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Transcript by Stephanie Guerrero
Jini Palmer: (00:15)
Welcome to Town Hall Seattle Civic series. On Sunday, September 29th, 2019 Washington physicians for social responsibility and the Washington against nuclear weapons coalition presented at People’s Town Hall on Nuclear Weapons. They held a conversation in our great hall to inform the public and elected officials about the damage and dangers of nuclear war, how communities in Washington state have been directly impacted by the nuclear weapons industry and developed concrete recommendations for how we can achieve a safer future free of weapons of mass destruction.
Dr. Amy Hagopian: (00:55) Thank you to Joe who provides leadership to our Nuclear Weapons Task Force in the Physicians for Social Responsibility chapter locally. I’m sure you saw outside that you can join PSR and join our work. You are most welcome to do that. I, too, am thrilled to be here in Town Hall. it kinda has that new car smell still, right? How many people here belong to Town Hall? Yeah. Good for you. I do too. It’s a great venue and a real asset in our city for bringing together people to talk about these important issues. So thank you. Thank you to Senator Cantwell’s person for being here. Regrettably, we have no such person here for Senator Murray and so those of you who are interested in joining, there will be a delegation to her office on Tuesday to deliver some of the testimony that is gathered today. And you’ll hear more about that.
(02:00) I would like to thank Carly Brook, the Nuclear Weapons Task Force staff person at PSR for her vision and leadership in thinking of this event. You will notice that as she has planned the speakers for each of the three panels, she is carefully stitching together the affected communities who are harmed, injured, put in harm’s way by nuclear weapons, all the way from production through testing and deployment. And it’s really important that we have people in this movement who can carry this vision and make the connections between people and between the pieces of the struggle. Thank you to Carly.
(03:01) I’d also like to ask, did people notice the artwork in the lobby as you came in? There are drawings on easels scattered around. And if you didn’t notice them on the way in, I encourage you to look at them on the way out. This exhibit is called Children Remember. It was curated by Yukiyo Kawano, who is a Japanese American artist and the paintings are by high school students illustrating the testimonials of atomic bomb survivors or hibakusha in Hiroshima, Japan. Hibakusha are elderly and dying at this point. The dropping of the bombs, was a long time ago now. So it’s critical to capture their stories. The students are from Hiroshima Motomachi High School, from which Yukiyo graduated in 1993, and the project connects them with their history. Motomachi High School is about a half a mile north of where the bomb was detonated in Hiroshima and, including Yukiyo a third generation hibakusha, many students there are descendants of atomic bomb survivors. Throughout the course of the years, students visited hibakushas to bring the difficult memories into legible two dimensional paintings. You can sort of see that they are listening to stories and drawing what they were hearing. They got to learn the stories. Imagine the pain that stung the bodies and minds for over 70 years. And what Yuki hopes for is to bring the students’ original paintings to the US and invite American audiences to witness how art draws the power of imagination and empathy and students. These artworks have never left Japan before, so we are the inaugural exhibit. So thank you for that. Yuki is not in the audience is she? I know she’s in Portland, so she didn’t make it up here for that. It’s important to draw some connections between, for example, the Hanford site in eastern Washington where the plutonium was extracted that was used to make the bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki and the sites in Japan. So it connects Japan and the United States and Seattle and Hiroshima.
(05:39) Okay, so now let’s bring up our first panel. Our panelists are sitting to my left and I will introduce them. And then they can come up and they’re each going to have a few words of testimony. Our first speaker is Twa-le Abrahamson-Swan, who used to work as the Air Quality Specialist of the Spokane Tribe of Indians. There she is, right there, as her lovely daughter totters up and down the plank. It’s great. She is the Youth Coordinator and a founding member along with her mother Deb, who is wrangling the daughter of a grassroots organization called SHAWL, which stands for Sovereignty, Health, Air, Water, and Land. And they educate communities about how 50 years of uranium mining in the Spokane area has exposed the reservation and its people to toxins and radioactive exposure. She has a BA in Environmental Studies and Restoration Ecology from the University of Washington. So thank you for being here, Twa-le.
(06:59) Tom Carpenter is our next speaker. He’s the founding Executive Director of Hanford Challenge. How many of you belong to Hanford Challenge? [inaudible] A watchdog and advocacy organization based here in Seattle. He’s trained as an attorney and has been organizing and litigating for four decades around Hanford and other nuclear sites around the country. Tom has represented whistleblowers and authored numerous reports on the effects of nuclear production and workforce health and safety, and has established environmental sampling programs at Hanford, Los Alamos and russian nuclear sites. Tom also works with some of my students at the University of Washington and so we’ve had this great collaboration where he offers really great research opportunities to students.
(07:50) Kara Sweidel is next. Kara was busy last week. It was the climate strike. Anybody participate in that? Yeah. Kara is an organizer with 350 Seattle where she co-leads teams on equity and inclusion, solidarity, and another called Pledge of Resistance. 350 builds relationships with frontline communities and this is acknowledging the systems of oppression that threaten these communities. These are the same systems perpetuating climate catastrophe. Pledge of Resistance organizes civil disobedience to stop fossil fuel industry in Pacific Northwest. She has a BA in Philosophy from Texas State University. Thank you each for being here.
(08:44) All right. So let’s start with Twa-le and just move down and you each get to talk three minutes or so. And then we’ll interact a bit before we open it up.
Twa-le Abrahamson Swan: (08:56) Again, thank you for having us this afternoon. My name is Twa-le Abrahamson-Swan, a member of the Spokane Tribe and our organization SHAWL Society was born around the time that Newmont mining who is an international mining giant was attempting to import more waste into our community in trying to say that they needed that income to clean up the site. And so at that time my mom got involved because we live downstream from this mill site. A couple of pictures about our reservation and our community. You can kind of see northwest of Spokane is where our reservation is and we’re home to the Midnite Mine and the Sherwood Mine and the Dawn millsite. The Dawn Mill and the Midnite Mine are owned by the same company, Newmont Mining, and they operate around the world in communities doing the same thing that they did on the Spokane reservation. They came, they took the uranium, and they left when the price of uranium dropped. We had workers that showed up to work and there was no company. They left office buildings full of paper. They left their machinery, they left everything. And so for years and years, the contamination just flowed directly into the Spokane river, which eventually gets to the Columbia river.
(10:29) Along with the contamination from Hanford, the Spokane and Yakama Nations are among the most radioactive toxic regions in the world. Our reservation, the Spokane, we also had impacts from the iodine releases at Hanford and the air quality modeling showed that the plumes followed the rivers upstream. And so at a time in our community when they were doing a lot of gardening, a lot of harvesting, a lot of collecting the plants, we are seeing some of the worst air quality.
(11:04) Right now, here’s an overlook of what was left at the mine. And there was a lot of ore that was just left in piles ready to process. And, again, when the price of uranium dropped, the company left and these piles were just left out in the atmosphere. So acid mine drainage in combination with all of the radionuclides was flowing downstream and also airborne because, again, just open piles. One of the things that the tribe has done, and along with the Yuma Tiles and there’s a handful of tribes around the nation, have done subsistence scenarios. We saw one of the things that while they were coming up with their solution to clean up the mine, they didn’t take into account the lifestyles of the people there and our subsistence lifestyle. Our more connection to the land.
(12:03) And so we really had to take another route and quantify the amount of water we were breathing, the amount of air that we were breathing, that was different from the normal scenarios and when EPA decides on a cleanup. And so some of it’s more stringent because of this because it showed that we ingest more water. It showed that, for instance, in a sweat house that if there is contaminated rocks, contaminated earth, contaminated water, what are we ingesting. And what is the difference between inhaling these chemicals in a steam versus somebody who just may walk by a contaminated pond. And so a lot of times the clean up standards were just meant for people to kind of stay away and for our community that wasn’t an option where we couldn’t stay away because those are gathering areas, those are where animals live.
