France still stiffing nuclear test victims

Johnny Magdaleno reported extensively on France’s failure to compensate involuntary civilian test subjects in a piece for Al Jazeera America headlined “Algerians suffering from French atomic legacy, 55 years after nuke tests”

If you thought U.S. nuclear tests were bad (and they were), the French nuclear tests make them look like a paragon of ethics by comparison. The U.S. did battlefield nuclear tests on soldiers near fake towns/farms in the desert and tests near island populations in the Pacific. The French just rounded up Algerians and tested nukes near existing villages. Many people weren’t even warned that there would be testing happening nearby and some went blind from the flash(es). 27,000-60,000 Algerians were affected by atmospheric and underground nuclear weapons tests, directly and over time from subsequent effects.

Then, after French military activities ended (shortly after Algeria’s independence from mainland France), the military lightly buried all the contaminated equipment (leaving it to unsuspecting local salvagers) and relocated tests to French Polynesia, much like U.S. tests in/near the Marshall Islands, with similarly devastating effects to islanders.

The United States has at least been making extensive compensation payouts to troops and civilians for decades, while France — as the article details — has barely paid out anything for anyone, to date, despite admitting to responsibility for injuring/harming tens of thousands of people.

Additionally, according to Wikipedia, the 1961 French testing in Algeria may have been responsible for the USSR — and in turn the United States — ending an informal moratorium on atmospheric testing, thus causing scores more nuclear weapons to be unleashed on the planet and escalating tensions ahead of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

January 21, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy 114

AFD-logo-470

Topics: Republican State Attorneys General, the NYPD mutiny, US-Russian relations. People: Bill, Nate, Sasha. Produced: January 19th, 2015.

Discussion Points:

– How are Republican Attorneys General helping corporations fight common sense regulation?
– Is the NYPD beyond the control of the people of New York City and Mayor De Blasio?
– The end of nuclear partnership: When should the US view Russian actions as threatening versus posturing?

Episode 114 (52 min)
AFD 114

Related links
Segment 1

AFD, by Sasha: State Attorneys General are ruining the Earth. Literally.
NYT: Energy Firms in Secretive Alliance With Attorneys General

Segment 2

AFD: NYC: Overwhelming opposition to the NYPD mutiny
The Globalist, by Bill: New York: De Blasio Vs. a Renegade Police Department
AFD: The NYPD: America’s Secret Police
AFD, by De Ana: #BlackLivesMatter means just that, not that police lives don’t
Reuters: Off duty, black cops in New York feel threat from fellow police

Segment 3

Boston Globe: Russia ends US nuclear security alliance
The Globalist: Kaliningrad: Achilles’ Heel for the West

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And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.

Nunn-Lugar “Loose Nukes” agreements are over with Russia

The Boston Globe broke the story today on the suspension of Nunn–Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction:

In the previously undisclosed discussions, the Russians informed the Americans that they were refusing any more US help protecting their largest stockpiles of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium from being stolen or sold on the black market. The declaration effectively ended one of the most successful areas of cooperation between the former Cold War adversaries.

“I think it greatly increases the risk of catastrophic terrorism,” said Sam Nunn, the former Democratic senator from Georgia and an architect of the “cooperative threat reduction” programs of the 1990s.

Official word came in a terse, three-page agreement signed on Dec. 16. A copy was obtained by the Globe, and a description of the Moscow meeting was provided by three people who attended the session or were briefed on it. They declined to be identified for security reasons.
[…]
On hand for the Moscow meeting were nearly four dozen of the leading figures on both sides who have been working to safeguard the largest supplies of the world’s deadliest weapons, according to the three-page agreement.

The group included officials from the US Department of Energy, its nuclear weapons labs, the Pentagon, and the State Department, and a host of Russian officials in charge of everything from dismantling nuclear submarines to arms control.

Specialists said the final meeting was a dismaying development in a joint effort that the United States has invested some $2 billion in and had been a symbol of the thaw between East and West and of global efforts to prevent the spread of doomsday weapons. An additional $100 million had been budgeted for the effort this year and many of the programs were envisioned to continue at least through 2018.

 
Former Senator Nunn also expressed strong concern about Russia’s budgetary ability to continue the programs without US assistance, particularly given current economic conditions with falling oil prices and sanctions.

Reciprocal nuclear arsenal inspections will continue, however, along with cooperation on trying to prevent dirty bombs (i.e. radioactive material dispersed by conventional explosives) from being produced by non-state actors.

Senators Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar leaving the White House after briefing President George H. W. Bush on the Nunn-Lugar legislation (1991). (US government photo via Wikimedia)

Senators Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar leaving the White House after briefing President George H. W. Bush on the Nunn-Lugar legislation (1991). (US government photo via Wikimedia)

US alleges long-running Russian missile test violations (and more)

Last night headlines began flashing that the United States was accusing Russia of testing nuclear missiles. The less abbreviated version of the news was that the U.S. government was publicly saying Russia had been violating a 1987 treaty banning the testing of ground-launched cruise missiles in a certain range class with nuclear capabilities (which is not at all the same thing as “testing nuclear missiles”).

