Nukewatch Quarterly Fall 2019
By John LaForge and The Nuclear Resister
“… our estimates were that we would kill every European, a hundred million Europeans, without a single US or Soviet warhead landing on West Europe. Just from the fallout of the attacks we were planning on Russia and East Europe. One hundred million. … Our best first-strike, then and now, has never for a moment—since the ‘50s—never been able to keep the Soviets from annihilating every last person in West Europe.”
—Daniel Ellsberg, in Things That Can and Cannot Be Said, by Arundhati Roy & John Cusac
BÜCHEL, Germany—A delegation of 11 peace activists from the United States arrived at the anti-nuclear action camp outside Büchel Air Base in southwest Germany July 5, to join protests against the US nuclear weapons held there and against plans for replacing them with new bombs.
The US group—with participants from Iowa, Georgia, Montana, California, Tennessee, Arizona, and Wisconsin—was coordinated by Nukewatch for the third year in a row. It joined the popular nation-wide campaign to rid Germany of the remaining remnant of US nuclear weapons, 20 Air Force B61 gravity-drop H-bombs. (In the 1980s there were over 6,000 US nuclear weapons in Germany.)
This third delegation joined hundreds of Europeans who participated in vigils, blockades, marches and other nonviolent actions against the nuclear weapons’ deployment. The German group Nonviolent Action for Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (GAAA) convenes “International Week” together with Nukewatch, and invites peace groups to come to peace camp conduct nonviolent actions highlighting three goals: 1) permanent ouster of the unlawful US nuclear weapons; 2) cancellation of plans to replace today’s B61s with new nuclear bombs; and 3) ratification by Germany of the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
The US delegation came for “International Week” which was part of a 20-week-long series of actions against US nuclear weapons, the object of scores of protests for over 20 years. From March 26 to Aug. 9, members of dozens of peace and anti-nuclear organizations came to the camp to facilitate nonviolent protests against the nuclear war complex.
During International Week, July 7 to 16, activists from Germany, The Netherlands, the UK, Austria, and a two activist student groups with participants from around the world.
GAAA and now Nukewatch are part of the 70-member, nation-wide coalition called “Büchel is Everywhere! Nuclear Weapons-Free Now!” working to oust the last of the US H-bombs. The coalition began the annual 5-month series of nonviolent protests four years ago, calling them “20 Weeks for 20 Bombs.” The council is a coalition of peace and justice organizations that have endorsed nonviolent civil resistance at the base.
US Replacement Bombs Planned for Europe
The resistance campaign also calls for cancellation of US military production of a new B61 H-bomb (version 12), and its plans to replace the B61s now at Büchel and at five other NATO air bases in Europe. Production of the B61-12 has been delayed recently by faulty components. (See Glitches Delay B61 H-Bomb Replacement.)
“In view of the 2017 treaty ban, it’s clear the world wants to abolish nuclear weapons,” said delegate Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, in Tennessee. On July 7, 2017, the UN General Assembly adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. “To spend tens of billions replacing the B61s instead of eliminating them, when tens of millions need disaster relief, food aid, housing, and medical care, is a criminal waste,” Hutchison said.
Nuclear War Preparations Called “Sharing”
Under a NATO policy called “nuclear sharing,” five NATO states deploy the US B61s: Germany, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, and Turkey. All five countries and the United States are parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) which explicitly prohibits nuclear weapons from being transferred to, or accepted from, other countries. The governments claim that their nuclear war-planning cooperation does not violate the treaty.
Germany’s Tactical Air Force Squadron 33 at Büchel Air Base carries out the formal “nuclear sharing agreement” between the United States and Germany. The squadron reportedly uses its PA200 Tornado fighter jets to practice flying the US bombs to target areas for detonation in the event of an order from the White House. The air base is home to the US Air Force’s 702nd Munitions Support Squadron and its “protection level 1 stockpile” of US hydrogen bombs.
The apparent violation of the NPT prohibitions have led activists and resisters to call “nuclear sharing” an “unlawful conspiracy,” and to label Büchel Air Base a “crime scene.”
