Internal Pentagon document reveals new aggressive US nuclear weapons policy

Press release - 30 September, 2005
Greenpeace today released a confidential draft of an internal Pentagon document 'Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations',which reveals how the US government's aggressive new policies for nuclear weapons are being turned into military practice.

The new doctrine shows military planners anticipating that U.S. nuclearweapons might be used pre-emptively, and in much less intense crisesthan envisioned previously, including in a conventional conflict. Thedocument, which includes comments by all the major military commands,provides the first formal update of US nuclear operational policy sincethe Bush administration took office.

The editing of the document reveals sharp internal disagreements aboutthe legality of the US's new posture, specifically its impliedendorsement of the use of nuclear weapons against targets whosedestruction by a nuclear weapon must inevitably lead to massivecivilian casualties. A final version of the document is expected thisautumn. The document reveals:

* Plans for the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons against non nuclearcountries and against countries which the US judged might be intendingto use chemical or biological weapons against its forces or allies.

* That the Bush administration's public claims to be reducing the role of nuclear weapons are false.

* That nuclear weapons might be used in less intense crises than previously considered including in a conventional conflict.

* That the distinction between conventional forces and nuclear weaponsis being discarded and nuclear weapons being integrated intoconventional weapons planning and missile defences.

* That the main purpose of missile defences is to defend military forces not civilians.

* That some commanders do not believe that the threats used to justify the new doctrine actually exist.

The editing process also reveals internal divisions about the legalityof the new nuclear doctrine. On one hand the document concludes theUnited States is legally free to use nuclear weapons pre-emptively ifit chooses, "no customary or conventional international law prohibitsnations from employing nuclear weapons in armed conflict".

However the editing process reveals a debate among the differentcommands over the legality of different types of targeting of nuclearweapons.Of particular concern was the legal status of 'countervalue targeting',which directs the destruction or neutralization of selected enemymilitary and military-related activities, such as industries,resources, and/or institutions that  contribute to the enemy'sabilityto wage war.

The US strategic command, STRATCOM, which directs nuclear warfightingcommented 'Many operational law attorneys do not believe "countervalue"targeting is a lawful justification for employment of force, much lessnuclear force. Countervalue philosophy makes no distinction betweenpurely civilian activities and military related activities and could beused to justify deliberate attacks on civilians and non-militaryportions of a nation's economy...For example, under the countervaluetarget philosophy, the attack on the World Trade Center Towers on 9/11could be justified'.

They concluded that therefore "countervalue targeting violates" the Lawof Armed Conflict and suggested changing the phrase "countervalue" to"critical infrastructure targeting."

The US European command, EUCOM, responded by strongly objecting to theuse of the term 'critical infrastructure' to hide the fact that the newnuclear warfighting doctrine encourages nuclear targeting which couldwell lead to massive civilian casualties. The refusal of EUCOM to agreewith thisterminology led to both the terms "critical infrastructure targeting"and 'countervalue' being withdrawn from the document to end thediscussion.  However this type of targeting appears to continue,and simply changing the terminology obviously does not change theillegal targeting itself.

Greenpeace International disarmament campaigner William Peden said,"This document should send a shiver down the spine of everyone. Itshows that the highest levels of the Pentagon have undergone a majorshift in thinking and now view nuclear weapons no longer as a weapon oflast resort but a weapon that can and should be used."

"This means a US military machine prepared use nuclear weapons first,against non nuclear countries and non military related civiliantargets."

He continued, "The US government must immediately distance themselvesfrom the nuclear warmongers at the Pentagon, announce a policy of nofirstuse of nuclear weapons and get serious about negotiating a treaty toachieve a world free of nuclear weapons. The alternative is a newnuclear arms race."

Other contacts: William Peden, Greenpeace International disarmament campaigner, +31653504731

Notes: EDITOR'S NOTESTo see a full version of the document, including editing comments visit theGreenpeace website