Abolish Nuclear Weapons: Choose Life!

Editor’s Note: This is an article I was asked to write for St. Patrick Church, Seattle.  It was recently published in the Summer 2013 Roots of Justice, the parish Social Justice Newsletter.  Click here for the PDF reprint.

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Abolish Nuclear Weapons: Choose Life

by Leonard Eiger

“In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims. The truth of peace requires that all – whether those governments which openly or secretly possess nuclear arms, or those planning to acquire them – agree to change their course by clear and firm decision and strive for a progressive and concerted nuclear disarmament. The resources which would be saved could then be employed in projects of development capable of benefiting all their people, especially the poor.” (Pope Benedict XVI, World Day of Peace, 2006)

Decades before, the Archbishop of the Seattle Archdiocese, Raymond Hunthausen, was active in resistance to the U.S. stockpiling of nuclear weapons and the new Trident submarine-based nuclear weapons system, which included the Bangor Trident submarine base in Puget Sound just 20 miles west of Seattle. In 1981 Archbishop Hunthausen referred to the Trident submarines based there as “the Auschwitz of Puget Sound.”

The Church’s condemnation of nuclear weapons is grounded in the Church’s respect for life and the dignity of the human person. People of faith have been active throughout the movement to abolish nuclear weapons, and the struggle to resist Trident mirrors this history. Even before the first Trident submarine sailed into Bangor, people were coming together to build a resistance to it.

The Pacific Life Community (PLC), a small intentional community, formed to resist the coming of Trident to the Pacific Northwest. Two years later, out of the initial PLC experience, Jim and Shelley Douglass co-founded Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action (GZ). The GZ community purchased land adjacent to the Bangor base, laying the groundwork for the long work ahead.

As the submarines came and the base grew, so did the resistance. In the early years resisters handed out leaflets at the Bangor entrance gates. When the first Trident submarine arrived it was met by thousands of protestors on land in addition to a small flotilla of boats.

Next came rocket motors, and then nuclear warheads, transported by trains to Bangor for assembly to complete the Trident nuclear missiles. These trains were met by huge numbers of people, many of whom risked arrest blocking the tracks leading into the base. Archbishop Hunthausen was present at some of these actions in solidarity with the resistance.

The Douglasses later moved to Birmingham, Alabama to start a Catholic Worker House, and GZ’s work continued. Today that work is as strong as ever. A new Center House has risen from the ashes of earlier structures on the grounds. Three annual actions ground our continuing resistance to Trident – Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, Mother’s Day weekend and the Hiroshima/Nagasaki commemoration.

This continuing resistance, deeply rooted in nonviolence, is absolutely necessary in this time of renewed pursuit of nuclear weapons as a foreign policy tool. Besides the US Government’s buildup of its nuclear weapons research, development and production infrastructure, it is pursuing new nuclear weapons systems – among them a new generation of Trident submarines.

The new submarines, currently in research and development, are intended to replace the aging Trident nuclear weapons system, a relic of the Cold War. Twelve submarines will cost $100 billion just to build, in addition to hundreds of billions in operational costs.

Beyond the costs – For people of faith killing is simply wrong, and nuclear weapons, which are omnicidal by design, are an abomination in the eyes of God. His Holiness was clear in his 2006 statement – Nuclear weapons must never again be used; they must be eradicated, and we must dedicate ourselves to life-affirming ends.

May we choose life.

On Anne Montgomery: Of Two Hands and Two Feet

Dear Friends,

Kathy Kelly is one of those extraordinary souls whose acts of love, compassion and courage are well-known.  Kathy understands, as did Anne Montgomery, that it is not about “us” per se, but about our work and the fact that we do not do it alone.

Anne and Kathy would meet, not unexpectedly, in conflict zones where both were working with people in dire need.  It is work that takes not only faith, hope and courage, but persistence. Continue reading

Celebrating Mother’s Day in a BIG Way at Ground Zero

Dear Friends,

Yesterday was a great day to be outdoors (not a cloud to be seen), and people gathered at the Main entrance gate to the Bangor Trident submarine base to demonstrate our resistance to the most horrific weapon (system) of mass destruction ever devised – TRIDENTGround Zero Center for Nonviolent Action held its annual Mothers Day Weekend action – this year’s theme was Moms Against Bombs. Continue reading

Bix: An Oral History…

The Pacific Northwest Antiwar and Radical History Project interviewed Bix in 2008 for a special section on anti-nuclear organizing in the Northwest.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Bix, here is a brief historical sketch from Matt Dundas’ interview with him on November 12, 2008.

Bill “Bix” Bichsel was born and  raised in Tacoma, where he now lives.  A  Jesuit priest, Bichsel is a long-time member of Tacoma’s Catholic Worker  community, who commit themselves to social justice campaigns and working with  the poor.