(13:01) And last, one of the ongoing issues that we will and continue to face is the transportation of this nuclear waste that’s created. That is the byproduct of the water treatment facility at Midnite Mine. And because they broke into the aquifer, our water there on that site is contaminated forever. So in perpetuity they will be treating this water and it will be transported somewhere. Right now it’s being brought to the White Mesa Mill. And that is another community who also has high levels of concerns about their environment and that facility in general. So they’ve reached out to our tribe asking because they weren’t getting information about what was being shipped to them, why is this mill staying open. And, sometimes, they were told it was to process the waste from our facility. So there’s definitely ongoing issues. We see needs in our community that have been unmet. Primarily, we’re here today to hopefully discuss some of the medical needs and the cancers in the community. And we have seen progress on the cleanup. There’s an active, superfund remediation happening, yet, that still continues to impact our community and there have been no additional resources to address the health impacts. And so, for us, as community members, we see little inches of progress in the cleanup of the environment, but our people are still sick and dying.
Tom Carpenter: (14:46) In 1945, just about 200 miles from here in southeastern Washington state, the nuclear age was born when the Hanford Nuclear Site produced the first sizeable quantities of weapons-grade plutonium. That plutonium was put into a nuclear bomb and detonated over Nagasaki, Japan on August 9th, 1945. A uranium bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6. Hundreds of thousands of deaths occurred because of these bombings in Japan. The vast majority of these victims were women, children and the elderly. The nuclear weapons developed in 1945 as part of World War II, as we know, just the beginning. After that, the United States produced even more nuclear weapons and soon other countries followed suit.
(15:45) It is not just the tens of thousands of nuclear warheads themselves which threatened the very existence of humanity, but the production of these weapons also puts our lives and our future at risk. Because of this production, we are burying ourselves in a growing pile of nuclear waste. For every little speck of plutonium that Hanford reactors made, they also produced a whole lot of highly radioactive chemical sludge. Radioactive pollution escaped into the air and the water around the site, seriously injuring at Hanford thousands of workers and thousands of people downwind. And how bad is it? The government has paid out nearly $17 billion in medical and compensation claims to almost 90,000 nuclear workers who were sickened from working at nuclear bomb factories like Hanford nationwide. That number rises every year. Hanford stopped producing plutonium in the late 1980s, but Hanford didn’t stop being a threat to the Pacific Northwest. Today, almost 30 years after the site officially transitioned to clean up, Hanford remains the single most contaminated nuclear facility in the Western Hemisphere. Nearly all of the nuclear waste is still onsite at Hanford. That represents two-thirds of the inventory of high level waste in the nation. There’s now a sea of contaminated groundwater beneath the Hanford site, and it enters the Columbia river and threatens our region into the future.
(17:32) Hanford remains an ongoing threat with vast inventories of radioactive and chemical waste, subject to dispersal through fire, floods, volcanoes, acts of terrors, or simple human error. Our newest concern is the Trump administration’s plan to abandon untreated high level nuclear waste and Hanford’s underground tanks. This is called walking away from the cleanup. And each and every one of us here tonight can do something about this problem. The first is commit to knowing about what our government is doing at the Hanford site. Join and support organizations like Washington PSR, Hanford Challenge and all the other organizations working that are here tonight, transforming these sites into safe and protective cleanups, and protecting us against future nuclear warheads. Vote, volunteer some of your time, donate money. There are representatives and tables here this evening that are ready to help empower you to make a difference in your community.
(18:40) I just also want to say very briefly that workers are on the front lines of the contamination. Have been for a long, long time. They received the brunt of the radioactivity. The farmers in the area, the tribes in the area are also receiving the contamination and the health effects and will far, far into the future. So this is just one of the impacts that we’re going to be suffering from making these warheads. In the past, I’ve thought about what this will look like in a thousand years or 10,000 years or even a million years at the Hanford Site and no one can imagine it. But all that contamination will likely still be there. But we can remove some of the worst of that stuff. But the most important thing is stop the bleeding, stop making new stuff, address the, the damage that we’ve done to humans, the environment, the ecology, and move forward in peace and without these warheads threatening us. Thank you.
Kara Sweidel: (19:53) Hello and Greetings from 350 Seattle. It’s an honor to be here with all of you at the People’s Town Hall on Nuclear Weapons here on the traditional lands of the Duwamish people. I also wanted to take the time to acknowledge that the world’s third largest holdings of all nuclear weapons is the naval base in Poulsbo that is the traditional lands of the Squamish People. And that one of the nation’s largest Superfund sites is in Hanford traditional lands of the Yakama Nation, the Nez Perce and the Umatilla people whose land and water have been defiled by radioactive waste from the production of plutonium for nuclear weapons. And as Twa-le has mentioned, the Spokane Tribe as well, and the way that their homes have been destroyed. And it’s shameful that as a nation, we have not only stolen land and inflicted genocide on the first people of this continent, but that we continue to cause destruction through placing dangerous and toxic infrastructure near their homes.
(20:47) This is the same thing that fossil fuels companies do with fossil fuel infrastructure as something we’re fighting in the climate movement. 350 Seattle has very recently decided that we need to work to join this coalition and be on a steep learning curve for how to bring the climate movement in line with the anti-nuclear weapons movement. One thing that is very clear is that there can be no competition between these causes. There is no way of knowing which is the bigger threat between climate change and nuclear war. They are both things that will end life on this planet as we know it.
(21:27) And also, very importantly, they are both the consequence of a system that puts profit, dominance and exploitation above the human values of stewardship, ecology and communalism. The climate impact of nuclear war would be catastrophic. A war deploying as few as 100 nuclear weapons anywhere in the world would completely destroy the ozone layer reducing agricultural yields to such an extent that famine would wipe out at least 2 billion people on the planet was a study that was done in 2012 in looking at some of the effects that could happen. And there would be extreme food shortages for the other people who would remain and life as we know, it would no longer exist. These impacts would last long enough to completely change everything about the planet. And so we cannot afford this human cost. We need to do everything we can do to stop this from happening.
(22:25) Currently, investment in nuclear weapons is a $126 billion per year and rising. One way that this money could be put to better use, there’s a lot of ways I can think of, but to develop affordable and scalable renewable energies that we could be using instead of focusing our funding on war and nuclear arms. We should really be focusing all our resources on supporting life rather than destroying it. And the climate movement has recently put a lot of time and energy into discussing a Green New Deal. And that’s something that’s getting a lot of traction and it’s a really great idea. Matt Korda, who is a Research Associate for the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, has suggested that we need a similar policy for nuclear disarmament that uses the same four core principles. Those are international cooperation, reductions, transparency and justice. And this is a very good idea for how we can bring these movements in line, especially considering that a lot of climate instability leads to issues of government instability. And our government also perpetuates government instability leading to more war and a greater threat to nuclear war.
(23:45) So it is imperative that at this moment we all decide to actively resist the current paradigms of exploitation in dominance and to create a world free of nuclear threat where all beings can survive and thrive on this planet. My hope is that the climate movement will join with the nuclear disarmament movement in a very strong way to create an unstoppable force for change. And that we propose climate policy that includes not just an end to fossil fuel extraction, but an end to nuclear proliferation as well. So as we say in the streets, ‘the people united will never be defeated’. Thank you.
Dr. Amy Hagopian: (24:24) Alright. So the three of you are the first panel meeting, your sort of the folks representing the interests of people who are in harm’s way because of mining or because of working at the site. And also thinking about effects on the climate. So I was at the climate march. On what day was that? Friday? Gosh, that was just two days ago. No, a week ago. A week ago Friday. Okay. How many of you were there at the climate march? Yeah, a lot of people. Okay, good. And yet we still, despite maybe the words of 350 and the encouraging connections between these two things. Clearly we haven’t sort of bridged that divide between, um, folks who are worried about climate change and folks who are worried about nuclear weapons. So could you speculate a bit on what is the nature of that divide and how we might bridge it? Any of you, but maybe Kara.
