Quotable

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


Sunday, August 30, 2009

No More Hiroshimas, No More Nagasakis!

Dear Friends,

I wrote about the Interfaith Journey of Repentance in a previous post. Members of this delegation traveled to Hiroshima and Nagasaki for the 64th anniversaries of the atomic bombings to listen to the stories of the Hibakusha and engage in the global movement to abolish all nuclear weapons. If you haven't yet read about their journey, I highly recommend their blog (click here or see the link below). There is also another link with photos of Father Louis Vitale, who was one of the participants, at Pace e Bene.

Hiroshima's mayor, Tadatoshi Akiba, presented the city's annual Peace Declaration on August 6th, a document that expresses the "Spirit of Hiroshima", that spirit being characterized by forgiveness, the struggle for peace, and the determination that no other city shall ever suffer the fates of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The United States, being the only nation to have ever used nuclear weapons on another, has a unique responsibility to set the example for other nations to move towards a world without nuclear weapons.

As the survivors of the atomic bombings grow older, we are gradually losing the living memories of these tragedies; and collective memory is so important if we are to keep the torch of nuclear abolition alive. It is through the dedication of people such as those engaged in the Journey of Repentance that we will help keep the memories alive and spread the word of peace and reconciliation so necessary in a world awash in violence. The struggle to rid the world of nuclear weapons will only be won through the principles of nonviolence.

Repentance is much more than a simple apology. The Journey of Repentance is a model for the commitment to working (in a deep, sincere way) for nuclear abolition. I hope that reading their blog will give you a sense of their deep commitment, and demonstrate the hope that exists through the actions of people like these. May we all journey along with them in our own repentance for the sins of the past, while we work to ensure that we will never again commit such egregious sins as were committed on the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Hiroshima, Nagasaki - Never Again!

Peace,

Leonard

Click here to read the Journey of Repentance Blog.

Click here to see photos of Father Louis Vitale's participation in the Journey of Repentance.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ladders and Missiles Don't Mix!

Well Blow me down Mateys. It appears that the U.S. Navy has scuttled another command at Sub Base Bangor, more politely known these days as Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor. According to the Navy, Captain Timothy J. Block, the commanding officer of Bangor’s nuclear weapons facility was given the heave-ho because of a loss of confidence in his ability to continue to lead, according to a Pentagon spokesperson.

The Pentagon also said that there was no “specific issue or incident” that led to Block’s removal and that public safety was not jeopardized at the facility, which assembles, stores and places nuclear weapons on submarines. Phew - We can all breathe easy now. But then again, this IS the second time in just six years that a Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific (SWFPAC) commander has been relieved of his command for "a loss of confidence", and this is the facility where the U.S. stores roughly a quarter of its nuclear weapons!

In case you aren't familiar with the previous (serious) incident that ultimately caused heads to roll, here is the one minute version. November 7, 2003. Missile handling crew preparing to remove a Trident C4 missile from missile tube number 16 (on the USS Georgia) opens tube hatch, lowers access ladder into tube (ladder used to attach hoist to lift missile out of the tube), crew member attaches hoist, and they all take a break. Now comes the fun part. They come back from their break, start hoisting the missile (not a good idea since they had not yet removed the ladder), and the missile's nose cone is impaled by the ladder, slicing a 9-inch hole in the nose cone. And by the way, the ladder came within inches (quite literally) of one of the nuclear warheads before the crew stopped hoisting!!!


The Bangor explosives handling wharf

Just a few more inches, and the 2003 accident could have resulted in non-nuclear explosions, dispersal of plutonium into the air and water, and even fire involving missile propellant. SWFPAC failed a week long nuclear weapons inspection conducted in December 2003, resulting in multiple reassignments and courts-marshal.

Although we have heard nothing specific as to the recent dismissal of Captain Black, the 2003 incident only became public knowledge when the Kitsap County Sheriff heard about it from a reporter. One can only wonder why the Navy has relieved another commander of one of the largest nuclear weapons depots anywhere. If the December, 2003 Seattle PI article is an indicator, we should all be watching. Rear Admiral C.B. Young, director of the Navy's strategic weapons systems programs in Washington, D.C., cited only "a lack of confidence" as the reason for sacking Bangor's commanding officer after the most serious (known) nuclear weapons-related accident in recent years. Isn't that the exact phrase used by the Pentagon to describe the most recent dismissal???

