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.

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

Pacific Life Community 2013 Faith & Resistance Retreat

Friends,

In just less than a month people will gather for the Pacific Life Community 2013 Faith & Resistance Retreat – Friday, March 1st through Monday, March 4th.

Just what is the Pacific Life Community?  Briefly – It is an extended community of people in many different communities dedicated to “ending nuclear weapons and war-makingsunflower through nonviolent direct action.”

The retreat is a full weekend of reflection, sharing and re-charging (and more) for the work ahead.

The retreat itself will be at the All Saints Camp in Gig Harbor, just north of Tacoma.  On Saturday evening there is a free public event at the University of Puget Sound.  On Monday morning people from the retreat will gather for a vigil and nonviolent direct action at the Bangor Trident submarine base.  All are welcome to join in any part of the weekend – on Monday morning, Saturday evening, as well as the rest of the weekend’s retreat.

The retreat begins at All Saints Camp on Friday evening with some informal activities.  The more “formal” program begins Saturday morning and runs through Sunday evening.  On Monday morning we will rise before the sun and prepare for the early morning action at Bangor, which is a relatively short drive North of the retreat center.

People need to register for the retreat itself so that we can plan to accommodate everyone. We are asking for $100 per attendee to help cover the costs of the retreat. No one will be turned down for lack of full fare. And we invite you who are able to subsidize to help.  Click here to download the Registration Form.

The Saturday evening program at University of Puget Sound is free and open to the public, and begins at 7:00PM (NO registration necessary).  The theme is A Nonviolent Future without Nuclear Weapons?  We have a rich offering of presenters, including:

  • Michael Honey, Professor of Labor and Ethnic Studies and American History at University of Washington, Tacoma.
  • Tom Rogers, a retired US Navy Captain.  A career submariner, he commanded a nuclear attack submarine during the Cold War.
  • Elizabeth Murray, an ex-CIA analyst and former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East at the National Intelligence Council
  • Father William “Bix” Bichsel, a Jesuit who lives and works at the Tacoma Catholic Worker.

Click here for more detailed bios and full information on Saturday evening’s program.  It will be a wonderful opportunity to learn how we can all engage the issue and help build a nonviolent future free of the scourge of nuclear weapons.   After the formal presentations and music, there will be an opportunity to meet and talk with presenters and members of the PLC to learn more.

Monday morning’s vigil and nonviolent direct action will happen at the Bangor base, and we are grateful to Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action (GZ) for hosting the action.  GZ is located next door to the Bangor base (the largest operational concentration of nuclear weapons!!!).  All are welcome to join the vigil in nonviolent spirit and intention.  We plan to arrive at Bangor and begin vigiling at approximately 7:00AM.  Following the vigil and action we will regroup at GZ for breakfast and reflection.  We will post more details as they are available. Please note: We don’t yet know the exact location of the action.

If you are considering joining us on Monday morning, but will not be with us on the retreat, please send me an email at gznonviolencenews@gmail.com and I will be sure to keep you updated on Monday morning – timing, directions, etc.  This is important as it is quite possible that we will not determine which gate we will be at until Sunday (March 3rd).

Finally – Please check the top of the right column at the PLC Blog for registration form, maps and more.  We will be adding the retreat schedule soon.

If you still have questions please contact either Leonard at subversivepeacemaking@gmail.com or George at georod01@msn.com and let us know what you need.

Looking forward to sharing a rich weekend of faith and resistance.

With Nonviolent Spirit,

Leonard

We Choose Life!!!

Dear Friends,

Over the weekend of March 4th the Pacific Life Community (PLC) held its annual retreat in Menlo Park, California. Frida Berrigan delivered the keynote address. In the spirit of resistance the PLC Community held a vigil and nonviolent action at the Lockheed Martin plant in Sunnyvale. Among those arrested for trespassing were Disarm Now Plowshares members Susan Crane and Steve Kelly.  Lynne Greenwald and Anne Montgomery were there vigiling and witnessing to the action.

Larry Purcell of the PLC wrote an opinion piece that he submitted to the San Jose Mercury News.  It’s an indictment of Lockheed-Martin, builder of the Trident D-5 missile, and really poses a deeper underlying question: “Where is our treasure?”.  The newspaper declined to print the piece; told Larry that it was “too much anti Lockheed rather than anti nuke and it would entail a lot of fact checking and demand a response piece from Lockheed.”  Fact checking???  Here’s a fact that is irrefutable.  If we ever start launching those Lockheed-built D-5 missiles bristling with nuclear warheads the radiation concerns currently on people’s minds – and which are serious – as a result of the nuclear reactor crisis in Japan will pale in comparison. Continue reading

Walking the Road to Conversion

Reflection by Susan Crane

As the sentencing date approaches, I’m thinking about our walk onto the US Naval Base Bangor, and thinking about the nuclear weapons  at the Strategic Weapons Facility, Pacific.  Where do these warheads and missiles come from? Where are they made?

We know that the secondaries for the nuclear warheads are made at the Y-12 plant in Tennessee, and locally, both Bix and Jackie Hudson are both awaiting trial for walking onto the Y-12 property.

We know, from the discovery papers that the government gave us before the trial, that Lockheed Martin maintains the Reentry Bodies that carry the warheads from the D-5 missile to their target.  The day we walked into SWFPAC, Lockheed Martin said that they couldn’t work on the re-entry bodies  (RB lockheed martin)  and the cost impact was $40,000 dollars that day. Continue reading

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