"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." — Elie Wiesel

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Photo Credit:  Photograph by Momatiuk-Eastcott/CORBIS; NationalGeographic.com: Hikers in 2005 sculpted this enormous peace symbol into the bleached landscape of White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. White Sands is home to a U.S. missile range which houses the Trinity site, where the first nuclear weapon was tested in 1945.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Light in the Dark Days


Today is the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year (for those of us in the northern hemisphere).  These are dark times, indeed, as nations still worship the false (nuclear) idols they believe provide security (through "deterrence") and bolster national pride.  Nuclear weapons are truly a dark cloud hanging over humanity, and it has become increasingly clear that it will take a massive people's movement to convince our governments to take real steps to abolish these omnicidal weapons.

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference that will take place in May 2010 is a make-it-or-break-it gathering that will demonstrate either real resolve, or as in the case of the recent Copenhagen gathering, business as usual.  In both cases, the world can no longer afford business as usual.  We the people must pressure our governments to make the NPT a valid treaty with real and binding deadlines for disarmament.

There are many ways to get involved, through national and international coalitions (such as the Campaign for a Nuclear Weapons Free World), organizations (such as the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation) and local organizations in your area.  Here in the Seattle, Washington area we have Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action (GZ), which has resisted Trident and worked for abolition for over 32 years.  Over the next few months, leading up to the NPT Review Conference, there will be many opportunities to get involved.

In the next few weeks there will be a couple of events addressing the Trident nuclear weapons system.  A group is planning to ring in the New Year in a novel way with a vigil at the gates of Kings Bay (Georgia) Trident nuclear submarine base.  You can learn about the Alternative New Year activities by clicking here.  On the opposite side of the U.S., GZ will honor the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. on Saturday, January 16, 2010 with a day of nonviolence training, planning, and a vigil and nonviolent direct action at the gates of the Bangor Trident nuclear submarine base.  Click here for the poster and schedule.

Whatever you may do on New Year's or around the MLK weekend, be sure be engaged on some level in the coming months, and be sure to keep the pressure on as we approach the NPT Review Conference.  We cannot be complacent; we have seen how things play out (Copenhagen) without massive grassroots political pressure.  Let's start preparing now for May 2010.  The stakes are high, but the rewards are great!  Keep your light shining!



Sunday, December 13, 2009

Who or What is the Danger?


I have, through my peacemaking journey, learned patience (and hopefully some other things as well).  I have learned that, as Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."  Even with a deep understanding of the temporal uncertainty of the struggle for true and lasting peace and justice, I know that I cannot utter the words, "perhaps not in my lifetime," because that is an excuse, and excuses are not acceptable if we truly committed (as Dr. King was) to working for a world at peace.  Of course, we do our work knowing (on a certain level) that we may not see the fruits of our labors in this life; we do it knowing that we may not change the world, but if we choose to not do this important work, that the world will change us, and that is an unacceptable proposition.

Enter Lynne Greenwald; mother, grandmother, social worker, peacemaker, nuclear weapons resister.  Lynne, who moved close to the Trident nuclear submarine base in Kitsap County many years ago based on a deeply held belief that nuclear weapons were an abomination, and that Trident (designed as a first strike weapon) was an abomination of monumental proportions.  She has engaged in the long struggle to abolish Trident and all nuclear weapons as a member of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action.  Lynne is one who understands the long arc, and chooses to put her deeply held faith into action, manifested as resistance to omnicidal weapons that the U.S. government (and other nations) continue to embrace.

On Dec. 9, 2009 Lynne appeared in United States District Court in Tacoma, WA for a detention hearing related to an August 10 trespass charge when she crossed the blue line onto Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor NBKB), Washington. This arrest occurred during Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action's recognition of the 64th anniversary of the U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Lynne (and companions) carried a banner stating, "Abolish Nuclear weapons: Resist Trident." (Refer to the October 2009 issue of the Ground Zero newsletter for full article and photo. The charge is a misdemeanor trespass violation 18 USC 1382.

(Watch the slideshow of the vigil and ecumenical service before Lynne's Dec. 9 hearing.)

You may ask why the government would want to jail Lynne until her trial for a misdemeanor.  Well, since the August 10 event, Lynne (and others) engaged in an epic plowshares action in which they went a bit beyond the usual blue line crossing.  They were able to get all the way in to the secure nuclear weapons storage area of the base before getting arrested.  Click here for the full details of that action.

After the prosecutor presented the state's case, the judge stated that, in the U.S. peaceful protest "is allowed and encouraged", but violating the law is not. He concluded that, based upon the actions brought forth by the prosecutor, Lynne constitutes a risk to the community. He cited the fact that entering the lethal force area (inside the nuclear warhead storage bunker area at Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific (SWFCAC)) creates a situation where Marines may have to use deadly force. Interestingly enough, not once during the proceedings did the government use any terminology relating to nuclear weapons, even when referring to the high security area in which nuclear weapons are stored; it was only referred to as the "secret area" (definitely a Monty Python moment).  The judge ordered that Lynne be released, but ordered that she not enter the base, and if she does so a warrant for her arrest would be issued.

Susan Crane and Sue Ablao outside the courthouse on Dec. 9

For me, it all boils down to the question in the photo: Who or what presents the real danger???  A nonviolent mom or nuclear weapons???  I will leave that for you to decide.  In the bigger picture, this story speaks to me of the potential that exists within each of us to seek truth and act on conscience.  It may not be crossing the blue line or cutting fences, but there are many layers of engagement with matters of peace and justice, and nuclear weapons are no exception.  Each of us must determine how much we are willing to do and how far we are willing to go to build a peaceful and just world.

Advent, a time of year when we hear so much about the birth of the Prince of Peace, is a wonderful time to reflect on our actions in the world, and to what we are willing to commit.  Lynne's journey is an example to us all.  May we all encourage the peacemaker within.



Monday, November 30, 2009

Break Down the Walls Standing in the Way of a Nuclear Weapons Free World


The Nobel Peace Laureates held their 10th World Summit in Berlin, Germany this month.  Their Final Conference Statement titled, "Breaking Down Walls For A World With Peace And Justice" is a powerful statement, presenting the world with all the elements necessary to break down the barriers to a just and peaceful world.  The statement leads off with how to break down the "walls that stand in the way of a nuclear weapons free world."

Much of what is in this document is within our reach as citizens of the world.  Each of us can help break down the walls that stand in the way of a world with peace and justice.  For example; we can advocate for full implementation of our nation's obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.  The Nobel Laureates' Statement can serve as a compass, guiding us in our work for a world with peace and justice.  You can read the entire statement below.





