By Meteorologist Dominic Ramunni Nationwide PUBLISHED 7:13 PM ET Aug. 11, 2020 PUBLISHED 7:13 PM EDT Aug. 11, 2020
People across the Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic were shaken, literally, on a Sunday morning as a magnitude 5.1 earthquake struck in North Carolina on August 9, 2020.
Centered in Sparta, NC, the tremor knocked groceries off shelves and left many wondering just when the next big one could strike.
Compared to the West Coast, there are far fewer fault lines in the East. This is why earthquakes in the East are relatively uncommon and weaker in magnitude.
That said, earthquakes still occur in the East.
According to Spectrum News Meteorologist Matthew East, “Earthquakes have occurred in every eastern U.S. state, and a majority of states have recorded damaging earthquakes. However, they are pretty rare. For instance, the Sparta earthquake Sunday was the strongest in North Carolina in over 100 years.”
For example, across the Tennesse River Valley lies the New Madrid Fault Line. While much smaller in size than those found farther west, the fault has managed to produce several earthquakes over magnitude 7.0 in the last couple hundred years.
In 1886, an estimated magnitude 7.0 struck Charleston, South Carolina along a previously unknown seismic zone. Nearly the entire town had to be rebuilt.
The eastern half of the U.S. has its own set of vulnerabilities from earthquakes.
These older rocks have had much more time to bond together with other rocks under the tremendous pressure of Earth’s crust. This allows seismic energy to transfer between rocks more efficiently during an earthquake, causing the shaking to be felt much further.
This is why, during the latest quake in North Carolina, impacts were felt not just across the state, but reports of shaking came as far as Atlanta, Georgia, nearly 300 miles away.
Reports of shaking from different earthquakes of similar magnitude.
Quakes in the East can also be more damaging to infrastructure than in the West. This is generally due to the older buildings found east. Architects in the early-to-mid 1900s simply were not accounting for earthquakes in their designs for cities along the East Coast.
When a magnitude 5.8 earthquake struck Virginia in 2011, not only were numerous historical monuments in Washington, D.C. damaged, shaking was reported up and down the East Coast with tremors even reported in Canada.
There is no way to accurately predict when or where an earthquake may strike.
Some quakes will have a smaller earthquake precede the primary one. This is called a foreshock.
The problem is though, it’s difficult to say whether the foreshock is in fact a foreshock and not the primary earthquake. Only time will tell the difference.
The United State Geological Survey (USGS) is experimenting with early warning detection systems in the West Coast.
While this system cannot predict earthquakes before they occur, they can provide warning up to tens of seconds in advance that shaking is imminent. This could provide just enough time to find a secure location before the tremors begin.
Much like hurricanes, tornadoes, or snowstorms, earthquakes are a natural occuring phenomenon that we can prepare for.
The USGS provides an abundance of resources on how to best stay safe when the earth starts to quake.
Top US military leaders told a Senate committee hearing Thursday that Iran could produce a nuclear weapon in several months once a decision is made.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen Mark Milley testified before the Senate Defense Appropriations subcommittee, where they called for budgetary support in the face of Russian, Chinese and Iranian threats.
“Iran threatens to push the Middle East yet again into instability by supporting terrorists and proxy forces and they continue to improve the capability to produce a nuclear weapon,” Gen. Milley said.
“From the time of Iranian decision by the Supreme Leader, Iran could produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon in less than two weeks from time of decision. It will take several more months to produce an actual nuclear weapon. United States policy remains the same. United States remains committed that Iran will never have a nuclear weapon,” he added.
Gen. Milley at the time said that “the United States remains committed as a matter of policy that Iran will not have a fielded nuclear weapon.”
The term “fielded” led to questions about what the Biden administration’s policy exactly is regarding Iran becoming a nuclear power. Previously, President Joe Biden and all top officials had repeatedly said that US policy is not to allow the Islamic Republic to acquire a nuclear weapon, threatening that all options were on the table.
