Last week I joined with others who had participated in a tax day action earlier in the year to raise awareness about nuclear weapons on the UN designated day to eliminate the most potent weapon ever created. We set out seeking midday crowds in a boldly painted vehicle with messages of nuclear disarmament and “armed” with materials including the Warheads to Windmills literature. The program provides a framework of how we could invest the $61 billion for nuclear weapons (in 2018) into programs that could counter climate catastrophe including the Green New Deal. While we traveled around the city I had to put some of my organizing instincts on hold and focus on what underlies all of this work, building relationships. En route to a farmers market I noticed a captive audience at the largest Department of Defense operation in St. Louis-the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).
Until this year I was unaware that September 26 was declared the United Nations International Day for the total elimination of nuclear weapons. The General Assembly made the decision through a unanimous resolution at high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament at the UN in the fall of 2013. The group decided to hold two conferences in 2017 to create the first legally binding treaty to ban nuclear weapons. In July of 2017, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) helped create the United Nations’ Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The Treaty has a “comprehensive set of prohibitions on participating in any nuclear weapon activities. These include undertakings not to develop, test, produce, acquire, possess, stockpile, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons.”
A group Back from the Brink was created in the US to help pass the UN Treaty and raise awareness of the destructiveness of nuclear weapons. Back from the Brink has a 5 policy solution that include “renouncing the option of using nuclear weapons first, ending the sole, unchecked authority of any president to launch a nuclear attack, taking U.S. nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert, cancelling the plan to replace its entire arsenal with enhanced weapons and actively pursuing a verifiable agreement among nuclear-armed states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.”
In the days leading up to the International Day to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons, the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates endorsed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. On the most recent day of action, five new nation states ratified the Treaty bringing the total to 32 moving it closer to the 50 nations needed to make it a binding international law.
Our trio set out on the International Day for the total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons to fulfill the mission of that day “to raise awareness and have deeper engagement on nuclear disarmament.” Our journey in our traveling billboard took us to an Arsenal dating back to the Civil War along the Mississippi River. The site is currently the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) which is a unique combination of “intelligence agency and combat support agency.” This is the agency that provides the maps and guidance for all of the DoD and US military. We parked our painted vehicle in the first spot next to the guarded entrance and made our way to the employee picnic in the park.
It was a quite an unusual scene for both “sides.” As a means of breaking the ice, I started by informing the group that the day was the International Day for the total elimination of nuclear weapons. That began a conversation about nuclear weapons with the people who knew the coordinates of where the nuclear bombs could be dropped as well as all of the locations of the 15,000 or so nuclear weapons the world over. At the end we had convinced at least one person that the US should eliminate our nuclear weapons arsenal. For a short duration on a beautiful fall day in a small park near the river we able to participate in the NGA motto of “Know the Earth…Share the Way…Understand the World” free of nuclear weapons.
Sometimes it may seem like the work we set out upon is like tilting at windmills in the eyes of others and our pursuits are deemed quixotic. In these times of the parallel crises of nuclear warfare and climate catastrophe and compounding effect that they are creating, I could not think of a better time to act. The Day of Action held many lessons: the ability to have moving conversations with the “other,” it is all about relationship building and organizing can be inspiring and fun!
What Can We Do:
Find our about Nuclear Weapons Divestment Campaigns
Research where your investments dollars go & consider credit unions or Amalgamated Bank which is committed to disarmament
Refuse to Pay for the Military Madness and Become a War Tax Resister
Or share NWTRCC materials with others
Support Nuclear Resisters including the Kings Bay Plowshares 7
Post by Chrissy Kirchhoefer
Photos by Chrissy Kirchhoefer