Quotable

"We could, in a moment in time, destroy everything—ourselves and all that we had every touched or loved—by means of our own technology and by our own hand." -Robert Jay Lifton, psychiatrist and the author of “Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima,” and a memoir, “Witness to an Extreme Century.”


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

TRUTH!

I just received news of the sentencing of Lynne Greenwald, a friend and fellow member of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, in Federal District Court on November 24th. Lynne was in court for crossing the blue line (in an act of nonviolent resistance) onto the U.S. Naval submarine base that is home to the West Coast Trident nuclear submarine fleet and one of the largest concentrations of nuclear weapons in the world. Lynne's nonviolent act was one of resistance to the illegal actions of the U.S. Government in continuing to operate the first strike weapons system known as Trident.

Hidden behind the chain link and barbed wire of Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor is an unimaginable destructive force. Each Trident nuclear powered submarine carries 24 Trident D5 missiles, and each missile carries 8 nuclear warheads with an explosive force of from 100 to 455 kilotons. For comparison, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima was 15 kilotons. Just think; each of these submarines could unleash its entire missile payload in minutes, destroying an entire continent within a half hours time - all in a day's work of course. These are weapons of almost unimaginable destructive force, and beyond their immediate destructive force are the long term effects of deadly radiation; the survivors of any nuclear war would surely envy the dead.
The prosecutor at Lynne's trial made a comment that caught the attention of someone observing who wrote it down. Said the prosecutor, "The government hopes you will explore other avenues to express your discontent with foreign policy." Well, that one caught my attention too. One has to wonder what kind of foreign policy it is when a nation threatens other nations (and in reality, the entire world) with incineration at a moment's notice? What kind of nation squanders its treasure on the ability to render the world essentially uninhabitable with deadly radioactive substances.

We (yes, we the people are complicit) prosecute an endless War On Terror throughout the world even as we build a larger and larger fortress to protect ourselves. And yet, everyday we unleash terror on innocents in nations like Iraq and Afghanistan. And then we prepare for the ultimate terror act of all, the unleashing of nuclear weapons that would render the Holocaust of World War II mere child's play. Could there be a truth more terrifying than that which exists behind the chain link and barbed wire and running silent and deep beneath the seas?

So tell me about truth and why a women of sound mind (or anyone for that matter) should be prosecuted for resisting (in a completely nonviolent way) the actions of a government that are not only illegal, but so morally reprehensible. Lynne, along with five others, crossed the blue line on Mother's Day 2008 because knowing the truth about Trident compelled her to act. Here are the words Lynne spoke at the end of her Court Statement before sentencing.

Knowing what I know about Trident, I was compelled to act to do what I could to stop the threats and possible reality of using nuclear weapons. As a citizen, I must act to prevent the U.S. Government's criminal activities that threaten the lives of all children, and all of creation. For 38 years I've worked as a nurse and a social worker and have experienced the suffering of our sisters and brothers in this country. We live in a society where 1 in every 10 individuals are living below the poverty level, and this country continues to prioritize war and destruction over health care, education, housing and food for all.We can live without war and nuclear weapons - this nation can do so much better. And we all must do what we can, to create a peaceful world for all children.

I think that seems eminently reasonable, don't you? What better way to celebrate Mother's Day?

Peace,

Leonard

Notes: The top photo is of Lynne being escorted back from the base after being processed by Naval security. The bottom photo is of all six Federal arrestees after their release. Check out the YouTube video of the Mothers Day vigil.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Missile Defense - Not in ANYONE'S Back Yard

Friends,

President Bush has pushed missile defense - an idea that has no proven efficacy, and worse, is an extraordinarily destabilizing influence from a global standpoint - throughout his administration, and just recently signed an accord with the Czech government to site a U.S. National Missile Defense (NMD) system in the Czech Republic. The only problem (well, at least one of them) is that the majority of the Czech people do not want NMD in their country.

There was a time not so long ago (when the cold war was ever so warm) that Europe bristled with missiles (courtesy of the United States) aimed at the Soviet Union. The Bush Administration's plan to site a NMD system in Czechoslovakia (a former Soviet Bloc country) has increased tensions between Russian and the U.S., and if pursued further, will likely lead to a new arms race. NOT a good idea (unless you happen to work for Lockheed-Martin)!!!

There will likely be tremendous pressure on President-elect Obama (as I described in a previous post) to continue the Bush NMD legacy, and Obama so far seems to be hedging his bets on this one. It will require a major grass roots push to move him away from this destabilizing (and downright dangerous) plan.
You can read the letter to Obama from Czech Mayors and the Czech nonviolence movement asking him to scrap the U.S. NMD plans. Bruce Gagnon, Coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space has drafted a letter to President-elect Obama, in support of the Czech and Polish efforts to stop this destabilizing plan. You can read it at the end of this post.

