"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

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Darn, No More "Nucular"


I've been listening to President Obama speak lately, and it has been such a refreshing change to have someone in The White House who has a real command of the English language; as well as the issues at hand. Not that English is the only language that is of any value; but if one is going to speak English, especially if one is the President of the United States, it is nice to hear more than just the words one finds in a Dick and Jane Reader.

I don't find myself cringing anymore when there is a press conference or other opportunity for the President to speak. But the big thing for me is - PRAISE THE LORD - that our new president can enunciate the word N-U-C-L-E-A-R. It quite literally rolls off his tongue with such fluid precision that I nearly cried the first time I heard him say it; "NUCLEAR". Aaaah... When one is speaking of that mushroom cloud, nuclear winter, you nuke me-I'll nuke you kind of topic, it is important to show some respect for that word - don't you think?

I have been looking for some kind of closure regarding the Bush Administration, and although I was hoping for something on a larger scale, such as indictment for war crimes, I am so grateful for a President who is able to speak with such clear and impressive enunciation that I think I am ready to let it go and move on.

Peace (and quiet),


P.S. - Just kidding about that "moving on" thing. I am not really letting it go that easily. Check out IndictBushNow.org. No one is above the law!!!

For further edification: Why Does Bush Go "Nucular"? in Slate.com from 2002.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Obama to Meet with Medvedev: Act Now!


Soon after being elected President of the United States, then President-elect Obama spoke with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, and they agreed to meet soon. Well, soon has arrived; the two presidents will meet in just five days, on April 1st. It will be a historic meeting for many reasons, and it will be an extremely important one considering that relations between Moscow and Washington plunged to their lowest point since the Cold War ended while President George W. Bush was in office. Things can only go up from there.

Among the most serious conversations these two leaders will have will concern nuclear weapons. This could be the moment that the two superpowers, which for so many years stood ready to annhialate each other with nuclear weapons, agree to work towards a world free of nuclear weapons. There are a number of steps these two men could agree upon as a beginning, among them extending the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) agreement, taking all nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert, and making deep cuts in both nation's nuclear arsenals.

It will take the leadership of the United States and Russia (that together possess 95 percent of the world's nuclear warheads) to set the example for the rest of the world on this issue. And it will require serious diplomacy in an atmosphere of mutual trust for these leaders to discuss these issues and move our nations (and the world) away from the threat of nuclear war. Both Presidents have stated their committment to a world free of nuclear weapons.

President Obama needs to hear our committment to (and support for) that goal. I hope you will join me in sending President Obama a message (before April 1st) urging him to focus on the nuclear weapons issue at this meeting, particularly extending the START agreement, taking all weapons off hair-trigger alert and deep cuts to both arsenals. Who knows; maybe he will even take European missile defense off the table.

CLICK HERE to send your message to President Obama courtesy of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (before April 1st).

Towards a nuclear weapons-free world (and peace),


We Need A Global Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone!


Central Asia just became the newest addition to the club whose members have said NO to nuclear weapons. Here is the official statement from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, issued on March 20th:

The Secretary-General welcomes the entry into force of the Treaty on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia. Opened for signature on 8 September 2006, it has now been ratified by all five Central Asian States and will enter into force on 21 March 2009.

The Treaty on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia, for which the Government of Kyrgyzstan is the depositary, has five States parties: the Republic of Kazakhstan; the Kyrgyz Republic; the Republic of Tajikistan; Turkmenistan; and the Republic of Uzbekistan. The Treaty is of particular significance. This will be the first nuclear-weapon-free zone to be established in the northern hemisphere and will also encompass an area where nuclear weapons previously existed. It will also be the first nuclear-weapon-free zone that requires its parties to conclude with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and bring into force an Additional Protocol to their Safeguards Agreements with IAEA within 18 months after the entry into force of the Treaty, and to comply fully with the provisions of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).
In order to ensure the effective implementation of the Treaty, the Secretary-General would like to urge the States concerned to address any outstanding issues that may affect its operation.

As the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons approaches, the Secretary-General trusts that the entry into force of the Treaty on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia will reinforce efforts to strengthen the global nuclear non-proliferation regime, underline the strategic and moral value of nuclear-weapon-free zones, as well as the possibilities for greater progress on a range of issues in the pursuit of a world free of nuclear weapons.

