Kings Bay Plowshares Honor Prophets King and Isaiah

In the wee hours of April 4th a small, yet significant, band of nonviolent Catholic Plowshares activists made their way into the Belly of the (Nuclear) Beast, the Kings Bay Naval Base and Strategic Weapons Facility Atlantic.

Kings Bay is the Atlantic home port of six of the U.S. Navy’s fourteen OHIO Class “Trident” ballistic missile submarines. The Strategic Weapons Facility is where the nuclear warheads are stored, and where the Trident II D5 missiles are prepared for deployment on the Trident subs.

The seven chose to act on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,  who devoted his life to addressing the triplets of militarism, racism and materialism. In a statement (which is included at the end of this post) they carried with them the group quoted King, who said: “The greatest purveyor of violence in the world (today) is my own government.”

Carrying hammers and baby bottles of their own blood, the seven attempted to convert weapons of mass destruction in the spirit of the prophet Isaiah, who instructed the people to “beat swords into plowshares” and to “not make war anymore.”

The activists went to three sites on the base: The administration building, the D5 Missile monument installation and the nuclear weapons storage bunkers. The activists used crime scene tape, hammers and hung banners reading: “The ultimate logic of racism is genocide, Dr. Martin Luther King”, “The ultimate logic of Trident is omnicide” and “Nuclear weapons: illegal – immoral.” They also brought an indictment charging the U.S. government for crimes against peace.

The activists at the nuclear weapons storage bunkers were Elizabeth McAlister, 78, Jonah House, Baltimore, Fr. Steve Kelly SJ, 69, Bay Area, California and Carmen Trotta, 55, New York Catholic Worker.

The activists at the Administration building were Clare Grady, 59, Ithaca Catholic Worker and Martha Hennessy, 62, New York Catholic Worker.

The activists at the Trident D5 monuments were Mark Colville, 55, Amistad Catholic Worker, New Haven, Connecticut and Patrick O’Neill, 61, Fr. Charlie Mulholland Catholic Worker, Garner, North Carolina.

All were arrested and no one was injured in the course of the action and arrests. All seven are being held without bond at the Camden County Jail in Woodbine, Georgia. They are currently charged with three Georgia state crimes – misdemeanor criminal trespass and two felonies: possession of tools for the commission of a crime and interference with government property. Federal charges could possibly follow.

The other eight Trident submarines are home-ported at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor in Washington State. Together, the total weapons at Bangor and Kings Bay, approximately 1920 nuclear warheads, represent about half of the U.S. nuclear stockpile. The approximately 900 nuclear warheads deployed onboard the Trident submarines at Bangor and Kings Bay constitute just over half of the estimated 1750 total deployed strategic and tactical nuclear warheads in the U.S. arsenal (Source: Hans Kristensen, Director, Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists).

Please read further for the Kings Bay Plowshares statement of intention about their action as well as their indictment against the government. You can learn more about Kings Bay Plowshares and support them at their Facebook page as well as at The Nuclear Resister.

The Kings Bay Plowshares before their action

Statement from the Kings Bay Plowshares

We come in peace on this sorrowful anniversary of the martyrdom of a great prophet, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Fifty years ago today, April 4, 1968, Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee as a reaction to his efforts to address “the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism.”

We come to Kings Bay to answer the call of the prophet Isaiah (2:4) to “beat swords into plowshares” by disarming the world’s deadliest nuclear weapon, the Trident submarine.

We repent of the sin of white supremacy that oppresses and takes the lives of people of color here in the United States and throughout the world. We resist militarism that has employed deadly violence to enforce global domination. We believe reparations are required for stolen land, labor and lives.

Dr. King said, “The greatest purveyor of violence in the world (today) is my own government.” This remains true in the midst of our endless war on terror. The United States has embraced a permanent war economy.

“Peace through strength” is a dangerous lie in a world that includes weapons of mass destruction on hair-trigger alert. The weapons from one Trident have the capacity to end life as we know it on planet Earth.

Nuclear weapons kill every day through our mining, production, testing, storage, and dumping, primarily on Indigenous Native land. This weapons system is a cocked gun being held to the head of the planet.

As white Catholics, we take responsibility to atone for the horrific crimes stemming from our complicity with “the triplets.” Only then can we begin to restore right relationships. We seek to bring about a world free of nuclear weapons, racism and economic exploitation.

We plead to our Church to withdraw its complicity in violence and war. We cannot simultaneously pray and hope for peace while we bless weapons and condone war making.

