Jun 27, 2013 - Issue 522

 BlackCommentator.com: Stirrings of Resistance Amid Nuclear Danger - Solidarity America - By John Funiciello - BC Columnist

We are still in a time in history when humans are capable of blowing up Earth and, from the actions of the several nuclear nations and politicians of every stripe in many nations, they seem bound to die trying.

They seem oblivious to the dangers of the very existence of nuclear weapons and, despite the treaties that years ago promised to reduce the nuclear arsenals of all the countries, especially those that have the most, the same nations continue to seek new and more effective nuclear weapons “systems.”

In our own country, just the act of tending our little garden of nuclear weapons costs the taxpayers about $17.6 billion a year, enough money to rebuild the schools and fully fund Head Start and health care for every child who needs these basic social services. We have seen so many politicians aim to keep children from having the benefits of any of these vital programs, many observers believe, because, in the end, the only reason for the cruelty is to increase the profits and the power of the rich and of Corporate America.

But, the existence of nuclear weapons, many of which are on a hair trigger in places like the U.S., Russia, and China, could easily end the world, as we know it. Many across the globe have been worried about such a happenstance since World War II, at the end of which the U.S. used an atomic bomb, the first and only nation to do so.

In the course of our global worrying, there have been many organized groups in many countries formed to stop the manufacture and use of nuclear warheads and the systems that would carry them to their targets. It is thought by at least one historian, Lawrence Wittner of the State University at Albany (N.Y.), that these citizens’ groups and their movements have been instrumental in preventing the use of such weapons. And, there has been for many years the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which at this time has been signed by about 189 nations.

There are nine nations that are known to possess nuclear weapons, including the U.S., Russia, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and the former South Africa. Israel is said to be “suspected” of having anywhere from 80-400 nuclear warheads, having begun to develop the weapons in 1968. For reasons known to Israel and probably many U.S. officials, that nation has tried to keep its nuclear arsenal secret. That’s where Mordechai Vanunu’s release of details of the nuclear program and photos of Israel’s nuclear facilities comes in and it would seem to be difficult to continue to deny the existence of its nuclear weapons arsenal.

Deny it, Israel did, however, and it has to this day. Vanunu originally fled the country after his disclosure to the British press in 1986, but the Mossad, Israel’s secret police, acting as if in a James Bond movie, lured him to Italy with a woman as bait, drugged the whistleblower, and spirited him away, back to Israel. He was tried, convicted, and sent to prison for 18 years, 11 of them in solitary confinement. Still, however, he remains a prisoner in his own country, not allowed to leave even for a visit to other countries in the Middle East or Europe, or, in fact, anywhere. He has said that they tried to break his spirit with the years of solitary. They were unable to do that.

It would be easy to believe that the reason for his harsh treatment was that his disclosures embarrassed the powers that be in Israel, but there seems to be another, more practical, reason for continuing the denial. If Israel were to disclose the existence of its nuclear arsenal, it would risk losing its continual money stream from the U.S., which, by law, is prohibited from funding countries, which manufacture and maintain nuclear weapons. Israel is not a signatory nation of the NPT. The country would risk losing the U.S. funds that keep its formidable military among the top few in the world. The other nuclear powers that are not NPT signatories are India, North Korea, and Pakistan.

Embarrassing the hierarchy may be an important reason to punish someone like Vanunu and for trying to break him, but the money part is very important, too. That’s why President Obama, when he was questioned a few years ago at a press conference about his knowledge of the existence of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, it was, to say the least, disingenuous for him (probably, it even rose to dissembling) to say something about his not wanting to “speculate” on such things. Any U.S. president who does not know of the existence of Israel’s nuclear weapons probably should be sent back for a remedial education, concentrating on recent world history.

