Nobel Peace Prize: No time to rest on our laurels

Greetings Friends of a Better World,

This is a time of grave danger (to all of humanity). Never has it been more evident how few people have so much control over the fate of humanity. We quite literally live in (as author Elaine Scarry calls it) a “Thermonuclear Monarchy.”

I have felt for many years that the story of the nuclear abolition movement has been something akin to the fable of the Little Dutch Boy who holds his finger in the dike to keep it from flooding the city. However, in our version of the story, the boy (or girl) has had that finger in the dike for what seems an eternity, and the waters behind the dike have risen and fallen many times over the years. All along, most people have walked by and ignored the child. The few who paid attention told the city’s leaders, who always explained that all was well; that they had things well under control. And now, once again the waters are so near the top of the dike that the child feels the water as it splashes over the lip. The pressure on the bulging dike is phenomenal, and the citizens can clearly see the dike bowing bulging as it nears the breaking point. Yet, most they go about their daily routine, and the city leaders continue telling the people that all is well, the dike is doing its job and is designed to hold back all the water that might build up behind it. When asked about the child, the city leaders say that, “The child is just playing a child’s game, pretending to hold back the water. The hole is NOT a real issue. We adults have everything under control. There is no danger. The system that we have developed has worked as intended all these years, and will continue to work. Trust us.”

The people have heard these words over and over. They have been taught to respect the authority of their leaders, to believe whatever they are told by them, that they are here to protect the people from the dangers of the world around them. And indeed, the world is a dangerous place. One might think I am writing just about climate change and its effects. In fact, as the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has said in its most recent reset of the famous Doomsday Clock, the two most existential issues of our time are the potential for nuclear war and the effects of climate change.

Earlier in 2017 The Bulletin’s Science and Advisory board set the clock at Two And A Half Minutes To Midnight, the closest it had been since 1953 after the US, and then the Soviet Union, tested their first hydrogen bombs (pushing the clock to 2 Minutes To Midnight). In that announcement they warned: “Only a few more swings of the pendulum, and, from Moscow to Chicago, atomic explosions will strike midnight for Western civilization.” The 2017 announcement came just weeks into the new Trump administration. One can only imagine how close The Doomsday Clock would be to midnight should The Bulletin reset the hands today!

News outlets have continually raised the issue of tensions between the US and North Korea over the past year since Trump came into power. It has been a story of reciprocal (and escalating) taunts between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, two leaders whose egos and hubris get in the way of their responsibility(s) to their people. Trump, the leader of one of two nations possessing roughly 93 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons, has initiated not only the taunts, but both direct and indirect threats of (thermonuclear) violence against North Korea, the result of which would be the loss of millions of lives on the entire Korean peninsula, Japan, and Guam, and possibly elsewhere. As many of us have stated time and time again, “There is no acceptable military response to the situation with North Korea!”

It is unconscionable that one person should not only have the sole authority to launch nuclear weapons, as does President Trump, but also the power to directly threaten other nations with nuclear devastation. Trump’s current Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has strained to apply diplomacy with North Korea, countering Trumps threats of nuclear annihilation. And just last week we learned that the drumbeats of change are afoot once again with Tillerson likely on his way out, and someone on his way in who will likely walk in lockstep the Trump and his inflammatory rhetoric (and increase the drumbeats of war), adding yet more fuel to the pyre Trump is building for millions (if not more) human beings.

One of the greatest problems currently plaguing the US movement to abolish nuclear weapons is the overwhelming plethora of other issues overshadowing this most urgent issue. And there is no end of irony here. Politicians make absolutely ridiculous decisions to gut the Affordable Care Act, dismember regulatory entities (like the EPA) and the regulations associated with them intended to protect the public health and welfare, give yet more tax advantages to those already possessing the vast majority of the nation’s wealth, and pass a $700 billion military spending bill for the (not so) simple reason that they benefit financially from these decisions and retain the perks and power of public office. Yet, they have no clue that the inevitable use of nuclear weapons will be the great equalizer.

No amount of money will ultimately protect them (or the millionaires and billionaires who fund their campaign coffers) from the “fallout” of nuclear war. They will ultimately have to come out of their elaborate bomb shelters to face an unrecognizable and dangerous world, or at least what is left of it. Those they have paid to protect them will be AWOL, doing their best to just survive. All the gold and glitter of Trump Tower, should it still be standing, will be worthless (and likely radioactive) in a post-apocalytic world.

The good news is that civil society has done extraordinary things, culminating in 2017 with 122 nations creating a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Each of these accomplishments represents the collective actions of countless citizens, organizations, diplomats, parliamentarians and others working in concert for the benefit of humanity. And just for the record, the ban treaty is an extraordinary example of the best of the United Nations.

