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, October 28, 2012

We must learn the lessons of the past!!!

Today is the 50th anniversary of what is arguably one the most significant days in the history of the human race.  On October 28, 1962 the confrontation known as the Cuban Missile Crisis quietly ended.  Based on an agreement between U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, nuclear armed missiles in Cuba, Turkey and Italy were dismantled and sent home.  The end of the world was (narrowly) averted.

This is a fitting time to assess where we are 50 years after those tense 12 days in October when the world came closer to nuclear annihilation than at any other time.

Kate Hudson, General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament puts it clearly, bluntly and succinctly: 

"50 years on from the Cuban missile crisis, we have still not learned the lessons of this grim period of human history... the bleak reality is that we have not moved forward" said Hudson. "In fact, with global nuclear proliferation accelerating and with countless billions being poured into the modernisation of nuclear weapons systems, we are taking dangerous, irresponsible steps backwards."

"Spending on nuclear weapons worldwide will top $1 trillion in the next decade, and with the spread of nuclear technology through civil nuclear programmes, the risks of nuclear terrorism and further states developing nuclear weapons are manifold."

"A Nuclear Weapons Convention is the only rational way forward. States must reassess their blind commitment to maintaining nuclear arsenals and genuinely work towards their legal obligations as signatories to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: to negotiate in good faith towards disarmament."

"Reductions of stockpiles are an essential part of the process, and we have seen some progress through the START agreement between the US and Russia. But with the US alone set to spend around $700bn on nuclear weapons over the next decade, this is only the tip of the iceberg."

"To pass on genuine peace and security to future generations, we cannot afford to ignore the lessons of the past."

Indeed, we have not learned the lessons of the past, and we therefore prepare to make them again.  Today, just as most every other day in recent months, we sit wringing our hands over Iran's nuclear intentions while the U.S. and Russia deploy vast arsenals of operational nuclear weapons on alert status, ready to launch. 

While Iran may or may not develop a single nuclear weapon, the two largest nuclear powers stand ready each day to launch accidental or intentional nuclear war.  Both the U.S and Russia continue to build up their nuclear weapons capabilities.  We are moving into a new nuclear age, creating the conditions for a new Cold War, and greatly increasing the probability of accidental or intentional nuclear war and the subsequent end of life as we know it.

Although neither U.S. Presidential candidate has publicly articulated the tremendous threat posed by nuclear weapons, one of these men will end up in The White House for the next four years, what will arguably be a critical time in the struggle to abolish nuclear weapons. 

Will the next occupant of the Oval Office have the courage to forge a path toward disarmament, leading the way for the rest of the world, or a path towards disaster???  Let's hope he has learned the lessons of history, and takes to heart what President Kennedy once said before the United Nations General Assembly (and I take some liberty with paraphrasing):

"Humankind must put an end to nuclear weapons — or nuclear weapons will put an end to
us."

50 years later, thermonuclear armed missiles sit in underground silos (and in submarine launch tubes) on alert, ready to launch in short order, awaiting the President's command to launch "on warning").  When will be the next "crisis"???  Isn't it time to end this madness???

Do something NOW to create a nuclear weapons free world. Go to the Nuclear Abolitionist Blog and pick one or more of the many current actions (from Friends Committee on National Legislation, Peace Action, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, and more) on the right hand column and advocate for a nuclear weapons free world. 

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Editor's Note: Kennedy's actual (and full) quote was, "Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind. War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today."

Also read The Missile Crisis That Never Went Away, By Steven Starr, David Krieger and Daniel Ellsberg

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Charges against Vandenberg 15 dropped!!!

Contact: John Amidon jajaja1234@aol.com 518-312-6442; Louie Vitale lvitale33@yahoo.com 415-823-6665; Leah Bolger LeahBolger@comcast.net 541-207-7761; David Swanson, david@davidswanson.com 202-329-7847.

Charges Dismissed Against Nuclear Missile Launch Protesters

Charges were dismissed on Wednesday in federal court in Santa Barbara, Calif., against fifteen people, including four members of Veterans For Peace, who were scheduled to face trial on Wednesday as a result of their nonviolent protest of nuclear warheads at Vandenberg Air Force Base. The 15 had been arrested on February 25th for protesting the launch of a Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile from Vandenberg to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Video: http://youtu.be/sGYVee9yW9Y

The Veterans For Peace facing trial were Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg of Berkeley, Calif.; Fr. Louie Vitale of Oakland, Calif. and Las Vegas, Nev.; John Amidon of Albany, N.Y.; and Mark Kelso of Las Vegas, Nev.

The district attorney moved to dismiss all charges. Two of the defendants, John Amidon and Toby Blome, wanting to raise their concerns about the Minuteman III missiles in court, offered motion not to dismiss. The judge sided with the district attorney.