KS: (25:32) Oh. Well, I speculate on this a lot because a lot of the work I do with 350 is to bring the climate movement in line with a lot of other issues that are causing injustice throughout the world. And I think it’s just a matter of there’s so many things competing for our attention right now that it’s really hard to focus. And I think that people can see climate change is a more immediate threat in this moment, especially as we’re having these extreme weather events and things are happening that we can look at and say, this really bizarre hurricane situation and more of them happening, that’s really easy to look at.
But people aren’t as aware of the threat of nuclear weapons and it’s not something that gets talked about a lot in the news. We don’t really hear about it. So I think it’s really up to us as organizers to really speak to these things and try to educate people about that.
AH: (26:36) To do that hard work of connecting the dots among our issues. Yeah. So the folks who do uranium mining or did uranium mining, before the mine owners so abruptly got up and left. And the folks who are working at the tank farms and the other hazardous places at Hanford, those are folks who are often invisible to the rest of us. They work often in rural places, in places where their work is just not written about much or seen much. And so they are rendered relatively invisible. So it is good there are advocacy organizations that try to represent their interests. But for example, our senators who are not really here despite their lovely images on cardboard. Have you had any luck getting their attention on the interests of workers and former miners or people living near the mines?
TAS: (27:43) For our community, historically, we saw that we had a lot of women in the workforce that was different from other facilities. And now when it comes to climate change and the workers that are there, so there may be only a handful of workers that started the project and are working on the superfund site. But for our community members, they started the project at only 60% of prevailing wage. So until they reached their 90-day orientation, then they were eligible to get 80% of prevailing wage. So for a couple of years into the project, there was still such a discrepancy in how the workers from our tribe were being treated on the superfund site. And things are gradually getting a little bit better, but you can see how far back we are. How, when nobody’s paying attention and we don’t have outside eyes looking at the conditions of our workforce, there’s a problem. And if anybody else in any other facility was treated like that, there would be action a lot faster. So for years, our workforce has been ignored.
AH: (28:54) And has not been earning minimum wage?
TAS: (28:55) Not even prevailing wage.
AH: (28:58) Wow. Okay. Prevailing wage. Okay. And has either of our senators expressed any interest in this?
TAS: (29:06) Interest but not action?
AH: (29:10) Tom?
TC: (29:10) So at Hanford, both of our senators and, in particular, Representative Adam Smith have been pretty active on health and safety issues on behalf of workers at the Hanford site recently. There was a large controversy building around the failure of the Hanford site to protect workers against inhalation of chemical vapors working around these tank farms and especially toxic materials and making lots of workers sick, some deaths. And Hanford just decided to turn its back on all this. Because of a number of studies that came out, because of advocacy, because of the work of unions, in particular, the Plumbers Pipe Fitters Union, it did bring the attention of these officials in the Senate and Adam Smith to what was happening and they were quite useful in putting pressure on the Department of Energy.
(30:10) It did result in litigation. Our organization Hanford Challenge worked with Bob Ferguson, the Attorney General and a union at the Hanford site, the Pipe Fitters Union Local 598 to bring a legal action to force Hanford, to actually give people respiratory protection when they worked around these dangerous vapors. And during that whole four year action, our representation was very good. And put a lot of pressure resulting, I think, in a good settlement on behalf of these folks. We’ve had some good luck there. Less so on protecting whistleblowers. Adam Smith has been great. But, other than that, pretty much lip service, but he actually tries to put in some legislation here and there that would protect the rights of those workers who come forward with violations of law, threats to public health and safety and all of that. So we pay very close attention to who actually does something and who actually doesn’t do anything but says the right things. Right.
AH: (31:17) There’s a lot of talk. Alright, thank you to this fabulous panel. So here’s a question. Has there been any success in holding Newmont accountable for their negligent conduct? What are the avenues to hold them accountable? Let me ask the second question, maybe we can combine here. In the best case scenario, how long would it take and at what cost would it be required to clean up Hanford? Just a couple small questions so 10 words or less. For both of you on that.
TAS: (31:55) I think there’s been years of litigation on behalf of the Spokane Tribe and EPA against Newmont to get them named as the PRP, the responsible party. So they’re paying for portions of the clean up. We have a long way to go. Nothing in terms of the damage that they’ve done, like a natural resource damage assessment yet, but we’re just focused on getting them back to the table, back to the community to clean up the mess. And so that’s where we’re at.
TC: (32:27) So the depressing news is that Hanford will never be quite cleaned up in the sense that we all imagine but there will be a quite a bit of remediation done. The federal government put out some figures that were quite shocking in February. Up to that point, it was predicted it would cost $115 to $125 billion and take until 2072 to result in cleaning up tank waste from the Hanford site. And doing some of the other things that needed to happen. The tank waste is the worst of what’s there. But in February, the new figures that were announced were $330 billion to $660 billion. And what is the end date of that? We don’t know. But some of that was sticker shock price and I think to [inaudible] Congress into approving not removing waste from these tanks, treating it and burying it at a deep geological repository as the law requires. but to allow the federal government to simply dump cement into these tanks and walk away, which is a lot cheaper. They have $660 billion so they’re waving this price tag over here of 5% of that $660 billion. And there are some members of Congress going, “well, what’s so wrong with concrete?” But we’re going to resist that. Bring litigation. The state of Washington is really opposed to it. So is Oregon. The tribes are in there with us. So we have a good coalition built to change that, but it’s going to take a lot of money and a lot of time. But here’s what I like to say, it costs the United States taxpayer $9 trillion in today’s dollars to create the nuclear warheads system that we have today according to a study by the Brookings Institute. So, you know, half a trillion bucks for clean up ain’t so bad. So, we got to do it if we’re going to protect our communities today and into the future.
AH: (34:43) Alright. Thank you to our first panel. Yay. [audience applause] I noticed one of those questions came from one of my students. Yay. So glad you’re here. Alright. Thank you, panel. Let’s have the next panel come up. This will be Phoenix Johnson. Phoenix is a Seattle born and first people indigenous person to the Pacific Northwest of the Tlingit and Haida Nation. Phoenix is an Air Combat Air Force veteran and has managed a suicide prevention program for the Army National Guard. Phoenix attended Portland State University for pre-med Public Health and Psychology. And they serve as President of the Seattle Veterans for Peace, a really important long-standing organization. And they also serve as King County’s NAACP Veterans and Armed Services Chair. So two big jobs. They work as a consultant on issues of racial equity, militarism and indigenous relations. Thank you for being here.
AH: (35:58) Dr. Tsukasa Namekata is a retired Research Scientist and Director of the Pacific Rim Disease Prevention Center. He serves as the President of the Hiroshima Club here in Seattle and has earned doctoral degrees in Epidemiology and Statistics at both Tokyo and in Illinois and lives in the area with his wife and two daughters. Let’s hear from Phoenix first and then we’re going to hear from Dr. Namekata who has a bit of a video to show us.
And then we have a third speaker who is David Kona Anitok. You don’t see him up here, do you? Because he will be brought to us on video. He is in Hawaii. So let’s see. Do you want to be in Seattle in October or would you rather be in Hawaii? Okay. He was born in the US and raised in the Marshall Islands and considers both places to be his home. He served as a consultant to the Marshall Islands National Nuclear Commission, which prioritizes nuclear justice and legacy for the Marshall Islands national government. He cofounded organizations that advocate for justice for the people of Marshall Islands. So there’s this reciprocal treaty between the Marshall Islands, Palau, Micronesia States, and the US, you’re aware of this? We took advantage of their strategic location in the Pacific to test and stage nuclear weapons. They are paying for it with their bodies and we have a little bit of legal obligation to them as a result. So we’re going to hear from him on a video. If the gods are with us. I’m always sure that the video gods are against us. So, Phoenix, would you tell us a little about your work?
