2018 Nuclear Posture Review: Cold War Redux!

The 2018 United States Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) is out, and there is much conversation surrounding it. The new NPR is, of course, more formal justification for the U.S. to continue the status quo of being the world’s dominant nuclear power. Yet, beyond the status quo, this NPR contains new and dangerously destabilizing developments in U.S. nuclear weapon planning and policy.

The press conference announcing the release of the 2018 NPR was a classic study in Doublespeak.

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan set the (Orwellian) stage by saying, “To the American people, this administration’s highest priority is your safety and security.”

He further stated that, “Every day at DOD we ask, how can we give our diplomats leverage so that they can always speak from a position of strength? The National Defense Strategy directly supported by the 2018 NPR is our answer.”

Shanahan finished his intro by saying that, “The fundamental role of U.S. nuclear policy is deterrence, and continues our clear commitment to non-proliferation and arms control… Modernization is necessary, affordable, and long overdue.”

Where to begin? Well, to start, there is absolutely no “safety” or “security” in our reliance on nuclear weapons as tools of foreign policy. Our nation’s continuing reliance on, and modernization of, our nuclear weapons forces, coupled with our failed (military-centered) foreign policy around the world has only served to increase the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and thereby decrease both safety and security of not only the U.S., but the entire world.

The very statement that “we give our diplomats leverage,” and tying that leverage to nuclear weapons is an obvious admission that nuclear weapons are a central tenet of U.S. foreign policy. And although nuclear weapons have, since their inception, been at the heart(lessness) of our foreign policy, the Trump administration has taken it to a new high (or low, depending on how you see it) with the gutting of the State Department that is massively overshadowed by a bloated Pentagon.

As for “modernization” being “necessary, affordable, and long overdue,” let’s look at that more carefully.

Modernization would not be “necessary” had the U.S. changed its posture toward the Soviet Union once the Berlin Wall fell and we were handed the “Peace Dividend.” We desperately held on to our nuclear weapons, and quickly found a new cause to pump dollars into the Military-Industrial Complex – the War On Terror.

As for affordability, the massive investment (currently estimated at $1.7 trillion, adjusted for inflation) in the U.S. nuclear weapon program over three decades will be a major theft from programs necessary to take care of human needs at home and overseas, while making weapons makers far richer than ever. And ultimately, humanity cannot afford the risk of the unspeakable – nuclear war that could end civilization as we know it, and possibly cause human extinction.

As Pentagon and State Department spokespersons said at the NPR announcement, Russia figures prominently in the 2018 NPR. We are moving quickly into a posture very much like that of the previous Cold War. And this newly developing Cold War is shaping up to be much more tenuous than the previous one (if that is possible). With the huge numbers of nuclear weapons currently deployed by both the U.S. and Russia, a nuclear war between the two nations would certainly be the END!

The Executive Summary of the 2018 NPR states (on Page 1) that: “It [the United States] has reduced the nuclear stockpile by over 85 percent since the height of the Cold War and deployed no new nuclear capabilities for over two decades… While the United States has continued to reduce the number and salience of nuclear weapons, others, including Russia and China, have moved in the opposite direction. They have added new types of nuclear capabilities to their arsenals, increased the salience of nuclear forces in their strategies and plans, and engaged in increasingly aggressive behavior, including in outer space and cyber space.”

Our fact checker gives this a “pants on fire” rating. While the U.S. has technically reduced the total number of warheads since the height of the Cold War, the vast majority of these weapons were outdated and did not fit with current nuclear strategy. The weapons remaining, for the most part, are the pre-eminent weapons involved in threatening Russia, which we never stopped doing after the Cold War.

The majority of the remaining warheads are fielded on our Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs, also known as “Minuteman”) and Submarine Launched “Trident” Ballistic Missiles.

As for modernization being “long overdue,” that is laughable. Modernization was already made a certainty by the Obama administration. And, as evidenced by Trident, the U.S. certainly has developed new nuclear capabilities, thus countering the false statement in the 2018 NPR that the U.S. has developed “no new nuclear capabilities.”

