“YOU CAN JAIL THE RESISTERS BUT NOT THE RESISTANCE.”

Yesterday’s sentencing of Greg, Megan and Michael, the three members of Transform Now Plowshares, was the culmination of the government’s collusion with the Nuclear Industrial Complex.  It is collusion in the sense that the government is breaking many laws, including international humanitarian law, in its continuing pursuit of nuclear weapons, and the courts cannot help but see and uphold established precedents, including the Nuremberg Principles. Supposed justice was “blind” to the wrong things in this case, and essentially every other case of this kind.

There is no lack of irony in the timing of yesterday’s sentencing. Seventy-one years ago on February 18, 1943 Sophie Scholl and other members of The White Rose were arrested at the University of Munich for dropping leaflets protesting the evils of the Third Reich.  Click here for an article on this piece of history.  Sophie, her brother, and the other members of The White Rose clearly understood the consequences of their actions, should they be caught.

tnp three sentenced

Greg, Megan and Michael also understood the probable consequences of their actions, and took their action with joyful hearts and fully prepared to accept those consequences. Judge Thapar gave all three significant prison time – Megan 35 months, and Greg and Michael each received 62-month sentences.  The judge’s intention by giving such long prison terms was to dissuade others to engage in such actions and instead to pursue “legal” means.

Of course, those of us pursuing nuclear abolition clearly understand the futility of legal means, which we have all tried over and over. As Felice and Jack of The Nuclear Resister said in a recent post about the Transform Now Plowshares sentencing: “YOU CAN JAIL THE RESISTERS BUT NOT THE RESISTANCE.”

Our thoughts and prayers go out to our brothers and sister in resistance on the next stage of their journey.

 

Abolish Nuclear Weapons: Choose Life!

Editor’s Note: This is an article I was asked to write for St. Patrick Church, Seattle.  It was recently published in the Summer 2013 Roots of Justice, the parish Social Justice Newsletter.  Click here for the PDF reprint.

DSC_0093

Abolish Nuclear Weapons: Choose Life

by Leonard Eiger

“In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims. The truth of peace requires that all – whether those governments which openly or secretly possess nuclear arms, or those planning to acquire them – agree to change their course by clear and firm decision and strive for a progressive and concerted nuclear disarmament. The resources which would be saved could then be employed in projects of development capable of benefiting all their people, especially the poor.” (Pope Benedict XVI, World Day of Peace, 2006)

Decades before, the Archbishop of the Seattle Archdiocese, Raymond Hunthausen, was active in resistance to the U.S. stockpiling of nuclear weapons and the new Trident submarine-based nuclear weapons system, which included the Bangor Trident submarine base in Puget Sound just 20 miles west of Seattle. In 1981 Archbishop Hunthausen referred to the Trident submarines based there as “the Auschwitz of Puget Sound.”

The Church’s condemnation of nuclear weapons is grounded in the Church’s respect for life and the dignity of the human person. People of faith have been active throughout the movement to abolish nuclear weapons, and the struggle to resist Trident mirrors this history. Even before the first Trident submarine sailed into Bangor, people were coming together to build a resistance to it.

The Pacific Life Community (PLC), a small intentional community, formed to resist the coming of Trident to the Pacific Northwest. Two years later, out of the initial PLC experience, Jim and Shelley Douglass co-founded Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action (GZ). The GZ community purchased land adjacent to the Bangor base, laying the groundwork for the long work ahead.

As the submarines came and the base grew, so did the resistance. In the early years resisters handed out leaflets at the Bangor entrance gates. When the first Trident submarine arrived it was met by thousands of protestors on land in addition to a small flotilla of boats.

Next came rocket motors, and then nuclear warheads, transported by trains to Bangor for assembly to complete the Trident nuclear missiles. These trains were met by huge numbers of people, many of whom risked arrest blocking the tracks leading into the base. Archbishop Hunthausen was present at some of these actions in solidarity with the resistance.

The Douglasses later moved to Birmingham, Alabama to start a Catholic Worker House, and GZ’s work continued. Today that work is as strong as ever. A new Center House has risen from the ashes of earlier structures on the grounds. Three annual actions ground our continuing resistance to Trident – Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, Mother’s Day weekend and the Hiroshima/Nagasaki commemoration.