If you - either as an individual or an organization - would like to sign on, please send bruce an email (as soon as possible) to globalnet@mindspring.com and include your name and/or organization, city and state.

Peace,

Leonard

Note: The top photo is from Bruce Gagnon's November 24th blog posting. The (lower) protest photo is from the Global Network's Website, and was taken at Lockheed-Martin, Pennsylvania during Keep Space for Peace Week.
*************************
Text of the Sign-On to Obama Letter Calling on Him to Reject Bush Plan to Deploy
"Missile Defense" Systems in Poland and Czech Republic

Dear President-Elect Obama:

We write to congratulate you on your recent election as President of the U.S. We want to help you in every way possible to promote peace around the world so that our national resources could be used for the tremendous needs we have here at home like health care, education, dealing with climate change and more.

We specifically write to urge you to reject the Bush administration plan to deploy "missile defense" interceptors in Poland and a Star Wars radar system in the Czech Republic. We know you are aware of Russia's deep concern that these deployments are really aimed at them in spite of Pentagon assurances they are only aimed at Iran.

Respected U.S. scientists George Lewis and Ted Postol recently studied these proposed deployments and wrote a piece called "The European missile defense folly" that was printed in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in the May/June issue of 2008. In their report Lewis and Postol state that, "Despite claims to the contrary by both Missile Defense Agency and State Department officials, the interceptors that Washington wants to deploy in Poland are fast enough to catch Russian ICBMs launched from locations west of the Ural Mountains toward the continental United States. The location of the interceptor site in Poland is ideal for this purpose."

Russia of course has responded that they will be required to upgrade their offensive nuclear capability if these U.S. weapons are indeed deployed in Central Europe. The people of Poland and the Czech Republic are in large numbers opposed to their countries being used as U.S. bases and we understand that in recent days over 30 mayors from Czech towns near the proposed U.S. radar base wrote you urging the planned be scrapped.

We too write urging you, in the strongest way possible, to take a stand for peace and a step for nuclear disarmament by rejecting the dangerous Bush deployment plan for Central Europe. Expanding U.S. military operations near Russia's borders will only help create a new Cold War and a new arms race that would eventually spread throughout Europe and beyond.

We look forward to hearing from you about how you intend to deal with this important issue. We wish you well and thank you for your attention to this matter of grave concern to us.

In peace,

Names/Organizations/City/State

Friday, November 21, 2008

Risky Business (Maybe Too Risky)

One of my early lessons studying public health was that there is no such thing as absolute safety. Whether it be human error or a failure of a mechanical system, there is always some probablility that something will go wrong. So, we come to accept a certain amount of risk in every aspect of our lives, from walking down the street to flying on an airplane. Everything we do carries with it the element of "risk". The question is, "Just how much risk are we willing to accept?"

When it comes to nuclear weapons, one doesn't want to accept any risk of accidental detonation - it's bad enough if someone pushes the button on purpose - or someone making off with nuclear materials (of any kind). However, if what I learned in graduate school is true, then we have to live with some risk, even with nukes; now that's just a bit unnerving.

Of course, we have some pretty smart people (a whole lot of them in fact) working in our nuclear weapons laboratories, making sure that the nuclear weapons they design are reliable (read "They won't blow unless we want them to."). Then, there is the military (the Air Force in this case) that is responsible for ensuring the safety of these weapons out in the real world. That's where things get a little sketchy.

We learned over the course of 2008 about events in the prior year that raise serious questions about the people directly responsible for the safety and security of our nations nuclear weapons.

The most serious incident involved personnel at Minot Air Force Base "mistakenly" loading nuclear tipped Cruise missiles onto a B-52 bomber, which was flown to Barksdale Air Force Base. The nuclear weapons went unnoticed and unprotected from the time they were removed from the bunker to well after the bomber landed at Barksdale (a mere 36 hours); only when the weapons were being unloaded did anyone notice that something was amiss! Reading the details of how many things went wrong - all of them related to human error - is enough to make you dizzy.


Of course, there was some sort of "inquisition", but even after all that Minot's 5th Bomb Wing failed the initial nuclear surety inspection (NSI) required for re certification to handle nuclear weapons. It finally passed an NSI three months later at the end of March 2008. Of course the Air Force came up a laundry list of things to do ensure nuclear weapons safety. One interesting change is that they no longer allow nuclear armed and nonnuclear armed weapons in the same storage facility. And, all nonnuclear weapons have to have placards stating that they are not armed with nukes. I'm feeling much safer now. Aren't you?

