Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu Supports Plowshares Action at US Naval Base Kitsap/Bangor

Archbishop Desmond TutuArchbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu sends a letter of support to the Disarm Now Plowshares.  You can read the letter here:

Nuclear Disarmament in US

The next court date for the plowshares is the arraignment at 1:30 on October 8, 2010 at the Tacoma Federal Courthouse in Tacoma, Washington.

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Who Should Be On Trial Today???

Friends,

Today, September 14th, 2010, fourteen people (including four priests) went on trial for walking onto Creech Air Force Base through the open main gate on April 10, 2009, Holy Thursday.  

They were seeking to engage in dialogue with the Air Force service members controlling the Predators and Reapers used in Central Asia. In a gesture of good will, they offered to break bread and share Passover pizza with Air Force personnel.”

Creech Air Force Base is one of the unholy places from which the U.S. military controls – from thousands of miles away – the drones (aka: unmanned aerial vehicles) that have killed untold innocent women, children and men in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan (and perhaps elsewhere for all we know).  The use of drones is increasing dramatically, and for the U.S. military it is the wave of the future.

Well, this is not (neither is endless war) the “wave of the future” for the fourteen people who engaged in nonviolent, civil resistance against this new and improved (and horrible) tool of warfare.  The resisters only tools (in the spirit of nonviolence) – a letter, roses and pizza. 

Today the Creech 14 faced trial in Nevada state court.  They went to Creech to speak for justice for those with no voice, and now they face the mock justice of a nation so steeped in militarism that it cannot (or will not) tolerate anyone who steps outside the confines of its militaristic ways.

One of the Creech 14 is also a member of Disarm Now Plowshares.  Fr. Steve Kelly will  face arraignment with his fellow Disarm Now defendants on September 24th for their November 2, 2009 Plowshares action at the Bangor submarine base and nuclear weapons storage facility. 

Interestingly enough, after hearing all the testimony in today’s trial – which included former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Bill Quigley who is a Loyola University law professor and legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and retired Army Col. and former U.S. diplomat Ann Wright – the judge delayed his decision until 8:30 a.m. Jan. 27, 2011.  It seems that those who spoke for the defense gave the judge some significant points to ponder. 

So today we hold up our brothers and sisters of the Creech 14, stand with them in solidarity, and pray with and for them:

  • Fr. John Dear, S.J. (New Mexico)
  • Dennis DuVall (Arizona)
  • Renee Espeland (Des Moines, Iowa Catholic Worker Community)
  • Judy Homanich (Binghamton, New York)
  • Kathy Kelly (Chicago Illinois, twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize)
  • Fr. Steve Kelly, S.J. (California)
  • Mariah Klusmire (Trinity House Catholic Worker, Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Brad Lyttle (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Elizabeth Pappalardo (Crystal Lake, Illinois)
  • Sister Megan Rice, SHCJ (Nevada Desert Experience, Las Vegas, Nevada)
  • Brian Terrell (Strangers & Guests Catholic Worker, Maloy, Iowa)
  • Eve Tetaz (Washington, D.C.)
  • Fr. Louis Vitale, O.F.M. (Oakland, California)
  • Jerry Zawada, O.F.M. (Tucson, Arizona)

And let us pray that one day it will be the architects of war who will go on trial rather than the carpenters of peace.

Peace,

Leonard

Read today’s post-trial article, Judge delays decision in ‘Creech 14’ drone trial, in the Las Vegas Sun.  Read John Dear’s article on today’s trial at the National Catholic Reporter Online.  Keep up with the Creech 14 at Nevada Desert Experience.  More also at Voices for Creative Nonviolence and http://sacredpeacewalk.blogspot.com/

The Thirtieth Anniversary of Plowshares!

Friends,

September 9, 2010 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the Plowshares movement!!!          

30 Years ago on September 9, 1980, a small group of peacemakers – Elmer Mass, Daniel Berrigan, Philip Berrigan, Dean Hammer, Carl Kabat, Anne Montgomery, Molly Rush, and John Schuchardt – entered the General Electric Nuclear Missile Re-entry Division in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, where the nose cones for Mark 12-A nuclear warheads were being manufactured. They carried hammers and their own blood with which they symbolically enacted the biblical prophecies of Isaiah (2:4) and Micah (4:3) to “beat their swords into plowshares” by hammering on nose cones, pouring blood onto documents and offering prayers for peace.          

