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.

“Washington youth pair anti-nuclear action with Scottish protests”

Dear Friends,

A group of youth from St. Leo Church in Tacoma led a vigil at the Bangor Trident nuclear submarine base on April 14th in witness against nuclear weapons.  You can watch a video of the day below (with thanks to videographer Rodney Herold), and read an article about their vigil in the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) written by Julie Gunter: Washington youth pair anti-nuclear action with Scottish protests.  

The NCR article quotes (among others) Bill Bichsel who laments the state of the world that current and previous generations have created for the young people and future generations, and says “My generation, and the generation following, have left so much violence, so many systems of exploitation, to our young people,” he said. “I believe we have the obligation to let them know we’ve made mistakes, and help give them the strength to resist what we didn’t have the strength to resist.”

With gratitude to these young people, and their strength and courage, AND for models like Bix and others who show the way (to PEACE)..

Peace,

Leonard

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Disarm Now Plowshares Alert! Time to plant Seeds of Peace!!!

Many of you have undoubtedly seen the one-in-a-million Bix Tacoma Action Figure, created by local (Tacoma) artiste R.R. Anderson.  It’s a wonderful tribute to our selfless Friend Bix.  Well, Monsieur Anderson has done it again.  But this time there’s even more!

That’s right Kids!!!  Now, you can get your very own Father Bix Anti-Nuke Sunflower Seeds.  Yup – Sunflower seeds are a symbol of a nuclear weapons free world.  Part of this story is that sunflowers (really do) absorb certain radioactive elements from the soil and water, and have been used to clean up radioactive contamination in places like Chernobyl.

And besides; sunflowers just seem to make people happy.  Plant a bunch of these subversive seeds and you can have your very own field of sunshine.  (AND make a statement for a world free of the scourge of nuclear weapons).

This subversive, comic moment brought to you by local artist par excellence, R.R. Anderson!!!

This subversive, comic moment brought to you by local artist par excellence, R.R. Anderson!!!

Bix and his companions in the 2009 Disarm Now Plowshares action cut through fences and made their way over the course of many hours across the massive Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in the dark of night on their way to the Strategic Weapons Facility, Pacific.  That is where the Navy stores the thermonuclear warheads for the missiles that are carried on its nuclear ballistic missile submarines.  Their purpose?  To symbolically disarm the weapons stored their – turning them “from swords into plowshares.”

Along the way the five brave souls sprinkled sunflower seeds.  And so a bit of sunshine might have one day sprouted in the evil darkness of a place dedicated to the preparations for the murder of upwards of millions of people and quite possibly the end of civilization as we know it on this small planet.

So get your very own Father Bix Anti-Nuke Sunflower Seeds today (just in time to plant) from the Central Tacoma Radical Media Exchange!  Spread a little subversive sunshine.  You’ll be glad you did.

Let’s all spread the message – Swords to Plowshares!  Ditch the Nukes!

Bix reflects on the April 14th youth vigil at Bangor

In conversations with Ciaron O’Reilly, Pat Gaffney and Bruce Kent in London; Gerry Hughes, S.J. in Oxford; Brian Larken, Jane Talents, Rev. Allan McDonald, and Cardinal Keith O’Brian in Scotland, it was strongly agreed that our different countries must support each other and be in solidarity with those carrying out actions and events to abolish nuclear weapons and the Trident delivery system.

On April 14th young people from the Tacoma area came together to carry out a planned resistance event at the gates of the Trident Sub Base at Bangor, Washington at the same time that a large blockade action at the gates of the Trident Sub Base in Faslane, Scotland was taking place.

Prior to the event at Bangor there was a planned video/Skype hook-up at Jeans House of Prayer at the Tacoma Catholic Worker; supporters of the blockade in Faslane connected with the youth of our community who were on their way to the resistance event at Bangor, and a sense of solidarity evolved. At 11:45 AM (PST) the youth of Tacoma (expressing reasons why they oppose nuclear weapons) were in touch with a room full of Scottish resisters who cheered and waved signs. Some of the youth present were Will Bently, Elias Rodkey, Rosie James, Claire Bently, Amanda Brown, and Kaitlin Martin. They identified themselves and expressed why they were there. Sam Colella led us in singing “Yellow Submarine” but with a modified version – changing yellow to Trident.

We concluded our Skype connection and solidarity wishes with singing together “We Shall Overcome”. After this we car pooled to Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, where we gathered in preparation for our walk to the Bangor gate. We were welcomed by Connie Mears then Will Bently called us into a circle and thanked all for coming. Brenda Gallo and Eli Rodkey expressed why they had come. There were words of support for what the youth were doing from Mary Gallagher, Ruth Gallo, and Niko Colella. After this all assembled recited the pledge of non-violence. The group was fortunate to have Mira Leslie and Mary Glystein as peace-keepers who gave instructions on how the group would safely proceed to the main gate of the Bangor Base; following this Peter Roderick led the procession with drumming.

