Vasily Arkhipov Day Transcript & Revisions
Note regarding the transcript. The written presentations have been edited or expanded for clarity and completeness.
Welcome to Vasily Arkhipov Day. This is John Steinbach and the program is being coordinated by the Hiroshima Nagasaki Peace Committee of the National Capital Area. You can visit our website at hiroshimapeacecommittee.net. We’ve been in existence for 41 years now and we’ve done a lot of work, particularly around supporting radiation survivors. That includes downwinders, that includes A-bomb survivors, victims of nuclear testing worldwide. And particularly every year we welcome delegations of A-bomb survivor Hibakusha to visit the East Coast. We’re still doing our work.
Vasily Arkhipov was the Soviet flotilla commander and he happened to be on one of the nuclear submarines, a submarine that had nuclear torpedoes on board off the coast of Cuba. The US Navy was trying to force the submarine to come to the surface using depth charges, and some of these depth charges were getting very close. The ventilation system was compromised, the temperature was increasing. They were out of communication with the surface. And the directives at the time said, “If you are under attack and you’re not in communication with the surface, you have to assume that World War III has started.” And the orders were to release the nuclear torpedoes.
Arkhipov remembered that back during World War II that oftentimes surface ships would use depth charges to signal that they wanted the submarine to come to the surface. And he figured out that that was what was going on and they actually weren’t under attack. So the commander and the first officer both gave the order to launch the nuclear torpedoes, but Arkhipov kept his cool and countermanded that order. Had he not done that, and he not been coincidentally on the B-59 submarine, those nuclear torpedoes would have been released, and they almost certainly would’ve detonated and would have destroyed the US fleet. It’s virtual certain that that would have resulted in World War III.
It was a very lucky thing that Arkhipov happened to be on the submarine, and that he had the wisdom to go against orders and single handedly, literally single handedly, prevented World War III.
When I introduce the panelists, I’m going to introduce the entire panel, and then I’ll introduce each one separately. But as we’re talking today, I want us to be respectful. There are going to be a diversity of opinions. So I want to be respectful of everybody’s voice, to include everybody’s voice, and to focus on the issue of the fact that many analysts believe that we are closer to nuclear war today than any time since 1962 or 1983. I want the panelists to focus on how the situation today is similar to what it was in 1962 and in 1983 and the Able Archer incident which Patrick Mazza is going to talk about in detail.
But more importantly, I want to talk about differences between 1962 and 1983 and 2022, because there are a number of very significant differences. Back then, during the Cold War, it was ideological differences. Today it’s really not overwhelmingly ideological differences. Russia is clearly a capitalist society. China is capitalism with socialist characteristics. So it’s not so much ideological, and it’s not a bipolar situation of the US and the Soviet Union. Today we’re talking about the emergence of a multipolar world.
We also have climate change and climate disruption. Back then, climate change was not well understood. Today we understand that climate change is another existential threat to humanity. We’re also dealing with the crisis of resource depletion, the end of cheap fossil fuels. We’re talking about a world with growing inequality. We’re talking about a global economy that appears to be on the edge of a major global recession.
I would argue that all of these aspects of the current situation, all of them together work to lower the threshold to nuclear war, in other words, making nuclear war more likely. And then to add to that, we no longer have the ABM Treaty, which was abrogated by the second George Bush administration, considered by many experts to be the bedrock of all of the arms control agreements. We no longer have the INF, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Agreement. We no longer have the Open Skies Agreement that permitted each other to fly over and to monitor what’s going on.
So the fact that we have all of these crises synergistically working against us, all of them lowering the threshold to nuclear war. And then we have the match, if you will. And the match is the current conflict in Ukraine. This is bringing the world closer and closer and closer to a major shooting ward directly involving the US and NATO and Russia.
So these are the things we want to talk about today. So as we look back and look at how close the world has come to nuclear war starting in the 1950s and culminating with where we are today, I want us to talk a little bit about what we need to do- where we need to go. But in order to do that, we need to understand where we were and where we are, and then talk about where we need to go.
Each of the panelists is going to speak 15 to 20 minutes, and then we are going to open up the program for a brief discussion.
So first I’d like to introduce Patrick Mazza. Patrick is an activist from Cascadia, Pacific Northwest. He has spent many, many years particularly working on the issue of climate disruption, which is one of the existential threats to humanity that I talked about. But most recently, he has written a series of articles about the Able Archer crisis in 1983 and how the world came very close to nuclear war at that point. So I’d like to ask Patrick to talk a little bit about that situation and his thoughts about the current situation. So Patrick, if you’ll speak for about 15 or 20 minutes.
For the first time in many years, the threat of nuclear war has burst into public awareness. Many proclaim we are at a pinnacle of danger not seen since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, when the U.S. and USSR faced off over Soviet nuclear missiles situated in Cuba.
Indeed, October 27 marked one of the most dangerous days in history. Off the coast of Cuba, a U.S. Navy destroyer was depth charging a Russian submarine to force it to surface. The officers in command of the sub, out of radio contact, believed war had already broken out and prepared to launch a nuclear torpedo. But Vasily Arkhipov, the commander of the sub flotilla of which the vessel was a part, overruled the officers and stopped the launch, almost certainly preventing World War III. For that, Arkhipov is known as “the man who saved the world.”
That was a moment of maximum danger. But, contrary to what Joe Biden recently stated, “We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis,” there was another moment of peril in 1983 that is far less known. Daniel Ellsberg, who as a defense analyst advised the White House during the Cuban crisis, says it may have been even more dangerous. That was Able Archer 83, a NATO exercise that took place in the early days of November mimicking escalation to nuclear war in response to a Soviet invasion of Western Europe.
Able Archer was the tail end of a series of NATO exercises in which 19,000 U.S. troops were airlifted to Europe to conduct a simulated defense against the invasion. Able Archer went through steps from request for release of nuclear weapons to their delivery. It included B-52s sent to Europe, planes being loaded up with dummy nuclear bombs, and refueling exercises.
In this respect, it is remarkably similar to a NATO nuclear war exercise conducted over Europe from October 17-30, Steadfast Noon, in which dozens of planes from 14 nations conducted mock bombing runs. The U.S practiced sharing nuclear weapons with NATO partners using dummy bombs. At the same time, the U.S. announced speeded delivery of B61-12 bombs to Europe, an upgrade which increases accuracy. This is the so-called adjustable nuclear weapon, supposedly usable in a limited nuclear war, offering a range of explosive potentials from 0.3 to 50 kilotons. By comparison, the Hiroshima bomb was 15 kilotons. Meanwhile, the Russians were conducting their own nuclear exercises, Thunder 2022, from October 26-28, with launch of nuclear-capable missiles from land, sea and air.
The obvious contrast between now and 1983 is that, though the U.S. was then conducting a proxy war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, it was on the fringes of the then USSR. The Ukraine War is in Europe close to the Russian heartland, with fighting at a far greater level of intensity.
Could we be at an even greater level of danger now? The key issue that joins the present moment with 1983 is how each side perceives the intentions of the other. The crucial lesson of Able Archer is that misperception and miscommunication can cause a fatal error leading to a full nuclear exchange, especially at a time of heated rhetoric. Let us first look at 1983, then contrast and compare it with the present.
Though I participated in the nuclear freeze global uprising against nuclear weapons in the 1980s, in recent decades I have mostly focused on the slower-moving apocalypse of climate disruption. But seeing the momentum build toward potential global holocaust, I undertook in recent months to survey the best literature on an event I had heard about for many years, 1983’s close call with nuclear war.
Fortunately, recent years have seen publication of several books that delve deeply into the crisis, what led up to it, and its aftermath: 1983: Reagan, Andropov, and a World on the Brink by Taylor Downing; The Brink: President Reagan and the Nuclear War Scare of 1983 by Mark Ambinder, and Able Archer 83: The Secret NATO Exercise That Almost Triggered Nuclear War by Nate Jones. The latter contains many formerly secret documents wrested from the archives. From these I wrote a three-part series that starts here. I will briefly summarize the key points.
First, it is key to know that then Soviet leader Yuri Andropov genuinely believed the U.S. planned a nuclear first strike on the USSR. Ronald Reagan’s white hot rhetoric fueled that perception. When Reagan became president, he proclaimed the end of détente and was to label the Soviet Union the Evil Empire and call for its system to be left “on the ash heap of history.”
In response, Andropov, still KGB chief in 1981, ordered RYaN, the Russian acronym for nuclear missile strike. Soviet intelligence across the world was instructed to track hundreds of first strike preparation indicators, from movements of military forces and political leaders to blood drives. Operatives responsive to their superiors tended to produce information that confirmed their fears.
Andropov’s anxieties were grounded in what the Soviets had learned during their own nuclear exercises. It is the most powerful argument for entirely ridding the world of nuclear weapons. In a nuclear war, the side that strikes first has overwhelming advantage. It can decapitate the enemy’s leadership and command and control systems, prospectively eliminating its ability to order a response, even as nuclear forces with which a counterstrike could be launched are destroyed.Of course, a nuclear war of almost any scale would ignite fires sending a cloud of black soot into the stratosphere, shutting off sunlight and creating a nuclear winter that would crash agricultural production and kill billions. Any immediate advantage, if one were to be had, would turn into a pyrrhic victory, killing the “winners” as well as the losers. This fact known since 1983 unfortunately still has not entered the calculations of nuclear strategists.
Heightening the fears of Soviet leaders were plans to place cruise and Pershing II missiles in Europe, which the Soviets believed could reach Moscow in a few minutes and accomplish a decapitation strike. This has come back today with Russian leaders expressing concerns over NATO missiles placed in Ukraine even closer to the Russian capital.
Reagan’s announcement of the Star Wars missile defense program in March 1983 two weeks after he made the Evil Empire speech heightened Soviet worries. They believed this would make response to a first strike even more difficult.
