Designing and developing weapons of mass annihilation should not be business as usual, especially for a great university. And yet, for the UC, it is business as usual. Since the beginning of the Nuclear Age, the UC has been in the business of providing management and oversight to the nation's principal nuclear weapons laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The UC is now in that business with corporate partners such as Bechtel.
Your involvement with the weapons labs is arguably illegal under international law, is certainly immoral and, from a security perspective, perpetuates US reliance on nuclear weapons, which undermines US and global security. It also sends exactly the wrong message to the young people who are educated at the University of California. It suggests to them that it must be acceptable to create weapons capable of destroying civilization when a great university engages in doing so.
The UC shares in the responsibility for creating all nuclear weapons in the US arsenal. Should these weapons ever be used, by accident or design, the responsibility and accountability for that use will rest not only upon decision makers in the US government, but upon the UC system - including upon those who remained indifferent or apathetic in the face of the UC oversight of the weapons labs.
Some at the UC refer to its work on nuclear weapons as a "national service." I would say it is a disservice, both to the nation and to the University.
The most important thing that can be said about nuclear weapons is that they do not and cannot protect their possessors. By continuing to rely upon these weapons, a prospect furthered by the nuclear weapons laboratories, the US upholds nuclear double standards that encourage nuclear proliferation.
I suggest to you that a day will come when the UC will deeply regret having sold its good name to provide respectability to the creation and maintenance of nuclear weapons. In the interests of the UC and the country, I would urge you to take the following three actions:
First, support the Student Department of Energy Lab Oversight Committee, which has already demonstrated serious intent and done important research on the weapons laboratories and how their work negatively impacts national and global security.
Second, follow the example of the Norwegian government pension fund and divest the UC investment portfolio of corporations involved in creating nuclear weapons and their component parts.
Third, withdraw from the management and oversight of the weapons labs on the grounds of legality, morality and human security. By doing so, you would be setting an invaluable example for UC students and for institutions of higher education in our country and throughout the world.
Such acts of conscience by the UC Regents would help spark a national discussion on the need for US leadership for a world free of nuclear weapons.
David Krieger is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org). On July 17, 2008, members of the public were allotted one minute each to express their views in the public comment portion of the UC Regent's meeting.