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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Paddling for Peace on the Hood Canal

By Elizabeth Murray

Paddling against the backdrop of a pristine Olympic Peninsula coastal forest framed by the jagged Olympics on one side — and a pair of pitch-black Trident nuclear submarines moored at Naval Base Kits on the other — roughly a dozen kayaktivists plied the Hood Canal last Saturday, joined by fellow nuclear resisters on speedboats and even a wooden rowboat to form a small, colorful and defiant flotilla in the second annual “Boats by Bangor” organized by the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action.

The nuclear resisters, whose waterborne action was part of the Ground Zero Center’s annual program commemorating of the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima the Bangor base at Old Bangor, with the permission and support of local property owners. The protest boats hoisted signs such as “Resist Trident; No New Nukes” and other similarly-themed messages.

The two Explosives Handling Wharves are in the background.

Once under way, the flotilla proceeded past the pair of Trident nuclear submarines at the Bangor Delta Pier (which posts in very large letters: “Use of Deadly Force Is Authorized”), and further north to the first and second Explosives Handling Wharves before turning around. Coast Guard and Naval Base Security vessels followed and closely monitored the “Boats by Bangor” procession, but did not interfere with the jolly band of resisters.

“The anti-nuclear message of ‘Boats by Bangor’ is especially urgent in the wake of heightened tensions with North Korea and Russia,” said Elizabeth Murray, member-in-residence at the Ground Zero Center’s Poulsbo-based headquarters which shares a border fence with Naval Base Kitsap.

“The slightest political misunderstanding — not to mention technical mistake or human error involving Trident — has the potential to provoke a chain reaction leading to nuclear war and the annihilation of hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of innocent people,” Murray said.

Naval Base Kitsap hosts eight of the US Navy’s 14 Trident ballistic missile submarines as well as an underground nuclear weapons storage facility. Collectively, they are believed to store more than 1,300 nuclear warheads, according to Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists. Naval Base Kitsap hosts the largest single concentration of nuclear warheads not only in the United States, but most likely in the world.

The Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action has been a constant presence in the area since 1977, advocating an end to nuclear weapons and the eventual transformation of the base into a facility that can be used for peaceful productivity, such as the example of Greenham Common in England, which formerly hosted US nuclear weapons, and has been repurposed into public parkland and a business park.
The Ground Zero Center holds three major actions per year — on Martin Luther King Day, Mother’s Day, and Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombing anniversaries. The events are free and open to the public.

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We Face Bigger Challenges Than North Korea

Editor’s Note: The following commentary, written by Dr. David Hall, was originally published Saturday, July 8, 2017 in the Everett Herald, heraldnet.com. Dr. Hall is an active member of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action.

President Trump is getting tough. His budget calls for a $56 billion increase in military spending, to be funded by major cuts ranging from environmental protections to community block grants, on top of the already planned trillion dollar rebuild of the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Our president wants to freeze North Korea’s nuclear weapons program by threatening all-out war without starting a nuclear war. Everett may soon be within range of North Korean nuclear-armed missiles. But the threat these weapons pose to us is not the direct hit. The single use of a nuclear weapon anywhere could light the fuse to nuclear escalations no one can contain. This is the risk we live with every day.

It’s time to rethink deterrence. At the heart of deterrence doctrine for every nuclear armed nation lurks a continuous threat to incinerate whole countries, and these weapon systems steal vast human resources from programs of human betterment and environmental sustainability.

North Korea’s threats can escalate to war, or they can galvanize the global call to eliminate these horrific weapons. Even a “small” nuclear war could lead to worldwide famine. Nuclear nations must come together first of all to prevent any war. Then we must find common ground to eliminate this civilization-destroying threat. Bully tactics risk catastrophic escalation. Imagine facing U.S. military might from an adversary’s perspective.

Nuclear deterrence has worked since World War II to prevent any nuclear use. The threat of mass slaughter has kept national leaders from launching a suicidal nuclear strike. Recently, however, Russians are feeling the press of U.S. nuclear capabilities and U.S./NATO missile defenses near their borders. President Vladimir Putin has responded with nuclear threats against Europe and the United States.