Pope Francis says abolition of weapons of mass destruction is the only way to save God’s creation from destruction.

Clarifying the teachings of our Church, Pope Francis said, “The threat of their use as well as their very possession is to be firmly condemned … weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, create nothing but a false sense of security. They cannot constitute the basis for peaceful coexistence between members of the human family, which must rather be inspired by an ethics of solidarity.”

Nuclear weapons eviscerate the rule of law, enforce white supremacy, perpetuate endless war and environmental destruction and ensure impunity for all manner of crimes against humanity. Dr. King said, “The ultimate logic of racism is genocide.” We say, “The ultimate logic of Trident is omnicide.” A just and peaceful world is possible when we join prayers with action. Swords into Plowshares!

Elizabeth McAlister
Mark Colville
Clare Grady
Martha Hennessy
Stephen Kelly S.J.
Patrick O’Neill
Carmen Trotta








Today, through our nonviolent action, we, Kings Bay Plowshares—indict the United States government, President Donald Trump, Kings Bay Base Commander Brian Lepine, the nuclear triad, and specifically the Trident nuclear program.

WHEREAS, This program is an ongoing criminal endeavor in violation of international treaty law binding on the United States under the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution (Article VI, Section 2):

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

WHEREAS, The United States is bound by the United Nation’s Charter, ratified and signed in 1945. Its preamble affirms that its purpose is to “save future generations from the scourge of war”. It directs that “all nations shall refrain from the use of force against another nation”. Article II regards the threat to use nuclear weapons as ongoing international criminal activity.

WHEREAS, The Nuremberg Principles, also promulgated in 1945, primarily by the U.S., prohibit crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. They render nuclear weapons systems prohibited, illegal, and criminal under all circumstances and for any reason.

WHEREAS, The U.S. government is obligated as well by the Non-Proliferation Treaty, in force since 1970 that requires the signers to pursue negotiations in good faith and to eliminate nuclear weapons at an early date. The U.S. government is also obligated by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which prohibits full-scale nuclear explosions.

WHEREAS, the members of the United Nations are currently negotiating a treat to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.

THEREFORE, the work being at done at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base violates all these agreements and is thus criminal.

Specifically, the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base refits and maintains submarines, which carry Trident D5 nuclear missiles. The Trident D5 is a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), built by Lockheed Martin. The Navy currently operates 14 Ohio class submarines. Six have their homeport at Kings Bay. Each submarine carries the capacity to cause devastation equivalent to 600 of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima, Japan. Thus, the six Tridents maintained at Kings Bay have the capacity to cause the devastation of 3600 Hiroshima-scale attacks.

From the initial mineral mining through testing, storage, and dumping, the production and maintenance of these weapons harms human beings, destroys the environment, and violates international and God’s law. Moreover, each day this program steals from all in our nation and world by its theft of much-needed resources. Nor is the Navy or the nation retreating from this violation of international law. The Navy is currently preparing to spend at least $100.2 billion of the public’s money on a new class of 12 Trident ballistic missile submarines to replace the current Trident submarines.

Against these continuing violations of treaty law, we assert our right and duty to civil resistance against nuclear weapons. Furthermore, we affirm as crucial the human right to be free from these crimes. The Nuremberg Principles not only prohibit such crimes but oblige those of us aware of the crime to act against it. “Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity…is a crime under International Law”. The United Nations Charter further reinforced this principle and made it part of binding international law. Similarly, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, to which the United States is a signatory, makes it clear that private individuals can be held responsible for acts of genocide.

The ongoing building and maintenance of Trident submarines and ballistic missile systems constitute war crimes that can and should be investigated and prosecuted by judicial authorities at all levels. As citizens, we are required by International Law to denounce and resist known crimes.

For the sake of the whole human family threatened by nuclear weapons, and for the sake of our Planet Earth, which is abused and violated, we indict the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base and all government officials, agencies, and contractors as responsible for perpetuating these war crimes.

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Building Dr. King’s (Global) Beloved Community

Some years ago the Rev. Joe Hale posed the question, “Is it ever possible to make peace by destroying bridges?” He was speaking in reference to Israel’s indiscriminate destruction of Lebanon, but he could have been speaking of any number of foreign policy decisions made by the U.S. government, particularly since September 11, 2001.

