Douglas Roche: UN Meeting Offers Chance for Disarmament Progress

This op-ed originally appeared in Embassy magazine, September 11, 2013

UN Meeting Offers Chance for Disarmament Progress

EMBASSY, Wednesday, September 11, 2013

An unprecedented high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament will be held at the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 26.

For the first time in the 68-year history of the UN, heads of government or at least foreign ministers will devote their attention to “the complete elimination of nuclear weapons” as “essential to remove the danger of nuclear war.”

Though the UN resolution setting up the meeting was adopted nearly unanimously, the United States, United Kingdom and France abstained (Russia and China voted yes). Given this lack of enthusiasm by the three Western nuclear powers, what is this special meeting likely to achieve?

With world attention riveted on Syria, nuclear disarmament does not rate high in polls of public concerns. But as Syria showed with the actual use of chemical weapons, public outrage will skyrocket if an aggressor ever launches a nuclear device of some sort. Every informed observer knows that the only guarantee against the use of nuclear weapons is the complete elimination of all 17,000 of such weapons still remaining.

While the international spotlight has been on Iran’s nuclear program and North Korea’s testing of nuclear weapons, the heart of the nuclear weapons problem remains the intransigence of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, the same five original members of the nuclear weapons club, who each possess a veto and who could not agree on Syria.

Even though calls for nuclear disarmament escalated through the years, the nuclear weapons states have consistently dodged any real efforts for nuclear disarmament. This year alone, they boycotted a Norway government conference attended by 127 states on the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences” of the use of nuclear weapons, and ignored three special inter-government meetings in Geneva called to do preparatory work for negotiating the end of nuclear weapons.

The US and Russia have engaged in bilateral rounds of reductions, but the trumpeting of lower numbers has masked their continued modernization of warheads, delivery systems and infrastructure. The 2013 Yearbook of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute states that the nuclear weapons powers, which continue to deploy new nuclear weapons and delivery systems, “appear determined to retain their nuclear arsenals indefinitely.”

A double standard has deeply conflicted NATO, which continues to claim that the possession of nuclear weapons provides the “supreme guarantee” of the security of its 26 member states. At one and the same time, the NATO states reaffirm their commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty goal of nuclear disarmament and their NATO dependence on nuclear weapons.

The policies are incoherent. The US, UK and France drive NATO and have made it the world’s biggest nuclear-armed alliance. The continued deployment of US tactical nuclear bombs on the soil of Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Turkey, though resisted by growing numbers of people in those countries, is a standing provocation to Russia, which is consequently disinclined to lower its own huge numbers of tactical nuclear weapons. Russia is unlikely to give up its nuclear weapons while it is virtually surrounded by an expanding NATO.

US-Russia bilateral negotiations for deeper cuts are stalled over such issues as the US’s proposed missile defence system in Europe, the militarization of space, and the US intention to militarily dominate air, land, sea, space and cyberwarfare. Nuclear disarmament is inevitably caught up in geopolitical tensions. US President Barack Obama, who in 2009 convened the first Security Council meeting devoted to the issue, has tried to move nuclear disarmament forward, but received little support from his allies.

Maybe the nuclear powers won’t do much at the extraordinary meeting on Sept. 26, but this is definitely an opportunity for non-nuclear weapons states to make their views heard. They should demand that the long-awaited Middle East conference on removing all weapons of mass destruction from the region take place. Had this preventive diplomacy action been taken in a timely manner, the Syrian crisis might never have erupted.

In 2008, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon suggested that the international community start work on a nuclear weapons convention or a framework of instruments to achieve a nuclear weapons-free world. This work would amount to a global legal ban on all nuclear weapons.

This brings us to Canada’s role at the Sept. 26 meeting. In 2010, both the Senate and the House of Commons unanimously adopted a motion calling on the government of Canada to support Ban Ki-moon’s proposals and to launch “a major worldwide Canadian diplomatic initiative in support of preventing nuclear proliferation and increasing the rate of nuclear disarmament.”

This Parliamentary action was spurred by a campaign by members of the Order of Canada, now numbering 700, who signed an appeal for the government to act on building a global ban on nuclear weapons. Many parliamentarians and Order of Canada members have united in calling on Canada to host a meeting in Ottawa of like-minded states to push this work forward. The Middle Powers Initiative, a civil society organization working with middle power states on this issue, convened such a meeting in Berlin earlier this year.

Canada has an opportunity on Sept. 26 to make an important contribution to the verified elimination of nuclear weapons, before the world experiences another crisis over weapons of mass destruction. It should be remembered that Foreign Minister John Baird was, at the time, the government house leader who pushed through Parliament the unanimous motion calling for action.

Former Senator Douglas Roche, author of How We Stopped Loving the Bomb, is working on a new book on world peace issues, to be published in early 2014.


Brief history of International Humanitarian Law, Nuclear Weapons, and the Canadian Government

At the 2010 Review Conference on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the delegates agreed on text considered somewhat progressive that read as follows:

“v. The Conference expresses its deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian  consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and reaffirms the need for all States at all times to comply with applicable international law, including international humanitarian law.”

Information on the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) rules can be found at the International Committee of the Red Cross website and are summarized in Appendix A.

In February, 2011, the Vancouver Declaration was developed with the input of a conference in Vancouver, Canada, organized by The Simons Foundation and the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms. Signed by eminent experts in international law and diplomacy, the Vancouver Declaration affirms that nuclear weapons are incompatible with international humanitarian law, the law stating what is universally prohibited in warfare. The declaration observes that with their uncontrollable blast, heat, and radiation effects, nuclear weapons are indeed weapons of mass destruction that by their nature cannot comply with fundamental rules forbidding the infliction of indiscriminate and disproportionate harm. ….[T]he declaration concludes by calling on states to commence and conclude negotiations on the global prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons as mandated by the legal obligation unanimously proclaimed by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 1996. An annex to the declaration specifying  the applicable law states: “It cannot be lawful to continue indefinitely to possess weapons which are unlawful to use or threaten to use, are already banned for most states, and are subject to an obligation of elimination.” (Excerpted from Media Release from the conference.)

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Council of Delegates Resolution 1 of 2011 regarding nuclear weapons:

In 2011, the ICRC Council of Delegates passed an historic Resolution 1 calling for action on nuclear weapons. The Council’s resolution:

“1. emphasizes the incalculable human suffering that can be expected to result from any use of nuclear weapons, the lack of any adequate humanitarian response capacity and the absolute imperative to prevent such use;

  1. finds it difficult to envisage how any use of nuclear weapons could be compatible with the rules of international humanitarian law, in particular the rules of distinction, precaution and proportionality;
  2. appeals to all States:
    • to ensure that nuclear weapons are never again used, regardless of their views on the legality of such weapons,
    • -to pursue in good faith and conclude with urgency and determination negotiations to prohibit the use of and completely eliminate nuclear weapons through a legally binding international agreement, based on existing commitments and international obligations,…”

Norway then decided to hold a conference in 2013 on the Impact of Humanitarian Law on Nucleqr Weapons. Many states, including Canada, attended. We have not as yet been provided with a copy of Canada’s statement at that meeting.

In the ICRC news release published just prior to the Oslo conference, they commented:

“The sheer number of people likely to be in need of help would be enormous. The challenges involved in bringing relief to survivors in the aftermath of a nuclear explosion would be immense,” said ICRC President Peter Maurer. “To name only a few, humanitarian agencies would need to organize the triage, treatment and possible decontamination of very large numbers of injured victims, many of them severely burned, and their transfer out of affected areas. There would also be significant concerns about the safety of those providing assistance and the risk associated with their exposure to ionizing radiation.”

These points were raised in a study of the ICRC’s capacity, and that of other agencies, to assist victims of nuclear, radiological, biological and chemical weapons. The study concluded that it is highly unlikely that the massive investments required to expand the capability to provide effective relief would ever be made and, if they nevertheless were made, they would likely remain inadequate. This finding should not, however, discourage efforts to meet the challenges and to be in a position to provide as much assistance as possible.

The  ICRC’s Information Note is a major statement on absence of assistance should such a disaster occur.

Online you can find the Chairperson’s summary of the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons (conference), Oslo, 4 – 5 March 2013 wherein these “key points can be discerned”:

  • It is unlikely that any state or international body could address the immediate humanitarian emergency caused by a nuclear weapon detonation in an adequate manner and provide sufficient assistance to those affected. Moreover, it might not be possible to establish such capacities, even if it were attempted.
  • The historical experience from the use and testing of nuclear weapons has demonstrated their devastating immediate and long-term effects. While political circumstances have changed, the destructive potential of nuclear weapons remains.
  • The effects of a nuclear weapon detonation, irrespective of cause, will not be constrained by national borders, and will affect states and people in significant ways, regionally as well as globally.

South Africa has been working since the Oslo Conference to build consensus on a summary statement on IHL and Nuclear weapons. Their statement was read April 24, 2013 in the NPT Preparatory Committee meeting in Geneva. Eighty countries supported the statement but not Canada. However discouraging this might be, it is important to note that Canada did comment on IHL and nuclear weapons in two other statements.

As a member of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative, Canada’s views were part of a statement by that group presented by the Netherlands in this speech which included these comments:

“The members of the NPDI participated in the Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Weapons that took place in Oslo, Norway on March 4th and 5th 2013. The NPDI remains deeply the risk for humanity represented by the possibility that nuclear weapons could be used and by catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from their use. The discussions at the Conference illustrated once more the devastating immediate and long-term humanitarian weapon detonation. We welcome the offer of Mexico to convene a follow-up conference on this issue.”

And then again at the NPT  on April 25th, Amb. Golberg’s statement on behalf of Canada during the Cluster One debates included these comments:

“Canada shares the concern expressed in South Africa’s earlier statement about the humanitarian consequences that would result from the use of nuclear weapons. Canada welcomed the March 2013 conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons held Oslo, as an opportunity for valuable fact-based discussions on these consequences and on humanitarian preparedness for a nuclear weapons detonation. We welcome the offer of Mexico to convene a follow-up conference on this issue.”

Bev Delong
June 11,  2013

Appendix A.

Nuclear Weapons and Compliance with International Humanitarian Law and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

Charles J. Moxley Jr.,* John Burroughs,** and Jonathan Granoff



  1. Summary of the Main Rules of International Humanitarian Law

Applicable to Nuclear Weapons

The following is a summary of key rules of IHL applicable to nuclear and other weapons.

            The rule of distinction/discrimination prohibits the use of a weapon that cannot discriminate in its effects between military targets and noncombatant persons and objects. It is unlawful to

use weapons whose effects are incapable of being controlled and therefore cannot be directed against a military target. If the state cannot maintain such control over the weapon, it cannot ensure that such use will comply with the rule of discrimination and may not lawfully use the weapon.

The rule of proportionality prohibits the use of a weapon whose potential collateral effects upon noncombatant persons or objects would likely be disproportionate to the value of the

military advantage anticipated by the attack. The rule of proportionality requires that a state using a weapon be able to control the effects of the weapon. If the state cannot control such effects, it cannot ensure that the collateral effects of the attack will be proportional to the anticipated military advantage.

The rule of necessity provides that a state may only use such a level of force as is necessary to achieve the military objective of the particular strike. Any additional level of force is unlawful.

            The corollary rule of controllability provides that a state may not use a weapon if its effects cannot be controlled because, in such circumstances, it would be unable to believe that the particular use of the weapon would comply with the rules of distinction, proportionality, or necessity.

International law on reprisals provides, at a minimum, that a state may not engage in even limited violations of the law of armed conflict in response to an adversary’s violation of such law,

unless such acts of reprisal would meet requirements of necessity and proportionality and be solely intended to compel the adversary to adhere to the law of armed conflict. The reprisal must be necessary to achieve that purpose and proportionate to the violation against which it is directed. These requirements of necessity and proportionality for a lawful reprisal are analogous to the requirements of necessity and proportionality (discussed immediately below) for the lawful exercise of the right of self-defense.

A state’s right of self-defense is subject to requirements of necessity and proportionality under customary international law and the Charter of the United Nations. A state’s use of force in

the exercise of self-defense is also subject to the requirements of IHL, including the requirements of distinction, proportionality and necessity, and the corollary requirement of controllability.

            International law as to individual and command liability provides that military, government, and even private industrial personnel are subject to criminal conviction for violation of the

law of armed conflict if they knowingly or recklessly participate in or have supervisory responsibility over violators of the law of armed conflict. Such potential criminal liability of commanders extends not only to what the commanders knew but also to what they “should have known” concerning the violation of law.

Nuclear weapons convention

Nuclear weapons convention

Negotiation of an agreement among all states with nuclear weapons which will:
• define the process for eliminating nuclear weapons
• prohibit further development, stockpiling, use and threat of use

It is anticipated that many elements required to prohibit the development, production, testing, stockpiling, transfer, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons and provide for their elimination. will be negotiated within a Nuclear Weapons Convention.

Ambassadors to the United Nations have not started negotiations on a Convention as yet.
A model Convention has been drafted and filed at the United Nations. Commentary on this model Nuclear Weapons Convention (“mNWC”) can be found at:

The revised Model Nuclear Weapons Convention (UN/62/650) is now accessible in the six UN languages on the UN Documents website.

You can go directly to the following language versions:

· Arabic · Chinese · English · French · Russian · Spanish

For further information on the proposed Nuclear Weapons Convention, check out:
International Association of Lawyers against Nuclear Arms
and International Campaign Against Nuclear Arms

Steps to Abolition

How do we go about getting rid of nuclear weapons?

1. A legal obligation to ban nuclear weapons

2. An agreement to ban testing

3. An agreement to eliminate nuclear explosive materials

4. Nuclear weapons-free zones

5. Reductions in nuclear warheads

6. An agreed process for disarmament

7. No cheating

8. Negotiation of an agreement among all states which:

  • defines the process for eliminating nuclear weapons
  • prohibits further development, stockpiling, use and threat of use

9. Securing and destroying nuclear weapons and materials

10. Do you want more information?

11. Is momentum building for a global ban on nuclear weapons?

Building security without nuclear weapons

Strong arguments are being made to rid the world of the risk posed by reliance on nuclear deterrence.
We should adopt a mutual security policy based on Common Security principles.

The Palme Commission in 1989 proposed the concept of Common Security: “All states, even the most powerful, are dependent in the end upon the good sense and restraint of other nations.  Even ideological and political opponents have a shared interest in survival.  In the long run, no nation can base its security on the insecurity of others.  True security requires a cooperative effort, a partnership in the struggle against war.”

What are some “tools” of common security?

  • local-global democracy
  • human rights
  • social justice
  • economic development
  • environmental security
  • peaceful measures
  • “non-offensive” defence (NOD)

What are “Confidence and Security Building Measures” (CSBM)?

States wanting to improve their security can develop techniques of gradually developing confidence between themselves and states they perceive as threats.  During the Cold War,  the NATO and Warsaw Pact states agreed through the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) to participate in:

  • Annual mutual exchanges of military information
  • Consultation and cooperation re: unusual military activities
  • Cooperation re: hazardous incidents
  • Voluntary hosting of visits to dispel concerns about military activities
    • Visits to bases, academies, language facilities, conferences, sporting, cultural events
    • Joint military exercises and training
    • Mutual provision of experts
    • Prior notification of certain military activities
    • Observation of certain military activities
    • Sharing annual calendars of military activities
    • Communications (CSCE Communications Network)
    • Annual Implementation Assessment Meeting

Are there other security building processes?

  • Creation of Nuclear Weapons Free Zones (NWFZs) See the Opanal website and the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs website on NWFZs
  • Use of Preventive Diplomacy to avert violent conflicts
  • Reference of inter-state disputes to the International Court of Justice
  • Maintain peace in pre- or post-conflict regions through use of UN peacekeepers
  • The International Criminal Court enables prosecution of international criminals in cases of war crimes where their own country does not act, or where national prosecution is not believed to be fair and credible.
  • Intrusive inspection measures such as “Open Skies”: The “Open Skies” Treaty of 1992 allows states parties to conduct observation flights over each other’s territories and provides warning of surprise attack, reduces misperceptions and thereby promotes mutual confidence.
  • Conversion of industry and transfer of priorities; creation of new jobs in public infrastructure, climate sustainability sectors

Scholars, Studies and Reports proposing alternative security options:

The Account of Setsuko Thurlow, Survivor of Hiroshima

Order of Canada Citation for Setsuko Thurlow, C.M., Toronto, Ontario on October 26th 2007:

As a 13-year old schoolgirl, Setsuko Thurlow found herself in close proximity to the hypocentre of the atomic blast that rocked Hiroshima. A survivor of one of the most pivotal events in modern history, she displayed great courage and leadership, sharing her experiences in order to sensitize us to the consequences of armed conflict on civilian populations and to promote lasting peace. After relocating to Toronto, she joined forces with the mayors of Toronto, Hiroshima and Nagasaki to establish the Peace Garden in Nathan Phillips Square. Over the years, she has served with a number of organizations, including Voices of Women, the Canadian Council of Churches and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, continuing her journey from victim to activist.


Video link to Setsuko Thurlow telling her story: Youtube Video

As a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, I feel a powerful commitment to tell the story of Hiroshima. The survivors are getting old and passing away, leaving a smaller number of us. We feel it is imperative to tell the younger generation of that terrible dawn of the nuclear age. All of us are familiar with the scenes of devastation in New York following the terrorist attacks. But that devastation extended only several blocks. Imagine the devastation of an entire city.

When I sit down to write down my recollections of that time, I have to brace myself to confront my memories of Hiroshima. It is exceedingly painful to do this because I become overwhelmed by my memories of grotesque and massive destruction and death. My message could be painful to you as well, as I intend to be as open and honest as possible in sharing my experience and perceptions.

On August 6, 1945, I was a 13-year-old grade 8 student at Hiroshima Jogakuin and a member of The Student Mobilization Program. I was one of a group of 30 students assigned to help at the army headquarters. We were on the second floor of the wooden building about a mile from the hypocentre, about to start our first day of work. At 8:15 a.m., I saw a bluish-white flash like a magnesium flare outside the window. I remember the sensation of floating in the air. As I regained consciousness in the total silence and darkness, I realized I was pinned in the ruins of the collapsed building. I could not move. I knew I was faced with death. Strangely the feeling I had was not panic but serenity. Gradually I began to hear my classmates’ faint cries for help, “Mother, help me!”, “God, help me!” Then suddenly, I felt hands touching me and loosening the timbers that pinned me. A man’s voice said, “Don’t give up! I’m trying to free you! Keep moving! See the light coming through that opening. Crawl toward it and try to get out!” By the time I got out, the ruins were on fire. This meant that most of my classmates who were with me in the same room were burned alive. A solider ordered me and a few surviving girls to escape to the nearby hills.

I turned around and saw the outside world. Although it was morning, it looked like twilight because of the dust and smoke in the air. People at a distance saw the mushroom cloud and heard a thunderous roar. But I did not see the cloud because I was in it. I did not hear the roar, just the deadly silence broken only by the groans of the injured. Streams of stunned people were slowly shuffling from the city centre toward nearby hills. They were naked or tattered, burned, blackened and swollen. Eyes were swollen shut and some had eyeballs hanging out of their sockets. They were bleeding, ghostly figures like a slow-motion image from an old silent movie. Many held their hands above the level of their hearts to lessen the throbbing pain of their burns. Strips of skin and flesh hung like ribbons from their bones. Often these ghostly figures would collapse in heaps never to rise again. With a few surviving classmates I joined the procession carefully stepping over the dead and dying.

