RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Excerpt: "The record is hair-raising. There are very high standards worldwide that can't be met, or aren't being met, and there is too much room for human error."

Prof. Noam Chomsky, linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist and activist. (photo: Va Shiva)
Prof. Noam Chomsky, linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist and activist. (photo: Va Shiva)

Noam Chomsky: 'Eliminate All Nuclear Weapons'

By Jane Ayers, Reader Supported News

05 April 14

Professor Noam Chomsky, the world-renowned political theorist and Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at MIT, recently delivered the prestigious Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s (NAPF) 13th Annual Frank K. Kelly Lecture on Humanity’s Future. His lecture, entitled “Security and State Policy” was delivered to a capacity audience at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara, California on February 28th. After his lecture, Chomsky was also presented the foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

David Krieger, President of NAPF, stated, “He is one of the world’s wise men. The depth of his knowledge about the complex and varied crises that confront humanity is more than impressive. He is a truth teller to those in power, to other intellectuals, and to the people of the world.” Professor Chomsky has recently joined the Advisory Council of NAPF, which also includes members Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Jane Goodall, Queen Noor of Jordan, Daniel Ellsberg, Bianca Jagger, and H.H. the Dalai Lama.

In his lecture Chomsky pointed out, “It is hard to contest the conclusion of the last commander of the Strategic Air Command, General Lee Butler, that we have so far survived the nuclear age by some combination of skill, luck, and divine intervention, and I suspect the latter in greatest proportion.”

For a full transcript of his Frank K. Kelly lecture, go to NAPF:

Before Prof. Chomsky’s lecture, I conducted a phone interview with him in which he addressed some of today’s important nuclear issues.

~ Jane Ayers

: General Lee Butler, the former commander in chief of the Strategic Air Command, retired his post in 1996, calling for the worldwide abolition of nuclear weapons. I interviewed him at the time, and he emphasized his concern about the fragility of the world’s nuclear first alert systems, and especially with Russia. At that time he called for total abolition of nuclear weapons, yet now years later promotes a responsible global reduction of nuclear dangers. Are you concerned about the fragility of the first alert systems?

Chomsky: Yes, he also pointed out that the 1960 U.S. nuclear war plan, called the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP), was the most outrageous document in human history, except perhaps for the Russian counterpart, which we knew nothing about. This U.S. nuclear war plan, if our first alert system had alerted a Soviet strike, would have delivered 3200 nuclear weapons to 1060 targets in the Soviet Union, China, and allied countries in Asia and Europe. Even with the end of the Cold War, because of the ongoing superpower nuclear arms race, Gen. Butler bitterly renounced the current nuclear programs/systems as a death warrant for the species.

Q: In his address at the National Press Club in February, 1998, Gen. Butler referred to “the grotesquely destructive war plans and daily operational risks” of our current nuclear systems, and emphasized “a world free of the threat of nuclear weapons is necessarily a world devoid of nuclear weapons.” He also referred to the “mind-numbing compression of decision-making under the threat of a nuclear attack.” Do you think these concerns are still valid today?

Chomsky: Yes, General Lee Butler recanted his whole career, and gave elegant speeches about the numbers of nuclear missiles devoted to nuclear deterrence being an abomination. Yes, the current nuclear dangers still remain quite high.

Q: During the Bush administration, in August of 2007, there was the unauthorized movement of nuclear bombs from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. Six AGM-129 Advanced Cruise Missiles (ACMs), each loaded with W80-1 nuclear warheads, were moved and left unprotected for 36 hours, violating the strict checks and balances of nuclear weapons storage. Investigations later concluded that the nuclear weapons handling standards and procedures had not been followed. Are these the kind of dangers you are referring to?

Chomsky: How dangerous the first alert system is remains only a tiny portion of the overall dangers. To understand more of the dangers of nuclear weapons, definitely read journalist Eric Schlosser’s book, “Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety.” (Eric Schlosser is National Security Correspondent for The Nation Magazine.) In his book, there are many details of near-accidents that have happened, and that could have been catastrophic. The possibilities of close calls due to human error were probably even worse on the Russian side. There have been many times we have been extremely near to having a nuclear war.

