Brace Yourselves for the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6)

A couple of hundred thousand years ago, an M 7.2 earthquake shook what is now New Hampshire. Just a few thousand years ago, an M 7.5 quake ruptured just off the coast of Massachusetts. And then there’s New York.

Since the first western settlers arrived there, the state has witnessed 200 quakes of magnitude 2.0 or greater, making it the third most seismically active state east of the Mississippi (Tennessee and South Carolina are ranked numbers one and two, respectively). About once a century, New York has also experienced an M 5.0 quake capable of doing real damage.

The most recent one near New York City occurred in August of 1884. Centered off Long Island’s Rockaway Beach, it was felt over 70,000 square miles. It also opened enormous crevices near the Brooklyn reservoir and knocked down chimneys and cracked walls in Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Police on the Brooklyn Bridge said it swayed “as if struck by a hurricane” and worried the bridge’s towers would collapse. Meanwhile, residents throughout New York and New Jersey reported sounds that varied from explosions to loud rumblings, sometimes to comic effect. At the funeral of Lewis Ingler, a small group of mourners were watching as the priest began to pray. The quake cracked an enormous mirror behind the casket and knocked off a display of flowers that had been resting on top of it. When it began to shake the casket’s silver handles, the mourners decided the unholy return of Lewis Ingler was more than they could take and began flinging themselves out windows and doors.

Not all stories were so light. Two people died during the quake, both allegedly of fright. Out at sea, the captain of the brig Alice felt a heavy lurch that threw him and his crew, followed by a shaking that lasted nearly a minute. He was certain he had hit a wreck and was taking on water.

A day after the quake, the editors of The New York Times sought to allay readers’ fear. The quake, they said, was an unexpected fluke never to be repeated and not worth anyone’s attention: “History and the researches of scientific men indicate that great seismic disturbances occur only within geographical limits that are now well defined,” they wrote in an editorial. “The northeastern portion of the United States . . . is not within those limits.” The editors then went on to scoff at the histrionics displayed by New York residents when confronted by the quake: “They do not stop to reason or to recall the fact that earthquakes here are harmless phenomena. They only know that the solid earth, to whose immovability they have always turned with confidence when everything else seemed transitory, uncertain, and deceptive, is trembling and in motion, and the tremor ceases long before their disturbed minds become tranquil.”

That’s the kind of thing that drives Columbia’s Heather Savage nuts.

Across town, Charles Merguerian has been studying these faults the old‐fashioned way: by getting down and dirty underground. He’s spent the past forty years sloshing through some of the city’s muckiest places: basements and foundations, sewers and tunnels, sometimes as deep as 750 feet belowground. His tools down there consist primarily of a pair of muck boots, a bright blue hard hat, and a pickax. In public presentations, he claims he is also ably abetted by an assistant hamster named Hammie, who maintains his own website, which includes, among other things, photos of the rodent taking down Godzilla.

That’s just one example why, if you were going to cast a sitcom starring two geophysicists, you’d want Savage and Merguerian to play the leading roles. Merguerian is as eccentric and flamboyant as Savage is earnest and understated. In his press materials, the former promises to arrive at lectures “fully clothed.” Photos of his “lab” depict a dingy porta‐john in an abandoned subway tunnel. He actively maintains an archive of vintage Chinese fireworks labels at least as extensive as his list of publications, and his professional website includes a discography of blues tunes particularly suitable for earthquakes. He calls female science writers “sweetheart” and somehow manages to do so in a way that kind of makes them like it (although they remain nevertheless somewhat embarrassed to admit it).

It’s Merguerian’s boots‐on‐the‐ground approach that has provided much of the information we need to understand just what’s going on underneath Gotham. By his count, Merguerian has walked the entire island of Manhattan: every street, every alley. He’s been in most of the tunnels there, too. His favorite one by far is the newest water tunnel in western Queens. Over the course of 150 days, Merguerian mapped all five miles of it. And that mapping has done much to inform what we know about seismicity in New York.

Most importantly, he says, it provided the first definitive proof of just how many faults really lie below the surface there. And as the city continues to excavate its subterranean limits, Merguerian is committed to following closely behind. It’s a messy business.

Down below the city, Merguerian encounters muck of every flavor and variety. He power‐washes what he can and relies upon a diver’s halogen flashlight and a digital camera with a very, very good flash to make up the difference. And through this process, Merguerian has found thousands of faults, some of which were big enough to alter the course of the Bronx River after the last ice age.

His is a tricky kind of detective work. The center of a fault is primarily pulverized rock. For these New York faults, that gouge was the very first thing to be swept away by passing glaciers. To do his work, then, he’s primarily looking for what geologists call “offsets”—places where the types of rock don’t line up with one another. That kind of irregularity shows signs of movement over time—clear evidence of a fault.