The U.S. was doing nothing to reduce Soviet fears, conducting exercises near the borders of the USSR. A later declassified National Security Administration history said, “these actions were calculated to induce paranoia, and they did.” In August 1981, the U.S. Navy snuck a fleet into the Arctic north of the Kola Peninsula, the U-shaped bulge that juts out opposite of Scandinavia. Previously, the Navy had not gone farther than the northern tip of Norway.
The Navy again caught the Soviets off guard when in April 1983 it sent a fleet close to the Kamchatka Peninsula in the North Pacific. Even more alarming was an overflight of a Soviet naval training base by a plane from a fleet carrier. It was apparently the first U.S. overflight over Soviet territory with a warplane rather than reconnaissance aircraft. The U.S. was also conducting other flights close to Soviet borders to test their air defenses.
“These aggressions and vulnerabilities alarmed Soviet leadership to an extreme never seen during the Cold War,” writes Nate Jones. Andropov reacted by ordering Soviet aircraft to “shoot-to-kill” any plane that invaded national airspace. When Korean Air Lines flight 007 inadvertently wandered over the Soviet far east Sept. 1, 1983, it was mistaken for a spy plane that had crossed its flight path earlier. Following Andropov’s order, a Soviet fighter plane sent KAL 007 plummeting into the ocean, killing all 229 on board. That plunged relations between the west and the Soviet Union to perhaps the lowest level of the Cold War.
As Able Archer came closer, two events were misconstrued by the Soviets as war preparations. The Oct. 23 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, Lebanon resulted in a global alert at U.S. military bases. Then on Oct. 25, the U.S. invaded Grenada to overthrow a leftist government. The country was a member of the British Commonwealth. That generated an increased level of encrypted traffic between the U.S. and U.K. Meanwhile, revised NATO nuclear command and control procedures were another prospective sign the west was ramping up to war.
The Soviets had an additional reason to worry. They conceived that if a surprise attack took place, it would happen on a national holiday when their guard was down. In this case, Able Archer took place during then celebration of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. So the Soviets took a range of steps to prepare.
+ The number of surveillance flights over Europe increased.
+ From Nov. 4-10, all Soviet aircraft except surveillance planes were grounded.+ MIG-23 fighters were sitting on airstrips in East Germany and Czechoslovakia ready to take off in a moment.
+ Many Tupolev TU-22M bombers in East Germany were fueled and loaded with nuclear weapons, ready to take off in 15 minutes.
+ Air defense radars that usually ran only intermittently ran constantly.
+ Submarines were put out to sea.
+ Half of SS-20 mobile launchers were dispersed from their bases, while the usual portion was 10%.
In another one of those situations similar to that of Vasily Arkhipov, when one man’s actions may have saved the world, Lieutenant General Leonard Perroots, who ran the U.S. Air Force intelligence operation in Europe, picked up on many of these signs. But Perroots, who could not believe the Soviets were contemplating a strike, decided on gut instinct not to respond. Writes Jones, “Had Perroots mirrored the Soviets and escalated the situation, the War Scare could conceivably have become a war.” A later intelligence review found his decision “made in ignorance (was) fortuitous, if ill informed . . .
“On the evening of November 9, 1983, Andropov waited in the hospital room where he was being treated for the kidney failure that would soon kill him. Beside him a military aide held the briefcase containing the nuclear launch codes. In an apparently unprecedented move, General Staff Chief Nikolai Ogarkov was at the central command bunker, authorized to launch if Andropov was killed. But the night passed, and the sun rose to a world that was still there.
How close did we come? It took years to fully realize the danger. I tell the story of what some regard as the greatest intelligence failure in history in the third part of my series. The CIA and other officials thought the Soviets were exaggerating their fears to undermine U.S. missile placements in Europe. It took until 1990 for a full review to be done by the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. To quote the board, Able Archer 83 “may have inadvertently placed our relations with the Soviet Union on a hair trigger . . . There is little doubt in our minds that the Soviets were genuinely worried . . . it appears that at least some Soviet forces were preparing to preempt or counterattack a NATO strike launched under the cover of Able Archer.
”This is what draws the contrast most sharply between Able Archer and the Cuban Crisis. In 1962, each side was aware they were in a crisis. In 1983, one side was preparing for war while the other side was oblivious. Today comes closer to Cuba in that each side is acutely tuned to the fact of crisis. But it has similarities to Able Archer in that each side is less than clear on the intentions of the other. U.S. and Western leaders are asserting a desperate Russia could use nuclear weapons in Ukraine as a last resort, and warning of devastating response. Meanwhile, Russian leaders raise fears about a false flag event in Ukraine with a radioactive dirty bomb, and say western countries may be colluding with Ukraine in the action. Russian media currents buzz with concerns about something worse, including use of an actual nuclear weapon.
At the same time, first strike fears are being raised. A Russian security journal, Vzglyad, with readership among high Russian officials, on Monday published a piece, “The U.S. has shown its readiness to launch a nuclear strike on Russia.” It posits that U.S. missile submarines operating close to Russia could conduct a successful first strike that would leave that nation unable to mount a significant response.
Each side may be raising the rhetorical heat for propaganda purposes, as the CIA believed the Russians were doing in 1983. But it is a mistake to dismiss the possibility that statements may reflect real fears that could become self-fulfilling prophecies. Particularly in a time when the Ukraine War seems to be in a pattern of tit-for-tat escalation.
Consider what would happen if an early warning system gave a false reading that the other side had launched missiles. That occurred with the U.S. system on November 9, 1979, when a war game program mistakenly loaded into a NORAD computer indicated 1,400 missiles incoming, triggering a full nuclear alert, or on June 3, 1980, when a failed 46-cent computer chip set off another false alert. Those errors were fortunately caught in time.
We have to ask what would have happened if another of those Russians described as “the man who saved the world,” Stanislav Petrov, had not been in charge at the Soviet missile command center when on Sept. 27, 1983 a new satellite system indicated 5 U.S. missile launches. He had worked on the system, and thought it was probably a faulty reading, as it later proved to be. He also thought a first strike would be a larger volley. So Petrov decided not to report it to higher command. Who knows how a fearful Soviet leadership would have responded in the hair trigger environment in the wake of the KAL 007 shootdown, even as the NATO fall exercises leading to Able Archer were beginning to ramp up?
So to answer the question of how close we are to nuclear war, the most honest answer is, we don’t know. But the danger has clearly escalated. And the longer the war goes on, the greater the risk these scenarios may become reality. How do we stop this runaway train before it derails?
It took months for U.S. and western leaders to realize the danger confronting the world in those early days of November, and years to fully analyze the intelligence failure. But even as the exercise was wrapping up, Ronald Reagan was starting to grasp the consequences of his own heated anti-Soviet rhetoric. On a presidential tour of Asia, National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane handed Reagan intelligence reports on the increased tempo of Soviet nuclear forces.
Jones reports that according to McFarlane, “The president read the reports and responded with ‘genuine anxiety’ and disbelief that his actions could have led to an armed attack.” Days later, he started to set up a group of high ranking officials “to help us in setting up some channels,” he wrote in his November 18 diary entry. Writes Jones, “McFarlane recounts that Able Archer had a ‘big influence’ on Reagan’s thinking.”
Reagan would subsequently begin to tone down his bellicose rhetoric, and on January 16 delivered a conciliatory speech on national television. By 1987, that would lead to the first nuclear arms control treaty, the Intermediate Nuclear Force (INF) Treaty negotiated with then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and discussions to abolish all nuclear weapons which came heartbreakingly close. That treaty laid the groundwork for the START agreement signed in 1991 which limits each side’s deployed nuclear weapons to 1,550.
INF Treaty was unfortunately cancelled by the Trump Administration in 2019. But START was re-upped in 2021 to run until 2026. Reportedly there are backchannel discussions regarding START going on between the U.S. and Russia. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently said, “. . . we note some sketchy signals from the U.S. administration, and personally Joe Biden, concerning the resumption of the START dialogue, but what is behind those signals remains to be seen.”
Finding a way to resume START negotiations even as the Ukraine War continues is, I believe, the key. The issues surrounding the war seem, for the moment, intractable. It is crucial to place the transcendent issue of nuclear weapons on a separate track. How the Ukraine War is resolved has deep implications for global geopolitics. Whether we control nuclear weapons has implications for whether humanity survives at all. Having the two sides sit down in a forum where they can have open and frank discussions reduces uncertainty about intentions, and eliminates potential misunderstandings such as those that almost triggered war in 1983. Recent contacts between the defense leaders of Russia, the U.S. and the U.K. are a hopeful step in that direction.
Those discussions must put deep cuts in nuclear arsenals on the table, with a clear pathway toward what the nuclear nations promised when they signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968, the total abolition of nuclear weapons.The immediate goal should be for each side to reduce its deployed weapons from the current 1,550 to somewhere in the 300-500 range. That would still provide a deterrent, but make a successful first strike less likely. Importantly, the ICBMs should go first. They are the most vulnerable to first strike, where use-it-or-lose it is most imperative. The bombers should go next, situating the remaining arsenal on submarines, the most difficult to detect. Coming to agreement on the distance submarines operate from the other side’s shores would also be valuable, since close-in operations also raise first strike fears.
And, unlike START, a new treaty should outright eliminate the reserve arsenal. The U.S. now has around 2,000 warheads in bunkers that could readily be refitted on submarines, ICBMs and bombers. If START is not re-negotiated, that could happen quickly after the 2026 expiration. A new treaty should also set up a process that moves the U.S., Russia and smaller nuclear powers to abolition.
We should have no illusions that the leaders of the world will move to deep cuts in nuclear weapons and eventual abolition on their own. The military-industrial-congressional complex is going to perpetuate the current system as long as it can. It’s going to take intense public pressure and movement building.
The 1980s nuclear freeze movement set the stage for the INF and START treaties, which most likely would have never happened if it had not been for millions in the streets. It is going to take something similar again to move to the sane course of dramatic nuclear reductions and abolition. We are nowhere near that now, and it is our role as people concerned about our future and that of our children to build that movement. In reality, I believe we need a broader global survival movement that addresses the existential crises facing us, from climate disruption and general ecological breakdown, to great power competition and the threat of nuclear war.It may seem unrealistic to consider such ambitious goals in the midst of the Ukraine War and conflicts between the U.S. and Russia. But, to quote I.F. Stone’s classic phrase, it is crackpot realism to believe that we can keep nuclear weapons without them eventually being used. The imperatives of use it or lose it and belief in the first strike advantage make that clear.
