Reaching Out in Peace to Russia

The mainstream U.S. media bristles with hostility toward Russia – fueling a New McCarthyism – but the press finds no space for grassroots American gestures of peace, writes former U.S. intelligence analyst and current Ground Zero Center Member in Residence Elizabeth Murray. A central point of this article is the importance of people to people exchanges in building peaceful relations among nations. This article was originally published in on May 2, 2017.

By Elizabeth Murray

On a sunny afternoon in June 2016, a group of swimsuit-clad men and women raced into the warm waters of the Crimean Black Sea and swam exuberantly toward the horizon, surfacing occasionally to exchange smiles and laughs. They stroked and kicked farther out into the surf before turning around and heading back in toward the Yalta coastline. A few of the swimmers lingered in the inviting waters, conversing haltingly or gesturing to bridge the language barrier that seemed, in the end, to be overcome by sheer good will. This was the first annual Russian-American “Swim for Peace.”

Retired U.S. Deputy National Intelligence Officer Elizabeth Murray,
with a Russian Veteran, Ishuk, at a ‘Swim for Peace’ event in the Black Sea of Crimea

The event brought together members of a U.S. peace delegation sponsored by the Center for Citizen Initiatives (CCI) and Soviet-era Russian World War II veterans. Both groups had gathered around a conference table on the previous day; the Americans heard the WWII vets speak fondly of the period when Russia (the then-Soviet Union) and the U.S. were united as allies against fascism; both sides shared the conviction that a peaceful, productive relationship between both countries could and should exist again.

Before the meeting concluded, the Americans invited the Russian vets to join them in the waters of the Black Sea for a “Swim for Peace.” But when the U.S. side first proposed the idea, it wasn’t clear whether the solemn and dignified Soviet-era officers — some of whom seemed unapproachable in their stiff military uniforms complete with medals, ribbons and other war regalia — would take the invitation to heart.

Nevertheless, on the following afternoon, the war vets turned out in their swimming trunks, enthusiastically plunging into the waves with their U.S. counterparts in a demonstration of true “swimsuit diplomacy.” They were soon joined by other citizens of Yalta — including one of the town’s officials — all of whom seemed to revel in the spirit of goodwill that permeated the event.

Meanwhile, cameras rolled, and the “Swim for Peace” aired on Russian television. However, in the days following the event, there was no pickup of the event seen in U.S. or Western media.

Harsh Sanctions

Despite the existence of punitive U.S. and European Union sanctions on Crimea that have crippled the local tourism industry and harmed local businesses – for example, the Crimean resort town of Yalta normally bustles with European cruise ships in summer, but there were none to be seen last year because of U.S.-imposed travel sanctions – Yalta showed warm hospitality to the American guests: When the swimmers reached shore, they were ushered to an outdoor reception featuring platters of fresh fruit all grown locally in the Crimea including raspberries, strawberries and other delicacies — and glasses were raised to peaceful U.S.-Russia ties with wine made from locally cultivated grapes.

Russian war veteran, Medved, in his military uniform

The “Swim for Peace” at Yalta — although a small, localized event — built bridges of friendship and peace between Americans and Russians at a time of heightened tensions that were sparked by the 2014 U.S.-sponsored coup in Ukraine; shaken by the instability engendered by the violent events that transpired in Kiev, Crimeans voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to reunite with Russia (Crimea had been part of Russia until 1957, when then-Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev “gifted” the peninsula to Ukraine.)

Despite the U.S. government’s sanctions regimen that has harmed many productive Russian-American exchange programs at the cultural, social, political and diplomatic levels, ordinary Russian people have clearly and strongly expressed the desire to live in peaceful coexistence with the United States — a sentiment that was expressed to the U.S. delegation not only in the Crimea, but in other regions of Russia, as documented by CCI delegation member and former U.S. diplomat Ann Wright.

In gamely joining U.S. citizens in a “Swim for Peace,” the citizens of Yalta demonstrated a level of goodwill and friendship that could be the basis for developing a strong grassroots movement for peace between Russian and U.S. citizens.

Russian war veteran, Medved, at the “Swim for Peace,” shaking hands.

