Wednesday, November 16, 2016

John Kirby, US State Dept. Spokesperson, I know the Russians bombed FIVE Hospitals. Just can't tell you WHICH Hospitals, or in what Cities these hospitals are.

Video of 11-16-16  Press Briefing is here:

John Kirby

Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC

November 16, 2016

ANOTHER instance of accusations that Russia bombed not two hospitals, but this time five. Sorry, can't say where the hospitals are, even in what city, but "trust us"WE KNOW."   How??  Because "reliable sources tell us.

Watch, listen, and decide for yourself. I have put time markers on the relevant sections.

2:07 p.m. EST
MR KIRBY: Afternoon.
QUESTION: Can we go to Syria?    [ 17:53 ]
[ 17:56 ]QUESTION: Okay. First of all, can you clarify what is going on in terms of where the Russians are bombing? I mean, some say in Aleppo, but there is no evidence that there is any bombardment of eastern Aleppo by the Russians. There is bombardments of Idlib and Homs and so on, and the countryside of Homs. So first of all, if you have information on where they are bombing and what is going on there.
[18:18] MR KIRBY: Well, I don’t have – as you know, Said, I don’t have specific tactical information about Russian military operations in terms of grid points and locations on a map. We – I would say, though, that we have seen additional airstrikes now in Syria by Russia and by the regime, to include what has been reported to be – and we have no reason to doubt this because of the sourcing that we’re getting – that five hospitals and at least one mobile clinic in Syria were struck by --
[ 18:13] QUESTION: Can say which city the hospitals were in?
MR KIRBY: What’s that?
[ 19:14 ] QUESTION: Which city were the hospitals in?
MR KIRBY: I don’t have the exact location. But – so five hospitals and one mobile clinic. And by all counts, it looks like they were deliberately targeted, all in the span of just the last day or so. It’s also worth noting that despite Russian claims that it halted airstrikes in the past month or so --
[ 19:40 ]QUESTION: Twenty-eight days.
MR KIRBY: -- yeah – they’ve allowed no food or humanitarian assistance into east Aleppo. And the regime and Russia have now let Aleppo’s residents starve, all while seeking praise from the international community for halting indiscriminate strikes for three weeks. Again, five hospitals and at least one – maybe more – mobile clinic. That doesn’t sound to me like a halt in indiscriminate attacks.
QUESTION: Can you give us a specific --  {  where is this said?  By whom? ]
[ 20:12 ] QUESTION: Now the Russians are – excuse me, just let me --
[20:16 ] QUESTION: -- follow up with a couple of things. The Russian defense ministry claims that it is actually the rebels who are – or the terror groups who are holding back the aid, they are disallowing the public from reaching that humanitarian aid. And in fact, they’re saying that there was some sort of demonstration by the public and that was crushed brutally by the different militant groups and so on. And so I want – how do you sort out after all this kind of conflicting information and so on – how do you get your information on this case?
[20:51 ] MR KIRBY: No, look, it’s a very fluid situation and our knowledge is imperfect. That’s why we say I have seen – we’ve seen reports of these things. And I don’t have specifics for you. I don’t have specific locations --
QUESTION: But don’t you think it’s --
[21:09 ] MR KIRBY: Hang on a second, I’m answering Said.
QUESTION: Don’t you think it is important --
MR KIRBY: We don’t have that. I’m saying we’ve seen these reports.
[ 21:16 ] MR KIRBY: And they fly in the face of everything Russia says it’s doing in Syria, and specifically in Aleppo. So I don’t have – I don’t have (inaudible) on this and it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to get into that anyway.
QUESTION: But don’t you think it is important --
QUESTION: So you would refute --
MR KIRBY: But, but --
[ 21:36] QUESTION: -- the claim by the Russians that they have stopped or they had a moratorium on striking Aleppo, eastern Aleppo, for the past 28 days? In fact, all the while were – the militant groups were striking western Aleppo.
[21:49] MR KIRBY: So we’ve seen – well, you’ve also seen reports that – about opposition groups that were limiting or trying to be an obstacle to humanitarian aid and assistance. And we’ve made it clear to the opposition groups that we communicate with and certainly to nations who have influence over other opposition groups that these reports are troubling and concerning and obviously to the degree they’re true, that that obstruction should not occur. That said, it’s without question that it is the regime and its Russian backers that have had the – by far, the most responsibility for stopping the violence, for stopping the strikes, and for allowing the aid to get in, which they haven’t done. I mean, I don’t know how many times now I’ve been to this podium talking about the fact that no humanitarian aid is getting into Aleppo and that hasn’t changed.
QUESTION: Don’t you think it is --
MR KIRBY: It hasn’t changed one bit.
