Poem: The Nuclear Nine

They are The Nuclear Nine–the ones with the Bomb.
They can trigger The End
at any time.
A mad leader, a mistake, miscalculation
buttons are pushed, and well,
there it isn’t. Gone.

Fast death for some,
slow for others.
Those with money might go underground
or maybe New Zealand if the wind
hasn’t shifted. Hoping against hope.

Those in the cities have a few minutes to panic
and melt.
In the hinterlands long struggles
with a slower demise,
poisoned milk, nuclear winters
where crops will not grow.
oh what a deed these mushrooms will do.

Kids under desks won’t be saved
in their schools,
nor will they be saved by
fast running moms.

The Nuclear Nine find comfort from silos
loaded with missiles, not maize.
Great security for them
until, of course, the A Bombs strike them too.

Our species is headed there,
fools and madmen we are.
As the Nuclear Nine cling to their bombs
the spark to ignite them will come
sooner or later- unless we wiseup, riseup
And save ourselves.

Richard Greve (c) February, 2015


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IT’S A START: U.S. Ambassador: “The P-5 have a responsibility to do more”

by Joe Scarry

As more and more people grew aware that the confrontation between the US/NATO and Russia over Ukraine could grow to world-threatening proportions, representatives of the nuclear weapons states (the so-called P-5 – US, Russia, UK, France, China) met in London.

This led to a very interesting exchange on Twitter:

Robert Wood @USAmbCD *
London Conference demonstrated P-5 commitment to their Article VI
obligations. Good exchange between P-5 and NPDI reps.Joe Scarry @Scarry
.@USAmbCD – Thanks – that “demonstrated P-5 commitment to their
Article VI obligations”? Could we see more? @napf @Cirincione

Robert Wood @USAmbCD
@Scarry @napf @Cirincione The P-5 have a responsibility to do more.

*U.S. Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament and Special
Representative for Biological and Toxin Weapons (BWC) Convention Issues.

U.S. Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament and Special Representative for Biological and Toxin Weapons (BWC) Convention Issues says “The P-5 have a responsibility to do more [with respect to the P-5’s Article VI obligations]”?

This is significant because, as the most powerful nation in the P-5, the US has the ability to make the P-5 “do more” if it wants to.

And it’s also significant because the nations of the world meet in New York City at the UN starting in just over two months for the once-every-5-years review conference of the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (the NPT). People around the world are clamoring for progress on the main pillar of the NPT — the total elimination of nuclear arsenals by those who already have them. This is the “Article VI” of the NPT that all signatories (most notably US, Russia, UK, France, China) have signed on to:

“Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes 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.” (emphasis added)(See “THE TREATY ON THE NON-PROLIFERATION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS( NPT ) (text of the treaty) on the UN website.)

The NPT is based on a quid pro quo: nuclear “have-nots” agree to not acquire nuclear weapons, and nuclear “haves” agree to disarm. (See A DEAL’S A DEAL! (What part of “nuclear disarmament” doesn’t the US understand?) )

The rest of the world is getting sick of waiting for the P-5 to honor their obligation.

Equally as important, AMERICANS are demanding action.

The clock is ticking . . . .

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The Lesson of Reykjavik: TALK About Nuclear Disarmament (You Never Know)

by Joe Scarry

On the day the nuclear weapons states are meeting in London, it seems like an appropriate time for a reality check.

Just such a reality check comes from reading Reagan at Reykjavik: Forty-Eight Hours That Ended the Cold Warby Ken Adelman. Three hundred and forty-two pages of this book are a depressing depiction of lots ofapparatchiks (U.S. and Soviet) hovering around the two most powerful people in the world, trying to convince themselves (and us) that they are adding value, while the whole time it’s quite clear that that’s pretty hard to do when you don’t know what Ronald Reagan is gonna say next . . . .

The payoff comes on pp. 167-168, where Reagan and Gorbachev get down to brass tacks.  Gorbachev begins by chasing down some specific language about laboratory testing, which seems limiting, evoking this response:

Reagan: I’m ready to include all the nuclear weapons we can.