The events of that fateful day in 2001 sowed new seeds of fear, anger and hatred, and fueled decisions in the highest levels of government that have made our nation and the world a much more dangerous place. Those seeds have since grown into what is now a destructive, self-perpetuating global War on Terror that drives our nation deeper into Fortress America.

To change course we must start building bridges rather than destroying them. To do so will require that our nation stop threatening other nations with regime change, fulfill our obligations under the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and stop holding the threat of nuclear weapons over other countries, and start using civilian diplomacy rather than military action as a tool of foreign policy. It will also require major shifts in our patterns of energy consumption that have created such a huge reliance on fossil fuels. Our priorities must change dramatically!

But none of this can happen without changing ourselves and how we define and address the evils in our world. Not long after 9/11 and before completing the mission in Afghanistan, President Bush laid out the next stage in his war on terror and announced his plans to confront the infamous “axis of evil,” referring to “rogue” states that threaten the world with weapons of mass destruction (much like the U.S. threatens other nations with nuclear weapons).

Many years before, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke of a completely different axis of evil, one of racism, poverty/materialism, and war that mire people in misery, divide people against one another, and threaten the humanity with extinction.  

President Obama took President Bush’s lead in trying to rid the world of evil primarily through military action, and foreign aid/poverty assistance linked to what we determine to be “good” government and “good” economic practices. And now we have a president who, in his clueless narcissism, is bumbling toward violent conflict and nuclear war. Dr. King, on the other hand, believed in addressing racial and cultural tensions, committing unconditionally to free the world of the scourge of poverty, and utilizing nonviolent intervention in international conflicts.

What ultimately sets the two strategies apart are their motivations. The current one is based on fear and hatred, the need for power, and desire for resources; the other on faith and compassion and the quest for justice, which are values shared by the world’s great religions. And beyond the motivations, we have seen the horrible consequences of coercion and violence. We, as people of a common humanity, are called to seek a different approach in which we build bridges instead of destroying them.

As Dr. King once so eloquently stated, “Love is the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or to bow before the altar of retaliation. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals who pursued this self-defeating path of hate” (from Where Do We Go From Here. Chaos or Community? C1968).

Yet, we cannot begin to address our violence abroad until we recognize the violence we perpetrate against the poor, the marginalized, those with no voice, right here at home. In Beyond Vietnam,”Dr. King’s first public anti-war speech, given at New York City’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, a year to the day before he was assassinated, he recognized the glaring inequities here at home and how they were tied to our global exploits. Here is an exerpt:

“I am convinced that if we are to get on to the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin [applause], we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that 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 than an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.

A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war.”

Dr. King worked to build a Poor People’s Campaign, uniting all working people across racial divisions, to press for fundamental economic changes. Today, 50 years after his death people are moving forward with a renewed and revolutionary Poor People’s Campaign that honors Dr. King’s legacy.

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is uniting people across the country to challenge the evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and the nation’s distorted morality. We at Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action invite you to take the pledge and join the movement to transform the political, economic and moral structures of our country and complete Dr. King’s unfinished work.

Dr. King gave his life in the struggle for a better world, and his prophetic voice calls us to follow the well-worn path of love and nonviolence, building bridges along the way, and peace both at home and abroad.

As he said, “The Triple Evils of poverty, racism, and war are forms of violence that exist in a vicious cycle. They are interrelated, all-inclusive, and stand as barriers to our living in the ‘Beloved Community.’ When we work to remedy one evil, we affect all evils.”

Let us join together in renewing our commitment to building the Beloved Community!

P.S. – Please check out our TAKE ACTION page for many important current actions on North Korea, Russia, militarism and nuclear weapons.

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Rachel Carson and the Most Inconvenient Truth

Editor’s Note: The future of humanity is inextricably linked to the two principal existential perils facing humanity – climate change and nuclear weapons. Of the two, I say that nuclear weapons represent the Most Inconvenient Truth. That is because climate change is now a given, and it is how we slow (or stop) it, and how we adapt to and mitigate its effects that will affect our survival. As for nuclear weapons, even a limited nuclear war will cause catastrophic global effects, and an exchange of nuclear weapons between the U.S. and Russia would surely mean the end of civilization as we know it.

Put quite simply and directly, nuclear weapons present the greatest threat to the environment that sustains all life on our small planet. Bob Musil, President of the Rachel Carson Council recently wrote the following essay in which he reminds us that those who laid the foundation for the environmental movement understood the environmental connection with nuclear weapons, and strongly denounced them. Rachel Carson would have certainly agreed that nuclear weapons are the Most Inconvenient Truth. Musil ends his essay with what I see as an invitation, saying that, “the time for environmental groups and leaders to speak out and join with peace and arms control organizations is now here.

