photo above: “Our message over the years has been simple and urgent: Nuclear weapons have totally failed us. They don’t make us safer; they don’t provide jobs; they don’t make us more secure—these are age-old lies. Instead they bankrupt us, economically and spiritually.” (Photo: Courtesy of Rev. John Dear)
WN: This piece is profoundly humbling–and moving. In George Yancy: To Be Black in the US Is to Have a Knee Against Your Neck Each Day, Doctor Yancy challenges us Whites who claim solidarity with Blacks/People of Colour, ” . . . then I would ask that they show me their scars . . .”
John Dear in this piece displays his scars from a decades-long fight against the building and possession of nuclear weapons–enough weapons to destroy the Planet 20 times over! Let that sink in! Let that sink in! . . .
These multiplied thousands of missiles from hell hold the entire world hostage, and as Rev. Dear indicates, place the entire Planet on Death Row. Obscene! Unconscionable! This beyond-ultimate-evil-premeditated-brutal-Obliteration of all Life thereby thrusting such planning into a whole other dimension of human imagining . . . into a twilight zone of massive-death-dealing aspiration that the likes of a Stalin, a Hitler, a Pol Pot, a Mussolini, and all mass murderers of all time combined . . . could only have dreamed of . . . only in their wildest dreams could have enacted . . .
On my HOME page you will find what follows (and much more) in the context of the Gospel as Counter-Narrative to Empire:
In short, any number of nuclear war planners in Washington contemplated striking 295 Soviet cities, with an estimated death toll total of 115 million, and another 107 million dead in Red China, besides millions more in Soviet satellite countries (The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, John W. Dower, Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2017; page 37. See also my post on this here; pp. 28 & 29). In some circles, as a kind of sick dark humour, the two bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki due to “only” 200,000 dead, came to be called “firecracker nukes (ibid, page 29).” (This is not to mention the millions killed since World War II with related devastation in at least 37 countries around the world, or the millions murdered through US proxy wars, CIA covert operations the world over, surrogate terror exported to countries throughout Central and South America for more than a century, and other parts of the world, etc., etc., etc… (See ibid, throughout the book.)1
And these “noble” American nuclear strategists holding up of course America as bastion of freedom and democracy throughout the world, blithely contemplated over many decades mass murder on a scale that all previous mass murderers combined in the history of the world could only dream of! And serious contemplation of first-strike deployment was given repeated consideration: Public as well as confidential proposals to launch a “preventive” or “pre-emptive” strike against the Soviet Union were not uncommon before the Soviets developed a serious retaliatory capability — including for instance General Douglas MacArthur. The American public likewise supported this in general (ibid, page 41).
This is America — Leader of the Free World?! Vocabulary for such monstrous evil mindsets utterly fails! Yet every US Administration since Truman authorized the first atomic bombs dropped (which phenomenon he, a Baptist Sunday School teacher, declared to be “the greatest event in human history” — and not the Resurrection?! — one massively death-dealing, the other universally life-giving), along with thousands of strategists, day-in, day-out, went off to work with this kind of obscene potential horror, like “visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads”. How delightfully American (Empire)!2
And Hitler and Stalin are considered “maniacal” in their mass murders?! By the above dark-humour standard, they were only “firecracker despots” compared to a long line of US Presidents. What then are all these upstanding Americans — right up to the present, with possibly a genuinely deranged current President seemingly itching to “nuke” some nation such as North Korea — if not mad monsters? And the overwhelming monstrosity of America the Ultimate Evil Empire only increases exponentially when one reads noted historian Alfred McCoy’s description of what is being developed by said American Empire.
A paper that I wrote years ago, Christianity and the Subversion of Just About Everything!, in relation to this, with an introduction and excerpt, may be accessed here. I explain in introducing it that today, were I writing the paper, the overall positing of “Just About Everything!” would mean Empire. The Judeo-Christian Story is nothing if not one long Counter-Narrative to Empire! There is an expanding scholarship that underscores this, links to several instances of which are on the HOME page, and also mentioned on the page introducing the paper above. Amen! Thy Kingdom Come! Maranatha! (Come, O Lord).
Please also see the post on U.S. biological warfare: Baseless: My Search for Secrets in the Ruins of the Freedom of Information Actby Nicholson Baker. And Trump blames the Chinese for producing biological weapons!
