Antinuclear Resisters at Büchel Airbase in Germany

By Pat Elder, July 4, 2018

The German Luftwaffe’s Panavia Tornado fighter jet.

WBW’s Pat Elder is encamped with antinuclear resisters just outside the gate of Büchel Airbase in Germany and he sends us this report.

Early in the morning, when I approached this sprawling airbase that employs 2,000 civilians and soldiers, the bucolic setting was reminiscent of the rolling foothills of the Blueridge Mountains in western Maryland and Virginia. Scattered large, well-kept farmhouses amid the beautiful rolling land planted in wheat and corn reflected this prosperous and peaceful country.

The Airbase (Der Fliegerhorst Büchel) is located in the Rhineland-Palatinate region of western Germany, about 60 km from the border with Belgium and Luxembourg. About 20 US thermonuclear nuclear weapons, fitted to the German Luftwaffe’s Panavia Tornado fighter jet, are ready to be deployed in a moment’s notice. German pilots will take off with these weapons if the order comes from President Trump through NATO. The Germans will drop them on their targets, presumably in Russia.  The Tornado is capable of delivering the B-61 nuclear bomb with a yield of up to 180 kilotons.  That’s 12 times the size of the Hiroshima blast.

Everything seemed normal very early this morning until I reached the access road to the main gate of the base located off a sleepy country road. A stream of cars carrying German soldiers and civilians proceeded into the base at a snail’s pace. As the traffic that engulfed me inched closer, I heard the deafening noise of the Tornado as it lifted off the runway just a few hundred meters away. It is a ghastly and frightening assault to the ears, Like Dylan described,

I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world.

After several minutes of single-lane bumper-to-bumper traffic I came within a hundred meters of the main gate and took a sudden and sharp right into the Peace Camp. This is one of the most extraordinary places on earth.

A prototype B61-12 with its newly designed GPS-guided tail-kit.

The Peace Camp is located on public land adjacent to the base, completely shrouded by a healthy hedge of brush and trees. It has been here, on an acre of land, for five years. There are several camper-trailers and a few large tents with bathrooms and a kitchen. The place has a solar panel that provides electricity to power the satellite and electronic devices. The internet these peaceniks have developed is lightning fast.  Leave it to Germans. I’m impressed with this country. Everything is better here.

I think this Peace Camp and the Peace Park, on the corner at the entrance to the base, demonstrate the guilty conscience of the German people. These great people, perhaps the pinnacle of human civilization, have learned many lessons in their tumultuous history, but this may be beyond their comprehension and/or resolve. They don’t have the courage to stand up to the American empire.

The organization behind the Peace Camp and the Peace Park is the Nonviolent Action Nuclear Weapons Abolition (Gewaltfreien Aktion Atomwaffen Abschaffen, GAAA). It has organized a remarkable twenty weeks of actions to represent the twenty nuclear bombs readied to kill millions. Vigils, rallies, prayer services, flyering, mass demonstrations and civil disobedience actions have been planned for the period that extends to August 9, 2018, Nagasaki Day. People and groups from throughout the continent check in and out. These peace warriors and prophets were greatly encouraged by the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). The leaders, including Marion Kuepker, say they are emboldened by the UN Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This coming weekend a half-dozen local churches, with a healthy mix of Catholics and Protestants, are expected to bring 500 parishioners to the main gate for religious services. Last year, a Catholic Mass brought 60 to the main gate.

The Peace Park is positioned on the corner off the main road that all traffic must pass when it enters the base. The Peace Park carries a strong religious message, reflecting the region’s Catholic identity.

This Catholic shrine in the Peace Park is seen by 2,000 soldiers and civilians as they enter Büchel every day. It is just 200 meters from the main gate.

The shrine depicts Jesus breaking a gun in two. It says, “Think – Atomic weapons are a crime against God and Humanity.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Trump administration is in the process of  upgrading the nuclear arsenal at Büchel. The Americans plan to produce the new B 61-12 nuclear weapon by 2020. The B 61-12 will also be deployed with NATO forces in Germany, Italy, Belgium, Holland, and Turkey.

The B 61-12’s thermonuclear warhead will reportedly have a maximum yield of approximately 50 kilotons, (three times Hiroshima) but war planners are expected to be able to reduce that using a so-called “dial-a-yield” feature that effectively limits the extent of the nuclear reaction when the weapon detonates. The weapons may be as small as 0.3 kilotons – about 2% of the size of the 15-kiloton bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima. This feature makes nuclear warfare much more likely – and much more attractive for use as a strategic weapon.

There is often confusion between “tactical” nuclear weapons and the traditional “strategic” nuclear weapon. The new B 61-12 may be considered a tactical nuclear weapon because its blast is generally smaller, and it is designed to be used on a battlefield after a ground war has begun. A strategic nuclear weapon may be several hundred times larger than a tactical weapon and is designed to completely destroy an enemy’s ability to exist or wage war. The largest strategic weapon in the US stockpile is the B-83 with a yield of 1.2 megatons, about 80 times the size of the Hiroshima bomb.

