Reuters, Oct 5, 2017 (with additonal related readings further below)
OSLO/GENEVA – A campaign group seeking a global ban on nuclear arms won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, given the award by a Nobel Committee that cited the spread of weapons to North Korea and said the risk was growing of nuclear war.
The award to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was unexpected, particularly in a year when the architects of the 2015 nuclear deal between world powers and Iran had been seen as favorites for achieving the sort of diplomatic breakthrough that has won the prize in the past. (Graphics on ‘Nobel Laureates’ – here)
Supporters described the award as a potential breakthrough for a global movement that has fought to ban nuclear arms from the day the first atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima in August 1945.
ICAN’s Executive Director Beatrice Fihn told Reuters the group was elated. “This. Is. Surreal.” she later tweeted.
Asked if she had a message for North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un, who has tested nuclear arms in defiance of global pressure, and President Donald Trump, who has threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea to protect the United States and its allies, Fihn said both leaders need to know that the weapons are illegal.
“Nuclear weapons are illegal. Threatening to use nuclear weapons is illegal. Having nuclear weapons, possessing nuclear weapons, developing nuclear weapons, is illegal, and they need to stop,” she told Reuters.
Two days before her group won the prize, Fihn had tweeted that Trump was “a moron”. She told Reuters she had written this in jest, in the context of news reports that U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had used the same word to describe his boss. But she said Trump’s impulsive character illustrated the importance of banning nuclear arms for all countries.
“A man you can bait with a tweet seems to be taking irrational decisions very quickly and not listening to expertise, it just puts a spotlight on what do nuclear weapons really mean. There are no right hands for the wrong weapons,” she said.
ICAN describes itself as a coalition of grassroots non-government groups in more than 100 nations. It began in Australia and was officially launched in Vienna in 2007.
In her speech announcing the prize, Berit Reiss-Andersen, the leader of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said the risk that nuclear weapons might be used was now “greater than it has been for a long time”.
“Some states are modernizing their nuclear arsenals, and there is a real danger that more countries will try to procure nuclear weapons, as exemplified by North Korea.”
The award was hailed by anti-nuclear campaigners around the world. “Now more than ever we need a world without nuclear weapons,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tweeted.
Mikiso Iwasa, an 88-year-old Hiroshima survivor, told Reuters the prize would help push the movement forward. “It is wonderful we have this Nobel Peace-Prize winning movement. All of us need to join forces, think hard and walk forward together to turn this momentum into something even bigger,” he said.
The prize seeks to bolster the case for disarmament amid nuclear tensions between Washington and Pyongyang, as well as uncertainty over the fate of the 2015 deal between Iran and major powers to limit Tehran’s nuclear program.
The prize-giving committee made no mention of Iran in its award citation. It raised eyebrows with its decision to award the prize to an international campaign group with a relatively low profile, rather than recognize the Iran deal, a complex agreement hammered out over years of high-stakes diplomacy.
“Norwegian Nobel Committee has its own ways, but the nuclear agreement with Iran achieved something real and would have deserved a prize,” tweeted Carl Bildt, a former Swedish prime minister who has held top posts as an international diplomat.
The Iran accord, which Trump has repeatedly called “the worst deal ever negotiated”, is seen as under particular threat this week. A senior administration official said on Thursday Trump is expected to “decertify” the pact, a step which could allow Congress to restore sanctions on Iran.
The committee may have been reluctant to reward the Iranian government for its role in the nuclear deal because the only Iranian winner so far, 2003 laureate Shirin Ebadi, a lawyer and human rights campaigner, is forced to live in exile. Slideshow (4 Images)
“I think the committee has thought about the human rights situation in Iran. It would have been difficult to explain the prize even though it has a favorable view of the Iran deal,” Asle Sveen, a historian of the Nobel Peace Prize, told Reuters.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee denied that giving the prize to an anti-nuclear group was intended either as a rebuke to Trump, or as a snub to the architects of the Iran nuclear deal.
“The Iran treaty is a positive development, a disarmament development that is positive, but the reason we mentioned North Korea (in our statement) is a reference to the threat that people actually feel,” Reiss-Andersen told Reuters. “Iran has not voiced recent threats to use nuclear weapons.”
ICAN has campaigned for a UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was adopted by 122 nations in July this year.
That agreement is not signed by — and would not apply to — any of the states that already have nuclear arms, which include the five U.N. Security Council permanent members, the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France, as well as India, Pakistan and North Korea. Israel is also widely assumed to have nuclear weapons, although it neither confirms nor denies it.
Major allies of the declared nuclear powers also oppose the new treaty. Nevertheless, campaigners see it as a framework that would make it easier for countries that have nuclear arms to work toward eliminating them.
NATO member Norway congratulated ICAN but said it would not sign the treaty to ban nuclear weapons. The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded by a committee appointed by the Norwegian parliament.
“Norway will not support proposals in the UN that would weaken NATO’s role as a defence alliance,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg said.
