IPS Blog

Part 3-The Futility of Trying to Debate Our Way to Disarmament

“What price security?”

This post is Part 3 of a three-part series. Read Post 1 here and Post 2 here

In the end, disarmament won’t spring from a fruitless quest for ironclad rationales. Its establishment will be the result of a groundswell of reactions ranging from disgust with to bewilderment at a national security policy that puts the lives of tens of millions at risk. Never mind preserving the sanctity of the state, this will even be seen as too high a price a pay to keep not only us from dying, but our families. “What price security?” indeed.

That’s not to disparage the head-banging work of those who hammer out treaties, summits, and posture reviews, as well as the recently completed nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty review conference. At worst, as mentioned above, they’re a cover under which the nuclear-weapons industry can continue to flourish. But viewed in a more positive light, these undertakings are stopgap measures, or delaying tactics, to keep hawks and the nuclear-weapons industry at arms length until the day that worldwide disarmament momentum might build to a crescendo.

But how do we rally Americans around disarmament? For most of us the fear of nuclear weapons has narrowed to a nuclear terrorist attack. We believe either that the end of the Cold War has freed us from the threat of war between nuclear powers or we’re convinced that deterrence works. Speaking of tough arguments to win, demythologizing deterrence is almost as difficult as explaining to pro-lifers that pro-choice is not murder.

Still, avenues to the consciousness of the public, remain. For example, two can play the “messaging” game. In a report titled Talking about Nuclear Weapons with the Persuadable Middle, an organization called U.S. in the World analyzed various research projects undertaken to facilitate communication with what might be called political independents. In the following passage, the phrases that are emphasized highlight two of its essential recommendations:

Peace and security advocates should . . . “re-frame” the issue [of nuclear weapons] to help people see that it is the existence of the weapons themselves — not who has them — that poses the primary threat to global and national security. The fact that nuclear weapons are a source of risk — not the fact that they are morally wrong — should be presented as the underlying reason why the issue of nuclear weapons matters.

An evangelical group, of all things, agrees with both points. As the Two Futures Project‘s founder, Rev. Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, sees it, even with the devout, “the moral argument doesn’t [always] run the show. The first question that everyone has is, ‘What makes us safer?’ So it’s important to lead, at least in most contexts, with the fact that nuclear weapons don’t make us safe anymore — that the problems they cause are far worse than any they purport to solve.”

Rev. Stevenson also addresses the “What price security?” question in a piece on the Washington Post website (emphasis added):

There’s nothing wrong with a strong military [but] we cannot simply take a secular utilitarian, value-less approach to security policy. [If] we take seriously the whole witness of Scripture, we must also recognize that the unfettered pursuit of strength — fearing mortal enemies more than God’s judgment — in fact leads to an ungodly arrogance and idolatry.

When it comes to fear, we need to understand that nuclear weapons are not just a greater risk than those who possess them. But, what the messaging reports don’t address, as implied by the word risk they’re a more legitimate source of fear than states we deem hostile.

IR (international relations) types may argue that the human psyche comes in a distant second to political considerations as a cause of war. But as with nuclear methods, there’s no way we can win that debate. Common sense, or our own intuition, tells us that safer methods of addressing our fear than by arming ourselves to the point of overkill exist. They include, on an individual basis, psychotherapy, meditation, and body work. Even better, let’s nip incommensurate fear and its consequence, the reflex to violence, in the bud before they have a chance to gain a foothold in a child as a default state.

The first goal is to halt the abuse of children: emotional, physical violence, and sexual. As the influential and recently deceased Swiss psychotherapist and author Alice Miller wrote (emphasis added): “The total neglect or trivialization of the childhood factor operative in the context of violence . . . sometimes leads to explanations that are not only unconvincing and abortive but actively deflect attention away from the genuine roots of violence.”

In other words — surprise, surprise — abusing a child predisposes him or her toward violence and, arguably, an inclination to advocate or support violent solutions to international conflict.