On arriving near the entrance to the Bangor Base, we assembled in the usual place of demonstration which is bordered by a white line restricting entrance onto the state highway and a blue line restricting entrance onto federal property. No sooner had we assembled than a group of 5 marines with a guard dog assembled on the other side of the blue line. Will Bently welcomed everyone then he, Gabe and Quinn spoke of why they were there. We were led in song by Kaitlin Martin and George Rodkey.

Then all of the assembled greeted the marine guards with waves and words which said we were brothers and sisters and not enemies; mindful that we wanted the best for them while we work for a nuclear weapon free world. This was followed by a communal blessing of the guards led by Gerri Jones. Our gathering was ended by a reading from Martin Luther King by Amanda Brown. This reading stated that non-violent action first affects the participant and does not immediately have an effect on violence inherent in nuclear weapons.

We were a vulnerable, rag-tag, insignificant group gathered in a “cloud of unknowing” of the deep, devastating forces of violence that protects nuclear weapons. Though most had a general idea of why we were there, for many the reason of our gathering was a bit fuzzy and, for some, confusing.

We were like long-legged, spindly spiders trying to avoid a puddle. We were the stuff out of which an amused and joyful God writes on our fleshy hearts about the Kingdom (Kindom) coming.

 

 

PLC 2013 Big Finish At Bangor (News Release)

Silverdale, Washington, March 4, 2013 — Twenty peace activists from around the United States were arrested as a result of their nonviolent protest against nuclear weapons at a U.S. Naval base.

Members of the Pacific Life Community gathered at the Main Gate to Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor early Monday morning in resistance to the continued deployment of the Trident nuclear weapons system and the associated threat of use of nuclear weapons by the U.S. government.

The Bangor Trident base is home port to eight of the nation’s 14 Ohio class nuclear ballistic missile submarines and also home to the Strategic Weapons Facility, Pacific, where the Navy stores thermonuclear warheads for deployment on its submarines.  Bangor represents the largest operational concentration of nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal.

While maintaining a peaceful vigil along the roadway, six of the resisters entered the roadway with a banner, which they stretched across the entrance lanes in symbolic closure of the base. The banner quoted Martin Luther King Jr.: “When scientific power outruns spiritual power, we end up with guided missiles and misguided men.”  The protesters also knelt in prayer.

(Photo credit: Mike Wisniewski, LA Catholic Worker)

(Photo credit: Mike Wisniewski, LA Catholic Worker)

Washington State Patrol officers ordered the protesters to leave the roadway. All six protesters complied with the officers and were escorted to the median where they were briefly detained and issued citations for “Walking on roadway where prohibited.”

Meanwhile, another fourteen protesters walked onto the roadway carrying banners and signs calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons.  All crossed the blue line onto the base and knelt in prayer.  Naval security personnel arrested the protesters and drove them to a facility on the base for processing.  They were cited under Section 1382 of Title 18 prohibiting trespassing on military bases, and released a short time later.

The resisters carried a letter addressed to the Bangor base commander.  It stated that the “Trident II D-5 missiles with their W76 or W88 [thermonuclear] warheads are illegal under international law and hence are also illegal per the Constitution of the United States.” Naval security personnel declined to accept the letters. 

(Photo credit: Mike Wisniewski, LA Catholic Worker)

(Photo credit: Mike Wisniewski, LA Catholic Worker)

Those cited for Federal trespassing were Louis Vitale, OFM, Oakland, CA;  Rodney Herold, Seattle, WA; Ted Bracknan. Puyallup, WA; Tensie Hernandez, Santa Maria, CA; Betsy (Frances Elizabeth) Lamb, Bend, OR; Ann E. Havill, Bend, OR; Denny Moore, Bainbridge Island, WA; Bill Bichsel, SJ, Tacoma, WA; James G. Haber, San Francisco, CA; Ed Ehmke, Menlo Park, CA; Mary Jane Parrine, Menlo Park, CA; Jerry Zawada, OFM, Milwaukee, WI; Felice Cohen-Joppa, Tucson, AZ and Susan Crane, Redwood City, CA.

Cited by State Patrol were Tom Karlin, Tacoma, WA; Clancy Dunigan, Langley, WA; George Rodkey, Tacoma, WA; Marcus Page-Collonge, Albuquerque, NM; Leonard Eiger, North Bend, WA and Cliff Kirchmer, Tacoma, WA.

The vigil and nonviolent direct action brought to a close this year’s Pacific Life Community (PLC) Faith and Resistance Retreat held near Tacoma, Washington.  The PLC is dedicated to abolishing nuclear weapons and war-making through nonviolent direct action. The annual event is held each year on the weekend around the anniversary of Castle Bravo, the most powerful nuclear device ever detonated by the U.S. 

