"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, January 29, 2011

60 Years... How Many More???


Following is a reflection on the 60 year anniversary of the first atomic bomb test in Nevada that took place January 27, 1951, written by Jim Haber, Coordinator of Nevada Desert Experience. As Jim says in the last line, "This anniversary should serve as a time to work for peace and disarmament." May it be so.



P.S. - Jim and seven others marked this year's anniversary of the first Nevada test on land belonging to the Western Shoshone Nation by crossing onto the Test Site and risking arrest. Details at The Nuclear Resister.


60 Years of Disaster

January 27 marks 60 years since the first atomic bomb test in Nevada. Codenamed “Able” it was tiny for a nuclear weapon: the equivalent of 1,000 tons of TNT, about 1/15 the size of the bomb that killed upwards of 130,000 people in Hiroshima. Anniversaries are times to reflect, so what is the legacy of the Nevada Test Site (NTS), now called the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS)? What is the current state of the NNSS and what is going on there? Are the nation and world safer for all the Cold War and post-Cold War efforts? As the NNSS re-purposes itself to focus more on detecting and containing national security threats, it still stands as a world-wide symbol of the making of weapons of mass destruction. The name change is intended to reassert its relevance in the absence of exploding nuclear devices, but the inherent problem of the NTS remains. The NNSS is always able to resume testing nuclear weapons within two years should the president order it.

Testing of nuclear weapons didn't only happen at the Nevada Test Site. Historians even argue that using the bombs on Japan rather than demonstrating them on an unpopulated location constitute human experimentation. Treating victims as research subjects rather than patients was widely reported in Japan, as well as from victims of atmospheric testing in the 1950s. Targeting civilians was and remains a crime against humanity, as does threatening nuclear attack on non-nuclear states, no matter how repressive their leaders.

We, as a people, caused much worldwide grief for our part in the Cold War, which used small countries as battlegrounds with no concern for local populations or environments. Official tours of the NNSS and the displays at the Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas exhibit great pride in the NTS' Cold War role. There is little mention in their history about efforts to stop testing and other parts of the nuclear weapons complex. Efforts to shut down the Soviet nuclear test site in Kazakhstan or French test sites in Africa and the South Pacific garner barely a word. Only a limited view is presented.

At the NNSS which is run by the Department of Energy (blurring the lines between civilian and military in this country), military nuclear waste is buried even as remediation efforts elsewhere are undertaken. The detection and first responder trainings are only defensive in nature if we concurrently support the leadership of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in its mission to monitor nuclear programs around the world. Unilateral or bilateral agreements that ignore the mandate of the IAEA actually encourage other states to seek nuclear weapons to be seen as worthy players on the international stage.

The United States military budget is on par with military spending of all other countries combined. When the US attacks countries that don't have nuclear weapons, it makes the possession of nuclear weapons seem like a necessary deterrent. But if more countries have deterrent forces, then we've lost the disarmament fight.

Taking the land of the Western Shoshone and other native peoples to use it for nuclear testing is not just. Forcing the people of Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands to live on tiny Ebeye Island, creating one of the most densely populated places on Earth is not just. Stealing and contaminating native hunting and fishing grounds is not just.

Thank God so few countries have tested or possess nuclear weapons. The global consensus is clearly to eliminate all nuclear weapons. "Stockpile Stewardship" tests at the NNSS, along with missile tests in the Pacific are undermining the credibility of the U.S.'s agreement to seriously reduce nuclear stockpiles. Sharing nuclear technology with violators and abstainers of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty while threatening countries not in egregious, well-documented breaches of the NPT is not just and promotes horizontal proliferation. Hence, continued testing whether they're full-scale tests or not, signals to the world that the US will keep its finger on the button and will brook no new players in the nuclear game.

When we devise ways for nuclear weapons to be more precise and kill fewer civilians, to be more militarily useful, we undermine the international consensus against all weapons of mass destruction. And how many design upgrades and revisions can be implemented and still not require a real test? At some point, unless we in the United States get serious about pressuring our government to cut its nuclear weapons arsenal, the Nevada Desert will again quake with detonations...and be filled with peacemakers crashing the gates like in the 1980s to shut it down once and for all. This anniversary should serve as a time to work for peace and disarmament.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Honoring Dr. King by Resisting Nuclear Weapons

The Seattle Raging Grannies set the mood for honoring Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday, Saturday at the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action in Poulsbo, Washington.

Eighty three people from the Center participated in a vigil at the Kitsap Mall in Silverdale with the help of a full scale, 44 foot long, inflatable Trident D-5 missile. Each D-5 missile, deployed on Trident nuclear submarines, carries up to 8 warheads, each with an explosive yield of up to 475 kilotons. Each D-5 missile costs approximately $139 million.

Participants carried signs and banners calling for an end to war and nuclear weapons. Notable was a quote by Dr. King: "When scientific power outruns moral power, we end up with guided missiles and misguided men."

Back at the Center for, Dr. David Hall, former president of Washington Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, presented the threats posed by these nuclear weapons stored at Strategic Weapons Facility-Pacific and deployed on the Trident nuclear submarines based at Bangor Navy Base in Kitsap County.