Peace,

Leonard

Navy Fires Top Officer at Bangor Nuclear Weapons Facility, Kitsap Sun, Friday, August 21, 2009
Nuclear missile allegedly damaged, about the 2003 accident, Seattle PI, Thursday, March 11, 2004
Bangor officer in charge of key missile systems loses his command, Seattle PI, Thursday, December 25, 2003

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Ground Zero Needs Your Vote!

Friends,

As you can see, this is a non-commercial blog. As much as I would love to rake in some money, I avoid plastering my blog with advertising, or anything commercial for that matter. But when it comes to raising money for a worthy cause, I take no prisoners (so too speak). Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action (GZ), which you have seen reference to many times in this blog, is one such worthy cause. GZ has been faithfully resisting Trident (no small task) and working to abolish nuclear weapons for over 30 years, and with the subject of nuclear weapons having been brought into the mainstream recently, GZ is primed to reach more people with its message of nonviolence and nuclear abolition. But it takes MONEY!

GZ is competing for a $10,000 grant in a contest sponsored by Nau, a clothing company based in Portland, Oregon, which runs the Grant for Change program. The Grant for Change program is meant to support "activists who are seeding positive change in their communities, and moving others to do the same." This grant will help GZ increase its reach to build awareness of the issues, and educate and train many more people to work for nuclear abolition. To win this grant we need as many people as possible to vote for GZ. If we are among the top five vote getters, we will go into the final round. And there will be another vote. The deadline to vote is August 31. And we need at least 100 votes to be in the running! We can do it with your help.

There are two steps to voting.

1) Click here to register with Nau. All you need is your name, email and a password; NO strings attached.

2) Then click on the link below. Once you're on the Grant for Change site, you can read the "who" and "why" of our nomination. Then click on the "rate/share" option at the far right where you can rate our nomination. I hope you agree that 5 stars is appropriate, but you decide. As soon as you rate the nomination, your vote is recorded. Here's the link to vote:


Thanks for supporting GZ and nuclear abolition!

Peace,

Leonard

P.S. - Don't forget to ask your friends to vote for us! Am I mercenary, or what??? But hey, this really IS a good cause.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Original Child Bomb

Friends ,

In the year 1945 an Original Child was born.The name Original Child was given to it by the Japanese people, who recognized that it was the first of its kind. So begins Thomas Merton's Original Child Bomb: Points for meditation to be scratched on the walls of a cave.

The Original Child Bomb to which Merton refers "exploded within 100 feet of the aiming point. The fireball was 18,000 feet across. The temperature at the center of the fireball was 100,000,000 degrees. The people who were near the center became nothing. The whole city was blown to bits and the ruins all caught fire instantly everywhere, burning briskly. 70,000 people were killed right away or died within a few hours. Those who did not die at once suffered great pain. Few of them were soldiers" (from Original Child Bomb).

Before dawn on Monday, August 10, 2009, a participant in Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action's vigil and nonviolent direct action at the Bangor Trident nuclear submarine base read an excerpt from Merton's poem in preparation for the day's event. At the 3 1/2 day annual witness at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, NE, hosted by the Des Moines and Omaha Catholic Worker communities, the entire poem was read as part of the closing ceremony.

I thought it worth sharing Merton's poem as a closing to a weekend of remembrance, action and planning for the future of the nuclear abolition movement. May we all continue to find strength to continue the struggle to abolish nuclear weapons.

Peace,

Leonard

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hiroshima-Nagasaki Event News Release

Friends,

Here is the news release for this past weekend's event at Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action.

Peace,

Leonard

P.S. - See the previous post for a slideshow of part of the weekend.

*************

Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action
16159 Clear Creek Road NW Poulsbo, WA 98370
Website: www.gzcenter.org, E-mail: info@gzcenter.org

10 people arrested at Trident nuclear submarine base at Bangor, marking the 64th Anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

87 people participated in a vigil and nonviolent direct action against the Trident nuclear weapons system at the Main (Trident Avenue) gate to Bangor nuclear submarine base early Monday morning .

Joy Goldstein, 74, 0f Vashon, WA, and her passenger, Swaneagle (Mary Tremblay), 59, of Vashon, WA, drove onto the base, were told to leave or receive citations. The pair were allowed to leave in their vehicle.

Jessica Arteaga, 24, of Tacoma, WA, Lynne Greenwald, 60, of Bremerton, WA, and Tom Shea, 80, of Snoqualmie, WA crossed the blue line onto the submarine base and attempted to block traffic entering the base while holding a large banner with a sunflower and broken Trident missile saying, "Abolish Nuclear Weapons: Resist Trident", and a peace flag. All three were detained by Naval security, processed and released. Shea offered the Naval security personnel copies of an article by Larry Kerschner, titled "August 9, 1945: Ruminations on Nagasaki." Greenwald was given a citation for trespassing (violation 18 USC 1382); court date pending.