Just last year the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 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,” 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.

Specifically the heart of the rebuilt W76 and its increased kill capacity is the new MC4700 arming, fuzing and firing system. This new system essentially gives the W76 capabilities it never had before; that is the capability to hit hardened targets – specifically Russian ICBM silos – with three times greater accuracy than before. If that’s not a “new nuclear capability,” then I don’t know what is!

The development and deployment of the “super-fuze” was a huge development that has only served to drive the Russians to work for nuclear parity (or superiority), thereby seriously undermining strategic stability and increasing the risk of nuclear war.

In addition, the very planning and development of the Navy’s new fleet of ballistic missile submarines, the Columbia Class, which has been in the works for a number of years, is, at very least, a vastly improved nuclear capability.

Of all the crazy ideas in the 2018 NPR, and there are a few, the most insane of all is the plan to field a low-yield warhead on the Trident II D5 missiles deployed on the OHIO Class “Trident” ballistic missile submarine fleet. This would be done by modifying the existing W76 warhead to reduce its explosive yield. Of course, Trident was designed for one purpose – to threaten the Soviet Union with total annihilation (and with a definite first-strike capability). Mixing low-yield and high-yield warheads on Trident (a new capability) makes absolutely no strategic sense and changes Trident’s mission significantly.

There is so much more to say about the 2018 NPR, but for now, I think it safe to say that it is deeply troubling on every level. It signals a return to a dangerous Cold War mentality and introduces new, destabilizing concepts (such as low-yield warheads on Trident).

Ultimately, the 2018 NPR pays lip service to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and denigrates the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty. Ironically, Article VI of the NPT, which states that, “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes 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,” is not even on the radar here.

As the U.S. accuses other nations – notably Russia, Iran and North Korea – of violating various treaty obligations, it would do well to look in the mirror. It is not a pleasant vision, yet it is one that we avoid at our own, and the world’s, peril.

Humanity cannot afford another Cold War.

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It’s 2 Minutes to Midnight: The Clock is Ticking!

Do you want to live with the threat of nuclear war?

I would guess that most people would answer with a rousing “NO!” And yet, humanity has been living under the threat of nuclear annihilation for most of the decades following World War II during the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. Even now, nearly three decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the United States and Russia still stand poised to destroy each other’s nations (many times over), and take the rest of the world with them.

What’s more, the two Superpowers, through their mad pursuit of nuclear weapons and the rampant militarism associated with that race, led the way to the proliferation of nuclear weapons that has further increased the risk of nuclear war and the end of civilization. India and Pakistan are at each others figurative throats, each having amassed considerable nuclear arsenals. And now, there is a huge focus on (and fear of) a nuclear-armed North Korea. Where will all this end?

Earlier today the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the hands of the Doomsday Clock 30 seconds closer to global catastrophe – two minutes to midnight – the closest the Doomsday Clock has ever been to the “destruction of civilization.” The hands of the Clock were set at two minutes to midnight only once before – in 1953 after the U.S. tested its first thermonuclear device and the Soviets followed with their own H-bomb test.

Since 1947, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has used the Doomsday Clock to symbolically indicate how close humankind currently is to “the end of the world,” represented by midnight. To set the clock, the Bulletin factors in the threats of nuclear war, climate change, and (most recently) artificial intelligence run amok. 

The opening paragraph of today’s announcement, addressed to “leaders and citizens of the world,” says: “In 2017, world leaders failed to respond effectively to the looming threats of nuclear war and climate change, making the world security situation more dangerous than it was a year ago—and as dangerous as it has been since World War II.”

When the clock was set a half-minute closer to midnight just one year ago, we were warned: “Wise public officials should act immediately, guiding humanity away from the brink. If they do not, wise citizens must step forward and lead the way.” Our “public officials” have not only failed to lead humanity away from the brink; their lack of wisdom has led us further toward that dangerous precipice. It is absolutely time for “wise citizens” to step up and demand action.

In 1991, thanks to the end of the Cold War and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the hands of the Clock were set back to 17 minutes to midnight, providing a huge sigh of relief. Since then, all but one announcement have resulted in the hands inching ever closer to midnight.

