Working towards peace and sustainability

Peaceworks on Negotiations Regarding Iran’s Nuclear Program

Peaceworks was founded in 1982 as a Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign and we remain deeply concerned about the threat these weapons pose to the survival of humanity and the biosphere as a whole. We support any legitimate effort to advance the mutual, verifiable elimination of these horrific devices.

We, of course, do not see the use of military force as an appropriate method of addressing nuclear proliferation. To even threaten the use of such force, as Israel and the United States have done repeatedly over the years, creates the incentive to achieve nuclear weapons capabilities as a deterrent.

While the Obama-Kerry effort to negotiate with Iran via the P5+1 framework is preferable to the obstructionist position of most Congressional Republicans and Netanyahu, there is still a tremendous amount of hypocrisy in the approach the President has embraced.

To begin with, the P5, that is the U.S., UK, France, Russia and China are all nuclear-armed states. So is Israel. All the P5 members are signatories to the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Most people are aware that this treaty requires non-nuclear weapons states to refrain from the pursuit of n-weapons, and obligates them to open their nuclear facilities to international inspection.

What many do not realize is that Article VI of the NPT commits the U.S. and the other nuclear weapons states to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

This agreement was signed in 1968 and went into effect in 1970. 45 years later, the Pentagon still has an arsenal of many thousands of warheads, and approximately $60 billion of our tax dollars are being spent each year to maintain and upgrade this arsenal and its delivery systems.

In fact, maintaining nuclear dominance in perpetuity is the official strategic doctrine of our nation. Toward this end, the U.S. is investing hundreds of billions in constructing new nuclear weapons facilities around the country and has absolutely no intention of following either the letter or the spirit of the NPT, which, as a ratified treaty, is supposed to be the highest law of the land.

Israel does not publicly acknowledge the existence of its nuclear weapons. It is generally understood, however, that Israel is the only country in the Middle East with such weapons and is believed to have approximately 200 warheads. Israel has refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, while Iran and virtually all other states in the Middle East are signatories.

As long as the U.S. and the other P5 nations refuse to move forward on their commitment to mutually eliminate their nuclear arsenals, they have very little credibility arguing that other nations should not seek nuclear arms. This “do as I say, not as I do” approach is worse than patronizing. Our government is essential acting as a bully, insisting that others follow their orders, imposing harsh economic sanctions and threatening military action if their demands are not met.

The other hypocrisy in the U.S. approach to Iran involves our government’s failure to acknowledge the inherent connection between civilian nuclear power and nuclear weapons. To build a significant nuclear fission energy program requires the means for enrichment of uranium. And, as the fissile isotope of uranium is relatively rare, for fission power to be more than a short term undertaking requires the separation of plutonium from spent fuel.

Enrichment capabilities and plutonium separation through reprocessing are necessary ingredients for both a full-blown civilian nuclear energy program and a nuclear weapons program. There is no secret to the bomb, only limited access to “special nuclear materials,” that is highly enriched uranium and plutonium.

Peaceworks opposes the use of nuclear fission for energy, recognizing that it is too dangerous, too dirty, too slow and far too expensive to be a viable source of energy to address the climate crisis. Our government, on the other hand, supports the expansion of nuclear power and maintains the fiction that this can be done without spreading nuclear weapons capabilities. In fact, the infrastructure and technical knowhow for a civilian nuclear energy program is exactly what is needed for any nation that wishes to “go nuclear” on the weapons side.

Only if we move beyond nuclear power, at home and abroad, can we really root out nuclear weapons proliferation. If the world was to eschew the nuclear option for energy, then any effort to build enrichment or reprocessing facilities would be unambiguously directed toward weapons production and immediate action could be taken.

With these concerns stated, in the short run, it is clearly preferable to pursue negotiations rather than to harken to the neo-cons’ drumbeat for war. Thus, we must offer qualified support to the negotiations process. If we are to have any hope for a peaceful, nuclear-free future, however, we must focus on nuclear weapons in general, rather than seeing Iran as the problem.

