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Reminder: Important Study Group meeting Wed 10/19, 7 pm, Santa Fe; "extraordinary" developments occurring at UN

Oct 17, 2016

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Dear friends --

I am writing to remind you of an important Study Group update and action planning meeting on Wednesday 10/19, 7:00 pm, Santa Fe, at The Commons, 2300 West Alameda St. (map).

This is the same time as the final presidential debate, so now you have an excellent alternative to that depressing spectacle.

Nothing said or not said in that debate will affect how the government is run or what its policies will be. Neither will any of us non-megadonors have any impact on those policies except (in selected cases and even then only to a certain degree) through careful channels of reform -- or, more significantly and broadly, through organized, principled, nonviolent resistance in its many forms. This is now required.

In any case, watching that debate is a waste of your time. Don't bother stressing about which questions are or are not asked, or how they are answered. Both candidates on the stage will say whatever they feel they need to say, and whatever is said it will be quite disconnected from what will happen after the election.

Trish and I are in the process of returning from New York, where we have been participants in and witnesses to what the Irish government this morning called "extraordinary" developments:

“Something extraordinary happened in Geneva this year. As the distinguished delegate from New Zealand noted in her opening statement, the [working group] has led to the forging of a new mainstream,” it said. 

By the May session, “the majority opinion was coalescing around the potential for a new legal instrument, complementary to the NPT and giving effect to the commitment on nuclear disarmament enshrined in Article VI of that treaty and on which negotiations could be opened in 2017”.

“There should be no prestige attached to the ability to threaten the life of the planet and every living thing on it. Any such prestige can only beget proliferation and runs counter to the intention of the NPT,” it said. ldquo;It is long past time to prohibit and eliminate these inhumane, indiscriminate and indefensible weapons of mass destruction.”

Ireland expressed support for the recommendation to convene a conference in 2017 on a new legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons – “because we believe in it and we believe in the promise to humanity that this United Nations has made and needs to fulfil”.

As of this morning there are 39 co-sponsors and 127 pledged supporters to a resolution that would convene negotiations next year on a treaty banning nuclear weapons. There will be a vote near the end of this month or early next month. We have enough votes to carry the motion, and this is causing consternation among the usual nuclear suspects.

On Friday the US and especially the UK delivered remarkably hostile remarks opposing nuclear prohibition negotiations, with the US promising to boycott any negotiations that might begin next year and urging all other states to do the same. This is what Obama's "world without nuclear weapons" has come to -- boycotting the negotiations being proposed by most of the world's nations. So much the better, we think.

After the inflammatory and threatening UK statement -- delivered during "informal" time and therefore not on the official record -- the US and UK ambassadors shared a celebratory "fist-bump." "We'll show you uppity non-nuclear countries!" they might as well have said. These kind of threats may play well within NATO and in a few other places, but they won't impress too many non-nuclear countries.

You can read all this and more at ICAN's live update page.

Meanwhile it has been confirmed to us that NNSA has created a draft plan and budget for underground plutonium factory "modules" in Los Alamos, to be funded next year (at an eventual cost of billions). Terrible as this is, it is not unexpected. It offers to New Mexicans a very potent way to express themselves on the narrow issue of nuclear modernization as well as broader issues of war and peace and the collapsing US social and environmental contract. Don't imagine that progressive dreams will be fulfilled, or environmental dreams of saving the climate and hence most life on earth, if the New Cold War continues. It is too distracting to our rulers, too expensive, and it creates too many political careers of the wrong kind.

"Cold" is something of a misnomer, because the war against Russia, Syria, (and Yemen's Houthis, the Donbass region of Ukraine, and [add others here]...) is getting hotter every day. It's hard to summarize all the developments of the last few weeks and this reminder is probably not the place to do it, but...as you may know Russia has asked all its students studying abroad and officials' dependents living abroad to return home. Russia just conducted an annual emergency drill involving 40 million people and has begun building fallout shelters. The heavy cruiser/small aircraft carrier Kuznetsov and its support group are moving to the eastern Mediterranean to provide more aircraft sorties over Syria if needed, more cruise missiles to launch, and more anti-aircraft capability. After US warplanes intentionally broke the Syrian ceasefire by bombing a static Syrian army position, killing some 82 people and wounding many more, all of whom were protecting the eastern city of Deir Ezzor from ISIS, the Russians brought in more high-end area-denial/anti-access defensive weapons and issued a stark but realistic warning that the speed with which air bombardment develops will force them to shoot first and ask questions later. Meanwhile Russia moved nuclear-capable short-range (400 km) Iskander-M ballistic missiles to Kaliningrad. The Russians also pulled out of two agreements with the Department of Energy, one concerning joint research and the other, more consequentially, concerning the disposition of excess plutonium. In the latter case, Russia accompanied its withdrawal with a wide-ranging denunciation of all the hostility the US is engaged in vis-a-vis Russia, an ultimatum little-reported in the West.

There is much, much more, and the truly dangerous part is how much the various organs of the US government are listening to little more than their own propaganda at this point. Our relations with Russia are worse than you may think possible -- in part because that's what large parts of the US government want. The dominant idea is to "break Russia," in Kissinger's words. Hard-right elements in the US government are steering policy in their direction, setting the stage for the new administration, foreclosing rapprochement. Syrians and Yemenis are dying for this.

For a short audio review of some of these developments you might want to listen to this recent John Batchelor interview with prominent Russian scholar Stephen Cohen.

"What can we do about any of this?", you may ask. A lot, actually. As regards nuclear modernization and pit production, work with us. On the broader issues of war and peace, what we can do is much the same as what we can do for climate change and for justice in our society: we need to mobilize ourselves, and fast.

On climate change, you might want to take a look at the Climate Victory Plan (this link is to the forward by Paul Gilding; follow the included link to the whole draft plan). You may find parts of it inspiring, as I did. It's a "big government" plan, and an extremely optimistic one that omits certain thermodynamic realities. Nonetheless, as a sketch it gives some indication of the scale, sweep, and speed of the effort we need, and that's good. We need to go beyond the mild reform agendas we so often hear and see around us, all of which will be "too little, too late," if indeed they ever amount to anything at all besides providing comforting narratives with which to greenwash ourselves.

I am saying that the struggle against war and the struggle against climate change are the same thing, and we need to take a look at that thing which they are, at the opportunities which stand before us.

Please come on Wednesday, and beyond that, let's all take stock of where we are, and what we are going to do.

Best,

Greg


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