As of January 1 of this year, under the UN Charter, nuclear weapons have been declared illegal — both their possession and their use, putting them in the same status as chemical and biological weapons, but because none of the 86 signatory nations have nukes, and because all of the nine nations that do have nuclear weapons have refused to to sign or honor that treaty, the sad truth is that there is no functioning treaty currently between or among nuclear-armed states limiting nuclear arms in the world.
The only real agreement that existed in the past limiting such weapons was the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty negotiated by Presidents Ronald Reagan and Michail Gorbachev and approved by the US Senate in 1991. That groundbreaking treaty lapsed on Feb. 5. And though Presidents Biden and Putin both told each other and stated publicly that they’d like to extend it for five years, that has not been done.
That treaty, actually part of a continuing process, gradually reduced the number of allowable nuclear warheads, bombs and missile, aircraft and submarine delivery systems over several decades so that by 2018, both countries were limited to about 1500 warheads and active delivery systems. Lest you think that was a great situation, remember that 3000 nukes, or even 1500 if only one country got its weapons launched in a surprise, are enough to destroy not just the target country, but the attacking country and the rest of the world too as a result of fallout and nuclear winter.
President Obama did a work-around anyhow of even that treaty by proposing and winning congressional approval for a “modernization” program for the US nuclear arsenal, a program which involves upgrading or creating new replacements for some US missiles and bombers as well as warheads themselves, on the mostly bogus claim that the aging nukes, missiles and planes might not be reliable. Actually, the “modernization” has included the creation of new more modern warheads that have a ‘dialable” feature allowing the explosives to be “set” at different levels of explosive power. The upgraded B-61 bomb, a mainstay of US nuclear weaponry, for example, can be adjusted to explode with a force of as much as 340 kilotons, which is more than 10 times the power of the bomb that destroyed Nagasaki, or as little as 0.3 kilotons, or less than a tenth of the power of the two bombs the US dropped on Japan.
Now one must ask: Why on earth would the US need a nuclear weapon that would produce such a tiny explosion? It would certainly not be needed in any kind of all-out nuclear war, when mass destruction is the object. The answer, of course, is that the US war machine and its proponents in the State Department and national security apparatus want a so-called “useable’ nuke that could be used in some future non-nuclear conflict supposedly so it wouldn’t spark a wider nuclear conflagration.
Am I the only one who thinks that is nuts?
The Obama nuclear modernization scheme, which was continued apace under the Trump administration, looks to be continuing under the new Joe Biden presidency.
Its projected cost, according to some analysts, is soaring from a claimed $1 trillion over 30 years when Nobel Peace Laureate Obama kicked it off to estimates that range as high as $2 trillion now.
The very existence of this program is a message to the rest of the world that nuclear war is being contemplated by the nation — the United States — that is the primary purveyor of violence around the globe. Little wonder that we see North Korea developing its own nuclear arsenal and long-range missiles capable of reaching the United States! No wonder too that Iran has been skittish about caving in to threats from the US and Israel to desist from continuing its uranium enrichment program or face the threat of a possible military attack. Remember, Israel, which receives $3.8-$4.0 billion a year in free military equipment as the largest recipient of such aid from its reliable ally the US — aid which includes aircraft including the F-15E, F-16 and the super stealthy F-35, that are capable of delivering nuclear bombs to Iran. Israel, remember also, is the only country in the Middle East that has nuclear weapons – as many as 400 of them. (The number is kept secret with US acquiescence, but if that high, means Israel has the third biggest nuke arsenal after the US and Russia).
It should be noted that Iran not only agreed to halt its uranium enrichment program and turn over its already partially enriched uranium stockpile to Russia for safe-keeping in a treaty negotiated among the US, Russia, China, Iran and several European countries, and that Iran continued to honor that agreement for more than a year even after then President Trump pulled the US out of the deal.
When Biden was running for president, he vowed to rejoin that treaty with Iran, but since taking his oath of office, he has backtracked from that promise and is now threatening not to rejoin the treaty unless Iran, which did not violate or cancel the treaty, agrees to stricter terms that it didn’t agree to in the first place. This is double dealing by Biden and his neo-liberal state department.
The US walked away from the Iran nuke agreement
The US had an agreement, it broke that agreement, and if the agreement is to be re-activated, it is the US that must return to the terms that were agreed to. Making additional demands on Iran to get the agreement back in place before removing Trump-ordered sanctions is simply a way of blocking the chance of getting back to an agreement when the US is the one that walked away from it.
The same is true of renewing START. The US has established a shameless record over a number of administrations now of dropping out of already negotiated and settled arms control treaties. In 2002, the Bush/Cheney administration pulled out of the 30-year-old Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, preferring to attempt to create an ABM shield that would allow it to threaten Russia and China with nuclear annihilation without much risk of any successful retaliation. Obviously that goal was not achieved, but simply led the Russians to work towards new methods of defeating any new attempt at a US missile shield. That has brought us a new arms race in hypersonic missiles. These hard to intercept weapons deliver their nuclear warheads at super high speeds approaching 6000 mph but can fly low to the ground with AI guidance systems that allow them to alter their course if threatened and even change targets while in flight, instead of just following fairly predictable ballistic arcs that could potentially be met and destroyed by US anti-missile systems.