I recently interviewed a former U.S. Navy submarine captain, Tom Rogers, who handled nuclear weapons throughout his time on submarines, and now works for their abolition as part of the Ground Zero Center. Tom has been arrested blocking the gate at the Trident nuclear missile submarine base at Bangor, Washington at least 10 times. He told me, “It’s only a matter of time until by miscalculation or accident a nuclear weapon gets used. Because of the way the strategy is written, you don’t shoot just one nuclear weapon. You don’t see just three coming over the horizon. You see 3,000. The only way to prevent that carnage is to get rid of them.”
That should be our call to mobilize, to end nuclear weapons before they end us. As steep a climb as it is, we really have no other choice if we value human survival.
“We don’t know.” Those are the key words. We don’t know how close we are to nuclear war, we just know that the situation is acute and it’s going to take a mass mobilization to turn the tide. I think it’s going to need to be global. I think that inevitably it is going to be led by the rest of the world just as it was back in the ’60s and ’70s and ’80s. As we see it today with the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and we look at which nations have signed that treaty, it’s very similar to the old Non-Aligned Movement.
The next speaker is an old friend of mine, Jackie Cabazzo. Jackie and I have worked together, at least since 1990, perhaps even a little bit earlier. She was, along with many others, a founding member of the Abolition 2000 movement. Except for, perhaps ,Arjun, she knows as much or more than anyone about the environmental effects of the nuclear weapons production complex. She’s led a number of lawsuits against the complex. She’s just been an outstanding leader in the global disarmament movement. And, she is the North American coordinator of Mayors for Peace. And so I’d like to ask Jackie to give her reflections on the current situation. So Jackie, welcome
Thank you very much, John, and thanks to the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Committee. I noticed that I think three of you who are on this call were on an earlier Zoom call that I presented on today. This is not the same talk, but you will probably hear a few of the same quotes, so I apologize for that.
In the 1980s, the palpable fear of a nuclear war between the US and the Soviet Union was at the top of most people’s minds in the US and around the world. Yet following the end of the Cold War, nuclear weapons fell off the public’s radar screen. It was almost as if the planet itself breathed a huge sigh of relief. People around the world hoped and believed that they had escaped a nuclear holocaust and largely put nuclear weapons out of their minds. Most people believed that the threat of nuclear war had ended, but it hadn’t.Deeply embedded In the US military-industrial-complex, military planners and scientists at the nuclear weapons labs conjured up new justifications to sustain the nuclear weapons enterprise. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Colin Powell, then-chair of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, declared, “We no longer have the luxury of having a specific threat to plan for. What we plan for is that we’re a superpower. We are the major player on the world stage with responsibilities… [and] interests around the world.”
In fact, US national security policy has been remarkably consistent in the post- World War II and post-Cold War eras, despite dramatically changed geopolitical conditions and very different Presidential styles. “Deterrence,” the threatened use of nuclear weapons, has been reaffirmed as the “cornerstone” of US national Security by every President, Republican or Democrat, including Obama, since 1945 when President Harry Truman, a Democrat, oversaw the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Russia, and other would-be superpowers have increasingly modeled their own national security policies, as well as their economies, on the US model.
Nuclear weapons, in fact, are already being “used” by Russia, the US, and NATO to provide top cover for their conventional military operations. In February of last year, Admiral Charles Richard, head of US Strategic Command, in charge of nuclear war planning, wrote, “We must acknowledge the foundational nature of our nation’s strategic nuclear forces as they create the ‘maneuver’ space for us to project conventional military power strategically.” Clearly we’re seeing this concept being played out by Russia in the Ukraine. Richard also warned, “There is a real possibility that a regional crisis with Russia or China could escalate quickly to a conflict involving nuclear weapons, if they perceived a conventional loss would threaten the regime or state.”
We are living in a time of extraordinary nuclear dangers. All of the nuclear-armed states are modernizing their nuclear arsenals. With Russia’s illegal war of aggression on Ukraine, which could eventually draw the militaries of the US, its NATO allies and Russia into direct conflict, exacerbated by Russia’s repeated threats to use nuclear weapons, the specter of war has risen to its highest level since … well, take your choice: the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis or the 1983 Able Archer crisis. Other festering nuclear flashpoints include Taiwan, the Korean Peninsula, South Asia, and the Middle East. The scale and tempo of war games by nuclear-armed states and their allies, including nuclear drills, are increasing. Ongoing missile tests, and frequent close encounters between military forces of nuclear armed states exacerbate nuclear dangers.
While our nuclear worries have mainly been focused on Russia of late, on October 9th North Korea fired two ballistic missiles, the seventh such launch since September 25th. According to North Korea’s state news agency, KCNA, the recent flurry of missile tests was designed to simulate showering South Korea with tactical nuclear weapons as a warning, in response to large-scale navy drills by South Korean and US forces. KCNA reported that the various tests simulated targeting military command facilities, striking main ports and neutralizing airports in the South, to deliver a strong message of war deterrence. The North Korean Ministry of Defense also warned that the US recent deployment of the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan near the Korean Peninsula is causing a “considerably huge negative splash” in regional security, and it defended its recent missile test as a “righteous reaction” to intimidating military drills between its rivals. Just yesterday, South Korea, Japan, and the US warned North Korea that there would be an “unparalleled” response if it conducted a seventh nuclear test.
Today it’s being reported that the US has accelerated the fielding of the upgraded B61-12 air-dropped gravity bomb to NATO bases in Europe. This had been originally slated for next spring, but is now planned for December. When asked for comment, the Pentagon spokesman responded that, “While we aren’t going to discuss details of our nuclear arsenal, modernization of US B61 nuclear weapons has been underway for years and plans to safely and responsibly swap out older weapons for the upgraded B61-12 versions is part of a long-planned and scheduled modernization effort. It is in no way linked to current events in Ukraine and was not sped up in any way.” Well, I could imagine that Russia doesn’t see it that way.
The Russian leadership’s latest nuclear threats have raised public anxiety about the possibility of nuclear war, but in reality, we’ve been living under the shadow of the mushroom cloud continuously since 1945.
In 1982, at the height of the Cold War, Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme’s Independent Commission on Disarmament and Security Issues published a report which introduced the concept of “common security,” the notion that nations and peoples can only feel safe when their counterparts feel safe.
To mark the 40th anniversary of this landmark report, the Olof Palme International Center, International Peace Bureau, and International Trade Union Confederation issued a new report, titled “Common Security 2022: For Our Shared Future.” It begins, “The world stands at a crossroads… faced with a choice between an existence based on confrontation and aggression or one to be rooted in a transformative peace agenda and common security. In 2022, humanity faces the existential threats of nuclear war, climate change and pandemics. This is compounded by a toxic mix of inequality, extremism, nationalism, gender violence, and shrinking democratic space. How humanity responds to these threats will decide our very survival.’
It is against this backdrop that the First Meeting of States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, or TPNW, and the 10th Review Conference of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, or NPT, took place this summer. The NPT represents the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by the five original nuclear-armed States – the US, UK, USSR and its successor, Russia, France, and China. In Article VI, all states, including the nuclear-armed States, pledged “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.” In Articles I and II, non-nuclear-armed States pledged not to acquire nuclear weapons or transfer them to other States. As an incentive not to acquire nuclear weapons, in Article IV, the non-nuclear-armed States were promised an “inalienable right” to “peaceful” nuclear technology, and assistance with research, production, and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes “without discrimination.
“The NPT was signed in 1968 and entered into force in 1970. Its initial duration was 25 years. In 1995, the Treaty was extended indefinitely with a Review Conference to be held every five years. Nearly every country in the world –191 in all — is a party to the NPT, with four exceptions, India, Israel, and Pakistan, all nuclear armed states, and South Sudan. North Korea, now nuclear-armed, withdrew in 2003, but its withdrawal is not recognized by the NPT States Parties.
The NPT’s disarmament obligations, enshrined in the Preamble and Article VI, have been reiterated and reinforced by agreements made in connection with the 1995 Extension Decision, the 2000 and 2010 Review Conferences, and the International Court of Justice’s 1996 Advisory Opinion, which provided the authoritative interpretation of Article VI. The Court found unanimously, “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.”
Consensus broke down in the 2005 and 2015 NPT Review Conferences and they were unable to produce final outcome documents due to the failure of the nuclear-armed States to make good on their disarmament obligations.
The failure of the 2015 Review Conference also provided impetus for negotiation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at UN headquarters in New York in 2017. The Treaty entered into force on January 22nd, 2021. Framed in terms of deep concern about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from any nuclear weapons use, the TPNW prohibits States Parties from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using, or threatening to use nuclear weapons, or allowing nuclear weapons to be stationed on their territory, and prohibits them from assisting, encouraging, or inducing anyone to engage in any of these activities. The TPNW also requires State s Parties to provide assistance to victims of nuclear use or testing under its jurisdiction, and to undertake environmental remediation of areas under its jurisdiction contaminated by testing or use of nuclear weapons.
The first meeting of TPNW States Parties took place in Vienna, Austria in June of this year, where they adopted the Vienna Declaration and the 50-point Vienna Action Plan. There are currently 91 signatories and 68 States Parties to the Treaty. While all of them are non-nuclear armed States Parties to the NPT, the TPNW is binding only on those States which have signed and ratified it
In the Vienna Declaration, States Parties express their alarm and dismay at threats to use nuclear weapons, and condemned unequivocally “any and all nuclear threats, whether they be explicit or implicit, and irrespective of the circumstances.” Affirming that the TPNW is needed more than ever in these circumstances, the States Parties resolved to “move forward with its implementation, with the aim of further stigmatizing and de-legitimizing nuclear weapons and steadily building a robust global peremptory norm against them.” They also reaffirmed the complementary of the Treaty with the NPT, and undertook to continue to support the NPT and all measures that can effectively contribute to nuclear disarmament.
