This is the weekend of the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, who many regard as the closest the world ever came to nuclear war, when the Soviet Union and the US threatened each other with annihilation over Soviet missile installations with nuclear warheads in Cuba. For 13 days the two countries faced off with a US Navy blockade of Cuba.
On Friday, Santa Fe Veterans for Peace rallied in front of the offices of New Mexico Senator Ben Ray Lujan and Representative Theresa Leger Fernandez to protest the delegation’s (including Senator Martin Heinrich) complicity in the nuclear arms race. When Peace Veteran Bob Josephs took to the microphone he told a story about the Cuban missile crisis that most of us were unaware. Josephs was posted in Turkey with the US military where his job was to maintain three operational missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. On duty for five days curing the crisis there was no alert at this military post. Josephs didn’t know until much later that the missiles he was guarding were part of the settlement reached by the Soviet Union and the US: in exchange for the Soviet Union taking the missiles out of Cuba the US agreed not to invade and to remove our secret missiles from Turkey and Italy (see this article in Pressenza for a more detailed explanation of how nuclear war was averted).
Now, as President Biden invokes the possibility of nuclear Armageddon in the crisis created by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and western expansion of NATO, 100 organizations have come together to call on elected officials to de-escalate tensions between the superpowers. At the Santa Fe Rally Jean Darling of Nonviolent Santa Fe, a retired Unitarian/Universalist minister, told the crowd, “We all want peace but we don’t know how to get there—especially our government and military.”
The Raging Grannies entertained with their version of “Take me out of the bomb game.” Someone in the crowd called out, “Everyone back in the 60s on the streets were young and now we’re all old!”
Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, read excerpts from a statement released on Friday by the Archbishop of Santa Fe, John C. Wester, “Eliminate the Nuclear Danger by Eliminating Nuclear Weapons.” Wester debunks the delegation’s touting of nuclear weapons production as a jobs program by citing figures on the abysmal conditions of child welfare and poverty in the state. He calls upon the New Mexico delegation to “reverse course” and “end their support for unneeded, exorbitantly expensive plutonium pit production for nuclear weapons [to be manufactured at LANL]. This future pit production is not to maintain the safety and reliability of the existing nuclear weapons stockpiles but is instead for speculative new design nuclear weapons that could push the U.S. back into testing. All this can help fuel the new nuclear arms race, which is tragic folly 60 year after the Cuban Missile Crisis.”
Here is the entire Statement from Archbishop Werner. It is well worth the read.
Reflection on the 60th Anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis: Eliminate the Nuclear Danger by Eliminating Nuclear Weapons
ALBUQUERQUE – Friday October 14, 2022 – IMMEDIATE RELEASE
We are now marking the anniversary of the beginning of the Cuban Missile Crisis, regarded as the closest that humanity has ever come to global nuclear annihilation. But now, 60 years later, even President Biden is invoking that dreaded name of Armageddon to describe what could potentially occur in the crisis over Ukraine.
Robert McNamara, Defense Secretary under President Kennedy, said that we survived the Cuban Missile Crisis only by plain dumb luck. In my own childhood, I had to practice the futile exercise of “duck and cover” in school. It deeply pains me to think of young boys and girls growing up today with renewed nuclear threats that should have been decisively dealt with and resolved 60 years ago.
We still have not learned the essential lesson of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which is that the only way to eliminate the nuclear danger is through careful, universal, verifiable steps to eliminate nuclear weapons. It is the very nature of these weapons that the possession of any nuclear weapons is an existential danger to all. And Pope Francis has been explicitly clear that “the possessing of nuclear weapons is immoral.”
That the nuclear weapons states have no intention to honor their pledge to eliminate nuclear weapons is made abundantly clear yet again by the failure of the recent Review Conference of the NonProliferation Treaty to make any progress whatsoever toward global nuclear disarmament. Yet the U.S. and other nuclear weapons powers sternly denounce the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which the Vatican was the first nation-state to sign.
But what do the nuclear weapons powers have to offer as an alternative when they so intentionally ignore the Non-proliferation Treaty’s 50-year-old obligation to enter into serious negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament? Their answer is instead trillions of dollars invested into so-called “modernization” programs that will keep nuclear weapons forever. This does more than just help fuel a new nuclear arms race. It also robs society of resources that could help humanity achieve its full potential through better educational and health systems, wildfire protection, repair of critical infrastructure and addressing new climate change threats.
Many will no doubt say that it’s naïve to believe that nuclear weapons can be abolished. Yes, it will be extremely hard work, which must be concretely verified. But isn’t it the height of naiveté to believe that humanity can continue to survive with nuclear weapons? Counting on luck is not a sustainable strategy given the history of accidents, near misses and nuclear saber rattling by volatile and threatening world leaders.
No dictator lasts forever, and some day Putin will be gone. But do we have to live with the threat of nuclear weapons forever? We need to pray for peace in Ukraine and to begin working in a determined, deliberate manner towards a future world free of nuclear weapons. More money is spent on nuclear weapons research and production in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe than any other diocese in the country because of the Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories. Therefore, this Archdiocese has a special responsibility to help lead humanity toward nuclear weapons abolition. And our Labs could help us toward that end by providing new verification technologies that could help underpin a future world free of nuclear weapons.
The New Mexican congressional delegation frequently touts expanding nuclear weapons production programs as jobs programs. Yet New Mexico remains mired at the bottom of numerous socioeconomic indicators, such as the most children living in poverty and declining per capita income relative to the other 49 states. The Department of Energy plans to spend $9.4 billion in the Land of Enchantment this fiscal year, more than the entire State’s operating budget of $8.5 billion. Yet the economic benefits appear to stay in privileged enclaves such as Los Alamos County (which is the fourth richest county in the USA), while some of the poorest communities in the nation are contiguous to the Lab.
Because of this and more, I call upon the New Mexico congressional delegation to reverse course. Congress should have the courage to begin to help lead us toward a future world free of nuclear weapons. In particular, I call upon the New Mexican congressional delegation to end their support for unneeded, exorbitantly expensive plutonium pit production for nuclear weapons. This future pit production is not to maintain the safety and reliability of the existing nuclear weapons stockpiles but is instead for speculative new-design nuclear weapons that could push the U.S. back into testing. All this can help fuel the new nuclear arms race, which is tragic folly 60 years after the Cuban Missile Crisis.
I again renew my call for dialogue on the existential issue of eliminating nuclear weapons, in which the New Mexico congressional delegation should help lead.
Yours in the Peace of Christ,
The Most Reverend John C. Wester, Archbishop of Santa Fe
For further reading and suggested actions, please see my pastoral letter Living in the Light of Christ’s Peace: A Conversation Toward Nuclear Disarmament at https://archdiosf.org/documents/2022/1/220111_ABW_Pastoral_Letter_LivingintheLightofChristsPeace_Official_Reduced.pdf
A summary is available at https://archdiosf.org/documents/2022/1/In%20Summary_Final_Header_Legal.pdf