While vigilers held a variety of banners, flags and signs calling for peace and the abolition of nuclear weapons a second group broke the yellow "caution" tape designating the "free speech zone", and strung it across the County roadway, blocking traffic entering the base. One member of this group walked among the vehicles waiting to enter the base, offering drivers sunflowers, a symbol of nuclear disarmament. Anne Hall, 64, of Seattle,WA, Jackie Hudson, 74, of Bremerton, WA, Brenda McMillan, 75, of Port Townsend, WA, Jean Sundborg, 69, of Seattle, WA, and Alice Zillah, 36, of Olympia, WA, were arrested by Washington State Patrol officers.

Following the release of the three Federal arrestees, Arteaga and Greenwald, who had already been processed and released by Naval authorities, re-entered the roadway on the County side carrying the same banner as before, and were arrested by the State Patrol. All those arrested by the State Patrol were taken to Kitsap County Justice Center in Port Orchard where they were booked and released. Veterans For Peace, Squadron 13, who brought their Peace Bus to Ground Zero Center for the weekend, which marked the anniversaries of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, picked up the arrestees after their release and returned them to Ground Zero Center.

Besides welcoming the Interfaith Peace Walk (from Los Alamos, New Mexico to Ground Zero Center) and speaking by telephone with members of the Journey of Repentance who were in Hiroshima, Japan, the weekend included Charlie Meconis speaking on Energy, Environment & Nuclear Weapons, and an engaging panel discussion with Vietnam Vet, Lawyer and Peace Activist, Brian Willson, and Ground Zero founders, Jim and Shelley Douglass, long time Ground Zero member, Lynne Greenwald, and folksinger, Tom Rawson.

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. 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 Ground Zero Center for Nonviolence has, for over 30 years, resised Trident, and offers education, training, and action for a world free of nuclear weapons.

Note: The photo, taken in front of the new Ground Zero Center house nearing completion, is of the 10 people who risked arrest on Monday morning.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Nuclear Abolition: Yes We Will!

Friends,

Did you notice the silence in the corporate media over the course of the weekend surrounding the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Well, despite the lack of compassion shown towards the victims of the most horrific, instantaneous mass killing in all of recorded history, there were plenty of people honoring the memories of those killed and working towards a nuclear weapons-free world.

One of those gatherings occurred over the course of the weekend at Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action in Poulsbo, Washington, also the site of Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor (known still to some as Submarine Base Bangor), home of one of the largest concentrations of nuclear weapons in the world as well as the West coast home port of the Navy's Trident nuclear submarine fleet. It was a humbling experience for me to join my fellow Ground Zero members and guests, many who have been involved in the movement to abolish nuclear weapons for decades, never losing their dedication to the core values of peace and nonviolence.

As I decompress following such a gratifying weekend, I find it hard to articulate the many thoughts and feelings, so for now I will share a slide show of part of the weekend (Sunday and Monday) that I hope will convey the spirit of the event. As the banner at the top of this blog says, "No More Hiroshimas, No More Nagasakis".

Peace,

Leonard

P.S. - Click "View all" to go to the photo page where you can click on "Slideshow" for a full screen version. Enjoy the show!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Dorothy Day on Hiroshima

Friends,

On this solemn anniversary weekend, I thought it worth sharing what Dorothy Day wrote in response to the bombing of Hiroshima. Dorothy, founder of the Catholic Worker movement was one of the most outspoken peacemakers of the past hundred years. Here is a paragraph about her response to civil defense drills during the Cold War:

One of the rituals of life for the New York Catholic Worker community beginning in the late 1950s was the refusal to participate in the state's annual civil defense drill. Such preparation for attack seemed to Day part of an attempt to promote nuclear war as survivable and winnable and to justify spending billions on the military. When the sirens sounded June 15, 1955, Day was among a small group of people sitting in front of City Hall. "In the name of Jesus, who is God, who is Love, we will not obey this order to pretend, to evacuate, to hide. We will not be drilled into fear. We do not have faith in God if we depend upon the Atom Bomb," a Catholic Worker leaflet explained. Day described her civil disobedience as an act of penance for America's use of nuclear weapons on Japanese cities (from Jim Forest's biography of Dorothy Day).

Let us all work to be as outspoken as Dorothy.

