Quotable

"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


Monday, July 20, 2009

From Trinity to Trident: A Long and Perilous Road

Friends,

As I begin this blogging journey from the Trinity test, I ponder the perilous journey we have taken since that first test of a nuclear bomb in the desert of New Mexico. Since the United States dropped the first two bombs on Japan in August of 1945, nuclear weapons have never been used by one nation against another, although we have neared that precipice numerous times. Since those first two bombs the U.S. has built over 70,000 nuclear warheads and bombs at astronomical costs, both economic and human.

As the United States and the Soviet Union fought the Cold War from their respective development laboratories and weapons factories, planners on each side continuously struggled to stay ahead of the other. Somewhere along the way, someone got the bright idea that submarines loaded with nuclear tipped missiles were the perfect way to keep the enemy guessing. After all, a sub bristling with nuclear weapons could sneak around the seven seas, ready to launch an attack, totally surprising the enemy.

Trident was the culmination of this demonic drive - the ultimate first strike weapon; today some of the 14 Trident nuclear submarines, loaded with Trident D5 missiles, silently roam the seas, ready to launch their deadly missiles on the order of the President of the United States. Just one of these submarines would, if it were to launch all its missiles armed with a full complement of 455 kiloton warheads (rather than the puny 100 kiloton model), unleash the equivalent of nearly 7000 Hiroshimas (the Hiroshima bomb was between 12.5 and 15 kilotons), and could kill hundreds of millions of people. What madness is this?

Yet, while tens of thousands of people labored to develop and build this system of mass destruction (Trident), others worked to resist the madness - to let others know that we were preparing the seeds of our own destruction. For Trident, it all began with the early 1970's when a missile designer named Bob Aldridge was at Lockheed Missiles and Space Corporation working on the first Trident missile design. Bob recognized something about the maneuvering reentry vehicle that he was designing; it was designed "to home-in on underground missile silos in a nuclear first strike" (Ground Zero Newsletter, Vol. 7, Issue 3, July 2002). Bob's conscience got the better of him (something that has not happened to the vast majority of nuclear weapons scientists or engineers), and after a family retreat following Christmas 1972 Bob submitted his resignation letter to Lockheed.

A year later Bob met with Jim and Shelley Douglass and told them of his remarkable journey from missile designer to student of nonviolence, and briefed them on the plans to create what would be known as Sub Base Bangor (West Coast home of the new Trident fleet) on the shores of the Hood Canal in Washington State, just 20 miles from Seattle. And so the seeds of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action were sown by a person with the courage to follow his convictions.

In 1977 Jim Douglass and John Williams found 3.8 acres of land with a small house right next to the Bangor fence. What a find! A year later (the first Trident missile was deployed in October 1979) Bob Aldridge sent Jim and Shelley Douglass an urgent letter warning of the first strike threat that Trident represented. First strike meant that Trident would likely be used to deliver a preemptive surprise attack of overwhelming force on the Soviet Union (not a pretty picture).

Jim and Shelley Douglass, and many others continued building the Ground Zero community (which was preceded by the Pacific Life Community) as they worked in common resistance to Trident; blocking the railroad tracks on which the "White Trains" brought the nuclear warheads, leafletting at the gates of Bangor and blocking the gate, and building awareness of the dangers (as well as the immorality and illegality) of Trident and all nuclear weapons.

Jim and Shelley produced some wonderful writings along the way, including Dear Gandhi: Now What? Letters from Ground Zero, and Jim's latest offering, JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why it Matters. The Douglasses received the Pacem in Terris Peace and Preedom Award in 1997.

Jim and Shelley will join the dedicated people of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action for an observance of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (August 8-10, 2009). The weekend will include a dedication of the new Center building and opportunities to learn a variety of ways to act for nuclear abolition. Featured will be a panel of experts, films, music, discussions, and welcoming the Trinity to Trident Interfaith Peace Walk, (Los Alamos, NM, to Ground Zero, Bangor), culminating with a traditional vigil and nonviolent direct action at Trident Submarine Base Bangor.

Other notable participants include Vietnam Veteran, Peace Activist and Attorney, Brian Willson, and Charlie Meconis, an expert on naval activities in the Pacific. Everyone is welcome to join us on this special weekend. The only prerequisite is a peaceful spirit. Click here for a more detailed schedule of events for the weekend. Click here to send an email with questions about the weekend's events.

We, the people of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, are dedicated to the abolition of Trident and ALL nuclear weapons. This is no naive pipe dream. Humanity is at (or is nearing) a fork in the long road that began with Trinity. Which fork we take (and the future of humanity) will depend not just on the political actions of leaders like Obama and Medvedev (and their proxies), but very much on the hard work of people like you and me, and organizations like Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action. Please join us!

On the Journey,

Leonard

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