"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, July 29, 2010

Our Shared Responsibility for a Shared Future


In our work to abolish nuclear weapons it is often easy to forget how such a complex issue as disarmament interrelates on so many levels with so many other issues.

SECURING A NUCLEAR WEAPON-FREE WORLD TODAY: Our Responsibility to Future Generations is a briefing booklet prepared for those participating in the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. It contains some very powerful, persuasive arguments aimed at the decision makers at the NPT Conference.

Beyond the recent NPT conference, the essays in this booklet speak out to all of us engaged in the struggle for a nuclear weapons-free world. The final essay speaks to a holistic vision of peace in which nuclear weapons are only part of a greater conversation because we will never fully disarm until we learn to resolve conflict peacefully, among other things.

The essay, although addressed to world leaders, is also addressed to each of us. It reminds us that nuclear abolition will only occur when all those in power (and indeed all of us) are committed (and here I paraphrase the Quakers) to a world free of war and the threat of war, a world with equity and justice for all, a world where every person's potential may be fulfilled, and an earth restored.

May we all continue working to make it so.



Appeal to World Leaders

Renew Our Hope for Our Shared Future

We assert our deep desire, our firm commitment,
and our inalienable right to live in harmony
with each other and with nature’s laws of
connectedness and interdependence.

We call upon you to realize how past decisions
and actions have threatened our common future
and have left us surrounded by an unjust and
destructive legacy.

Still, we believe that humanity can rise to its
highest ideals and change course to create the
just and peaceful future we know is possible.

We trust you will fulfill your obligations to us
and future generations by:

* Committing to abolish nuclear weapons and
all weapons of mass destruction.
* Resolving conflicts without resort to military
force, and ending the arms trade.
* Redirecting resources from militarism to
human and ecological security.
* Restoring the health of our Earth and
ending the exploitation of her nonrenewable
* Upholding human rights and the dignity
of all individuals, and fulfilling your
responsibilities under international law.

We urge you as world leaders to fulfill your
duty as guardians of our unique, beautiful and
endangered Earth. Renew our hope for our
shared future.

Signed by the World Future Councilors of the Disarmament Working Group:

Hafsat Abiola-Costello
Hans-Peter Dürr
Riane Eisler
David Krieger
Rama Mani
Count Hans-Christof von Sponeck
Pauline Tangiora
Judge C.G. Weeramantry

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bomb Shelters Making a Comeback: The Ultimate in Disaster Capitalism


What is it about fear that makes people go to such great(and seemingly futile) lengths (and cost) to feel safe??? A story as old as (recorded) time, fear has allowed people to profit from the fears of others over countless centuries. It's what Naomi Klein calls Disaster Capitalism, and today the disaster capitalists are doing quite well thanks to the mass fear mongering that has reached epic proportions as the Global War on Terror has continued to escalate.

Many of you remember the good old bomb shelter days of the bad old Cold War. Back in the 1950s many folks decided that "duck and cover" just d
idn't cut it for their families. Keeping up with the Joneses in the 50s often meant building a bomb shelter in one's back yard (or basement). People buried these huge steel drums outfitted with at least a few of the comforts of home - beds, lanterns, canned food and water - and waited for the sirens.
Cool bomb shelter; disco ball optional!

Many also had a radiation detector, a nifty device with which they could determine when it was safe to go outside and try to rebuild their lives in what would have been a vast, radioactive wasteland had the Superpowers unleashed even a portion of their massive nuclear arsenals (roughly 65,000 warheads at the peak of the Cold War).

Well folks, if you are waxing nostalgic right about now for the old days, look no further. USA Today just reported that "Doomsday Shelters" are making a comeback. This is Disaster Capitalism at its best (or should I say worst). At least a couple of companies are making some pretty good money capitalizing on people's worst fears and digging some pretty big holes in the ground and calling them "Catastrophe Shelters."

Think of it as the ultimate pre-catastrophe timeshare. You buy a share for $50,000 per adult, and only half that for kids. When something really nasty is about to go down, you just head down to your designated shelter and, assuming there isn't an angry mob also trying to get in, pop inside and wait out the worst (and wait, and wait, and wait...). Is that a great deal or what??? Of course, I don't even want to start asking how they are going to guarantee up to "five years with food, power, water and filtered air", not to mention how they will keep out the masses of zombies.