At the foot of the hill was an army training ground about the size of two football fields. Literally every bit of it was covered with injured and dying who were desperately begging, often in fain whispers, “Water, water, please give me water”. But we had no containers to carry water. We went to a nearby stream to wash the blood and dirt from our bodies. Then we tore off parts of our clothes, soaked them with water and hurried back to hold them to the mouths of the dying who desperately sucked the moisture. We kept busy at this task of giving some comfort to the dying all day. There were no medical supplies of any kind and we did not see any doctor or nurse. When darkness fell, we sat on the hillside, numbed by the massive scale of death and suffering we had witnessed, watching the entire city burn. In the background were the low rhythmic whispers from the swollen lips of the ghostly figures, still begging for water.

In the centre of the city were some 7,000 to 8,000 students from grades 7 and 8 who had been mobilized from all the high schools in the city to help clear fire lanes. Out in the open, close to the explosion, which was about one million degrees at the centre of the explosion 500 metres above the ground, nearly all of them were incinerated and were vaporized without a trace, and more died within days. In this way, my age group in the city was almost wiped out. My sister-in-law was a teacher supervising her students at this task. Although my father and I searched for days turning over dead and burned bodies, we never found her body. She left two little children as orphans.

Others were terribly burned but lived for several days or weeks. My sister and her four-year-old son were crossing a bridge at the moment of the explosion and both were horribly burned, blackened and swollen beyond recognition. We could later recognise my sister only by her voice and by a unique hair-pin in her hair. They lingered for several days without medical care of any kind until death at last released them from their agony. The image of my little nephew, Eiji representing the innocent children of the world, compels and drives me to continue to speak of Hiroshima, no matter how painful it may be. Soldiers threw their bodies in a ditch, poured on gasoline and threw a lighted match. They turned the bodies with bamboo poles, saying, “The stomach is not burned yet”, “The head is only half burned”. There I was, a 13-year-old girl, standing with my parents, witnessing the most grotesque violation of human dignity on my sister and little nephew with no tears or other appropriate emotional response. A friend of mine, Miss Sasaki, later told me of returning the next day to where her home had stood and finding the skeletons of her entire family and not being able to shed any tears. The memories of this kind of behaviour troubled me for many years until I studied the psychological reaction to massive trauma.

The unique and mysterious effect of the atomic bomb was radiation which affected many people. For example, my favourite uncle and aunt were in the suburbs and had no external injuries. But a couple of weeks later they began feeling sick with the appearance of purple spots on their bodies, nausea and loss of hair and so forth. We did not know then that the sickness was due to radiation. According to my mother who cared for them until their deaths, their internal organs seemed to be rotting and dissolving and coming out in a black liquid. Later we were told that if purple spots appeared on our bodies, this was a sure sign that we would soon die. Every morning, our routine was anxiously to examine our bodies for the dreaded purple spots.

My good friend, Muramoto Setsuko, was working on the fire lanes in the centre of the city with several thousand other high school students. She survived to tell us of the hell on earth she witnessed. As the twilight lightened, she was able to look around and find her classmates dead and dying around her. Those who were able to move crawled to
Miss Yonehara, our math teacher. Forming a circle they started singing in faint voices familiar hymns including “Nearer my God to Thee”. One by one the students took their last breath and died. The teacher who was herself close to death, helped the remainder to go to the Red Cross Hospital, telling them to lean on her shoulders. My friend told of putting a hand on her shoulder and feeling the skin and flesh peel off. The hospital proved to be full to overflowing, with patients lying on the floor and on the ground. The teacher died soon after but Muramoto San lived to return to school in October. Later she, too, died of radiation.

Thus my beloved city of 360,000, close to ninety percent of whom were women, children and the elderly, suddenly and totally became desolation, heaps of ashes and rubble, skeletons and blackened corpses. By the end of 1945, approximately 140,000 had perished. However, the effects of radiation continue down through the decades, even to the present. The tragic legacy of Hiroshima has been extended not only to the people of Nagasaki three days later, but to American, British and Australian soldiers, Pacific islanders, North American aboriginal people, downwinders, Russians and other people of the former USSR, wherever uranium mining, weapon testing and actual use of nuclear weapons have taken place.

In that sea of rubble, life for us was a daily struggle for sheer survival. Where possible, many people fled to relatives and friends all over Japan. But often they felt they had to hide their identity as survivors because people feared contamination from these radiation exposed survivors of Hiroshima who people at that time understood to have an infectious disease. Employers were cautious about the potential poor health of employees and people were fearful of marrying a radiation-exposed person who might produce deformed babies. For a long time the national government did not provide any assistance and survivors felt abandoned.

After we could adjust to our traumatic defeat and surrender, most of us began to feel a great sense of relief and liberation after 14 years of war from the oppression of our ultra-nationalistic and militaristic government and society. The US Occupation authorities introduced democracy and needed reforms in education, agriculture, women’s political and social rights, labour unions, corporate structures and so forth.

In contrast, however, the Occupation authorities imposed psycho-social political oppression on Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors. For example, within days of Japan’s formal surrender they introduced a Press Code in Japan. This permitted reporting on the technological triumph of the atomic bomb by the US but censored anything that might be considered to be criticism of the United States. The occupation authorities confiscated diaries, poems, photographs, movie film, medical specimens, slides for microscopes and doctors’ records on the treatment of radiation, some 32,000 items in all. Autopsies by Japanese doctors had to be done secretly in primitive conditions and the results passed from hand to hand under threat of prosecution. Because of this politically hostile milieu, survivors were deprived of the normal and needed grieving process following their massive trauma and had to repress their suffering in silence and isolation.

An additional injury to the psyche of the survivors was caused by the American establishment of the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Its mandate was solely to study the effects of radiation upon human beings but not to offer treatment even though thousands were suffering from inadequate medical care. The ABCC did not even share it findings with Japanese doctors who were trying to deal with the new and unknown medical problem without adequate knowledge. The survivors’ sense of outrage at twice being treated as guinea pigs had to be repressed because of Occupation policies.

With the return of full sovereignty to Japan in 1952, a flood of political, scientific, medical and historical information became available enabling researchers, scholars and journalist for the first time to see the experience of the survivors in historical perspective and global context. Gradually they became aware that the main motive for the atomic bombings was political to impress the Soviet Union and to force Japan to surrender before the Soviet Union could enter the war against Japan so that the US need not share the victory over Japan with the USSR. They did not see it as a military necessity as the American government claimed. The survivors saw themselves as pawns in the opening moves in the Cld War rather than as sacrifices on the altar of peace. Some survivors became able to conceptualize and articulate the meaning of nuclear weapons as a threat to planetary survival. This ability enabled them to transcend their own personal tragedies and empowered them to become committed to the mission of warning the world of the dangers of the nuclear age.

At about the same time, information became available about Japan’s crimes and atrocities in the war so that we no longer saw ourselves solely as victims but also as victimizers of our fellow Asians. We began to pressure the Japanese government to acknowledge Japan’s past crimes and atrocities during the war.

We were stunned and appalled by the US tests of hydrogen bombs in the Pacific. The biggest was in 1954 and resulted in an ecological disaster. A Japanese fishing boat was contaminated by radiation. The whole crew became sick, one fatally, and the catch had to be destroyed. Because of repeated testing of H-bombs, the fish industry, involving a staple Japanese food, was severely affected because of widespread fear of radioactive fish. In addition, the islanders of Bikini suffered from a variety of symptoms of radiation including deformed babies. They also lost their island as a habitable home.

On the cenotaph in the Peace Park in Hiroshima is an inscription which reads, “Rest in peace; the mistake will not be repeated”. This has become the prayer and vow of many survivors, who are determined to make sure that the deaths of loved ones has not been in vain and that no human being will ever have to repeat their fate. I am committed to share the warning of Hiroshima until my last breath.

Setsuko Thurlow, Toronto, February 2003.

Interview with Alan Phillips on ending launch on warning

An Introduction to No Launch on Warning
Robin Collins interviewed  Dr. Alan Phillips in Hamilton, Ontario, June 2003

Note that the phrases “the paper” or “my paper” below refer to the following papers:

The first is “No Launch on Warning” by Alan Phillips, available at: or by email from the or from Physicians for Global Survival.

A shorter version was made in collaboration with Steven Starr, called “Change Launch on Warning”. It is on several web sites including the CNANW page:

We have made several revisions and the latest is called “Alter Launch on Warning” and it will be placed on the CNANW web site.

Q1. How might an accidental nuclear war happen?

There have been many mistakes in the operation of nuclear deterrence — “mishaps”, as I’ve called them in my paper “20 Mishaps That Might Have Started an Accidental Nuclear War”. One was when all communications from the strategic headquarters to the radar stations quit. This was due to a very bad piece of design by which all the routes went through one relay station. There was a fire there which put that relay station out of action. The general in charge thought this must be deliberate sabotage or a nuclear strike at the distant early warning stations. That went to a very high level of alert. Bombers were actually at the point of taking off but didn’t.

Q2. Do the kind of problems that cause such incidents happen on a regular basis?

No, I think regularity is definitely not what you get in these weird accidents. The whole system is very complicated and nobody knows where in it some defect will show up, like the independent phone lines all going through one relay station. Very irregular. The dangers now are probably different. That was in the days of bombers and they would take off and it would probably be hours before the bombers would arrive. Now it is minutes, with rockets, and the big danger is of the satellite and radar warnings giving a false warning. It’s difficult to see just how that might happen but radar errors have been among the weirdest causes of alerts. One time they want on a high alert because the long distance radar for the first time picked up signals reflected from the moon. As soon as they realized what the range was, it clearly wasn’t an attack, but this actually put them on a high alert in the very early days. What might make them do so now is different — a computer glitch with just coincidentally a satellite glitch. Satellites have picked up heat that people have interpreted as a launch when they were due to an oil rig fire or something like that.

Q3. What’s the most recent known incident that almost resulted in a nuclear missile launch?

There’s a famous one, but the word “known” in your question is an important one, because we assume most silly accidents that happen to the military they keep quiet about – both to keep the public content, and to maintain the honour of their own unit, the fiction that their own unit never makes mistakes. So the known mishaps will probably be a small fraction of the mishaps that actually occurred. The last one that I know about, and that the general public knows about if they choose to read the stuff, was in 1995 on a day in January. The Norwegians, in cooperation with an American research team, were launching a rocket to explore the upper atmosphere regarding the aurora. They had told every country in the vicinity that they were launching this great rocket, which was an American rocket, on such-and-such a day at such-and-such a time. That message somehow didn’t get to the Russian military although it got to everyone else. When the Russian early warning people saw this rocket go up, it was interpreted as a possible attack on Moscow. The nuclear suitcase was handed to the president (who was then Yeltsin), switched on, ready to go. They had about eight minutes to decide if this was a real attack, if they were to “Launch on Warning”, that is to say, launch before any detonation. It was a very anxious few minutes. Fortunately, the radar people interpreted the track correctly and saw that it was not going to land in Russia. They still didn’t know it wasn’t a nuclear bomb.

A thing that worried me about that episode was: suppose the guidance mechanism of the rocket had malfunctioned, and actually directed it towards Moscow. Then it seems “the balloon” would have gone up: they would have launched their missiles at the United States. And that would most certainly have started a full scale nuclear war.

So the whole concept is very dangerous – launch on warning, launch before an actual detonation occurs.

Q4. How likely is an accidental nuclear war to happen… as compared to an intentional nuclear war?

At the present time, I think an accidental war is far more likely than an intentional one. An intentional one could happen I suppose if the Russian situation became desperate and the head of state really lost his wits as a result of the stresses there. It is conceivable that they might start one. It seems to me almost inconceivable that the Americans would start a war and obliterate Russia, because of world opinion. It might be that they might wish to, still; but at present they are trying to maintain friendly relations so I think an intentional start of a war is most unlikely. It’s impossible to estimate how likely it is for an accidental war to occur but the mechanism for it happening is right there with the reliance on early warning by satellites and by radar, with the intention to launch retaliation even before the attack arrives. That’s the big danger point. It could happen. It hasn’t happened for 40 years while this system has been in operation. It seems rather a miracle that it hasn’t happened already.

Q5. Can we calculate the odds of an accidental nuclear war happening?

No. The short answer to that is simply that we can’t. The fact that it hasn’t happened in 40 years is remarkable, and some people, including General Lee Butler, have said that it is miraculous. It does suggest, but it doesn’t prove, that the probability isn’t high. But you can’t calculate the actual probability of an entirely random unexpected type of accident that may be completely unforeseen. Plus usually there must be, surely, a few coincidences to cloud the situation so that the human judgment turns out to be wrong.

I’ve put in my papers a calculation that is purely an example. I’ve taken what I consider is a very conservative estimate of the possibility of a threat conference coming to the wrong conclusion — that is, concluding that a threat is real when in fact it’s not. We know that there have been thousands of threat conferences, and for one period when we had an actual count of the number of threat conferences. It turned out to be something over a hundred a year — maybe a few hundred a year. This was in some period late in the 1970s. I did my example calculation (which is not an attempt to calculate an actual probability) by taking one percent of all the threat conferences in a year to be wrong. Suppose just once in a year they might make a mistake, with a probability of only one in a hundred. So most years they would obviously make no mistake. Well if you take that risk of one percent of disaster per year for thirty years, it comes out to this: that the world had a 3 to 1 chance of surviving, a 1 in 4 chance of disaster. Now, that’s bad. It’s not so bad as an even chance, but it’s not the sort of thing one should accept. If you take a revolver and hold it to your head, and have one chamber loaded, as in Russian roulette, and you pull the trigger once, you have a one in six chance of death; you have five to one chance of surviving. That is safer than what they did, on my assumption which, as I said, I believe is conservative. Then you have the equal or greater risk of the Russians making the mistake, so that would be like two pulls on the trigger.

Q6. How does “No Launch on Warning” differ from “de-alerting”?

Yes, that’s a very important distinction. Briefly…the two are quite different.

Giving up the policy of launch on warning doesn’t require any de-alerting. The weapons and crews can be and should be just as alert as they are when they are going to do launch on warning. The only difference between “no launch on warning” (RLOAD, Retaliatory Launch Only After Detonation) and “launch on warning” is that the retaliation has to be delayed until at least one nuclear detonation has happened. But they have to be fully alert and ready to fire as soon as a detonation has happened. Now, I’m not saying this is a good thing. I’m not saying that deterrence and retaliation are acceptable, but that is the way the Russians and the Americans are set up now – if they are attacked, they will do a devastating retaliation. That’s not likely to change, but taking the risk of retaliating before a single weapon detonates is a real risk that could be avoided.

De-alerting is quite different and it is that there is an enforced delay between the decision to fire and the actual launch taking place. This can be done by a variety of methods of which the most certain is removing warheads from the delivery vehicles or rockets or whatever, and storing them a distance away so that it is physically impossible for them to launch without a delay of several hours. That would be excellent — it would completely abolish accidental war due to false warnings. It would greatly delay the start of a war if there were political reasons believed to be strong enough to start one. So it would be an excellent thing.

The fact that deterrence is believed to be essential by the governments and militaries on both sides, as long as there are nuclear bombs at all, means that it would be very difficult to arrange de-alerting. The whole systems in the two countries are different: the rockets have different launch programs, and different launchers; the warheads behave differently. It’s very difficult to see just how the timed delay from the order to launch to the actual launch could be made the same on both sides. If it were not the same, the military would argue that the side that could launch first might indeed launch first, and launch several salvos before the other side could get started, destroying their capacity to retaliate. If that were to happen — if that were believed to be possible by one side — then deterrence has failed. So you need equal times. That would take a great deal of expert consultation to arrange. People would doubt that it was done properly. If they indeed did manage to agree that there was a method, they would have to have a written convention to assure them that it would be so, and they would have to have inspections and verification the whole time. They would have to be certain that no one was cheating. This would at least involve several years of planning, and execution systems would have to be changed. Then it would require a legal document, perhaps a full scale treaty. A treaty would have to be passed by parliament on both sides, and they might just turn it down after years of hard work had made a feasible system. So for one thing, it may be impossible to get a feasible system for de-alerting. And if they did get a feasible system, a whim of one side’s politics might prevent it being put into operation.

RLOAD is simply a policy change which would require minimal changes to the systems — just changes in the standing orders and in the procedure for a launch, so that the launch took place a few minutes after the decision — which would be a decision made while the rockets are in flight — to launch retaliation if, and only if, a nuclear detonation was detected at the expected time of arrival.

Q7. Is “RLOAD” easier to implement in terms of existing deterrence doctrine, then?

I could take your question two ways. One is “would the technical changes be easier?” and the other “would the effect on deterrence be less: which would leave deterrence more fully in operation?” [Q: If you would answer it from both perspectives, then maybe we could go over some ground.]

I would say in both of those senses, it’s much easier to change the policy from “launch on warning” to “no launch on warning”, than to “de-alert” in an acceptable way. The sort of changes that would be necessary would be to alter the sequence of the firing routine so that it stopped when everything was ready to go except the key finally being turned. The key would be turned only when the bomb alarm signal came through. The bomb alarm signals would have to be rerouted so that that they went not only to the command centres but to the silos themselves in case a first salvo destroyed the command centres. Not very likely, but possible. One of the plans to overcome deterrence was to make what was known as a “disarming first strike” and put the enemy’s weapons completely out of action. The first salvos of a nuclear first strike would be directed at the command and control centres and at the weapon silos. That would be the only way that “no launch on warning” could prevent retaliation. It would be if they could put everything out of action in one go. That is hardly conceivable because the silos are spread over thousands of kilometres in each country so that both the launch site and the target each have a variation of the order of one or a few thousand kilometres; and there are several command centres. The rockets when they are in full flight travel at eight kilometres a second, so it takes a few minutes to go a thousand kilometres. They would have to get this simultaneous to all the launch sites and all command centres. They would all have to arrive at their targets within a few seconds — within the time it take for the final turn of the key, which is only seconds. To get the salvo landing simultaneously on all the targets, the different rockets would have to be fired at different times, strictly coordinated with one another, over a period of some two or three minutes. Any errors in the time of launch would make an equal error in the time of arrival. It’s most unlikely that all that could happen perfectly, and again the actual time of flight could not be predicted perfectly so the head of state on the presumed attacking side could hardly be sure that her first salvo could destroy all the retaliatory capacity. I should mention here that we believe that there are something over a thousand warheads on each side available for launch on warning. A hundred warheads landing on their targets has been deemed the number which would put a country completely out of action. For a head of state to be confident that nearly all the enemy silos would be put out of action isn’t a sane piece of optimism. Only an insane head of state could do it. So retaliation is not significantly affected. Therefore deterrence is not significantly affected.

As regards de-alerting, I would say that deterrence might be severely hampered because it is so difficult to ensure that everything would be delayed the same length of time; and it seems to me there is considerable possibility of cheating. Of course it doesn’t apply at all to a country like Israel because it has no nuclear-armed enemies at present. Between India and Pakistan the flight time is so short that launch on warning is hardly feasible.

