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Seven Arrested at Hancock Air Base Calling a Halt to Drone War Crimes: Order of Protection Delivered for the Children of the World
Seven Arrested at Hancock Air Base
Halt Drone War Crimes!
Order of Protection Delivered for the Children of the World
Syracuse July 23, 2014 Earlier today eight Atlantic Life Community activists joined with Upstate Drone Action at the main gate of Hancock Air Base, in Syracuse, New York. Hancock is the home of the 174th Attack Wing of the New York State Air National Guard. The 174th Attack Wing pilots weaponized MQ9 Reaper drones over Afghanistan – killing and terrorizing an uncountable number of civilians.
The eight delivered a People’s War Crimes Indictment to the Hancock chain of command by affixing it to the fence after being refused by the base personnel. Also delivered was an Order of Protection on behalf of the children of the world who are subject to U.S. drone surveillance and attack.
The eight issued a statement that began with a list of names of persons who have been killed by drone strikes; “Syed Wali Shah, 7 years old, killed by an American drone strike. Momina Bibi, mother and midwife, killed by an American drone strike. Tarik Aziz, 16, killed by an American drone strike… This Must Stop! We are a community of peacemakers who resist war, racism and greed. We stand … in solidarity with men, women and children being terrorized by US military aggression.”
The group blocked the entrance to the base and took up positions for vigil. Brian Hynes, NYC Catholic Worker, was allowed to vigil on the side of the main entrance, usually prohibited. Seven from the group – from Vermont, Maryland, New York City, and Ithaca were arrested.
The seven are being charged with Trespass. Two of the defendants, Clare Grady and Martha Hennessy were also charged with violation of an Order of Protection. Liz McAlister and Erica Brock were charged with Disorderly Conduct. Clare Grady and Martha Hennessy are being held on $10,000 bail. Felton Davis, Erica Brock, and Joan Pleune are all being held on $2,500 bail.
Three of the arrested are grandmothers. On July 10th, 2014, drone activist and grandmother, Mary Anne Grady Flores, was sentenced to one year in jail for violation of the same Order of Protection, taken out on behalf of the Colonel of the base. She is currently out on $5,000 bail pending appeal. A higher court has found the order to be invalid.
The Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Warswww.upstatedroneaction.org
Syed Wali Shah 7 years old, killed by an American Drone strike. Momina Bibi, mother and midwife, killed by an American drone strike. Tairk Aziz, 16, killed by an American drone strike… This Must Stop!
We, members of the Atlantic Life Community, come to Hancock Air Force Base, the national maintenance and control center of the MQ9 Reaper Drone, to protest these lethal drones, the latest weapon being used in endless war. We are a community of peacemakers who resist war, racism and greed. We stand here today in solidarity with the men, women and children being terrorized by US military aggression. Our witness mourns the senseless deaths of our brothers and sisters, victims of drone strikes from this base and adds our voice to all people of the world who cry for peace.
Today we deliver to the base two important documents central to our witness: a war crimes indictment addressed to President Obama, Secretary of Defense Charles Hagel, the full military chain of command, and the local police and Sheriffs Department of the Town of De Witt, NY. By continuing to protect the war crimes of drone warfare, these public officials perpetuate a legacy of violence and racism first imposed upon indigenous people on this land. The second document is a People’s Order of Protection, which asks the 174th Attack Wing of the Air National Guard to stay away from the Children of the World and their families, including their homes, schools, places of play and work.
The terror and bloodshed caused by the Reaper drones lies on all of our shoulders. As Thomas Merton once wrote, “if you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed – but hate these things in yourself, not in another.” Therefore, we come to the gates today in atonement for our complicity in these crimes and to resist the atrocities of drones, to resist our nation’s endless wars and to cultivate a culture of love and not fear.
Bill Ofenloch NYC Catholic Worker
Liz McAlister Jonah House, MD
Felton Davis NYC Catholic Worker
Martha Hennessy NYC Catholic Worker
Clare Grady Ithaca Catholic Worker
Joan Pleune Granny Peace Brigade
Erica Brock NYC Catholic Worker
All nonviolent struggles are conducted simultaneously in the political and strategic spheres, and these spheres, which are distinct, interact throughout. I have discussed this at length elsewhere: see The Strategy of Nonviolent Defense: A Gandhian Approach. Despite this, only rarely have nonviolent struggles been conducted with a conscious awareness of this vitally important relationship. Gandhi’s campaigns were very effective partly because he understood the distinction and relationship between politics and strategy in nonviolent struggle. And the failure of many campaigns can be attributed, in part, to the fact that most activists do not.
PDF available at: http://upstatedroneaction.org/
On July 10, grandmother of three, Mary Anne Grady Flores was sentenced to one year in prison for being found guilty of violating an order of protection. A packed courtroom of over 100 supporters was stunned as she was led away, and vowed to continue the resistance.
These orders of protection, typically used in domestic violence situations or to protect a victim or witness to a crime, have been issued to people participating in nonviolent resistance actions at Hancock Air Base since late 2012. The base, near Syracuse NY, pilots unmanned Reaper drones over Afghanistan, and trains drone pilots, sensor operators and maintenance technicians. The orders had been issued to “protect” Colonel Earl Evans, Hancock’s mission support commander, who wanted to keep protesters “out of his driveway.”
Mary Anne began her sentencing statement with, “Your honor, a series of judicial perversions brings me here before you tonight.” She concluded that the “final perversion is the reversal of who is the real victim here: the commander of a military base whose drones kill innocent people halfway around the world, or those innocent people themselves who are the real ones in need of protection from the terror of US drone attacks?”
The orders of protection are being challenged on many legal grounds.
Mary Anne had been issued a temporary order in 2012. The next year, she photographed a nonviolent witness at the base, not participating herself because she did not want to violate the order. The irony is that those who actually participated in the action were acquitted, while Mary Anne was charged with violating the order.
Even though the pre-sentencing report recommended no jail time, Judge Gideon sentenced Mary Anne to the maximum of a year in prison. As he imposed his sentence, the judge referred to his previous Hancock decision. He had stated then and insinuated now, “This has got to stop.”
In addition, Mary Anne was fined $1000 plus a $205 court surcharge and a $50 fee to have her DNA collected.
Her verdict is being appealed.
For information on how to support Mary Anne, contact Ellen Grady at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
By Erin Niemela
A relatively new group engaging in non-state political violence, ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, recently called for the creation of an Islamic state in Iraq and Syria and a continuation and strengthening of jihad during Ramadan, according to a video that emerged through social media. ISIS, born of Al Qaeda members in Iraq and matured in the Syrian civil war power vacuum, is so radical that Al Qaeda “disowned” it. As if its goals of coerced dominance aren’t bad enough, Al Qaeda criticized ISIS for its brutality against civilians and Muslims. Repeat: Al Qaeda criticized ISIS. For brutality.
Enough is enough. All violent counterterrorism-intervention policies have completely failed. We’re sowing and reaping perpetual tragedy with this violence machine and the only people benefitting are sitting on top of a mountain of cash in the conflict industry (I’m looking at you, Lockheed Martin.) It’s time for a major shift in conflict management strategies. Can we finally start listening to the numerous scholars and studies with scientifically supported strategies for nonviolent counterterrorism? Here is a three-step strategy all sensible persons (and politicians) should advocate:
First, immediately stop sending funds and weapons to all involved parties. This is the easiest of the three. Ten years of terrorism-making and we still think our guns aren’t going to fall into the “wrong” hands? The hands they fall into are already “wrong.” If you need a good example, take a look at our darlings, the Free Syrian Army, and their blatant human rights violations, such as using child soldiers, documented by Human Rights Watch in 2012 and2014.