Then this:

Gorbachev: Then we should include the whole triad.
Reagan: Okay, let’s take out ‘strategic.’ Then all ballistic missiles would be eliminated.

Holy smokes!

“It would be fine with me if we eliminated all nuclear weapons,” was a bold move that then popped in Reagan’s mind. Saying this aloud may have even startled himself, as he then scribbled on a piece of paper, “George [Schultz, Secretary of State], am I right?” and passed it to his left. Schultz leaned over and whispered in the good left ear: “Absolutely, yes.”

So we have:

Reagan: It would be fine with me if we eliminated all nuclear weapons.
Gorbachev: We can do that. We can eliminate them.
Schultz: Let’s do it!
Reagan: If we can agree to eliminate all nuclear weapons, I think we can turn this over to our Geneva folks with that understanding, fro them to draft up an agreement. Then you can come to the U.S. and sign it.
Gorbachev:Well, all right. Here we have a chance for an agreement.

All of this proves one thing: you never know what might happen.

It can all happen very fast.

No one really knows ahead of time what will happen.

That’s why it’s so important for people to get together and talk.

*   *   *   *   *

A Reflection on You Never Know!

Philadelphia: 10 Strawberry Street, with U.S. Customs 
House visible in the background.

When I was in my 20s, I worked in an import-export company, doing business throughout China and other countries in Asia. This was in the 1980s, overlapping with the time that Reagan was in office.

I worked for a man named Howard, one of the smartest and most humane people I’ve ever known. The main thing that our work involved was going to faraway places and talking to people.

Given that it took a lot of time and effort to go halfway around the world and talk to people, Howard and I used to spend a lot of time researching and talking about upcoming meetings.

We would estimate and imagine and forecast possibilities, all in the hopes of working efficiently and not going off on wild goose chases.

But one problem with this was that we sometimes fooled ourselves into thinking we knew what to expect before we even talked to people. It was usually Howard who remembered these words of wisdom:

“You never know!”

And, in fact, there were so many times that “You never know!” proved to be acutely true, that I once proposed to Howard that we should make it the company motto. We came very close to having the words “You never know!” embroidered on a large banner and hung outside our building at 10 Strawberry Street in the Old City neighborhood of Philadelphia.

*   *   *   *   *
TIME magazine, October 20, 1986:
Star Wars Sinks the Summit

The Lesson of Reykjavik

The conventional wisdom is that Reykjavik was a fiasco: Reagan refused to back down on the Strategic Defense Inititive (“Star Wars”), and as a result the deal on total disarmament wasn’t completed.

On the other hand, Reykjavich was the start of a spectacular process of arms reductions.

When Reagan came into office, U.S. nuclear warheads totaled over 25,000. By the end of the George H.W. Bush administration, that total had been cut in half. By the end of the two terms of the second Bush, the total had been halved again.

The infographic below illustrates this dramatic change:

The American Nuclear Stockpile
Click to view full size on The New York Times website.

There remain over 16,000 nuclear weapons in the world today, so the job is not yet done. And we certainly can’t tolerate a situation in which the world is subject to the whim of one or two people. But what Reykjavich does tell us is: Obama and Putin need to sit down together and talk total nuclear disarmament.

Will the very next conversation be the one that results in eliminating nuclear weapons?

You never know . . . .

Related posts

The nuclear “haves” are meeting in London today and tomorrow. Everyone in the world should be doing everything possible to drive them towards an agreement on nuclear disarmament. It’s more important than ISIS. More important than Iran, Bibi, or Boehner. And certainly more important than the top ten things trending on Twitter or coming up in your Facebook feed.

(See Job #1 Vis-a-vis Russia: NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT)

Call me a demanding citizen, but I think the President should get off his butt and go talk to the leader of Russia.  (Yes, Putin.)  It’s his job.

(See Obama: Go to Moscow!)