Q8: Do you think militaries mistakenly believe that abandonment of launch on warning will affect their deterrence capability?

I can’t answer that question directly, but there are a lot of things that bear on it. One is that nobody yet, until my papers, has made the point that “no launch on warning” doesn’t need verification and doesn’t need to be symmetrical. The idea of getting symmetry in that might be a problem; the idea of getting verification might be a big problem because there might be secret ways of giving orders that couldn’t easily be verified. So there might be a problem there, but the main point is that nobody has asked them to do “no launch on warning” that isn’t symmetrical. That may well be the big worry. It’s a pity because the people and bodies that have considered this, like the Brookings Institute and Canberra Commission, Bruce Blair himself with his colleagues at the Centre for Defense Information — they have all said “with reciprocity”. My big point is that it doesn’t need reciprocity. The military — and here it could be fixed modes of thinking, and the inertia of a big organization — were given the task of making a retaliatory system that would work, that the enemy would see was guaranteed to work, so that the enemy knew that if they fired rockets at the United States, they would receive retaliation back that would be so big as to be utterly unacceptable. So they would never attack. Making retaliation certain was their big task and they had to do it right; and with military thoroughness they did it right.

The risks of launch on warning were mentioned in discussions with political advisors and civil servants in the 1960s and I’ve quoted some of that in my first paper on the subject. But this discussion didn’t seem to affect the military who had their task of making retaliation appear to the enemy to be inevitable … and they did it. If they could be persuaded that NO L-o-W could safely be unsymmetrical, that it could be done unilaterally, they might not resist it so much. Their method of thinking that retaliation is so important — is in fact vital to the safety of their country — makes them very unwilling to do anything which even might diminish deterrence. This is a curious gap in the thinking of some military. An example of this is Bruce Blair quoting with apparent approval a Russian training manual for launch site people that it is essential to operate quickly and faultlessly in the event of a warning so that retaliation is launched before the enemy missiles arrive. They are told that “they have badly failed their country” if they fail to retaliate before the incoming missiles have put them out of action. The point is that once there are enemy rockets on the way, their country is finished. The retaliation doesn’t save their country from anything. It does destroy the enemy country. The idea that they have failed their country is not one of a failure that makes physical harm worse, it’s just one that insults their military attitude, their military responsibility. They have failed in what they took as a responsibility; but it has made no difference to their country. That is a curious blank point in the thinking that I have seen in writings from both sides.

Q9: Why do you say that reciprocity with “No Launch on Warning” is not important?

Because not responding to a false alarm does not put that side at any disadvantage.

If one side is at “no launch on warning”, then no false alarm from a supposed but non-existent attack from the other side, will trigger a response. Presumably both sides are roughly equal in their capacity for making mistakes, and so it approximately halves the risk. The system is a bit unsymmetrical now with the Russian submarine fleet in very doubtful operational readiness, and the fact that some of their radar stations have been taken over by the other countries that the Soviet Union divided into. So the situation is not entirely symmetrical but if the Americans gave up launch on warning, a thing like the Norwegian rocket event, working the other way around with the United States getting a warning, they wouldn’t launch until the time had passed when a detonation should have taken place, and no detonation would take place so they wouldn’t launch. And the world would be saved. If they made the change, the risk is certainly reduced. You can’t say nowadays that it would be halved because the risk on the Russian side may be greater.

Q10: Is the U.S. nuclear posture review telling the truth when it says the Americans are “not on hair trigger alert”?

I guess it’s probably a true statement intended to deceive. “Hair trigger alert” is not a technical term as far as I know. It’s not in the official dictionary of military terminology. I’m not that familiar with firearms, but in the old days of officer training corps before World War II — I was in that corps and we used Lee Enfield rifles which had a two-stage pull to the trigger. You were ready to fire, you were aiming and you pulled half-way — first pressure I think it was called. Then you had to make quite a firm pressure to actually fire the rifle. That was certainly not hair-trigger. My understanding of hair-trigger is that it is the kind of thing in a duck shoot where you don’t have that first pull at all. The trigger is very light and as soon as you see your target and get it in your sights, you want to fire instantly. That’s where hair-trigger comes in. There is no way that a launch of a nuclear rocket from the United States can be called “hair-trigger” because it involves a threat conference, a conference with the President, an order coming through to fire, and then procedure for firing which itself takes several seconds. In that sense, it is perfectly possible and not strictly lying for the military to say they are not on hair trigger alert. The peace movement and many important bodies like the Canberra Commission have used the term hair trigger alert, and I think it was ill-advised to bring that term into it at all. So there’s the situation: the military wants us to think they are not in danger of firing when they shouldn’t fire. So they can reasonably say they are not on hair trigger alert; but that’s not what the peace movement means they complain that the weapons are on hair trigger alert — they mean they might go off for a very slight cause.

Q11: How would you compare the U.S.-Russia stand-off with the nuclear weapons danger posed by India-Pakistan?

That’s a really important comparison to make. The probability of either one of the two pairs of adversaries making a mistake — I’m not going to estimate which are the more reliable, which are the more cautious, or anything like that — but the big difference is this. If India or Pakistan have a nuclear war, with the nuclear weapons in the tens or possibly in the low hundreds, they’re going to do enormous damage to those two countries. They could destroy most of the cities, perhaps all of the cities of Pakistan and a good portion of the cities of India — the most terrible human disaster to ever have been caused by peoples’ activities. But the effect on the rest of the world would be minor. There would be a certain increase in radioactive contamination all around but you wouldn’t notice it until the statistics were done — statistics of long-term cancer mortality, and so on. You could detect it with Geiger counters but it wouldn’t be an immediate disaster.

If the Russians and the Americans had a nuclear war the effects would be on the whole world. As well as destroying those two countries so that they were completely non-functional with millions of injured and dying survivors, and uninjured survivors dying of starvation (or of disease, because the medical facilities would be put out of action). And there would probably be nuclear winter. The nuclear winter issue was quite falsely sidelined by deliberate tactics of American administrations at the times that Carl Sagan published on the subject. But it is quite clear that this is a real risk and an expected result of the detonation of more than a few hundred nuclear weapons. Tens of thousands of weapons would be involved in a war between the United States and Russia, so there would be something like nuclear winter. How dense is a matter of speculation and calculation, and in Sagan’s last book it was made very clear that this would be severe on any reasonable assumption of what would happen in any war between Russia and the United States. Nuclear winter would be severe certainly over the whole of the Northern Hemisphere. That would mean no crops for a couple of years. All sorts of other effects like increased ultraviolet light and so on, but what would matter for the survival of the human race, the human species, would be whether that crossed the equator, and that is a thing which up to the last of my reading on the subject (which is the 1990 Sagan book) was uncertain from a meteorological point of view. But there was a feeling that quite probably it would extend to the Southern Hemisphere as well. There would almost certainly be frosts in the tropics that would kill all the indigenous vegetation. There are other crops brought by colonists — corn and wheat for example — that might survive. But basically their food supply would be gone and of course there would be no foreign aid coming in. There would be widespread famine, and there is the outside possibility that the survivors after a few generations would gradually waste away, and the species might be finished.

Q12: Why are people no longer talking about nuclear winter or its effects… or the conditions that most likely would cause it?

That’s a question of group psychology that I am not qualified to say much about. As regards nuclear winter, I believe there was a deliberate attempt falsely to minimize the atmospheric effects of nuclear war. The newspapers started talking about “nuclear autumn” because certain calculations of Sagan’s needed to be reduced in the severity of the results. But in his second book it was clear that there were other features of them that needed to be increased. The balance came out much about the same. Nuclear winter was widely discussed in the atmospheric science community. I don’t have any doubt that it is really an expected phenomenon, which was minimized very effectively by the American administration. It is interesting to note that in the war against Iraq in 1991, the First Gulf War, there were many oil wells damaged and a lot of smoke went into the atmosphere. It was visible to people who traveled to high altitudes by airplane who could see that the sky was different. The government laboratories were forbidden to publish anything on that subject. So I think that nuclear winter was successfully and falsely sidelined altogether. For the rest, I think because nuclear war between US and Russia hasn’t happened, people stopped thinking about it. But why that is so, and why I go on thinking about it, is psychology and is not clear to me.

Q13: Can you comment on the possible confusion over terminology, in this case the terms “launch on warning”, “launch under attack” and “launch after detonation”.

Yes, that has been a significant nuisance to me because I started off this work and wrote my first long paper with the view that “launch on warning” was a simple concept, which was a launch of retaliation during the flight of the incoming missiles — it seemed quite unambiguous and that was how the whole peace movement was speaking of it. “No launch on warning” meant simply that the military should not have that policy.

Previously, when the military had been asked about launch on warning, sometimes they replied “we’re not at launch on warning, we’re at launch under attack”. And we took it that “launch under attack” was a slightly deceptive term; but they tried to imply that it meant that the attack was definite, for example that they got warning from two independent systems. It still seemed to mean launch during the flight of the missiles. It also rather gave the impression that the launch would be when they knew the missiles had arrived and that they actually had been attacked, rather than that they were going to be attacked. So that confused it a little — perhaps intentionally by the military.

But then when we sent this paper to the military man I mentioned, he picked on that one difference and disregarded the whole purpose of the paper. It was a pity that he did that; it was a pity that I hadn’t clarified that. The clarification seemed from what he said — he answered very briefly and unhelpfully — that launch on warning could mean launch not on what they called “tactical warning”, which means the sight on the computer screen of “missiles” on the way, but launch on “strategic warning” which means including any information from satellites and so on, information from spies, information from satellites on troops movements around silos, and so on. Thus the launch might even be before enemy missiles were launched. That was what the military, or one group of them, seemed to be thinking about with the term launch on warning. That means we should be using “launch under attack”. There’s a difficulty here in that “launch under attack” is defined in a 1970s dictionary of military terms (which is on the web, an enormous dictionary with 100,000 entries) exactly as the peace movement has always thought of “launch on warning”: that is to say a launch while the missiles are in the sky, before any detonation. “Launch on warning” is not mentioned in that dictionary at all. So it was an understandable confusion — unfortunate that we hadn’t got those terms clear in first thinking about this, and all the writings that have been done on it over the years. But it seems possible that we ought to be using “launch under attack” when we talk to government, high civil service levels or military. Either we should specifically deal with “launch under attack” or we should be treating the two terms — launch on warning, and launch under attack, as synonymous.

Q: When the Canberra Commission referred to the situation, they referred to “launch on warning” in their brief paragraph.

They did.

Q: So presumably that term is shared by some officials and some military people.

I think “launch on warning” was used in the military, and this particular retired naval officer, at least, believed that “launch on warning” included a launch before the enemy had launched. But nonetheless the term is not in that dictionary. I searched it myself and I searched it carefully. I did not count all the 100,000 entries but I estimated by the numbers of screenfuls.

Q15: How much time passes between calling a threat conference…and a retaliatory missile being launched and landing on the target’s soil?

The last part of that is easy, and it’s between 25 and 35 minutes as far as I know. That is not secret; it’s just a matter of how fast these things fly to go that particular trajectory.

The missiles can probably be detected within the first five minutes of flight, but the radar probably a bit later. I imagine that the threat conference can be called between the five and ten minute mark from the time when they were launched. The threat conference then has a time perhaps of fifteen minutes before they get in touch with the President. They have already of course been trying to find where the President is, and get him on the phone. So then there will be only a very few minutes left for a conference with the President to obtain his authorisation that retaliation should be done. If it’s launch on warning, the retaliation has be done within the final five minutes at the latest. I believe the final launch steps, when the order to fire is given, would be a matter of a fair number of seconds. Probably not as long as a minute. I don’t know these figures — those are guesses. The total time of flight is well known — it is in the range of thirty minutes. That’s from Russia to the United States, or the other way. Submarines could be in the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean and could get within the range whereby that flight time could get down to fifteen or even ten minutes. Twenty is taken as more likely.

Q16: In any case we’re talking about a very brief period, relatively speaking, when serious risks are happening. To what extent could you say that “no launch on warning” reduces the tension at the threat conference stage such that saner heads may prevail, and so that the wrong decision isn’t made?

I think it would be of considerable benefit for both the threat conference and the final decision by the President, or whoever is making the decision, which in fact is not necessarily the President himself. The stress on that person and on the conference would be significantly less if the policy was “no launch on warning”, because they would know they were not starting the final war of the world on a false alarm. Whether it could be a right decision to retaliate at all is another question because their own country is already destroyed by the initial salvo. There is no actual benefit to anybody in destroying the other country as well. It is not possible to stop the salvo once it has started. And it’s a big one, with thousands of nuclear weapons.

Q17: There’s an ethical question here that is apparent, and I think the peace movement is often concerned that in any discussion of posture changes there might be an indication that a response with nuclear weapons is acceptable. How would you respond to any questions about “no launch on warning” in terms of its making “acceptable” a nuclear response?

“No launch on Warning” is simply a way to make an erroneous response impossible. It doesn’t in any way confirm the idea that deterrence is a good thing, nor that a nuclear response is a good thing. I start from the point that it might be possible to change this one item of government and military policy to make things safer without altering the whole basis that they have worked on for 50 years, which is deterrence. It would be far better if nuclear weapons were abolished, or to a lesser degree if deterrence was abolished. It would be better if there were a long delay before weapons could be launched at all. All of those things would be far better and far more fundamental than what I am proposing, which is simply a change of policy to avoid what happens to be the greatest danger, which is an accidental nuclear war. It isn’t intended to support the idea of deterrence (and in my paper I have said that, and I’ve said it more than once). I can see how people would look at it as accepting deterrence. I think we have to accept the fact that deterrence is the doctrine at present. It is most unlikely that we should be able to change that at a stroke. I believe it is possible for us to change “launch on warning” to “no launch on warning” at a stroke.

Q18: If implemented, would your proposal reduce reliance on deterrence?

It is a positive thing. It would be very encouraging to know that the military is open to considering a change to make the world safer from a nuclear war. I don’t think “RLOAD” would be a concrete step towards it. De-alerting would be a concrete step towards not relying on nuclear weapons. No launch on warning doesn’t make that step, but it would be the very important psychological step that the military and the governments of those two countries are willing to consider changes. That would be at the very least a great boost to the morale to all the people in the world who don’t want a nuclear war.

Q19: Is No Launch on Warning a necessary or likely first step towards de-alerting?

I don’t think it is necessarily a step towards anything, except a step that will have reduced a risk enormously – reduced the greatest risk virtually to zero. As far as that is concerned, it isn’t a concrete step towards anything else. But it is a first step well worth taking because it means the world is that much safer — a lot safer — for the years of work we have to do to get rid of nuclear weapons altogether, or even to get de-alerting in action.

Q20: Why, in the documentation that has come out in the peace community and in think tanks, has there been discussion by analysts of de-alerting, but very little discussion of abandoning Launch on Warning?

I don’t think they have clearly separated the two ideas. Either of them makes the launch a little later, but actually the two are quite different. No Launch on Warning doesn’t mean any reduction of the alert status, either of the missiles’ launching apparatus or the crews. Everybody has be entirely alert and able to get ready to fire within the twenty minutes or so that they know a missile is on the way. The firing difference is only a matter of a few minutes between the time they would fire just before the missiles arrive, or they wait until the first missile arrives and they receive the indication of an explosion. Then they fire. They’ve got to be fully alert. In those few minutes they’ve got to make everything ready for a launch and it is just the moment of launch that is altered.

De-alerting is quite a different thing. It is introducing a forced delay between the order to launch and the actual start of the process of launching. That of course couldn’t be compatible with “launch on warning” but it is not the same as the “no launch on warning” that I am proposing. De-alerting is much more complicated process because there has to be a fixed delay — usually a mechanical delay of some sort, like moving the warheads or moving components of the warheads.

With No Launch on Warning, if one side does it, the risk is approximately halved. If both sides do it, then that particular risk is down to zero. And it doesn’t depend on one side knowing what the other side has done; it doesn’t depend on trusting them; it’s just a benefit to both if even one side does it. It gives that side no disadvantage. So I think it only requires more careful thinking by the people concerned, who simply haven’t looked into the details of the matter, to see that those two things are quite different.

Q21: How easy would it be for RLOAD to be implemented?

I don’t think it would be difficult to be implemented compared to many of the difficult things that have been done in setting up the nuclear system altogether. It would be trivial compared to that. There would need to be a change in standing orders, a change in the launch routine that might be minor. The only material thing which I see that needs to be altered is that the bomb alarms which are at present in every city and around every big military base — the bomb alarms would have to signal direct to the launch crews as well as to the command posts in case all the command posts were destroyed in the first salvo. That would be an expense, but it wouldn’t be a significant expense compared with the expenses of nuclear weapons on the whole. It could be a simple thing, it could be written down on paper as to what has be done. The change in orders could be effected in a day perhaps. The change in the wiring might take a few weeks but it should be done in way less than a year.

Q22: If No Launch on Warning is unverifiable, how do we know it is being implemented, and does it matter?

The answer to that question is in the second part of it: it doesn’t matter. If we all knew that both sides were working at No Launch on Warning, then the world would feel more comfortable. But if both sides are at No Launch on Warning, then the world is in fact safer. I am proposing that this does not need verification, that there is no need to know. In fact, the tiny defect to deterrence that proponents of deterrence may maintain is significant, would, if anything, be less if the enemy did not know for sure that you were at RLOAD. If anything, verifying the RLOAD status would be a disadvantage rather than an advantage. The only advantage to it would be to make the other countries of the world feel more comfortable. That’s a real advantage but it doesn’t alter the chance of an accidental nuclear war happening or not happening, which is what I am concerned about.

Q23: Is it possible that RLOAD is already in place?

I wish!! I have often thought of a sort of dream that there is a very, very secret standing order on both sides that on no account, on no orders whatever, should a nuclear weapon ever be launched. It would be wonderful if there were such a standing order on both sides, and it would be entirely reasonable. I am afraid though that it is unlikely.

Q24: What’s the best way that the proposal that you’re making can become a reality if we can’t confirm that it’s happening, if military circles might not even want to say that they’re willing to change the status of their nuclear weapons? What’s the best way for people in the peace movement to ensure that this is in the think-tanks and military circles so that it might be considered?

The very last paragraph in our recent paper tries to deal with that. If in spite of all those arguments the military were to insist that they have to keep launch on Warning, it is for the head of state to weigh the danger of that, against the danger of an intended nuclear war. In fact he has to weigh the real danger of an accidental nuclear war which we know has nearly happened a number of times in the past (the Norwegian rocket incident being the most recent and one of the worst ones), against a slight hypothetical danger that deterrence might fail because of the change from the present LoW to a future RLOAD. It is only a very remote possibility that that would really affect deterrence. It would pretty well depend on the head of state of the attacking country being on the border of insanity. So there is a very remote chance that this would have any effect on deterrence. If the military don’t see that point, the head of state has the responsibility to decide. In my opinion every government in the world which has the responsibility for the safety of its own people, has to realize that freedom from a nuclear war between Russia and the United States is essential for the safety of the people of every country in the world. Therefore every government has the responsibility to press the United States and Russia to give up this dangerous posture of launch on warning.

Q25: What should the peace movement be doing on this issue?

