"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

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

It's 5 Minutes to Midnight. Do You Know Where Your Nukes Are?


The hands of the Doomsday Clock, that icon of the nuclear age that conveys just how close humanity is to catastrophic destruction (primarily from nuclear weapons) rest at 5 minutes to midnight. The clock, created by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 1947, was initially set at 7 minutes to midnight, symbolizing the urgency of the nuclear dangers of that time. Since then the clock has been as close as 2 minutes in 1949 (with the creation and testing of the hydrogen bomb), and as far as 17 minutes in 1991 (when the Cold War ended). Click here for the full timeline.

Since 1991 the clock has inched closer to midnight for many reasons, among them the fading of the Cold War peace dividend, India and Pakistan's nuclear ambitions, and the risks of unsecured nuclear weapons. The most recent position (5 minutes) was set in 2007 as the world stood "at the brink of a second nuclear age", with the United States and Russia still poised to "stage a nuclear attack within minutes", along with concerns about North Korea, Iran and global warming.

Today the hands of the clock still show 5 minutes to midnight, and for good reason. The concerns that caused the hands to move 2 minutes closer still exist, and tensions have increased with Russia, Iran and North Korea. In addition, tensions between India and Pakistan are heating up once again. Israel is heating up the Middle East with its most recent military escapades.
The question now is, "Can we turn back the clock?" This is not just some crazy question of theoretical physics about time and space. This is a question of the survival of humankind. We are, indeed, at the brink of a second nuclear age. But this one will not be as stable as the previous one was (with two relatively evenly matched and stable players with everything to lose). There are new players in this high stakes game where there are really no winners.

With a new president in The White House we have just the opportunity we need to turn back the clock. But it will require the engagement of the American People in an issue that most have found untouchable since the dawn of the nuclear age. President Obama has stated his desire to rid the world of nuclear weapons, but is taking a cautious approach. Of course, every president has stated the desire (to one degree or another) to get rid of nukes, but history has shown that the rhetoric has been hollow.

We, the American people, will need to support the President in his initiatives and prod him where he falls short if we are to succeed in progressing towards abolition. David Krieger of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation has examined eight reasons why the public has not been engaged in nuclear disarmament. Whether you are engaged as an individual or as part of an organization you should read Nuclear Weapons After Bush: A Role for the People. We need to bring nuclear weapons into the everyday dialogue of the American people if we are to progress in what is arguably the most inconvenient truth of our time.

While you are at it, consider sending President Obama an email asking him to take some immediate (and some not-so-immediate) steps to lessen the nuclear danger. Among those steps is taking our nuclear weapons off high-alert status, a dangerous practice, considering the potential for breaches of the military's communication's network by hackers, potentially causing false alerts and launch orders. It's not as far fetched as you might think. Read more on this at Slate.com by clicking here.

With a new administration (but the same old Pentagon) in place, NOW is the time to start advocating for real progress on nuclear disarmament. President Obama needs our help and prodding to succeed.



Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Working to Restore the Beloved Community


I celebrated the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. on January 19th by joining my fellow nuclear abolitionists at Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action for our Martin Luther King Day action at the gates of the Trident nuclear submarine base in Kitsap County, Washington. Ground Zero Center has been holding these actions (since Trident came to the shores of Hood Canal in the late 70's) bearing witness to and resisting this genocidal weapons system that violates international law; one Trident submarine carries enough nuclear weapons to destroy an entire continent, killing millions, and subsequently blanket the planet with deadly radiation for centuries.

Honoring the organization's (and our individual) core values of nonviolence, we always participate in nonviolence training before each action. Led by a trainer, the group engaged in a number of exercises to prepare us to respond in a nonviolent manner to anything that might happen, whether it be angry civilians or problems with the authorities (which we have never experienced in my time with GZ).

In the days leading up to MLK Day, the Buddhist monks from Bainbridge Island, Washington led an Interfaith Peace Walk around Puget Sound from January 11th, ending at Ground Zero Center on the 18th. We were honored with their presence and witness for peace at the MLK Day action.

After the nonviolence training and action planning, the group prepared to set out for the main gate of Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, home of the West Coast Trident nuclear submarine fleet (and over 2000 nuclear weapons). The sub base is our next-door neighbor, and it is a short walk down Clear Creek Road from GZ to the gate. After reciting the Pledge of Nonviolence we began our journey down the road on a bright, sunny day.

A variety of individuals and organizations are represented at GZ; from The Raging Grannies to Veterans for Peace, many people support the goal of abolishing Trident and all nuclear weapons, and aren't afraid to put their feet to the pavement to show their support.

