Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the Nuclear War Base

John LaForge

Photo by Christina Zerr
Photo by Christina Zerr

“The atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war at all.” — Maj. Gen. Curtis LeMay, WWII Air Force Commander of the 21st Bomber Command, Sept. 20, 1945

BÜCHEL AIR BASE, Germany — 
I am still reporting from the peace camp near this NATO base in Germany, where anti-war activists will blockade the main entrance on August 6 and 9, the 73nd anniversaries of the US atomic bombings of Japan. Similar protests against the Bomb will take place at nuclear bases all over the world (including the British Trident submarine base in Faslane, Scotland, and the US Trident submarine base on Puget Sound near Seattle, Wash.). But here in Germany the US does something brazenly self-contradictory, it deploys about 20 modern hydrogen bombs in someone else’s country, each of them 10-to-20 times the explosive force the crude atomic weapons used on the Japanese by the United States in 1945. That’s why your weekly nukewatcher, and a lot of others, have taken the trouble to travel to this bucolic region, amidst the dairy cows, and the fields of wheat, corn and sunflowers — to demand an end to the craziness.

With banners, flags, posters, chairs, and summer hats, activists from around Germany and a few from the US will stand or sit, sing or play instruments, all the while blocking the main gate during morning rush hour when hundreds of cars and trucks enter the base on weekdays. The German military guards here are calmly familiar with these peaceful interruptions which have become regular occurrences over the last 20 years. The guards automatically set out a well-used sandwich board directing traffic to another gate. Of course base personnel and civilian contractors who are late for work get irked and often grouch at having to turn around and find another entrance. The protesters calmly wave back and take the hostility in stride. Last Tuesday, Susan Crane, a six-week volunteer camp staffer who travelled from her home in Redwood City, California, was verbally confronted by a couple of local villagers angry about our signs (“U.S. H-bombs Out of Germany!”) and about the inconvenience we cause the military. One yelled, “Let the air force do its job!” and “Go to Berlin; they don’t make decisions here!”

Yet it’s the air force’s job that must not be done, and crucial decisions are made here. One sign, made by 18-year-old Max Smay, who was delegate here from the Snake River Alliance in Boise, Idaho, reads: “Trump can order a nuclear attack! Pilots, Will you obey?” Indeed, two US generals testified in public last year that they might disobey a nuclear attack order from the Tweeting Dotard. With pilots roaring off the runway and raising the shattering howl of their Tornado fighter jets all week long — often two-at-a-time – nuclear war decisions are actually practiced in this place. I think it’s safe to say that plenty of lawmakers in Berlin have no idea what goes on here, where German pilots train to use US nuclear bombs. Eight years ago the Bundestag overwhelmingly agreed, across all parties, to tell the Chancellor’s coalition government to get rid of the US nukes. Since then however, the issue has been ignored except for responses to the ongoing protests at this base. Last summer, for instance Green Party member Tabea Rossner complained in open session that go-in actions by protesters here give the impression that this supposedly high-security base is “an amusement park.” That quip in turn reminded both the Foreign Minister and the head of the Social Democratic Party to repeat their calls for removal of the bombs.

So the “Buechel Is Everywhere — Nuclear Weapons-Free Now” peace camp stays on task. For six very hot days in a row, Victor White, from Veterans for Peace in Oceanside, California, has been keeping a silent vigil near the main gate with his “Vets for Peace” flag, his Tibetan prayer flags, and his framed enlargement of a peace prayer. He was joined on Monday by the Rev. Rainer Schmid, a Lutheran minister from the area, who is making his own vigil at the same entrance, holding a 12-foot-tall, wooden cross with the demand printed on the horizontal, as if from the Biblical Jesus: “Atomwaffen Abschaffen Jetzt!” (Abolish Nuclear Weapons Now!).

With peace camp ending on Nagasaki Day, August 9, artists, religious leaders, veterans, tax resisters, Parliamentarians, and various reporters are all playing a part in stigmatizing, castigating, and excoriating the Bomb. Wildfires in California, Sweden, Russia, Australia, England, and Greece, and the heat-wave breaking records all over the world, remind us every day that nuclear war practice is worse than a waste; it kills people now without launch orders, by stealing resources from the war on climate change, the one that should be fought.

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