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Bulletin 219: “Doomsday forum” in Albuquerque June 20-21, all invited; MORE

May 28, 2016

  1. Doomsday forum” and related activities in Albuquerque June 20-21, all are invited
  2. Study Group workshops, receptions, protests, and discussions; volunteers needed
  3. New Mexico’s largest university seeks management role in design, manufacturing nuclear weapons
  4. Fall internships available
  5. Plutonium pit update a. New fact sheet available! b. Garamendi amendment to halt pit production expansion at LANL proposed
    c. PF-4 fire suppression system downgraded, plutonium at-risk limits lowered
  6. Stewards of the Apocalypse: an abridged history of U.S. nuclear weapons labs since 1989

Dear friends and colleagues --

The above topics are not all we would like to share at this time but we wanted to get this Bulletin out as soon as possible so you can, if you wish, arrange travel to Albuquerque. Stay tuned for more.

1. “Doomsday forum” and related activities in Albuquerque June 20-21, all are invited

Thank you for your attention. Today’s bulletin describes an unprecedented event in the promotion of nuclear weapons. It must be challenged and countered. Outside the US Strategic Command itself we have never seen anything even remotely comparable to the upcoming “2016 Strategic Deterrence Coalition Symposium” – or as we are calling it, “the doomsday forum.”

This event is of national, not just regional, importance. We are inviting anyone who wants to join us and others to come to Albuquerque in June. There will be alternative events and counter-events taking place in the June 16-21 timeframe, in a number of different styles, from policy-oriented forums to poetry, song, protest, and more. The Study Group will organize some of these events, some in cooperation with others, some on our own. Several organizations are already involved and outreach is underway in new directions, including across justice and environmental issues. Please help us with that outreach. Call us for more information at 505-265-1200 or 505-577-3366.

We invite you to come, by yourself or as part of a group, during or before this timeframe. Your organization can participate in whatever way you believe will be helpful. If you come by yourself, we could use your help. We will not be coordinating everything that happens – we couldn’t even if we wanted to – and are proceeding on a “potluck” basis, with the Study Group preparing only some of the “dishes” and helping prepare the ground more broadly for others. There will be important, useful work for everyone and we will do our best to make your time here enjoyable, productive, inexpensive, and educational.

I am sure there will be some spare rooms (and in pinch, back yards; rain is very unlikely) in which to inexpensively stay. There is also value in staying at the Crowne Plaza Hotel (where the Symposium participants will be mostly staying) on the nights of June 20 and 21 (a room with 2 beds is currently $118 plus tax).

As you can see from the event’s web site, very senior military and nuclear weapons officials will be in attendance, as well as senior weapons laboratory officials, nuclear officers from U.S. allies, and some token opposition to create a “balanced” forum. We posted an audio recording of one of the speakers, General Jack Weinstein (Deputy USAF Chief of Staff for Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration), to give you an idea of the quality of thought these speakers will bring (sorry, Jack).

One of the main organizers of this event is neoconservative Peter Huessy, who has worked very effectively to promote nuclear weapons since his time in the Reagan Administration. When I asked him at a conference in Washington, DC how the U.S. was going to pay for the new nuclear weapons he was promoting – given that senior Pentagon officials have said they have no idea how to pay for them – he replied that it could and should be done through cuts to unnecessary and wasteful social programs.

The “Deep State” forces behind Mr. Huessy and this symposium should not be underestimated – or misinterpreted as having narrow interests related to nuclear weapons only. In person, he sounds crazy. But the ambitious modernization program he and his colleagues inside and outside government has advocated has been adopted in its entirety by the Obama Administration and is now the program of record. Even the ultra-expensive dream of mobile ICBMs – rejected as too expensive and controversial by the first Reagan Administration – is back on the table.

It should be carefully noted in his bio that Mr. Huessy (and his backers) are also active in matters of securing American “independence” in oil production. These people’s agenda, and this symposium, aren’t just about nuclear weapons. This is about American global hegemony. This is about war – hybrid war, continuous war, cold war, and hot war. That is why they propose nuclear weapons like the Long-Range Stand Off missile (LRSO) – not for “deterrence” as most people understand the word but to “impose enormous costs on our adversaries,” as I have heard them say in person. Those “enormous costs” mean enormous risks for humanity, as well as enormous suffering for anyone and anything that gets in the way.

Does it need to be said that the political and ideological agenda of this symposium makes effective response to our global climate crisis utterly impossible? And any economic and social development in New Mexico based on ecological values equally impossible?

Another key symposium organizer is Sherman McCorkle, formerly the founding president of the Lockheed-funded Technology Ventures Corporation in Albuquerque. McCorkle chairs the Albuquerque Economic Development, the Science and Technology Park Development Corporation and the Kirtland Partnership Committee (KPC), an advocacy group for Kirtland Air Force Base (KAFB) and what it calls “the Southwest Nuclear Complex.” The chair of KPC is Pat Vincent-Collawn, CEO of PNM Resources, the principal corporate opponent of renewable energy in New Mexico. 