It is my sincere hope that the “Swim for Peace” becomes an annual tradition between Russians and Americans — not only in Yalta, but in other Russian and U.S. seaside towns that are willing to welcome delegations of Russians and Americans who believe in the possibility of peace between our two peoples and nations. Small gestures of goodwill can yield lasting results.

On April 22, 2017, the city of Yalta unveiled a bust of Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the city’s Franklin Roosevelt Street to mark the late U.S. President’s historic role in forging postwar peace at the 1945 Yalta conference. Local officials said they hoped the gesture would “help to improve relations between Russia and the United States.”

That Yalta — which suffers disproportionately from the impact of U.S. sanctions against Russia — has chosen to honor a former U.S. president at a time of stress and tension between Russia and the United States — and which engaged a visiting U.S. delegation in a “Swim for Peace” — should give U.S. citizens pause in the U.S. media’s unrelenting hostility toward Russia.

Has the monument honoring FDR at Yalta and the “Swim for Peace” been reported in U.S. mainstream media? If not, why not? Would a U.S. city ever consider making a similar reciprocal gesture to Russian citizens or a Russian leader?

If Americans could learn about goodwill gestures by Russian people who believe in the possibility of peaceful coexistence, they might be less likely to allow their government to launch a war that could lead to the use of nuclear weapons.

[Photos from]

Elizabeth Murray served as Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East in the National Intelligence Council before retiring after a 27-year career in the U.S. government – 20 of those years as an editor and media analyst in the Open Source Center (OSC). She is a member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

Nuclear Weapons Update 2017

David Hall, MD has been a leader in Physicians for Social Responsibility nuclear abolition campaign for over 30 years. Dr. Hall has produced an up-to-date Nuclear weapons self-study video with the intention of not only helping people learn about nuclear weapons, but also inspiring people to join the movement to abolish these horrific devices that threaten humanity with annihilation. We hope hope it deepens your understanding of the subject and motivates you to get involved. And please share it with others; we need a massive citizen-led movement to bring enough pressure to bear on our government to lead the way to a nuclear weapon-free world.

Contact us at if you need additional resources or want to learn more about how you can get involved.

Will Federal Court Protect International Laws?

Editor’s Note: The following Op-Ed was written by Larry Kerschner, and published in The Chronicle, Lewis County, Washington, where Larry resides. Larry, along with Bernie Meyer and Gilberto Perez, collectively known as the “Trident Three”, will stand trial in Federal court on April 12th for their nonviolent direct action at the Bangor nuclear submarine/weapons base in Silverdale, Washington on Mothers Day weekend in 2016.

Letter: Will Federal Court Protect International Laws?

Apr 6, 2017

Twenty miles west of Seattle is the largest concentration of deployed nuclear weapons in the United States. Most politicians in this country are under the strong influence of the well-paid war- and weapons-making lobbyists.

However, the United States at Nuremberg urged that individual citizens have an affirmative duty to publicly disassociate themselves from a known violation of international law.

Chief Prosecutor for the United States Robert H. Jackson, later a U.S. Supreme Court justice, stated, “International law, as such, binds every citizen just as ordinary municipal law.”

International law is the “supreme law of the land” under Article VI, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution and therefore binding on the United States and all states therein. The most important international law principles related to nuclear weapons exist within the Nuremberg Principles, the Genocide Convention, the Geneva Conventions and the United Nations Charter. The Charter of the United Nations states, “All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat of or use of force against territorial integrity of any state. …”

Over the past 50 years there has been a U.S. military tendency toward increasing tolerance for the limited use of nuclear weapons delivered by weapons such as drones, allowing military planners to claim that their objectives can be achieved with minimal loss of civilian life.

This ignores the fact that the entire point of nuclear weapons is their massive, indiscriminate destructive power.

The use of nuclear weapons is a war crime because such use would violate international law by causing unnecessary suffering while failing to distinguish between combatants and noncombatants and by poisoning its targets with radiation.

In September 2002, a paper concerning the National Security Strategy of U.S. marked the adoption of a pre-emptive strike doctrine: “While the United States will constantly strive to enlist the support of the international community, we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting pre-emptively against such terrorists, to prevent them from doing harm against our people and our country.”