The US during the Trump administration also pulled out of the Intermediate Nuclear Force (INF) treaty in 2019. This treaty was extremely important because by limiting short-range nuclear-tipped missiles, which are primarily used by the US, and are placed close to Russia (and China) where they can reach their targets in minutes instead of in half an hour, the need for Russia (and China) to maintain their retaliatory forces on hair-trigger alert was reduced dramatically. By cancelling that INF Treaty the US has shown that it is interested in being able to launch a surprise attack on rival nations, catching them unaware and destroying their missiles and bombers before they could be launched to retaliate against the US. The response in Russia and China has predictably been to put their missiles on hair-trigger alert, making an accidental nuclear conflict far more likely.
Most Americans are still living under the delusion, deliberately promoted by Washington for almost three quarters of a century, that the US would never attack another nation first with nuclear weapons. Aside from the fact that as of today, the US is the only nation that actually did that (in Japan, twice!), and that the US has consistently refused to renounce first use of nukes, the truth, as Daniel Ellsberg lays out in his latest book The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, is that from the very beginning of the nuclear era, US nuclear strategy has always assumed that it is the US that would launch its nuclear weapons first during any crisis, not merely retaliate for an attack.
(All US nuclear delivery systems from the rapid fire Minuteman to the MX “Peacekeeper” (sic), the sub-based Trident, and the stealth F-35A fighter-bomber, are first-strike weapons, not as claimed weapons of retaliation. This can be readily demonstrated by the missiles’ extreme accuracy designed to hit within feet of missile silos, and by the incredibly costly and performance-damaging effort to make the F-35 invisible to advanced radar — a feature that would be unneeded after a missile attack that would have rendered radar facilities and communications non-functioning).
The cancellation of all these treaties, the ABM and INF Treaties and now the failure to renew the START Treaty, not to mention President Trump’s vastly destabilizing establishment of a new branch of the military, the Space Force, adding low Earth orbit and perhaps the Moon to the global nuclear battle zone, represent a clear drive by the US towards trying to achieve unchallenged nuclear superiority over all rivals, whatever the cost. President Biden has little interest in trying to reverse this madness, letting it be known that he does not intend to cancel Trump’s hugely destabilizing Star Wars-inspired Space Force.
The citizens of this country, due to being preoccupied with struggling to survive a pandemic, the handling of which has been botched and badly politicized, exposing the decrepit and corrupt nature of the nation’s health care and social welfare system, have not been paying attention to the steady and wholly unnecessary march towards a new era of nuclear threats, bomb-shelter hysteria, and possibly actual nuclear war.
Americans need to wake up to the reality that the US military today absorbs an astonishing $1 trillion dollars each year, currently spending more in constant dollars than in any time since WWII. More than $1 trillion really if you add in veterans care and the annual interest paid on the share of US national debt owed for prior US military spending on annual budgets and wars fought and being currently waged (roughly half of total interest of $380 billion, or about $190 billion per year!). Factoring in those added costs, US military spending reaches over $1.3 trillion a year. It’s an amount that’s almost equal to the total 2019 personal income tax paid into the IRS of $1.7 trillion.
That is to say, virtually every dollar you, I and every other American pay to the IRS each year goes straight into the coffers of the military and the arms industry!
How is such a thing possible? Well, the rest of the government’s discretionary budget is funded by debt, because the Pentagon has such a huge claim on the federal budget.
Does anyone seriously think that this vast annual handover of all our taxes to the Pentagon is worth it? Is it making the US safer to have over 800 military bases around the globe, to be spending more than all the rest of the nations in the world (total global military spending in 2019 was $1.9 trillion)?
$6.4 trillion spend on Iraq and Afghan wars…for what?
Here’s another thought exercise: According to the Watson Institute on the Costs of War at Brown University, the cost of just the War on Terror and all US military activities since 2001, including the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan — and these basically small conflicts have represented just a fraction of total US military spending — has been $6.4 trillion (and have caused the loss, conservatively, of over 800,000 lives, most of them civilians). Has the US been made safer by that huge expenditure of our and other countries’ national treasure and blood? Have you and your family been made safer by the spending of all your tax money over that period?
Ask yourself honestly: Could some other approach have made us safer at much lower cost (and with far less death and bloodshed?). Just think, for example, how just a small fraction of all that money if provided in the form of foreign aid to instead of used for war on the countries in question — both actually quite small and incredibly impoverished — could have ended the violence and improved lives there. Think too of all the anger against and hate of the US that could have been prevented — anger and hatred that naturally leads to terrorist attacks in countries that cannot respond with war? (Although let’s be honest about the reality that no Iraq or Afghani was involved in the 9-11 attacks or in other attacks against US targets outside of those two countries we have been invading and occupying).
For the record, pollsters say a majority of Americans ignorantly believe that 25% of the US budget goes to foreign aid. Actually, US foreign aid annually is less than $40 billion a year, with almost half of that amount being in the form of military aid. That figure is less than 3% of what the US spends on our military and national security apparatus each year and less than 1% of the federal budget.
Clearly the US national security state has reached the point of insanity.
Where is the anger among the financially struggling American public?
Think about all this as you fill out your Form 1040 this year, and think about it too, as you cash that measly $1400 per person “Covid relief check” supposedly coming your way in a few weeks. Think what you could be doing and what the government could be doing if the US military were cut down to size and forced to live on say 10% of what it gets every year right now ($130 billion would be half what China and more than double what Russia — our two supposedly “existential enemies” – spend on their militaries.
We as a nation have been sleepwalking towards Armageddon, and worse yet we are funding its arrival at the same time.
Time to wake up!
Dave Lindorff is a member of ThisCantBeHappening!, the un-compromised, collectively run, six-time Project Censored Award-winning online alternative news site. He wrote this article under a joint publication agreement with tarbell.org.