Many of us recall McCorkle’s leadership in successfully defeating efforts to raise Albuquerque’s minimum wage up from $5.15/hour in the 2003-2005 timeframe. (See for example “Business wants no Santa Fe wage law;” “Coalitions To Do Battle Over Minimum Wage,” Albuquerque Journal, 4/21/03 and 8/28/05 respectively; paywall.)

I bring these connections up – and there are many more which could and should be mapped, had we the time – to point out the obvious: the fairly tight-knit, militarist, anti-environmental political faction shaped and sustained by the nuclear weapons enterprise has worked with considerable success to undermine labor, environmental protection, and progressive political values generally in New Mexico for many years. Their baleful influence (in direct political terms as well as ideological) has contributed strongly to the economic and social outcomes we see in New Mexico: the greatest economic inequality of any state (measured by population ratio in highest vs. lowest income quintiles), widespread poverty and related systemic maladies, a semi-crippled state government, and poor educational system.

Returning to the Strategic Deterrence Coalition (SDC), it is just one element in an interlocking network of local and national nuclear weapons advocacy groups involving industry, the military, politicians, and professional lobbyists like Huessy (who denies this role). There’s the Senate “ICBM Coalition” (white paper; typical activity), Minot Task Force 21, the Kirtland Partnership Committee, the Montana Defense Alliance, Barksdale Forward and others, plus corporate lobbying, advertising, and electoral activities, and much and activities, and much more.

But why – why this forum, why now, why in New Mexico, why at UNM – and why should you care?

The answers to all these questions and others lie in these considerations or something like them:

  • A desire to influence next year’s new presidential administration;
  • The opportunity provided by the present right-wing governor of New Mexico and her appointed UNM President Robert Frank, both of whom see the state’s two nuclear weapons laboratories as foundations of “innovation” and economic development for the University, the State (and with ultra-conservative mayor Richard Berry in place, the City);
  • The new bid by UNM to co-manage Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) (see below);
  • A desire to further, and permanently, solidify support for nuclear weapons with New Mexico’s congressional delegation;
  • In sum, to definitely shape the future of New Mexico as an internal colony for nuclear weapons, the civilian nuclear fuel cycle, defense nuclear wastes of multiple kinds, land- and sky-intensive military exercises and training, and recruitment of youth by the military and nuclear laboratories;
  • The frightening (to them) contrast between current nuclear weapons ambitions on the part of contractors and ideologues inside and outside the military on the one hand, and the great danger to this agenda posed by competing defense procurements, U.S. economic weakness, domestic funding needs, and limited budgets;
  • The (correct) perception that there is a vanishing window of time in which Russia can be broken in one way or another, and likewise China contained or broken;
  • The (correct) perception that there is a vanishing window of time in which to secure (temporarily) ample fossil fuel supplies for ourselves and our allies.

Current and proposed USAF nuclear weapon systems are especially vulnerable to the application of logic and restraint. Former STRATCOM commander and former Vice-Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff James Cartwright recently stated in Geneva that the US ICBM force “has no deterrent value.” Former Secretary of Defense William Perry agrees. (Nota bene: the current JCS Vice-Chair has been recruited to this symposium to say the opposite.)

Perry, plus former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical & Biological Defense Programs Andrew C. Weber (who was maneuvered out of his job by some of the speakers at this symposium), Senator Feinstein, and many others oppose the proposed stealthy, destabilizing LRSO cruise missile. Opposition to the B61-12 continues, especially in European public opinion.

So to some extent the Air Force nuclear commands and their friends are whistling in the dark on these programs, and that is what this symposium is about as well.

We at the Study Group do not want the USAF to have a nuclear mission. Nuclear weapons are reprehensible in every way, but all the Air Force weapons make particularly poor sense right now. In our view, U.S. national security would be greatly improved by the immediate retirement of all USAF nuclear weapons.

2. Study Group workshops, receptions, protests, and discussions; volunteers needed

Please see the Study Group calendar of upcoming events.

The calendar is pretty much self-explanatory except for the item on June 10, Friday, 9:00 am at the UNM Student Union Bldg (SUB), Ballroom C, the UNM Regents Meeting regular meeting. Our friends at Stop the War Machine (check out their new Doomsday Forum Facebook page!) have rightly called for attendance and public participation at this meeting, given the matter discussed above and in 3. below.

If you want to attend the reception and discussion in Santa Fe on the evening of June 17, please RSVP as soon as possible!

If you are in New Mexico and did not receive notice of these events already, drop us a line. From time to time we send out local letters about topics of local interest, including meetings.

While you are at it, consider subscribing to our blog. You can also like us on Facebook (where we frequently post articles and information of particular interest) and follow TrishABQ on Twitter.