Again: thousands of Americans every day are caught up in the Maniacal Suicidal Madness: calmly working towards the Earth’s Demise as nonchalantly as planning a road trip . . . Who like Nazi concentration camp guards return home from work , hug their kids, and go off with their wives to take in a Beethoven Concert…
All Americans, and of course the entire Western world are accessories and beneficiaries, if not direct cheerleaders. Ghastly! Murderous! Horror-filled! Morality from Hell! . . .3
Further, as the Japanese were targeted as the Ultimate Collective Scapegoat in the West on August 6 & 7, 1945, so ever since, the entire world became the potential Ultimate Scapegoat on Planet Death Row! These insights arise from the amazing work of anthropologist and literary critic René Girard.4
But we are so inured to the obscene presence of nuclear weapons in the world that we blithely shut it all out as we go about our daily lives. Yet Dear writes:
That’s why I say, the existence of nuclear weapons is far beyond any philosophical questions of goodness or morality. For years, I’ve been saying: nuclear weapons are bad for New Mexico and the world, bad for our health, bad for the economy, bad for children, bad for our security, bad for the environment, but also bad for our souls! Ultimately, their existence is a religious issue, a spiritual issue. It says we really worship the false “god of war,” as Hitler called him, not the living God of peace. These weapons say, “We will wipe out in 15 minutes what it took you 15 billion years to create.” The only humane, sane, moral, and therefore religious, holy stand to take is to publicly oppose them, resist them, denounce them and work for their abolition.
Reading/publishing the material below is barely minusculely equal to the calling . . .
For the last seventeen years, my friends and I have organized a peaceful vigil for nuclear disarmament on Hiroshima Day, August 6th, in Los Alamos at Ashley Pond Park, the spot where the actual Hiroshima bomb was built.
There, sometimes with as many as 400 others, we’ve been calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons; the closing of the Los Alamos National labs; the cleaning up of the environment and making reparations to the downwinders and indigenous people whose land was stolen.
This year, the pandemic has forced us to host an online commemoration instead (on August 6th, 6:00-7:00 p.m. MST) with speakers such as Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico; Roshi Joan Halifax of the Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe; Dr. Ira Helfand of the Nobel Peace Prize group, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN); and for the first time, Archbishop John Wester, who will speak of his recent visit to Hiroshima, Pope Francis’ recent urgent call to abolish nuclear weapons, and his hope for a more peaceful New Mexico.
We remember what the United States did 75 years ago when we killed 200,000 people at Hiroshima and another 40,000 people in Nagasaki. We will repent of this evil by recommitting ourselves to the long hard task of expanding the global grassroots movement for the abolition of nuclear weapons and war, starting with ICAN.
Our message over the years has been simple and urgent: Nuclear weapons have totally failed us. They don’t make us safer; they don’t provide jobs; they don’t make us more secure—these are age-old lies. Instead they bankrupt us, economically and spiritually.
According to the Doomsday Clock, we are in greater danger now than ever. A limited nuclear war between India and Pakistan is very possible; an all-out nuclear war would end life as we know it. We cannot continue down this path. If we spent billions instead on teaching and building nonviolent civilian based defense systems and nonviolent conflict resolution programs around the world, to be orchestrated by the United Nations, we could make war itself obsolete.
Please click on: Life Under the Bomb Means . . .
- Historian John Coatsworth in The Cambridge History of the Cold War noted:
Between 1960, by which time the Soviets had dismantled Stalin’s gulags, and the Soviet collapse in 1990, the numbers of political prisoners, torture victims, and executions of nonviolent political dissenters in Latin America vastly exceeded those of the Soviet Union and its East European satellites. In other words, from 1960 to 1990, the Soviet bloc as a whole was less repressive, measured in terms of human victims, than many individual Latin American countries [under direct sway of US Empire] (“The Cold War in Central America”, pp. 216 – 221).
What was true for Latin America was true for around the world: massive human rights abuses, assassinations, regime changes of democratically elected governments, etc., etc., etc. orchestrated by US Empire. Yet Americans invariably have wanted it both ways: to be seen as the exemplary “City on A Hill” that upholds universal human rights and democracy, while operating a brutal Empire directly contrary to all such elevated values, and a concomitant rapacious Empire market economy that takes no prisoners. This began of course even before the founding of the United States of America and continued apace, in its mass slaughter and dispossession of indigenous peoples, in its brutal system of slavery on which its obscene wealth in the textile industry in the first place was built. “The Land of the Free” conceit was a sustained con job on the part of America’s leaders. It was also apotheosis of hypocrisy. American exceptionalism was/is true in one respect only: it was brutal like no other Empire in its eventual global reach.
- The highlighted article about renowned whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg points to again what is utterly chilling, horror-filled, exponentially beyond immoral, American (hence the world’s) reality: “Daniel Ellsberg: U.S. Military Planned First Strike On Every City In Russia and China … and Gave Many Low-Level Field Commanders the Power to Push the Button.“
He has since written The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. Of it we read:
Finalist for the California Book Award in Nonfiction
The San Francisco Chronicle’s Best of 2017 List
Huffington Post’s Ten Excellent December Books List
From the legendary whistle-blower who revealed the Pentagon Papers, an eyewitness exposé of the dangers of America’s Top Secret, seventy-year-long nuclear policy that continues to this day.
