Tag Archives: nuclear weapons

An autonomous robot may have already killed people – here’s how the weapons could be more destabilizing than nukes

The term ‘killer robot’ often conjures images of Terminator-like humanoid robots. Militaries around the world are working on autonomous machines that are less scary looking but no less lethal.
John F. Williams/U.S. Navy

James Dawes, Macalester College

Autonomous weapon systems – commonly known as killer robots – may have killed human beings for the first time ever last year, according to a recent United Nations Security Council report on the Libyan civil war. History could well identify this as the starting point of the next major arms race, one that has the potential to be humanity’s final one.

Autonomous weapon systems are robots with lethal weapons that can operate independently, selecting and attacking targets without a human weighing in on those decisions. Militaries around the world are investing heavily in autonomous weapons research and development. The U.S. alone budgeted US$18 billion for autonomous weapons between 2016 and 2020. Continue reading

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UN Chief Warns Humanity Is ‘Unacceptably Close to Nuclear Annihilation’

“Now is the time to lift the cloud of nuclear conflict for good,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said ahead of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 9-26=2021

ICAN campaigners protest outside the permanent mission of Japan to the United Nations at Geneva, during the May session of the UN open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament in May 2016. Photo: ICAN/flickr/CC

In remarks ahead of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons on Sunday, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warned that humankind remains “unacceptably close to nuclear annihilation,” with roughly 14,000 atomic bombs stockpiled across the globe.

“Now is the time to lift the cloud of nuclear conflict for good, eliminate nuclear weapons from our world, and usher in a new era of trust and peace,” said Guterres, who observed in a statement last week that hundreds of nuclear bombs are just a “pushed button away from being launched.” Continue reading

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Arms Expert Warns of ‘Reckless and Unnecessary Escalation’ After Pentagon Tests Missile Banned by INF Treaty That Trump Ditched

The move could “exacerbate tensions with Russia, China, and North Korea—all of whom would be in range of this type of missile.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-13-2019

The Pentagon conducted a flight test of a prototype conventionally-configured ground-launched ballistic missile at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Dec. 12. (Photo: Vandenberg Air Force Base)

Arms experts warned of negative global implications after the Pentagon on Thursday test-launched a second missile that would have been banned under a Cold War-era treaty that U.S. President Donald Trump ditched in early August.

Trump ignored concerns about the impacts on global security and formally withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty after suspending U.S. obligations under the deal in February and giving Russian President Vladimir Putin six months to destroy weapons that the U.S. government and NATO deemed noncompliant with the bilateral agreement. The deal outlawed land-launched missiles with a range of 500–5,500 kilometers or about 310–3,400 miles. Continue reading

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Why the US has nuclear weapons in Turkey – and may try to put the bombs away

A B-61 bomb, like the ones stored at the US Incirlik Airbase in Turkey. Flickr/Kelly Michals, CC BY-SA

Miles A. Pomper, Middlebury

As the Syrian crisis pits Turkish troops against former U.S.-allied Kurdish forces, Pentagon officials have been reviewing plans to remove 50 nuclear bombs stored at a U.S air base in Turkey.

A congressional directive to the Pentagon to quickly assess alternative homes for U.S. “personnel and assets” currently stationed at Incirlik Air Base is part of a broader bipartisan bill, still being debated, that proposes sanctions against Turkey. President Donald Trump has been forced to issue public reassurances that the weapons are secure. Continue reading

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In Wake of Nuclear Treaty Collapse, Putin Says if US Pursues Previously Banned Missiles, Russia Will Also

“The collapse of the INF Treaty last Friday opens up a Pandora’s Box of dangerous possibilities.”

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-5-2019

Photo: moi 84/flickr

Days after the U.S. ditched a Cold War-era weapons treaty with Russia, President Vladimir Putin on Monday said his country would move to develop new intermediate-range nuclear missiles if the U.S. did so first.

“If Russia obtains reliable information that the United States has finished developing these systems and started to produce them,” Putin said in a statement, “Russia will have no option other than to engage in a full-scale effort to develop similar missiles.” Continue reading

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On Earth Day, Remembering the US Military’s Toxic Legacy

The DoD produces more hazardous waste than the five largest U.S. chemical companies combined.

By Whitney Webb. Published 4-22-2019 by MintPress News

Staff Sgt. Lorenzo Hernandez, right, practices attaching and removing a second stage regulator on his mask during practical application exercises as part of a hazardous waste operations and emergency response course at Camp Foster, Okinawa. Photo: Stephen D. Himes/USMC

Media outlets gave minimal attention to recent news that the U.S. Naval station in Virginia Beach spilled an estimated 94,000 gallons of jet fuel into a nearby waterway, less than a mile from the Atlantic Ocean. While the incident was by no means as catastrophic as some other pipeline spills, it underscores an important yet little-known fact – that the U.S. Department of Defense is both the nation’s and the world’s, largest polluter.

