Reading Room

Citizens Watch Newsletter January 2001

De-Alerting: The Time is Now

by Ira Shorr
from Tri-Valley CAREs' January 2001 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

The cold hard truth of the present day world is that the U.S. and Russia are still courting nuclear disaster. In fact, the threat of accidental nuclear war is actually increasing.

Why? Because together, the U.S. and Russia still have some 5,000 nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert. This is the equivalent of 100,000 Hiroshima bombs poised for launch at a moment's notice. Both sides give themselves just minutes to assess signs of an attack --whether those signals are accurate or not. Then, they have just minutes to decide whether to launch a nuclear attack -- and minutes for the weapons to be fired. There's no room for error; too-little time to ascertain if a computer or electronic signal has malfunctioned.

The U.S. and Russia are like two gunfighters, each staring down the barrel of the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. Each has a finger tensed on the trigger, ready to shoot at the first sign that the other is firing. But what if a sign is misinterpreted? What if one gunfighter inadvertently moves his arm? The other gunfighter is likely to fire anyway, just in case.

In a nuclear "High Noon" showdown, millions will die if the weapons go off.

A major new campaign -- Back from the Brink -- has been launched to confront the risk of accidental nuclear war. The campaign seeks to get the U.S. and Russia to take their nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert -- to "de-alert" their arsenals -- making it more difficult to launch nuclear weapons. This would provide a critical margin of safety so nuclear war could not start by computer mistake or human error.

The world has already come too close to catastrophe. On January 25, 1995, Russian radar misinterpreted a weather rocket launched from Norway as a missile attack on Moscow. The nuclear "suitcase" carried by the Russian President was activated, and Boris Yelstin, a man with serious health and substance abuse problems, was given just minutes to decide the fate of the world. The Russians came within minutes of launching their nuclear missiles at U.S. cities before it was discovered that it was a false alarm.

We wish that this close call were a singular, one time only, event. It was not. There are 20 documented occasions when either the U.S. or Russia came close to launching a nuclear war based on false information. And, the continuing, rapid deterioration of Russian radar and early warning systems only increases the danger.

Back from the Brink believes that bold action is needed now to safeguard the planet. The U.S. should take the lead by taking its nuclear weapons off the hair-trigger and encouraging the Russians to reciprocate.

There is a precedent. In September 1991, when the Soviet Union was falling apart, President George Bush ordered the de-alerting of U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe. President Gorbachev reciprocated by de-alerting Russian nuclear weapons.

However, if we are to get the thousands of existing weapons off hair-trigger alert we need a public demand for action. Back from the Brink is working with individuals and community organizations nationwide to make sure their voices are heard.

Tri-Valley CAREs is a founding member of the Back From the Brink campaign. We urge you to join us in calling the White House on Feb. 5 and 6 to demand that all nuclear weapons be taken off hair-trigger alert.

Nagasaki Appeal

from Tri-Valley CAREs' January 2001 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

On November 20, 2000, the Nagasaki Global Citizens' Assembly, which included Abolition 2000, the City of Nagasaki and more than 600 participants from around Japan and the world, issued the following statement, setting the tone for much of our peace and disarmament work in the new millennium.

"Standing on the threshold of a new century, we concerned global citizens have gathered from throughout the world in Nagasaki, the last city of the departing century to suffer the devastation of a nuclear attack.

"Some half-century ago, humanity embarked on the development of nuclear weapons. These indescribably destructive instruments are capable not only of robbing millions of people of their lives at a single stroke, but also of inflicting life-long physical and mental anguish on any survivors. The damage resulting from the use of nuclear weapons would extend far beyond the boundaries of the belligerents, having extremely serious consequences for the environment and all living things. Nevertheless, these criminal weapons are still being used by some states for political purposes.

"It is our duty to provide a worthy response to the voices of the hibakusha - the atomic bomb survivors; voices tinged with anxiety stemming from the knowledge that death from not yet fully explained causes may come at any time; voices that say, 'Such a tragedy cannot be allowed to be repeated...Before the last of us leaves this world, nuclear weapons must be abolished forever.' It is the sincere desire of the citizens of Nagasaki, that Nagasaki should remain the last city to suffer the calamity of the dropping of an atomic bomb.

"Despite the fact that it has been over a decade since the collapse of the Cold War standoff, there are still over 30,000 nuclear warheads in existence on our fragile planet. The United States and the Russian Federation each continue to maintain several thousand nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert.

"The International Court of Justice, the world's supreme legal authority, has ruled that the threat or use of nuclear weapons is a violation of international law. These weapons... are nonetheless claimed by the few governments which possess them, and by the countries sheltered by the 'nuclear umbrella,' as necessary for their security.