Here, for the first time, former high-level defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg reveals his shocking firsthand account of America’s nuclear program in the 1960s. From the remotest air bases in the Pacific Command, where he discovered that the authority to initiate use of nuclear weapons was widely delegated, to the secret plans for general nuclear war under Eisenhower, which, if executed, would cause the near-extinction of humanity, Ellsberg shows that the legacy of this most dangerous arms buildup in the history of civilization–and its proposed renewal under the Trump administration–threatens our very survival. No other insider with high-level access has written so candidly of the nuclear strategy of the late Eisenhower and early Kennedy years, and nothing has fundamentally changed since that era.
- Linger on this recounting below of the first three detonated atomic bombs–two over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Reflect even a few seconds on the sheer horror! Yet these scientists, politicians, engineers, pilots and crews, etc., etc., etc. (and by extension with full blessing of the West’s Churches and war-weary Western inhabitants) of the “Manhattan Project” were in the know/full participants for years during development–and eventual deployment–of this Ultimate Murderous Madness. Indeed, they were some of the “finest” products of Western “Civilization” . . .
However, the Bomb is better understood as the terrible yet logical — and probably inevitable — result of a chain of developments in science, technology and the nature of war going back centuries. As if running on rails with unstoppable momentum, these developments moved in one direction only, toward ever more fearsome weapons and ever more catastrophic wars. This momentum made the nuclear age unavoidable.–David Von Drehle
In the depths of that empty land, in the early darkness of a midsummer Monday in 1945, some 425 people, including some of the world’s most brilliant scientists and engineers, prepared to detonate the first nuclear explosive device. They called it “the Gadget.” Though the scene was only faintly illuminated by predawn light, they donned goggles as dark as welder’s shields. At 5:29 a.m., a flash erupted so intensely bright that it briefly blinded even through the lenses. One of the scientists, J. Robert Oppenheimer, thought of the Hindu scriptures that had inspired him since youth: “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one.” Oppenheimer felt the weight of the purpose to which this awesome power — roughly equivalent to 44 million pounds of TNT, plus lethal radioactivity — would be put, and another line from the Bhagavad-Gita sprang to mind. “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
Three weeks later, on Aug. 6, a device of somewhat different design but operating on the same now-proven principles fell from the opened bomb-bay doors of a B-29 aircraft as the plane passed, propellers droning, over Hiroshima, Japan. Three days after that, Aug. 9, a third bomb, essentially identical to the Gadget, was dropped on the port city of Nagasaki. (David von Drehle, Living in the shadow of the Bomb.)
Living on Death Row indeed–this the very Pinnacle of Western “Civilization” (coterminously its Nadir), what it has all come to; and like a stuck needle on another-era record player, perdures. This the Ultimate Death Knell of all human decency; all things noble; all things honourable . . .
“[The West] has become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” The destroyer of all things civilized. Relinquishing every claim to be remotely “Civilization” . . . Civilized . . .
- There is much on my website about application of the explanatory power of his theories to virtually all realms of knowledge. A very helpful introduction to Girard in light of considering the criminal justice system to be a collective scapegoat mechanism, is my friend, recently retired Professor Vern Redekop‘s Scapegoats, the Bible, and Criminal Justice: Interacting with René Girard.A link to that and to other early Restorative Justice publications may be found on my website here. A significant à propos insight from that paper is a quote from Robert North:
But the primal violence lives on not only in sacral reenactments or myths. Men continue to feel hostilities, and these erupt in violence unanimously shared. This violence gradually becomes disguised in police, prison, judiciary–and eventually war and nuclear armament. The more religion is pushed out of the picture by these rationalized “humane” violences, the more we are left in the dark about the real role played by violence as the foundation-stone of society [and, Redekop argues, of the state’s exercise of sole right to lethal violence: domestic–the criminal justice system–or international–war.]. (North, Robert, “Violence and the Bible: the Girard Connection”, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 47 – 1, 1985.; p. 6; a brilliant discussion of developments in the West that created modern nation-states to claim sole right to exercise (lethal) violence as mentioned may be found in two books reviewed by me, The Myth of Religious Violence and Migrations of the Holy, by historian/ theologian William T. Cavanaugh).
Finally, there is an enormous body of literature interacting with René Girard–with as mentioned application to every conceivable academic discipline . . . By clicking on the name, if not already aware, you will be introduced to an entrancing look at our violent human condition–significantly in part in light of the Gospel. HINT: You will likely never come close to fully exploring all his writings, let alone the gargantuan body of secondary literature!
Apart from Redekop’s book above, a great introduction is The Girard Reader compiled by his friend and biblical scholar, .