Elaine Scarry demonstrates that the power of one leader to obliterate millions of people with a nuclear weapon – a possibility that remains very real even in the wake of the Cold War – deeply violates our constitutional rights, undermines the social contract, and is fundamentally at odds with the deliberative principles of democracy.

(See Reviews of “Thermonuclear Monarchy: Choosing Between Democracy and Doom” by Elaine Scarry )

There are three centers of power that will impact nuclear disarmament: the President, the Congress, and the people. One of them will have to make nuclear disarmament happen.

(See Countdown to U.S. Nuclear Disarmament (With or Without the Politicians) )

Continue reading

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Job #1 Vis-a-vis Russia: NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT

by Joe Scarry

So many exist, ready to be used . . . .
The world’s nuclear weapon count (August, 2014):
(Source: peaceandplanet.org)

The story yesterday was the last straw.

A bunch of U.S. NGOs are lobbying the government to send more weapons to Ukraine, and they’re being heard: “U.S. Considers Supplying Arms to Ukraine Forces, Officials Say” reportsThe New York Times (February 1, 2015).

For people in Chicago, it’s personal: one of the signatories is Ivo Daalder, current head of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and former U.S. ambassador to NATO.

Recently, another highly influential NGO-leader — the financier George Soros, the money man behind the Open Society Foundations — came out with a call for muscular financial sanctions to bring Russia to its knees and “save” Ukraine. (“A New Policy to Rescue Ukraine,” New York Review of Books, February 7, 2015 issue)

The struggle in the Ukraine is becoming the latest “permawar” pretext — whatever we do, let’s not focus on the real earth-threatening problem, the unresolved US and Russia nuclear arsenals! (“Oh, look! Here’s a new hot conflict for us to pay attention to . . . “)

Look: I’m not an expert on Russia, Ukraine, and the history of the last 600 years in that part of the world. I say Ukraine — not to mention Transdniestria, Abkhazia or South Ossetia — is a red herring. I contend that you don’t have to be a specialist in European and Russian affairs in order to demand that our first priority is nuclear disarmament.

“5 nuclear weapons states are meeting in London February 4th and 5th”
(Source:Nuclear Age Peace Foundation)

The nuclear “haves” are meeting in London today and tomorrow. Everyone in the world should be doing everything possible to drive them towards an agreement on nuclear disarmament. It’s more important than ISIS. More important than Iran, Bibi, or Boehner. And certainly more important than the top ten things trending on Twitter or coming up in your Facebook feed.

Moreover, the whole world will be meeting in New York City in April/May at the UN to determine the fate of the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The major threat to the NPT is the failure of the nuclear “haves” to finish disarming.


Work for nuclear disarmament every week:

Related posts

There are three centers of power that will impact nuclear disarmament: the President, the Congress, and the people. One of them will have to make nuclear disarmament happen.

(See Countdown to U.S. Nuclear Disarmament (With or Without the Politicians) )

Far too many people think that the NPT is about freezing the status quo, and preventing additional states from obtaining nuclear weapons. This is a fundamental misunderstanding. The NPT is based on a quid pro quo: nuclear “have-nots” agree to not acquire nuclear weapons, and nuclear “haves” agree to disarm.

(See A DEAL’S A DEAL! (What part of “nuclear disarmament” doesn’t the US understand?) )

Conveniently, a large military alliance — NATO — bristling with weapons, has announced itself ready to step in and contest annexations of territories by Russia. For NATO, the measure of resolvability of conflict is firepower.

(See Crimean War? Crimean Showdown? or Crimean Mediation? It’s Time for Americans to Get Some New Vocabulary )

Call me a demanding citizen, but I think the President should get off his butt and go talk to the leader of Russia.  (Yes, Putin.)  It’s his job.

(See Obama: Go to Moscow!)

Why is the U.S. in a permanent state of war? More than anyone else, the beneficiaries of permawar are the politicians who thrive on the power to make and control wars.