Russia tested a ground-launched cruise missile, breaking the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed in 1987 during the Cold War, the US said. A senior US official did not provide further details on the alleged breach, but described it as “very serious”.

The bilateral agreement banned medium-range missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 km (300 to 3,400 miles). The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was a landmark Cold War agreement. It essentially eliminated an entire, and highly controversial, class of nuclear weapons. For that reason, it still has resonance.

 
Digging further into the articles it became even more complicated:

This is the first time the US government has made its accusations public, though the issue has simmered for years, the BBC’s Paul Blake in Washington reports.

In January, the New York Times reported that US officials believed Russia had began testing ground-launched cruise missiles as early as 2008. The US State Department had said at the time that the issue was under review.

 
In other words, this is not new information on a new activity, but rather a new announcement of old information on a long-running activity. In all likelihood, the information was suppressed until now for the benefit of maintaining cordial relations as far as possible. (Keep the timeline in mind when Republicans inevitably claim Obama’s purported “weakness” is somehow to blame for this development: These disallowed Russian missile tests were apparently happening since the George W. Bush Administration.)

However, good relations between the United States and Russia have gone completely out the window following the invasion and annexation of Crimea this year and Russian separatist activities in eastern and southern Ukraine. So, this announcement — while still somewhat serious — was probably just timed to accompany new sanctions and other accusations against Russia in the aftermath of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 by Russian-backed rebels.

Other U.S. accusations this week include claims, with somewhat disputed YouTube videos and much less disputed satellite surveillance imagery, that somebody has been firing rockets at Ukrainian military positions from just inside Russia’s borders. It’s not clear whether Russia simply failed to learn the lesson about Uncle Sam’s eye-in-the-sky from Adlai Stevenson taking the Soviets to the United Nations woodshed during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis…

…or whether the insurgency accidentally wandered a few miles across the border with a bunch of mobile rocket launchers, given that the border in the area seems to just be vaguely in the middle of some farm fields.

Images provided by the U.S. State Department. (NPR article)

Images provided by the U.S. State Department and U.S. Director of National Intelligence. (NPR article)

The images are attributed to the U.S. Director of National Intelligence and were taken between July 21 and July 26, officials say — days after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

According to The Associated Press, they “claim to show multiple rocket launchers fired at Ukrainian forces from within Ukraine and from Russian soil. One image shows dozens of craters around a Ukrainian military unit and rockets that can travel more than 7 miles.”

 
Meanwhile, both pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine and the Ukrainian military have been accused by human rights organizations of using highly inaccurate short-range grad rockets against populated areas, in a violation of the laws of wars (because they’re likelier to hit civilians than military targets, even where there are legitimate targets).

One heartbeat away

In 2008, John McCain picked the person who said this today on the Crimea crisis, to be his next-in-line as president of the United States: “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a nuke is a good guy with a nuke.”

Let’s just take a moment to give silent thanks that we don’t live in the other universe, where that ticket won.

AFD 65 – Iran, Central Africa, DOMA

Latest Episode:
“AFD 65 – Iran, Central Africa, DOMA”
Posted: Tues, 26 November 2013

Guest co-host Greg joins Bill to assess the Iranian nuclear deal, the chaos in Central African Republic, and recent developments on LGBT rights in America.

Relevant links:
Iran deal…
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/25/world/middleeast/with-iran-accord-obama-opens-mideast-door.html

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_world_/2013/11/25/iran_nuclear_deal_will_saudi_arabia_now_seek_a_nuclear_program_of_its_own.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-24823846

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_reckoning/2013/11/24/israeli_stock_market_reaches_record_high_share_prices_love_iranian_nuclear.html

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2013/11/24/israel_salls_iran_nuclear_deal_a_historic_failure.html

Central African Republic…
http://thinkprogress.org/security/2013/11/19/2940251/central-african-republic-chaos/

http://thinkprogress.org/security/2013/11/21/2981151/car-coup-tiring/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-24986275

LGBT Rights in America…
http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2013/11/19/2970531/oklahoma-national-guard/

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/11/24/scott-walker-same-sex-marriage-ban-is-part-of-a-healthy-balance-of-lgbt-rights/

http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/local/gov-jay-nixon-says-he-supports-legalizing-gay-marriage/article_6c271bde-4d72-11e3-92c7-001a4bcf6878.html

Op-Ed: Rohani’s Presidential Pulpit

This op-ed originally appeared in The Globalist.

Any Iranian president is limited in his capacity to enact reforms. Why? Because all policies are ultimately approved or denied by the country’s religious authorities.