How much closer to midnight do we have to come before we accept the urgency of our situation – that we must remove the threat of nuclear weapons before the clock, and humanity’s luck, run out of time?

Even the most limited use of nuclear weapons would have catastrophic global consequences. The horrific loss of human life; the long-term effects on the environment, climate, and human health; and the destabilization of the global economy and international relations are difficult to imagine. Nuclear war would mean the end of civilization as we know it. Prevention is the only reasonable choice!

There is only one way to ensure that nuclear weapons are never used again – eliminate them worldwide. It is up to the United States, the only nation to have ever used nuclear weapons, and the nation that led the world to this moment, to lead the way. And that work needs to begin with a paradigm shift and the initiation of a sincere dialogue with Russia.

What can (and should) we, as “wise citizens” do to lead the way to help move humanity back from the brink? Here are a few steps each of us can take (for starters):

  • Support, and get directly involved with, at least one organization directly working on nuclear abolition.
  • Senator Ed Markey, Co-President of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament has introduced legislation into the Senate (with companion legislation in the House introduced by Ted Lieu) to restrict the authority of the U.S. President to launch a nuclear attack without first consulting congress. Call on your members of Congress to support this legislation.
  • Tell Congress: Detente, not Escalation with Russia!
  • Urge your members of Congress to call for direct diplomacy (without preconditions) with North Korea, and against further threats of war.
  • You can also support legislation that reduces the risk of war with North Korea. Call your Representative and urge her/him to cosponsor HR 4837, the “No Unconstitutional First strike on North Korea Act.” Click here for a directory of U.S. Representatives. You can also call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121
  • Call on the United States to attend the UN High-Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament (coming up in May 2018) at the highest level and to make sincere efforts at the conference to reduce nuclear risks and advance the abolition of nuclear weapons. Click here to find your members of Congress.
  • Introduce the Back from the Brink resolution at your professional association, faith community, civic group, educational institution, town hall or municipality. Click here to download the text of Back from the Brink:A Call to Prevent Nuclear War and see a list of endorsing organizations.

Historian Lawrence Wittner, in his book Confronting the Bomb, says that it is not the conventional explanation of “deterrence” that has saved the world from nuclear annihilation over the past 72 years, but a “massive nuclear disarmament movement.” Wittner documents how real, grassroots citizen activism brought very real pressure to bear, not only only on the U.S. government, but many other governments as well, to control the arms race and prevent nuclear war.

The question now is whether we can revitalize that citizen-led movement and create a groundswell that no nation, particularly those with nuclear weapons, can ignore. Here’s to that hope!


***Click here to read the full 2018 Doomsday Clock Announcement.***

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U.S. Nuclear Posture: Bringing Us Closer to the Brink

The draft 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) was leaked earlier this month. A new NPR is issued every four years, and essentially paves the way for our nation’s continuing reliance on nuclear weapons. Presidents have used the NPR to implement their individual nuclear weapons agendas, and in the case of President Trump, we’re talking about a guy who seems to want a lot more nukes. Although much of what the 2018 draft NPR says is not particularly groundbreaking, it makes at least one very troubling (and downright wacky) recommendation. Read on to learn more.


The 2018 draft NPR drops quite the bombshell (no pun intended) when it calls for essentially changing up the mission of the nation’s ballistic missile submarines (in a dangerous way).

“…in the near-term, the United States will modify a small number of existing SLBM [Trident] warheads to provide a low-yield option…”

One argument for this approach (in the 2018 draft NPR) is that the U.S. “will not require or rely on host nation support to provide deterrent effect.” This would appear to be a way to hedge our bets against other nations currently hosting our tactical nuclear weapons, in case they change their minds and tell us to remove them.

Arming a “strategic” weapon like the Trident II D5 submarine-launched ballistic missile is an extremely dangerous recommendation. Currently, the D5 missile carries either (or both) the W76 (100 kiloton yield) or W88 (475 kiloton yield) thermonuclear-armed warhead. Either one is a dramatic contrast to a low-yield (likely no more than 10 kiloton) “tactical” warhead.

In a time of crisis, an adversary would not be able to distinguish the different incoming warheads, although they could detect a launch and know it was launched from a submarine. A nation under attack by warheads from any D5 missile, would have to assume the worst case scenario – a full-scale attack – and that would likely trigger full-scale (nuclear) retaliation.

It is mind-boggling that this idea ended up in the 2018 draft NPR. I would expect nuclear weapons experts to be shaking their heads and asking if the person, or persons, who came up with this idea came from a psychiatric ward.


The 2018 draft NPR says that, “The COLUMBIA program will deliver a minimum of 12 SSBNs to replace the current OHIO fleet and is designed to provide required deterrence capabilities for decades.

This is clearly paving the way to build more than the 12 submarines called for in the current plan, and that would be nothing more than a make-work program for the weapons makers. Some experts, such as Plowshares Fund’s Joe Cirincione, have called for fewer than 12 New Tridents.

As Cirincione says, “If you just need this to be a deterrent force, to respond in case someone is crazy enough to actually attack the United States and thereby deter them from ever doing that, well, you really could be talking about four, five, six nuclear submarines, each of which would have 16 missile tubes, each of which would carry five or six warheads. That’s a lot of nuclear weapons.”

Of course, if even one of those Trident submarines launched all of its nuclear-armed missiles, that would be way more than enough nuclear firepower – in addition to the immediate and near-term deaths – to cause billions of deaths due to famine caused by the effects on agriculture and food supplies.


The 2018 draft NPR confirms what many already know – the Navy, in addition to building a new submarine, is also planning on “the timely replacement of the D5 SLBM.” The current D5 missile is undergoing what the government calls a “life extension” that will allow it to be deployed until 2042. The Navy plans to begin studies in 2020 on a replacement that will be viable for the life of New Trident.


The 2018 draft NPR continues to tout Trident as “the most survivable leg of the Triad” – the Triad being ballistic missile submarines, land-based missiles, and bombers. Under the U.S.-Russia New START treaty signed in 2010, roughly 70-percent of U.S. nuclear warheads either are or will be deployed on Trident.

It also states that Trident is “at present, virtually undetectable, and there are no known, near-term credible threats to the survivability of the SSBN force.” And while saying that the U.S. will “hedge against the possibility” of advances in anti-submarine warfare that could threaten Trident in the future,” the draft NPR demonstrates some concern about how this could affect the “survivability” of Trident in the future.

“In coming decades, advances in adversary anti-submarine warfare and missile defense capabilities could challenge the effectiveness of current SSBN and SLBM systems.” The British American Security Information Council has researched and written extensively on the risks posed to Trident by rapidly emerging technologies, including unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) and hacking. Trident is, by no means, invulnerable to future threats.

Essentially, the NPR is saying that the Navy is preparing to build a new generation of ballistic missile submarines based on today’s threats. With today’s rapid advances in technology, it is highly likely that New Trident will face vulnerabilities right out of the starting gate, and that those threats will continually evolve.


Aside from the impacts on Trident, the draft 2018 NPR clearly demonstrates that the U.S. government is dead set on perpetuating the Doomsday Machine (the title of Daniel Ellsberg’s new book). It is set to pour billions of taxpayer dollars into what is essentially the machinery of our nuclear extinction. It is the continuation of over seven decades of such preparation.

There is, of course, no meaningful discussion of the use of diplomacy and conflict resolution, nor is there any mention of our obligations toward disarmament stemming from our participation in the Non-Proliferation Treaty. But we shouldn’t expect any of that in a document that is only intended to promote our nation’s continued reliance on nuclear weapons as the ultimate tools of foreign policy.

At very least, we need to raise the alarm about the 2018 draft NPR and its potential consequences. At a time of great geopolitical instability, we cannot be creating new controversy and building tensions. This NPR, with its mad talk of deploying low-yield warheads on Trident, serves to further destabilize already delicate and deteriorating relations with Russia, and possibly other nuclear-armed nations.