As a teacher at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA, Bichsel worked on  fair housing and anti-discrimination campaigns, and later took part in  anti-Vietnam War protests in Boston. Upon learning from environmental activists  about the nuclear weapons slated to be stored at Bangor Naval Base on Hood  Canal, Bichsel joined the pacifist civil disobedience at the base, work he  believes “made real” his commitment to nonviolent civil disobedience and the  spiritual power of protest and resurrection.

In 1975, nonviolent theologians  and activists Jim and Shelley Douglass helped form an intentional community  near Bangor Naval Base, which later purchased land next to the base and became  the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolence. Bichsel became involved with the work  of Ground Zero, and took part in many of the acts of civil disobedience: fence  cuttings, intentional acts of trespass, and planning for the peace blockade of  the Trident nuclear submarine, the USS  Ohio. Ground Zero also helped spark a nationwide campaign of witness  protesting the movements of nuclear weapons from Texas to the Northwest on  “white trains.”

In mid-1980s, Bichsel became  involved in solidarity work in Central America, and then with protests at the  School of the Americas—an American combat training school for Latin American  soldiers—though he maintains his commit to anti-nuclear activism. As he says,  it is our responsibility to continually protest: there is, he believes, “a  power much greater than nuclear weapons.”

Click here to go to Bix’s oral history page at the Pacific Northwest Antiwar and Radical History Project where you can watch a number of videos of the interview with Bix, including one in which he describes his first act of civil disobedience, carrying a replica of the Trident nuclear submarine through a hole cut in the fence.

Mom says: ABOLISH NUKES NOW!

CLICK HERE to see the full day’s schedule.  Click here for directions to GZ.  Hope to see many of you local folks there on Saturday! 

Questions: Contact Anne Hall, annehall@familyhealing.com, 206-545-3462, or Sue Ablao, gznonviolencenews@yahoo.com, 360-930-8697.

Billions For Life, Not Billions For Death!!!

Friends,

Soon the New Year will be upon us and we’ll have to make New Year’s resolutions.  On the heels of the Disarm Now Plowshares trial, don’t you think a good resolution would be to bring out hundreds of people to block the Bangor gate?

Well, here’s your chance.  Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action will host its annual Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday vigil and nonviolent action on Saturday, January 15, 2011, and YOU are invited.  It will be a great day of nonviolence training, preparation culminating with a vigil and nonviolent action at the Bangor gate in the afternoon.  We will also vigil and leaflet in the morning at the Target store at Silverdale Mall.

The Seattle Raging Grannies have been busy planning for the event, and have come up with the perfect theme:  BILLIONS FOR LIFE, NOT BILLIONS FOR DEATH.

The day will include nonviolence training, preparation and a vigil and nonviolent action at the Bangor gate.  Plan to join us on the 15th as we continue to resist Trident.  Bring your nonviolent spirit and something to share for the potluck lunch.
 
If you haven’t joined us before, come on out and find out what it’s all about.  Click here to watch a slideshow of last year’s MLK day event.

Click here to see the full day’s schedule.  Click here to download the flyer, suitable for posting and handing out anywhere you can think of.

Questions?  Contact Jackie Hudson or Sue Ablao at 360-930-8697 or gznonviolencenews@yahoo.com.

To Life,

Leonard

Jim and Shelley Douglass: How Do We Act for Peace?

Utsumi Shoenin, Bill Bichsel, Sr. Denise, Shelley and Jim Douglass at Y-12 nuclear weapon plant in Tennessee

Utsumi Shoenin, Bill Bichsel, Sr. Denise, Shelley and Jim Douglass

Jim and Shelley Douglass were among the co-founders of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, who purchased 3.8 acres along Bangor’s Trident base in 1977.  As members of the Pacific Life Community, founded in 1975,  they began a campaign of nonviolently resisting Trident.  They were inspired by Robert Aldridge’s resignation as a missile designer for Lockheed following a crisis of conscience as he recognized the first-strike capability and accuracy of the Trident missiles. The Douglasses currently live at Mary’s House Catholic Worker in Birmingham, Alabama, offering hospitality to homeless families and acting for nonviolence and peace.
A short video and talk by Jim and Shelley, and for more information:
Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action:

 

All of us live in a world that is at constant risk of destruction.  We humans have created weapons of an unimaginable  magnitude, and we find the making of peace to be unimaginable as well.  Our current administration talks about nuclear disarmament while planning and building new weapons production facilities.  We expect other, smaller nations to forgo nuclear weapons while we continue to build them.  This situation cannot continue indefinitely.  As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Our choice is not between violence and nonviolence.  Our choice is between nonviolence and non-existence.”  It is only a matter of time before someone uses a nuclear weapon, setting off a global nuclear exchange that could end life as we know it.  How are we to live in such a world?