The Nobel Peace Laureates, representatives of non-governmental organizations and youth representatives, gathered in Berlin on 10-11, November, 2009, having considered the historical implications of the fall of the Berlin Wall and global developments during the 20 years since then, call on the international community to break down the national, international, personal, and institutional walls,

Walls that stand in the way of a nuclear weapons free world by

◦ achieving a paradigm shift from counter-productive and excessive militarization to collective security based on cooperative initiatives to address global threats,

◦ fully implementing the non-proliferation and disarmament obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and all other international agreements on nuclear weapons by all members of the international community,

◦ negotiating a new convention for the universal and verifiable elimination of nuclear weapons,

◦ supporting the successful conclusion of the initiative of President Obama and President Medvedev of adopting a new agreement on nuclear disarmament and its successful implementation,

◦ supporting the UN Secretary-General’s five-point plan on nuclear disarmament,

◦ respecting the rules of international humanitarian law and adopting the conventions banning indiscriminate weapons such as landmines and cluster bombs.

◦ addressing the root causes of regional and global conflicts to assure that the security of all states can be safeguarded without nuclear weapons;

Walls between rich and poor by

◦ mobilizing all necessary national and international resources to achieve the full implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, and by

◦ using the current financial crisis to construct a new global economic system that will be fair for all mankind and that lays the foundation for a strong, sustainable and balanced growth through the creation of decent work;

Walls between cultural, religious, and ethnic communities by

◦ calling on the UN General Assembly to convene an international conference on minority rights, with a view to strengthening protections of the rights of religious, cultural and linguistic minorities;

Physical walls or barriers that separate or isolate people in various parts of the world and limit freedom of movement and the possibilities of communication by

◦ breaking down walls and barriers such as those that divide Palestinians and Israelis; North and South Koreans; and the people of Kashmir as well as by

◦ addressing the reality and perception of the fears of aggression and terrorism upon which such walls and barriers have been constructed;

Walls that stand in the way of the crucial need to combat climate change by

◦ ensuring the success of the upcoming Copenhagen conference in securing firm international commitment to effective global action as expressed in the (attached) special statement of the Summit, and by

◦ assuring sustainable development that will enable mankind to live in harmony with the fragile global environment and with each other;

Walls that stand in the way of inter-generation justice by

◦ including youth and youth-led organizations effectively in the decisions concerning their future, and by

◦ ensuring active dialogue and communication between generations.

The Summit also calls on the international community to build bridges based on our shared values, vision and humanity. It also calls on all people to show love, compassion and toleration in their relations with one another. In this spirit we recommit ourselves to the Charter for a World Without Violence which articulates our vision for a world with peace and justice.

Note:  Click here to read the Nobel Laureates' Final Conference Statement, including the Special Statement on Environmental Issue.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

23,360 Nukes!


Question: What is the relationship of the numbers 23,360, 111 and 14?

Answer: "There are approximately 23,360 nuclear weapons located at some 111 sites in 14 countries.  Nearly half these weapons are active or operationally deployed" (Nuclear Notebook: Worldwide deployments of nuclear weapons, 2009).

That's the news from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in its most recent look at where the weapons are.  The good news here is that there are fewer weapons than at the height of the Cold War, and the number of sites hosting nuclear weapons has decreased.  The bad news is that there are still far too many nuclear weapons out there in far too many places, and the U.S. and Russia have 96 percent of the global inventory (only 91 percent if you're talking about deployed weapons).  Here is the breakdown by country (from the Bulletin's report):
  • Russia 13,000*
  • United States 9,400**
  • France 300
  • China 240
  • Britain 180
  • Israel 80–100
  • Pakistan 70–90
  • India 60–80
  • North Korea ?
* Approximately 4,850 of the Russian warheads are operational or active. The status of the other 8,150

warheads is unclear. Some portion may be in reserve with the balance retired and awaiting dismantlement.

** Approximately 5,200 of the U.S. warheads are in the military stockpile (about 2,700 deployed); 4,200 retired warheads are awaiting dismantlement.

While it's easy to get bogged down in the numbers, it is safe to say that every nuclear weapon eliminated from any nation's arsenal is one less weapon to worry about.  It is also obvious that the two major nuclear powers must reduce their arsenals (both deployed and those in storage) NOW to levels significantly below the current numbers if other nations are to take seriously the upcoming Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.

Send a message to President Obama today telling him to take bold action and initiate deep cuts in the U.S. nuclear arsenal along with other important steps to send a clear message that the U.S. is serious about bringing us closer to a world free of nuclear weapons. 



Reference:  Robert S. Norris & Hans M. Kristensen, “Nuclear Notebook: Worldwide deployments of nuclear weapons, 2009,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November/December 2009, vol. 65, no. 6, pp. 86–98.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Disarm Now Plowshares - Bake Sales for Bombs


When was the last time we had to vote on a bond issue to fund the construction of new Trident submarines or nuclear warheads???  "What?!?!", you say.  Of course the U.S. government would never do such a thing.  That's for schools, hospitals and sewers.  Funding (or defunding) nuclear weapons is up to our elected leaders, and therein lays the rub.  If we leave it completely up to Congress and President Obama (for all his good intentions and rhetoric), nuclear weapons could well be with us (and the rest of the world) for a long time to come, assuming no one finally uses them.

Susan Crane and Lynne Greenwald of the "Disarm Now Plowshares" Five spoke with Mike McCormick this morning on KEXP (90.3) Radio about the November 2, 2009 plowshares action in which Lynne, Sue and the others entered the Trident submarine base known as Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor and made their way into the secure nuclear warhead storage area before being arrested.  They were able to hang a banner saying, "Disarm Now Plowshares", poured their own blood on the fence and road, and pounded on the road with hammers in what is known as a plowshares action, inspired by the Biblical prophet Isaiah who said that it will up to us to beat our swords into plowshares, and make war no more.

Susan spoke of the symbols they brought with them.  As for the simple, household hammers, they are a powerful symbol of Isaiah's call, and she made the point that, "they in the scriptures are us."  "We brought baby bottles that had our own blood... sprinkled some of the blood on the road along the way and also at SWFPAC [Strategic Weapons Facility-Pacific]."  Besides the symbolism of shedding their own blood so that others may live, it was also referring to "the rivers of blood that are starting there[Bangor]."

One other symbol they carried on their journey was sunflower seeds that they sprinkled along the way where they will lay waiting to grow next season as a symbol for a world free of nuclear weapons.  After Ukraine gave up its last nuclear warhead, the Defense Ministers of the U.S., Russia, and Ukraine met on a former Ukrainian missile base, June 4, 1996. They celebrated by scattering sunflower seeds and planting sunflowers. Former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry said, "Sunflowers instead of missiles in the soil would ensure peace for future generations."

When asked about their senior citizen status - the Disarm Now members range in age from 60 to 83 - Susan focused on their being, "old enough to know that nuclear weapons are a danger," and that the U.S. has still not pledged to No First Use."  Lynne said that as an adult, human being and parent, she has a duty to see that nuclear weapons are never used again.

One of the final questions related to the point that many critics of the action have made.  Mike asked, "Why didn't you try proper measures", like going to lawmakers in Washington, D.C?  Susan said, "I have spent half my life trying these other ways."  The problem is that not enough people have done so.  We MUST engage (and educate) other citizens to get involved.  When given pennies to put into cups labeled War, Schools, Healthcare, etc., - an exercise that Susan has used to educate and build awareness) - "people don't put half their pennies into war making."  They put them into schools and other positive endeavors that build up society and the world!  But alas; in the real world, roughly half of U.S. taxpayer dollars go to war, while we struggle to fund even the most basic services.  You certainly won't be hearing about bond issues to fund war and nuclear weapons.

