US Nukes at the “Top of the Pack” (and that’s not good)

Greetings friends of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action,

Nuclear weapons have certainly figured prominently in the news lately, and almost none of it has been good news.

Insisting the U.S. has fallen behind in terms of nuclear weapons, President Trump recently told Reuters that he wants to strengthen the US nuclear arsenal to ensure it’s at “the top of the pack.” His mouthpiece, Sean Spicer, said that the US will not “yield its supremacy” in nuclear capabilities. As President-elect, Trump said that he didn’t mind an arms race because it would only benefit the US. Besides the ongoing and dangerous rhetoric, what is crystal clear is that the US is, and has been for many years (even after the end of the Cold War), working to maintain nuclear dominance and hegemony.

The most recent disclosure and damning piece of evidence for this is the recent article in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (The Bulletin) that blew the lid off what the US government has euphemistically called it’s “Life Extension Program” for the W76 thermonuclear warhead deployed on the Trident II D5 submarine-launched ballistic missile.The article, “How US nuclear force modernization is undermining strategic stability: The burst-height compensating super-fuze,” authored by Hans M. Kristensen, Matthew McKinzie, and Theodore A. Postol, shows how the US military, under the guise of what it calls a “life-extension program” – allegedly intended to increase safety and reliability of nuclear warheads – has vastly increased the ability of warheads to detonate closer to their intended targets. Essentially, Trident is now three times deadlier than ever before.

The US government has been working on this program (and this “super-fuze”) for years, and now 100% of the warheads on Trident submarines are capable of destroying “hard targets.” No matter how the government tries to portray Trident as a second-strike (defensive) weapon system, the addition of the super-fuze clearly makes it capable of being used (and in an extremely effective manner from a strategic standpoint) as a first-strike weapon (as the article makes clear) against the entire Russian ICBM force.

We can only imagine (and not in a good way) what Russian leadership (both civilian and military) are thinking about this development, and what steps they are taking to counter it. Yes, it is a definite Cold War Redux, and the US is pushing it hard. And it is extremely destabilizing and dangerous!

And to add insult to injury, our government is boycotting the historic United Nations conference to negotiate a treaty banning nuclear weapons, which began on Monday, March 27th.

The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, told reporters on the opening day of the UN negotiations that the world’s powers were skipping these negotiations so they could instead remain committed to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). HOGWASH!!! The US, along with the other nuclear powers (and their nuclear umbrella vassal states) have clearly disrespected Article VI of the NPT and have abrogated their duty to “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

Isaiah Wall, across from the United Nations, New York (photo by Leonard Eiger)

Directly across from the United Nations stands the Isaiah Wall with its prophetic message to the nations for all to see. Isaiah’s message stands in dramatic (and ironic) counterpoint to the imperial hubris laid bear by Ambassador Haley and other diplomats who spoke on behalf of the nuclear weapons states and their vassals as they boycotted the UN negotiations.

Ambassador Patricia O’Brien of Ireland stated the importance of this landmark meeting eloquently when she said that it “is a pivotal point in our international relations, a time to take stock and honor the testimony of the past, to decide what sort of present we wish to live in and what sort of legacy we wish to leave for future generations.” She noted, “We are not just writing a new and complementary treaty here, we are taking the opportunity to write a new history and in so doing to create a new, more stable, more secure and more equal future for all.”

Reaching Critical Will, a project of the Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom, is publishing a daily report on the negotiations. Click here to learn more and subscribe. I also invite you to contact your members of Congress and ask if they support the UN ban negotiations. If they do not, please educate them and urge them to do so. Click here to learn more about the negotiations at the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

Here in the home of the largest deployed concentration of nuclear weapons in the US, we continue to resist, to educate and to work for an end to the nuclear madness. Here’s a recap of what is happening in our little corner of the world.

Mira Leslie – Presente 

Our dear friend and colleague Mira Leslie died on March 10th, 2016. Mira knew she was on limited time after being diagnosed with brain cancer, and chose to continue being out in the world working to make it a better place. Just days before her death Mira participated in the Pacific Life Community gathering and the monthly Ground Zero Stewardship Council meeting, building the fire and working on the grounds, providing, as always, energy and support for the work at hand.  All are welcome to join the celebration of Mira’s life on Sat May 6, 1-4pm, at the Hillman City Collaboratory, 5623 Rainier Ave S, Seattle. Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action will also remember Mira with a tree planting at its Saturday, May 13th Mothers Day event.Click here to read an obituary and find more details on the upcoming celebration of Mira’s life.

Trident Three On Trial April 12th

The “Trident Three,” arrested by the Navy for “trespassing” during the 2016 Mother’s Day weekend vigil and nonviolent direct action at the Bangor Trident base, will appear for trial in the US District Court, Western District of Washington, Tacoma Courthouse on Wednesday, April 12th at 1:30 PM. Navy prosecutors are pressing charges for the three defendants, Larry Kirschner, Bernie Meyer and Gilberto Perez. There will be a vigil and press conference in front of the Tacoma Courthouse just prior to trial, around noon (exact time to be announced). Check the GZ Upcoming Events Calendar beforehand for updates and times for vigil and press conference.

