Friday, May 4, 2007

UC Student Hunger Strike: No More Nuclear Bombs In Our Name!

May 9th will see the beginning of a hunger strike to demand that the University of California stop engineering, testing and manufacturing nuclear bombs. This bold act of civil resistance is being coordinated by students and community members across multiple UC campuses. Some of us have pledged to go without solid food - permanently, if necessary - unless our demand is met!

The hunger strikers' basic position is this: At this critical time in our world, with the survival of our planetary ecosystem hanging in the balance, it is imperative for the UC Regents to stop providing a fig leaf of academic respectability to the creation of the world's most toxic and deadly weapons, and instead use their position of political leverage to spur the US toward genuine nuclear disarmament, democratization, and demilitarization.

What Political Leverage? The UC has been the primary nuclear weapons lab research contractor in the United States for over six decades. It has managed the Los Alamos (NM) and Lawrence Livermore (CA) nuclear weapons compounds since their inceptions in 1943 and 1952, respectively. Hence, every nuclear weapon in the US arsenal was researched and designed by a UC employee.

Why Now? In March, the US Nuclear Weapons Council, an interagency committee of executives from the Departments of Defense and Energy, announced that the UC's Livermore facility would develop a new hydrogen bomb. Officially, this is to be the first new US nuclear weapon since the end of the Cold War. Los Alamos is slated to manufacture the plutonium bomb cores, or "pits," for these weapons. Owing in part to its technical complexity and political baggage, pit manufacturing is the pivotal step in creating modern nuclear warheads. It is also perhaps the most polluting stage in the nuclear weapons production process.

These developments are part and parcel of a US government plan to revitalize the entire nuclear weapons complex, so as to begin producing dozens of new nukes every year. Other nations rightfully view such plans as a bellwether of US imperial ambitions and are responding in kind. The danger of a nuclear exchange has rarely been greater.

Why Else? As you read this, US nuclear attack submarines roam beneath the waters of the Straight of Hormuz, outside of Iran, ready to launch "small yield" nuclear weapons at "hardened underground targets" on virtually a moment's notice. An assault of this type would kill tens of thousands of innocent people, irradiate Iran's natural environment for generations to come, and almost certainly escalate tensions among many of the world's nations of the world so as to lead to even more catastrophic future wars and bombings of this type.

The type of nuclear weapon in question, the B61-11, was created by UC employees at the Los Alamos laboratory in the mid-'90s. UC administrators, faculty members, staff, and students will be directly complicit in this massacre, should it occur.

Political Leverage, Revisited: If The Regents decline to support the labs' hydrogen bomb initiative, due to critical grassroots pressure applied by UC students and their supporters, the political consequences will be vast. The labs' new weapons program will very likely die. The US nuclear enterprise will have been dealt a major setback, from which it is unlikely to fully recover.

The US is a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a United Nations pact mandating the nuclear powers to work in good faith toward the cessation of the arms race and toward nuclear disarmament. Since ratification of the treaty in 1970, US intransigence has been the primary barrier to its full realization. If the US is brought into compliance with its international law obligations, global nuclear
disarmament will instantly transform into a genuine possibility.

How, Exactly, Will The Hunger Strike Make An Impact? For several years, the multi-campus UC Demilitarization Coalition has worked on several fronts to sever the UC's nuclear ties. We have written letters, generated petitions, spoken politely during Regents meeting public comment periods. We have spoken angrily during public comment periods. We have held rallies. We have held press conferences. We have protested. We have dumped paper cranes on the Regents' meeting room floor. More recently, we have physically disrupted Regents meetings. Clearly, most "legitimate" channels for trying to change UC policy are closed to us. A more drastic action is needed. The UC demilitarization campaign has progressed to a point where such an action is possible and can be successful, particularly in light of the recent creation of a Student Nuclear Weapons Labs Oversight Committee by the UCSB student
government. The time is now.

The UC Regents' next public meeting is May 16-17 at UC San Francisco. The hunger strike will apply critical public pressure to force the Regents to consider a resolution to sever ties with the weapons labs. Any such resolution must stipulate that the Regents withdraw support from the labs based only on principled opposition to current US nuclear weapons programs.

The Regents have rarely been more politically vulnerable with regard to their role as nukes lab managers. The labs' new hydrogen bomb program has no technical justification and is clearly contrary to international law. It is deeply unpopular even among many long-time nuclear weapons supporters.

Hunger strikes have a long history of success at UC campuses. There is historical momentum on our side.

What Are The Health Consequences of Hunger Striking? By making a few basic physical and mental preparations, participating in the hunger strike is unlikely to have any long-term health consequences for anyone without major existing health deficiencies. If you would like to consult with seasoned experts regarding various potential health implications of your participation, e-mail or call (805) 965-3443.

Each participant is free to decide the duration and variety of their fast on an individual basis, or in consultation with other hunger strikers. Some participants will fast for a few days; others are fasting for an open-ended time span.

How Can I Join The Hunger Strike? To participate, please contact, call (805) 965-3443, or visit If you don't want to hunger strike but would still like to support this critical and timely initiative in any way, please contact us.