RADIO FREE MAINE
Reaping What We Sow: Organizing for a Nuclear Free Century of Peace
"A people without a vision is a people without a future," said Joe Gerson of the American Friends Service Committee in Cambridge, invoking the Old Testament. The coalition of organizations that comprise the Abolition 2000 network, of which the FOR is a part, certainly does hold a very lofty vision. It is to have a signed treaty by the end of the year 2000 that will begin totally to eliminate nuclear weapons by a specific date. "If we don't believe that this goal is possible, then why are we even here?" stated Abolition 2000 organizer Karina Wood.
The stipulation of an explicit schedule for disarmament is key, because the Nonproliferation Treaty that was negotiated in 1968 and renewed indefinitely in 1995 contains a clause that pledges the current nuclear powers to "pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to...nuclear disarmament...." While almost every non-nuclear weapons state in the world has kept its part of the bargain to eschew from seeking a nuclear bomb capability, Joe Gerson attests that the US has never intended to keep "good faith" and honor its commitment, essentially exerting its power to maintain its nuclear forces indefinitely. The US' new stockpile stewardship management program is indicative of this plan.
Dan Ellsberg once said that US possession of nuclear weapons resembles holding a gun to someone's head: the thing is coercive whether or not it is fired. For instance, President Nixon placed US nuclear forces on DEFCON 1 alert for twenty-nine days in 1969 as a means of intimidating the North Vietnamese. It was the 500,000-strong November Mobilization rally in Washington, DC that persuaded him to pull his hands away from the trigger. However, as long as nuclear weapons exist, the US has the destructive capability to bully other nations and to enforce its new world order of American empire.
The existence of nuclear weapons preserves the culture of death and exploitation in America. The abolition of slavery, Betty Burkes of WILPF noted, was legislated by governmental order and therefore did not fundamentally alter the unequal power relationships in the country. Nuclear weapons abolition must come from the grass roots, or else the system of oppression will continue to exist even without them.
Quoting Henry David Thoreau, Tom Lewis-Borbely brought greetings from the Prince of Peace Plowshares: "Dissent without resistance is consent." This spirit was prevalent throughout the AFSC-initiated conference, which was outstanding both in the scope of information presented and in the level of energy applied to tackling the range of organizing strategies that were discussed: highlighting the connections between nuclear weapons and nuclear power; stopping uranium mining from Native American lands; pushing for a no first use treaty; working within religious communities; and lobbying town councils to pass the Abolition 2000 Cities Resolution.
The weekend-long conference contained plenary sessions featuring many distinguished leaders of the peace movement, including the keynote address from Joseph Rotblat, recipient of the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize; Clayton Ramey, FOR's own Peace and Disarmament program director; Zia Mian, Anna Rondon, Francis Crowe, David McAuley, and Ellen David Friedman.
Vincent J. Romano broadcasts Radio Free Maine tapes on his peace and justice talk show at WCHC, the radio station of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. He is presently the Freeman Communications/Peace and Disarmament program intern at the FOR.