Peace Activists Appeal to Navy Personnel at Trident Base: Refuse Illegal Orders; Refuse to Launch Nuclear Missiles

By Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, January 5, 2020

Puget Sound peace activists, ahead of Nuclear Ban Treaty entry into force, appeal to Navy personnel at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor: Refuse illegal orders; Refuse to launch nuclear missiles.

On Sunday, January 3rd, a full-page ad was published in the Kitsap Sun newspaper, speaking to military personnel at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor. The ad is an appeal to Navy personnel to resist orders to launch nuclear weapons. The appeal with supporting signatures is posted at our website.

The Appeal to Navy Personnel specifically requests that members of the armed forces –

Resist illegal orders.
Refuse to kill innocent civilians.
Refuse the order to use nuclear weapons.

Our proximity to the largest number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons puts us near a dangerous local and international threat. 

When citizens become aware of their role in the prospect of nuclear war, or the risk of a nuclear accident, the issue is no longer an abstraction. Our proximity to Bangor demands a deeper response.

Regarding the Appeal to Navy Personnel, peace activists are not requesting that military personnel leave the service, but instead that they serve honorably and in accordance with the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and international law.

Ground Zero member Elizabeth Murray stated, “Peace activists in the Puget Sound region have spoken to our community against nuclear weapons at the base since the 1970s. We have learned that we share a common concern with members of the armed forces—a concern that the use of nuclear weapons would lead to unimaginable destruction to innocent populations and to our planet.”

International decisions have ruled that the use of nuclear weapons is illegal, including decisions at the International Court of Justice in 1996; the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the 1949 Geneva Convention; and the 1977 Geneva Convention protocol

The United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) will enter into legal force on January 22nd now that over 50 nations have signed and ratified it. The TPNW prohibits nations that have ratified the Treaty from “developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, acquiring, possessing, or stockpiling nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” They are barred from transferring or receiving nuclear weapons and nuclear explosive devices, meaning that they cannot permit nuclear weapons to be stationed or deployed in their countries. States are also prohibited from using or threatening to use nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices. Of potentially great importance, Article XII of the Treaty requires governments that have ratified the treaty to press nations outside of the Treaty to sign and to ratify it. Neither the United States, nor any of the other nuclear armed nations, have not yet signed the TPNW.

The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) makes it clear that military personnel have an obligation and a duty to only obey lawful orders and indeed have an obligation to disobey unlawful orders, including orders by the president that do not comply with the UCMJ. The moral and legal obligation is to the U.S. Constitution and not to those who might issue unlawful orders, especially if those orders are in direct violation of the Constitution and the UCMJ.

Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor is homeport to the largest concentration of deployed nuclear warheads in the U.S. The nuclear warheads are deployed on Trident D-5 missiles on SSBN submarines and are stored in an underground nuclear weapons storage facility on the base.

There are eight Trident SSBN submarines deployed at BangorSix Trident SSBN submarines are deployed on the East Coast at Kings Bay, Georgia.

One Trident submarine carries the destructive force of over 1,200 Hiroshima bombs (the Hiroshima bomb was 15 kilotons) or the destructive force of 900 Nagasaki bombs (20 kilotons.)

Each Trident submarine was originally equipped for 24 Trident missiles. In 2015-2017 four missile tubes were deactivated on each submarine as a result of the New START Treaty. Currently, each Trident submarine deploys with 20 D-5 missiles and about 90 nuclear warheads (an average of 4-5 warheads per missile). The warheads are either the W76-1 90-kiloton or W88 455-kiloton warheads.

The Navy in early 2020 started deploying the new W76-2 low-yield warhead (approximately eight kilotons) on select ballistic submarine missiles at Bangor (following initial deployment in the Atlantic in December 2019). The warhead was deployed to deter Russian first use of tactical nuclear weapons, dangerously creating a lower threshold for the use of U.S. strategic nuclear weapons.

Any use of nuclear weapons against another nuclear weapon state would likely elicit a response with nuclear weapons, causing overwhelming death and destruction. Besides the direct effects on the adversaries, the associated radioactive fallout would affect people in other nations. The global human and economic impacts would be far beyond imagination, and orders of magnitude beyond the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Hans M. Kristensen is the expert source for the statement, “Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor… with largest concentration of deployed nuclear weapons in the U.S.” (See cited source material here and here.) Mr. Kristensen is director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists where he provides the public with analysis and background information about the status of nuclear forces and the role of nuclear weapons.

Civic responsibility and nuclear weapons

Our proximity to the largest number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons puts us near a dangerous local and international threat. When citizens become aware of their role in the prospect of nuclear war, or the risk of a nuclear accident, the issue is no longer an abstraction. Our proximity to Bangor demands a deeper response.

