Material used in part for 9-6-07; loose nukes, the draft
Well, look at that, we’re coming up on the anniversary of September 11th,the day we all mourn the 200,000 people who have been lost since that day to alcohol poisoning. No, it’s the 250,000 who have died in car accidents. No that can’t be right, it must be the 300,000 who died of Alzheimer’s or the 3.6 million that died of heart attacks. Oh I’m forgetting, it’s the THREE thousand that died in the buildings that are more dead than anyone else.
As it happens, I did a talk show yesterday morning here on KBOO, and I opened with then-breaking news that the Pentagon had made a goof with some nuclear weapons. As I have been featuring discussions on the possibility, or indeed probability, of further false-flag operations from this most devious and mendacious of Administrations, the matter requires further inquiry.
Nukes on a Plane
….News reports revealed …[yesterday] that, in what can only be described as an unbelievable blunder, Air Force personnel allowed a B-52 bomber to fly from North Dakota to Louisiana last week armed with nuclear cruise missiles. The incident has provoked a massive response from top officials: Defense Secretary Gates and President Bush were notified, an investigation was launched, disciplinary action taken against the Air Force personnel involved, an inventory is underway of all Air Force nuclear weapons, and there will be a halting of all fighter and bomber flights on Sept. 14.
The incident also raises the question of exactly when, where, and under what conditions US aircraft are allowed to be armed with nuclear weapons. Retired Air Force Major General Don Shepperd remarked in a CNN report on the story that "...the United States had agreed in a Cold War-era treaty not to fly nuclear weapons. 'It appears that what happened was this treaty agreement was violated,' he said."
The CNN report isn't clear on what "Cold War-era treaty" he's referencing. However, an article from the Global Security Newswire provides a more in-depth and convincing explanation:
The risk of flying accidents, however, led the United States to abandon all nuclear-armed bomber flights in 1968, according to Hans Kristensen, a nuclear weapons expert with the Federation of American Scientists.
Until then, the Air Force kept about 12 strategic bombers in the air at all times, with each one usually carrying two to four nuclear gravity bombs. Several accidents occurred (see GSN, June 20, 2005), including a crash in Spain in 1966 and then a crash at an air base in Greenland on Jan. 21, 1968. The plane’s nuclear weapons did not explode in the latter incident, but their radioactive fissile material was dispersed at the crash site.
Defense Secretary Robert McNamara that day ordered the grounding of all nuclear-armed aircraft, a policy that has continued for four decades. Instead of flying with nuclear weapons, armed bombers were kept on alert on the ground with flight crews nearby to enable the planes to take off within minutes, if necessary.
In 1991, President George H.W. Bush reduced the bomber alert status further by ordering nuclear weapons to be removed from the aircraft and kept in nearby storage facilities.
……..-- John Pruett
Commander disciplined for nuclear mistake
By Michael Hoffman - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Sep 5, 2007 19:26:41 EDT
The Air Force continued handing out disciplinary actions in response to the six nuclear warheads mistakenly flown on a B-52 Stratofortress bomber from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., to Barksdale Air Force Base, La., on Aug. 30. The squadron commander in charge of Minot’s munitions crews was relieved of all duties pending the investigation.
It was originally reported that five nuclear warheads were transported, but officers who tipped Military Times to the incident who have asked to remain anonymous since they are not authorized to discuss the incident, have since updated that number to six.
Air Force and defense officials would not confirm the missiles were armed with nuclear warheads Wednesday, citing longstanding policy, but they did confirm the Air Force was “investigating an error made last Thursday during the transfer of munitions” from Minot to Barksdale.
The original plan was to transport non-nuclear Advanced Cruise Missiles, mounted on the wings of a B-52, to Barksdale as part of a Defense Department effort to decommission 400 of the ACMs. It was not discovered that the six missiles had nuclear warheads until the plane landed at Barksdale, leaving the warheads unaccounted for during the approximately 3 1/2 hour flight between the two bases, the officers said.
President Bush was immediately alerted to the mistake and the Air Force launched a service-wide investigation headed by Maj. Gen. Douglas Raaberg, director of Air and Space Operations at Air Combat Command Headquarters, said Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Ed Thomas.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has requested daily briefings from Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley on the progress of the probe. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., a member of the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee, requested a full classified briefing, not just the preliminary information being provided to lawmakers, to explain how a mistake of this magnitude could have happened.