Peace,

Leonard

**************

Catholic Worker, September 1945, page 1
We Go on Record: the Catholic Worker Response to Hiroshima
By Dorothy Day

Mr, Truman was jubilant. President Truman. True man; what a strange name, come to think of it. We refer to Jesus Christ as true God and true Man. Truman is a true man of his time in that he was jubilant. He was not a son of God, brother of Christ, brother of the Japanese, jubilating as he did. He went from table to table on the cruiser which was bringing him home from the Big Three conference, telling the great news; "jubilant" the newspapers said. Jubilate Deo. We have killed 318,000 Japanese.

That is, we hope we have killed them, the Associated Press, on page one, column one of the Herald Tribune, says. The effect is hoped for, not known. It is to be hoped they are vaporized, our Japanese brothers scattered, men, women and babies, to the four winds, over the seven
seas. Perhaps we will breathe their dust into our nostrils, feel them in the fog of New York on our faces, feel them in the rain on the hills of Easton.

Jubilate Deo. President Truman was jubilant. We have created. We have created destruction. We have created a new element, called Pluto. Nature had nothing to do with it.

Created to Destroy


"A cavern below Columbia was the bomb's cradle," born not that men might live, but that men might be killed. Brought into being in a cavern, and then tried in a desert place, in the midst of tempest and lightning, tried out, and then again on the eve of the Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ, on a far off island in the eastern hemisphere, tried out again, this "new weapon which conceivably might wipe out mankind, and perhaps the planet itself."

"Dropped on a town, one bomb would be equivalent to a severe earthquake and would utterly destroy the place. A scientific brain trust has solved the problem of how to confine and release almost unlimited energy. It is impossible yet to measure its effects."

"We have spent two billion on the greatest scientific gamble in history and won," said President Truman jubilantly.

The papers list the scientists (the murderers) who are credited with perfecting this new weapon. One outstanding authority "who earlier had developed a powerful electrical bombardment machine called the cyclotron, was Professor O. E. Lawrence, a Nobel prize winner of the University of California. In the heat of the race to unlock the atom, he built the world's most powerful atom smashing gun, a machine whose electrical projectiles carried charges equivalent to 25,000,000 volts. But such machines were found in the end to be unnecessary. The atom of
Uranium-235 was smashed with surprising ease. Science discovered that not sledgehammer blows, but subtle taps from slow traveling neutrons managed more on a tuning technique were all that wereneeded to disintegrate the Uranium-235 atom."

(Remember the tales we used to hear, that one note of a violin, if that note could be discovered, could collapse the Empire State Building. Remember too, that God's voice was heard not in the great and strong wind, not in the earthquake, not in the fire, but "in the whistling of a gentle air.")

Scientists, army officers, great universities (Notre Dame included), and captains of industry -- all are given credit lines in the press for their work of preparing the bomb -- and other bombs, the President assures us, are in production now.

Great Britain controls the supply of uranium ore, in Canada and Rhodesia. We are making the bombs. This new great force will be used for good, the scientists assured us. And then they wiped out a city of 318,000. This was good. The President was jubilant.

Today's paper with its columns of description of the new era, the atomic era, which this colossal slaughter of the innocents has ushered in, is filled with stories covering every conceivable phase of the new discovery. Pictures of the towns and the industrial plants where the
parts are made are spread across the pages. In the forefront of the town of Oak Ridge,Tennessee is a chapel, a large comfortable-looking chapel benignly settled beside the plant. And the scientists making the first tests in the desert prayed, one newspaper account said.

God, Our Creator

Yes, God is still in the picture. God is not mocked. Today, the day of this so great news, God made a madman dance and talk, who had not spoken for twenty years. God sent a typhoon to damage the carrier Hornet. God permitted a fog to obscure vision and a bomber crashed into the Empire State Building. God permits these things. We have to remember it. We are held in God's hands, all of us, and President Truman too, and these scientists who have created death, but will use it for good. He, God, holds our life and our happiness, our sanity and our health; our lives are in His hands. He is our Creator. Creator.

And as I write, Pigsie, who works in Secaucus, New Jersey, feeding hogs, and cleaning out the excrement of the hogs, who comes in once a month to find beauty and surcease and glamour and glory in the drink of the Bowery, trying to drive the hell and the smell out of his nostrils and his life, sleeps on our doorstep, in this best and most advanced and progressive of all possible worlds. And as I write, our cat, Rainbow, slinks by with a shrill rat in her jaws, out of the kitchen closet here at Mott Street. Here in this greatest of cities which covered the cavern where this stupendous discovery was made, which institutes an era of unbelievable richness and power and glory for man ?