So what should listeners to this morning's program get from this?  That we must each do all we can to create a nuclear weapons-free world, and nuclear disarmament starts at home.  Here are a few of the steps Susan mentioned at the end of the interview.
  1. Tell President Obama to take nuclear weapons off hair trigger alert
  2. Adopt a No First Use policy.  China has done so; why can't we?
  3. A formal refusal to attack non-nuclear weapons nations with nuclear weapons.
  4. Remove all remaining nuclear weapons from Europe.
  5. Work towards disarmament - START, CTBT, NPT, etc.  The president must make good on his promises made in his speech in Prague earlier this year.
You can help support these (and other) steps by getting involved in local, national and international organizations working to abolish nuclear weapons (see the listing in this blog under "Hot Links").  Right now you can take action on a number of issues (see the list of "Actions" at the top of my blog). 

While the Disarm Now Plowhares five don't yet know what is going to happen to them as a result of their plowshares action, we all CAN do something to help abolish nuclear weapons.  We don't have to be senior citizens to know that nuclear weapons present an unacceptable danger to humanity (mind you, these plowshares activists began their work decades before becoming "senior citizens."  Here's to bonds and bake sales to fund nuclear weapons; I certainly don't want stale baked goods.   



Hear the entire interview with Lynne and Susan by clicking here.  Then enter the time (7:31am) and choose your bandwidth.

You can read all earlier posts about Disarm Now Plowshares by clicking here.

Lynne Greenwald is a member of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action.
Susan Crane is from Jonah House.  Note: The beautiful sunflower photo is courtesy of Jonah House.

The bronze statue (in the top photo), representing the beating of a sword into a plowshare, was donated by the Soviet Union to the United Nations in 1959.

Other members of the Disarm Now Plowshares action are Father Bill "Bix" Bischel, Anne Montgomery, and Steve Kelly.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Disarm Now Plowshares - What It Was Really About


On November 2, 2009, the Feast of All Souls, a group of five people entered the Bangor nuclear submarine base in Kitsap County, Washington to engage in a plowshares action they called “Disarm Now Plowshares.” They reached the nuclear weapons storage bunkers before being arrested by Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific (SWFPAC) security personnel. Before being arrested they were able to unfurl a banner that read, "DISARM NOW PLOWSHARES; TRIDENT- Illegal, Immoral", pour vials of their own blood on the roadway (shedding their blood so that others may live), and bang on the roadway with hammers (a symbolic act of beating swords into plowshares).

These were deeply spiritual people engaging in a religious act based on the Biblical prophet Isaiah who said that one day the people "shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall no lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore."  The Plowshares movement began in 1980 when eight people entered the General Electric Nuclear Missile Re-entry Division in King of Prussia, PA where nose cones for the Mark 12A warheads were made.  The Plowshares Eight hammered on nose cones, poured blood on documents and offered prayers for peace before they were arrested.  Nearly thirty years later, one of the original Plowshares Eight, 83 year old Sr. Anne Montgomery, was also one of the Disarm Now Plowshares Five.  Sister Anne rocks!!!

These long-time peace activists understand that nuclear weapons are illegal under international law; but more importantly for them, they believe that they are an abomination in the eyes of a loving, peaceful God, and they are driven by a deep, abiding faith to bear witness to the immorality of these omnicidal weapons. Their plowshares action was intended not to demonstrate that they could sneak into a high security nuclear weapons storage facility, but to symbolically disarm the many nuclear weapons stored there, and to let the world know that these weapons lay out of sight in their bunkers, waiting to be deployed on missiles, and incinerate millions of people if used.

While politicians and the Pentagon continue to speak of the need for a nuclear deterrent, these five people were willing to risk everything to bear witness to the insanity of such thinking. The longer we embrace our nuclear weapons, the greater the chance that they will one day be used. They are, in a very real sense, the ultimate expression of violence. Perhaps Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best when he described our choice in the nuclear age: "The choice is not between violence and nonviolence but between nonviolence and nonexistence."



Monday, November 9, 2009

Bangor Nuclear Submarine Base Closed (someday)

News Release  April 1, 2014

World's Largest Peace Group Celebrates 100 Years of NON-VIOLENCE

For release 4/1/2014

The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) joined with kitsap County's Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action and other allies to permanently close the Bangor Nuclear Submarine Base and open the Northwest Regional Center for Nonviolence Training.

Rear Admiral Smith, the current commander at Bangor, said, "Thank you FOR and GZ.  We couldn't do this because we're under the command of our civilian leaders."

President Obama, now in his second term, along with the newly appointed Secretary of Peace, Rachel Maddow, attended the ceremony.  "I hope that we, as peace-loving Americans, can use this center as a model for transforming other defunct military bases in the U.S. and around the world," said the president.

While nearly all base personnel have found other jobs, all interested citizens are encouraged to call the Green Jobs Hotline with ideas for repurposing Bangor's subs and missiles.


The Fine Print:  My Friends, As you can see by the date, this press release represents a vision, the deepest wish of all who yearn for the abolition of Trident and all nuclear weapons, and the creation of a just, peaceful and sustainable world.  This wonderful bit of crystal ball gazing was created during last weekend's Western Washington Fellowship of Reconciliation's (WWFOR) Fall Retreat.  It is a vision of hope for the future by people deeply engaged in getting there.  I am grateful for such people.  Thanks to Joy Goldstein (and FOR) for allowing me to share this with you.  Peace, Leonard 

Friday, November 6, 2009

Lethal Force vs the Nonviolence of Jesus


I previously shared nearly all the documents carried onto Bangor Submarine Base by those engaged in the November 2nd Disarm Now Plowshares Action.  There is one last document, written by Father William Bischel, that I would like to share.  It speaks to not only the heart of someone who has spent his life caring for those in need and working for justice, but also to the very heart of the violence from which we must extricate ourselves in order to build a world at peace.  This gentle man of God speaks truth far more powerful than any weapons.  Read "Lethal Force" below.

Blessed are the Peacemakers,


P.S. - There is an entertaining bit of video from Fox News that they called "Breaking News", even though it was aired 3 days after the plowshares action.  Click here to watch 'Going to the Dark Side'.

The photo of Father Bischel was taken on October 7, 2009, in front of the U.S. District Courthouse, Tacoma, Washington.  And no, Bix was not at the courthouse for one of his many appearances before a judge; he was there to witness another trial and stood with us outside during the lunch hour, leafleting for Keep Space for Peace Week. 


LETHAL FORCE by William J. Bichsel, S.J.