Merguerian has found a lot of them underneath New York City.

Each time that occurred, the land currently known as the Mid‐Atlantic underwent an accordion effect as it was violently folded into itself again and again. The process created immense mountains that have eroded over time and been further scoured by glaciers. What remains is a hodgepodge of geological conditions ranging from solid bedrock to glacial till to brittle rock still bearing the cracks of the collision. And, says Merguerian, any one of them could cause an earthquake.

You don’t have to follow him belowground to find these fractures. Even with all the development in our most built‐up metropolis, evidence of these faults can be found everywhere—from 42nd Street to Greenwich Village. But if you want the starkest example of all, hop the 1 train at Times Square and head uptown to Harlem. Not far from where the Columbia University bus collects people for the trip to the Lamont‐Doherty Earth Observatory, the subway tracks seem to pop out of the ground onto a trestle bridge before dropping back down to earth. That, however, is just an illusion. What actually happens there is that the ground drops out below the train at the site of one of New York’s largest faults. It’s known by geologists in the region as the Manhattanville or 125th Street Fault, and it runs all the way across the top of Central Park and, eventually, underneath Long Island City. Geologists have known about the fault since 1939, when the city undertook a massive subway mapping project, but it wasn’t until recently that they confirmed its potential for a significant quake.

In our lifetimes, a series of small earthquakes have been recorded on the Manhattanville Fault including, most recently, one on October 27, 2001. Its epicenter was located around 55th and 8th—directly beneath the original Original Soupman restaurant, owned by restaurateur Ali Yeganeh, the inspiration for Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi. That fact delighted sitcom fans across the country, though few Manhattanites were in any mood to appreciate it.

The October 2001 quake itself was small—about M 2.6—but the effect on residents there was significant. Just six weeks prior, the city had been rocked by the 9/11 terrorist attacks that brought down the World Trade Center towers. The team at Lamont‐Doherty has maintained a seismic network in the region since the ’70s. They registered the collapse of the first tower at M 2.1. Half an hour later, the second tower crumbled with even more force and registered M 2.3. In a city still shocked by that catastrophe, the early‐morning October quake—several times greater than the collapse of either tower—jolted millions of residents awake with both reminders of the tragedy and fear of yet another attack. 9‐1‐1 calls overwhelmed dispatchers and first responders with reports of shaking buildings and questions about safety in the city. For seismologists, though, that little quake was less about foreign threats to our soil and more about the possibility of larger tremors to come.

“Gee whiz!” He laughs when I pose this question. “That’s the holy grail of seismicity, isn’t it?”

He says all we can do to answer that question is “take the pulse of what’s gone on in recorded history.” To really have an answer, we’d need to have about ten times as much data as we do today. But from what he’s seen, the faults below New York are very much alive.

“These guys are loaded,” he tells me.

He says he is also concerned about new studies of a previously unknown fault zone known as the Ramapo that runs not far from the city. Savage shares his concerns. They both think it’s capable of an M 6.0 quake or even higher—maybe even a 7.0. If and when, though, is really anybody’s guess.

“We literally have no idea what’s happening in our backyard,” says Savage.

What we do know is that these quakes have the potential to do more damage than similar ones out West, mostly because they are occurring on far harder rock capable of propagating waves much farther. And because these quakes occur in places with higher population densities, these eastern events can affect a lot more people. Take the 2011 Virginia quake: Although it was only a moderate one, more Americans felt it than any other one in our nation’s history.

That’s the thing about the East Coast: Its earthquake hazard may be lower than that of the West Coast, but the total effect of any given quake is much higher. Disaster specialists talk about this in terms of risk, and they make sense of it with an equation that multiplies the potential hazard of an event by the cost of damage and the number of people harmed. When you take all of those factors into account, the earthquake risk in New York is much greater than, say, that in Alaska or Hawaii or even a lot of the area around the San Andreas Fault.

Merguerian has been sounding the alarm about earthquake risk in the city since the ’90s. He admits he hasn’t gotten much of a response. He says that when he first proposed the idea of seismic risk in New York City, his fellow scientists “booed and threw vegetables” at him. He volunteered his services to the city’s Office of Emergency Management but says his original offer also fell on deaf ears.

“So I backed away gently and went back to academia.”

Today, he says, the city isn’t much more responsive, but he’s getting a much better response from his peers.

He’s glad for that, he says, but it’s not enough. If anything, the events of 9/11, along with the devastation caused in 2012 by Superstorm Sandy, should tell us just how bad it could be there.