How do we reverse centuries of violent tendencies? By promulgating methods of enlightened child-rearing. Measures to that end have already been implemented: laws banning corporal punishment’ community centers and high-school programs to teach parenting skills. Or as linguist and “framing” master George Lakoff suggests: “The president should ask the First Lady to sponsor a major government program to do research on and support empathetic parenting.”

The more these programs are implemented, often at little cost with staffing consisting of volunteers, the more children will grow up without being marked by abuse and devoid of the impulse to respond to fear by turning to or supporting violence. One day, individuals in positions of authority will wake up and find that the public is no longer on board with national-security strategies that put enormous numbers of individuals in harm’s way.

Deficit reduction? If and only if…

Progressive economists have told us, quite clearly, that this moment in an extremely fragile economic recovery is NOT the time to focus on deficit cutting ­— that avoiding the even higher unemployment of a real Depression requires another round of stimulative public investments.

HOWEVER. While holding this thought in our minds, we can’t ignore another: that the president has set up a bipartisan commission on deficit reduction. It will make its recommendations in December. In the absence of strong pressure from progressives, we can expect that cutting social programs will dominate this agenda.

What one thought do we need the members of this Commission to keep in their minds? That you can’t take a serious approach to reducing the deficit while exempting the largest portion of the budget that Congress votes on every year. This is, of course, the military budget.

Congressman Barney Frank assembled a group, called the Sustainable Defense Task Force, to make its own recommendations to the Commission on what cuts in military spending could be made with no sacrifice to our security. We came up with $1 trillion in savings over the next ten years. Our report outlining these savings to the Commission is being released today.

UPDATE: The Hill has an overview of a panel commission hearing, featuring Sustainable Defense Task Force members.

The Oil Spills You Never Heard Of

While the news about British Petroleum’s (BP) Deepwater Horizon platform blowout in the Gulf of Mexico is on a 24-hour news feed, it took a long boat ride and some serious slogging by John Vidal of The Observer (UK) to uncover a bigger and far deadlier oil spill near the village of Otuegwe in Nigeria’s Niger Delta.

“We lost our nets, huts and fishing pots. This is where we fished and farmed. We have lost our forest,” Otuegwe’s leader, Chief Promise, told Vidal.

The culprits in Nigeria are Shell and Exxon Mobil, whose 40-year old pipelines break with distressing regularity, pouring oil into the locals’ fishing grounds and drinking water. The Delta supports 606 oil fields that supply close to 40 percent of U.S. oil imports.

This past May, an Exxon Mobil pipeline ruptured in the state of Akwa Ibon, dumping more than a million gallons into the Delta before it was patched. According to Ben Ikari, a writer and member of the local Ogoni people, “This kind of thing happens all the time in the Delta…the oil companies just ignore it. The lawmakers do not care, and people must live with the pollution daily. The situation is worse than it was 30 years ago.”

Just how bad things are is not clear, because the oil companies and the Nigerian government will not make the figures public. But independent investigators estimate that over the past four decades the amount of oil released into the Delta adds up to 50 Exxon Valdez spills, or 550 million gallons. According to the most recent government figures, up to June 3, Deepwater Horizon had pumped between 24 to 51 million gallons into the Gulf.

Nigerian government figures show there have been more than 9000 spills between 1970 and 2000, and there are currently 2,000 official spill sites. The oil companies claim the majority of them are caused by local rebels blowing up pipelines or siphoning off the oil, and that spills are quickly dealt with.

However, the locals say most of the spills are caused by the aging infrastructure, and they and environmental groups charge that the companies do virtually nothing to clean them up. And when local people do challenge the oil giants, they say they get run off by oil company security guards.

The biggest oil disaster in the world, however, is not in Africa or the Gulf of Mexico, but in Ecuador’s Amazon jungle, where Texaco—now owned by Chevron—pumped 18.5 billion gallons of “produced water” into an area of more than 2,000 square miles. “Produced water” is heavily laden with salts, crude oil, and benzene, a carcinogenic chemical,.

According to the Amazon Defense Coalition, Chevron dumped the toxic waste directly into rivers and streams, in spite of recommendations by American Petroleum Institute that such waste be injected deep into the earth. “The BP tragedy was an accident; Chevron’s discharge in Ecuador was deliberate,” said the Coalition in a press release.

