Resisting weapons

August 04, 2021

On July 21, I was walking in the forests surrounding the German Air Force Base at Büchel in the Eifel Mountains with three Catholic Worker friends, Susan van der Hijden of Amsterdam,...

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On July 21, I was walking in the forests surrounding the German Air Force Base at Büchel in the Eifel Mountains with three Catholic Worker friends, Susan van der Hijden of Amsterdam, Netherlands, Susan Crane of Redwood City, California, and Christiane Danowski of Dortmund, Germany. We were there at the end of an ‘International Week’ of protests against the approximately 20 US nuclear gravity bombs known as B61s kept at the base in a ‘nuclear sharing’ agreement with the United States.

In previous days we had visited the entrance gates to the base with our signs and banners and two days before we participated in a ‘Digging for Life’ action outside the fences, near the other end of the runway, where the German pilots liftoff and land their Italian made PA200 Tornado jet fighters, daily training to drop US nuclear bombs on Russia when the order is given.

This day we hiked to the other, less accessible, end of the runway, through a forest of dead and dying trees decimated by recent years of drought, unprecedented heat and a massive bark beetle infestation affected by climate change.

In the clearing near where the runway begins, we noticed a couple of ‘spotters’, hobbyists who got there before us looking to get dramatic photos of the jets taking off. In their company, while we were scouting and imagining potential future protests at the site, we also knew that some action was imminent.

Beyond the fence that marked the boundary of the base from the forest, there was a high berm of earth that shielded the nearby Tornados warming up their engines for takeoff from our view. We could not see, but we heard the purr of their engines turn to a roar and we felt the earth shake and we saw and then smelled a wall- acrid and black, a stinking miasma of burnt and unburned jet fuel- rising above the berm and over our heads before the jets screamed off away from us to take to the air to rehearse for the end of everything.

Not far from where these Tornado jets were spewing out more than 13 tons of CO2 per flight hour into the atmosphere, cities and towns in the river valleys were cleaning up from recent rains and floods that left more than 177 dead and hundreds more still missing at the time- in some places the rivers rose to the highest in over 100 years, possibly higher than any seen in the last 1,000 years.

Participation in the annual ‘International Week’ in the Covid pandemic was already hampered by the fact that it was held just days after Germany opened its borders to vaccinated visitors from places like the US, and by July 15, the day after my own arrival by air, many railroads and highways were closed by rising water.

Excerpted: ‘Resisting Nuclear Weapons in a Climate Crisis’

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