While the States Parties to the TPNW feel that negotiating the TPNW was a good faith effort to implement Article VI of the NPT, the nuclear-armed States Parties to the NPT are hostile to the TPNW, asserting that it undermines the NPT. Since no nuclear-armed State or State under a “nuclear umbrella” has joined the TPNW, it is not yet a disarmament treaty. I find it somewhat ironic that the only concrete obligation the States Parties to the NPT can undertake at this point is victim assistance and environmental mediation resulting from nuclear use and testing that they were not responsible for.
At the close of the month-long 10th NPT Review Conference on August 26th of this year, States Parties meeting at the UN in New York were unable to agree on the text of a final document. While the proximate cause was Russia’s refusal to accept language about its military occupation of the Zaporizhzya nuclear power plant in Ukraine, it was clear that many governments were dissatisfied with the draft final document, feeling that it was weak and lacking benchmarks, timelines, and measurable goals for nuclear disarmament.
While the nuclear-armed States had apparently been willing to accept vague recommitments to previous obligations in the draft final document, they were not willing to commit to any concrete pathway to get there. In a draft document, the four other nuclear-armed States must have known Russia would block., this can only be viewed as the epitome of bad faith during a four -week festival of double standards, hypocrisy, and outright lying by the nuclear armed States.
As Ambassador Kmentt said, on behalf of Austria, “We hope that the deeply unsatisfactory result of this review conference will serve as a wake-up call. Austria will not tire in our work to implement the NPT and the TPNW. We have no other choice given the existential dangers and risks of nuclear weapons.
“In 1946, Louis Mumford wrote, “You cannot talk like sane men around a peace table while the atomic bomb itself is ticking beneath it. Do not treat the atomic bomb as a weapon of offense. Do not treat it as an instrument of the police. Treat the bomb for what it is: the visible insanity of a civilization that has ceased to worship life and obey the laws of life.” Sitting in the basement of the United Nations for four weeks, observing the NPT sessions that were open to civil society, was literally like watching mad (mostly) men, around what’s supposed to be a peace table, now with the hydrogen bomb ticking beneath it.
The failure of the 2022 NPT Review Conference due to the intransigence of the nuclear-armed States in the face of new arms racing, the long-term viability of the NPT is being questioned by some.
An aspect of this Review Conference deserving greater scrutiny was the hyperbolic promotion of so-called “peaceful uses” of nuclear technology by the International Atomic Energy Arjuncy and most of the States Parties, nuclear-armed and nuclear-weapons-free. Article IV of the NPT confers upon all States Parties an “inalienable right” to peaceful nuclear technology. The draft final document, which was not adopted, states, “The Conference underlines that IAEA activities in the field of technical cooperation and nuclear applications, contribute in an important way to meeting energy needs, improving human and animal health, combating poverty, protecting the environment, developing agriculture, managing the use of water resources, optimizing industrial processes and preserving cultural heritage, thus helping to improve the quality of life and the well-being of the peoples of the world.
“In contrast to the lack of measures to advance nuclear disarmament going forward, the draft final document included a long list of specific activities to further promote and expand so-called “peaceful” uses of nuclear technology.
Listening to the governments’ statements and reading their working papers, one might be led to believe that nuclear energy will solve all of the world’s problems. Yet, most if not all nuclear technology is inherently dual use — meaning it has the potential to be weaponized. Against the background of ongoing proliferation concerns and palpable alarm about growing nuclear dangers at Zaporizhzya, no one questioned the wisdom of relegitimizing and reinvesting in so-called “peaceful” nuclear technology. An examination of this paradox is called for.
The hard truth is that neither the NPT nor the TPNW can achieve disarmament for the foreseeable future, because it is clear that none of the nuclear-armed States are willing to reimagine a global system based on common security, rather than nuclear coercion, euphemistically called deterrence.
We cannot leave our future survival to our national governments. “Humanity” must include all of us from all walks of life, wherever we live.
As Mahatma Gandhi observed:
“The moral to be legitimately drawn from the supreme tragedy of the bomb is that it will not be destroyed by counter-bombs, even as violence cannot be by counter-violence. Mankind has to get out of violence only through non-violence. Hatred can be overcome only by love. Counter-hatred only increases the surface as well as the depth of hatred…”
And he explained how social transformation will come from the bottom up.
“We have to make truth and non-violence not matters for mere individual practice, but for practice by groups and communities and nations ….[Before] general disarmament … commences … some nation will have to dare to disarm herself and take large risks. The level of non-violence in that nation, if that event happily comes to pass, will naturally have risen so high as to command universal respect. Her judgment will be unerring, her decisions firm. Her capacity for heroic self-sacrifice will be great, and she will want to live as much for other nations as for herself.”
It is important to recall that, coming on the heels of the many Civil Rights Movements, the Anti-Vietnam War Movement, the Women’s Movement, the Gay Liberation Movement, and the Ecology Movement, the mass anti-nuclear movement that arose in the 1980s was not single issue.
As a strategy and a necessity, this time around, let us work together to understand the common causes of our multifaceted crises. As we work to build the massive, multi-issue, multi-generational, multi-racial, international, “moral fusion” movement we will need to overcome systemic violence — including the elimination of nuclear weapons — and build a peaceful, just sustainable and inclusive world.
Tactically, I think we need to refocus our efforts at the local level in order to raise the visibility of nuclear risks to ordinary people and make them the subject of national discourse. Given the stakes, it is astonishing that nuclear weapons were barely mentioned during the 2020 Presidential campaign. Going forward, we need to change that by working where we live to make nuclear weapons a local issue.
Finally, I want to offer a cautionary note on our approach to the war economy. We need to always keep in mind that militarism and the military budget are about more than just military spending and guns versus butter. We also need to pay attention to the purposes and interests that militarism serve, and how perpetual war preparations underscore a culture of violence that runs from the top to the bottom of our society.
I believe there are a few promising initiatives and campaigns that offer a useful way forward. These include first and foremost, the Poor People’s Campaign, a National Call for World Revival, as well as Mayors for Peace and the Back From the Brink Campaign. I hope there’s time during Q&A for me to elaborate on these and some other local initiatives. Thank you.
PART 1 OF 4 ENDS [00:32:04]
Thank you Jackie. That was a great presentation. So you quoted Lewis Mumford. Back in 1946 in the Saturday Review, he did a very important service to everyone. He wrote an article called Gentlemen, You Are Mad, referring to pursuit of nuclear weapons. And I think that still is absolutely relevant today. I’d like to point out that our founder of the Hiroshima Peace Committee, Louise Franklin Ramirez, was a recipient of the Mumford Peace Award and that there, helping to make the presentation, was Dan Ellsberg, who often tells a story about how Louise was responsible for his first arrest. So Dan, I’m going to be calling on you after Arjun to make a few comments. Jackie referred to nuclear victims and how the responsibility of the signatories to the ban review are to nuclear cleanup and nuclear victims. And so we have Dennis Nelson as well. Dennis is a downwinder from St. George, Utah. But first of all, I’m going to introduce Arjun Makhijani. Arjun, as many of you know, is the author of many books, including principal author of Nuclear Wastelands. I’d also like to point out that early on, Arjun and Dan Ellsberg, somewhat independently of each other, came up with a list of nuclear threats. So we have the two authors of the initial nuclear threats mostly made by the United States with us today. Arjun, in addition to all of his academic achievements and movement achievements, is co-founder of the Hiroshima Nagasaki Peace Committee, which back in 1981 was the Hiroshima Nagasaki Study Group, and it was out of that study group that was led by Arjun that the Hiroshima Nagasaki Peace Committee emerged. So without further ado, I’d like Arjun to reflect on the situation today. S
Thank you. Well, I’m getting a little bit more credit than I deserve. I think Dan was first in compiling the nuclear threat lists and I saw his list in an article somewhere. And I had been compiling, I hadn’t published anything, but I had seen a different set of threats and so that’s how I think I first came in contact with him in the early ’80s. Anyway, Dan was there first. I’m so privileged to know him. Anyway, I thank you Jackie. As usual, I really agree with you, thank you for that Mumford quote. I’ve read a lot of Mumford, but I have not come across that quote and that kind of cues my talk. So I think I start from the point that the powers that be know what Patrick said, they know about the Cuban missile crisis, of course.
They know about the 1983 events, they know about Petrov, they know about Vasili Arkhipov, they know about all that, because they’ve activated the nuclear threats and Dan’s observation that it’s a use of nuclear weapons much as a gun pointing to somebody’s head. Woke me up. That was in 1979. I want to reflect on why we are still sitting at the edge of the nuclear precipice. So what Patrick said, that Dan has been saying for many years, get rid of the land based missiles. They’re really a threat, you are making yourself a target by having them. If you want deterrence, get rid of all that.
So why are we still here? I want to start where Jackie ended, is that we are in the heart of an extremely violent system whose most recent manifestation started in 1492, one date and around the latter part of the 18th century, another date, and I’ll explain that. But first let me give you a few other dates that are important to the nuclear enterprise that are not much remarked on. October 9th, 1941 was when Vannevar Bush briefed President Roosevelt, and that’s what really triggered the big project to build the bomb. Before that, there was the uranium committee. Vannevar Bush, the guy in charge of weapons in the White House, wasn’t that much interested. He wanted to bring academic physics and science in the service of this war [World War II]. And this is before the US was in the war. Of course there was the lend-lease program and all that. So he was building up the [conventional] weapons capacity and when the British Committee came and said, Yeah, we can do this, we can enrich enough uranium and the gun type [atomic] bomb is possible.