Today’s Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies in Oslo, Norway represent a huge achievement. It is a day to celebrate and gather strength for the long struggle ahead. We mustn’t allow ourselves to rest for more than this brief celebratory moment, as we are engaged in a struggle against extraordinarily strong and deeply entrenched forces that worship the bomb and all it represents.

2018 will be a make or break year, a year in which we must maintain and build upon the momentum created in 2017, and use every creative strategy available to engage a massive upwelling of global citizen support for abolition. We will need to build alliances across every movement. We will need to reach deep within people’s hearts and minds to gain their attention and support. We will need to ask the difficult, but necessary, questions, like: “CONGRESS WANTS $1 TRILLION FOR NUKES. What will be left for our children?”, as did Ground Zero Center in our most recent Seattle bus advertisement. We must develop a global citizen-led movement unlike any in the history of the nuclear abolition movement.

I began this letter on a dark note, yet even as I wrote those words I felt (and still feel) a lightness and hope. That hope is is based on the knowledge that each of you reading these words holds a light within you, and that together our light will ultimately drive away the darkness that has persisted throughout the nearly three quarters of a century of the nuclear age.

Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action is honored to be part of this movement working to give humanity a more secure future. We will continue speaking truth to power and helping build a movement that will be impossible for the Thermonuclear Monarchs to ignore. The greater, immediate, challenge will be keeping the dike from bursting. The standoff with North Korea, that seems to be more of a personal feud between the countries’ “leaders,” must be brought under control. Although there is evidently no way to control Trump’s compulsive tweeting, Congress can (and must) reign in his ability to start a war, which, in the case of North Korea, would most certainly go nuclear. 

Click here to write your members of Congress and demand that they support legislation to prevent preemptive and unconstitutional attacks on North Korea.

U.S. peace groups have come together to send an open message to Washington and Pyongyang that we are strongly opposed to any resumption of the horrific Korean War. Click here to add your name to the People’s PeaceTreaty with North Korea before the end of the month!

Click here to read about and support diplomacy with North Korea! I cannot stress enough that there are NO acceptable military solutions. Sustained diplomacy is the only answer!

Finally, here’s an opportunity for Congress to clearly state that, “It is the policy of the United States to not use nuclear weapons first.” Although I personally have a problem with the idea of using nuclear weapons at all, this bill is an important step, and is establishing an critical dialogue, particularly with such a reckless President in control of nuclear weapons. Click here to sign on as a citizen co-sponsor.

When you’re done with the action alerts, since most of us couldn’t attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, click here to view a video of the entire ceremony, including speeches by ICAN’s Beatrice Fihn and Setsuko Thurlo, a Hibakusha of Hiroshima. Congratulations to all who have brought us this far, and here’s to the work yet to be done! 

On behalf of Ground Zero Center,

Leonard Eiger

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Ground Zero Center Annual Letter

November 4, 2017

Dear Friends,

This is our annual report of activities, and an appeal for funds for Ground Zero.  Thank you for your past contributions and for keeping us in your thoughts.

We especially appreciate your support at Ground Zero events throughout the year.  Please join us whenever you can.  

Nonviolent direct action is the tool that harnesses the light within us.  When we act, we inspire ourselves and others to join us.  In these times of constant noise and confusion, we can break through the noise when we stay focused and stay on point with our message.  Please stay strong and hold your light for all to see. 

In 2017, we witnessed a growing awareness of the Bangor submarine base in the Pacific Northwest, due in part to our first King County Metro bus ad in 2016, declaring that Bangor is the site of the “largest concentration of deployed nuclear weapons in the U.S.”   

Following up on last year’s success, we again ran a bus ad on 26 Metro buses which stated, “CONGRESS WANTS $1 TRILLION FOR NUKES. What will be left for our children?”  Ground Zero paid for the bus ads to run from mid-July to around the first week in October, but some ads are still on buses at this time.

On October 6, 2017, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of its role in achieving the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  Ground Zero is one of over 460 partner organizations with ICAN.  Graciously, ICAN credited all of us working for nuclear abolition:

This prize is a tribute to the tireless efforts of many millions of campaigners and concerned citizens worldwide who, ever since the dawn of the atomic age, have loudly protested nuclear weapons, insisting that they can serve no legitimate purpose and must be forever banished from the face of our earth.

