Warriors Against Ignorance

Carlotta LaNier will place her imprint as the final speaker of Kabbalah Live! Thursday, March 3. Carlotta, as you can read about her, was the youngest of the Little Rock Nine and the first African American to graduate from Little Rock Central High School.   She was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for her courage. People can wonder—why do we need to recall the past? How often do we need to be reminded about what happened during the Holocaust in Europe or the stories about segregation and prejudice in America? Are we not long past these prejudices?

To quote Maya Angelou, “We must be warriors in the struggle against ignorance.”  Maya and Gerda Weissman Klein were among those awarded the Medal of Freedom last week by President Obama.  If you want a quick feel for Gerda Weissman Klein go on You Tube and watch her poignant remarks accepting the academy award for the documentary film that tells her story. www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zn-fPM4KS0

We will have an opportunity to honor through our listening to Carlotta LaNier another warrior against ignorance and through her, honor in each of us the courage to stand up against ignorance.

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Anita Khaldy Kehmeier · November 17, 2018 at 3:34 pm

PLEASE READ THE BOOK ‘DOOMSDAY MACHINE’- I was so vocal about the nuclear threath while a student at university. I met with the Catholic bishops who were wrote up a book warning all of us of the immorality of nuclear war, and the movie-The day after-which came out while I was at university,really caused a panic among students as they saw the unthinkable happen with the bombs coming down and the horrors of nuclear winter. Daniel Ellsberg and his colleague Harry Rowen slipped away from work at the Pentagon one afternoon in 1964 to see Stanley Kubrick’s madcap Cold War satire Dr. Strangelove, which begins with an American general ordering an unauthorized nuclear attack against Russia and ends in Armageddon. They emerged from the theater in a daze, agreeing, in Ellsberg’s words, that what they had just seen “was, essentially, a documentary.”

Ellsberg worked for the RAND Corporation, a think tank that advises the U.S. Air Force, and for the Defense Department, in positions with high-level clearances that afforded him access to classified military intelligence unknown to almost anyone else in the world. He went on, in 1971, to leak the top-secret Pentagon Papers, which detailed decades of American involvement in Vietnam, in an attempt to hasten the end of the Vietnam War. (That story is told in Steven Spielberg’s film The Post.) In The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, the famous whistleblower reveals information that is even more unnerving, in this case about the jaw-dropping recklessness and deception inherent in our government’s nuclear program.

Ellsberg is now eighty-six, and his firsthand experience with government nuclear policy dates back nearly to the dawn of the nuclear era; he believes, however, based on available evidence, that little has changed in the ensuing decades. What shocked him most then, and what continues to vex him today, concerns the hidden purpose of our nuclear program and the widespread delegation of authority to initiate a nuclear strike.

It’s commonly believed that the purpose of our nuclear weapons program is to deter a nuclear first strike on the United States. Ellsberg argues that this is a fiction that our nuclear forces exist “to limit the damage to the United States from Soviet or Russian retaliation to a U.S. first strike against the USSR or Russia.” He explains, “This capability is, in particular, intended to strengthen the credibility of U.S. threats to initiate limited nuclear attacks, or escalate them — U.S. threats of ‘first use’ — to prevail in regional, initially non-nuclear conflicts involving Soviet or Russian forces or their allies.” Ellsberg lists twenty-five instances in which presidents from Harry Truman to Bill Clinton, usually in secret, threatened the use of tactical nuclear weapons in the midst of a non-nuclear conflict, including Nixon’s threats against the North Vietnamese and George H. W. Bush’s against Iraq. Barack Obama is the only president to have considered a “no first-use policy” regarding nuclear weapons, but he ultimately declined to adopt one. “Few Americans are aware of the extent to which the United States and NATO first-use doctrine has long isolated the United States and its close allies morally and politically from world opinion,” Ellsberg writes.

As for who has the power to launch a strike: during presidential elections, Americans are routinely asked to consider which candidate they would prefer have his or her finger on “the button.” Working for RAND during the Eisenhower administration, Ellsberg was astonished to learn that a number of lower commanders had been given the power to launch nuclear missiles; the common belief that only the president has access to a unique set of authorization codes is, Ellsberg claims, political theater. It would have to be, he reasons — if only the highest-ranking government official could launch nuclear weapons, then an adversary would need only pull off a “decapitating attack” on Washington in order to escape retaliation. It’s nerve-racking to think of blustery Donald Trump, not known for impulse control, having the ability to precipitate a nuclear conflict. (He has, Ellsberg drily notes, applied Nixon’s “madman theory” with “more plausibility than some of his predecessors.”) It’s equally unsettling to consider the unauthorized actions that could result from this widespread delegation, which, Ellsberg says, is precisely why it’s been hidden from the public.

The Doomsday Machine, as its subtitle suggests, has a confessional tone, as Ellsberg chronicles his involvement, as a onetime committed Cold Warrior, in drafting nuclear war plans during the administration of John F. Kennedy. (The book also includes a condensed but enlightening history of modern warfare, tracing the shattering of the longstanding international norm of not targeting civilians.) In 1961 the Joint Chiefs of Staff drafted a top- secret memo for Kennedy, estimating that a general nuclear war would result in 600 million deaths. Ellsberg, one of the few people to see the memo, was struck that there was “no shame, apology, or evasion” in the answer, no acknowledgement that the discussion was deranged. “That expected outcome exposed a dizzying irrationality, madness, insanity, at the heart and soul of our nuclear planning and apparatus,” he writes. It was then that his commitment began to waver.