Everyone says, "I wonder what the Pope thinks of it?" How everyone turns to the Vatican for judgement, even though they do not seem to listen to the voice there! But our Lord Himself has already pronounced judgment on the atomic bomb. When James and John (John the beloved)
wished to call down fire from heaven on their enemies, Jesus said:

"You know not of what spirit you are. The Son of Man came not to destroy souls but to save." He said also, "What you do unto the least of these my brethren, you do unto me."


Note: Thanks to Frank Cordaro of the National Catholic Worker for circulating this historic piece of writing. The original publication source was The Catholic Worker, September 1945, Page 1. You can read it at the Dorothy Day Library on the Web at http://www.catholicworker.org/dorothyday/daytext.cfm?TextID=554&SearchTerm=bomb.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Promises, Promises, Promises...

Friends,

Cherie Eicholz, Executive Director of Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, wrote the following guest column in The Seattle Times, Time for United States to keep promise on nuclear disarmament. It is timely, well written and hits the proverbial nail on the head. Promises are meant to be kept, especially promises of such magnitude.

Peace,

Leonard

*****************

More than 50 years after the United States dropped nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the United States has a golden opportunity to salvage the promise it made in an international 1968 nuclear non-proliferation treaty, writes guest columnist Cherie Eichholz.

By Cherie Eichholz

Special to The Times

Today many will remember the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 64 years ago, the world's first and only actual use of nuclear weapons. A reverent few will gather at Greenlake and other areas around Seattle to memorialize those killed, and tomorrow we will resume our lives, ignoring the lethal threat that lurks all around us.

Today, the United States still possesses more than 9,000 nuclear warheads, approximately 2,000 of them on hair-trigger alert, ready to deploy and explode within 30 minutes of launch. Over one-quarter of those weapons are maintained at Bangor Naval Base, scarcely 30 minutes from Seattle, which is one of only two bases in the nation that houses Trident nuclear submarines, arguably the world's deadliest weapon.

Modern nuclear weapons are many times more powerful than those that killed hundreds of thousands of Japanese in 1945 and are thus significantly more dangerous and devastating. They are hardly in the category of an adequate and reasonable security measure. Today's nuclear weapons are weapons of mass destruction and the longer they lay in waiting, the greater the risk that either they will be used for their stated purpose of extraordinary destruction, possibly by rogue nations or individuals, or that an accident will occur and unintentionally kill thousands if not more.

For the first time in many years we have a president committed to disarming the U.S. nuclear arsenal and seeking a world free from nuclear weapons. But in past weeks, President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have pledged to help India in their efforts to increase the size of their military and nuclear capabilities. These actions and the president's oft-stated commitment to disarmament seem at odds. Indeed, while it is apparent there is some measure of sincerity in Obama's repeated proclamations, it is also apparent the commencement of global disarmament remains a goal waiting for concrete actions by the U.S. and others.

U.S. citizens want to feel safe and be safe, but when it comes right down to it, we are not engaged in pursuing what would above all else ensure our safety, regardless of our long-standing pledge to do so.

The international Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons we signed in 1968 states: "Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament."

It would be difficult to argue that in the past 40 years we have honored this commitment — but we have a golden opportunity to salvage that promise.

In the coming months, the U.S. will face a number of critical decisions concerning nuclear weapons as several treaties and agreements are to be re-evaluated. The question remains: Will the U.S. take the necessary steps to move toward a world free from nuclear weapons? The answer seems clear: If we hope to ensure a safe future, free from the kind of devastation wrought in 1945, we must demand the U.S. set an example and begin disarming.

Cherie Eichholz is executive director of the Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Journey of Repentance

My Friends,

It was 8:14 a.m. in Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945, a calm and sunny morning. The city went about its usual Monday morning business, bustling with activity. At 8:15 a.m. that same morning the bombadier aboard the Enola Gay, a U.S. B-29 bomber released the planes deadly cargo, a uranium-type atomic bomb from an altitude of 31,000 feet. The bomb plummeted towards the city below, the people completely unaware of the pending doom. Fourty-three seconds later the bomb detonated at an altitude of 1,900 feet above the ground.

The initial heat of the explosion incinerated everything near the hypocenter. The blast wave crumpled bodies and collapsed buildings. Those who were not killed instantly succumbed to the effects of their injuries and the intense ionizing radiation emitted by the explosion. It was an unimaginable hell. You can read a narrative of the bombing here. I will say no more of it.

