Now Where Did I Put That Fallout Shelter Blueprint?

Dear Virtual Editor,

dr-strangelove-or-how-i-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-love-the-bomb

It has been fun over the years to watch Doctor Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.  Still a great movie, but not fun anymore.    Today, the danger of annihilation is more real than it has ever been. Scientists have moved the doomsday clock to two and half minutes to midnight.  The only thing keeping this from being a news story is that destruction on such a scale is literally “unthinkable.”  Time to start thinking about the unthinkable.

In a world with its most powerful nation in the hands of a mentally unstable amateur, there are 16,300 nuclear weapons, each capable of making Hiroshima look like a backyard fireworks display.  Nine nations have them:  Russia 8,000, US 7,300, France 300, China 250, UK 225, Pakistan 120, India 110, Israel 80, North Korea 10.  There are about 180 NATO nuclear weapons in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, and Turkey. A comforting list, isn’t it?

But I’ll Never Need My Fallout Shelter, Right?

Don’t be so sure.  The insane justification for this nuclear arsenal has been deterrence. Nobody will use nuclear weapons for fear of nuclear retaliation.  Bizarre as this is on its face— actually accepting the possibility of incinerating the planet— it ignores a clear danger:  accident or miscalculation.

In 1962, I was in the middle of jump school at Ft. Benning, Georgia when the Cuban Missile Crisis arose.  Many of us thought that our final qualifying jump could be into a Cuban cane field.  What I did not know until years later was that a Russian naval commander had likely saved us all.

Vasili_ArkhipovThere was a Russian submarine off the Cuba coast, armed with a 10kt nuclear torpedo. US ships bombarded it with depth charges.  The US later claimed that it was only a warning for the sub to surface, but that was not the way the sub commander saw it.  He assumed global warfare had broken out and ordered the torpedo prepared for firing, locked on a US aircraft carrier. Had the weapon been fired, it would have triggered the US Single Integrated Operation Plan to launch nuclear weapons at targets around the globe.  Fortunately for the world, StanleyRussian protocol required approval by all three senior officers aboard.  Second-in-command Vasily Arkhipov refused.

Other dangerous incidents continued over the years, including one where a satellite signaled the US had launched missiles targeting Russian cities. A Russian officer with authority to retaliate decided there was a 50/50 chance this was a computer error.  For not starting World War III, Stanislav Petrov was honoured by the UN.

But, of course, you are familiar with these near misses, right?

The Most Dangerous Nation in the World?

The competition for this title is fierce, but we should be concerned right now that the leader is the US, aided by its faithful squire Canada.

The two countries are members of NATO, where they work to keep the world a dangerous place.  NATO was created after WWII to oppose the Soviet Union.

The March of Dimes was created to combat polio.  When polio was eradicated, the March of Dimes reinvented itself and continues on.  So it is with NATO. The March of Dimes now addresses disabilities generally. NATO is now an instrument of geopolitical power games, usually at the behest of the US.

While news coverage focuses on Trump’s reservations about NATO, mainly a ploy to coerce member nations like Canada to “pay their fair share”, the more important story is ignored.  It is the story of US, Canadian and NATO disregard for international law and obstruction of efforts to reduce the number of nuclear weapons and eventually get rid of them.

The Rule of Law?  Please!

International treaties impose binding commitments. Article I of the NATO Charter commits members to settle international disputes by peaceful means and to refrain in international relations from the threat or use of force inconsistent with the purposes of the UN. Among actions violating the NATO and UN Charters are:

–The bombing of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1995 without UN authorization

— The illegal US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001

–NATO members participation in the completely unsanctioned and illegal war in Iraq in 2003

— NATO members grossly exceeding UN authorization for intervention in Libya in 2011. The goal achieved was not humanitarian. It was instead “regime change”, which has left Libya in chaos and opened the door for violent anti-western groups.

nuclear-proliferation-15-728But the most dangerous disregard of international law is to be found in the direct conflict between NATO policy and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

NATO POLICY:

Must maintain nuclear weapons indefinitely
Will modernize them
Can strike first with them
Can target non-nuclear states
Can share nuclear weapons data with members who are non-nuclear states
Can keep them in Europe

Reading this, one might assume that NATO members are not parties to the NPT. But they are. In fact, there are only 5 nations who are not signatories: India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, and South Sudan.

All parties to the treaty declared in 1970 their intention to achieve at the earliest possible date cessation of the nuclear arms race and to take effective measures toward disarmament. Specifically stated aspirations in furtherance of their intention include cessation of the manufacture of nuclear weapons, liquidation of existing stockpiles, elimination of delivery systems, all pursuant to a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.

The treaty contains more than just aspirations. The parties made binding commitments in the form of undertakings.  In law, an undertaking is the most serious form of obligation. It dos not mean “someday,” or even “I will do my best.”  It means “I will.”

Among the undertakings in Article II is not to share nuclear weapons or provide direct or indirect assistance to non-nuclear states for their manufacture.  The most blatant NATO violation of NPT, however, can be found in Article VI:  “Each of the parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date  and to nuclear disarmament and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

16703765283_ee721d7eb4_z-620x350Fast forward to 2016.  After decades of stagnation, most of the nations of the world chose to address their NPT responsibilities. They voted in the UN to set up a conference early in 2017 to begin negotiations on a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading toward their total elimination.”  Notice that this vote was simply to begin negotiations. (One would think it is about time for that. My 1970 sideburns and bell bottoms are long gone. ) The conference is to begin next month, March 2017.

123 nations supported this process. 38 opposed. 16 abstained. Hours after the resolution passed, the European Parliament, including representatives from virtually all NATO allies, voted overwhelmingly to participate constructively in the coming negotiations.

The nuclear powers boycotted and applied diplomatic pressure against all states that supported negotiations. Sorry to say that Canada helped in the campaign to discourage support, participated in the process in order to obstruct consensus, and cast one of the 38 NO votes.

On the off chance that this is the first time you are reading this important news story, may I suggest that you contact your representatives and media outlets to voice your support for this modest start at avoiding insanity.

So, what is the most dangerous nation?  I don’t know.  I do know that it is almost comical to hear US pronouncements that other nations, e.g. Iran cannot be trusted to honour their international commitments.  And I know which nation has done the most invading and war making in the last 50 years.

So, dear editor, instead of hunting down the blueprint for that useless fallout shelter, perhaps you might urge your family and fellow journalists to pay attention to this danger instead of fixating on every pouting Trump tweet.

 

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