All kidding aside, the people behind this trend deny that they are profiting from people's fears. As Robert Vicino, a disaster denizen and founder of the Vivos underground shelter network, says:
"You don't think of the person who sells you a fire extinguisher as taking advantage of your fear," he says. "The fact that you may never use that fire extinguisher doesn't make it a waste or bad... We're not creating the fear; the fear is already out there. We're creating a solution."
I'm not so sure about the fire extinguisher analogy, but I can agree with him on one point; they are not creating the fear. Of course that is simply a matter of semantics. They are building (massively) on existing fears, and are doing a pretty good job of burying the Social Contract. This is the quintessential Naomi Klein vision of a world where only the wealthy are saved.

As for Vivino's claim that they are "creating a solution", I think that a more productive (and socially conscious) solution, particularly from the standpoint of nuclear weapons, might be to learn to address conflict nonviolently and abolish nuclear weapons. The terrorist nuclear threat is being overblown; the greatest threat from nuclear weapons currently is that of nuclear war.

Meanwhile back in the shelter, assuming that people don't go nuts after being cooped up underground for such a long period of time after a nuclear holocaust, once they see what they are returning to they just might wish that they had spent that $50,000 on one huge pre-Armageddon block party. As for me, I am spending my money and energy on nonviolent conflict resolution and nuclear abolition. So there!!!



P.S. - You just have to check out the Vivos Website for yourself; these people are playing up the End Times big time. Talk about fear; these folks are really scary. Here is what their home page has to say:
Vivos is the life assurance solution for you and your family to survive the next earth devastating catastrophe that either nature or mankind may create. Our network of hardened, nuclear blast proof shelters will provide for up to one year of autonomous underground survival for 200 people in each Vivos shelter. We invite you to apply for co-ownership of the Vivos shelter complex closest to your home area from our planned worldwide network. Where else would you go with just a few days' notice? You cannot predict, but you can prepare! Enter Vivos now to learn more.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Nuclear Weapons - A Time for The Clergy to Speak Out

Dear Friends,

I write this to those of you in the clergy, that global body of people charged with leading the people to peace. In the Christian Church that, of course, means following the ways of Jesus, and as I read the texts of the New Testament, Jesus' life and teachings are unambiguous - we are not to kill.

As for the church and your role in it, I know how difficult it is for you to inhabit an institution that for roughly 1700 years has been inextricably chained to the very empire it is supposed to resist. Constantine was, indeed, a clever one; no one saw those heavy chains coming.

There have been those who have, from within, challenged us to be more than we are. The Reverend William Sloane Coffin is among those modern day prophets who warned the church and all its inhabitants of the dangers of the empire and its propensity for destruction, including its own.

Coffin worked tirelessly to abolish nuclear weapons. He started a nuclear disarmament program while senior minister at the Riverside Church, and in his later years founded Faithful Security, a coalition for people of faith committed to working for a world free of nuclear weapons.

The church has, for the most part, kept silent for these 65 years since (and about) the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And since those bombings the U.S. and Soviet Union have led the world in building up huge arsenals of nuclear weapons far beyond the destructive capabilities of the bombs dropped on Japan.

What could (and should) the church do if it wishes to recapture the spirit of the early church before it was co-opted. Here is what Gary Kohls, M.D., a founding member of Every Church a Peace Church, has to say:

Much of the responsibility for causing and, therefore preventing, military atrocities like Nagasaki lies with the Just War Theory American Christian churches and whether or not they will finally start teaching what Jesus taught and then living as he lived: the unconditional love of friend, neighbor and enemy the refusing to kill other children of a loving God.

The next Nagasaki can be prevented if the churches courageously and publicly resist militarism by active nonviolent means and refuse their government’s call for the conscription of the bodies and souls of their sons and daughters.

If the churches start to exercise their sacred duty to warn their young parishioners about what killing does to their souls, it may not be too late to save the suffering people of a dying, war-torn, financially and morally bankrupt planet.
In a little over two weeks people will come together to remember the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and rededicate themselves to the abolition of nuclear weapons. People of faith should all be at the forefront of this struggle (and many already are), and they need strong and courageous leadership to guide them on this difficult path.

