The world lost a remarkable woman when Ethel Wells died on September 2, 2007.

Ethel was strong, determined, far-sighted and persistent. She took on tough causes with unwavering commitment: anti-smoking, peace, nuclear disarmament, strengthening international law, ending genocide, and the social responsibility of scientists.

She believed that it is possible to change the world with dynamic strategies and unflinching honesty. Ethel was always a strategic thinker. She looked for points of leverage.

Let me give one example of her strategic thinking in action, one that gave her great satisfaction. In the mid-1980s the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation coordinated an International Week for Science and Peace. Ethel reasoned that scientists were at the heart of creating constructive or destructive technologies. She decided that the Foundation should offer a prize for the best proposal for using science for constructive rather than destructive purposes. We received proposals from throughout the world competing for the $50,000 prize that Ethel contributed.

The winning proposal came from the Hungarian Engineers for Peace. It was a proposal to create an International Network of Engineers for Peace that would link engineers working for peace globally. A short time later the Hungarian Engineers joined with a group of like-minded scientists and established the International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility. Due to Ethel’s continued support and stewardship, that organization continues to thrive, working internationally for disarmament, sustainability and high ethical standards in science.

Ethel often wrote short and pointed letters to the editor, which she sent to major newspapers across the country. Her letters offered solid perspectives on critical issues related to peace, international law and other issues. Here are a few excerpts:

February 26, 2004: “The rule of international law must be the basis for the settling of differences between the sovereignties of the world in order to have global stability and world peace.”

September 7, 2004: “The existence of weapons of mass destruction has outlawed war forever, because Global Genocide is not an option.”

April 26, 2006: “We need to have an International Law Enforcement Corps under the UN to promptly stop the act of genocide on an emergency basis.”

In a letter to me dated May 13, 2004, Ethel wrote: “Nuclear weapons are weapons of continual annihilation and total insanity.”

Ethel believed that Peace was the result of turning the negatives of despair, hate, prejudice, avenging and destructive thought into hope, love, understanding, forgiving and constructive thought.

Ethel played a very important role in the work of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and in my life. When difficult issues arose, she was a person I went to for advice. Without her support, the Foundation would be far less prominent than it is today – perhaps it would not even exist. Her support has been at the heart of any success we have had.

Ethel made a difference in the world because she chose to make a difference. She could have lived a life of luxury. She chose to live a life of service to humanity. Her choices inspire me. I know they have inspired many others.

In the daily work of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, along with that of ASH and the International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility, her spirit will live on. It is a great spirit, as she was a great woman.

Below are Letters to the Editor Written by Ethel Wells

April 26, 2006

Genocide was the first and most important crime against humanity that was to be wiped out by International Law at the Nuremberg Trials. Too many countries have violated this law over too many years. We need to have an International Law Enforcement Corps under the UN to promptly stop the act of Genocide on an emergency basis.

May 24, 2004

The violation of basic human rights by the United States government in the prisons of Iraq clearly indicates the need for International Law to protect human beings from atrocities by any national sovereignty including the U.S.A. International law protecting human rights and the global environment must be above national law and national sovereignty.

May 13, 2004

Nuclear weapons are weapons of continual annihilation and total insanity. Bombs and missiles are weapons of mass destruction. There is no honor in any of the above, because the playing fields are not level. There are only mass murderers and innocent, helpless victims in that no-win situation. It behooves all of us to insist on replacing the rule of force with the rule of law for the very survival of us all.

May 3, 2004

The U.S. Constitution is the highest legal authority in the United States. President Bush promised to uphold the U.S. Constitution when he was sworn into office. He is governed by that constitution the same as the rest of the United States citizens. The separation of church and state is clearly stated in the U.S. Constitution. It does not separate integrity and state, and that is what has to be remedied. INTEGRITY and STATE must INSEPARABLE be.

February 26, 2004

The rule of law is the basis for stability within peaceful sovereignties. The rule of international law must be the basis for the settling of differences between the sovereignties of the world in order to have global stability and world peace. President Bush bypassed due process in Iraq by unilaterally choosing the rule of force and the resulting increased anarchy and worldwide terrorism that is now an increasing threat to all of us.

November 12, 2003

The Global Economy needs some global guidelines to protect the global environment, and the basic human rights of workers everywhere who are now classified as slave labor. This is essential for establishing a free world trade market with no tariffs.

September 8, 2002

Would a greater military budget have prevented the tragedy of Sept. 11? Do we want to divert $48 billion away from education, public health, Social Security, etc.? Isn’t it time to increase the brain power in government in order to replace the rule of force with the rule of law, worldwide?

September 3, 2002

Prior to the Gulf War, genocide made Saddam Hussein a violator of international law and subject to being reprehended by an international tribunal to enforce international law. This violation should have illegitimized him as a head of state and categorized him as an international criminal. A temporary head of state would have had to be provided to carry on. Implementation of the above is difficult. However, military action at this time would only bring us to the same crossroads after further devastating innocent people and their land. Let’s focus on these difficult solutions without repeating the horrible devastations of war.

February 25, 2002

When a high government official like Donald Rumsfeld states that he did nothing wrong, after killing a number of innocent people who were actually on our side, I, as an American, cringe at the demonstrated arrogance and lack of compassion that is not typical of the average American. In a democracy, we as Americans, have to correct that false impression some of our government officials are portraying to the rest of the world. We also need to monitor the attitudes of these government officials lest they acquire the attitudes of the very terrorists we are trying to eliminate.

May 18, 1987

The philosophy of the Defense Department is to maintain the peace by being strong enough to win a possible war. In the Nuclear Age, however, we cannot maintain the peace by preparing for war, because preparing for war is to prepare for annihilation. So why are we continuing on this path of self destruction?

The answer is economic necessity in our present war economy. Millions of “gainfully” employed people would be out of work today if the defense industry came to a halt. It is this vital economic need for employment that is largely responsible for the strength of the military industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned our country against before leaving office. So how can we get off this expressway to annihilation?

One possible answer is to modify the philosophy of the Defense Department to maintaining the peace by actively waging peace, rather than preparing for a war nobody can win. Waging peace would need to include shifting from a war economy bent on destruction to a peace economy aimed at full employment for constructive goals. Here is a challenge for our economists, scientists, politicians and industrialists to work on together for the very preservation of life on earth.


The process of actively turning negative thoughts, feelings and actions into positive ones.


The result of turning these negatives into positives.


Despair into Hope

Hate into Love

Prejudice into Understanding

Avenging into Forgiving

Destructive into Constructive


David Krieger is the President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (