Nuclear weapons must be eradicated for all our sakes- Desmond Tutu


No nation should own nuclear arms – not Iran, not North Korea, and not their critics who take the moral high ground

(FILES) This file picture taken by North

As an Oslo conference on nuclear weapons starts, we should not accept that a ‘select few nations can ensure the security of all by having the capacity to destroy all.’ Photograph: Kns/AFP/Getty Images

We cannot intimidate others into behaving well when we ourselves are misbehaving. Yet that is precisely what nations armed with nuclear weapons hope to do by censuring North Korea for its nuclear tests and sounding alarm bells over Iran’s pursuit of enriched uranium. According to their logic, a select few nations can ensure the security of all by having the capacity to destroy all.

 

Until we overcome this double standard – until we accept that nuclear weapons are abhorrent and a grave danger no matter who possesses them, that threatening a city with radioactive incineration is intolerable no matter the nationality or religion of its inhabitants – we are unlikely to make meaningful progress in halting the spread of these monstrous devices, let alone banishing them from national arsenals.

 

Why, for instance, would a proliferating state pay heed to the exhortations of the US and Russia, which retain thousands of their nuclear warheads on high alert? How can Britain, France and China expect a hearing on non-proliferation while they squander billions modernising their nuclear forces? What standing has Israel to urge Iran not to acquire the bomb when it harbours its own atomic arsenal?

 

Nuclear weapons do not discriminate; nor should our leaders. The nuclear powers must apply the same standard to themselves as to others: zero nuclear weapons. Whereas the international community has imposed blanket bans on other weapons with horrendous effects – from biological and chemical agents to landmines and cluster munitions – it has not yet done so for the very worst weapons of all. Nuclear weapons are still seen as legitimate in the hands of some. This must change.

 

Around 130 governments, various UN agencies, the Red Cross and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons are gathering in Oslo this week to examine the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons and the inability of relief agencies to provide an effective response in the event of a nuclear attack. For too long, debates about nuclear arms have been divorced from such realities, focusing instead on geopolitics and narrow concepts of national security.

 

With enough public pressure, I believe that governments can move beyond the hypocrisy that has stymied multilateral disarmament discussions for decades, and be inspired and persuaded to embark on negotiations for a treaty to outlaw and eradicate these ultimate weapons of terror. Achieving such a ban would require somewhat of a revolution in our thinking, but it is not out of the question. Entrenched systems can be turned on their head almost overnight if there’s the will.

 

Let us not forget that it was only a few years ago when those who spoke about green energy and climate change were considered peculiar. Now it is widely accepted that an environmental disaster is upon us. There was once a time when people bought and sold other human beings as if they were mere chattels, things. But people eventually came to their senses. So it will be the case for nuclear arms, sooner or later.

 

Indeed, 184 nations have already made a legal undertaking never to obtain nuclear weapons, and three in four support a universal ban. In the early 1990s, with the collapse of apartheid nigh, South Africa voluntarily dismantled its nuclear stockpile, becoming the first nation to do so. This was an essential part of its transition from a pariah state to an accepted member of the family of nations. Around the same time, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine also relinquished their Soviet-era atomic arsenals.

 

But today nine nations still consider it their prerogative to possess these ghastly bombs, each capable of obliterating many thousands of innocent civilians, including children, in a flash. They appear to think that nuclear weapons afford them prestige in the international arena. But nothing could be further from the truth. Any nuclear-armed state, big or small, whatever its stripes, ought to be condemned in the strongest terms for possessing these indiscriminate, immoral weapons.

 

UN Resolution Calls for Israel to Disclose Nuclear Arsenal


Regional outlier asked to join NPT and back vision of a ‘Nuclear-Free Middle East

- Common Dreams staff

The UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Monday to approve a resolution calling on Israel to open up its nuclear weapons program to international inspectors and to end its refusal to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treary, or NPT.

 A vote by the United Nations general assembly has called on Israel to open its nuclear programme to weapons inspectors. (Photograph: Chip East/Reuters) The resolution passed with a 174-6 vote, and included 6 abstentions. Israel, the U.S., Canada, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau were the “no” votes.

Also included in the UN measure was a call to reschedule a recently cancelled conference that would push for a ‘nuclear-free Middle East,’ something that all countries across the region, including Iran, have supported. A meeting on the issue was planned for this month in Helsinki, FInland, but was  cancelled, or at least postponed, by the U.S. at the end of November.