The U.S. has an automated response system with data coming in about possible missile attacks. However, it is still left to civilians to make the major decision to destroy the world, and usually with just a few minutes to make that decision. To launch a nuclear war is essentially in the hands of the president. We can’t survive something like that, and especially with so many other nuclear powers worldwide. With India and Pakistan, the same tensions can easily blow up in that region.

We also have to address these issues of unauthorized movement of nuclear bombs, and also the reality of simple human error. The record is hair-raising. There are very high standards worldwide that can’t be met, or aren’t being met, and there is too much room for human error. There have also been many circumstances where the authorization to launch missiles have been delegated to lower-level commanders. Even though there is a two-person requirement, if one does lose control and wants to destroy the world, then the fate of the world is the hands of the other person.

Q: The Obama administration is calling for a reduction of troops across the board (Army, Navy, Air Force, etc.), and emphasizes that the U.S. now has so much might and strength from U.S. missile technology, that we no longer need so many troops. What do you think of this?

Chomsky: A reduction to the amount in the world today? Well, the two major wars, the Bush wars, have been winding down so a lesser amount of troops are needed now. We are also letting go of numbers of troops that we needed to fight two wars simultaneously. We have the biggest military budget in the world, and it is equal to the rest of the world’s military budget combined. War-making is now being transferred to other domains, i.e., drone warfare, etc.

In The New York Times recently, there was a debate about whether the U.S. should murder [with drones] an American in Pakistan. In the article, there is no question raised about killing of non-Americans. These citizens in other countries are all apparently fair game. For example, if anyone is holding their cell phone that day, the drone can easily kill them. But when an action like that occurs, it immediately creates more terrorists. The irony is that while fighting terrorism, we are carrying out a version of a global terrorist campaign ourselves, and are also creating additional dangers for our own country.

So we are now utilizing a new form of warfare with the use of drones. Drones are assassinating people worldwide, without these people being proven guilty first in a court of law. They are just killed by a drone. Gone. Our president decides it.

In addition, with the reduction of numbers of overall troops, it still causes an increase of Special Forces operations on the ground. So what kind of operations are they doing now? Read Jeremy Scahill’s book, “Dirty Wars.” [Jeremy Scahill is National Security Correspondent for The Nation Magazine.] He points out how all of these operations are causing the United States to be the most feared country in the world.

Recently, there was an international poll conducted by a major polling organization in which they asked, “Which country is the greatest threat to world peace?” “The U.S.” was answered the most. The whole world sees us that way nowadays. Around the world, the U.S. is viewed as its own terrorist operation, and these actions create anger in other countries. It is becoming a self-generating system of terrorism itself (while fighting terrorism). Even if the U.S. reduces the number of soldiers needed for the invasion of other countries, we still continue to use drones now too. It creates a lot of anger worldwide against the U.S. when innocent citizens internationally are continually being killed, and/or no court of law is first ruling the suspected terrorists are guilty before being killed by the drones.

Q: A Russian armed intelligence-gathering vessel, the Victor Leonov SSV-175 Warship, conducted a surprise visit to Cuba on the same day Russia announced plans to expand their global military presence – establishing permanent bases in Cuba, Nicaragua, Vietnam, and Singapore. Amid the rising tensions with Putin over the Ukraine, do you think the U.S. could have another version of the Cuban Missile Crisis, or an escalation of war in the Ukraine, especially with NATO troop movement in Eastern Europe?

Chomsky: Ukraine is one issue right now that is very sensitive. Cuba is another target of US campaigns against it. The U.S. has conducted major, official governmental campaigns against Cuba, especially financial warfare, for fifty years. The former Cuban Missile Crisis was to deter an invasion of the U.S.