I think there are two ways that might get a little progress towards RLOAD. One is that if the general public was made to realize that there is still a danger of an accidental nuclear war from a false warning, whatever the political situation may be, and this danger of a false warning could trigger launch on warning, and end the world. The other way is to work through government committees, civil service committees, army committees, to persuade the people who have the powers to change these things, to realize there is this great safety action which could be taken without altering their whole policy.

Q26: Is there a special role for Canada?

Of governments foreign to the United States, we probably have more influence on the United States than anyone; and of Western governments ours may well be more trusted by the Russians than any other. So it may be that Canada does have a special place.

Q27: Launch on Warning policy was intended to deter a disarming first strike. Did the militaries not think false warnings were a serious problem?

False warning was considered very carefully. There were huge arguments about it. We have found some of the documentation of that on the web. One letter I remember was from Robert McNamara when he was Secretary of Defense for Jack Kennedy. He said that LoW was so unsafe that never while he was Secretary of Defense and Kennedy was President, never would the US adopt LoW. Shortly after that there was a memo from the head of the Air Force to the President saying that they were ready to fire within 30 seconds with the new missiles which were just installed, which must mean they were thinking of Launch on Warning. There was that sort of argument going on. There was discussion about missile defence in the 60s and the people who were in favour of that were against LOW. It was regarded as a big ethical issue. Quite rightly. But it seems to me that the military put their weapons into an LoW posture regardless of the discussion that was going on. I don’t know that there has been any great change now. There have been gradual improvements in the accuracy of weapons and in the technology. There has been the improvement that now much of the early warning is “dual” — that is satellite as well as long-range radar. If both of them give the same signal, it is a much more sure warning than if only one does.

That brings the point up which is that there is greater danger at the present time — because the Russians have a good deal of their equipment out of action or in the hands of states which were part of the Soviet Union and not part of Russia. So they haven’t got the dual coverage on all the avenues that the attack could come along. That adds to the danger that they might be jumpy and apt to fire unnecessarily.

But really LoW has always been a danger. During the Cold War I suppose there was a serious possibility that one side would attempt a disarming first strike or simply a full scale extermination attack, whereas now that doesn’t seem probable. Perhaps the relative probabilities of disaster due to accident, and disaster due to evil intent, has changed.

Q28: Launch on Warning has presumably always been irresponsible policy. Has the political situation with the end of the Cold War made it more clear, or should it have made it more clear, that there is an opportunity to change that policy?

Yes, I think it has, Robin. People are not seriously concerned that the two sides are going to hit each other intentionally. That risk, whether correctly or not, has been seen as greatly diminished. It seems that during the Cold War people were half expecting the Russians to attack North America at any time. Whether that was a realistic risk or not I doubt. But certainly people don’t think of that now. If you are thinking of a risk, the risk that comes to mind is the risk of a war on an entirely false warning. It is more relevant now to say we can abolish that.

End of interview, June 2003, Hamilton Ontario.
Interview with Dr. Alan Phillips conducted by Robin Collins.

[updated January 21, 2007]

1000 paper cranes

1000 Paper Cranes and Mayors for Peace

In late April 2004 Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba of Hiroshima visited five Canadian cities including Ottawa. His visit to Ottawa was hosted by Physicians for Global Survival (Canada) and the office of City Councillor Clive Doucet. At a luncheon hosted by Ottawa Mayor Bob Chiarelli, Mayor Akiba was presented with 1000 paper cranes folded by local Grade 6 students from Kathryn Ferris’ class at D. Roy Kennedy public school. After reading Sadako, students decided they wanted to be involved, in their own way, in efforts to abolish nuclear weapons. (See: for the Sadako story.)

Mayor Akiba travelled from Canada to New York City for preparatory meetings at the United Nations in the lead-up to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in 2005. The 2005 Review Conference will coincide with the 60th anniversary of the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6th and 9th, 1945.

As President of Mayors for Peace, (a coalition started by the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1982 and which now includes members from 562 cities in 108 countries and regions around the world), Mayor Akiba is a leading proponent of the full ratification of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty at the UN and complete elimination of nuclear weapons by the year 2020.

Mayors for Peace has initiated an Emergency Campaign to Ban Nuclear Weapons and is exploring ways that cities can work together to arouse international public demand for the abolition of nuclear weapons. They seek ways to help each other address the many other problems that threaten peaceful coexistence, from hunger and poverty to refugee, human rights, and environmental issues. The organization encourages mayors to strengthen cooperation to abolish nuclear weapons and work for a genuine world peace that values reconciliation and humanity.

Prior to becoming Mayor of Hiroshima five years ago, Tadatoshi Akiba was a member of the Japanese House of Representatives for nine years. He received his Ph.D in Mathematics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1970, and taught at the State University of New York in Stony Brook and at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. Returning to Japan, he taught at Hiroshima Shudo University in Japan for 11 years.

Bev Delong: Canada, missile proliferation and controls

Briefing note for Government-Civil Society Consultation Feb. 24 & 25th, 2004

The literature in this area seems based in a fantasy world of good guys and bad guys, or perhaps even a world where the only owners of nuclear weapons are North Korea, China, India, Pakistan and Israel. Rare are references to the legal obligation to eliminate nuclear weapons. And nonexistent are references to the warnings given by Dr. Joseph Rotblat, General Lee Butler, Dr. Bruce Blair and others of the dangers involved in states persisting with policies of launch on warning. (1)

Thankfully greater realism has obviously encouraged Canadian officials in their persistent work in moving from the MTCR to the Hague Code of Conduct. The clarity of thinking is very evident in Rob’s excellent paper. We are in a somewhat more secure world due to his work on Pre Launch Notifications in the Code. Mark Smith of the Mountbatten Centre has commented on the importance as well of the establishment under the Code of basic working relationships and he notes that “Stopgap solutions, after all, are better than a widening gulf.” (2)

There is some evidence the MTCR has slowed transfers of sophisticated technology.(3) But all these initiatives fail to define disarmament as an urgent legal obligation.(4) And I think that apart from improving the procedures defined under the Hague Code and widening its membership, we may now be at a halt.

Why do states want missiles? Regional quarrels obviously support the drive to buy nuclear weapons. But, more importantly, I think that demand is fuelled when states are subjected to threats of nuclear use. The US is known to have made such threats over 20 times.(5) And the new- and near- nuclear states have noted the profound hypocrisy of NATO states who, while claiming to support the NPT, simultaneously maintain their capacity to threaten nuclear use.

Given this dangerous state of affairs, what could the Government of Canada do to build international energy toward fulfilling our legal obligation of nuclear disarmament?

A. The Government could use the opportunity of the NPT PrepCom to publicly move to an authentic position of legal compliance with the NPT. We can join South Africa and 61 other states now in NWFZs in delegitimizing nuclear weapons. This soon-to-be-historic (!) speech at the PrepCom would require several elements. The Canadian Government would:

1st, call upon all Nuclear Weapons States to immediately de-alert their nuclear weapons recognizing the threat posed by launch-on- warning strategies;

2nd, Canada would refuse the offer made by the US to Canada in the National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction to use nuclear weapons to defend us, noting that such a defence is immoral, unlawful and could trigger a nuclear holocaust (6).

3rd, the Government would announce that Canada will no longer participate in NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group noting that such planning for the use of nuclear weapons is both immoral and unlawful as a breach of international humanitarian law; [I reject the “seat at the table”argument and think officials need to be very mindful of the implications of the Nuremberg Principles for those “planning…a war in violation of international law..”]

4th Canada would call upon the US to honour its Negative Security Assurances and withdraw its threats against the several states named in the Nuclear Posture Review; and finally

5th, Canada would call upon the US to withdraw its threat of preemptive nuclear use against states thought to possess WMD. Such threats simply encourage those states to acquire missiles and weapons to protect themselves against the US.

Imagine how such a speech might serve to delegitimize nuclear weapons?

In addition, there are other steps Canada could take to limit missile proliferation and to delegitimize nuclear weapons.

B. It is obvious that Canada should withdraw from all US plans for missile defence, noting that this program is encouraging the maintenance and indeed expansion of nuclear arsenals and missile technology worldwide. (7) As an alternative, the government could engage like-minded states in discussion of the possibility of a missile flight test ban. Indeed, Canada should invite other states to discuss the new threat potentially posed to satellites by missile defence technology and the need for satellite security. (8)

C. Canada might host meetings to explore the necessary elements of model domestic legislation criminalizing not just the activities of those involved in sales of nuclear technology – as Dr. El Baradei has proposed – but the activities of those involved in all aspects of nuclear weaponry. If we start a process of one state after another criminalizing nuclear weapons activities, perhaps it would build public support and political momentum toward a norm of rejection of nuclear weapons.

D. Canada could investigate means of supporting the renewal of a US-North Korea security agreement. The American assurance against the threat and use of nuclear weapons from the 1994 Framework Agreement should be urgently renewed. North Korea should quite simply be bought off with food aid and fuel.

E. The Canadian Government should be strongly encouraged to support efforts through ASEAN to build military and popular support for a North East Asia Nuclear Weapons- Free Zone. As recommended by the Pacific Campaign for Disarmament and Security, Canada might play a role by encouraging the invitation of civil society from the ASEAN states to present their proposals for this Zone and engage in debate within a ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) meeting. (9) And a similar strategy should be supported in other regions.

F. As for the Proliferation Security Initiative, I am a newcomer to maritime law, but my initial look at the Law of the Sea Convention leads me to believe that interdiction on the high seas – no matter how justified – is currently unlawful. Almost more worrying is my sense that it will be perceived to be an act of bullying by states. We need to avoid rash action. If we want our seas nuclear free, the time must be taken to build consensus on a Nuclear Weapons Free Seas Treaty – applicable to all – or amend the Law of the Sea Convention. The U.S. should be warned that bullying activities may provoke further proliferation or terrorism against them.

G. More generally, but still very important, the Canadian government can confront proliferation by increasing funding directed toward democratization and development strategies worldwide, such work being of particular importance in these “states of concern”. It is this work that will in the long term build a more stable international security. Ernie Regehr has written very persuasively on the need for attention to governance issues. (10)

H. Finally, in accord with its undertakings at the UN on Disarmament Education, the government could fund a nuclear weapons education program to build a norm supporting abolition of nuclear weapons. It could initially be directed to four specific groups each of which might become engaged in discussing missile proliferation within their communities. Might I suggest these groups – all potential citizen inspectors or whistleblowers:
1) new Canadians who might have important contacts in new or near nuclear weapons states
2) scientists who could potentially be invited to engage in research regarding nuclear weapons and their delivery systems,
3) Canadians engaged in work, study and travel abroad, and
4) unions involved in the transportation industry responsible for handling goods in ports, and airports.
Such strategies might provide a truer and nondiscriminatory path to engaging the global public in understanding the risks of missile proliferation.

(1) Bruce G. Blair, “Keeping Presidents in the Nuclear Dark”, Feb. 16, 2004;
Bruce G. Blair, “Rogue States: Nuclear Red-Herrings”, Dec. 5, 2003 (both at
Generals Lee Butler and Andrew J. Goodpaster, “Joint Statement on Reduction of Nuclear Weapons Arsenals: Declining Utility, Continuing Risks”, 2002 (at ;
David Ruppe “Experts Warn of Accidental U.S., Russian Missile Launches”, Jan. 28, 2004, Global Security Newswire,

(2) Mark Smith, “Preparing the Ground for Modest Steps: A Progress Report on the Hague Code of Conduct”, Disarmament Diplomacy, Issue No. 72, August – September 2003, at p. 10 wherein he comments “…while provision of information such as the HCoC’s PLNs [Pre Launch Notifications] and annual declarations is certainly a limited cure for the insecurity generated by missile development, the modest impact of such basic working relationships should not be dismissed. Stopgap solutions, after all, are better than a widening gulf.”

(3) Mark Smith, “Pros and Cons of the MTCR, and Efforts to Move Forward”, INESAP Bulletin 21, publishing a paper delivered on Jan. 24-26, 2003 in Berlin.

(4) W. Pal S. Sidhu and Christophe Carle, “Managing Missiles: Blind Spot or Blind Alley?”, Disarmament Diplomacy, Issue No. 72, August – September 2003, at p. 7.

(5) For instance, see the threat of nuclear use made by the U.S. in the Nuclear Posture Review. This is only one of a series of threats by the U.S. and other nuclear states. For a list of the threats, refer to “A Chronology of Nuclear Threats” which has been researched by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in Maryland, USA. For a further update, see the speech”Nuclear Weapons: Forgotten but not Gone”, by Jackie Cabasso, Executive Director, Western States Legal Foundation, on Feb. 24- 25, 2001 at their website within which the author notes: “…. over the past decade the U.S. has threatened the use of nuclear weapons against Libya (April 1996), North Korea (July 1994) and Iraq (1991 and 1998).”

(6) In the U.S. “National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction” released in 2002, it states “The United States will continue to make clear that it reserves the right to respond with overwhelming force – including through resort to all of our options – to the use of WMD against the United States, our forces abroad, and friends and allies.”

(7). Unhappily we note that Russia has just engaged in a huge military exercise to test ballistic missile launches in an attempt to develop weapons systems “capable of providing an asymmetric answer to existing and prospective weapons systems, including missile defence”states Col. Gen. Baluyevsky, deputy chief of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces quoted in “General says maneuvers are response to American nuclear development plan”, International Herald Tribune (online), Feb. 11, 2004.

The report of these exercises in “Military Exercises of the Nuclear Briefcase” from Rossiyskaya Gazeta of Feb. 11, 2004 advises that “Such large-scale exercises have not been organized in Russia for a long time….Strategic nuclear forces will play the main role in the exercise.”

(8) David Wright and Laura Grego, “Anti-Satellite Capabilities of Planned US Missile Defense Systems”, Union of Concerned Scientists, Dec. 9, 2002, at

(9) “Promoting a Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free-Zone: An Opportunity for Canada”, Pacific Campaign for Disarmament & Security, August 2003.

(10) The need to support improved governance has been well argued by Ernie Regehr in “Missile Proliferation, Globalized Insecurity, and Demand-Side Strategies”, Ploughshares Briefing 01/4.

Women and Nuclear Weapons

Women contribute thousands of hours of work yearly to the nurture of their families, their community and the natural environment. All are threatened by nuclear weapons.

“The nuclear bomb is the most anti-democratic, anti-national, anti-human, outright evil thing that man has ever made.
If you are religious, then remember that this bomb is Man’s challenge to God. It’s worded quite simply: We have the power to destroy everything that You have created. If you’re not religious, then look at it this way. This world of ours is four thousand, six hundred million years old. It could end in an afternoon.”
(Arundhati Roy, “The End of Imagination”, Guardian Media Group, August 1, 1998.)

Why should women care?

Nuclear bombs are an enduring threat. Thirty thousand nuclear weapons remain in the global arsenal. Of these, 4,400 could be used in less than 15 minutes. Nuclear terrorism and the spread of nuclear weapons technology to non-nuclear states continues. Until nuclear weapons are eliminated, we are at risk. The idea that they can exist and not be used accidentally or by decision “defies credibility”. (The Canberra Commission, 1995)

Nuclear tests spread dangerous levels of radioactive fallout.
Nuclear weapons are extremely expensive to develop and maintain, taking valuable resources from health, environmental and social programs.

“Even a single nuclear bomb exploding in an inhabited area – whether through accident, terrorism or war – could kill hundreds of thousands of civilians. There is no effective medical response to a nuclear explosion; the only effective approach is prevention.”
(Call for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) 1995).

In what ways does Canada support nuclear war-fighting?

In what ways does Canada support nuclear war-fighting?

The Government of Canada provides:

  • political, military and financial support for NATO and NORAD
  • airspace and facilities for nuclear bomber training/li>
  • approval for port visits by nuclear-armed submarines/li>
  • maintenance for communications sites for nuclear forces/li>
  • permission for deployment of bombers and support forces to Canadian airfields during nuclear crises/li>
  • support for production and export of components for nuclear weapon delivery vehicles, such as bombers and submarines

Although NATO has reduced its reliance on nuclear weapons, those states persist in relying on nuclear weapons as a “credible and effective element of the Alliance’s strategy of preventing war.”  Such statements serve to encourage other states to acquire nuclear weapons.  NATO has taken no steps to comply with the legal obligation to eliminate nuclear weapons.  To find their current view, review the Final Communiqués out of the most recent Meetings of the Defence Planning Committee and the Nuclear Planning Group at:

See also Canada and nuclear weapons: Canadian policies related to, and connections to, nuclear weapons
Ploughshares working paper 02-5 by Bill Robinson

Voices: My Hiroshima A-Bomb Experience by Miyanaga Ryuma

My Hiroshima A-bomb Experience: Why Nuclear Weapons Cannot Be Allowed in Our Universe
By Miyanaga Ryuma, Morioka-City, Iwate Prefecture

Flash!… I was engulfed in an intense ray of light and felt an incredible heat. In an instant, everything around me became red, as if I had been thrust inside a fiery blaze. In the same instant, I was knocked over by a blast of hot air containing a tremendous amount of pressure.

When I came to, I was sprawled on the floor and the drawing easel I had just moments before been working on was on top of me. With a rush of noise the ceiling opened up and the roof totally collapsed in, sagging down near the window. Previously solid pillars all broke in the same way, forming a shaped that looked like a sideways “V”. They seemed to be hanging at an angle in mid air, capable of collapsing at any moment. The entire floor was covered in broken pieces of glass. I could hear people groaning and screaming. The floor was covered in blood and bodies lay there with pieces of glass piercing them like knives. I was covered everywhere in dust and felt fuzzyheaded, unable to stand up but finally able to crawl on my knees. From outside, I could hear thousands of employees yelling and screaming.

Workers covered in blood gathered in the open grounds near the side of the building. Among this horrendous scene was a steady stream of people pouring through the front gate who looked like they came from some horrible other world. They were people fleeing from the city center. An unending line of people came walking through, eyeballs protruding out of their sockets, hair clinging to their head, their skin burnt and dripping, still smoldering, with blisters beginning to form. Unable to distinguish between men and women, they no longer looked human. The cries and moans of “I’m so hot! It hurts! Water, water!” began to fade away and people started dying like flies in front of me. I was so stunned by this scene that I didn’t even notice my own injuries.

On August 6, 1945 at 8:15 am, I was exposed to the atomic bomb dropped by America. I was fifteen years old at the time and I was inside the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Hiroshima Shipyard four kilometers away from the hypocenter. When day broke the following morning, the shipyard had become an even more hellish field of corpses. I entered the city to help in the rescue efforts of survivors about 1 kilometer to 1.5 kilometers away from the hypocenter. Fires were breaking out all over the city. Thousands of people had jumped into the river to find relief from their burns, and the river had become choked with floating corpses. All the bridges and roads were covered with burnt, blackened bodies. There was no place to walk without stepping on arms, legs, heads or bodies stuck to the surface of the road. Bodies hung from the bridge railings like rags hung out to dry. All that was left of a train stopped in its tracks was its frame. All of the people inside had been incinerated.

In another scene, the upper body of person trapped under a collapsed houses remained intact while their legs had been completely burned away. I couldn’t rescue them. I felt like I was loosing my mind amid this unspeakably horrifying scene. Dead bodies and those people barely alive were left outside in the intense heat and began to rot. The stench from the city’s crematoriums drifted as far away as the shipyard four kilometers from town, making it difficult to breath.