He and Savage agree that what makes the risk most troubling is just how little we know about it. When it comes right down to it, intraplate faults are the least understood. Some scientists think they might be caused by mantle flow deep below the earth’s crust. Others think they might be related to gravitational energy. Still others think quakes occurring there might be caused by the force of the Atlantic ridge as it pushes outward. Then again, it could be because the land is springing back after being compressed thousands of years ago by glaciers (a phenomenon geologists refer to as seismic rebound).

Adapted from Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake by Kathryn Miles, published by Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2017 by Kathryn Miles.

Final Siren Tests Before the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Indian Point siren system test scheduled

May 7, 2020

BUCHANAN – Residents in the 10-mile radius around the Indian Point nuclear power plant are advised that a full-volume test of the Indian Point Energy Center siren system will be conducted between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Wednesday, May 27.

During this full-system activation test, sirens will sound simultaneously for four minutes.  The sirens will sound at full-volume for the entire duration of the test.  No action on the part of the public is necessary or required for this drill.

If the sirens were sounded during an actual emergency, residents would listen to an Emergency Alert System (EAS) radio or television station for information and instructions about any action to be taken. Sounding the sirens is a signal for residents to listen to EAS broadcasts for important information. It is not a signal to evacuate.

The 10-mile radius encompasses a portion of Westchester, Putnam, Rockland and Orange counties.

The Lost Opportunity (Revelation 16)

Weapons, Opportunity Costs, COVID19 and Avoiding Nuclear War

The Department of Defense has begun to ratchet up spending to recapitalize the U.S. strategic nuclear triad and its supporting infrastructure, as several programs move from research and development into the procurement phase.  The projected Pentagon expenditures are at least $167 billion from 2021-2025. This amount does not include the large nuclear warhead sustainment and modernization costs funded by the Department of Energy, projected to cost $81 billion over the next five years.

Nuclear forces require modernization, but that will entail opportunity costs. In a budget environment that offers little prospect of greater defense spending, especially in the COVID19 era, more money for nuclear forces will mean less funding for conventional capabilities.

That has potentially negative consequences for the security of the United States and its allies. While nuclear forces provide day-to-day deterrence, the Pentagon leadership spends most of its time thinking about how to employ conventional forces to manage security challenges around the world. The renewed focus on great power competition further elevates the importance of conventional forces. It is important to get the balance between nuclear and conventional forces right, particularly as the most likely path to use of nuclear arms would be an escalation of a conventional conflict. Having robust conventional forces to prevail in or deter a conventional conflict in the first place could avert a nuclear crisis or worse.

Nuclear Weapons and Budgets

For the foreseeable future, the United States will continue to rely on nuclear deterrence for its security and that of its allies (whether we should be comfortable with that prospect is another question). Many U.S. nuclear weapons systems are aging, and replacing them will cost money, lots of money. The Pentagon’s five-year plan for its nuclear weapons programs proposes $29 billion in fiscal year 2021, rising to $38 billion in fiscal year 2025, as programs move from research and development to procurement. The plan envisages a total of $167 billion over five years. And that total may be understated; weapons costs increase not just as they move to the procurement phase, but as cost overruns and other issues drive the costs up compared to earlier projections.

The Pentagon knew that the procurement “bow wave” of nuclear weapons spending would hit in the 2020s and that funding it would pose a challenge. In October 2015, the principal deputy undersecretary of defense said “We’re looking at that big bow wave and wondering how the heck we’re going to pay for it…  and probably thanking our stars that we won’t be here to have to answer the question.”

The Pentagon’s funding request for fiscal year 2021 includes $4.4 billion for the new Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine that will replace Ohio-class submarines, which will begin to be retired at the end of the decade; $1.2 billion for the life extension program for the Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM); $1.5 billion for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) to replace the Minuteman III ICBM; $2.8 billion for the B-21 stealth bomber that will replace the B-1 and B-2 bombers; $500 million for the Long-Range Standoff Missile that will arm B-52 and B-21 bombers; and $7 billion for nuclear command, control and communications systems.

The Pentagon funds primarily go to delivery and command and control systems for nuclear weapons. The National Nuclear Security Administration at the Department of Energy bears the costs of the warheads themselves.  It seeks $15.6 billion for five nuclear warhead life-extension and other infrastructure programs in fiscal year 2021, the first year of a five-year plan totaling $81 billion. The fiscal year 2021 request is nearly $3 billion more than the agency had earlier planned to ask, which suggests these programs are encountering significant cost growth.

Some look at these figures and the overall defense budget (the Pentagon wants a total of $740 billion for fiscal year 2021) and calculate that the cost of building and operating U.S. nuclear forces will amount to “only” 6-7 percent of the defense budget. That may be true, but how relevant is that figure?

