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Nuclear Disarmament

Hiroshima Day 2013 Events

Nuclear weapons are bad for human beings and other living creatures. We should never again detonate such a weapon.

Monday, Aug. 5

  • Hiroshima/Nagasaki Observance Program organized by Dubuque Peace and Justice, Dubuque. 6 until 6:30 p.m. at the corner of 6th and Locust (Multicultural Family Center in case of rain).

Tuesday, Aug. 6

  • Annual Observance of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at 7:30 p.m. Japanese Bell at the Iowa State Capitol. Sponsored by Catholic Peace Ministry, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, American Friends Service Committee.
  • Hiroshima Day Candlelight Vigil on the River organized by Workers for Peace Iowa. 8:30 until 9 p.m. They’ll start setting out and lighting luminaries around 8:15 p.m. Center of First Ave Bridge over Cedar River in Cedar Rapids.
  • Annual 3-1/2 Day Vigil at STRATCOM, Offutt Air Force Base, Bellevue, Neb. organized by Veterans for Peace, Chapter 163 and the Phil Berrigan Catholic Worker House, Des Moines. Tuesday, Aug. 6 until  Thursday, Aug. 8, from  8 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the STRATCOM Kenny Gate.

Iowans Arrested at KC Nuke Plant Protest

Peace Now, Please(UPDATED July 16, 2013) Iowa Catholic Workers Frank Cordaro, Ed Bloomer, Elton Davis, and Jessica Reznicek were among two dozen people who were arrested Saturday morning for trespassing at the entrance to the National Nuclear Security Administration’s new south Kansas City complex in a peaceful protest against the nuclear weapons that will soon be built there.

David Goodner, also a Des Moines Catholic Worker, reported this morning,

“A group of priests, nuns, Catholic Workers, and other faithful took nonviolent direct action at a Kansas City nuclear weapons plant over the weekend.  23 were arrested including Father Carl Kabat, the head of his order, other priests and nuns, and many Catholic Workers from around the Midwest and country.

Most have been released, however, Frank Cordaro of Des Moines is still being held because of prior warrants and will see a judge today.”

Read more about the protest from Channel 41 in Kansas City by clicking here.

Obama’s Baby Steps Forward

Photo Credit Washington Post

Photo Credit Washington Post

President Obama spoke in Berlin this week, and I have been waiting to listen to the speech, doing so this morning. Friends have been talking about Obama’s call for a new series of steps toward nuclear abolition. One friend, who is not an Internet user, called and left a voice mail message saying he hoped that Obama’s speech would generate new energy around nuclear abolition within Veterans for Peace. I don’t know about that. The speech was less than inspiring, even if filled with lofty ideas, many of which have been heard from this president before. Referring to the global AIDS initiative, Obama spoke about peace with justice,

“Peace with justice means meeting our moral obligations. [...] Making sure that we do everything we can to realize the promise– an achievable promise– of the first AIDS-free generation. That is something that is possible if we feel a sufficient sense of urgency.”

That last part, “a sufficient sense of urgency,” is always the problem in our consumer society, isn’t it? At the same time, we can’t ignore the president’s call for new energy around what threatens life as we know it— nuclear proliferation, a warming and increasingly polluted planet, and social injustice. Obama touched on all three in the speech.

The heavy lift of the New START Treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation was a signature achievement of Obama’s first term. I was proud to have been part of the effort toward ratification. There was a sense in the conference calls with key State Department leaders, even shortly after Russia’s parliament ratified the treaty, that it was the last big thing regarding nuclear abolition for this president. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s how I heard it from people in a position to know.

Nuclear abolition matters, so it is important to consider the president’s announcement in Berlin, his plan to move forward in slowing nuclear proliferation. The U.S. will negotiate further reductions in deployed strategic nuclear weapons, by up to one third, with the Russian Federation; the U.S. will negotiate with Russia a reduction in tactical nuclear weapons in Europe; we must reject the nuclear weaponization that North Korea and Iran may be seeking; the U.S. will host a summit in 2016 to secure nuclear materials in the world; the administration will build support for ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; and the president called on all nations to begin negotiations on a treaty that ends the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons. These are all continuations of previous administration policies: baby steps forward.