I don’t remember how many kilograms they said, but it wasn’t a very big number. He [Bush] became convinced he could build it and then he accepted yeah, maybe we should beat Hitler to the punch. But he was determined that the Pentagon should not see academic physicists and engineers as eggheads who could produce something for the next war. He was interested only in weapons in this war and he wanted to bring the might of academic science, if you want to think about it that way, into the service of that goal. In addition, if you read his book, [Modern] Arms and Free Men, his  memoir after the war, he clearly was determined that the United States should be top dog and we know that that [idea] ran through the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
But October 9th, 1941 was the spirit of the determination that [if] we make the bomb and in time and it works, then it should be used in the service of US being the top dog. And that goes through [the Manhattan Project’s] history. Bush wasn’t alone, of course. Groves said the same thing much later. So October , that was two months before Pearl Harbor. The other date this group is very familiar with, set of dates, early December 1944, which is when the US found out that the Germans don’t have a viable bomb project definitively. They had many indications before. And when Rotblat left Los Alamo and went back, I think to Europe, England, the project was accelerated. Now you all know that, but it’s very important because of the original purpose of deterring Hitler and being there first. They had been true to that and [should have]stopped then.
That was the time where the plutonium separation plant at Hanford had not yet been started. I think a reactor had been started up, but there were only minute quantities of plutonium that the people at Los Alamos were working with to determine its properties, Emilio Segre, you know all of that, and how we came by the implosion bomb design, or they came by the implosion bomb design at Los Alamos.
But quantities of plutonium had not been separated at all because the Hanford plutonium separation plant had not yet been [started up]. So this is in a way before the real, industrial, atomic age that enabled [the] U.S., the world, to make weapons in quantity. This was before that. And Richard Feynman, very famous physicist, great physicist [in] quantum mechanics, Nobel Prize winner. He was there in Los Alamos when they were dancing after Hiroshima, and he was there part of that kind of tailgating party there. And in 1980 he reflected, “why were we dancing?” He was very honest in this interview with BBC. “Why were we dancing while Hiroshima had been kind of reduced to rubble.’ [not an exact quote]
And he said basically that [was] the purpose of why he went there,[though] he didn’t really want to be. He liked quantum mechanics better than making a bomb. And he went; he said [in 1981], “The purpose of it was over. We knew that, but yet I stayed.” This is a paraphrase, obviously, and what is not a paraphrase is he ended by saying, “I simply didn’t think, okay?” [quote corrected] And this is one of the greatest physicists in the first half of the 20th century who made this very remarkable confession that he wasn’t thinking, okay. And nobody at Los Alamos has said, well, if he wasn’t thinking, were we thinking? No one has picked it up. Okay, early 1950s before the bomb, the thermonuclear weapon was actually developed, one of the makers of the thermonuclear weapons was cautioning, I don’t know if it was Oppenheimer or somebody else said, “This is a genocidal weapon and we should pause before we do this. Maybe we should contact the Soviets.”
And then of course, both developed the thermonuclear weapon and Churchill made a speech about that in 1955 in Parliament, very famous speech. Basically there’s a famous quote which I will read, but before that quote, he basically said that thermonuclear weapons have leveled of playing field and in a way now deterrence is better than it was before. That’s also paraphrased. Because the Soviet Union is a vast country and they have low population density. So regular bombs might not deter them, but the thermonuclear bomb is such a vast weapon that it has basically wiped out the difference between a densely populated island country like Britain or Western Europe and the Soviet Union. So now then he says, “Then it may well be that we shall by a process of sublime irony, have reached a stage in this story where safety will be the sturdy child of terror, and survival the twin brother of annihilation.” And that’s the logic that led to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Now, everybody in the Cuban Missile Crisis, the best face on it is Kennedy and Khrushchev realized it was a very bad situation and they stood up to their military establishments and made a deal. Good. All that is true. None of them knew about Arkhipov of course, but in the 1990s we knew about Arkhipov. Now we know about him. He’s not very famous. And so I’m very grateful that John has begun the process, I hope, that will make him famous and that we shall just be grateful for what he did and reflect on him and how we can take inspiration for a world that will learn a lesson from him. But we haven’t. Obviously we haven’t. The establishment knows about Arkhipov. The Cold War was over.
People like Sam Nunn and establishment people, General Jones, I think it was, who was the head of the Strategic Command, after he retired said [something to the effect of, “Let’s take weapons off alert. We’re sitting at the edge. This survival twin brother of annihilation is not that great an idea. The Cold War’s over.” But that never happened. And my question is, why? They knew what we know. Intellectually, if they read Dan’s book and they read the analysis, get rid of land-based missiles. Take weapons off alert. No first use. It all makes perfect sense. It can only be that the hypothesis is that what they think of survival is not what we are talking about. They think of survival first of all, and this hypothesis open to debate, I’m doing this in honor of Vasily Arkhipov and letting it all hang out, that their idea of survival, like the slave owner’s idea of freedom, centered in property, including property in other people, is exclusive. Their idea of survival is connected to domination, to exceptionalism, to being the top dog, to telling everybody.
And then that’s accompanied by an interesting, systematic, delusional idea that you are civilized, you are generous, you are not greedy. You’re there for the good of Africans and Asians, and you’re going to civilize them and Christianize the savages, whatever. So, I want to point out two things. You know all know about Rudyard Kipling, not one of my favorite people, before the Philippine War urging the US on, but could just as well have applied to India. He was an unabashed imperialist and he wrote this poem called A White Man’s Burden. And in this poem he wrote about famine. And I just want to read that part. “Take up the white man’s burden, The savage wars of peace, fill full the mouth of famine and bid the sickness cease.” And if you’ll allow me to share my screen, what the British did in India in that period was… So, this is kind of what Freud would’ve called projection. So, you are actually creating famine and killing millions of people. And I want to show you something. <https://ieer.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/11-3.pdf> This is a chart of grain trade, imports of grain into Britain. And I’ll stop very soon after this. So, this is the date when the corn laws were repealed . Marx wrote about that as a watershed event in capitalism. Before this, the feudals were in charge in Britain pretty much. Grain [trade] was restricted. They were making a lot of money by high-priced grain. This is when cheap grain for the workers became more important and the corn laws were repealed. And this shows you how Britain was basically… This is kilograms per capita of grain when people were mostly eating wheat. And this is 440 pounds, this top line here, per person. That’s more than a pound of wheat per person per day. This is grain. Now, where did this grain come from? It came from two places primarily.
It came from the United States where it was grown on conquered land gotten by people who had occupied it after genocide was committed and the people who were there were wiped out. The other place it came from was India. And there was a famine every two years in India between 1860 and the early 20th century. And I want to show you pictures from just one of those famines in 1876-1878 in the part of the country mostly where I grew up. And these are pictures from Victorian holocausts. So, this is what Kipling was really writing about, and you think they’re pictures from the [death camp] trenches in 1945. [But] they are pictures from the 1876-1878 famine. The reason to show you this… Normally I don’t do this at all. I’m very reluctant to show these pictures because there’s not a good side to showing those pictures.
But I want to show them because there is a deep and ingrained delusion within the people who are running the system. What they think about freedom, what they think about democracy is not what Mandela thought about freedom, not what Gandhi thought about freedom, not what King thought about freedom. I have written about that in my book, Manifesto for Global Democracy. So, I would suggest that I agree with where Jackie ended. And we say there are two existential crises and that’s very true, that there’s a nuclear crisis and there’s a climate crisis. But for more than half the people in the world, every day is an existential crisis. It’s an existential crisis literally for survival. And I learned this the hard way as somebody who grew up not lacking for a meal.
And when I went to work in the villages in India and realized that my fancy PhD wasn’t much use, I didn’t think that my doctorate in the nuclear fusion was worth anything. And I asked myself the question, “What is really worth knowing? What do you really know that’s worth anything?” And my immediate answer then was, “Close to nothing.” And so I asked the question, “What is worth knowing? Who knows what is worth knowing?” And I could see that the peasants around me, including peasant women, [who] mostly had not even finished school. They knew a lot more in the existence sense than I did. I asked myself, “The definition of knowledge really should be, what do you know of the connection between what’s on your plate and what’s in your pocket that enabled you to buy it?” Now, what’s on the peasant’s plate and what they do for a living is generally transparent [to them], especially to the poorest peasants because it’s very immediate. They know it. They know the land. They can feel it in their hands. When they broadcast the seed, they know what’s happening to it.
And the second thing I will close with is this. So, we talk about progress. So, there’s this idea, it was very much in the center of Marx’s thinking, and he came up with many good ideas, but I don’t think this was one of them, that there’s a march of progress, the stages of history. So, a thousand years ago if you had asked someone, “How many generations can you see [in the future]? How far out can you see? So, your life may be brutal and short. You don’t have vaccinations.” You can go back and ask. We have vaccinations. Not everybody wants them. “How far out can you see?” And they would’ve said, “Many generations, of course. I have children. Many of them may die, but she will survive and my village will go on.”
But since the ’50s at least, since Churchill’s speech, since the Cuban Missile Crisis, since Vasily Arkhipov, we have known that we can’t really confidently see even 15 minutes out. So, we don’t have a very good definition of knowledge, in my opinion. We don’t have a definition of knowledge that is in consonance with that quote, “We have stopped worshiping life or the forces of life.” Thank you, Jackie. You might repeat that. I forgot it already. In my opinion, the fundamental science should be ecology because it unites the observer and the observed in the process of survival and reproduction. But our paradigm of science is physics, which was founded in the time of Newton in many ways in the royal society. And Lewis Mumford wrote about this in the Pentagon of Power, and I’ll end here, is that they were told as physicists, “Don’t think about politics. Do your job. Do your science.”
And the physics-oriented science, it wasn’t so in the United States in 1939, but Vannevar Bush, by 1941, he had brought academic physics into the service of the military. And the bomb. Physics we regard as the paradigm of science, where I don’t think it’s actually an accurate epistemological view just from a philosophical point of view, and certainly not a view that is in consonance with survival that we’re talking about. So, where we are is a system that is crumbling. It’s a different talk, but it’s peak was in 1973, the Columbian age is over and we have no positive model in the way we want to shape this. What’s the process of grabbing the reins sufficiently to get rid of nuclear weapons?