Second, fully invest in social and economic development initiatives in any region in which terrorist groups are engaged. In his 2004 book, “Nonviolent Response to Terrorism,” Tom Hastings, Ed.D., professor of conflict resolution at Portland State University, questions: “What if the terrorists – or the population base from which they draw – had enough of life’s necessities? What if they had secure jobs, decent living standards, drinkable water and healthy food for their children? Do we seriously think they would provide a recruiting base for terrorism?” Harvard lecturer Louise Richardson, author of the 2007 book “What Terrorists Want” makes the same argument, and Kim Cragin and Peter Chalk of the Rand Corporation drew the same conclusion from their 2003 study on social and economic development to inhibit terrorism. ISIS gained some of its current strength from economically providing for the families of fallen fighters, promising education to young boys (and then handing each a weapon), and capitalizing on grief and anger in Syrian communities. If we want to weaken ISIS and any other group engaging in terrorist activities, we have to start focusing on the needs they fill in those communities. Local communities in the region should be self-sustainable and civilians should feel empowered to provide for themselves and their families without taking up arms or using violence.
Third, fully support any and all nonviolent civil society resistance movements. Whoever is left – give them whatever support is needed the most. Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephen, in their 2011 groundbreaking study on civil resistance, “Why Civil Resistance Works,” found that “between 1900 and 2006, nonviolent resistance campaigns were nearly twice as likely to achieve full or partial success as their violent counterparts.” In addition, successful nonviolent resistance campaigns are less likely to descend into civil war and more likely to achieve democratic goals. We should have fully supported the nonviolent Syrian revolution when we had the chance. Instead, we gave legitimacy to the violent rebel factions – those same groups now fighting alongside Al Qaeda and ISIS. If we send our unconditional support to whatever nonviolent civil society actors are left on the ground in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, we might just find that the best remedy for terroritis has been right in front of us the entire time – civil society.
These are three easy paths any rational politician could advocate that will decrease hostilities, prevent the emergence of new terrorism recruiting environments and empower local communities to engage in nonviolent conflict resolution strategies. We’ve had centuries to discover that violence doesn’t work, hasn’t worked and won’t work. It’s time to try something different. Global leaders need to get on board the logic train and put some serious and sustained effort into nonviolent counterterrorism strategies. Otherwise, it’s only a matter of time before ISIS starts criticizing the next group for wanton violence and human rights abuses.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
"MaryAnne Grady-Flores was convicted in DeWitt Town Court last night on 2nd Degree Contempt of an Order Of Protection. Grady-Flores, who did not intend to violate the Order despite its immorality and invalidity, was taking pictures of others at the base - the Ash Wednesday Witnesses - who engaged in nonviolent civil resistance blocking the front Gate to Hancock base for which they were subsequently acquitted.
"In a heinous abuse of an instrument meant to protect the innocent from violence, Orders of Protection are being used to protect violent transgressions of international and moral law from citizen oversight. While trying to publicize and support a movement to ground the drones and end the wars which take countless innocent lives, Grady-Flores was arrested for noncompliance with an order that does not specify particulars outside of how you might attack another human, something she would never do. She understood the Order to mean that she was forbidden to join the protest.
"The Guilty verdict was proffered by a jury 5 minutes after they had asked the judge for a legal definition of 'keep away', and he had replied that they 'are the sole triers of fact'.
"The two-day trial included testimony from Colonel Earl A. Evans who is the party protected by the OOP, Catholic Priests Father Bill Pickard and Tim Taugher, Catholic Workers Bill Frankel-Streit and Ellen Grady, sister. Grady-Flores also testified on her own behalf."
Back in the USA I had my senior high students watch as I climbed a fence into the largest store house of nuclear weapons in the USA. I was in a Santa Clause suit and a bag with candy and hand bills urging federal workers to find a real job….a life giving job.
Environment was major with my students and they commandeered the four corners of the original IBM setting in Endicott NY demanding that IBM pay per pound of hydroflorocarbons emitted each year…IBM the greatest polluter of the Ozone according to the EPA. Locals, with IBM the backbone of the job force, had no idea that their wonder company was doing wrong -- until students contacted media and the story was blasted. Kids can make a difference. (Two years later, President Bush met with IBM officials in the Rose Garden to award them for their winning reduction of ozone pollutants. Students by then were in college or elsewhere and of course, not mentioned.) My main claim to fame is my thousands of students who understood I didn’t buy the lies fed to them by the text books and media bullshit. I hope they are questioning and acting. But being a sheep has its advantages even for the committed.
So, my activism has been education. Our play, The Bench, a story about apartheid, made it to many schools around the Southern Tier of NY while Mandela was still incarcerated at Robins Island. Today, my play, The Predator, (you helped clean up a few items in it) has been done around the nation in small group settings such as the Pittsburgh Foreign Affairs Council etc. I believe education is the key -- slow, but it works if persistence is one’s forte.
I told you a bit about my activism to close the US Army School of the Americas and my southern jail, federal diesel therapy and various federal prisons for a six month ‘holiday’. It did close but opened up weeks later with a new name. C’est la vie. C’est la guerre.
Why do you believe protesting is a strategic tool?
It has worked historically. Need I repeat what most people of historical awareness know as fact….in the past 100 years….Gandhi, King, Chavez, Walesa, Mandela, Romero, Berrigans, etc.
Silence is the enemy of justice and we have great silence today. Silence is based in fear but is comfortable and safe. Sheepherders are our guides today rather than national leadership. Hiding in the middle of the flock is safe. Few speak out about our murderous ways.
How have the approaches of the police and the courts changed?
Police are doing their job. I once witnessed Federal Marshalls at the Pentagon (back in pre 2001 days) hosing down old ladies who were doing a ‘die in’ to protest Pentagon support for a school of assassination at Ft Benning. Elizabeth McAllister (widow of Phil Berrigan) was standing next to me and she asked one of the Marshalls if he would do the same thing if it was gasoline. The Marshall turned to Liz and said: "I'd follow my orders, Lady".
So cops are doing what they are paid to do. They are not told to stop the killing going on inside of the base so they do what they are told and arrest those who say our government should not be breaking the law of country and God and natural law. But like the pilots who do the killing and the surrounding support people, it's the system that thrives on doing what they are told to do by the criminals at the top. We need to educate the police to have a conscience and see the real enemy . . . the killers, not those who protest.
Courts are not much different. There is a sense of affinity between the Air Force personnel, smartly dressed, ramrod straight who stand or sit before judge and/or jury and make a fine presentation of patriotism . . . doing the job of heroes. It's a tough act to question. Judges and jurors have been taught to respect those who kill to keep us safe. The decisions made by the judges have been almost all in favor of the base and the killing Q9 drones and their crews. The one jury trial so far, just last week (May 17th.) rendered a decision in favor of the base. The case was a charge of a violation of an Order of Protection. An OPP is usually used to allow a spouse to keep away an abuser. Now, it is being creatively used at Hancock Air Base as an instrument to prevent First Amendment Rights to be practiced. Mary Anne Grady, a long time nonviolent peace activist, mother of four, every day hard working business woman was at a demo on Ash Wednesday at Hancock to do the media work of photos and video. She did not engage in the demonstration for she was ordered to not go on the base. She is shown in videos on the road in front of the base (cars and joggers going by right next to her) but Hancock Air Base now claims to have a lease on half of the public road that Mary Anne stood on and filmed. She faces a possible severe sentence on July 10th being found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a Syracuse jury of six. (Mary Anne was told months ago that juries may not be any better than judges -- tens of thousands stand and cheer at Syracuse Basketball games for the military and staff of the 174th Attach Wing at Hancock.)