Phoenix Johnson: (37:54) Thank you for the introduction. For those of you who are not familiar with the work of Veterans for Peace, just a brief introduction is that Veterans for Peace emerged out of the Vietnam War coming back and being able to give some very intimate testimony to the heinous things that we were doing abroad. In 1985, the organization was officially established. Now we have over 170 chapters internationally across, across the US, I think in every single state. In Okinawa, Ireland, Nicaragua, we do a lot of work around the deported veterans issues. We have taken our service to the people seriously and feel that we have a responsibility to continue advocating for the people of the US as well as internationally because we understand that our government has set up shop around the world and we like to be very honest that we’ve had quite a great negative impact.
And one of those issues today talking about nuclear weapons and why it’s so important, is I’m hoping to bring another human aspect to the situation that we can talk about the scientific fallout and the impact on communities and our bodies. But we have real people who have families, and people as young as 17 or 18, working in spaces where they’re being affected by nuclear toxicity. And I think it’s really important to pay homage to the atomic veterans who were directly impacted as I guess an experiment. Hundreds, tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands veterans are living today with the health effects of that. Their family members are affected by that. And I think I was personally moved by some of these stories when there were so many veterans I could account for not being told what they were getting into and being right at the epicenter of the blast and covering their faces with their hands. And they could see their bones. They could see all of their veins and not one person was informed about what they were getting into and these bombs that were being dropped in the Pacific Ocean, just one was exponentially more damaging than what happened, the atrocities that we committed, in Hiroshima. And, I think, that’s something that we’re not talking about. I think veterans have a responsibility and have a right to help form the narrative of what it means to be an American hero and to object to that label. And I also think that we have a responsibility to make sure that this is a whole community conversation that I see part of our communities represented here today. But there are many identities, a lot of diversity amongst our race and gender that all have one experience that we can share, which is putting on the same uniform. And my position with Veterans for Peace is hoping to intersectionalize these conversations and making sure that all people are sitting in the chairs with us today to have these conversations.
Dr. Tsukasa Namekata: (41:39) In October 2010, Seattle Hiroshima Club initiated a project to interview and record eight atomic bomb survivors so that they are horrific experiences remembered. Today, I’d like to see a story of the late Mr. Gene Fujita, who looked for his father’s body with his mother in the [inaudible] hypocenter day after A-bomb explosion. Interviewer is Mr. Dale [inaudible], who is the sitting over there. Thank you. Mr. Fujita was born in Centralia, Washington in 1928. He passed away at age 85 in 2013, just three years after we interviewed him. Now let’s watch.
Interviewer: (42:53) Now where were you on August the 6th, 1945 when they dropped the bomb?
Gene Fujita: (43:00) Well I was in a bomb shelter because it was hot that day. We didn’t, didn’t feel like working. We’re only 16, 17, and they were making us carry those heavy bags of, I guess it was rice, to load on these old, uh, horse buggies so they could take it down to the port in Hiroshima. You know, when you’re about that age, you don’t feel like working anyway. So we decided to go into a bomb shelter and eat what little bento that we had.
Interviewer: (43:40) Oh, okay, so there wasn’t any warning to go into the bomb shelter you just decided to go in?
GF: No, no, it was just one B-29 coming over. So it was no big deal.
Interviewer: And uh, how far from a ground zero were you?
GF: I think I was about two miles away from it, so I was in the safe zone.
Interviewer: (44:00) Okay. What do you recall hearing or seeing during the time that the bomb was dropped?
GF: The only thing I can remember [inaudible] the bomb shelter was just a very bright light that came through
Interviewer: Once you guys, when that happened, you guys leave the bomb shelter?
GF: (44:16) Well, chicken me, I told [inaudible] to go out and see what happened. And then he comes out and he says, [inaudible] [inaudible] then they were just kind of burnt a little bit. They were kind of stumped.
Interviewer: (44:36) Uh huh. What did the countryside look like?
GF: Well then, right after that we went out to this riverbank and Hiroshima being a city built on a delta it’s flat and we could see all the way across the city. Before that, we couldn’t see it because there was buildings. And then, we hear all the moaning and groaning and people walking around with their skin hanging clear. So I decided, “Hell, I gotta get outta here.”
Interviewer: (45:08) How about your family? How’d they survive?
GF: My mother was on the street car that day. She was close where I work and she was on the opposite side for the bomb shelter [inaudible] And she was on this side, so she just got knocked off, no damage.
Interviewer: (45:25) And you’re by your father and grandparents?
GF: (45:28) Well, my father, since he was able to drive a motorcycle, he was assigned to be a courier for the, I guess it was for the Japanese army. He was supposed to carry these documents from one office to another and the main office was right in the center of where the bomb fell. So there was nothing left that I could, uh, well, there was no humans. They were all burnt to death.
Interviewer: (46:03) So he was killed?
GF: Well it was 2000 degrees and just—
Interviewer: Never did find his body?
GF: (46:10) No [inaudible] We saw some bones here and there, but didn’t know who’s who.
Interviewer: (46:17) Within the first few days, what had happened after the first couple of days as you go over to the city and look around or?
GF: (46:23) Yeah, I went, my mother and I went to Hiroshima everyday to look for my father and we never did find him. I mean there was, it was quite horrifying to see so many people dead and still moving. You know, half-roasted humans. In the river, there’s humans floating down the river just like when you boil wieners at home floating. The tide comes in and they come up the river and the tide goes out, they drift out. And thousands of them.
Interviewer: (46:58) This is how many days after the bomb?
GF: (47:00) This lasted for about a week after the bomb. They couldn’t scoop all those people out of there while most of them were dead anyway. Their body is swollen. They couldn’t be recognized.
Interviewer: (47:15) So even after the bomb, did the surrounding cities kind of went back to normal living conditions?
GF: (47:20) No, not for the longest time.
Interviewer: (47:22) Is that right?
GF: (47:23) People had the funny idea that it was the dead that would come out of graves. Japanese got a funny psychology about the dead. At nighttime we used to be able to see those, what do you call those little balls of fire, due to your body contamination and it kind of ignites as a ball. We used to see it all over the, the Hiroshima city. Kind of eerie.
Interviewer: (48:02) From dead bodies?
GF: (48:03) Yeah.
Interviewer: (48:05) And what’s your fear about the use of atomic bombs in the future?
GF: (48:10) Well, I sure don’t like it. The way they’re tossing it up and down, it’s kinda scary. It kinda gives me the shakes and I would’ve went through the smallest bomb. I don’t want to go through it again.
Interviewer: (48:32) Anything else you’d like to add to this interview?
GF: (48:35) No, but it’s pretty sad when you see a mother and their child. They used to carry all their kids on the back and the heat is so strong, the child is burned and stuck to the mother’s back and you see, you know, hundreds of those people walking down the street just—
Interviewer: (49:00) So do you have nightmares occasionally?
GF: (49:03) Well, not anymore.
Interviewer: (49:04) Used to?
GF: (49:05) I got over.
Interviewer: (49:06) Yeah.
GF: (49:07) But every time I see a car accident I turn the other way. It just comes back to you real quick.
Interviewer: (49:13) Yeah. Okay. Well thank you very much, Gene.
GF: (49:20) Can I go home now?
[End of video presentation] [applause]
AH: (49:29) Okay. Thank you for that. And you lost your own father in that.
TN: Not the atomic bomb, but different kind of bomb.
AH: Yeah. So we have a David Anitok video next, correct? Okay.