Some of the same people will be among those protesting again on November 13th when another missile test is scheduled:
http://www.facebook.com/events/464316103593122

McGregor Eddy, one of the defendants, called the dismissal a victory. "The military," she said, "wants to avoid drawing attention to thermonuclear warheads that serve no purpose and cost a great deal of money. Many young people don't even know about these nuclear weapons. When we say 'nukes' they think of nuclear power."

February 25th nonviolent direct action at Vandenberg
Fr. Louie Vitale agreed, calling the dismissal "a great victory." Vitale added, "I've been on trial here several times and always lost. This was a victory. And we'll be there in November to protest the next launch."

Vitale said that the public in Santa Barbara had learned a great deal through the work of the coalition formed around this protest and near-trial, including with the help of David Krieger and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

At 7 p.m. PT on Tuesday, October 16th, a free public event called "Putting U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policies on Trial: A Forum with the Vandenberg 15" was held at Faulkner Gallery, 40 E. Anapamu Street, Santa Barbara, Calif. Speakers included Daniel Ellsberg, Fr. Louie Vitale, Cindy Sheehan, and David Krieger. The event was cosponsored by Code Pink, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Nevada Desert Experience, Progressive Democrats of Santa Barbara, Veterans for Peace, Western States Legal Foundation, and Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (Santa Barbara).
"We were protesting a rehearsal of a holocaust," said Ellsberg. "Every minuteman missile is a portable Auschwitz." Video of Ellsberg: http://youtu.be/E-s0_JI8Dp4

"We have 450 land-based Minuteman III nuclear missiles on high alert," said Amidon. Despite hundreds of near-disasters due to human and mechanical mistakes over the years, these nuclear-armed missiles could be sent by a U.S. president in 13 minutes or less. Thirteen minutes, with the very real possibility that false information, an electronic glitch or bad signal, or an error in human judgment, would bring the world as we know it to an end. Minuteman III missiles would not, and nothing can, prevent retaliation. Even without retaliation, their unilateral use would ruin the earth's atmosphere -- all over the earth. The missiles' only function is to kill others in a process that kills us too."

"An easy immediate step toward sanity," Amidon continued, "would be to de-alert the missiles so that 24 to 72 hours would be needed to launch. This would increase our security by reducing the likelihood of an accidental or unauthorized launch. Those intent on achieving nuclear doomsday could rest assured that U.S. submarines and bombers would remain able to complete that job many times over.

"A second needed and obvious step that would also work wonders for our federal budget would be to decommission these missiles. We are also calling for a cancellation of the November 14, 2012, missile (thermonuclear warhead delivery systems) test at Vandenberg Air Force Base. This will save between $20 to $30 million for this one launch."
RootsAction.org has set up an online action page through which people can email the government on this topic:
http://act.rootsaction.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=6741

Veterans For Peace was founded in 1985 and has approximately 5,000 members in 150 chapters located in every U.S. state and several countries. It is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization recognized as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) by the United Nations, and is the only national veterans' organization calling for the abolishment of war.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Court may drop charges against Vandenberg 15

I have just learned that the government has requested the Court to dismiss all charges against the Vandenberg 15 related to their February 25th protest at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Tomorrow morning, Monday, October 17th, the Vandenberg 15 were scheduled to stand trial in Federal court at 1415 State Street, Santa Barbara, Calif.

The fifteen nuclear resisters were arrested on February 25th for protesting the test launch of a Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Video: http://youtu.be/sGYVee9yW9Y

The defendants will hold a press conference outside of the United States Bankruptcy Court (1415 State Street, Santa Barbara) at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow, October 17. They will discuss their views on the government’s action and what comes next in the movement to stop the testing of thermonuclear warhead delivery vehicles and eliminate land-based missiles.

While the fifteen resister's intention in going to court was to put the U.S. Government's nuclear weapons policies on trial.

As David Krieger, one of the Vandenberg 15, has stated, "Current US nuclear weapons policy is illegal, immoral and runs a high risk of resulting in nuclear catastrophe. We cannot wait until there is a nuclear war before we act to rid the world of these weapons of mass annihilation. The US should be the leader in this effort, rather than an obstacle to its realization. It is up to the court of public opinion to assure that the US asserts this leadership. The time to act is now." (Read Putting U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policies on Trial in the Court of Public Opinion)

"We were protesting a rehearsal of a holocaust," said defendant Daniel Ellsberg. "Every minuteman missile is a portable Auschwitz." Video of Ellsberg: http://youtu.be/E-s0_JI8Dp4

Defendant John Amidon said, "We have 450 land-based Minuteman III nuclear missiles on high alert. Despite hundreds of near-disasters due to human and mechanical mistakes over the years, these nuclear-armed missiles could be sent by a U.S. president in 13 minutes or less. Thirteen minutes, with the very real possibility that false information, an electronic glitch or bad signal, or an error in human judgment, would bring the world as we know it to an end. Minuteman III missiles would not, and nothing can, prevent retaliation. Even without retaliation, their unilateral use would ruin the earth's atmosphere -- all over the earth. The missiles' only function is to kill others in a process that kills us too."