It was not clear what Gen. Milley meant by a “fielded” nuclear weapon. Did it mean the administration would allow Iran to build a bomb but not “field” it, which in essence is a vague concept.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (left) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen Mark Milley
Being a nuclear threshold state is a familiar concept, meaning that a country has the fissile material and the knowhow to build a nuclear bomb but has not decided to do so, but once a bomb is produced, it is not clear what the difference would be between a bomb in the basement and one “fielded.”
But in the Senate testimony on Thursday both Austin and Milley were clear that the administration is committed to prevent any Iranian nuclear weapon.
Secretary Austin in response to a question by Senator Susan Collins also emphasized that his responsibility is to present options to the President for making sure that the United States can prevent Iran from building a bomb.
Iran began to breach the low-level uranium enrichment it was allowed under the 2015 nuclear accord, the JCPOA, when former President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement and imposed economic sanctions in 2018. But Tehran accelerated the enrichment, stockpiling 20-percent and 60-percent enriched uranium once the Biden administration began talks in early 2021 to revive the JCPOA. Currently it is believed that Iran has enough enriched fissile material for 2-5 nuclear bombs.
Israel has repeatedly vowed to resort to military force to stop Iran from crossing the threshold and has reportedly been behind several sabotage attacks against Iran’s nuclear facilities since July 2020.
The US has expanded military cooperation with Israel and regional Arab states in the past two years, conducting large military drills with the Israeli armed forces in January.
The U.S. and UK launched a four-day bombing campaign against Iraq in December 1998, after then-U.S. President Bill Clinton accused Saddam Hussein of breaching commitments to the UN and developing weapons of mass destruction. As many as 1,400 Iraqi soldiers were killed in strikes on around 100 military facilities.
In the runup to the bombings, Blair was repeatedly told by his advisers that using force against Iraq would be illegal without a resolution from the UN Security Council, according to documents from the National Archives cited by Declassified UK.
Attorney General John Morris reportedly told Blair in November 1997 that obtaining a statement from the Security Council would be “an essential precondition” to military action, while Blair’s private secretary, John Holmes, told the prime minister that British law officers and Foreign Secretary Robin Cook had a “serious problem about using forces unless the Security Council declares that Iraq is in ‘material breach’ of previous resolutions.”
When the law officers refused to authorize the military to draw up targeting plans, Blair reportedly wrote to Holmes, stating that he found their argument “unconvincing.”
Blair continuously received warnings throughout 1998, the report alleged, with Cook’s private secretary writing to Holmes that February to warn that “the negative implications for international support if we resort to military action without a new resolution would be serious.”
When Blair announced military action to Parliament in November, he declared: “I have no doubt that we have the proper legal authority, as it is contained in successive Security Council Resolution documents.”
British officials claimed that a 1990 resolution authorizing UN members to force Hussein’s army out of Kuwait gave them permission to intervene again in Iraq, an argument that only the U.S., Japan, and Portugal supported.
According to the documents, Blair saw bombing Iraq as essential to maintaining his close relationship with Clinton. In a meeting with advisers in November, he supposedly said that failing to intervene would cause “extreme damage” to U.S.-UK relations. That same day, even as his own aides maintained that intervention was illegal, Blair told Clinton that the U.S. “could count on our support.”
More than a decade later, a public inquiry found that the legal case for the invasion was “far from satisfactory,” while then-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan maintained from the outset that the war was “illegal.”
BLAIR MISLED PARLIAMENT OVER 1998 IRAQ BOMBING, FILES SHOW — by Mark Curtis, editor of Declassified UK, and author of five books and many articles on UK foreign policy, said:
Blair’s dismissal of legal advice in 1998 likely set the stage for the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee warned that “acting against UN principles….is in the long term wholly contrary to our interests”.
Blair was motivated more by maintaining relations with the U.S. than by international law.
The report said:
Tony Blair and his closest advisers were consistently informed by British legal advisers in 1997 and 1998 that attacking Iraq would not be lawful – but still went ahead in authorising four days of bombing in December 1998.
The declassified British documents at the National Archives show Blair was already set on taking military action against Saddam Hussein’s regime throughout 1998 in the absence of legal arguments to justify it.