Thomas said the transfer was conducted safely and the American public was never in any danger since the weapons were in Air Force custody and control at all times.
But few critics were placated Wednesday by the Air Force’s reassurances.
“Nothing like this has ever been reported before and we have been assured for decades that it was impossible,” said Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass, co-chair of the House Bi-partisan Task Force.
Non-proliferation treaty experts said the Air Force didn’t violate any international nuclear treaties by transporting the nuclear warheads on the B-52, but it was the first time since 1968 that it’s been known publicly that nuclear warheads were transported on a U.S. bomber.
After six nuclear-armed B-52s crashed from 1959-1968, the Defense Department ordered all bombers off nuclear airborne alert. The policy change occurred after a B-52 crashed in Greenland in January 1968, dropping three nuclear warheads on the island and one into the ocean.
As a gesture to Russia and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the first Bush administration took it one step farther in 1991 by ordering all bombers to halt nuclear ground alerts, which allowed bomber crews to practice loading a nuclear warhead, but never taking off with one.
The Defense Department does transport nuclear warheads by air, but instead of bombers it uses C-17 or C-130 cargo aircraft.
“These reports are deeply disturbing,” said Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. “The American people, our friends, and our potential adversaries must be confident that the highest standards are in place when it comes to our nuclear arsenal.”
Nuclear weapon experts said they were shocked to find out how completely command and control over the six nuclear warheads failed to allow such a mistake to occur.
Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, said a host of security checks and warning signs must have been passed over, or completely ignored, for the warheads to have been unknowingly loaded onto the B-52.
ACMs are specifically designed to carry a W80-1 nuclear warhead with a yield of 5 to 150 kilotons and delivered by B-52 strategic bombers.
“It’s not like they had nuclear ACMs and conventional ACMs right next to each other and they just happened to load one with a nuclear warhead,” Kristensen said.
The Defense Department uses a computerized tracking program to keep tabs on each one of its nuclear warheads, he said. For the six warheads to make it onto the B-52, each one would have had to be signed out of its storage bunker and transported to the bomber. Diligent safety protocols would then have had to been ignored to load the warheads onto the plane, Kristensen said.
All ACMs loaded with a nuclear warhead have distinct red signs distinguishing them from ACMs without a nuclear yield, he said. ACMs with nuclear warheads also weigh significantly more than missiles without them.
“I just can’t imagine how all of this happened,” said Philip Coyle, a senior adviser on nuclear weapons at the Center for Defense Information. “The procedures are so rigid; this is the last thing that’s supposed to happen.”
The risk of the warheads falling into the hands of rogue nations or terrorists was minimal since the weapons never left the United States, said Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, an independent research and policy think tank in Washington D.C.
At no time was there a risk for a nuclear detonation, even if the B-52 crashed on its way to Barksdale, said Steve Fetter, a former Defense Department official who worked on nuclear weapons policy in 1993-94. A crash would ignite the high explosives associated with the warhead, and possibly cause a leak of plutonium, but the warhead’s elaborate safeguards would prevent a nuclear detonation from occurring, he said.
Air Combat Command will have a command-wide mission stand-down Sept. 14 to review its procedures in response to the mistake. Even units without oversight of nuclear weapons will take part in the stand-down, Thomas said.
“The Air Force takes its mission to safeguard weapons seriously,” he said. “No effort will be spared to ensure that the matter is thoroughly and completely investigated.”
Along with the 5th Munitions Squadron commander, the munitions crews involved in mistakenly loading the nuclear warheads at Minot have been temporarily decertified from performing their duties involving munitions, pending corrective actions or additional training, Thomas said.
The error comes after the Air Force announced last March the 5th Bomb Wing won two servicewide safety awards during fiscal year 2006.
“This is really shocking,” Coyle said. “The Air Force can’t tolerate it, and the Pentagon can’t tolerate it, either.”