The 450 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles armed with thermonuclear warheads and deployed in hardened silos are an archaic, first strike, Cold War weapons system.  It is time to retire these dinosaurs and re-evaluate (and change) our nation's nuclear weapons policies.  The Vandenberg 15 hope to make this case at very least in the court of public opinion.

More to come following tomorrow's press conference!

Friday, October 12, 2012

(Nuclear) Bombs or Bread: Who Decides???

In a response to recent "threats" made by North Korea, the U.S. State Department said that the country should "tend to the needs of its citizens rather than boasting about its missiles,"

I don't know of many people who would argue that the people of North Korea would be better served by their "leaders" if they were to spend less on their military - especially on nuclear weapons - and spend more on the true needs of its people.

That being said, isn't it the duty of every government - especially one that is supposed to be "of the people, by the people, for the people" (thanks to Abe Lincoln for the reminder) - to "tend to the needs of its citizens?"

As the State Department spokeswoman was going on about North Korea's (nuclear) missile ambitions, the U.S. Air Force was continuing its preparations for the test launch of a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile scheduled for November 13th from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Of course this is only a test launch, so the missile will carry a "dummy" warhead. If it was one of the 450 Minuteman III missiles sitting in silos scattered around the U.S. on alert and ready to launch in short order on the President's command it would be carrying a thermonuclear warhead of up to 475 kilotons!

But these are not the only missiles that the U.S. has deployed every day. A number of the 14 Trident (Ohio class) ballistic missile submarines patrol the world's oceans carrying the Trident II D-5 ballistic missile. Each Trident sub carries 24 missiles, each currently armed with four thermonuclear warheads, each warhead with a yield of 100 or 475 kilotons. They are also on alert, ready to launch on command.

Current U.S. Navy plans call for construction of 12 new submarines that will carry the current Trident missile. The existing W-76 (100 kiloton) warheads for the Tridents have been undergoing a "Life Extension Program." In this program the warheads undergo a "refurbishment" process in which they are improved.

So what does all this have to do with North Korea or taking care of the needs of our nation's citizens??? Well, the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the nation's nuclear infrastructure has cost trillions of taxpayer dollars since the beginning of the nuclear age. Just the construction of the 12 new submarines I mentioned will cost $99 billion or more (according to the Congressional Budget Office); and with operations and maintenance - $350 billion over the fleet's lifetime.
And it is not only North Korea that has hungry citizens. According to Feeding America, "In the United States, more than one out of five children lives in a household with food insecurity, which means they do not always know where they will find their next meal. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 16.7 million children under 18 in the United States live in this condition – unable to consistently access nutritious and adequate amounts of food necessary for a healthy life." And that's just "children." 

The overarching questions beneath this issue are - What kind of security is our continuing pursuit of nuclear weapons and their use as a tool of foreign policy providing the people of the U.S., or the rest of the world for that matter? What message(s) does our continuing testing of missiles, refurbishing of weapons, building new nuclear weapons facilities, and planning new nuclear weapons delivery vehicles (eg., submarines) send to countries like North Korea? And, is it even conscionable on any level to spend hundreds of billions on nuclear weapons when so many people cannot afford food, shelter, education and health care???

So long as those in charge (whether in a totalitarian state or declared democracy) continue to be rooted in fear, blinded by power and beholden to special interests, they will also be blind to the needs of the people. 

No "enemy" will ever be defeated by the use of nuclear weapons.  Instead, the result will be unimaginable death and suffering (on both sides of any nuclear exchange).  Martin Luther King Jr. summed up the potential when he said (and it rings as true today as it did a half century ago):
In our day of space vehicles and guided ballistic missiles, the choice is either nonviolence or nonexistence.
Indeed, it is time for all those who should represent the interests of the people to do just that.  War is not the answer, and war fought with nuclear weapons is unconscionable.  Disarmament will not come easy, but if all leaders of the nuclear powers (starting with the U.S. and Russia) do not begin a sincere effort toward that worthy goal we will continue down a dangerous path that will lead to no good end. 

Beyond the question of bombs or bread, it is truly a matter of nonviolence or nonexistence.

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For a good look at U.S. nuclear weapons spending check out Exploding Budgets, by Joe Cirincione, at Time.com: http://nation.time.com/2012/10/10/exploding-budgets/