Not in the sense of political power, but in the sense of a process by which they can actually be dismantled or at least de-alerted. I don’t have any good answers for you, but I would suggest that these three existential crises do go together. And I’m very glad that Jackie preceded me in making a better case than I have done, which is very scattered. But I did want to give you a little bit of a historical tour for somebody who was born when the British still occupied his country.
PART 2 OF 4 ENDS [01:04:04]
Thank you, Arjun. You always provide insights to help us to understand what’s going on. So, you talked about the fact that the bomb has taken away our future and we really can’t see 15 minutes into the future. And Robert J. Lifton and Helen Caldicott both wrote about this idea of psychic numbing and they focused on this issue that the threat is so great, the future has been taken away, and so therefore we’re overwhelmed and we don’t do anything. And I think that’s something to reflect on- that the important thing is we first need to understand what the threat is in order to organize and to confront the threat. So, before we open it up to general discussion, I’d like to recognize Dan Ellsberg. If you could say a few words, and then I’m going to ask Dennis Nelson to speak. So, Dan, say a few words for us?
Okay, thank you. We’ve just heard extraordinary presentations. I would say extremely moving. I got the impression that Patrick and my old friend Jackie were reading a piece. Can I ask, I would very much like a link if you have any for that. And I’m sure other people would like that. Probably John can forward them to people.
Yeah. So, I’ll forward it to everyone.
And Arjun, I’m not sure whether yours was written or not, like me.
Completely extemporaneous. I had some bullet points.
I’d love to hear that too again. Extraordinarily moving. Look, I could-
I’ll send you my bullet points.
I was tempted to tell some very nice nostalgic anecdotes because it’s been mentioned about both John’s long-term partner Louise who did get arrested with me here. I got arrested with her the first time after my first arrest for the Pentagon Papers
. But actually let me just use the time to reflect on a couple of things we’ve heard here. You don’t need me to tell you more history. And Patrick, I’m so glad that you focused on the 1983 case. We’ve been hearing in the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis every day how dangerous that was. And of course our president has told us this is the most dangerous time since 1962. And as you made clearer, I would say, no. I take it you were mentioning this book The Brink?
1983 is right. And I’m sure you know too, this book Abel Archer 83 by Nathan Jones. Extremely good. And both Cuba and 1983 have characteristics that are very, very relevant to our current predicament. And so let me just raise one thing first. In 1983, as you said, Patrick, not only the rhetoric of Ronald Reagan about the evil empire and “we bomb in 15 minutes,” something like that on live microphone, but also lesser known, actual exercises that they were making, exercising nuclear reconnaissance in various ways. Reconnaissance planes that were not only going alongside the then Soviet Union, but inside the air zones of the Soviet Union, to scare them, to keep them on edge, to tense. And then Andropov, in his last year of life on a kidney dialysis machine, which no one has mentioned but I have a feeling was not unrelated to his concern that he was about to be attacked and that he had to prepare something…
Almost nobody, including even these excellent books, I’m not sure if anyone has raised the question for 1983, given that Andropov had reason to fear… Well, he had reason to fear Reagan, who he thought was crazy, by the way, and who a lot of people in the country thought were crazy. Reagan almost brought forth the nuclear freeze movement to a large extent, made it important and brought a million people to Central Park to call for a bilateral nuclear weapons freeze precisely because they were as worried as Andropov about the way Reagan was talking about nuclear weapons. And so as you know, Andropov had the largest intelligence effort in history so far as we know, RYAN, R-Y-A-N or A-R-Y-N, for a nuclear surprise attack, to tell him whether the US was on the verge of a surprise attack. And Able Archer fed into that, came at the same time. Stanislav Petrov, false alarm on, I think it was September, the night of 26, 27, was right in that mood of fear of Andropov, that he was about to have a surprise attack, which is being raised right now as we know.
No one has asked, “And why was Andropov going to do with that information? What good was it for him to know that we were about to attack?” Whether it was tactical warning on the way, which is really pretty late to have an event or the kind of thing he was supposing. How many lights are on in the State Department at night? Are cars gathered together? He really wanted strategic warning before the missiles have launched. To what effect? Clearly for the same reason we would do it if we were afraid we were about to be attacked. Because Russia for long has imitated us in sharing the delusion that to strike first preemptively is less bad than to strike second, even if it’s horrible. Even quite recognizing that your preemptive first strike will be catastrophic. Why preempt? Because it might be less catastrophic than to strike second. Plausible and wrong, which we’ve known totally since 1983, the same year we’re talking about, which is by the way, the year of the Bishop’s pastoral letter on nuclear war, by the way.
But among other things, when Sagan and the others, including Russians, first published their findings on nuclear winter, which made it clear that within a year it wouldn’t have made any difference which one went first. Nearly everyone would be gone from the effect, which I won’t go into, if smoke lofted into the stratosphere, which would kill all the crops. And it wouldn’t kill everybody right away. They would die slowly and horribly as in India in the 19th century from famine. Not the best way to die. We all know people our age, there are better and worse ways to die, and starving to death first watching your children do it and then the older people and then your own people is not actually the best way to die. And the people who, as Herman Kahn used to say, “Will the living envy the dead?” Yeah. Why not?
The people who are at ground zero will have been lucky. Absolutely no question about it. So, Andropov again was readying himself and thanks to Stanislav Petrov, whom I was in touch with… I got a message through to Stanislav Petrov. “How sure were you that it was a false alarm?” And the message got back to me through an intermediary, “50/50.” And I don’t think he meant just 50/50, something uncertain. I think he in the context meant about 50/50. Like a flip of a coin. One of the things that influenced him was, as you know, that the ground-based radar was not yet confirming what the satellite warning was telling him. So, he had one system telling him there was an attack, another system telling him there might not be. He knew that in that period, if he had said truthfully, “It’s 50/50,” well, it wouldn’t go straight to Andropov, but the several levels above him were all cocked and poised.”If there’s a 50% chance, do it.” And to what effect, as I say? It’s insane. This was 1983. Granted they didn’t know about nuclear winter, but as far as the northern hemisphere was concerned, Russia, US, West Europe, East Europe, parts of India, annihilated. The northern hemisphere pretty much, even though they didn’t know about nuclear winter yet. Later that year. Okay. So, the US, as Patrick was saying, has been cocked in this way since the beginning of the Strategic Air Command. And that goes before the Russians had a nuclear weapon. It was first strike only. There was no first strike. There would be no second strike. We had a monopoly. And the idea was ever since to this day, what is being rehearsed right now? I mean recently, with these two nuclear exercises in Russia and here. Well, in theory, answering an attack. To what effect?
Insane. But actually in practice, if you have some warning, go first. And it’s Patrick was saying, that is the danger in this. There’s two dangers. One danger is that one tactical weapon goes off, we don’t respond. That’s fine. I’m glad they’re thinking that way. And we do something catastrophic, Biden has promised. We do something catastrophic to a nuclear power that has just used a nuclear weapon. So, what do they do to the catastrophic thing that we just answer that with? Give up? Surrender? I don’t think that’s the mood that leads one to initiate the first nuclear weapon in combat since Nagasaki. So, they send another one or five or six or seven. What do you do then? And what do you do when there’s an exchange of tactical weapons? It could end. That’s why Putin is doing it. It could shock people into negotiations that he can’t get any other way that would give him terms that he can accept, Putin.
And that, as I’ve known from studying a lot of different conflicts, when a leader in a desperate situation, and this is not just military but all kinds of things, feels that there is only one way to get out of this, it happens to be a very risky way that might be disastrous, but it might get you out of this situation, it’s the only thing that would, they do it. That’s how you get catastrophes. That’s how catastrophes happen. That’s in my study. I won’t give more examples of that. But the current situation then is, yes, it is possible that Putin would do what he’s threatening to do. Put me in a situation where I’m losing, and losing what? Losing Russia. Losing what used to be called the Donbas. Luhansk and Donetsk used to be Ukraine, but now it’s Russian. So, what if I’m about to be losing the territorial integrity of Russia?
The only way I can stop this, not win, not get Kyiv, he knows he won’t get Kyiv out of this, but the only way I can get into negotiations where I keep the Donbas in Crimea is to shock these people into fear. And it could work. That’s why he might do it. And he thinks that even if it was unrealistic. Then you get in a situation where both sides believe totally falsely that if this thing is going to explode or it’s going to escalate, better to go first. It’s untrue. It is as untrue as curing COVID with bleach. And yet both sides are preparing to do that. So, here is where we are. If I may just draw something from this on what to do. Obviously the situation that we have led in creating for the last 70 years is, as Kennedy once put it, “intolerable,” after the Cuban Missile Crisis.”You can’t have a rational world with the existence of nuclear weapons,” he concluded. And if he’d lived, who knows? If he’d been allowed to live, who knows what might have come about? We have failed. All of us, who’ve been working our lives on this. I’m looking at several people who I know personally spending their lives on this. We have failed to get any one of our presidents to say that they will not initiate nuclear war under any circumstances. Now, of course they’ve talked about eliminating weapons. Article Six. Bullshit. That has never entered the mind of our president in my lifetime, and I’m 91, eliminating nuclear weapons. No first use has been discussed. Obama discussed it. Biden said that he would go for it in his campaign.
No. We will not hear that as of now without some kind of change here in the situation from Biden, although he could afford in Europe easily to say it. We were the ones who always said, “NATO is based on first use,” as it still is. But that was because Russia, the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union, were believed to have overwhelming power, conventional power. That’s totally shifted. The Warsaw Pact, except for Russia, has shifted sides. It’s now on NATO. In fact, it’s in NATO. And except for Ukraine and Georgia and Moldova. So, we don’t have to threaten first use. No. We have legitimized for 70 years that a nuclear power, power with nuclear weapons, faced with conventional defeat, has a right and expectation of initiating nuclear war. That’s been our policy forever.So, here’s a question. How many nations is it, 120 or more, that have signed the Treaty for Prevention of Nuclear War saying it is criminal to possess a nuclear weapon, let alone to threaten it? And 60 is it who’ve ratified that? No ally of ours or Russia or China, but 60 nations. Why aren’t we hearing from 120 nations that have signed the TPNW, Treaty for Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons? Putin’s current threats are criminal, immoral, insane,. Catastrophic, absolutely unacceptable. Why aren’t we saying it? Well, that answers itself because we’ve been making those threats for 70 years.