[23:01] QUESTION [Gayane Chichakyan] : Sorry, don’t you think it is important to give a specific list of hospitals that you’re accusing Russia of hitting? Those are grave accusations.
[23:08}MR KIRBY: I’m not making those accusations. I’m telling you we’ve seen reports from credible aid organizations that five hospitals and a clinic --
QUESTION: Which hospital --
MR KIRBY: At least one clinic --
[23:15] QUESTION [GC] : In what cities at least?
[23:18} MR KIRBY: You can go look at the information that many of the Syrian relief agencies are putting out there publicly. We’re getting our information from them too. These reports --
QUESTION: But you are citing those reports without giving any specifics.
MR KIRBY: Because we believe these agencies are credible and because we have other sources of information that back up what we’re seeing from some of these reports. And you know what? Why don’t ask --
QUESTION: If you – exactly.
MR KIRBY: Here’s a good question.
QUESTION: That’s what I --
MR KIRBY: Why don’t you ask your defense ministry --
QUESTION: That’s what I was --
MR KIRBY: -- what they’re doing and see if you can get --
QUESTION: If you give a specific list --
MR KIRBY: No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
QUESTION: If you give a specific list of hospitals --
MR KIRBY: No, no, no.
QUESTION: My colleagues who are listening --
MR KIRBY: I’m supposed to --
QUESTION: -- hopefully would be able to go and ask Russian officials about a specific list of hospitals that you’re accusing Russia of --
MR KIRBY: You work for Russia Today, right? Isn’t that your agency?
QUESTION: That is correct. Yes.
MR KIRBY: And so why shouldn’t you ask your government the same kinds of questions that you’re standing here asking me?
QUESTION: When you level --
MR KIRBY: Ask them about their military activities. Get them to tell you what they’re – or to deny what they’re doing.
QUESTION: When I ask for specifics, it seems your response is why are you here? Well, you are leveling that accusation.
MR KIRBY: No, ma’am.
QUESTION: And if you give specifics --
MR KIRBY: No, ma’am.
QUESTION: -- my colleagues would be able to ask --
MR KIRBY: No, ma’am.
QUESTION: -- Russian officials.
MR KIRBY: Once again, you’re just wrong. I’m not leveling those accusations. Relief agencies that we find credible are leveling those accusations.
QUESTION: But you repeat them.
MR KIRBY: So why don’t you question them about their information and where they’re getting it? And why don’t you question your own defense ministry?
QUESTION: Which organizations then? Which ones? Where should I look?
MR KIRBY: We’ll get you – we will get you a list of them after the briefing. I don’t have it right here in front of me, but I’m happy to provide to you some of the relief agencies that are telling us what they’re seeing on the ground.
QUESTION: And specifically on blocking aid within the 28 days that Russia and Syria had stopped the airstrikes in eastern Aleppo, and I understand they resumed by the – they were resumed by the Syrian military yesterday. Do you – can you give any specific information on when Russia or the Syrian Government blocked the UN from delivering aid? Just any specific information.
MR KIRBY: There hasn’t been any aid delivered in the last month.
QUESTION: And you believe it was blocked exclusively by Russia and the Syrian Government.
MR KIRBY: There’s no question in our mind that the obstruction is coming from the regime and from Russia. No question at all.
QUESTION: I just have --
QUESTION: John, can I just --
QUESTION: Yeah. Well --
QUESTION: Let me – hold on, just let me say: Please be careful about saying “your defense minister” and things like that. I mean, she’s a journalist just like the rest of are, so it’s – she’s asking pointed questions, but they’re not --
MR KIRBY: From a state-owned – from a state-owned --
QUESTION: But they’re not --
MR KIRBY: From a state-owned outlet, Matt.
QUESTION: But they’re not --
MR KIRBY: From a state-owned outlet that’s not independent.
QUESTION: The questions that she’s asking are not out of line.
QUESTION: The outlet is (inaudible) --
MR KIRBY: I didn’t say the questions were out of line.
QUESTION: Okay. I mean --
MR KIRBY: I didn’t say the questions were out of line.
QUESTION: All right. Okay.
MR KIRBY: Okay? But I’m not --
QUESTION: But I mean – oh no, I understand. But asking --
MR KIRBY: I’m sorry, but I’m not going to put Russia Today on the same level with the rest of you who are representing independent media outlets.
QUESTION: Do you have an issue with my question?
QUESTION: Well, hold on, but just --
QUESTION: (Off-mike.)
QUESTION: Look, there – well, we’ll talk about – we can talk about this later offline --
QUESTION: Maybe I could ask my Iraq question.
QUESTION: -- but just – the question is not an inappropriate question to ask.
MR KIRBY: Didn’t say that it was.
QUESTION: All right.
MR KIRBY: But I also think it should be asked of their own defense ministry --
MR KIRBY: -- which they don’t do, which Russia Today doesn’t do.
Said, did you have one?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Greg Mello, LASG, "Special Post-Election Bulletin 225: President-Elect Trump; letter to colleagues in government