What is your current legal situation?
My legal status is a jury trial at DeWitt Court starting at 8:30 a.m. on July 14th. First day mostly picking of jurors and opening statements and second day direct and cross examination, judge advise to jury and decision of guilt or innocence. I could be sentenced to one year in the Jamesville Penitentiary for my nonviolent die to remember those we have killed in Afghanistan (and God and the NSA only know where else). I think there is a chance of winning this one. If so, it could set a precedent. There are many jury trials to follow mine. Schedules go into late 2015….all for the same action. One judge said: "This has got to stop". Former President of Veterans For Peace, Elliott Adams, agreed with the judge. Elliott said, "Yes, your honor, it has to stop, we need to stop the killing and you need to be part of that stop effort."
I’ve been to most trials and have to say that there is little concern of judges to do anything to stop the assassinations. They are doing their job and following the "law". Now, we need to prove the so called law is illegal.
What would you recommend that people do who share your concern?
Here is what Ed Kinane had to say about recommending what to do. Ed walks the walk. Ed has lived in federal confinement for his peace and justice activism. Ed says:
That depends on whether they are far or near and where they are in life (in terms of dependents and responsibilities). Our campaign has a whole range of tactics they can join in or support: educate themselves; read some of the key drone books and reports; write letters to the editor...to elected officials...to base commanders; take part in our twice-monthly demos across the road from Hancock; attend the De Witt court when we defendants appear there; take part in annual conferences (usually in April); invite us to speak to their classes, community groups or congregations; contribute $$$ to our bail fund or to such anti-drone groups as codepink; work to pass local resolutions and ordinances restricting surveillance and weaponized drones over local or regional airspace; take part in fact-finding delegations to drone-plagued areas (Pakistan); risk arrest at Hancock, at other drone bases, or other relevant venues (federal buildings, drone research or production facilities, etc.); become a federal tax resister -- i.e.stop paying federal income taxes (much of which goes to the Pentagon war machine).
I'll add a few more:
Visit Upstate Drone Action Reports at http://upstatedroneaction.org/wordpress
Plan for a Global Day of Action Against Drones on October 4, 2014.
Join the movement to end all war, with all weapons, at http://WorldBeyondWar.org
By Dave Lindorff
Occupy activist Cecily McMillan, convicted on May 5 of second-degree felony assault of a New York cop whom she and witnesses claimed had grabbed her breast from behind, bruising it, stood her ground before her sentence was rendered, refusing the judge’s insistence that she should “take responsibility for her conduct.”
Michael Nagler has just published The Nonviolence Handbook: A Guide for Practical Action, a quick book to read and a long one to digest, a book that's rich in a way that people of a very different inclination bizarrely imagine Sun Tzu's to be. That is, rather than a collection of misguided platitudes, this book proposes what still remains a radically different way of thinking, a habit of living that is not in our air. In fact, Nagler's first piece of advice is to avoid the airwaves, turn off the television, opt out of the relentless normalization of violence.
We don't need the art of war applied to a peace movement. We need the art of satyagraha applied to the movement for a peaceful, just, free, and sustainable world. This means we have to stop trying to defeat the Military Industrial Complex (how's that been working out?) and start working to replace it and to convert the people who make up its parts to new behaviors that are better for them as well as for us.
It can seem out of place to shift from a discussion of the world's largest military to personal interactions. Surely giving John Kerry a complete personality transplant would leave in place corrupt elections, war profiteering, complicit media outlets, and the assumption held by legions of career bureaucrats that war is the way to peace.
No doubt, but only by learning to think and live nonviolence can we build an activist movement with the greatest potential to transform our structures of government. Nagler's examples highlight the importance of knowing what is negotiable, what should be compromised, and what must not be; what is substantive and what symbolic; when a movement is ready to escalate its nonviolence and when it is too soon or too late; and when (always?) not to tack on new demands in the middle of a campaign.
Tiananmen Square should have been abandoned and other tactics pursued, Nagler believes. Holding the square was symbolic. When protesters took over the Ecuadorean Congress in 2000 one of their leaders was elected president. Why? Nagler points out that the Congress was a place of power, not just a symbol; the activists were strong enough to take power, not just ask for it; and the occupation was part of a larger campaign that preceded and followed it.
Nagler has a lot of praise and hope for the Occupy movement, but also draws examples of failure from there. When a group of churches in one city offered to join with Occupy if everyone would stop cursing, Occupiers refused. Dumb decision. Not only is the point not to get to do every little thing we want, but we are not engaging in a struggle for power -- rather, in a learning process and a process of building relationships, even with those we are organizing to challenge -- and certainly with those who want to help us if we'll refrain from cussing. It can even be helpful, Nagler documents, to be accomodating to those we are challenging, when such steps are taken in friendship rather than subservience.
We are after the welfare of all parties, Nagler writes. Even those we want removed from office? Even those we want prosecuted for crimes? Is there restorative justice that can make an official who has launched a war see his or her removal from office and sanctioning as advantageous? Maybe. Maybe not. But seeking to remove people from office in order to uphold the rule of law and end injustices is very different from acting out of vengeance.
We should not seek out victories over others, Nager advises. But doesn't the organizing of activists require informing the deeply victory-dependent of every partial success achieved? Maybe. But a victory need not be over someone; it can be with someone. Oil barons have grandchildren who will enjoy a livable planet as much as the rest of us.
Nagler outlines obstructive and constructive actions, citing Gandhi's efforts in India and the first Intifada as examples of combining the two. The Landless Worker Movement in Brazil uses constructive nonviolence, while the Arab Spring used obstructive. Ideally, Nagler thinks, a movement should begin with constructive projects and then add obstruction. The Occupy Movement has gone in the opposite direction, developing aid for storm victims and banking victims after protests were driven out of public squares. The potential for change, Nagler believes, lies in the possibility of Occupy or another movement combining the two approaches.
Nagler's sequential steps in a nonviolent action campaign include: 1. Conflict Resolution, 2. Satyagraha, 3. The Ultimate Sacrifice.
I imagine Nagler would agree with me that what we need as much as peaceful behavior by our government is Conflict Avoidance. So much is done to generate conflicts that need not be. U.S. troops in 175 countries, and drones in some of the remaining few, are known to generate hostility; yet that hostility is used to justify the stationing of more troops. While it's important to realize we'll never rid the world of conflict, I'm sure we could come a lot closer if we tried.
But Nagler is outlining a plan for a popular campaign, not for the State Department. His three stages are a guide for how we ought to be outlining our future course of action. Step 0.5, then, is not Conflict Avoidance but Infiltration of Corporate Media or Development of Alternative Means to Communicate. Or so it occurs to me. I'll host Nagler on Talk Nation Radio soon, so send questions I should ask him to david at davidswanson dot org.
Nagler sees growing success and even greater potential for nonviolent action done wisely and strategically, and points out the extent to which violence remains the default approach of our government. And the case Nagler makes is made strong and credible by his extensive knowledge of nonviolent campaigns engaged in around the world over the past several decades. Nagler looks helpfully at successes, failures, and partial successes to draw out the lessons we need moving forward. I'm tempted to write a review of this book nearly as long as or even longer than the book itself, but believe it might be most helpful simply to say this:
Trust me. Buy this book. Carry it with you.
By Catie O'Toole | email@example.com
DeWitt, NY -- A DeWitt town judge Monday night acquitted a U.S. Marine veteran who wore a Grim reaper costume during a permitted protest last year outside Hancock air base.
John Amidon, 66, president of the Albany chapter of Veterans for Peace, was charged April 28, 2013 with attempted criminal trespass and loitering, both violations.
Amidon was among 31 people arrested that day. He was the first of the group to be tried.
DeWitt Town Judge David Gideon found Amidon not guilty of both charges after watching a video of the arrest and hearing from six witnesses, said defense lawyer Kathy Manley.
During his trial Monday night, Amidon testified he was standing on top of a barrier within the free-speech zone in front of Hancock Field during a permitted protest. He was wearing a Grim Reaper mask and long black robe at the time. The protest, he said, was organized by the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, and the Syracuse Peace Council.
"I was doing street theater," Amidon said. "I was arrested in a free-speech zone and dragged out of it."
Assistant District Attorney Jordan McNamara argued Amidon was trying to climb over the barricade, Manley said. One of the prosecutor's two witnesses was the arresting police officer who testified he thought Amidon was going to climb over the barrier, Manley said after the trial. McNamara could not be reached for comment.
Amidon and three witnesses at the protest also testified.
"I did not trespass," Amidon said. "I had a Constitutional right to wear the mask."
The defense argued there was a reason for why Amidon chose the Grim Reaper costume: "The Grim Reaper is a symbol of the drone program," said Manley, a lawyer from Albany. The New York Air National Guard's 174th Attack Wing operates unmanned MQ-9 Reaper drones from Hancock Air Base and the Navy drone program's logo is that of a Grim Reaper, she said.
"The Reaper drone is killing indiscriminately and the Grim Reaper collects the souls of the innocent and guilty alike," Amidon said.
The judge found Amidon not guilty of loitering because his Grim Reaper mask and costume were props and props were included in the permit, Manley said. Gideon found Amidon not guilty of attempted criminal trespass because "the evidence showed he was not trying to climb over the barrier," Manley said.
"They ran in and grabbed him from behind," she said. "He was surrounded by other officers and handcuffed, and his mask was pulled off."
After court, Amidon said he was happy with the verdict.
"It was an absolute splendid victory," he said. "Freedom of speech was protected."
Portugal as a Model for a New Socialism?
by Leila Dregger
Preliminary note of the author:
In this text the words socialism and communism are used synonymously. I see their differentiation and the rift, which has been stretched between their representatives, as no longer appropriate today. This article is directed toward all those interested in justice, solidarity and freedom.
By David Hartsough, WagingNonviolence
As April 15 approaches, make no mistake: The tax money that many of us will be sending to the U.S. government pays for drones that are killing innocent civilians, for “better” nuclear weapons that could put an end of human life on our planet, for building and operating more than 760 military bases in over 130 countries all over the world. We are asked by our government to give moral and financial support to cutting federal spending for our children’s schools, Head Start programs, job training, environmental protection and cleanup, programs for the elderly, and medical care for all so that this same government can spend 50 percent of all our tax dollars on wars and other military expenditures.
My wife Jan and I have been war tax resisters since the war in Vietnam. We cannot in good conscience pay for killing people in other parts of the world.
Does it make sense to work every day for peace and justice and then contribute one day’s pay each week for war and war-making? In order to wage wars, governments need young men and women willing to fight and kill, and they need the rest of us to pay our taxes to cover the cost of soldiers, bombs, guns, ammunition, planes and aircraft carriers. The cost of just the wars being fought now is in the trillions of dollars.
Increasingly, we are able to recognize that most wars are based on lies — weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the Gulf of Tonkin in Vietnam, and now al-Qaeda behind every bush and in every country our government wants to attack.
As our government uses drones that kill thousands of innocent people, we create ever more enemies, thus assuring that we will have wars to fight in perpetuity. The war against communism used to be the rationale for all our military expenditures. Now it is the war on terror. But the problem is that all war is terrorism. It just depends which end of the gun or bomb you are on. One person’s freedom fighter is another person’s terrorist.
At what point do we the people refuse to cooperate with these immoral, illegal and senseless wars? The government cannot fight these wars without our tax dollars and our moral support. And I bet that if the Pentagon sent people out door to door to ask us to contribute to its wars, aircraft carriers, drones and new fighter jets, most of us would not contribute.
Some people argue that the Internal Revenue Service is so powerful that it will get the money anyway from our paychecks or bank accounts, so what good does it do to refuse to pay the 50 percent of our taxes that go for war? My response is that if the Pentagon has to take the money we were planning to contribute to schools and organizations working for peace and justice, at least we aren’t paying for the wars voluntarily. And if millions of us refused to pay our war taxes, the government would have a real crisis on its hands. It would be forced to listen.
As President Nixon’s chief of staff Alexander Haig looked out the White House window and saw more than 200,000 anti-war demonstrators marching by, he said, “Let them march all they want to as long as they pay their taxes.”
If our country put even 10 percent of the money we presently spend on wars and military expenditures into building a world where every person has shelter, enough to eat, an opportunity for education and access to medical care, we could be the most loved country in the world — and the most secure. But perhaps even more pressing is the question of whether we can in conscience continue to pay for the killing of other human beings and perpetuate the war system for all the world’s children.
The choice is ours. Hopefully many of us will join the increasing number of people who are refusing to pay the portion of taxes that pay for war and are redirecting their refused taxes to funding human and environmental needs.
My wife and I engage in war tax resistance by simply deducting 50 percent of the taxes we owe and depositing it in the People’s Life Fund. The fund keeps the money in case the IRS seizes our bank account or paycheck and will return it to us so we have the funds to replenish what the IRS has taken. Interest on the money in the People’s Life Fund is contributed to peace and justice organizations and programs addressing the needs of people in our communities. That way, as long as the IRS leaves us alone, the funds we refuse to pay go to the places we would like to see it go. The IRS may add penalties and interest on what we owe, but for me that is a small price to pay for refusing to voluntarily pay for wars and the American empire.
Someday, we hope to see a special fund set up by the government itself for those who cannot in good conscience allow their money to be used for war, such as the one that the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund has outlined. In the meantime, there are more resources about tax resistance available through the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee.
If your conscience so directs you, refuse to pay $1, $10, $100 or 50 percent of the taxes you owe, and send letters to your elected representatives and your local newspaper explaining why you are doing so. For the 50 percent of our taxes that my wife and I do pay, we make out a check to the Department of Health and Human Services instead of to the IRS and send it along with our 1040 form. We ask the IRS to allocate all the funds we pay to programs for health, education and human services.
For acts like this to become truly powerful, however, we need to make war tax resistance a mass movement. We need to reach out to all people who want to help build a more peaceful and just world, people who don’t believe in killing other people, people who are hurting because of the massive cuts in programs aimed at meeting human needs while the military gets the lion’s share, and people who are tired of living in the center of an empire that inflicts death and destruction on those who stand in the way. If all or even many of the people who feel this way were to refuse to pay the war and military portion of their taxes, we would have a mass movement that couldn’t be stopped.
Is there an emotional connection between the oceans and the pursuit of peace? In the latter part of the twentieth century, the oceans were used for nuclear weapons tests and for the transport of nuclear weapons, and this might explain the advent of maritime protests against war, especially nuclear war. But, for whatever reason, peace ships have been increasing in number over the past century.
* * *
Probably the first of these ocean-going vessels was the notorious Ford Peace Ship of 1915, which stirred up more ridicule than peace during World War I.
Sociologists, political scientists, activists of various persuasions and many others often describe social stratification in terms of such measures as class, race and gender. There is much talk in the academic and other literature about the working class, the middle class and the ruling class, for example. And about relationships defined by such factors as religion, employment, income and other measures.