Today, 64 years later, nations continue (led by the U.S. and Russia) to maintain nuclear arsenals, and other nations seek to develop them. If we are to abolish nuclear weapons, the U.S. and Russia will have to lead the way. As for the U.S., we need to recognize that we should never have used nuclear weapons in the first place and that we can never use them again. We must, in a very real sense, begin a journey of repentance (not unlike that of Fr. George Zabelka in my previous post). That journey of repentance can only begin with a sincere apology.

Acts of contrition are never easy. As I write this post, a group of peacemakers are in Hiroshima on this solemn anniversary, the destination of their Journey of Repentance. Father Bill Bichsel of the Tacoma Catholic Worker is one of 16 people who made the journey to Hiroshima "to acknowledge the tremendous damage done by our country, by what has happened."

The Journey of Repentance, composed of people of various faith traditions, is making the journey to both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The group includes Dominican Sister Teresa Montes, Franciscan Father and Catholic Worker Louis Vitale and U.S. Navy veteran Tom Karlin and Mitch Kohjima, a former Buddhist monk. "The apology is necessary in order to begin to repent for the sins of war," Father Bichsel said. “What we have done not only has inflicted tremendous damage on the Japanese, it also has done tremendous damage on the (American) people when we don’t remember what we have done.”

In any healthy relationship, a sincere apology is necessary in order to move on towards healing. No matter what the justification might have been for dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as people of faith we are called to recognize that in the eyes of a loving God we need to renounce violence of any kind. Until we are able to see the lack of humanity we exhibit when we continue to justify the killing of well over 200,000 people (estimated 240,000 deaths by the end of 1945, with half those on the days of the bombings), we will not be able to renounce the use of nuclear weapons.

Yesterday, after touring the Hiroshima Peace Museum, Fr. Bichsel stopped and said, "There is just no reason" he said. "There is absolutely no reason for us to still have the capability to drop those bombs." Indeed, there is not!!! August 6, 1945 was a turning point in human history; we had developed (and demonstrated) the ability to destroy ourselves. Since then we have raised it to a high (and dark) art. Until we recognize our folly (and our hubris) we will not be able to move forward towards peace.

Let us stop and be silent for at least a few moments on this day, listening for the voices of those who suffered and died on August 6, 1945. I hope that we can all hear their call for healing, for reconciliation, and for peace.

Peace,

Leonard

You can read blog postings about the Journey of Repentance by clicking here.

Notes on the photograph of watch: Kengo Nikawa (then, 59) was exposed to the bomb crossing the Kan-on Bridge, 1600 meters from the hypocenter, by bike going from his home to his assigned building demolition site in the center of the city. He suffered major burns on his right shoulder, back, and head and took refuge in Kochi-mura Saiki-gun. He died on August 22. Kengo was never without this precious watch given him by his son, Kazuo

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Blessing the Bombs

Friends,

I have always wondered how ministers, priests and rabbis could become military chaplains, wearing the uniform of the armed forces, giving tacit approval to killing. Perhaps it started about 1700 years ago when Constantine co-opted the pacifist Christians in such a stealthful and brilliant move that the churches still haven't figured that one out. Much like Pope Urban II blessing the first Crusaders, modern day clergy give their blessing to soldiers (in the name of God) before going off to battle. The principle of Just War gives them their marching orders.

Father George Zabelka, a Catholic chaplain with the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II, was one of those who blessed killing in the name of Jesus. In 1945 Zabelka was stationed on Tinian Island in the South Pacific. It was the airfield on Tinian from which the Enola Gay and Boxcar took off with their nuclear weapons destined for the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And it was was Fr. Zabelka who served as priest to those who dropped the bombs - saying mass, giving communion, hearing confessions, and giving soldiers his blessing.

Fr. Zabelka was just doing his job. In an interview by (Rev.) Emmanuel Charles McCarthy many years later, Zabelka said something I found quite interesting: As a Catholic priest my task was to keep my people, wherever they were, close to the mind and heart of Christ. As a military chaplain I was to try to see that the boys conducted themselves according to the teachings of the Catholic Church and Christ on war. When I look back I am not sure I did either of these things very well.

"Close to the mind and heart of Christ"??? "The teachings of...Christ"??? Have I misread my bible? While Fr. Zabelka spent the years following the war searching his soul and gradually coming to the realization that what he had done was terribly wrong, he nevertheless spent years as a priest blessing the killing of tens of thousands of human beings, the antithesis of Jesus' life and teachings. Although he may have come to terms with his god, there was no salvation for those incinerated in the instant of those atomic blasts or those who suffered for hours, days or weeks before dying from the horrific effects of the blast and its radiation.