On November 2, 2009, All Souls Day, by the grace of God I choose to enter the Trident Submarine Base at Bangor Washington. I wish to walk to the idolatrous place of nuclear weapon bunkers where lethal force is authorized to guard the hiding places of the most lethal forces in the world. I wish to walk in solidarity with the poor of our world who live with lethal force constantly directed against them. My vulnerability to this lethal force is minimal compared to the lifetime vulnerability of the condemned of our world. My compelling reason for entering the Trident Submarine Base is to be present at this Auschwitz place in order to witness in faith to the transforming power of Jesus’ non-violence and Resurrection which can turn hearts of stone into hearts of flesh and compassion. At this place of global death and hopelessness I wish to witness in faith to the life giving and transforming power of this presence which can expel the demon of violence from the hearts and minds of people possessed by the need for nuclear weapons. I believe the life giving power of the Resurrection can flow over the nuclear death machine and stop its destructive force. Compassion can then grow in hearts and minds of people who have been liberated from the prison of fear and violence.

Millions upon millions of people throughout our world live with lethal force being directed against them. Our brothers and sisters and children live in war ravaged places where violence reigns and starvation, disease, absence of medical resources, absence of shelter eventually bring death. One hour from our shores in Haiti, where one in twelve children do not reach the age of five, parents give children mud cakes made of earth, oil, sugar and salt to diminish the effects of hunger pains. From the Sudan to Sub Saharan Africa, mothers watch as their infants and children become emaciated with swollen stomachs and lifeless eyes then die. All of these lethal forces are authorized.

In the U.S., except for the poor, we have been protected and insulated from the death sentences under which half of the earth’s population lives. The drive for security has numbed our citizens to accept nuclear weapons as the ultimate protector of the American way of life. In effect this choice means the acceptance of the use of nuclear weapons if the United States considers itself threatened. The people of the United States accept the deaths of millions of people if a preempted strike is ordered. Thus the use of lethal force is authorized.

Across our nation there are vast numbers of U.S. citizens who face lethal forces directed against them which are not as immediate or instantaneously murderous as the lethal forces directed against the 3rd world poor. In our capitalistic system there are many who will not receive the health care, education, employment, appropriate housing and nutrition needed to live full human lives in this culture. These forces attack the body, soul and spirit of our citizens which eventually bring death of the spirit and then the body. This is especially true of one segment of our population – the mentally-ill, who live on the streets, under bridges, in door ways, jungle camps or in jails and prisons. They belong nowhere. They die. These lethal forces are also authorized.

The continued possession of nuclear weapons by the United States means that resources that could be used to divert the lethal forces that are now killing the poor of our world will continue to be used to fuel the killing machine.

Father Richard McSorley, S.J. has maintained that “the tap root of violence in our society is the acceptance of nuclear weapons.” We must bend our efforts to make known the Non Proliferation Treaty Review which will take place on May 2, 2010 at the United Nations. By our presence we must insist that the NPT Review Committee in the very near future organize a nuclear weapon global conference of these treaty nations which will set a firm date for nuclear weapon abolition.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Nuclear Plowshares - Disarming Our Hearts


The five members of Disarm Now Plowshares Action (on Nov. 2, 2009) carried with them a number of documents as they made their way deep into the heart of darkness, the Strategic Weapons Facility - Pacific (SWFPAC).  Among those documents was one written by Susan Crane, 65, of Baltimore, MD.  Susan wrote Some thoughts about going onto Naval Base Kitsap/Bangor, and in her letter reminded us that, "There is no 'us' and 'them.'"  This reminded me of something once written by Alexander Solzhenitsyn:

"If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?" (from The Gulag Archipelago, 1973

It was the thinking of the "us" and "them", the "evil people", in our hearts and minds that drove the arms race that drove humanity ever so close to the brink of self destruction, and ironically it is those same hearts and minds that can (and must) undergo a sea change in order to bring us back from the brink.  As Susan states in her letter, besides the blood, hammers and sunflower seeds they brought with them that cold, clear morning under a bright moon, they brought something far less tangible, and yet perhaps much more important, "disarmed hearts in hope of a disarmed world."

May we all hope and pray (and work) to disarm our own hearts so that we may then disarm the hearts of others.  Here is the entire, unedited text of Susan's letter.



Some thoughts about going onto Naval Base Kitsap/Bangor

All Soul’s Day, Nov. 2, 2009

Today in the US more and more people are coming to food pantries, needing food for their families. The numbers of home foreclosures increase, leaving families homeless; unemployment increases; and many, even those with health insurance, can’t get their basic health needs met. Class size increases as teachers are laid off and dropout rates increase. Many returning vets must struggle for benefits. States are near bankruptcy, and our infrastructure is falling apart. And day by day climate change threatens us all.

As a nation, we know all this. We experience it personally, and hear it on the nightly news. But what we don’t hear is that there may be solutions to these problems. We need to look at where, as a nation, we are allocating our resources: where do our federal tax dollars go? Where do our brightest and best scientists find work? Where do our idealistic and dedicated youth end up? We know that over half of every federal tax dollar is used for warmaking. And we know that the American people never have a chance to vote on a bond issue for the next fighter plane or nuclear weapon. Every dollar that is used for warmaking, killing or planning to kill other people, is a dollar that is not used for human needs, or healing the earth.

Here in Washington state, I was thinking about the Trident submarines which have nuclear warheads on them, and are constantly roaming the oceans. There are 8 subs homeported here at Naval Base Kitsap/Bangor. And each of these subs carries 24 Trident II D-5 missiles, and each of the missiles carries multiple nuclear warheads. Some of the warheads are 32 times the explosive heat and blast of the bomb the US dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

The Trident subs are stealthy, and at sea their location is secret. They can launch nuclear weapons to anywhere in the world in 15 minutes, which is a constant threat to people in other nations. Here in the US we don’t live under a threat like that.

My faith tradition teaches me that we are to love our enemies, to love one another. Planning to kill others is not an act of love…Indiscriminate killing of whole cites of people, animals and plants is not an act of love.

Here in the northwest where the Trident subs are homeported, the land is beautiful; the trees are aromatic; the water is healing. And I hope that we come to our senses and experience this land we live in, and realize that we—and people all over the earth—are brothers and sisters. There is no “us” and “them”. As individuals and as a nation; we all have good in us; we all have a shadow side. We can all work together if we choose to.

With hope for peace and disarmament, the five of us, Steve Kelly, S.J, Lynne Greenwald, Anne Montgomery, RSCJ, Bill Bichsel, S.J. and myself, go to Naval Base Kitsap/Bangor on All Soul’s Day. We remember the 150 million people killed by warmaking and related consequences of war in the last 100 years. It is in solidarity with all who live in lethal force zones that we enter the lethal force zone on the naval base.

We bring our own blood to pour on the missiles, nuclear weapons, trident subs, or perhaps on the railroad tracks that carry the weapons. We pour our blood to remind us all of the consequences of warmaking. We bring hammers to enflesh the words of Isaiah to hammer swords into plowshares. We bring sunflower seeds to sow to begin to convert the base, and we bring disarmed hearts in hope of a disarmed world. I go onto the base with the support of all at Jonah House, in Baltimore, carrying their prayers in my hip pocket.

Susan Crane

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Disarm Now Plowshares - In Their Own Words


Seattle's KOMO News did a story today on the Disarm Now Plowshares Action, interviewing Susan Crane, Lynne Greenwald and Anne Montgomery. Watch it below and hear them tell about the action - what they did, and why. What drives them? "Hope" and "Faith".