The day after the speech at the Brandenburg Gate, Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, posted an article in Foreign Policy titled, “Death by Cuts to a Thousand.” He wrote, “while (the president’s) remarks are overdue and welcome, the pace and scope of his proposals for further nuclear reductions are incremental at best and changes in the U.S. nuclear war plan are less than meets the eye.” I met Kimball in Washington in Fall 2009, and he is a key person among the non-governmental organizations that work on nuclear weapons issues. One suspects he was putting the best face on what was a disappointing policy announcement.

Despite this, as Kimball wrote in the article, “doing nothing in the face of grave nuclear weapons threats is not an option.” My work with others toward nuclear abolition will go on. It is a core part of working toward sustainability in a turbulent world.

Rot in the Nuclear Weapons Force

no nukesAfter the U.S. Air Force removed 17 nuclear weapons launch officers from duty this week for marginal job performance skills, it should be a wake-up call. Lt. Col. Jay Folds, deputy commander of the 91st Operations Group, which is responsible for all Minuteman 3 missile launch crews at the Minot, N.D. Air Force Base, indicated there is “rot” in the force.

According to the Associated Press, “underlying the Minot situation is a sense among some that the Air Force’s nuclear mission is a dying field, as the government considers further reducing the size of the U.S. arsenal.”

Air Force Secretary Michael Donley was quoted, “it is the duty of commanders to ride herd on those young officers with this awesome responsibility of controlling missiles capable of destroying entire countries.” No sh*t Sherlock.

With all the public posturing about nuclear deterrence and missile defense in Washington, D.C., a simple truth is that the care-takers of our nuclear weapons program are not always the best. Situations like the one at Minot creates a risk of a nuclear mishap, which could have devastating consequences.

There has been a long history of nuclear weapons mishaps, and while some credit is due to the Air Force for inspecting and taking action regarding the program, as a taxpayer, one has to ask how did the men and women holding the nuclear umbrella get to be in such sorry shape?

Along with a changing climate, a nuclear weapons exchange is on the short list of things that could end life as we know it on the planet. Incidents like this week’s sidelining of nuclear weapons launch officers provide evidence that there is more risk than reward in the deployment and maintenance of a nuclear weapons program.

It is more reason to support the administration’s slow, but steady progress in moving toward a world without nuclear weapons.

Don’t be Distracted by North Korean Nuclear Test

Veterans for Peace

Veterans for Peace

The North Korean nuclear test explosion on Feb. 12 is a serious threat to international security and reemphasizes the need for the U.S. to lead in working with other nuclear-armed states to decrease the risk posed by the existence of nuclear weapons.

As long as the U.S. and other nuclear powers attempt to maintain their monopoly on these weapons, other countries will seek to build them too. We must work cooperatively with other nations to pursue meaningful reductions of nuclear arsenals, a ban on nuclear weapons testing, and other common-sense approaches to mitigating the risk posed by the existence of these deadly weapons.

National security and military leaders in both political parties support the case for the elimination of nuclear weapons. They know, as we all do, that one of the biggest risks to U.S. security is the continued proliferation of these weapons around the world. The humanitarian consequences of getting this issue wrong are daunting. We must act in our time to protect our common future.

We must also refrain from letting the actions of North Korea become a distraction from working toward a nuclear weapons free world.

Infringing on Sovereignty

Tuesday, the United States Senate failed to ratify the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities in a 61-38 vote where two thirds majority was required. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa voted against ratification of the treaty, saying if the United States joined the treaty, it would infringe upon our sovereignty. Said Grassley,

“… becoming a party to the Convention would subject the United States to the eighteen-member Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This Committee is created to monitor the implementation of the Convention and provide conclusions and recommendations with regard to State Party’s treaty reports. I have serious concerns about the infringement upon U.S. sovereignty by a committee tasked with providing criticisms and recommendations for the United States on our disability laws.”

The treaty was first negotiated under President George W. Bush and the crux of it is the rest of the world would emulate the United States in its treatment of disabled persons. Senator John Kerry said, “(the treaty) just says that you can’t discriminate against the disabled. It says that other countries have to do what we did 22 years ago when we set the example for the world and passed the Americans with Disabilities Act.” Kerry said of the vote, “this is one of the saddest days I’ve seen in almost 28 years in the Senate. It needs to be a wake up call about a broken institution that’s letting down the American people. We need to fix this place.”

