Also, hear the latest nuclear news analysis from our deputy director of policy Mary Kaszynski and Roger L. Hale fellow Catherine Killough! Eliminating nuclear threats requires observing the constant presence of nuclear weapons in our lives since their invention, and understanding the effects of a nuclear denotation as real instead of a historical abstraction. NUKEMAP is an interactive map that uses declassified nuclear weapons effects data to model the explosion of nuclear weapons on virtually any terrain and at virtually any altitude.
Stay tuned for more videos from the event! Unless those standing for peace and reason significantly increase their efforts, the United States will, once again, be misled into an unnecessary war with catastrophic consequence. Read important analysis from Joe Cirincione , president of Ploughshares Fund, and the host of podcast "Press the Button" and Mary Kaszynski, deputy policy director. Learn what you can do to support peace and security worldwide.
Last night, the Trump administration nearly initiated a new war in the Middle East. This happened because the Trump administration has chosen a path of escalation over diplomacy, without any idea how to get out of the downward spiral set in motion as a result of his "maximum pressure" approach to Iran.
The United States must get back into the Iran nuclear agreement, and build on it. The world cannot afford a disastrous, immoral new war, or a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Both must be prevented through diplomacy, not the "maximum pressure" that got us to where we are today. Together, we can prevent a war with Iran.
The Pentagon's new nuclear doctrine may make the use of nuclear weapons more likely. Read about Nuclear Operations, a doctrine adopted by the US joint chiefs of staff last week that appears to seriously entertain the idea of initiating a nuclear attack in combat. As Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists said, "that kind of thinking itself can be hazardous. It can make that sort of eventuality more likely instead of deterring it. If you agree, join us today bit. The risk of war with Iran continues to increase, and only dramatic action by the American people and their political leaders can stop it.
Read Ploughshares Fund president Joe Cirincione and deputy policy director Mary Kaszynski on how the Trump administration is pushing us to the brink of a new war in the Middle East. We are proud to support activists, organizations, and mass movement groups are mobilizing to stop Trump's push to war and prevent the spread and use of nuclear weapons. Listen to this very special episode today! President Trump violated the Iran nuclear agreement last year, claiming he could curb what his administration called Iran's "malign activities" in the Middle East, He claimed he could force Iran to negotiate a new, 'better' agreement.
Today, we see that the Trump administration's actions have produced opposite results. Tensions are higher than ever, Iran is set to exceed the uranium-stockpile limit outlined in the agreement for the first time. Prospects for negotiations are nonexistent, and prospects for war are higher than ever. Join us. Stay informed. Together we can prevent a new war of choice in the Middle East and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. At any minute, the president of the United States can start a nuclear war with sole authority.
There is no requirement for outside approval or a second opinion. I walk away from trouble when I can. A non-democratic country that believes that is even more dangerous. Capitalism helps as well. The data show that countries that trade together highly are less likely to go to war. And democracies will be more careful about going to war than dictatorships. Bryan, are you familiar with the work of L. Richardson another pacifist on the mathematics of war? Both Arms and Insecurity, and Statistics of Deadly Quarrels have some interesting insights into the causes of war.
Alternatively, no single sentence is sufficient to encapsulate a sound argument for anything, pacifism or bellicosity. Life is complicated, especially human life. Sometimes they agree, sometimes not. Sorry I made a mistake on my 2 I was thinking power not spending even though you said spending.
Earlier centuries like the 20th. Do you really think human nature has changed so much since the s, when the Czechs and Poles were forced to plow others, and the Koreans and Chinese, etc. Etc, etc. How long ago was all that in the time scale of evolution? How long has it been since the world has gone so long without a major war between powers? Would the world have been a more peaceful place? Hitler told his generals that the West was too cowardly to fight over either Czechosolvakia or Poland. Next stop Warsaw. If it had been, even if Hitler was such a madman as to launch a war anyhow, in spite of his generals against a much stronger West, the result would have been much, much, better for a strongly prepared West.
Libertarians believe in the obligation to keep major contractual promises. Is this trumped by the pacifist imperative? Absolute non-violence? No military? A European military? Reduction to the National Guard? Although they were building fortification as fast as they could, a lot of it was not ready. And huge areas around the borders coming quite deep inside the country were pretty much German. If citing the evil doers of Stalin, N.
Korea and Hitler are examples of the folly of preparing for war, then Bryan is either failing logic or willfully misreading the quotes he tries to refute. In a world where there are evildoers, it always makes sense to prepare for war. This is exactly the collective action problem. One Country, Two Systems? No, you are too optimistic. Just look at Hongkong. Hongkong is on the road to Socialism, degrading from model of a free society.