I trust we can use this new NPR to generate a public dialogue on just why we need to (or need not) continue the same course as the last (nearly) quarter century. The NPR uses fear as its driving force, citing the dangers posed by Russia (and China, among others), and yet it is the U.S. and Russia that must lead the world away from the false security of nuclear weapons. We keep driving each other deeper into the nuclear abyss, and at some point one or the other has to reach out a hand and say “ENOUGH!” There is no security in nuclear weapons, and they should, therefore, have no place in U.S. national security strategy.


Physicians for Social Responsibility has come together with other organizations to ask the United States to make nuclear disarmament the centerpiece of national security policy. In a joint resolution – Back from the Brink: A Call to Prevent Nuclear War – the groups call on the United States to lead a global effort to prevent nuclear war by:

  • renouncing the option of using nuclear weapons first
  • ending the president’s sole, unchecked authority to launch a nuclear attack
  • taking US nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert
  • canceling the plan to replace its entire arsenal with enhanced weapons;
  • actively pursuing a verifiable agreement among nuclear armed states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.

Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action has endorsed the resolution and, if you are a part of any organization – civic group, professional association, faith community, university, or municipality – we invite you to become an endorser too. Help us build a groundswell for abolition. Future generations depend on us!

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MLK: Way Beyond Vietnam

Editor’s Note: Although this essay is a tribute to the life of a great prophet, it is even more a call to action. I invite each of you reading this to dedicate or rededicate yourself to Dr. King’s vision articulated in his essay, The World House, in which calls on us to “1) transcend tribe, race, class, nation, and religion to embrace the vision of a World House; 2) eradicate at home and globally the Triple Evils of racism, poverty, and militarism; 3) curb excessive materialism and shift from a “thing”-oriented society to a “people”-oriented society; and 4) resist social injustice and resolve conflicts in the spirit of love embodied in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence.” 


As we celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr., we would do well to contemplate just how far (and yet not so far) we have come since he invited us to build a better world for all people.

At a time when our nation continues to do damage (and damage control) in places like Afghanistan, supports totalitarian regimes like the Saudis as they destroy another nation (Yemen) and its people, and wonders why so many people in other parts of the world hate us, it is timely to consider the speech delivered by Dr. King over 50 years ago when our nation was immersed in yet another foreign misadventure. Dr. King delivered his “Beyond Vietnam” speech at New York’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967. It was an extraordinary speech in which he questioned not only the role of the United States in the world, but also the very nature of our economic system.

When we hear about Dr. King – generally once a year around the time of his birthday, January 15th – the news media refers to him as “the slain civil rights leader.” But Dr. King was so much more than that, and our national news media have never come to terms with all that Dr. King stood for. The TV images the media convey are generally those showing him battling segregation in Birmingham in 1963; reciting his dream of racial harmony in Washington in 1963; and marching for voting rights in Selma, Alabama in 1965.

In the early 1960s when Dr. King was challenging legalized racial discrimination in the South, most major media were sympathetic, showing footage of police dogs, bullwhips and cattle prods used against southern African Americans who sought the right to vote or eat at a public lunch counter.

That all changed when, after the passage of the Civil Rights Acts in 1964 and 1965, Dr. King began challenging our nation’s fundamental priorities. He maintained that the civil rights laws meant nothing without human rights, including economic rights. He spoke out against the huge gaps between rich and poor, and called for “radical changes in the structure of our society” to redistribute wealth and power.

By 1967 Dr. King had become one of the country’s most prominent opponents of the Vietnam War as well as a staunch critic of overall United States foreign policy. In his “Beyond Vietnam” speech, Dr. King made a significant leap from fighting for civil rights for African-Americans to morally challenging U.S. dominion over the rest of the world. The “Beyond Vietnam” speech resonates as strongly today on every level as it did a half century ago.

Dr. King spoke of the difficulty of working for peace in an atmosphere of mass conformity. “Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men (sic) do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on.” He went on to say that, “the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.” There is no other choice for us, because, “silence is betrayal.”

