By Medea Benjamin and Alice Slater
(Opinions of op-ed writers on these pages are their own)
A deafening chorus of negative grumbling from the left, right, and center of the US political spectrum in response to Trump’s decision to remove US troops from Syria and halve their numbers in Afghanistan appears to have slowed down his attempt to bring our forces home. However, in this new year, demilitarizing US foreign policy should be among the top items on the agenda of the new Congress. Just as we are witnessing a rising movement for a visionary Green New Deal, so, too, the time has come for a New Peace Deal that repudiates endless war and the threat of nuclear war which, along with catastrophic climate change, poses an existential threat to our planet.
We must capitalize and act on the opportunity presented by the abrupt departure of “mad dog” Mattis and other warrior hawks. Another move toward demilitarization is the unprecedented Congressional challenge to Trump’s support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. And while the president’s disturbing proposals to walk out of established nuclear arms control treaties represents a new danger, they are also an opportunity.
There is a new crop of progressives in the House of Representatives. Democratic Congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, other mainly women freshmen colleagues, and a new youth movement (see video below), have taken the lead on pushing for the Green New Deal, an energy plan that addresses the urgency of climate change and calls for the elimination of all fossil fuels and nuclear energy.
But when Ocasio-Cortez offered a resolution for the establishment of a House select committee to explore the Green New Deal, it was promptly and predictably killed by the Democratic leadership who instead established their own Select Committee. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tapped Florida Congresswoman, Kathy Castor to chair it. The panel will not directly address crafting a Green New Deal proposal.
However, the youth-led non-partisan Sunrise Movement, says the Green New Deal is far from dead. Group members have been actively recruiting support for the Green New Deal on Capitol Hill — they currently have 45 Members of Congress on board and counting. They gained headlines during Congressional sit-ins (which Ocasio-Corez joined) and arrests (see video below). They view Pelosi’s decision as nothing more than a corporate-backed copout and vow to fight on, organizing around the country to build support and momentum.
Rain tapped on the window as Samson, my supervisor at the Solar Energy Foundation, brewed coffee and prepared a plate of kolo, a snack mix made of roasted grains, for us to share. The aromatic coffee roast wafted through the air as I listened to the water collect in the streets and reflected on my experience in Ethiopia. I had arrived three months earlier and this was my last week as a software developer with the SEF team. In addition to learning more about computer programming, my favorite part of my experience was hearing about my teammates’ life stories. When Samson returned with the snacks, I realized that I had not heard about his experiences. So as he poured coffee from the clay jebena I asked him, “how did it all begin?” He passed me the warm cup and then graciously told his story — a journey from engineer, to detainee, to taxi driver, and finally to leader of one of the first pay-as-you-go solar organizations in Africa.
Living in Addis as a child, Samson constantly fiddled with electronic devices, fixing (and sometimes destroying) radios, watches, and televisions. His passion for technology continued when he enlisted in the military and attended civil engineering classes so that he could use his technical skills in a job that protected his country. Before his 25th birthday, Samson excelled and was quickly promoted to an officer role. However, Samson’s life and the country as a whole were both about to undergo a drastic change, as the regime of then-leader Mengitsu Haile Mariam began to unravel.
By Anna Benally
My name is Anna Benally and I am a member of the Navajo Tribe. I am a resident of Redwater Pond Road Community and have lived here all my life. My clan is Redhouse and Yellow Meadow people. I am currently a registered voter with Coyote Canyon Chapter House.
I remember at a very young age when mining came into our community. It was the United Nuclear Corporation (UNC) and Kerr-McGee companies that moved operations in about one mile from where I resided. The two mines were about a half mile from each other. The mine operation was a 24/7 operation in my backyard for about ten to fifteen years of my life.
During this time, my mother, Mildred Benally, was a homemaker, rug weaver and had livestock, sheep, goats, horses and cattle. My father, Tom Benally, was a Medicine Man which was handed down from his dad. This was also the same for his brother, Frank Benally, my uncle. He was married to Marita Benally, a sister to my mother Mildred. They all lived at the Black Tree Standing area. Tom was also a member of the Grazing Committee for the Coyote Canyon Chapter House for 8 years. After that he started working for UNC as a laborer. This included repairing lamps and cleaning dressing rooms for workers.
During my childhood days, my siblings and I were instructed to herd sheep. It was a priority to make sure that the livestock were well taken care of, especially watering them daily. Raising livestock was our way of life and that was the way we understood the importance of respecting them and treating them as members of the family. Having livestock made us feel complete so it was important to take care of them. In addition, we also used some of our sheep as a source of food for traditional ceremonials and other family gatherings.
By Linda Pentz Gunter
Sometimes we win. We join together and we fight for what’s right and we prevail. We do it in the name of a nuclear-free world. Or we do it for climate change, or for peace. These victories are important. They deserve to be celebrated and shared and talked about. And they can serve as models for others, guides, roadmaps to success. Inspiration. As we head into a new year we need all of this.
Every time we fight off a uranium mine, a pipeline, a fossil fuel or nuclear plant, an incinerator or nuclear waste dump, we do it for Mother Earth, our only home. While some want to contemplate — and spend billions on — the possibility of living on inhospitable alternative planets like Mars, the rest of us know that if we don’t protect the precious planet we already have, we are pretty much doomed.
Indigenous people have a lot to teach the rest of us about sustainable stewardship of the land, respect for animals and the protection of our precious resources. Over the centuries, the rest of us haven’t been very good at listening, We have preferred to massacre, dominate, impose servitude. We have bombed, and mined, drilled and destroyed.
We coined words like “savages” to describe fellow human beings whose respect for life on Earth is anything but. It is we who have been savage. And remain so. We still aren’t listening. The Dakota Access Pipeline got approved. Nuclear waste could be buried under Beatrix Potter’s Lake District. Rainforests continue to be burned and clear cut.
By Diane Ray
On August 9, 2018, standing tall and looking the part of the hero, David Fritch stepped up to the lectern at a Community Engagement Panel meeting between the owner of a now shuttered nuclear power plant and local residents concerned about the beachfront disposal of nuclear waste. “I may not have a job tomorrow,” he began, “But that’s fine. I made a promise to my daughter.”
Fritch introduced himself as an experienced nuclear power plant safety worker, sent around the country to oversee safety at various sites. He then reported what the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) called a “near miss” incident at the radioactive waste storage facility of the local nuclear power plant.
On August 3, 2018, a 100,000 pound thin-wall cask filled with deadly irradiated nuclear fuel got caught on a flange while being lowered into the steel-lined concrete vault of the waste storage site, known as an ISFSI (independent spent fuel storage installation). The cask got stuck on a ¼” guide ring for about an hour over an 18-foot drop.
“It was a bad day…. And you haven’t heard about it,” said Fritch. “And that’s not right.”