Every American citizen has the right and the duty to insist upon a lawful foreign policy. In post-Nuremberg settings, a government that flagrantly violates international law is engaged in criminal activity, and as far as related law is concerned, its policies are not entitled to respect or compliance.

Last Mother’s Day, two friends and I were arrested for holding anti-nuclear signs blocking traffic entering the Trident Submarine Base in Kitsap County.

Our trial will be Wednesday at the Federal Court in Tacoma. I will respectfully ask the court to dismiss the charges against us on the grounds that they are pre-empted by the international laws and treaties that are the supreme law of the United States and to publicly define the current nuclear weapons policies of the U.S. government as an ongoing criminal conspiracy to violate international law and the United States Constitution.

It’s time for the judicial branch to act as the check on the executive branch it was designed to be.

Larry Kerschner


Original Source URL –

Spiritual Activism: Leadership As Service

We live in desperate times, with humans increasingly in conflict with each other and our planet. From climate change to nuclear weapons, we continue to push ourselves ever closer to the brink. Never has there been a time when activism was more necessary, and yet neither has there been a time that has demanded so much of activists. We face challenges so daunting that it requires more than sheer will to keep on going and avoid burning out.

How do we, then, keep our activist fires burning. How do we learn to be in solidarity with each other in our common work. How do we grow as individuals, while learning to lead the way, finding a healthy balance of power in our relationships. How do we build a basis for sustaining the long struggle?

These are the challenges addressed in “SPIRITUAL ACTIVISM: LEADERSHIP AS SERVICE,” coauthored 9780857843005by Alastair McIntosh and Matt Carmichael (published by Green Books, C2016). McIntosh is a Scottish writer and activist on social, environmental and spiritual issues. A pioneer of modern land reform in Scotland, he brought the Isle of Eigg into community ownership. He also negotiated the cancellation of the world’s largest cement company’s plans for a “superquarry” on the Isle of Harris. Carmichael has campaigned on issues including global justice, climate change and fuel poverty since the mid 1990s.

The authors introduce the subject of spiritual activism by stating that “the causes to which any one of us might apply ourselves in life should be more than must mere passions.” As we have so often seen in our activist organizations, many people have shown up all fired up to change the world, and have left not long thereafter, when their brief, yet brilliant, fire burned out. The passion was there, yet something important was missing.

Alastair and Matt go on to say that, “What makes ‘spiritual activism’ so exciting is that it approaches demanding issues in ways that invite an ever-deepening perception of reality and of our positioning – individually and collectively – within it. They understand that “activism entails an openness to life and how it might change us; it is not just about us changing something or someone else. One thing leads to another; we become both transformers and transformed.” Through their life journeys, the authors have come to a deeper understanding of activism as a “process of building community in all three of its dimensions – social, environmental and spiritual.”

In terms of coming to grips with the often difficult concept of spirituality, the book states up front that “religion and spirituality are not necessarily the same thing.” That is an important starting point in which to look at spirituality in the broadest terms in order to welcome all to the table. There is a recognition that religion can either support the development of spirituality or “inhibit or kill it,” and that “most of the great religious teachers have been reformers.” The authors see healthy spirituality as “a way of waking up intellectually to the depth of the problems we face today” so that we may reform the world in our sphere of influence.

As for the question of “leadership,” this book speaks volumes to its complexities and nuances, all with a firm understanding that “a movement is a community”… “a psychological complex.” They speak to the need for “accountability and the legitimate exercise of power,” while remembering that “it takes the whole crew to keep the ship afloat.” Ultimately, its about “servant leadership,” which is “a leadership of doing, seeing and being. It means, quite simply, enquiring constantly where we can be of most service, and usually this requires a willingness to move in and out of roles of greater and lesser prominence.”

2016 Feb 9 Seattle 005 copy

Alastair in front of the Stupa at Ground Zero Center

Those of us who take on difficult tasks, such as the abolition of nuclear weapons, have, in a very real sense (to quote the authors) “grown in awareness.” To do so, they say, “is to take on a burden.” And therein lies the origin of our journey. Each of us has grown in our awareness, each in a unique way through our individual experience, and have thus taken on this burden. To look away is not an option. To stay the course and not burn out, we must develop a strong, deep, spiritual well in order keep ourselves nourished for the difficult journey. In this way, they conclude, “the burden of awareness becomes a precious burden.”