Posted by GREG MELLO,   Los Alamos Study Group   Nov. 6, 2016

Special Post-Election Bulletin 225: President-Elect Trump; letter to colleagues in government     

Reminder: The Study Group will host a special talk and discussion on "New Directions in Nuclear Disarmament" on Friday, November 11, at 6:30 pm in Santa Fe at the Center Stage Performance Space, 505 Camino de Los Marquez (map). 

Dear friends – 

Many of our members and friends are grieving this morning about the coming Trump presidency, with a majority in both houses of Congress, so many elderly Supreme Court justices, and some pretty terrible Trump policy statements during the campaign, e.g. about climate change and energy, just to pick two we believe are critical. We share some, but by no means all, of that grief. 

A lot of the grief we see is over the demise of a country (and a democracy) which do not exist. That grief is good. It’s part of the awakening process, frankly. It is easy to be in denial about the state of the country today, its prospects, what the US has been doing in the wider world, and – most relevantly here – the degree to which Ms. Clinton was a kind of mafia candidate. The fact is, a lot of US “soft power” around the world derives from the corruption of foreign leaders, governments, and economies. The Clintons made that a two-way street. 

Mr. Trump’s sometimes-loathsome personal qualities, fantasy policies (e.g. in economic affairs), shoot-from-hip temperament, and general inexperience blinded many people to the extensive pattern of what appear to be “high crimes and misdemeanors” – constitutional grounds for impeachment proceedings, in other words – which Ms. Clinton would have brought into the White House. 

Barrels of ink have already been expended already today analyzing this election – and entire train-loads over the campaign season – so I will mention and quote from just a few articles that might shed some additional light on this event. In the process I hope to call your attention again to some of the information and analytical sources in the blogroll of Forget the Rest (in the lower right-hand corner).

We find Consortium News to be an unsurpassed source of objective analysis of foreign policy news. Last night Robert Parry wrote (in “Why Trump Won; Why Clinton Lost”), 

In the end, Hillary Clinton became the face of a corrupt, arrogant and out-of-touch Establishment, while Donald Trump emerged as an almost perfectly imperfect vessel for a populist fury that had bubbled beneath the surface of America.
The war choices of the neocon/liberal-hawk coalition have been disastrous – from Iraq to Afghanistan to Libya to Syria to Ukraine – yet this collection of know-it-alls never experiences accountability. The same people, including the media’s armchair warriors and the think-tank “scholars,” bounce from one catastrophe to the next with no consequences for their fallacious “group thinks.” Most recently, they have ginned up a new costly and dangerous Cold War with Russia.
So, the American voters have plunged the United States and the world into uncharted territory behind a President-elect who lacks a depth of knowledge on a wide variety of issues. Who will guide a President Trump becomes the most pressing issue today.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix, Arizona. March 21, 2016. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Will he rely on traditional Republicans who have done so much to mess up the country and the world or will he find some fresh-thinking realists who will realign policy with core American interests and values.

