Nuclear Progress? Nuclear Action

From the July-August 2018 #861

By Diane Swords, Peter Swords and Michaela Czerkies

Can we possibly approach the commemoration of the 73rd anniversary of the most violent act in history, the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with any signs of progress toward abolishing these weapons?

There are some real glimmers. Last July, 122 nations signed the UN Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty initiated by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN); the US was not among them. Then in December, ICAN won the Nobel Peace Prize! When 50 of those 122 countries ratify the Treaty, it will come into force.

Also, South Korea President Moon Jae-in is happy with the Singapore summit, say members of the Korea Peace Network, a coalition working for a diplomatic solution to the situation in Korea. At least some South Korean citizens agree. What should that mean to us in the peace and anti-nuclear movement?
Trump seems to have stumbled on a plan to halt provocative war exercises with South Korea. Supporters of this move (and one can support the suspension without supporting Trump) see the move as building confidence toward the North's denuclearization. Beatrice Fihn, executive director of ICAN, said that when the US and South Korea “send a nuclear bomber on a ‘dry run,’ they are practicing the indiscriminate mass murder of North Koreans… It is time to unravel the anachronistic security framework of the constant threatof mass extinction."

Opponents of suspending war exercises claim we’re abandoning South Korea. The US media repeats the latter claim ad nauseam, but many signals from South Korea contradict that. South Koreans know that no cheating by North Korea would in any way shift the balance of power. According to Korean News Agency Yonhap, “Following close cooperation, South Korea and the US decided to suspend all planning activities for the UFG (Ulchi Freedom Guardian), the defensive exercise slated for August… The South and the US plan to continue consultations over additional measures.”

Though many are critical of the theatrics and greed of the current administration, we should support anything positive that comes out of these “denuclear-ization” talks, even if positive change seems accidental or has ulterior motives. In countering critique of the cancellation of some of the war games, Fihn says, “There is no weakness in giving up something that the majority of nations have decided is illegal.”

As Professor Emeritus and author Larry Wittner says, the US president’s “recent love fest with Kim Jong Un does have the potential to reduce the dangers posed by nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula.” Kevin Martin, president of national Peace Action, notes that the “Singapore summit, while thin on specifics, puts us in a better place than we were just a few months ago.”

According to members of the Korea Peace Network, a grassroots coalition of peace activists, scholars and Korean-American leaders, “North Korea has provided all the assurances up to this point and has always seen the exercises as provocative. It’s a logical step at this point; we’ve done it in the past, and South Korea is accepting of the idea.”

