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Eradicate Land-Based Doomsday Missiles

Daniel Ellsberg and David Krieger’s opinion piece, originally published in the Christian Science Monitor:

America’s 450 launch-ready land-based nuclear-armed ballistic missiles are the opposite of a deterrent to attack. In fact, their very deployment has the potential to launch World War III and precipitate human extinction – as a result of a false alarm. We’re not exaggerating.

President Obama and other world leaders gathered at the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea, this week to address threats posed by unsecured nuclear material. If Mr. Obama is truly concerned about nuclear safety, he should seriously consider doing away with the 450 inter-continental ballistic missiles deployed and ready to fire at Russia on a moment’s notice.

Last month we were among 15 protesters who were arrested in the middle of the night at Vandenberg Air Force Base, some 70 miles north of Santa Barbara, Calif. We were protesting the imminent test flight of a Minuteman III inter-continental ballistic missile.

The Air Force rationale for doing these tests is to ensure the reliability of the US nuclear deterrent force; but launch-ready land-based nuclear-armed ballistic missiles are the opposite of a deterrent to attack. In fact, their very deployment has the potential to launch World War III and precipitate human extinction – as a result of a false alarm. Continue Reading

U.S. Nuclear Terrorism

[Daniel’s chapter in Transforming Terror: Remembering the Soul of the World, eds. Susan Griffin and Karin Lofthus Carrington]

Long after the ending of the Cold War, the chance that some nuclear weapons will kill masses of innocent humans somewhere, before very long, may well be higher than it was before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

One phase of the Nuclear Age, the period of superpower arms race and confrontation, has indeed come to a close (though the possibility of all-out, omnicidal exchange of alert forces triggered by a false alarm remains, inexcusably, well above zero).  But another dangerous phase now looms, the era of nuclear proliferation and with it, an increased likelihood of regional nuclear wars, accidents, and nuclear terrorism.  And the latter prospect is posed not just by “rogue” states or sub-state terrorists but by the United States, which has both led by example for sixty years of making nuclear first-use threats that amount to terrorism and may well be the first or among the first to carry out such threats. Continue Reading

Roots of the Upcoming Nuclear Crisis

[Daniel’s chapter The Challenge of Abolishing Nuclear Weapons, ed. David Krieger. It was originally presented at The Challenge of Abolishing Nuclear Weapons, a conference organized by the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research, in partnership with the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, September, 2007 in San Francisco.]

The chance that some nuclear weapon will kill masses of innocent humans somewhere, before very long, may well be higher than it was before the fall of the Berlin Wall. One phase of the Nuclear Age, the period of superpower arms race and confrontation, has indeed come to a close, for now. But another dangerous phase now looms, the era of nuclear proliferation and with it an increased likelihood of regional nuclear wars and nuclear terrorism. This prospect is enhanced not just by “rogue” states or sub-state terrorists but above all by the United States. Continue Reading

Ending Nuclear Terrorism: By America and Others

[Daniel’s chapter in At the Nuclear Precipice: Catastrophe or Transformation?, edited by Richard Falk and David Krieger. Originally presented at the 2006 symposium, At the Nuclear Precipice: Nuclear Weapons and the Abandonment of International Law organized by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.]

Long after the ending of the Cold War, the chance that some nuclear weapons will kill masses of innocent humans somewhere, before very long, may well be higher than it was before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

One phase of the Nuclear Age, the period of superpower arms race and confrontation, has indeed come to a close (though the possibility of all-out, omnicidal exchange of alert forces triggered by a false alarm remains, inexcusably, well above zero). But another dangerous phase now looms, the era of nuclear proliferation and with it, an increased likelihood of regional nuclear wars, accidents, and nuclear terrorism. Continue Reading

Call to a Fast for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons

[Drafted and issued by Daniel Ellsberg, April, 1995]

The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review and Extension Conference taking place at the United Nations from April 17 to May 12 offers a unique and historic opportunity for global rededication to the goal – expressed in the Treaty – of a world free of nuclear weapons.

We are asking world political and religious leaders, outstanding figures in the arts and sciences, and concerned citizens in every country to participate, by fasting for one day, or more, wherever they are, in a worldwide Fast for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons during the period of the Conference.

We invite you to join us in this Fast to bring a sense of moral urgency to the decisions being made in our name at the Conference.  They will affect the future of humanity and the fate of the earth. Continue Reading

Call to Mutiny

[Daniel’s introduction to Protest and Survive, 1981]

“It has never been true that nuclear war is ‘unthinkable.’  It has been thought and the thought has been put into effect.” E.P. Thompson refers here, in the brilliant and moving essay that opens this volume, to the deliberate destruction of the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. What he does not mention is that the Americans who conceived and ordered this project, like those who prepared it and carried it out and the great majority of the public who learned of it after the event, regarded the effects of the first nuclear war as marvelously successful. Such thoughts get thought again, and acted on. Continue Reading

Learning from Past Disasters, Preventing Future Ones

[Daniel’s foreword to Flirting With Disaster: Why Accidents Are Rarely Accidental by Marc Gerstein, with Michael Ellsberg.]

I have participated in several major organizational catastrophes. The most well known of them is the Vietnam War. I was aware on my first visit to Vietnam in 1961 that the situation there – a failing neocolonial regime we had installed as a successor to French rule – was a sure loser in which we should not become further involved. Yet a few years later, I found myself participating as a high-level staffer in a policy process that lied both the public and Congress into a war that, unbeknownst to me at the time, experts inside the government accurately predicted would lead to catastrophe. Continue Reading