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.

The duty officer was told that, since nuclear weapons kill indiscriminately and permanently damage the environment he could expect to be prosecuted for his role in deploying weapons of mass destruction.

Contact: Israeli Citizen Verification Team., fax: +972-3-6391311, legalese@netvision.net.il

Faslane

Scotland -- On March 3, activists established Scotland's first International Weapons Inspectorate and informed the commander of the Clyde Naval Base that they were coming to inspect the site. The base refused to cooperate.

Meanwhile, four women from the Coulport Women's Peace Camp made an impromptu inspection of their own. On Friday March 13, 1998, Sylvia Boyes, Jenny Gaiawyn, Tracy Hart and Angie Zelter spent two hours undetected inside the Coulport weapons depot, looking for nuclear materials.

The women found an unattended police launch and requisitioned it for their lawful peace work. Knowing that two Trident submarines were docked at Faslane, they decided to check on weapons there. Waving as they passed the security guard, the women set off to the Faslane base.

Fifty minutes later, they reached Faslane. All four were arrested and questioned by military police before being jailed on possible charges of theft, malicious mischief and breach of military by-laws. They were released on Monday without being formally charged.

On March 27,1998, four canoeists under with the International Weapons Inspectorate set off to inspect Faslane by sea, while 50 others walked to the north gate. They were refused admission, but based on their observations, they concluded that there were clear signs that weapons of mass destruction were being concealed at the site.

Contact: International Weapons Inspectorate, 15 Barrland Street, Glasgow, Scotland G41 1QH.

Livermore Lab

US -- On March 5, 1998, seven "United Nations citizens" carrying UN flags as UNSCOM inspectors did in Iraq, demanded access to California's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to search for weapons of mass destruction. They carried an open letter signed by 15 prominent US lawyers, including former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, stating that "there is a right and responsibility for US citizens to inspect such facilities to determine whether their operation is a violation of international and domestic law." They were arrested, cited and released.

On March 26, 1998, twin inspection teams arrived at Livermore and the Los Alamos nuclear weapons laboratory in New Mexico. Both teams included nuclear scientists.

The 30-member Livermore team, including former weapons designer Ted Taylor, was met by lab officials and police at the gate and refused access even to the lab's public areas. The team dispersed and collected soil samples. Plutonium was detected in nearby soil several years ago.

Contact: Tri-ValleyCAREs, 5720 East Ave. #116, Livermore CA 94550, (510) 443-7148, e-mail: marylia@gc.org

Los Alamos

US -- On March 3, a Citizen Verification Team including physicist Zia Mian and Bishop Thomas Gumbleton tried to inspect three facilities at the Los Alamos National Laboratory -- America's premier nuclear city.

The six-member team, in identical UN-style blue windbreakers, was met at the main entrance by a lab official who said, "You are uncleared visitors to our laboratory, and by law are not allowed access to our facilities."

"That's exactly what Iraq says," responded Mian, a specialist on nuclear proliferation in South Asia.

The team then undertook a walking tour to the gate of each suspect facility. At each location they described to the media how Los Alamos is breaking international law, defying UN resolutions and threatening human security.

Contact: Los Alamos Study Group, 212 E. Marcy St. #7, Santa Fe, NM 87501. (505) 982-7747, email: lasg@igc.org

Davis Monthan AFB

US -- On March, 1998, a six-member Citizen Inspection Team was denied access to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, to inspect for "suspected weapons of mass or indiscriminate destruction." During a peaceful afternoon standoff, the base commander acknowledged that depleted uranium (DU) weapons are stored at the base.

The UN Human Rights Commission ruled that because the chemical and radioactive toxicity of these weapons continues to kill non-combatants long after use, DU ranks among "weapons of mass or indiscriminate destruction."

Davis-Monthan is the USAF's exclusive training base for the A-10 "Warthog" fleet that fired nearly one million depleted uranium bullets during the Gulf War. More than 300 tons of depleted uranium remains in Iraq. Iraqi civilians and thousands of veterans now suffer symptoms consistent with uranium poisoning.

Inspector Felice Cohen-Joppa stated, "Faced with this information, we have a duty to inspect for these weapons, inform Tucson and the world, and warn A-10 flight and ground crews of their potential participation in a heretofore unprosecuted war crime."

The inspectors were arrested when they refused a police request to leave.

Contact: CIT, c/o the Nuclear Resister, POB 43383, Tucson, AZ 85733, (520)323-8697, e-mail: nukeresister@igc.org

Albemarle

UK -- On April 26, the Northumbrian Nuclear Weapons Inspectorate engaged in a citizen's inspection of Albemarle Barracks Secure Vehicle compound (a nuclear truck stop). The five inspectors were met at the back gate of Albemarle by a senior military policeman.

"Who's your leader?" he said.

"We don't have leaders," replied inspector Stephen Allcroft, "but I'll tell you what we're going to do. Four or five of us will be sworn in as marshals of the International Court of Justice and then we'll walk over there to the Secure Vehicle Compound and fix notices to the fence asking that the site be dismantled as part of the British Trident nuclear weapons system which breaks international law; no damage will be done and we'll be calm and peaceful throughout."

The police commander permitted the team and photographers to climb a locked gate, inspect the vehicles, post the notices, and depart.

Kleine Brogel

Germany -- On March 18, 1998, a citizens' nuclear weapons inspection team presented itself at the Belgian NATO air base at Kleine Brogel. It is common knowledge that US B61 nuclear bombs are stored at this base. The inspection team included three present or former parliamentarians.

One of them, Hugo VanDienderen, said that it is his constitutional duty as a parliament member to control the German government and to verify whether the Belgian authorities respect treaties and follow the resolutions of the UN General Assembly.

When their request was refused, the inspectors attempted to run into the base but were quickly apprehended.

The CWIT observers judged the military's non-cooperation to be a clear indication that there are nuclear weapons of mass destruction illegally stored at the base.

Contact: Forum voor Vredesactie, Van Elewijckstraat 35,1050 Brussels, Belgium

NATO HQ

Brussels -- On July 10,1998, nine Citizen War Crime Inspectors breached the fences around NATO headquarters and walked into the translation section unnoticed and asked employees whether NATO had told them about the Nuremberg Principles.

NATO sounded a general alarm for all 4,000 employees. The inspectors were removed by police as a helicopter circled.

The inspectors hope to be tried in court, believing that "the only way to put nuclear weapons on trial is to put ourselves on trial."

On July 8,1998, another 14 citizen inspectors were arrested inside NATO headquarters as they searched for documents concerning NATO's Nuclear Planning Group and its first-strike nuclear deterent.

For more info on the CWIT campaigns, see the Nuclear Resister website -- www.nonviolence.org

RELATED ARTICLE: How the US Handles UN Weapons Inspection

The US is reported to have about 30,000 tons of chemical agents and Russia about 40,000 tons. The US has quietly struck out the names of Cuban and Iranian nationals from a UN arms inspection team due to probe US chemical weapons facilities.

"Ironically, the US is exercising the same right it refuses to concede to the Iraqis," an Asian diplomat observed. The 28 UN arms inspectors in Iraq included 10 US nationals, five Britons and three Frenchmen.

Asked to explain the large proportion of Americans, US Special Commission spokesman Fred Eckhard said that there were "a limited number of countries in the world who have those experts [with experience in the deployment of weapons of mass destruction]." -- Thalif Deen, InterPress Service

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