Christian Peacemaker Teams Work Against Depleted Uranium Weapons

“A movement is afoot to stop the production and use of depleted uranium (DU) weapons,” reported On Earth Peace’s Peace Witness Action List, which distributed a recent report from a Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) campaign. The Nonviolent Campaign to End the Production of DU Weapons is a grassroots movement based in a regional CPT group in northern Indiana, and supported by a coalition of organizations and concerned citizens that work through education, creative nonviolent action, legislation, and media to end production of DU weapons at major facilities in the US: Alliant Ballistic Laboratory in Rocket City, W.Va., and AeroJet in Jonesbough, Tenn. The campaign includes a strong core of Church of the Brethren participants.

Here is an excerpt from the Sept. 25 report by Mabel V. Brunk:

“The Stop DU Campaign held a six-day swing through seven states. Goals of this trip…included: let folks know about depleted uranium weapons (DU) and how they are viewed by international law, bring awareness about DU to local communities and build campaign support networks, ask for the end of the production of DU munitions.

“Monday, Sept. 11. Ben Long, Amy Fry-Miller, Cliff Kindy, and Mabel Brunk left Joyfield Farm…. Flags were at half-mast this day, remembering the events of 9/11. This reminded us that Gandhi began his nonviolent campaign in South Africa 100 years ago on this day! Our flags were high throughout the trip.

“At 7 p.m., 22 people assembled at Beaver Run Church of the Brethren near Burlington, W.Va. Amy led us in our signature song, ‘O Healing River,’ and Ben, Mabel, Cliff, and Amy talked: What is DU? How does DU impact civilians and military? What does the Pentagon say and how do their words contrast with their own regulations? Where are DU weapons production facilities and how do they impact the surrounding area? What are pertinent state and national legislative agendas related to DU? The group listened with interest; questions and comments showed genuine concern. Jan, from Veterans for Peace, was vehement with his statement that Gulf War Syndrome was DU-caused. Preston Miller, pastor and physicist, hadn’t heard of DU until an August Associated Press article by Deborah Hastings. Some in the group wanted to monitor trucks leaving the Alliant Tech DU weapons assembly plant in Rocket Center, W.Va….

“Tuesday, Sept. 12. We drove past the Alliant Tech plant and visited briefly at the Army Reserve armory. We read a front page article by Mona Ridder in the Sept. 4 ‘Cumberland Times-News’ that quoted Cliff, Ruth, and Eleanor. Gary Geiger, Alliant Tech public relations, told Ridder that DU came to the plant contained and that it was a ‘non-issue.’ We stopped to visit Mona Ridder…. Mona was sympathetic with peace issues, but, as the paper’s business reporter, understands the perspective that the local economy needs the 300-400 jobs brought by the recent DU contract for 120 mm. DU tank shells for the US Abrams tank.

“We…then drove to Allegany College in Cumberland. Cliff went to the chaplain’s office, Ben and Amy talked with students, sharing Stop DU brochures…. Then we continued to the Potomac College campus where Amy and Ben again interacted with students. Ben met one student who told of using DU weapons during ‘Shock and Awe,’ but reported not using them afterwards. Another student shared plans to leave soon for Iraq as a medic with the mission to save soldiers’ lives, so he pressed the benefit of using DU weapons.

“…At the Corinthian Center of the Pinto, Md., Mennonite Church, Al Anderson, Air Force veteran and member of the congregation welcomed us and introduced us to the 23 people who came to the 7 p.m. meeting. Six adults and two high school students from the Unitarian Universalist Church were among those who asked questions and were full of interest. One man spoke of writing innumerable letters to legislators about DU and seemed discouraged. Another spoke of working at the plant as it was developing DU munitions in the late 1980s, while a neighbor spoke of nearly daily rocket tests at the plant.

“Wednesday, Sept. 13. The team met with Cherie Snyder’s Human Services 8 a.m. class at the Allied Health building on the Allegany College campus. About 18 first- and second-year students and a chaplain from Frostburg State University attended. Students had read about Christian Peacemaker Teams and the DU campaign and were ready with comments and questions. Interest was high and we stayed 30 minutes longer than planned. Here, as at all meetings, we shared DU brochures and CPT materials and gathered names and contact information for future mailings.