It is a tribute also to the survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – the hibakusha – and victims of nuclear test explosions around the world, whose searing testimonies and unstinting advocacy were instrumental in securing this landmark agreement…

This year Ground Zero celebrated its 40th anniversary.  While many members were preparing for August events, Sallie Shawl and others organized an event on July 30, featuring seven panels of speakers from different historical periods.  Mike McCormick made videos of the presentations which can be seen on YouTube.  Many early members of the group spoke at Ground Zero, including Shelley and Jim Douglass, Caroline Wildflower, Marya Barr, Karol Shulkin, and others.  Bob Aldridge sent a letter to members at the gathering, commending us for our work and urging us to prepare for upcoming global political-social challenges of the 21st century.

In 2017, Ground Zero members spoke against Trident nuclear weapons in courtrooms, classrooms and workshops, public meetings, radio and video interviews, newspapers, and in demonstrations in Seattle and Kitsap County.  We continued with our informative and acclaimed Ground Zero newsletter, Ground Zero website, monthly leafleting at the Trident base, a campaign against the Trident replacement submarines, work to build a Peace Pagoda at Ground Zero, and local community outreach.

Ground Zero works to stay an effective and sustainable organization in these efforts.  We are an all-volunteer organization where members are not compensated for time, travel or other personal expenses.  All of our decisions at Ground Zero are made by strict consensus, meaning that one person can block a decision.  We try our best to work together.  When we reach agreement, we move forward together.

We would be remiss not to mention the loss of Ground Zero member Mira Leslie.  Mira was a steady hand and encouraged all of us to continue our work for peace and justice.  She attended her last Stewardship Council meeting less than a week before passing.  Mira’s love and sensibility are sorely missed.

To all Ground Zero supporters, we promise to remain true to our Mission Statement, which reads:

Founded in 1977, Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action offers the opportunity to explore the meaning and practice of nonviolence from a perspective of deep spiritual reflection, providing a means for witnessing to and resisting all nuclear weapons, especially Trident. We seek to go to the root of violence and injustice in our world and experience the transforming power of love through nonviolent direct action.

Please join with us when you can.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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EDITOR’S NOTE: We are still in the process of finding a donation hosting site that is in keeping with our mission and values. We are sorry for the inconvenience this has caused some donors. For now, we welcome your donations by mail (the old fashioned way). You may donate to one or both entities:

  • Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action (GZCNA) for core work and expenses.
  • Ground Zero Community, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization established for the educational work of GZCNA.

Please send your donations to Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, 16159 Clear Creek Road NW, Poulsbo, WA, 98370

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August Resisters Have Their Day In Court

by Mack Johnson

ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL MITIGATION HEARING AFTER ANTINUCLEAR ACTION BY GROUND ZERO ACTIVISTS

On November 7, 2017, Kitsap District Court was the setting for the latest in a series of mitigation hearings by members of the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action.

Seven activists had entered the roadway during a vigil against nuclear war and promoting the end of the trident nuclear weapons system: Charley Smith of Eugene, OR; Sarah Hobbs of Portland, OR; Phil Davis of Bremerton, WA; Benjamin Moore of Bainbridge Island, WA; Susan Delaney of Bothell, WA; Ryan DeWitt of Olympia, WA; and Mack Johnson of Silverdale, WA. The last four people chose a mitigation hearing to explain the circumstances and reasoning behind their action.

(l to r) Benjamin Moore, Mack Johnson, Susan Delaney, and Ryan DeWitt

Judge Kevin Kelly presided; he had observed previous mitigation hearings and listened attentively. Defendants gave powerful prepared statements attesting to their acts of conscience. Susan presented evidence of dozens of military nuclear-weapons accidents during the Cold War; Ben spoke of Thoreau’s call to resist unjust laws; Ryan highlighted the contrast between the few nuclear states’ drive to maintain nuclear stockpiles and the desire of the overwhelming majority of nations and billions of individuals for a world free of nuclear weapons. Mack followed with evidence that nuclear weapons violate several treaties the USA has signed (and enforces selectively around the world!) and a few facts about the immense power of these bombs that should make their use unthinkable. Judge Kelly acknowledged the mitigants’ commitment and sincerity, found that they had committed the
infraction, and lowered the fines of all four from $68.00 to $25.00, the lowest amount he could legally assign. There have now been several years of mitigation hearings by GZ activists, with all resulting in reduced fines and one outright dismissal of charges in October 2016.

It was a very positive and moving experience for the participants, their supporters, and even the courtroom staff. The court clerk stated afterwards that she had been clerk during GZ’s first white-train trial in 1985, and that she had been moved to tears then when she read that jury’s verdict (not guilty).

Ground Zero members expect to continue their efforts to inform the public about nuclear weapons through direct action and mitigation in the future.

