Friday, April 07, 2006


Most people know that Los Alamos was the birthplace of the first bombs, including Trinity, Little Boy and Fat Man, but few realize what Los Alamos’ role has been since then. During the Cold War until about 1992, Los Alamos National Laboratory was a center for the design and testing of new weapons. It devised a scheme called ‘Stockpile Stewardship’ pretending that it was only maintaining the stockpile of older weapons, but in reality, it actually designed new weapons (dozens of variations were tried), and manufactured some components (e.g. detonators) as well.

Starting in the 90’s with the closure of Rocky Flats near
Denver, Los Alamos has been repeatedly identified as the place where nuclear weapons are being manufactured. Los Alamos serves as the manufacturing center of nuclear weapons in addition to its role in design.


Despite its policies of secrecy,
Los Alamos is the ultimate center of nuclear proliferation. Making the first nuclear weapon became the first and biggest act of proliferation. Access to the information of how to build nuclear weapons was almost immediately exported out of the gate in the person of Klaus Fuchs. In order to justify the nuclear weapons program and to create a market for nuclear corporations, Eisenhower was bamboozled into “Atoms for Peace.” The US trained the Iraqis, Iranians, Pakistanis, Korean, Indians, Israelis and others, at Oak Ridge, at Los Alamos, and in Great Britain. With this training, the US offered rationalizations, information, direct training and personal mentorship. With “Atoms for Peace” also came an offer of highly enriched uranium to dozens of reactors around the world. In effect, the US built the infrastructure in other countries in order to proliferate. In some cases, the US pumped up the military of a country, such as Pakistan, to create a bulwark against communism and consequently, this because another key element in proliferation, as part of the total picture.

Recently, it was revealed that
Great Britain helped Israel significantly, as did France-- but it all came from the nuclear weapons complex established through the Manhattan Project. Nuclear science was in many ways billed as essential to becoming a modern state. Yet in many ways, democracy is incompatible with harboring nuclear weapons and other kinds of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Right now we are entering into a bold new phase of proliferation. Not only is there manufacturing and redesign of all the weapons in the nuclear arsenal, but quite beyond that: Los Alamos and Sandia laboratories are on the forefront of a nuclear power renaissance of the most polluting, least energy efficient kind, and all of these endeavors breed proliferation. The government wants breeder reactors, separation of plutonium, mixed oxide fuels with plutonium--in short, it wants a plutonium economy. The reason is money and pork barrel federal spending.


The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) treaty states in article 6 that signatories will make a good faith effort, and actually succeed, in getting rid of nuclear weapons. Also, President Clinton signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty CTBT even though he made only a half-hearted attempt to get it ratified, which in the end never happened. On the surface, there was restraint, but during the Bush administration that has changed.

The nuclear weapons are the "top cover" for all
US foreign military endeavors. They are meant to provide an aegis of power that enables US imperial ambitions. They are meant to condition military and political arrangements by frightening other countries, and quite frankly, the American public itself. It has become increasingly more apparent that fear and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD’s) are an integral part of the public relations narrative of the Bush administration.

The civilian ideologues in the Pentagon are more prone to the use of nuclear weaponry than most of the military, since most of the military realizes that nuclear weapons are useless in any kind of geo-political conflict.
US strategic command is taking care of the weapons and integrating them into what it calls "global strike," which has both conventional and nuclear components.


Los Alamos is in violation of the NPT. Article 6 requires that the parties cease waging the arms race, as well as disarm. Yet Los Alamos, with the other two U.S. labs, is starting an arms race. They are providing cover for Great Britain and Russia to upgrade their arsenals, too. Los Alamos--the largest of the three labs--is leading the way in designing the new generation of nuclear explosives. This process is linked to innovation in the delivery systems for nuclear weapons. And this process of innovation provides work for the whole weapons complex. There are also corporate and commercial pressures, as illustrated by the prominent roles played by Lockheed Martin, Bechtel and others.

Article 6 of the NPT is equally important; it requires nuclear weapons states to dismantle their nuclear weapons and conduct good faith negotiations in order to get rid of their existing arsenals. In 1996, the International Court of Justice ruled unanimously that these negotiations need to yield specific results: complete nuclear disarmament. It means action rather than more speeches.

At present,
Los Alamos is implementing the stockpile stewardship program, and in particular, the Reliable Replacement Warhead. Most of the things that are being done at Los Alamos are designed to keep nuclear weapons forever, while continually upgrading them. Thus, most of what Los Alamos does is in violation of the NPT treaty.