More than 140,000 people died during this time. The atomic bomb is truly horrific. That single A-bomb dropped half a century ago instantaneously wiped out 78,000 people within a 1.5-kilometer radius of the hypocenter. It decimated our culture, incinerated all vegetation and turned the city to ashes. In addition, those A-bomb survivors that are still alive today have suffered from a lifetime of residual illness due to radiation fallout. Immediately following the atomic bombing I was in a state of total shock and didn’t help rescue a single person. However, I will never forget that scene of truly evil hell and the sadness of those robbed of life in such a tragic way.

While the wounds on my forehead and limbs healed over the course of time, my body was inundated with radiation during my participation in rescue efforts near the hypocenter. Many of the people who were with me at the time died soon after and each day I was tormented by fears that I would soon die as well. Three years after the atomic bombing I left Hiroshima and moved to Iwate Prefecture. Twenty years later, I am receiving treatment for a hormonal disorder, diabetes and cataracts due to radiation fallout. Although I constantly carried with me fears of becoming sick, I was able to work for a long period of time and just retired from my teaching position a few years ago. Currently I am a member of the Iwate Prefectural Hibakusha Association. I speak about my experiences as an A-bomb survivor whenever I have the chance.

While I stood by helplessly at the time, that image of the living hell of Hiroshima on “that day” has been burned into my brain. As a surviving atomic bomb victim, I believe I have a duty to speak out on the reality of the destruction wrought by nuclear weapons. No matter how one attempts to justify nuclear weapons, they should absolutely never be used and they should never be built. If they are used again it would destroy the cultural heritage of the world, reduce every country to ashes and cause the extinction of the human race. This atrocious, horrific and inhumane event simply cannot occur again on this earth. For true peace and happiness among human kind, I strongly appeal from my heart for the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

Voices: The Youngest Survivor, By Nakanishi Eiji

The Youngest Survivor
By Nakanishi Eiji, Kita Ward, Tokyo

Voices: My Hiroshima A-bomb Experience by Miyanaga Ryuma

I was born in Hiroshima in October 1941. When I was a two month-old baby, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and the Pacific War began. The Japanese government proclaimed themselves to be the “Leaders of Peace in the Orient” and began the war stating that they would “Liberate the people of Asia from the control of Europe and the United States.” In reality, Japan aligned itself with Hitler Germany and became the enemy of the entire world. They engaged in a war of aggression using brute force to control other countries. The responsibility for starting this war, which claimed more than twenty million casualties in Asia and the Pacific alone, lies with Japan.

From a young age I have always wanted to know from the adults around me, “Why did you start this war?” I was still only three years old when, as a result of the war started by the Japanese government, the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. My family lived 2.5 kilometers from the hypocenter. On that day my father, my older sister and I were at home. According to the stories of my parents, at the moment of the blast a large portion of our house was completely blown away and my father was thrown from a downstairs room into the garden. My older sister, who was on the second floor, tumbled down the stairs that had just collapsed and filled with dust and began to look for me.

Apparently I was sitting right outside the front door playing by my self. Miraculously, I was completely uninjured. Covered head to foot in ash, I was totally white. When my sister found me she grabbed me and hugged me as tight as she could. What is so miraculous about all of this is that at that very instant the woman from next door was walking on the road very close to me and was severely burned by the thermal rays. I just happened to be in the shade, and that housewife from next door just by chance was walking outside in the sun.

Our fates were decided by the thinnest of margins. With the A-bomb, the difference between life and death, between being injured or emerging unscathed, is completely random. Only ten days before the bomb was dropped, my family had moved away from an area that was close to the city center. My aunt’s family remained in this area and their house was totally razed to the ground by fire. Her husband was killed when he was pinned under a burning support column. My aunt, unable to do anything to save him, watched her husband burn to death before her very eyes. I have heard that her husband died screaming, “Are you just going to stand there and watch me die? You evil bitch!”

If our move had just been ten days later, my family would have been struck by the same tragedy. The A-bomb killed more than 100,000 people in the immediate period following the blast. Furthermore, it is a terrifying weapon which continues to kill people through fallout from radiation and which continues to cause pain and suffering in peoples lives many years later. My father’s older brother was uninjured in the blast but by the end of 1945 he had died from radiation sickness in a hospital in Kyushu.

I will never forget the scene of two brothers who were friends of mine in tears one evening, rushing their mother to the hospital in a wheelbarrow because she had suddenly taken a turn for the worse. Their mother was dead by the end of the day. Suffering from the A-bomb as a three year old and watching so many people die around me, I have grown up with the fear that someday my turn will come.

When I was twenty-two I became engaged to be married. However, the woman’s family opposed the marriage saying, “We will not let our daughter marry an A-bomb survivor”, and the marriage never happened. I later married a different woman and together we had a son. When he was born, I counted each and every finger and toe to make sure he had all ten. The first time he came down with a fever, I spent the whole night cradling him in my arms and cried about what I would do if he ever started to show the effects of the A-bomb. I cursed the A-bomb for its never-ending presence in my life. Even as the “youngest survivor” who suffered from the atomic bombing at the age of three, the A-bomb is a lifelong burden that I must carry.

Those who were killed or injured by the bomb were not soldiers or the military. They were noncombatants, the nameless people of Hiroshima. The A-bomb incinerated in a single stoke ten of thousands, indeed hundreds of thousands of people like you and I who have the right to live in peace and happiness, and it continues to rob people of their lives through residual radiation illness even half a century later. This is not a weapon to be used for military victory. It is a weapon for the annihilation of the human race.

I have something I would like to say to President Bush and the leaders of all the countries which possess nuclear weapons. Imagine a relative of yours being burned by the atomic bomb. You are forced to watch them die while they scream that you are an “evil bitch” because you can’t do anything to save them. Imagine a scene of hundreds of thousands of good people writhing in pure agony while they are burned all over their bodies. Imagine two young brothers in tears while they watch over their mother as she dies from radiation illness. Would you still use the A-bomb?

As the sole witnesses to the scenes of the annihilation of humanity that took place in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, A-bomb survivors have continued for half a century to offer a warning to the world. The world cannot have anymore atomic bomb survivors. That is our cry. Although I am the “youngest survivor”, I believe it is my job to pass on this desire of older A-bomb survivors to the next generation. I am sixty-one years old and this is my first trip abroad. I am finally realizing my lifelong dream of visiting the United States to apologize for the war my country started, but also to speak out against nuclear weapons. From the bottom of my heart I wish to take this opportunity to become friends with all of you.

Scott Ritter – former United Nations Chief Weapons Inspector in Iraq

Scott Ritter, Former United Nations Chief Weapons Inspector in Iraq, 1991-1998:
Six Points for Peace
On America, Iraq, the United Nations, Weapons Inspections, and the Future of World Peace

Six Points for Peace

The Canadian Government is bravely and correctly using its influence as a member in good standing of the United Nations to try and strike a compromise in the Security Council that offers a realistic opportunity to peacefully disarm Iraq, maintains the real threat of severe consequences should Iraq fail to comply, and preserves the integrity and viability of that body. The only problem with the Canadian initiative is that it fails to take into account the unspoken truth — that the American grudge with Iraq has nothing to do with disarmament, but rather a laser-like focus on regime removal, something that is not endorsed by any Security Council resolution, or indeed the United Nations Charter.

If Canada would like to see a positive outcome in regards to its initiative for peace, it would do well to remember that the decision for war with Iraq will be made in Washington DC, not New York. As such, expanding its compromise initiative in a manner that offers President Bush a face saving means of extricating him and his administration from the political quagmire they have created might be the only way to avert war.

But there is a foundation of hope upon which to build this dream and turn it into reality, if only someone, or some nation, has the courage to see it through. This foundation rests on six points for peace, which in fact reflect six issues of concern for Iraq, the United States, and the international community — disarmament, human rights, democracy, diplomacy, economy, and peace. The main thrust behind these six issues would be to put in place actions that could be viewed as representing a fundamental change in the nature of the Iraqi Government, and as such constitute a form of regime change that could be acceptable to the White House, thereby opening a politically face saving way for war to be averted. These initiatives build upon White House comments made last year that if Iraq cooperated with inspectors and disarmed, this would in effect represent regime change, and thus meet the administration’s goals of achieving regime change in Iraq. Each of the six points is expanded on as follows:

The Iraqis have significantly improved their cooperation with the UN in accordance with Security Council resolutions, including unrestricted access to all sites and individuals requested by the inspectors. The inspectors have not found any substantive evidence of Iraq possessing proscribed weapons. While there are gaps in verification concerning certain critical elements of the Iraq declaration, this does not constitute a breach of Iraq’s obligations. If an acceptable benchmark regarding compliance can be defined, Iraq will continue to work with the UN inspectors with the goal of reaching a satisfactory conclusion to their work. It is important not simply to place a deadline, but to define the disarmament tasks that need to be accomplished. Furthermore, it is imperative that these tasks allow for the incorporation of qualitative judgments, to avoid the pitfall of trying to prove the negative in the absence of absolute proof. Finally, a finding of compliance must pave the way for the lifting of economic sanctions and the return to normalcy regarding Iraq&Mac226;s position vis-à-vis the international community.

Human Rights
Iraq will agree to implement domestic policies that are consistent with its obligations as a United Nations member, and in keeping with universally acceptable standards of human rights. For this purpose, Iraq will open, under the auspices of the Office of the Presidency, a special human rights office, and will invite the Secretary General to dispatch to Iraq the UN representative for human rights to begin discussions on joint work concerning monitoring and reporting on human rights issues inside Iraq. Baghdad will also agree to work with international organizations such as Amnesty International in regards to the monitoring of human rights in Iraq.

Iraq will commit to the principles of democracy and reconciliation, and will agree to begin working with outside agencies, including the United Nations, to create the conditions for a free and open election for the Iraqi Parliament in three years time. This would include authorizing the establishment of opposition political parties, including those affiliated with expatriate opposition groups. Iraq would agree to work closely with outside agencies (i.e., the United Nations, the Governments of Canada and South Africa, Nobel Prize winners, etc.) to develop programs of reconciliation so that the process of democratization is open to all Iraqis without fear or prejudice.

Iraq would commit to continue to cooperate fully with the United Nations. Iraq would also seek every means to reach out and engage the United States diplomatically so that the concerns of both parties can be resolved bilaterally. Iraq would request the re-establishment of full diplomatic relations with the United States, recognizing that this represents the best means of interacting between the two interested parties.

Iraq would commit to its responsibilities to the world in regards to providing secure supplies of oil at reasonable market prices. Iraq would work within acceptable frameworks to ensure that this occurs. The best way to achieve this would be to return control over Iraq’s oil resources to the Government of Iraq, thus freeing it to better exploit Iraq&Mac226;s indigenous resources. Iraq would work with the United Nations and leading oil exploration and extraction companies, including those from the United States and Great Britain, to achieve this. Iraq would be prepared to guarantee the strategic energy requirements of Europe and the United States once economic sanctions are lifted and the current crisis resolved.

Iraq would commit to a regional peace process that seeks not only to resolve the current crisis between Iraq and the United States, but also establish a framework of stability for relations between Iraq and all of its neighbors. Iraq would recognize the nation of Kuwait and its borders, and renounce war with Iran. Iraq would seek to direct its efforts towards regional economic and political stability, and renounce massive military expenditures that exceed legitimate requirements for self defense. Iraq would work to resolve the Palestinian conflict, and would accept any resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis that is acceptable for the people of Palestine. Iraq would reject violence as a means of resolving disputes, reject terror and terrorism, and would work with the international community to bring an end to acts of international terror.

Pie in the sky thinking? Perhaps, but the best part about these six points for peace is that the Iraqi Government, in conversations with senior officials of the South African Government, has agreed to implement them if there is some assurance that the United States would actively pursue a peaceful resolution to the current crisis along these lines. I can&Mac226;t think of a better mission statement for Canadian diplomacy than that. Six points for peace trumps 3,000 impact points for American bombs any day of the year.

Scott Ritter, former UN weapons inspector,
and author of Endgame: Solving the Iraq Crisis (Simon & Schuster, 1999).

This essay is taken from the presentation by Mr. Ritter to Calgary University on March 14, 2003.

On America, Iraq, the United Nations, Weapons Inspections, and the Future of World Peace

Scott Ritter
Former United Nations Chief Weapons Inspector in Iraq, 1991-1998

As the first months of resumed weapons inspections in Iraq comes to a close, the only thing that has become clear is that when it comes to Iraq and its past programs of mass destruction, nothing is clear. Are there weapons still remaining in Iraq? While it is too early along in the process of inspections for any preliminary judgment to be had, it does seem that Iraq is doing more than it ever has in the past to be as cooperative with the new UN inspectors. And yet, the Iraqi declaration concerning its past proscribed weaponry seems to have fallen short of the kind of conclusive confession that many in the United Nations, and especially Washington, DC, were expecting and demanding. The failure, or inability, of Iraq to provide iron-clad documentation concerning the final disposition of unaccounted for weapons and associated material once again brings the world to the brink of armed conflict.

Can inspections work? Can the UN weapons sleuths provide the world with enough confidence that the threat posed to international peace and security by Iraq’s chemical, biological, nuclear and long-range ballistic missiles has been dismantled? Or are the weapons inspections themselves merely a smokescreen behind which Iraq, enabled after seven years experience of mastering the cat-and-mouse game of hide and seek, bides its time while luring the world into a false sense of complacency, only to emerge emboldened by its defiance and strengthened with the ultimate tool of political and diplomatic blackmail — weapons of mass destruction?

Perhaps there is a different game at play here, a classic bait and switch being perpetrated by neo-conservative hawks in Washington, DC, one that parleys the conceptual threat posed by Iraqi weapons of mass destruction into an extension of the ongoing (and still un-won) war on terror, which is in turn used to justify implementation of a new doctrine of unilateralism which seeks to achieve American hegemony over the world under the guise of national security?

These are difficult questions and issues which require a solid foundation in fact and ideology to answer — fact because facts do matter, and ideology because when speaking of war and peace, life and death, it is essential that such matters be framed within the concept of an over-reaching system of values that defines life’s worth, and as such the circumstances under which one can consider the sacrifice of life. From my perspective as a former officer of Marines who participated in a War with Iraq (Operation Desert Storm, in 1991), and a former UN weapons inspector who took part in over 50 missions inside Iraq from 1991 until 1998, the current situation regarding Iraq is best evaluated within a framework which brings into play issues of War, the Rule of Law, and American Democracy.

On War. This discussion should start off by acknowledging that war is about death and devastation, killing or being killed. It is about the taking of human life, and the destruction of the human condition. War advances nothing; it only destroys. War represents the absolute failure of mankind, and as such should represent the last option considered when discussing the resolution of disputes between nations. I come to this discussion from the perspective of a warrior, someone who has trained in the art of war, and practiced it. I did so out of a sense of service to country, a desire to defend what I love and cherish. When joining the Marines, I took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I swore to defend the system of values and ideals set forth in that document, something I was then, and am now, prepared to give my life for. When speaking of war and reasons for war, as an American I must first ask what it is I and others would be fighting for. Is this a war about the security of the United States? Has the target of our aggression attacked us in any way? Is our very existence threatened? Or is this a war about political ideology and ambition? The former I am willing to sacrifice for, the latter never. As Americans we should seek clarification from our elected officials as to why we are pursuing war before we head down that awful path.

On the Rule of Law. The Constitution defines the United States as a nation of law. Law governs how we Americans interact as a people, and how we interact with the rest of the world. Law establishes the rules and regulations of this interaction, and sets forth the penalties for failure to comply. Law without effective enforcement is meaningless. Iraq has been required by international law to disarm. The penalty for failing to comply is severe — war. But the rule of law is a two-way street. It doesn’t only apply to those being held accountable, but also to those prosecuting. It is imperative that when speaking of holding Iraq accountable to the rule of law, we ensure that the rule of law is maintained. As such, when speaking of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, we should not deviate from the legal precept of “innocent until proven guilty”; especially when the consequences are sever as war. It is one thing to suspect Iraq of having weapons of mass destruction; it is another to demonstrate it. As long as Iraq is fulfilling its obligation to fully cooperate with UN weapons inspectors, and these inspections uncover no evidence of wrong-doing on the part of Iraq, talk of war is irresponsible and morally wrong. A guilty conviction can be made only upon irrefutable evidence of wrong-doing. The onus is upon the international community to provide proof of such wrongdoing, not on Iraq to provide proof of innocence. There are those who say the onus is on Iraq to prove to the international community that it no longer has weapons of mass destruction. This may well have been true in April 1991, when the Security Council passed the original disarmament resolution, 687. But that resolution recognized the precept that Iraq must fully cooperate with the United Nations inspectors, and if Baghdad failed to do this, then the Security Council, because it had made resolution 687 one passed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, would enforce its law through the use of military force. However, when in July 1991 the Security Council failed to act in enforcement of its resolution in the face of Iraqi lies and obstruction, and instead sent weapons inspectors back to Iraq to hunt for undeclared weapons, the Council, through the precedent of its actions, shifted the burden of proof from Iraq to the inspectors. While this might have been wrong, it is in fact what happened, and from 1991 until 1998 the inspectors were forced to carry out an elaborate game of hide and seek. Having made these rules, it is imperative that the international community accept the results, which is that Iraq cannot at this late stage in the game be compelled to prove a negative.

On American Democracy It is increasingly difficult for me as an American to square the issues of war and the rule of law with the actions of the Government of the United States and, as an extension, the people it represents, when discussing Iraq. It is one thing to set out ideals and values in a Constitution. It is another to put them into action. More and more, I see the United States heading down the path of expediency when dealing with war and the rule of law. Such expediency is reprehensible to me as an American, as it represents a deviation from the foundation of beliefs that define me as an American. For me, the Constitution is an absolute; we are not Americans without it. To undertake courses of action at home or abroad which fail to adhere to the principles and letter of the Constitution means that we are turning away from that which defines us as a nation, that which I and others who wear, or wore, the uniform of the Armed Forces were — and are — prepared to defend with out lives. I not only revile those who would lead us down such a path, but wonder about those who allow themselves to be so led.

Democracy is not a passive endeavor. It requires an investment of sweat equity by those who seek to prosper within the framework of liberty and freedom democracy brings. I fear that many in America have come to expect the benefits of being an American without making the investment of citizenship. We are a nation that has stopped voting. We are a people so accustomed to wrapping ourselves in a cocoon of comfort that we fear anything that rocks the boat of prosperity, even if the ship is sailing towards the abyss. We have ceased being a nation of citizens, and instead become a collective of coddled consumers.

For America to survive, its citizens must rediscover who we are as a people. We must reacquaint ourselves with the Constitution of the United States, the rule of law, and what it means to be an American. We must re-embrace the concepts of citizenship, and the will to do so actively. The urgency of the moment is real, especially in this time of war and fear of war. Now is the time to ask questions, to demand answers, to hold those whom we elect to represent us in higher office accountable for what they do in our name. Such engagement is not only good citizenship; it is the most patriotic thing an American can do in defense of the ideals and values of American democracy.

