Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Dialectic of Nuclear Weapons: Proliferation and the End of Deterrence

.....I am getting prepared to go once more to the House of Mica, as the Hopis call it....the UN. In particular I will speak on a LASG (Los Alamos Study Group) panel about new developments and funding in the American Nuclear Weapons Complex versus the rethoric of the Obama administration.  
This year too, the talks on the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, the NPT, threaten to sink into the mud of human deception, loosing yet another opportunity for clarity and true hope for humanity. I will update on these matters in the coming blogs. As I was studying for my talk, I came across what I myself had to say in 2004 at the NPT prepatory meetings. Not too many people saw this. Unfortunately most of the things said here in 2004 could be said today..... Very little has changed..... 

A TALK  BY WILLEM MALTEN  United Nations 2004

My name is Willem Malten. I am a Dutch entrepreneur living in Santa fe New Mexico. When I first flew into Albuquerque, in 1983, and drove the I 25 up to Beautiful Santa Fe, a Zen roshi driving the car, pointed at the Jemez Mountains and said: “And there, there is Los Alamos, birthplace of the Bomb”. And as I snapped to attention he said...”.and they are still making them”.

I felt a visceral fear and nausea, I felt something innocent break inside  and I made a silent vow: As long as I am alive I will resist and speak out against this source of  proliferation and everything it stands for.

So that was my first introduction to New Mexico, Americas own nuclear colony, land of enchantment,  where nothing is what it seems, poorest state in the nation, with the highest teenage suicide and pregnancy rates, where  in Beautiful Santa Fe the New Age movement thrives --ironically as a kind of pseudo healing spirituality behind which hides a genocidal machine called LANL, the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Sandia Laboratory... where the human genius is molded into new weapon designs so grotesque that no-one- but- a- few, dares to look. New Mexico, if left alone would be the third nuclear power in the world, yet it is so impoverished and co-dependent, that it cannot  stand up and say "no" to this deeply immoral endeavor.

The creation of the extremely unstable element  “plutonium” has been the attempt of the magician’s apprentice to elevate himself next to the creator. In so many ways it is the physical manifestation of the essence of human anger, and as such, not surprisingly, it has violated and intoxicated everything it has come into contact with and unfortunately this legacy will be ongoing. Weapons of mass destruction transgress sacred boundaries,  commodify all life, and condemn us humans to live in a continuous state of fear.

As my friend Greg Mello once stated: “These weapons are not just aimed at the people of the world, they are not just taking the resources from the children of the next generations, these weapons are aimed at the Heart of Human Dignity”.

As such nuclear weapons, and all genocidal practices are a violation of the most elemental laws of preservation of the species, which reflects itself in even the most rudimentairy humanitarian law throughout the long lineage of human kind.  Contemporary creation of  international law is and should be  rooted in that lineage of humanitarian law. Law in many ways is an ongoing attempt to deal rationally in the face of violence and war, just because humans are so prone conflict.

Equality is central to the integrity and legitimacy of any legal system. Instinctively one knows that there will not be justice when there is one law for the powerful and another for the rest.

In the year 2000  the Canberra commission stated: “Nuclear weapons are held by a handful of states which insist that these weapons provide unique security benefits, and yet reserve uniquely to themselves the right to own them. This situation is highly discriminatory and thus unstable: it cannot be sustained. The possession of nuclear weapons by any state is a constant stimulus to other states to acquire them”.

Lots has happened since that statement was issued. We must realize that the nuclear genie is thoroughly out of the bottle, and without doubt there has been enormous effort by a variety of entities to stabilize the situation --not by following the NPT mind you-- but by attempting to gain access to nuclear weapons in any way they can. I am not just talking about rogue states such as Israel, Korea, Iran, or Pakistan, no I am talking about Terrorist groups, corporate elite, religious fundamentalists, the military and laboratory elite, even megalomaniac individuals are now assuming entitlements to sovereignty by being able to realistically threaten others with nuclear devices.  The future NPT treaty needs to address this sort of ‘grassroots’ reality of proliferation --or else it will be a dead letter.

None of the nuclear weapon states has lived up to its solemn promises of the NPT treaty. Contrary to the spirit of the NPT  or of the UN as a whole, a place like Los Alamos gets  more money now than ever with  the mission of making new kinds of bombs that includes new testing, new designs of  trident missiles, upgraded MX warheads, earth penetrators, chemical incinerators, radio frequency warheads mini nukes,  and other tactical devices.  What kind of message does that send that to the world ? This is in itself an act of proliferation and certain violation of the NPT.

Addictions make us live in denial as humans, while addictions of whole nations lead to secrecy and lying even about  such serious matters as going to war. Dysfunctional misinformed masses are manipulated by the media while gruesome acts are committed in their name.  Torture, killings, detentions without recourse, wars, a general lack of the rule of law, are no longer the sole domain of dictators like Saddam Hussein or Pinochet, but  pervade a global culture of violence. The magnitude and reality of nuclear weapons is in itself profoundly anti democratic --in fact they are incompatible with a functioning democracy --yet this fact is itself hidden behind a veil of intimidation and national charades  as  evidenced by  what the voting system has become in the US.

When common people questioned and demanded closure of the illegal weapon and design facility of Los Alamos on Nagasaki Day in 1999, 76 people were arrested by a privatized Los Alamos army in flak suits, called the “pro-Force”, a routine intimidation of the public. Meanwhile, despite this  lack of access to the Laboratory by perfectly nonviolent citizens, the Los Alamos nuclear laboratory hosted between 1992 and 1998 over 6000 Chinese scientists, and numerous others including Pakistani and Indian Physicists , presumably not  sharing any kind of nuclear secrets with their colleagues. To add to this Kafka-esque picture --during that same time the Los Alamos Laboratory also  “lost”  a variety of hard disk drives filled with sensitive information, over 200 computers, 1500 weapons and a fire swept through its contaminated sites.... its boundaries were infiltrated at least 50% of the time with mock (?) terrorist exercises.

Now Los Alamos is preparing itself to become the US bomb factory of the future making between 80 and 100 new devices per year -- do you think it is comforting to live next to that laboratory which is charged with National Security Matters ?  It is worse than a bad joke.

Film maker Godfrey Reggio told me recently: “The world is now like a man stumbling forward, being unaware of a tumor growing out of his neck larger than his body itself”. This tumor of course consists of military spending in general and Nuclear weapons spending in particular. It leads to absurdities. Lydia Popova, russian scientist and later wisle blower on the Russian Minatom (ministery of Atomic Energy) once told me: ...." Russians value plutonium --because they paid a lot of money for it.....".
In the USA where most of the money is spent on weapons, most of the problems look like military problems and most solutions therefore look military as well--yet we need  to open our eyes to the bankruptcy that this has wreaked on civil society . Anarchic chaos is rapidly becoming  a way of life for many parts of the world. Look at Iraq: that expensive high-tech war has solved  absolutely  nothing of the problems in the Middle East --instead it has exacerbated terror, sowed the seeds of distrust and deep hatred throughout the Middle East against America and the West in general.

The secretive militarized mission of nuclear weapon research and production has promoted a stagnant recalcitrant political debate, on all levels, globally and locally, in which conflicts and problems are ever  entrenched deeper,  setting us as humans up to fully expect the inevitable ‘endgame’  with its fiery Armageddon scenario to come about.

Lack of progress in the dismantlement by the Nuclear Weapons States of their nuclear weapons as mandated by the NPT,  has encouraged the rise of  such phenomenon as suicide bombers and 911. It is through desperation due  to a pervasive sense of inequality that asymmetric conflict is fostered.  To act in arrogance and self-confidence based on the control over a nuclear arsenal is delusional in the face of a changed world. Technological advances and  longer interdependencies between people and nations have lead to vulnerabilities that have yet to be grasped. As we have seen any airplane can be a target, can be a weapon.... think of the internet, nuclear power plants, water and food supplies, etc. they are all both  targets and weapons in a new kind of situation in which the actual nuclear devices meant for deterrence are at best useless and at worst a continuous liability for all civilization.

Proliferation as we know it now to be potentially and essentially everywhere, entails and sadly illustrates the futility and failure of the policy of “deterrence”.  Deterrence as an ideology de-facto adopted by both the US and Russia culminated in the early 1960’s in a strategy that is based on the notion of Mutually Assured Destruction or MAD and is still central to the US nuclear posture. In its best light Deterrence was intended as a political instrument to prevent war by depriving it of any possible rationale.

As Jonathan Granoff states, also in  yr. 2000: “The moral position of the Deterrence policy is that the threat to commit an illegal act --massive destruction of innocent people-- is legal because it is so horrible to contemplate that it ensures the peace. Thus the argument is that the threat of committing that which is patently illegal is made legal by its own intrinsic illogic”.

Holding on to this kind of  deeply amoral policy in reality invites irrational rogue actions whether by states, terrorists, elite,  criminal syndicates, religious fanatics, who are now similarly clothing themselves in the mantle of righteousness while threatening others with annihilation.

A policy of Deterrence, has never provided any kind of  plan of response to the possibility of proliferation or threats made by  so-called rogue actors. On the contrary: it can be argued that the Deterrence Policy has fostered proliferation in a variety of ways: Deterrence as a policy depends upon a secretive, well funded small military, political and scientific elite such as Los Alamos, having unique access to the holy grail of  nuclear research and bomb making, while the civil leaders are left looking in the wrong direction or worse. It is astonishing to me that Los Alamos is mainly projected as an economic opportunity to the State of NM, at the tune of 4 (?) billion a year coming in in federal monies. The implied threat being that without the laboratories  the population will sink into destitution in the  hopelessly contaminated State of New Mexico.

