I tip my hat to the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, OREPA for short. That organization is calling attention to what East Tennessee has become a party to--the modernization of the world's deadliest nuclear weapons--fuel for which is even now being processed and stored in the town of Oak Ridge, TN, for making future weapons. In an age of moral and political incoherence, OREPA and its allies across the country and around the world offer a way out of the nuclear nightmare, if they can convince enough of their fellow human beings to join the cause.
Toward that end members will read aloud a landmark legal document at 4 p.m. Saturday, July 8, in the courtyard at the University of Tennessee Law School, 1505 Cumberland Avenue, about a block east of the old pedestrian bridge so familiar to Vol fans.
July 8 marks the 10th anniversary of the International Court of Justice (World Court) advisory opinion that "the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and… of humanitarian law." The World Court also advised that the maintenance and building of nuclear weapons is a violation of Article VI of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. In the Court's view, "elimination of nuclear weapons is the only adequate response to the dilemma and risks posed by the nuclear age."
Not only is the United States in violation of that treaty, we violate our own Constitution, which asserts—also in Article VI, coincidentally--that "all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every state shall be bound thereby…."
These precepts are clear enough for any sixth-grader to grasp and yet our national policy toward nukes is wildly out of compliance and lacks any consistency. In short, it's a train wreck brought about by false starts, illegal initiatives and disastrous impulses. Consider:
* In the current issue of New Yorker magazine, Seymour Hersh documents how our top active generals had to stage an internal “revolt” three months ago to prevent our president and vice-president from including dropping a nuclear bomb on Iran as part of our contingency plans for dealing with that country.
* Instead, for the time being we're encouraging negotiations between European nations and Iran. One of the enticements Europe is offering Iran is a light-water nuclear reactor, the same sort the Bush administration criticized Bill Clinton for offering North Korea. When the deal went down, however, none other than Donald Rumsfeld sat on the board of directors of the company that designed the North Korean reactors, according to the May 9, 2003, issue of The Guardian.
* We recently signed a pledge to provide a continuing stream of nuclear fuel to India—fuel that could be turned into weapons-grade materials--even though India actually did what Iran only threatens. The predictable result, according to many, will be a nuclear arms race involving India, Pakistan, China, North Korea and others.
* We bombed, invaded and occupied Iraq based on “false intelligence” that Saddam Hussein was on the verge of building nuclear weapons, but when it comes to North Korea, which is actually firing off real missiles, we've decided multi-lateral negotiations are the way to go.
* We're selling nuclear energy programs at home and abroad through tax incentives and other enticements, while responding like a drunken sailor—with threats, bribes, insults, winks and nods--to nations who use such technologies—surprise--to build weapons.
* We wink at our biggest ally in the Middle East, Israel, which harbors nukes while claiming not to, even as we threaten to bomb Israel's enemies for trying to join the club.
* Meanwhile, silently ticking away are thousands of leftover Soviet nukes waiting to be purchased on the black market. Tantalizing reports in a variety of sources suggest that Valerie Plame, the CIA agent outed by the Bush / Cheney administration, made a career trying to prevent such black market deals. More on this later.
* By far the most glaring inconsistency in our nuclear policy is the gap between what we say and what we do. While it's true we're dismantling hundreds of aging nuclear weapons of uncertain reliability, we're recycling much of that material in preparation for building a new arsenal, if Bush's many plans go through.
* There's ample reason to suspect our current leadership is hell-bent on using nuclear weapons even before Bush leaves office.
If you can find the thread of a coherent or consistent U.S. nuclear policy in the above list I'd love to hear about it. To me, it amounts to a formula for spreading nuclear know-how and materials, with a radioactive world as the inevitable end result.
To get an idea of OREPA's nuclear philosophy, however, run the film in reverse. These outspoken people believe we can and should begin putting the nuclear genie back in the bottle by applying US and international law as a funnel for accomplishing just that. More power to them.