Producing more hazardous waste than the five largest U.S. chemical companies combined, the U.S. Department of Defense has left its toxic legacy throughout the world in the form of depleted uranium, oil, jet fuel, pesticides, defoliants like Agent Orange and lead, among others. Continue reading

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‘Extremely Concerned’ World Leaders and Experts Implore Trump and Putin to Preserve Nuclear Treaty

Alongside warnings withdrawal from INF would be “stupid and reckless,” one signatory to open letter said conflict “should be resolved through the treaty, not by abandoning it.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-30-2019

Photo: kremlin.ru

Elected officials and experts from more than 40 countries have sent an open letter to U.S. President Donald, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and various other world leaders imploring them to preserve the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, from which the Trump administration has said it plans to withdraw, despite warnings that doing so “would be stupid and reckless.

While welcoming progress on denuclearizing the Korean peninsula, the letter (pdf) emphasizes alarm over the “erosion” of the INF Treaty; war games and nuclear weapons development the United States ditching the Iran nuclear deal; and “unresolved conflicts between Russia and the West including over Crimea and Syria and between nuclear armed states in other regions including South Asia and the South China Sea.” Continue reading

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131 House Dems Help GOP Pass Massive Pentagon Budget That Includes Billions for Expanded Nuclear Arsenal

“Instead of a blueprint for peace and security, this NDAA continues the practice of endless war with no input or oversight from our congressional leaders,” lamented Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.)

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 5-24-2018

More than 100 House Democrats joined with Republicans to pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2019. (Photo: David B. Gleason/flickr/cc)

While the world responds with alarm over President Donald Trump’s spontaneous decision to cancel diplomatic talks with North Korea scheduled for next month—which aimed to ease rising nuclear tensions—131 Democrats in the U.S. House joined with the overwhelming majority of Republicans to pass a $717 billion Pentagon spending bill that includes massive expansion of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2019 authorizes the development of new low-yield submarine-launched nuclear warheads that the Trump administration demanded in its Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which was released in February and denounced by disarmament advocates as “radical” and “extreme.” Continue reading

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EU and Iran Will Attempt to Salvage Nuclear Deal Following Trump’s Breach of Agreement

“America’s actions…show that it is not a trustworthy country in international dealings.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 5-19-2018

Miguel Arias Canete, the EU’s top energy official, announced Saturday that the EU will attempt to salvage the Iran nuclear deal without the U.S.(Photo: Union Europea en Peru/Flickr/cc)

The European Union and Iran signaled on Saturday that they would not permit President Donald Trump’s deeply unpopular decision to exit the Iran nuclear deal to deteriorate their own involvement in the agreement.

“We have sent a message to our Iranian friends that as long as they are sticking to the agreement the Europeans will…fulfill their commitment. And they said the same thing on the other side,” Miguel Arias Canete, the EU’s top energy official, told reporters in Tehran. Continue reading

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Is it time for a 21st-century version of ‘The Day After’?

Marsha Gordon, North Carolina State University

 

Screenshot from ‘The Day After’.

It’s beginning to feel like the 1980s all over again.

Already this year, we’ve seen Donald Trump tweeting provocative nuclear threats about North Korea. A terrifying (but false) incoming missile alert set Hawaiians on edge, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention planned (and then postponed) a nuclear attack preparedness session. The Pentagon has also proposed a policy of possible nuclear retaliation for cyberattacks.

As a teenager, I remember being horrified about the possibility of nuclear war. I watched daily news reports about the nuclear arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union and listened to music about “what might save us, me and you,” as Sting’s 1985 song “Russians” put it (the answer: “If the Russians love their children too”).

But I especially remember the television event of 1983: “The Day After,” a fictional, made-for-TV movie that imagined a nuclear attack on American soil. The debates and discussions the film spurred make me wonder if a similar sort of high-profile cultural event would serve the country well today.

The water cooler event of the decade

At my junior high school in Southern California, “The Day After” was what everyone was talking about leading up to (and following) the night it aired on ABC on Nov. 20, 1983.

By all measures, it was a major media event. An estimated 100 million viewers tuned in. The White House phone lines were jammed and ABC headquarters in New York received more than 1,000 calls about the movie during its East Coast broadcast.

“The Day After” imagines a scenario in which America’s policy of deterrence fails. It depicts a nuclear attack through the experiences of Midwesterners – doctors, students, children, the pregnant and the engaged – followed by an extended (and, though grim, fairly unrealistic) consideration of post-blast repercussions.

Leading up to the attack, there is quotidian normality, followed by localized shock at the terrifying sight of missiles being launched out of the ground from Kansas missile silos. Panicked anticipation of an incoming nuclear attack follows, replete with period novelties such as huge lines at pay phones.