"Expectations were raised... at the 2000 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference when the nuclear weapon states agreed to 'an unequivocal undertaking... to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals.' However, the phrase, 'undertake to engage in an accelerated process of negotiations,' had to be eliminated from the draft document in order to avoid the breakdown of the talks.

"The continued existence of nuclear weapons poses a threat to all of humanity, and their use would have catastrophic consequences. The only defense against nuclear catastrophe is the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

"...We have learned from the stories of many who have suffered from the nuclear age: the hibakusha and downwinders from Hiroshima and Nagasaki; Semipalatinsk, Nevada, and Moruroa; Chernobyl and Tokaimura. The world's citizens must now be mobilized to form a potent global movement, and it is this force that will compel governments to fulfill their promises. All sectors of the global community must be involved including women, youth, workers, religious communities and indigenous peoples...

"Activities aimed at the elimination of nuclear weapons, led by the hibakusha, Abolition 2000 and others, have progressed to the point where 'nuclear weapons abolition' has become part of the common vocabulary of international politics and diplomacy. So long as the efforts of the world's citizens continue, there is bright hope that our objectives will be achieved. The myriad small steps taken by concerned citizens in every conceivable setting will no doubt lead to new and giant strides forward. Let us begin renewed and concerted action directed at the rapid realization of a 21st century free of war, in which the scourge of nuclear weapons is finally removed forever."

For a copy of the complete statement and its 5 recommended actions, contact our office at (925) 443-7148.

Happy Birthday to You, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

from Tri-Valley CAREs' January 2001 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Martin Luther King, Jr. found in the life and writings of Mohandas K. Gandhi a nonviolent method of social change that was both practical and morally sound. In the course of King's own preaching and organizing he developed a set of nonviolent principles and a way to apply them. These are now being carried forward by the work of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia.


1. Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people. It is active nonviolent resistance to evil. It is aggressive spiritually, mentally and emotionally. It is always persuading the opponent of the righteousness of your cause.

2. Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding. The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation. The purpose of nonviolence is the creation of the Beloved Community.

3. Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice, not people. Nonviolence recognizes that evil doers are also victims and are not evil peoples. The nonviolent resister seeks to defeat evil, not people.

4. Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform. Nonviolence accepts suffering without retaliation. Nonviolence accepts violence if necessary, but will never inflict it. Nonviolence willingly accepts the consequences of its acts... Suffering has the power to convert the enemy when reasons fails.

5. Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate. Nonviolence resists violence of the spirit as well as the body. Nonviolent love is spontaneous, unmotivated, unselfish and creative. Nonviolent love gives willingly, knowing that the return might be hostility. Nonviolent love is active, not passive. Nonviolent love in unending in its ability to forgive in order to restore community. Nonviolent love does not sink to the level of the hater. Love for the enemy is how we demonstrate love for ourselves. Love restores community and resists injustice. Nonviolence recognizes the fact that all life is interrelated.

6. Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice. The nonviolent resister has deep faith that justice will eventually win...


1. INFORMATION GATHERING: To understand and articulate an issue, problem or injustice facing a person, community or institution you must do research. You must investigate and gather all vital information from all sides of the argument or issue in order to increase you understanding of the problem. You must become an expert on your opponent's position.

2. EDUCATION: It is essential to inform others, including your opposition, about your issue. This minimizes misunderstandings and gains you support and sympathy.

3. PERSONAL COMMITMENT: Daily check and affirm your faith in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence. Eliminate hidden motives and prepare yourself to accept suffering, if necessary, in your work for justice.

4. NEGOTIATION: Using grace, humor and intelligence confront the other party with a list of injustices and a plan for addressing and resolving these injustices. Look for what is positive in the actions and statements the opposition makes. Do not seek to humiliate the opponent but call forth the good in the opponent. Look for ways in which the opponent can also win.

5. DIRECT ACTION: These actions are taken to morally force the opponent to work with you in resolving the injustices. Direct action imposes a "creative tension" into the conflict. Direct action is most effective when it illustrates the injustice it seeks to correct.

6. RECONCILIATION: Nonviolence seeks friendship and understanding with the opponent. Nonviolence is directed against evil systems, forces, oppressive policies, and unjust acts, not against persons. Reconciliation includes the opponent being able to "save face." Each act of reconciliation is one step closer to the "Beloved Community." Both the individuals and the entire community are empowered. With this come new struggles for justice and a new beginning.

Excerpted from "Active Nonviolence: A Way of Life, A Strategy for Change" Richard Deats, Shelley Douglass, Melinda Moore

Diversity Training for the New Millennium

by Martha Priebat
from Tri-Valley CAREs' January 2001 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Mark your calendar now for Tri-Valley CAREs' first ever diversity training. Start the new millennium with this opportunity to increase your sensitivity to the ways our differences in cultural backgrounds get in the way of our working together for peace, justice and a healthy environment.