For this dangerous and uncertain moment, the Democratic Party establishment deserves a large share of the blame. Despite signs that 2016 would be a year for an anti-Establishment candidate – possibly someone like Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Sen. Bernie Sanders – the Democratic leadership decided that it was “Hillary’s turn.”

Alternatives like Warren were discouraged from running so there could be a Clinton “coronation.” That left the 74-year-old socialist from Vermont as the only obstacle to Clinton’s nomination and it turned out that Sanders was a formidable challenger. But his candidacy was ultimately blocked by Democratic insiders, including the unelected “super-delegates” who gave Clinton an early and seemingly insurmountable lead.

With blinders firmly in place, the Democrats yoked themselves to Clinton’s gilded carriage and tried to pull it all the way to the White House. But they ignored the fact that many Americans came to see Clinton as the personification of all that is wrong about the insular and corrupt world of Official Washington. And that has given us President-elect Trump.

The Saker, a thoughtful and informed Russian/Swiss/Dutch/American political-military analyst with whom we often find ourselves in agreement AND disagreement, emphasizes Trump’s apparent foreign policy pragmatism, first quoting Trump’s victory speech and President Putin’s immediate positive reply, saying: 

This exchange, right there, is enough of a reason for the entire planet to rejoice at the defeat of Hillary and the victory of Trump.

Will Trump now have the courage, willpower and intelligence to purge the US Executive from the Neocon cabal which has been infiltrating it for decades now?  Will he have the strength to confront an extremely hostile Congress and media?  Or will he try to meet them halfway and naively hope that they will not use their power, money and influence to sabotage his presidency?

I don’t know.  Nobody does.
Ideally, the next step would be for Trump and Putin to meet, with all their key ministers, in a long, Camp David like week of negotiations in which everything, every outstanding dispute, should be put on the table and a compromise sought in each case.  Paradoxically, this could be rather easy: the crisis in Europe is entirely artificial, the war in Syria has an absolutely obvious solution, and the international order can easily accommodate a United States which would “deal fairly with everyone, with everyone — all people and all other nations” and “seek common ground, not hostility; partnership, not conflict“. The truth is that the USA and Russia have no objective reasons for conflict – only ideological issues resulting directly from the insane ideology of messianic imperialism of those who believe, or pretend to believe, that the USA is an “indispensable nation”. What the world wants – needs – is the USA as a *normal* nation.

The worst case?  Trump could turn out to be a total fraud.  I personally very much doubt it, but I admit that this is possible.  More likely is that he just won’t have the foresight and courage to crush the Neocons and that he will try to placate them.  If he does so, they will instead crush him.  It is a fact that while administrations have changed every 4 or 8 years, the regime in power has not, and that US internal and foreign policies have been amazingly consistent since the end of WWII.  Will Trump finally bring not just a new administration but real “regime change”?  I don’t know.

Invariably, Counterpunch is helpful. See for example today's essay by James Luchte, "Trump vs. the National Security Establishment: Will There be a Revolution in US Foreign Policy?

As we wrote in Bulletin 224, the incoming president faces a multifaceted, existential crisis. It is, above all, concerning this crisis that the liberal world is in denial. Raul Ilargi at The Automatic Earth focuses on one aspect – the US economy – calling it the “poisoned chalice” for any incoming president: 

It’s private debt, consumer debt, that will offer the winner his or her poisoned chalice. With 94 million Americans not counted as part of the workforce, and untold million others in jobs that pay hardly or no living wage, with so many millions of jobs that no longer pay sufficient or even any benefits, consumer spending has nowhere to go but down.

In an economy where that spending is good for 70% of GDP -perhaps a bit less by now, a bad enough sign-, taking spending power away from people is deadly. The only way people have been able to either keep up appearances or even just make ends meet is going into debt.

In just 9 years, from let’s say Bear Stearns to roughly this summer, consumer debt in America has gone up more than 50% ex-mortgages. And it’s not as if it was low in 2007, quite the contrary. The graph shows us what the American economy has survived on. It’s as plain vanilla as that. It’s the only graph you need, all the rest is just decoration. And it’s every inch as scary as it looks.

There was a time when America worked for its money, for its homes, for its cars, its healthcare, for the education of its children. There was a time when America produced and sold enough to be able to afford all that. Those days are long gone. Today, the prospect is one of borrowing more money to be able to pay back what you borrowed yesterday.

