Editor’s note: This is the first installment of Daniel Ellsberg’s personal memoir of the nuclear era, “The American Doomsday Machine.” The online book will recount highlights of his six years of research and consulting for the Departments of Defense and State and the White House on issues of nuclear command and control, nuclear war planning and nuclear crises. It further draws on 34 subsequent years of research and activism largely on nuclear policy, which followed the intervening 11 years of his preoccupation with the Vietnam War. Subsequent installments also will appear on Truthdig. The author is a senior fellow of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.
American Planning for a Hundred Holocausts
One day in the spring of 1961, soon after my 30th birthday, I was shown how our world would end. Not the Earth, not—so far as I knew then—all humanity or life, but the destruction of most cities and people in the Northern Hemisphere.
What I was handed, in a White House office, was a single sheet of paper with some numbers and lines on it. It was headed “Top Secret—Sensitive”; under that, “For the President’s Eyes Only.”
A 2007 peer-reviewed study concluded that “the estimated quantities of smoke generated by attacks totaling little more than one megaton of nuclear explosives (two countries launching 50 Hiroshima-size bombs each) could lead to global climate anomalies exceeding any changes experienced in recorded history. The current global arsenal is about 5000 megatons.” A December 2008 study in Physics Today estimates that “the direct effects of using the 2012 arsenals (1,700 to 2,200 Russian and American warheads each) would lead to hundreds of millions of fatalities. The indirect effects (long-term, from smoke) would likely eliminate the majority of the human population.”
And these, less simple: “For each of these possible attack options and exchanges, what is the likely, and the range of possible, impact on the regional and global environment? Which of our options, if any, threaten to produce regional or worldwide nuclear winter? Do we—or does any state—have a right to possess such an ‘option’? Should a U.S. or Russian president have the authority—or the power, as each now has—to order attacks that might have the global effects described above?”
Our representatives in Congress should—for the first time—take on responsibility for learning about and influencing the possible human and environmental consequences of carrying out our operational nuclear war plans. But past experience makes clear that Senate or House members will not hold real investigative hearings, using committee subpoena powers, to penetrate the curtains of secrecy around these matters without a new level of pressure from American citizens. (To join some worthy efforts—which have not heretofore, in my judgment, focused sufficiently on congressional investigation or war planning—see here, here and here.
Every parliament in the world has an urgent need to know what its constituents have to expect—in the way of homicidal and environmental damage—from a U.S.-Russian nuclear exchange: or for that matter, from an India-Pakistan exchange. These assemblies have a stake in discovering—and changing—the societal and ecological impact of the existent contingency war plans of every nuclear weapons state, the U.S. and Russia above all but the others as well. What is needed is a worldwide movement. Fortunately there are several efforts to join (see here, here, here, here and here), in keeping with President Obama’s declared goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.
3. Ellsburg is discussing the effect of Nuclear BOMBS not Nuclear power.
Edited on Sun Sep-20-09 12:03 AM by happyslug
Most Nuclear explosions are very "Dirty" is the sense of how much dirt the explosion will through into the air. Some of this dirt will be radioactive, but most will be just dirt. It is the dirt that causes the problems NOT the nuclear re-action itself.
When a large volcano erupts a similar situation occurs, dirt get through into the air and a noticeable drop in world wide temperature for the next one to two years is observed (Over that one to two years the dirt slowly comes down in the found of nuclear rain drops, but it takes time).
It is this dirt through into the air that is the concern of Ellsburg NOT the direct affect of Nuclear weapons. If you were to see 50 or so Nuclear weapons going off within days of each other (i.e. a Nuclear exchange) that will have severe affect on world wide weather (and that is ignoring all the people who will die do to the direct affect of the nuclear bombs going off)
I think I understand very well the physics and chemistry of nuclear explosions.
I think I also understand the intent of the OP.
The person who wrote the OP is a dumb fundie anti-nuke who continuously insists that nuclear war and nuclear power are inextricably linked, apparently under the impression that there is a risk of Switzerland having a nuclear war with Belgium.
Actually, zero nuclear wars have occurred since the onset of nuclear power.
On the other hand, the person who wrote the OP couldn't give a rat's ass how many people are killed each year in dangerous fossil fuel wars using dangerous fossil fuel materials diverted for war like purposes.
The little ass has not once shut off his computer because he objects to the use of oil fired generators that use dangerous fossil fuels that are diverted for warlike purposes.
Let's be clear on something, OK? Daniel Ellsberg is not an expert on nuclear war's physics or chemistry, nor is he an expert on any nuclear energy subject, any more than the whiny little bourgeois brat who wrote the OP is qualified to speak on any nuclear subject.
Ellsberg, for what it's worth, has a Ph.D. in economics, not the physics of aerosols. Thus he is intrinically no more qualified to speak on the impact of any kind of event effect the climate than the guys who work at my local car wash.
I note, with due contempt, that there is no citation of Ellsberg on the the certain effects of dangerous fossil fuels on climate, but we have to listen to all kinds of drivel on the theoretical effects of a putative imaginary nuclear war.
Nobody rational wants any kind of war, nuclear or otherwise, although I note that Daniel Ellsberg started his career as a person who was employed by, um, Robert McNamara, and if you don't know who Robert McNamara was, try to imagine the Donald Rumsfeld of the early 1960's. Like a dumb fundie anti-nuke complaining about public opposition to nuclear power and how it drives up nuclear energy costs, he is rather like an arsonist wanting to be declared a hero for his role in fighting the fire he started.
We all oppose nuclear war, I think, but that said, the risk of nuclear war has been theoretical since 1945 while dangerous fossil fuel wars - wars caused by demands for access to dangerous fossil fuels, wars fueled by dangerous fossil fuel powered weapons, and wars causing extreme environmental damage using dangerous fossil fuels have been continuously observed since the early 1940's.
In fact the only nuclear war in history began when the Japanese Navy sought to defend its flanks in an attack on the oil fields of Borneo and Java. How come the little whiny anti-nuke freaks here never fucking write posts calling for banning oil because of the attack on Pearl Harbor, or for that matter, Kuwait, or for that matter, Iraq, or for that matter the Algerian war, the Nigerian war(s) or the Nazi drive on the Caucus?
NNadir, for what it's worth, has no Ph.D. in any subject, as far as we can tell. Thus he is intrinically no more qualified to speak on the impact of any kind of event effect the climate than the guys who work at my local car wash.
I note, with due contempt, that there is no citation of NNadir on the the certain effects of dangerous fossil fuels on climate, but we have to listen to all kinds of drivel on the theoretical effects of a putative imaginary nuclear war.
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