Street Spirit Interview with James Douglass (Part 1)

One Trident submarine can destroy a country. A fleet of Trident submarines is capable of destroying the world. Jim Douglass explains how Ground Zero Center organized a visionary campaign of nonviolent resistance to confront "the Auschwitz of Puget Sound."
The USS Ohio was the first Trident Ballistic Missile Submarine in 1982. Shown above in 2008, it became the first Trident to undergo a billion-dollar conversion into a guided missile submarine able to launch 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles.

The USS Ohio was the first Trident Ballistic Missile Submarine in 1982. Shown above in 2008, it became the first Trident to undergo a billion-dollar conversion into a guided missile submarine able to launch 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles.

 

Interview by Terry Messman

Street Spirit: While you were a professor of religion at the University of Hawaii in the late 1960s, you became active in the movement to end the Vietnam War. What led you to become involved in antiwar resistance while teaching in Hawaii?

James Douglass: Before living in Hawaii, I lived in British Columbia in Canada for two years, writing my book The Nonviolent Cross. So I was out of it in terms of resistance in the United States since I wasn’t living there. Going to Hawaii meant beginning to teach in a context which was also the R&R center for the military in the Vietnam War.

Spirit: Hawaii was one of the major Rest and Recreation centers for troops during the Vietnam War?

Douglass: Yeah, a main one, and it also was a major training ground for soldiers going to Vietnam. The Schofield Barracks in Honolulu, Hawaii, had a jungle warfare training center. The people who were responsible for the My Lai Massacre trained there, as well as people involved in many other atrocities in the Vietnam War. I had walked through it. Our community, called catholic Action of Hawaii, walked through the tunnels beneath the model village in the jungle warfare training center. [Editor: The peace activists named their group “catholic Action” with a lowercase “c” because they meant the name to mean “universal.”]

Spirit: The U.S. military had built models of tunnels like the Viet Cong were using in Vietnam?

Douglass: Yes. It was set up in such a way that people being trained for Vietnam would envision each Vietnamese village as one that had tunnels everywhere beneath it, and every hut, every place where people were living, was Viet Cong — the two were equated in the jungle warfare training center. So that’s the context of where I was teaching in Hawaii.

It also had Pacific Air Force headquarters. It had CINCPAC — Commander in Chief of the Pacific Command. Hawaii was where the planes that bombed Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia got their orders and targeting. So teaching in that context meant that you either were totally complicit by ignoring this source of atrocities — ongoing atrocities — or you engaged in nonviolent direct action. It was that simple in Honolulu, Hawaii, from the time I first arrived there in 1968 to the time I was last there in 1972.

Spirit: You were teaching theology or the history of religion at the University of Hawaii during that period?

Douglass: I was a professor of religion at the University of Hawaii’s Oahu campus. I taught at the University of Hawaii from 1968 to 1969, and then I taught at the University of Notre Dame from the latter half of 1969 to 1970, and then, before I went back to Hawaii in 1971, I spent a year writing Resistance and Contemplation. So I was in Hawaii for a total of three years. The first period in 1968-69 was a period when the ground war in Vietnam was heavy and the second period of a year and a half was when the air war was becoming most intense under Nixon.

His Students Are Jailed for Draft Resistance

Spirit: So you were in Hawaii during the years when opposition to the Vietnam War was at its most intense, and the U.S. Civil Rights Movement was at a flash point.

Douglass: What happened was that on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King was assassinated. At the time, I was teaching a course on the Theology of Peace. It was a seminar, a very intense group, and several of the students came in late during the first class after King’s murder, and announced that they had burned their draft cards across campus at a gathering. They were forming what became known as The Hawaii Resistance, and they invited me to join their group. I did. I was being confronted by people who were taking seriously what we were exploring in our readings and discussions.

Spirit: Your own students inspired you. In some ways, were you being taught by your own students?

Douglass: I was totally inspired by two sources: Martin Luther King, who was the inspiration for my students and myself, and my students and other Hawaii resisters who took his death so seriously that they made a commitment to going to jail for years. They were responding in like fashion to the stand he took. Some of them did go to jail for sentences ranging from six months to a couple of years in the case of Dana Park, an inspiring draft resister who worked at a local store. Dana Park spent two years imprisoned in an Arizona desert prison. When he said no to the draft, Dana was an inspiration.