The sudden presence of a Russian ship in Cuba at the beginning of the Ukraine situation was probably a symbolic move. Russia is surrounded by U.S. military bases and nuclear missiles. We have one thousand military bases around the world with nuclear missiles aimed at all our potential enemies. The country of Ukraine is split right now: Western-oriented and Russian-oriented. It’s located on the Russian border, so there are major security issues for Putin. Ukraine has the only naval base leading to water (the Black Sea) in Crimea, so from Russia’s point of view, the Ukraine situation is a security threat to them, especially with NATO moving into Eastern Europe. If the Ukraine joins the EU, then Russia will have hostile relations at their border. Ukraine has historically been part of the Russian empire, so with the demands being made right now by the U.S., and Russia’s counter-demands, and with the presence of Russian troops, the clash might even blow up to a threat of a major war, which of course, could lead to a nuclear missile confrontation.

Q: Is nuclear disarmament really possible?

Chomsky: It is very possible to take away the nuclear threats to mankind and human survival. In the case of eliminating all nuclear weapons worldwide, it only takes everyone agreeing to do it. We know what can be done to eliminate the nuclear weapons threats to humankind. The U.S., like all nuclear nations, has an obligation of good faith efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons entirely.

However, with environmental catastrophes, it is not so obvious what the world must do to avoid the accumulative dangers. But one important measure of what to do is to realize that the longer we delay stopping the use of fossil fuels, the worse the worldwide environment will be that we are leaving to our grandchildren. They just won’t be able to deal with it later. However, with nuclear weapons, we can most definitely disarm, and we have a responsibility to do this.

Jane Ayers is an independent journalist (stringer with USA Today, Los Angeles Times, etc.), and Director of Jane Ayers Media. She can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+14 # Icon 2014-04-05 22:10
It's really a no brainer but sad to say it will never happen because it the Viagra for Impotent countries!!
+2 # Kwelinyingi 2014-04-07 09:56
One thing is missing here: after all the one-sided reporting on Iranian nuclear "intentions" --- no proof of their acquiring even a single nuclear warhead --- one would have walked away with the impression that Iran constitutes the only present and clear danger to our planet. All other nuclear weapons capable of destroying our planet several times over are simply innocuous toys stashed away in some playpen, two of them having already been used to devastating effect by none other than a leading critic of Iran's nuclear "designs" --- the US. Nuclear weapons elimination? I don't think so. Our destructive instincts will sadly continue to prevail.
+4 # Douglas Jack 2014-04-05 23:08
If we don't manifest collaboration, inclusiveness, mutual-aid & welcome in all of our human relations, then we only feed maniacs who control the Finance-Media-Military-Industrial-Legislative-Complex.

Humanity's worldwide 'indigenous' (Latin 'self-generatin g') worldwide ancestral peoples cultured peace & prosperity for 100s of 1000s of years. In the period 7000 years ago before Babylon's 2-dimensional 'agricultural' (Latin 'ager' = 'field') destruction of 3-D Polyculture Orchards. The destruction of indigenous 'Sylvalization' (L 'sylva' = 'tree') by colonial Civilization brought massive scarcity, salting of the land & desertification.

Indigenous peoples live by the Great Law of Peace based in multihome living (Apartment-long house, Townhouse-Puebl o & Village-Kanata) & inclusive time-based accounting & welcoming 'community' (L 'com' = 'together' + 'munus' = 'gift or service'). These methods of empowering intergeneration al & female-male collaboration were recorded traditionally on the string-shell such as the Cowrie Shell, Wampum or Quipu. The string-shell human-resource accounting integrated Capital, Currency, Social-security , education-credi t & communications into one accounting cycle. Mutual Aid if practiced thoroughly fully disempowers the MIC
+3 # ericlipps 2014-04-06 07:18
No doubt this fealty to the "Great Law of Peace" is why they slaughtered and enslaved one another with such zest.

In North America in particular, the white settlers defeated the natives in large part by exploiting intertribal hostilities to turn one group against another.
+2 # Interested Observer 2014-04-06 07:46
New version of the myth of the noble savage. Dream on.

All but a very few of those past cultures had their warriors, most acquired new resources by conquest when the new land was already occupied, and they all had a religion, many much less savory than any prominent today. Their damage to the environment mostly limited by their small numbers and modest means not their insightful design. All made and took for granted sharp distinctions as to gender roles with strict enforcement.

