commemorating August 6th
the 6th of august is the anniversary of a day that changed the world in a really big
way. an invention made by one of the world's most brilliant geniuses, albert
einstein, was used as a weapon of mass destruction, as the first atomic bomb was
dropped on the unsuspecting citizenry of the city of hiroshima, japan. einstein
himself was opposed to the use of 'atom-splitting' as warfare, he tried to stand up
to the development of the nuclear bomb....but he was unable to prevent the
government scientists who were determined to turn his discovery into a tool of
now we live in a nuclear age - with eight confirmed nuclear powers: the United
States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, China, India, and Pakistan. North Korea
claims to have nuclear weapons, and Israel is suspected of having developed
approximately 30 nuclear warheads (with photographic evidence leaked in the early
80s by Israeli scientist Mordechai Vanunu, who was imprisoned for treason for
leaking the photos).
my friend bill quigley, a human rights lawyer from new orleans, has written the
following piece about the actions of three men: two former soldiers and a priest,
who took a symbolic action of 'turning swords into ploughshares' in North Dakota, to
try to bring attention to the 1700 nuclear warheads stored there, and what it would
mean for the world if these weapons were ever used again.
we need to move, as a planet, toward peace and disarmament.....instead of toward
more war and destruction. right now, it seems we're moving in entirely the wrong
Weapons of Mass Destruction Discovered Here: Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and North Dakota
By Bill Quigley
On August 6, 1945 the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Three days
later, the US dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki. These nuclear weapons killed
over 100,000 people, almost all civilians, and injured many tens of thousands more.
Fr. Carl Kabat, 72, Greg Boertje-Obed, 51, and Michael Walli, 57, sit in jail in
North Dakota awaiting a federal criminal trial because of weapons of mass
destruction and because of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I visited them last week.
Their crime? They tried to disarm one of the 1700+ nuclear weapons in North Dakota.
On June 26, 2006, they went to the silo of a Minuteman III first-strike nuclear
missile and wrote on it "If you want peace, work for justice." Then they hammered
on its lock and poured some of their own blood over it. They waited to be arrested
and have been in jail ever since. If convicted, they face imprisonment of up to ten
years for criminal damage to federal property.
The Minuteman III is a first-strike intercontinental nuclear missile with a range of
over 6000 miles and carries 27 times the destructive power of the bomb dropped on
Hiroshima. There are over one hundred fifty Minuteman III missiles planted in the
grounds in silos in just the northern part of North Dakota.
Fr. Kabat has been a Catholic priest for over forty years. Greg Boertje-Obed was a
First Lieutenant in the US Army. Mike Walli served two tours in Vietnam. All three
men were born in small towns or rural areas of the Midwest. Walli and Boertje-Obed
are members of the Loaves and Fishes Catholic Worker community in Duluth, Minnesota.
Together they are called the "Weapons of Mass Destruction Here Plowshares." The
Plowshares movement seeks to follow the instructions of Isaiah (2:4) and Micah (4:3)
to "beat your swords into plowshares."
At the time of their arrest, the three specifically linked their actions to
Hiroshima and Nagasaki. "Two of the most terrible war crimes occurred on August 6th
and 9th, 1945. On August 6th, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the
city of Hiroshima, Japan, killing more than 100,000 people (including U.S. Prisoners
of war). Three days later the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Nagasaki,
Japan, killing more than 50,000 people. Use of these weapons of mass destruction on
civilian populations were abominable crimes against humanity."
They went on to say "U.S. Leaders speak about the dangers of other nations acquiring
nuclear weapons, but they fail to act in accordance with the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty which commits the U.S. To take steps to disarm its weapons
of mass destruction.
We act in order to bring attention to people's responsibility for disarming weapons
of state terrorism. We can begin the process of exposing U.S. weapons of mass
destruction, naming them as abominations that cause desolation, and transforming
them to objects that promote life."
Mike Walli enlisted in the army as a young man. With the experience of two tours in
Vietnam, he said "This is not about our national defense. The hundreds of
Minuteman III nuclear weapons are offensive weapons of mass destruction. Martin
Luther King, Jr. preached that the United States is the chief purveyor of violence
in the world. We must become a people-oriented society rather than a
thing-oriented society. We must kick the war economy habit."
Greg Boertje-Obed, who, after his time as an officer in the military, married and is
the father of an eleven year old daughter, told me "There is a sense of
righteousness and harmony that comes from being in jail on August 6. When I was in
the military, I was trained to fight and "win" a nuclear war. It became clear that
all the preparations for a nuclear war were wrong. In contrast Jesus taught "Love
your enemies, don't fear those who can kill the body, those who live by the sword
will die by the sword." Now is the time to turn away from the ways of violence.
Treat others the way we want to be treated. Now is the time to take steps to help
the starving, ill, orphaned, weak, war-oppressed, and down-trodden all over the
world. It is time to turn away from the bomb and the possibility of ending all life
on our planet and to end the nuclear nightmare.
Fr. Carl Kabat spent several years in the Philippines and Brazil. "August 6th and
August 9th are appropriate times to be in jail," he reflected. "We are here to
witness against the insanity of nuclear weapons. When these bombs were dropped on
the Japanese I was too young to realize what had happened.
Those bombings were war crimes that we, even today, do not acknowledge. The
indiscriminate killing of children, women, old people and everyone else certainly
cannot be accepted under any just theory of war. Perhaps the fact that we are in
jail can help us as a nation remember the criminality of those days in the past.
None of us can make up for the killings in the past, but there is a possibility that
our being in jail during this time might help stop such insanity from being repeated
in the future."
North Dakota is home to more nuclear weapons than any other of the 50 states. The
Bureau of Atomic Scientists estimated that the state contained more than 1700
nuclear warheads, not counting the ones planted in concrete silos in the ground.
A friendly cab driver in Bismarck told me "If North Dakota seceded from the Union,
we would be the world's third most-powerful nuclear state."
'The Weapons of Mass Destruction Here' Plowshares hope their actions will invite the
people of North Dakota, and the rest of the US, to do something about our nation's
nuclear weapons of mass destruction in light of many issues of justice, including
the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
[Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer and professor of law at Loyola University New
Orleans. Bill is a legal advisor with the 'Weapons of Mass Destruction Here'
You can write Fr. Carl Kabat, Greg Boertje-Obed, or Mike Walli c/o Southwest
Multi-County Correctional Center, 66 Museum Drive, Dickinson, ND 58601.
You can find out more about the 'Weapons of Mass Destruction Here' Plowshares at:
You can contact their community c/o Loaves and Fishes Catholic Worker Community at
You can email Bill Quigley at Quigley@loyno.edu ]
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