And yes, we could really use your help in June, and frankly always. We had a very full agenda without the doomsday forum.

3. New Mexico’s largest university seeks management role in design, manufacturing nuclear weapons

On May 24 UNM announced that the University is part of a team bidding to manage Sandia National Laboratories (SNL). The other members of the team are Battelle, the Boeing Company, the Texas A&M University System and the University of Texas.

Cutting to the chase, if UNM ends up helping run Sandia it would be one of the worst mistakes UNM, and the state, could make.

This collaboration would do nothing for the state economically, just as the two nuclear laboratories have on balance hurt the state politically and economically so far. It is easy to focus on a few well-paying jobs and a little harder to notice the society-wide effects of supporting nuclear-military priorities.

Nuclear weapons are nothing less than political heroin in New Mexico. Peddling ideals of mass destruction at the state's main university will make UNM an intellectual desert.

Sandia's overall purpose is global domination by force. There are a few other missions there but not many, and they all are either supportive or complementary to that central mission.

A bright future for New Mexico, by contrast, can only be built on notions of collective security, justice, environmental protection and related job creation, funded as necessary from a different social contract than the primitive and partial one at present. The above values are the opposite political values to those that animate our laboratories and fund them.

Short of that radical green-pink agenda the state will continue to fail and to fall. Tiny "reforms," so-called, which are sought by many but seldom enacted, cannot and will not keep pace with the hammer-blows of bad news coming from our poor educational system, our drying climate, our extreme and rising inequality, and our many other comparative disadvantages.

Sandia is all about the talented 5% working for the continued financial health of the 1%. That model has failed.

UNM could become something else, with the proper leadership. Clearly we don't have that. Anywhere, really, in this state.

4. Fall internships available

We are very serious about broadening our outreach across generations. We hope you are too.

We are proud of our alumni, some of whom work on disarmament and nonproliferation at places like the United Nations, leading NGOs, and a national laboratory.

It’s too early for us to announce our fall internship program in any detail, but we want you to know it is coming. If you or anyone you know might be interested, it is not too early to contact us.

5. Plutonium pit update

a. New fact sheet: “Expansion of Los Alamos Plutonium Warhead “Pit” Factory Eyed

We are in the process of producing a few fact sheets for regional and national audiences on key aspects of nuclear weapons and related “intersectoral” issues. As this first fact sheet says:

It has become abundantly clear that we cannot any longer maintain our society or environment without rediscovering our solidarity with one another, at home and in our foreign policies.  Neither can we survive without a stable climate and living nature. Converging crises in climate and the environment, in our economy and society, now compel us to abandon militarism and empire as well as “winner-take-all” capitalism. Science – even arithmetic – tell us we must embrace a “Green New Deal” on an emergency basis, just to survive. There is no other option. We have what we need: sun and wind, skills, capital, love of life. No one can work for justice or a living earth without rejecting their deadly opposite: the “long war” for hegemony and fossil fuels, and Obama’s reckless new nuclear arms race – its essential, enabling core.

b. Garamendi amendment to halt pit production expansion at LANL proposed

Just three days ago received word from Rep. John Garamendi's office that the House of Representatives would vote that night on the congressman’s amendment to H.R. 5055, the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, prohibiting the expansion of plutonium pit production capacity at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). See this page for background, including his “Dear Colleague” letter, a video of his speech on the House floor, and the outcome as reported the next morning by the Weapons Complex Monitor.

We have been working with Congressman Garamendi off and on for two years on this topic. Please take a moment to thank him! I believe it will make a difference if you do so.  

This amendment, which had to be done very quickly, failed on a voice vote. It was not first such effort by the Congressman, who has also been helpful in dragging pertinent information out of DOE, nor is it likely to be the last.

Neither is Garamendi the only one in government helping. Others we can’t mention, but you know who you are. Many people in government know this proposed pit expansion is unnecessary and wasteful. We can defeat it, as we have defeated previous attempts to create an unnecessary and threatening “new Rocky Flats.”  

c. PF-4 fire suppression system downgraded, plutonium at-risk limits lowered

Thanks to the Santa Fe New Mexican the latest plutonium safety troubles at LANL’s main plutonium building (PF-4) saw the light of day. (“Report finds fire-safety deficiencies at LANL, Santa Fe New Mexican, May 20, 2016”). Some background for those who are interested can be found here:

6. Stewards of the Apocalypse: an abridged history of U.S. nuclear weapons labs since 1989

This blog post is an update and draft of a book chapter (see link for provenance), which may interest some of you. To my knowledge this framework of analysis is unique, regardless of the quality achieved (or not). From the introduction:

I tried to tell this story through distinguishable time periods, over the course of which there were about five separate “breakouts,” in which the labs escaped democratic control a bit more each time. In the process there were two major “deals” made with the arms control community, both under Democratic Party presidents. These deals failed to achieve their stated goals and facilitated breakout.


Greg Mello, for the Study Group

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