News & Opinion » T Q&A

T Q&A

by

comment
Jack Cohen-Joppa is an old-school anti-nuclear activist and peace-prisoner supporter. Since 1980, he and his wife, Felice Cohen-Joppa, have been publishing Nuclear Resister, which provides information about arrests of activists who have protested everything from nuclear power to military recruiting and torture. He's one of the main organizers behind the Sunday, Feb. 3, Festival of Hope, an informational and inspirational event to protest torture and war--specifically, to support three activists currently facing charges for protesting torture at Fort Huachuca. That will take place at 6:30 p.m. at St. Mark's Presbyterian Church, 3809 E. Third St. For more information e-mail Cohen-Joppa.

Give me some background on Fort Huachuca.

Fort Huachuca has long been the home of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center and School, where they train military people--including those who engage in prisoner interrogation. Even before the scandals of the Iraq war, people who worked at Fort Huachuca developed manuals for training soldiers in other countries that were really explicit about the use of torture, including manuals for training people to counter rebel groups in Central and South America.

There were some people who spoke out against this?

A year ago, there was a demonstration at Fort Huachuca in which two priests walked onto the base to deliver a letter to the commanding general--who'd been the commanding general at Abu Ghraib when the torture there was taking place. But the priests were prosecuted for protesting and were sentenced to five months in prison. ... The same demonstration took place again this year, and this time, three people walked onto the base with a letter for soldiers. Those three were arrested, and two of them were held in jail without bail, because they had been prosecuted for involvement in protests elsewhere. It's not clear what will happen to any of the three arrested people.

What's the story behind the Nuclear Resister?

It got started because my wife, Felice, and I were both involved in the anti-nuclear movement back in the '70s--all your stereotypes about anti-nuclear activists come from that era. Anyway, our understanding of history was that in the United States, any significant movement for social change--the labor struggle, the suffrage movement, the civil rights movement--has involved people going to jail, and if the movement doesn't support those people, it fails. So we developed the newsletter for prisoner support--at first mostly prisoners involved in the nuclear issue, but then anti-war arrests, too. We've chronicled close to 100,000 nuclear and anti-war arrests.

Why is it important for us, as citizens, to be aware of the nuclear issue?

I think there's a re-emerging anti-nuclear movement in this country. First of all, the nuclear-power industry hopes to revive. And there's a growing awareness or interest in nuclear disarmament--even former hawks are advocating for nuclear disarmament, because they recognize the danger of nuclear proliferation. I mean, it's hard to imagine any hands in which nuclear weapons would be more dangerous than Bush's. We lead by example, and the U.S. is actively encouraging other nations to seek nuclear weapons by continuing to perfect our own arsenal and threatening to use it first.

Are there any new things on the horizon for the local anti-nuclear movement?

Well, I'm now involved in a nascent organization called Arizona Nuclear Energy Watch. We expect that this nuclear-industry resurgence is going to target Arizona for building a new nuclear power plant and to extend the operating license for the Palo Verde nuclear plant outside of Phoenix, so we plan to be here as an opposition voice.

What can people do that won't get them thrown in jail?

Be willing to take a risk. Even a small risk, like talking publicly about the nuclear issue when it's a topic of conversation, is a great start. Then, of course, we can also boycott war taxes. ... The point is to exercise our rights, to speak out and act for peace a little bit more every day.

So there's hope?

Whatever hope there is, we create with our own actions. The surest route to despair is doing nothing.

What are your own hopes for the future?

Well, I like to cook and feed people. So in the solar future, when war and prisons are abolished, I plan to open an ice cream parlor.

Tags

Add a comment