Indeed it is!


Rachel Carson and Nuclear War?


The Pulse and Politics of the Environment, Peace, and Justice

Bob Musil, President, Rachel Carson Council

“In nature nothing exists alone.”

“The aim of science is to discover and illuminate truth. And that, I take it, is the aim of literature, whether biography or history… It seems to me, then, that there can be no separate literature of science.”

“If the Bill of Rights contains no guarantee that a citizen shall be secure against lethal poisons distributed either by private individuals or by public officials, it is surely only because our forefathers, despite their considerable wisdom and foresight, could conceive of no such problem.”

— Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson, perhaps the greatest, and certainly the best known, environmentalist of the twentieth century, was deeply opposed to nuclear testing and nuclear war from at least 1946. There can be little doubt that she would be speaking out now, along with Pope Francis, against our return to the precipice of nuclear war brought on by the taunts, the threats, and the policies and plans of President Donald Trump and his allies in the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress.

Nevertheless, with a few exceptions like Greenpeace which was founded in 1971 to oppose nuclear testing, few contemporary environmental leaders, organizations, or writers have joined, in any meaningful way, the renewed and growing opposition to the current nuclear brinkmanship and war planning. As I wrote when Donald Trump first threatened nuclear war, it was not always this way. Today’s environmentalists can learn much from Rachel Carson and her contemporaries who saw nuclear war, pollution, and even poverty and war itself, as part of an entire ethos based on greed, domination, and a reckless faith in science unconstrained by moral principle.

Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring begins with an epigraph from Dr. Albert Schweitzer, the 1952 winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace, who used his Nobel address to oppose nuclear testing. “Man has lost the capacity to foresee and forestall. He will end by destroying the earth.” Carson corresponded with Schweitzer and shared his “reverence for life” in which all creatures were worthy of respect and protection. And, she repeatedly linked the twin evils of nuclear weapons and widespread chemical contamination.

Operation Crossroads' underwater "Baker" nuclear test at Bikini Atoll

Operation Crossroads’ underwater “Baker” nuclear test at Bikini Atoll

Rachel Carson’s views on nuclear weapons and testing were directly shaped as early as the first two atomic bomb tests conducted by the United States after the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In 1946, the U.S. carried out Operation Crossroads at Bikini Atoll in the South Pacific. In an exercise utilizing surplus navy vessels, two atomic bombs similar to those that destroyed the city of Nagasaki were detonated – one from beneath the ships, the other dropped from a B-29 bomber. American scientists were charged with studying the biological effects of radiation on various flora and fauna surrounding the ships. The research was headed by Roger Revelle, a leading World War II oceanographer, whom Carson had met during the war. She edited the US Fish and Wildlife Service biological survey of the islands before the tests and read Revelle’s reports about effects after the two blasts. Carson, who had opposed the tests in the first place, now had her anti-nuclear stance firmly supported by direct scientific evidence.

Rachel Carson must also have been influenced by Norman Cousins, editor of the influential weekly magazine, The Saturday Review. Cousins was the first American journalist to denounce the bombing of Hiroshima in an editorial shortly afterward, headed a project to give medical assistance to Japanese women horribly scarred by the Bomb, and became the Chairman of the Board of the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, the largest nuclear disarmament group of the time. The Saturday Review favorably reviewed Carson’s first 1941 book, Under the Sea-Wind, and Norman Cousins selected Carson for the Westinghouse Science Writing Award in 1950. When The Sea Around Us was published in 1951, Cousins adorned the July 7 Saturday Review cover with Carson’s picture.

Rachel Carson also corresponded with and got scientific information on nuclear testing and radiation from the biologist, Dr. Barry Commoner, then with the St. Louis-based Committee for Nuclear Information. It collected baby’s teeth nationwide, revealing the widespread dispersion of Strontium-90, a radioactive by-product of nuclear tests that entered humans through milk consumption.