Bradley Manning, a soldier with a top security clearance, embarrassed both the military and civilian elite with his disclosures to Wikileaks about the conduct of the wars in the Middle East, as well as thousands of other documents. Many in the U.S. hailed him as a whistleblower in the tradition of Daniel Ellsberg, who released the Pentagon Papers four decades ago, about the conduct of another war, Vietnam, covering the period 1945-1967. In the secret report, ordered by then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, it was shown that there were lies leading up to the full-fledged war and lies told to Congress to keep escalating the war, which as we know now, ended tragically as one of the most destructive wars that left devastation in its wake, mostly to a civilian population.

If that sounds familiar, the lessons learned through publication in the popular press of the Pentagon Papers did not last very long in the national mind. The Bush-Cheney Administration lied its way into invading and occupying Iraq, in violation of international law and leaving that country devastated and in a chaotic state, in which it remains. Frustrated by an inability to bring sovereign nations to heel, some in the U.S. military have called for the use of tactical nuclear weapons, and it would seem to be just a short step for them to call for the use of larger nuclear bombs to subdue (kill) a nation’s people.

When nations have vast arsenals, some of the generals and many unthinking politicians have a tendency to try to use them. So far, the citizens have maintained enough sense that they have kept the crazier leaders from doing such a thing. Worries like that (and the dread of the consequences of such acts) appear to be the reasons for much whistle blowing like that of Ellsberg, Manning, and now, Edward Snowden.

The deep concerns of millions of Americans over our nuclear weapons systems have prompted people like Sister Megan Rice, an 82-year-old nun, and two other peace activists, Michael Walli and Gregory Boertje-Obed, both veterans and all part of Transform Now Plowshares, to take non-violent action to stop any further development and, especially, to prevent any use of any nuclear weapons, however small or “safe” they are professed to be by the military and their politicians. They face maximum sentences of 16 years and await September sentencing after being found guilty of entering the U.S. facility at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, which holds enough enriched weapons-grade uranium to make another 10,000 nuclear weapons.

Carrying just flashlights, bolt cutters, bread, flowers, a Bible and simple household hammers they used to pound on walls to symbolize the disarming and abolition of nuclear weapons, they approached the site. They cut through layers of fencing to get to a structure and were praying quietly when security people finally got to the site. They were charged, convicted, and await sentencing. During their trial, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark described the Oak Ridge facility as unconstitutional. To say the authorities were embarrassed over their easy entrance to such a place is a gross understatement.

Now, the authorities want to add other charges, ones that would treat their non-violent witness as acts of terrorism, which would add many years to the sentences. For her, it would likely be a death sentence, as it could for her two companion peacemakers. In this short period, they are not so much addressing the existence of the nuclear material itself, but they and the defense team point out that it was “an act of nonviolent civil disobedience intended to awaken the conscience of the nation, and no evidence was presented that it was an act of terrorism meant to harm anyone…”

Recent administrations have refused to recognize civil disobedience and free speech as inalienable rights of citizens, but in recent years, illegitimate laws have been neglectfully passed by Congress and signed by presidents that negate those rights and make it easier to cast citizens as terrorists and to deal with them through the courts as such. Thus, we have draconian sentences imposed on people who are acting in traditionally American ways to warn the citizenry of danger or impending catastrophe. In the past five years, it has become more dangerous for citizens to speak out against governmental and corporate activities (many of which are indistinguishable, one from the other).

The U.S. has morphed from a democratic-republic to an empire before our very eyes and we have learned in the past decade that it is not wise to embarrass the Empire. Because part of the protocol of the new regime is tight control, as in national security state, we are expected to obey the new laws and the new rules and new programs, without complaint. Forget the rights of citizens as defined in the Bill of Rights. We have scrubbed those when they are inconvenient, as we have scrubbed parts of the U.S. Constitution, when it is inconvenient for the rulers. The behavior they demand from citizens is un-American.

Rather, it is our right and the duty to protest and demand that they function for the good of all of the people, at home and around the world. The nation cannot function in complete secrecy and it will not function that way, even though the politicians and Corporate America would keep the people in the dark about virtually everything. It’s difficult, but Americans must to learn to reject the fear mongering and live life as a free people.

BlackCommentator.com Columnist, John Funiciello, is a long-time former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Click here to contact Mr. Funiciello.