In reading the interview and a speech Fr. Zabelka from 1985, I found a man of contradictions. But he got one thing right; the following quote from the interview sums things up: I walked through the ruins of Nagasaki right after the war and visited the place where once stood the Urakami Cathedral. I picked up a piece of a censer from the rubble. When I look at it today I pray God forgives us for how we have distorted Christ's teaching and destroyed His world by the distortion of that teaching. I was the Catholic chaplain who was there when this grotesque process begun with Constantine reached its lowest point-so far.

I call on Christians in every church in every city on Earth this coming Sunday to light candles for all the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (including those who suffer today), and pray for forgiveness for distorting the teachings of the very one to whom they lay claim, who taught us to love our enemies. May we pray and work to become the people we claim to be.

Peace,

Leonard

Read Fr. George Zabelka: A Military Chaplain Repents, an interview by (Rev.) Emmanuel Charles McCarthy. Read Fr. Zabelka's 1985 speech.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Deterrence ?????????

Friends,

First, a definition (or two) is in order. The American Heritage Dictionary defines deterrence as, "measures taken by a state or an alliance of states to prevent hostile action by another state." The Random House Dictionary, in sync with the nuclear age, defines it as "the act of deterring, esp. deterring a nuclear attack by the capacity or threat of retaliating." Finally, the American Heritage Dictionary of Cultural Literacy calls deterrence, "a military capability sufficiently strong to discourage any would-be aggressor from starting a war because of the fear of retaliation. (See balance of terror.)" Phew!!!

We are definitely NOT in Kansas anymore Toto! As I contemplate the evolution of deterrence during the Cold War with the United States and Soviet Union aiming tens of thousands of nuclear weapons at each other, I understand the balance of terror that existed. The Cold War ended, and with it went any reason for deterrence. The threat of the Communists taking over the world (the dominant paradigm in which those of us growing up in those days were indoctrinated) was done, finished, kapput! Of course, the U.S. and Russia still maintain the vestiges of deterrence with huge nuclear arsenals that are ready to launch on warning, along with their "first strike" submarine fleets (TRIDENT in the U.S.) hiding beneath the deep blue seas. Yes, we could launch them if we think someone has launched missiles towards us, or we could launch in a pre-emptive strike to destroy a nation's nuclear weapons infrastructure. Either way, it's not a pretty picture.

It is ever so hard to give up that which we have held on to so strongly for so long, a concept on which politicians and military planners have staked their careers (and our lives) for over six decades. And so, deterrence lives on and is given new meaning in an increasingly meaningless context. David Ochmanek, the U.S. deputy assistant defense secretary for forces transformation and resources, recently said that "the nation should continue to view nuclear deterrence as broadly capable of preventing both conventional and unconventional conflict." In response to reporters' questions at a session with the Defense Writers Group, he said that, "It's probably unwise to draw artificial distinctions between what nuclear weapons deter and don't deter... I think it's better to think about the deterrent qualities of our force in a more holistic way."

Hmmm... It's odd seeing the concept of holism used in the context of omnicidal weapons when its accepted usage is in the area of living organisms and medicine, but I digress. Whatever people's perception of deterrence might have been previously, we live in a different world, a world in which any number of nuclear weapons mean nothing to some, and may or may not present a deterrent in many circumstances among nations. Might it be time to commit the concept of deterrence to the historical trash bin and pursue a different path - in which we develop relationships that involve more than ensuring our access to resources - in dealing with other nations. As for terrorists, the way to prevent a nuclear disaster is to ensure that nuclear materials don't get into their hands.

The anniversaries of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki present us with many opportunities to reflect on the opportunities and challenges we face in the struggle to abolish nuclear weapons. Albert Einstein once said that "no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it." And THAT will be one of our greatest challenges - to create a new level of consciousness that will allow people to see nuclear abolition as an opportunity and not a liability.

Peace,

Leonard

Read the entire article U.S. Defense Official Skeptical of Revising Nuclear Deterrence Strategy at Global Security Newswire.

Cartoon Credit: http://www.tridentploughshares.org/article1079

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Nuclear Abolition: Yes We Can!

Friends,

"Si, Se Puede!" This famous phrase, originated by United Farm Workers (UFW) co-founders Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez in 1972 during Cesar's 24-day Fast for Justice, has been a rallying cry for many other labor unions and civil rights organizations over the years. It has also been co-opted on occasion, most recently by President Obama when he used one of the phrase's translations, "Yes, we can", in his presidential campaign.