Though the Israeli nuclear weapons arsenal is widely known to exist, neither the nation’s government or its key ally, the U.S., will publicly acknowledge the program.

This refusal has long helped Israel avoid acknowledging the hypocrisy of its repeated threats against Iran for its nascent nuclear technology program.

As the Associated Press reports:

Resolutions adopted by the 193-member General Assembly are not legally binding but they do reflect world opinion and carry moral and political weight.

Israel refuses to confirm or deny it has nuclear bombs though it is widely believed to have a nuclear arsenal. It has refused to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, or NPT, along with three nuclear weapon states — India, Pakistan and North Korea.

And John Glaser, writing at Antiwar.comadds:

If Israel agreed to dismantling its vast stockpiles of nuclear weapons and to a deal enforcing a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East – a deal Iran and Israel’s Arab neighbors have repeatedly proposed – the supposed threats Israel faces in the region would virtually disappear.

But Israel refuses to give up its nuclear monopoly, insistent on maintaining its excuse to build up its military and distract from the Palestinian issue.

As former CIA Middle East analyst Paul Pillar has written, “the Iran issue” provides a “distraction” from international “attention to the Palestinians’ lack of popular sovereignty.”

________

 

Pakistan test-fires nuclear-capable ballistic missile


AFP | Nov 28, 2012,

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Wednesday test-fired anuclear-capable ballistic missile with a range of 1,300 kilometres (800 miles), the military said.

The military described the Hatf V Ghauri missileas a liquid fuel missile, which can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads.

It was Pakistan’s eighth missile test so far this year and comes two months after its last test of a Hatf-VII with a range of 700 kilometres.

Five of those tests were conducted within a few weeks after India in April successfully test fired the Agni V, which can deliver a one-tonne nuclear warhead anywhere in China, marking a major advance in its military capabilities.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars — two over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir — and have routinely carried out missile tests since both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability in 1998.

Defence analysts say India’s strategic priorit

 

The Imminent Death of Civil Nuclear Energy


Anamika Badal, dianuke.org

Some may consider that civilian nuclear energy programs are going great guns and will grow in future. They will not. In fact, its slow death is already on and will only accelerate in future. Let’s understand why.

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The nuclear energy industry has had a charmed half century of existence.

What essentially started as military research for the development of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) was subtly packaged into a benign energy source. At heart, the roots of nuclear energy are firmly linked to military use.

The cold war was an occasion which offered the nuclear energy industry the use of massive funds, research facilities, government grants (subsidies) and huge freedom to conduct more and more research into making more and more weapons.

Nuclear Energy was simply a byproduct of this military work.

Companies and governments worked overtime to create a veil of secrecy around atomic energy so that the common person would not be able to link the two. And to their credit, they succeeded for a large part. In the days before the advent of the internet, information was scarce and expensive to procure. People – by and large – tended to believe what the ‘scientists’ and the governments told them.

Essentially, they were sold two stories -

1) Nuclear industry means ‘national security’ and ‘national pride.’ Any opposition to nuclear automatically makes you an anti-national.

2) Nuclear Energy has no alternative because of its “cleanliness” and ability to deliver large amounts of power at cheap cost.

It is said that if a lie is told a thousand times, people start to believe that it is the truth.

Yet, it is also said that ‘You can fool some people all the time, you can fool all the people sometimes but you cannot fool all the people all the time.’

The tipping point for the nuclear industry came after the end of the cold war. Contrary to what most people believe, Chernobyl had no effect on the growth of the nuclear energy business. After a tiny blip, the industry was back to it’s own self.

Anyway, concealment, fabrications, misrepresentation of facts, propaganda, censorship of news, strong arm tactics were all part of the overall cold war game.

The world knew that a huge nuclear accident had happened in Russia.

But beyond that, they had little more knowledge. The Russians painted a picture of “all-is-well“, while the West tried to malign Russian technology and safety. Neither really questioned nuclear energy as a whole.

Sure, there were enough independent researchers who risked life and limb to bring out the truth. But it was easy for the governments of those days to tackle these civilian groups – after all, government agencies were trained to play the big spy games – a bunch of civilians was a cakewalk for the masters.

The disguise continued unabated until the unexpected end of the cold war. The cold war meant that there was little need for military deterrence (?) The future wars would be fought on economic fronts and smart wars would take centre stage.