By the way; did I mention that the infamous 5th Bomb Wing again FAILED the mother of all NSI's in May 2008??? You can read all about it in the Air Force Times that referred to the "Litany of Failure". The 5th finally received a "passing grade" in August. Did I also mention that these NSI's were scheduled so that everyone knew what was coming? Nuclear bases have since moved to "no notice inspections"; now there is a novel concept.

Of course if they can't pass scheduled inspections... Well, you get the idea. So where is all this leading? We have been living with nuclear weapons since 1945 (over 63 years) and although there have been many incidents and accidents since then, it is only a matter of time before one of those accidents causes the detonation of a nuclear weapon. So wouldn't it be prudent to do all we can to continue dismantling these weapons of mass destruction before they dismantle us? After all, no matter how well we design them, sooner or later something will fail. And as for the human beings that tend to them; well, nobody is perfect.

Peace,

Leonard

P.S. - I almost forgot to mention the Air Force Times reported that in the failed May NSI, "one security forces airman was found using his cell phone to play video games while on guard duty in a restricted zone". Better living through modern technology.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Cold War Redux? Let's HOPE not.

Buried inside the Friday, November 14 Seattle Times - the front page had the really important stuff like increased parking fees and inauguration ticket scams - was an article with the title, "Moscow warms to Obama." Moscow recently warned the U.S. (with a shot across the bow) that it was prepared to deploy short-range missiles to counter President Bush's plan to place tracking radar in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland as part of a U.S. anti-missile shield.

While The White House claims it is a purely defensive system and intended to counter threats from the Middle East (and in particular Iran), the Russians haven't particularly warmed to the idea of missiles of any type being based on the other side of their fence. Of course, they may have reason for concern if history has any meaning.

At the height of the Cold War, Europe bristled with intermediate range nuclear missiles aimed at the (then) Soviet Union, while the Soviets had their missiles ready to incinerate Europe. It was all part of the "MAD" standoff that was at the heart of Cold War. Although the Cold War technically ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall 1989, things have gotten a bit chilly once again thanks in part to the Bush administrations push for a missile defense shield.

But I digress (to a point)! And the point of the Times article is that there is a good chance that relations between the United States and Russia (two nations that were once prepared to destroy each other and the rest of the world along with them) could "warm" (again). The article noted that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. President-elect Barak Obama are (among other things) "less inclined to Cold War mindsets than their predessors". While this is very likely the case, it might be prudent for us to study a bit of history to know where we currently stand.

Fourty nine years ago today, another president-elect was preparing to move in to The White House in the midst of the Cold War tensions. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy took office on January 20, 1961 and in his Inaugural Address presented a message of hope (in the midst of Cold War rhetoric) "that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction."

Presidents before and after Kennedy have made "hopeful" statements about the need for the U.S. and Soviet Union/Russia to work together to eradicate the threat of nuclear weapons, and some took (usually token) steps toward that end. But only one president in the history of our nation has actually brought the world back from the brink of nuclear war, a war that would have changed life (as we know it) on our planet. And President Kennedy performed this remarkable feat by choosing to talk to his "enemy", to establish an ongoing (and secret) dialogue with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. It was through this ongoing dialogue during (and in between) some of the most tense moments of the Cold War that President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev came to understand each other and work together to resist their military advisors, avoiding what would have been the greatest genocide in the history of the world.

All of this has been documented, and the most recent (and thorough) documentation of Kennedy's remarkable peacemaking journey can be found in Jim Douglass' book, "JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died & Why It Matters." Much of what most of us know about JFK comes from either his oratories or the stories of his sexual exploits, but there is something much deeper that we have missed, and I propose that it is the quiet, behind-the-scenes JFK who we need to know and understand as we move forward.

If we come to understand the JFK who had hope for (and was willing to lay down his life for) "a world of peace where the weak are safe and the strong are just", we will come to understand that President-elect Obama will need to not only pursue genuine dialogue with President Medvedev, but concurrently have a firm grasp of the historical context underlying the relations between our nations along with a parallel vision of the future that Kennedy (and I hope Obama) envisioned and worked for.

We will need to remind President-elect Obama of that vision Kennedy had (and we as peacemakers have) for the world, particularly as he will enter The White House with the largest "defense" budget in history, a deeply entrenched nuclear weapons complex, and hundreds of nuclear weapons still ready to launch within a few minutes. With both powerful military and corporate interests - it always comes down to power and money - pushing for missile defense, it will require significant pressure to overcome the massively invested legacy of Star Wars.

