doing to Iran in the 1980s. In April 1988 for example, an engagement with Iran known as “Operation Praying Mantis” resulted in the death of two American pilots shot down with their helicopter.

In any case though, if Iran had shot down a civilian American plane with 290 civilians — including 66 children — it would clearly be an event remembered much more than the Iran Air Flight 655 incident. That’s a useful thought experiment — to compare what the U.S. has done to damage other countries and try imagining a scenario where other countries did the same to the U.S.

Additionally, invading Iran isn’t like invading comparatively defenseless countries such as Afghanistan and Somalia. Iran is actually a developed country and it has a real defense system, one that’s been at $30 billion annually but could increase quickly. It may be defeated by the U.S. in a war, but it would put up a fight that would almost certainly lead to real direct damage to the U.S. Who wants to imagine the possibility of Iranian bombers flying over American cities?

In sum, a war with Iran is an incredibly reckless and stupid decision. If it happens, people will suffer face unnecessary suffering and the world will clearly be worse off because of it.

Revving Up the War Machine for Another Military Adventure (Disaster) in Syria or Elsewhere

Likely bad news in foreign policy will appear soon. U.S. military intervention has caused immense problems in the past several decades.

GLENN GREENWALD: So, obviously, the use of chemical weapons in any instance is horrific. It’s a war crime. It’s heinous. And it ought to be strongly condemned by everybody. I think that it’s—the evidence is quite overwhelming that the perpetrators of this chemical weapons attack, as well as previous ones, is the Assad government, although, in war, there are always lots of reasons to doubt, and we certainly shouldn’t run off and make hasty decisions, until there’s a real investigation, to make the evidence available.

I think the more important question at the moment is: What is the actual solution? Obviously, what’s happening in Syria is and long has been a horrific humanitarian crisis, filled with war crimes committed by pretty much every actor there. The Assad government has killed more people than any other. But the question is: What solutions do you think are viable? Do you think that having Israel fly fighter jets over Syria and bomb whoever they decide is their enemy is something that’s really going to help the humanitarian crisis? As Israel slaughters innocent Gazan protesters and uses snipers to end the lives of journalists who are wearing press jackets, do you really think that Netanyahu is going to help the situation in Syria? Do you think that Donald Trump is going to be able to command a military action that is going to do any good for the people of Syria? Does anyone think that that would be the goal of Trump’s military action or the role of the United States government revving up its war machine, that would end up helping the Syrians?

I think we ought to have learned the lesson by now that when we cheer for military action by Western governments in the Middle East, because we’ve been emotionally manipulated to be angry about some genuinely horrific act, it doesn’t end up doing anything other than making us feel good, and it usually ends up making the situation worse. So I think it’s possible and necessary to express moral outrage at the chemical weapons attack and other attacks on Syrian civilians, while at the same time remaining sober and rational and careful about how we allow our emotions to be funneled and channeled in order to try and come up with solutions.

[…]

As far as Bolton is concerned, obviously, Bolton is a sociopath. He’s one of the most dangerous foreign policy advisers and officials of the last 15 years. People in the Bush administration who served with him and who served with people like Dick Cheney and John Yoo and Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz—actual sociopathic maniacs, as well—have said that John Bolton was probably the most unstable and dangerous person in the Bush administration. And now he’s about to move into—or he has moved into an extremely influential position, advising Trump in the White House on matters of national security. But again, it is true that there is a big movement on the right and on the left to oppose U.S. intervention in Syria, on the grounds that it’s not in the U.S. interest to try and control what’s happening in Syria. We’ll see where Bolton falls on that. I mean, one of Bolton’s primary dreams in life is to go to war with Iran. And so, opposing Assad is one way to achieve that. He’s also a loyalist to Israel, and Israel seems to want Assad gone. So it’s very dangerous right now, given who’s in power and this pro-war orthodoxy that is arising almost automatically in Washington, given how high the stakes are and how inflammatory that situation is.

[…]

And this is why, Amy, I think that, you know, the whole debate around Russia over the last 12 months has been so dangerous, because this climate has been created in Washington, the premise of which is that Vladimir Putin and Russia are an existential threat to the United States, that they’re our prime enemy, much like they were during the Cold War, and that we need to confront them further, and any failure on the part of Donald Trump to confront Putin militaristically and directly is proof that he did collude with the Russians or is an agent of Russia. And it’s created this incentive scheme on the part of the Trump administration to try and confront Russia even further. And that is what they’re doing. And it’s a very dangerous game to play, given that Russia and the United States still have thousands of missiles with nuclear tips aimed at each other’s cities, with very archaic, unreliable trigger systems from the Cold War still in place governing how those missiles could be used.

Lingering Damage from the Vietnam War

The estimates are that “at least 350,000 tons of live bombs and mines remain in Vietnam.” This is another reason that the U.S. should stop all of its current military interventions abroad — the track record after World War II has been too horrifying for it to continue bombing and invading countries overseas.