 The Plowshares Eight          

It was a deeply spiritual act intended to symbolically (and literally) disarm these horrific weapons the government was building in huge numbers in preparation for the ultimate omnicidal act. Of course all eight waited to be arrested, were tried and convicted in Federal court (the government frowns on people messing with their nuclear weapons), and sentenced to prison terms from 1 ½ to 10 years (they also like to make an example). Ten years later, after lengthy appeals, they were resentenced.          

That first group of citizen disarmers became known as the Plowshares Eight, and had started a movement, known as Plowshares, that continues to do its subversive work of turning swords to plowshares (or ploughshares as our friends across the sea refer to it). One thing unique to the Plowshares movement is that it has no formal organization per se, no storefront, no non-profit status, no licensed merchandise. It is an organic movement in which peacemakers act individually and in community, entering military bases and weapons facilities, symbolically (and in many cases literally) disarming weapons of war (with a particular emphasis on those of mass destruction).          

These are no crackpot peaceniks mind you! “Parents, grandparents, veterans, former lawyers, teachers, artists, musicians, poets, priests, sisters, house-painters, carpenters, writers, health-care workers, students, gardeners, advocates of the poor and homeless” have all participated in Plowshares actions, and they take their task seriously, routinely going through an intensive process of discernment, spiritual preparation and nonviolence training. They are also very clear on the risks involved, accept full responsibility for their actions, and are prepared for the consequences.          

There have been roughly 100 Plowshares actions around the world since the Plowshares Eight wielded their hammers in 1980; Trident II Plowshares, Thames River Plowshares, Gods of Metal Plowshares, Sacred Earth and Space Plowshares II, and Waihopi ANZAC Ploughshares to name just a few. Plowshares activists have “disarmed” all kinds of armaments, including components of missiles, submarines, surface ships, aircraft, radar and satellites. And yet, Plowshares actions rarely, if ever, show up on even the innermost pages of any newspaper (and the government likes it that way; “out of sight, out of mind”).          

Nearly 30 years since that first Plowshares action, on September 2, 2010, a Federal grand jury in Tacoma, Washington handed down indictments against the five members of Disarm Now Plowshares. Anne Montgomery, Bill “Bix” Bichsel, Susan Crane, Lynne Greenwald, and Steve Kelly, each face up to ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted on the government’s charges of “conspiracy, trespass, destruction of property on a naval installation, and depredation of government property,” associated with their November 2, 2009 Plowshares action. Oooh, “depredation”; now that’s a scary word!          

 Disarm Now Plowshares          

Montgomery, who was one of the Plowshares Eight in 1980 recently said that, “It is distressing that 30 years later the nuclear weapons are still here, and the reason that I’m acting is that they’re still here. As citizens of a nation ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people’ we must take our responsibility to use every nonviolent means necessary to eliminate these illegal weapons of mass destruction.” At 83, Montgomery is the oldest of the Disarm Now senior citizen disarmers, the youngest of whom is 61.          

These hearty souls entered the Trident nuclear submarine base at Bangor, Washington through the perimeter fence in the early morning hours of November 2nd, walked for 4 hours across the base carrying a banner, “Disarm Now Plowshares: Trident: Illegal + Immoral”, left a trail of blood, hammered on the roadway and fences around Strategic Weapons Facility – Pacific (SWFPAC) and scattered sunflower seeds throughout the base. They cut the last two fences to enter the secure nuclear weapons storage area where they were detained (with hoods over their heads, laying on the ground for about 4 hours)), and after extensive questioning by base security, FBI and Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), cited for trespass and destruction of government property, given ban and bar letters and released. All in a day’s work!          

Finally, after ten months of waiting for the wheels of “justice” to grind along, the Disarm Now Plowshares defendants are ready to face trial and, in the words of Fr. Bill “Bix” Bichsel, “We hope to expose the fact that these weapons create absolutely no security. They bring nothing but fear and further proliferation of weapons and war.” These Plowshares activists hope to “expose” and shine a bright light on a very dark subject.          

As Daniel Berrigan once said, “Plowshares began disarmament in 1980, doing what the government refused to do for 35 years. With equal concern, Plowshares appealed to the hearts, minds and spirits of the American people—‘You must share disarmament!’ The twin goals of Plowshares—symbolic yet real disarmament and sharing disarmament—have reciprocity. The weapons exist because our fear, violence and hatred built them. Plowshares must address these realities…”     

And now, even after 65 years the government still builds the weapons of humankind’s destruction, even while it engages in the rhetoric of disarmament.   
 