[Start video presentation]
David Anitok: (49:50) Hello everyone. My name is David Anitok. I am from the Marshall Islands. I was born in the States but was raised in the Islands and I do social and economic justice work for our Marshallese and our COFA Islanders, which stands for the Compact of Free Association, that unique treaty that the United States have with the Marshall Islands, the Federated State of Micronesia, and Republic of Palau. So it is an honor to represent and be the voice in this moment. Some background history of the Marshall Islands and the Federated State of Micronesia and Republic of Palau. Before the Compact of Free Association was enacted in 1986, the two countries in 1992 for the Republic of Palau, they were assigned by the United Nation to the United States as the trust territories of the Pacific islands. We were all in one throughout all Micronesia region, meaning from the Marshall Islands all the way up to Saipan and Guam.This was right after World War II and right around then the Department of Energy, I believe, started through the military, the United States military, conducting some nuclear test specifically in the Marshall Islands on Eniwetok Atoll and Bikini Atoll. These were the two atolls out of that 33 that are inhabited in the Islands and they tested 67 nuclear weapons from the air, on the ground and from beneath the water or the ground. 67 total of nuclear weapons. All of which had been identified that their total yield is equal to Hiroshima, Nagasaki bombs, each day for 12 years is the sort of the total impact, the total yield of these 67 nuclear weapons that were tested in the Marshall Islands. And the Islands nowadays, through the work with the COFA communities, the Marshall Island organizations or communities here and organizations like [inaudible] PSR, connecting with the health authorities back home and the Marshall Islands, that is. We’re learning that the direct impact from these testings including folks migrating out to outside the Marshall Islands because of high rates of cancer, leukemia, thyroids, cervical and breast cancers and many more, and not having sufficient care, meaning we don’t even have an oncologist back in the Marshall Islands. Our healthcare system is very basic to just minimal care. You know, if you have pain, you come in, we’ll give you antibiotics and you know you pay $5, and that’s all you pay and that’s it. But there was really a need for improvement in that healthcare system, which after all these years since the testings in mid-’40s to mid-’50s, up to this point, we think they should be more and better care in place in the Marshall Islands specifically. But there is none. And, yeah, a lot of folks have migrated out from the Marshall Islands and the nearby islands too. Heard stories, not just the Marshall Islands, but the Federated State of Micronesia, people have also high cancer rates. Diabetes. So another big issue, after the testings, a lot of food that we’ve relied on for decades have changed to just canned meat and rice mostly. And our fish and our land not as healthy because of some of these testings. Because of these testings. And we feel we need to raise our voice, share our stories. We don’t have any other communities or any other people having these similar effects and impact to these nuclear testings. Yes, I would’ve loved to be here with you all. Uh, no doubt, especially with our brothers and sisters that have been directly impacted from nuclear tests or nuclear plantations or process. I hear there’s families and friends from our native communities and, you know, we share similar stories. Similarly with our atomic veterans. Those that are US citizens that came to the Marshall Islands and did some cleanups of the nuclear radiations on the Islands, and are also fighting for the same healthcare needs.
(55:24) And, in their own words, don’t even want to experience something like that ever again because of what they’ve been through. I’m away because one of my wife’s closest uncle, his name is Tabin Gideon. He was born in Ujelang during the time they were doing the testings in the Marshall Islands. And then moved back to Eniwetok in 1980 when they brought them back. After so many years of being over from the homeland and, grew up in Eniwetok. And as he grew up, one of his first job was actually to help the military men from the United States cleaning the radiations off of his own Island. And so he worked with the military men out in the northern part of islands in Eniwetok. Did some of the cleaning up as a contractor and about close to the early ’80s all the military men left, but they stayed behind all the Eniwetok families and people stayed behind on Eniwetok. And then about, in the late ’90s, he decided for himself that he would move his family away from Enewetak. He was experiencing the health issues. He had kidney problems and also cancer in his lung. And so he moved away from Eniwetok straight to Hawaii, Big Island, where I’m at today, so that he can seek healthcare. And then also one of his dream was that his kids and his grandkids would find better education for themselves to make better decisions for themselves in the future in terms of these related impact from what he had experienced. So he passed away at age 65 with this cancer and kidney problems. He was in dialysis for about a year. Finally, he’s rest in peace now. And we get to go have his memorial and funeral service on Saturday the 27th, and that’s why I’m not here with you today. But I believe that you would have loved to share this story with you so that you can continue to hopefully share his story to others that we don’t have similar problems and issues related to what we’re all working towards, nuclear justice. Thank you. Thank you for being here. Thank you for sharing and caring.
[End of video presentation]
AH: (58:10) Well, clearly one of the things that atomic veterans and the people of Japan then, and the Marshall Islands have in common is these are not people at the top of the power pyramid. The people who command a lot of resources and get to make a lot of decisions and they get to be in harm’s way. So it is an interesting sort of alliance among these populations, yes? The two questions I received were, what is your assessment of the current anti-nuclear movement and its effectiveness? And the other one is related which is about Greta Thunberg. People clearly heard her voice in the last week in relation to the climate strike. And her voice resonated around the world, as a young voice, worried about the future and getting a lot of attention. So do you have some sense of how we might elevate the voices of the people who are in harm’s way, who get to be the testing victims, the veterans who get to carry out these policies that they don’t get a voice in making? How can we elevate these voices?
TN: (59:37) Me? [inaudible]
PJ: (59:45) I was taught to respect my elders, so I wanted to make sure to give you the floor first. Thank you. I think it’s a really big question as far as how we can elevate the most impacted voices. And I think this is one step to that. I think making sure, like I said earlier, that these seats are filled with impacted communities and that we are, giving that platform to those who have been silenced. My assessment on the anti-nuclear movement so far is, I know I sound repetitive, but I like to promote being as intersectional as possible and I think that anything is possible. I think that it’s time for us to step up our organizing to get very serious about policy, to put a little bit more pressure on our legislators, on anybody in leadership, and make sure that leadership reflects the body. It’s difficult to change the narrative when we have the same faces, making the same choices for years on end.
TN: (01:01:01) As you see the Mr. Fujita interview video, it’s Japan after two atomic bombs dropped. Just every day the Hiroshima Club having the memorial service at the Seattle [inaudible] Buddhist temple to remind the people this is the tremendous difficulty that people face in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So I think our organization try to continue to spread the word and just hopefully we can achieve the peace in the world.
AH: (01:01:57) Thank you. Alright. Thank you to this panel.
PJ: There is a second question about Greta.
AH: Yeah. I thought they were a little bit connected but did you have a thought about that?
PJ: I do have a little bit more I’d like to speak on about that. I think that when we’re talking about supporting marginalized voices, it’s making sure that we’re making this a multi-generational movement that we’re helping to empower even our children. And I think Greta is a great example of that. But I’d also like to challenge the narrative a little bit on why and how Greta has become sensationalized so quickly and to make sure that we’re also understanding that there are a lot of leaders in children of color who have come before Greta that doesn’t speak against Greta, but we need to speak to the fact that there are young children of color who have been speaking but those voices have been silenced and all the more reason why we as veterans can use, as for me as a marginalized person who holds many marginalized identities, the veteran identity is the one thing that I can use sometimes. And in order for us to enact change, it’s for those of us who have some type of space, platform, or title or privilege to make sure that we’re utilizing that in the best way possible. And taking upon the responsibility upon ourselves to make sure that we’re making that space. But then we’re also saying the things that are really important and then taking a step further to make that change possible and happen.
AH: (01:03:49) Thank you. Okay. Let’s call our third panel up here. We have, and thank you again to the two of you and to David Anitok. Our next panel is John Repp and Dave Hall and Jeanelle Sales. So I will introduce them as they’re walking up. John Repp grew up in a small town in Indiana. He came to Seattle in 1969 to go to the University of Washington and was active in the movement against the American war in Vietnam. And after that he learned the machinist trade and worked at Boeing for 20 years and remains active with the West Seattle Neighbors for Peace and Justice. Next to him is Jeanelle Sales, who is a senior at the University of Washington pursuing her BA in Political Science and International Security while minoring in Law, Societies and Justice. I also saw her doing her Urdu homework today. She is a leader in the UW chapter of Beyond the Bomb. She grew up in, went to school in Hawaii where they worry about nuclear weapons and tsunamis and hurricanes and the recent false missile threat reinforced her interest in this work.