It is noteworthy that Kazakhstan, one of the signatories, was once (while part of the Soviet Union) a hub for nuclear weapons testing, and had the fourth largest nuclear weapon arsenal in the world (UN News Centre, 3/20/2009). The Semipalatinsk Test Site was the Soviet's primary test facility with over one hundred above ground tests and hundreds of underground tests conducted before testing ended in 1989. The residents of the area surrounding Semipalatinsk still suffer from the long term radiation effects, and the environmental effects are staggering; it has been called the most heavily contaminated place on earth.

It is fitting that Kazakhstan and its neighbors have entered into this treaty (that was signed a few years ago) creating the Northern Hemispheres first nuclear weapons-free zone, not just because of the region's history during the Cold War, but because of the strong statement that it sends to the nuclear powers and the rest of the world. Nations have spent huge amounts of human and financial capital over the past six decades building up and maintaining nuclear arsenals. And what are they good for? Can they feed, clothe or house people rather than incinerate them? Can they cure people rather than make them ill? Can they green the earth rather than poisoning the soil and water on which life depends?

Ban Ki-moon recently said that making progress in this area [global disarmament] will free up vitally important resources for development at a time when the world is facing a financial crunch. As we approach the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, we need to focus on not only the moral issues surrounding nuclear weapons (although they are always first and foremost to me), but also the practical issues surrounding the world's problems and how best to solve them. Just think of what we could do if all the human capital in the nations' nuclear weapons laboratories were put to work solving all of our problems related to energy and our environment.

Just think!!! So here's to that day when the whole world is a nuclear weapons-free zone.



Note: The photo of the mushroom cloud is a early test at the Semipalatinsk Test Site.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

No Itchy (HAIR) Trigger Finger Please


So, let's get this straight. The Cold War ended nearly two decades ago, but the United States and Russia still maintain their deployed nuclear weapons on high alert, hair trigger alert, launch on warning, ready alert status; whatever you want to call it. The bottom line is that, should the United States detect the launch of nuclear weapons by Russia (or vice versa), the President would have mere minutes to process a huge amount of information under tremendous pressure before deciding whether to launch a counterstrike.

Sound implausible? Think again. This very scenario has played out before, most recently in 1995 when Norway launched a weather rocket that initially resembled an intercontinental ballistic missile to Russian radar. The Norwegians had notified Russian officials before the launch, but the message was never delivered to the Russian nuclear weapons command center. Russian president Boris Yeltsin was notified and had only minutes to decide whether to retaliate. Fortunately, cool heads prevailed; a Russian officer observing the radar track not only questioned why there was only a single missile launched (not your typical first strike), but watched the track of the missile and finally (just in time) determined that it was not a nuclear missile.

So we squeaked by on that one But will we be so lucky the next time??? Accidents happen, even in systems with multiple safety features. And let's face it; there is absolutely no rationale for either the U.S. or Russia to maintain any nuclear weapons on hair trigger alert; the Cold WAR is so over!!! It only increases the risk of an accidental launch (and its catastrophic consequences). This is the kind of error the world can not afford.

President Obama has made nuclear disarmament not just a goal, but official policy. Secretary of State Clinton has already engaged in discussions aimed at official talks between the U.S. and Russia to further this goal. But before anyone talks about anything else, it is critical that both nations take their weapons off alert status. This is a first step, (more than) a good faith measure, needed to create a far greater (and necessary) margin of safety for both nuclear arsenals. President Obama has stated his intention to work with the Russians to take both nation's weapons off hair trigger alert.

President Obama could unilaterally take U.S. weapons off alert status, and ask Russian President Medvedev to do the same. I think chances are pretty darned good that he would reciprocate. What does the U.S. (or Russia) have to lose? Absolutely nothing. And if the two largest (and I mean LARGEST) nuclear powers took this action, it would send a strong message to the other nuclear powers and lay a foundation for further reductions of U.S. and Russian nuclear warheads.

You can write to President Obama asking him to take this action NOW! Send your message from the Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) Website. The President needs to hear this positive message in order to counter those who believe that the U.S. security means retaining a large nuclear "deterrent" force, and even building it larger.

While at the PSR Website, check out other actions at their Legislative Action Center, and consider signing up to become a PSR Activist. Advocacy at its best!



Friday, March 13, 2009

A Hawaiian Shirt To Die For


I was pondering the work of the Pacific Life Community(which is "committed to ending nuclear weapons and war-making through nonviolent direct action along the Pacific Rim") recently when I discovered a truly remarkable work of art. The Posters for Peace and Justice 2009 Calendar has Pam Debenham's work, "No Nukes in the Pacific" for June.

