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Ground Zero wants 'zero' nukes at Subase Bangor

From left to right, Brian Watson, Jackie Hudson, Consuelo Vega-Bockelie and Dora Vega, part of the Ground Zero protesters that showed up with a giant inflated missile outside the main gate of Subase Bangor Wednesday Aug. 7 to demonstrate against the use of nuclear weapons. - Photo by Rogerick Anas
From left to right, Brian Watson, Jackie Hudson, Consuelo Vega-Bockelie and Dora Vega, part of the Ground Zero protesters that showed up with a giant inflated missile outside the main gate of Subase Bangor Wednesday Aug. 7 to demonstrate against the use of nuclear weapons.
— image credit: Photo by Rogerick Anas

It is 44-feet long, weighs 72 tons, and has a new home on the Hood Canal.

But there is contention about whether it should be there.

Subase Bangor has completed its facility upgrades to support the D-5 missile. Eight of the nation’s 18 Ohio class trident subs are stationed at Bangor. Two have undergone a reconfiguration at PSNS to carry the D-5 missile and two more await the same procedure. The remaining four will eventually be converted to launch the Tomahawk cruise missile.

On Wednesday, Aug. 7, Bangor hosted an event to recognize the completion of the project which finished on time and under budget. Past and present civilian and military employees and their families were invited to a picnic which included speeches by upper management and tours of unclassified portions of the base.

“It marks the completion of a technical project that has been years in the making and thanking them for a job well done,” said Paul Taylor, Bangor public affairs officer.

However, not all share the same feelings. The Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action showed up outside the base from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. with a life-size inflatable D-5 missile to protest the presence of the nuclear capable missiles.

The group believes the move to reconfigure the submarines is infringing on international law and treaties aimed at total nuclear disarmament.

“They are in violation every day by the presence of these weapons,” Ground Zero’s Jackie Hudson said.

It is U.S. Navy’s policy to neither confirm nor deny whether nuclear weapons are on the subase grounds.

The Pacific fleet subs have been playing catch-up with the East Coast based atlantic fleet subs which already carry the D-5 in place of the smaller C-4 missile. The submarine launched ballistic missile that can travel more than 4,000 nautical miles and deploy multiple nuclear warheads, each directed at separate targets, is classified by the Navy as a strategic nuclear deterrence.

Ground Zero, who has protested at the subase for 25 years, believes the weapons were designed to be used as a preempted first strike.

“I think it’s bogus... it’s the standard propaganda,” said Ground Zero’s Brian Watson of the missile’s role in preventing nuclear war.

Watson views the existence of the missile as the U.S.’s “big stick.”

“You don’t have to explode a nuclear weapon to cause harm,” he said.

Ground Zero is awaiting decision from a federal court on an environmental lawsuit filed against the Navy in June 2001 regarding the D-5 missile upgrade. According to a statement released by the group in November 2001, the suit charges the Navy with failure to prepare an environmental impact statement for the facility upgrades or address the impact of an accidental detonation or explosion involving any of the missile’s components. In the statement, it said the Navy does not want to compromise its neither confirm nor deny policy by providing that information.

On Aug. 9 the group conducted a vigil outside Bangor’s main gate, marking the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan. A similar protest will take place today from 10 a.m. to noon.

Taylor said the subase is there to defend Ground Zero’s right to self expression and the Navy acknowledges their presence.

“One reason we respect what they do is because they are always well behaved,” he said.

However, many of the protest participants are willing to be arrested for their cause of making people aware.

“It shows that the U.S. is not really being serious about nuclear disarmament ... I hope it causes the larger public to awaken to the nuclear dangers here in Kitsap County,” Watson said.

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