(01:05:12) And Dr. Dave Hall is a psychiatrist who works with children and adolescents. He’s been a member of Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility since the early 1980s and has served on both national and local boards of that organization. He was National President in 1997. He and his wife are affiliated with Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, which maintains a standing protest against the Trident nuclear weapon system, which is just 20 miles from here on the Hood Canal. So welcome to all of you. You’re our totally live panel so you get to talk first. Why don’t we start with Jeanelle and work this way and then keep thinking of your questions.
Jeanelle Sales: (01:06:02) Hello. Thank you for taking the opportunity today to come to this town hall. My name is Jeanelle Sales and I’m the Member Relations Officer for Beyond the Bomb, UW Chapter. Our student organization is a branch of a much larger national campaign. The mission is to prevent nuclear war through building power at the local, state and national levels. On my campus, most students walk past our posters that call for action without a second thought. We were born into a society that normalizes fear, whether it be mass shootings or the thread of immediate total nuclear destruction. Why is the argument, more weapons to keep us safe while they cause an increase in danger? We need more young people to care about what our government officials are choosing to do with taxpayer money. The quality of our future at stake, healthcare, retirement, and dealing with tuition debt. There are so many other things to worry about as you’ve heard on this panel today so far and it’s understandable why people today might not be visibly concerned with the immediacy of nuclear weapons issues. What impact can I alone have, is a question that both discourages yet excites young people. Just being aware of the issues, connecting nuclear catastrophe to climate change, power imbalances, and health disparities will make a more engaged constituency. We are the newly empowered voters that the leaders in office want to win on their side. We need our voice and our opinions to be loud and clear regarding what kind of future we demand. For me, I refuse to have a government prioritize extremely expensive weapons of mass destruction just to show off to our competitors while we still are internally unstable as a society. Deep debt from loans for school and medical expenses, unemployment and homelessness, discrimination still prevalent towards marginalized communities and communities expected to go underwater. How can we keep saying that we are role models to the world when our leaders splurge on unnecessary destructive toys, while the majority of our people are still struggling here at home. A handful of students stop to talk to us about what kinds of petitions we’re working on, sometimes, and many care about nuclear weapons issues. What we lack today is the belief that we can tackle such a huge complex one. “Maybe later,” “next time” are also answers we get from young people at school. But for me, I ask, if not now, then when? And if not you, then who? Thank you.
John Repp: (01:09:24) Okay. Thank you for being here. As you know, Boeing is a key part of the US military industrial complex and they make and maintain the nuclear weapon delivery systems and guidance systems. Boeing will maintain the Minuteman III nuclear weapon carrying Intercontinental missiles until 2030 they have a contract to do that. Boeing also produces the guided tail kit for the new nuclear gravity bomb and Boeing makes the key components for the United States and the UK Trident II nuclear weapons. I might add that it was a B-29 that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and B-52 carry all the bombs. So I want to talk about the fact that when I worked at Boeing in the late ’70s, it was after the 1973 energy crisis. I think most many people know about that, but there were shortages of oil and long lines at the gas stations. Boeing won a contract from the federal government to design and build and test large windmills at that time. I worked at Boeing then and I watched the fabrication of a large windmill in the building next to me in the machine shop in Seattle.
(01:10:59) Ironically, it was the same building that where thousands of B-17 bombers were built during World War II. About the same time, we heard that Boeing engineers developed and the company patented a much more efficient solar cell that generated electricity from infrared as well as visible light. After the energy crisis was over, Boeing sold that patent and they got out of the wind tunnel business in the late 1980s. I think the example of the energy crisis of the ’70s shows that if Congress decides to fund a Green New Deal and commits to the transition to wind and solar on the scale needed, we could convert much of the military industrial complex into the green industrial complex. So it’s up to Congress. Boeing will work on whatever it can make a profit on. If history is any guide, a massive movement of nonviolent direct action will be needed to push Congress to do the right thing. Thank you.
(01:12:18) [Audience Applause]
AH: (01:12:25) Just a small connection between Boeing and its interests and the presence and lack thereof of our senators here today. Alright, Dave Hall.
Dave Hall: (01:12:37) Again, thank you for being here. John reminds me that I got involved in peace work as a Goldwater Republican coming as a freshman in college and I was asked by, I think, it was SDS who was the personal hero of Nguyễn Cao Kỳ who was the then Vice President of South Vietnam. Anyone know the answer? Adolf Hitler. And that was the linchpin that brought me sort of awakening. A bit later at the end of college, I faced the Vietnam draft and I had to sort of piece together my family history. My grandfather, who I knew lived to be 97, I knew him as an old man, he was sort of a John Bircher at that point, but he was the founder of the student health center, at the University of Washington and took from the West Coast, the first ambulance corps to the First World War in 1914. So he fought throughout the First World War. My father was a surgeon who just, well, he ended up getting in trouble, got court martial. So he had to spend 30 continuous months as a commander of a landing hospital that was the first American medical response to the American troops going back toward Imperial Japan in World War II. I was born nine months after he got home. My sister who was born three years ahead of me, didn’t recognize this stranger who was her father. So that’s the background. When I was an intern in Psychiatry, a friend presented the Grand Rounds, a documentary on the aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing. The sorts of things that Dr. Namekata was showing you about in the interview up here. When I finished my child psychiatry training, got involved with Physicians for Social Responsibility on the board here locally in the early ’80s and I’ve been involved ever since working on these issues. In 1985, we got together with a group of folks that had been arrested at NBK Bangor at the Bangor submarine base out on Hood Canal for trying to block the white trains going there. And got involved after the atomic weapons were already delivered to the base, but they were still developing or delivering missile motors to the base on the trains. And we got involved in the tracks campaign where friends figured out where the trains were coming from Pantex in Texas. And there was a whole campaign of resistance where those trains eventually were so impeded by public protest, by people actually sitting on the tracks, that they stopped bringing those things by train and they begin bringing them on the roads in trucks. but my seat got a bit of creosote on it when sitting on the tracks and was arrested for that out at Bangor. I put a note in my class notes and it ended up being picked up by the Boston Globe that somebody was sitting on the tracks in front of a train out here in front of the nuclear weapons at the ground zero. Ground Zero is a center of protest where some, foresightful folks bought property in 1977, immediately adjacent to the Bangor base. And so we now have a 4 acre place there, where we’ve been maintaining a standing protest against the nuclear weapons here in our backyard since 1977. Three times a year in Hiroshima, Nagasaki weekend coming up on Martin Luther King weekend and then Mother’s Day weekend.
(01:16:44) More recently, the Martin Luther King weekend, we’ve been joining the marches here in Seattle with the Martin Luther King day events. It’s an organization of small folks who are spiritually committed to nonviolence, personal nonviolence, and trying to live nonviolence through recognizing, obviously, the nuclear weapons are an abomination. Just a little bit of background US history, I think we need to put this all in perspective, 25 of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787 were slave owners. And that legacy, three-fifths of a person in the US Constitution, that legacy of slavery is it lives with us today. And it is what underpins the difference between where the decision-makers are and where the rest of us are. Basically all the way from the beginning of this country, rules have been made to protect property. The first millionaires in the . were all slave owner southerners with the cotton plantations. With the development of the cotton gin and the industrial revolution, the use of fossil fuels became much more important in terms of the economy. By the time we hit World War II, fossil fuels were what drove us, for example, to fight Japan and others. We needed those fuels in order to fight those wars. And out of that comes the climate catastrophe that we’re facing as well. So I want to make sure that we understand that there is a confluence with income inequity, the ways in which wealth has protected itself from the rest of us, and then used military force to maintain that difference and the use of that military force is contaminating the atmosphere. We are all in this together. These issues all belong together. We all need to be active together. We need to go after the folks that are making these decisions. Those are the folks right now in Congress for the United States. So we need to be active. We need to get more people to vote because it’s going to be the large numbers of people that’s going to be able to counter the power of money to buy our votes. So thank you for being here. [audience applause]
AH: (01:19:16) That was actually a great summation, I think, of the remarks we’ve heard today. One of the questions here was a question two, which that was just the answer, which was, if military competition based on capitalist economic competition is the root of nuclear weapons, shouldn’t all of us also be organizing against capitalism? And I think most of us are probably. Let’s see, I have a couple more questions. I have been told, however, that if we finish in a timely manner this third panel, we can get two songs out of Jim page rather than just one, which is kind of an incentive to wrap up, right? So maybe this question, what specific initiatives or acts of courageous leadership could our two senators take on this issue? And maybe just eight words. What could they do?