Tactical weapons, quick surgical strikes on specific small strategic targets did not require the kind of arsenal needed during the cold war days. It was no longer fashionable to parade the missiles and war heads on National days and gloat about technological prowess.

The new kind of weapons did not require as much of plutonium but needed a material that was far easier to procure – depleted uranium (DU).

DU is easily and openly available from nuclear reactors without the need for complex and expensive re processing technologies. The guided missiles tipped with DU are hundreds of times more powerful compared to ordinary bombs and can cause massive damage to over and underground structures. Because of the fact that they do not leave a huge visible impact (like that of an Atomic Bomb), people do not realize that effectively, a nuclear weapon has been used.

These missiles have been extensively used in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  While they have sometimes ensured that the targets are taken out, they are as deadly as a nuclear attack and leave behind vast amounts of radiation in the environment. People affected by DU develop the same conditions as those in Hiroshima or Nagasaki – the only difference being that of immediate visibility and localization.

The US and NATO troops have got away by using these weapons of tactical attack for many years now and the effects are showing up in the local population there – increased cancer, deformities, mutations and all the other radiation induced diseases are seen here. The soil and ground water is polluted with uranium and will continue to do so for many decades to come. The radiation has spread wider and entered the food chain and will continue to irradiate for a long time to come.

The West had found the ideal nuclear weapon which can be used easily – without any concern of accountability or justification needed  for a full blown nuclear attack.

The need to use nuclear energy and the spent fuel had diminished and the military had a far lesser interest in these reactors.

Almost at the same time, another and more significant revolution was taking place.

The information revolution.

Almost out of nowhere, the computers, satellite television, instant messengers and the internet were all over the world.

Nothing was hidden. Information previously restricted to libraries or locked away in forgotten cupboards was suddenly openly available.

Information flow meant that there were no longer any holy cows. Discussions happened over emails and internet, ideas exchanged and previous paradigms challenged.

When Data gets analyzed, it turns into Information.

The massive amount of data which was scattered all over the globe earlier was put together and analyzed. Cheaper but more powerful computers allowed this massive data to be analyzed on desktop computers without the need for super computers.

What emerged was the naked truth.

Atomic and nuclear science is no more (or less) mysterious or complex than any other science. The sheer eliteness of being part of a select “nuclear club” was shown to be hollow. The cost of nuclear energy in purely financial terms was proven to be the highest, the enormous social damage, the horrible medical conditions and the silent environmental destruction were proven – with irrefutable data.

Troubles, they say, come in multiples.

More was to follow.

With no place to hide, the nuclear industry was hit by developments in renewable energies which took off at a massive scale resulting in prices crashing beyond imagination. A new, safe and cost effective option arose for which the nuclear industry was totally unprepared – literally caught with its pants down!

With no business model to survive, shrinking patronage from the defence and government ministries, Fukushima was the final nail in the coffin. In plain, open view, the incident shamed the industry  badly and showed the world that the civilian nuclear operators were leagues ahead of Big Oil and Tobacco when it came to blatant lies and endangering lives for maximizing own profits. Safety and ethics be damned.

In the end, the nuclear industry has only itself to be blamed for its decimation. Nobody – except probably its own nuclear village fraternity – will shed any tears on its death.

It is one death which does not merit a RIP.

 

Check out the American War- Music video #mustwatch


A 4-minute music video directed by KP Sasi and based on Kamaan Singh Dhami’s anti-war song “American War Paar Da! (Check Out the American War!).” It is a satirical and is a severe indictment of America’s role in escalating world conflict.

Originally written following the post-9/11 bombing of Afghanistan by the USA, and developed to address the occupation of Iraq, the song comments on various aspects of the American empire – its stockpile of nuclear bombs, its cozy relation with fanatical and dictatorial regimes, and in fact, the very notion of American peace and liberty. Copy left right & Center!

Grassroots activists in Pakistan have set an example for digital rights activism.


Jillian C. York . Aljazeera

Fighting online censorship when legal action fails

A new plan for internet filtering could put Pakistan on par with Iran and Saudi Arabia, activists say [EPA]

San Francisco, CA - When, in late February, Pakistan’s Telecommunications Authority (PTAissued a call forproposals on a large scale internet filtering system to allow for the blocking of up to 50 million URLs (with, it should be noted, a processing delay of “not more than 1 milliseconds [sic]”), Pakistani rights activists were more than a little peeved. While censorship (either online or offline) in the Islamic Republic is no new thing, the new move – presumably designed to entice Western companies to the country – would potentially put Pakistan on par with countries like China, Iran and Saudi Arabia in terms of sites blocked.

