Resisting Trident: For Love and for Life

Resisting Trident: For Love and for Life

by Lynne Greenwald

Although I’ve been “part of the peace movement” since the 1970’s, two phrases have remained a common thread throughout the years:  “Don’t take myself too seriously,” and “Resistance should be a song, a dance, an act of love.”

At the Pentagon in the mid-1970’s I experienced what seems to have been a life-altering experience and I knew from that point on, that with my life I had to show that nuclear weapons were wrong.  This became a foundation for my life on the East Coast, in Montana and in Washington State.  I moved to Kitsap County over 26 years ago, to join Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, and to raise a family.  Living in this community, it has been possible to learn how to become neighbors to those in the military and discovering our common desires.

I was pregnant with my first daughter when I learned of the Nuclear (White) Train that traveled from Amarillo, Texas to the Trident Submarine Base at Bangor.  The train carrying nuclear weapons was originally parked over night on the tracks behind the Poverello Center, a shelter I helped manage in Missoula, Montana. Christy’s birth was motivation to join a community, nonviolently resisting Trident.

A lot has changed over the years – my three children are all independent young adults now, and the Trident Base continues to expand.  As part of the U.S. strategic military triad (air, land and sea), Trident remains entrenched in the nuclear posturing with its ability to deliver its deadly cargo to any location in the world within 15 minutes.  The beginning of the Iraq war convinced me to take my demands for the end of all war, and the abolition of all nuclear weapons, to the Trident Base in my community.

Last August I was arrested for the third time for “crossing the blue line” at the Base. On November 2, 2009 I entered the Trident Base with four friends and proceeded to walk to the nuclear weapons storage facility.  As part of the Disarm Now Plowshares group we spent several hours walking on the Base and cut through fences that “secured” the largest single stockpile of nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal.

I can’t not act to stop nuclear weapons from being planned, developed or deployed.  The compelling reasons include a faith that life is to be nurtured, not destroyed; that all resources should be used for life-giving purposes for all; and that nuclear weapons do not make us safe, and actually make us less secure.  When entering the base I carry prayers for peace and images of children, including 2-year-old Ali Hussein, who died late April 2008 following a U.S. missile attack on his home in Baghdad, Iraq.  I take a vision of a world without nuclear weapons and war, and sunflower seeds representing hope for this violated earth.

All signs indicate that this country is not preparing for nuclear disarmament.  On January 29, 2010 Joe Biden presented an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, the President’s Nuclear Vision.  The article clearly outlines a plan to maintain and further develop the strength of the nuclear arsenal, with a proposed $7 billion ($600 million more than Congress approved last year) to be spent to maintain the U.S. nuclear weapon stockpile and complex.

Knowing what I know, acts of Civil Resistance are a responsibility I take seriously, committing my life to the elimination of all nuclear weapons.  Trident nuclear weapons are illegal and immoral. Even the existence and threat to use nuclear weapons violates International Law and the International Tribunal of Justice of 1996.

I began this article by mentioning two thoughts that run through my actions.  By committing acts of Civil Resistance we have an opportunity to create an alternative peaceful world.  I am convinced that “those in control” completely lack creativity and imagination and need our voices and lives to describe another reality – complete nuclear abolition in our lifetime.

Lynne is preparing for a trial March 3 for an August 2009 trespass at the Bangor Trident BaseShe currently lives in Tacoma and volunteers at the Guadalupe Catholic Worker House.  As a member of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, she is helping to plan for a May 1 – 3 gathering and action to coincide with the NPT Review gathering at the UN in NYC.

Facing the Darkness

Sr. Anne Montgomery, RSCJ reflects on the Disarm Now Plowshares witness at Naval Base Kitsap/Bangor

A voice from the dark called out,
‘The poets must give us
imagination of peace, to oust the intense, familiar
imagination of disaster.  Peace, not only
the absence of war.’

But peace, like a poem,
is not there ahead of itself,
can’t be known except
in the words of its making,
grammar of justice,
syntax of mutual aid.” (Denise Levertov)

Another poet, Daniel Berrigan, contrasts prose as “an instrument of efficiency: it belongs to the ‘things which are seen.’  Prose moves things, gives orders, is logical, serves for argument, settles conflicts or makes war. … Poetry is unnecessary in the sense that God is unnecessary.  Poetry is useless in the sense that God is useless.  Which is to say,  God and poetry are not part of the kingdom of necessity, of that world of law and order (lawlessness and disorder) and sin and war and greed we name ‘the fall.’”

In Genesis, God the poet created more than water and land with evolving life-forms, subject to scientific study.  We are faced with chaos, tamed by the division between light and darkness, of land from sea, with a Spirit hovering over all as a constant presence in an ongoing struggle:  “The light shone in darkness and the darkness could not extinguish the light.”