Bombs and other ordnance were dropped on thousands of villages and hamlets. The most common were cluster bombs, each of which contained hundreds of baseball-size bomblets; the bombs are designed to explode near ground level, releasing metal fragments to maim and kill. But many of the cluster bombs failed to release their contents or, in other cases, their bomblets failed to detonate.

For the Vietnamese, the war continues. Loss of arms, legs and eyesight are for the more fortunate ones. Others have lost their family breadwinners, or their children. Children find baseball-size metal objects and unwittingly toss the “toys” to one another in games of catch until they explode. Nearly 40,000 Vietnamese have been killed since the end of the war in 1975, and 67,000 maimed, by land mines, cluster bombs and other ordnance.

That’s not the only, or even the worst, legacy of the war that Vietnamese families still face. Seeking to defoliate entire forests to expose enemy forces to spotter planes, the Americans dropped 18 million gallons of chemical herbicide over South Vietnam from 1962 to 1972. There were several defoliants used, but the best known was Agent Orange. In 20,000 spraying missions, planes drenched the countryside and an estimated 3,181 villages.

While entire forests dried up and died typically within weeks of spraying, it would be years before scientists established that one of the active ingredients in the defoliants, a group of compounds called dioxin, is one of the deadliest substances known to humankind. Just 85 grams of dioxin, if evenly distributed, could wipe out a city of eight million people. But illnesses and deaths from Agent Orange exposure were only the initial outcomes. Dioxin affects not only people exposed to it, but also their children, altering DNA. Large numbers of Vietnamese babies continue to be born with grotesque deformities: misshapen heads, bulging tumors, underdeveloped brains and nonfunctioning limbs.

The deadly defoliants also rained down on American troops. Researchers led by Jeanne Stellman of Columbia examined military records of the flight paths of Agent Orange spraying missions. Comparing those flight paths to the position of nearby villages and American ground troops revealed a direct association between exposure and later health problems.

These findings, published in 2003, put an end to the longtime denial by the government that Agent Orange spraying did not harm American troops. The Department of Veterans Affairs now assumes, as a blanket policy, that all of the 2.8 million troops who served in Vietnam were exposed to chemical defoliants, and provides some medical coverage and compensation for that. But the United States has never acknowledged that it also poisoned millions of Vietnamese civilians in the same way.

[…]

The indiscriminate use of ordnance and chemical weapons against civilian populations is prohibited under international law, dating back to the Hague and Geneva Conventions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. But for more than a decade, the United States acted in direct contravention of those agreements, which it had pledged to uphold. Since that time, numerous additional international treaties and conventions have come into force that not only prohibit the types of weapons used by the United States in Vietnam, but also require their cleanup after hostilities cease.

The United States, however, has done very little to fulfill such obligations, leaving it largely to the Vietnamese to suffer the results and to clean up what they can nearly 50 years later. Some have suggested that because much of the relevant international law requiring cleanup came into effect after the United States left Vietnam, the country is absolved of such obligations. But this assertion hangs on a thin thread, as the unexploded ordnance and defoliants still injure and kill people today. American responsibility for cleanup is therefore applicable under international law, not something to be dismissed with a historical wink.

Danger: Warmonger Choice for National Security Adviser Raises Risk of U.S. War With Iran

Iran isn’t a totally defenseless country like Afghanistan and the other countries the United States has invaded in recent years — Iran actually has a decently competent military defense system capable of fighting back. If the U.S. goes to war with Iran, it will be a disaster that will result in significantly damaging blowback for the U.S. and quite possibly other parts of the world.

President Trump has tapped John Bolton to become his next national security adviser, replacing H.R. McMaster. Bolton is known for his ultra-hawkish views. He has openly backed war against Iran and North Korea, and was a prominent supporter of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Just three weeks ago, Bolton wrote an article for The Wall Street Journal titled “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First.” In 2015, while the Obama administration was negotiating the Iran nuclear deal, Bolton wrote a piece titled “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.”

Another article on this, linked to here because of the potential danger around this issue.

“You ran against Iran. And if you want to hire me, that’s what I’m going to produce for you.”

That is what newly appointed national security adviser John Bolton reportedly told President Donald Trump as he was being considered to replace H.R. McMaster in the White House’s most influential foreign policy position—a remark that appears to confirm the worst fears of foreign policy experts, who argued after Bolton was officially selected Thursday night that Trump “may have just effectively declared war on Iran.”

Bolton, the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush, has not been silent about his desire for America to attack Iran, a country he has asserted is partially responsible for the 9/11 attacks—adopting a fringe conspiracy theory without a shred of supporting evidence.

“Bolton’s first order of business will be to convince Trump to exit the Iran nuclear deal and lay the groundwork for the war he has urged over the past decade.”
—Trita Parsi, National Iranian American Council