Spirit: What impact did it have on you when your students were sentenced to long jail terms for draft resistance after King was murdered?

Douglass: Soon I went to jail as a result of being part of their community of resistance. The Hawaii National Guard was called up within a month after the formation of the Hawaii Resistance following King’s assassination. We had to decide how we would respond to troops being taken on trucks through Honolulu on their way to Schofield Barracks where they would be trained at the jungle warfare training center.

Spirit: You mean that members of the National Guard were actually being trained and sent as combat troops to Vietnam?

Douglass: That was not what was said. What was said by President Lyndon Johnson was that they were being called up to respond to the Pueblo crisis — a U.S. intelligence ship that received some fire when it came close to the mainland of Korea. But we suspected — rightly — that those National Guard troops would wind up in Vietnam. And they did.

[Editor: In May 1968, troops of the 299th Infantry Regiment of the Hawaii Army National Guard were called into active duty, and an estimated 1,500 National Guard soldiers from Hawaii were sent to fight in the Vietnam War.]

Antiwar Resistance on the Streets of Honolulu

Spirit: How did you respond when the activation of the National Guard brought the Vietnam war to the streets of Honolulu?

Douglass: We discussed how to respond to that into the early morning hours prior to the troops being transported through town on their way to Schofield Barracks. I argued strongly against civil disobedience. We did not have a consensus process, so we voted, and the vote was against civil disobedience. But some of the members of the Hawaii Resistance said they were going to do it anyhow.

Spirit: Why in the world were you against civil disobedience? I mean, you had just written The Nonviolent Cross with the subheading, “A Theology of Revolution and Peace.”

Douglass: I think I had thoughts like, “This will alienate people. This is not the time or the place.” And I’m certain that beneath all that was, “I don’t want to do it.” [laughing]

Spirit: Jim Douglass, the heralded author of The Nonviolent Cross, wanted to sit on the sidelines? [laughing]

Douglass: I didn’t want to walk the talk of our classroom or of Martin Luther King, for that matter. [laughing]

So the next day, we stood as a group along Kalakaua Avenue in downtown Honolulu, as the National Guard trucks roared past on their way to Fort De Russy, an open fort in the center of Honolulu. I was holding a sign saying, “What Would Jesus Do?” He’d do more than carry a sign, by the way — you can put that in the interview. [laughing]

Spirit: Will do. So did any of you do more than carry a sign?

Douglass: It was obvious that we ought to do more. So we walked down to Fort De Russy where the troops began parading back and forth in front of the governor’s stand. John Burns, the governor of the State of Hawaii, was reviewing the troops. We walked onto the field up to the governor and I told him why we felt this was wrong: These men were going to their deaths and to kill others in an unjust war. And it was wrong.

We were quickly ushered out of the fort. Then we were standing where the trucks would soon be loaded up with the soldiers. There were motorcycle police revving up their motorcycles and preparing to depart. You know the phrase, “moved by the Holy Spirit.” I remember standing with everybody on the sidewalk, and then I remember us all sitting together in front of the police and the trucks.

We were photographed, identified and pulled out of the way. We weren’t arrested on the spot, but a couple days later, a police officer showed up at the door of my apartment, and I was arrested and charged. And we soon went to trial.

Moved by the Spirit

Spirit: You had thought earlier that this wasn’t really the right time to do civil disobedience, but you suddenly found yourself sitting in front of the troop transport trucks. What took place within you that put you in front of those trucks?

Douglass: I felt a part of a community of great people and we were making decisions together, or just instinctively doing things together. I felt no reservation whatever in working with this inspired community. And I am so glad that I was baptized by the holy movement of the Spirit in the Hawaii resistance.

Spirit: Why are you so glad that you were moved to take part in this action?

Douglass: Well, it changed my whole life. Can you imagine being a professor talking about nonviolence and the Vietnam War and not doing anything in Honolulu, Hawaii? What kind of a nightmare is that? So, we went to trial and were, of course, found guilty of what we obviously were doing. The judge, very ironically, sentenced all the students to a day or so, and then looked at me and said, “Since you were the ringleader, I’m giving you two weeks in jail.” [laughing]

Spirit: But you were more of a ring-follower!

Douglass: I was the follower of my students and he gives me two weeks in jail! Anyhow, that was a further good experience, because in jail I then saw who wasn’t present in my classes at the University of Hawaii. There were almost no Hawaiian students, but I was surrounded by Hawaiians in Halawa County Jail in Honolulu.