JUSTICE DENIED: CITIZEN ACTIVISTS, ON BEHALF OF DRONE VICTIMS, LOCKED OUT AND REFUSED ENTRY TO US ATTORNEY’S OFFICE
Susi Snyder, PAX
Some news from the Netherlands, which is gearing up (and shutting down!) to host 53 heads of State and Government next week for the Nuclear Security Summit.
To draw attention to a significant lack of nuclear security in our little country, this week, four Dutch activists entered the secured zone of Volkel Airbase and managed to take a picture of one of the SW3 bunkers in which American B61 nuclear bombs are kept. The activists were arrested and remain detained.
The note says: In this bunker are two nuclear weapons. Back to the USA.
The activists of “Disarm” in a statementexplain they want to raise attention for the fact that the Netherlands continues to store nuclear weapons and that these weapons should be given back to US president Obama when he visits the Netherlands next week for the Nuclear Security Summit(NSS).
The breaking into the secure area of Volkel Airbase is remarkable and a repetition of similar actions by Belgian activistsin the past years. The actions have raised questions about the security of the bases and the nuclear bombs that are stored in these locations.
The timing, so short before the NSS is no coincidence. The activists want to raise awareness for the fact that the NSS will talk about security of nuclear materials but not those nuclear materials that are used for military purposes.
The timing is interesting for another reason as well. Only last week, the US announced it expects the costs for securing the deployment of its nuclear weapons in Europe will doublein the coming year. Perhaps without even realising it, the activists seem to prove that indeed, security of the base is not enough to prevent unauthorised people approaching the bunkers in which bombs are stored that can detonate with a force 28 stronger than the one that devastated Hiroshima.
The action feeds a growing debate in the Netherlands on the rationale for the continued deployment of nuclear weapons on Dutch soil, against the long term majority opinion in the population and in Parliament.
The activists are currently still detained. It is not yet clear if they will be indicted.
PAX has also been active, and trying to raise concerns about the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons in a series of events, media appearances and more-
We issued a press statement, and have a bunch of events planned (and already ongoing) these weeks:
The forgotten topic of the NSS
Delegations from all over the world are gathering on 24 and 25 March at the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) in The Hague to talk about nuclear security. They will hold discussions on how to prevent nuclear terrorism and how to secure nuclear materials. However, what they won’t do is talk about nuclear weapons. Dutch peace organisation PAX thinks this is inconceivable. ‘If we are talking about terrorism, if we are talking about (in)security, we cannot leave out nuclear weapons.
PAX recently published the report ‘The Rotterdam blast’, in which PAX outlines a realistic scenario on what would happen if a nuclear bomb would explode it in Europe’s largest logistic and industrial hub: the port of Rotterdam. The Rotterdam scenario is a good example of nuclear insecurity and fits into the NSSagenda. In a promotion videofor the NSS Rotterdam is mentioned as a transit point for smuggling of nuclear materials, but no one talks about the risks associated with nuclear weapons.
PAX thinks the absence of nuclear weapons on the NSS agenda is a missed opportunity. Susi Snyder from PAX: ‘We will participate in several events during the NSS to put this topic on the agenda. For example, on 23 March I will speak at the Border Sessionsin The Hague. I am going to talk about the dangers and consequences of nuclear weapons and the urgent need to outlaw nuclear weapons.
Another speaker at the Border Sessions is research journalist Eric Schlosser, author of the book ‘Command and Control’. Schlosser researched aground-breaking account of accidents, near-missesand near-accidents with nuclear weapons. ‘All the more reason to talk about nuclear weapons during the NSS’, according to Snyder.
Snyder continues: ‘People often think that no rational person would ever use a nuclear weapon. However, recent history shows that political developments are unpredictable and many governments are unstable. In addition, there are real terrorist threats. If there are no nuclear weapons, they can not be used. That is why PAX is calling for a nuclear weapons free world.‘
Here are some more links on what we’ve been up to and are planning:
The Nuclear Knowledge Summit (see more here: http://www.knowledgesummit.
Border Sessions (see more here: http://nss.bordersessions.org/
Bike Around the Bomb: http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/ Symposium : Engineers for nuclear security: https://afdelingen.kiviniria. Movies that Matter: Countdown to Zero (23 March): http://www.moviesthatmatter.
Bike Around the Bomb: http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/
Symposium : Engineers for nuclear security: https://afdelingen.kiviniria.
Movies that Matter: Countdown to Zero (23 March): http://www.moviesthatmatter.
By Ellen Grady
Those who delivered the indictment today at the 132 National Guard Base in Iowa; Ruthie Cole, Eddie Bloomer, Elliot Adams, Julie Brown, Michelle Naar-Obed, Chet Guinn, Steve Clemens. Charged with criminal trespass.
We come to the Des Moines Air National Guard base, today, as members of faith based and Catholic Worker communities and the Veterans for Peace who annually join for a week of nonviolent resistance to war and injustice. This week, we aim to raise a call against the use of remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) commonly known as drones. We recognize that the slaughter of war always requires war makers to dehumanize the victims. Reliance on drones exacerbates the dehumanization because the technology allows
war makers to kill a target without identifying clearly who the person is or what the person has done or is doing.
Therefore today we bring to this base the faces of several who have been killed as well as the desire of a young Afghan friend who says, "We want to live without war."
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said, "In a free society, few are guilty but all are responsible." If weaponized drones are flown from this base, we, along with RPA crews, share responsibility for consequences including death of targeted victims and whatever trauma is sustained by those who operate the drones.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing today (March 13) on the U.S. State Department's national interest determination for the northern half of the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing today (March 13) on the U.S. State Department's national interest determination for the northern half of the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
Criticizing repression of protest abroad, practicing it at home: What if Americans Demanded the Ouster of This Government?
By Dave Lindorff
Ukraine’s new rulers, in one of their first acts, have disbanded that country’s riot police.
Here is the prepared statement Megan Rice read to the court on Tuesday, February 18, 2014:
As I sat observing the facial expressions of participants present in the hearing on January 28th, I sensed a clear sense of a shared mental reaction during the arguments on this restitution evidentiary Table submitted by the Prosecution (identification…) (display my Exhibit I)
I think we felt something of a Master’s compassionate consternation with the hypocrisy at his accusers. (Luke 6:5-11 Mark 4:20-30)
I was stunned that 8 months had elapsed with apparently no prior conversations, out of court, between the opposing sides and the court in this case, and would have imagined it had been resolved by negotiation during those delays, and relegated to where it deserved to be disposed. – unworthy of evidence in any court of law.
This very document [hold up Exhibit 1] is self-incriminating evidence for all the world to see. It represents in microcosm an enormous cloud of deception, exaggerated expenditures in time, energy and cost under which Y-12 has hidden these 70 years since its inception. It reveals but a sample of the extortion by unaccounted for or unaccountable profiteering and blatant miscalculation over Y-12’s entire evolution till today. – Draconian extortion of the hard-earned labor of the people in this country over the last 70 years, and perhaps before.
It provides evidence why we are in deep trouble today. – A perfect analogy to what Greg spoke of as “Emperor’s new clothes.”
Why can we not call a spade a spade?
Why can we not admit the bare truth, and just get on with what is humanly possible: transforming this humanly constructed horrific monstrosity, an entity which has, effectively un-impeded, evolved into risks of perilous portent to the very existence of this sacred Planet and life as we have known it; for whose transformation we all readily long to give our lives.
Who or what is capable of naming, and being heard to name,
this Emperor’s new clothes?
(if not already named in countless ways and forms.)
When will we be willing to listen,
and to face the truth?
