"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

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

King's Legacy!!! Obama's Legacy???


Today is the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. - just one day after The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced that the Doomsday Clock will stay at five minutes to midnight (at least for now).

Much of the world knows Dr. King as one of the great peacemakers of all time.  What many people are not aware of is just how deep was King's opposition not only to war, but also to nuclear weapons.

I wrote about this earlier in January in a tribute to Dr. King's legacy.  I will not say more about that here except to say that the following quote speaks volumes to the depth of King's understanding of the taproot of violence so deep in the tortured soul of the national security state.

When scientific power outruns spiritual power, we end up with guided missiles and misguided men.

As we consider the position of the minute hand on the Doomsday Clock in the context of Dr. King's birthday it is hard not to consider the contrast between the legacy he left and the one being created by U.S. President Barack Obama.  Two Nobel Peace Prize recipients - two radically different paths.

Dr. King was an extraordinary orator.  His words flowed deep from within his spiritual consciousness that was rooted in the struggles of human beings for their basic rights.  He lived out the words he spoke.
On the other hand President Obama, a prisoner of the National Security State and Military-Industrial Complex, is quite the orator, although his rhetoric falls far short.  As yesterday's open letter from The Bulletin reminds the President, "In 2009 you stood in Hradcany Square and boldly stated: 'America's commitment to see the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,' and you specified that the United States will 'reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, and urge others to do the same.'"  Four years later these words seem like empty promises.

The authors of the letter to Obama were correct to state that "we see progress," a few positive steps need to be viewed in a total context.  Rebuilding the infrastructure that develops, builds and maintains nuclear weapons is not "progress."  Rebuilding nuclear warheads and bombs is not progress.  Moving ahead with plans to build a new generation of ballistic missile submarines is not progress.

As the letter stated, "2012 was a year of unrealized opportunity..."  And now the President is about to embark on another four years in office.  What path will he take?  What legacy will he leave?

What would Dr. King say to President Obama as he approaches the eve of another four years?  I imagine him speaking of the President's two daughters and asking,"Mr. President, what legacy do you want to leave for your children Malia and Sasha, and indeed what legacy do you want to leave for all the children of the world?  Mr. President, just when is our nation going to truly lead the world to peace?  When will we learn to live together in this great big World House that we all share?  You and I know, Mr. President, that the alternative to disarmament is the abyss of annihilation?  So Mr. President, what legacy will it be?"

The letter from The Bulletin is a positive model for moving forward, and its authors stated that "we see 2013 as a year for vision and engagement."  They further stated that "decisive action can make the world safer."

Indeed, to get back on track toward Obama's vision in his Prague speech it will require both vision, engagement AND decisive action.  Beyond vision, engagement and action already face strong opposition on many levels in both the civilian and military sectors of the government and on Wall Street.  The President will NOT be moved to lead the world toward disarmament without significant prodding beyond the letter from The Bulletin.

As the letter stated in the first sentence, "2012 was a year in which the problems of the world pressed forward, but too many of its citizens stood back."  Indeed, the vast majority of the nation (and the rest of the world) stood back while the few in control of humanity's destiny continued to make preparations for the unspeakable.

It is time for all citizens, and not just a small percentage, to be informed about the issues surrounding nuclear weapons and how they affect all of us.  It is time for citizens to step forward and become engaged in decisions that were never in their hands in the first place, but should have been.  It is time to bring nuclear weapons into the center of a public dialogue and debate, and for the citizenry to make its voice heard loud and clear in the halls of The White House, Congress and the Pentagon.

If this United States in which we live is to be a democracy, then it is up to us as citizens to make it so.  And there is no greater issue, in terms of the survival of humanity, in which we can (and must) become engaged.

Dr. King once said that "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."  King understood that change (at least lasting change) does not occur overnight.  It is a long, hard struggle, as evidenced by every struggle for human rights throughout history.

Therein lies one major difference between Dr. King and President Obama.  Obama, in his Prague speech, recognized that "This goal will not be reached quickly –- perhaps not in my lifetime."  The difference is that Dr. King didn't stop working toward a goal even though he knew it may not be realized in his lifetime.  We, as citizens, must remind President Obama that he needs to be in this for the long haul - for the sake of his children and all the children of the world.

Happy Birthday Martin.  May our gift to you on this day be our commitment to a nonviolent world free of the scourges of war and nuclear weapons.

In Peace,


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Don't Bank on the Bomb in the New Year!

Happy New Year Everyone!!!

It's hard to imagine... We've survived the Mayan Apocalypse and nearly fell over the fiscal cliff!!!  Phew!  That being said, the greatest threat to the survival of humankind still hangs over us like a Sword of Damocles, and this one doesn't come with a target date (although military planners most likely have plenty of potential targets in mind).