The senate Republicans were organized to block any treaties in the lame duck session, and like Horton the elephant, they indicated, “I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful one-hundred percent.”

As someone who lives in rural Iowa, I’m not surprised to see the treaty fail to be ratified. During the 2012 political campaign I ran into a number of United Nations haters living in our district, and Iowa is not unique in that regard.

However, the idea of the United Nations infringing on American sovereignty is ridiculous when we have the military might to bomb any square inch of the globe into oblivion with conventional weapons. That’s not to mention our nuclear arsenal, something the country is expected to spend $600 billion on over the next ten years. Of course, nuclear weapons are part of the reason the United Nations was created, and maybe that goes to the real reason the Republican hawks voted against the U.N. treaty yesterday.

On Monday, President Obama spoke at the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Symposium. He congratulated people associated with the 20 year old initiative, but he did more than that. President Obama said,

“Nunn-Lugar is the foundation for the vision that I laid out, once I was elected President, in travel to Prague— where nations come together to secure nuclear materials, as we’re doing with our Nuclear Security Summits, where we build on New START and continue to work to reduce our arsenals; where we strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and prevent the spread of the world’s most deadly weapons; where, over time, we come closer to our ultimate vision— a world without nuclear weapons.”

And maybe that is the reason 38 senators squashed a treaty that could do nothing but enhance the reputation of the United States in the world. They didn’t want to give one iota of credence to the United Nations, an institution that may have even the slightest control or input about U.S. nuclear weapons, something they cling to like Gollum clung to the One Ring in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

The Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities was the victim of equating American exceptionalism with military might.

Remember that when these same senators quote Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” These people are no disciples of a loving God, nor of John Winthrop, nor of Ronald Reagan and the light that is America was darkened by their votes.

Senator Harkin on Iran

Senator Tom Harkin

March 1, 2012
Washington, D.C.

Dear Constituent:

Thank you for contacting me about U.S. relations with Iran. I appreciate hearing your thoughts and concerns on these important matters.

I am deeply concerned about the possibility that Iran may obtain nuclear weapons, which would pose a serious threat to the United States and to the peace and stability of the Middle East. In November 2011, a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) stated that Iran had not fully disclosed its nuclear activities and that while many of the identified capabilities developed by Iran “have civilian as well as military applications, others are specific to nuclear weapons.”

The point of the current U.S. policy towards Iran, which I support, is not to goad the Iranian regime into conflict, but to bring it back to the negotiating table. On December 1, 2011, I voted for an amendment to S. 1867, the National Defense Authorization Act, that imposed sanctions on the financial sector of Iran and gave the President waiver authority to decide not to deploy such sanctions in certain instances. This amendment was agreed to in a unanimous 100-0 vote. I ultimately voted against S. 1867 because of my concerns regarding the bill’s impact on civil liberties. However, this legislation still passed the Senate and similar legislation, including the sanctions against Iran, passed both Houses of Congress and was signed into law by President Obama on December 31, 2011.

Let me be clear that I strongly feel that sanctions are the alternative to military action, not a prelude to it. Many American and international security experts believe that a military strike against Iran would be ill-advised. Such a strike would not likely disable Iran’s nuclear program, and it could also have other severe consequences, such as possibly igniting a broader regional war. Because of this, I still believe the ultimate resolution of these issues can and should come from diplomatic action. This is the course of action that has been pursued by the Obama Administration, which, with its partners in the United Nations, European Union, and Iran’s own neighbors in the Persian Gulf, has directly attempted to engage the Iranian regime since it took office in 2009.

It is my hope that effective, multi-lateral sanctions can tip the balance and that Iran will allow open access to the IAEA and honestly engage with the U.S. and international community over its efforts to acquire nuclear capabilities.

Again, thank you for reaching out to me on these important matters. I will be sure to keep your views in mind as developments in Iran and the Middle East continue. Please do not hesitate to keep in contact with me or my staff on this issue or any other that concerns you.

Sincerely,

Tom Harkin
United States Senator

~ Tom Harkin is the junior Senator from Iowa. Check out his website here.