Click here to read the KOMO story, 'These weapons can wipe out everything'.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Plowshares and Prophets


The Bible (Luke 4.24) tells us that no prophet is ever welcome in his (or her) hometown or country. That is as true today as it was in the time of the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah. Let's face it. People just don't want to hear that God is displeased with their behavior, and that they really need to change their ways (just like those crazy Israelites). So, what's a prophet to do??? Keep at it, that's what.

While it often seems that so many Christians are complicit in the violence of the world, there are those who are steadfast in following the nonviolent Jesus, and fewer still are those who are prophets - endowed with extraordinary spiritual and moral insight, and called to proclaim peace to the world. Father Bill "Bix" Bischel, who was one of the participants in yesterday's Disarm Now Trident Plowshares Action, definitely fits that description.

It is natural for people steeped in the structures of violence so deeply embedded in our society to dismiss those who engaged in yesterday's action at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor (see the previous post for details). And just like the prophets of old, Bill (and his plowshares companions) will be reviled by many who are unable or unwilling to look at not only the violence inherent in omnicidal (nuclear) weapons, but also the violence within our own hearts.

I hope that the missioning letter (below) from the provincial, Patrick J. Lee, SJ, provides an insight into Father Bischel's depth as prophet and peacemaker.




Missioning Letter

October 23, 2009

William J. Bichsel S.J.
Bellarmine Jesuit Community
2300 S. Washington St.
Tacoma WA 98405

Dear Bix,

A provincial writes a lot of letters missioning Jesuits to do the work of God. This is one of the hardest I’ve written, but also one that seems clearly blessed and confirmed by God.

I have told you that I see your role in our province as a prophet – called by God to proclaim a message of peace. Prophets are never appreciated by everyone. Their message is often painful and difficult to hear. Certainly that has been your experience. You have suffered scorn, indignities, and even prison for the message you have proclaimed. Now you find what God is calling you toward may result in more of the same.

We had thought that perhaps your days of protest were over, and that you might be able to live the remainder of your life with some rest from civil disobedience. But in Nagasaki you once again heard God calling you into action. I know you have listened hard to that call, praying and discerning for over a year to make sure it truly was from God. Now there is no doubt.

And so I mission you to hear and respond to what is in that deepest part of your heart. On November 2nd, the Feast of All Souls, you will return to the Trident Submarine Base at Bangor, Washington, to take part in what will happen there. Go with my blessing and my prayers, Bill. And know that you carry with you the prayers and blessing of the Oregon Province.

I will also pray that your life as a prophet and a witness to peace will be an inspiration to younger Jesuits who may be hearing God’s still distant, disturbing call to prophecy against the violence and war.

May God bless your desires, and give you the courage, the strength and the abundant grace to fulfill them.

Patrick J. Lee S.J.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Disarm Now Trident Plowshares Action


In the early morning hours of November 2, 2009, the five members of the Disarm Now Trident Plowshares Action, ranging in age from 60 to 83, secretly entered Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, West Coast home port of the nation's Trident nuclear submarines, and also a major nuclear weapons storage facility. These brave peacemakers came to symbolically disarm one of the most deadly places on our planet, and expose it to the world. Read about it in the press release below. I have also included two other documents along with biographical statements about the participants.




5 people arrested on Naval Base Kitsap- Bangor

The “Disarm Now Trident Plowshares Action”

Bill “Bix” Bischel, S.J., 81, of Tacoma, Washington; Susan Crane, 65, of Baltimore MD; Lynne Greenwald, 60, of Bremerton Washington; Steve Kelly, S.J., 60, of Oakland, CA.; Anne Montgomery RSCJ, 83, of New York, New York, were arrested on Naval Base Kitsap- Bangor. They entered the Base in the early morning hours of November 2, 2009, All Souls Day, with the intention of calling attention to the illegality and immorality of the existence of the Trident weapons system. They entered through the perimeter fence, made their way to the Strategic Weapons Facility – Pacific ( SWFPAC) where they were able to cut thru the first chain link fence surrounding SWF-PAC, walked to and cut the next double layered fence, which was both chain link and barbed wire, onto the grounds of SWFPAC. As they walked onto the grounds, they held a banner saying…… “Disarm Now Plowshares : Trident: Illegal + Immoral”, left a trail of blood and hammered on the roadway (Trigger Ave and Sturgeon) that are essential to the working of the Trident weapons system, hammered on the fences around SWFPAC and scattered sunflower seeds throughout the base. They were then thrown to the ground face down, handcuffed and hooded, and held there for 4 hours on the wet cold ground. They were taken, hooded, and carried out through the very holes in the fence that they had made, for questioning by Base security, FBI and NCIS. They refused to give any information except their names, and were cited as of now, for trespass and destruction of government property, given a ban and bar letter and released.

In a joint statement, the group stated that “The manufacture and deployment of Trident II missiles, weapons of mass destruction, is immoral and criminal under International Law and, therefore, under United States law. As U.S. citizens we are responsible under the Nuremberg Principles for this threat of first-strike terrorism hanging over the community of nations, rich and poor. Moreover, such planning, preparation, and deployment are a blasphemy against the Creator of life, imaged in each human being. “

There have been approximately 100 Plowshares Nuclear Resistance Actions worldwide since 1980. Plowshares actions are taken from Isaiah 2:4 in Old Testament (Hebrew) scripture of the Christian Bible, “God will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many people. And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. And nations will not take up swords against nations, nor will they train for war anymore.”

The Trident submarine base at Bangor, just 20 miles from Seattle, is home to the largest single stockpile of nuclear warheads in the U.S. arsenal, housing more than 2000 nuclear warheads. In November 2006, the Natural Resources Defense Council declared that the 2,364 nuclear warheads at Bangor are approximately 24 percent of the entire U.S. arsenal. The Bangor base houses more nuclear warheads than China, France, Israel, India, North Korea and Pakistan combined.

The base has been rebuilt for the deployment of the larger and more accurate Trident D-5 missile system. Each of the 24 D-5 missiles on a Trident submarine is capable of carrying eight of the larger 455 kiloton W-88 warheads (each warhead is about 30 times the explosive force as the Hiroshima bomb.) The D-5 missile can also be armed with the 100 kiloton W-76 warhead. The Trident fleet at Bangor deploys both the 455 kiloton W-88 warhead and the 100 kiloton W-76 warhead.



“I will purify you from the taint of all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you and make you conform to my statutes.” Ez. 36:25-27

We walk into the heart of darkness, the Naval Submarine Base Kitsap-Bangor, housing and deploying over 2,000 nuclear warheads for Trident submarines. By their very existence they are endangering the environment, threatening the indiscriminate destruction of life on earth, and depriving the hungry, homeless, and jobless of billions of dollars that could supply human needs throughout the world.

The manufacture and deployment of Trident II missiles, weapons of mass destruction, is immoral and criminal under international law and, therefore, under United States law. As U.S. citizens we are responsible under the Nuremberg Principles for this threat of first-strike terrorism hanging over the community of nations, rich and poor. Moreover, such planning, preparation, and deployment is a blasphemy against the Creator of life, imaged in each human being.