By one estimate, the cost of building and operating the F-35 fighter program for the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and U.S. Marines over the program’s lifetime will be $1 trillion. Amortized over 50 years, that amounts to $20 billion per year or “only” 2.7 percent of the Defense Department’s fiscal year 2021 budget request. The problem is that these percentages and lots of other “small” percentages add up. When one includes all of the programs, plus personnel and readiness costs as well as everything else that the Pentagon wants, the percentages will total to more than 100 percent of the figure that Congress is prepared to appropriate for defense.

Opportunity Costs

The defense budget is unlikely to grow. Opportunity costs represent the things the Pentagon has to give up or forgo in order to fund its nuclear weapons programs. The military services gave an indication of these costs with their “unfunded priorities lists,” which this year total $18 billion. These show what the services would like to buy if they had additional funds, and that includes a lot of conventional weapons.

The Air Force, for example, would like to procure an additional twelve F-35 fighters as well as fund advance procurement for an additional twelve F-35s in fiscal year 2022. It would also like to buy three more tanker aircraft than budgeted.

The Army is reorienting from counter-insurgency operations in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq to facing off against major peer competitors, that is, Russia and China. Its wish list includes more long-range precision fires (artillery and short-range surface-to-surface missiles), a new combat vehicle, helicopters and more air and missile defense systems.

The Navy would like to add five F-35s to its aircraft buy, but its bigger desire is more attack submarines and warships, given its target of building up to a fleet of 355 ships. The Navy termed a second Virginia-class attack submarine its top unfunded priority in fiscal year 2021. It has set a requirement for 66 attack submarines and currently has about 50. However, as older Los Angeles-class submarines retire, that number could fall to 42.  Forgoing construction of a Virginia-class submarine does not help to close that gap.

Moreover, the total number of Navy ships, now 293, will decline in the near term, widening the gap to get to 355. The Navy’s five-year shipbuilding program cut five of twelve planned Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, and cost considerations have led the Navy to decide to retire ten older Burke-class destroyers rather than extend their service life for an additional ten years. This comes when China is rapidly expanding its navy, and Russian attack submarines are returning on a more regular cycle to the Atlantic Ocean.

The Navy has said that funding the first Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine forced a cut-back in the number of other ships in its fiscal 2021 shipbuilding request. The decision not to fund a second Virginia-class attack submarine appears to stem directly from the unexpected $3 billion plus-up in funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s fiscal year 2021 programs.

These are the opportunity costs of more nuclear weapons: fewer dollars for aircraft, ships, attack submarines and ground combat equipment for conventional deterrence and defense.

Nuclear War and Deterring Conventional Conflict

The principal driving factor behind the size of U.S. nuclear forces comes from Russian nuclear forces and doctrine. Diverse and effective U.S. nuclear forces that can deter a Russian nuclear attack should suffice to deter a nuclear attack by any third country. In contrast to the Cold War, the U.S. military no longer seems to worry much about a “bolt from the blue”—a sudden Soviet or Russian first strike involving a massive number of nuclear weapons designed to destroy the bulk of U.S. strategic forces before they could launch. That is because, under any conceivable scenario, sufficient U.S. strategic forces—principally on ballistic missile submarines at sea—would survive to inflict a devastating retaliatory response.

The most likely scenario for nuclear use between the United States and Russia is a regional conflict fought at the conventional level in which one side begins to lose and decides to escalate by employing a small number of low-yield nuclear weapons, seeking to reverse battlefield losses and signal the strength of its resolve. Questions thus have arisen about whether Russia has an “escalate-to-deescalate” doctrine and whether the 2018 U.S. nuclear posture review lowers the threshold for use of nuclear weapons.

If the United States and its allies have sufficiently robust conventional forces, they can prevail in a regional conflict at the conventional level and push any decision about first use of nuclear weapons onto the other side (Russia, or perhaps China or North Korea depending on the scenario). The other side would have to weigh carefully the likelihood that its first use of nuclear weapons would trigger a nuclear response, opening the decidedly grim prospect of further nuclear escalation and of things spinning out of control. The other side’s leader might calculate that he/she could control the escalation, but that gamble would come with no guarantee.  It would appear a poor bet given the enormous consequences if things go wrong. Happily, the test has never been run.

This is why the opportunity costs of nuclear weapons programs matter. If those programs strip too much funding from conventional forces, they weaken the ability of the United States and its allies to prevail in a conventional conflict—or to deter that conflict in the first place—and increase the possibility that the United States might have to employ nuclear weapons to avert defeat.

The German Nuclear Horn (Revelation 7)

Op-ed article by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

The Coronavirus is among the greatest threats the world has faced since the Second World War. However, that does not mean that others have gone away. We face the most difficult security environment for a generation. Around the world, terrorism continues, authoritarian regimes challenge liberal democracies, and we see the proliferation of nuclear weapons to countries like North Korea, as well as the continuing aggressive actions by Russia.