When we, trusting in that Spirit, cut through the last fence at SWFPAC  and stood before the tomb-like storage bunkers for Trident missiles, the dawn grew in the West: a gentle image of multiple colors, muted but strong in their promise of victory over darkness, of  the spirit of vulnerable love over the threat chaotic violence. Paradoxically, the  blinding, glaring lights by each tomb themselves were a kind of  darkness in their promise of an idolatrous and false security.

John’s Gospel introduces Jesus as the Light of the World, overcoming a darkness which cannot comprehend his way of nonviolent love, of no compromise with the political or religious power-brokers of his time. In poetic metaphor and symbol he consistently spoke “the grammar of justice.”  But he spoke most clearly and dangerously by his life, offering, not immediate results, but a Way of fidelity to truth-speaking and love of both friends and enemies: “a syntax of mutual aid.”

In our Plowshares community we tried to speak the language of pilgrimage, of the way being the goal.  We carried the symbols of hammers, blood, and sunflower seeds: hammers to transform weapons of death to human products, seeds to plant new life, and blood to remember the victims of war.  We tried to walk in the Way, too, not only during the hours on the base, but also in our communal prayers and discernment, in our willingness to plan carefully, but also to stumble and make mistakes, perhaps not achieve immediate results, but to be one with the Spirit, so that:

“peace, a presence,
an energy field more intense than war,
might pulse then,
stanza by stanza into the world,
each act of living
one of its words, each word
a vibration of light-facets
of the forming crystal.” (Denise Levertov)

May 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review: It’s Crunch Time

by Bill Bichsel, SJ

President Obama’s speech in Prague on April 5, 2009 dedicating this country to lead the global effort to abolish nuclear weapons brought tremendous hope and joy to the nations of our world.  This vision disintegrated into contradictory parts with Vice President Biden’s announcement of the President’s approval of the new investment in the nuclear arsenal.

A good part of this year’s budget will go to the development of new nuclear weapon components at their key nuclear weapon projects: at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, and at the Kansas City Plant in Missouri. The Missouri plant for producing a major, non-nuclear component for nuclear arms is well into the planning stages and will replace the existing plant. The facility at Oak Ridge, Tennessee plans to reinvest in its ability to produce uranium components, while the Los Alamos plant plans to increase the U.S. capability to produce plutonium pits – the core of a nuclear weapon – from 20 to 125 pits annually.

The Obama Administration’s proposed budget includes a request of over 7 billion dollars to improve and modernize its nuclear weapon production base. The modernization and production of a new generation of nuclear weapons is the latest and most deplorable violation of the spirit and intent of the NPT, Nuclear Weapon Non-Proliferation Treaty , which was ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1970. The “improvements” of the nuclear arsenal will increase the indiscriminate killing power of the weapons. Nuclear weapons are illegal and immoral under international and U.S. law and are outrageous violations of humanitarian law.  They are crimes and sins against humanity and the continued participation in the maintenance and production of these weapons is to participate in societal sin.  When a person through conscience becomes aware of the rightness or wrongness of a given action, then that person is personally responsible to follow the dictates of conscience.

In presenting the President’s Nuclear Vision in the Wall Street Journal, Vice President Biden quoted Obama, “…no nation can secure itself by disarming unilaterally, but as long as nuclear weapons exist, all nations remain ever on the brink of destruction.”  Obama’s Prague speech continued, “We cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it, we can start it.”

Before making a few suggestions about how Obama could start and lead the world in nuclear weapon abolition, let me deal with the term “unilateral.” Some nuclear weapon supporters use the term to convey the idea that any step toward disarmament would be unilateral disarmament or the U.S. “going it alone” and leaving the country defenseless. The word can be used to try to ridicule or cut off dialogue about nuclear weapon abolition.

All NPT nations know and agree that nuclear weapon disarmament won’t take place without an enforceable agreement between the nations about the time, pace and modus of abolition.  All nuclear nations must agree to the move – not just one country.

The big question is, “who will take the lead?”  The NPT review committee will meet in May of this year to determine whether the NPT nations can actually set a date when the NPT nations will eliminate all nuclear weapons.  The review committee has met every 5 years since 1970 and has never set a date for nuclear weapon disarmament. There is fear among nuclear weapon researchers that unless a date is set, it will be too late to stop nuclear weapon proliferation in third world countries. Nations will be armed against one another in a death dance.  Steven Leeper of the Hiroshima Peace Museum, and who works for Mayors for Peace states, “It is crunch time.”

Mayors for Peace is an international body of over 3000 mayors working for nuclear weapon abolition.  At the NPT Review Committee meeting in May 2010 at the United Nations in New York City the group will propose that all NPT nuclear weapon states agree to the abolition of all of their nuclear weapons by 2020.  Mayors for Peace will also propose that these states submit plans on how and by what time table the disarmament will proceed at the 2015 NPT Review. This proposal is known as the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Protocol.

In response to the President’s “Nuclear Vision,” I would like to suggest how the $7 Billion request for modernization of the nuclear arsenal can be turned into a first step toward nuclear weapons disarmament that is committed and can bring hope and encouragement to NPT nations as well as our world. The suggestion has two parts.

First, let the Obama administration request $3 billion to implement the decommissioning of the 3 plants mentioned previously in this article, as well as the Livermore Laboratory in California. This request should include money to retire current workers or to pay for retraining employees to work for needed national endeavors such as green energy and to repair environmental damage. Let the clean up of Hanford and similar nuclear contaminated places be priorities. Money should be invested in the planning for safe disposal of all nuclear weapons in the U.S. This plan must be submitted to the NPT Review Committee in 2015.

Let $4 Billion be invested immediately in the health and welfare of the Haitian people and the rebuilding of the country’s infrastructure. Let this be the first installment in our debt to the Haitian people and our duty to share resources with those most in need.

Ways to work for Nuclear Weapon Abolition:

  1. Each day forgive someone or forgive yourself.
  2. Each day perform an act of random kindness (saying hello to    someone for instance).
  3. Each day take time to thank God for the person(s) who has helped or inspired you.
  4. Learn about Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action.
  5. Learn about the NPT Review coming up this May at the United Nations in New York.
  6. Write your elected Representative and Senators to oppose nuclear weapons.
  7. Organize or join a gathering that will support abolition of all nuclear weapons during the week of the NPT conference.
  8. Inquire about a group who will meet with their mayor to inform their elected official of Mayors for Peace.
  9. Join a group (senior citizen, student, etc.) that will reflect and act on the nuclear weapon bondage.
  10. Write a letter or article to the editor of your paper about your experience in working for nuclear weapon abolition.

New Fence at Naval Base Kitsap

by Susan Crane

Naval Base Kitsap, in Washington state, is planning to build a new fence to protect the Trident submarines and the nuclear weapons that are carried on the subs.

The cost for the fence, and projects encompassed in the fence building, is $14,000,000. Not 14 hundred, not 14 thousand, but 14 million dollars. That, my friends, is a lot of money.

That much money, fourteen million dollars, could pay salaries and benefits for 140 well paid teachers for a year, or buy 16,000 families of four food for a month, or send 560 students to college for a year.

And that 14 million will never keep the illegal and immoral Trident warheads safe, because they are inherently unsafe. They already cause death and destruction from the mining of uranium and radioactive materials, to production, deployment, threats to use, and actual use. Additionally they are unsafe because they force other countries to spend money that should be spent on human needs on developing nuclear weapons, in an attempt to secure themselves from our nuclear weapons.

A number of retired Secretaries of State, including Henry Kissinger, as well as some in the military have endorsed the elimination of nuclear weapons because they are unsafe as an instrument of US foreign policy.

And what does it mean that President Obama has pledged to bring global nuclear weapons down to zero? What does it mean that the US has signed a non-proliferation treaty and has agreed to decrease nuclear weapons production? As long as the US maintains its arsenal of roughly 5200 nuclear warheads and plans for its next generation of Trident submarines, other nations feel forced for their own security, to build nuclear weapons, too.

It makes no sense to me that here in the United States we consider that our nuclear weapons are good, moral and lawful, while the nuclear weapons of anther country (depending upon our relationship with it) are evil, immoral and illegal. It is, to me, the same sort of logic that says it’s OK, righteous, and defending freedom when the US drones are used to kill civilians in Pakistan, Afghanistan or Iraq, and when the people on the bottom fight the occupying forces using explosives strapped to their bodies, that is considered outrageous, immoral and beyond any defense. Why is it any worse to look at the people you kill before you kill them? Why is it outrageous to die with those you are killing, instead of sitting thousands of miles out of harms way and drop hellfire missiles on people?

If the word “terrorist” has any meaning, it would seem that the US use of drones and the US continued development of nuclear weapons bring terror into many hearts, and many lives; and into the everyday life of many children.

And now we hear that President Obama has asked for a 7 billion dollar increase for nuclear weapons spending over the next five years; making the 2011 fiscal year budget $11.2 billion.