But beyond the vigilers and Peacekeepers (the people who look our for everyone's safety) there are the brave souls who risk arrest in one way or another in acts of nonviolent resistance. It varies from one action to another. It may involve blocking traffic into the base or trying to cross onto the base to deliver a message to the base commander (as was done last Spring requesting a dialogue on establishing a Puget Sound Nuclear Free Zone).

On this MLK Day, a group of resisters attempted to block traffic carrying a banner with a quote from Dr. King that read, "When scientific power outruns spiritual power, we end up with guided missiles and misguided men." As they entered the roadway they were arrested by Washington State Patrol Officers. They were taken for processing and were released, and will later receive notice of their court dates.
Shortly after the arrestees were driven off for processing, the rest of the group headed back for GZ to wait for the return of the arrestees. Inside the newly built (but not yet finished) GZ house, everyone warmed up with hot chili and discussed the day's events.

Of course, you might be asking, "Why would anyone want to spend time doing what we do?" I will save that complex discussion for a subsequent post. Nuclear weapons present one of the most complex subjects of our time, and also one of the most pressing. The members of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action come at it from many different angles and beliefs, but we all share one common thread - ABOLISHING TRIDENT!

So, until the day that the United States government scraps Trident, this small, but dedicated group of abolitionists will continue to stand outside the gates of Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor engaged in acts of creative nonviolence as we resist Trident. And in doing so we will be working to restore the Beloved Community, honoring Dr. King's admonition to "recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism." And (of course) we will do it nonviolently!



Click the slideshow below twice to view the full screen version.
Click here to learn more about Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Honoring Martin Luther King Jr. (Our Way)

Dear Friends,

Today (January 15) is Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. Next Monday, January 19, people all over America will celebrate Dr. King through a wide variety of activities. As I researched activities across the nation, I noticed that the vast majority (indeed, nearly every one) involved service of one sort or another - volunteering at a food bank or participating in an environmental or urban restoration project.

While it pleases me to see people doing something positive for people and our planet on such a day, there is another way to honor the memory of a person who spoke out (as one of the greatest prophets of our time) not just against racism, but also against militarism, which he found to suck the life out of everything it touched; it was as he said, "the enemy of the poor". In his Beyond Vietnam speech in 1967, Dr. King spoke out against war with great certainty. You can read more about this speech at my Subversive Peacemaking Blog.

This Monday a group of dedicated peace activists and nuclear weapons abolitionists will gather as we do every year to honor Dr. King in our unique way - in a vigil and nonviolent resistance action at the gates of Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor (just east of Seattle, Washington), home of the West Coast Trident nuclear submarine fleet, one of the largest concentrations of (and the deadliest) nuclear weapons on earth. We will honor the legacy of one of the world's great peacemakers by bearing witness to (and resisting) the nuclear weapons with which the United States threatens the world with utter devastation and extinction.

Each Trident nuclear submarine carries enough nuclear armed Trident missiles to destroy an entire continent. These Cold War ("first strike") weapons still prowl the world's ocean's, ready to launch at the president's command.

Dr. King once said that, “We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.” The members of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action choose nonviolent coexistence, and reject violence and the tools of annihilation. And so, on Monday, January 19 (and throughout the year), we will stand up for peace and non-violence and call for an end to not only Trident, but all nuclear weapons.

This is how we will honor Dr. King. Won't you join us?



Click here for more information on Monday's vigil and a schedule of activities.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Dolphins In Bondage, or Let My Cetaceans Go

Picture this. It’s a sunny, summer day on Hood Canal in Washington State. You decide to take a long swim and jump in (in your wet suit of course). You are swimming along, minding your own business when you are accosted by a dolphin that finally drops a homing beacon and swims away.
Before long a California sea lion swims out of the watery gloom and starts poking your leg. You wrestle the beast, but it finally gets the upper fin and attaches a cuff to your leg and swims off. You stop for a moment and consider your situation. And then it dawns on you; Atlantic bottlenose dolphins don’t live in Puget Sound. Next thing you know, you feel a jerk, and are being pulled through the water like a fish on a line.

Just before you run out of air you are pulled onto the deck of a boat and find yourself staring at a bunch of very serious looking people with guns pointed at you. You’ve just been apprehended by the swimmer interdiction security system, a human/marine mammal team working to protect the United States' most valuable asset in its nuclear arsenal, the Trident nuclear submarine fleet based at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.

So what’s the big deal with using dolphins and sea lions to help catch the hordes of terrorists swimming around looking for submarines to blow up? For starters, the Navy already has an effective system in place consisting of active sonar arrays that can discriminate between (and locate) swimmers and scuba divers. Combat swimmers on harbor patrol boats can jump in and nab any would-be terrorists before you can say Davey Jones’ Locker.