Citizens in a democracy also have responsibilities–which includes choosing our leaders and staying informed about what our government is doing. The submarine base at Bangor is 20 miles from downtown Seattle, yet only a small percentage of citizens in our region know that Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor exists.

Citizens of Washington State consistently elect governmental officials who support nuclear weapons in Washington State. In the 1970s, Senator Henry Jackson convinced the Pentagon to locate the Trident submarine base on the Hood Canal, while Senator Warren Magnuson obtained funding for roads and other impacts caused by the Trident base. The only Trident submarine to be named after a person (and our former Washington State Senator) is the USS Henry M. Jackson(SSBN-730), home ported at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.

In 2012, Washington State established the Washington Military Alliance (WMA), strongly promoted by both Governor’s Gregoire and Inslee. The WMA, Department of Defense, and other governmental agencies work to strengthen the role of Washington State as a “…Power Projection Platform (Strategic Ports, Rail, Roads, and Airports) [with] the complementary air, land, and sea units with which to accomplish the mission.” Also see “power projection.”

Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor and the Trident submarine system have evolved since the first Trident submarine arrived in August 1982. The base has upgraded to the much larger D-5 missile with a larger W88 (455 kiloton) warhead, with ongoing modernization of missile guidance and control systems. The Navy has recently deployed the smaller W76-2 “low-yield” or tactical nuclear weapon (approximately eight kilotons) on select ballistic submarine missiles at Bangor, dangerously creating a lower threshold for the use of nuclear weapons.

The issues

* The U.S. is spending more on nuclear weapons programs than during the height of the Cold War.

* The U.S. currently plans to spend an estimated $1.7 trillion over 30 years for rebuilding the nation’s nuclear facilities and modernizing nuclear weapons.

* The New York Times reported that the U. S., Russia and China are aggressively pursuing a new generation of smaller and less destructive nuclear weapons. The buildups threaten to revive a Cold War-era arms race and unsettle the balance of power among nations.

* The U.S. Navy states that SSBN submarines on patrol provide the U.S. with its “most survivable and enduring nuclear strike capability.” However, SSBNs in port and nuclear warheads stored at SWFPAC are likely a first target in a nuclear war. Google imagery from 2018 shows three SSBN submarines on the Hood Canal waterfront.

* An accident involving nuclear weapons occurred on November 2003 when a ladder penetrated a nuclear nosecone during a routine missile offloading at the Explosives Handling Wharf at Bangor. All missile-handling operations at SWFPAC were stopped for nine weeks until Bangor could be re-certified for handling nuclear weapons. Three top commanders were fired, but the public was never informed until information was leaked to the media in March 2004.

* Public responses from governmental officials to the 2003 missile accident were generally in the form of surprise anddisappointment.

* Due to ongoing modernization and maintenance programs for warheads at Bangor, nuclear warheads are routinely shipped in unmarked trucks between the Department of Energy Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas and the Bangor base. Unlike the Navy at Bangor, the DOE actively promotes emergency preparedness.

Nuclear weapons and resistance

In the 1970s and 1980s, thousands demonstrated against nuclear weapons at the Bangor base and hundreds were arrested. Seattle Archbishop Hunthausen had proclaimed the Bangor submarine base the “Auschwitz of Puget Sound” and in 1982 began to withhold half of his federal taxes in protest of “our nation’s continuing involvement in the race for nuclear arms supremacy.”

On May 27, 2016, President Obama spoke in Hiroshima and called for an end to nuclear weapons. He said that the nuclear powers “…must have the courage to escape the logic of fear, and pursue a world without them.” Obama added, “We must change our mindset about war itself.”

About the Ground Zero Center

The Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action was founded in 1977. The center is on 3.8 acres adjoining the Trident submarine base at Bangor, Washington. The Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action offers the opportunity to explore the roots of violence and injustice in our world and to experience the transforming power of love through nonviolent direct action. We resist all nuclear weapons, especially the Trident ballistic missile system.

Upcoming Ground Zero activities:

  • Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action and World Beyond War are paying to deploy four billboards in Seattle in January announcing the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and reminding citizens of the Trident ballistic nuclear submarine force based in nearby Kitsap County.
  • Ground Zero will publish two additional Paid Public Service Announcements in The Kitsap Sun newspaper – on January 15th in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., and on January 22nd recognizing the entry into force of the TPNW. 
  • On January 15th, the anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr., Ground Zero will host a vigil at the Bangor Trident submarine base, honoring Dr. King’s legacy of nonviolence and opposition to nuclear weapons.
  • Ground Zero members will be holding banners over highways and freeways in both Kitsap County and Seattle on January 22nd announcing the entry into force of the TPNW.

Contact for details of January activities.

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