by Joyce Marcel
August 20, 2010
A HOT PRIMARY
KANSAS CITY, Mo., Aug. 17, 2010 -- On Monday morning, Aug. 16, some 14 non-violent peace activists - mostly nuns, priests and other clergy - were arrested for blocking a Caterpillar truck on the site of a proposed WMD Facility in Kansas City, Mo.
The demonstration Monday came the same day as North Korea said it will deliver a "merciless counterblow" it described as "the severest punishment anyone has ever met in the world" against U.S.-South Korean military exercises which began the same day in the South China Sea. On that day, too, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton told Israel it has just three days left to destroy Iranian facilities (see story link on AR's homepage) that the United says are developing nuclear bombs.
There about 17,000 nuclear weapons on Earth in Europe, Asia and America, official sources say, in China, Russia, India, Pakistan, North Korea, France and Great Britain, as well as the United States and Israel, which has not acknowledged having weapons at its Dimona production facility. Israel is believed to have at least 162 nukes, according to a Top Secret report inadvertently released by U.S. Sen. John Glenn's office to the Los Angeles-based Committee to Stop Japanese Re-Armament in 1992.
The activists in Kansas City have targeted U.S. weapons production, but the world has already become a nuclear tinderbox where rogue and erratic leaders may choose faith or ideology over their own existence to advance their beliefs through cataclysmic destruction. As police approached the activists, former Catholic priest, Frank Cordaro of the Phil Berrigan Catholic Worker House in Des Moines, Ia, declared "It's an honor to be here and get busted! We risk arrest to awaken people from a kind of psychic numbing about the plant. We stand for an alternative to the war economy; we try to temper the U.S. death wish as an empire.
"Catholic Workers see people hungry; we feed them," he continued. "We see violence perpetrated by governments; we resist. It's just that Simple," Cordaro said.
It is not an accident that nine of the 14 arrested come from Midwest Catholic Worker communities. The Catholic Worker movement is a radical lay movement of Catholic peace activists, best known for houses of hospitality where they do the traditional "Works of Mercy." That means feeding the hungry, clothing and sheltering the homeless and providing water whenever needed.
"We live and work daily with the poor who suffer directly from the misuse of our national resources, directed towards making nuclear bombs, keeping the rich rich and the poor poor," Cordaro said. "We know firsthand that even if these god-awful bombs are never used, they kill the poor daily by denying them the resources needed to meet their most basic needs."
While choruses of "We shall not be moved" rose up and sunflower seeds were scattered, people of all ages and shades of diversity gathered to protest continued production of U.S. nuclear weapons, to demand a clean-up of the old Kansas City facility - and also exposed another collaboration of corporations and politicians who collude while the taxpayer pays for it all.
Over 100 people had gathered last Friday night for the Kansas City premier of "Countdown to Zero," a film released July 10 that decries nuclear weapons and warns of impending disaster at their hands (see a trailer on AR's homepage). Monday morning's action topped off a weekend conference that drew peace activists from around the nation.
The activists called the new facility a "crime against peace" and "crime against humanity."
The Kansas City plant will be America's first new nuclear weapons production facility in 32 years. The United States is also building new sites at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, which produces uranium components for WMDs, and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, home to pits for processed plutonium waste.
The current Kansas City facility produces 85 percent of the non-nuclear components for the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The current plant and the future plant are also a direct threat to the environment, health and personal security of every resident of and visitor to Kansas City; the new plant is also the recipient of illegal funding by the city government.
The money trail begins and also ends with Zimmer Real Estate Services, a Kansas City mogul that has pocketed $5 million for 165 acres of "blighted land" sold to the city. Zimmer is also half of CenterPoint Zimmer/CPZ, which will receive all the money to build the plant. After a 20 year lease-to-purchase from the city, the company will take back possession for a fee of $10.
The Chicago-based senior partner of CPZ, CenterPoint will get paid for designing, building, and sub-leasing the facility, and in 20 years can end up co-owning a Federal Nuclear Weapons Facility paid for by taxpayers. A Baltimore-based underwriter will collect a percentage for arranging the $687-million financing deal.
Fourteen private bondholders will reap a government guarantee that their $687 million 2010 investment will yield a minimum of $1.2 billion in rent, representing a solid 5 percent annual return.
The family who founded and owns HR Dunn Construction, which has have already built over 30 prisons, will now be in charge of a new cloverleaf and other infrastructure improvements at the corner of Botts road and MO Sate Highway 150; that's adjacent to a residential neighborhood where children play. Earlier, neighbors there organized to stop plans to build a prison on nearby agricultural land.
The federal General Services Administration acts as the pass-through agency that attempts to curtain the money that funds the nuclear weapons. The government's real estate agency will get more bureaucrats, and the Department of Energy's semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) gets a new facility built outside of normal Congressional scrutiny and amid a web of "alternative and private financing" apart from the authorized nuclear weapons budget.
Kansas City politicians are expecting to get re-elected for saving 2,100 jobs (the old plant employed 2,400) but their short-sightedness robs residents of much-needed and as yet unallocated funds to clean up the old plant, which has has been contaminated by over 700 chemicals and unknown numbers of new and unimagined combinations of them.
Barbara Rice, who ran the on-site day care center at the current nuclear weapons facility for 30 years, said she "lost count of how many of her colleagues had died of cancer after 110 passed away from various kinds of the illnesses.
While Rice said she couldn't prove that the deaths were related to chemical exposure at the current facility, Rice remembered one instance when a pipe burst at the plant and her supervisors told her to "go home immediately and destroy her clothes."
The old Kansas City complex houses offices for the Marine Corps Finance division, the U.S. Dairy Assn., and the NNSA. The NNSA is under the Dept. of Energy, not the Defense Department. The Defense Dept.'s annual budget of $705 billion, does not include upkeep and refurbishing of America's 5,113 nuclear weapons, nor pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are paid for by taxpayers as "special appropriations."
The fire of resistance against nuclear weapons has been smoldering for three decades. It was last ignited when 36 nonviolent activists were arrested moments after the group's reading of the "Declaration of Independence from Nuclear Weapons" at Oak Ridge, Tenn. on July 5, 2010. A new reading of that document is available on YouTube.
Eileen Fleming is founder of We Are Wide Awake. Fleming has campaigned extensively for the release of Mordechai Vanunu, an Israeli scientist jailed for revealing facts about its nuclear arsenal.
Resources: Images of the protest are available at this site.
More: Extensive coverage of antiwar activism is available at World News.