Since the end of World War II, the Germans have dealt heavily with matters of conscience. Germany committed itself in the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1970 and all fractions of the Bundestag voted in 2010 for the disarmament of nuclear weapons. Last year 122 states voted for a UN nuclear weapons ban, while Germany abstained.

Nonviolent Action Nuclear Weapons Abolition calls for the German federal government to withdraw all nuclear weapons from Büchel and all nuclear weapons from German soil.  The overwhelming majority of Germans – a staggering 93%  – want nuclear weapons to be banned just as chemical and biological weapons have been banned, according to an opinion poll commissioned by the German chapter of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW).

About 50 German peace groups are involved in a long-term campaign to prevent the switch to the more user-friendly B 61-12. There is a deep and genuine fear of this new weapon. The core element of the campaign is the Declaration of Commitment signature campaign where people declare
on the website:

I will come to Büchel once a year and take part in an action until nuclear weapons are withdrawn, and I will actively commit to seeking a nuclear weapons-free world in the place where I am living.”

The brilliant German organizers are holding an international week of action next week, from July 10th to the 18th.  If you are interested in joining, please contact: Marion Kuepker: mariongaaa@gmx.de

World BEYOND War is honored to be associated with these actions.

Speaking of nuclear weapons, Pope Francis has categorically condemned not only “the threat of their use” but also “their very possession.”

Original article here: https://worldbeyondwar.org/antinuclear-resisters-at-buchel-airbase-in-germany

 

“Google Should Not Be In The Business Of War”: Understanding the Weaponization of Artificial Intelligence

Google's Chelsea New York City office

By Marc Eliot Stein, June 8, 2018

In early April, more than 3100 Google employees signed a letter that begins with the words “Google should not be in the business of war”. The letter is a response to the company’s participation in a new US Department of Defense artificial intelligence program called Project Maven, which it describes as a “customized AI surveillance engine” designed to interpret visual images from drones, and concludes with a powerful request from Google employees to their management:

“Recognizing Google’s moral and ethical responsibility, and the threat to Google’s reputation, we request that you:

1. Cancel this project immediately

2. Draft, publicize, and enforce a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology”

This brave act of protest and social responsibility is remarkable for its clarity, and deserves to be recognized as one of the few known cases of active scientists or workers directly objecting to their participation in the horrors of war, along with the Russell-Einstein manifesto of 1955, which urged the abolition of war as the only path forward for a world now armed on all sides with nuclear weapons.

This remarkable letter, along with the resignation of dozens of Google employees, proved its power over a month later when Google management announced that it would not renew Project Maven after the contract is completed in March 2019, and acknowledged the “backlash” against Google’s public reputation as the primary reason behind this management decision. While this response does not satisfy the demands in the original letter, it is clearly a step in the right direction, and shows the potential of the Google employee act of protest as a foundation to build upon as the world grapples with the realization that the US military (and, presumably, other military forces as well) are moving quickly to weaponize artificial intelligence.

World BEYOND War has published a new petition to thank these Google employees. We should not only thank them for their courage but should also each think hard for ourselves about the implications of this new form of technology, and about our shared responsibility to avoid the worst case scenarios of its continued use.

The best way to imagine these worst case scenarios is to think about the militarization of two capabilities in which artificial intelligence already touches our everyday lives: facial recognition and driverless vehicles. As you know if you’ve ever tagged a photo on Facebook, artificial intelligence has already reached the point at which you can be easily and immediately identified by algorithm. “Safety cameras” have also gone up all over the world, suddenly granting unknown organizations the unchecked ability to gather and match faces with “identity databases” that contain our information without our permission, knowledge or control.

The technology of driverless vehicles has also progressed with little involvement or awareness on the part of the public commons. The first death in a driverless car was in 2016, when a Tesla crashed into a truck. The first case of a pedestrian killed by a driverless vehicle was only three months ago, in March 2018, when an autonomous Uber struck down a woman crossing the street in Arizona.

These facts explain the urgency behind the Google letter, which reflects a technology industry obsessed by profit, competition and shareholder value. Here are some other points that must be understood to gain a full picture of the dilemma our world is now already in, and the harsh consequences we currently face.

Project Maven is a small project. JEDI is the larger project.

The Google letter called attention to Project Maven, which the company now says it will not renew. Even more importantly, the letter called attention to the existence of a larger US Department of Defense project called JEDI (Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure), which should be the primary focus of continuing attention to this topic. There is little public information about this secret project, but its scope includes both artificial intelligence and cloud computing, which indicates massive computing power and scalability, as well as access to a bottomless supply of databases containing geographic and individual personal information.

Like most military technology projects, JEDI is not meant to be visible even to the taxpayers who pay for it, but we should hope that information about this large and expensive project will be released to the public. The craven choice of a project name obviously meant to invoke “Star Wars” suggests that the Department of Defense views this project with a disturbing level of grandeur and self-flattery. Yoda would not be impressed.

Google employees spoke up. Where are Amazon and Microsoft employees?

The letter signed by 3100+ Google employees calls out other companies by name:

“The argument that other firms, like Microsoft and Amazon, are also participating doesn’t make this any less risky for Google.”