The President-elect seems to think that a missile shield is "appropriate", but wants to be sure it is effective before he backs it. The trick will be clearing away the Pentagon's smoke and mirrors to make Obama see the folly of missile defense, and convincing him of the effectiveness of diplomacy and real efforts at non-proliferation. Our hope should be that Obama will see the wisdom of Kennedy's approach, and follow Kennedy's model of direct and sincere dialogue, cutting through the political rhetoric that separates nations (and their leaders) and guarantees continued military buildups. It is time to build up peace.

Building for Peace,

Leonard

Notes:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama and the Hope for a Nuclear-Free World


As if President Elect, Barack Obama doesn't have enough problems to deal with, the current administration is trying to resurrect the Reliable Replacement Warhead (such a great euphemism) using the same old tactics. Speaking at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on October 28th, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that "as long as others possess nuclear weapons, the United States must maintain a safe and reliable nuclear arsenal." Without losing a beat he "urged the development of the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW)," as he warned of the "'bleak' outlook for the long-term reliability and safety of the aging U.S. nuclear arsenal."

The U.S. nuclear arsenal has undergone regular, extensive testing and monitoring since 1997, and has been shown to be safe, secure and reliable. A 2006 report by the JASONS, an independent panel of (and really, really smart) scientists and engineers that advises the government on nuclear weapons issues determined that, "the core nuclear components of current warheads will remain vital for at least another fifty years." So what's with the "bleak" outlook coming from Defense Secretary Gates?

I think it is safe to say that development of any new nuclear warhead would throw any hope for further progress in non-proliferation in the garbage can. Senator Sam Nunn summed it up when he said that the RRW could be "misunderstood by our allies, exploited by our adversaries, complicate our work to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, and make resolution of the Iran and North Korea challenges all the more difficult."~ Sam Nunn, Congressional Testimony, March 29, 2007.

Although the Defense Secretary also spoke of the need for further reductions in the U.S. and Russian arsenals, ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and other positive contributors to arms control, any pursuit of new nuclear weapons by the U.S. would negate any progress made so far in those areas. Neither is there a demonstrated need, nor a logical argument for new nuclear warheads.

President Elect Obama has said that, "if we want the world to de-emphasize the role of nuclear weapons, the United States and Russia must lead by example." He also committed to not developing new nuclear weapons (among his many positive statements on the subject). He will face significant pressures from the Pentagon (and the rest of the Military Industrial Complex), and we will have to continually remind him of his promises.

We can start by signing on to the Appeal to the Next President of the United States for US Leadership for a Nuclear Weapons-Free World at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. While at their Website, consider signing up for their action alerts and news updates.

Peace,

Leonard

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Welcome to The Nuclear Abolitionist

I grew up in the days of "duck and cover", bomb shelters and the phrase "Better Dead than Red". If you ponder that phrase, you quickly realize that in the context of its time it meant that a large percentage of Americans (who accepted this axiom) were prepared to be incinerated or suffer the horrific radiation effects that would have resulted from a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union (the evil Communists). Of course, the vast majority of these patriotic Americans had no idea just how bad it would have been had the two superpowers decided to go at it with the big nukes.



Our government (in the 50's and 60's) had everybody building bomb shelters, learning to "duck and cover", and even had a plan to ensure that the mail would get delivered even before the (radioactive) dust settled. One really has to wonder how it all would have worked with tens (or hundreds) of millions dead, and the rest trying to survive in a radioactive wasteland. I'm not sure what would have been left, but I think Albert Einstein said it best - "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."

I developed a thorough understanding of the effects of radiation while working in the field of occupational and environmental health, and in graduate school became particularly interested in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; much of our knowledge of radiation effects came from studying the aftermath of these tragic events. At some point in my journey I came to the decision that I needed to work for the abolition of the most awful weapons ever conceived and developed. Although I already write another blog dedicated to peace and justice (Subversive Peacemaking Blog), I have decided to start a sister blog focusing on nuclear weapons abolition. There is plenty of material out there to keep this one going.

This will be a blog much like my other one, a bit satirical, filled with stories, opinions and insights, and focused on a single overarching goal - the day when nuclear weapons will no longer hang over humanity like a sword of Damocles. Such a goal is possible, not necessarily in my lifetime; but surely we must work towards that goal, or what will we leave behind for future generations?

There is much to be done, and I will keep this blog focused and help build this community into a (nonviolent) force to be reckoned with. Won't you join me on this journey to abolish nuclear weapons?

Peace,

Leonard