The Trident Three also will present a discussion about their arrest on Mother’s Day 2016 and on the implications of the current U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy at St. Leo’s Church, 710 South 13th St. Tacoma, WA 98405, in the Father William Bichsel SJ Hall, on Thursday April 6, 2017 at 6:30 p.m. Click here for more information and to read statements by these three resisters.

Save Our Planet: Celebrating Earth Day April 21st

Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action and allies are organizing a (pre) Earth Day Action on Friday April 21, 2017 in Seattle. We will gather at Westlake Park at 11:00 am where prayer, drumming, singing, and speakers will engage us. From Westlake Park we will march to the Federal Building where we will continue the rally while a delegation meets with Senators Cantwell and Murray and/or their staffs to call for their leadership in the abolition of nuclear weapons. Click here for more information.

GZ Celebrates Mothers Day (the day before) May 13th

Save the date  – Saturday, May 13th – to join us at Ground Zero Center as we honor the original intention of Mother’s Day (for Peace). The Seattle Peace Chorus will be performing. Planners are preparing a meaningful day. Final details will be posted soon at the GZ Upcoming Events Calendar.

Plowshares Film to be Screened in Tacoma April 30th

Documentary filmmaker Helen Young will give a special screening of her film “The Nuns, The Priests, and The Bombs” – note: this is the working title – on Sunday April 30th at 4pm at the Father William Bichsel SJ Hall, St. Leo Church, 710 S. 13th St., Tacoma. There will be a question and answer period following the film. Helen began this project not long after the Disarm Now Plowshares action, and through the course of filming wove other elements into it, significantly the Transform Now Plowshares. Considering current nuclear weapons issues and developments, this film could not be more timely and important.

Command and Control is Back on April 7th

If you haven’t yet seen Eric Schlossers gripping documentary on nuclear weapons, Command and Control is being shown by the Meaningful Movies in Wallingford on Friday, April 7th at 7:00PM at 5019 Keystone Place N (at Keystone Congregational Church) Seattle. Special guests Mary Hanson (of Ground Zero Center) and Lillly Adams (Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility) will be there for a discussion after the film. Click here for all the details.

Free Range Films presents “13th” on April 7th

Free Range Films is showing the award winning documentary, “13th” by Ava DuVernay on Friday, April 7 at 7:30pm at the Suquamish Church of Christ located at 18732 Division Ave. in Suquamish. This film documents how the U.S. criminal justice system has been driven by racism from the days of slavery to today’s era of mass incarceration. “13th” has garnered acclaim from film critics and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2017. Ava DuVernay’s previous work included the 2014 hit film, “Selma” which was nominated for Best Picture. Click here for more information.

Important Resource on Nuclear Weapons

Glen Anderson, of the Olympia Fellowship of Reconciliation, has put together another extremely useful compilation of information on nuclear weapons and how we can effectively organize for their abolition. We invite you to check it out at OlympiaFOR.

People have, for some time now, been citing the figure of $1 Trillion to “modernize” the US nuclear weapons program over the next thirty years. Judging by what we are hearing from the Trump administration, along with what the Pentagon and its corporate partners are pushing for, the total will far surpass that figure. For the past 70-plus years the US nuclear weapons program has been like the creature from “Little Shop of Horrors”, continually screaming “Feed Me!” And going forward, unless we are able to starve this monster, it will continue to devour everything in its path, until the day these horrific devices of humanity’s demise  are finally used in the final orgy of destruction and death.

As the authors of a recent article in Counterpunch put it: “The [newest round of] money for all of these [nuclear weapons] programs is just beginning to flow into hundreds of congressional districts.  As the torrent of money builds up over the next decade, the flood of sub-contracting money and jobs in hundreds of congressional districts guarantees the entire nuclear spend-up will acquire a political life of its own — and the taxpayer will be burdened with yet another unstoppable behemoth.”

As for the UN negotiations, their time has come. Even without the nuclear powers coming to the table, these important talks have the potential to impact the current lack of progress on disarmament. They can do no harm to an ineffective Non-Proliferation Treaty. If enough countries ratify a nuclear weapons ban, it will create political and moral pressure on the holdouts. Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said that “it will reinforce the stigma against their [nuclear weapons] use, support commitments to nuclear risk reduction and be a disincentive for proliferation.”

Whatever the outcome of this first round of negotiations, a second round has already been scheduled. It is up to us as responsible citizens and members of civil society to bring pressure to bear on our governments (that are not already on board) to fully support the negotiations and work toward a global ban on nuclear weapons. Anything less is a death sentence for future generations. Keep the pressure on your members of Congress or parliamentarians!

May we continue to work together, in the words of Ambassador Patricia O’Brien of Ireland, “to write a new history and in so doing to create a new, more stable, more secure and more equal future for all.”

With Thanks and In Peace,

The Resistance Team at Ground Zero Center

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