Experts estimate that 345 million gallons of oil have been discharged into the rainforest, one of the most biodiverse areas in the world. The oil and wastewater, along with “black rains” produced by the uncontrolled burning of gas, has created a nightmare for the local indigenous groups—the Secoya, Cofan, Siona, Huarani, and Kichwa.

Ecuador and the five tribes are currently suing Chevron for $27 billion, but the oil company claims it bears no responsibility for Texaco’s practices and says it will not pay a nickel if it is assessed for any of the damage.

As oil resources decrease, the pressure will be on to seek new resources in more marginal territory, including the deep ocean, tropical rain forests, and sensitive artic and tundra zones. Shell is chomping at the bit to start drilling in the Artic Ocean.

Judith Kimerling, who wrote “Amazon Crude” about the oil industry in Ecuador, toldThe Observer, “Spills, leaks and deliberate discharges are happening in oilfields all over the world and very few people seem to care.”

Except, of course, the people who live in the middle of them.

Chocolate: Bitter or Sweet?

Yacouba DarriaAs you are enjoying your summer weekend, maybe stopping for a chocolaty treat after a day out with family or friends, think of 14 year old Yacouba Darria. Take a moment to question how that chocolate you’re enjoying was produced and whether it required Yacouba, or another child like him, to be trafficked into child slavery.

A child-trafficker found Yacouba one week after leaving home for the first time. He enticed Yacouba to join him by spinning tales of the money he could earn. Yacouba had no idea that he was being taken away from his home in Mali to the Cote d’Ivoire. Here, he was forced to complete dangerous work every day — wielding a machete to get through the brush and cutting cocoa pods from tall trees. After a full year, he had collected a total of only $13 US for his work.

Yacouba and 15,000 other children in the Cote d’Ivoire are forced to work as slaves on cocoa farms. This makes up only a small portion of the over 215 million child laborers worldwide in varied industries. The proportion of children involved is highest in sub-Saharan Africa, where one in four children participates in child labor. Over 60 percent of these child laborers work in agriculture to produce goods such as cocoa, cotton, tobacco, rice, sugarcane, and coffee. They work in hazardous conditions and receive little or no pay.

Imagine it was your child. Your nephew. Your little brother.

What are you going to do to help him?

There are already many international laws in place forbidding this practice yet… it’s still happening. The world needs a renewed outrage against child labor. People can make a difference.

A popular solution is often to boycott the good produced using child labor, hoping the decrease in profits will pressure companies to end their practices. While boycotts can be successful if organized properly, they can also be detrimental to the fate of child laborers. The lower profits may actually cause companies to increase their levels of child labor and decrease working condition in order to reduce production costs.

You can, however, shift your buying practices. By attempting to buy more fair-trade goods, you benefit companies who are socially responsible. You also send a message to those companies more focused on their bottom-line that it can be profitable to support just labor practices. The International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) created a report rating chocolate companies based on labor practices with the best being Sweet Earth Chocolates, Equal Exchange, and Divine Chocolate. Hershey’s, M&M/Mars, and Nestlé, however, were the worst rated.

Also take a few minutes out of your day to call, email, or write the companies with the worst abuses and demand better working conditions and more transparency in their supply chain. The ILRF makes it easy. Their website lists many ways to take action, including the current campaign to call Hershey’s.

Keep the plight of Yacouba and the other children in mind as you go to the voting booth as well. Examine the trade policies of candidates and makes sure they support fair-trade practices and workers’ rights rather than the corporate bottom-line. Note if they support increased funding and other initiatives to address the root causes of child labor such as poverty, lack of adequate education, conflict, and discrimination.

Remember, chocolate is not the only good produced with high levels of child labor. Educate yourself about how child labor is involved in the production of Firestone tires, Nike apparel, tobacco, cotton, and more.

World Day Against Child Labor is this Saturday, June 12. Take a stand today and demonstrate that children cannot continue to suffer while the world remains silent.

Kaila Clarke is an intern at the Institute for Policy Studies.