As regards arms control, that community seems to function better with a Republican in the White House. The temptations of "access" and prestige can prove too great to overcome in a Democratic administration, as was the case under Obama. Not one single effective nuclear disarmament step has been taken so far under our Nobel Peace Prize winning President, while, during this administration, the liberal, agenda-setting Peace and Security Funders Group, the higher reaches of which blend seamlessly into the US foreign policy establishment, gave in the ballpark of $1.5 billion (with a “b”) in grants. 

We got instead a trillion-dollar nuclear modernization program, a new nuclear arms race with Russia, and a total collapse of cooperation with that country in virtually all areas, from terrorism to nonproliferation. Oh wait: the US and Russia are cooperating in opposition to a treaty banning nuclear weapons. 

Letter to colleagues in government

Some of you may be interested in a letter we sent yesterday to some congressional and executive branch staff and others: “Today begins a time when significant reforms in nuclear policy can be made”.

In closing I can only repeat: it is very much a propitious time for major changes in policy -- nuclear weapons policy as well as others. Mr. Trump has proven he can turn on a dime. We have a lot of work ahead of us but his election has salutary aspects. In any case it is what it is, and is the terrain we are given. We hope you will take heart and see, with us, that the situation is just fine.  

The trumpet of morning blows in the clouds and through
The sky. It is the visible announced,
It is the more than visible, the more
Than sharp, illustrious scene. The trumpet cries
This is the successor of the invisible.
This is its substitute in stratagems
Of the spirit. This, in sight and memory,
Must take its place, as what is possible
Replaces what is not.
             Wallace Stevens, “Credences of Summer,” 1947 

Greg Mello, for the Study Group

Sunday, October 23, 2016

October 23, 2016

Los Alamos Study Group.  Bulletin 223: Historic UN vote to mandate negotiation of treaty banning nuclear weapons

1.      Historic UN General Assembly (UNGA) vote to mandate 2017 negotiation of treaty banning nuclear weapons to occur within next few days, probably this Thursday
2.      A brief history of the nuclear weapons ban movement so far
3.      Santa Fe planning meeting notes posted

That scrawny cry—it was
A chorister whose c preceded the choir.
It was part of the colossal sun,

Surrounded by its choral rings,
Still far away. It was like
A new knowledge of reality.

“Not Ideas about the Thing but the Thing Itself,” Wallace Stevens

Dear friends –

1.      Historic UNGA vote to mandate 2017 negotiation of nuclear ban treaty

Resolution L41, “Taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations,” with 48 co-sponsors as of two days ago, is coming to vote sometime between this Thursday, 27 October, and the following Wednesday, 2 November. Citizen diplomats from around the world affiliated with ICAN who are gathered at the UN in New York), believe the most likely date and time for this vote is this Thursday, between 3:00 and 6:00 pm Eastern time.

It is a moment of high drama in disarmament affairs. For the UN to mandate negotiations to ban nuclear weapons – a process now happening, led by non-nuclear states – is unprecedented. It is the most significant development in nuclear disarmament since the end of the Cold War.

This resolution is all but certain to pass. Some 127 countries havepledged to support ban negotiations (or 139, counting the countries which voted for the same pledge in the form of an UNGA resolution last fall), about two-thirds of the 193 UN member states.

This negotiating mandate is a product of the rising multipolar world, as U.S. diplomats recognize to their horror and outrage. Much more than the legitimacy and status of nuclear weapons is in play. As we wrote last year,

“…the ban process is not just about nuclear weapons. It’s also about power and initiative in world affairs – who has it, and who does not. The ban process, as opposed to other [purely] hypothetical disarmament paths (steps, building blocks, comprehensive binding disarmament treaties, and all other processes which nuclear weapon states can veto) is about who decides whether nuclear weapons are legitimate.

The Washington Post called the ban process an “uprising among civil society groups and the coalition of 107 [now 127] states, which are seeking to reframe the disarmament debate as an urgent matter of safety, morality and humanitarian law.”

A ban treaty would stigmatize and prohibit nuclear weapons, closing the “legal gap” stemming from nuclear weapon state practice and their associated assertion in diplomatic and legal fora that nuclear weapons are completely legitimate weapons – for them, and them only.