On August 8th, the Sunday between the anniversaries of the bombings, ministers in the vast majority of churches will go about the usual Sunday business of worship. Perhaps a few will offer a brief litany or prayer related to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Even fewer will preach a sermon on the subject.

So I challenge each of you good clergy people - people of faith; people of a gentle, loving, merciful god - to ask what God wishes of you and what that gentle Jesus would say if he dropped by your office and you asked him about that August 8th sermon. I challenge you to give the sermon that will make the people sit up and listen, that will make many uncomfortable and perhaps even more of them angry, but above all to make them accountable. I challenge you to breathe life into the words that on so many Sundays are just that - words.

Rabbi Heschel once said that "There is the grain of the prophet in the recesses of every human existence." I challenge you to find that prophetic voice deep inside yourself and bring it out. The world can't wait and the people desperately need to be roused from their stupor.

Why now? Why the Sunday of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki 65th anniversaries? Why not!?!? Of all the abominations forced by humans on their fellow humanity, none is more diabolical than nuclear weapons. There is no other single weapon in the world capable of instantly incinerating hundreds of thousands of people in an instant.

So I ask you with all humility to speak up on Sunday, August 8th; speak up with all the faith and conviction possible. And then speak up some more. As the Rev. William Sloane Coffin once said in his book, Passion for the Possible, A Message to U.S. Churches:

It's my own deep feeling that most people in the pews are far more prepared for painful truths than we give them credit for. What they want their preachers to do is to raise to a conscious level the knowledge inherent in their experience. And the majority of them realize that the painful truths known and spoken sour and subvert life less than those known and unspoken. So let us not hesitate to speak up, to preach with clarity and compassion at true and lively biblical word, remembering always that our calling is to serve the Lord, not to be servile to our congregations.

In Peace,


P.S. - One more thing you can do as leaders of the people is to participate in activities surrounding the anniversaries of the atomic bombings. Communities, large or small, have vigils, lantern lighting ceremonies or other gatherings on or around one or both anniversaries.

Click here to find an event in your state. If you are in Washington State, click here for events.

And just one more thing: check out the Two Futures Project and Faithful Security!

The quote by Gary Kohls is from one of his
Duty to Warn essays, The Bombing of Nagasaki August 9, 1945: The Untold Story.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

From Trinity to Trident: A Story of Resistance


On July 16, 1945 the first experimental atomic bomb was exploded at the site known as Trinity at Alamogordo, New Mexico in the desert called Jornada del Muerto (Journey of Death) . It marked the beginning of a journey toward what could someday be the end.

The rest, as they say, is history (and some of it particularly horrific history); but the history is still being written each day as many nations (led by the model of the United States) continue to rely on nuclear weapons while others seek to develop them. Monkey see, monkey do!!!

Our nation could be leading the world toward disarmament and ultimately abolition, but instead we continue to utilize the rhetoric of "deterrence" and "national security", and seem to find a host of enemies since losing the comfort of the Cold War enemy. As a result we are re-building the infrastructure that made Trinity - and over the years tens of thousands of nuclear weapons - possible.

Billions are being spent on new facilities at the Kansas City Plant, Y-12, Los Alamos and Pantex. These huge investments represent, as stated on the National Nuclear Security Administration's Website, "
the investment need to transform a Cold War nuclear weapons complex into a 21st century Nuclear Security Enterprise."

Then there is Trident (Ohio class submarines), what the U.S. Navy calls “the nation’s most survivable and enduring nuclear strike capability.” Not only is Trident "survivable and enduring" (whatever enduring is supposed to mean), but it is a significant weapons system of mass destruction.

With 24 Trident missiles, each missile carrying up to 8 independently targetable nuclear warheads, and each warhead having an explosive yield of as much as 475 kilotons, just one Trident submarine is capable of incinerating much of any continent and rendering the land uninhabitable for anyone unfortunate to survive the initial blast and radiation effects. The U.S. has 14 Trident subs outfitted for the Trident D-5 missile.

