Nuclear Midnight Is Closer Than Ever – So Where’s the Resistance?

I watched from the front gates of Vandenberg Air Force Base at 11:39 pm PDT on February 8, 2017 as a pencil-thin beam of light shot above the treeline and disappeared into the atmosphere. The United States had conducted the first test launch of a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile under Trump’s administration. Loaded with depleted uranium, in lieu of a real nuclear warhead, it sped at Mach 23 (over 17,000 miles per hour) toward the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Site in the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, a sovereign nation in Micronesia treaty-bound to receive United States nuclear testing. The missile disappeared into space, and the force of its propulsion grew to a roar that my fellow observers and I could feel in our bodies and under our feet. Windows rattled in neighboring towns. As I traveled the twenty miles back home, the missile met its target over 4,000 miles away.

I considered the devastating power of the triadic warheads crowning the Minuteman III, a load total twenty times that of Little Boy which decimated Hiroshima. I considered Rick Perry’s nomination to oversee the nuclear stockpile as Energy Secretary despite his earlier stated desire to dismantle the department. I considered the readily displayed ignorance of our Commander-In-Chief regarding the US nuclear arsenal, his bullying arrogance in international diplomacy, and the xenophobic company he keeps. My head spun.

During the past ten years, I have been on the periphery of the unceasing effort for nuclear disarmament. While helping to organize the archives of the Nuclear Resister, a paper that publishes news of nonviolent resistance to nuclear weapons, I’ve had the unique opportunity to study the anti-nuclear movement’s most vibrant decade, the 1980s, which saw the mass mobilization of thousands; hundreds of creative, direct actions confronting nuclear test sites and power plants, missile silos, military bases and headquarters of weapons manufacturers; and many demonstrators sentenced and jailed for their peaceful protest. Even with increasing awareness of the local and international dangers posed by nuclear technology, the end of the Cold War mollified activists and the frequency of demonstrations plummeted.

Currently, there is a small and dedicated group who maintain a tradition of witness against the threat of nuclear weapons. The majority of today’s anti-nuclear activists in the US are aging, white, and driven by faith. (This is not entirely so among the international effort.) Still, some create waves with back country actions onto nuclear facilities, exposing security risks and reminding the public these weapons indeed exist and must be disarmed. Yet the nuclear issue has little traction with Millennials who are rightfully busy taking action against economic and racial injustice, ecological destruction, and the socio-political aftermath of global capitalism and perpetual wars. The question lingers in the minds of these US anti-nuclear activists: will the work against nuclear weapons be among the lot adopted by our younger generations?

Possibly so, but the movement will not look like it did in the 1980s with crowds gathering specifically in support of nuclear abolition. Just as feminists of the Reagan era and Earth First! activists found their goals intertwined with nuclear disarmament, today’s popular movements and the anti-nuclear cause do intersect and there exists the opportunity for broader education and cooperation among justice groups. Uranium mines are endangering sacred indigenous sites, past nuclear tests poison thousands here and abroad, and the US’s $35 billion annual budget to “maintain, upgrade, and operate its nuclear arsenal” robs the American public of well-funded healthcare, education and infrastructure.

The continued concern of nuclear annihilation is neither outdated nor unfounded. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists announced in January we are closer to doomsday than ever before, basing their assessment on international relations, proliferation of nuclear weapons, and climate change. At this vulnerable time, as money and politics collude in the White House, there is need for continued vigilance for opportunists who would sacrifice the well-being of the American public for elite coffers. Rick Perry is one such opportunist. His relationship with Energy Transfer Partners demonstrates priority of personal investments over secure water sources, indigenous sovereignty, and environmental safety. He has ignored opinions of professionals in the construction and expansion of a Texas radioactive waste site, and there are concerns that his financial ties will be a potential conflict of interest for the Department of Energy nominee.

Sister Jackie Hudson, an anti-nuclear recidivist who died in 2011, would ask that others step out of their comfort zone, to face personal inconvenience for the benefit of justice. There is ample opportunity for us each to orient our values with our actions, and we should. In the end, we do not need to act to save a movement. We need to act to save each other.

Allison McGillivray is traveling the country in a 1983 El Dorado motorhome, visiting communities of resistance and hospitality, and conducting oral histories for the Catholic Worker movement. This originally appeared on Common Dreams.

18 thoughts on “Nuclear Midnight Is Closer Than Ever – So Where’s the Resistance?”

  1. Nuclear Midnight Is Closer Than Ever – So Where’s the Resistance?

    Oh, is it really Allison? Did Trump not take the world’s nuclear clock back a few minutes when he spoke of improved US/Russia relations?

    I think you’re right and you’ve actually broken through the facade of lies and bullsh-t spewed by Trump in his campaign speeches. Because Allison, there’s little doubt that something is making most of us feel less safe and if we are to believe Trump, that doesn’t seem to be possible.

    You wrote: ” I considered the readily displayed ignorance of our Commander-In-Chief regarding the US nuclear arsenal, his bullying arrogance in international diplomacy, and the xenophobic company he keeps. My head spun.”

    That’s saying it as well as it can be stated! And I would just add: With so many people being taken in by Trump, it has to have the effect of him feeling energized and legitimized. His idea of taking on ‘little’ N.Korea has to be hugely popular with Americans. An easy kill! gawk blus us!
    Until China drops their ‘little’ mushroom shaped surprise on L.A.