Spirit: It was in jail that you met many native Hawaiians?

Douglass: Yes, they were all around me. It wasn’t because native Hawaiians are criminals. It’s because the society I was living in was an occupied zone. Hawaii would be a free country of its own had the United States not occupied it and taken it over.

I was part of the Hawaii Resistance for a year and a half, and then I left to teach at the University of Notre Dame in the program for the study and practice of nonviolence. By the time I got back to Hawaii after a further year of writing Resistance and Contemplation, it was the air war that was escalating.

Resistance to the Air War in Vietnam

Spirit: How did the Hawaii resistance respond to Nixon’s escalating bombing strikes on Southeast Asia?

Douglass: We formed a group called Catholic Action of Hawaii and chose, as our focus, a Lenten campaign in 1972 at Hickam Air Force Base, which has the same runways as Honolulu Airport. At that time, it was Pacific Air Force headquarters. Every day during Lent in 1972, our little group of 10 people was in front of Hickam Air Force Base passing out a new leaflet to workers going into Hickam.

We knew from members of the Air Force in Hickam who talked with us that this was the planning center for the air war in Vietnam. We began to do nonviolent civil disobedience by walking into the base and going to the different buildings inside and passing out our leaflets, and, of course, being arrested. One day, I was driving out to the Hickam base to do our leafleting in front of the base and I got into the wrong lane of traffic and drove onto the base.

Spirit: You were actually able to drive right onto the base where the top-secret air war in Vietnam was being planned? How could that happen?

Douglass: As I was driving in, even though I had no sticker on the front of my car, the guard waved me in. I guess he made a mistake. So I parked my car at the main building of the Pacific Air Force headquarters, and I thought, well I’ll do a little experiment with truth, using Gandhi’s term. I walked inside and nobody stopped me.

I saw a directory on the wall and I saw that one of the rooms was “Directorate of Electronic Warfare.” We knew what the directorate of electronic warfare meant. We had a slideshow on electronic warfare. The Air Force could send out planes and robotic devices that would drop terrible weapons onto the jungles which could spray tiny pellets over an area the size of several football fields. And, of course, the electronic devices could be activated by an animal passing by, or a Viet Cong soldier, or a child going to get some water. That was a crime and a sin.

Spirit: Didn’t your attorneys later argue in court that this form of electronic warfare was a war crime under the Nuremberg principles?

Douglass: Sure. That’s a war crime that would cause the obliteration of civilians indiscriminately, just by the nature of the weapon. There was no knowledge whatever as to what they would be bombing. It was all done by these electronic devices. We knew the results of that bombing because of people who were talking to the victims. So we knew all about electronic warfare in Vietnam and here was the office for electronic warfare in the Pacific region in this very building.

Pouring Blood on Top-Secret Military Files

So when I came out of the building and went back to our group, we decided to take a further step. We donated blood, and three members of our group, Jim Albertini, Chuck Giuli and I, drove into the Hickam Air Force Base one day, and Jim Albertini and I went into the same building. He went into one office and I went into the office that said “Directorate of Electronic Warfare.”

When I came into the office, there was a major at a desk. His name was Major LaFrance, as I learned when he testified at the trial. I gave him an envelope with our statement inside explaining why we were pouring blood on these files. Can you imagine writing this statement with the prayerful hope that we would be able to do that action? How on earth were we going to do that?

He took the envelope. It was addressed “Commanding Officer, Directorate of Electronic Warfare.” And he walked into the next office. I looked behind his desk and there was a huge file cabinet. It said, “Top Secret” across it. I had my briefcase with a coke bottle full of blood in it. The file cabinet was wide open. There was a big lock on it but it was wide open. So I just walked back and poured the blood all over the files. The next thing I knew, I was lying on the floor and he was choking me.

Spirit: Pouring blood on top secret documents must have been controversial at the time. What was the symbolism of pouring blood on the military files?

Douglass: Because the files already had blood on them — the blood of the people of Vietnam. And we wanted to make clear that the blood of the people of Vietnam was our blood as well, and they were connected with our lives.

Spirit: It must have been startling when the major knocked you to the ground and began choking you.

Douglass: He had come from behind. I didn’t see him coming, and then he had thrown me down and was choking me. We had role-played it earlier in a session with our group. We spent all day roleplaying all kinds of things, and that was one of the things we roleplayed: if somebody threw you down. I knew both instinctively and by our roleplaying, that it was time to relax. And I was happy because I never imagined that we would actually be able to do this action.