In such a world people of conscience are called to step outside normal boundaries.  It is necessary to awaken the public and to focus our attention on the question of nuclear weapons.  Only if we are aware of the problem can we begin to think of the solution.  In such a world Christians are called to act on the most radical teachings of the Gospels:  “Love your enemies.  Do good to those who hate you.”  In such a world, to be human is to create new ways of speaking truth to those in power.  We are grateful to the Disarm Now Plowshares for their creative action at the Naval Submarine Base Bangor, which remains one of the most heavily armed sites on the planet.  By stepping inside the boundaries of SWFPAC, they have risked their freedom and their lives to remind us of our responsibilities.  Ultimately the choice – survival or destruction – rests with us.  In supporting their action we are challenged to find our own ways of acting to end nuclear weapons.  We must all take responsibility,  just as the Disarm Now Plowshares continue to do.  How will we act for peace?

Shelley & Jim Douglass

Birmingham, AL

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.

Do our words march in step with Empire? or, Nuclear Weapons are not “assets”

A reflection by Susan Crane on words and how they work for power.

Philip Berrigan, reflecting on the struggle against high-ranking masterminds of mass murder wrote; “We were trying to argue with the Mad Hatter; we were attempting to reform Big Brother. Words had lost all meaning. Euphemisms and bureaucratese abounded: ‘We must destroy the village in order to save it.’ ‘We must prolong the war in order to bring about peace.’ ‘We must support dictators if we wish to promote democracy.’ ” (Dispatches from the Lamb’s War)

And here in Washington State, talking with Tom Karlin, I was reminded of these words of Phil. Tom and I were building a flip-over ladder in preparation for the MLK Day celebration at the  Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action. We thought someone might want to go inside Naval Base Kitsap which holds the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the US.

Tom Karlin had been in the US Navy in 1958, during the Formosa Crisis. He was telling me about being on the aircraft carrier, the USS Lexington, in the South China Sea in the Luzon Strait off the Formosa shore.

As my understanding about this topic was more than a little weak, Tom explained: “Following the Chinese Japanese war in 1894, Formosa was ceded to Japan. At the end of WW II, Formosa was given back to China. Then in 1949 when Mao Zedong came to power, the nationalists, led by Chiang Kai-shek, fled to Formosa. The nationalists made an agreement with the US for protection, and for that reason, the USS Lexington was in the waters off the shore of Formosa.

“In the middle of the night, the ‘general quarters’ alarm went off that called everyone to their battle stations,” Tom was telling me. “I was assigned to the weapon handling crew loading fighter aircraft with air-to-air missiles and other munitions on the carrier flight deck. When I went to the flight deck, I saw, for the first time, an aluminum container that carried the special weapon. It was guarded by marines. It was huge: must have been 12-15 feet long, and 6 feet in diameter or more. It was ready to be loaded on a large Skywarrior bomber. These bombers, and other bombers on the carrier, were launched from a steam catapult. We remained at our battle stations from 2 am to 6 am, in readiness, waiting for the special weapon to be loaded. Then, at 6 a.m. the launch was called off.

“There was a conspiracy of silence, and so even though we knew it was an atomic weapon, we never said it out loud and we didn’t talk about it. The summer before the Formosa crisis I was stationed at Naval Air Facility Atsugi on a three month assignment, and I had gone to Nagasaki where I visited the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb museum. I saw the effects of the bomb on human flesh. I was young, and we were trained to believe that there was necessary evil and that the bomb had saved American lives. But still, I was shocked to see the “special weapon;” I didn’t even know we were carrying it. That morning, on the deck of the USS Lexington, seeing that we were ready to do that same horrendous destruction, this time to Chinese people, something happened to me. It was my call to conscience. Tom reflected, “I later found out that the “special weapon” was an atomic bomb that was going to be used to bomb Manchuria.”

A “special weapon.” that would be able to indiscriminately kill whole towns of people, and leave every child there with skin falling off, burned, destined to get cancer, and pass on mutated genes to their children.

A “special weapon” that was some kind of nuclear weapon: atomic bomb, plutonium bomb, or hydrogen bomb.

And today, when navy personnel talk about nuclear weapons, they continue to use words that obscure the reality of these illegal and immoral weapons by calling them “items” and “assets”.

So what does it mean to talk clearly so that our words work for us, instead of working for power? How do we  stop  our words from concealing  and protecting the domination system? How can we free up these words that have been captured by empire? Only by calling things what they are. Only by having the courage to speak the truth, by refusing to use euphemistic words and expressions and instead using the hard words that others don’t want to hear. And this is challenge is in our personal lives as well as our political lives.

Nuclear weapons are not ‘special weapons” or “items” or “assets”, but are indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction.

“Prisoners of war” are not “enemy combatants” but people who are supposed to be treated with dignity and have certain rights under the Geneva Conventions.

People and nations who use or threaten to use nuclear weapons are “terrorists.” not benign “superpowers.”

What’s called for is a change in perspective. We are all swimming in a river of violence and lies, fog is all around us and it’s  hard to figure out what is really happening. If we don’t take the time to use the right words, we won’t see what is going on around us.    We can choose to be tools of the empire and use language that conceals and protects  it,  or we can choose to stand apart, jump out of the river, and call illegal and immoral nuclear weapons exactly what they are, and begin to disarm, dismantle and abolish them.

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