As we move into another New Year the money is flowing (like a fire hose at a three alarm fire) into the U.S. nuclear weapons complex.  And of course, the rest of the world is taking notice and following our lead.  Here are the most notable projects that come to mind.

The Y-12 Facility's $6.5 billion Uranium Processing Facility is moving ahead, although it recently experienced a minor glitch.  Despite years of design work officials recently admitted that the facility will have to be redesigned because all the equipment needed to process bomb-grade uranium and conduct other related activities won't fit into the existing design... ooooops!  Y-12 has already built a brand new Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility for storage of bomb grade uranium.  The HEUMF cost over a half billion dollars.

Construction of a huge new $673 million nuclear weapons manufacturing facility in Kansas City, Missouri is well underway.  The new facility will replace the existing Kansas City Bomb Plant, and will construct approximately 85 percent of the non-nuclear parts for nuclear weapons. 

National Nuclear Security Administration has already spent nearly a half a billion dollars on a new Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) facility at Los Alamos National Laboratories.  The $4 to 12 billion facility is intended to produce plutonium pits for nuclear weapons.  Quite ironically, the governments highest level scientific experts (the JASONS) have concluded that the pits in the nation's existing nuclear warheads have a lifetime of at least a hundred years.

The U.S. has continued to "refurbish" the W-76 nuclear warhead deployed on Trident II D-5 submarine launched ballistic missiles through the Life Extension Program that will cost close to $2 billion.  The B-61 gravity (nuclear) bomb, on the other hand, is estimated to cost $10 billion to upgrade.

The 450 Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, deployed in underground silos around the country and ready to launch on warning, have been completely rebuilt.  As one analyst said, "they are basically new missiles except for the shell."  The modernization of Minuteman III has cost more than $7 billion over the past decade.

The Navy is full steam ahead with plans to build twelve new ballistic missile submarines to replace the current OHIO class submarines.  With nearly $2 billion in contracts having just been awarded for ongoing design and development work, the project is well on its way toward the nearly $100 billion that it will cost to build the new subs.

Of course the government has been working hard (and spending even more money) conducting tests to ensure the capabilities of the nuclear arsenal - including "sub critical" explosive testing of Plutonium and test firings of Minuteman III and Trident II D-5 missiles.

There is much, much more, but you get the idea by now.  While President Obama and Congress were fighting over the "fiscal cliff" the companies that manufacture, modernize and maintain nuclear weapons and their delivery vehicles and the companies that finance them were toasting a New Year bursting with the promise of profits.

Meanwhile, runaway spending on weapons that threaten humanity with extinction is stealing from human needs while encouraging other nations to either modernize and expand their arsenals or, in the case of non-nuclear nations, to develop their own nuclear weapons.

The challenges in the coming year to those working to abolish nuclear weapons are enormous!!!  In the U.S. we are still speaking in Cold War terms like "deterrence", while not questioning the rationale for replacing nuclear weapons systems (like Trident) with essentially identical systems that were originally designed in the context of the Cold War struggle to achieve nuclear dominance over the Soviet Union in the dangerous game of Mutually Assurred Destruction (MAD).

In the coming year we need to be at least as strategic in our thinking, planning and execution as those who plan and prepare for the real apocalypse. 

There has been no public debate regarding an archaic "deterrence" doctrine, while "deterrence" is still being used to justify almost every aspect of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.  It is certainly time to engage the debate and counter this outdated military doctrine.

We also need to know our adversaries in this struggle.  We need to bring serious public pressure to bear on the companies that manufacture, modernize and maintain nuclear weapons and their delivery vehicles and the companies that finance them.  The groundbreaking report Don't Bank on the Bomb,  from the International campaign to abolish nuclear weapons (ICAN), is the first major global report that identifies not only the companies doing nuclear weapons work, but also the "more than 300 banks, insurance companies, pension funds and asset managers from 30 countries that invest significantly in 20 major nuclear weapons producers."

If we can get the kind of coverage in the mainstream press (in the U.S) that we have seen in the United Kingdom in the debate over Trident in the UK, that will be a major success.  That should be our goal - to "mainstream" the discussion about nuclear disarmament and the role (and responsibilities) of the U.S. in the process, and bring serious political pressure to bear.

Global nuclear disarmament is obviously a very long-term goal.  The work, however, must begin now, and the coming year is going to be critical to setting a direction for the future.  All of us engaged in nuclear abolition efforts need to be supportive of one another's efforts in order to generate a critical mass (no pun intended) that can have an impact on policy makers.

Perhaps a good mantra for the New Year would be "Nuclear Disarmament Begins at Home".