It has always been a stated UN goal to eliminate nuclear weapons, going back to the very first resolution of the UNGA in 1946. (It passed unanimously, since it was toothless; text and statements here.)

The political commitments being made in this process are alreadyfreshly stigmatizing nuclear weapons. They are bringing into diplomatic consciousness and state policy humanity’s inherent revulsion toward these most heinous weapons of mass destruction. In this process the prestige of nuclear weapons, their paralyzing mystique and their practical power in international relations, are already declining.

As of 21 October the 48 co-sponsors of L41 were:

Angola, Austria, Bahamas, Belize, Brazil, Burundi, Chile, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Honduras, Indonesia, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Malawi, Malta, Mexico, Namibia, Nauru, New Zealand, Nigeria, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Samoa, San Marino, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, Venezuela, Zambia.

The resolution’s operative paragraphs mandate “a United Nations conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination,” to occur “from 27 to 31 March and from 15 June to 7 July 2017, with the participation and contribution of international organizations and civil society representatives.”

Crucially, treaty negotiations would occur under General Assembly rules – that is, without a consensus requirement or veto option for a privileged few, “unless otherwise agreed by the conference.” Creating a negotiating forum without a de facto veto rule has been a major goal of the resolution’s sponsors and this is therefore unlikely to change.

L41 requires the conference to “submit a report on its progress to the General Assembly at its seventy-second session [autumn 2017], which will assess the progress made in the negotiations and decide the way forward” – by majority rule, again.

“The resolution,” as ICAN notes, “acts on a recommendationmade in August by a UN open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament in Geneva. More than 100 nations participated in the working group, with an overwhelming majority expressing their support for the prohibition of nuclear weapons as a first step towards elimination.”

The basic case for a nuclear ban treaty can be found here, with links to further information.

Many may find the recent UN press conference on 14 October discussing the ban with Beatrice Fihn, ICAN’s Executive Director, and Professor Matthew Bolton from Pace University, to be both interesting and accessible.

ICAN staff have been live-blogging highlights from the debate.Reaching Critical Will (RCW) has captured and posted many countries’ statements here.

Or you can cut to the chase and read Wildfire’s funny (but erudite, wholly accurate, and concise) analyses here.

Needless to say, the U.S. strenuously opposes any ban treaty and indeed the whole process, which it has vowed to boycott. On Friday Foreign Policy ran a good article by Colum Lynch (“U.S. Seeks to Scupper Proposed Ban on Nuclear Arms”) on U.S. opposition, with this rather sad lede: “Almost eight years after President Barack Obama pledged in a landmark speech in Prague to seek “a world without nuclear weapons,” U.S. diplomats are mounting an aggressive campaign to head off a bid by non-nuclear states to ban such atomic arms.” One of Lynch’s anonymous informants spoke of threats: “Washington has warned states considering voting in favor of the resolution that a ban could jeopardize defense arrangements with allies around the globe.” The hostility and aura of threat in the statements of the U.S. and the U.K. in particular were hard to mistake.

What Lynch did not say was what Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Countryman told me (Mello) in August: the U.S. fears the democratic “pressure” a ban will place on our allies, especially in Europe, to rid themselves of nuclear weapons, both physically and in terms of nuclear “umbrella” agreements, while little or no such “pressure” will appear in Russia or China.

Faith communities and ecumenical councils such as the World Council of Churches have been very active and effective participants in this process. Especially here in New Mexico it is important to note the very clear position of the Catholic Church. This past Monday, for example, the Holy See called nuclear deterrence a “tragic illusion.” “Nuclear arms offer a false sense of security and the uneasy peace promised by nuclear deterrence is a tragic illusion,” said the Vatican, as the Catholic News Agencyreported. (Original statement here in French.) “‘The indefinite possession of nuclear weapons is morally wrong,’ an affront to the ‘entire framework of the United Nations’ and a contradiction to its vocation of service to humanity and the global common good,” the agency reported.  

2.      A brief history of the nuclear weapons ban movement so far

With negotiations poised to begin soon, it might be good to very briefly review how we got here.