The more literal translation used by the UFW is, "Yes, it can be done." Whatever translation one favors, it is a powerful phrase intended to empower us as people to change unfair conditions, for both ourselves and others, imposed by those in power, be they corporate or governmental (the difference here can be hazy). I was unimpressed (to say the least) to see the phrase used in a political campaign.

Next weekend people will come together in many cities around the world to remember the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and many will not only remember, but will also continue our ongoing work to abolish nuclear weapons from the planet. One gathering of particular importance to me will be at Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action where a community of activists has resisted the U.S. first-strike weapon, Trident, for over 30 yearsWe thoughtfully chose the phrase "Nuclear Abolition: Yes We Can!" as the theme of this August's gathering because the movement to abolish nuclear weapons is definitely a movement of the people, by the people and for ALL people of the earth. It is a movement to abolish weapons that not only threaten all the people of the planet with suffering and death, but also drain huge sums of money from the treasuries of all the nuclear nations, money that would be better spent on programs of social uplift.

So, we honor Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez, and all who have struggled for the rights of people everywhere, often in the face of insurmountable odds. In the long struggle for nuclear abolition, we know that "it can be done," but we also know that we cannot leave the job to politicians, the military or corporations (and don't forget the think tanks). It is up to us to bring the pressure to bear on those in power to create a livable world for future generations.

Join us at Ground Zero next weekend (if you are in Washington State), or at one of the other events around the U.S. and around the world this month (see the previous posting) as we remember the past while working towards a better future, one without nuclear weapons.

Whether or not you attend an event, you can get engaged with this issue and advocate for change. Check out the Hot Links listed on the right. For starters, CLICK HERE to tell President Obama that in order to arrive at his stated goal of a nuclear-free world, he needs to take far more dramatic steps than those he has taken so far.

Si, se puede, y la Paz,

Leonard

Saturday, August 1, 2009

I Will Write Peace on Your Wings

Friends,

I will write peace on your wings and you will fly all over the world.”

These are the words of Sadako Sasaki, a young Japanese girl who, at the age of 12, developed leukemia in 1955, from the effects of radiation caused by the bombing of Hiroshima. While hospitalized, her closest friend reminded her of the Japanese legend that if she folded a thousand paper cranes, the gods might grant her wish to be well again. She wanted not only to live, but also to spread a message of peace, and so Sadako began folding. She died after folding 644 paper cranes, but her story continues to inspire people to fold cranes.

The bombings of Hiroshima (August 6th) and Nagasaki (August 9th) set off a frenzy of nuclear madness that found the world threatened by tens of thousands of nuclear weapons at the height of the Cold War. Even now, many years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, after squandering our “peace dividend”, the superpowers still have thousands of nuclear weapons ready to launch on warning, and many other nations have or are attempting to build nuclear arsenals.

The United States and Russia have finally begun serious negotiations to reduce their nuclear arsenals, but until they make major reductions, many other nations will continue to strive for membership in the once exclusive (and deadly) nuclear club. The era of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) is over, and the new age of nuclear weapons has made the concept of deterrence obsolete.

The historian Howard Zinn once said, “I was a bombardier in WW 2. When you are up 30,000 feet you do not hear the screams or smell the blood or see those without limbs or eyes. It was not till I read Hersey's Hiroshima that I realized what bomber pilots do.” Indeed, the bombardiers in the planes that dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not see the faces of the countless human beings - men, women and children - who were incinerated in an instant. Neither do the scientists, engineers and others who construct (or make the decision to use) the weapons capable of such bloodshed.

In my own efforts to walk the path of peace I have learned to fold origami cranes as a meditation, a prayer and as a personal statement of my deep desire for peace and the abolition of the scourge of nuclear weapons. It helps me stay focused on the important work of advocating for the abolition of nuclear weapons. The cranes I fold are a daily reminder of the beauty and hope that exists in this world, and how it is up to each of us to transform our hope and faith into actions that, in our collective efforts, will bring peace to this bruised world.

We may not see the results of much of our work for peace in this life, but we keep up that work all the same, much like Sadako and her origami cranes. We can only do our best, and pass our craft on to others to continue where we leave off. We are much like weavers, creating a fabric that is never finished; it is (to paraphrase Thomas Merton) always “in becoming”.

And so I write peace on the wings of each crane I fold, and let that message fly all over the world.

You can find events to attend (in the U.S.) marking the 64th anniversary of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at Peace Action, and some international events at the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

Peace,

Leonard