When they get their day in court the Disarm Now Plowshares defendants hope to break through the government’s veil of secrecy and fear, and make their case to hold the government accountable to abolish nuclear weapons. They seek to disarm not only the weapons, but at the heart of it the “violence and hatred” that simmers deep within our hearts. Let’s hope their voices are heard, and may we all be listening.     

  

 Please consider adding your name to the list of the many individuals and organizations who have signed on in support of the Disarm Now Plowshares   

And then keep speaking out for disarmament; tell your Senators to speak out publicly in favor of and vote for ratification of the New START Treaty!           

Peace, 

Leonard      

END NOTES:        

The Trident submarine base at Bangor, just 20 miles west of Seattle, Washington, is home to the largest single stockpile of nuclear warheads in the U.S. arsenal, housing more than 2,000 nuclear warheads. In November 2006, the Natural Resources Defense Council declared that the 2,364 nuclear warheads at Bangor are approximately 24 percent of the entire U.S. arsenal. The Bangor base houses more nuclear warheads than China, France, Israel, India, North Korea and Pakistan combined.        

The base has been rebuilt for the deployment of the larger and more accurate Trident D-5 missile system. Each of the 24 D-5 missiles on a Trident submarine is capable of carrying eight of the larger 455 kiloton W-88 warheads (each warhead is about 30 times the explosive force as the Hiroshima bomb) and costs approximately $60 million. The D-5 missile can also be armed with the 100 kiloton W-76 warhead. The Trident fleet at Bangor deploys both the 455 kiloton W-88 warhead and the 100 kiloton W-76 warhead.  

Disarm Now Plowshares indicted for November 2009 witness

A federal grand jury finally handed down a litany of indictments against five nuclear  resisters who entered the U.S. Navy’s West Coast nuclear weapons storage depot in a plowshares action on November 2, 2009.

On September 3, 2010 the United States Attorney announced the indictments handed down by a grand jury in Tacoma, Washington, against members of Disarm Now Plowshares came ten months after their plowshares action in which they entered Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in the early morning hours of November 2, 2009, All Souls Day, with the intention of calling attention to the illegality and immorality of the existence of the Trident weapons system.

During the action they held a banner saying…“Disarm Now Plowshares : Trident: Illegal + Immoral”,  left a trail of blood, hammered on the roadway and fences around Strategic Weapons Facility – Pacific (SWFPAC) and scattered sunflower seeds throughout the base.  They gained entry to the secure nuclear weapons storage facility known as Strategic Weapons Facility-Pacific (SWFPAC) where they were detained, and after extensive questioning by base security, FBI and Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), cited for trespass and destruction of government property, given ban and bar letters and released.

Sr. Anne Montgomery, 83, of Redwood City, California, Fr. Bill “Bix” Bichsel, 82, of Tacoma, Washington, Susan Crane, 65, of Baltimore, Maryland, Lynne M. Greenwald, 61, of Bremerton, Washington, and Fr. Steve Kelly, 61, of Oakland, California, each face up to ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted on the government’s charges of “conspiracy, trespass, destruction of property on a naval installation, and depredation of government property.”

Following a 10-month wait, the Disarm Now Plowshares defendants are ready to face trial in the Western District of Washington stemming from their Nov. 2, 2009 disarmament action.

In the months since her action, Greenwald, a retired community health nurse and social worker, and mother of three grown children, has welcomed her first grandchild into the world.  Knowing that Jack has been born into a nuclear-armed world has given her more of a sense of urgency “to wake people up” to the imperative of nuclear disarmament, and “to expose what we choose to avoid,” Greenwald said.

Moving to Kitsap County in 1983 to join the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action Greenwald participated in several nonviolent actions at the Trident Base and is currently on probation for “crossing the blue line” August 2009. She currently lives in Tacoma and works with the Tacoma Catholic Worker.

Bichsel said he feels compelled by his faith to continue risking his freedom for peace, despite two open-heart surgeries that require him to take frequent rests during even light exertion.  “The power of the resurrection is much stronger than our destructive ways,” he said. “I believe the presence of God made manifest through the witness of nonviolent action will break the bonds of fear, hopelessness, and death in which nuclear weapons imprison us.”