(See J’ACCUSE: The Beneficiaries of Permawar)

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Bibi and Boehner’s Gift to the Nuclear Disarmament Movement

by Joe Scarry


House Majority Leader John Boehner and
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

It may be counterintuitive, but House Majority Leader John Boehner has actually done a good thing by inviting Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress.

The biggest problem we face in the nuclear disarmament movement is getting people to pay attention to the nuclear threat. Well . . . people are paying attention now!

And they’ll keep paying attention, day after day, for the next month, as the Bibi Brouhaha plays out.

We often complain about how the mainstream media doesn’t give attention to the issues that really matter. (Underinflated footballs, anyone?) Well, for better or worse, this Netanyahu story is guaranteed to be in everyone’s face for weeks. (Hey, John Boehner is not one to cut his losses when he finds himself in the midst of a fiasco. Expect escalation.)

Netanyhu is coming to talk about nuclear weapons. Iran and nuclear weapons.
Continue reading

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What Leo Strauss set in motion: from invading Cuba to efforts to bomb Iran

by Alan Gilbert

What Leo Strauss set in motion: from invading Cuba to Boehner/Netanyahu efforts to bomb Iran

Robert Howse has written a new book on Leo Strauss: Man of Peace. Rob acknowledges some of Strauss’s authoritarianism and imperialism, i.e. in the fortunately now infamous 1933 letter to Karl Loewith where Strauss defends “the principles of the Right – fascist, authoritarian imperial and not the pathetic and laughable imprescriptible rights of man.” See hereand here.  Strauss has achieved a certain odium – the word is from the Strauss and Schmitt devotee, Heinrich Meier – because of the role of political Straussians such as William Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, Francis Fukuyama (who commendably, soon became a critic), Harvey Mansfield, Gary Schmitt, Walter Berns and others central among the neocons in and around the Bush administration in pressing for aggression in the Middle East.  Rob’s reading is an independent and livelier version of standard theses in a barrage of Straussian books, attempting to restore Strauss as a scholarly figure above politics, at least one who rarely dabbled in politics and whose views, in this respect, must not be taken too seriously, let alone as having premeditated reactionary consequences (Catharine and Michael Zuckert, Thomas Pangle, to some extent, Peter Minowitz).


My essay below  “Segregation, Aggression and Executive Power: Leo Strauss and ‘the Boys,’”   forthcoming this winter in Sanford Levinson and Melissa Williams, ed., American Conservativism, as a volume in Nomos – a book published annually by the American Society of Legal and Political Philosophy – is based on novel research in the Strauss archive in Regenstein Library at the University of Chicago.  After long guarding by Joseph Cropsey,  I was the first non-Straussian admitted to that archive.  The essay underlines some surprising facets of Leo’s own politics, for instance, his defense of segregation and calling for the US conquering Cuba.  This evidence reveals that the drumbeat about a supposedly apolitical or at least not harmfully political Strauss is a fantasy.


There is another important strand of Strauss’s influence, via Gary Schmitt and Herbert Storing, on the Minority Report on Iran Contrawhich I do not discuss here.  That report, written for Congressman Richard Cheney, especially stresses authoritarian “executive power,” based on interpretations by Strauss’s students – Schmitt among others – of the Federalists.  It perfumes President Ronald Reagan’s illegal – in opposition to a Congressional ban on running guns to the Contras – and murderous activities in Nicaragua and even aiding “the enemy,” Iran, in exchange for Iranian provision  of weapons to the Contras.


More importantly, the neocons, the center of whose intellectual life is provided by political Straussians such as Bill Kristol and Paul Wolfowitz,  are back in the news, both in the Ukraine and most notably this week, in John Boehner’s invitation to Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu of Israel to urge Congress, against the President and against normal diplomatic protocol or constitutional foreign policy making, to bomb Iran. These two efforts – Strauss’s memos to Charles Percy, a Republican politician, Senator and would be Presidential candidate from Illinois, that the US must take out Cuba as the USSR had taken out Hungary, and the demand that the US should start yet another war in the Middle East , widening what already exists, that is, bombing accompanied by only a small number privatized troops or the CIA, against ISIL in Iraq and Syria – strangely mirror each other.