Split This Rock Poem of the Week: Randall Horton

A weekly featured poem of provocation and witness. You can find more poetry and arts news from Blog This Rock.

Note from a Prodigal Son III

The gavel
The splintered body
The red-neck guards
The state dungarees
The grey cinder block
The naked shower
The elemental fear
The unspoken yoke
The mercy plea
The awakening
The trembling hands
The walk to chow
The razor fence
The barrel’s scope
The Rottweiler’s teeth
The hesitation
The guttural pain
The calls refused
The return to sender
The rivulet of tears
The frozen heart
The opaque night
The seclusion
The muffled screams
The masturbation
The silence

-Randall Horton

Published in The Lingua Franca of Ninth Street (Main Street Rag, 2009). Used by permission.

Randall Horton, originally from Birmingham, Alabama, resides in New Haven, CT and is a former recipient of the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize. He is the author of the poetry collections The Lingua Franca of Ninth Street and The Definition of Place, both from Main Street Rag. He is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of New Haven and the poetry editor of Willow Books.

Horton appeared on the panel Dissidence, Memory, and Music in African American Poetry during Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2010.

Gaza Flotilla: Prelude to a Wider War?

Looked at from a diplomatic point of view, Israel’s attack on the Gaza aid flotilla was an act of astonishing stupidity: it burned bridges to Israel’s one friend in the Middle East, Turkey; it drew world-wide condemnation for what many call an act of piracy; and it shifted the focus from Hamas to the inhumanity of the blockade. What were Tel Aviv’s decision makers thinking?

Well, a leading Jerusalem Post columnist suggests “a possible way to explain Israel’s decision to stop the flotilla to Gaza…was the Israeli government’s readiness to accept the development of a potential war with no other than Teheran.”

While the idea of jumping from the Gaza disaster into an Iranian frying pan seems insane, Shira Kaplan argues that Israel has used such “casus belli” in the past as a rationale for making war: the 1956 Suez Crisis sparked by an Egyptian move to nationalize the Canal; the 1967 Six-Day War in response to Nasser’s closing of the Tiran Straits; and the 2006 invasion of Lebanon following the seizure of two Israeli soldiers.

“Israel may very well be meaning to seize this regional crisis as a casus belli to challenge Teheran, “she writes.

There are a few developments that give one pause.

First, Israel recently deployed Flotilla 7 in the Persian Gulf, consisting of three submarines—the Dolphin, the Tekuma, and the Leviathan—armed with nuclear tipped missiles. According to an Israeli naval officer quoted in the Sunday Times, “The 1500 kilometer range of the submarines’ cruise missiles can reach any target in Iran.”

Second, the Netanyahu administration has elevated the use of unreasonable force to its standard modis operandi. The recent debacle in Dubai is a case in point. The Israelis sent a team of 27 assassins to kill a mid-level Hamas official who didn’t even merit a bodyguard. The hit not only deeply angered Dubai—which at the time had a cordial relationship with Tel Aviv—but annoyed Australia, Great Britain, Ireland, and Germany by counterfeiting their citizens’ passports.

According to the Financial Times, the Gaza flotilla calamity bears a lot of similarity to the disastrous 2006 decision to invade Lebanon. Yehezkei Dror, a member of the Winograd Committee that examined the 2006 invasion, concluded that a major reason things went wrong was that the Israeli cabinet deferred to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), which long has had a tendency to underestimate an enemy.

In the case of Gaza, however, the key decision-makers didn’t have to defer to the IDF. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are both former members of the Sayeret Matkal special forces, and the Minister of Strategic Affairs, Moshe Yaalon, is a former IDF chief of staff. According to the newspaperMaariv, Netanyahu and Barak never even bothered to hold a full cabinet discussion about the Gaza operation, and even cut out the cabinet’s five member inner core. To Netanyahu and Barak—two hammers—the Gaza flotilla was a nail.

Kaplan suggests that the Israeli government “has probably decided to come nearer to a point of no return with Teheran.” Certainly things are not going Tel Aviv’s way right now.

