National Committee Renews Direction
This summer’s National Committee (NC) meeting was held in August rather than July to accommodate a strategic planning session with consultant Suzanne Pharr. Together with Mandy Carter, Suzanne founded Southerners on New Ground (SONG), a Southern regional organization made up of working class, people of color, immigrants, and rural LGBTQ people. She has many years of experience as a community organizer, was the director of Highlander Center for four years, and has a history of helping organizations develop strategically.
Saturday’s discussions with Suzanne centered on current political and financial crises, grassroots responses to current situations, our relative stability, group process, and the big picture analysis WRL provides within the antiwar movement. We analyzed strengths like our history and experience, challenges like deciding how to engage with allies, opportunities like the possibility of connecting anti-oppression and antimilitarist work, and threats like the increased baiting of “socialists.” In small groups, we discussed how change happens: centering our work on low-income communities, veterans, service members and their families, occupied peoples, and people of color and building alternatives to current structures.
Sunday we got down to the usual business of the summer NC. We heard a report on the activities of the Organizing Network (ON), which has been meeting regularly on the phone and building momentum with new affiliates and locals joining up. The Fundraising Committee brought a proposal for a five-year plan that builds on our grassroots efforts thus far and engages members in new ways, including more individualized attention and building a base of sustainers. The Organizing Task Force updated its plans for popular education trainings to take place this year, with a clear budget and a broadened scope of organizations to collaborate with. We also passed a disaffiliation proposal, which puts in place a policy for ending a group’s affiliation with WRL under specified circumstances.
At our next NC meeting, we will be joined by new member Eric Stoner, who will also be representing the Publications Committee on the Administrative Coordinating Committee (ACC). Eric has been on Publications for almost two years.
- Calvin Rey Moen
Disarmament Summer Action at Los Alamos
"Uranium Mining is a Sham!” is one of the chants sung by over 100 antinuclear and anti-mining activists gathered at the Los Alamos national laboratory, the birthplace of the nuclear bomb.
WRL organizers spent time in August at the Disarmament Summer encampment in Chimayo, N.M., organized by the youth-led antinuclear network Think Outside the Bomb, along with TEWA Women United, the Indigenous Uranium Forum, and the Multicultural Alliance for Safe Environments. Eight activists were arrested during a sit-in in front of the doors to the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research (CMR) building, the home of nuclear weapons planning.
As activists entered the ground of the lab, we carried a bright blue cloth deemed “the living river” symbolizing the power of water as a life-giving force and the destruction the nuclear fuel cycle visits on many of our waters. Those of us who agreed before the march to do a direct action on the grounds of the lab were inspired to see 120 people behind us in our symbolic march on paved-over native land toward the CMR building.
Activists on the ground have been calling the U.S. government’s strategic shifts towards more “advanced” nuclear weapons capabilities and increased federal investment in nuclear power contracts a “nuclear renaissance,” as bombmaking remains front and center in our strategy for national defense and global domination.
The U.S. government has proposed the largest nuclear weapons budget ever for fiscal year 2011, which includes plans for the creation of “Prompt Global Strike,” a conventional weapon system that, like nuclear weapons, could strike anywhere in the world within an hour through the use of intercontinental ballistic missiles.
In addition, the federal government has pledged $54 billion in loan guarantees new nuclear power facilities, which directly affects communities that are targeted for their construction. The nuclear fuel cycle results in some of the most serious health and environmental impacts the world has known. People living in Albuquerque drink purified and bottled water because what comes out of the tap is laced with plutonium. Communities near the test sites, processing plants, and uranium mines are living with the long-term effects of exposure to uranium and plutonium, which include cancer, birth defects, and many chronic health problems.
After a 30-year hiatus, the uranium industry has now applied to open or reopen 22 New Mexican mines on Native land, many on sacred sites, in direct opposition to a Navajo ban on mining operations. There are still hundreds of abandoned uranium mines in New Mexico, largely located on Navajo and Pueblo lands, and state and federal agencies are only now beginning to inventory those mines and clean them up.
- Kimber Heinz