Click here to read about and see photos of the August nonviolent direct action that was the subject of these mitigation hearings.

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Nobel Peace Prize awarded to nuclear weapons abolitionists

Editor’s Note: This is the press release sent out by Ground Zero Center in response to Friday’s announcement of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.

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This year’s Nobel Peace Prize recognizes the central role of civil society in abolishing nuclear weapons.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). ICAN is comprised of hundreds of partner organizations in 100 countries, of which, Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action in Poulsbo, Washington is one.

Leonard Eiger, Ground Zero Communications Coordinator, said:

“At a time when the potential for nuclear war is as high as it was during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, this award recognizes the huge and critical role of the global movement for the abolition of nuclear weapons. The role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), parliamentarians and citizens has never been more important.”

Civil society has played a central role over many years in drawing attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons, and most recently in the negotiations at the United Nations (UN) that brought about the historic Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

122 nations voted to approve the Treaty, and so far over 50 nations have signed on. None of the nuclear-armed nations support the Treaty, and they continue to rely on nuclear weapons as instruments of foreign policy.

The current inflammatory rhetoric on both sides of the US-North Korean conflict, coupled with President Trump’s efforts to undermine the Iran nuclear weapons deal, are in direct conflict with efforts for peaceful conflict resolution among nations.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons represents the best of what the global community is capable through the UN, and it provides a clear path to abolishing the greatest threat to humanity.

Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action applauds the decision of the Nobel Committee to support the efforts of those who work within a framework of mutual cooperation and consensus to negotiate mutual security assurances among nations.

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When will we learn the lesson of war?

Editor’s Note: The following opinion piece was written by Ground Zero member Marianne Mabbitt, and published in the Kitsap Sun on September 19, 2017. 

Sunday’s opening episode of the new Ken Burns documentary airing on PBS this week, “The Vietnam War,” exposed some history of Vietnam that was never common knowledge in the United States.
Most Americans knew that it was once called French Indonesia and that the French had a long embattlement and defeat in Vietnam. However, most of us never read of Hoh Chi Min’s experiences in the United States and England, or that he’d written letters to American presidents expressing his values as similar to many in the U.S. Constitution: of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, of freedom and independence. That was his goal for the people of Vietnam. Five American presidents, from Truman through Nixon, stated at one time or another their aversion to war there, and yet it continued.
The documentary reviews the horrors of war, the waste of lives and resources, the humiliation of our televised defeat after so long a struggle and the agony survivors endured and still do today. We are repeating similar painful experiences in the Middle East, the United States having been in Afghanistan for over 14 years with no end in sight.

Certainly, we as Americans have doubts about our mission and effectiveness in fighting foreign wars and we are tired of these unending wars that squander the lives and talents of our servicemen and women. The money, technology, research and energy should be redirected to life sustaining projects. The enormous tax dollars we spend on the military budget is obscene compared to the budget of our social programs needed at home such as schools, housing, energy, transportation, agriculture and preserving natural resources. The legislators and corporations that make up the war machine continue to lie to us so they can continue to rake in huge profits.

Various pieces of the military industrial complex are in every state in our nation. We are told we must keep supporting them for the jobs they provide us. But the money is siphoned from programs we need, from jobs we’d rather be doing that are constructive to our own society, not destructive to others. In the end, we are the ones we destroy as well. We bring home the guerrilla military tactics, the weapons, the nightmares and violence. The United States continues to escalate the level of violence in our own land in our media, in our schools, our games, our sports, on our streets and in our homes. “He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.”

When will we learn that war only begets more wars? When will we deny the war machine our tax dollars and demand that we build up our own nation again? Democracy demands an informed electorate to vote rationally but we have so limited our real news sources and dumbed down our schools that the future looks very bleak for the youth of the United States. Who is paying attention to the next war on the horizon?

Resist a first strike of North Korea! We must resist the litany of atrocities committed in our name in any country. Today we are on the brink of another war with North Korea. This one involves a nuclear weapons exchange that could annihilate the earth’s atmosphere as we know it. The planet cannot withstand any more nuclear explosions. Tell your representatives to support the Senate bill, ‘Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017.’ It requires Congress to authorize nuclear weapons strikes rather than the President alone. We must stop the cycle of violence our country imposes on others and on ourselves.

We must stop the bleeding and bind our wounds. We must dialogue and plan for the near future and envision a country that believes and ACTs towards liberty and justice for all. If not now, when? If not us, who will do it? If we don’t act, will we even be here after a nuclear war North Korea?

M.G. Mabbitt lives in Silverdale.

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