So, we’re not in a position to say it. We were in a position to say, “You won’t like it.” It’ll be, quote, “very, very serious.” In fact, it’ll be catastrophic. Exactly what he has in mind there is not too clear. Let’s say a huge conventional attack on Russia, which Russia is supposed to accept without conflict. Okay, so we’re not saying it. Why isn’t the rest of the world saying that? Our allies? Well, they’re demanding first use. It’s come up just recently. They say, “No, no, you can’t say no first use. Our whole defense is based on this.” And then Poland and the Baltics and so forth. Yeah, we really have a problem. We want to have the same assurance that Berlin had. And that worked for West Berlin, which it did actually, at the cost of building two doomsday machines, which is where we are now, each on a hair trigger, each ready to preempt.
We did succeed in keeping Russians from walking into West Berlin, but this was the price, to assure that we’re not only making first use threats, but we will back them up by a willingness to preempt if necessary. So, that’s how you get it. Okay. I just come back to the point. Who is it? It isn’t Putin. It didn’t start with Putin. Who is it who has normalized the idea of nuclear first use threats to the fact that we’re not hearing from hardly anybody in the UN who has signed that treaty, that this is intolerable and it’s criminal and you can’t do it? Okay, let me finish up with this thought.
Okay, let me finish up with this thought. How do I do it? Eliminating nuclear weapons is essential for our survival. It is not going to happen this year, it’s not going to happen next winter, and it’s not going to happen the next year. During which, day by day, we are facing the risk that Patrick Mazza laid out, and Arjun laid out for me. Arjun has been not only a friend for these many years, but a mentor and the first person to add to the list of nuclear first-use threats that I put out. I was following Dick Barnett, Sydney Lenz ? and others who were talking about nuclear threats. I made a list of them. Arjun was the first person to add to that list. And then Joe Gerson added some more, and some other people. There are just several dozen now first-use threats by the US.
Biden is not going to say first-use. Though he’s not talking about it at this moment, he’s not going to say no first-use now, because he’s relying on that to keep the Chinese out of Taiwan, who we used to have conventional superiority there until 20 years ago when we used it under Clinton and sent carriers into the Taiwan Straits. They built up conventionally. Now they have conventional superiority. Who will be making first-use threats if there’s a conflict over Taiwan? Biden is not going to give that up. He would be accused by both parties. The Democrats are being as hawkish on China and Taiwan, and Ukraine, more hawkish than the Republicans on Ukraine, and as hawkish on China, all of them. Ro Khanna, Ed Markey. Everyone. Nancy Pelosi, obviously. But all the progressives are saying, “Got to defend Taiwan to the [end. And how are you going to do that? By giving up your first-use threat that you’ve been making all these years? I don’t think so.
But how about the rest of us? We don’t have to go along with that. The progressives who backed away from the talk of negotiation and ceasefire this last week, my God, it’s really an ominous situation. These people, Ro Khanna, Ilhan Omar, the others couldn’t do it, couldn’t keep up with it. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez can’t manage to talk about negotiation or concession in this situation.
We’re in a very dangerous situation. And if we keep trying to win as Zelinskyy and Biden and everybody else, of course, Boris Johnson earlier, Liz Truss, everybody, has said we’ve got to do is thrust every Russian out of the Donbas and out of Crimea. We might get close to doing that. And what could be more dangerous?So, at least we can say, we can start telling the truth about this situation. And here’s the truth that I have never said, I haven’t allowed myself to. It’s just this. Reagan talked in 1983, one and two and three, about evil empires. He was talking about Russia, Soviet Union. Every empire does evil. Every empire does evil. The US is not exceptional in that respect. Look at the first-use threats we were making. Look at what Biden is doing right now in Yemen and the genocidal attacks for which we are supporting day by day in… We don’t see the photographs, but they’re happening, all right, in Russia.
My country, the United States of America, is an evil-doing empire. It’s an evil-doing empire and has been that for a long time. And Russia, as Jackie was saying so very well earlier today, of course, the same is true of the aggression and the massacres that are being done in Ukraine right now. And in effect, we’ve got two assholes who are holding the entire world hostage at this moment, and for their own staying in office, their own… Zelinskyy, I’m sure, if he changed his tune right now, he would be killed, probably. So, he’s really on the spot. He’s not just going to lose his job, which he would, if he talks about concessions. I’m pretty sure he thinks he would be killed.
Well, you could say, “Well, all right, shouldn’t he be willing to risk that under these circumstances?” And the answer is, “And who would replace him?” Somebody else and so forth. Who will replace Putin? Somebody better?
So, it’s possible to say it is outrageous and it has always been outrageous. And many of us here have been saying this, as Jackie points out, for decades and generations, what we have done for half a century or more is outrageous, criminal, immoral, insane, and what the others are doing, what Russia is doing right now is the same. The other states, all but China, I’ll give you a little secret, all but China say first-use.
And here’s a little secret I learned about 20 years ago. China excludes Taiwan from its no first-use policy. That’s an internal matter that’s part of China. I was told this by a Chinese high level guy, “Oh no, no, no. Taiwan, we might use nuclear weapons first on.” Wonderful. Anyway, the time has come. We cannot wait for the elimination of nuclear weapons to say what you are threatening and preparing to do is absolutely outrageous criminal and wrong. And all we can do is say it Last, Arjun held up a thing about the Indian famine in the 19th century, one of the many. I was reading about that today because, of course, there’s a book named by Mike Davis called Late Victorian Holocausts. And I’m sure he mentioned that particular famine as part of that.
PART 3 OF 4 ENDS [01:36:04]
The pictures are from his book, right?
He died the night before yesterday. He’s been in care for cancer for years actually. But four or five months ago, he was told you have six months to live. That ended the night before last. And practically his last words, the last words of the last interview that Mike Davis gave, which I saw because of his death obituaries yesterday, were, “Despair is useless.” Now, you can’t argue with that. Despair is useless. Nothing else may work, nothing else, but he says you fight against what’s wrong, you tell the truth when you can and love each other. And that’s what we have to do.
None of us… I don’t know who else can, but I can’t certainly say I [have done everything I could to avoid this moment, or that I’ve done enough to do it. I have never felt that. And of course right now, what can one say? But it is true, despair is useless, and the miracle you can put off is holocaust and its new era of limited nuclear war that may proceed the ultimate catastrophe.
If he uses, uses a nuclear weapon. I’ll tell you, I believe Putin probably won’t blow the world up. We’re too poised against that at the top. They know about that. But it will almost inevitably lead to an era of proliferation or other people say now these things, you can actually carry out the threats, so now we can make more threats. Whatever happens in Putin, Russia’s threats of its thousands nuclear weapons, or 400 or whatever they have operational, are now more potent than they were before. The US also makes the threats, deter the threats, lead the weapons, then we’ll have a world in which there isn’t just the Hiroshima here or there. The Hiroshimas happen all around. That’s the new face of war, and that’s bad enough. And then the preemption happens. So, let’s tell the truth. And we have heard some remarkable truths today. I want to read them all, and I thank you all for being at it. They’re at it, so we’ve got to be at it and keep at it. And I really… This has been a wonderful session.
Thank you, Dan. The photographs are from Mike Davis’ book. Such sad news. He permitted me to use them. They are from… The photographs I showed are from Mike Davis’ book.
Was that from his book?
Yeah, he permitted me to use them. Yeah.
Thank you, Dan. So, the Hibakusha say that if nuclear weapons are ever used again in war, they will be impossible to contain. And Dan, you know a lot more than I do about this, but I know a little bit, and I know that there’ve been a number of war games over the years, and especially in the last say 10 years, 15 years. And to my knowledge, virtually every war game that’s been planned out where nuclear weapons are used, it has escalated to, more or less, all out war. So, I think that if any expectation that the use of nuclear weapons in war can be contained, it’s not realistic. Our demand needs to be the abolishment of nuclear weapons, because statistically speaking, as long as they’re there, they will be used.
But demand we should make, if I may say, to reduce the risks this month and next month. And they really have been hearing eliminate nuclear weapons. Remember, that was UN resolution number one.
Number one, United Nation. That’s right, right at the… Going all the way back.
That was 77 years ago. And when it comes now, I think yes, of course they eliminate nuclear weapons. Yes, absolutely. And meanwhile, before they’re eliminated, I think we have to absolutely delegitimate what is just possible. Eliminating them, I’m going to say nearly everything I do, try to do, is impossible, but there are levels of impossibility. And eliminating nuclear weapons is not going to happen before Christmas, and that’s not coming anymore than Santa Claus is coming. No, first-use is very unlikely also, but at least we can say right now, what you are saying and doing right now is absolutely unacceptable. And one last… I’m sorry, I keep saying that. I know. I had to go off the screen here right when we first started without expecting, because I got a phone call from Daniel Hale in Marion Prison, and he’s there for 44 months. I was asking him… We had 15 minutes as usual, and he calls me about every week. And I said, “How much more do you have to go?”
And he said, “20 months.” He said, “I’ll get out just before the election.” I said, “Well, I hope we’ll have a world here. We probably will.” We may well have used nuclear weapons before that time. I do think that’s a real possibility. Somebody said here, Arjun, was it, what’s the risk of nuclear war? No, I think it was Patrick. Who knows? Right. Who knows? Good. Good point. It’s not zero, we know that, but putting it off is not zero either. And Daniel Hale is guy who revealed the posity producing process of our drone situation. He’s spending 40 months in prison as a result of that, revealing that. But I urge you all, if you want to feel hope, read Daniel Hale’s statement to the judge at sentencing in 2019, if you haven’t read it. Probably most of you have. It will give you hope.
Because here’s what I said to Daniel. I said, “Daniel, I’ve been telling everybody to read that statement of yours for the sentencing.” I said, “My pieces for hope is that you exist and other people, not enough, and not even a lot proportionately to the world, like you exist.” That’s our hope. And it’s not a vain hope that’s possible. It’s not impossible. Nuclear war is not impossible, and averting it is not impossible. That’s where we are.