Perhaps those combat swimmers are getting lazy, or the Navy has a marine mammal fetish. At any rate, they have been using marine mammals for many years to do their dirty work, and now they want to use them in Puget Sound (and they have been talking about this for well over two years). There is one minor problem however – dolphins don’t like water this cold. Don’t get me wrong. They love it down in sunny San Diego and many other parts of the world where they get to work. But the waters of Puget Sound are around 12 degrees (Fahrenheit) colder than their home waters.

Of course, the Navy says that they will look after the dolphin’s welfare, keeping them in “heated enclosures” and only send them out on patrol “for periods of about two hours." Oh sure! I’m envisioning a scene out a Charles Dickens story, but with Dolphins instead of children. I can just see an OSHA inspector coming out and checking on Flipper’s working conditions and requiring the Navy to supply him with something warm to wear. The Navy will have to call the knitters at Knitting for Dolphins to help keep our friends warm on their two hour tours.

Of course, the real issue is not whether we need marine mammals to protect our nuclear submarines from scuba diving, explosive vest wearing terrorists. The real issue is whether we need these mammoth dragons of the deep, (each one) bristling with enough nuclear warheads to destroy an entire continent and blanket the earth with deadly radiation for generations, "protecting" the United States. Free the dolphins (and the sea lions) and deep six Trident!

Learn more about Trident at Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, an organization dedicated to the abolition of Trident.



P.S. - If you live in the Seattle area, and would like to comment on the Navy's proposed proposed swimmer interdiction security system, there are two public hearings coming up:
Wednesday, 2/11, 5-9 p.m., Silverdale Community Center, Evergreen Room, 9729 Silverdale Way NW, Silverdale, WA 98383-9445.
Thursday, 2/12, 5-9 p.m., Tyee High School, Cafeteria, 4424 S. 188th Pl, SeaTac, WA 98188-5028.

Thanks to the Knitting for Dolphins Website for the photos used in this post.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Peace In Every Step

Dear Friends,

Here is an announcement of a very special event - an interfaith peace walk to take place this January in Washington State that coincides with Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action's Martin Luther King Jr. Day Vigil at the Trident nuclear submarine base. This is one of many peace walks that the monks from the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Temple on Bainbridge Island have led in recent years. Each step the walkers take is dedicated to peace, and in this walk, to a nuclear weapons free future.

If you live near one of the legs of the walk, consider joining for any distance.

May each step we take bring us closer to peace,




The Nipponzan Myohoji Bainbridge Island Dojo will lead an Interfaith Peace Walk beginning January 11, 2009 and ending on January 19 on Martin Luther King Day as an opportunity for people to come together in a non-violent, spiritually motivated action to reclaim the future. Peace walkers will average about 15 miles per day, and you can participate in any part of the walk. It is open to all who sincerely believe in extinguishing the violent fire of nuclear annihilation, and believe in the equality of all human beings. Peace and Joy.

Sunday, Jan. 11 - International Day for Shut Down Guantanamo Action in Tacoma (Stay overnight at Tacoma or Bainbridge Is.)
Monday, Jan. 12 - The day for preparation & Meeting at St.Leo Church, Tacoma 7-9pm
Tuesday, Jan. 13 - Peace vigil at the Federal District Court in Tacoma (for Pastor Anne Hall, Fr.Bix & Tom Karlin)
Wednesday, Jan. 14 - Tacoma to Lacey
Thursday, Jan. 15 - Lacey to Olympia
Friday, Jan. 16 - Gig Harbor to Bremerton
Saturday, Jan. 17 - Bremerton to Seattle
Sunday, Jan. 18 - Suquamish to Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor/ Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action
Monday, Jan. 19 MLK Day Action

You are welcome to join the walk for any amount of time.
This is a spiritual walk; NO Drugs or Alcohol allowed.
Also, bring your own dishes and cups for eating and drinking water, and rain gear.

For further information contact Nipponzan Myohoji Bainbridge Island Dojo at 206-780-6739, or 206-356-4362 (cell), 206-383-9487 (cell), 6154 Lynwood Center Rd NE, Bainbridge Island, WA, 98110, or Tacoma Catholic Worker Guadalupe House 253-226-9605 (cell),
senji@nipponzan.net, gzperez@juno.com or peterguadalupe@hotmail.com.

Sponsored by :
Nipponzan Myohoji Bainbridge Island Dojo
Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action
Tacoma Catholic Worker
Lake Forest Park for Peace

Learn why the peace walkers are participating in the January 13th peace vigil at the Tacoma Federal District Court by clicking here.

Learn more about the International Day for Shut Down Guantanamo Action at Tacoma Catholic Worker.

Learn more about the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day vigil at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor at Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action. For the schedule of Ground Zero events on the 19th, CLICK HERE.