Library image: US Marines fire a Howitzer in northern Syria on March 24th 2017 in support of Coalition operations. (Photo: Airwars.org, via USMC/ Cpl. Zachery C. Laning)
A June 27 Pew Research Center poll says world opinion of the United States has plummeted since Donald Trump took office. Surveying people in 37 countries, 49 percent held a positive view of the United States, down from 65 percent at the end of 2016. Maybe we could cancel the fireworks this 4th of July considering the insensitive symbolism of vicariously enjoying war.
With the Pentagon’s rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air smashing seven majority Muslim countries — Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen — negativity toward the United States is easy to understand. US drone attacks originating in Nevada, 7,200 miles from Iraq, and jet fighter-bomber strikes launched from super-carriers in the Persian Gulf are killing hundreds of frightened bystanders month after month. At least 25 civilians were killed in Mosul, Iraq on Sat., June 24 when US bombs destroyed four houses.
Every child killed or maimed by US-made weapons inevitably creates enemies among survivors. President Obama (pronounced “Oh-Bomb-Ah”) made the point himself May 23, 2013 in a speech to National Defense University. He said drone attacks “raise profound questions: about who is targeted, and why; about civilian casualties, and the risk of creating new enemies…” And Obama warned that, “US military action in foreign lands risks creating more enemies.”
Whether bombing civilians only “risks” creating enemies or can be positively guaranteed always to do so, is a matter of opinion. But one need only consider the globalized, mechanized, mass US military reaction to 9/11 — and the country’s demonization of whole groups and religions — to know that demands for revenge, retribution, and retaliation always follow the deaths of innocents.
If your business is peddling weapons, you could be smugly satisfied about every civilian wedding party, funeral procession, hospital, or Sunday market hit by US drones, gunships or F-18s. One StarTribune headline on April 2, 2017 directed attention away from our arms dealers. It read, “Civilian deaths a windfall for militants’ propaganda.” Never mind the windfall for war profiteers.
US offers $6,000 for each dead civilian [sarcasm alert]
In the world of weapons sales, nothing is better for business than TV footage of the anguished and grief-stricken after civilians are indiscriminately attacked by “foreigners.” In the countries being bombed, we are those foreigners, occupiers, and militarists accused of cheapening human lives. You decide: when a US gunship obliterated the hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan Oct. 3, 2016 killing 42, the Pentagon offered $6,000 for each person killed, and $3,000 for each one injured.
The government and munitions makers say our bombs are saving people by killing terrorists, and — being a world away from the torn limbs, the burning wounds, the screaming parents — Americans want to believe it. The US dropped 26,171 bombs across the seven states during 2016, according to Jennifer Wilson and Micah Zenko writing in Foreign Policy. Each explosion is guaranteed to produce enough newly minted militants to insure steady orders for more jets, bombs and missiles.
Even with a stockpile of 4,000 Tomahawk Cruise missiles, some in the military say the store could be run low by the bombing of Syria, Iraq and the others. “We’re expending munitions faster than we can replenish them,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told USA Today in December 2015. “Since then, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has asked Congress to include funding for 45,000 smart bombs in the [Pentagon’s] 2017 budget,” Public Radio International reported in April 2016. And now Trump’s SecDef, Gen. James Mattis has asked for far more in the 2018 budget for what he calls an “annihilation campaign.”
Lockheed Martin Corp. was paid $36.44 billion for weapons in 2015, and $47.2 billion in 2016, according to the Stockholm Int’l Peace Research Institute’s February 2017 report. SIPRI says that half of all US weapons exports in 2015 went to the Middle East. Last May’s $110 billion US sale to Saudi Arabia alone is bound to bring peace and stability to the region. Obama’s $112 billion in arms to the Saudis over eight years certainly did. The Kingdom’s fireworks in Yemen will cause “oooohs” and “ahhhs” of a different sort than our holiday firecracker fakery.