Okay, thank you Daniel. So, we’re coming up on the time when we said we were going to end the program, but I don’t want to cut everybody off. So, let’s plan to run about 15 minutes over, which gives us another 20 minutes. But before I open it up, I’d like Dennis Nelson just to say a few words, Dennis. Dennis has been a member of our committee for many years. He and his wife, Denise, have devoted their lives to supporting radiation survivors worldwide. And I referred earlier to Rosalie Betel. She wrote a book called No Immediate Danger, and I think she talked about 10 to 20 million nuclear victims worldwide. Many of them were indigenous, the people in Algeria and Marshall Islands and Tahiti and the Aboriginals in Australia, regarding the weapons testing, we have the downwinders, like Dennis’s hometown of St. George, Utah, Cedar City, Utah, the Kazakhs, and on and on and on and on and on. And we need to remember those victims when we’re talking about the threat of nuclear war. For Dennis and the Hibakusha around the world, it’s not a threat, it’s a daily reality.
So Dennis, would you say a few words? Then what we’ll do, in about three or four minutes, we’re going to open it up to some short comments or questions, but we’re only going to take about 15 minutes. So Dennis, could you say a few words to the group?
Thank you, John. As you mentioned, I did grow up in St. George, Utah. I was born in 1943, and so I was seven years old in 1951 when the first fallout clouds came over my hometown. Later, I found out that they were directed in our direction because we were considered a “low use segment of the population” and they didn’t really want to irradiate people in Las Vegas or Los Angeles or other major population centers. There were only about 4,500 people in my hometown in the 1950s. And over the many years of testing in Nevada, I was able to see the flashes over my hometown. The sky behind the mountains to the west would light up like a flash bulb, even though it was a hundred, maybe 110 or 120 miles away. The fallout came over our town repeatedly and it had some major effects. And later on when I examined the archives and read up about the things that had been declassified, I realized that they knew all about the effect of radiation.
They knew that it was going to cause an effect, but it was not going to be immediate. It was going to take a while for it to actually show up. And so they figured they could get away with it if they just kept it secret. And so when thousands of sheep died near the test site in 1953, after the “Dirty Harry” shot, the sheepmen blamed fallout for the sheep deaths. Later they sued the Goverment in Federal Court to recover damages for their losses. They lost the case, however, because the Government attorneys obstructed justice by classifying and hiding from the court vital documents about experiments that had been conducted on sheep using “artificial fallout” extracted from spent irradiated fuel at the Hanford site. The Government attorneys argued that “poor range conditions” were responsible for the deaths and that there was no effect from fallout. Without the Hanford data the court ruled in favor of the Government. The sheepmen received no compensation at all.
Years later, when the Hanford documents were made public it was apparent that the “artificial fallout” data from the reactors at Hanford had exactly the same effects on sheep as those seen in sheep exposed to bomb fallout. The trial Judge Sherman Christensen later remarked that the Government attorneys had “perpetrated a fraud on his court.” The two principals who orchestrated the cover-up in that trial were Warren Burger, who was a employee in the Civil Division of the Justice Department, and Richard Nixon, who was then Vice President. These two conspired to hide those critical reports from the court. Because the plaintiff’s attorneys weren’t able to see the reports, they couldn’t show that the radiation was actually the cause of these symptoms. And thousands of these sheep died, many of them just after birth. So, that was the first instance of the US lying about the effects of fallout on the US populations and their environment. Later Nixon, as President, appointed Burger as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court where he recused himself, in the decision to hear an appeal of a class action case brought by human fallout victims. Judge Bruce Jenkins awarded damages to 13 types of cancer victims; but the judgement was overturned by the appellate court in Denver on the basis of a discretionary function exception in the Federal Torts Claims Act, which states that if the Government harms its people deliberately it cannot be held responsible. The decision by the Burger court not to hear the case let the lower court ruling stand; and once again the victims got nothing.
Then over the years, my parents both died, and two of my siblings died, all of cancer, seven different kinds of cancer. Nothing consistent, but it was all cancer and it was all as a result of the fallout. In fact, just two years ago, I was diagnosed with lymphoma, and you can see the depression in my forehead where the lymphoma, which originated in my sinus, actually grew through my skull and out into my forehead. That cancer was treated with chemotherapy and immunotherapy. And I’m still alive at age 79, but I lost a father at 62, a mother at 47, a sister at 40, and a brother at 69, all of cancer and their average age at death was 53. So, that’s what really happens when you have bombs tested in the atmosphere; which a nuclear war would do, spread fallout all over everything and there’s no containing it. Government officials even said, when asked; “Who’s responsible for protecting us against your fallout?” And they replied; “Oh, there’s nothing to worry about” and besides; “It’s the responsibility of the head of household to protect his family from fallout.” So, the government was disingenuous. They lied. They killed their own. And it was the politicians who thought that they knew better, and that 70 years worth of nuclear deterrence was worth the loss of a few thousand, 10,000, or a hundred thousand people.
Unfortunately, the site selection of the nuclear test site in Nevada impacted my family disproportionately; but it also impacted the entire United States; and there’ve been, I think, millions of deaths, premature deaths, in the United States from radiation due to that testing. So, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. The numerous severe health effects of radiation contamination of the enviroment have been grossly misrepresented by our Government agents.
Thank you Dennis. So, we’re going to open it up for questions. We got about another 15 minutes, so questions and comments. Steven has his hand up. On mute.
Well, thank you. It’s Steven Sondheim. I so enjoyed this, especially everybody including Daniel. I’m starting to propose in a chat, and I wasn’t finished, I’m thinking of a negotiated settlement that’s win-win. And I’m thinking when you back somebody into a corner, like Putin, or even Zelenskyy, they’re not going to give in. But what I’m thinking is that Putin needs a way out where he can save face. And one of the ways out would be a negotiated settlement where the people in Ukraine, the “Russian people” who I think have been bothered or persecuted, are given essential rights and protections in a way that makes Putin look good, like he got something, he got assurances, but also allows Ukraine to keep its territories. And something like that could be negotiated by, I’ll stop in a minute, by a third party with no stakes, and possibly could be reinforced by the UN. I’m looking for a way that makes Putin feel like he has a way out and doesn’t ask Ukraine to give up territory. Just a suggestion. Okay, thank you. Thank you.
Dat, your next.
Yeah, I have a question for Dan Ellsberg. So, what would improve our chances of surviving until Christmas or the next few months? Right now, the US is maintaining a policy of strategic ambiguity. In other words, keep putting guessing as to what the US reaction would be, should Putin use a nuclear weapon. Let’s propose an alternative. If the US were to say right now that if Russia uses a nuclear weapon, the US will not respond, or
will not respond with a nuclear weapon, which of these two options would deter or lower the risk of Putin using a nuclear weapon?
You were asking me, I’m sorry.
Yes, that’s your question, Dan.
Okay. I have to admit, as you may have guessed here, I’m not hearing too well and I missed quite a bit of that, but I think, let me address that briefly, at least what I did here, if I may. As I said, well, I think it’s extremely undesirable for Putin to use that nuclear weapon, even though I do not… John and I are having this little argument here. I don’t think the odds are anything like certain or nearly certain that he would blow up the world. But at best, it would be a new era. And there’s a good sizable possibility, yes, that it would escalate all the way, just not a certainty, I think, but that would be a world we don’t want to be in. And I think that the 30 or so people in Congress who tentatively suggested that we should be exploring negotiations with this aggressor, murderous aggressor, as we were in Iraq… Remember the role that Biden played on the seventh Foreign Race Committee to get us into Iraq by removing witnesses from the hearings, and that were opposed to the war at that point.
Actually, we haven’t killed nearly… They haven’t killed nearly as many people in Ukraine yet, as in Iraq. And that was as much aggression as this, both criminal aggression. So, the two criminal aggressors I think should be talking and exploring how to stop, as quickly as possible, Russians from shooting at Ukrainians with… Now, let me admit, by the way, a real uncertainty here, today, tomorrow, this week. Do you really… Just to say, I’ve been chewing on this. Do you really tell the Ukrainians who may be taking Kherson finally to stop even before they take Kherson, which may be taken? That’s really hard one, but it’s not going to happen within a day or so anyway, so we’ll know whether it’s a or Ukrainian victory in Kherson or stalemate within a week, I would guess pretty much. But in terms of a cease fire, how can you suggest, and Zelenskyy cannot afford with his life to suggest this, that you go back to pre February 24th of this year, go back to the situation that existed then before…
How can you suggest? There’s been aggression, there’s been… And the answer is because it isn’t just Ukrainians, and it isn’t just Americans, and isn’t just Russians who are threatened at this point. The entire world is. Not every human, 98%, probably, according to Alan Robock and others, not everybody dies in nuclear winter. Some people live, in New Zealand on seafood and in Australia, but over 5 billion die, like as in India, except for the lucky ones who are vaporized immediately. For their sake, you don’t pursue the degree of humiliation that would be involved in trying to thrust every Russian out of Crimea and out of the Donbas. And the Ukrainians may go, “No, no, we’re on the way.” Sorry about that, but that is a recipe, not just for endless war, but for likely escalation, and that is not tolerable to the world.
So, all I’m saying is what they said about pursuing cease fire and negotiations, which will involve concessions and finding out what concessions will end this, is a demand we should be making. And I think that answers your question. On the good side, today I saw, for the first time in my lifetime, or since 45, the following words in the New York Times, no one in the administration is for replying to a nuclear weapon with a nuclear response. Now, they’ve hinted at that for the last day or two. Pardon me, but that has never been said in 50 years by practically anybody in any situation. They hit you with a nuclear weapon, you don’t respond to a nuclear weapon. There is a degree of sanity, which both sides have been showing up to some extent. Putin has not attacked the transportation sites in Poland, Romania, and elsewhere that, as he said, are legitimate targets in pursuit of aggression, which he doesn’t regard as aggression.