Jay Coghlan is the Executive Director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, and a lead organizer for Nuke Free Now, an organization hosting a series of events that take place Aug. 4-6 to protest nuclear weapons. Michelle Victoria is also one of the lead organizers for the events. Both Jay and Michelle have been publicly vocal about their stance on nuclear weapons, in addition to how they feel about Los Alamos National Laboratory. SFR interviewed Jay and Michelle to get a better understanding of their organization, and their views on nuclear weapons. SFR also called up LANL representative Fred deSousa, who had this to say about Nuke Free Now: “We support the right of folks to peacefully assemble, and fully support their right to free speech. In the past we’ve arranged for access to lab property, allowing individuals and groups to express their views. It’s clear that Mr. Coghlan’s views are well formed, but it’s just as clear that Los Alamos has a mission to do for the nation, and we agree to disagree.”
SFR: How did Nuke Free Now Start?
Michelle Victoria: The group was started out of Occupy Santa Fe as a working group. We decided as a working group that we wanted to create an event to educate people about Los Alamos, and hopefully inspire them to positive action…We also decided as a group that we were going to include nuclear energy as part of what we were educating people about, especially in light of what happened in Japan in Fukushima. It’s such an urgent issue.
SFR: What is the exact mission statement of Nuke Free Now?
Jay Coghlan: The ultimate goal is a world free of nuclear weapons.
Do you feel that the entire globe disarming themselves of nuclear weapons is realistic?
Coghlan: The answer to this is complex, and because it’s complex I’m going to have to come at it from a couple of different ways…9/11 really changed things…Imagine had 9/11 been with a nuclear device, and we know that Al Qaida is trying to acquire nuclear weapons…My point here is, I’m not pointing only to the so called danger of terrorism—this is also coupled with the fact that India and Pakistan are always on a trip wire, and they could have a nuclear exchange tomorrow. I’m not talking about the moral imperative, which I believe there is, but I’m talking also about the national security imperative to eventually get rid of nuclear weapons…I’ll get to the punch line right now. It is realistic and feasible to have complete nuclear disarmament eventually, because we have to. And I’m not kidding.
If tomorrow there was global disarmament, how could you trust that everyone was telling the truth?
Coghlan: I’ll state the obvious. The abolition of nuclear weapons is not going to occur overnight, nor would I personally want it to…Even if I could wave a magic wand and turn the American stock pile into peanut butter overnight, I wouldn’t do it. It has to be done multilaterally, and will be done in confidence of building steps…I can’t sit here and make pronouncements about the feasibility of ultimate nuclear disarmament, because we’re going to have to go through a very rigorous process, in which each step builds upon the other to finally get there. But we will get there, because we have to…On a final note, sadly, what could really change the picture, will be that there could be a nuclear device used––unfortunately.
Has there been a dialogue between Nuke Free Now and LANL?
Coghlan: I’m a little cynical about that. First you’ve got to beat them up for the not so good things that they want to do, and then we can talk. I see talk as the future. We’re certainly willing to talk––but what I’m not personally willing to do is aid in window dressing. I subscribe to the theory of “follow the money”…We actually have things that we need [LANL] to do in order to help assist, instead of being in the way, of complete eventual nuclear disarmament.