And, as if the journey has not been difficult enough, it is about to become even more so as a new administration comes to Washington, D.C. We are going to need what Gehan Macleod (in one of the author’s case studies) calls “spiritual bravery.” As she describes “spiritual bravery,” she says that “it means to live each moment by balancing head, heart and hand not by the day-to-day dogma that keeps you ‘in the right’, but by being willing to take the risk with each step that you may be wrong. Being wrong can be a wonderful thing. It’s learning. It’s growth. It is the kind of vulnerability that opens up the space of solidarity. It’s connection.”

Drawing from the Hebrew prophets to Carl Jung, and with case studies that include Sojourner Truth and Julia Butterfly Hill, “SPIRITUAL ACTIVISM” makes a strong case for the “transformative power of spiritual principles in action.” “SPIRITUAL ACTIVISM: LEADERSHIP AS SERVICE” is a book for our times, one that can provide guidance and strength for the journey. May it help us deepen our connection and leadership in humble service to humanity.

Author’s Postscript: I had the honor of spending time with Alastair McIntosh when he visited us at Ground Zero Center in 2016. I asked Alastair to share a brief reflection of his visit; his offering follows.

As the guest of University Congregational United Church in February 2016, I was privileged to be taken to the Ground Zero Center that witnesses against Trident submarines at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor. Coming from Scotland, where I live some 30 miles from the British nuclear submarine base at Faslane on the Atlantic east coast, it was powerful to meet people with the same mission, the same submarines, the same warheads of mass destruction and the same spirit of nonviolent resistance there on the Pacific coast. So many things spoke to my heart at Ground Zero. The ordinary extraordinariness of the people who made their testimony from there. The lack of mainstream leadership structures, and yet, a task orientation that was far from rudderless. And then there was the shrine out in the garden; it contained both a Buddha and Cross that had once been together in the meeting house on the property. One night, two off-duty marines came and burnt down the house, and the Buddha and cross were found together amidst the ashes, having survived the consuming flames. I asked Gilberto Perez, a Buddhist monk who is part of the Ground Zero community, what he made of that. His words etched themselves as charcoal script onto the tablet of my mind. He said: “I truly believe the power of light can come from enduring the burning.”

Alastair McIntosh_0033 compressed-min

Alastair with members of Ground Zero Center, February 2016

Click here to purchase the US edition of Spiritual Activism from the Independent Publishers Group.


Here’s to Sanity and Abolition Efforts in the New Year

New Year’s Eve Greetings Friends of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action,

One year is nearly over and another about to begin, and this is NOT a plea for donations. This is a different kind of request. I want you to read on and join us in building the world we know is possible, yet may seem so far off. Yes, it takes money. Yet, it takes so much more than that. As we have learned from the wisdom of Standing Rock, we need to “support, educate, protect, collaborate, unify, occupy and protest” and much more.

The horrible seeds of humanity’s destruction that were sown so many decades ago have been nurtured since then by the keepers of the bomb. Today, the keepers of the bomb continue to design and build a new generation of these devices of nuclear extinction. The US government is moving ahead with all speed, slated to spend $1 trillion over 30 years, to rebuild that devil’s progeny of the Cold War, which, along with Russia, is driving a new arms race that can only drive the Doomsday Clock even closer to Midnight. Is it not ironic that the two powers that drove the world to the brink during the Cold War are once again planting the new and improved seeds of humanity’s destruction? Is this not some form of insanity? The most recent comments by President-elect Trump and President Putin make it crystal clear that those who we elect (and I use that term with great reservation) have far less wisdom (and perhaps sanity as well) than they claim.

As President Obama leaves The White House, he also leaves a legacy we would never have expected following his now infamous Prague speech. It is tragic that the Nobel Peace Prize winner did not summon the courage of whatever convictions he retained to stand strong against the demands of Congress (and the Military-Industrial Complex) and instead build a bridge to Putin, negotiating a number of steps that would have ramped back the nuclear danger. Instead, he has facilitated what is inarguably a new arms race and Cold War that is moving ahead at an alarmingly increasing pace.

