Citizens Weapons Inspections

Earth Island Journal, Spring 1999 | Go to article overview

Citizens Weapons Inspections


Weapons analysts Robert Norris and William Arkin of the Natural Resources Defense Council estimate that the number of US nuclear weapons In all categories (operational, hedge, reserve and retired warheads awaiting dismantling) stands at 12,500.

Continued reliance on nuclear weapons as the cornerstone of US and NATO strategy is a clear violation of Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Since nuclear weapons are legally recognized as weapons of mass destruction, a growing grassroots movement began last year to draw attention to the weapons of mass destruction held by the superpowers.

Drawing on the model of the United Nations Inspection teams dispatched to Iraq, Citizens' Weapons Inspection Teams have sprung up around the world to expose weapons of mass destruction controlled by the US and its allies.

A citizens' weapons inspection team (CWIT) has concluded that nuclear weapons of mass destruction are being stockpiled and deployed at the US Trident submarine base at Bangor, Washington. CWIT's conclusion is based on a review of open sources written by nuclear weapons analysts and upon an aerial inspection of the base, which confirmed the presence of dozens of concrete bunkers suspected of containing 1600 warheads and three Ohio-class missile submarines.

In his February 23, 1998 letter to Base Commander Captain Merrill Albury, End the Arms Race President Peter Coombes wrote: "As ethically concerned and law-abiding citizens, we acknowledge our duty and responsibility to confirm whether weapons of mass destruction are stored in the area. Thus, we request a tour of the base and access to all documentation that confirms whether weapons of mass destruction or the delivery vehicles of any such weapons are present on the base."

In response, Rear Admiral William Center invited the CWIT team, led by Canadian Parliament Member Libby Davies, to tour the facility and offered the team an inspection of one of the Trident submarines. However, within hours, he withdrew his invitation, citing a contradictory decision by US Pacific Command in Hawaii.

On February 26, the CWIT was met at the base's main gate by a public affairs officer who refused access, adding that CWIT's mission was not one the US Government could support.

Submarine Base Bangor homeports eight Ohio-class Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarines (SSBNs). The US Navy calls Bangor "the nation's most survivable and enduring nuclear strike capability ... By the turn of the century, the 18 Trident SSBNs will carry 50 percent of the total US strategic [nuclear] warheads."

Washington state is believed to have the third largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the US with 1,600 W76/Trident I C4 warheads at Bangor. Each submarine carries 24 missiles containing eight independently-targeted warheads; they continue on active patrols and the Navy intends to upgrade the missiles to the more deadly Trident II.

Contact: End the Arms Race, 405-825 Granville Street Vancouver, British Columbia V6B 1K9 Canada, (604) 687-3223, fax: 687-3277, www.peacewire.org.

Egozi AFB

Israel -- Following UN inspections in Iraq, an Israeli Citizens' Verification Team paid a visit to a once-secret nuclear missile base.

The team -- made up of anti-nuclear, peace, environmental and political activists -- gathered at the unmarked gate of the Egozi Air Force Base to protest Israel's imprisonment of nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu. Egozi does not appear on any map.

The team's Geiger counter detected radiation levels more than 100 times those of Jerusalem. The gate guard was surprised and interested by these readings. ICVT members asked to see the base commander and to investigate the base's nuclear weapons.

Other team members blocked traffic to the gate, holding signs and banners for nuclear disarmament, public debate on Israel's nuclear policy and the release of imprisoned nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu.

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