In recent years, Russia has invested significantly in its military capabilities, and especially in its nuclear arsenal. While NATO views its own nuclear deterrent primarily as a political tool, Russia has firmly integrated its nuclear arsenal into its military strategy.  It has placed nuclear-capable missiles in Kaliningrad, just 500km from Berlin. It has threatened Allies such as Denmark, Poland and Romania with nuclear strikes. Russia also forcibly and illegally annexed part of Ukraine, a country whose borders it had previously committed to respect in return for Ukraine giving up its own nuclear protection.

In stark contrast, NATO seeks a world without nuclear weapons through effective arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation. And we have made great progress in achieving this. Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has reduced the number of nuclear weapons in Europe by around 90%. That is significant.

Despite Russia’s flagrant breach of the INF Treaty with the deployment of a new intermediate range missile, which can reach European capitals with little warning, NATO has made clear that we have no intention of pursuing our own land based nuclear missiles in Europe. We will maintain an effective deterrence and defence, including through our existing nuclear deterrent.

Therefore, I welcome Germany’s clear commitment to NATO and our nuclear deterrent. This is even more significant since we have just marked the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe. Our Alliance was built on the ruins of that devastating war, to ensure peace and freedom for future generations. Germany joined our Alliance just 10 years after the war ended, on May 6 1955. Since then, you have been a valued member of the NATO family, with all the benefits and responsibilities that implies.

Our nuclear deterrence remains a vital part of keeping our peace and freedom. It is for the security of the whole alliance, for Germany, its neighbours, friends and Allies, who all have legitimate security concerns and who are all protected by NATO’s nuclear deterrent.

An important part of our nuclear deterrence strategy is nuclear sharing. NATO’s nuclear sharing is a multilateral arrangement that ensures the benefits, responsibilities and risks of nuclear deterrence are shared among Allies. Politically, this is significant. It means that participating Allies, like Germany, make joint decisions on nuclear policy and planning, and maintain appropriate equipment.  It has also always been an important trust-building measure for Germany’s neighbours. Our common procedures, doctrine and exercises give Allies a voice on nuclear matters that they would not otherwise have.

NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements also directly support non-proliferation. For many decades, it has provided European Allies with an effective nuclear umbrella. This was essential for the development of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which prevents the spread of nuclear weapons, as it removed the incentive for nations to develop their own nuclear capability. If our nuclear sharing arrangements came to an end, more countries may again seek their own nuclear weapons.  This would result in a world this is less safe, not more.

All Allies appreciate Germany’s role in NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements.  Germany has contributed dual-capable aircraft for NATO’s nuclear mission since the beginning. It provides important leadership based on decades of experience working together with other Allies.  To provide security for all our Allies it is essential that those who participate in nuclear sharing do so fully. This includes having capable aircraft that can support our nuclear deterrence mission.

NATO unites democratic nations in defence of our values – freedom, liberty and the rule of law. The commitment of NATO Allies to each other’s security remains rock solid. Our solidarity is our strength and the ultimate expression of that solidarity remains our nuclear deterrent.

The purpose of NATO’s nuclear weapons is not to provoke a conflict but to preserve peace, deter aggression and prevent coercion.  Our Alliance seeks a world without nuclear weapons, sadly, these conditions do not exist today. A world where Russia, China and others have nuclear weapons but NATO has none, is simply not a safer world.

That is why all Allies have agreed that as long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear Alliance. To preserve peace and our freedom.

China is an Economic NOT a Military Enemy (Daniel 7:7)

China-US war unlikely despite rising hostility

China VS US

 The failed handling of the COVID-19 outbreak in the US has fueled Washington’s hostility toward China and escalated concern that worsening bilateral ties might lead to a China-US war, prompting Chinese experts to assert that Beijing has sufficient nuclear capacity to assure mutually assured destruction (MAD) and create deterrence to  reduce the risks of any direct conflict.   

Intention and capability are two elements for judging whether or not the US wants a war with China, Chinese observers noted on Sunday.

A series of “anti-China” expressions by some senior US politicians that assign blame for the pandemic have provoked discussion about the potential for a nuclear war with China.

Chinese experts say it remains unclear what is the real intention behind the hostile narratives of US policymakers about China.

To strengthen China’s nuclear arsenal was an essential way to deter hawkish and warlike US policymakers from making dangerous moves, the experts believed.

But in order to effectively prevent a war between China and the US, they urged Washington to abandon its war of words that poisons bilateral ties and risks a miscalculation of US intent by China.  

US hawks should understand China is capable of bringing destructive consequences to them after China detects a nuclear attack from the US, warned Chinese military experts. No one wants to see that kind of doomsday tragedy, they added.

CNN commentator Fareed Zakaria expressed a similar kind of concern. 

“Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump are trying to pressure the intelligence community to say we have some kind of smoking gun with regard to China. And this is the kind of politicized intelligence that led to the mistakes of the Iraq war,” he said on Tuesday at CNN Tonight. 

“Again, Pompeo or Trump is trying to plat washing powder,” responded one tweet about the show.

The tweet was referring to the former US secretary of state Collin Powell showing “evidence” of Iraqi weapons of massive destruction (WMD) at the UN in an attempt to legitimize a war against Sadam Hussein’s regime.

Some joked the “evidence” could be a small pot of washing powder as the WMD accusation later proved a catastrophic intelligence failure.

The Pentagon is seen from an airplane over Washington D.C., the United States, on July 11, 2018. The United States will fully develop ground-launched conventional missiles after withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said Friday. Photo:Xinhua

Nuclear deterrence 

In response, Hua Chunying, a spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, posted on Twitter on Saturday that “China won’t be Iraq.”

Some Chinese Net users noted that the most important reason China wouldn’t be another Iraq was China has real WMDs.

Hu Xijin, editor in chief of the Global Times, reinforced his call for China to strengthen its nuclear arsenal to deter the US on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo platform on Saturday after his post Friday called on China to build more nuclear warheads and DF-41 inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Hu said in the past, China might have had enough nuclear power to deter the US, but now, as the US is treating China as its major or even top strategic competitor and strengthening the US arsenal, so China’s nuclear strength should not stay indifferent.

Hu said he was a “peace lover” but peace has never come from “nice words and begging.” 

His two posts on Friday and Saturday received about 300,000 likes on Sina Weibo.  

Lü Xiang, a research fellow on US studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times on Sunday nuclear concerns were entirely reasonable as the US intention to treat China as an enemy was increasing in its statements and in the behavior of senior politicians like Pompeo and White House adviser Pete Navaro, even President Donald Trump.

“The key for us to judge the decision-making from the US is to analyze the real intention behind extreme and hostile words from the White House,” he said.

“The performance of the Trump administration forced Chinese elites and the public to think more about the worst scenario.”

The two countries were still far from a direct military conflict, said Diao Daming, a US studies expert at the Renmin University of China in Beijing.

On the one hand, China should prepare for all possibilities but on the other, there was no need to overemphasize preparation for war, Diao said. 

That might speed up the arms race with the US, he warned.

“The US is unilaterally executing major power competition, and due to US-launched stigmatization against China on the COVID-19 pandemic, China-US relationship is experiencing a profound change,” Diao said.

“Although the cooperation part of the bilateral ties still exists, the competition part is increasing sharply.”

Jin Canrong, the associate dean of Renmin University of China’s School of International Studies in Beijing, expressed his concern over China-US decoupling. “The decoupling unilaterally pushed by the US side risks increasing strategic conflicts between the two major powers, and Taiwan, the South China Sea and the Korean Peninsula could become potential conflict zones.”

China reveals its most advanced nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile, the DF-41, at the National Day parade in Beijing on October 1, 2019. Photo: Fan Lingzhi/GT

Mutually assured destruction or development

Chinese experts on nuclear weapons and arms control said there was no need to doubt China’s nuclear strength and strategic deterrence.

They called on the Chinese public to remain calm as the US noticed clearly that China has enough to ensure mutually assured destruction.

Yang Chengjun, a Chinese expert on missile technology and nuclear strategy and chief scientist of quantum defense, told the Global Times that a core principle of China’s nuclear policy was not to seek a warheads arms race. 

China’s nuclear warheads were fewer than 1,000, Yang said but Beijing was totally capable of building more warheads if necessary.

“Although we have fewer warheads than the US, but once we detect any nuclear attack from the US, our warheads are enough to destroy the US in the counterattack. This is the effective nuclear deterrence,” Yang said.

An anonymous military expert at a Beijing-based military academy said “increasing the number of warheads is a measure to increase the effectiveness of nuclear deterrence, as the US has missile defense system.”

China needed to make the US believe it could effectively destroy its cities despite the US missile defense system, the anonymous expert said. 

“To improve the technology of defense penetration ability of our ICBMs is also a way.”

Xu Guangyu, a senior adviser to the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, told the Global Times on Sunday that there was a common sense understanding among the five permanent member states of the UN Security Council, also the five major nuclear powers, that a nuclear war between any would “bring a doomsday tragedy to humanity.”

War normally occurred when one side has an overwhelming advantage, Xu noted. 

“The US doesn’t have that against China or Russia. What China needs to do, from the perspectives of military and technology, is to keep the US away from the overwhelming advantage.” 

“There is another ‘MAD’ – mutually assured ‘development,’ instead of ‘destruction.’ If the two countries can realize this, the danger of war would be largely controlled,” Lü said.