The fence at the US/Mexico border costs more than 14 million, as it’s much longer. That fence fence probably won’t keep people from coming across the border, and neither will the fence at Naval Base Kitsap keep us safe from the danger of nuclear weapons. (or keep Plowshares activists away). So long as the weapons exist, and the fear deep within our hearts that drives us to rely on these insane, omnicidal weapons, we live in constant danger of something far greater than any terrorist attack.

Is it not time for us to to re-evaluate the value of fences and walls, and consider whether we should start building bridges? Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that,

Love is the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or to bow before the altar of retaliation. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals who pursues this self-defeating path of hate.

Dr. King’s calls us to take a different, yet life-giving path. To do so, we will have to make radical changes in both our individual and collective lives, and as a nation will have to stop threatening other nations with regime change, fulfill our obligations under the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and stop holding the threat of nuclear weapons over other countries, and start using true diplomacy rather than military action as a tool of foreign policy.

And what does all this ultimately mean? It means that tearing down fences and building bridges is the only way we will ultimately stop the downward spiral that is bankrupting our nation both morally and financially, and build a safer world for current and future generations. May it be so, and may it start with each of us.

CHOOSE LIFE By Bill Bichsel, S.J.

CHOOSE LIFE By Bill Bichsel, S.J.

Rise all of you elderly and seniors who have been lured to the warmth and comfort of Arizona, New Mexico, Southern California, Florida, Nevada and points south. Leave your sun drenched pool sides, manicured greens, shaded patios and your pursuit of the good life and return to northern climes to do the work you have not yet begun or work you put off because it was too overwhelming. If you are working on immigration rights or works that further No More Deaths at the Mexican border it is probably best that you remain where you are needed.

It is we of later years who have left a terrible world for our children, grandchildren and those most vulnerable and destitute in our society. Our nation is awash in greed, violence and fear. We have allowed our appetites for ‘MORE’ become motivating forces in our personal and national lives. To maintain and protect what we have accumulated we have agreed to the rise of a gigantic Security State (Empire) which needs deadly weapon systems to protect the wealth and the means of accumulating the wealth which has been sucked from impoverished countries and peoples for the beneficiaries of the Security State. This security system is global and has military bases in over 100 countries to protect American interests.

The foundation of our global control is our nuclear weapon superiority. Nuclear weapons are illegal under the treaties signed by the U.S. which declare the use of weapons of indiscriminate killing to be contrary to international and humanitarian law. Nuclear weapons do not deter war and conflict but cause fear among nations which arm themselves against one another. The U.S. could lead us out of this unlawful nuclear bondage if the people would rise and demand the abolition of these weapons of mass destruction.

The legacy of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings is that might makes right. We have allowed that mentality to grow and have handed it onto our children and grand-children. All of us have been afflicted and affected by the possession of nuclear weapons which threaten other peoples. The possession and intended use of nuclear weapons is the tap-toot of violence in our society. Because a great deal of our money and resources are being diverted to the enhancement and maintenance of these weapons of mass destruction rather than going to met human needs, a great many people are dying now. Just the lack of potable drinking water in third world countries causes untold deaths every year.

The mind set that allows the cost of nuclear weapons also allows the violence of homelessness, hunger, absence of health care, lack of education and employment, the exploitation of the immigrant and the climate of hopelessness. The latest decision of the Supreme Court to allow corporations to pay for candidates and fund measures that will benefit them is the Clarion call that the mighty and the rich will rule our world.

Though the task is overwhelming the least we can do is try. We must rise out of our lethargy and organize and become active in resisting the violence that comes with the production and possession of nuclear weapons. Whether you choose to work to meet human needs in Haiti or the United States or to resist nuclear weapons it is important to know that you can do something about it. I want to share here a short story with you. You may know that on November 2nd, 4 other seniors and I entered the Bangor Sub Base and after 4 hours undetected ended our journey at the nuclear weapons bunkers where we were held for witnessing to the immorality of this largest stockpile of nuclear weapons –  perhaps in the world. What is really exciting to me was a short time ago I was telling this story to a group here in Tacoma when an elderly man came up to me and simply stated “if you ever do that again – count me in”. Now that was hopefulness!!!!

That’s what I’m talking about. Let go of the false security that binds us to immobility. What have we got to lose, especially at our age. We can only be winners. And maybe, just maybe these old decrepit bones of ours will be once again infused with a spiritual energy that’s been missed for a long time.

Remember that the Nuclear Weapon Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review is coming May 1, 2010 at the United Nations in New York. Join your voice with those calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons by 2020. Unless there is a date established, the legacy left by us will be a nuclear armed world and continued war planning.

Let us leave the flesh pots of Arizona, New Mexico, Southern California, Nevada and Florida to travel through a different desert to find our humanity and leave our humanity as gifts to the generations following us.

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