Although dated and artless in many ways, the representation of the blast remains horrific, if only by virtue of what it forces us to consider: the fire, wind and chaos; the widespread damage and suffering; the desperate need for medical care; and the futile desire for order and assistance.

Society as the characters in the movie knew it – just a day before – was a thing of the past.

Political television

“The Day After” was controversial even before it aired, with critics like Tom Shales of The Washington Post deeming it “the most politicized entertainment program ever seen on television.” Reverend Jerry Falwell organized a boycott against the show’s advertisers, and Paul Newman and Meryl Streep both tried (unsuccessfully) to run anti-nuclear proliferation advocacy ads during the program.

In the text that scrolls at the end of the film, “The Day After” declares its intention to “inspire the nations of this earth, their people and leaders, to find the means to avert the fateful day” – to, in essence, scare some sense into anyone tuning in.

Pro- and anti-nuclear groups used the film as a rallying cry for their positions. An Oct. 4, 1983 LA Times article (“‘The Day After’ Creating a Stir”) detailed a “conservative counteroffensive” that attempted to “discredit the film and write it off as a media conspiracy against Ronald Reagan’s strong defense posture.” Reagan supporters also hoped to defuse potential public backlash against American nuclear missile proliferation in Europe.

After the film aired, two simultaneous events at the epicenter of the film’s setting, the University of Kansas, are telling. A Los Angeles Times article titled “‘The Day After’ Viewed Amid Debate, Fear” described how a candlelight vigil in support of nuclear disarmament was joined by counterdemonstrators who “urged peace through military strength.”

As The New York Times’s John Corry wrote, “Champions of the film say it forces us to think intelligently about the arms race; detractors say it preaches appeasement.”

A trigger for serious reflection

Outside of partisan lobbying, “The Day After” opened the door for public debate about nuclear weapons.

Immediately after the movie’s broadcast, Ted Koppel moderated a riveting discussion that featured a formidable group of pundits, including Henry Kissinger, Elie Wiesel, William F. Buckley, Carl Sagan and Robert McNamara. During this special edition of “Viewpoint,” Secretary of State George Shultz also appeared to tell audiences that “nuclear war is simply not acceptable.”

After the movie aired, Ted Koppel moderated a discussion that featured an all-star cast of public intellectuals and politicians.

 

The most prescient and horrifying questions from the audience and responses from the panelists on “Viewpoint” anticipate a future that’s eerily indicative of where we are today – a time of multi-state nuclear capability, where one unstable leader might trigger nuclear catastrophe.

In the weeks after the broadcast, schools and community centers around the country held forums during which people could discuss and debate the issues the film raised. Psychologists and communication scholars were also eager to study the movie’s impact on viewers, from how it influenced their attitudes about nuclear weapons, to its emotional consequences, to whether they felt empowered to try to influence America’s nuclear policies.

That was then, this is now

In the early 1980s, of course, it was the Soviet Union that posed the nuclear threat to America.

Today’s adversaries are more diffuse. The world’s nuclear situation is also much more volatile, with greater destructive potential than “The Day After” imagined.

A modern-day remake of “The Day After” would have to reckon with this bleaker scenario: a world in which there may be no day after.

The bellicose posturing that prevails in the White House today resonates, in some ways, with the public bickering between Soviet Head of State Yuri Andropov and Ronald Reagan in the months leading up to the broadcast of “The Day After.” After the film’s release, New York Times columnist James Reston hoped “the two nuclear giants” would “shut up for a few weeks” – that “some civility or decent manners” might prevail in the wake of public concern about the consequences imagined in ABC’s somber nuclear fable.

But as then-Secretary of State George Shultz pointed out in the Koppel interview, the aim of the Reagan administration was to never have to use nuclear weapons. It was to deter our nuclear adversary and to reduce our nuclear storehouse. Shultz’s words of assurance are a contrast to today’s rhetoric of nuclear one-upmanship that is totally removed from the devastating reality of nuclear war.

Trivializations of nuclear warfare on the order of “my button’s bigger than yours” undermine the grave reality of nuclear cataclysm. Such rhetoric is no longer the domain of farce, as in Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove,” in which erratic, incompetent leaders bumble their way into the apocalypse.

Perhaps some modernized version of “The Day After” could function as a wake-up call for those who have no real context for nuclear fear. If nothing else, “The Day After” got people talking seriously about the environmental, political and societal consequences of nuclear war.

The ConversationIt might also remind our current leaders – Trump, foremost among them – of what modern nuclear war might look like on American soil, perhaps inspiring a more measured stance than has prevailed thus far in 2018.

Marsha Gordon, Professor of Film Studies, North Carolina State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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