The fact that five unarmed, nonviolent, peace activists could enter a deadly-force, high-security installation without being detected exposes the lie that nuclear weapons make us secure, Bichsel said.  “We hope to expose the fact that these weapons create absolutely no security.  They bring nothing but fear and further proliferation of weapons and war.”

Thirty years ago this month, Montgomery was involved in what was the first of more than 100 Plowshare disarmament actions when she was among a group of eight people who hammered on components of a Mark 12A nuclear missile at General Electric’s King of Prussia, PA weapons plant.

“It is distressing that 30 years later the nuclear weapons are still here,” Montgomery said. “And the reason that I’m acting is that they’re still here. As citizens of a nation ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people’ we must take our responsibility to use every nonviolent means necessary to eliminate these illegal weapons of mass destruction.”

Kelly, who has spent more than six years in prison for anti-war actions, said the abolition of slavery, an institution many people thought would never end, gives him hope that humans will turn away from nuclear weapons. The abolition of slavery required leadership, Kelly said.   The same kind of leadership from the Unites States will be required to abolish nuclear weapons.   “We’re not asking for unilateral disarmament,” Kelly said. “Somebody has got to lead, and the most reluctant party in all of this is the United States.  We’ve got to get rid of these things.  Everybody’s got to get rid of them, period.”

Funding for war and the nuclear arms race is coming at the expense of programs for the poor, Kelly said. “We’re going to crumble from within.”  As he faces trial once again, and the prospect of another long federal prison sentence, Kelly said he remains hopeful that humans will turn away from war and nuclear weapons.  “It gives me tremendous hope to live for what I may not be able to see achieved in my lifetime,” he said.

Kelly said he expects the Disarm Now Plowshares trial to be “another act of resistance” because the government will try to limit what the defendants have to say about nuclear weapons and war. The judicial body functions as a legitimizer of nuclear weapons, Kelly said. “Our actions, which could be part of the solutions, are deemed illegal, because nuclear weapons are legal,” so that courtroom becomes a place of further resistance.”

Crane, a mother of two grown children, and who is expecting her first grandchild, said one of her goals at the trial will be to show the jury that the five had no intent to break any laws, but rather they came to the Navy base to uphold international laws.  The Trident D-5 warheads at the base, highly accurate first-strike weapons “are against international law by their very existence,”

Crane said. “The nuclear warheads, if used, indiscriminately kill civilians, cause radiation burns, poison the environment and create sickness and genetic damage for generations to come.  “Additionally, these weapons are our responsibility.  They were made with our tax dollars, and will be used in our name. We are the ones who have the duty and responsibility to disarm them.”

The Disarm Now Plowshares defendants will appear in U.S. District Court in Tacoma for arraignment on September 24, 2010, at 1:30 p.m.

There have been more than 100 Plowshares Nuclear Resistance Actions worldwide since 1980. Plowshares actions are taken from Isaiah 2:4 in Old Testament (Hebrew) scripture of the Christian Bible, “God will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many people. And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. And nations will not take up swords against nations, nor will they train for war anymore.”

The Trident submarine base at Bangor, just 20 miles west of Seattle, is home to the largest single stockpile of nuclear warheads in the U.S. arsenal, housing more than 2000 nuclear warheads.  In November 2006, the Natural Resources Defense Council declared that the 2,364 nuclear warheads at Bangor are approximately 24 percent of the entire U.S. arsenal.  The Bangor base houses more nuclear warheads than China, France, Israel, India, North Korea and Pakistan combined.

The base has been rebuilt for the deployment of the larger and more accurate Trident D-5 missile system.  Each of the 24 D-5 missiles on a Trident submarine is capable of carrying eight of the larger 455 kiloton W-88 warheads (each warhead is about 30 times the explosive force as the Hiroshima bomb) and costs approximately $60 million.  The D-5 missile can also be armed with the 100 kiloton W-76 warhead.  The Trident fleet at Bangor deploys both the 455 kiloton W-88 warhead and the 100 kiloton W-76 warhead.

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Editor’s Note: Click here to read the press release announcing the indictments for Disarm Now Plowshares from the United States Attorney’s Office, Western District of Washington.  Of interest is the statement by U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan that “All citizens are free to disagree with their government. But they are not free to destroy property or risk the safety of others.”  A November 4, 2009 article in Military.com, 5 Arrested for Breaking Into Navy Base, contradicts Durkan’s allegation; the Military.com article quoted a Navy press release as saying, “At no time was the safety of Navy personnel, property, or the public threatened in any way.”

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