As we consider war with Iraq, therefore, let us pause to ask some questions of those who are leading the charge towards war. Is Iraq a threat worthy of war? Can Iraq be demonstrated to possess weapons of mass destruction? And, regardless, is the situation regarding Iraq about the national security of the United States, or about the pursuit of political ambition and ideology? The answers to these questions, and how we respond, will go far in defining who we are as a nation, and how we are perceived around the world, for decades to come. We owe it to ourselves, to the world, and especially to those who wear the uniform of the Armed Forces of the United States, to not only ask these and other questions, but to demand factually-based answers from those in higher office. And if adequate answers are not forthcoming, then we owe it to the concept of American Democracy to ensure those who fail to respond to the will of the people never again represent the will of the people.

Despite President Bush’s repeated rhetoric concerning a “coalition of the willing”, there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the looming war with Iraq is very much an American war, and decisions pertaining to this conflict are the sole purview of Washington, DC. The United Nations may fret and debate over issues of war and peace, and there still yet may be a role for the Security Council in providing a veil of legitimacy for any attack on Iraq through the passage of an authorizing resolution, but the trigger will be pulled by the White House. As such, the succession of high profile presentations recently made by UN inspectors and US Government officials in the form of, respectively, the weapons inspection status report to the Security Council (January 27), the President’s State of the Union Address (January 28), Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation to the Security Council (February 5) and the most recent status report by the UN inspectors (February 14) are best evaluated in terms of its impact on American audiences, both domestic and political. Hans Blix’s report on January 27 was tailor made for those in the Bush administration who had been denigrating the effectiveness of the UN-led inspection regime in Iraq. As made clear in his State of the Union Address, President Bush and his advisors have defined the inspection process as a simple matter, one where Iraq must turn over its stockpiles of proscribed material for verification and elimination by the weapons inspectors. While this may in fact represent the initial inspection scenario as it existed in 1991, to continue with this formulation today demonstrates a woeful unfamiliarity with the history of the inspection process.

Let there be no doubt that Iraq is responsible for the position it finds itself in today. Iraq’s record of obstruction, lies, deception and deceit on the matter of its obligation to disarm is clear. However, one cannot ignore the reality of the disarmament that was accomplished by the United Nations weapons inspectors, despite Iraq’s unfortunate behavior. From 1991 to 1997, weapons inspections were able to achieve a 90-95% level of verified disarmament concerning Iraq’s proscribed weapons programs, according to Rolf EkJus, the former Executive Chairman of the United Nations Special Commission, or UNSCOM, the predecessor to Hans Blix’s United Nations Monitoring and Verification Inspection Commission, or UNMOVIC. This level included all of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction production facilities, and the associated manufacturing equipment.

In addition, from 1994 to 1998, UNSCOM had implemented the most strenuous on-site inspection regime in the history of arms control. During the period of monitoring inspections, UNSCOM never found evidence of retained proscribed material of any meaningful level, or efforts by Iraq to reconstitute proscribed activity. Contrary to what President Bush alluded to in his State of the Union Address, there is not a single UN document since 1995 that states that Iraq possesses prohibited weapons. All UN reports note that while the inspection process achieved impressive results in the field of disarmament and monitoring, there were still critical aspects of Iraq’s proscribed weapons programs for which the final disposition could not be verified.

Despite President Bush’s claim that Iraq has never accounted for its weapons of mass destruction, the fact of the matter is that Iraq has submitted a comprehensive declaration which fully accounts for every aspect of its past proscribed programs. The problem is verification. While many of Iraq’s declarations have been confirmed by inspectors as being accurate, there are some — including those involved with critical chemical and biological weapons — that remain unverified. The major obstacle towards acceptance of Iraq’s declaration is that much of it is based upon acts of unilateral destruction, where Iraq disposed of its weapons — illegally so — void of the presence of UN weapons inspectors and without sufficient documentation. Given Iraq’s past record of distorting the truth, one would be foolish to give Baghdad any benefit of the doubt when it comes to its disarmament obligation. But one should distinguish between the concept of verification, which is the process that is ongoing in Iraq today, and proving the negative, which is what President Bush is demanding of Iraq.

The United States, together with Great Britain, contends that Iraq continues to possess massive stockpiles of proscribed material related to chemical, biological, nuclear and long-range missile weapons programs. And yet no substantive evidence has been offered by any party to back up these allegations. Indeed, when pressed for some form of evidence to back up his assertions regarding Iraq, the American Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, noted with a straight face, “The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” More recently, Mr. Rumsfeld noted that the fact that weapons inspectors have not found any weapons in Iraq is probably the best proof that such weapons exist.

In the face of such logic, one has to wonder what was going through the mind of Hans Blix when he prepared his report to the Security Council. Clearly he had to be cognizant of the political and ideological environment that existed in Washington DC, where the proponents of military action against Iraq would be hanging on his every word. While factually correct, Mr. Blix’s report was decidedly imbalanced and deliberately misleading. While accurately noting that the Iraqi declaration regarding the final disposition of growth media used in the manufacture of anthrax, Mr. Blix failed to balance his concerns by noting that the main production facility used for anthrax manufacture had been destroyed by UNSCOM in 1996, and that liquid bulk anthrax germinates after three years, making it mathematically impossible for Iraq to have any anthrax void of a new means of manufacture — something no UN inspector has been able to ascertain despite thousands of on-site inspections since 1996. Furthermore, the growth media — acquired by Iraq in the late 1980’s — itself has a shelf life of some five years, making this a moot point all around.

With great fanfare, Mr. Blix discussed the so-called “Air Force” document, which accounts for chemical munitions expended by Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War between 1983 and 1988. Mr. Blix noted that this document did not coincide with earlier Iraqi accounting, and that there was a shortfall of some 6,000 munitions, the contents of which must still be considered to be in existence. But in saying this, Mr. Blix failed to inform the Council that his own chemical experts have stated, in internal reports, the “…taking into consideration the conditions and quality of the CW agents and munitions produced by Iraq at that time, there is no possibility of weapons remaining from the mid 1980’s….this is not the case for the accounting of CW activities carried out by Iraq at the final stage of the implementation of its chemical program, from 1988 to 1991.” In short, the UN still has unresolved issues about VX nerve agent, but the unaccounted munitions and their fill from before 1988 — primarily sarin and tabun nerve agent, and mustard gas — are not of major concern.

On the issue of VX nerve agent, Mr. Blix was similarly incomplete in his presentation. Again, there is no debating the fact that Iraq has been woefully inadequate in terms of its accounting for its VX nerve agent program. This lack of accountability is exacerbated by Iraq’s refusal to admit having a VX nerve agent until 1995, and the less than forthcoming manner in which details concerning that program were exposed. Regardless of these circumstances, however, the inspectors are in possession of documents concerning Iraq’s VX program, obtained by UNSCOM inspectors from buildings destroyed during Desert Storm, which detail the extent of Iraq’s efforts in that area. To date, the inspectors have refused to share the contents of these documents with the Iraqis, holding Iraq accountable instead for differing accounts provided to the inspectors based upon flawed recollections. While this technique might reinforce the perception of Iraqi non-cooperation, it does not further the cause of disarmament. There is nothing in the VX documents that constitutes a ‘smoking gun’ in terms of continued Iraqi possession of VX. Likewise, Mr. Blix refers to evidence that Iraq had weaponized VX, without stating that the tests used to determine this finding did not meet international standards in terms of quality control, and that the testing methodology itself, according to Harvard University Professor Dr. Matthew Mendelson, has a very high rate of false readings.

In conclusion, the Blix report of January 27 was slanted, incomplete and misleading. While taking note of the level of Iraqi cooperation in regards to access, Mr. Blix failed to note that the so-called “high priority” sites provided to the inspectors by US intelligence, and which had been singled out by senior Bush administration officials in the fall of 2002 as evidence of Iraq’s ongoing work on weapons of mass destruction, had been inspected and no evidence to support such activity, past or present, discovered. Mr. Blix could have reported that, in fact, no intelligence leads provided by either the United States or Great Britain had been found to be credible.

Dr. Al-Baradai, of the International Atomic Energy Agency, had the courage to note that the much publicized US intelligence concerning aluminum pipes had nothing to do with Uranium enrichment, but rather conventional artillery rockets, and that British intelligence reports concerning ongoing Iraqi efforts to purchase uranium stocks abroad had proven to be baseless. This, of course, did not stop President Bush from continuing the myth of Iraqi nuclear capability by repeating these false assertions in his State of the Union address.

Finally, Mr. Blix demonstrated a remarkable insensitivity to the reality of the situation regarding inspections and Iraqi cooperation, highlighted by his comments concerning Iraq’s balking at the resumption of overflights by US-controlled U-2 spy planes. There was a disruptive presence in the Security Council during Mr. Blix’s presentation, and yet no one wanted to acknowledge its presence. This, of course, was the American policy objective of regime removal. This policy is unilateral in nature, has no basis in international law, and has taken precedent over disarmament in the mind-set of Bush administration policy formulators. This policy of regime removal dates back to 1991, and has resulted in the United States using the unique access afforded to the inspectors inside Iraq for purposes other than that mandated by the Security Council, namely intelligence gathering related to the security of Saddam Hussein. The inspection process has been irretrievably tainted by this American policy, and the U-2 spy plane plays a special role in this pollution.

But nobody made any reference at all to the American policy of regime removal, and the corrupting influence this plays on the issue of Iraqi disarmament when Colin Powell spoke before the Security Council on February 5. According to Secretary Powell, the Bush administration places the burden of proof squarely on Iraq when it comes to proving that it has no prohibited weapons. But how do you prove a negative? Iraq has declared that it no longer possesses weapons of mass destruction, and that everything has been destroyed. Much of this destruction has been confirmed by past weapons inspections, so much so that the United Nations can verify the final disposition of over 90% of Iraq’s proscribed weaponry and related material. But what of that which is unaccounted for? Iraq claims that this material, too, has been destroyed, and yet can provide no verifiable means of enabling weapons inspectors to confirm this.

Given Iraq’s uneven record of veracity regarding its past weapons declarations to the United Nations, one would be loath to accept at face value the current claims that all has been destroyed. Iraq claims to have produced 8,500 liters of liquid bulk anthrax, and yet there is enough unaccounted for growth media, food for bacteria used to mass produce biological agents, to have manufactured 25,000 liters of anthrax. There is no evidence that Iraq did in fact produce this amount; the number is simply an extrapolation, one that Iraq is held accountable to. But this figure fails to take into account the following: Iraq procured the growth media in question in the late 1980’s, and it has a shelf life of 5-7 years. The last known batch of anthrax manufactured by Iraq was in 1991, and the factory used by Iraq to produce anthrax was destroyed, together with its associated production equipment, under UN supervision in 1996. Iraq only produced liquid bulk anthrax, which under ideal storage conditions has a shelf life of three years before it germinates and becomes useless.

Intensive monitoring inspections of Iraq’s biological research and manufacturing base carried out from 1995 until the end of 1998 failed to detect any evidence of a retained biological warfare capability. For Iraq to have a viable anthrax stockpile today, it would have needed to develop a new manufacturing base since 1999. And while the new UNMOVIC inspection regime is still only a few months old, to date no evidence of such a capability has been detected. Further more, Iraq has never been shown to have perfected the technique needed to produce the dry powder form of anthrax so graphically presented by Colin Powell when he held up his vial of simulated white powder. Only the United States has, which of course was the source of the anthrax used in the October 2001 letter attacks mentioned by the Secretary of State.

During his presentation to the Security Council, the Secretary of State made reference to so-called mobile production facilities for biological agents, citing various defector reports as the source of this information. But the real basis for these road and rail-mobile biological facilities are sheer conjecture and fantasy, a hypothesis posed jointly by Dick Spertzel, the former head of the UNSCOM biological weapons inspection team, who postulated the existence of such vehicles from his own imagination, and a CIA analyst frequently assigned to the UN who had a theory on the possible use by Iraq of rail cars to conceal activity from the inspectors. Theory and hypothesis, not hard fact that pre-dates any of the cited defector reports. There simply is no hard evidence that such vehicles exist. Defector reports related to this issue come from questionable sources that cannot be verified. Many of these defectors are affiliated with Achmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress, an organization notorious for making available so-called “defectors” who have been pre-briefed with publicly available information. Colin Powell also failed to inform the Security Council that had anyone tried to build the mobile biological weapons laboratories displayed in the US drawings that they would never work. The diagrams, like the intelligence they were based on, represented pure fantasy.

Similar problems exist in the case regarding Iraq’s chemical weapons program. With great fanfare, Mr. Powell repeated Hans Blix’s concerns over an accounting shortfall that emerged when inspectors discovered the so-called “Air Force” document, which accounts for chemical munitions expended by Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War between 1983 and 1988. But Secretary Powell failed to note the contents of the UN chemical experts&Mac226; analysis of the viability of these weapons, written by one of the most respected chemical experts in the employ of the United Nations.

And in regards to defectors, everyone seems to be loath to discuss the words of the ultimate defector, Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law, Hussein Kamal, who repeatedly told his questioners after his August 1995 defection, UN and US alike, that in regards to Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, “nothing remains…I ordered everything destroyed.”.


Biological weapons? “Nothing remains…all has been destroyed.”
Chemical weapons? Ballistic missiles? Nuclear? “All has been destroyed.”

That is one defector report that wasn’t part of Secretary Powell’s report to the Security Council.

The Iraqi threat painted by Colin Powell is not real, but a Phantom Menace, something conjured up with smoke and mirrors disguised as “irrefutable fact”. How else does one explain the existence of a 1,200 kilometer missile that has never been designed, built, or tested? This part of the presentation was clearly geared towards fear-mongering, an effort to pressure Russia and others ostensibly in the range arc of the Iraqi phantom missiles into supporting a military strike against Iraq.

The entire Powell presentation was a farce, filled with satellite pictures that show nothing, but claim to show everything. During my time as a weapons inspector, the United States repeatedly provided so-called “evidence” of this nature, displaying photograph after photograph ostensibly showing Iraqi evacuation operations in response to UN inspection activity. On two occasions, one in Baghdad and the other in Tikrit, inspectors were able to show that the vehicular activity in question actually related to the gathering and distribution of food supplies. On all other occasions the imagery in question was so vague as to make any definitive judgment impossible. The point to make is that in every case, Hans Blix and his inspectors can travel to these sites and conduct a forensic investigation to determine what, if anything, actually took place. Of course, Colin Powell failed to mention that the UN inspectors had done exactly that at the nearly one dozen “high priority” sites designated by the CIA, and which turned up nothing.

And then there were those intercepted conversations. I ran the United Nations communication intercept program against Iraq from 1996 to 1998, and experienced several intercepts of this nature. Who are the individuals in question? Do we have names? What are their affiliations? What call signs did they use? Was this an encrypted conversation, or conducted in the open? Were they operating on military frequencies? Frequencies assigned to security units? Frequencies assigned to personnel responsible for inspection-related activities? How do we know this conversation relates to inspection activity? These are questions that I and my team of communication intercept specialists dealt with all the time, and as a result we were able to sort through conversations that were relevant and those that were not.

Without additional input from the United States, it is impossible to assert that these intercepts mean anything at all, although Colin Powell asserts they in fact mean everything. If so, then the United States should provide Hans Blix with the relevant data, allowing the UN inspectors to reconstruct the events in question, interrogate the individuals involved, and through forensic investigation determine the relevance of the conversation.

This, of course, is the last thing the United States wants. Left unmentioned throughout this whole charade is the fact that the policy of the United States in regards to Iraq is regime removal, not disarmament. Disarmament is only useful to the Bush administration in so far as it facilitates the containment, destabilization and eventual demise of Saddam Hussein. That is why President Bush keeps repeating his mantra, “Either Saddam Hussein disarms himself, or I will lead a coalition of the willing to disarm him.” There is no mention of the inspectors, or the process of inspection mandated by Security Council resolution.

As the time table for military action draws near, the last thing the hawks in Washington, DC need is a favorable report from the UN regarding Iraq’s cooperation with the inspection process. It appears that Iraq is doing everything possible to achieve that outcome, turning over new documents, permitting unmonitored interviews of scientists, and acceding to U-2 aerial overflight, in addition to maintaining its provision of immediate, unrestricted access to sites designated for inspection. A favorable report by the UN regarding Iraqi cooperation would prove to be the death knell for any Security Council resolution authorizing military action against Iraq. The only hope the United States has, therefore, is to discredit the inspection process itself.

Colin Powell’s presentation lacked substantive data of any note, and the circumstantial nature of most of the reporting could readily be refuted through proper investigation by UN weapons inspectors. Of course, this is the last thing the United States wants. Given their ability to uncover the truth about Iraq’s proscribed weapons programs, the inspectors are now the enemy. The purpose of Secretary Powell’s briefing was less about demonstrating actual Iraqi proscribed programs than it was about denigrating the efficacy of the weapons inspection process. Given the Bush administrations commitment to removing the regime of Saddam Hussein, the United States simply cannot allow a viable inspection regime to go forward, because a disarmed Iraq is one that will be welcomed back into the family of nations, even with Saddam Hussein at the helm.

Which is why the report to the Security Council of Hans Blix and Mohammed Al-Baradai on February 14 was so critical. This report noted the improvement in the level of cooperation from Baghdad regarding Iraq’s disarmament, while noting that there were still many outstanding issues, old and new alike. Blix reiterated his concerns on biological and chemical weapons, but this time hedged his statements by noting that while he had no proof that Iraq in fact possessed these weapons, he could not discount this possibility based upon the evidence at hand. Most
importantly, however, Hans Blix directly contradicted many of the assertions that Colin Powell had made in his February 5 Security Council briefing, especially those that spoke of Iraqi concealment. The presentations by Hans Blix and Dr. Al-Baradai both breathed new life into the inspection process, demonstrating that inspectors on the ground in Iraq were a very viable option to war. Many members of the Security Council picked up on this, and in dramatic fashion rejected the American and British efforts to push for a resolution authorizing military force against Iraq.

This does not mean that the crisis is over. Far from it. Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the United Nations, has noted that the United Nations may soon have to make a grim choice in regards to Iraq. This choice is whether or not the United Nations will retain any semblance of relevancy in the future. However, relevancy does not come by caving in to the demands of an arrogant Superpower, but rather from adhering to the spirit and letter of international law as set forth in the United Nations Charter. For the United Nations to have any meaning at all, it must
stand up and defend what it aspires to stand for, and not simply become the pliant tool of American unilateralism. The United Nations must make sure that it adheres to the principles set forth in the UN Charter, especially those governing international peace and security. There may very well be an “Abyssinia Moment” for the UN in the near future, where the international body will be forced to stand up against the brutal tyranny and aggression of a rogue nation. But in the case of Iraq, the threat to international peace and security emanates not from Baghdad, but from Washington, DC. For the rule of law to have any relevance, it must be uniformly applied to all,
tyrannical dictators and rogue Presidents alike.