We are called by Isaiah to take seriously our own responsibility to act as citizens of the nation that subjected the civilians of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the hell of nuclear bombing and its deadly consequences. The United States continues to research and develop even more inhumane weapons of mass destruction.

We are called by Ezekiel to transform our own hearts and to invite all those whose hearts are hardened by blindness, fear, and mistrust of the “other” to allow theirs to be transformed into “hearts of flesh:” disarmed, compassionate, and generous.

We bring carpenters’ hammers to symbolically transform these weapons of death into material useful for homes and factories. On this day of remembrance, All Souls Day, we bring our own blood in solidarity with the victims of war, who are invisible to those who target them. We bring sunflower seeds to plant the hope of new life in this violated earth. We intend to beat swords into plowshares as one step up the holy mountain where all nations can unite in peace.

At the beginning of the International Decade of Disarmament, we join with the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the 2020 Vision Campaign to abolish all nuclear weapons by that year at the latest. Nuclear weapons can never be guardians, defenders, or upholders of peace. They are sheathed in stainless steel and metal coverings that conceal the evil incarnate lying within. They are filled with death-dealing agents that tear apart humans and leave survivors scarred for life. They leave no place for human care for the thousands who suffer and die in agony. Nuclear weapons are a lie. Their “protection” is an illusion. They must be abolished.

“God will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” Isaiah 2:4

Washington State , November 2, 2009

Steve Kelly, S.J., Lynne Greenwald, Anne Montgomery, RSCJ, Susan Crane, Bill Bichsel, S.J.

Disarm Now Plowshares

November 2, 2009

Hand Delivery

Captain Mark Olsen
Commander US Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor
120 South Dewey St
Bremerton, WA 98314

YOU have been involved in the housing, deployment and threatened use of immoral and illegal nuclear weapons on Naval Base Kitsap/Bangor. These weapons and their delivery systems include Trident submarines, Trident II D-5 missiles, and W-88 and W-76 nuclear warheads. These weapons, and their delivery systems, threaten the destruction of other nations and people and as such constitute violation of International Law and of Ruling of the International Tribunal of Justice of 1996.

You are hereby notified that effective upon receipt of this letter that the disarmament of all nuclear weapons at Naval Base Kitsap/Bangor is to begin immediately and continue until all nuclear weapons are disarmed and removed.

You are further informed that delay or failure to begin disarmament will lead to the prosecution before the International Tribunal of Justice of all naval and civilian personnel responsible for the delay.

This barment letter is issued for the protection and security of people, animals, and all creation of our world.

Any compelling reason for naval or civilian exemption from prosecution by the International Tribunal can be entered with the secretariat of the International Tribunal.

(Address; International Tribunal, International Court of Justice, The Hague, Netherlands)

Steve Kelly, S.J., Lynne Greenwald, Anne Montgomery, RSCJ, Susan Crane, Bill Bichsel, S.J.

Disarm Now Plowshares Biographical Statements

Steve Kelly, S.J. During his religious formation in our inner cities, in Sudan, Africa, as well as refugee work in Central America following ordination, he encountered the messiah, Jesus incarnate in the poor. At the same time, the relevance of Jesus as a real shepherd inserting himself between the danger of wolf or thief and the flock in his care inspired this Jesuit to try to imitate Jesus. His current collaboration with Catholic Workers and the Pacific Life Community confirms the analysis that the nukes represent, just in their making, a contemporary larceny from the poor, while the wolf, the imminent danger of their use, demands the embodiment of Isaiah 2:4. Will that hammering wake us, those professing faith in a loving God, from our idolatrous slumbers?

Lynne Greenwald is the mother of three children and has worked professionally as a Registered Nurse, Family Therapist and Social Worker for nearly 40 years. She has also been actively involved in the Nonviolent Peace Movement since the mid-1970s. Lynne moved to Kitsap County in Washington State 26 years ago to join Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action and to become a neighbor to families involved with the Trident Base and other facilities in this predominately military community. “While the existence of Trident is obvious, the truth of Trident’s nuclear threats and illegality remains hidden. My action of conversion today is one committed out of love for all life.“

Anne Montgomery is an eighty-three year old Religious of the Sacred Heart and former teacher in high schools and programs for dropouts and learning disabled children. As a member of the Gulf Peace Team in 1991 and of Christian Peacemaker Teams from 1995 to 2009 she served in Iraq and Palestine. Since 1980 she has been active in the Plowshares movement and other forms of civil resistance to U.S. militarism, especially nuclear weapons. Since 2005 she has also participated in Witness Against Torture and the Free Gaza boat trip to open the port of Gaza. She acts now to support all efforts to convert weapons of death into resources for human life, especially for the most neglected and oppressed of the threatened earth.

Susan Crane is the mother of two sons, and has taught at a school for marginalized youth in California. More recently she has lived at Jonah House, a nonviolent community in Baltimore, which speaks out against all warmaking, and specifically nuclear weapons. Aware that we take better care of nuclear weapons than of our nation’s children, and that we spend more than half of every federal tax dollar on warmaking rather than human needs, she acts to transform these weapons of mass destruction to life- giving materials.

Bill Bichsel, a Tacoma native, entered the Jesuit Order in 1946 and after studies and teaching was ordained a Jesuit in 1959. He has served in parishes, taught in high schools, and was Dean of Students at Gonzaga from 1963-1966. In 1969 he returned to Tacoma where he served at St. Leo’s Parish for over 7 years and then co-founded the Tacoma Catholic Worker (Guadalupe House) which offers hospitality and transitional housing to the homeless. The Guadalupe Community lives in the nonviolent tradition of Dorothy Day, the Catholic Worker foundress. Bichsel still resides and serves at the Tacoma Catholic Worker—one mile from where he was born and raised. He has served jail and prison terms many times for his resistance to the violence of the Trident nuclear weapon system and the violence of the S.O.A. training at Ft. Benning, GA. He believes that unless we, the American people, actively work to abolish nuclear weapons we as a people will continue to threaten destruction to the global community and continue to deprive the poor of the world of resources necessary for life.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Bomb - Who's Next?


First we got the bomb, and we thought that was mighty fine. Then Russia got the bomb, and although not thrilled at first, we learned to live with it. Of course, the U.S. and USSR weren't the only ones in the nuclear weapons act. Slowly, but ever so surely over the decades, other nations have joined the club. And now, while the U.S. and Russia debate numbers of warheads and delivery vehicles, we have even more nations clamoring to join. Who's gonna be next???

As world leaders discuss and debate disarmament and non-proliferation, I thought this might be a good time to listen to a real expert on the subject. Our guest is the musical genius Tom Lehrer, giving a unique synopsis of the history of nuclear weapons states. Anyone with a desire to develop a deeper understanding of the history of nuclear weapons should start here. Please give a warm welcome to Tom Lehrer singing his 1964 hit, "Who's Next."

The question of Who's Next is even more pertinent now than in 1964 when Tom wrote this song shortly after China's first nuclear test. The nuclear powers need to seriously consider the consequences of any more nations going nuclear as they prepare for the upcoming Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference.