As one who understands the legacy of atmospheric nuclear testing in the Pacific, and as a devotee of Hawaiian shirts, I was immediately drawn to this poster on many different levels. Here is Pam's explanation of how the poster came about (from the calendar).

"The original idea for this poster was inspired by an American Friend who collects antique Hawaiian shirts telling me that the rarest shirt from the 1950s was one with a design of a bomb blast. The shirt was produced in celebration of the United States doing atmospheric testing on Bikini Atoll. This seemed so contradictory I thought it was worth reinventing the idea in the context of protest. This poster was one I produced in the early 1980s dealing with the continual armaments build-up by the superpowers and nuclear testing in the Pacific. Like many Australians, I feel an affinity for the coastal landscape of our country and the sense of our close proximity to our Pacific Island neighbors. The voice of the individual protester is conveyed throught the visual map of the shirt."

Pam's poster is part of a collection of political posters commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the Atomic Age by the Center for the Study of Political Graphics. These are some of the most remarkable works of anti-nuclear art that I have ever seen. I think they demonstrate the effectiveness of (poster) art as a form of political speech. You will find it difficult to get some of these images out of your head once you see them.

If you have an artistic side, whether in the graphic arts, music or theatre, consider how your creative expression can move to the social/political realm to work for peace and justice. Art is a powerful tool for reaching people on an emotional level, from which they can begin to move towards understanding and change. How utterly subversive!

Towards Peace,


View the original image of the Hawaiian shirt poster by clicking here. The artwork is copyrighted by Pam Debenham, C1984. Poster from the archive at the Center for the Study of Political Graphics, Los Angeles, California. www.politicalgraphics.org

"Disarm the Warheads" is a computer-generated piece done in 2003 by an unknown artist.

Click here to view the entire 60th Anniversary of the Atomic Age poster exhibition.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Union of Concerned Scientists - Real Science for Real People


An email I received the other day reminded me that many of us engaged in nuclear weapons abolition work aren't familiar with all the other organizations out there doing the same (or related) work. So I thought I would occasionally highlight an organization that I find valuable in my work.

I just received an Action Alert from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The alert asked people to urge the Department of Energy to cancel plans for "the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), a costly, dangerous program that attempts to reuse—or "reprocess"—commercial nuclear waste by extracting weapons-usable plutonium from spent fuel from nuclear power reactors. Reprocessing will seriously undermine U.S. efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and materials and will do nothing to solve the problem of nuclear waste. In the waning days of the Bush administration, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released a required environmental assessment of the proposed GNEP program that is now open for public comment."

The Union of Concerned Scientists is a science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world that began as a collaboration between faculty and students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1969, and has since grown into an alliance of more than 250,000 citizens and scientists. You might have heard UCS screaming at the top of its scientific lungs during the faith-based Bush administration (what science???).

UCS works on a number of topics, including
Nuclear Weapons and Global Security. Check it out, and while there you can sign up to receive Action Alerts like the one I just got. You will find overviews on different nuclear weapons-related topics at their Nuclear Weapons and Global Security 101 page.

You can also learn more about the dubious (and dangerous) Global Nuclear Energy Partnership and send an email message to the DOE by clicking here.

Science for the people!



Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Path of Most Resistance


Water is truly the essence of life. It is likely from some primordial soup whose primary component was water, that life began on Earth. Our bodies are largely composed of water, and it sustains us in so many ways. And, of course, water flows, finding its way without resisting. And to what effect; consider the Grand Canyon.

Members of the Pacific Life Community, which held its annual retreat over the two days before its recent vigil and action at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, brought water from various places from which they came. On the day of the action they poured all their water offerings into a single glass vase, after which they took conifer boughs whetted with that water and sprinkled each other, and also sprinkled water in the direction of the base and soldiers standing guard while singing "Peace is Flowing Like a River."

After this blessing of the waters, a group of resisters from the Pacific Life Community walked onto the roadway and crossed the blue line onto the base. They kneeled down, and Chris Rooney poured the remaining water onto the roadway, and as he described it, "watched it run towards the earth by the highway."

Here is the poem Chris wrote for this ritual, followed by the personal mantra of one of the other resisters, John Owen.

These waters have come from many places to mingle here but the truth is they have mixed and separated countless times before now. They have traveled many miles through time, and air, and sand, and rock, and wood, to be with us. We ask God the creator of water, to bless our resistance to the evil of men and to cleanse the land of their crimes.