Nuclear-armed nations, including the United States and Russia, back the U.N.’s 1968 nuclear non-proliferation treaty which sets limits on the spread of atomic weapons and has a long-term goal of nuclear disarmament.
“There is a strong logic in this peace prize,” said Dan Smith, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute “It’s all about encouraging governments to do what they have promised to do in the non-proliferation treaty.”
Nobel peace prize goes to anti-nuclear campaign in rebuke to armed nations, by Saeed Kamali Dehghan and Jon Henley, The Guardian, Oct 6, 2017
UN General Assembly votes on July 7, 2017 to abolish nuclear weapons, report by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), July 7, 2017 (with additional news reports and list of full voting record)
The July 7, 2017 UN General Assembly vote to abolish nuclear weapons, news compilation with introduction by New Cold War.org, July 11, 2017
U.S. bomb tests and bidding wars herald new (unlawful) $1.5 trillion nuclear weapons complex
While much of the world pursues the abolition of nuclear weapons — embraced by the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by 122 nations at the UN General Assembly on July 7, 2017 — the militarized, Trump White House is pursuing plans for a trillion-dollar rebuild of the entire U.S. nuclear weapons complex. The enormous, extravagant program is designed to produce 80 new nuclear warheads every year, including three new warhead types, a new $20 billion nuclear-armed Long Range Standoff (LRSO) weapon, a new $12 billion B61 nuclear gravity bomb, a new fleet of nuclear-armed submarines, and a new $100 billion intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system.
As WallStreet.com online reported recently, “A review by the Arms Control Association, a nonpartisan, nuclear weapons watchdog, [found] the total 30-year cost of the program could rise to $1.5 trillion”. That’s $500 billion beyond what the Obama Administration first proposed in 2016. Beyond the colossal expense, the program appears to be a flagrant violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty.
The Trump administration must believe that urgent domestic and global humanitarian crises can be solved using guns. The traditionally civilian White House chief of staff is Marine Corps General James Kelly, his National Security Advisor is Army General HR McMaster, and his Defense Secretary is Marine Corps General James “Mad Dog” Mattis.
On Aug. 8, the militarized Department of Energy and U.S. Air Force conducted two tests of the new “B61-12” gravity bomb at Nevada’s Tonopah Test Range. The unarmed bomb test — using an F-15E jet fighter, currently employed in wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Libya — demonstrated the jet’s ability to wage nuclear war. The B61-12 program “is progressing on schedule,” said Phil Calbos, the Acting Deputy Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration. NNSA builds and maintains U.S. nuclear warheads. Although NNSA is nominally a civilian agency, Mr. Calbos graduated from West Point and studied at the Pentagon’ National War College.
The B61-12 bomb test involved new “tailfin” hardware designed by Boeing Corp. NNSA wants the first B61-12s to be finished in 2022 and to ship 180 of them to five “nuclear sharing” NATO partners in Europe — replacing the ones already there. Critical German, Dutch, and Belgian politicians have called for the permanent removal of all U.S. nuclear weapons, and the Air Force itself may soon remove its B61s from Turkey. Another 400 to 600 of the new B61s are set to be built to replace those now used on long-range Air Force B-52 and B-1 bombers.
The Air Force also granted $349 million in contracts to Boeing, and $329 to Northrop Grumman in August, and put the two giant weapons contractors into competition to replace today’s arsenal of 450 Minuteman III ICBMs. Popular Mechanics reports that “Northrop Grumman and Boeing each have been awarded just under $350 million to churn out Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction studies before the Air Force picks a single winner.” One of the two can expect to win the plum $100 billion contract to build the new ICBMs, dubbed Ground Based Strategic Deterrent.
This push for a replacement ICBM flies in the face of authoritative calls for their abolition. In January 2015, General/Secretary Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee, “You should ask, ‘Is it time to reduce the triad … removing the land-based missiles?’” Speaking Dec. 3, 2015, former Defense Secretary William Perry called for retiring land-based missiles altogether saying, “ICBMs aren’t necessary … they’re not needed. Any reasonable definition of deterrence will not require that third leg.” (Other “legs” are submarines and long-range bombers.) Secretary Perry’s commentaries in the New York Times and the Washington Post last year were titled respectively, “Why It’s Safe to Scrap America’s ICBMs,” and “Mr. President, kill the new Cruise missile” (the LRSO).
Additionally, a blue-ribbon commission chaired in 2012 by Gen. James Cartwright, a former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called for eliminating the ICBM system, not replacing it. At a Senate hearing later in 2012, Gen. Cartwright testified that the ICBMs could be scrapped without leaving the U.S. at risk. Cartwright’s commission report was signed by then Senator and soon-to-be Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and recommended a U.S. nuclear arsenal with none left on ICBMs.
Congressional pleas for austerity, fiscal responsibility, and budget cutting should be lampooned and rejected unless the trillion dollar-plus nuclear weapons plan — prohibited now by the Non-Proliferation Treaty and soon by the Nuclear Weapon Treaty Ban — is zeroed out first.
John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.