The first seeds of the ban campaign were sown in 2005, with an open letter to colleagues from prominent Malaysian physician Dr. Ron McCoy, a long-time nuclear disarmament expert and former president of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). In a speech to campaigners in Geneva this past spring Dr. McCoy recalled:

When I returned home on 24 May 2005, I was greeted with the news of the failed 2005 NPT Review Conference. As I mulled over the paralysis of the NPT process, it became clear to me that IPPNW and the disarmament movement had once again been led up the NPT garden path. The [nuclear weapon states] had staged another nuclear charade. Then the penny dropped! I realised that it was time to think out of the NPT box and formulate a different approach! Four days later, I emailed the following open letter to IPPNW affiliates:

“There are lessons to be learnt from the landmines ban campaign. As you know, I have for some time been advocating lateral thinking and a new approach to nuclear disarmament, parallel to the deadlocked NPT process, which has once again been demonstrated at the UN this month, thirty-five years after the ratification of the NPTAlthough I realise that nuclear weapons are not strategically similar to landmines, I nevertheless believe that IPPNW must coalesce with other groups, find the support of like-minded governments, and launch an ‘Ottawa-style process’ for the elimination of nuclear weapons…We can call it an International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, with the acronym ICAN. Let’s start working on this right now.”

An extraordinary number of responses came back, most of them supporting the formation of ICAN. When the incredibly inspiring Australian affiliate of IPPNW, the Medical Association for Prevention of War (MAPW), secured generous funding from the Poola Foundation, it put together a dynamic team and programme and organised the launching of ICAN in Vienna on 30 April 2007 to coincide with the NPT Preparatory Committee Meeting that week in Vienna. ICAN simply took off after that!

I’d like to acknowledge the stalwarts of MAPW who made ICAN into such an effective, vigorous campaign. They are Tilman Ruff, Felicity Ruby (chief coordinator), Ian Maddocks, Sue Wareham, Bill Williams, Fred Mendelsohn, Dimity Hawkins, Tim Wright, and many others.

In a speech earlier this month at the launch of the special 2016 issue of the International Review of the Red Cross on the human cost of nuclear weapons, Dr. Tilman Ruff, a current co-president of IPPNW and recipient of the Order of Australia, made these pertinent remarks:

I am delighted to have been asked to share something about the current historic opportunity. Finally, seventy-one years after the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a treaty to outlaw the world’s worst weapons will be one significant step closer, should the UNGA First Committee adopt the resolution onnuclear disarmament negotiations (.pdf). Reaching this game-changing milestone is largely a result of the humanitarian initiative in which our Red Cross Red Crescent movement has played a decisive role.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) of which I have the privilege of being the founding chair, was established in 2007 with the goal of uniting as many diverse civil society organizations as possible around the goal of a comprehensive, binding, universal treaty to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons, and to base the campaign on their appalling humanitarian effects. The humanitarian initiative really got moving with ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger’s landmark address to the Geneva diplomatic corps in April 2010, just before the five yearly Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. The governing bodies of the Red Cross Red Crescent movement have been calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons since September 1945. However, Kellenberger signaled that the humanitarian imperative to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons was not only unacceptably unfinished business, but an urgent humanitarian imperative, which would henceforth be a renewed priority for the world’s largest humanitarian network, including not only ICRC, but also the International Federation and national societies.

His speech gave the impetus for the recognition in the 2010 NPT Review Conference (consensus)outcome document, for the first time, of “the catastrophic consequences of any use of nuclear weapons”. This encouraged the Norwegian government in 2013 to hold the first-everinternational conference dedicated to reviewing and updating the evidence on humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons, and for the conferences in Mexicoand Austria in 2014 which engaged the vast majority of the world’s governments and consolidated and extended this evidence.

These informed and motivated a series of resolutions in UN and NPT forums with growing support, drawing attention to the humanitarian dimensions crucial to nuclear disarmament; and theHumanitarian Pledge, initiated by Austria and now endorsed by 127 states, committing “to cooperate with all relevant stakeholders … to stigmatise, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons in light of their unacceptable humanitarian consequences and associated risks”; and to “fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons”.