The United States itself faces a critical test. Many Americans feel that the events of September 11, 2001 have “changed everything”, and that the insecurity felt by the United States in the face of terrorism justifies the harsh actions undertaken by the Bush administration, both at home and abroad. America’s War on Terror has hit a dangerous impasse. The rapid military campaign in Afghanistan which saw the demise of the Taliban and the scattering of Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda has stalled. American troops, together with the forces of their allies, have become mired in a counterinsurgency campaign which finds them confronting the forces of tribalism more often than the forces of terror. Concerns over the difficult situation inside Afghanistan have prevented the United States from supporting an expansion of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), guaranteeing that the stability promised to the people of Afghanistan following the American-led intervention will be limited to the capital city of Kabul and its immediate environs. As a result, the unrest in Afghanistan is actually creating a situation in the countryside that is conducive for return of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

As Afghanistan sinks deeper and deeper into chaos and anarchy, the resultant instability has undermined the situation in neighboring Pakistan, America’s ostensible ally in the War on Terror. Pushed by the United States to cooperate in crushing fundamentalist Islamic forces in Afghanistan (forces which had been fostered by Pakistan over the past two decades), Pakistan’s President Musharraf has been compelled to make domestic compromises concerning fundamentalist Islamic movements in Kashmir which are also sponsored by Pakistan. Musharraf had urged a quick resolution to the situation in Afghanistan for good reason: the longer Pakistan was involved in something as inherently unpopular in the domestic politic of Pakistan as the suppression of fellow Muslims in Afghanistan, the more difficult it would be for Musharraf to contain Islamic fundamentalists in his own government, especially those involved in the highly-charged situation between India and Pakistan regarding Kashmir. The Kashmir situation has devolved to the point that today Pakistan and India, both nuclear powers, stand on the brink of an all-out military struggle which could rapidly escalate into a full nuclear exchange. Nuclear conflict between Pakistan and India would kill tens of millions immediately, and the death toll could rise to hundreds of millions in the weeks and months afterwards from the combined effects of radiation, disease, and hunger. Nuclear fallout from such an attack would pollute much of the world, including North America and Europe, creating a short-term health emergency and devastating long-term impact on the quality of life for hundreds of millions of people.

America’s focus of attention on the military aspects of the War on Terror in Afghanistan have prevented full diplomatic engagement in the India-Pakistan situation. What engagement that has been forthcoming seems more focused on finding ways to keep Pakistani forces deployed on the border with Afghanistan than de-escalating the tensions between Pakistan and India. Likewise, the stalled military campaign in Afghanistan has resulted in increased political vulnerability on the domestic front in Washington DC, prompting the Bush administration to seek a second front in the War on Terror as means of deflecting criticism. This second front is Iraq. Building upon decades-long demonizing of Iraq’s President, Saddam Hussein, and capitalizing on the post-9/11
fears of many Americans concerning weapons of mass destruction, the Bush administration has exaggerated the threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to the United States in an effort to gain domestic support for a war with Iraq, even if this means the United States must go it alone. War against Iraq for the purpose of deposing Saddam Hussein has been defined by the Bush administration as the essential criteria for ultimate victory in the War on Terror, above and beyond even the capture or elimination of Osama Bin Laden.

Strong-handed diplomatic pressure by the United States in the past weeks appear to have expanded support for a war against Iraq in Saudi Arabia, which will provide ports and other logistical support, and Turkey, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, which will provide bases from which American troops will operate. However, none of this diplomatic arm-twisting has changed the reality on the Arab street that a war between the United States and Iraq would be immensely unpopular. Many Arab governments, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, have warned the United States that a war with Iraq could undermine their ability to maintain power, and would strengthen the position of militant anti-American Islamic fundamentalist forces. They have cautioned against an American war with Iraq, but emphasized that if America was to strike, the situation should be resolved quickly and that there should be a viable plan for a post-Saddam government in Iraq.

War with Iraq brings with it real dangers. Ideally, a US-led military campaign would trigger anti-Saddam forces inside Iraq that would enable a rapid defeat of the Iraqi government and stabilization of the internal situation inside Iraq. If this is achieved, the United States would theoretically be able to neutralize any backlash that might erupt in the region and around the world resulting from an invasion of Iraq. A new, pro-American government in Iraq, put in place through strong unilateral action by the United States, would reflect not only the seriousness of the Bush administration in dealing with those who promote anti-American terror, but also the futility of confronting the United States. Unfortunately the reality of the situation inside Iraq does not appear to match the conditions needed to achieve such a result. Many anti-Saddam opposition forces, including Kurds in the north of Iraq and Shi’a operating in the south of Iraq from bases inside Iran, have warned that the population of Iraq might very well actively resist any American invasion, not so much out of loyalty to Saddam but rather sincere Iraqi patriotism. Recent agreements between the United States and Turkey regarding the stationing of considerable numbers of Turkish troops in northern Iraq, as well as the apparent abandonment of the Shi’a dominated Iraqi National Congress by the Bush administration when formulating options for a post-Saddam Iraq, have eroded potential support even further.

While such resistance would not serve to defeat an American invasion, it would definitely delay an American victory and result in enormous casualties amongst the Iraqi population. Both such results would severely complicate the situation in Iraq and the entire Middle East for the United States. Any hint of quagmire or massive loss of civilian lives would serve to ignite a wave of anti-American sentiment already looming under the surface of almost every Arab and Muslim country, and bring with it the real possibility of pro-American governments in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere falling to Islamic fundamentalist movements. Complicating all of this is the current
tendency of the Bush administration to engage in military operations inside Iraq with a relatively small force of some 250,000 troops. Even if victory can be had with a slimmed-down invasion force, the margin for error will be very small. Any deviation from the plan would result in costly delays, increasing the likelihood of severe complications both from a military and political standpoint.

Furthermore, the Bush administration has yet to define a definitive plan for a post-Saddam Iraq. Void of such, it is unlikely that any post-Saddam government would have any viability, and could not survive without massive American military backing. The occupation of Iraq could prove to be an immense, costly and contentious undertaking. It is unlikely that Iraq could be securely occupied with anything less than 100,000 troops. The ISAF in Afghanistan is comprised of 25,000 troops simply for the area in and around Kabul. Iraq would require the occupation of no less than five major cities (Baghdad, Basra, Tikrit, Mosul and Kirkuk), as well as three separate oil producing regions (Kirkuk, Basra and Baiji). Active patrolling in tribal areas would be required to keep unrest down. Defeating Saddam is not the major obstacle in securing Iraq; stabilizing Iraq in the aftermath of Saddam’s downfall, and replacing Saddam with a viable government, is. Right now the Bush administration is focused on regime removal, with little in the way of responsible planning taking place concerning a post-Saddam Iraq.

In short, the War on Terror is not proceeding well. Stalemate in Afghanistan, a deteriorating situation inside Pakistan, potential for catastrophic nuclear warfare between Pakistan and India, chaos and brinkmanship with a nuclear-armed North Korea, and a situation vis-à-vis Iraq that could further worsen an already tenuous situation for America in the Middle East is not conducive to achieving victory. The Bush administrations prosecution of the War on Terror is off-target in regards to addressing any center of gravity in regards to the enemy&Mac226;s position, and off-balance in terms of achieving any constructive gains against the forces of terror. In fact, an argument can be made than, as a result of the current stalemate, the forces of terror are actually growing stronger. The political fall-out from the lack of progress in the War on Terror is prompting the Bush administration to seek expansion of the war for short-term domestic political gain (i.e. Iraq) with little or no consideration of the detrimental long-term impact such a conflict might have on the region and overall United States security. An overall reassessment of the War on Terror needs to be had, including a re-prioritization of national security threats which put the War on Terror in a more balanced perspective.

Iraq would need to be dealt with through the Security Council of the United Nations. The United States would need to support viable weapons inspections in Iraq to address concerns about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, and then respect the will of the Council in allowing economic sanctions to be lifted once Iraq has been certified as being disarmed. The United States should seek to facilitate the economic reconstitution of Iraq, which represents the best means of creating true political reform inside Iraq. Such reconstitution can be had by returning full control of the Iraqi economy to the Government of Iraq, even if this means accepting the continued rule of Saddam Hussein. Furthermore, a de-emphasis on military action with Iraq would enable the United States to reconsider its military posture in Saudi Arabia, opening the possibility for a reduction in American military presence in that nation which would enable the Saudi government to more forcefully deal with the forces of extreme Islamic fundamentalism.

There is no justification for war with Iraq based upon any notion of a real and imminent threat to international peace and security posed by Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. The best counter to any Iraqi threat in this regards has been, is now, and will continue to be the presence of UN weapons inspectors on the ground. The fact that the Bush administration continues to push for war regardless only exposes the reality that this war is not about implementing international law in regards to Iraq’s disarmament obligation, but rather to implement a unilateral American policy of regime removal which is itself part of a larger strategy of unilateral global domination. The international community has pressed for more time so that the inspectors can complete their task, and it appears that an extended reporting date of 14 March will be scheduled. However, while the world hopes for peace, the United States moves inexorably towards war through the continued deployment of military force into the region.

Sadly, the die seems to have been cast, and war with Iraq appears all but inevitable. The key question now is what form of coalition will be assembled to confront Saddam Hussein. For this, the debate in the halls of the Security Council is all important. The results of this debate will not only determine the nature of the looming conflict, but in fact represents the last hope of the international community to stop a war. For all of his rhetoric, President Bush has as of yet failed to present a compelling case for war with Iraq, both in international circles as well as at home among the domestic American audience. The recent actions by the Governments of France,
Germany and Belgium at the United Nations and in NATO serve as a pointed reminder of this failure. Void of Security Council backing, and the resultant international coalition that would be formed, the vast majority of Americans oppose war with Iraq. Because this conflict is more about political concerns than actual national security, the role of American public opinion cannot be understated. War with Iraq will occur so long as President Bush believes that he gains more by going to war than he does by pulling back.

The Bush administration will be using every trick in its bag of diplomatic tricks to try and sway the Security Council into supporting a new resolution authorizing military force against Iraq. However, lacking any substantive facts that sustain the US allegations regarding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, the international community must stand firm if it is to retain any relevancy at all. The Bush administration will pressure those who oppose war with Iraq by noting that such nations will be left behind once the war begins. But all nations must recognize that unless the line is drawn now, and the US war with Iraq opposed vigorously, all nations become irrelevant in the face of a new age of American imperial domination. The voice and power of American democracy is awakening as more and more of America&Mac226;s citizens realize the dangerous direction President Bush is leading them, as so graphically demonstrated by the massive anti-war demonstrations of 15-16 February.

If the Security Council, acting on behalf of the international community, falters now, at the moment of truth, and provides the Bush administration with a smokescreen of legitimacy by authorizing military force against Iraq, the forces of ignorance and fear which have paralyzed the United States since September 11, 2001, will prevail. If this occurs, there is a real risk that the Bush administration will continue to exploit the tragedy of 9/11, doing to American democracy what Adolf Hitler’s exploitation of the burning of the Reichstag did to German democracy in the 1930’s. If, however, the international community stands firm and supports the continued work of the inspectors in Iraq, without artificially imposed time lines, then President Bush would be running the risk of committing political suicide by going to war with Iraq unilaterally. In the game of high stakes poker that is American politics, this is a risk both he and his advisors may not be willing to take, seeing as the true objective of any politician is reelection, and George W. Bush does not want to go down in history as a one term President. As such, it is the duty and responsibility of all freedom loving people, around the world and in the United States, to stand up for the rule of law, insist on the continued work of UN weapons inspectors, and continue to oppose a needless war with Iraq.

Scott Ritter – former United Nations Chief Weapons Inspector in Iraq, 1991-1998

20 Mishaps That Might Have Started a Nuclear War

20 Mishaps That Might Have Started Accidental Nuclear War
by Alan F. Phillips, M.D.

Ever since the two adversaries in the Cold War, the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R., realized that their nuclear arsenals were sufficient to do disastrous damage to both countries at short notice, the leaders and the military commanders have thought about the possibility of a nuclear war starting without their intention or as a result of a false alarm. Increasingly elaborate accessories have been incorporated in nuclear weapons and their delivery systems to minimize the risk of unauthorized or accidental launch or detonation. A most innovative action was the establishment of the “hot line” between Washington and Moscow in 1963 to reduce the risk of misunderstanding between the supreme commanders.

Despite all precautions, the possibility of an inadvertent war due to an unpredicted sequence of events remained as a deadly threat to both countries and to the world. That is the reason I am prepared to spend the rest of my life working for abolition of nuclear weapons.

One way a war could start is a false alarm via one of the warning systems, followed by an increased level of nuclear forces readiness while the validity of the information was being checked. This action would be detected by the other side, and they would take appropriate action; detection of the response would tend to confirm the original false alarm; and so on to disaster. A similar sequence could result from an accidental nuclear explosion anywhere. The risk of such a sequence developing would be increased if it happened during a period of increased international tension.

On the American side many “false alarms” and significant accidents have been listed, ranging from trivial to very serious, during the Cold War. Probably many remain unknown to the public and the research community because of individuals’ desire to avoid blame and to maintain the good reputation of their unit or command. No doubt there have been as many mishaps on the Soviet side. One has been reported in which a Russian officer, on 23 September 1983, decided on his own initiative not to report an apparently grave warning on his computer screen, in the correct belief that it was a false warning. He may have saved the world, but was disgraced for failing to follow his orders; his career was ruined, and he suffered a mental breakdown.

Working with any new system, false alarms are more likely. The rising moon was misinterpreted as a missile attack during the early days of long-range radar. A fire at a broken gas pipeline was believed to be enemy jamming by laser of a satellite’s infrared sensor when those sensors were first deployed.

The risks are illustrated by the following selections of mishaps. If the people involved had exercised less caution, or if some unfortunate coincidental event had occurred, escalation to nuclear war can easily be imagined. Details of some of the events differ in different sources: where there have been disagreements, I have chosen to quote those from the carefully researched book, “The Limits of Safety” by Scott D. Sagan. Sagan gives references to original sources in all instances.

These examples represent only a fraction of the false alarms that have been reported on the American side. Many on both sides probably remain unreported, or are hidden in records that remain classified.

1956, Nov.5: Suez Crisis coincidence.

British and French Forces were attacking Egypt at the Suez Canal. The Soviet Government had suggested to the U.S. that they combine forces to stop this by a joint military action, and had warned the British and French governments that (non-nuclear) rocket attacks on London and Paris were being considered. That night NORAD HQ received messages that: (i) unidentified aircraft were flying over Turkey and the Turkish air force was on alert (ii) 100 Soviet MIG-15’s were flying over Syria (iii) a British Canberra bomber had been shot down over Syria (iv) the Soviet fleet was moving through the Dardanelles. It is reported that in the U.S.A. General Goodpaster himself was concerned that these events might trigger the NATO operations plan for nuclear strikes against the U.S.S.R.

The four reports were all shown afterwards to have innocent explanations. They were due, respectively, to: (i) a flight of swans (ii) a routine air force escort (much smaller than the number reported) for the president of Syria, who was returning from a visit to Moscow (iii) the Canberra bomber was forced down by mechanical problems (iv) the Soviet fleet was engaged in scheduled routine exercises.

1961, Nov.24: BMEWS communication failure.

On the night of 24 November 1961, all communication links went dead between SAC HQ and NORAD. The communication loss cut off SAC HQ from the three Ballistic Missile Early Warning Sites (BMEWS) at Thule (Greenland,) Clear (Alaska,) and Fylingdales (England,). There were two possible explanations facing SAC HQ: either enemy action, or the coincidental failure of all the communication systems, which had redundant and ostensibly independent routes, including commercial telephone circuits. All SAC bases in the United States were therefore alerted, and B-52 bomber crews started their engines, with instructions not to to take off without further orders. Radio communication was established with an orbiting B-52 on airborne alert, near Thule. It contacted the BMEWS stations by radio and could report that no attack had taken place.

The reason for the “coincidental” failure was that the redundant routes for telephone and telegraph between NORAD and SAC HQ all ran through one relay station in Colorado. At that relay station a motor had overheated and caused interruption of all the lines.

[NOTE: Long after I wrote this, a reader informed me that he was a technician at Plattsburgh Air Force Base at the time. The order reached that Base as an “Alpha” alert, the highest level, at which nuclear-armed bombers were to fly direct to their targets and bomb, without waiting at the failsafe point for further orders. Before any bomber could take off the correction arrived making it a third-level “Cocoa” alert, at which the bombers stayed on the runway with engines running and waited for further orders. If even one bomber had taken off, it might have been very difficult to recall it or stop it.]


1962, Aug.23: B-52 Navigation Error.

SAC Chrome Dome airborne alert route included a leg from the northern tip of Ellesmere Island, SW across the Arctic Ocean to Barter Island, Alaska. On 23 August 1962, a B-52 nuclear armed bomber crew made a navigational error and flew a course 20 degrees too far towards the north. They approached within 300 miles of Soviet airspace near Wrangel island, where there was believed to be an interceptor base with aircraft having an operational radius of 400 miles.

Because of the risk of repetition of such an error, in this northern area where other checks on navigation are difficult to obtain, it was decided to fly a less provocative route in the future. However, the necessary orders had not been given by the time of the Cuban missile crisis in October, so throughout that crisis the same northern route was being flown 24 hours a day.

Aug.-Oct.1962: U2 flights into Soviet airspace.

U2 high altitude reconnaissance flights from Alaska occasionally strayed unintentionally into Soviet airspace. One such episode occurred in August 1962. During the Cuban missile crisis on October of 1962, the U2 pilots were ordered not to fly within 100 miles of Soviet airspace.

On the night of 26 October, for a reason irrelevant to the crisis, a U2 pilot was ordered to fly a new route, over the north pole, where positional checks on navigation were by sextant only. That night the aurora prevented good sextant readings and the plane strayed over the Chukotski Peninsula. Soviet MIG interceptors took off with orders to shoot down the U2. The pilot contacted his U.S. command post and was ordered to fly due east towards Alaska. He ran out of fuel while still over Siberia. In response to his S.O.S., U.S. F102-A fighters were launched to escort him on his glide to Alaska, with orders to prevent the MIG’s from entering U.S. airspace. The U.S. interceptor aircraft were armed with nuclear missiles. These could have been used by any one of the F102-A pilots at his own discretion.

1962, Oct.24: Russian satellite explodes.

On 24 October a Soviet satellite entered its own parking orbit, and shortly afterward exploded. Sir Bernard Lovell, director of the Jodrell Bank observatory wrote in 1968: “the explosion of a Russian spacecraft in orbit during the Cuban missile crisis… led the U.S. to believe that the USSR was launching a massive ICBM attack.” The NORAD Command Post logs of the dates in question remain classified, possibly to conceal reaction to the event. Its occurrence is recorded, and U.S. space tracking stations were informed on 31 October of debris resulting from the breakup of “62 BETA IOTA.”

1962, Oct.25: Duluth intruder.

At around midnight on 25 October, a guard at the Duluth Sector Direction Center saw a figure climbing the security fence. He shot at it, and activated the “sabotage alarm”. This automatically set off sabotage alarms at all bases in the area. At Volk Field, Wisconsin, the alarm was wrongly wired, and the Klaxon sounded which ordered nuclear armed F-106A interceptors to take off. The pilots knew there would be no practice alert drills while DEFCON 3 was in force, and they believed World War III had started.

Immediate communication with Duluth showed there was an error. By this time aircraft were starting down the runway. A car raced from command centre and successfully signalled the aircraft to stop.

The original intruder was a bear.

1962, Oct.26: ICBM Test Launch.