Dr. King saw the connection between war and the evisceration of social programs in this country. He “knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men (sic) and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube.” Dr. King saw “war as an enemy of the poor”.

He was amazed that people would ask him why he was speaking against the war. “Could it be that they do not know that the Good News was meant for all men (sic)—for communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully he died for them?” He went on to say that as children of the living God, “We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation, for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers (sic).”

Dr. King spoke of “a far deeper malady within the American spirit” – greed. He said that it is our “refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments” that governs our foreign policy, and makes the United States the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” He called for a “radical revolution of values” wherein we “shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society.” He said that playing “the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside…will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

Dr. King was not afraid to give a dire warning to the American people that, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” He hammered away at the need for everyone to speak out and use the most creative methods of protest possible, not just against the war, but also for “significant and profound change in American life and policy.” He believed that, “Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism.” The sword that we carry is love. “Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.”

Just the other day, President Trump referred to African nations, as well as Haiti and El Salvador, as “shitholes,” demonstrating, yet again, not only his own deep, underlying hatred and racism, but also the racism that runs deep within the fractured American experiment.

And worse, Trump has threatened the most extreme violence of all toward North Korea, bringing the world closer to nuclear war than any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. His rhetoric is deeply steeped in violence, and nuclear war is the ultimate expression of all violence, one that would surely bring an end of civilization, and possibly the entire human race.

Dr. King understood the immorality of nuclear war all too well, as Vincent Intondi describes in his book, African Americans Against The Bomb:

When asked in December 1957 about the use of nuclear weapons, King replied: “I definitely feel that the development and use of nuclear weapons should be banned. It cannot be disputed that a full-scale nuclear war would be utterly catastrophic. Hundreds and millions of people would be killed outright by the blast and heat, and by the ionizing radiation produced at the instant of the explosion . . . Even countries not directly hit by bombs would suffer through global fall-outs. All of this leads me to say that the principal objective of all nations must be the total abolition of war. War must be finally eliminated or the whole of mankind will be plunged into the abyss of annihilation.”

If Dr. King was alive today, he would ask why every nation has not yet signed and ratified the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. He would ask how nations can put selfish, and misguided, self-interest ahead of the interests of humanity. He would ask why nations continue to squander their people’s wealth on militarism and nuclear weapons while ignoring their people’s basic needs. He would ask, “Why, Mr. Trump, is your heart filled with hate?” Of eliminating the threat of nuclear war that looms over humanity he would ask, “If not now, when?”

As he neared the end of his Beyond Vietnam speech Dr. King stated that, “We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.” Time does not stop for us to sit and ponder our actions. The time is now. “Now let us begin. Let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world.”

Dr. King’s words continue speak to us today, and with that same great sense of urgency. The odds are great and the struggle is hard. But we have no other choice if we are to build a better world for all. We must act, whatever the cost. To be successful, we need to be in solidarity with each other, in our communities as well as with people throughout the world.

Martin Luther King Jr. left us a beautiful and important legacy of love and nonviolence. He lives on through his words, and beckons us to continue the work of building a just, peaceful world. The best way that we can remember and honor him is to work to build bridges of peace and understanding in our families, communities, and around the world.

And may Love have the final word!


End Note: Click here to read the entire Beyond Vietnam speech. 

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GZ New Year E-News: Get Involved/Take Action

Dear Friends of a world free of nuclear weapons,

Welcome to the Mad, Mad, Mad world of 2018! A world that could be reduced to cinders in less time than it would take to watch the movie Dr. Strangelove, a film that is ironically, to quote Daniel Ellsberg in his new book, The Doomsday Machine, “essentially, a documentary.” The ultimate madness of the past 70-plus years is that those responsible for nuclear war planning knew all along (or should have known) that they were planning for the probable extinction of life on Earth.