    1. Or Obamas beloved Iran drops 100 all around America, gotta love Obama, so nice to the American people NOT!

    2. “Until China drops their ‘little’ mushroom shaped surprise on L.A.”
      And why the fuck would they ever want to do that, exactly? And when has China ever acted like that historically? And what at all do you base that on except for the traditional American Ignorance ™?

      Paranoid fucking ‘muricans is going to be the end of humanity for sure.

      1. and for that matter when did China actually attack the U.S.? In world war two there were Three chinese governments, one collaborating with Japanese, Chiang kai chek and Mao. My grandfather was stationed in Taiwan when it was still Formosa, worked at Kwajelin. Madam Chiang lived right down the hill from where Grandpa was quartered. Actually it was off base housing.

        North Korea didn’t ever attack the U.S. either. Unless non-compliance with U.S. orders is an “attack”. And the VietNamese, same way. There’s still a lot of acrimony about it. Janet Nguyen for instance. And when she left VietNam she was a baby.. But, you know, the VietMinh, aka Charlie, if they had wanted to they could have come over disguised as refugees and wrought some serious carnage. They were really good at it when they were fighting in their own country. But they didn’t.

        And the U.S. remains the only nation to have deployed all three major classes of WMD, smallpox in the Ohio Valley, gas every time there’s a so-called riot, chemicals like Thorazine forced onto soldiers, prisoners and even schoolchildren (but not limited to that) and of course we’re the only country whose “our” military actually nuked anybody. DELIBERATELY… as negotiation tools.

      2. I base it on Trump starting to think he can mess with N.Korea and then by extension China. But Trump was most likely so stupid to not know the rules of no US attacks on nuclear armed nations.

        On the positive side there’s every indication that Trump didn’t know much of anything about any other country he mentioned during his campaign speeches. And that obviously includes Russia because he would have to buck the US agenda that has been established back to the fall of the Soviet Union.

        He got away with it because you kids that supported him didn’t have a clue either.

        1. What exactly did he get away with? I voted Trump not only because he was not a NEOCON (I would never vote for McCain) but because he at least talked about the negative effects of neoliberal trade and immigration policies. That he was against the Iraq war before his opponent and against regime change was added bonus.

          His problem is that he has believed the elitist rhetoric that he is somehow unqualified because he didn’t attend Yale or Harvard, and worked in real estate rather than at CFR or prestigious “Think Tanks”. As a result, he has surrounded himself with “experienced” military and foreign policy wonks – war mongers to the core.

        2. You really need to read up on Chinese history (and most likely, world history) if you are afraid of the Chinese starting a nuke war.

      3. Check out “Bikinis not Burkas” who believes Iran is going to drop 100 of their imaginary nukes on ‘murica. You can’t top that for paranoid.

    3. This is more BS to undermine Trump. Your head is spinning because some of the plebs got tired of being denounced as deplorable knuckle dragging Xenophobes or Racists for wanting to not have their living standards continually eroded due to neoliberal trade and immigration policies. Those are the people who normally vote Democrat in states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania that took a chance on Trump. (That he is betraying them so far is beside the point.)

      “The greatest threat to the world is not global warming, it is nuclear weapons.” – Donald Trump

      “Wouldn’t it be great if we can get along with the Russians” – Donald Trump.

      What did the democrats say ( and continue to do so) – Putin is Hitler.

  2. Thanks for this article! The world seems to be sleepwalking towards the abyss but the military industrial complex is fully awake!

  3. Essentially this is a non issue because the nuclear arsenals have been effectively disabled for decades. There have been nuclear launches at least 5 times but each was neutralized in flight. ET’s will not allow nuclear war on Earth because the planet is in transition to a higher level and nuclear weapons would make a mess of everything. Humans are spiritual infants and just because we found the matches does not give us the right to burn the house down.

    1. Oh great! Let’s hope that when they start coming out of the woodwork it’s not because they have a sixth sense like rats when the ship is sinking.

  4. There is no resistance because in this Age of Narcissism people just don’t give a shit. They are too worried about how many likes their latest selfie is going to get to concern themselves with boring stuff like the future survival of humanity.

    1. or it’s the ultimate expression of suicide by cop. Despair is a really wild ride.

  5. Good Job, Allison, but I was hoping that somewhere within this piece you would have mentioned John Pilger and his documentary film, The Coming War With China, which I am told will be shown in the US some time this spring.

  6. I was a teen during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and I’m STILL pissed off. Which is why I put the following WAKE-UP call together. You might find it useful – – – Still M.A.D. After All These Years? M.A.D. is the acronym for Mutual Assured Destruction. Following this plan, governments nearly nuked-out all life on earth multiple times, and still risk doing it today. You might want to LIKE, TWEET, and otherwise pass this along – – –

  7. What a surprise. The left has been in power for 8 years, and (after destroying outsider Trump with wiretap driven scandal) probably for the foreseeable future. They will be in control of nuclear weapons. The left wants control of the economy, wants to decide the weather, foster “human rights” around the world at the point of a gun, and control what people think (aka block fake news). Why should they be concerned about nuclear weapons. Like drones, nuclear weapons represent the pinnacle of state power.

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