You also do not seem to appreciate the luxury of time away from grinding labor required for mere subsistence that you use to post fantasies of non-existent bygone societies proposing them as unworkable models for future ones.

There are no homelands and promised lands. Many millennia ago there was no real estate, just a few people in Africa and a vast world outside. The rest has been a story of who stole it "lastest and bestest". What exactly is the time period for the political equivalent of adverse possession when title transfers to the current squatters transforming the land into promised land and sacred homeland?

A world of over seven billion people is not going to last long on wampum bead technology, and only exists because a combination of medical and technological discoveries allowed it to breed beyond its means in the last two centuries. When the crunch comes it will be another scramble for survival, meaning more wars. Welcome to the new and final dark ages.
+1 # Douglas Jack 2014-04-06 11:03
Ericlipps & Interested Observer, So you're both proud & no-ledgeable (unable to inquire) to have drunk all the colonial koolaid served to you in the institutions, which you are obligated to attend. You're able to repeat colonial propaganda word-for-word, but sadly disdain understanding your & all humanity's long peaceful & abundant 'indigenous' (Latin 'self-generatin g') heritage. All of us who go through the process of learning about our heritage react as you do, but constantly repeating lie mantras we were forced to learn & repeat for grades, degrees, approval etc. Undoing brainwashing takes time but is necessary.

Below's an article describing indigenous 3-dimensional Polyculture Orchards worldwide as 100 times (10,000%) more productive than 2-D 'agriculture' (Latin 'ager' = 'field'). Polyculture photosynthesize s 92 - 98% of solar energy, roots penetrate as deep as the canopy 10s of metres into the earth's substrate, pumping water, mining minerals & developing extensive nutrient colonies. Deep photosynthesis draws warm-moist ocean winds inland, where 60% of water transfer is through condensation upon fractal leaf & bark surfaces. Only 40% of water falls as rain or snow. Agri-crops photosynthesize 2 - 8% of solar energy, roots descend short centimetres into the earth & the reflected solar energy pushes winds from the continent to the sea creating desert.
0 # Interested Observer 2014-04-06 20:56
More of the same incoherence with a touch of ad hominem as well as being wrong.
+10 # arquebus 2014-04-05 23:29
Most intelligent thing Chomsky has ever written. But,how could such a thing be enforced. How do you stop a country from hiding a half dozen MIRVs "just in case".?
+10 # tedrey 2014-04-06 07:57
Large monetary prizes and world acclamation for whistleblowers?
+18 # janie1893 2014-04-06 00:14
As usual, the majority of westerners will ignore Mr. Chomsky because he warns us of a truth that is unthinkable; ergo we will ignore it.
If the human race is wiped out, the universe won't even notice.
0 # Interested Observer 2014-04-06 08:17
Does the universe actually notice anything?
+4 # Kootenay Coyote 2014-04-06 08:44
Well, for one thing it notices & responds to anthropogenic CO2.
+1 # Interested Observer 2014-04-06 20:54
We must have much different ideas about what "notice" means.
+6 # CragJensen 2014-04-06 00:55
Strangely enough - some of the most convincing UFO incidents on record take place at nuclear weapon facilities. Consistently, over the years, strange craft appear at and hover over nuclear bases - and then shut the weapons down. Perhaps these reports are all just whacky urban legends. But - when you think about it - if there were or are advanced beings visiting our planet - it would seem to me that nuclear weapons and the possible total destruction of this amazing and beautiful planet would extremely high on their list of things to prevent. It is just sad that this race, this species - the human race is not advanced enough to see that living on the edge of the Nuclear Cliff is a very, very bad idea. But the way things are going - maybe our only hope is that aliens, or extra-dimension al beings or angels or gods or something or someone out-there is capable of and willing to prevent the ultimate catastrophe of catastrophes - because the idiots that call themselves "World Leaders" don't seem to be able to see the forest through the trees on this and many other immensely important issues.
-19 # FDRva 2014-04-06 00:55
Noam Chomsky has been an asset of several Wall Street networks in the intelligence community since the late 1960s.