The Labour prime minister’s dismissal of legal objections to his 1998 bombing campaign – known as Operation Desert Fox – was a direct precursor to his stance over the invasion of Iraq five years later in 2003, which was also deemed illegal.
The four-day bombing campaign on Iraq from 16 to 19 December 1998 by the U.S. and British militaries sought to degrade Iraq’s ability to store and produce weapons of mass destruction.
U.S. president Bill Clinton was widely criticised for ordering the December bombing as a distraction from the ongoing impeachment proceedings against him over sexual harassment charges and his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
The report said:
The British files show Blair was told for over a year before the 1998 bombing that using force in Iraq would only be lawful if a new UN Security Council resolution were to be passed saying Saddam was in “material breach” of Iraq’s previous commitments.
Blair’s private secretary, John Holmes, informed his boss on 12 November 1997 that British law officers and foreign secretary Robin Cook “are convinced we have a serious problem about using force unless the Security Council declares that Iraq is in ‘material breach’ of previous resolutions. That may be unattainable.”
Holmes’ minute also indicated some of Blair’s own thinking.
He wrote to Blair: “The lawyers will also be inclined to fuss constantly about how far whatever force we use is related to Iraq’s offence and proportionate. Like you, I have doubts about how far international law can really be used in the way the lawyers want to use it… but it will be very hard to dismiss the legal arguments altogether”.
Holmes then added that “it is probably sensible to prepare to deploy British forces” but cautioned that “we will need a careful press line”.
Two days later, on 14 November, the prime minister was expressly told by John Morris, the Attorney General, that “an essential precondition” to using force would be a Security Council “statement”.
Morris’s only qualification was that “exceptional circumstances could arise” where the international community as a whole, in the absence of a statement, agreed that Iraq “had in effect repudiated the ceasefire and that a resort to force…was the only way to ensure compliance with the ceasefire conditions”.
Holmes, who went on to become an ambassador and then chair of the Electoral Commission, told Blair on the same day: “As I have said before, we can regard these legal arguments as misplaced but they cannot be ignored. The resignation of a Law Officer, if it came to that, would be pretty bad. They therefore need to be kept on board”.
But then he also added: “We must certainly try to consult them before we do anything serious, if at all possible, even if you have to override their views”.
‘Sound legal basis’
The report said:
As military planning to strike Iraq continued into 1998, ministers considered the legality of allowing U.S. aircraft to bomb the country using the British-occupied island of Diego Garcia, a military base in the Indian Ocean.
The Attorney General again wrote to Blair on 12 February reaffirming that “the lawfulness of attacking specific targets in Iraq also depends on there being a sound legal basis for the use of force”.
Michael Pakenham, the chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee, told Holmes: “The Law Officers are declining to give clearance to the targeting plans because, as set out in the Attorney General’s minute of 12 February to the prime minister, they do not feel that they are yet in a position to pronounce on the lawfulness of the overall operation”.
Pakenham then added: “it would be helpful if the prime minister could have a private word with the Law Officers”.
Blair penned a personal note to John Holmes on this bundle of papers, saying: “I still find the law officers advice unconvincing”.
He added: “There must at the very least be an argument that the S.C. [Security Council] has agreed there is a breach. The only issue is can we use force and why not if it is the only way to compliance.”
The report added:
Also on 12 February 1998, the Foreign Office’s legal adviser, Sir Franklin Berman, weighed in. He wrote to his department’s senior civil servant stating: “The only valid claim to employ force (in this case) is under the authority of the Security Council…My view is that a new resolution in suitable terms is a sina qua non”.
He added: “The Ministerial Code requires Ministers to comply with the law, including international law…I cannot believe that Ministers would wish to order British servicemen into action unless their legal advisers were able to assure them that it was legally justifiable”.
Blair was again told of the Foreign Office view two days later, on 14 February, in a meeting with his Solicitor-General Charles Falconer.
He told Blair that in the Foreign Office “some lawyers argued very strongly that it would be the first time since 1956 that the UK had used force without the backing of the Security Council Resolution” – referring to Britain’s ill-fated invasion of Egypt over Suez.
“Some lawyers might feel strongly enough to resign”, Falconer warned Blair, since they might be expected to implement decisions “that they believed were incompatible with international law”.