He let up because I don’t think he wanted to choke somebody. Then I realized that there was a group of quite a few people standing around us in a circle. All these other people had come from nearby offices after hearing the commotion. Then he stood over me and he told me, “Wipe it up — there’s blood all over.”

I said, “That’s impossible.”

He knew immediately what I meant. He said, “Don’t give me any of your philosophy.” What an insightful person! [laughing] Then he picked up my legs and he used my hair as a mop to wipe up the blood. Strange as it may seem, I wasn’t arrested. I was released and I was back teaching at the University of Hawaii the next day.

Conspiracy and Destruction of Government Property

Spirit: Did they arrest you later or prosecute you for this action?

Douglass: When I came back to our house in a low-cost area of Waikiki after teaching during the day, I had walked in without noticing that there were a couple of unusual cars outside. The FBI agents from the cars broke down the door and came in and arrested me. I was taken and charged with destruction of government property and conspiracy and so forth — several felony charges.

Major LaFrance may be retired, and for all I know, he’ll read this article and say, “I remember that!” If so, God bless you, Major LaFrance, you were my favorite witness at the trial.

Spirit: Why was the major your favorite witness?

Douglass: Because in the trial, I was my own lawyer and I was responsible for questioning Major LaFrance. So I asked him just to describe what happened that day. He was quite truthful. He said exactly what occurred and then he got to the point where I was wondering if he was going to be explicit about picking me up and wiping the floor with my hair. [laughing] When I asked him what happened next, he said, “I performed a symbolic action.”

Spirit: He must have read your book. He took a page right out of it.

Douglass: He was taking off from our description of our action. He performed a symbolic action! He was a great witness.

SpiritWhat was the outcome of your trial?

Douglass: The judge at our trial, Judge Martin Pence, was a very conservative man. We discerned he was not going to allow us to examine the evidence against us. The evidence against us, of course, were the bloody files, and that was our evidence against the government because we were claiming those files contained evidence of U.S. war crimes.

So for our trial preparations, we were planning to use an international law defense: We were blocking a war crime. We invited experts from the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal to come to Honolulu, Hawaii, and two of them did. [Mary Kaufman and Benjamin Ferencz, two of the prosecuting attorneys for the United States against Nazis accused of war crimes at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal after World War II, agreed to act as co-counsel at the trial.]

Ground Zero organized faith-based resistance to a national-security state based on nuclear weapons. From left to right, Utsumi Shoenin, Jesuit Father Bill Bichsel, Sr. Denise, Shelley Douglass, Jim Douglass. Photo credit: Ground Zero Center

Jim and Shelley Douglass at a recent protest near the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, a weapons facility that produces all uranium parts for U.S. nuclear weapons. From left to right, Br. Utsumi Shonin, the late Jesuit Father Bill Bichsel, Sr. Denise Laffin, Shelley Douglass and Jim Douglass. This photo was taken at a recent protest near the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, a weapons facility that produces all uranium parts for U.S. nuclear weapons.

 

Judge Loses Control of Courtroom

In preparation for the trial, we anticipated that the government was going to try to circumvent that defense by not bringing in the [military] files, and that the judge would rule in their favor. When that was about to happen in a pretrial hearing, the entire community was present. It extended beyond the 10 or so members of our catholic Action group. The courtroom was packed. So when the judge began to say that the government didn’t have to bring the files into court — which was in violation of the rules of evidence — people in the courtroom began to protest to the judge.

He lost control of the courtroom and he finally cleared the court so there was nobody left there except for the judge and the defendants. We were also outside the court every day fasting and with signs protesting against this withdrawing of the files and beyond that, protesting the air war in Vietnam which was the ultimate purpose of all of this — and not whether we were going to go to prison, as we expected to.

Judge Pence then withdrew from the case, which was amazing.

Spirit: Why did the judge withdraw? I’ve almost never heard of that happening in a civil disobedience trial.

Douglass: He had lost control of the courtroom and so he withdrew from the case. I don’t have a very good explanation, to this day, except that the Spirit was working. He was replaced by Judge Samuel King, a man who had just been appointed by President Nixon, and our trial was his first case as a federal judge. He changed the ruling and said we did have a right to examine those files.