Good morning! Thank you, Judge Thapar, and each of you, in this Beloved Community. We are so grateful this morning, in the depths of our hearts. Grateful to each of you for gracing us from your very busy lives, to be here once again. Your coming here from Kentucky, your honor, and up from New Orleans, Bill and Anna. Down form Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Anabel and David, faithfully giving time, and so much zesty, passionate energy and legal expertise in popular education for truth and justice’s sake on current status of international and domestic law; and here, also from a crowded date book at Yale’s Schools of Divinity and of Forestry and the Environment, Dr. Mary Evelyn Tucker, to witness on behalf of our entire Planet. A Beloved Community joins us in Spirit, from the four corners of the Earth, speaking truth from people in places like Seychelles, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Denmark, Finland, France, Belgium, Qatar, Bolivia, Alaska, Africa, Scotland, Ireland, Montenegro, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Britain, and many places in between. These messages from the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers came by post for this court. May I deliver them now?
It is indeed fitting as the issue here before us today has touched with perilous risk, for 70 years, the very existence of our sacred, lovely home, which we all share and try to treasure – our Planet Earth, which many of us revere as Mother! So thank you. We treasured the time all you gave in attending the trial in one way or another.
This trial has exposed, quite gratuitously, in the evidence, thanks to the prosecution’s witnesses, the truth about what is happening. That this one facility is part, of what Kristen Iversen says, the U.S. has become: one, huge, bomb factory, of which Y-12 is but one very significant part.
We are all grateful, as Anabel Dwyer points out, with the Defense team of Lawyers, that the details of the goings-on at Y-12 were revealed by the witnesses for the government, details kept mostly secret, over nigh to 70 years – the specific warheads being “enhanced” and “modernized” – the enormous quantities of highly enriched uranium material (HEUM) produced and stored there, in the very building we were able, almost unknowingly, to reach, to touch, and to label with statements and symbols of truth. This alerted Y-12 workers to what has been kept secret for nearly 70 years.
The secrecy began in 1943, when worker women, by thousands, could not tell fellow workers or family. Still now, secrets are kept between workers, officials, and managers. The secrecy prevailed to try relentlessly to turn these United States into a “super power,” an empire. As Germany tried to be under the Third Reich. When I was growing up, to our generation, these were very evil terms. Has any empire, or aspiring super-power not declined, not fallen apart from exceptionalism into decadence? So we had to come to this facility to call it to transformation. Thank you for revealing these secrets as evidence.
Many who were here on Jan. 28th had attended plowshares trials around the country, your honor, from the most recent in Tacoma, WA – the Disarm Now Plowshares (seniors also, I allege, aged from 84-60: One Sacred Heart Sister, Anne Montgomery of happy memory, 2 Jesuits Frs. Bill Bicshel and Steve Kelly, and 2 grandmothers, Susan Crane and Lynne Greenwald.) In many of these earlier trials, even the words, nuclear weapons, have been called “classified” and denied to be alluded to. Despite being components for weapons of mass destruction, contrary to the Non-Proliferation and other treaties and laws, to which the U.S. is legally bound, and for which crimes we citizens bear shared responsibility by law to expose and oppose as crimes, when we know they are being committed.
And still we have more room and reasons for gratitude, you honor. Because recent laws, by the U.S. congress, gave you distress, you felt that you had to keep these jury-convicted, conscience-bound peace-makers as “violent saboteurs,” felons accused of “seriously damaging the national defense of the U.S.” in detention while awaiting sentencing. Detention in a privately-contracted, for profit, rendition warehouse, which punishes and tortures unsentenced people, partly because of the enormously overcrowded courts and prisons in this country. These facilities are not effectively overseen nor accountable. Because of our experience of the ill-equipped conditions and inadequately trained personnel in those for-profit warehouses, we now know how U.S. citizens and non-citizens are treated for nonviolent crimes of “conspiracy” and other medical, drug laws as they exist. Crimes engendered by the failed socio-economic situation which prevails today in a national security state. The direct fall-out from gross misspending to maintain a nuclear industrial complex – of ten trillions of dollars over these last 70 years. An economic system devoid of any outcome other than death, poverty for the masses in a debt-ridden country, with obscene wealth for the less than 1% of the people – individuals wealthier than the GNP of entire countries and I would ask, from war-profiteering?
We thank you, Judge Thapar, for giving us this time to become inspired by truly great human beings, so patiently enduring flagrantly inhuman conditions. We can now report to you and the general public, who are the government, of the conditions where people are experiencing punishment and torture as unsentenced, awaiting changing court dates, or places in federal prisons today. We have seen how this far-profit detention contract system fails to accomplish any kind of restorative justice or rehabilitation. Women and men who are the victims of a nation, impoverished by the violence and cost of an economy based on manufacturing WMDs and war-making – inhumanly separated by distance and poverty, managerial incompetence; inordinately separated from contact with loved ones and families.
I am grateful also for what Daniel Berrigan called in a letter to me in Danbury Prison in 1998, “my time under federal scholarship.” We have tried to make the most of it. (Have learned enough for 2 or 3 Masters degrees, and written and received letters to and from enough to do a doctoral dissertation!) We are activated by the people who suffer under disempowering conditions of detention. Activated to invite U.S. prison reform, which calls for transformation of minds and hearts from violence. Violence of profiteering from the “fall out” of constant, unending war-making, by a military industrial complex. Those engaged in the production of ever more massively powerful, death-dealing weapons, – nuclear, chemical, biological, unmanned weapons, which rob the poor and sabotage and pollute all of life and creation on this Planet. Imagine the profit accrued by charges like mine: $15 for one 10 minute call to Washington DC from Knoxville Detention Facility. TN instate calls can be close to $3.00 each for 10 minutes. Or a sick call, which can cost an inmate $15 to obtain a dropped, previously sanctioned prescription for a nightly Claritin tablet for controlling an allergy condition. Medical records denied to be passed on from facility to facility as inmates are moved along to prisons.
We are energized to call for life-enhancing alternative projects: like disarmament, depleting radioactive isotopes and toxins, and those which meet real needs – social, cultural, spiritual and environmental: restoration, healing, harmony, balance and peace in non-violence.
May I close with a prayer? A rendition of an ancient Hebrew country song – PS 98 (according to Nan Merrill) as again we thank you, Judge Thapar, honorable jurors, our defense team, lawyers on behalf of the government (whose crimes, we as law-abiding citizens attempt to disclose, oppose, and heal), and for each of you, you in this most honorable Beloved Community, a prophetic peace-making remnant, from whom we receive hope and inspiration and encouragement to carry on as grateful participants in your noble pursuits:
Let us sing to the Beloved a new song.
For Love has done marvelous things!
By the strength of Your Indwelling Presence, (Your right hand)
We, too, are called to do great things;
We are set free through Love’s Forgiveness and Truth.
Yes, for Your steadfast Love and Faithfulness
are ever-present gifts
in our lives.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the glory of Love’s Eternal Flame.
Make a joyful noise to the Beloved,
all the Earth;
Break forth into grateful song
and sing praises! [-Sacred the Land, Sacred the Water, Sacred the Sky, holy and true!]
Yes, sing songs of praise extolling
Lift up your hearts with gratitude and Joy!
Let the voices of all people blend in harmony,
in unison let the peoples magnify the Beloved!
Let the waters clap their hands!
Let the hills ring out with joy!
Before the Beloved who radiates Love to all the earth.
For Love reigns over the world
with truth and justice,
bringing order and balance, [harmony]
to all Creation!
In keeping with all that is just and Fair.
and may we go forth
as Your holy right hand, to do great things, in Love!
(MK 3: LK 7)
Megan then asked the judge if it would be all right to sing a song. He agreed, then was taken aback as she turned to the audience and they rose to join her in singing “Sacred the Earth.”