But the presidential bully pulpit is still more powerful than it seems at first glance.

Outgoing conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, no matter how powerless he became at home, proved that a determined Iranian president could still make a splash on the world stage.

While policy is under the purview of the theocrats in Tehran, the power of words, when wielded by a compelling orator, can still outmaneuver the nominal boundary lines of power.

Ahmadinejad was an incompetent leader domestically and given to wildly overblown rhetoric worldwide, but he made a lasting impression. He became the embodiment of the boogeyman that Iran’s biggest enemies had long warned of.

Words have power. Regardless of Iran’s actual military capacities, infamous comments from the president like those about wiping Israel “off the map” were the gift that kept on giving for the Bomb-Iran-Now lobby in Jerusalem and Washington throughout his eight years in office.

In fact, such comments were one reason Ahmadinejad became persona non grata at home with the true power center of the regime. His over-reaching threats went beyond the ruling clerics’ wishes and backed Iran into a corner.

While bombs did not rain down, economic sanctions did. Ahmadinejad was defeating Iran’s regime himself.

These sanctions have brought the Iranian economy to a breaking point.

This has severely undermined the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic in the eyes of its citizens and helped strengthen the reform movement that put Hassan Rohani over the top in this month’s election.

There’s a key disjunction between the reality and Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric, of course.

The bravado of Iran’s president painted the nation as a constant, existential threat to its Arab neighbors, to Israel, to southern Europe and even to Iran’s own friends — regardless of real capacity.

We don’t know for sure how close Iran is to being able to make and deploy a nuclear weapon, but for nearly eight years, the advocates of bombing Iran have never really had to make this case. They merely had to point to the fighting words of Iran’s own president.

Clearly, since Iran still doesn’t have the bomb now, it’s not as if Tel Aviv had been just weeks away from a mushroom cloud, say, five years ago. But one would have thought so between the Israeli and U.S. hawks and Ahmadinejad’s bluster.

Which brings us to Iran’s next president, Hassan Rohani.

Aside from his reform leanings on the home front, which may never come to pass, he’s best known for being Iran’s top nuclear program negotiator in the reform administration of Mohammad Khatami.

In that role, he was generally seen as far more conciliatory than the string of negotiators who followed under the Ahmadinejad administration — and certainly more so than the outgoing president himself.

The Iranian people and the hard-line theocrats alike support nuclear development as a matter of sovereignty and independence from Western interference.

But they also recognize that belligerency on the issue has brought only misery and the constant risk of attack.

Now would be a good time for a conciliatory approach and a fresh start in nuclear talks with the West.

Hassan Rohani seems to be the man for the job of resetting Iran’s foreign image and stance.

He can thread the high-stakes needle of being diplomatic and open to compromise while also standing firmly (but not aggressively) behind a civilian nuclear development program.

Rhetoric paired with reality is strongest, but rhetoric alone, even separated from reality, can be powerful too — especially if people still believe the two are linked.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s globetrotting, Holocaust-denying, nihilist ranting proved that. Ayatollah Khamenei and the Guardian Council could keep him away from real power at home, but they could never shut him up on the world stage.

Toward the end of his administration, he likely didn’t even have control over any actual strategic or tactical military decisions or other real foreign policy.

The Revolutionary Guard Corps, allied to the Supreme Leader and not the president, saw to that.

But to Iran’s enemies, whatever propaganda came from the president’s lips could be spun as accurate representations of Iran’s plans and capabilities beyond its borders.

This was a particularly easy sell given the murkiness of Iran’s inner workings for non-expert Americans watching Sunday morning news panels on TV.

If Rohani wants to have a big impact as Iran’s president, his best bet is to use the power of rhetoric to re-shape Iran’s global and regional posture. In doing so, he could ease the pressure of sanctions and spare Iran from war. That’s where he can make a big difference.

If a disempowered fanatical blowhard can, with the power of his speeches alone, make Iran appear to be an imminent horseman of the nuclear apocalypse, then a disempowered reformist who wants reconciliation with the West can use friendlier rhetoric to climb Iran back down off the ledge.

In a mosque, the minbar, or pulpit, is generally designed to raise the visibility of the person speaking and naturally amplify his voice for the audience.

Hassan Rohani may never have full policy control over Iran’s international affairs and he will very likely have little policy control at home, but he still has the power of the presidential bully pulpit if he chooses to use it.

Like a minbar, the Iranian presidency raises the holder’s profile and amplifies his message, even if it might have no other inherent authority.

What is done with that limited, but real, rhetorical power is up to the man in office and how good he is with words.

But seizing the metaphorical presidential pulpit to reset diplomatic relations — with or without the Supreme Leader — would be a fitting result from the only candidate in this year’s field who was actually also a cleric and knows his way around a real pulpit.

This op-ed originally appeared in The Globalist. It was moved here in November 2013.