The Crimes Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

What you need to know about the ICC Investigation of war crimes in occupied Palestine

The Foreign Minister of the Palestinian Authority, Riyad al-Maliki, leaves the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, on 25 June, 2015 [ROBIN VAN LONKHUIJSEN/AFP/Getty Images]

May 10, 2020 at 12:30 pm

Fatou Bensouda, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), has, once and for all, settled the doubts on the Court’s jurisdiction to investigate war crimes committed in occupied Palestine.

On April 30, Bensouda released a 60-page document diligently laying down the legal bases for that decision, concluding that “the Prosecution has carefully considered the observations of the participants, and remains of the view that the Court has jurisdiction over the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

Bensouda’s legal explanation was itself a preemptive decision, dating back to December 2019, as the ICC Prosecutor must have anticipated an Israeli-orchestrated pushback against the investigation of war crimes committed in the Occupied Territories.

After years of haggling, the ICC had resolved in December 2019 that, “there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation into the situation in Palestine, pursuant to article 53(1) of the Statute.

Article 53(1) merely describes the procedural steps that often lead, or do not lead, to an investigation by the Court.

That Article is satisfied when the amount of evidence provided to the Court is so convincing that it leaves the ICC with no other option but to move forward with an investigation.

Indeed, Bensouda had already declared late last year that she was,

“satisfied that (i) war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip… (ii) potential cases arising from the situation would be admissible; and (iii) there are no substantial reasons to believe that an investigation would not serve the interests of justice.”

Naturally, Israel and its main Western ally, the United States, fumed. Israel has never been held accountable by the international community for war crimes and other human rights violations in Palestine. The ICC’s decision, especially if the investigation moves forward, would be an historic precedent.

But, what are Israel and the US to do when neither are state parties in the ICC, thus having no actual influence on the internal proceedings of the court? A solution had to be devised.

In an historic irony, Germany, which had to answer to numerous war crimes committed by the Nazi regime during World War II, stepped in to serve as the main defender of Israel at the ICC and to shield accused Israeli war criminals from legal and moral accountability.

On February 14, Germany filed a petition with the ICC requesting an “amicus curiae”, meaning “friend of the court”, status. By achieving that special status, Germany was able to submit objections, arguing against the ICC’s earlier decision on behalf of Israel.

Germany, among others, then argued that the ICC had no legal authority to discuss Israeli war crimes in the occupied territories. These efforts, however, eventually amounted to nil.

The ball is now in the court of the ICC pre-trial chamber.

The pre-trial chamber consists of judges that authorize the opening of investigations. Customarily once the Prosecutor decides to consider an investigation, she has to inform the Pre-Trial Chamber of her decision.

According to the Rome Statute, Article 56(b), “… the Pre-Trial Chamber may, upon request of the Prosecutor, take such measures as may be necessary to ensure the efficiency and integrity of the proceedings and, in particular, to protect the rights of the defence.”

The fact that the Palestinian case has been advanced to such a point can and should be considered a victory for the Palestinian victims of the Israeli occupation. However, if the ICC investigation moves forward according to the original mandate requested by Bensouda, there will remain major legal and moral lapses that frustrate those who are advocating justice on behalf of Palestine.

For example, the legal representatives of the ‘Palestinian Victims Residents of the Gaza Strip’ expressed their concern on behalf of the victims regarding “the ostensibly narrow scope of the investigation into the crimes suffered by the Palestinian victims of this situation.”

The ‘narrow scope of the investigation’ has thus far excluded such serious crimes as crimes against humanity. According to the Gaza legal team, the killing of hundreds and wounding of thousands of unarmed protesters participating in the ‘Great March of Return’ is a crime against humanity that must also be investigated.

The ICC’s jurisdiction, of course, goes beyond Bensouda’s decision to investigate ‘war crimes’ only.

Article 5 of the Rome Statute – the founding document of the ICC – extends the Court’s jurisdiction to investigate the following “serious crimes”:

(a) The crime of genocide

(b) Crimes against humanity

(c) War crimes

(d) The crime of aggression

It should come as no surprise that Israel is qualified to be investigated on all four points and that the nature of Israeli crimes against Palestinians often tend to, constitute a mixture of two or more of these points simultaneously.

Former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian Human Rights (2008-2014), Prof. Richard Falk, wrote in 2009, soon after a deadly Israeli war on the besieged Gaza Strip, that,

“Israel initiated the Gaza campaign without adequate legal foundation or just cause, and was responsible for causing the overwhelming proportion of devastation and the entirety of civilian suffering. Israeli reliance on a military approach to defeat or punish Gaza was intrinsically ‘criminal’, and as such demonstrative of both violations of the law of war and the commission of crimes against humanity.”