The Brasilia-Ankara initiative to ship 1,200 kilos of Iranian nuclear fuel to Turkey for reprocessing is gaining support, and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva is launching a full-court press aimed at getting Russia, China and France on board.

Israel has never been this internationally isolated, and its charge that the Gaza blockade is aimed at preventing Iran from establishing a foothold on the Mediterranean is gaining few supporters. But rather than backing off, Netanyahu has pulled the wagons in a circle and stepped up the rhetoric about the Iranian threat. All the talk about Iran being an “existential threat” and references to the Holocaust is the kind of language that leads people to make very bad decisions..

Right now the last thing the Obama administration needs is a war with Iran, because a war between Teheran and Tel Aviv would almost surely involve the U.S. on some level. But the Israelis are not listening much these days to Washington. The White House said it told the Israelis not to “over-react” to the Gaza flotilla, a plea that was clearly ignored.

Polls show two out of three Israelis disapprove of the attack on the flotilla, but are the two military men running the Tel Aviv government listening? Or are they about to take advantage of a crisis to launch a regional war that would make the Gaza boat attack look like a glass of spilled milk?

Part 2-The Futility of Trying to Debate Our Way to Disarmament

Tilting at Windmills

This post is part of a three-part series. Read Part 1 here. Check back tomorrow for Part 3.

Another obstacle to those who seek disarmament through policy channels is just how difficult it is to dispute “realist” arguments against disarmament. Among them, as enumerated by center-right nuclear-weapons analyst Bruno Tertrais in a recent issue of the Washington Quarterly, are:

The bottom line is that it is very difficult to explain the absence of war among major powers in the past 65 years without taking into account the existence of nuclear weapons.

[It] is far from certain that even modern conventional weapons alone would be able to hold a major power such as Russia or China at bay.

Proponents [of disarmament] argue that driving toward zero would [by demonstrating leadership or setting an example, help prevent] the emergence of a nuclear-armed North Korea and Iran. [Yet disarmament measures] have not had any impact whatsoever on the nuclear programs of India, Iran, Iraq . . . Israel, Libya . . . North Korea, or Pakistan.

Worse, Tertrais maintains in his realist-representative argument, disarmament might even incite proliferation.

Smaller countries that seek to balance Western power may actually feel encouraged to develop nuclear weapons . . . if they believed that the West is on its way to getting rid of them. … the smaller the U.S. arsenal becomes, the less costly it would be to become “an equal of the United States.”

Here’s the essence of the realist argument:

The emphasis on abolition would distract the current nonproliferation regime from the “real world” priorities of rolling back Iran and North Korea. … The argument that arms control [settling for halting the spread of nuclear weapons as opposed to abolishing them — RW] is [a diversion] from the more valuable goal of abolition should in fact be reversed: abolition as a vision would distract from arms control.

Those who seek absolute disarmament operate under the assumption that by ratcheting back its top-end weaponry, a state eases the strains between hostile states and creates the conditions for peace. Realists flip that around and assert that defusing the tension over disputed regions such as those cited by Tertrais — Kashmir, Palestine, Taiwan, and the Korean Peninsula — is required to beget disarmament (in however distant a future).

They claim that they’re just echoing the language of the preamble to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons argument. Those signing the treaty, it reads, seek to “further the easing of international tension and the strengthening of trust between States in order to facilitate” disarmament. [Emphasis added.]

Whether or not they were intended to be the watchwords that realists and conservatives regard them as is open to debate. But when all the arguments are assembled, it becomes apparent how difficult it is to argue for disarmament without sounding like you’re soft on national security or in a state of denial about the facts on the ground.

True disarmament cannot be reasoned into existence. The simple truth is that many of us are, at heart, incapable of consenting to the continued possession of nuclear weapons until states begin to solve the underlying differences between them. However unassailable some realist logic may be, I think I speak for many in the disarmament movement when I say we simply don’t have the stomach for such a regimen.

Part 1-The Futility of Trying to Debate Our Way to Disarmament

You’re passionate about the abolition of nuclear weapons. But isn’t owning up to an uncompromising position on disarmament just a way of marginalizing yourself? Perhaps not. In the long run, those in the margins — grassroots types sprouting by the side of the road — may have a better chance of implementing disarmament than those steering policy limos down the middle of the road.