Nearly a quarter century since the beginning of the nuclear age, and well past the time of Kings, the world is still at the mercy of the Thermonuclear Monarchs, the anointed ones who have their fingers on what people like to call the “nuclear button.” Of course, as Ellsberg explains, it is even worse than that. Not only in the United States, but probably in most other nuclear-armed nations, the authority to use nuclear weapons has been delegated to countless others (besides the President) principally in the military chain of command. The ability to start a nuclear war is (and always has been) much easier than anyone would expect.

The current crisis with North Korea has been compared with and considered (by some) as the closest we have come to nuclear war since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Whatever the parallels, there is one key difference. We currently have (in the U.S.) a president who appears to have no concept of the potential consequences of his cavalier statements toward North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong-un. Whatever his underlying motives are, his actions speak for themselves, and they threaten not only North Korea, but all of humanity.

Even a limited nuclear war with North Korea would likely result in the deaths of millions on and near the Korean peninsula, and horrific and lasting environmental effects and human suffering lasting many generations. As the drumbeats continue to drone on, there is another way.

This month we honor and celebrate the birth of the prophet and peacemaker Martin Luther King Jr.  Although widely known for his civil rights leadership, after the passage of the Civil Rights Acts in 1964 and 1965 Dr. King began challenging our nation’s fundamental priorities. He maintained that the civil rights laws meant nothing without human rights, including economic rights. He spoke out against the huge gaps between rich and poor, and called for “radical changes in the structure of our society” to redistribute wealth and power.

By 1967 Dr. King had become one of the country’s most prominent opponents of the Vietnam War as well as a staunch critic of overall United States foreign policy. In his “Beyond Vietnam” speech, Dr. King made a significant leap from fighting for civil rights for African-Americans to morally challenging U.S. dominion over the rest of the world. His was a strong, prophetic voice for peace, and clearly understood the madness of nuclear weapons. As Vincent Intondi, author of African Americans Against the Bomb, stated:

When asked in December 1957 about the use of nuclear weapons, King replied: “I definitely feel that the development and use of nuclear weapons should be banned. It cannot be disputed that a full-scale nuclear war would be utterly catastrophic. Hundreds and millions of people would be killed outright by the blast and heat, and by the ionizing radiation produced at the instant of the explosion . . . Even countries not directly hit by bombs would suffer through global fall-outs. All of this leads me to say that the principal objective of all nations must be the total abolition of war. War must be finally eliminated or the whole of mankind will be plunged into the abyss of annihilation.”

King remained committed to the antinuclear cause throughout the Civil Rights Movement. In 1959, five months after being stabbed in Harlem, King addressed the War Resisters League’s thirty-sixth annual dinner, where he praised its work and linked the domestic struggle for racial justice with the campaign for global disarmament: “Not only in the South, but throughout the nation and the world, we live in an age of conflicts, an age of biological weapons, chemical warfare, atomic fallout and nuclear bombs . . . Every man, woman, and child lives, not knowing if they shall see tomorrow’s sunrise.” He asked, “What will be the ultimate value of having established social justice in a context where all people, Negro and White, are merely free to face destruction by strontium 90 or atomic war?”

While many people are concerned about North Korean nuclear weapons, the U.S. and Russia still hold 13,800 of the world’s nuclear warheads, while North Korea is estimated to have about 10. Kim Jong-un will not use his nuclear weapons unless his regime is threatened by military action. There is absolutely NO acceptable military option in the standoff with North Korea. Nonviolent conflict resolution (in the form of sustained diplomacy) is the only way to resolve this crisis. Nonviolence is the answer.

It is, perhaps, perfect timing that the 2018 Winter Olympics will be hosted by South Korea, beginning on February 9th. North Korea and South Korea (at the South’s invitation) will also engage soon in official talks in what will be the first high-level contact between the two countries in more than two years. And it is quite probable that the North will send athletes to compete in the winter games. It is critical that the U.S. not undermine any of these efforts. It is time for President Trump to cease his violent threats toward North Korea and reduce the risk of nuclear war. Oh, and it would also help if we just called off (rather than postponing till after the Olympics) yet another military drill with South Korea!