I think this is a mistaken dichotomy. But their desire for peace is conditional on being in control. George W. Bush described the United States as a country that has sought peace, and I think he is right. What separates the US from most other countries is that the US demands global hegemony as its conditions for peace. When you talk about armament as a causant of war you seem to be only looking at one side of the coin.
Disarmament have been over the years a greater en thus less desired condition for defeat, concession and absorption. And yet if this period does end by whatever reasons, I do not believe that powers would have want to be caught depending on goodwill. On the end, it comes down to a hawk vs dove game.
On average it is more desirable for society to be ready for war, if they actually want to avoid it. The American Civil War is the best proof of that idea that I can think of. The British had shown it was possible to abolish slavery without bloodshed more or less but the US proved to be politically incapable of pulling off a similar feat, despite having the best system of government ever devised for avoiding war, let alone a civil war. One might add that it was also the bloodiest war the US has ever fought. If it was usually better for the ruled to go pacifist, why have they almost never done that?
Sister Megan and Walli pleaded not guilty. The Plowshares action at Y attracted international attention. The fact that an eighty-two-year-old nun had broken into a high-security nuclear-weapons complex seemed unbelievable. But to some people familiar with the security arrangements at Y the intrusion was the logical result of mismanagement that had plagued the facility for years.
Although the federal government owned the land and most of the buildings, the equipment, and the fissile material at the Y complex, private contractors now ran the facility for profit. During the Cold War, the weapons laboratories had been managed through an unusual arrangement of public and private oversight. Sandia Laboratory was run by subsidiaries of A.
The weapons labs and manufacturing plants were run like nonprofits: they were supposed to serve the national interest. A new federal agency, the National Nuclear Security Administration, was created to oversee the private contractors. And the management of nuclear-security forces was increasingly privatized as well. During the summer of , when the break-in occurred at Y, Wackenhut Services, Inc. The company had been founded in the early nineteen-fifties by George Wackenhut, a former F. But in Wackenhut Services was no longer an American company. In addition to protecting the weapons-grade uranium at Y through a subsidiary, G4S provided security at rock concerts and banks and malls, operated private prisons, employed armed guards to defend embassies in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The company operated in more than a hundred and twenty-five countries. Through mergers and acquisitions, it had rapidly become the third-largest private employer in the world, after Walmart and Foxconn. Most people had never heard of G4S until a few weeks before the Y intrusion, when the company mishandled the security arrangements for the London Olympic Games. G4S trainees were allegedly caught cheating on bomb-detection tests. The company says that training was conducted according to industry standards.
G4S failed to hire the number of security guards it had promised, and the British military had to send thirty-five hundred troops to the Olympics at the last minute.
Before responding to mock attacks, Wackenhut officers were told in advance which building at Y would be targeted, which wall of the building would be attacked, and whether their adversaries would use diversionary tactics. In at least one case, the information allowed officers to prepare an effective response weeks in advance. Wackenhut employees not only cheated on the tests; they came up with the tests. On the night of the Y break-in, a camera that would have enabled security personnel to spot the intruders was out of commission. According to a document obtained by Frank Munger, a reporter at the Knoxville News-Sentinel , about a fifth of the cameras on the fences surrounding the Protected Area were not working that night.
One camera did capture someone climbing through a fence. But the security officer who might have seen the image was talking to another officer, not looking at his screen. Cameras and motion detectors at the site had been broken for months. Poor communication between the two companies contributed to long delays whenever something needed to be fixed. The Plowshares activists did set off an alarm.
But security officers ignored it, because hundreds of false alarms occurred at Y every month. Officers stationed inside the uranium-storage facility heard the hammering on the wall. But they assumed that the sounds were being made by workmen doing maintenance. A few months before the break-in, the National Nuclear Security Administration had given Wackenhut high scores in a review of its security performance at Y, granting the company a large fee. Wackenhut was planning to eliminate the jobs of seventy guards at Y, in order to cut costs.
During the second week of September, , congressional hearings were held to discuss the security at Y This must never happen again. Thank you for your willingness to focus attention on this nuclear weapons buildup. We thank you for your courage. A federal grand jury had already handed down further indictments. In addition to the misdemeanor trespassing charge, the protesters now faced two felony counts. The felony counts could lead to a prison sentence of fifteen years. And, as lawyers representing the activists discussed a possible plea bargain with the U. Instead, it has been used against labor organizers, opponents of the Vietnam War, and anti-nuclear activists.