According to the minutes of the meeting, Blair replied saying “he could not believe that there was not an alternative case to be made, even if the issue was not clear-cut”.
Five days later, on 19 February, Blair, Cook and defence secretary George Robertson attended a briefing by Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) Sir Charles Guthrie and Air Marshal John Day on “targeting plans for operations against Iraq”.
The minutes note that the “CDS mentioned that he was worried about the legal side; he hoped this could be sorted quickly”.
The minutes then state: “The prime minister noted that the legal advice was that securing another SCR [Security Council Resolution] was preferable.”
It added: “The key issues, though, were whether Saddam was in breach of SCRs [Security Council resolutions] and whether force was a legitimate response to that breach…The prime minister concluded that…he did not want to have everything depending on securing a further Resolution”.
In fact, Blair had been told by then that a further resolution was essential, not preferable. His last comment implied that he would be prepared to use military force without such a resolution – which is indeed what happened later in the year.
One note in the bundle of papers – which is undated but likely to be from February 1998 – appears to be from officials ahead of a meeting between Blair and Attorney General John Morris. It suggests how Blair pressed Morris to legally justify the use of force.
Headlined “Speaking Notes for the Prime Minister: Iraq – The Legal Position”, it begins by saying: “I fully appreciate that the legal basis for use [sic] of military force against Iraq must be properly assessed before force is authorised”.
It refers to Morris’s memo of 14 November 1997 pointing out that it “helpfully indicated” there could be “exceptional circumstances” in which the use of force could be justified without a Security Council statement. It then says: “I trust that you can confirm now that my description of what would constitute ‘exceptional circumstances’ is correct”.
In the note, the justification for claiming that “exceptional circumstances” were prevailing was that Saddam Hussein was in breach of various Security Council resolutions – essentially, the argument Blair eventually relied on in attacking Iraq in December of that year.
The files that have been declassified do not appear to contain the minutes of that meeting.
‘The bottom line’
The problem for Blair and his officials – in 1998 as in 2003 – was that they knew UN member states, especially the permanent five on the Security Council, would not endorse a resolution citing a “material breach”.
As Cook’s principal private secretary, Dominick Chilcott, wrote to Holmes on 16 February 1998, neither France nor Russia would support such a resolution authorising the use of force. “The negative implications for international support if we resort to military action without a new resolution would be serious”, Chilcott warned.
None of this stopped Blair and military action appeared imminent by late February.
On 20 February, a top secret note written by David Fisher in the Cabinet Office noted the U.S. was “currently planning a 40 hour campaign involving several waves of attacks” including using cruise missiles and B52 bombers flying from Diego Garcia.
It was assumed the UK would participate: “We assess that of the 23 UK tactical aircraft involved in the operation we may lose one UK aircraft”, Fisher noted. Yet military action was not undertaken in February.
In July 1998, Michael Pakenham wrote a confidential note entitled “The Legal Use of Force”. He said the Foreign Office legal team was continuing to advise that “the bottom line remains that in most foreseeable circumstances, a Resolution of the UN Security Council is required before the use of such force can be authorised”.
He added that “acting against UN principles or without UNSCRs [UN Security Council resolutions] may in the short term meet some immediate need but is in the long term wholly contrary to our interests”.
‘Hard to avoid hitting him’
Tensions continued throughout 1998 and on 14 November Blair authorised striking Iraq but British and U.S. forces were stood down at the last minute as Saddam agreed to permit inspections.
“In my view, it is clear that Iraq would not have retreated from this confrontation unless it had been faced with the credible threat of force”, Blair wrote to his EU opposite numbers.
Just before Iraq’s climb-down, the prime minister had held a meeting with Cook, Robertson and Guthrie in which he affirmed: “The time had now come for military action to be taken against Iraq”.
There was no direct discussion of legal issues, according to the minutes of that meeting, except that it was agreed to justify the use of force “not because he [Saddam] was in technical breach of UN Resolutions but because he posed a real and imminent threat to peace and security in the region”.
This was a de facto acknowledgement that the threshold demanded by Britain’s legal advisers – new Security Council authorisation – had not been met.