Red Cross Resolves to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

A Call to Action
by David Hart

“Mankind invented the atomic bomb, but no mouse would ever construct a mousetrap.” ~Albert Einstein

Many years from now when the history of our time is written, some may reflect that a small but meaningful step that preserved our world was taken this week. In the US, the event passed with little notice. There was Black Friday shopping to do. Meanwhile, a powerful and respected group acted to avert global disaster. The question for us now is whether we will heed their clarion call and act in unison to shape our policies so that a future – any future – can exist.

In a historic decision, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies adopted a resolution calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons and urging all of their affiliates to conduct educational campaigns about the unique, catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear war.

This globally respected body’s action comes at a critical time in the history of our world. All over the earth, people are waking up to the sad reality that the path we are on is dangerously unsustainable. Activists, organizers, and everyday people are finding that by taking steps together we can, in fact, change the world.

During this moment of awakening, there is an opportunity to focus new and renewed energy on the enormous destructive potential of nuclear weapons. In recent years, many people have been lulled into a dangerous and false sense of security. Some have come to believe that after the end of the cold war, we need not be concerned about these horrific weapons. In reality, this technology is spreading and remains a grave threat to our health and to our very survival.

Today an organization that is among the most highly esteemed in the world is boldly speaking out on behalf of all who care about the future of our planet and our species. One delegate reminded the gathering of Albert Einstein’s quotation, “Mankind invented the atomic bomb, but no mouse would ever construct a mousetrap.”

We had the intellectual capacity to construct the tools of our own destruction. Will we now demonstrate the wisdom to step back from the brink and choose a different path?

This resolution provides a rare opportunity to do just that. They remind us that this issue should be beyond national borders and partisan politics and instead should be a rallying cry for all citizens of this planet to act together to ensure our very survival. These health care and relief workers, who do so much to help those most in need in times of crisis, realize that they will not be able to adequately respond in the aftermath of a nuclear detonation. No one can. In this case, the only treatment is prevention.

The enormity of this reality is hard to face. Understandably, even when we catch a glimpse of this truth, most of us turn away and try to get on with our lives. But, if we are to avert this looming disaster, we must face the painful reality and act together. And, we must do so now before it is too late.

Let us join together as one people and declare these weapons what they truly are – an affront to all we hold dear, to all the beauty of the past, and to all the potential of our future.

We cannot know, at this moment, what the future may hold, but we can come to understand that our very future is slipping away. Over our long history humans have created enormous beauty. Who knows what we might accomplish if we find a sustainable path and continue our journey for many years to come?

The preeminent international emergency response organization has sent us a clear wake up call. Will we hit the snooze button and go back to Holiday Shopping or will we realize the enormity of the danger we face and find a way to act together to preserve all that our future might hold?

To take action to prevent nuclear war visit 1 More 4 Zero.org . A brief video highlights the diverse and international movement building to eliminate nuclear weapons worldwide. You can learn more and sign up to join the campaign.

~ David Hart is Director of Security Programs for Physicians for Social Responsibility and lives in Washington, D.C.

Witness in Bellevue, Nebraska

My work on nuclear abolition took me to Bellevue, Nebraska and Offutt Air Force Base which is the home of the U. S. Strategic Command. It is known as STRATCOM, whose mission is to “detect, deter, and prevent attacks against the United States and our allies and join with the other combatant commands to defend the nation should deterrence fail.” Primary among its missions is to “deter nuclear attack with a safe, secure, effective nuclear deterrent force.” It is a command and control center where a nuclear war may be monitored and acted upon. It is often a target of demonstrations.

Demonstration at Offutt Air Force Base

In its simplest terms, the Franciscan Order of Dubuque, Iowa organized a gathering of people in the Midwest to assemble at the entrance to Offutt in a “public prayer and peace action.” A member of the order, Sister Marian Klosterman OSF, was prepared to commit an act of civil disobedience by crossing the line into the base and getting arrested. Two others, Gil Landolt, President of Veterans for Peace Chapter 163 and Marilyn Ryan, a retired teacher, were prepared to do likewise. There was public prayer, speaking, singing and dancing. After a talk by Martha Hennessy, granddaughter of Catholic Worker Movement co-founder Dorothy Day, and others, the three assembled, rehearsed their speeches and prepared to approach the entrance.