In fact  a consortium between Lockheed Martin, Bechtel, the  Pentagon, Sandia and LANL Laboratories and the University of California have turned New Mexico into Americas Nuclear Colony, corrupted on a level that  goes unseen by most.

From the point of view of a Deterrence Policy there is no logical response to a rogue threat --either the nuclear weapon states will not be able to act at all or they will be compelled to unleash an orgy of nuclear threats, counter threats and  in the end render all involved into either victims or criminals or both. Thus the fact of proliferation has decisively discredited the policy of Deterrence, whatever feeble rational was behind it in the first place --it has to become a footnote, an anachronism, in the dustbin of history. Any prolonged attachment to the failed policy of deterrence only points at an addiction to nuclear weapons and a delusional sense of megalomania and invulnerability that only serves making the world into a more dangerous place.

Partial disarmament and storage of nuclear weapons as proposed by the likes of admiral Turner, and many foundations , only provides incentives for proliferation as we have seen in the case of Korea which opted out of the NPT with the rationale, perhaps understandably, that it felt vulnerable due to several instances of overt threats of usage of weapons of mass destruction against it (perhaps including the actual use of chemical weapons during the Korean war). The recognition of the failure of deterrence in the light of proliferation gives new gravity to the core of the NPT, namely full nuclear disarmament, and should have profound consequences in updating the NPT Treaty.


First we must recognize that the call for Nuclear Disarmament of the NWS needs to take on the form of an absolute moral imperative. Inequality and incoherence pointed at in the NPT itself has to transform into reason, law and moral coherence in an actionable manner. We are here to think deeply about the steps that need to be taken to immediately de-escalate the situation in a lasting and equitable manner and outline the path for the promise inherent in the NPT to truly unfold and manifest.

1- Wholeheartedly subscribe to El Baradei’s proposal to bring all nuclear materials, facilities and activities, including those with civilian applications under control of the IAEA --a kind of international stewardship of stockpiles of nuclear materials through the IAEA Comprehensive safeguard system.

-2-A state harboring nuclear weapons on its soil,--even if they are not its property --cannot  be truly considered a nuclear free state. The parties to the NPT should agree on a timetable for withdrawal of nuclear arms in countries other than their origins.
Nuclear arms and storage of them entail a whole culture of maintenance, security and environmental danger which makes proliferation of knowledge, materials and devices much more likely by way of theft, shifting alliances or even a rogue military.

-3-Given the reluctance; for NWS to disarm the NPT treaty should be broadened in its scope and give nuclear free states and zones more tools to put pressure onto the NWS or states that violate the treaty in any other manner. The EU already agreed to introduce a nonproliferation clause into its  trade and other agreements with third countries.
We would like to suggest that nuclear free zones should obtain certain privileges which could include tariffs on goods from countries which do not pursue their treaty obligations in accordance to NPT timetables of disarmament or are otherwise in violation of the treaty.

-4-In coordination with the IAEA, whose expertise and means  have been highly technological,  high level citizen verification teams need to be empowered on a localized level. The idea for Citizen Verification Teams is not one of negotiation or mediation -- rather the CVTs role is in gathering facts and disbursing the information to the UN and the general public through dissemination of the information through the media. The Citizen Verification Teams should have unimpeded access to facilities, documentation and personnel. As a strategy it is encouraged that the Citizen Verification Teams should consist of governmental and religious officials (such as parliamentarians from other countries), celebrities (in order to attract media attention), lawyers, engineers and activists. Findings should be indefinitely stored in repositories at the UN and also at a dedicated virtual space that can be accessed and added to by the internationally recognized CVT.

-5-By law, media conglomerates should no longer be able to also own interests in the nuclear weapons complex, such as is the case with NBC and Westinghouse or CBS and General Electric. The opportunities for dissemination of bias and (commercial) stakes in continued  proliferation and war mongering are simply too great  for the public interests  and clear boundaries need to be drawn.

-6- The first cases of violations of the NPT treaty, and the opinions of the International Court of Justice concerning the use and treat of use of nuclear weapons (made  in 1996) should now be made against those who have violated the NPT treaty (countries) or Court of Justice ruling concerning nuclear threats (individuals) in the world court.

-7-Hiroshima day and Nagasaki day should both be declared international holidays and festivals of commemoration of the spirits  of the victims involved. Those days should be days of introspection, goodwill, and one of them could possibly be oriented around the idea of Citizen Verification Teams.

It  is our contention that nuclear disarmament will precipitate a wave of democracy and empowerment  and goodwill among the peoples of the world.

Willem Malten

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