Walli, Sister Megan, and Boertje-Obed refused to accept a plea bargain, and insisted on a trial by jury. The prosecution quickly dropped the trespassing charge and added sabotage to the indictment. William P. Quigley, the attorney representing Walli, asked the judge to throw out the sabotage charge.
A professor of law at Loyola University New Orleans, Quigley argued that the sabotage law was being selectively applied in this case. Father Bix had been given a three-month prison sentence after breaking into the nuclear-weapons storage area at Kitsap in Sister Megan and the others now faced a possible thirty-five years behind bars. Dating back centuries to English common law, the defense enabled someone to be found innocent if a crime had been committed to avoid a greater harm.
Crimes of necessity might include tossing valuable cargo overboard to prevent a ship from sinking, breaking into a drugstore to obtain life-saving medicine for someone in an emergency, shattering a store window to escape a fire. The three activists had broken into Y, Quigley planned to argue, in order to avoid a nuclear holocaust. He had defended peace activists since the early nineteen-eighties and sympathized with many of their views. The necessity defense was occasionally successful in state courts, where anti-nuclear protesters had walked free after explaining their actions to a jury.
But since the early nineties federal judges have rarely permitted claims of necessity to be used in civil-disobedience cases. At a pre-trial hearing, Boertje-Obed, representing himself, asked the court to permit the use of the necessity defense. The government had already submitted a brief seeking to preclude that defense. The preparation for war crimes is a crime, Boertje-Obed argued, citing one of the Nuremberg principles used to prosecute the leadership of Nazi Germany.
In response to those arguments, Assistant U. Attorney Jeffrey E. Theodore, citing Justice John Paul Stevens, portrayed all civil disobedience as anti-democratic. They want to present their anti-nuclear agenda and they want the biggest forum they can get in order to do that. And the more they can espouse their views about operations at Y, or the horrors of nuclear weapons and things like that. At their trial, in May, , they described those actions matter-of-factly. The charge of damaging government property would be hard to beat.
To obtain a guilty verdict on the two other charges, the government had to prove that repairing the damage at Y cost more than a thousand dollars and that the three activists willfully set out to harm the national defense of the United States. Before the trial, the government had claimed that the damage at Y had cost an estimated seventy thousand dollars to repair. During the trial, Assistant U. The cost of the materials purchased to mend the broken fences and scrub the white walls clean was less impressive.
It came to about seven hundred and sixty dollars. The defense attorneys countered that all those consequences were impossible to foresee, since the three protesters were surprised that they could even get into the facility, let alone disrupt it. Far from endangering the country, the break-in had improved the security at Y And, if calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons threatened the national defense of the United States, then people like Henry Kissinger were saboteurs, too.
The trial was notable mostly for what it revealed about the participants. When asked by Assistant U. From the witness stand, Sister Megan described her mystical, nature-loving form of Catholicism.
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All living things were miraculous, she believed. Walli, Boertje-Obed, and Sister Megan were convicted by the jury on all counts. The three were now classified as violent offenders, because of the conviction for attacking government property. They were handcuffed, shackled, and led from the courtroom to jail. The United States is far more open about its nuclear-weapons programs than any other nation.
But that openness, and the many security problems it has revealed, should not imply that the greatest threat of nuclear terrorism comes from sites in the United States. On the contrary, America may have the best nuclear-security systems in the world. The management challenges that the United States has faced are now being encountered by every other country that possesses nuclear weapons.
Pakistan tops the list of nations that cause terrorism experts the greatest concern. It has dispersed nuclear weapons to multiple locations, making them less vulnerable to attack by a foreign nation but more vulnerable to theft by terrorists. It has extremist groups seeking to infiltrate the military. And few people outside Pakistan know how its nuclear enterprise is really being run. But in both countries terrorists and extremists are more likely to seek plutonium and weapons-grade uranium.
Fissile materials are easier to steal than nuclear weapons and much lighter to carry. An improvised explosive device can be made with just a hundred and twenty pounds of uranium or twenty pounds of plutonium. An insider at a nuclear facility might secretly remove a few ounces of fissile material every so often and accumulate a significant amount of it over time. That happened at a nuclear laboratory south of Moscow in Leonid Smirnov, an engineer at the plant, stole small vials of weapons-grade uranium for months, hoping to sell it.
He was caught by chance, while talking to some drunken friends at a train station. Russia has the most nuclear weapons and the largest amount of fissile material in the world. For more than twenty years after the end of the Cold War, the United States and Russia worked closely together to improve nuclear security and reduce the danger of nuclear terrorism. Thousands of nuclear weapons were safely transported from former Soviet republics and dismantled.