(01:20:23) Okay. Here’s a hint for Jeanelle. There’s an interesting symmetry between the amount of money that Congress and the president and it was President Obama’s idea to rebuild our nuclear arsenal. The amount of money that costs is remarkably similar to the cost of our student debt nationally.
JS: (01:20:48) Just in general, I believe that they should be our voices for what the people actually want. There’s studies that show that the majority of the public supports these issues about no first use. We shouldn’t use a nuclear weapon first. A basic idea. So being proponents of simple things like that would definitely help get our message across.
AH: (01:21:11) Commitment to no first use. John, quick sentence
JR: (01:21:17) I’d like to see the United States take the initiative and bring together the nuclear nations and get rid of these things. We don’t need them to defend ourselves.
AH: (01:21:27) Dave?
DH: (01:21:33) We have 10 times the investment in our military, nuclear weapons as all the other nations combined. We need to put that in a different place and our senators are the people that can make that happen.
AH: (01:21:44) Fantastic. Thank you so much. That was our third panel. Thank you very much. [audience applause] So let’s hear from Jim Page. Where are you, Jim Page? Are you getting your guitar somewhere? There he is. So Jim is a folk singer, songwriter, social activist, born in California in 1949. He grew up in San Francisco in the 1960s heyday. The political and social and awareness of those times has lived in Jim’s songs ever since. And today he’s going to be performing the first song he ever wrote when he was 18, the “Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Russian Roulette”. And then there’s a second song that you’ll let us know about. Okay.
Jim Page: (01:22:37) That was not the first song I ever wrote.
AH: (01:22:40) Well then your biography lied.
JP: (01:22:44) That’s highly possible. No, I wrote this in ’74, when Dixie Lee Ray was [inaudible] Oops, hold on. Now. There. Technology.
JP (01:23:34) They dropped the bomb in ’45 to end the world war, no-one had ever seen such a terrible sight before, and the world are watched with eyes wide to see where it would lead, as the politics of power they passed around to see, There was a time to remember that we never can get through a play. And Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Russian Roulette.
(01:23:59) and they arose like the saviors of our modern human race, with radiation haloes that hung about their face, with the key to the sure-cure and treatment of our ills. Hot-shot of cobalt, a pocket-full of pills, speaking always of the enemy who lurked across the seas, while moving in among us like a carrier disease.
(01:24:31) Down deep inside the bunkers of the concrete and lead, Einstein’s disciples working steadily ahead, building heavy metal power plants to fire the city lights, and all you hear is the underground humming through the night, and the walls of tight security circle all around, or they spit out all the poison and they bury it in the ground, holed up in the harbours hidden secretly away, War-heads and submarines await to make their play, the military masterminds improve on their designs, while the soldiers get all doped up and stumble through the lines, while the leaks in the water get carried by the tide, they call it national security, I call it attempted homicide.
(01:25:43) Governors and statesman on congressional pay, quick to please the hand that feeds careful what they say, they call out experts to assure us, and to wave their magic wands, this is the power of the future they say, and the future marches on, and then they gather up their favours and political gains, while the spills fill the rivers and settle in the plain.
(01:26:21) I know the minds behind them, they are riddled full of holes, they are not to be trusted with their hands at the controls, their eyesight it is twisted with the glory of their careers, the heaped praise and flattery is music to their ears and to listen to them talk about how it hasn’t happened, Yet’s like playing Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Russian Roulette. Those who brought the deaths of millions for it was, they’re stock and trade, are affected with the fallout that they themselves have made. They have sealed their own inevitable doom, and it was sure to come, and not even the moons of Jupiter will be far enough away to run, when the world that they’ve assaulted begins to turn around, and the unavoidable gravity pulls them to the ground. Oh to listen to them talk about how hasn’t happened, Yet’s like playing Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Russian Roulette.
[End of song performance] [applause]
JP: (01:27:51) Okay, you’ve all heard all the bad and that was a dark, bad song. So this is a song that kind of sounds like it might be a dark, bad song, but it’s got a fist at the end of it, which is what we need, right?
(01:28:21) Well, there are no words enough to say, how a world like this could die away, how reason falls on deaf ears, the truth dissolves and disappears, and the clock starts counting, down to zero. Oh they warned us years ago, people laughed it off said, “what do they know?”, and we went our separate ways to find, a future facing the end of the line, and the clocks are counting down to zero. Now the weather stumbles forests burn, past the point of no return, corporation money thrives, while the refugees look for a place to survive, and the clocks are counting down to zero.
(01:29:31) History walks the plank, it’s eyes are flat its face is blank, the melting ice, the rising sea, a redder sun than you used to be, and the clocks are counting down to zero. Now I know people who live in trees, who chain themselves to machineries, who face a risk, their very life and limb, to face the dangers coming in, because the clocks are counting down to zero. Thunder clap the black snake, in times like these, you do whatever it takes, wherever a line is drawn, for the people and the land that they live on, because the clocks are counting down to zero.
(01:30:41) I fear for children I see, and I don’t blame them when they look at me, as if to say, “how could you, we were depending on you”, and the clocks are counting down to zero. I woke up in a sweat last night, whatever it was didn’t suit me right, but I took a look around to see, millions more just like me and the clocks are counting down to zero. Resistance goes from hand to hand for the air, the water, the people, the land, tomorrow is born from the seeds of today, and we are going that way, because the clocks are counting down to zero.
[guitar music] [End of song performance] [applause]
AH: (01:32:10) Thank you, Jim. That was lovely. Thank you so much. So we’re going to close out today with my friend Dr. Bruce Amundson, who’s been a family medicine doctor his whole career. And it’s been a remarkable career which included being my boss for a brief moment in the 1980s. Tough, tough job. He’s run a rural practice. He’s taught in a residency program in Spokane. He’s taught at the UW School of Medicine. He’s organized the Rural Hospital Project back in the day in the Pacific Northwest. And he sponsored a rural health development company that worked with communities to help them strengthen their health systems. He’s been a leader in PSR for more than 40 years, including serving on the national board and the local president. As a founding member of the Spokane PSR, he was party to the Freedom of Information Act request that forced the Department of Energy to release documents that first revealed the massive contamination from the Hanford nuclear reservation. He worked with Russian physicians in the 1990s to form the Hanford-Chelyabinsk Movement to support their heroic efforts to leverage the government of the USSR to disclose the massive contamination from their complex at Mayak. And he was also one of the four principal investigators on the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Hanford Thyroid Disease Study. So, a remarkable career. And he has provided amazing leadership in our local PSR and on our Nuclear Task Force. Thank you, Bruce.
Dr. Bruce Amundson: (01:34:01) By way of backgrounds, just to review how we got here. This was conceived as an event to create an opportunity for education and dialogue between the community that is represented here today, the various parties that have had stake in this game now and in the future between them and our elected officials. So we can learn together and think about what that will mean in terms of initiatives and work that has to be done in the future. And we extended a formal invitation to both Senator Murray and Senator Cantwell, to join us and they did not. We appreciate Louise attending on behalf of Senator Cantwell, for sure, but these creative silhouettes over here don’t quite do justice or what might’ve happened if the senators had joined us. And we can learn together and work and look together at what we needed to do to be sure that the monster of the nuclear age doesn’t eventually consume us or do more damage.