UNBELIEVABLE. I’m not sure where to begin. I’m outraged and embarrassed! Back in 1979 we had to sign for nuclear weapons verifying serial numbers, the security folks posted two man guards at the aircraft, the cops enforced two man maintenance crews access to aircraft, the 781s are annotated, maintenance job control was informed, the wing command post was informed, weapons were moved in armed convoy, etc. How were the weapons removed from storage? Who was guarding the weapons military troopers or contractors? How were they transported to the aircraft? How were the aircraft forms updated? How was the chain of custody broken? Did the flight crew and munitions maintenance OICs verify weapons status? What the hell happened here? This is dereliction of duty, Wing CC, DCM, OMS/CC Munitions Sq/CC, Security Sq Commander and a lot of other folks should be going to jail, today !!!!!!!!!!!! Maybe we have too many fighter pilots as generals. Maybe we need to split Air Combat Command back to the cold war days of SAC and TAC.
By Barry Grey
6 September 2007
Timed to coincide with the reconvening of Congress and the renewal of the fraudulent official “debate” on the Iraq war, Time magazine has published an edition with a cover story entitled “The Case for National Service.”
The coincidence is hardly accidental. It underscores the political fact that behind the squabbling between the Bush administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress over the best means for ensuring “success’ in Iraq, there is a growing consensus within the American ruling elite and both of its parties in favor of reinstituting a military draft.
It is increasingly clear that the issue is not whether, but when to revive the system of conscription required to dragoon sufficient numbers of young men and women to sustain the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and provide cannon fodder for the even more bloody military adventures to follow—what President Bush likes to call “the wars of the 21st century.”
Looming over the current maneuvering in Congress regarding Bush’s request for an additional $200 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—a request that the Democratic leadership has already signaled it will comply with—are the administration’s preparations to extend the war into Iran. All of the leading contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination have explicitly declared that they would not take the “military option” against Iran off of the table.
The current issue of Time, dated September 10, features on its cover a picture meant to be a contemporary version of “Rosie the Riveter,” the World War II image of working class women who manned the arms factories while their husbands, fathers and brothers fought in Europe and Asia.
It sets the tone for the cynical effort of the magazine and its managing editor, Richard Stengel, who authored the article, to formulate the outlines of a propaganda offensive that will appeal to patriotic, democratic and idealistic sentiments in support of a program of civic-minded “national service,” behind which lurks the revival of the draft for the first time since 1973, during the Vietnam War.
Stengel begins by invoking the birth of the American Republic and argues that what he calls universal national service is the only means of overcoming the social and political malaise of US society and the alienation of broad masses of Americans from the government and all official institutions.
“[F]ree societies do not stay free without the involvement of their citizens,” he writes, adding, “The last time we demanded anything else from people [other than voting and paying taxes] was when the draft ended in 1973.”
“When Americans look around right now,” he continues, “they see a pubic school system with 38 percent of fourth-graders unable to read at a basic level; they see the cost of health insurance escalating as 47 million people go uninsured; they see a government that responded ineptly to a hurricane in New Orleans; and they see a war whose ends they do not completely value or understand.”
He then notes that volunteerism is at near all-time highs, and seeks to appeal to the desire of people, especially young people, to devote their time to the betterment of society. Like many before him, he invokes what he calls the spirit of sacrifice that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks, writing, “After 9/11, Americans were hungry to be asked to do something, to make some kind of sacrifice, and what they mostly remember is being asked to go shopping...
“People see volunteering not as a form of public service but as an antidote to it. That is not a recipe for keeping a republic.”
“[T]he way to keep the Republic,” he declares, “is universal national service... [I]t is time for the next president to mine the desire that is out there for serving and create a program of universal national service that will be his—or her—legacy for decades to come. It is the simple but compelling idea that devoting a year or more to national service, whether military or civilian, should become a countrywide rite of passage, the common expectation and widespread experience of virtually every young American.”
Stengel then notes the increasing sentiment within both the Republican and Democratic parties in favor of some form of military draft (without actually using the term). He writes:
“But these days there is a growing consensus on Capitol Hill that the private and public spheres can be linked... One of the early critics of AmeriCorps, John McCain, has since become a devout supporter... ‘National Service is a crucial means of making our patriotism real, to the benefit of both ourselves and our country’.”
Stengel neglects to mention that McCain is among the most strident defenders of the Bush administration’s military escalation in Iraq and its belligerent war-mongering against Iran.