Gil Landolt, Marilyn Ryan and Marian Klosterman OSF

There was an aspect of theatrical performance to the events, and despite the large group of demonstrators and presence of civilian and military law enforcement officials, the events were preordained. The three approached the gate, Captain Williams warned them of the consequences for trespassing, Sister Klosterman left a statue of Saint Francis at the line and the three crossed and were arrested.

Captain Williams Issuing a Warning

One of the priority missions of the United States Strategic Command is to “prepare for uncertainty.” There was no uncertainty that day among any of the participants, about what would happen, that the three would be arrested, or about the future of a nuclear deterrence in the United States.

Detained

Our demonstration did not bring the nuclear complex to its knees, but without a small group of people gathered to wage peace from time to time, we may forget places like STRATCOM and their mission. Places that in a post-Cold War era could be dedicated to purposes other than nuclear deterrence if society had the will.

~ Paul Deaton lives in rural Iowa.

Friday Night Networking in Iowa

My work has me seeking people with whom to network, constantly. Always looking for someone new to take up the cause of mitigating the existential threats to humanity in the form of nuclear weapons and climate change. By existential threats, I mean we could be wiped out by them, and yes, it’s too scary to think about. On Friday I went to the county seat and attended three events in pursuit of like minded people.

The first event was organized by the Alliance for Retired Americans at the Robert A. Lee Community Recreation Center in Iowa City. An afternoon event, it was not well publicized with few people attending.

Norm Sterzenbach

Moderator Norm Sterzenbach promoted the organization as developing “the ultimate source for knowledge” about congressional voting records related to retirees. We had mostly come to hear our Congressman Dave Loebsack speak.

Loebsack delivered prepared remarks covering the deficit, Social Security, Medicare and education in a 14 minute speech. There were no surprises here and no real news.

To wrap up the speakers, Chris Schwartz of Working Families Win, Iowa spoke, with a list of grievances about the government. He touched on the South Korea, Columbia and Panama free trade agreements and on building an “infrastructure bank.” He opined that GMAC, a major employer in Waterloo, “is a corrupt company,” and that the electrical grid “can’t handle new technologies.” He asserted many opinions, the most evident of which was that “government should put people back to work.” Not once did he mention private companies in a favorable light. Some in the audience believe that government should not be the primary driver in putting people back to work. Schwartz had a different opinion.

The post-speeches networking was actually the best part of the event and I made some new contacts.

Chris Schwartz

Next, I walked over to the Pentacrest at the University of Iowa where I joined two others in the Friday vigil calling for an end to our wars. The half hour went quickly, and we had a chance to discuss nuclear disarmament… an audience of friends.

We also talked about AFL CIO President Richard Trumka’s formation of a super PAC and about Teamsters Union President James Hoffa’s statements earlier in the day about holding politicians accountable. We recalled the unsuccessful attempt of former SEIU President Andy Stern to do likewise in Iowa. While labor unions have funds and an organization, their numbers are diminished, as is their influence. Emblematic of this is the Employee Free Choice Act, or “Card Check” which would have made it easier for unions to organize new members. It was dead in the water in the 111th Congress, despite their great hope and the support of politicians like Iowa Senator Tom Harkin. It is easy to share the frustration of union big wigs about getting things done in Congress.

From the Pentacrest, it was to Morrison Park in Coralville where State Senator Bob Dvorsky’s birthday fundraiser was in progress when I arrived. There were some familiar faces from the Alliance for Retired Americans event, with spouse Terry Loebsack joining the Congressman. In attendance were people I have known since re-entering political life during the 2004 precinct caucus and some easy converts to the nuclear disarmament campaign.

Whether the Democrats can get beyond talking the talk about winning the 2012 election and walk the walk is uncertain. We understand what Republicans are trying to do in Iowa through Governor Branstad. It remains an open question whether the Republicans can be stopped, despite Iowa Democratic Party Chair Sue Dvorsky’s report about the gatherings of Democrats ready to work on the election throughout the state.

Friday night was full of promise in Iowa City and Coralville. What I noticed is people are talking about big issues, issues that matter. This in a city better known for its dilettantes and its drinking. One has to love Friday nights in the county seat.

~ Paul Deaton is a native Iowan who lives in rural Johnson County, Iowa.