Spirit: It was an almost unbelievable turn of events that let the truth get out at your trial.

Douglass: I don’t know how all of this came to pass, but it did come to pass! The government then was on the horns of a dilemma. They were about to drop the whole case.

Spirit: They were going to drop it because the federal government didn’t want to release in a public courtroom the military documents that you had poured blood on?

Douglass: They weren’t going to disclose those files in the court. They didn’t want us to examine those files and make a case against them with experts in international law coming to Honolulu. This was all over the front pages of the newspapers, and it had become an important issue in Hawaii. So we had already gotten to the first purpose of our campaign, which was to break through the silence.

[Editor: Judge King allowed virtually all of the witnesses to testify for the antiwar defendants. Nuremberg attorney Mary Kaufman later called it “the most startling testimony ever given in a U.S. courtroom on the war in Vietnam.” At the trial, a former Air Force sergeant testified that while he was stationed at Hickam Air Base in Hawaii, he had witnessed “the deliberate targeting of a Laotian hospital for obliteration bombing, as well as the targeting of numerous other civilian objectives.”]

Spirit: At that time, peace activists were trying to make the public aware of the full extent of the saturation bombing.

Douglass: The bombing of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia was going on silently, in terms of the connection between Honolulu and Indochina. So we had broken through that silence with our trial. But we wanted the trial to continue.

The government prosecutors withdrew the felony charges which would have been five years apiece for conspiracy and destruction of government property, for a total of 10 or 15 years. They lowered the felony charges to misdemeanors. So six months became the maximum sentences. We went to trial and, of course, were found guilty.

‘We Non-cooperated with Everything’

Spirit: You were sentenced to six months in prison?

Douglass: Yes, we were sentenced to the maximum six months, which was suspended on condition of our paying fines of $500 each and reporting to our probation officers and fulfilling all the conditions of probation — none of which we did. We non-cooperated with everything we were given.

As part of that noncooperation, I had already resigned my job at the University of Hawaii in preparation for going to jail for several years for these felony charges. My resignation was effective at the end of the following semester, so Shelley and I moved back to our home in British Columbia.

I had already refused to pay the $500 fine, so by moving I was in violation of the probation order that you’re not allowed to travel without permission of your probation officer. We just went ahead and moved. Prior to that, I had made a trip to Copenhagen, Denmark, in violation of travel restrictions, to participate in an international war crimes tribunal that focused on the U.S. bombing of Indochina. And this was all done publicly. They tried to ignore it, but it was done publicly.

Spirit: They were trying to defuse the impact of your resistance by ignoring the noncooperation? Did they ever arrest you?

Douglass: By the time Shelley and I moved back to British Columbia, a warrant was issued for my arrest. So, for the next several years, we lived in Hedley, this little mining town in British Columbia, while I worked on another book, Resistance and Contemplation. Anytime I went across the U.S. border I was liable to be arrested. And I was arrested eventually, of course.

The Hawaii action took place in 1972 and I was arrested in 1975. Shelley and I had gone to the Los Angeles Catholic Worker to speak at a Day of Nonviolence held down there in 1974, and they advertised it publicly. But the FBI was a bit late. They came a few days after I’d been there, and by that time we were back in British Columbia.

But the following year, in 1975, I was invited to speak in Los Angeles at another Day of Nonviolence and this time, when I was speaking in the auditorium, a group of men in suits walked in from the back of the auditorium and announced that they were members of the FBI. I asked them to please sit down because I wasn’t going anywhere. They did sit down and I gave my talk against the Vietnam War.

Then they came up and arrested me and took me out to their waiting cars. By that time, the audience was well organized and they blocked the cars for about half an hour, and they had to call in the Los Angeles Police Department to get out of the parking lot. I was then taken back to Honolulu for a resentencing for my violations of probation. The day I was arrested in Honolulu was the same date as the last demonstration against the Vietnam War at the White House at which Shelley was arrested for the charge “failure to quit.”

When I went before the judge, the courtroom was filled with friends and they were again prepared to noncooperate in some way when the judge sentenced me to six months in prison, just as they had when we originally were on trial. Judge King said, “For your failure to fulfill the conditions of your probation, I sentence you to an unconditional probation.” And he walked out of the courtroom! That was the end of that! [laughing]

 

Abolish Nuclear Weapons. Resist Trident. Poster art courtesy Ground Zero Center

Abolish Nuclear Weapons. Resist Trident. Poster art courtesy Ground Zero Center

 

The Trident Campaign Begins

Spirit: When you learned that the naval base in Bangor, Washington, would be the home port for Trident submarines, were you guided by Gandhi’s vision of nonviolence in forming Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action?