This year’s US delegation included Cee’Cee’ Anderson with Women’s Action for New Directions in College Park, Georgia; Richard Bishop, from the Missoula, Montana Catholic Worker; Susan Crane, from the Redwood City, Calif. Catholic Worker; Ralph Hutchison, Kevin Collins, and Cindy Collins, all with the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance in Knoxville, Tennessee; Dennis DuVall, formerly of Prescott, Arizona, with Veterans for Peace (now residing in Germany); Fred Galluccio from Newport Beach, Calif., with the Physicians for Social Responsibility; Andrew Lanier, Jr., with the San Jose, Calif. Catholic Worker; and Brian Terrell, with Voices for Creative Nonviolence who lives at the Maloy, Iowa Catholic Worker. The peace activist Ann Wright from Hawaii made plans to join the group, but was called away unexpectedly.
Camp life involved daily vigils and blockades of the main gate, regular planning meetings, meals prepared by the kitchen staff, volunteer chores, presentations by delegates, a documentary film, and a puppet-making project and performance led by Cindy and Kevin Collins.
A Series of “Go-in” Actions
Eleven activists entered the base early on the morning of July 10 to deliver a self-styled “Treaty Enforcement Order” declaring that the sharing of US nuclear weapons at the German base is a “criminal conspiracy.”
The treaty reference is to the international laws on the prohibition of nuclear weapons (2017), on the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons (1970), and 1949 Geneva Conventions which prohibit mass destruction.
July 10 Go-In Action Appeal
The early morning group’s prepared statement said in part:
We come from the United States and many other countries … to bring a halt to the ongoing criminal conspiracy to commit war crimes using these weapons of mass destruction.
As an act of crime prevention and responsible citizenship, we … act in accordance with common humanitarian law, Treaties governing the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, and the authoritative (1996) opinion of the United Nations International Court of Justice, which says: “… the use of nuclear weapons could constitute a catastrophe for the environment. The Court also recognizes that the environment is not an abstraction but represents the living space, the quality of life and the very health of human beings, including generations unborn. …The destructive power of nuclear weapons cannot be contained in either space or time. They have the potential to destroy all civilization and the entire ecosystem of the planet.”
After passing through the main gate with a printed “Cease and Desist Order,” the group insisted on seeing the commander to deliver the order in person.
“We refuse to be complicit in this crime,” said Brian Terrell, a drone warfare expert with the Chicago-based Voices for Creative Nonviolence. “We call for the nuclear bombs to be returned to the US immediately. The Germans want these nuclear weapons out of Germany, and so do we.”
All 11 were detained by military and civilian authorities and later released after providing identification.
“Our delivery of the ‘Cease and Desist Order’ is an act of crime prevention,” said Susan Crane. “The authorities think the entry is a matter of trespass, but nuclear bomb threats coming from this base violate the UN Charter, the Nonproliferation Treaty, and the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons” she said, adding, “Interrupting government criminality is a duty of responsible citizenship.”
The early go-in group included: Crane, Terrell, Richard Bishop, Andrew Lanier, Ralph Hutchison, and Dennis DuVall; Richard Barnard (from the UK); Margriet Bos and Susan van der Hijden (from The Netherlands); and Dietrich Gerstner and Birke Kleinwächter (from Germany).
Van der Hijden, of Amsterdam, said of the bombs at the base, “The planning and training to use the US H-bombs that goes on at Büchel cannot be legal, because organizing mass destruction has been a criminal act since the Nuremberg Trials after WWII.”
Peace Activists Cut Into the Base, Challenging Increased Security
Around 4 p.m. July 10, another four activists (from the US, Germany, the UK, and The Netherlands) cut through the two perimeter fences and quickly entered the Büchel Air Base. Calling themselves “Treaty Enforcement Action,” they carried banners calling the nuclear weapons base a “crime scene.” While pausing for photographs, the four were detained by air base security personnel.
Outside the high-security base, four others from the group posted “Crime Scene” notices on the outer fence and along a perimeter bike path. All eight activists were detained by security personnel and found in violation of a “stay-away”order issued after the earlier main gate go-in. For violating the order, all eight were taken into custody, brought to the nearby town of Cochem for court, and later transferred to jail in Koblenz. All eight were released early the next day.