Trust him at your own risk.
-14 # ericlipps 2014-04-06 07:24
Professor Chomsky is living in a fool's paradise> Since it will never be possible to verify that one's archenemy hasn't stashed away a few bombs "just in case" (and it's a virtual certainty that this would be done), no one with any substantial arsenal will agree to give it up outright. (Though South Africa makes a big deal of having gotten rid of its nukes--all six of them.)
-16 # 2014-04-06 07:39

+13 # tedrey 2014-04-06 07:52
Many governments are working seriously on this problem. Unfortunately, America is not one of them, and American media are diligently ignoring them. The following links are worth following.

We can do something about it, but it has to start at home. The rest of the world can't solve it without us.
-6 # geraldom 2014-04-06 09:29
The irony of Noam Chomsky's request to eliminate all nuclear weapons is that MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) is what is (and has been) preventing another world war from happening since WWII. MAD is why the United States has been slowly and carefully spreading its empire building efforts using covert methods of overthrowing governments and replacing them with ones that become puppet states of the U.S. over the past 70 odd years.

As a result of WWII, Russia grew what used to be its empire (the USSR) as a result of beating back the Germans, but, for the most part, did not expand its empire very much after WWII. After WWII, the new Russian empire and the United States' new empire were, in effect, butting up against each other up until the breakup of the breakup of the USSR in the early 1990s.

After WWII, the United States attempted to expand its empire into Southeast Asia and Latin America, using covert means and sometimes direct aggression like in Grenada under Ronald Reagan, but Russia didn't expand very much at all.

The point that I'm trying to make is that as a result of nuclear proliferation between the U.S. Russia over the years, an all out war between the countries has never happened because of MAD.

If all nuclear weapons were eliminated, or had been eliminated, along time ago. we would have had another major world war between the U.S. and Russia as we would have right now if nukes were eliminated, a war that would make WWII look like a cakewalk.
+3 # Douglas Jack 2014-04-06 11:27
As long as we call for nuclear elimination only from the top down, then we are continually caught in a trap of our own making. Real nuclear elimination involves understanding, restructuring & implementing mutual-aid in our families, multihome-build ings, communities & so on to worldwide scales. We must build caring, welcoming effective economic 'fractals' of inclusion. Until we lay this foundation from the 'tree-roots', peace is a no-go. In comments above I describe the worldwide indigenous Great-Law-of-Pe ace, which is also the Dravidian cultural foundation which inspired leaders in India.

India & Mohandas Gandhi understood that Britain, Canada & Australian colonial parasitism in India could only be stopped through 'Swadeshi' (Hindi = 'self-sufficien cy') for all essential goods & services. Once Indian leaders & the Indian people united had decided on Swadeshi, independence only took a couple of decades to succeed. Today if we stop feeding the multi-national Finance-Media-M ilitary-Industr ial-Legislative beast, then it will quickly starve. Self-sufficienc y is not lead by protest but through 'Becoming the change we want to see in the world'.
+3 # Nigeldp 2014-04-06 14:28
The US will never We will wait until we get a real evangelical fanatic in the White House and then throw up our hands in despair and line up a Starbucks, get our shot and then absorb another few episodes of Fox News and CBS, NBC, etc entertainment and body counts. Kubrick was so on target "learn to love the bomb"
+1 # Roger Kotila 2014-04-07 12:39
I'm glad that Noam Chomsky is sounding the alarm. He's highly respected. However, he continues to fail to offer the only realistic plan to eliminate all nuclear weapons. Einstein spent the last years of his life agreeing with the world federalists and trying to get the message out: The (only) solution to eliminating all nuclear weapons is to form a democratic world federal union government.

he good news is that world federalists/wor ld citizens have been busy working on this and a new world charter/constit ution is ready to go.

Realizing that the United Nations Charter would not be able to end war or eliminate nuclear weapons, the the World Constitution & Parliament Association drafted the Earth Constitution which now, within the Earth Federation Movement, is positioning itself to replace the fatally flawed UN Charter.

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.