"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

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!

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