A Cabinet Office note of 20 November 1998, less than a month before the bombings, stated that: “At present, the legal basis for military action in the event of further non-cooperation would rest on the Security Council’s ‘flagrant violation’ language in UNSCR [UN Security Council Resolution] 1205”.
This resolution was adopted at the UN on 5 November and condemned Iraq’s failure to act consistently with previous UN resolutions. It did not, however, authorise the use of force.
Blair wrote to former foreign secretary David Owen on 7 December, referring to the climbdown of 14 November saying: “If there is a next time, I will have no hesitation in ordering the use of force once again.”
In one of numerous telephone calls with Clinton in the following week, Blair told him on 11 December that “if he [Saddam] refused more inspections this weekend, it would be hard to avoid hitting him”.
Wave of attacks
Five days later, the U.S. and UK struck Iraq in a wave of air attacks. Almost 100 sites were attacked by U.S. and British aircraft, with cruise missiles fired from US navy ships and B-52 bombers.
The bombing was widely criticised. Even General Peter de la Billiere, a former head of the SAS who commanded British forces in the 1991 Gulf war, questioned the political impact of the bombing campaign, saying aerial bombardments were not effective in driving people into submission, but tend to make them more defiant.
When Blair announced military action to parliament on 17 November, he said: “I have no doubt that we have the proper legal authority, as it is contained in successive Security Council resolution documents”.
This was misleading as he had been consistently advised that further UN authorisation was needed permitting the use of force.
Thus British officials justified their action by claiming that other UN resolutions passed in 1998 revived the authorisation to use force provided in Resolution 678, a remnant of the Gulf War passed eight years earlier, in 1990.
But since these other resolutions did not explicitly authorise the use of force, the UK argument was a spurious one. The 1998 bombing was supported in the 15-member Security Council only by the U.S., Japan and Portugal.
Five years later, in 2003, the UK and U.S. relied on the same resolution – 678 – to justify their invasion when they again failed to secure a further Security Council resolution authorising the use of force.
The report said:
The files suggest Blair in 1998 was motivated more by maintaining relations with the U.S. than by upholding international law, as in 2003.
In a meeting with his senior advisers on 15 November 1998 the prime minister said that if the U.S. pressed ahead with military action against Iraq even after the initial climb-down, the UK should still participate “in view of the extreme damage that would otherwise be caused to U.S./UK relations”.
On the same day, Clinton told Blair on the phone that military action against Iraq “might have to be used”. Blair replied saying he agreed and that Clinton “could count on our support throughout”.
If Saddam was unwilling to cooperate, “we would have to enforce our will”, Blair said, adding “even if there were some differences between us on the legal front”.
This was significant in that the files show U.S. officials, unlike those in the UK, believed they had legal justification to strike Iraq. Blair was intimating to the U.S. president he was prepared to override British legal concerns.
Blair mentioned this to Clinton the day following legal advice from his Attorney General, John Morris, saying a Security Council statement was “an essential precondition” to using force.
By early 1998, as Washington and London were also close to striking Iraq, Blair told Solicitor-General Charles Falconer on 14 February that “it was inconceivable that we would refuse the Americans the use of the base at Diego Garcia. At the very least this had to be legally possible”.
Thirty years ago, I caught a fleeting glimpse out of the corner of my eye of a better future, a better America, a better world. It was not to be.
By William Astore
A photograph of the first detonation of a nuclear weapon, codenamed Trinity, on July 16, 1945. (AP Photo)
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com.
Iturn 60 this year. My health is generally good, though I have aches and pains from a form of arthritis. I’m not optimistic enough to believe that the best years of my life are ahead of me, nor so pessimistic as to assume that the best years are behind me. But I do know this, however sad it may be to say: The best years of my country are behind me.
