Quotable

"The moral cost of nuclear armament is that it makes of all of us underwriters of the slaughter of hundreds of millions of people and of the cancellation of future generations." -Jonathan Schell


Sunday, January 31, 2010

The President's Nuclear (Tunnel) Vision

Friends,

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden did an excellent impression of Chicken Little with his January 29, 2010 opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal titled, The President's Nuclear Vision.  The subtitle would seem to be a prelude to the soon-to-be-released Nuclear Posture Review - "We will spend what is necessary to maintain the safety, security and effectiveness of our weapons" (read "BLANK CHECK with which to maintain our nuclear deterrent").

In one breath the Vice President refers to how "President Obama laid out a comprehensive agenda to reverse the spread [of nuclear weapons], and to pursue the peace and security of a world without them."  In the next he states in no uncertain terms that, "For as long as nuclear weapons are required to defend our country and our allies, we will maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear arsenal."

If you are confused after these two seemingly contradictory statements, the next one should clear things up:
The president's Prague vision is central to this administration's efforts to protect the American people—and that is why we are increasing investments in our nuclear arsenal and infrastructure in this year's budget and beyond.
If you don't think it can get any worse - IT DOES!  Biden goes on to paint a gloomy picture of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, infrastructure, and weapons labs.  Here are some of the key phrases:
...slow but steady decline in support for our nuclear stockpile and infrastructure, and for our highly trained nuclear work force... growing shortage of skilled nuclear scientists and engineers and the aging of critical facilities... our nuclear complex requires urgent attention... 
The Websites for Los Alamos, Sandia and Lawrence Livermore Paint a different picture of the state of the nuclear workforce and its work on the nuclear stockpile and other areas.  As for infrastructure, plans to upgrade "critical" facilities have been in the works (and funded) for some time (Y-12 National Security Complex for example).  Biden's concerns about "facilities that date back to World War II" ring hollow when one reads that Los Alamos has been demolishing old buildings and doing site cleanup thanks to generous funding from President Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. 

Yes, there have been cuts in recent years to the workforce at the weapons labs, but those cuts were in keeping with changes in U.S. nuclear weapons strategy; as the size of the nuclear arsenal has been reduced, so has the size of the complex that made and now maintains the arsenal.  We simply do not need the massive complex that once supported 32,193 warheads and bombs (at its peak in 1966).  That being said, the cuts have been small in relation to the overall size of the weapons labs, and their weapons budgets have actually remained steady over the past five years.

As for "confidence in our nuclear arsenal" - the government's own (and highly respected) JASON panel has studied the nuclear warhead Life Extension Programs and found them to be working quite effectively, and has also estimated credible lifetimes for Plutonium (and other) pits already in service to be between 85 and 100 years. 

Our nuclear weapons labs are not, as V.P. Biden states, "a national treasure."  It is time to blow away the smoke and smash the mirrors; the nation's nuclear weapons complex is not about to crumble to dust, nor is it running on empty.  And we certainly do not need to pour more money into it at a time when we are approaching the most important Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in history (May 2010).  It is time to send every signal that the U.S. is prepared to move towards disarmament (of course not unilaterally), and calling for "increasing investments in our nuclear arsenal and infrastructure" is not the way to do so.

Rather than demonstrating the President's broad vision articulated in Prague, Biden's WSJ opinion piece indicates a nuclear tunnel vision, a vision that if implemented, will neither "serve our security", nor help us move toward a nuclear weapons free future.  We can and must spend our money more wisely.

Watch for an opportunity to sign a petition on this subject in the coming week.

Peace,

Leonard

Read Vice President Biden's January 29, 2010 opinion piece at The Wall Street Journal.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

"WE MUST FIND AN ALTERNATIVE TO WAR"

Dear Friends,

Here is a slideshow of a somewhat atypical celebration of the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr.  Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action celebrated with a traditional vigil and nonviolent action at the gates of Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, West coast home of the U.S. Navy's Trident nuclear submarine fleet, and storehouse of roughly one-fourth of all U.S. nuclear weapons, probably the most nuclear weapons at any one site in the world. The theme of the event was "WE MUST FIND AN ALTERNATIVE TO WAR".  I think Dr. King would have approved.  Enjoy the show - Then go out and abolish those nukes!

Peace,

Leonard

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Honoring Dr. King - Keeping the Prophetic Voice Alive

Friends,

I honored the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. on Saturday, January 16, 2010 by gathering with other peacemakers at the site of one of the largest concentrations of nuclear weapons anywhere in the world.  We were there to speak truth to power.  Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, according to a 2006 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, has 2,364 nuclear warheads, or approximately 24 percent of the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal.  The base is home to Trident, the U.S. Navy's first strike nuclear weapons system.  Members and supporters of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action held a vigil and nonviolent direct action honoring the memory of Dr. King, much of which has been conveniently lost (or perhaps sanitized) by our nation by and large; the memory of a powerful anti-war prophet is seldom welcomed (and conveniently forgotten) in the land of hubris and violence.