This continuing resistance, deeply rooted in nonviolence, is absolutely necessary in this time of renewed pursuit of nuclear weapons as a foreign policy tool. Besides the US Government’s buildup of its nuclear weapons research, development and production infrastructure, it is pursuing new nuclear weapons systems – among them a new generation of Trident submarines.

The new submarines, currently in research and development, are intended to replace the aging Trident nuclear weapons system, a relic of the Cold War. Twelve submarines will cost $100 billion just to build, in addition to hundreds of billions in operational costs.

Beyond the costs – For people of faith killing is simply wrong, and nuclear weapons, which are omnicidal by design, are an abomination in the eyes of God. His Holiness was clear in his 2006 statement – Nuclear weapons must never again be used; they must be eradicated, and we must dedicate ourselves to life-affirming ends.

May we choose life.

Jesuit anti-nuclear activist back in jail for probation violation (article from NCR)

Editor’s Note: The following May 22, 2013 article by Seattle-based freelance writer Julie Gunter is reprinted from National Catholic Reporter Online: Jesuit anti-nuclear activist back in jail for probation violation.

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TACOMA, WASH. — A noted Jesuit peace activist who has spent over a decade in jail for nonviolent protest actions, mostly over nuclear weapons issues, has been returned to prison for probation violations.

Fr. Steve Kelly, who has been on probation since June 2012 after serving a 15-month sentence for breaking into a nuclear weapons facility, was sent back to prison May 20 by a federal judge.Kelly, 64, was transported from the SeaTac Detention Center to the United States District Court, Western District of Washington at Tacoma, to receive the 60-day sentence. With time served, he is expected to be released May 29.

Jesuit Fr. Steve Kelly is seen in a 2007 file photo, taken outside outside Fort Huachuca in Arizona. (CNS photo/Felice Cohen-Joppa, courtesy TortureonTrial.org)

Jesuit Fr. Steve Kelly is seen in a 2007 file photo, taken outside outside Fort Huachuca in Arizona. (CNS photo/Felice Cohen-Joppa, courtesy TortureonTrial.org)

More than a dozen friends and supporters, including members of Tacoma’s St. Leo parish community and his Jesuit superior Fr. John Fuchs, attended the hearing. Some also attended a vigil outside the courthouse an hour before Kelly’s court appearance.

Kelly was arrested March 29, Good Friday, for blocking a road outside the Lockheed Martin missile plant in Sunnyvale, Calif. A trespassing charge was later dropped, but he was taken into custody for an outstanding federal warrant associated with probation violations.

Kelly was on probation for the 2009 Disarm Now Plowshares action, during which he and four other activists cut through multiple security fences and accessed highly sensitive areas of the U.S. Navy’s Strategic Weapons Facility, Pacific in Bangor, Wash., where more than 2,300 nuclear weapons are believed to be stored.

After serving 15 months in prison for that action, Kelly was released June 21, and his first probation violation occurred within 72 hours when he failed to contact his probation officer. He violated his probation again a couple months later when he traveled to Atherton, Calif., for the funeral of Sacred Heart Sr. Ann Montgomery, a longtime activist and friend who had been part of the Disarm Now Plowshares action.

In court May 20, Kelly made an emotional appeal for the abolition of nuclear weapons and the healing of divisions between people. Other testimonies praised Kelly’s character and commitment to peace.

Fuchs addressed the judge on Kelly’s behalf stating, “Fr. Steve Kelly is one of my brother Jesuits … Our religious Constitutions commit us to working for peace and justice in our world, resisting all forms of violence and unjust war, following our consciences regardless of the consequences. Steve is being faithful to his vocation as a Jesuit.

“I know Fr. Steve very well, having directed him in a number of spiritual retreats, and I can assure you … that he is one of the most nonviolent, gentle and committed persons I know,” Fuchs said. “I only wish that I and the rest of us could be nearly as courageous as he has been in following his call.”

Over the past two decades, Kelly has been imprisoned for an estimated 12 years, according to St. Leo parishioner and friend Joe Power-Drutis. Kelly has been held often in solitary confinement because as a matter of conscience he refuses to work for the Bureau of Prisons while incarcerated.

Kelly discussed his unique witness in a 1998 interview with America magazine. “My hope is that the church will really become a peace church,” he said.