Take the Obama administration’s nuclear initiatives — the new START, the security summit, a revised nuclear posture review. However tentative, they might seem like steps in the right direction toward disarmament. Yet, in what can only be called a perverse experiment in cognitive dissonance, that same administration is requesting a 10 percent increase in funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration over the year before. Now fold that $7 billion into the $180 billion it’s requesting to upgrade U.S. nuclear weapons production for the next ten years. You can be forgiven for wondering what happened to the “dis” in disarmament.

Some assume that these budget hikes are the administration’s way of securing votes needed from conservative congresspersons to pass START. In reality, what it shows is how deluded are those who believe that decisions about nuclear weapons are predominantly determined by political instead of financial considerations. Darwin BondGraham, Nicholas Robinson, and Will Parrish explain at ZComm (emphasis added):

Rather than allowing a neat policy process carried out at the executive level to determine the future of the nuclear weapons complex, forces with financial . . . stakes in nuclear weaponry, working through think tanks like [the Hoover Institute], or corporate entities like Bechtel and the University of California, are actively attempting to lock in a de-facto set of policies by building a new research, design, and production infrastructure that will ensure nuclear weapons are a centerpiece of the US military empire far into the future.

According to the authors, among those forces if not necessarily with financial stakes, but acting on their behalf, are two of the “four horsemen” who, along with Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn, wrote a series of op-eds for the Wall Street Journal ostensibly calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Former defense secretary William Perry is a senior fellow at Hoover, as is George Schultz, who was president of Bechtel for eight years before he became Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state. Even more worrisome, prior to her appointment as Obama’s undersecretary of Arms Control and International Security, Ellen Tauscher was a congressperson who worked to secure federal funding for the Lawrence Livermore and Sandia nuclear laboratories in her California district.

With the four horsemen’s last WSJ column, How to protect our nuclear deterrent, the cat was out of the bag. First, the title was a giveaway because as a rule only hawks or realists subscribe — as, no doubt, they were advised by some communications firm — to the re-branding of nuclear weapons as “our nuclear deterrent.” Neither offensive nor even defensive any longer, apparently they’re now just the equivalent of a big stick that we don’t need to brandish, nor even keep in plain sight. In short, proponents of nuclear arsenals can be disarming in the service of their advocacy.

“But as we work to reduce nuclear weaponry,” the four horsemen wrote, “and to realize the vision of a world without nuclear weapons, we recognize the necessity to maintain the safety, security and reliability of our own weapons.” Suddenly their support for disarmament was reduced to a cover under which the nuclear-weapons industry was making a strategic fallback to a position where it could retrench, secure in the knowledge it occupy it in perpetuity. In other words, if disarmament were a shell game, our eye is on the politics when it should be following the money.

Pelosi Protest Followed by Cautious Optimism at Progressive Gathering

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s speech at the America’s Future Now conference went off-script. The Washington Post did a great job telling the story of how the California lawmaker spoke for a half an hour over the garbled jeers of more than a dozen infuriated healthcare activists in orange t-shirts, many of them in wheelchairs. Pelosi wouldn’t let conference organizers or the Secret Service escort the protesters out, and both she and they continued to talk. At the same time. As a result, her shouted speech mostly came across as “blah, blah, jobs, jobs, jobs, blah, blah, prosperity.” The folks in orange were with the group ADAPT and they had a point. Cassie James, 54, told me “I’m a woman in a wheelchair and I have a child I won’t be able to raise if I’m in a nursing home.” But I don’t think their tactics will win them any fans. “Let’s take a short time out,” Campaign for America’s Future co-director Roger Hickey said when this spectacle subsided.

The prolonged outburst contrasted with the otherwise patient and cordial mood at this gathering, but highlighted a strange duality. Participants seemed to alternate between warning of the dangers posed by the growing right-wing extremism overtaking the Republican Party, with of course the potential for then running the United States into the ground, and listing reasons for progressives to be optimistic about their rosy political future.