(Photo credit: Mike Wisniewski, LA Catholic Worker)

(Photo credit: Mike Wisniewski, LA Catholic Worker)

Fallout from Castle Bravo contaminated a large portion of the Marshall Islands, and poisoned island residents as well as the crew of the Daigo Fukuryu Maru, a Japanese fishing vessel.  It also generated international concern about atmospheric testing.  The U.S. still occupies part of the Marshall Islands in its continued testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

This year’s Faith and Resistance Retreat was hosted by the Tacoma Catholic Worker community.  The event brought together people from around the Western U.S. Catholic Workers came from San Jose, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Half Moon Bay, CA; Las Vegas, NV; Guadalupe, CA; Sheep Ranch, CA and Redwood City, CA. 

Fr. Bill Bichsel, of the Tacoma Catholic Worker community and 2012 Greater Tacoma Peace Prize laureate, commented on the significance of the Pacific Life Community’s work.  “We refuse to accept nuclear weapons as our security.  We owe it to our children and grandchildren to create a nonviolent world.  We are the future and the kingdom that we have been waiting for.”

(Photo credit: Mike Wisniewski, LA Catholic Worker)

(Photo credit: Mike Wisniewski, LA Catholic Worker)

Also represented at the retreat were Nevada Desert Experience, The Nuclear Resister and Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action. Ground Zero, a community in resistance to nuclear weapons, particularly Trident, hosted this morning’s vigil and action at Bangor.

The U.S. Navy is building a Second Explosives Handling Wharf at the Bangor Trident base, and is engaged in research and development to build twelve new ballistic missile submarines designed to replace the existing Trident submarines.  Estimated cost to build the twelve submarines is almost $100 billion. Rear Admiral Joseph Tofalo, commander, submarine Group 10, Kings Bay, Georgia has stated that “A single Trident submarine is the sixth nuclear nation in the world all by itself.” 

Full text of letter to base commander follows.

###

March 4, 2013

Dear Captain Pete Dawson, Commander, Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor:

We are members of the Pacific Life Community, a network of people from the western United States working for the abolition of nuclear weapons. We come today, near the anniversary of the March 1, 1954 Bravo hydrogen bomb test in the Bikini Atoll, in memory of the people of Rongelap who died from radiation poisoning as a result of fallout from that test. We stand with their survivors who do not trust the assurances of the United States government that it is safe for them to return there, even now. Any pressure on the former residents of Rongelap to return must stop now.

Trident II D-5 missiles with their W76 or W88 warheads are illegal under international law and hence are also illegal per the Constitution of the United States. It is a violation of the Nuremberg Principles to threaten destruction of a city, and it is a violation of the Geneva Conventions to threaten use of weapons of indiscriminate power. The July, 1996 International Court of Justice ruling was clear; nuclear weapons are not consistent with international humanitarian law.

It is obvious that nuclear weapons are stored at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor. Please inform us if we’re wrong. We have a responsibility as citizens to be informed enough to weigh in on military and foreign policy issues. Local governments and residents have a need to plan for public safety given the surety that one of the largest collections of nuclear weapons in the world is only 20 miles from Seattle and Tacoma and its 1 million residents.

We want to stop the continued pollution and radioactive contamination from the ongoing nuclear weapons stockpile. The problem of uranium leaks at Hanford cannot be divorced from the problem of nuclear weapons on Trident submarines that threaten nuclear war on every nation and person in the world. Nuclear weapons are killing people now.

We need and deserve a response. We’re waiting.

Sincerely,

cc: Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama, United States Armed Forces

cc: Rear Admiral Dietrich H. Kuhlmann III, Commander, Submarine Group 9

Helen Young interviewed about the Elder “Commandos” of Disarm Now Plowshares

Friends,

Robbin Shannon recently interviewed Helen Young on Fordham Conversations at WFUV.org, 90.7 FM about the Disarm Now Plowshares.  Helen is Emmy Award winning writer, producer and film maker, currently working on a documentary called “The Bangor 5.”

Listen to the audio interview at WFUV.org.  The interview with Helen begins just after 4 minutes, 30 seconds into the program.

The interview is a great way to familiarize yourself with work of the Disarm Now Plowshares.  Here’s the description from the WFUV Website:

Five Senior Citizens’ Break into a Military Base

A discussion with Emmy Award winning filmmaker Helen Young who’s producing a documentary called “The Bangor 5.” It follows the case of five unlikely commandos, all over the age of 60, who executed a bold break-in at a military bases near Seattle that stockpiled nuclear weapons.

Peace,

Leonard

A Malicious Nun? Are you kidding me?????

The following article about Sr. Anne Montgomery and the Disarm Now Plowshares was written by Documentary filmmaker and Emmy award winning writer and producer Helen Young, and published in The Huffington Post today.

A Malicious Nun?

There are many words that come to mind to describe Sister Anne Montgomery, and her work but “malicious” is certainly  not one of them. Sister Anne, an 85-year-old Roman Catholic nun from the Society of the Sacred Heart who once taught students in Spanish Harlem and high school dropouts in Albany, also spent years working for Christian Peacemakers, an  ecumenical anti-war group. She has put her life on the line in some of the world’s most war-torn regions, including the  Balkans in the 1990’s, the Middle East, and more recently in  Iraq. Her life has been devoted to working for peace and on  nuclear disarmament. Continue reading

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