This cheering of faux bombs on the 4th while denying that our real ones produce enemies and prolong the war is why terrified villagers, refugees and the internally displaced of seven targeted countries will go on cringing and crouching over their children as US drones and jets howl overhead. But “Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto — ‘In God is our trust’ — And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.” —John LaForge
Spring 2017 Quarterly
In our winter fund appeal, we highlighted Nukewatch’s engagement with the struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) led by Indigenous Water Protectors at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. Since then, we have reflected on our position—as a mostly white organization—in relation to a Native-led struggle, and we realize we made some mistakes that perpetuated, rather than resisted, the forces of colonialism that continue to oppress and work to erase the presence of Native people in our society.
The letter included a photo of one of our members at a Standing Rock camp holding our Nuclear Heartland banner, which shows the location of US nuclear missiles deployed throughout the Great Plains. We referenced the intersection of our anti-nuclear mission with the No DAPL movement in an appeal for funds, excerpted here:
“The combination in North Dakota of nuclear-armed missiles, dangerous oil pipelines, and 3,000 active hydraulic fracturing wells, has created a literally explosive conflation of the worst environmental threats faced by rural communities anywhere. Help us relieve the region of at least the military leg of this terrible triad by donating to Nukewatch today.”
Simply put, we used the success of a Native-led struggle for justice to draw attention—and money—to our own issues and organization. This was wrong, and we deeply regret it. Because in doing so we failed to prioritize the concern of the Indigenous people who are leading this difficult battle: the fact that they have a fundamental right to exist on the land that white colonizers have been trying to take from them for generations. Native rights are the main issue here and should not be obscured by the concerns of more racially privileged activists.
We are grateful to writer and organizer Kelly Hayes for her piece, “How to Talk About #NoDAPL: A Native Perspective,” published October 27 on her blog transformativespaces.org, which helped us realize our mistakes. Here is an excerpt:
“In discussing #NoDAPL, too few people have started from a place of naming that we have a right to defend our water and our lives, simply because we have a natural right to defend ourselves and our communities. When ‘climate justice,’ in a very broad sense, becomes the center of conversation, our fronts of struggle are often reduced to a staging ground for the messaging of NGOs.
“This is happening far too frequently in public discussion of #NoDAPL.
“Yes, everyone should be talking about climate change, but you should also be talking about the fact that Native communities deserve to survive, because our lives are worth defending in their own right—not simply because ‘this affects us all.’
“So when you talk about Standing Rock, please begin by acknowledging that this pipeline was redirected from an area where it was most likely to impact white people. And please remind people that our people are struggling to survive the violence of colonization on many fronts, and that people shouldn’t simply engage with or retweet such stories when they see a concrete connection to their own issues—or a jumping off point to discuss their own issues. Our friends, allies and accomplices should be fighting alongside us because they value our humanity and right to live, in addition to whatever else they believe in.”
Rather than referencing Standing Rock’s relationship to our anti-nuclear work in our fundraising letter, we should have amplified the voices of Native Water Protectors and called for our fellow white activists to support their efforts. We acknowledge these mistakes here as part of an effort to improve the way we work in solidarity with those fighting for racial justice. We hope our white readers in particular might be reminded by our reflections to avoid similar pitfalls through truly listening to the voices of people of color and more critically analyzing our ally roles, as we intend to do.
Nukewatch is committed to amplifying and supporting calls for justice from marginalized groups not just because they are related to our anti-nuclear work, but because they need to be heard. We will continue to take action in ways that reflect the priorities of disenfranchised activists, such as answering calls from Standing Rock to organize local protests that target banks funding the DAPL. We will also send a portion of the donations received as a result of our fund appeal to the legal defense collective at Standing Rock. If you are not already involved, please join us in defending Native rights at Standing Rock and beyond.
For more about the continuing struggle at Standing Rock go to LastRealIndians.com.
To learn more about being an ally, see the Standing Rock Solidarity Toolkit from Showing Up for Racial Justice.