Of course, Pakistan is not China, Iran or Saudi Arabia. It is, at least in theory, a democracy, with freely held elections. And yet, when it comes to the constitutionally protected right to freedom of expression, citizens find themselves increasingly with no say in the matter.

Grassroots advocacy

Therefore, when faced with the PTA’s latest plans, grassroots organisations knew exactly what they had to do. Rather than appeal to their representatives, they took to the internet, calling on technology companies not to respond to the call for proposals.

http://www.aljazeera.com/AJEPlayer/player-licensed-viral.swfAre we entering an age of cyber-censorship?

Their efforts were echoed and supported by a number of international organisations, including the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, Article 19, the Global Network Initiative, Access, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (where I work), and made it to the pages of theNew York Times and the Wall Street Journal, among others. As a result, a number of technology companies, including Cisco and McAfee SmartFilter (both of which, it should be noted, sell their censorship wares to other countries), made statements refusing to sell to the PTA.

Advocacy group Bolo Bhi has been vocal in their opposition of the filter. In one blog post, they explain how the system would affect citizens, noting: “Such a system will give the government extra muscle to go after ‘activists’ – ‘liberals’ – ‘troublemakers’ – You and I. Anyone who is a hindrance, becomes a target.”

Indeed, such a system would likely have the same capabilities as Bahrain’s, which allowed authorities to intercept emails and SMS, which were then read aloud to detainees, or Syria’s, notoriously used to spy on activists. Surveillance of that degree is dangerous and has no place in any of these countries, let alone one that purports to be democratic.

All of this pressure led the PTA to backtracking; on March 19, an article in the International Herald Tribune-affiliatedExpress Tribune declared the filtering plans shelved. As Islamabad-based digital rights group Bytes for All quicklynoted, however, the news item was not followed up by a press release from the government, leading them to believe that the piece was “a strategic move to put an end to the raging protests”.

Like Bytes for All, Bolo Bhi doesn’t see the fight as being over. In a recent letter addressed to the Ministry of Information Technology, the ICT Research and Development Fund, and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and signed by eight additional organisations, the group wrote:

While it has become common knowledge that surveillance and censorship technologies are often used in Pakistan, the extent to which this is taking place has only recently become apparent with public reports on censorship and surveillance technologies by a large number of international companies. We also understand the Pakistan government may attempt to involve an academic institution in developing the system, making the biggest victim of this technology also a contributor.

A model for digital rights activism

Born from the bottom up and supported by (not, crucially, initiated by) international organisations, the efforts of local groups serve as a model for digital rights activism. Their actions were strategic, targeting the appropriate stakeholders, their collaboration with international groups built on consensus.

Furthermore, Bytes for All and Bolo Bhi were well-placed to understand the limitations of legal efforts and instead, chose the best possible path for advocacy: targeting the very businesses their government sought to attract.Another element of these groups’ success is in bypassing the “us vs. them” mentality, a strategy discussed in the 2010 anthology Digital Activism Decoded.  In the book, chapter authors Sem DeVillart and Brian Waniewski wrote, “It is tempting for organisations to adopt competitive strategies toward peers engaged in like or complementary efforts,” recommending that groups engaged in online advocacy avoid the competitive structure of corporations.

As a result, the IT Ministry has verbally committed to issuing a statement against the filtering system, says Bolo Bhi CEO Sana Saleem, who adds that they had been reluctant to meet with civil society groups directly in the past.

“I strongly feel that the campaign success is because of consistent pressure from organisations globally,” wrote Saleem in a recent e-mail, “Even though we have still only received verbal commitment, I believe that the success lies in how we planned the campaign to focus on issues such as businesses, trade, academia and economy steering the debate from the more controversial issues of blasphemy.”

As sure as the PTA will continue their attempts to censor, the efforts of groups like Bytes for All and Bolo Bhi show no signs of abating. And with the support of international groups – which help by raising their voices to a fever pitch – they may just win.

Jillian C York is director for International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco. She writes a regular column for Al Jazeera focusing on free expression and Internet freedom. She also writes for and is on the Board of Directors of Global Voices Online.

Follow her on Twitter: @jilliancyork

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.