Above photo: Kings Bay Plowshares 7.
A Noble History of Challenging Nuclear Weapons.
On Friday, February 7th, the Golden Rule peace boat gently sailed over sacred whale breeding grounds, with an ever respectful sense of protection to our beautiful fellow creatures, then bravely showed its sails entering St. Mary’s River of the historic town of St. Mary’s which joins the beautiful, yet ominous entrance of the East River. Along the East River exists the most deadly concentration of Ohio Class nuclear weapon laden submarines on the East Coast, if not the world, the Naval Submarine Base of Kings Bay.
This base remains the most extensive single construction project ever undertaken by the U.S. Navy. It contains the largest indoor dry dock in the world, and as a result, it services not only our own fleet but the Tridents of the United Kingdom. It is one of the most unknown and hidden sites of what Mahatma Gandhi called “the most diabolical use of science.” Which is why the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 chose this site for their personal sacrifice (my term, not theirs) for the whole.
Since there is no official auditing that has been transparent or completed by or of our Pentagon, it is unknown how low the Navy’s projected $ 15 billion cost for building just one of the new Columbia Class subs. Twelve new Columbia Class submarines were ordered in 2016 to replace all the current Trident submarines, one by one, each year, with the first to be completed in 2030!
The Golden Rule anti-nuclear sailboat, a national project of Veterans For Peace, will also be sailing in the months ahead to facilities that are building these future subs slated for Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay – General Dynamics Electric Boat facility in Quonset Point Rhode Island, and assembled at Groton, Connecticut, with Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding subcontracting, to name a few of the main players. The missiles and warheads are manufactured by other larger corporations we know too well – Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, etc.
During the Golden Rule’s stay in St. Mary’s and Brunswick, all the industries benefitting from these orders to “modernize our nuclear Triad” are gathering together in DC at the Annual Nuclear Deterrent Summit. Well over a hundred corporations, public officials and universities meet to ensure and guarantee their own piece of the nuclear devastation pie.
On April 4, 2018, seven Catholic Worker activists, in solidarity with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s prophetic call, and on the anniversary of his assassination, surreptitiously entered into the submarine base’s “kill zone” in prayer, wishing to awaken U.S. citizens to their current course toward omnicide.
The “Kings Bay Plowshares 7” were arrested in the dark hours of the morning, praying together, after spray painting “Love One Another” on the walkway, affixing crime tape to the entrance of buildings, reading out loud their statement of intent, leaving a carefully placed copy of Daniel Ellsberg’s new book The Doomsday Machine, holding up a banner of Martin Luther King, Jr. They symbolically spread their own blood from pre-filled viles to remind those of the unimaginable loss of life if one of these weapons were to ever detonate anywhere, by accident (read Command and Control by Eric Schlosser), by mechanical failure, cyber-attack or by the design of a mad person/leader/government.
It took over an hour for the nation’s highest level of security at our Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay to realize the seven had entered. Once discovered, the seven were fully cooperative with the arrest, displaying compassion to those working at the base and those arresting them. Imagine that in this installation with a Marine Battalion Security Force, if happened to be terrorists and not followers of Pope Francis, who has condemned the possession and threat of use of these devices, built and maintained with trillions of our precious taxpayer dollars.
There are eight Ohio Class Trident submarines based at Kings Bay. Other nuclear submarines come in for refurbishment and repair, and the United Kingdom’s Trident Vanguard fleet are also serviced in this Naval Base. The submarine base is home to three major U.S. Navy commands – Trident Training Facility, Trident Refit Facility, The Strategic Weapons Facility Atlantic, and a Marine Corps Security Force Battalion.
Each Ohio Class Trident submarine carries 24 missiles and each of these missiles carries up to 12 thermonuclear warheads (currently limited to 8 warheads each by treaty). Each of these warheads holds the destructive capacity of 100 kilotons (W76), or 455 kilotons (W88). Hiroshima’s incomprehensible, utter devastation was approximately 13 kilotons.
Many of the residents of the beautiful St. Mary’s/ Brunswick area are oblivious to what great danger infuses their otherwise tranquil environment, and how in a moment, they and all they know would vanish. There is no doubt that this base would be a top preemptive target.
The Kings Bay Plowshares 7, were found guilty of three felonies and a misdemeanor. Unbelievably to many of us, the jury requested to know if there were actually nuclear missiles on the base. The jurors, all residents of the area, did not know. Siding with the prosecution (U.S. Federal lawyers), the judge ordered the answer to this question to not be given to the jurors. “The presence of such weapons could not be confirmed.”
Nor were the Seven allowed to read their letter of intent to the jurors, share the purpose of their action, the long history of international laws on this matter, the new Nuclear Ban Treaty, or the very real and grave facts of nuclear weapons, what they actually do, and what they cost us. They were not allowed to cite the evidence they brought onto the base (Doomsday Machine, the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, their own statement, and a bell from Nagasaki). The case was narrowed to the slight (but overdramatized) damage of “government” property, and trespassing. The Seven were sentenced individually, and several spent up to two years incarcerated.
Listen to Patrick O’Neill and Martha Hennessy read the Kings Bay Plowshares 7’s powerful statement on the day of their action.
In his book, The Voyage of the Golden Rule, Captain Albert Bigelow describes the 1958 trial of the crew of the historic wooden boat, for the crime – more or less – of intention to trespass in international waters, as they would attempt to interfere with US nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands. The 1958 trial had striking similarities to the Kings Bay 7 trial sixty years later, and the constraints imposed by the US government, placing nuclear secrecy over democracy. However, the 1958 Golden Rule crew did have more media access and press coverage. The 1958 protesters had people from around the world cheering them on to stop the arms race, stop the nuclear testing. Thousands of letters and many levels of support.
The Kings Bay Plowshares action was much less known, and was not covered by any mainstream media on or after April 4th, 2018. They were effectively silenced and ignored.
However those of us who witnessed their noble defense directly were changed forever. It was a transformative experience to witness, regardless of the outcome. The arc of gratitude for such sacrifice, from the brave protesters of 1958 through 2018, and from all in-between, inspire and carry us forward today, on this small 34-foot ketch appropriately called the Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have them to unto you.” In these extremely darkening days, here before us is an embracing, courageous, wise, loving light that shows the way to life.
May we also call out one of Brunswick, Georgia’s great guides in spirit and for nuclear abolition, Robert Randall, who recently passed. Robert Randall, PRESENTE!
Anthony Donovan is an author, a filmmaker and a peace activist since 1969. He participated in the UN Conference that led to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. He is an Associate Member of Veterans For Peace and works as a Hospice Nurse in New York City.
For more information about the Kings Bay Plowshares 7, go to www.kingsbayplowshares7.org.
For more information about the ongoing voyage of the Golden Rule peace boat, and how you can participate, go to www.vfpgoldenrule.org.