Monday, April 4, 2011

'Nuclear arms race in full swing'

Radioactive bunker buster explosion from Israeli air missile in the northern Gaza Strip, January 1, 2009

Source: Press TV

International commentators describe the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a sham, and clarify the discrimination with which states possessing nuclear weapons treat all other countries.

Press TV holds discussion with two commentators, Stephen Lendman, writer from Chicago and Jim Brann of the Stop the War Coalition in London, to bring to light that the nuclear arms race is constant, but has shifted from growing numbers to technological superiority among nuclear weapons states.

Press TV: We've seen the extent of problems that have arisen from the Japanese nuclear power plant disaster. Looking at nuclear weapons especially in what is called nuclear weapons states, Washington, for one, has said that they are cutting back, but we know that they are simply updating their nuclear arsenal. Why isn't this under more control especially considering what has happened in Japan? Couldn't the nuclear arsenals in the US and other countries pose a more catastrophic risk?

Stephen Lendman: Without question nuclear power is by far the most hazardous and dangerous technology in the world; there is nothing comparable to it. As far as nuclear weapons goes, America and Russia hold about 96% of all the nuclear weapons in the world.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty really does very little, in fact nothing to reduce the stockpile. What they are doing -- and they do it all the time whether [there is] treaty or no treaty -- is to replace old outdated weapons with new more powerful ones with better technology. It's a shameful process and a sham treaty. Everybody knows this with the exception of the American public, which is kept very much in the dark about almost everything.

These nuclear weapons plants pose a dangerous risk. Japan was hit by an earthquake and tsunami; in America you could have an ice storm, an earthquake, tornado or power blackout; any one of these things could trigger an event.

Press TV: Considering the nuclear meltdown Japan is currently experiencing, how do you think the US will respond as it considers its own nuclear facilities? Do you think it will become more aggressive in dealing with its nuclear arsenal and try to limit it in accordance with the sentiment of the treaty or will it continue as Mr. Lendman suggests in updating its arsenal in any case?

Jim Brann: There is a category of states recognized as nuclear weapons states. This is under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, which gives them special privileged status. There is a lesser category, not recognized legally, known as nuclear threshold states and Japan is one of those. These are states that have nuclear technology such that in a very short space of time, if they chose they could develop nuclear weapons.

The question of the sham nature of so-called nuclear disarmament. There is a report in today's British press that originated in the US from Los Alamos nuclear laboratory. There are two nuclear weapons laboratories in the US and I think it is the Los Alamos one which boasts having just tested a British warhead based on US technology, although the Brits have their own nuclear weapons program, that is designed to attack harden targets, a particular feature of which the article points out will make Russia and China worried as they realize that nuclear weapons development is going on at high speed.

At present Britain has said that it won't take a major decision on the British nuclear weapons program until 2016; yet, they have just tested a new British warhead. More evidence has come out in the last few weeks that this is a sham and that they have already taken the decision regardless of the date that is supposedly five years away.

For example, they have ordered the materials and steel necessary for one of their British submarines five years prior to the decision to modernize the entire program. So these things are going on all the time and I think it relates to the fact that if you are a nuclear weapons state it gives you a very special status in the world to have this tremendous power over all other states and that's really the heart of the matter.

I'm afraid they're not going to give it up in any serious way unless they are forced to and they are not being forced to at the moment.

Press TV: How dangerous is this race where one country believes another country has an upper hand in nuclear weapons technology and then the others want to race to catch up? The US, Russia, UK, France, China, and of course Israel as an undeclared nuclear power that everyone realizes have this capacity.

Stephen Lendman: I wrote an article some time back on Israel's open secret nuclear weapons program. Shocking but true, it became official under George Bush. Israel and the US unilaterally declared the right to use nuclear weapons even against non-nuclear states. It is shocking that a country would consider using nuclear weapons for any reason and other countries are aware of this policy.

I have quoted this US policy verbatim before where the US declares a unilateral right to use nuclear weapons against any nation they wish for any reason whatsoever. The US have mini nukes and a weapon called a bunker buster that burrows deep into the ground where ordinary weapons can't reach to target underground facilities. Qaddafi supposedly has a number of underground facilities where he is right now in, in order to avoid being targeted by bombs and he is definitely targeted to be killed. This is a nuclear weapon. And if they use this, they will be using a nuclear bomb on Libya, which they consider is their right to do so.

Press TV: Looking at the revolutionary events of the Middle East, we are getting reports of different types of weapons used and then there is the consideration of the right of the US to use any weapon it chooses on any country even a nuclear one. What can be done to stop this nuclear race? There is hypocrisy among those that possess the most nuclear weapons while talking the talk saying they are against nuclear weapons, but the reality is showing something totally different, isn't it?

Jim Brann: It certainly is. The total warheads in US and Russia stockpile is something approaching 10,000 even though under the previous treaty and under the present one it's due to reduce that to 1,500. But in a sense, it doesn't matter because there is a limit to the number of times you can blow the world up. One thousand five hundred nuclear warheads should effectively blow the world up several times over so that if you reduce it to 1,500, there is still tremendous capacity to effectively destroy life on earth. This reduction is nothing to shout about.

Clearly, efforts to make nuclear weapons more usable and effective are going on constantly. So I don't think, short of the peoples in each country effectively taking the matter into their own hands, which is not something on the cards for the foreseeable future, to stop the conditions where these weapons can actually be used, because once you've used them once you've crossed the threshold, which the US already has [used] on Japan [Hiroshima, Nagasaki], the clear use of them is a tremendous escalation. And there is many times in history where the US has clearly had in mind to use them, but drew back because of political consequences.

So it really is the last roll of the dice to use them at all and if you create conditions in the world that makes it very difficult for them to be used, that's probably the best we can do at the moment.

There has to come a point where the nuclear non-proliferation treaty of 1968 is actually enforced. The world court was asked in 1996 “what was the legal effect of the commitments of the nuclear weapons states had entered into in 1968?” And they pointed out that there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith nuclear disarmament in all its aspects, and that remains on the table today and we can never let that go.

Press TV: When you talk to the average American, they say the reason why the US is against nuclear weapons is based on the notion that the US is careful and they are not going to misuse the power. Do you think the average American feels strongly that the US would not use a nuclear weapon when it should not be used?

Stephen Lendman: There's a famous quote from a media critic going back 20 years where this man called Americans the most over-entertained under-informed people in the world. I believe there are impoverished people in the heart of Africa without internet access and without any of the benefits of a modern society who know more about what is going on in the world than Americans do. News stories in the US die very fast and they don't tell you anything anyway before moving onto celebrity gossip etc. This is what concerns Americans more than their own welfare and the fate of the world.

Their own nation is waging multiple wars against other countries as an aggressor, countries that are nonbelligerent; that don't threaten America. And they do this as much to lose them as win them because there is so much money involved in arms.

Since the [Persian] Gulf War against Iraq in 1991, America has been using nuclear weapons. Depleted uranium is nuclear weapons of another type. They are in every bomb, missile and shell, high caliber bullets fired from helicopter gunships. They apply this to the tips of the weapon for it to penetrate solid objects.

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