The Seattle Raging Grannies chorus entertained participants with a series of musical parodies celebrating the day’s theme of “Billions for Life, Not Billions for Death.” The theme reflected Dr. King’s words: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

After nonviolence training 12 activists risked arrest by symbolically closing the Trigger Avenue gate during the afternoon shift change as an act of resistance to Trident, a first strike weapons system. Blocking traffic symbolizes stopping the horrific threat of Trident missiles, for a short time.

Rosy Betz-Zall, 60, of Seattle, WA; Anne Hall, 65, of Seattle, WA; Larry Kerschner, 64, of Centralia, WA; Brenda McMillan, 77, of Port Townsend, WA; Denny Moore, 66, of Bainbridge Island, WA; and Shirley Morrison, 88, of Seattle, WA walked onto Trigger Avenue with a banner reading “BILLIONS FOR LIFE, NOT BILLIONS FOR DEATH.”

Kitsap County Sheriffs arrested the six protesters. After initial processing they were transported by Sheriff’s van to the Kitsap County Jail for further processing. They were issued citations for blocking traffic and released.

Then another six Ground Zero Center activists crossed the ‘blue line’ designating federal control. Patricia “Patti” Bass, 63, of Poulsbo, WA; Carolyn Dorisdotter, 72, Seattle, WA; Norm Keegel, 71, of Bainbridge Island, WA; Gordon Sturrock, 52, of Eugene, WA; Sam Tower, 68, of Tacoma, WA; and Robert Friend Weber Whitlock, 32, of Olympia were arrested by naval security personnel, processed and released after being issued citations for trespassing.

Relating to the day’s theme of “Billions for Life, Not Billions for Death, according to Western Washington Fellowship of Reconciliation, “Washington State is planning to cut schools, health care, public safety and other programs by more that $4 billion. While Washington State taxpayers have paid $28.6 billion so far for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” That figure does not include the annual defense budget or nuclear weapons spending.

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, housing as many as 2000 nuclear warheads. 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. Current estimates place the number of warheads at approximately 1000.

For over thirty-three years Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action has engaged in education, training in nonviolence, community building, resistance against Trident and action toward a world without nuclear weapons.

Contact: Leonard Eiger, Media and Outreach
Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action
(425) 445-2190

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sailing into the New Year with The Golden Rule


At the recent trial of the Disarm Now Plowshares activists a retired U.S. Navy Captain who had commanded nuclear submarines during the Cold War testified on behalf of the Plowshares activists. Tom Rogers long journey had brought him to an understanding of the need to abolish these horrible weapons of mass destruction, that the government was not paying attention to people's "legal" means of free speech, and that the Plowshares activists' methods were justified.

In 1958 another retired U.S. Navy Captain embarked on his own journey of conscience and civil resistance when he and his peacemaking crew sailed the 30-foot ketch the Golden Rule toward the U.S. government's atmospheric test site in the Marshall Islands in an attempt to stop nuclear weapons testing despite government prohibitions and a court injunction. They were arrested, tried, convicted and put on probation, and undaunted, set sail a second time. This time the government decided to put Albert
Bigelow behind bars.

Bigelow was not acting on a whim. The atomic bombing of Hiroshima horrified him, and in the postwar years he took a number of steps on his peacemaking journey. Among them, according to historian Lawrence Wittner, "working with the American Friends Service Committee, Bigelow sought to deliver a petition against nuclear testing to the White House, but was rebuffed by U.S. government officials." Bigelow made every effort to get the government to listen, but his words fell on deaf ears.

Bigelow said of his nautical actions: “In the face of the threats that nuclear warfare preparations put to all mankind, it is my duty, as a man and as an American citizen, to voice both my protest against these preparations and my pleas for a constructive policy instead. If I remain silent, how am I to answer later, should some high court ask: '…and what, knowing these things to be wrong, were you, a free, responsible citizen of a democracy doing to prevent them?'” (Source: The Voyage of the Golden Rule)

The Golden Rule suffered years of decay in a shipyard after being raised off the sea floor near Eureka, California, and its fate seemed sealed until two Northern California chapters of Veterans for Peace (VFP) established The Golden Rule project. VFP volunteers have been restoring the ketch, and hope to complete the restoration by July 2011. They still have a long way to go to reach their fundraising goal of $50,000 needed to complete the project.

The Golden Rule is an important piece of history of the nuclear abolition movement, and it is somewhat of a miracle that it has been (literally) raised from the deep to have a second life sailing the West Coast "in opposition to militarism and the use of nuclear weapons." It is my hope that the nuclear abolition community will come together in support of The Golden Rule Project.

Many thanks to Historian Lawrence Wittner for keeping The Golden Rule on our radar.



You can learn all about the Golden Rule Project (and contribute toward its completion) at http://www.heritech.com/goldenrule, or by contacting Fredy Champagne at fchampagne@asis.com, or by writing to Veterans for Peace, P.O. Box 5097, Eureka, CA 95502-5097.

Read The "Golden Rule" Will Sail Again, by Lawrence Wittner, December 21,2010, at the Huffington Post

The Long Voyage: The Golden Rule and Resistance to Nuclear Testing in Asia and the Pacific, by Lawrence S. Whittner