Just over 30 years ago in 1992, a younger, still somewhat naïve version of Bill Astore visited Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico and the Trinity test site in Alamogordo where the first atomic device created at that lab, a plutonium “gadget,” was detonated in July 1945. At the time I took that trip, I was a captain in the US Air Force, co-teaching a course at the Air Force Academy on—yes, would you believe it?—the making and use of the atomic bombs that devastated the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end World War II. At the time of that visit, the Soviet Union had only recently collapsed, inaugurating what some believed to be a “new world order.” No longer would this country have to focus its energy on waging a costly, risky cold war against a dangerous nuclear-armed foe. Instead, we were clearly headed for an era in which the United States could both dominate the planet and become “a normal country in normal times.”
I was struck, however, by the anything-but-celebratory mood at Los Alamos then, though I really shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, budget cuts loomed. With the end of the Cold War, who needed LANL to design new nuclear weapons for an enemy that no longer existed? In addition, there was already an effective START treaty in place with Russia aimed at reducing strategic nuclear weapons instead of just limiting their growth.
At the time, it even seemed possible to imagine a gradual withering away of such great-power arsenals and the coming of a world liberated from apocalyptic nightmares. Bipartisan support for nuclear disarmament would, in fact, persist into the early 2000s, when then-presidential candidate Barack Obama joined old Cold War hawks like former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Senator Sam Nunn in calling for nothing less than a nuclear-weapons-free world.
And so those grim times at Los Alamos when I was a “child” of 30 have once again become boom times as I turn 60. The LANL budget is slated to expand like a mushroom cloud from $3.9 billion in 2021 to $4.1 billion in 2022, $4.9 billion in 2023, and likely to well over $5 billion in 2024. That jump in funding enables “upgrades” to the plutonium infrastructure at LANL. Meanwhile, some of America’s top physicists and engineers toil away there on new designs for nuclear warheads and bombs meant for one thing only: the genocidal slaughter of millions of their fellow human beings. (And that doesn’t even include all the other life forms that would be caught in the blast radii and radiation fallout patterns of those “gadgets.”)
The very idea of building more and “better” nuclear weapons should, of course, be anathema to us all. Once upon a time, I taught courses on the Holocaust after attending a teaching seminar at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Now, the very idea of modernizing our nuclear arsenal strikes me as the equivalent of developing upgraded gas chambers and hotter furnaces for Auschwitz. After all, that’s the infernal nature of nuclear weapons: they transform human beings into matter, into ash, killing indiscriminately and reducing us all to nothingness.
I still recall talking to an employee of Los Alamos in 1992 who assured me that, in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the lab would undoubtedly have to repurpose itself and find an entirely new mission. Perhaps, he said, LANL scientists could turn their expertise toward consumer goods and so help make America more competitive vis-à-vis Japan, which, in those days, was handing this country its lunch in the world of electronics. (Remember the Sony Walkman, the Discman, and all those Japanese-made VCRs, laser disc players, and the like?)
I nodded and left Los Alamos hopeful, thinking that the lab could indeed become a life-affirming force. I couldn’t help imagining then what this country might achieve if some of its best scientists and engineers devoted themselves to improving our lives instead of destroying them. Today, it’s hard to believe that I was ever so naïve.
His first reaction was one of fulfillment. The crash program to develop the bomb that he and his colleagues had devoted their lives to for nearly three years was indeed a success. His second, he said, was one of shock and awe. What have we done, he asked himself. What have we done? His final reaction: that it should never be done again, that such weaponry should never, ever, be used against our fellow humans.
And yet here we are, nearly 80 years after Trinity and our country is still devoting staggering resources and human effort to developing yet more “advanced” nuclear weapons and accompanying war plans undoubtedly aimed at China, North Korea, Russia, and who knows how many other alleged evildoers across the globe.
FIRE AND FURY LIKE THE WORLD HAS NEVER SEEN?
Perhaps now you can see why I say that the best years of my country are behind me. Thirty years ago, I caught a fleeting glimpse out of the corner of my eye (Pink Floyd again) of a better future, a better America, a better world. It was one where a sophisticated lab like Los Alamos would no longer be dedicated to developing new ways of exterminating us all. I could briefly imagine the promise of the post-Cold-War moment—that we would all get a “peace dividend”—having real meaning, but it was not to be.
