David Krieger (27 Mar 1942 – 7 Dec 2023): A Life of Dedication to the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons

OBITUARIES, 25 Dec 2023

Richard Falk | Global Justice in the 21st Century – TRANSCEND Media Service

21 Dec 2023 – My In Memoriam essay honoring David Krieger’s notable life was published today at the Santa Barbara weekly newspaper, The Independent. Although David devoted his professional life to anti-nuclear scholarship and activism, his underlying motivations were guided by fervent hopes for a world anchored in dignity for all and respect for the authority of international law and a robust United Nations.

Remembering my long, close, cherished friendship reinforces my sense of loss resulting from the death of David Krieger.

Our primary interests were unusually congruent. We were devoted to a world in which nuclear weapons and the danger of a nuclear war had become an unpleasant recollection rather than an existential menace. We both found great satisfaction as well as a sense of personal liberation playing competitive tennis as often as our schedules would allow. And we both expressed our deepest feelings about the world through poetry, both reading and writing poems.

David excelled in each of these spheres while I struggled, but despite this hierarchy of relative achievements, we managed to find pleasure through sharing much that seemed happily uncorrupted by the pressures of normal professional life.

David was well-known in Santa Barbara. He was the founding president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation in 1982 until his reluctant retirement in 2020. He managed to sustain this nongovernmental organization (NGO) through the support from an array of donors, many drawn from local sources. He put together a Board of Directors and staff that shared his single-minded dedication to the abolition of nuclear weapons, which for him was the darkest cloud overhanging the future of humanity.

David firmly believed that reliable knowledge conveying the drastic havoc of a nuclear war would awaken both the citizenry and its governmental representatives to the menace that threatened the future, ever since the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. The spirit of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation was well captured by its website adages: “For the human race, Not the arms race” and “Abolish nuclear weapons before they abolish us.”

David never lost his hope for such a peaceful future for the country and the world, despite his knowledge of how deeply embedded nuclearism was in the political and economic consciousness of the nation, through the arms industry, a subservient Congress and media, and militarist foreign policy.

In lectures of invited peace luminaries and awards for life achievements, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation honored those who contributed to realizing its goals, including Daniel Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky, and Robert Jay Lifton, celebrated activists such as Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire and Helen Caldicott, and notable personalities such as Queen Noor and Oliver Stone.

For such prolonged anti-nuclear efforts, it is hardly surprising that David and the Peace Foundation were nominated on several occasions for the Nobel Peace Prize. In the recent book, The Real Nobel Peace Prize: A Squandered Opportunity to Abolish War, the renowned Norwegian expert on this most coveted of peace prizes, Fredrik Heffermehl, writes convincingly that David deserved the prize more than many of its recipients because his life’s work and that of the foundation he created. Heffermehl believed that the foundation’s contributions were in keeping with what Alfred Nobel had in mind when he established the prize to realize a vision of a world without war. David’s focus on nuclear weaponry was the vital first step in achieving this goal.

If nuclearism was what David hated, what he loved, besides his family, was poetry. It was a great joy for me to exchange haiku with David on a regular basis. Here are two examples of his haiku that should be read in relation to the profound impact the Hiroshima experience had on David’s life:

There, in the dark sky
through the sycamore leaves
the full moon

A rare good fortune —
to awaken from dreaming
in the moonlight

Although disease made him unable to speak, David remained alert until the end of his life, undoubtedly mourning the terrible wars in Ukraine and Gaza, but I also imagine him glimpsing glimmers of light, none brighter than knowing that the foundation his life was built around would continue to thrive under the sway of its inspirational new president, Ivana Hughes. She shares David’s passion, exhibiting a nurturing energy far and wide that spreads the message of nuclear disarmament, effectively introducing the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation abolitionist perspective into the practical activities of the United Nations and many other global venues around the world.

A second glimmer of light is the entry into force of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2021. Although the treaty is opposed by NATO countries, including of course the United States, as well as by the other eight nuclear states, it is supported by governments representing a majority of the world’s peoples. David never lost his faith in respect for international law as the pathway to a peaceful world. This new treaty gives peace activists a powerful instrument by which to work toward a denuclearizing world, but it will not happen without a robust worldwide movement of people. That alone, with the capacities to mobilize sufficient democratic pressures, will lead governments — above all, ours — to finally do the right thing.

Above all, David believed in the transforming potential of love and beauty. His life was memorable for more than being a warrior for nuclear abolition. He was blessed by the love and the extraordinary support of his life partner, Carolee; children who made him proud; and grandchildren who kept him young as he grew old. It was Carolee who was so steadfast in her loving vigil of recent years as to make David’s transition from life to death as bearable, even mostly joyful, as it appeared to be.

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David Krieger, Ph.D. was Founder and President Emeritus of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, and a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment. Amongst several of his wide-spanning leadership endeavors in global peacebuilding, he was a founder and a member of the Global Council of Abolition 2000, councilor on the World Future Council, and the chair of the Executive Committee of the International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility. He had a BA in Psychology and an MA and Ph.D. degrees in Political Science from the University of Hawaii as well as a J.D. from the Santa Barbara College of Law; he served for 20 years as a judge pro tem for the Santa Barbara Municipal and Superior Courts. Dr. Krieger was the author of many books and studies of peace in the Nuclear Age. He has written or edited more than 20 books and hundreds of articles and book chapters. He was a recipient of several awards and honors, including the OMNI Center for Peace, Justice and Ecology Peace Writing Award for Poetry (2010). For more visit the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation website: www.wagingpeace.org

Dr. Richard Falk is a member of the TRANSCEND Network, Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University, Chair of Global Law, Faculty of Law, at Queen Mary University London, Research Associate the Orfalea Center of Global Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Fellow of the Tellus Institute. He directed the project on Global Climate Change, Human Security, and Democracy at UCSB and formerly served as director the North American group in the World Order Models Project. Between 2008 and 2014, Falk served as UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Occupied Palestine. His book, (Re)Imagining Humane Global Governance (2014), proposes a value-oriented assessment of world order and future trends. His most recent books are Power Shift (2016); Revisiting the Vietnam War (2017); On Nuclear Weapons: Denuclearization, Demilitarization and Disarmament (2019); and On Public Imagination: A Political & Ethical Imperative, ed. with Victor Faessel & Michael Curtin (2019). He is the author or coauthor of other books, including Religion and Humane Global Governance (2001), Explorations at the Edge of Time (1993), Revolutionaries and Functionaries (1988), The Promise of World Order (1988), Indefensible Weapons (with Robert Jay Lifton, 1983), A Study of Future Worlds (1975), and This Endangered Planet (1972). His memoir, Public Intellectual: The Life of a Citizen Pilgrim was published in March 2021 and received an award from Global Policy Institute at Loyala Marymount University as ‘the best book of 2021.’ He has been nominated frequently for the Nobel Peace Prize since 2009.

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