It is unconscionable that such a small number of nations, led by the US and Russia, have held, and continue to hold, the rest of the world under the threat of nuclear annihilation. Our task, then, is clear – to deepen our resistance to nuclear weapons and seeking their total abolition! A monumental, yet absolutely critical goal. Nothing less than ZERO will ensure the safety and survival of future generations. And THAT will require embracing a new paradigm, far different than that which has driven the nuclear age to this point. It is a paradigm of mutual security rather one of mutually assured destruction.

At Ground Zero Center we are already moving into 2017 with plans to reach out, educate and motivate others to act for change. Read on to find out what’s happening in our (nuclear-armed) corner of the world (also known as “the largest concentration of deployed nuclear weapons in the U.S.”).

January 2017 Ground Zero NewsletterJanuary 2017 newsletter for website-page-0

The January 2017 Ground Zero Newsletter is off to the presses, and the electronic edition is ready to read right now. It is full of articles, including a feature on Leafleting (that has a long history at GZ), a reflection on her experience at Standing Rock by a GZ member, a focus on war tax resistance, and much more. Click here to read it.

Spotlight on Ground Zero People

web1_161220-ISJ-SpotlightHalls_1Anne and Dave Hall, longtime GZ members, are featured in a recent article in The Islands’ Weekly. Spotlight on Lopezians: The Halls provides rich insights into the Halls’ long history of activism, and their personal and collective evolution to their current work in the world. Their story is a tribute to what, I believe, keeps so many of us going – a hope for the future. Anne is quoted at the end or the story as saying, “When I think about the world those children will inherit,” Anne said, “that’s enough to keep me going.” Amen to that! Click here to read the full article.

MLK Bangor action

Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action will host a vigil and nonviolent direct action at the Bangor Trident submarine base honoring the legacy of nonviolence (and vision) of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Saturday, January 14th.

The Ground Zero Stewardship Council will have its monthly meeting beginning around 11:00 AM; all are welcome to join us for the meeting. We will have an opening circle around 1:00 PM in preparation to leave for the Bangor Main Gate, about a 15 minute walk.

We have signs and banners that we will bring along for the vigil. Just bring your nonviolent spirit, and join us as we continue to bear witness to the insanity of the continued existence of nuclear weapons and Trident’s central role in US nuclear weapons policy (and the threat of nuclear annihilation).

Email info@gzcenter or with your questions.

MLK Seattle Celebration

People will gather at Garfield High School on January 16th to honor the Martin Luther King, Jr’s legacy at the MLK Seattle Celebration. This year’s event, under the theme Stop the Hate: Come Together, will include workshops, rallies, a march and opportunity fair.

The 2016b MLK Seattle March from Garfield High School to the Federal Building.

The 2016b MLK Seattle March from Garfield High School to the Federal Building.

Ground Zero Center will present a workshop titled Nuclear Weapons: Forgotten But Not Gone: Overcoming the Threat they Pose to Humanity. Our workshop will ask: how do we nonviolently challenge current U.S. plans to spend a trillion dollars rebuilding the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal? How do we redirect these resources to eliminating poverty, overcoming racism, and meeting the challenge of climate justice? After a 20 minute power point presentation/slide show, we will engage in Q&A about what workshop participants have been doing, plans currently underway, and new ways we might deal with the nuclear issues that continue to confront us.

The March from Garfield High School to the 2nd. Ave. Federal Building will start about 12:30. All are encouraged to assemble with us in front of Garfield H.S. (23rd. & E. Jefferson) beginning just before noon. We will have large banners and signs, and leaflets to hand out.

Learn more at

PLC 2017

The Pacific Life Community 2017 gathering takes place from March 5th through March 7th at Port Orchard, Washington. This year’s theme is “The Passion of Resistance” — encompassing both the joy and pain that comes from struggling against the status quo — and will feature a retrospective on the remarkable life work of Raymond G. Hunthausen, archbishop of Seattle from 1975-1981. Archbishop Hunthausen gained national attention when he became the first US bishop to urge tax resistance as a way to oppose the nuclear weapons buildup. Click here to learn more about this year’s PLC gathering.

