Nuclear Watch New Mexico executive director Jay Coghlan. Screenshot/Los Alamos Reporter
Archbishop John C. Wester, Archdioceses of Santa Fe. Screenshot/Los Alamos Reporter
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Nuclear Watch New Mexico executive director Jay Coghlan blasted Los Alamos County as a “stark illustration” of how racial injustice “plagues our land” Thursday in a speech recorded for an hour-long virtual national commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. .
“The County itself is 70 percent non-Hispanic White, while New Mexico as a whole is 48 percent Hispanic and 12 percent Native American. Los Alamos County is the fourth richest county in the U.S. but is now asking the Department of Energy for the transfer of 3,000 acres to it at no cost. This land was seized from Hispanic homesteaders and Native Americans at the beginning of the Manhattan Project and that land should go back to them. Where is the racial justice in this?” Coghlan said.
The Department of Energy recently informed Los Alamos County that the request for the land transfer has been denied. See here.
Coghlan earlier said he was thrilled to have the Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe join in the commemoration.
“Two of the nation’s three nuclear weapons laboratories lie within his dioceses – Sandia and Los Alamos. Because of that, more money is spent in his dioceses than any other dioceses in the country and perhaps the world. In fact there are probably more nuclear warheads in his dioceses – some 2,500 stored in reserve at the Kirtland Air Force Base at Albuquerque,” Coghlan said.
Zeroing in on Los Alamos National Laboratory’s future mission of expanded plutonium pit production , he said future production is not to maintain the safety and reliability of “the already extensively tested and reliable stockpile”.
“Instead, future production will be for speculative new designs that can’t be tested because of the existing global testing moratorium or perhaps worse, will prompt the U.S. back into testing sparking a new nuclear arms race,” he said.
Coghlan said this could actually degrade U.S. national security instead of improving it.
“This begs the question of what is real national security. Here our nation is, facing a global pandemic and failed presidential leadership, but nevertheless the federal government is actively planning and is beginning to spend $2 trillion on so called modernization of weapons,” he said. “This will rebuild every warhead in the stockpile, design and produce new warheads, build new production facilities expected to last until the year 2080, and build new missile subs and bombers to deliver them. This does nothing for our national security in terms of fighting against the coronavirus pandemic and climate change.”
Archbishop Wester in his prerecorded address said noted that although socially distanced, “We are united in our resolve to eliminate nuclear weapons and to build a world that’s grounded not on fear and distrust but on mutual respect for the life and dignity of all”.
He said when he visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki a few years ago in September 2017, he felt “a fear, a dread and a sorrow” that united him in some mysterious way with “that unfathomable suffering”.
“It reminded me a little bit of those days during the Cuban missile crisis when I would walk home from school having been instructed what to do in the event of a nuclear attack within a few thousand yards of a Nike missile site in San Francisco. I remember looking up walking home from school when we heard a plane to see if it might have been from Russia ready to drop bombs on us. I suppose it was only a child’s fear but it was real and no less real today. This real fear continues to fuel the nuclear arms race and it must stop,” Archbishop Wester said.
“Pope Francis calls us to a renewed effort to bring about a world of peace and justice that is not based upon fear or the threat of nuclear annihilation but justice and human solidarity. Fear, distrust and conflict, he tells us, must be supplanted by a joint commitment by faith and in prayer that peace and justice reign now and forever. This endeavor demands that we’re all involved,” he said.
He noted that during his visit to Nagasaki last year, Pope Francis accurately stated that a world of peace free from nuclear weapons is the aspiration of millions of men and women everywhere and that the Pope said the response to the threat of nuclear weapons must be joint and concerted, inspired by the “arduous yet constant effort to build mutual trust and thus surmount the current climate of distrust”.
Archbishop Wester said he was very pleased to see recently that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that the 21st century continues to witness geopolitical conflicts with state and non-state actors, increasingly sophisticated weapons and the erosion of international arms control frameworks.
“The bishops of the U.S. steadfastly renew our urgent call to make progress on the disarmament of nuclear weapons. The church proclaims her clarion call and humble prayer for peace in our world which is God’s gift to the salvific sacrifice of Jesus Christ,” he said. “We in New Mexico have been and continue to be directly involved in nuclear arms. It was poignant for me to return (from the trip to Japan) and within a short while pass the old office in Santa Fe where scientists reported for duty with the Manhattan Project, proceeding to one of the laboratories where the first nuclear bomb was engineered and manufactured. And of course it was here at the Trinity Site that the first nuclear bomb was detonated.”
He said New Mexico is also a land of beauty and peace where many cultures come together.
“We wish to be known as a state where peace supplants war and where we seek to be instrumental in moving our world from conflict and fear to peace and tranquility. I am gratified to see the many scientists at laboratories here in New Mexico that work to this end as they make strides in research that envelopes energy and environmental programs, computing science, bioscience, engineering science, material science and microsystems as well as advances in medicine and lately in helping to fight COVID-19. These are productive uses of our laboratories that we’re proud of,” Archbishop Wester said.
He asked for prayers that justice would be provided for those whose families have been so severely damaged by the nuclear tests that have taken place in New Mexico over the years.
“I’m speaking about the reparation that needs to be made to the downwinders . The Tularosa Downwinders Consortium is working hard on this and I support their efforts,” Archbishop Wester said.
Other speakers during the hour-long video were activist Rev. John Dear, Roshi Joan Halifax of the Upaya Institute and Zen Center in Santa Fe and Dr. Ira Helfand, co-chair of Physicians for Social Responsibility.
The video was hosted by the New Mexico 75th Anniversary of Hiroshima/Nagasaki Committee and Pace e Bene. The two groups had for more than three years been planning in-person vigils on Los Alamos for August 6 and 9 but moved everything to a virtual format due to COVID-19 restrictions on mass gatherings.