We should pursue a Nuclear-Free Middle East as part of a broader settlement of regional conflicts, but we should not stop there. Ultimately, we need to work for a world free of the scourge of nuclear weapons. And, in tandem with this, we need a world that gets serious about addressing the climate crisis by moving rapidly to improve energy efficiency and expand the use of safe, clean renewable energy options.

If you agree that these are policies worthy of pursuing, we need your vocal and visible support to make them a reality. Far too many of us have abdicated an active role in the process of setting policy and priorities. If, on the other hand, the people find our voice and lead, perhaps, in time, the so-called “leaders” will follow.

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Those of you on our Peaceworks mailing list have likely already received our winter 2015 newsletter in the mail. Those who haven't seen it yet can find it as as PDF if you CLICK HERE.

You will find news of our "Another Missourian for Climate Action" campaign, our take on the new war on the so-called Islamic State, info on upcoming classes, films, book discussion, Earth Day 2015 and more.

Senseless Death, Misguided Authorization of War and the Compounding of Tragedy.

On the same week that American aid worker, Kayla Mueller, was

confirmed dead in Syria, President Obama sent a request to Congress to authorize the use of force against the so-called Islamic State (IS), something that was actually initiated more than six months ago, without specific authorization.  

The tragedies unfolding throughout the Middle East at the moment are largely the direct result of past U.S. interventions and aggression, including the illegal 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Now, Congress seems nearly certain to authorize further U.S. war-making in the region, for at least the next three years, likely longer, as there seems to be no end to this so-called Long War.

Peaceworks stands unequivocally opposed to attempts to bomb the region into peace or to train and arm proxy armies. As has been the case with every American military intervention in the region, Obama’s war on IS will undoubtedly bring more death and destruction. The likely outcome will be more, not fewer, enemies and greater regional instability. It will be very costly in every sense of the word.

We are, of course, moved by tragic loss of life, including the death of Mueller and the immolation of Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh. We also recognize that those who seek to expand and extend the seemingly perpetual war, are taking advantage of this, playing on our compassionate, caring impulses.

While Peaceworks condemns, without any qualification, the brutality of groups like IS, we oppose the new war on IS. Further, we recognize that the current situation must be understood in context.

Part of this is recognizing the responsibility the U.S. holds for the very existence of the IS. When the U.S. launched its Iraq invasion there was no Al Qaeda in Iraq (the group that has since morphed into IS). The U.S. invasion led directly to the very tragic loss of many hundreds of thousands of lives, the dislocation of 5 million people from their homes and, in the process, created a climate that allowed an extremist group like IS to rally a portion of the population to their banner.

Rarely do American media focus on the impact of the U.S. invasion and the subsequent counter-insurgency war on individual Iraqis or families. There are innumerable dead Iraqis every bit as innocent, idealistic and even photogenic as Ms. Mueller. Never seeing their faces; never hearing their stories; we are rarely moved in the fashion that an event like Mueller’s death—given the maximum media attention it’s received—has moved American public opinion.

Some seek to use the deaths of American captives, like Kayla Mueller, or the beheaded western journalists to rally support of an expanded war, or, in some cases, for encouraging fear and loathing of Muslims in general. They are clearly opportunists. Most others are just caught up in the emotional frenzy. Yet they are being played by those who prefer war to peace, larger military budgets to a Peace Economy, and empire over a cooperative world order.

While these atrocities, which have stoked many Americans’ fears, are being used to justify U.S. attacks in Iraq and Syria, the states of Libya and Yemen—both sites of U.S. military intervention—have been disintegrating. And, while feudal Saudi Arabia is embroiled in succession, Lebanon and Jordan totter on the brink, and Europe is reeling from Islamist militant attacks, anti-Muslim demonstrations and more.

Does any sane observer really believe that a new Congressional resolution authorizing continued or expanded war will improve upon this situation? Really?