Sr. Megan Rice, SHCJ, February 18, 2014
U S Federal Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN
We’ve heard it from the bench in Oak Ridge city courtrooms and from state judges in Clinton, Tennessee. And on February 18 we heard it from a federal judge—there are two variations. The first: There are plenty of ways for you to protest and deliver your message without breaking the law. The second: If you people would just put this time and energy into working for the change you want in the political system, you might get the change you seek.
Both sentiments are either disingenuous or naïve.
I. There are plenty of ways for you to protest and deliver your message without breaking the law.
As one who has spent hundreds of hours in nonviolent protests outside the gates of the Y12 nuclear weapons complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where workers are, right now, making thermonuclear cores for W76 warheads, the judges who lecture us—and who have never so far as I know troubled themselves to protest in any way at all from the security of the bench—have no clue. Sure, you can go to Y12 and protest all day long to the wind. It’s the preferred option of everyone who wants to maintain the status quo, second only to “Why don’t you shut up and leave us alone to do our dirty business.”
There is no sign at all that it is effective. We don’t do it because we think President Obama will drive by one Sunday evening and notice us and say, “Wait a minute! Didn’t I say something in a speech in 2009 about how we are committed to a world without nuclear weapons? Then why am I spending nineteen billion dollars on a new bomb plant? And we promised the world in 1968 that we would disarm? Gosh, these protesters are right!”
Not gonna happen, judge, and I suspect you know that. But we do those legal protests anyway.
We do it because it is important not to be silent whether anyone is listening or not. We do it because a commitment to nonviolent social change includes being present to say “No” when the government is preparing for crimes against humanity and crimes against creation. There is an old story activists tell of an old man who day after day goes out to the sidewalk with a protest sign to hold a lonely vigil. One day a young man stops. “Man, I’ve seen you out here for months. What in the world are you doing? You’re never going to change the government this way.” The old man smiles. “I’m not out here to change them. I’m out here to keep them from changing me.”
I go out every Sunday to stand for peace because I have two daughters to answer to and “I was too busy to do anything,” is not an acceptable excuse.
There have been times, at demonstrations I have attended, where hundreds of people came out to protest and the media ignored it. No TV cameras , no newspapers. The next day, it was as if nothing happened. But I have also been at demonstrations where people got arrested for acts of nonviolent civil disobedience. Guess what—front page of the paper. Lead story at 11:00. When the first goal is to raise awareness, to provide people with information the government would like to keep secret, media coverage is essential. And with only a few exceptions, most media require the drama of arrests before they will cover a story that includes criticisms of the regions largest economic powerhouse.
So to judges and prosecutors who say, “You can protest all you want as long as you keep it legal,” at least be honest enough with yourself and us to say, “even though—or especially though—it means no one will know you are there.”
Of course, that is one of the fundamental tenets of nonviolent direct action, a truth that was lost on the last judge who lectured us, in federal court. The judge said he was “obviously” a fan of Gandhi—but he’s like a fan that cheers for Derek Jeter but has no clue how hard it is to field a hard, low one-hop line drive just outside the baseline behind third base, turn, and deliver the ball on target to first base. The fan admires the pure beauty of it, knows it was hard as hell, knows he could never do it, but that’s as deep as the understanding goes.
Gandhi knew, and Martin Luther King, Jr. after him, that the point of nonviolent direct action is to confront injustice in a way that can not be ignored. When the powers and institutions that have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo react by punishing good people for their audacity—breaking a little law to expose a greater crime, or ignoring an unjust injunction—it is a question posed to the rest of society who, seeing good people being punished, is awakened to ask, “Wait—dogs and firehoses? On children?” or “What is going on here that these good people are going to prison?”
II. Channel this energy into working to change policy—make democracy work.
The second suggestion, offered by Judge Amul Thapar from the bench in federal court in Knoxville, Tennessee, was even more tortured. He praised the defendants before him for their intellect and clarity of thought. He noted that they had legions of supporters because he had gotten hundreds of letters and thousands of signatures on a petition. “Channel this energy toward changing policy in Washington, DC,” he said, implying they could not help but be effective.
Only two problems with that, Judge. One: without the Transform Now Plowshares action, there wouldn’t be hundreds of letters and thousands of signatures. The action was the stimulus which created the response. That’s how nonviolence works—it’s a dynamic and unpredictable thing. “Extraordinary,” Gandhi said, “and then it becomes a miracle.”
Second problem: Really? Do you really think smart, articulate people have not written hundreds of letters to Congress, haven’t signed petitions, haven’t gone to the nation’s capital to press the case? I’ve met with three different Secretaries of Energy and dozens of other officials; I’ve done briefings on Capitol Hill with former Arms Control Ambassadors and the President of the Union of Concerned Scientists. I’ve served on state and federal advisory committees. I’ve spoken at scores of public hearings, written op-eds in the local newspaper, penned letters to the editor, been quoted in a dozen major national newspaper and magazines, been interviewed hundreds of times, done radio and TV for half a dozen international media outlets. And I’m here to tell you, judge, it doesn’t work that way.
Maybe you can ring up Mitch McConnell and get put through to the Senator, but I have to shame our local Senator into even sending a staff person to meet me outside—they refuse to allow more than three people to visit in their office at one time. I’ve gone to DC to meet with a Representative for an appointment and instead had a five minute meeting in the hallway with his aide who, for most of the time, found the woman down the hall behind me far more worthy of his attention. I’ve talked to dozens and dozens of Congressional staffers, most of whom have this issue in their portfolio, and the level of ignorance is stunning. I don’t blame them—they have a million things to keep track of. But when I take a Department of Energy document to them, open it and show them where it says the new bomb plant will cost 2,400 jobs, and they insist on denying it—well, it doesn’t encourage me to put a lot of faith in your way.
I tell you what might work, though, Judge. If you called up the prosecutor and said, “Let’s look into this business about the Nonproliferation Treaty and the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. It might be nothing, but we did take an oath to uphold the Constitution, and these people are intelligent. And Ramsey Clark says there’s something to it.”
Or, another thing I am pretty sure would work, because I’ve studied a little on how things get done in Washington: How about if we just give some major campaign donations to our Senators—it would only take half a million dollars, I bet, to outbid Babcock & Wilcox, Lockheed Martin and Bechtel. Then my eight page letter to Lamar Alexander would probably warrant more than a form letter with a paragraph inserted about nuclear energy (though I wrote about nuclear weapons) and a machine signature. I’d go in the “first name file.” They have those, you know. One summer, I helped a friend who was interning file the first name file letters for a Congressman from South Carolina. That’s how democracy works, Judge, in case you don’t know. The chance of Michael Walli getting an appointment with a Senator or Representative are zero or less (those DC people don’t actually have a real one of either, you know).
What I’m equally sure won’t work is 16,000 signatures on a petition. The White House requires 100,000 signatures before it will take a petition seriously enough to read it. Nuclear weapons are not a hot enough issue to inspire that many signatures—partly because they are so horrific people don’t want to think about them and partly because they sound so technical people don’t think they can do anything about them and partly because some people are afraid to say they might not be safe without them, but mostly because the fix is in—the money fix, the fear fix, and the politics fix. There is no conversation (without something like a Transform Now Plowshares action to create one) about nuclear weapons these days. About our nuclear weapons, I mean. Lots of talk about Iran’s.
Don’t take my word for it. Set aside this case you drew and ask yourself: how many times in the last year, two years, decade, have you given any serious thought or any thought at all to US nuclear weapons production? How many times have you wondered how many warheads and bombs we have? How many times has the nuclear nonproliferation treaty crossed your mind? Even when you heard a news story about North Korea or Iran’s nuclear ambitions, how many times have you questioned our own nuclear practices? See what I mean?