Indeed, in the very lucrative field of cloud computing, Amazon is even bigger than Google. While most people think of Amazon as the world’s largest online store, software developers and technologists know of a completely different Amazon. This company leads the world in cloud computing, allowing both small and large organizations to purchase and use server capabilities quickly and easily. Ten years ago, most companies ran their own servers. Today, most companies rent server space from Amazon. Government and military organizations are among those who rely on Amazon’s cloud services, which also include advanced artificial intelligence and database capabilities. We should hope that Amazon employees will be inspired by their peers at Google and begin to speak up in public about the social consequences of the work they do. Will any employees of Amazon declare, as their Google peers have, that “Amazon should not be in the business of war”?

Companies like Google and Amazon have a unique commitment to open source communities.

All corporations are not alike, and indeed Google’s famous self-imposed rule to “Not Be Evil” has been taken seriously by countless open source developers who may not be Google employees but do contribute and interact with Google on open source libraries such as TensorFlow, which provides deep learning capabilities.

This is one reason why the Google employees letter was such a shock wave to the global community of open source developers. While a traditional military contractor like Raytheon or General Dynamics typically carries out all its work in private, artificial intelligence libraries like TensorFlow are unique collaborations between corporations and the public commons. The global open source software community has been integral to the development and healthy growth of the entire Internet, and this community has always stood for an explicit sense of social responsibility. When employees say “Google should not be in the business of war”, they speak not only for their fellow Google employees but also for the international community of open source developers who contribute to their projects.

Weaponized AI is now a reality, and not just in USA.

We should not have needed a letter from 3100 Google employees to warn us about the fact that the age of weaponized artificial intelligence is already upon us, and not just in the United States of America. In USA, this will inevitably result in a growing public fear and hysteria about what other countries are doing in the field of weaponized AI. Military profiteers all over the world are surely counting on this arms race to escalate. This is the terrible reality of the situation we are already in.

The only sane answer is the abolition of war.

The manifesto about nuclear proliferation signed by Bertrand Russell, Albert Einstein and others in 1955 pointed to an answer that still eludes us. The only path to sanity for a world gripped by fear and primed to explode is the abolition of war. This was perfectly clear in 1955, but the leaders of the time were not capable of delivering on this hope.

Today, 63 years later, we see as clearly as ever that war only brings more war, and that technological advancements will continue to raise the stakes. The sickening vision of killer drones connected to massive real-time databases and equipped with state-of-the-art artificial intelligence capabilities chasing human beings down is no longer a vision of the future (as it was in the frightening “Metalhead” episode of “Black Mirror”, which aired only last year). All the pieces are in place to make this sickening vision of a reality, and the courageous act of 3100+ Google employees has now revealed to us that even some corporations that have pledged to uphold a moral standard are moving forward at full speed towards this future that nobody wants. The stakes are raised, yet again. The responsibility is on all of us – not only Google employees, not only software developers, but all of us – to solve the worst problem the world has ever known and work towards the complete abolition of war.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE: https://worldbeyondwar.org/google-should-not-be-in-the-business-of-war-understanding-the-weaponization-of-artificial-intelligence/

Green Party Endorses Women’s March on the Pentagon

Cal Poly Student Protesters Threatened

On April 19th, 2018, members of the SLO Peace Coalition entered the Cal Poly Career Fair with the intent of peacefully bringing a message about war profiteers to Raytheon’s booth. Raytheon creates many of the weapons used in lethal and illegal killings of innocent civilians across the world. Their employees, many of whom are Cal Poly graduates, make a killing on killing. Just last month, over 50 of Raytheon’s Tomahawk missiles were dropped on Syria by President Trump. The SLO Peace Coalition sought to criticize and highlight Raytheon’s role in the war economy, and the billions of dollars spent on war and militarism instead of education, housing, and healthcare.

The nonviolent, song-based protest lasted about 15 minutes; the students then left, peacefully, of their own accord, without ever being asked to leave.

About two weeks after the protest, members of the SLO Peace Coalition received notification from Cal Poly administration that they had violated the University’s Student Code of Conduct, and were under investigation with sanctions pending. 

This is the same public university system which, barely more than a week earlier, defended another student’s “free speech” right to wear blackface. So why the disproportionate response to these peaceful protesters?

We certainly don’t think it’s a coincidence that retired Raytheon CEO William H. Swanson is chairman of the Cal Poly Foundation, and has donated $10 million to the university’s golf program. For a public university—or, frankly, any institution—to defend the interests of a multi-millionaire war profiteer over the free speech of students who were nonviolently calling for peace is appalling.

The SLO Peace Coalition is standing up to the war machine. They have been engaged in organizing a campaign to divest CalPoly from war, and move its investments into life-affirming solutions for our own communities. This latest action shows how CalPoly values the profits of war over democracy and free speech.

We in the Divest from the War Machine Coalition stand with the students of the SLO Peace Coalition and defend their right to nonviolently protest for peace. Sign the petition demanding that CalPoly drop their investigation of these student activists. And then send this tweet to the CalPoly President asking why he is allowing students to beinvestigated for nonviolent protest. 

The CODEPINK Divest Team: Sarah, Rita, Nancy, Taylor, Jodie, Natasha, Brie, Medea