Written by Prof. Richard Falk and originally published HERE by the Santa Barbara Independent on December 18, 2023.
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 deep knowledge 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.