Up Against the War System in Kansas City

“This is a clear choice being presented to the region. Do you go the way of cynical violence that has been shown to be a dead end? Or do you follow a path of peaceful protest to secure universal rights and freedoms.”

This honorable sentiment could have been expressed by any one of the 53 of us who were jailed May 2 for refusing to end a protest at Honeywell’s new nuclear weapons plant under construction in Kansas City, Missouri.

But no, the call for the use of nonviolent methods came ? the same day ? from a Deputy National Security Advisor, Ben Rhodes, who was definitely not lecturing U.S. commandos who had just assassinated Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and dumped his body into the sea.

The group of us who blocked an entrance to the $1 billion future H-bomb factory were kept in handcuffs for 5 hours and jailed for up to 20, then released pending trial. In Kansas City’s 80-year-old city holding tanks ? 26 women and 27 men ? we were all grimly aware of the coldblooded jubilation being vented by headline writers, TV pundits and a big percentage of the public over the death squad attack outside Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital city.

Yet there are U.S. citizens who take Mr. Rhodes’ words literally and put them into action because the alternatives are hopelessly self-defeating. The peaceful protest we committed was against the Obama Administration’s replacement of old warhead production facilities with new ones. The Kansas City Plant is programmed to produce 85% of future H-bombs ? the so-called non-nuclear components.

Public opposition to the building of new nuclear weapons ? rather than retiring them for good ? grows stronger whenever and whenever the people find out about it. Thirty-seven were arrested last July at the Y-12 site in Oak Ridge, Tenn., where uranium is to be tooled for the new bombs. (Several of them go on trial May 9 in Knoxville.) Another dozen were detained last August protesting a new plutonium fabrication complex in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

It’s not too often that the words of the government’s paid killers can be used against them. They don’t appeal to nonviolence much. (Religious leaders who support the country’s civilian-casualty-heavy wars are far more vulnerable to hypocrisy-skewering than the National Security Council.) Mr. Rhodes privately carries out White House orders to bomb villages in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya, while publicly declaring violence to be cynical and dead ended.

Now the Obama White House is responsible for the machine gunning of, among others, an unarmed wife of bin Laden who, according to Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennen, may have thrown herself in front of him. Millions are calling the action “justice,” without using the prefix “frontier,” even though ? in view of the cultural atrocity of dumping of the body ? the likelihood of insane and ferocious retaliation is overwhelming.

Those who demand an end to the spiral of revenge, killing and more revenge ? and even nonviolent defense during war ? and who nonviolently interfere with the war system can usually expect arrest, prosecution and jail. These have always been the cost of securing universal rights and freedoms, none of which can be acquired using bombs.

John LaForge is on the staff of Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog group in Wisconsin and edits its Quarterly.


John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.