Falk extended his legal argument beyond war crimes and crimes against humanity into a third category. “There is another element that strengthens the allegation of aggression. The population of Gaza had been subjected to a punitive blockade for 18 months when Israel launched its attacks.”

What about the crime of apartheid? Does it fit anywhere within the ICC’s previous definitions and jurisdiction?

The International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid of November 1973 defines apartheid as,

“a crime against humanity and that inhuman acts resulting from the policies and practices of apartheid and similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination, as defined in article II of the Convention, are crimes violating the principles of international law, in particular the  purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and constituting a serious threat to international peace and security.”

The Convention came into force in July 1976, when twenty countries ratified it. Mostly western powers, including the United States and Israel, opposed it.

Particularly important about the definition of apartheid, as stated by the Convention, is that the crime of apartheid was liberated from the limited South African context and made applicable to racially discriminatory policies in any state.

In June 1977, Addition Protocol 1 to the Geneva Conventions designatedapartheid as, “a grave breach of the Protocol and a war crime.”

It follows that there are legal bases to argue that the crime of apartheid can be considered both a crime against humanity and a war crime.

Former UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinian Human Rights (2000-2006), Prof. John Dugard, said this soon after Palestine joined the ICC in 2015,

“For seven years, I visited the Palestinian territory twice a year. I also conducted a fact-finding mission after the Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2008, 2009. So, I am familiar with the situation, and I am familiar with the apartheid situation. I was a human rights lawyer in apartheid South Africa. And I, like virtually every South African who visits the occupied territory, has a terrible sense of déjà vu. We’ve seen it all before, except that it is infinitely worse. And what has happened in the West Bank is that the creation of a settlement enterprise has resulted in a situation that closely resembles that of apartheid, in which the settlers are the equivalent of white South Africans. They enjoy superior rights over Palestinians, and they do oppress Palestinians. So, one does have a system of apartheid in the occupied Palestinian territory. And I might mention that apartheid is also a crime within the competence of the International Criminal Court.”

Considering the number of UN resolutions that Israel has violated throughout the years – the perpetual occupation of Palestine, the siege on Gaza, and the elaborate system of apartheid imposed on Palestinians through a large conglomerate of racist laws (culminating in the so-called Nation-State Law of July 2018) – finding Israel guilty of war crimes, among others “serious crimes”, should be a straightforward matter.

But the ICC is not entirely a legal platform. It is also a political institution that is subject to the interests and whims of its members. Germany’s intervention, on behalf of Israel, to dissuade the ICC from investigating Tel Aviv’s war crimes is a case in point.

Time will tell how far the ICC is willing to go with its unprecedented and historic attempt aimed at, finally, investigating the numerous crimes that have been committed in Palestine unhindered, with no recourse and no accountability.

For the Palestinian people, the long-denied justice cannot arrive soon enough.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

Kashmir continues to bleed before the first nuclear war (Revelation 8 )


Kashmir continues to bleed


• With no end in sight

While the world fights against the novel Coronavirus, trying to contain the human and economic cost of the pandemic, India has shown no signs of any let-up in its campaign against the indigenous population of Jammu and Kashmir. IOK (Indian Occupied Kashmir) has been under a state of strict lockdown for the past nine months, not in some severely paranoid early anticipation of a highly contagious pathogen, but to quell the justified outrage of the people of the region after revocation in August of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that gave them the status of a semi-autonomous state, which was successfully operationalized in October last year.

Despite multiple calls from human rights groups and Western countries to ease restrictions, there is still no freedom of movement, a communications blackout persists and widespread detentions of politicians, business leaders and residents of Jammu and Kashmir continue unabated. India has instead upped the ante, killing 36 freedom fighters since late March, most significantly, the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Riyaz Naikoo, a former math teacher and a close aide to Burhan Wani who was killed in 2016 leading to severe unrest and rebellion in in the valley. Naikoo’s body will not be handed over to his family but will be buried by authorities at an undisclosed location to avoid the sort of funeral processions and anger that was seen following Wani’s killing. The cowardly decision shows how India realizes that it has taken the conflict too far and another significant trigger could very well result in a lot more bloodshed on both sides.

Simultaneously, in order to peddle its unsubstantiated self-serving narrative of ‘cross-border terrorism’, India continues indiscriminate firing along the LOC resulting in civilian deaths, all the while claiming that Pakistan initiates such attacks. Last year the two nuclear-armed countries came to the brink of war following a suicide bombing in Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir, even though the attacker was a local. India should heed the call of the international community to lift the inhumane lockdown and let the people of IOK realize their right to self-determination. Short of this, by keeping them caged in their homes and in detention centres, India is providing a breeding ground for more freedom fighters who will take that right through force.