Please join us in continuing to push for nonviolent solutions to the crisis with North Korea, a situation that should never have gotten to this (boiling) point. Here are a few current actions we can all take to make our voices heard:

SUPPORT THE OLYMPIC TRUCE:  The United Nations has asked member states to observe an Olympic truce between February 2nd and March 25th. South Korea has also asked the U.S. to delay its war rehearsal flights over South Korea until after the truce. Please sign the petition urging all nations to support the Olympic truce (and to continue it indefinitely thereafter).

Sign the People’s Peace Treaty with North Korea: Alarmed by the threat of a nuclear war between the U.S. and North Korea, Peace Action, joined by other 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. What we want is a peace treaty to finally end the lingering Korean War!

Tell Congress: Open Vital Channels to North Korea:   Several unresolved humanitarian issues between the U.S. and North Korea must be addressed urgently – and offer diplomatic avenues for stabilizing relations with Pyongyang. Issues such as repatriating the remains of U.S. servicemen left in North Korea following the Korean War and reuniting divided Korean and Korean American families should be priorities in the U.S. policy toward North Korea.  Contact Congress and urge them to open these channels and to pursue diplomacy, not war, with North Korea.

Beyond the Bomb has written an Open Letter to Congress about how President Trump is moving us closer to nuclear war. I suggest that we all take that letter and visit our members of Congress or their local staffers, demanding that they reign in this loose cannon who occupies The White House. Click this link to find your members of Congress, and find the nearest office where you can meet with staffers to present your case.

Tell Twitter: Crack down on @RealDonaldTrumpTwitter has recently cracked down on some groups using its platform to “promote violence against civilians to further their causes,” but had the nerve to say that Donald Trump is not violating its terms of service, even in the wake of his last Tweet about having a “much bigger & more powerful Nuclear Button” than Kim Jong-un. This could be, by far, Trump’s most egregious and testosterone-laced Tweet toward North Korea, and it’s high time he stops threatening nuclear war. Since most of Congress doesn’t seem to have the courage or conviction, perhaps we can at least convince Twitter to do something about this. Tell Twitter: Crack down on @RealDonaldTrump.

As for all of us at Ground Zero Center, we haven’t been resting through these turbulent times. Check out what we’ve been up to in the January 2018 Ground Zero Newsletter that just went to press. While you’re there, you can subscribe to our E-Newsletters is you aren’t already on the mailing list.

I recently finished reading The Doomsday Machine, and on the last page he quotes Dr. King’s prophetic warning (related directly to nuclear weapons) that, We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.” Speaking of Ellsberg, he will appear in Seattle on January 9th to speak about The Doomsday Machine. Tickets are sold out, and I expect that we will have a video to share if you miss it. And here’s a special offer to any of your who will be in Seattle that evening and would like to attend, but missed out on tickets. The first person to email me at outreach@gzcenter.org will receive two free tickets to the Ellsberg event. I will email you direct links from which you can print your tickets. I will also announce the lucky winner in our next E-Newsletter.

On Saturday, January 13th Ground Zero Center hosted a vigil at the Bangor Trident base, our way of honoring Martin Luther King Jr’s life and works. We will have news and photos from that event available soon.

The monks of the Bainbridge Island Nipponzan Miyohoji Temple are currently on their annual Peace Walk honoring Dr. King from January 10th through the 15th. You are welcome to join any portion of the walk. Click here to see the schedule and find contact information.

And finally, if you’re in Seattle on January 15th, join us at the 36th Annual MLK Seattle Celebration at Garfield High School. Ground Zero Center will be in the march, and we welcome you to join us marching, holding banners and signs, and handing out leaflets. This year’s theme is Take a Knee for Justice! Click here to learn more.

You can check out all Ground Zero events at our Events calendar at gzcenter.org, and in between E-Newsletters you can keep up with the resistance at our Facebook page. And please share this E-Newsletter with at least two (or more) people who aren’t already engaged in the movement to abolish nuclear weapons. This is shaping up to be a watershed year for our work, and we need to build a groundswell of support for abolition. As Dr. King once said:

“We must recognize the fierce urgency of now… Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world.”

On behalf of Ground Zero Center,

Leonard Eiger

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