With the NPT Review Conference just 6 months away (May 3-28, 2010), we need to keep the pressure on President Obama, the U.S. Congress and other world leaders. Learn more about the importance of the NPT and upcoming Review Conference at Reaching Critical Will. Stay tuned for opportunities to advocate for the NPT in the next few months.



P.S. - As a bonus for all you loyal readers, here is the introduction and lyrics to Who's Next, by Tom Lehrer:

One of the big news items of the past year concerned the fact that China, which we called "Red China," exploded a nuclear bomb, which we called a device. Then Indonesia announced that it was going to have one soon, and proliferation became the word of the day. Here's a song about that:

First we got the bomb, and that was good,
'Cause we love peace and motherhood.
Then Russia got the bomb, but that's okay,
'Cause the balance of power's maintained that way.
Who's next?

France got the bomb, but don't you grieve,
'Cause they're on our side (I believe).
China got the bomb, but have no fears,
They can't wipe us out for at least five years.
Who's next?

Then Indonesia claimed that they
Were gonna get one any day.
South Africa wants two, that's right:
One for the black and one for the white.
Who's next?

Egypt's gonna get one too,
Just to use on you know who.
So Israel's getting tense.
Wants one in self defense.
"The Lord's our shepherd," says the psalm,
But just in case, we better get a bomb.
Who's next?

Luxembourg is next to go,
And (who knows?) maybe Monaco.
We'll try to stay serene and calm
When Alabama gets the bomb.
Who's next?
Who's next?
Who's next?
Who's next?

Friday, October 30, 2009

It Takes a Village to Run a Trident Submarine.


I hope you will excuse my butchering of the old adage, "It takes a village to raise a child." It also takes a village to run the ever so complex, and deadly, Trident submarines that patrol the seven seas, deterring other nations' desire to let loose their nuclear weapons on our peaceful shores. The U.S. has, over the years, integrated women into the armed forces in ever increasing roles, and one of the last bastions of strictly manly, seagoing military careers, the submarine service, may end up opening its hatches to women.

Feminists Need Not Apply. A posting on the Halibut Hangar spoke of the Navy's top brass stating their public support for integrating women into the submarine service, and the article made the point that you don't "have to be a feminist to" live the underwater life. No mam! You can, however, be lots of other things; just read below:

"...a woman does not have to be a feminist to be a great submariner or enjoy submarines, as Donnelly [Vice Admiral, Commander, Submarine Force] implies. You can just be a brilliant female engineer; weapons officer; navigator; sonar operator; linguist; intelligence officer; radioman; computer or network specialist; electronics technician; communications technician; doctor or medical practitioner; reactor operator; electrician; machinist; missile technician; torpedoman; diver; etc."

Yes Virginia, it takes a veritable village to prepare for the unspeakable, to work aboard a silent, stealthy, machine of mass destruction, prepared to unleash the most terrible destructive force the world will hopefully never experience. And you too, Virginia, will one day be able to be part of this village of mass destruction. Perhaps you will be a weapons officer. Just think; you receive and authenticate the order to launch. Just then, the feminine imperative kicks in - you are a giver of life, not a taker. How can you insert that key, turn it, and push the launch button(s). Hmmmmm... Perhaps it's time for a philosophical conversation with the commander. "Do we really want to do this???"

Of course, that's just my dream - that women will fill all the positions relating to launching nuclear weapons around the world. And when the orders to launch come down the chain-of-command, they will all swallow their launch keys and say, "Ooops; I just don't know what got into me." It will be the women who understand that we are all part of one vast global village, and that nuclear weapons threaten the entire village, even in a limited nuclear war.

Call me naive, but wouldn't it be better if the village residents got jobs that did something constructive for the village, rather than preparing for its demise?



Monday, October 26, 2009

Point. Click. Kill.


"Point. Click. Kill." That is part of the title of a article in the online Popular Science that gives a brief look at the U.S. Air Force's "frantic" drive to keep up with its newest star, the unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone. Drones are the hottest thing to hit the skies since the Wright Brothers took their first brief flight in Kitty Hawk, and based on the frenzy of work being conducted by just about every aerospace defense company to create its own drone, they are here to stay. Everybody wants a piece of this pie, and it's huge!

Aside from the nuts and bolts of drones called Reapers and Predators, it really all comes down to seduction. We have become seduced by everything about war - the mythology, the violence, the patriotism, and don't forget the toys. Of course, when I say "we", I do not mean the innocent Afghan civilians blown to bits by the Hellfire missiles fired from drones. I refer to we the war making people of the United States, and particularly its military-industrial complex, who just can't seem to get enough of the technology of death.

This video produced for the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory gives a clear picture of just how enamored the U.S. military is of everything technological. Between the lines of this carefully scripted propaganda piece is the truth - that we are prisoners of the madness of a self fulfilling prophecy created by our military-industrial complex. It is a monster not unlike the giant human-eating plant in Little Shop of Horrors..."FEED MEEEEEEEE!" And we continue to feed it our tax dollars, while starving the rest of the economy. Click here to see the numbers.

Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Tom Ehrhard, an expert on drones (according to the Popular Science article) epitomized war's (and its technology's) seduction when he said, "They [drones] give you a capability that you never had, and when you couple it with a lethal system, guess what? It's magic." We have made such extraordinary strides in the technology with which we conduct war, and yet we pay no attention (beyond lip service) to the prevention of war, and most definitely not to our motives for going to war.

I wonder how we would feel if we were the ones on the receiving end, if drones were buzzing around the skies of the U.S. watching for suspicious activities, ready to let loose their missiles at the push of a button by people in trailers thousands of miles away. How would we feel not knowing whether or not our families might be blown to bits while we were at work. How different it is to be on the receiving end, eh?

Ah, the magic. Point. Click. Kill. From 7000 miles away.

No Peace in that,


Thanks to Bruce Gagnon; I found the YouTube video about the Air Force Research Laboratory posted on his blog, Organizing Notes.

P.S. - There is a full (feature) article on unmanned aerial vehicles in the September issue of Popular Science; more cheer leading for drones.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

De-Alert Dammit!!!


Ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall people have been calling on the United States and Russia to ratchet down the level of alert status for their nuclear weapons, thereby decreasing the possibility of an accidental launch of nukes due to itchy trigger finger syndrome or in the midst of any number of possible international crises. For the most part, those with the power to influence and make that decision have spent their time arguing over whether having nuclear weapons ready to launch in very short order (also known as "high alert status") should be called "hair-trigger alert".

Call it what you will; we MUST get beyond the rhetoric that serves to obfuscate the subject to such a degree that we might never take this critical step to avoid the unspeakable. There is absolutely no reason for any nuclear power to have its weapons ready to launch on warning; U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) can be launched in as little as 4 minutes once the missile launch crews receive their orders, and once they are one their way there is no turning back.