Strauss died 40 years ago; the details of contemporary Imperial Quixotisms should not be attributed to him (it is always possible for a great power realist, even an authoritarian one like Strauss, to oppose dogmatic, unworldly, disgraceful and foolish enterprises; I do not say murderous here because murderousness is not something Mr. Strauss opposed).  Still, the parallel is striking.

*** Continue reading

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VfP’s Joey King’s Straight Talk on Veterans and Suicide

by Joey King

I have been researching the issue of veteran suicide for about 6 years. My interest started during a Veterans Day parade in Nashville. I was marching as a member of Veterans For Peace. We march every year in the Veterans Day parade because we represent an island of peace in a sea of militarism.

Rather than march, one of our members printed handouts and passed them out to onlookers along the parade route. The flyer said that 18 veterans a day commit suicide. The thought that 18 veterans commit suicide every day shocked me. These were the military’s own numbers, not the propaganda of some peace organization. Veterans are the largest, identifiable sub-group of suicides in the U.S. Alcoholics do not kill themselves at this rate nor do drug addicts or prostitutes.

Sadly, the number soon jumped from 18 to 22 veterans per day who kill themselves. It has been stuck there ever since.  Far more military personnel loose their lives by their own hands than by the hands of the enemy and it has been that way for years.

I have tried to “unpack” this number.Several sources tell us that about one current military person kills him or herself and approximately 21 veterans die at their own hands each day.

Two types of veteran deaths do not end up in the suicide statistics: overdoes and accidents. If a veteran overdoses because he or she uses drugs to cope with PTSD, he or she is not considered a suicide. Also, if someone gets drunk and gets on a motorcycle then dies in an “accident,” it’s not counted. To be fair, there is a good reason for this under-reporting at least for active duty personnel. Most service members have a $400,000 life insurance policy. If the service member’s death is ruled a suicide, the widow/widower gets nothing. For this reason I am sure medical examiners go out of their way to rule these deaths as anything other than suicide. It is understandable; indeed, it is humane.

But then, a few months ago I was thrown a “curve ball.” A friend of mine in Veterans For Peace is interested in veteran suicide as well. I sent him an article, and he replied that a huge percentage of military suicides are people who have not deployed to a combat zone. That statement did not sound right, so I tried to verify it.

I have an Army buddy from my cadet days who is a general now. I asked him about suicides among those who have not been in combat.  He said, “… suicide rates for soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan more than doubled beginning during the late 2004 time frame and extending through the extreme high tempo of two simultaneous war zones to more than 30-per-100K. The trend among those who never deployed nearly tripled tobetween 25- and 30-per 100K…Much of the reserve component, more precisely theARNG (Army National Guard), took some big hits in suicide…”

The doubling of combat veteran suicide rates did not surprise me; but the tripling of non-deployed veterans suicide has me (an apparently the military) scratching our collective heads.

The next person I contacted is a friend who currently serves as a VA Chaplin. I picked her brain on the high rate of suicide among those who were not in combat. She asked her fellow Chaplains and found out that, indeed, there is an epidemic level of suicides, especially within the ranks of the reserve component.

So, I was able to verify (at least to a degree) that lots of non-combat veterans kill themselves. For some reason this epidemic is pronounced in the reserve components.

I am a non-combat veteran. My active duty service was during peacetime from 1984-87. It was after the Grenada invasion of Oct 1983 and before the Panama invasion in Dec 1989. I am very lucky, but am I at a higher suicide risk than my friends who deployed to Panama and the first Gulf War?

That being said, my service was tougher than most peacetime veterans. I graduated from US Army Ranger School in the summer of 1985. I served as a platoon leader of a rifle platoon, a mortar platoon, and a company executive officer in an airborne (paratrooper) unit. I was honorably discharged as a first lieutenant. It was a mentally tough peace time assignment. The training tempo was high. Just to give you an example, I was stationed in Vicenza, Italy for 14 months. Of that time, I was deployed on training missions throughout Eurpoe for 7 months. I was on 2-hour recall for 3 months of the 7 months that I wasn’t deployed.