The Time magazine article emphasizes the domestic, peaceful uses to which a system of national service could be applied, stating: “Young men and women have made their patriotism all too real by volunteering to fight two wars on foreign soil. But we have battlefields in America too—particularly in education and health care—and the commitment of soldiers abroad has left others yearning to make a parallel commitment here at home.”
It says the program should be voluntary, not mandatory, using “carrots, not sticks” to win recruits. It calls for the next president to establish a cabinet-level Department of National Service, which would institute a program, costing $20 billion a year, that would provide some $19,000 to people between the ages of 18 and 25 who agreed to commit to at least one year of “national or military service.”
Stengel and Time, in framing their proposal in this way, are well aware of the broad and deep opposition among Americans, and especially young Americans, to the war in Iraq and the broader policy of militarism of which it is a part. They know full well that a direct and open call for a mandatory military draft would evoke intense popular opposition.
That, however, is the inevitable logic of their proposal, and their article should be seen as a significant step in seeking to condition and manipulate public opinion in advance of a revival of military conscription.
Stengel makes no reference to the growing calls within the military and sections of the political establishment for a revival of the draft, and the factors that motivate such calls. There are serious concerns within the military, the foreign policy establishment and both political parties that the prolonged occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan have stretched the military to the limit. There has for some time been talk within these circles of the danger of a “broken military.”
These concerns are heightened by the implications of a military assault on Iran. Leading Democrats, in particular, have criticized Bush’s war policy in Iraq on the grounds that it severely limits American options for military action elsewhere.
Already, recruitment targets for the volunteer army are not being met, prompting the military to offer signing bonuses of up to $40,000 and sparking discussions about foregoing the requirement that recruits have a high school diploma.
If Bush and his commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, are now talking about some reduction in force levels by next April, it is primarily because withdrawals are virtually inevitable once the 15-month tours by the brigades sent in with the “surge” begin to end. Finding replacements will prove next to impossible, since every Army combat unit will either be in Afghanistan or Iraq, preparing to deploy there, or only recently returned.
The impossibility of sustaining such military operations over a prolonged period, let alone initiating new ones, is increasingly prompting open calls from military circles for a revival of the draft. Among those who have publicly broached the issue in recent days are Lawrence Korb, the assistant secretary of defense under Reagan, and Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, Bush’s “war czar” for Iraq and Afghanistan.
One reason the Democrats are outpacing the Republicans in the race for corporate campaign donations for the 2008 congressional and presidential elections, a stark departure from previous elections, is the sense within the ruling elite that a Democratic-controlled government would be in a more favorable position to restore the draft that a Republican Congress or White House.
As of July of this year, the two candidates considered to be leading the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination, New York Senator Hillary Clinton and Illinois Senator Barack Obama, had raised millions more than their Republican counterparts, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $17.6 million from April through June, compared to $8.6 million raised in the same period by the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Significantly, the Time magazine article on national service is accompanied by a page-long endorsement of the plan by Caroline Kennedy. And among the most enthusiastic proponents of a revived draft is New York Rep. Charles Rangel, the Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, whose district includes Harlem and Spanish Harlem.
Rangel issued a statement on August 16 supporting Lute’s suggestion of a return to military conscription, in which the congressman reiterated his absurd claim that a renewed draft would be an antiwar measure.
He declared: “The White House knows that if the majority of American families were forced to send their children in harm’s way, our military men and women would be on the first flight home. The outcry for their return would ring louder than ever in every corner of this country, from the soccer fields to college campuses to the Wall Street boardrooms.”
Rangel attempts to portray the draft as a democratic and egalitarian measure, noting that “this so called ‘all-volunteer’ fighting force is already being fueled by a daft. It’s an economic one that lures minorities, women and poor whites in rural and urban areas...”
In other words, the answer to a volunteer army that recruits largely from among the most oppressed and impoverished sections of the population is a conscripted force that gives all sections of young people the “right” to kill and be killed in the pursuit of the global aims of US imperialism.
The Time magazine article should be taken as a stark warning of what is being prepared by the US corporate elite and the two parties that serve its interests. It underscores the necessity for the building of a mass socialist political movement completely independent of the parties and politicians of US big business, as part of an international movement of the working class against imperialist war.