On July 16, 2010, exactly 65 Years to the day that that first atomic weapon was exploded over the sands of New Mexico, a small band of people dedicated to the abolition of nuclear weapons gathered in front of the U.S. District Court in Tacoma, Washington to vigil in support of their fellow nuclear resisters who would be in court that day for their resistance to our governments continuing reliance on nuclear weapons as a tool of national policy.

Although nuclear weapons, and particularly the idea of abolishing them, are not on most people's radar, there are groups (mostly small) scattered around the world dedicated to abolishing nuclear nuclear weapons. They attempt to bring the subject to the forefront of public dialogue, reminding people that living beneath the nuclear Sword of Damocles is more than long enough. The string that supports that sword is aging, and we can only play with (nuclear) fire so long before we get burned.

This past July 16th there were 3 nuclear resisters in court. One, Jessica Arteaga, was arraigned for her previous action blocking the entrance to the Trident submarine base at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in May during a May 3, 2010 vigil and action by Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action (GZ) coinciding with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference. Arteaga pleaded not guilty to a charge of trespassing and had a trial date set.

Two other resisters, Ann Kittredge and Denny Moore, were tried for their action on January 16, 2010, during a GZ vigil honoring Martin Luther King Jr. in which they set up a wooden ladder and attempted to climb over the barbed wire fence onto the Bangor sub base. Moore made it over, while Kittredge was tackled by Naval Masters at Arms before she could top the fence. Moore was taken down moments later.

Pre-trial vigil on July 16th in front of courthouse: photo by Gilberto Perez

Both Kittredge and Moore pleaded not guilty to charges of trespassing. When questioned by her defense attorney as to her motivation for her action, Kittredge related her action to the vision of Dr. King. Kittredge enumerated her ongoing efforts including letters and petitions to government, as well as marches and demonstrations to change our government's policy and reduce investments in nuclear weapons. She tried to convey the message that that nuclear weapons were physically threatening to her own children and grandchildren and families and people everywhere. Exhausted by her efforts and seeing no change she chose nonviolent resistance as her only available means to alert the courts and citizens at large about the dangers of nuclear weapons.

Moore, a Vietnam combat veteran with two sons-in-law in the military (one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan) chose to forgo legal counsel, and took the stand in his own defense. Moore stated that like Kittredge, he has tried all the usual means to confront our government about building and servicing nuclear weapons. He said, “Sometimes the country needs to be in the citizen's hands.” Moore had carried his personal letter to the base commanding officer asking him to act on behalf of undoing our nuclear arsenal. In the trial, Moore emphasized the need to get his letter to the commanding officer.

It was acknowledged by the government during trial that the letter was taken from Moore by one of the Masters at Arms after his arrest, but there is no record of it having been among his personal effects. Did it ever reach the base commander? Certainly Moore never had the opportunity to deliver it.

When all was said and done the judge found both Kittredge and Moore guilty of trespassing, and handed down sentences. Moore, who had never received a ban and bar letter, is to pay a fine of $100 and $35 in court costs, and serve 50 hours of community service. Kittredge, who has previously received a ban and bar letter, was fined $200 and $35 in court costs, given one year of probation, and must serve 50 hours of community service.

Twenty five supporters (and fellow abolitionists), who had stood vigil before the arraignment and trials, filled the courtroom to witness the proceedings. Beyond the personal conviction and courage that it takes to become (and sustain being) a nuclear resister, it requires a community to support each other on many different levels. Ultimately, however, it is these active resisters (like Arteaga, Kittredge and Moore), putting their personal freedoms on the (blue) line to bear witness to the insanity and criminality of nuclear weapons, and to bring it to the attention of those who have the ability (and responsibility) to move our nation (and ultimately the world) towards their abolition.

As we remember that first bomb, and soon remember the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, let us give our enduring support to those who resist nuclear weapons and work for the day when there are no bombs, so that we will be able to look back on those bombs that were dropped in August, 1945 as THE LAST BOMBS. May it be so.



Many thanks to my colleague, Tom Shea, for covering the arraignment, trials and vigil, and supplying me with all the news that's fit to print! Thanks also to Gilberto Perez for the vigil photo!