In my case, this tempo led to an increase in alcohol consumption. I have not had a drink in 20 years. I am not sure if I was an alcoholic, but I was certainly headed that way.

To this day, I have recurring nightmares. About every six months, I dream that I am back in the Army. I wake up swinging my fists wildly or chocking an imaginary opponent. At the suggestion of a friend, I started asking non-combat vets if they have similar dreams, almost all do. I do not mean to imply that my occasional nightmares compare with PTSD, but there is something twisted in my brain. I’ve been pacifist, vegetarian, yogi, and Buddhist for over a decade, yet the nightmares of my military training 30 years ago still lurk in my sub-conscious. It is just there. Like trying to rid a paint-roller of paint, I may never be able, to get it out. I can not imagine hurting another living being in my conscious mind, but violence is stuck in my sub-consciousness, and manifests in my dreams. All veterans are broken in one way or another.

Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock wrote a very convincing article called “Moral Injury” in July 2012. In this piece, she identifies moral injury as the phenomenon that happens in situations like basic training. All cultures teach that killing is wrong, yet in basic training, military personnel are taught to reflexively kill without feeling. This can lead to problems, like alcoholism, divorce, domestic violence, and suicide.

I will take to my grave the belief that my favorite uncle suffered from moral injury as a result of his service during the first Gulf War. His last National Guard unit was a fueling company that was in direct support of the 18th Airborne Corps, which includes the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions. The 82nd and 101st are usually the first to go into battle, so his company was called up very early in the buildup to war in the fall of 1990. When he was activated, he was a heavy smoker and alcoholic in his early 50’s. Most of his time overseas was spent on a hospital ship at the US Naval  base in Bharain dealing with a variety of smoking and drinking-related illnesses. The National Guard sent him home by Christmas Eve, a few weeks before the shooting started.

His drinking became much worse as soon as he got home. I believe it was due to a combination of survivor’s guilt (because he did not finish the tour with his Guard buddies), moral injury, and a genetic pre-disposition. Eventually, the Social Security Administration gave him a pension due to his mental issues. At times we thought he was suicidal. Drinking was his method of slow-motion suicide, no doubt.

As the suicide epidemic among active duty and veterans becomes better understood, it is obvious that the Pentagon must redevelop its basic training. The methods of training that have been devised have simply surpassed the human mind’s capability to handle it. Of course, it all points to a deeper issue of violence within our culture. In the short term, I think peace activists can use this data as a valuable tool when we talk with young people who are thinking about joining the military. After all, who would want my nightmares?

As I was finishing the first draft of this piece, two disturbing bits of news came my way:

In September, the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs released statistics that the number of veteran suicides increased from 197 in 2012 to 214 in 2013. That is an increase of 17 (or 8.63%). That is definetly a trend in the wrong direction. They are trying to unpack those numbers to see how many of these were combat veterans and how many are not.

Finally, we learned of the suicide of peace activist Jacob George from Arkansas late this summer. He was a member of Veterans For Peace and Iraq Veterans Against The War. He served 3 tours in Afghanistan as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division.

I am also active with the School of  the Americas watch (www.soaw.org) movement. We are trying to close the  US “school” at Fort Benning which trains Latin American military leaders who go back home an do assorted nasty things to their own populations. In this movement, we have adopted a Latin American tradition. When the name of a deceased person is mentioned,  we say in unison, “presente,” which means the dead are still present in our minds. So Jacob George, “presente.” I miss you buddy; your spirit, your music, and your insights. He certainly believed that moral injury was the cause of his problems.

Ever since I heard of his suicide, I have been wearing a dogtag with the VA’s toll free number on it (800-273-8255 ext 1). Jacob was a VA patient. He was going to a mental health specialist, but that is obviously was not enough. If you know a veteran in trouble, give them this number. It might save a life.



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