Dr. Gary Kohls, in a recent email, reminded me of the reason for that memory loss; he quoted Dr. King:
As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But, they asked, what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today – my own government.
Gary also shared a column by Carl Wendell Hines:

“Now That He Is Safely Dead”

Now that he is safely dead let us praise him,
build monuments to his glory,
sing hosannas to his name.

Dead men make such convenient heroes.
They cannot rise to challenge the images
we would fashion from their lives.

And besides,
it is easier to build monuments
than to make a better world.

Our challenge going forward is for each of us to find our prophetic voice and go out into a hostile world declaring King's "eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism."  With knowledge and the powerful tools of nonviolence we can, with the support of other like-minded people, shine the light of truth for all to see.  In the case of nuclear weapons, there is much truth that needs to be dredged out of the depths of the darkness (where governments prefer it to rest).


We can do it through participation in direct action (like the vigil and nonviolent direct action at Bangor last Saturday).  We can do it through our participation in organizations like the Campaign for a Nuclear Weapons Free Future and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (to mention just a couple).  We can do it by directly engaging our elected officials.  We can do it by educating our families, friends and co-workers.

Ridding the world of nuclear weapons which (if ever used again) would be the most "massive" of the "massive doses of violence", which the U.S. uses "to solve its problems" is one of the most pressing issues facing humankind.  As we approach the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference (May 2010) we have much work to do.  Right now we need to pressure President Obama to approach the NPT Review Conference with the strong conviction that he claimed in his now famous Prague speech. 

Please sign the PeaceActionWest Petition calling for negotiations to eliminate nuclear weapons, and help President Obama make good on his promises.  He is hearing plenty from the nuclear weapons complex and his military advisors, the ones Dr. King once referred to as "misguided men" (see photo).  Now Obama needs to hear from the people (all of whom are threatened by the presence and proliferation of nuclear weapons) who understand the dangers of our continued reliance on nuclear weapons.  May each of us find our prophetic voice, and in doing so keep the memory of the prophets of peace alive.

Peace,

Leonard  

Note:  The photograph was taken during the January 16, 2010 vigil and direct action at the main gate, Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.  Demonstrators were ordered to remain within the designated free speech zone designated by cones and yellow "crime scene" tape.  The real crime scene is well beyond the main gate. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

It's 5 Minutes to Midnight... Do You Know Where Your Nukes Are???

Friends,

In 1947 the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists unveiled the Doomsday Clock.  As the Cold War was taking off and the Superpowers were engaged in a nuclear weapons race, the Doomsday Clock was designed to convey to the public and world political leaders the urgency of the dangers that nuclear weapons presented.  When it first appeared on the cover of the magazine the clock's hands were set at 7 minutes to midnight.

Since 1947 the clock has been reset 18 times, getting as close as 2 minutes to midnight in 1953 after the U.S. and Soviet Union tested the first Hydrogen bombs.  The Bulletin's announcement said, "Only a few more swings of the pendulum, and, from Moscow to Chicago, atomic explosions will strike midnight for Western civilization."  The clock also moved away from midnight, getting as far as 17 minutes to midnight after the end of the cold war with the U.S. and Russia making significant progress in reducing their total arsenals.

On January 17, 2007, the Bulletin announced that it was moving the Doomsday Clock two minutes closer to midnight, setting the hands at 5 minutes to midnight.  With the U.S. and Russia still ready to launch 2000 nuclear weapons in minutes, concerns about North Korea and Iran, and the threats posed by climate change, the Bulletin's Board of Directors and Board of Sponsors (which includes 18 Nobel Laureates) stated that, "We stand at the brink of a second nuclear age."

Three years later, on Thursday, January 14, 2010, The Bulletin is poised to reset the Doomsday Clock once again.  This is the big time folks!  Forget the Super bowl. Forget the Academy Awards.  This is the BIG event for those of us concerned with nuclear weapons.  The Bulletin is a trusted source for rational, scientifically based information and opinion on nuclear weapons, and the Doomsday Clock has always been a barometer - a sort of State of the Nukes - for nuclear abolitionists. 

As for predictions whether the minute hand will move farther or closer to midnight, let's just say that if I were a betting person, I would be putting my money on 3 minutes to midnight.  That being said, we can count on sound reasoning coming out of the folks at The Bulletin.

Be sure to tune in on Thursday, January 14th at 10:00 AM, Eastern Standard Time (of 3:00 PM GMT for European readers) for the live streaming of the event from the New York Academy of Sciences.  You can click on the screen below, or go to http://www.turnbacktheclock.org/.  


DOOMSDAY CLOCK ANNOUNCEMENT from TurnBackTheClock.org on Vimeo.

Whether the hands of time will give us an apparent bit of breathing room or create more urgency, we know that the success of the struggle for nuclear abolition is critical to the future of humankind.  It continues to be up to all of us in this movement to do our part, and to keep the pressure on our governments, particularly as we approach the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in the Spring of 2010.

Let us continue to work hard in 2010 to help prevent the clock from ever striking the midnight hour.

Peace,

Leonard

Click here to read the January, 2007 announcement that moved the clock to 5 minutes to midnight.

Click here to read the Doomsday Clock timeline.