This progress made by the Singapore Summit, however, is by no means the end of the story. Wittner reminds us of what the media is not covering: that “Trump— assisted by his military and civilian advisors—is busy getting the United States ready for nuclear war.” So far, the Trump administration has  augmented
Obama’s plan to rebuild the entire nuclear
infrastructure, doubling the cost and
focusing on so-called “low-yield nuclear
weapons,” which have the potential to
facilitate nuclear war. “Low-yield” nuclear
weapons are said to be more “usable,” a
“gateway drug” for nuclear war.
One possible motive for the administration’s
sudden change of direction, says
Wittner, could be that Iran hawk and
National Security Adviser John Bolton
wants “a quick deal with North Korea in
order to focus on war with Iran.” We must
resist this at every step.
Take Action:
There are many ways to participate in
the movement to resist the proliferation
and use of nuclear weapons:
Don’t Bank on the Bomb. For decades,
the weapons industries have had seemingly
unbreakable links to our tax dollars via
their lobbying power, so Congress has
resisted any steps toward peace.
But now every individual has a real
opportunity to promote the Nuclear
Weapons Ban Treaty by participating
in the ICAN project “Don’t Bank on
the Bomb.” This project identified 204
of the 329 major financial institutions
that invest in nuclear weapons as North
American-based, and the top 10 investors
in their “Hall of Shame” are all based
in the US. Nuclear weapons industries
depend on banks for loans, shares of
stocks and bonds, or other lines of credit
to keep production going.
Simply, each person with a bank
account, retirement fund, insurance
policy or any type of investment can
pressure the US by divesting from banks
and companies that invest in or produce
nuclear weapons. The Nuclear Free World
Committee is organizing workshops on
divestment (see list on page 13 for local
branches of banks that invest in nuclear
weapons companies). Influence by
individuals is small, but by entire investors
(e.g., NYS Retirement Fund) the effects
will be strong.
For the complete list of financial institutions
and how much they each invest,
State Fair Petitioning. We continue to
push our legislators to support diplomatic
solutions to conflict and to “keep Trump’s
finger off the nuclear trigger.” Nuclear
Free World will cover a day at the Fair.
Let us know when you can help petition!
Educate yourselves and others. This
fall, the Beyond War and Militarism
Committee will present an alternative
education program on current political
developments in North Korea with
Syracuse University professor Fred
Carriere. Stay tuned for more info to
come as we get closer!
Join us for our annual Hiroshima Day
procession through downtown Syracuse!
We have many props, banners, and flags,
light and heavy, for people to carry as
we march to remember the horrors of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki and demand
a world without nuclear weapons. Call
the SPC office or e-mail michaela@ to get involved; see page
3 for more details.
Nukes, continued from cover
Diane, Peter and Michaela work for nuclear
abolition with SPC’s Nuclear Free World
Committee. Diane facilitates Intergroup Dialogue
at Syracuse University and beyond. Peter (aka
“Papi” to two grandkids) does social work with
kids and wants an end to child poverty and the
war budget. Michaela is the local chapter liaison
to Peace Action NYS and a staff organizer at SPC.
The Kings Bay Plowshares: Clare Grady, Elizabeth McAllister,
Patrick O’Neill, Carmen Trotta, Stephen Kelly SJ, Martha Hennessy,
Mark Colville.
magazine ( Liz, a
long-time Plowshares protester, was jailed
with six other activists, including Clare
Grady of Ithaca, last April. In obedience
to the prophet Isaiah’s command to “beat
swords into plowshares,” they entered Kings
Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia,
the largest nuclear submarine base in
the world, to hammer and pour blood on
nuclear weapons. The action was on the 50th
anniversary of the assassination of the Rev.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who devoted
his life to addressing the “triple evils of
militarism, racism and materialism.”
Modest Hopes is the title of one of the
more than 50 books by my late brother-inlaw
Daniel Berrigan (RIP and Presente!).
It might be fair to say that we came to
Kings Bay Submarine Base animated
by the absurd conviction that we could
make some impact on slowing, if not
ending, the mad rush to the devastation
of our magnificent planet. And this is no
extreme overstatement. The six Trident
submarines that consider Kings Bay
their homeport carry enough destructive
power to destroy all life on Earth. What
difference can seven aging activists make?
We come with hammers to imprint the
pristine coat of the weapon. Knowing a
bit about how important image is in the
military, the weapons so scarred may be
We come with blood (our own) to mark
the weapons’ purpose as the spilling of
blood and yes,
We come with bolt cutters to violate
the fences that protect the weapons that
spell death to all life.
But, above all, we come with our voices
and our lives. We raise our voices in a cry
to dismantle the weapons—all of them
and we risk life and limb and our future
hopes to make this plea: “dismantle the
Admirals at Kings Bay, you must know
as well or better than we, that the payload
of your six Tridents is more than enough
to obliterate all life on Earth (cf. Daniel
Ellsberg’s book Doomsday Machine:
Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner,
Bloomsbury, 2017, to learn more).
We plead with you to examine your
priorities. Is this really what you want to
be about?

women standingw with sign

Korean supporters joined author Diane Swords (right) at the Poor People's Campaign Mass Rally in Washington, DC, with signs opposing US joint
military exercises in South Korea and Japan. USF K stands for United States Forces Korea; PDP is the People’s Democratic Party. Photo: Askar Salikhov