Martin Luther King, Jr. said nonviolent direct action seeks to create a kind of crisis in a community, to make a space for a creative tension that challenges the status quo or even makes it untenable, and opens a space for a new reality. That’s the point, Your Honors. The discomfort you feel, looking at these people in front of you who are among the best and brightest in your community, having to sentence them or fine them as though they are bad people or have done something wrong—that’s the tension. That’s one of the reasons we are there, in front of you.
Nonviolent direct action has as its fundamental goal shaking things up. It is an honorable tradition. In this country it goes back at least to the Boston Tea Party (though if you consider property sacred you might argue about the nonviolent part of that party). It’s not your normal kind of crime, not committed by your typical criminal. The law can’t take that into account very well, though. Because the law loves order and the beautiful clarity that it brings. The law doesn’t so much like dynamic things like nonviolence when it is loosed in the world or the courtroom.
But when things are really messed up, really—like a nation that preaches nonproliferation to others but is busy building bombs and bomb plants—and no one in power wants to do anything about it, and most people in power actually have disincentives to do anything about it—what is a responsible citizen to do? If the mess up is obvious enough, and distant enough, and done by someone else—trains full of Jews heading for Dachau, for instance—we know what a responsible citizen is to do, and judges and prosecutors, too. We wrote the Nuremberg Code, we the US. But God help the citizen in the United States who sees a terrible wrong being done by the government and tries to raise the alarm.
Some years ago, in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the country of Belarus voluntarily relinquished the nuclear weapons that ended up on its sovereign soil, the President of the United States, Bill Clinton, praised them and welcomed them into the community of nations. I remember thinking, “Really? That’s the entry card into the community of nations—renouncing nuclear weapons? So what is Clinton doing there? Is he the doorkeeper? Because if that’s the entry card, we sure aren’t in the community of nations.”
I could go on, but I think my point is clear. Nonviolent direct action is required of us because the government responds to nothing less. It is required of us because our consciences and our unborn grandchildren—and yours—insist we do all we can on behalf of the planet and the future. It is required of some because they feel a divine imperative; the God they follow requires them to beat swords to plowshares and blesses peacemakers. It doesn’t seek an end in itself—it seeks to open a conversation, to encourage jurists, prosecutors, defense attorneys, the public, to search themselves to see what they can do and what they should do.
Of course there is a price to be paid. That’s why Ramsey Clark said the main thing it took was courage—more than most of us have. But to those rare few who listen to voices; who don’t throw caution to the winds but carefully, thoughtfully, gently lay it down and then pick up a hammer; to those who find themselves surprised to be doing courageous things and go on and do them, we owe a debt of great gratitude. We may even owe them the future.
If we want to take appropriate action to fix something that is not working properly, then it is necessary to understand, precisely, the nature of the problem. Obviously, if our diagnosis is inaccurate, then the solution applied is unlikely to work. This principle of needing to understand a problem accurately before we can devise and implement an appropriate solution applies in all fields of human endeavour, whether it be a mechanical, scientific, health or environmental problem, or a conflict at any level of human relationships.
By John LaForge
KNOXVILLE, Tennessee —Three anti-war activists who easily snuck into what is touted as one of the country’s most secure nuclear weapons facilities were sentenced to long terms in federal prison Tuesday, Feb. 18.
The three were convicted last May on felony charges of depredation of property and sabotage for their nonviolent action called Transform Now Plowshares at the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The convictions carried possible maximum sentences of 30 years in prison.
Federal District Judge Amul R. Thapar sentenced both Greg Boertje-Obed, 58, of Duluth, and Michael Walli, 65, of Washington, DC, to five years and two months in prison (“62 months,” in the parlance of the federal court) plus three years of heavily supervised probation. Sr. Megan Rice, 84, of New York, NY, was sentenced to 35 months in prison plus three years of probation.
Megan, Michael and Greg entered Y-12 in the wee hours of the morning on July 28, 2012, cutting four fences and traversing a “lethal-force-authorized” zone, arriving at the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, the country’s warehouse of weapons-grade uranium. They poured blood on the walls and spray painted “Woe to an Empire of Blood” and “The Fruit of Justice is Peace.” They also chipped a corner of the concrete wall with a small hammer, a symbolic act reflecting the Old Testament prophecy of Isaiah who said, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares.”
The judge also ordered the three to collectively pay $52,900 in restitution for what prosecutors said was materials and overtime costs to fix the openings in four wire fences and paint over the slogans. Defense attorneys for the three have indicated that the grossly exaggerated repair costs would be challenged on appeal.
At Tuesday’s hearing, each of the nuclear resisters spoke, reminding the court of the central purpose of their action ¾to call the court’s attention to the ongoing US violation of the 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) at the Y-12 plant in Oak Ridge, Tenn. In testimony at hearings before trial, former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark called the production of nuclear weapons components at Y-12 “unlawful” —and the work there “a criminal enterprise” —because the NPT obliges the US government to pursue good faith negotiations for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.
Ignoring each of the defendant’s direct appeals to the government’s binding legal obligations under the NPT and the Constitution (which holds that treaties are the “Supreme law of the land”) Judge Thapar repeatedly accused the three of showing “complete disrespect for law.”
Judge Thapar’s accusation of “lawlessness” was plainly dishonest and likely designed for the press, especially in view of his pre-trial orders forbidding the defendants from presenting legitimate law-based defenses. The defense of necessity —that unlawful government actions may be interfered with by citizens acting in the spirit of crime prevention —was also disallowed by Judge Thapar, who ruled before trial that the question of whether nuclear weapons production is unlawful was not relevant to the case and would confuse the jury. What the judge did not say was that when juries are allowed to consider evidence of the outlaw status of nuclear weapons, they regularly find protesters not guilty by reason of justification.
Assistant US District Attorney Jeffery Theodore had recommended much longer sentences for all three: At least 92 months for Michael; 78 months for Greg; and 70 months for Sr. Megan. But Judge Thapar challenged the prosecutor on his claim that the three had “harmed the national defense.” When Mr. Theodore asserted that the protesters “did not just monetary harm” but much more, the judge flatly disagreed. “What is the other harm —beyond the property damage —harm to pride? What is the real harm to the security of the United States?” the judge asked. Mr. Theodore merely noted the sworn testimony of a General Johnson who said that break-in had destroyed the “mystique” of robust security around nuclear weapons factories.
Speaking for himself in reply to the judge’s characterization of the action as “disrespectful of law,” Michael Walli, said in part, “I’m offended by the notion that Auschwitz had a legal right to exist. The gas ovens, the crematoria, fences and buildings there all had a purpose that was not legal or just. The name of the law used by the US to protect the criminal state terrorism going on at Y-12 is preposterous. … The law codified in the Nuremberg Principles forbids complicity in ongoing crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and war crimes” such as the planning a preparation of mass destruction.
The statement issued by the three at the time of their action said Y-12 was chosen for the action because of its plans for a multi-billion dollar H-bomb factory there —the Uranium Processing Facility. The sole purpose of the UPF (price tag now $19 billion) is to produce thermonuclear cores for gravity H-bombs and ballistic missile warheads. Y-12 is a weapons production facility where workers today perform so-called “Life Extension Upgrades” on the W76 warhead and potentially the B-61 gravity H-bomb.
John LaForge is a co-director of Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, edits its Quarterly, and writes for PeaceVoice.
In the end, U.S. District Judge Amul R. Thapar showed some leniency to the Y-12 protesters, handing out lower-than-recommended sentences to the three, but he emphasized Tuesday that no matter how much he admired their conviction to ridding the world of nuclear weapons, the law comes first.