“The nuclear weapons must be removed, not just because they are unlawful, but because of the poor security at the base,” said Marion Küpker, spokesperson for the campaign Büchel is Everywhere!! “Members of the military and civil police declared several times that nonviolent go-in actions would now be impossible. Soldiers, a new private security company, and civil police are working together closely this year to guard the base, but they failed,” Küpker said, “even after months of publicity announcing that protesters would defy the newly increased base security this July.”
Susan Crane of the US delegation said, “There have been hundreds of accidents with nuclear weapons that show that deterrence is an illusion. And, with amateurs like us getting on base, it’s impossible to keep the weapons themselves secure.”
The eight who were jailed overnight were Crane, Hutchinson, Lanier, Bos, Dennis DuVall, Richard Barnard of the UK, Gerstner, and van der Hijden.
The July 10 daytime go-in actions followed a series of others, in 2017 and 2018, in which a total of 60 protesters got far inside the air base at different times. In four separate events, resisters managed to occupy the runway and three different Protected Aircraft Shelters or bunkers where nuclear weapons can be stored. Since these highly publicized incursions, the military constructed a new but long-planned, multi-million dollar perimeter fence directly outside the old one, hired additional private security personnel, and increased its regular police patrols.
Earlier in the year, on April 30th, a group of 11 German peace activists was the first to foil the base’s newly expanded protections when they both cut through and dug under the barrier to gain entry.
Go-in Actions Continued
There were three additional go-in actions during International Week, one July 14, two on July 16, and two subsequent go-ins July 22 and 27.
On July 14, Brian Terrell, Crane and van der Hijden cut into the base and were briefly inside. Terrell wrote, “The military policeman who found us was unreasonably obsessed about the hole we made in the fence, not so much concerned about the weapons of mass destruction he was guarding. Some people are funny. We left after hearing his threats of future prosecution and after getting another ‘stay away’ order.”
Military and civilian police were reluctant to take anyone to jail. The authorities issued “stay away” orders over and over again to people blocking the gate and to others who’d cut the fence. Repeat violations of the stay away orders were often ignored.
Even after repeatedly violating standing stay-away orders, Crane was only jailed again following her July 27 action.
July 16 is the double anniversary of the first-ever detonation of an atomic bomb (1945), and the Churchrock uranium waste spill (1979), both of which took place in New Mexico (See “Radiation and Colonialism Leave a Permanent Stamp on New Mexico—Part II“). The day was chosen for an early morning action by five resisters who walked through the main gate carrying a banner that read: “16 July 1945, the nuclear terror begins, first atom bomb test, New Mexico.” The five were escorted outside the base but not issued a stay-away order.
Again July 16, van der Hijden, Crane, Richard Bishop and Dennis DuVall cut through fences and hastily entered the base around 7 p.m., intending to occupy a weapons bunker. DuVall and van der Hijden were able to cross the airbase permitter road, and begin climbing toward the bunkers but were stopped by soldiers using a police dog. Crane suffered an injured hip when she was harshly knocked to the ground by a body slam from a military policeman. Two soldiers crawled through holes cut in the fences by the resisters and detained John LaForge; they also confiscated his phone reportedly for taking photographs. All five were released with another 24-hour stay-away order. The phone was returned Sept. 25 still holding the suspect photographs.
On July 22, Crane was given a 6-day stay-away order after she cut through the fence in a different area of the base. Then on July 27, Crane walked through the main gate to deliver a German language version of the UN Treaty Ban. The police issued her another 24-hour stay-away order, and took her off the base. Later the same day she started a walk around the outside of the base near the fence and was stopped and arrested for violating the order. She was kept in jail in Cochem as a “danger,” and later had a “video conference” with the judge rather than a court appearance. Judge Römer heard Susan’s appeal to treaty law and the Nuremberg Principles, but did not address the issue of unlawful weapons, and saying Crane would be held until 6 a.m. the next morning.
About the judge’s refusal to speak to the legal status of nuclear weapons, Crane said on the record, “I thought judges in Germany would be different.”
Five of the 11 US delegates promised to return for International Week in 2020 if the bombs haven’t been withdrawn by then.