“Stop the lies. Stop the smearing. Stop the fear,” Eric Burns from Media Matters said regarding Fox News and tea party-supporting members of Congress after screening a chilling new video to illustrate his concerns about right-wing extremism (no link available for that yet, unfortunately). Blogger Digby lightened the pall hanging over the room at that point by predicting that Glenn Beck will “likely do himself in.”

Not much later, Simon Rosenberg presented a boatload of data about demographic trends among Democratic voters and the American public. Basically, the Democratic Party is winning over more women, young people, and minorities than Republicans. Eventually the old white guys voting Republican will die, and voila, there’s no way the GOP will be able to win office. OK, not exactly. “This is not a done deal. This is an opportunity,” Rosenberg said.

“If Washington realizes that it can’t demoralize its base, we can have a 40-year majority,” said former presidential candidate and DNC chair Howard Dean, adding to this cautious optimism. Activists need to take lawmakers and “hold their feet to the fire so they can act like real Democrats,” Dean said. (Or maybe he shouted that part.) “We are done with getting people into office who forget who got them there.”

U.S. Energy Policy Creating a New Generation of Dr. Strangeloves

President Eisenhower is well-remembered for warning the public in his final address to the nation to “guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence . . . by the military-industrial complex.” But it is little known that Eisenhower, in that same speech further cautioned that “we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.”

In May, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steve Chu announced that 42 university-led nuclear research and development projects would receive $38 million through the Department of Energy’s “Nuclear Energy University Program” designed to help advance nuclear education and develop the next generations of nuclear technologies. “We are taking action to restart the nuclear industry as part of a broad approach to cut carbon pollution and create new clean energy jobs,” said Secretary Chu. “These projects will help us develop the nuclear technologies of the future and move our domestic nuclear industry forward.”

At a time when the United States should be creating a new Manhattan Project for safe, clean, green energy from the sun, wind, and tides, the Obama administration is trying to recreate the old Manhattan project, training our best and brightest to continue to wreak havoc on the planet with nuclear know-how. Instead of letting the old nuclear complex rust in peace, the government is proactively taking the initiative to create a whole new generation of Dr. Strangeloves, enticing young people to study these dark arts by putting up millions of precious dollars for nuclear programs and scholarships.

What a disappointment that Dr. Chu, a Nobel laureate scientist, appointed by Obama for “change we can believe in”, represents the old paradigm of top-down, hierarchical, secret nuclear science. It’s just so 20th century! Chu has apparently ignored the myriad studies that show that dollar-for-dollar, nuclear power is one of the most expensive ways to meet energy needs, when lifecycle costs are compared to solar, wind, geothermal, appropriate hydropower and biomass, as well as efficiency measures. This is also true for reducing carbon emissions, as expensive nuclear power would actually exacerbate catastrophic climate change since less carbon emission is prevented per dollar spent on costly nuclear technology compared to applying those funds to clean energy sources and efficiency.

Further, countless studies, including recent reports from three communities in Germany with nuclear reactors, indicate that there are higher incidences of cancer, leukemia and birth defects in communities with toxic nuclear power plants that pollute the air, water, and soil in the course of routine operations. And a recent report from the New York Academy of Sciences, by distinguished Russian scientists, finds that deaths from the disastrous accident at Chernobyl now number over 900,000. Dr. Chu, a nuclear physicist, is well aware that the radioactive byproducts of nuclear power will remain toxic for 250,000 years and that there is no known solution to safely store this lethal brew for the eons it will threaten human health and the environment.

Americans should oppose any further funding for this failed, dangerous technology as well as the inordinate subsidies presently planned for the nuclear industry. It’s time to invest in a clean energy future that will create millions of jobs and enable the US to earn an honest dollar by developing desirable new technology to offer to the world. Instead we will be providing a growing number of countries the wherewithal and technical know-how with which to make a nuclear bomb, while subjecting their communities to the consequences of toxic radiation.

Alice Slater is the New York Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus.

Page 232 of 244« First...102030...230231232233234...240...Last »