“I realize that what I’ve done is not what most people would call being an effective witness. I don’t expect the culture as a whole to change overnight. The people I would like to reach are people of faith and belief. As for what I’ll be doing in the future, as long as nuclear weapons are being made for use on human beings, I’ll try to resist their creation.”

[Julie Gunter is a Seattle-based freelance writer.]

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Source URL: http://ncronline.org/news/peace-justice/jesuit-anti-nuclear-activist-back-jail-probation-violation

Steve Kelly and the final chapter of Disarm Now Plowshares prison time

Below is a brief report from Felice and Jack Cohen-Joppa of The Nuclear Resister about Steve Kelly’s hearing yesterday in Federal Court.

Yesterday’s hearing and Steve’s resulting final bit of jail time will bring to an end the prison journeys of Bill Bichsel, Susan Crane, Lynne Greenwald, Steve Kelly and Anne Montgomery, at least for the their common journey as the Disarm Now Plowshares.

These five peacemakers willingly and without reservation came together to commit an act of spirit-led resistance to the scourge of nuclear weapons, knowing the price they would pay. And pay they did; the state (or should I say empire) does not take kindly to those who question its imperial intentions, let alone those who embarrass it with their Plowshares actions.  With thanks to each of these people of steadfast faith, courage and conviction.

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Dear friends,Steve Kelly was given a 60 day sentence [both defense and prosecution asked for the minimum sentence] by Judge Settle for violating conditions of supervised release put in place at the end of his prison sentence for the Disarm Now Plowshares action. It’s expected he will be released in 9 days [around May 29th], since he’s been held in custody since a Good Friday arrest at Lockheed Martin in California, and gets credit for most of the time served… then his Disarm Now Plowshares file will be closed!

Attorney Blake Kremer, part of the legal team for the Disarm Now Plowshares, reports that there were eloquent statements in court made by Steve and supporters. Blake also forwarded a powerful legal brief written and filed with the court for the hearing by Steve’s standby counsel for the Plowshares trial, Roger Hunko [see the previous post at Disarm Now Plowshares].

Stay tuned – before long Steve will be able to eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and enjoy the summer sunshine!

Peace,

Felice and Jack

Editor’s End Note: Here is an additional comment from Mira Leslie, who was present at court as a witness and supporter: Steve ‘s courage and presence is absolutely pure. He appealed emotionally to the judge to help abolish nuclear weapons.  There were about 15 supporters, and no doubt  Ann Montgomery was presente.

Roger Hunko’s statement to the court on behalf of Steve Kelly

Steve Kelly, SJ will appear in United States District Court, Western District of Washington at Tacoma, before the Honorable Benjamin H. Settle in the matter of Steve’s violation of the terms of his supervised release.

Steve, being arrested at Lockheed Martin, Sunnyvale, Good Friday (2103).

Steve, being arrested at Lockheed Martin, Sunnyvale, Good Friday (2103).

Many of you reading this need no explanation of the reasoning behind Steve’s noncooperation with the terms of his supervised release.  Others might ask why Steve did not simply comply and get on with things; make it easy on himself.  For Steve to do so would be tantamount to cooperating with evil; his deeply spiritually grounded resistance to nuclear weapons knows no boundaries.  Essentially, the court that tried, sentenced and continues to attempt to control Steve holds no moral ground and cannot, therefore, hold any real control over him (other than its ability to continue to bring him into court and hand down sentences, as it will do on Monday).  These physical applications of control are meaningless to a person of such deep spiritual grounding.  Steve truly is untouchable; beyond reproach.  The system that continues with the threat of use of nuclear weapons is morally and spiritually bankrupt, in addition to being illegal under international humanitarian law.  The courts of this land that do not allow defendants like Steve (and other nuclear resisters) to mount reasonable defenses in their cases are NOT doing justice; rather they are defending the indefensible actions of a morally bereft government.

A number of attorneys have given of their time and energy to defend the actions of nuclear resisters.  Roger Hunko is one of these people; Roger was Steve’s standby counsel in the Disarm Now Plowshares trial.  Roger has written some beautiful and powerful words on Steve’s behalf, which are contained in the following statement for Judge Settle’s consideration in tomorrow’s hearing.