New storage facilities were built in Russia; modern security systems were introduced; fissile materials were removed from unguarded sites and locked away. But in December, , Congress voted against additional funding for the nuclear-threat-reduction program.
Sam Nunn, the former U. Russia still has about two hundred and fifty thousand pounds of plutonium and about 1. Thapar told the three defendants at the sentencing hearing. Sister Megan was given three years in prison, Walli and Boertje-Obed five.
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The activists were also required to pay for the damage at Y The cost to repair that damage was no longer the roughly eight thousand dollars mentioned during the trial. Half a dozen painters had been brought to the uranium-storage facility on a Saturday, at a cost of more than a hundred dollars an hour each. Dog handlers, who had searched the site for intruders, had cost almost five hundred dollars an hour. Videographers and photographers had been paid seven thousand dollars to produce images of the graffiti and the torn chain link.
Despite the large sums of money involved, the most expensive material that had to be bought to undo this act of sabotage was twenty buckets of white paint. After considering the threat of nuclear terrorism for many years, William C. Potter, the director of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, and Gary Ackerman, the director of the Unconventional Weapons and Technology Division, at the University of Maryland, outlined some of the motives that could drive a terrorist group to obtain a nuclear weapon.
The group might hope to create mass anxiety or mass casualties. It might want to deter attacks by a state with nuclear weapons. It might want to destroy a large area belonging to an adversary. It might want the prestige that nuclear weapons seem to confer, the status of being a world power.
And it might seek to fulfill a religious goal. Today, the number of those groups seems to be multiplying. The Salafi jihadist world view promoted by Al Qaeda stresses the religious duty to purify corrupt states through violence, drive out infidels, and create a new caliphate—a perfect state in which religious and political leadership will be merged. Seth G. None have thus far engaged in nuclear terrorism, preferring more conventional and reliable forms of violence.
The leader of the cult, Shoko Asahara, was a partially blind yoga instructor who declared himself the reincarnation of both Jesus Christ and the Hindu god Shiva. Asahara thought his followers would be the only ones to survive the coming nuclear apocalypse. In , unable to obtain nuclear weapons, members of Aum Shinrikyo launched an attack on the Tokyo subway system with sarin nerve gas that killed thirteen people and injured more than five thousand. Despite having about a billion dollars in its bank account, perhaps fifty or sixty thousand followers worldwide, and the most advanced weapons-of-mass-destruction program ever created by a terrorist group, the doomsday cult was unknown to Western intelligence agencies until the Tokyo subway attack.
White supremacists in the United States have also fantasized about using nuclear weapons to purify society. It features a protagonist who flies a plane carrying a nuclear weapon into the Pentagon, committing suicide in order to destroy Washington, D. Although Washington, D. Budget sequestration and the partisanship in Congress have greatly reduced spending on nuclear-security programs. The amount of money that will be saved this year by cutting those programs—about three hundred and forty million dollars—is equivalent to 0.
Swords and plowshares
When I visited the Y National Security Complex a few months ago, the place looked like an odd mix of Silicon Valley and the industrial ruins of Detroit. The site has a few shiny new buildings, some of the most advanced and precise machine tools in the world—and an abandoned steam plant in the middle of the complex, rusting and decayed, with grass growing in the cracks of surrounding pavement.
Buildings and equipment dating back to the Manhattan Project are still in use. Inside one building, I saw calutrons—enormous contraptions, about fifteen feet high, relying on powerful magnets to enrich uranium—that were designed more than seventy years ago, and are still kept on standby to produce stable isotopes, if necessary.
A dusty basement was filled with spare parts, gauges, huge vacuum tubes, unopened spools of cable marked with their date of manufacture The room felt like an exhibit at a museum of technology, a steampunk fantasy. Inside the Protected Area, the security was impressive. Large coils of razor wire have been placed between fences to slow anyone trying to cut through them. I saw security guards with automatic weapons, plenty of video cameras, barriers to prevent car bombs and truck bombs. I have been told that if an intruder managed to get inside the storage facility, he or she would confront a series of lethal impediments before getting anywhere near the uranium.
Wackenhut is no longer responsible for the security at Y Creating a single, integrated management structure at the site promised to improve its security. But a couple of embarrassing incidents soon occurred. On June 6, , Brenda L. Haptonstall, a sixty-two-year-old woman, was allowed to pass through the main entrance at Y and drive the full length of the complex without being asked to show any identification.