Douglass: Yes, we were very specifically guided. We studied Gandhi, and we based everything in the Trident campaign, and then in the succeeding Tracks campaign, on the Gandhian understanding of a satyagraha campaign.

When Narayan Desai (Gandhi’s secretary and biographer) came to visit us, it was at a critical moment when we were struggling with all of that. We sought at every step of the way, from the beginning of the campaign, to recognize that the people on the other side of the fence — in this case, quite literally, the fence between Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action and the Trident submarine base — were our brothers and our sisters.

In those days, it was always, “The Russians! The Russians! They’re the enemy.” So that justifies weapons that could destroy all of humanity to “deter” the other side by fear — the Russians. The nuclear weapons in our midst threaten us as much as they do the other side. There’s nothing more suicidal than a nuclear weapon. We have to build a campaign to overcome our denial of the reality of nuclear weapons, and our denial of how they function to create fear in our own lives and fear of the so-called enemy.

Therefore, we organized a campaign around a base that was invisible, even though it’s only about eight miles across the water from Seattle. We tried to bring home to all of us what this nuclear base means. So we lived next to it. That’s the nature of Ground Zero, and that’s the nature of Shelley and my moving into the last house alongside the railroad tracks going into the Trident submarine base.

The Conscience of Robert Aldridge

Spirit: Out of all the issues of war and peace you might have focused on after the Vietnam War, what led you to focus so wholeheartedly on resistance to the Trident submarine?

Douglass: One person: Robert Aldridge, with the strong support of his wife, Janet, and their ten children. Unless I say the name Robert Aldridge, none of it makes sense. Aldridge was a key designer of the Trident missile system at Lockheed Missiles and Space Corporation at the Sunnyvale Plant in California. He and Janet met with Shelley and me in Honolulu, Hawaii, when he came to support us in the Hickam Three trial. When we met them, we did not know he was a key designer of the Trident missile system.

While attending a public forum during that trial, Robert Aldridge was asked to comment on the statements made by the Nuremberg prosecuting attorneys who came to help us in the trial. Mary Kaufman and Benjamin Ferencz, two of the attorneys during the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, defended us at our trial because they said we were acting in obedience to the Nuremberg principles by pouring blood on top-secret electronic warfare files in order to bring them to the attention of the American public.

Robert Aldridge was struck silent at that forum, and we never asked him about it. But several years later, when he came to visit us in our home in Hedley, British Columbia, he told us he had recognized that he was a war criminal by what the Nuremberg prosecutors said in that forum.

Spirit: What did the Nuremberg attorneys say about war crimes that had such a life-changing impact on Robert Aldridge?

Douglass: They said that first-strike weapons and weapons that directly violate a civilian population were war crimes in violation of the Nuremberg principles. Those Nuremberg principles, which are a foundation of international law, are violated both by electronic warfare — which is why we poured our blood on the files for electronic warfare — and also by the Trident nuclear missile system, which is what Robert Aldridge was designing.

Spirit: So when Aldridge visited you and Shelley, he actually told you that he had become aware of his involvement in war crimes during your trial in Hawaii?

Douglass: Yes. And we were not the only part of this process. His daughter, Janie, as a high school student, was beginning to demonstrate against the Vietnam War, and she told him one time after dinner, “Dad, I may be demonstrating against your work soon.” So the combination of what he heard from both his daughter in high school and the experience at our Hickam trial moved Bob and Janet to hold a retreat with their children the following Christmas. And the family reached a decision that Dad — Bob — had to resign his job, and the whole family would have to take the cut in income and lifestyle. And all of them would have to take on the responsibility to change their lives.

So, at the age of 49, Robert Aldridge resigned his job after having worked at Lockheed Missiles and Space Corporation for his full adult life.

When he came up to our home in Canada to tell us about all that, we then asked, “Well, what’s Trident?” He said, putting the map on our kitchen table, “It’s the submarine missile system that will be based right here.” And he pointed to a spot that wasn’t very far from us on the other side of the border (between the U.S. and Canada). That was the beginning of the Trident campaign.