At Vandenburg Air Force Base, California, there was a program of routine ICBM test flights. When DEFCON 3 was ordered all the ICBM’s were fitted with nuclear warheads except one Titan missile that was scheduled for a test launch later that week. That one was launched for its test, without further orders from Washington, at 4 a.m. on the 26th.

It must be assumed that Russian observers were monitoring U.S. missile activities as closely as U.S. observers were monitoring Russian and Cuban activities. They would have known of the general changeover to nuclear warheads, but not that this was only a test launch.

1962, Oct.26: Unannounced Titan missile launch.

During the Cuba crisis, some radar warning stations that were under construction and near completion were brought into full operation as fast as possible. The planned overlap of coverage was thus not always available.

A normal test launch of a Titan-II ICBM took place in the afternoon of 26 October, from Florida towards the South Pacific. It caused temporary concern at Moorestown Radar site until its course could be plotted and showed no predicted impact within the United States. It was not until after this event that the potential for a serious false alarm was realized, and orders were given that radar warning sites must be notified in advance of test launches, and the countdown be relayed to them.

1962, Oct.26: Malmstrom Air Force Base.

When DEFCON 2 was declared on 24 October, solid-fuel Minuteman-1 missiles at Malmstrom Air Force Base were being prepared for full deployment. The work was accelerated to ready the missiles for operation, without waiting for the normal handover procedures and safety checks. When one silo and the first missile were ready on 26 October no armed guards were available to cover transport from the normal separate storage, so the launch enabling equipment and codes were all placed in the silo. It was thus physically possible for a single operator to launch a fully armed missile at a SIOP target.

During the remaining period of the Crisis the several missiles at Malmstrom were repeatedly put on and off alert as errors and defects were found and corrected. Fortunately no combination of errors caused or threatened an unauthorized launch, but in the extreme tension of the period the danger can be well imagined.

October 1962: NATO Readiness.

It is recorded that early in the crisis, in order to avoid provocation of the U.S.S.R., British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and NATO Supreme Commander General Lauris Norstad agreed not to put NATO on alert. When the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff ordered DEFCON 3, Norstad was authorized to use his discretion in complying, and Norstad did not order a NATO alert. However, several NATO subordinate commanders did order alerts to DEFCON 3 or equivalent levels of readiness at bases in West Germany, Italy, Turkey, and United Kingdom. This seems to have been largely due to the action of General Truman Landon, CINC U.S. Air Forces Europe, who had on his own initiative started alert procedures on 17 October in anticipation of a serious crisis over Cuba.

October 1962: British Alerts.

When the U.S. SAC went to DEFCON 2, on 24 October, the British Bomber Command was carrying out an unrelated readiness exercise. On 26 October, Air Marshall Cross, CINC of Bomber Command, decided to prolong the exercise because of the Cuba crisis, and later increased the alert status of British nuclear forces, so that they could launch in 15 minutes.

It seems likely that Soviet intelligence would perceive these moves as part of a coordinated plan in preparation for immediate war. They could not be expected to know that neither the British Minister of Defence nor Prime Minister Macmillan had authorized them.

It is disturbing to note how little was learned from these errors in Europe. McGeorge Bundy wrote in “Danger and Survival” (New York: Random House 1988), “the risk [of nuclear war] was small, given the prudence and unchallenged final control of the two leaders.”

1962, Oct.28: Moorestown false alarm.

Just before 9 a.m. on 28 October the Moorestown, New Jersey, radar operators informed the national command post that a nuclear attack was under way. A test tape simulating a missile launch from Cuba was being run, and simultaneously a satellite came over the horizon. Operators became confused and reported by voice line to NORAD HQ that impact was expected 18 miles west of Tampa at 9:02 a.m. The whole of NORAD was alerted, but before irrevocable action had been taken it was reported that no detonation had taken place at the predicted time, and Moorestown operators reported the reason for the false alarm.

During the incident overlapping radars that should have been available to confirm or disagree, were not in operation. The radar post had not received routine information of satellite passage because the facility carrying out that task had been given other work for the duration of the crisis.

1962, Oct.28: False warning due to satellite sighting.

At 5:26 p.m. on 28 October, the Laredo radar warning site had just become operational. Operators misidentified a satellite in orbit as two possible missiles over Georgia and reported by voice line to NORAD HQ. NORAD was unable to identify that the warning came from the new station at Laredo and believed it to be from Moorestown, and therefore more reliable. Moorestown failed to intervene and contradict the false warning. By the time the CINC, NORAD had been informed, no impact had been reported and the warning was “given low credence.”


1962, Nov.2: The Penkovsky False Warning.

In the fall of 1962, Colonel Oleg Penkovsky was working in Russia as a double agent for the CIA He had been given a code by which to warn the CIA if he was convinced that a Soviet attack on the United States was imminent. He was to call twice, one minute apart, and only blow into the receiver. Further information was then to be left at a “dead drop” in Moscow.

The pre-arranged code message was received by the CIA on 2 November 1962. It was not known at the CIA that Penkovsky had been arrested on 22 October. Penkovsky knew he was going to be executed. It is not known whether he had told the KGB the meaning of the code signal or only how it would be given, nor is it known exactly why or with what authorization the KGB staff used it. When another CIA agent checked the dead drop he was arrested.

1965, November: Power failure and faulty bomb alarms.

Special bomb alarms were installed near military facilities and near cities in the U.S.A., so that the locations of nuclear bursts would be transmitted before the expected communication failure. The alarm circuits were set up to display a red signal at command posts the instant that the flash of a nuclear detonation reached the sensor, and before the blast could put it out of action. Normally the display would show a green signal, and yellow if the sensor was not operating or was out of communication for any other reason.

During the commercial power failure in the NE United States in November 1965, displays from all the bomb alarms for the area should have shown yellow. In fact, two of them from different cities showed red because of circuit errors. The effect was consistent with the power failure being due to nuclear weapons explosions, and the Command Center of the Office of Emergency Planning went on full alert. Apparently the military did not.

1968, Jan.21: B-52 crash near Thule.

Communication between NORAD HQ and the BMEWS station at Thule had 3 elements: 1. Direct radio communication. 2. A “bomb alarm” as described above. 3. Radio Communication relayed by a B-52 bomber on airborne alert.

On 21 January 1968, a fire broke out in the B-52 bomber on airborne alert near Thule. The pilot prepared for an emergency landing at the base. However the situation deteriorated rapidly, and the crew had to bale out. There had been no time to communicate with SAC HQ, and the pilotless plane flew over the Thule base before crashing on the ice 7 miles miles offshore. Its fuel, and the high explosive component of its nuclear weapons exploded, but there was no nuclear detonation.

At that time, the “one point safe” condition of the nuclear weapons could not be guaranteed, and it is believed that a nuclear explosion could have resulted from accidental detonation of the high explosive trigger. Had there been a nuclear detonation even at 7 miles distant, and certainly if one happened nearer the base, all three communication methods would have given an indication consistent with a successful nuclear attack on both the base and the B-52 bomber. The bomb alarm would have shown red, and the other two communication paths would have gone dead. It would hardly have been anticipated that the combination could have been caused by accident, particularly as the map of the routes for B-52 airborne flights approved by the President showed no flight near to Thule. The route had been apparently changed without informing the White House.

1973, Oct.24-25: False alarm during Middle East crisis.

On 24 October 1973, when the U.N. sponsored cease fire intended to end the Arab-Israeli war was in force, further fighting started between Egyptian and Israeli troops in the Sinai desert. U.S. intelligence reports and other sources suggested that the U.S.S.R. was planning to intervene to protect the Egyptians. President Nixon was in the throes of the Watergate episode and not available for a conference, so Kissinger and other U.S. officials ordered DEFCON 3. The consequent movements of aircraft and troops were of course observed by Soviet intelligence. The purpose of the alert was not to prepare for war, but to warn the U.S.S.R. not to intervene in the Sinai. However, if the following accident had not been promptly corrected then the Soviet command might have made a more dangerous interpretation.

On 25 October, while DEFCON 3 was in force, mechanics were repairing one of the Klaxons at Kinchole Air Force Base, Michigan, and accidentally activated the whole base alarm system. B-52 crews rushed to their aircraft and started the engines. The duty officer recognized the alarm was false and recalled the crews before any took off.

1979, Nov.9: Computer Exercise Tape.

At 8:50 a.m. on 9 November 1979, duty officers at 4 command centres (NORAD HQ, SAC Command Post, The Pentagon National Military Command Center, and the Alternate National Military Command Center) all saw on their displays a pattern showing a large number of Soviet Missiles in a full scale attack on the U.S.A. During the next 6 minutes emergency preparations for retaliation were made. A number of Air Force planes were launched, including the President’s National Emergency Airborne Command Post, though without the President! The President had not been informed, perhaps because he could not be found.

With commendable speed, NORAD was able to contact PAVE PAWS early warning radar and learn that no missiles had been reported. Also, the sensors on the satellites were functioning that day and had detected no missiles. In only 6 minutes the threat assessment conference was terminated.

The reason for the false alarm was an exercise tape running on the computer system. U.S. Senator Charles Percy happened to be in NORAD HQ at the time and is reported to have said there was absolute panic. A question was asked in Congress. The General Accounting Office conducted an investigation, and an off-site testing facility was constructed so that test tapes did not in the future have to be run on a system that could be in military operation.

1980, June 3-6: Faulty Computer Chip.

The Warning displays at the Command Centers mentioned in the last episode included windows that normally showed:

0000 ICBMs detected

0000 SLBMs detected

At 2:25 a.m. on 3 June 1980, these displays started showing various numbers of missiles detected, represented by 2’s in place of one or more 0’s. Preparations for retaliation were instituted, including nuclear bomber crews starting their engines, launch of Pacific Command’s Airborne Command Post, and readying of Minutemen missiles for launch. It was not difficult to assess that this was a false alarm because the numbers displayed were not rational.

While the cause of that false alarm was still being investigated 3 days later, the same thing happened and again preparations were made for retaliation. The cause was a single faulty chip that was failing in a random fashion. The basic design of the system was faulty, allowing this single failure to cause a deceptive display at several command posts.


The extreme boredom and isolation of missile launch crews on duty must contribute to occasional bizarre behaviour. An example is reported by Lloyd J.Dumas in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists vol.36, #9, p.15 (1980) quoting Air Force Magazine of 17 Nov. 71. As a practical joke, a silo crew recorded a launch message and played it when their relief came on duty. The new crew heard with consternation what appeared to be a valid launch message. They would not of course have been able to effect an actual launch under normal conditions, without proper confirmation from outside the silo.

Launch on Warning

There are still thousands of nuclear weapons deployed. At the time of writing (December 2001) Russia and the U.S.A. still have the policy of “Launch on Warning”: that is to say, they plan to launch a salvo of nuclear-armed rockets if the warning systems show that a missile attack appears to be on the way. The retaliatory salvo would be launched before any of the incoming missiles arrived, so it could be launched as a result of a false warning. Thus a nuclear war could start for no military or political reason whatever.

The following event could have caused the final disaster if, for example, the rocket guidance system or the radar tracking had malfunctioned:

1995, Jan.25: Norwegian Rocket Incident.

On 25 January, 1995, the Russian early warning radars detected an unexpected missile launch near Spitzbergen. The estimated flight time to Moscow was 5 minutes. The Russian Defence Minister and the Chief of Staff were informed. The early warning and the control and command systems switched to combat mode. President Yeltsin was handed the “nuclear suitcase” ready to give the launch signal.

Within 5 minutes, the radars determined that the missile’s impact point would be outside the Russian borders. The missile was carrying instruments for scientific measurements. On 16 January Norway had notified 35 countries including Russia that the launch was planned. Information had apparently reached the Russian Defence Ministry, but failed to reach the on-duty personnel of the early warning system. (See article in Scientific American, November 1997, by Bruce G. Blair, Harold A. Feiveson and Frank N. von Hippel.)

Comment and Note On Probability

The probability of actual progression to nuclear war on any one of the occasions listed may have been small, due to planned “fail-safe” features in the warning and launch systems, and to responsible action by those in the chain of command when the failsafe features had failed. However, the accumulation of small probabilities of disaster from a long sequence of risks add up to serious danger. There is no way of telling what the actual level of risk was in these mishaps but if the chance of disaster in every one of the 20 incidents had been only 1 in 100, it is mathematical fact that the chance of surviving all 20 would have been 82%, i.e. about the same as the chance of surviving a single pull of the trigger at Russian roulette played with a 6 shooter. With a similar series of mishaps on the Soviet side: another pull of the trigger. If the risk in some of the events had been as high as 1 in 10, then the chance of surviving just seven such events would have been less than 50:50. [Note that there is no attempt here to calculate an actual probability. This is merely an example to illustrate the cumulative effect of any low-probability risk that is taken repeatedly, or accepted continuously, over a period of time.]


BMEWS: Ballistic Missile Early Warning Site
CIA: Central Intelligence Agency
CINC: Commander in Chief
DEFCON: Defence Readiness Condition (DEFCON 5 is the peacetime state; DEFCON 1 is a maximum war readiness).
HQ: Headquarters
ICBM: Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (land based)
KGB: Komitet Gosudarstvennoi Bezopaznosti (Soviet Secret Police and Intelligence)
NORAD: North American Aerospace Defense Command
PAVE PAWS: Precision Acquisition of Vehicle Entry Phased-Array Warning System
SAC: Strategic Air Command
SIOP: Single Integrated Operational Plan
SLBM: Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile

Principal Sources:

Britten, Stewart: The Invisible Event, (London: Menard Press, 1983).
Calder, Nigel: Nuclear Nightmares, (London: British Broadcasting Corporation, 1979)
Peace Research Reviews, vol. ix: 4, 5 (1984);
vol. x: 3, 4 (1986) (Dundas, ON.: Peace Research Institute, Dundas).
Sagan, Scott D.: The Limits of Safety, (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, (1993).

Alan F. Phillips M.D., 11 January, 1997; revised April, 2002.

what did the World Hearth Organization say about nuclear weapons?

What did the World Hearth Organization say about nuclear weapons?
World Health Organization, 1987

After a nuclear war “famine and diseases would be widespread; social, communication, and economic systems around the world would be disrupted…It is obvious that the health services in the world could not alleviate the situation in any significant way.”

Press Release WHO/69 – 12 September 1995

Speaking today at the Forty-sixth session of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Regional Committee for the Western Pacific in Manila, the Philippines, Dr Hiroshi Nakajima, WHO Director-General, addressed the issue of testing of nuclear weapons.

“Within the framework of the United Nations, WHO has consistently supported nuclear disarmament, the non-proliferation treaty, and the nuclear test ban treaty currently under negotiation”, said Dr Nakajima. “WHO is firmly opposed to the production, testing, stockpiling, transport or use of nuclear weapons. This position is implicit in the WHO Constitution which opposes any common danger or risk to the attainment of Health for All. WHO has carried out extensive studies on the effects of nuclear war on health and health services, as well as the health effects of nuclear accidents particularly at Chernobyl. At the request of the World Health Assembly (Resolution WHA46.40 of 14 May 1993) and the UN General Assembly (Resolution 49/75K of 15 December 1994), the question of the lawfulness of the use of nuclear weapons has been referred by WHO and the UN to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, where the matter will be before the Court in November this year”.

It is evident that besides the immediate catastrophic effects in terms of death, casualties and material damage, the use of nuclear weapons will cause long term human suffering and environmental disturbance beyond our capacity to accurately predict. As WHO stated some ten years ago, “the only approach to the treatment of the health effects of nuclear explosions is primary prevention of such explosions, that is the prevention of atomic war”.

In 1991, a WHO Management Group* noted that “with the positive changes in the world situation it was the peacetime uses of atomic energy that had become the greater cause for concern”. Nevertheless, nuclear weapons are still being produced, tested and stockpiled; therefore the potential danger of the consequences of their use has not yet been eliminated, and there are significant costs and dangers associated with their transport, testing and disposal.

Although most of the information concerning the health and environmental impacts of nuclear weapons comes from the two bombings that took place in 1945, other investigations are under way based on retrospective analysis as well as simulation of nuclear tests underground and in the atmosphere. We know that nuclear detonation produces three major sources of death and injury: blast, heat wave and release of radiation. Exposure to instantaneous radiation (gamma rays and neutrons) causes sickness and, possibly, death. At relatively low doses, it damages blood cells. At higher doses, damage occurs to the gastrointestinal tract, and at very high doses injury to the brain. Suppression of the body’s immune system is recognized as a consequence of radiation over-exposure.

Long-term effects such as cancer induction and genetic damage result from instantaneous radiation exposure during the explosion and the longer-term contamination of the environment. Long-term psychological effects continue to be noted among the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

An account of the health effects of nuclear weapons must also include consideration of the production cycle of these weapons including mining and production of materials, fuel enrichment, development, manufacture, testing, stockpiling, maintenance, transport, dismantling, storage and disposal. Each of these stages presents direct risks to the health of the personnel involved and the general population. The costs of safe disposal often exceed those of development.

At least 1950 nuclear tests have been carried out since 1945. Testing can be carried out in space, in the air, on the earth’s surface or under water (all called “atmospheric”), or underground, the latter being the only method used at the present time. To date, it is reported that approximately 1420 underground tests have been conducted in different parts of the world. Simulation technology for nuclear explosions has been developed to such an extent that renewed tests for more advanced weapons would be totally unnecessary if the simulation technology were shared among states.

Resumption or continuation of underground tests is of particular concern especially in the case of “shallow” tests. Not only does this entail the risk of instantaneous leaks of short-lived and long-lived radioisotopes to the ground, to water and air, but it may trigger potential long-term effects that are not immediately apparent. Changes to the structural integrity of the ground, temperature and stress are likely to increase the number and size of crevices in the surrounding rock or ground. Such crevices would provide paths for long- term exchanges with the surroundings, in particular ground water, rivers and oceans, in ways that are difficult to predict.

Isotopes likely to dominate long-term radioactivity are Caesium-137, Strontium-90, Plutonium -239 and Americium-241. Furthermore, Caesium-137 and Strontium-90 are known to be transported by water and remain in the food- chain. As for Plutonium-239 and Americium-241, their most significant potential exposure route is by inhalation. In addition to the possible release of these radionuclides, radioisotopes from previous tests which had already settled or lodged in the rock are feared to be freed by the new tests.

“In short, there is no such thing as a “fail-safe” nuclear weapon testing, and we cannot be assured that testing will be without risk to present and future generations. The best way to ensure human health and peace, is for all nations of the world to share knowledge about nuclear energy, and to forswear the production, testing and use of nuclear weapons. The World Health Organization, and I as its Director-General, stand for a “nuclear-weapons-free world. Greater transparency on the part of nuclear powers would certainly help”, said Dr Nakajima.

For further information, please contact Valery Abramov, Health Communications and Public Relations, WHO, Geneva. Tel (41 22) 791 2543. Fax (41 22) 791 4858.

* Established by the Director-General in 1983 to follow up Resolution WHA 36.28 “Effects of nuclear war on health and health services”. The Group consists of six international experts appointed by the Director-General.

See also:
a) Radiation Effects Research Foundation
b) Japan Confederation of A and H Bomb Survivors (Hidankyo)
c) Physical effects of a nuclear weapon blast (FAS)