|"Forget the Rest" blog|
December 17, 2007
Winter greetings from us here at the Study Group! In a few days the sun will begin its climb back toward the zenith. We can’t know what will happen in the coming year or the one after, but it is all too clear that humanity faces unprecedented challenges, and that we face them now. We also have unprecedented opportunities. Either you and I, who have some agency and freedom to act, will rise to the occasion, or we won’t.
Many of you generously supported our work this year, which has been fruitful. Thank you! We had a successful year overall and I’m proud of what we’ve done, not just in Washington, DC but also here in New Mexico. And it hasn’t just been our small staff doing all this – our board of directors and many volunteers have also been deeply involved.
This year the House of Representatives concurred in our top four legislative priorities: halting construction of the new plutonium warhead core (“pit”) factory at LANL, cutting pit production itself, ending the dangerous Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program, and significantly cutting nuclear weapons spending overall.
We proposed these actions in dozens of meetings with key decisionmakers and in subsequent detailed correspondence. These cuts would have embodied a real change in nuclear policy and a resounding defeat for the Bush nuclear agenda. Yesterday, however, a compromise was reached in which most of these cuts were mostly reversed. Senator Domenici claims credit for this, of course. Right now, it appears the RRW is dead but everything else we hoped would be cut will mostly (not entirely) escape the budget axe for now. It ain’t over.
Regardless of whether today’s compromise becomes law we hope to be back in Washington next month, building on these partial successes and on the network of trust we’ve established in Congress and the Executive. Deeper progress is occurring. Nuclear weapons advocates in the federal bureaucracy, in Congress, in the big contractors, and elsewhere are being forced to reduce sail by realities beyond their control. We have been messengers of those realities, simply and painstakingly bringing the “bad news” into what one senior Department of Energy (DOE) official calls the “nuclear weapons echo chamber.”
Even if the White House and Congress agree to make Los Alamos partly into a factory for plutonium pits, succeeding at that won’t be easy or quick. It would take many years at best, and all prior efforts to do this, both at Los Alamos and nationwide, have failed up to now. Some failed with help from us. These hoary old priorities still have momentum, but time, a yearning for new priorities, and many other factors are on our side.
Before telling you more about our work, I want to ask for your concrete, tangible solidarity. We couldn’t have gotten this far without it and we won’t be able to do much in the future without it either.
You can express that tangible solidarity in three key ways.
1. You can send money, as essential to our work as it is to all work. You could do so by check, by credit card from the secure link at www.lasg.org, or by a donation of stock. Or you could become a Sustaining Donor with your once-a-month contribution, a plan that helps us plan for the months ahead. If you’re interested in being a Sustaining Donor call Trish at 505-265-1200, email her at email@example.com, or write her at the mailing address below. All donations are fully tax-deductible.
As a donor you will receive certain direct benefits (besides participation in our work), namely invitations to monthly donor-only briefings (begun a few months ago in both Santa Fe and Albuquerque) and a succinct monthly e-newsletter to begin next month. Even small monthly donations are important to us because of the solidarity and moral support they imply. $5,000 per month is not too much for some to give (and such a gift would dramatically improve our effectiveness); $5 per month is all some can afford.
Most Study Group supporters are working or retired people of modest means. A few can and do help a more. No matter what our respective resources may be, we are united in a realization that the future of the world depends on a very serious level of commitment and sacrifice from each one of us.
Supposedly we are a highly-informed and educated society. Yet the single most important political fact to know, we usually don’t. Jung said it this way: “the individual does not know he is the make-weight on the scale.” We who yearn for the scales of justice to be set right, for the planet and all its beings to be protected, often secretly think of ourselves as weak, which is to say as victims. We tend to think we need more people to make a decisive policy change, or maybe we think there are other people who can and will make the sacrifice needed, whatever it may be. If you get anything out of this letter, I hope it’s this: those other actors aren’t there. They appear when and if you and I step forward. If we do that, all manner of help will appear we could never have predicted.
2. You could solicit tangible support for our work from others, greatly amplifying your own contribution without lowering your bank account.
3. You could volunteer your time in other ways, a broad category that would take another letter to explain. A good first step would be to attend morning discussion meetings, and bring your friends. We meet in Santa Fe at the United Church of Santa Fe (1804 Arroyo Chamiso) and in Albuquerque at the Mennonite Church (1300 Girard NE). Meetings begin at 7:25 am and end at 8:45 am more or less, so we can all go to work. A wholesome light breakfast is served, for which donations are accepted. The overall theme of these meetings, which will continue in this format until early April, is “Dimensions of the Global Crisis: Responses and Renewal.” These meetings are a good way to get more acquainted with our work and lay the groundwork for many forms of deeper involvement.
In the coming year we will keep fighting in Washington, New Mexico, and elsewhere to prevent construction and operation of a new nuclear warhead factory, the primary purpose of which is (naturally enough) new kinds of warheads. Such a program implies, not to put too fine a point on it, new roles for nuclear weapons in foreign policy, the failure of nonproliferation efforts, unending militarism, and war – and sooner or later, nuclear war.
It’s all very much more complicated than that, of course – or is it? As a country we can invest in “full spectrum dominance,” with nuclear weapons at the apex of violence, or we can invest in what Study Group board member Astrid Webster has called “full spectrum sustainability,” a path for which the world is now crying – and dying. We can’t really take both paths. They head in opposite directions.
We are nowhere near the point of diminishing returns in our ability to affect decisions this coming year. We know pretty much what will be effective. We have a lot of traction, not because of any virtues we possess but because there are a lot of honest people in powerful positions who want to change direction but don’t quite know how. What we don’t have is a lot of time. Stability of funding is our greatest need, which would free up time and attention and also allow us to mentor more young people, who are ready to help lead if they can only get half a chance.
We hope you are able to work with us this year in whatever way seems best. We are going to have to work together with all due speed to articulate and put into practice a politics based on human dignity and sustainability, in which our own lives, communities, and political institutions are the real laboratories of change and renewal.