What we have since learned about nuclear winter, the climatic effects that scientists expect would follow a nuclear war, makes clear that the numbers were extreme underestimates, that in fact a general nuclear war would likely bring about the destruction of human civilization. The United States and Russia both have the capability to bring about this destruction, with systems that are “still on hair-trigger alert” and are “susceptible to being triggered on a false alarm, a terrorist action, unauthorized launch, or a desperate decision to escalate,” Ellsberg writes. He asks a question whose answer ought to be simple: “Does the existence of such a capability serve any national or international interest whatsoever to a degree that would justify its obvious danger to human life?” How much risk are we willing to tolerate, and for what purpose?

At the end of this alarming, galvanizing, and brilliantly written book, Ellsberg calls on “patriotic and courageous whistleblowers” to go public about nuclear dangers and urges readers to become more informed and engaged in order to pressure the government for change. He knows that the genie can’t be put back in the bottle, but he makes a strong argument that the purpose of nuclear weapons should be deterrence alone, a goal that the U.S. could meet with a “radically lowered” number of weapons. “This shift would not totally eliminate the dangers of nuclear war, but it would abolish the threat of nuclear winter,” he writes.

I lost track of how many times Ellsberg used the word insane as he described the existential threat under which we all knowingly live. The Doomsday Machine went to print before President Trump began threatening “fire and fury” against North Korea and before he expressed a desire for a nearly tenfold increase in America’s nuclear arsenal. I expect that Ellsberg, and most anyone who reads this important book, would use the same word to describe these recent, worrying developments: insane.

Anita Khaldy Kehmeier · December 12, 2018 at 4:51 pm

I was on the Board of Iliff School of theology, and on Feb 26th 2008 – We held a huge black tie event to celebrate the Little Rock NINE.
“2-4-6-8 WE DON’T WANT TO INTEGRATE!” Imagine going to high school in 1957 and being taunted by an angry shouting crowd yelling such words and being turned away by the National Guard. Yet this is just a small part of what the Little Rock Nine and their families had to endure in the town of Little Rock Arkansas. In our country’s history, 1957 was the first time that the federal government enforced integration. Amidst violent threats, houses being bombed, and acid thrown into their faces, the Little Rock Nine courageously went to school, while President Eisenhower sent 1,000 members of the U.S. Army’s 101st AIrborne Division to restore order. The Nine students were allowed to enter Central High School escorted by troops.
50 years later, we do not forget. It was an honor of the greatest magnitude to host the Little Rock Nine in Denver for a three-day celebration of their courage, coordinated by Iliff School of Theology. The last event in a trio was the Celebration of Courage Luncheon, honoring the nine civil rights pioneers who by simply going to school changed the course of American history – for all people: Minnijean Brown Trickey, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed Wair, Melba Pattillo Beals, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Dr. Terrence Roberts, Jefferson Thomas and Gloria Ray Karlmark led the way courageously so that others that followed them could get a good education, and fought for the right for people not to be judged by the color of their skin.
The Luncheon at the Adams Mark Hotel brought together 800 people, with The New Hope Baptist Church Gospel Choir singing and providing an historical ambiance, quoting from books and anecdotes written by the Little Rock Nine. A warm welcome to this sold out luncheon was done by Bazi Kanani of KUSA TV. Introductory remarks by co-chairs Barbara Baldwin and Dr.Albert Yates and Rev. Dr. David Trickett, President Iliff School of Theology, set the tone for this 50th Anniversary Celebration for the Little Rock Nine.
Three of the Nine spoke. Ernest Green reflected on memories in his speech on “Looking Back,” and Carlotta Walls LaNier complemented those remarks by talking about “Looking Forward.” They spoke of the value of education, how no one (not even the National Guard!) can take it away from you, and doing the right thing. Governor Ritter, just back from Washington D.C., talked about the courage to stand and be a leader. Dr Terrence Roberts gave a Benediction. Closing remarks were by Bazi Kanani of KUSA. Honorary co-chairs present were Dr. Vincent Harding, Wellington Webb, Wilma Webb and Carlotta Walls LaNier. “Warriors Don’t Cry,” a book written by Melba Pattillo Beals was available for sale, benefiting the scholarship program at Iliff. Original artwork and reproductions and a sculpture reproduction of the Nine were available for sale. Posters of the Nine were offered to the exiting crowd of 800 and the Nine were available for autographs, book signings and photographs.
A moving historical video by Little Boy Productions reviewed the history of the Little Rock Nine and their being turned away from Central High School by the Arkansas National Guard. The most poignant memory of Gloria Ray Karlmark’s was approaching the school, seeing the National Guard separate to allow white students in in front of her, and as she approached, the Guard closed ranks and did not allow her to pass. The video interviewed Rev. Dr. David Trickett, asking why the Iliff School of Theology and the city of Denver was chosen for a 50-year anniversary celebrating the courage of these civil rights pioneers.The School of Theology is in its second century of generating leaders with an ability to deal with diversity and with integrity. Since 1892, Iliff has been founded upon the ability to bring a passion for human dignity and compassion for those on the social margins, and the tradition continues today.
Funds raised will benefit the scholarship program for the Justice and Peace Studies Concentration. Carlotta Walls LaNier, a civic leader in Denver and one of the Little Rock Nine, has been on the board of the school. She was instrumental in bringing this event to Denver. Mayor John Hickenlooper honored the Nine by proclaiming that February 26 will be Little Rock Nine day in Denver!
Be sure to look at the coverage of the other events included in this historic celebration on Blacktie. For more information about Iliff School of Theology, log on to http://www.iliff.edu.

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