Pacific Life Community at Bangor in 2009

Pacific Life Community at Bangor in 2009

Earth Day: Save the Date and Save the Planet

On Friday April 21, 2017 Ground Zero and allies will paddle, walk, and speak out against nuclear weapons and the destruction of our planet! We will gather in Seattle demanding that the Trillions of US Citizen Tax Dollars dedicated to destroying our Planet be redirected to healing her and serving human needs. Save the date and join us. More details will be available soon at

UN to launch negotiations in 2017 on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons

First, I must correct President-elect Trump who recently Tweeted that “The United States must greatly strengthen its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” In reality, it is a minority of nations that have not yet come to their senses on this subject, and the US ranks at the top of this list. A majority of nations – 113 countries in the UN General Assembly to be exact – approved a historic resolution to launch negotiations in 2017 on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons.


The nuclear-armed nations have stonewalled efforts toward disarmament for decades, and it is time to say ENOUGH! The multilateral negotiations that will begin in late March 2017 will produce a treaty that will likely include prohibitions on use, development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention and transfer, as well as assistance, encouragement or inducement of anyone to engage in any of these prohibited activities. The new treaty will not eliminate nuclear weapons overnight, but will place nuclear weapons on the same legal footing as other weapons of mass destruction like chemical and biological weapons.

A majority of UN member states view the ban treaty approach as the most viable and promising pathway forward. Of course, it already appears that at least some nuclear weapon states, such as the US, may not attend the negotiations, and this is unacceptable. We, as citizen activists, will need to bring the strongest possible pressure to bear on our government to fulfill its moral, ethical and legal obligations, and support these negotiations. Stay up-to-date and get involved at the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN):

Command and Control airs January 10th

Command and Control: An American Experience Documentary, directed by Robert Kenner and based on the best-selling book by Eric Schlosser, will be broadcast on PBS affiliated stations nationwide. Many of us attended a special screening in Seattle; this is a documentary everyone must see. Check your local PBS station for air times.

And On Into 2017…

The longer I do this work the more I come to understand what I believe to be a form of insanity that has taken hold of those who have developed the weapons, the policies and the mechanisms that will, one day, so long as nuclear weapons exist, end civilization as we know it. And yet, there is always the nagging question, “How can such huge numbers of people go to work everyday planning and preparing for the inevitable destruction of humanity?”

In his book, Raids on the Unspeakable, the Trappist monk, Christian mystic and activist Thomas Merton wrote an essay titled, A Devout Meditation in Memory of Adolph Eichmann. He opened by saying that one of the things he found most disturbing about the Eichmann trial was that a psychiatrist examined him and found him “perfectly” sane. Had Eichmann (and the rest of the Nazis) been psychotic, it would have been easier for Merton to understand the horrific acts they conducted on a daily basis. But no; they were all quite sane, and that is the scary part. Here is how Merton put it (selected excerpts):

The sanity of Eichmann is disturbing. We equate sanity with a sense of justice, with humaneness, with prudence, with the capacity to love and understand other people. We rely on the sane people of the world to preserve it from barbarism, madness, destruction. And now it begins to dawn on us that it is precisely the sane ones who are the most dangerous.

It is the sane ones, the well-adapted ones, who can without qualms and without nausea aim the missile, and press the buttons that will initiate the great festival of destruction that they, the sane ones, have prepared… They will be obeying sane orders that have come sanely down the chain of command. And because of their sanity they will have no qualms at all.

The ones who coolly estimate how many millions of victims can he considered expendable in a nuclear war, I presume they do all right with the Rorschach ink blots too. On the other hand, you will probably find that the pacifists and the ban-the-bomb people are, quite seriously, just as we read in Time, a little crazy.

As we take our first steps into the New Year, may we “crazy” abolitionists move forward together with a renewed sense of purpose, inspired by the actions of all the crazy people who came before us and those who continue to do so. And may this coming year be the Year of the Ban!


Join us at, at our NO To NEW TRIDENT Campaign, and at our Facebook pages: Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action and NO To NEW TRIDENT. Subscribe or unsubscribe to our email newsletters by sending an email to

PEACE to All in the New Year,

Leonard (on behalf of all of us at Ground Zero Center)