Nuclear adversaries all fear U.S. nuclear weapons, especially the nuclear-armed Trident submarines that deploy from Hood Canal just 35 air miles from downtown Everett. We in Washington state are at the center of U.S. nuclear weapons threats to other countries. One Trident submarine can be loaded with nuclear firepower sufficient to block the sun and starve billions of people.

U.S. citizens must speak to these fundamental survival issues. Technologies to detect a nuclear attack are primitive in all the other nuclear nations. National leaders with nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert have as little as ten minutes to decide if an incoming threat is real and who it comes from. Military commanders of nuclear weapons have emergency codes if their national leadership is decapitated. Unstable countries and unstable leaders now have command of nuclear weapons. Deterrence will not last forever.

Congress’s trillion-dollar plan to rebuild our entire nuclear weapon complex includes increasing the accuracy and hard-target kill capacity of our nuclear arsenal, which is driving a new nuclear arms race as dangerous as the Cold War arms race that led to the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty commits the U.S. to search for an exit from this global game of chicken. The United States has by far the most powerful military in history. It’s on us to break out of the present stalemate. Our brinkmanship generals and many civilian leaders and contractors want war-fighting capabilities whatever the cost, even raising the likelihood that nuclear weapons will be used.

Starting at home, and then with Russia, China and other nuclear nations, we need serious high-level conversations that honor our shared human need for security while celebrating our common humanity.

None of us can afford to let nuclear weapons destroy our common future.

Dr. David Hall is past president of the Physicians for Social Responsibility and Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility. He lives on Lopez Island.



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Justice Not Being Served!

Editor’s Note: The following opinion was written by Larry Kerschner, who is a poet, activist, Vietnam veteran and active member of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action.

There have been recent calls to impeach President Trump for obstruction of justice. However, the whole American political and so-called justice system is itself an obstruction of justice. I recently had the pleasure of being a defendant in the federal court system. The current criminal legal system is designed not to produce what is right or just or fair. The current system criminalizes political dissent. Dissent which opposes and tries to change the dominant social order or policies of the government should be protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution.

The US criminal legal system is political, the clear intention of which is to control certain communities in order to benefit those with power. A 1999 survey by the American Bar Association found that 47% of the American public believes the legal system to be unfair, especially to minority communities.

Thirty years ago, there were 500,000 people behind bars in America. Today, there are 2.2 million. The United States with 5 percent of the world’s population, has 25 percent of the world’s prisoners and 50% of the world’s lawyers. The US has the second highest per-capita incarceration rate in the world. According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, Black and Hispanic prisoners make up 59% of the US incarcerated population. The recent trial of the police officer who killed Philando Castile is a perfect example of the justice a person of color can expect in this country.

Anyone who has been involved with the legal system knows that the impartial color-blind delivery of justice by the courts is a myth. The function of the court system is to maintain State control and the power structure of the dominant elite. Judges and juries are not meant to provide justice but to provide social stability. In a broad sense many, if not most, criminal charges in a society that is capitalist, racist, hetero-patriarchal, transphobic and classist are essentially political.

In our case, the government and the court refused us any opportunity to explain the reasons for our action at the Bangor Nuclear Submarine Base. The government filed and the court accepted a motion in limine which prevented us from expressing the moral, ethical and legal reasons that convinced us that our action was not only legal but necessary. Since we were gagged by the court and the government despite the free speech that all Americans are entitled to, we could not receive a fair and just trial.

Court rules are so hidden and convoluted that a Gnostic priest called a lawyer is required to understand what is happening. In a jury trial the prosecutors get to speak last. Many if not most trial judges are ex-prosecutors. The supposed last arbiter of justice, the Supreme Court, only takes about 70 cases a year out of thousands and is generally unconcerned about equity and justice, looking mainly at procedural issues.

As Benjamin Franklin said “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are”.


Photo: Larry Kerlchen (left), Bernie Meyer and Gilberto Perez after their recent trial in Federal court.


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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 Consortiumnews.com 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 http://www.ourjourneytosmile.com/blog/2016/07/for-russians-with-love/]

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).

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