 

A missile is fired from a Trident submarine. Lockheed missile designer Robert Aldridge determined that their accuracy and explosive power give the Trident missiles a first-strike capability.

A missile is fired from a Trident submarine. Lockheed missile designer Robert Aldridge determined that the accuracy, short flight time and explosive power of Trident missiles give the Trident submarine a first-strike capability.

 

Spirit: I understand that first-strike weapons of mass destruction are war crimes under Nuremberg principles. But why did Aldridge conclude that Trident was a first-strike weapon?

Douglass: Bob Aldridge was designing the part of Trident that was specifically for a first-strike capability: the precise targeting of the multiple reentry vehicles in each missile. He was designing the ability of each reentry vehicle (with its hydrogen bomb) to home in on an underground missile silo in the Soviet Union and destroy it — before its missile could be launched.  And do you design a weapon to destroy an empty missile silo?

No! That kind of accuracy was needed in order to destroy a missile silo before the weapon is fired from the silo. Robert Aldridge was a smart man, and he realized that Trident’s accuracy and short flight time means a first-strike weapon. So he identified all of that in hearing that a war launched by the Nazis fit the same category of war crimes as the Vietnam War, which his daughter was demonstrating against, and the missile system that he was designing at Lockheed. It all fit together.

Spirit: Along with the first-strike accuracy of its missiles, the Trident submarine also has a destructive power that would indiscriminately kill millions of civilians.

Douglass: Yes, even if you hit all those missile silos that were necessary in a first strike, you would also destroy over 100 million Soviet citizens. That’s a war crime in another sense, and in the most devastating sense of all.

Spirit: You wrote in Lighting East to West that a single Trident submarine could incinerate millions of civilians and had as much destructive power as hundreds of Hiroshima bombs.

Douglass: A single Trident submarine had 24 missiles, and each missile was capable of carrying eight independently targeted nuclear warheads — meaning hydrogen bombs. Doing the math, eight times 24 is 192 warheads on one submarine, and each of those hydrogen bombs had 38 times more destructive power than the Hiroshima bomb.

One Trident submarine can destroy a country, even a huge country like the Soviet Union. At that time, 20 Trident submarines were scheduled to be built, and then you have a weapon that is capable of destroying the world many times over.

And that was before we even took into consideration the concept of nuclear winter. Through the use of nuclear weapons in a first strike, or for that matter, in any attack, we would create a nuclear winter around the globe, destroying the capacity for any human life at all to exist.

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Related:
Jim Douglass Interviews and Articles (All).

Life at Ground Zero of the Nuclear Arms Race

Blockading the ‘White Train of Death’

Street Spirit Interview with Jim Douglass (Part 1)

Street Spirit Interview with Jim Douglass (Part 2)

The Acts of Resistance and the Works of Mercy (Part 3)

Gandhi’s Vision of Nonviolence: Holding Firm to Truth (Part 4)

 

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Writing for Street Spirit has awakened in me a sense of responsibility toward others. Street Spirit is a way for people silenced by big money and big media to have a voice.

Animal Friends: A Saving Grace for Homeless People

“I wrapped her in my jacket and promised I’d never let anybody hurt her again. And that’s my promise to her for the rest of her life. In my mind she’s a little angel that saved me as much as I saved her.”

A Testament to Street Spirit’s Justice Journalism

The game was rigged against the poor, but I will always relish the fact that Street Spirit took on the Oakland mayor and city council for their perverse assault on homeless recyclers. For me, that was hallowed ground. I will never regret the fact that we did not surrender that ground.

Tragic Death of Oakland Tenant Mary Jesus

Being evicted felt like the end of her life. As a disabled woman, she saw nothing ahead but a destitute life on the streets. She told a friend, “If I’m evicted tomorrow, I have no choice but to kill myself. I have no resources, no savings, no money, and nowhere to go.”

They Left Him to Die Like a Tramp on the Street

Life is sacred. It is not just an economic statistic when someone suffers and dies on the streets of our nation. It is some mother’s son, or daughter. It is a human being made in the image of God. It is a desecration of the sacred when that life is torn down.

Joy in the Midst of Sorrow in Santa Maria Orphanage

This amazing priest not only housed 300 orphaned children from the streets of Mexico City, but he also took care of 20 homeless elders in his own house and started a home for children dying of AIDS. Father Norman also ran a soup kitchen that fed many people in the village.