Nuclear Progress? Nuclear Action

From the July/August 2018 PNL #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 threat of 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 “denuclearization” 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 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, see

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 to get involved; see page 3 for more details.

Local financial institutions investing in nuclear weapons:
Capital One $36.7B
Chase $29.7B
Bank of America $25.8B
Citibank $16.5B
Wells Fargo $13.5B
Morgan Stanley $9.8B
Charles Schwab $1.3B
State Farm $1.1B
Northwestern $1B
Metlife $1B
Nationwide $834 M
Liberty Mutual $291M
M & T Bank $223M
Citizens Financial $115M
First Niagra $106M

Reflection by Liz McAlister

Liz McAlister’s reflection below appeared in the April 11, 2018 Nuclear Resister 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 fifty books by my late brother-in-law 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 trashed.

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 weapons.”

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?

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 2 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 Aciton NYS and a staff organizer at SPC.