And so, I face my sixtieth year on this planet with trepidation and considerable consternation. I marvel at the persuasive power of America’s military-industrial-congressional complex. In fact, consider it the ultimate Houdini act that its masters have somehow managed to turn nuclear missiles and bombs into stealth weapons—in the sense that they have largely disappeared from our collective societal radar screen. We go about our days, living and struggling as always, even as our overlords spend trillions of our tax dollars on ever more effective ways to exterminate us all. Indeed, at least some of our struggles could obviously be alleviated with an infusion of an extra $2 trillion over the coming decades from the federal government.
Instead, we face endless preparations for a planetary holocaust that would make even the Holocaust of World War II a footnote to a history that would cease to exist. The question is: What can we do to stop it?
The answer, I think, is simply to stop. Stop buying new nuclear stealth bombers, new ICBMs, and new ultra-expensive submarines. Reengage with the other nuclear powers to halt nuclear proliferation globally and reduce stockpiles of warheads. At the very least, commit to a no-first-use policy for those weapons, something our government has so far refused to do.
I’ve often heard the expression “the nuclear genie is out of the bottle,” implying that it can never be put back in again. Technology controls us, in other words.
If we were to reject nuclear weapons, to demand a measure of sanity and decency from our government, then maybe, just maybe, the best years of my country would still lie ahead of me, no matter my growing aches and pains on what’s left of my life’s journey.
Not to be morbid, but I suppose we all walk our own Jornada del Muerto. I’d like what’s left of mine to remain unlit by the incendiary glare of nuclear explosions. I’d prefer that my last days weren’t spent in a hardscrabble struggle for survival in a world cast into darkness and brutality by a nuclear winter. How about you?
Oorganized with great fanfare for the 70e anniversary of the security alliance between Washington and Seoul, the visit, at the end of April, to the United States of the conservative South Korean president, Yoon Seok-youl, did not dissipate the reciprocal distrust on military nuclear power. South Korea is worried about the deterioration of its security environment, North Korean nuclear development and tensions between Chinese, Russians and Americans. She hoped that Washington would agree to deploy atomic weapons on her soil for deterrence purposes, failing to let her develop her own arsenal.
Mr. Yoon and US President Joe Biden signed a “Washington Declaration” which provides for the creation of a “nuclear advisory group” to promote coordination on the deployment of US submarines, aircraft carriers and other bombers with nuclear capabilities. The objective is to enable South Korea to better understand the American concept of “extended deterrence” protecting her.
The initiative resembles the framework in place within NATO. It differs, however, in that it does not provide for the “nuclear sharing” desired by Seoul. And, in return for establishing the nuclear advisory group, Mr. Yoon pledged to abide by the obligations of the non-proliferation treaty and the U.S.-South Korea nuclear energy agreement. This amounts to renouncing to acquire a nuclear arsenal.
Read also: Article reserved for our subscribersIn the shadow of the United States, Japan and South Korea operate a rapprochement in the fields of security and the economy
“The positions of MM. Yoon and Biden do not reassure”responded the South Korean conservative daily Chosun Ilbo. They are “the product of the distrust that reigns between South Korea and the United States”adds Lee Je-hun, analyst of the center-left daily Hankyoreh.
The failure of reconciliation
This distrust is old since, in the 1970s, the United States, fearing an arms race, had blocked the inclinations of the authoritarian president, Park Chung-hee (1961-1979), to launch a nuclear development program. Mr. Park feared an abandonment by the American ally, in the wake of the rapprochement between Washington and Beijing and the withdrawal from Vietnam – where South Korean forces had fought at the request of the United States. At the same time, the US Congress was increasingly critical of its disastrous human rights record.
Also read the analysis: North Korea: With more frequent and longer-range missile launches, the threat from Pyongyang has increased tenfold since 1984
The question of the nuclear development of South Korea – now democratic – resurfaces in the midst of the crisis on the peninsula and against a backdrop of tensions in East Asia. The dialogue is at a standstill with Pyongyang, which is chaining missile fire and getting closer to Moscow and Beijing – Chinese and North Koreans having also strongly criticized the “Washington declaration”.