We are fortunate to have two excellent trainers for this day-long event: Clifford Jones and Kathleen Herron, associates with Technical Assistance for Community Services, are experienced in helping people like us to develop safe, constructive environments in which to ask questions, learn new information, and develop skills.

Cliff is a human rights activist with over 20 years' experience with social service, community development and human rights advocacy. He has a BS in Community Services and Public Affairs from the University of Oregon. Cliff has provided training to more than 250 organizations.

Kathleen is the Director of Family Court Services in Clackamas County, Oregon. She is an adjunct professor at Northwestern School of Law, teaching classes in Racism and the Law and Dispute Resolution. She has presented over 250 workshops and has been active in multiracial issues for 20 years.

The workshop will be held on Saturday, January 27, 2001 at our offices at 2582 Old First Street in Livermore. We will start at 9:30 AM, take a break for a potluck lunch at about noon (bring food to share), and conclude at 4:00 PM. Please join us for this day of theoretical presentation, interactive exercises, role playing, and discussion on this important topic. Call the office at (925) 443-7148, or Martha at (925) 846-3728.

Livermore Lab's site 300:
Invitation to our February 1, 2001 discussion group

by Peter Strauss and Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' January 2001 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's site 300 covers 11 square miles between Livermore and Tracy. Since 1955, site 300 has been used to test high explosives and components of nuclear weapons. In 1990, site 300 was placed on the EPA's Superfund list of most polluted areas in the nation.

The main contaminants found in soil and groundwater include: chemical solvents (like TCE), high explosives, uranium and tritium (radioactive hydrogen). During many of the weapons tests at site 300, tritium and uranium were released to the environment. Wastes were placed in unlined dumps located on-site; the dumps became saturated as the water table rose and the groundwater became contaminated. The tritium plume in groundwater currently stretches for two miles.

The human health risk estimates for site 300 indicate elevated hazards. Excess lifetime cancer risks fall in a range from six people in ten-thousand to one person in one-thousand. This risk assessment assumes that the cancers will result from occupational exposure. If DOE were to sell site 300, and it was used for residential purposes, excess cancer risks would be many times higher.

A residential exposure hazard also exists from groundwater pollution off-site. Excess cancer risk at this TCE plume location was determined to be seven people in one-hundred, many times higher than the excess cancer risk levels that can trigger federal cleanup.

(See below for more information on the site 300 "study group" meeting on February 1st.)

Citizen's Alerts - Calendar Section

from Tri-Valley CAREs' January 2001 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Thursday, January 18
Tri-Valley CAREs meets
7:30 PM, Livermore Library
1000 So. Livermore Ave.
(925) 443-7148

Do you long for peace and a nuclear weapons free world? Does the earth's beauty take your breath away? Want to preserve it? Act locally by joining Tri-Valley CAREs for our first meeting of 2001. Newcomers & "old-timers" alike are very welcome. Your participation does make a difference.

Saturday, January 27
Diversity Training
9:30 AM, Tri-Valley CAREs' offices
2582 Old First St., Livermore
RSVP (925) 443-7148

This special workshop is open to all Tri-Valley CAREs' members, volunteers and supporters-as well as the group's board and staff. Learn and grow with your favorite peace group. Please see article above for details.

Thursday, February 1
Tri-Valley CAREs' study group
Site 300: nuclear research, pollution and Superfund cleanup issues
7 PM, Tri-Valley CAREs' offices
2582 Old First St., Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for details, directions

Tri-Valley CAREs plans to sponsor approximately six "study group" sessions during 2001. Each session will feature pizza or other great foods, a speaker, and an informal round-table discussion of a topic of interest to our members. On Feb. 1, 2001, we will discuss the environmental and health hazards at Livermore Lab's site 300 high explosive testing range. Please see article above, and circle your calendar today.


to Foundations and Individuals Who Have Supported Our Work

from Tri-Valley CAREs' January 2001 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

As we begin a new year, we would like to thank all of our members and friends who keep our organization going. Special thanks go also to the foundations who support our work: the W. Alton Jones Foundation, Ploughshares Fund, Richard & Rhoda Goldman Fund, John Merck Fund, Town Creek Foundation, Monitoring and Technical Assistance Fund, Public Welfare Foundation and the Vanguard Public Foundation. Our work has been awarded a technical assistance grant from the EPA and a community education grant from the Centers for Disease Control. These funds help us publish our newsletter, fliers, fact sheets, policy reports and much, much more. We appreciate you one and all!

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