—Arianne Peterson wrote this piece, representing the views of the Nukewatch staff.
By John LaForge
Last June, off the coast of Florida, the test of a $21 million Trident D5 missile fired from the British submarine HMS Vengeance, failed and the unarmed rocket self-destructed, but the news was kept secret from the British and US public—at the request of President Obama—for seven months.
Fired toward what the Navy calls its “Eastern firing range” near the west coast of Africa, the London Sunday Times—a right-wing journal owned by the Rupert Murdoch machine—revealed in January that the test of the D5 missile, which reportedly has a range of 7,500 miles, saw the rocket fail and careen toward the US coast before spinning out into the Atlantic. The self-destruction trick is programmed to be automatic after a failure is detected, CNN reported.
The Times also revealed that when the colossally expensive failure occurred in June, the Obama White House asked then Prime Minister David Cameron’s government not to comment on it publicly. The Times report was based on a British military official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The submarine Vengeance is one of four Trident subs including Vanguard, Victorious, and Vigilant. Each submarine carries 16 Trident missiles with eight nuclear warheads on each missile; 512 nuclear weapons in all.
The rocket failure came just one month prior to the House of Commons vote on whether to approve a controversial $50-to-$100 billion program to replace the four missile-firing Trident subs. Under the slogan “Scrap Trident,” strong majorities of the general public, the British Labour Party, and the Scottish Parliament (Britain’s Tridents are based in Scotland) are opposed to replacement. “Unaware of the failure, members of the House of Commons voted 472 to 117 in favor of renewal,” CNN reported.
Both the UK and the US have invested hundreds of billions of tax dollars in upgrading nuclear arsenals, and both are beholden to multinational conglomerates that design and build nuclear weapons and contribute generously to political campaigns and party coffers. The world’s largest arms dealer, Lockheed Martin based in Bethesda, Maryland, builds the flawed $21 million-dollar missiles. The UK’s 512 Trident missiles garner about $10.75 billion for Lockheed Martin.
Catastrophic failures of such expensive weapons can prompt increased calls for their elimination. Scores of UN member states will begin negotiations March 26 in New York seeking a treaty ban on nuclear weapons, an “international convention” that both the US and UK governments have worked to derail.
Weapons “Lease” may violate treaty
Britain’s long-range Trident D5 missiles are all produced and owned by the United States, which then “leases” about 512 of them to the Royal Navy—which is turn is invited to “test” them off Florida’s coast near Port Canaveral. Articles I and II of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty forbid the transfer to another state, and the acceptance from another state, any nuclear weapon system.
The cost of building four new ballistic-missile-firing submarines is said by the UK government to babout $49.8 billion. Britain’s Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and other independent experts warn that the actual cost will be closer to $124.7 billion.
Asked four times in January if she knew of the failure prior to the July House of Commons vote on Trident replacement July 18, 2016, Prime Minister Theresa May refused to answer, the London Telegraph reported.
“I can assure the House that the capability and effectiveness of the UK’s independent nuclear deterrent is not in doubt,” British Defense Minister Michael Fallon said Jan. 23. The phrase “nuclear deterrent” is the destabilizing rationale that allows nine self-selected countries to plan and threaten to use weapons of mass destruction. Minister Fallon asserted his “absolute confidence” in the missile system, if not in his ability to keep a secret.
The Times disclosed the failure January 22 after being informed by an anonymous source in the Ministry of Defense. The Times reported, “[A] senior naval source has told this newspaper that the missile—which was unarmed for the test—may have veered off in the wrong direction towards America after being launched from HMS Vengeance.…”
According to the Times, “The source said: ‘There was a major panic at the highest level of government and the military after the first test of our nuclear deterrent in four years ended in disastrous failure. Ultimately Downing Street decided to cover up the failed test. The upcoming Trident vote made it all the more sensitive.’”
—Sunday Times, Jan. 22 & 24; Nadia Prupis, Commondreams, Jan. 23; CNN, Jan. 23; The London Telegraph, Jan. 22; Russia Today, Jan. 22, 2017.
