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‘We have to lead our leaders,” says Ann Suellentrop

By Ann Suellentrop

We are here today—Sept. 17, at the Finale Rally of the Peace Walk led by Charles Carney—to talk about topics that are not quick, easy or fun, but the good thing is that we can all do something about them. Gandhi said when making a change in society, 20% is destroying something harmful and 80% is building up something positive to take its place. I will talk more about ideas of what we can do, but just gathering here to become better informed and show our opposition is helpful. My intention is not to frighten and depress you, but to ultimately inspire hope and action. We have to lead our leaders, because we are headed in the wrong direction.

We are in the middle of a second, much more dangerous, nuclear arms race, and the evidence for it is right here in Kansas City. Our nuclear bomb parts plant, the National Security Campus—we’re beside its entry road now—is expanding by 50% by leasing new production buildings. The budget has zoomed up from about $700 million a few years ago to $1.28 billion for 2022. When this new plant was built in 2014, there were about 2,500 employees. Now there are 5,500 to 6,000 employees. Business is booming, so to speak. This plant, operated by Honeywell, is heavily involved in Life Extension Programs, which don’t extend our lives, but the “lives” of the nuclear bombs! New nuclear weapons are being proposed and created, which could possibly lead to nuclear bomb testing, which was stopped 30 years ago, in 1992.

We are going the wrong way! We need green energy like solar panels and windmills, we need much better mass transit, we need sustainable agricultural practices. All of which will take massive amounts of money that is currently being wasted on nuclear weapons. You can read about this in detail in the booklet “Warheads to Windmills,” online at NuclearBan.US

Artwork by Rosie Davila—Courtesy of Pace e Bene (

We are in the middle of a second nuclear arms race, but this one is more dangerous for several reasons. (It’s kind of like the COVID-19 Delta surge, no?  Different and more deadly.)

-There are now multiple nations with nuclear bombs, not just the US and Russia. The other countries are:  China, the U.K., France, India, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea.

-Hypersonic weapons are being proposed which could travel half-way around the world in 5 minutes, instead of the 15 minutes it takes now. Why are we in such a hurry to kill ourselves? There would be even less time to react to a supposed attack. Remember in Hawai’i a few years ago when the alarm went out that an attack was coming in 20 minutes? What if the US had taken it seriously and launched retaliatory nukes?

-Cyberattacks and cyber hacking open the possibility of beginning a nuclear war by terrorists or rogue nations.

-Artificial intelligence where machines could be programmed to decide when to attack is another frightening possibility.

-Climate crisis, causing more conflicts due to scarcities of resources, is another factor.

-Rogue leaders are a very real threat. As we saw in the news recently, US General Milley was concerned enough about the former president that he called China to reassure them. This works against the theory of deterrence, which says having a nuclear arsenal protects against a nuclear attack. Also, there have been many near misses and accidents with nuclear weapons over the years.

-Today’s nuclear weapons are enormous. They make the ones that leveled Hiroshima and Nagasaki look like BBs! One nuclear submarine has about 300 nuclear warheads – enough to take out every major city in a country! This is madness! Nuclear war could cause millions to die instantly, but the soot from burning cities would loft into the upper atmosphere, encircling the globe, blocking sunlight and plunging us into another Ice Age. There would be crop failures for years with mass starvation and breakdown of civilization.

The US military industrial complex itself is an enormous force for environmental destruction. It uses and produces tons of toxins. When I was working in beautiful Hawai’i in 2005, for example, I learned there are 30 toxic military dumps on the islands.  How sad.

Another problem is that our Air Force bases use something called “forever chemicals,” such as PFAS, to practice putting out jet fuel fires (in case of a fighter jet crash). The closed Richards-Gebaur AFB across 150 highway to the south has a highly polluted area like this. Many toxins are created just manufacturing weapons, as we have seen at this nuclear bomb parts plant. The military is a huge user of fossil fuels. I read an article that said even if the world does everything it can to stop emitting carbon dioxide, the military would still continue to cause climate crisis. And many of our recent wars have been over fossil fuels. And finally, the military budget of $45 billion dollars a year takes money we need to heal the climate crisis.

As our protest signs say, we need Climate Action, Not War.

The climate crisis and nuclear weapons are the two existential threats to all life on earth, to our beautiful planet.  We are talking mass extinction. We are gambling with our lives and our planet. All nuclear weapons must be destroyed to keep us safe. Our choice is nonviolence or nonexistence, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said.

Ann Suellentrop

There is hope. We each can do something, either individually or as a group. I think it’s more fun as a group, myself. Here are just a few ideas of what we can do:

-You can ask one of us to come speak to any group you are a member of, such as a church, school, environmental or civic group.

-You can learn about nonviolence and teach it to the children. We are part of ongoing book clubs and have resources on this.

-You can join PeaceWorks to learn more about the issues from articles on our web page,, or our FaceBook page or in our newsletter available by email or snail mail.

A new reason for hope is the Ban Treaty, the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the TPNW. Fifty-five nations have already ratified the Ban in their own countries. To support the Ban, you can join ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.  Visit the website for more info. You can also join PeaceWorks in contacting our elected officials to take the ICAN Cities pledge or ask your mayor to join Mayors for Peace

You can see if your local university is listed on the ICAN website under Schools of Mass Destruction. There is a new university pledge that you could promote to the faculty and students to get their university out of their alliance with nuclear weapons manufacturers. Most of our region’s major universities are cooperating with Honeywell and encouraging it to recruit their students to work at this plant.

There is a Divestment Movement promoted by ICAN dealing with banks and major funds, and it is having some big successes. This helped stop apartheid in South Africa. Ask your bank or retirement fund what they are invested in and let them know you don’t want them invested in nukes. People are pushing banks and corporations to let go of this nuclear stupidity. I personally work with my investment advisor to eliminate nuclear weapons and war and to invest in green energy instead.

The ANA fall meeting Nov. 3-5 online is another opportunity to learn from long-time anti-nuclear activists. The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability is a network of 30 some organizations whose members live near nuclear weapons manufacturers and nuclear waste.

So we are not helpless. We are not hopeless. Just imagine if there was no pushback. The weapons makers would have carte blanche and could do whatever they wanted. During the 1980s there were about 80,000 nuclear weapons but now there are only about 13,000 (still enough to kill every living being on earth 4 or 5 times over). But how did that sharp decrease happen? There were enormous protests against nukes. For example, in June 1982, 1 million people marched in Central Park in NYC. The people led the leaders! Democracy is a muscle. We have to use it or we’ll lose it! The truth is we made nuclear weapons and we can take them down!

We can use our creativity to make a better vision for the future. Violence just leads to more violence. Just imagine if soldiers were deployed to fight climate catastrophe, to plant trees and clean up military waste all over the world!

—Ann Suellentrop, a retired mother-baby nurse, is a stirrer-upper in PeaceWorks-KC—a long-time Board member, a traveler to national/international peace actions, our blithe spirit. She shared portions of this article Sept. 17 at the end of the Peace Walk (by Charles Carney and, occasionally, companions) from Wichita, KS.  Copyright 2021, Ann Suellentrop, Rosie Davila, Pace e Bene, Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 International License.


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