The following month, on the first anniversary of the Plowshares action at Y, a security guard accidentally fired his gun inside an armored vehicle. Fragments ricocheting off the interior armor injured two guards. Consolidated Nuclear Security C. Although the guard force there is largely unchanged, new managers run it.
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Morgan Smith, the chief operating officer of C. He previously ran the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, a Bechtel facility north of Albany that helps maintain nuclear reactors for the U. Smith makes no excuses for the security lapses at Y that preceded his arrival. All the employees at the site are now expected to feel personally responsible for its security. Smith is confident that Y is a more secure place today than in the past. Standing atop Chestnut Ridge, looking down at the Y complex, I felt uneasy. The valley that the site occupies is quite narrow, the hills overlooking it densely wooded.
The fear of a sniper that had made Sergeant Riggs put on body armor before dealing with the Plowshares intruders suddenly made sense. Terrorists attacking Y from the ridge would have the advantage of high ground and a great deal of cover. At night, they would be hard to see. Ideally, some of the trees on those hills would be chopped down for security reasons, regardless of what local environmentalists might think. It looked vulnerable and exposed. During the Middle Ages, castles were built at the top of a hill, not at the bottom.
Weeks later, I learned that others had expressed similar concerns about Y for years. The initial design of the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility was a concrete bunker covered on top and on three sides by an earthen berm. Danielle Brian, the head of the Project on Government Oversight, stressed those very points during congressional testimony in May, An aboveground storage facility would have five exposed surfaces—four walls and a roof—that terrorists could attack.
A bermed facility would have only one. In satellite photographs, aside from an entrance ramp and an exit ramp, the structure is practically invisible. They are members of the U. Nobody has ever broken into the bullion depository, and none of its roughly forty-five hundred tons of gold has ever been stolen.
A pound of gold is worth about twenty thousand dollars. A pound of weapons-grade uranium, on the black market, could be worth at least a hundred times that amount. The anniversary will be commemorated by rallies and speeches demanding the abolition of nuclear weapons.
That has been the professed desire of most American Presidents since , including Harry Truman. They would like the United States to modernize its nuclear-weapons and delivery systems instead. Their arguments go something like this:. Fifty to sixty million people were killed during the Second World War. Our nuclear weapons prevented the Soviet domination of Japan and Western Europe.
Nuclear deterrence works. Both China and Russia are now spending heavily to modernize their nuclear forces. Tampering with a national-security strategy that has kept the peace among world powers for seventy years would be a risky and irrational move. A treaty to abolish nuclear weapons would be as effective as the Kellogg-Briand Pact, an international agreement, signed by the United States in , that outlawed war. The Catholic Church once agreed with many of those arguments. For most of the Cold War, the Vatican was staunchly anti-Communist, and nuclear deterrence was blessed as a means of containing the influence of the Soviet Union.
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Last December, the Vatican released a statement that broke from decades of Church teaching on nuclear weapons. The distinction between having them and using them seems to have vanished. Dolan, the conservative Archbishop of New York. Nobody at the Justice Department or the U. Nor would the two prosecutors who handled the case.
When I appealed the decision, my request was denied again. Sister Megan is eighty-five, one of the oldest women in the federal prison system, and she has a heart condition. During roughly the same period in which the Justice Department refused to let me meet with her for security reasons, the National Nuclear Security Administration allowed me to visit three high-security nuclear-weapons sites.
I corresponded with Sister Megan for months, and she was eventually allowed to speak with me on the phone. We talked about her upbringing in Manhattan, her parents, and their commitment to racial equality in the nineteen-thirties. She told me about her years in Africa and her introduction to the peace movement. We discussed what happened at Y But the subject that Sister Megan now seems the most passionate about is the suffering of her fellow-inmates.
She is confined in a dormitory, not a cell. It has about sixty bunk beds, separated from one another by a few feet, without any partitions. Many of the women seem to have been incarcerated for drug offenses. She thinks that most of them have been the victims of abuse. Instead of complaining or focussing on her own case, she has encouraged inmates to write to me about theirs. And thanks. His recall of dates and numbers is extraordinary, and, despite being a high-school dropout, he readily quotes passages of the Bible and lines from Martin Luther King, Jr. Walli believes that King is literally a saint, despite having been a Baptist, and considers Sister Megan to be a prophet of God.
When I asked about the sabotage charge, Walli let loose. And he was prepared for that to happen. Leavenworth Penitentiary is the oldest federal prison and one of the most unsettling. Built more than a century ago, in Kansas, it was designed to look like the U.
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