The answer man Donald Trump said August 8 that halting all new federal regulations will create jobs. Notwithstanding the jobs created by implementing new regulations, Trump’s proposal has already been tried by the State of Minnesota, in a retroactive way, with consequences that are predictably toxic to water.
In 2015, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) was forced to abandon its duty to protect state waters from mining runoff after the Legislature passed bills that “essentially exempted taconite mining” operations from complying with the 40-year-old sulfate standard for waters with wild rice — as Mordecai Specktor reports in the August 2016 issue of The Circle.
Paula Maccabee, advocacy director and chief counsel of the non-profit group Water Legacy, interviewed by Specktor, said the 2015 law that instructed the MPCA not to enforce the sulfate pollution standard “was the straw that broke the camel’s back.” Water Legacy then petitioned the US Environmental Protection Agency over the State Legislature’s and the MPCA’s “failure to respect the [US] Clean Water act and to enforce laws limiting mine pollution.”
Maccabee tole me in an email Aug. 8 “We consider the EPA’s protocol and the EPA’s many letters and requests for information from Minnesota agencies to function as replies to WaterLegacy’s petition to remove Minnesota state agencies” from oversight of mining operations.”
EPA staff are still in the process of conducting an in-depth investigation, so they have neither reached conclusions regarding their potential findings nor communicated them either to WaterLegacy or to MPCA. … I expect that both WaterLegacy and the MPCA will be given an opportunity to comment when EPA has reached the point of preparing draft findings resulting from its investigation.
“I believe it is likely that the MN attorney general will respond to EPA’s questions by August 12, since the AG hasn’t requested an additional extension of time.
PolyMet’s early pollution projections admitted that acid mine drainage – which permanently destroys surface water systems — from its proposed sulfide mine near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness would be a serious problem for over 500 years. Consequently, PolyMet must be legally required to monitor for and clean up acid mine drainage for 500 years.
A 500-year cleanup mandate must also be applied to all future follow-on companies that will replace what’s now called “PolyMet.” Changing the name of mining companies is an age-old method of avoiding legal liability. PolyMet’s promises of clean copper-sulfide mining must be backed up with permanent guarantees for monitoring, and waste disposal, cleanup and reclamation no matter what subsequent PolyMet knockoff companies might be named.
Of course such a mandate has never been imposed on a mine project and would probably kill the proposal if imposed. This is why the embarrassing 500-year pollution warning has been buried by PolyMet and never appeared in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) Nov. 6, 2015.
Instead, the company and DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr use the term “indefinitely.” How can PolyMet be forced to prevent pollution “indefinitely”?
This is because PolyMet’s promises are really hot air, and Minnesota’s reputation at a good environmental steward is actually a myth that has never applied to Minnesota mining practices.
• Why has there been no independent water modeling required in the environmental review process? Critics point out that all the data and analysis of how much polluted water could drain from the mine site and the tailings site has come from PolyMet.
• As Water Legacy notes, “Across the country, there is no example where a sulfide mine has been operated and closed without polluting surface and/or groundwater with acid mine drainage, sulfuric acid and/or toxic metals.” Why has PolyMet been allowed to submit a shabbily supported environmental review based on unsubstantiated claims and faulty data?
• The FEIS concludes that it’s “unlikely” acid mine drainage will move north into the pristine Boundary Waters Wilderness, but that if the permanent pollution does flow north (permanently), PolyMet will “fill cracks in the bedrock.” Why is the potential devastation of the Boundary Waters, an otherwise highly-protected national wilderness treasured because of its lack of pollution, allowed to be brushed off with such fatuous gibberish?
I’m sure I’m not the first person to howl at that concept of “filling cracks in the bedrock.” The idea sounds like bovine excrement, or like the unworkable “ice wall” being built in Japan to slow groundwater flowing through Fukushima’s three melted reactors.