“Thursday, Sept. 14. We drove past the Aerojet Ordnance plant and on to Erwin, site of Nuclear Fuel Services. About 350 hourly union workers have been on strike for over four months, asking for return of pension and health benefits. Linda Modica met us there. She had arranged many of our meetings in the Jonesborough area. We listened to stories of the striking workers and joined the picket line at the front entrance. Most of those driving by either honked or waved to express support. We learned, contrary to our suspicions, that the plant probably does not have connections to the DU that is molded and milled at the Aerojet plant. Nuclear Fuel produces fuel for the reactors that drive the US nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers.

“At 3 p.m. we departed for Jonesborough…. About 18 people attended the 7 p.m. meeting at First Presbyterian Church in Elizabethton. Some were from the peace group at that congregation. Others represented a peace group from St Mary’s Catholic Church. A chemistry professor from East Tennessee State University shared that he had toured Aerojet in 1987 and found it relatively safe and clean at that time. Another attendee, Shirley Cecconi, had two sons who had been in the Iraq conflicts, one for four tours. Both are healthy, though one has a yearly medical check in Richmond, Va. Listeners were enthusiastic and one suggested selecting a storyteller to use DU as a theme and another, commissioning a graduate student to do DU research.

“Friday, Sept. 15. We had a lunch in Johnson City with Bert Allen, psychology professor at Milligan College and member of Veterans for Peace. He had invited three staff persons from the Mountain Home (Va.) Hospital. Myra Elder was a psychologist working with pain management, Andrew Spitznas was the psychiatrist heading up the treatment for veterans with post traumatic stress disorder, and Dan Kyte was the chief of the domiciliary unit. They knew little about DU and its impact on US military personnel, but were glad to hear our data and stories.

“We then met with a former employee at Aerojet Ordnance who suggested different contacts for our work. We enjoyed a carry-in supper at Jackson Park Church of the Brethren in Jonesborough and accompanied Chanda Edwards to a Brethren young adult gathering at Lake Placid. We joined the game night and then grabbed their interest with our information about DU and Aerojet.

“Saturday, Sept. 16. At Jackson Park church again we prepared posters and planned for the press conference. At Linda Modica’s invitation, Leila Al-Imad, a prof at ETSU, joined us and shared from her Mideast experience and work with the American Friends Service Committee.

“At 12 noon, we held our signs at the entrance to Aerojet Ordnance: ‘Support Our Troops: Stop DU,’ ‘Aerojet, Stop Making DU Weapons!’ and ‘Depleted Uranium: Weapon of Mass Destruction.’ Linda, Faith Mahoney, and Hollis Edwards, both neighbors of the plant, joined us, but none of the invited media appeared. Faith handed DU brochures to drivers as they stopped at the intersection. Cliff carried a brochure to the two Murray Security personnel inside the guard house at the plant, but had to slide it under the locked door because of their fear to open it for him. Sheriff Vince Walters soon drove up, informed us we were on Aerojet land and should move across the corner. He was friendly and just said we should not use violence. Later another sheriff’s car appeared and the woman said we should not pass leaflets to cars at the stop sign. We presented our prepared statements to the ‘invisible press….’

“We…delivered our press packets to the ‘Jonesborough Herald and Tribune,’ the ‘Johnson City Press,’ and WJHL TV. Ben filled the tank with bio-diesel fuel and we headed home…. We listed potential contents and contacts for a future CPT delegation….

“The mission was accomplished and we rejoice with friendships made, seeds planted, and energy generated toward our goal of nonviolently stopping the production of depleted uranium weapons.”

For more information visit http://www.stop-du.org/. For more from On Earth Peace’s nonviolence blog go to http://www.nonviolencenews.blogspot.com/. To receive peace news from On Earth Peace send an e-mail message to mattguynn@earthlink.net.


The Church of the Brethren Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. To receive Newsline by e-mail go to http://listserver.emountain.net/mailman/listinfo/newsline. Submit news to the editor at cobnews@brethren.org. For more Church of the Brethren news and features, subscribe to “Messenger” magazine; call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.


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