(01:35:11) So before I end this with our sort of call to action, I do want to extend special thanks. Something like this has never occurred before, probably anywhere. Certainly not in Washington. And I want to thank personally, easily individuals representing the organizations that have joined to share their history, their thoughts, their information, the work that went into that, they worked on each of them coming to participate with us. And then finally, the energizing and organizing force behind this Carly Brook, who has spent an immense amount of time. I think you can get some sense of what it took to pull all of this together with the disparate parties and people in representation. So, Carly, where are you? Getting ready for the next phase? [audience applause] Carly, take a bow. Come out of here. Thank you for the incredible work you put in to make this happen.
Carly Brook: (01:36:25) Thank you.
BA: (01:36:29) Carly is a treasured colleague of mine at WPSR and I work on a Nuclear Weapons Task Force and has joined us a relatively short time ago and you can see what she’s contributed already. So Carly, thank you.
(01:36:43) We really witnessed today sort of a graduate school level experience on the history of the nuclear age and both its past risks, past hazards, and its risks in the future, even without them actually been used in the US. Over the 60 years, the 60 years that we’ve lived precariously where the world’s nuclear arsenals on hair-trigger alert and poised to launch, we have to admit that we’ve been just damned lucky. General Lee Butler, former Commander in Chief of the US Strategic Command for Nuclear Forces has stated, “we’ve survived far more through sheer luck and divine intervention for anything from our nuclear policies or from so-called deterrents.” And this is why we turn to our leaders, notably our members of Congress. The mindsets and the belief systems that brought this into existence and have sustained the Cold War policies that continue to threaten globe must be challenged and refuted. The cold light of scrutiny has been shuttered in the name of nuclear security. Holding the world captive to what Butler has called, “the nuclear priesthood.” I think a term it is brilliant in its sculpt. The political leaders, the military establishment, and the defense industries continue to make us prisoners with this frozen thinking and intolerable damage.
(01:38:27) Each of us recognizes that the work of a Senator is extremely complex. The number of issues demanding their attention has to be sobering, but there are only two issues that threaten most or all of humanity, a warming planet and nuclear war. As constituents, we have a right to expect that whatever other issues our Senators deal with, that every member of Congress must speak out, act, get engaged, and efforts to confront these two horsemen of the apocalypse.
(01:39:03) They must because the threats far transcend any other issue. Today we’re focusing on the nuclear threat. Both Senators Cantwell and Murray have demonstrated really enlightened leadership on many issues of import to our Washington residents, but neither can be considered a leader, a spokesperson on nuclear arsenals and policies that fundamentally address the Cold War stranglehold. We would argue that it does not take an expert on national security to speak out in support-assessed positions as severe reductions in the size of our nuclear arsenals as Representative Adam Smith is arguing. Or on the irrationality of replacing our entire nuclear triad or missile subs and bombers as Obama recommended when most of the rest of the world is actually moving to eliminate them. Or declare that the US under no circumstances could be the first to use nuclear weapons or to refuse to sit in acquiescence as the Pentagon pitches more spending on a new breed of so-called low-yield nuclear weapons.
(01:40:19) We have a realistic expectation that our senators should join with the other senators who proactively speak out or take public positions, strongly argued and disseminated to the press on nuclear policy. As we expect that each will create an opportunity to speak up. A recent example, the National Defense Authorization Act for 2020 went to the conference committee this week. That’s the major piece of legislation that defines our military program. Salvaging three provisions in the House version was deemed important. Ban deployment of the new low-yield Trident warhead, deny funding for certain intermediate range missiles that are illegal under our collapsed INF Treaty, and urge this administration to extend the New START Treaty. So Senator Warren initiated a letter to the Senate leadership in this community, in these discussions on these provisions and was joined by 17 of her colleagues.
(01:41:25) In fact, I believe all of the current senate candidates for president signed onto that Dear Colleague Letter to the Senate leadership. Notably, Senator Murray signed on. Senator Cantwell did not. We think this is an example of a missed opportunity for leadership. Of an easy call for a Democrat on nuclear arsenals and policies of extreme relevance for our times. Each of those amendments confronting a Cold War policy remnant. This is an example, an all too frequent example, of what we as constituency see as a failure to perceive the need and opportunity to exert leadership on one of the true threats to humanity.
(01:42:12) For those of us in the room will live through the period of the Cold War. When week to week, we were confronted with the real possibility that we will be incinerated. You’ll recall that our greatest concern was that the control of these nuclear arsenals would fall into the hands of a leader who was a psychopath, who was emotionally unstable or mentally deranged. Now as the three main nuclear powers enter into a new irrational, indefensible nuclear arms race and two unpredictable nuclear armed nations Indian and Pakistan face off in Kashmir, the US nuclear arsenal is under the control of a person who clearly reflects those concerns in the 1970s. We, our nation’s leaders, and the nuclear nations of the world are playing with armageddon. Treating the endless hair-trigger standoff with weapons that can destroy life on the planet as if this situation can exist indefinitely without a high probability of catastrophe.
(01:43:15) It cannot. Let me quote General Butler again because who can speak more credibly than a former general who was a member of the nuclear priesthood leading our nuclear forces until he painfully confronted the following of his own past convictions. Quote, “We cannot add once, keep sacred the miracle of our existence and hold sacrosanct the capacity to destroy it. We cannot hold hostage to gridlock, the keys to final deliverance from the nuclear nightmare. We cannot withhold the resources essential to break the grip to reduce the dangers. We cannot sit in silent acquiescence as the faded homilies of the nuclear priesthood. It is time to reassert the primacy of individual conscience, the voice of reason, and the rightful interest of humanity.” End of quote. This is what we declare we need in these times of increasing nuclear peril from Senators Murray and Cantwell. A strong voice of reason and courage.
(01:44:26) This is the kind of leadership we must expect in addressing this threat to humanity. These positions do not pose political risks to our senators. There’s only renewed recognition that a failure to step up, to lead, to speak is to cave to the forces of a priesthood that is both indefensible, immoral, and that must be confronted. And this is what we ask today. And the position we will present to them next week. We trust they will perceive the forcefulness of our arguments and the reasonableness of our requests and we look forward to working with them as they exert this new leadership and we will publicly acknowledge them for doing so. Thank you.
(01:45:16) Thank you. So what’s next? On Tuesday, we will gather at the Federal Building from 11 to 1 for a press conference and a rally. Following which we will go to the two senators’ offices with an extensive letter that summarizes content from each of the presenters here today and a lists of our asks, our requests, and our demands hand-delivered to their offices. We ask you to join us. The larger the group, the more the public presence. Obviously, the more impact we have. And in those requests there will be both specific action items together with a strident request for each senator to exert the new sustained leadership that we need. Business as usual for our members of Congress is not moving us away from our Cold War shackles. We’re asking both Senator Murray and Senator Cantwell to be more visible, more assertive, and more strident in engaging these issues. Hope to see you all Tuesday. Thank you for coming.
Jini Palmer: (01:46:30) Thank you for listening to our Town Hall Seattle’s Civic series. I’m Jini Palmer. Our theme music comes from the Seattle artist David Bazan and Seattle’s own Barsuk Records. A special thanks to our audio engineer, Dave Campbell. Check out our new season of Town Hall, Seattle’s original podcast, In The Moment. Each episode, a local Seattle correspondent interview, someone coming to town hall. They get you excited about upcoming events by giving you a behind the scenes look into a presenter’s content, personality, and interests. If you like our Civic series, listen to our Arts and Culture and Science series as well. For more information, check out our calendar of events or to support Town Hall. Go to our website at townhallseattle.org