President Obama initially pledged to take the nukes off high alert status. Here is what the White House Website had to say about it early on (this statement subsequently disappeared into thin air and Obama seems to have changed his tune):

“The United States and Russia have thousands of nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert. Barack Obama believes that we should take our nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert – something that George W. Bush promised to do when he was campaigning for president in 2000. Maintaining this Cold War stance today is unnecessary and increases the risk of an accidental or unauthorized nuclear launch. As president, Obama will work with Russia to find common ground and bring significantly more weapons off hair-trigger alert.”

Now President Obama "has asked four countries to postpone a resolution at the United Nations calling for reducing the alert-level of nuclear weapons" (FAS Strategic Security Blog). What's up with that??? It seems that the President's idealism has clashed (once again) with the deeply entrenched U.S. nuclear weapons establishment. Whatever their motives, they are simply putting the U.S. and the rest of the world at greater risk, and this is unconscionable.

I have just read an informative study that goes beyond the rhetoric and provides background and practical steps the nuclear powers can take to lower the operational readiness of their nuclear weapons. An intriguing aspect of the study is its emphasis on de-alerting as not just a technical fix, but a strategic step in the discussion about deemphasizing the military role of nuclear weapons. The study looks at de-alerting from the perspectives of not only the nuclear weapons states, but also the non-nuclear weapons states. Read Reframing Nuclear De-Alert: Decreasing the Operational Readiness of U.S. and Russian Arsenals.

Then click here to send President Obama a message reminding him to keep his pledge to work with the Russians to get nuclear weapons off high alert status, hair-trigger alert, or whatever you want to call it!!! This is one of the most basic (and initial) steps the U.S. and Russia can take towards a world without nuclear weapons, and both nations must take it NOW!

And don't forget to ask everyone else to send that message to the President! The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference is coming up, and this is a key issue for the NPT. The time is NOW!



Read Obama Asks UN De-Alerting Resolution to Wait at the Federation of American Scientists Strategic Security Blog (posted October 16, 2009).

Thursday, October 8, 2009

October 7th - A Malignant Silence


Yesterday was the anniversary of the day (October 7, 2001) the United States brought President Bush's perpetual War On Terror to Afghanistan. And once the first bomb was dropped and the first soldier set foot on Afghan soil, we were locked in, stuck in the place of no return. As Arundahti Roy said in 2001, "once America goes off to war, it can't very well return without having fought one. If it doesn't find its enemy, for the sake of the enraged folks back home, it will have to manufacture one. Once war begins, it will develop a momentum, a logic and a justification of its own, and we'll lose sight of why it's being fought in the first place."

Eight years later, and while folks in Washington, D.C. consider how many more troops to send over to country about which we still understand so little, people in the U.S., by and large, go about business as usual; there is little public conversation (or action) about stopping the war. Of course, our nation is not a shambles due to the long presence of foreign invaders, and incessant military actions, including aerial bombings and missile attacks, that have destroyed environment and infrastructure, and killed and maimed countless civilians.

Much of that death and destruction has been perpetrated by (very) long distance; military personnel (and perhaps the occasional private contractor) sitting in trailers in places like Las Vegas, Nevada, operate unmanned aerial vehicles (a.k.a. drones), their signals transmitted by military satellites. We are conducting war using space technology and, as Bruce Gagnon of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, "Death at a distance is still blood on our hands."

A small band of dedicated peacemakers from Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action bannered and leafleted yesterday outside the U.S. District Courthouse in Tacoma, Washington to remind others that we must Keep Space for Peace. Judging by the overall lack of enthusiasm for our message, I would guess that most people would rather not be bothered by such things as space weapons and perpetual war, as long as they are used/waged somewhere else. Nevertheless, there were some who were receptive to the message. At any rate, our spirits were high as we spread the message of peace and nonviolence to anyone willing to listen.

Join us as we call for peace - peace in space as well as peace on Earth. Check out my previous post where you can send a message to Congress asking them to call on President Obama to negotiate a new space treaty to prevent an arms race in space. Each of us can help break the silence by being another voice for peace. Speaking out for peace is the only way to cure the malignancy of silence.



Note: Photo of members of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action bannering in front of U.S. District Courthouse, Tacoma, Washington on October 7, 2009 taken by Leonard Eiger.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Keep Space for Peace!

Hey kids! Looking for a really cool job doing pretty much what you've been doing all these years - playing video games? Well, Uncle Sam wants you! After spending millions training pilots to fly really big, heavy, expensive jets and then sending them overseas, your United States government finally got smart. We realized that we could spend a whole lot less on pilot training AND even less on aircraft (both acquisition and operation). The upshot of the whole thing is that you can fly these cool remote controlled aircraft right from the comfort of your air-conditioned trailer each day, and then head home, crack open a beer and watch the latest reality show from the comfort of your own home. No more being away from home for months at a time in some hot desert; leave that to the grunts. And the best part is it doesn't even seem like work. Yes, it's just like playing those video games you are so used to.

Okay, so that's not exactly how the military recruiters are signing up the new generation of pilots to control drones (in Afghanistan) from exotic places like Creech Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada. But it isn't all that far from the truth. The battlefield of the future is here today, and relies heavily on space - picture a swath of military satellites orbiting the Earth - to do everything from communications and targeting to controlling the remote controlled aircraft known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones. What is really scary about drones is we are setting the stage for fighting wars quite literally from halfway around the globe. Will this make it easier for governments (like the U.S.) to start and continue wars? If Iraq and Afghanistan are examples, then we had better watch out! This is certainly a Pandora's Box, the likes of which we have never before seen.

Space is, as Captain Kirk of Star Trek called it, the final frontier. And if the Pentagon has anything to say about it, that frontier will belong solely to the United States, lock, stock and satellites. The current U.S. National Space Policy, an extension of the policy started by President Clinton in 1996 and expanded by the Bush Administration, says that, "“In this new century, those who effectively utilize space will enjoy added prosperity and security and will hold a substantial advantage over those who do not. Freedom of action in space is as important to the United States as air power and sea power.”

That pretty much sets the tone, doesn't it??? While the National Space Policy does not explicitly endorse placing weapons in space or fighting in, through or from space, the U.S. is definitely using space (via satellites) to control drones as well as locate and destroy targets. The stage is being set, and it is creating a veritable feeding frenzy among defense contractors such as General Atomics, which can't create new ideas for drones fast enough to keep up with the Pentagon's destructive desires. This is, as with everything else "defensive", a full employment policy for defense contractors.

The old notion that space would be an arena for international cooperation ( lest we forget the token International Space Station) is being quickly replaced by a new era of competition (thanks to U.S. military efforts), and it is likely to become something rivaling the Cold War should we not put on the brakes right now. The Obama administration must work to negotiate a United Nations treaty to prevent an arms race in space.

This week is the International Week of Protest to Stop the Militarization of Space. Learn more about keeping space for peace at the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. You can also learn more at Reaching Critical Will's Outer Space Page and at the PAROS Working Group.

Bruce Gagnon at the Global Network has a sample letter to Congress calling on them to urge President Obama to negotiate a new space treaty to prevent an arms race in space. Click here to find Congressional contact information. Join me in asking Congress to Keep Space for Peace.



Read the 2006 U.S. National Space Policy.