On Wednesday alone, nearly 300 projectiles were launched from Gaza at the Jewish state a day after 15 people, including three Islamic Jihad leaders, were killed by Israeli air strikes, IDF international spokesman Richard Hecht said.
The barrage came amid heightened tensions following the death of PIJ spokesman Khader Adnan after an 87-day hunger strike.
Islamist terror group Palestinian Jihad is operating alone, Hecht claimed in a press briefing.
Despite “rumours” of the involvement of other groups, he said, the IDF were solely focused on the PIJ.
Professor Kobi Michael, however, who previously ran the Palestinian desk at Israel’s Ministry for Strategic Affairs, said he assumed “everything” done by the Islamic Jihad was happening with Hamas’s permission.
“I assess that Hamas is also participating in this stage as well, not in a very broad or big scale but I think Hamas participates if not directly then indirectly,” he said.
“Hamas provides the PIJ with rockets, with military capacities and facilities and enables the PIJ to use them as if they were launched by the PIJ to distance the Hamas from this in order to minimise the Israeli retaliation against Hamas.
“But I do believe Hamas is not only in the picture but Hamas also assists the PIJ in indirect measures.”
“Hamas understand they have to help the PIJ to retaliate, not only to enable the PIJ to retaliate but to give the impression to the Palestinian constituency that Hamas even supported the PIJ and participated in the retaliation under the slogan of… the unity of the factions,” he said.
“We have to remember what is the strategic end state of Hamas. Hamas understands that in order to reach its strategic end state they have to ensure they remain the spearhead of the armed resistance against Israel, not the PIJ.”
Iran, which sponsors both Hamas and the PIJ, has encouraged the two groups to unite to fight Israel, dissident media outlet Iran International reported.
“Hamas provides the PIJ with rockets, with military capacities and facilities and enables the PIJ to use them as if they were launched by the PIJ to distance the Hamas from this in order to minimise the Israeli retaliation against Hamas,” Michael said.
“They hailed Imran Khan as the leader of Islamic world and now they want to protect that leader. The same army that brought him to power is now being targeted by his followers. What worries me is the nuclear warheads that are left unsupervised in Pakistan,” Habiba Marhoon, an aide to former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani who witnessed firsthand Pakistan’s subversive role in Afghanistan, told 19Fortyfive.
Riots Across Pakistan
This week’s rioting spread to dozens of cities across the country — from Lahore in the north, to Karachi in the south, and Peshawar in the west.
Social-media posts showed that rioters torched the home of Gen. Faisal Naseer, the head of Pakistan’s infamous Inter-Services Intelligence Agency. The ISI has been the leading pillar of support for the Afghan Taliban and other militant Islamist organizations.
“ISI’s Major-General Faisal Naseer tried to kill me twice,” Khan said Tuesday in a press statement released by his political party, Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). “He is also involved in the killing of (TV anchor) Arshad Sharif. He also stripped my party Senator Azam Swati naked and inflicted severe torture on him.”
The violence spread to cities across the country. PTI members organized demonstrations via social media.
“It’s your time, people of Pakistan. Khan has always stood for you, now it’s time to stand for him,” Reuters reported PTI as having said as it announced its “shut down Pakistan campaign.”
In Lahore, PTI members burned commercial buildings and the personal home of Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
Pakistani government forces fired on rioters in the town of Bannu, a former Taliban stronghold, and in Gujranwala, near Lahore. PTI’s Twitter account claimed that police opened fire on demonstrators in Pakistan’s third-largest city, Faisalabad, killing one person and injuring another.
Twelve people were reported killed in Quetta.
Potential for Total Breakdown
“A political red line was crossed in Pakistan with the arrest of Imran Khan, with thousands of his partisans protesting on the streets in storming government and police offices,” geopolitical expert Walid Phares told 19Fortyfive. “The line crossed is not about officials, including prime ministers, arrested for corruption charges. These are often-witnessed scenes in Pakistan. The red line crossed is about timing, balance of power, and triggers to a major potential breakdown in the country.”
Phares continued: “Khan is a popular leader, has large popular masses behind him and is liked by … establishment crowds. But more important is the possibility that Islamist parties and jihadists take advantage of the social breakdown to shift the balance of power.”