US started the nuclear weapons complex in response to Hitler and ironically it has become a bit Hitlerian itself: it made weapons of mass destruction; incinerated two cities; conducted tests that have killed and will kill hundreds of thousands of people from fallout alone. And it has a defense policy that has ‘'extermination” grafted into it. People in Los Alamos are making pits and each pit can kill hundreds of thousands of people. With the push of a button, the US can destroy Iran or any nation that we choose.


What can citizens do about it? This is a major question: we have a president who lies, we have an incipient authoritarian government, and there is surveillance of citizens, etc. Bush signs laws into being and then he makes a note on the same piece of paper that the presidency may or may not follow them.

One thing we can note is that a lot of nuclear policies are made in
Washington but many of them just don’t work out in practice. Members of Congress, for instance, may not be invested in their implementation. They were in a rush to pass the law and didn't think enough about its consequences. A lot of the senators and representatives may not even know the location of nuclear weapon sites. They are sleepwalking through the policy-making process.

US just signed this shocking agreement with India, which allows it to make as many nuclear weapons as it likes, and in effect, legitimizes its nuclear arsenal--all outside of the NPT framework. By making India the junior partner in the nuclear endeavor, the US mocks all other countries that have signed the treaty, that is, virtually all of the other countries in the world. We are in a very dangerous situation indeed.

What are our sources of political strength? First, the use of nuclear weapons goes against human moral instincts, and so, you have to provide rationales for people to use them, such as so-called “stockpile stewardship.” It is not like “gee I am gonna make nuclear weapons today”--no, instead we have “Stockpile Stewardship.” The use of euphemisms, vague language, and shame-avoiding behaviors point to a larger complex of management problems for the nuclear weapons program. As one scientist said, "It took me a long time to figure it out: the customer doesn't want the product."

Many of these factors stem from the fact that making nuclear weapons is immoral and we all know that it is immoral. There is a quality of profound shame associated with it. Furthermore, the materials themselves are very dangerous for the environment (and workers), and thus for this reason, the manufacture of nuclear weapons is exceptionally dangerous.

We need to remember that our struggles are often symbolic. While we talk about one little thing, there is much more at stake. We may have initiated an environmental lawsuit but it is really about nuclear weapons and the morality of the whole thing, which affects the equities and the sense of fairness in the case. Often we feel contaminated by nuclear weapons--not just environmentally but spiritually. We have International Law, and even though the
US has thumbed its nose at it, civil society can still become engaged with it. We can enforce it, in effect, but it still must answer to the force of mobilized public opinion. In theory, the international treaty violations can be challenged in the International Court of Justice in the Hague, but the US has not agreed to make its actions subject to the rulings of that court. So currently, this court has no binding power over the US. However, Great Britain has recognized the sovereign power of this same international court. That is called a "contentious case," and we haven't had that in regard to nuclear weapons. However, there has been an advisory opinion of the court on the threat or use of nuclear weapons.

All of these things work together: stigmatizing nuclear weapons and reminding humanity that it disapproves of nuclear weapons. In this sense, we need to work together, for example, to support the European activists in their efforts to get US nuclear weapons off of their territory. This would be a blow to the legitimacy of nuclear arms. That struggle illustrates another key point: these policy decisions take place at a specific location and thus they can become the foci of protests at those locations. It would be good to get people to come to
Los Alamos to witness the situation, people who are understood to speak for humanity as a whole, such as Nobel Peace Prize winners and religious leaders.

The making of new kinds of nuclear weapons is done by real people who go to church and have children who go to schools and we should meet and talk with these people on that basis. We have to realize that in many ways, they depend on our acceptance and cannot function without it. Ultimately, it is human beings who make these weapons--so we need a human (and humane) strategy to prevent their policies from being implemented successfully.

Many of the scientists involved in nuclear weapons are very passionate about the wonders of nuclear power. There seems to be a psychological need to have the nuclear weapons project be balanced by a messianic salvational purpose. The scientists and politicians involved in the weapons program need to hang onto a shred of hoped-for legitimacy. We should expose this delusion and find ways in our daily lives to resist and uphold the conscience of the human race.



At 7:29 PM, Anonymous Charles Streeper said...

First of all it would not be Los Alamos that is violating Article 6 of the NPT, it would be the US. Second, Article 6 is vague enough to make it hard to prove that that a NWS is violating disarmament committments so the US and Russia can merely state the huge level of disarmament that has taken since the Cold War and be in compliance.

In addition, if you claim the US is violating its committment to disarmament due to the funding of the 'mini-nuke' program that has been called a part of maintaining and not increasing the US arsenal.

So although I would like to agree with you on this topic there are arguments from the other side that need to be taken into account. Hence NNWS are always discontent with NWS non-compliance. There are too many loop-holes in the NPT and we need something more comprehensive in many respects, which in this day and age a concensus will be nearly impossible.


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