Monday, May 31, 2010

Shutting down the navy

(Each Trident submarine-launched missile is capable of killing most people in eight cities)

In the 1950s Nicolas Christophilos, a Greek physicist, predicted two things.

One, that airburst nuclear weapons would produce electromagnetic pulse that would interfere with electronics. That EMP theory was validated in 1958, when a huge open-air nuclear bomb was tested by the US in a test called Starfish Prime. Quite a bit of the Hawaiian islands blacked out.

Two, that the way around this if the Soviets did it was to build an extremely low frequency antenna that could withstand nuclear EMP and still send strike commands to nuclear submarines. He did so on the theory of Mutually Assured Destruction, that is, if the Soviets knew there was no chance they could launch a decapitating first strike, but rather could even kill most Americans and still suffer annihilation, they wouldn't do it.

So the US built the ELF system in Wisconsin, expanding it into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan when the mission of ELF changed from MAD to NUTS, that is from Mutually Assured Destruction to Nuclear Utilization Target Selection and the US tried to develop the capability to strike offensively and destroy the capacity for response. ELF became central to that scheme and so it needed to be bigger to send signals to nuclear subs no matter if they were in the mid Atlantic abyss or under the polar icecap. ELF was the only was to do that.

So we in the peace movement began to try to shut down ELF. We were effective in raising concerns and in getting the citizenry to oppose it in both Wisconsin and Michigan. In the 1970s no elected official in Wisconsin would endorse the navy's project and in Michigan referenda were held in every Upper Peninsula county, where the navy was trounced with 80 percent voting against the navy.

But it turns out that democracy was the last thing the navy was trying to defend. They pushed it through and it was built. We resisted by all nonviolent means, (pictured are some Fast for Iraq folks, two of which did nonviolent resistance to ELF, that is Kathy Kelly--the curly haired woman--and Jeff Leys--the tall guy at the far end of the banner) and I will note that I was the first to go out and commit a peace felony to shut it down temporarily (in 1985, by cutting down a pole from which the antenna was strung), and I was the only one to do that sort of thing twice (again, with another person in 1996). Others also joined in the effort (pictured are Michael Sprong and Bonnie Urfer in the final Plowshares action at ELF)and a total of five such Swords into Plowshares actions were directed against the navy.

It was not until the tribes joined in our efforts that the navy finally gave up and dismantled their system. We had supported the tribes, the Ojibwe (Anishinabe) in their incredible battle for treaty rights and they used those rights to tell the navy they were going to open all the records and get involved legally. While the navy will never admit that was the reason they shut down, it was. After all, they had just taunted us the year before with a press release saying that they would be keeping the ELF facility operable for the next 35 years.

We did not support the tribes in order to get them to shut down ELF but it worked that way. Their treaty rights were simply the right thing to support. We stood with them at the boat landings when racists were screaming anti-Indian epithets and I guess they remembered.

It is long past time to defend the Earth and Her people rather than weapons and war. We defended treaty rights using nonviolent methods and we shut down ELF using nonviolence. The history of successful nonviolence is turning out to be more and more effective as we learn how it works and as we experiment with it. Time to change how we manage conflict. War should be a receding memory, not one stirred freshly and still creating more such bad memories.

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