The Pledge led to the creation of a special UN Working Group, mandated by the 2015 General Assembly to report back to the 2016 UNGA on“effective legal measures required to attain and maintain a world free of nuclear weapons”. The Working Group recommended … by a majority of over three to one that the UNGA “convene a conference in 2017, open to all States, with the participation and contribution of international organisations and civil society, to negotiate on a legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”. This recommendation has now been taken forward in the form of a resolution submitted to the current UN General Assembly, to be voted on around the end of October. This will be both a moment of truth, and the most significant opportunity for a game-changing step to break the logjam in nuclear disarmament since the end of the Cold War more than a quarter of a century ago.

As we wrote from the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in December 2014, this campaign is different than others we have seen.  

The effort to ban nuclear weapons isn’t appearing out of nowhere, but rather builds upon many fine efforts made over the decades since the Cold War. While actively incorporating the efforts of U.S. experts and many long-time campaigners, this is a movement in a new key. It can be distinguished from prior U.S. efforts we have known in these positive ways:

·         It is not based in the U.S. and not subject to the adverse political conditions that prevail here;
·         Its leadership is a full generation younger than that in U.S. nuclear policy organizations, which by and large have not been successful in generational renewal;
·         Its funding does not come from, nor is it hostage to, U.S. foundations;
·         Its leadership is multinational, naturally diverse, and does not lie in any particular organization;
·         Indeed instead of being “institution-centric” or even “network-centric,” which invariably lead to strong inside/outside dichotomies and turf battles, the campaign is organized around a clear moral vision and a clear political objective, namely a ban;
·         Many of the leading organizations involved are not primarily or exclusively focused on nuclear weapons but rather on broader humanitarian and development objectives in peace and/or war; and most crucially,
·         Achievement of a ban on nuclear weapons does not depend on the sympathy or even the participation of nuclear weapon states.

It is difficult to adequately express for U.S. audiences, and difficult to overstate, the all-around competence, intellectual and political clarity, good will, and zeal of the ICAN team. It far exceeds in all these ways anything we have seen before. It is a privilege to help however we can.

Next time: Whither nuclear disarmament in the U.S.?

3.      Santa Fe planning meeting notes posted

Despite competing with the final presidential debate, we had a pretty good turnout in Santa Fe on October 19 (thank you John and Denise!). Of course only ~1% of the people on this list-serve could be there, so we have posted the slides we used (including some we didn’t get to that evening).

In the interest of time we completely dropped the fundraising aspect of the evening, so I urge to please consider slide 7, some of which may be new to you (such as our newish corporate sponsorships with two fine solar companies).

We had a terrific discussion, but frankly we are not getting across to our members the transcendent necessity for organizedfull-timeresistance and constructive action. The climate crisis worsens year by year, with only a few years remaining before catastrophic positive feedbacks take over; our never-ending wars are expanding and intensifying week by week; our oil-based, highly-unequal economies are faltering, for fundamental reasons (alsohere). I could go on.

This is hard to take on board for all of us, but we really do need to grasp that we are passengers in a climate vehicle heading rapidly toward the end of all things. There is no hope for anyone or anything without wresting control from the maniacs driving this bus. This will be painful but it has to be done.

I urge everyone to re-read our letter of 21 April 2015, which says in part:  

Probably many or most of you saw Tim DeChristopher's letter to churches, "Lead, Don’t Follow on Climate Justice," republished at Truthout.  The same letter could as well have been written regarding nuclear disarmament, and many other issues.

As we wrote earlier, we don't think we are going to win without creating more full-time or at least half-time occupations and careers for organizers, lobbyists, writers, and so on in political change in our communities.

For many of us these political activities will be naturally combined with "transition" activities that generally fall under the Gandhian "constructive program."  But the constructive program in all its forms is not enough, because there is a war going on.  The Koch brothers want the resources you save, to put it bluntly.  There won't be peace, and there won't be justice, and there won't even be atomorrow for millions of people and species unless we protect them and make those conditions.

As we have said previously "we" need to offer jobs to capable young people with whatever resources we have got in order to accomplish particular, and as it will turn out, highly disruptive political goals.  We are in an emergency situation.  This quality is somehow missing from most of the political discourse we see on the left, here and everywhere.  Where are the resources to do this?  They are in our own homes and bank accounts and those of our friends and their friends, but the social and political "software" is largely missing.  We are a society which bowls alone, as Robert Putnam wrote so long ago.