To that God who’s name is Peace, Love and Justice we pray for healing to fall like rain and wash away the sins of greed and violence, and nourish the flowering of love within all people.



Be like water, seek the lowest places. Water, by resisting nothing, overcomes everything. - John Owen

I am often asked if our resistance to Trident makes a difference. I generally explain that although we hope to someday see the end of Trident and all nuclear weapons, whether or not we "make a difference" is not so important as our choosing to resist. Our knowledge makes us accountable, and we make a moral choice to resist, because to do otherwise would be to become part of that which we resist - weapons so inhumane and genocidal .

In reflecting on the ritual performed by members of the Pacific Life Community at the Trident base, I begin to see our resistance to Trident as much like the action of water. Water occasionally demonstrates its power in dramatic fashion, causing unimaginable changes due to the magnitude of its force. But most often it works slowly, steadily, imperceptibly (as in the example of the Grand Canyon), creating extraordinary effects that we marvel at today.

Whether or not we see the effects of our resistance in our lifetime is (to me) not important, and out of my control. What is important is that we choose to act, and much like the water, never give up. Individually, we are small streams, but we flow together to become a mighty river, picking up others along the way, slowly doing our work, often barely noticed, until one day, perhaps, we will have created a world free of nuclear weapons. And what a day that will be.

May we all (in our nonviolent resistance) be as gentle, and yet as strong as water.



Thanks to Chris Rooney for sharing his poem, and to John Owen for sharing his personal mantra. Chris Rooney (and Karl Germyn) publish The Christian Radical blog, a Catholic Worker information and resource service run by the Catholic Worker community of Vancouver Canada.

As for the title of this post, it comes from the 2009 War Resisters League calendar,
The Path of Most Resistance: A U.S. Radical History Tour. This calendar will not only help you keep track of your scheduled appointments, protests, actions and vigils, but will also keep you appraised of key historical dates and provide a weekly lesson on the history of American peace and justice. If you still need a 2009 planner (and even if you don't) this one is on sale now at the War Resisters League for only $5.00!!!! You can also get previous years' calendars.

P.S. - Just two more days to
sign the Appeal to President Obama for U.S. Leadership for a Nuclear Weapons-Free World, and then it will be delivered to Washington, D.C.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Pacific Life Community - Resisting At Bangor


This weekend, members of the Pacific Life Community (PLC) held their annual retreat here in the Northwest, and commemorated the 55th anniversary of the US “Bravo” nuclear bomb detonation at Bikini Atoll on Sunday, March 1 with a vigil and non-violent resistance action at the gates of Bangor Trident Submarine Base in Kitsap County. Participants came from as far away as Michigan, Arizona, Nevada and California.

Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action (GZ) hosted the event, and members of both PLC and GZ participated. Six members of PLC were arrested by Federal authorities after crossing the blue line onto the base and blocking the entrance, and five members of GZ were arrested by the County Sheriff after blocking the roadway, holding a banner about the deaths attributed to the Bravo test 55 years ago.

You can watch a slide show of the day's events below; click on the photo to view the full screen version:

Resisters read the following statement before they made their way onto the roadway.


March 1, 2009

On March 1st, 1955, 55 years ago, the U.S. nuclear test, Castle Bravo, was conducted in the Marshall Islands, Bikini Atoll. At 15 megatons it was the largest nuclear explosion ever perpetrated by the United States, creating a crater 1.2 miles in diameter. The explosion of dry-fuel thermonuclear fuel exceeded the expectations of the scientists and has been labeled an exercise of “human fallibility.”

The test affected U.S. service personnel on ships, natives of Rongelap Island, 100 miles from the test, and Utrick Island, 300 miles distant; and fishermen on a Japanese vessel. Victims ensued among all these entities. Ten years later one death of an islander and 90% of the population experienced thyroid tumors. How many more have died since from nuclear radiation cancers? Compensation is still denied to Islanders. The environment cannot be compensated.

This March 1, 2009 citizen’s intervention of Trident Bangor Sub Base remembers all the victims of nuclear weapons testing: their uprooting, sufferings, and deaths. Our action also stands on the side of International Law and human morality that all nuclear weapons must be abolished.

The creative human energy and the natural resources used for Trident must be converted to creating a viable human and living species environment.

The Pacific Life Community is "committed to ending nuclear weapons and war-making through nonviolent direct action along the Pacific Rim in collaboration with the global peace movement." Ground Zero Center is dedicated to abolishing Trident and all nuclear weapons through nonviolent resistance. Click on the following links for more information on the Pacific Life Community and Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action.