Marie Rodell

Marie Rodell

Helen Gahagan Douglas

Helen Gahagan Douglas

Perhaps the most surprising connection of Rachel Carson with opposition to nuclear war is through her close relationship with her literary agent, Marie Rodell. Rodell, an outspoken and progressive former mystery writer, had represented Helen Gahagan Douglas, the former movie star and liberal congresswoman who ran against Richard Nixon in the 1948 US Senate race in California. Nixon succeeded with a vicious red-baiting campaign, characterizing Douglas as the “the pink lady.” By 1957, just before Carson and Rodell were to begin work on Silent Spring, Rodell also helped publish Stride Toward Freedom,the first book by a young, rising civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rachel Carson would have been more aware than others at the time of King’s views on civil rights and on nuclear war. When asked as early as December, 1957 for his views about nuclear weapons, Dr. 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.”

King went on to sign an ad in 1958 sponsored by SANE, the leading disarmament group, and remained publically connected to the organization.

As nuclear testing continued and Cold War tensions rose, Rachel Carson chose to expose the dangers of dumping nuclear wastes into the ocean in her revised 1961 edition of her best-seller, The Sea Around Us. By 1963, in the final year of her life, she detailed in a speech to some 1500 physicians in California exactly how radionuclides, whether from nuclear wastes or nuclear bomb tests, move through the food chain and are dispersed to seeming remote places like the Arctic where they harm the breast-fed children of Eskimo mothers. Here Carson first identified herself as an ecologist who argued that it is critical to connect biological effects across ecosystems and species (including distant humans) and to link and understand seemingly separate issues like pollution, nuclear contamination, and human health.

Only after Carson’s death did a team of scientists led by Richard Turco estimate that even the use of a relatively small number of nuclear weapons (100) in war could create not only blast and radioactive fallout, but also clouds of sooty, toxic materials from destroyed cities and targets that could block the sun’s warming rays reaching earth. The effect, named by Turco, and first made widely known by the popular physicist Carl Sagan is known as nuclear winter. The entire earth would cool and be unable to produce crops to sustain human life. The result would be not just the destruction of societies in the Northern Hemisphere like the United States, Soviet Union, and Europe, but a mass extinction.

The research on nuclear winter has since been corroborated and improved through papers presented at the American Geophysical Union, and elsewhere. But, what is little understood, and emphasized in former nuclear war planner Daniel Ellsberg’s book, The Doomsday Machine, is that American nuclear war planning, through our long-secret Strategic Integrated Operating Plan or SIOP, assumes to this day that if the United States, or any of its allies, is ever attacked with any number of  nuclear weapons, the response will be a full-scale total nuclear response using thousands of nuclear weapons from missiles, submarines, and bombers. Just as distressing is that US war plans delegate the authority to use nuclear weapon to area military commanders. A rogue officer or a false alarm could, indeed, set off nuclear war and nuclear winter.

US Titan II ICBM launch

US Titan II ICBM launch

The recent 38-minute false nuclear alarm in Hawaii that told citizens — who then took shelter and cowered in fear — that a nuclear missile attack was underway has underscored the recklessness of President Trump’s nuclear war posturing and threats. They not only may provoke North Korea or other nuclear powers, they also create crisis-like, tense conditions where a US military commander is more likely to assume with any alert or warning that the US is indeed under nuclear attack and that a nuclear response is required.

Meanwhile, the Trump Administration has proceeded, with less notice, to develop plans and budgets to increase the number and kinds of US nuclear weapons and the vehicles to carry and launch them. And, finally, on January 12, 2018, a draft of the Pentagon’s new Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), to be released in February, was obtained by the Huffington Post. The new NPR lays out US nuclear war fighting policy. In sum, it calls for an increase in “smaller” US nuclear weapons, a move that undercuts and signals a potential end to relying on US nuclear weapons to deter an attack. Instead, it seems to say the US must be ready to use nuclear weapons in a variety of circumstances.

High-level officials like former Secretary of Defense William Perry and numerous arms control organizations have been quick to alert the public to the dangers of inadvertent nuclear war and to offer policy steps to reduce the risk of launching one. But in the face of real and rising dangers of a nuclear war that could destroy many forms of life on earth, not just human civilization, environmental leaders have been silent. They have not offered the kind of stern warnings, science-based analysis, and policy solutions that they have for global climate change.

Given the huge resources and millions of members committed to environmental organizations, their inclusion of nuclear weapons and war as threats to the global environment would have a major impact. Following President’s nuclear threats, the false warning that Hawaii was under nuclear attack, and the release of the Trump Administration’s Nuclear Posture Review that calls for more and more “usable” nuclear weapons, the time for environmental groups and leaders to speak out and join with peace and arms control organizations is now here.

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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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