With Thanks and In the Spirit of Resistance,

Leonard

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Case 3:10-cr-05586-BHS Document 258 Filed 05/18/13

The Honorable Benjamin H. Settle

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON AT TACOMA

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Plaintiff vs. STEVEN KELLY, Defendant

NO. 10 5586 BHS

DEFENDANT’S DISPOSITION MEMORANDA

__________________________________________

Father Steve Kelly comes before this Court on a violation of his Supervised Release.  The violation is a single count of his failure to report as directed in the original sentence. At the time of his sentence he informed the court that because of his conscience he could not comply with the supervised release provision of his sentence. As a result he did not report.

The sentence of Father Kelly did not come from a desire to commit evil, but to prevent evil. He and his colleagues wanted to peacefully protest our government’s proliferation and maintenance of the World’s largest nuclear weapon arsenal and the most advanced method of deployment. All in violation of international treaties and law. To that end Father Kelly and four comrades in peace cut through the fence at Bangor, Washington. The five committed participants traversed the distance to the area where the nuclear warheads for the missiles were stored. Supposedly Bangor is one of the most secure facilities in the world for storing such weapons of mass destruction. They were able to cut through two more fences without being detected and managed to put up a Plow Shares banner condemning the proliferation of nuclear weapons within feet of the igloos where the warheads were suspected to be stored. It was only after this prolonged journey that the Marines designated to secure the weapons arrived. Even though two of the committed peace activist were octogenarians and the rest were either in or close to their sixties. One of the five was taking nitroglycerin to prevent a heart attack. They were arrested, bags put over there heads and months later charged.

The five represented themselves with stand by counsel. I was standby counsel for Father Kelly. A task I am grateful to the Court for giving me the opportunity to meet this man and to participate in an attempt to assist him in his fight against nuclear weapons.

Father Kelly never denied what he had done. He was arrested while attempting to finish a prayer next to the weapons of mass destruction. He did not deny his purpose. He did not deny why he did what he did. His defense was that he was doing what was morally required to put his government and the general population on notice that the possession and deployment of such non discriminate weapons was a violation of international law and also the higher law of nature. He was not allowed to present that defense. He, of course, was convicted which he anticipated. At sentencing he informed the Court that he could not submit to the supervised release conditions because he felt he was doing the morally responsible acts.

He was arrested for failure to report on March 29, 2013. He has been held on a Federal detainer since that time.

At his first appearance he attempted to admit the violation, but Magistrate Creatura, deferred a finding till Your Honor could hear the matter. Father Kelly does not deny the allegation. He only avers that his conscience will not allow him to submit.

I was appointed to represent him on his supervised release violation

I have been practicing law for the last thirty four years. Almost exclusively in the field of criminal defense. I have never represented a man like Father Kelly, wholly devoted in trying to prevent an evil from hurting his fellow man, whether American or anyone else. A man totally committed to peaceful resistance. A man who is willing to risk his life to show others the right path.
In deciding what I could do to represent a totally conscientious person in a violation where he fully admitted both at sentencing and by his actions afterward that he would not submit to supervised release, I was at a loss. I then thought of going back to philosophers, intellects and others to see what defines a conscientious person.

I came up with the following:

1. Never do anything against conscience, even if the state demands it. Albert Einstien

2. Justice is a temporary thing that must at last come to an end; but the conscience is eternal and will never die. Martin Luther

3. The person that loses their conscience has nothing left worth keeping. Izaak Walton

4. Laws control the lesser man. Right conduct controls the greater one. Justice Louis D. Brandeis

5. Pity the poor, wretched, timid soul, too faint hearted to resist his oppressors. He sings the songs of the damned, ‘I cannot resist, I have too much to lose, they might take my property or confiscate my earnings, what would my family do, how would they survive?’ He hides behind pretended family responsibility, failing to see that the most glorious legacy that we can bequeath to our posterity is liberty! Old Chinese Proverb

6. Non-violent resistance implies the very opposite of weakness. Defiance combined with non-retaliatory acceptance of repression from one’s opponents is active, not passive. It requires strength, and there is nothing automatic or intuitive about the resoluteness
required for using non-violent methods in political struggle and the quest for Truth. W. Vaughn Ellsworth

7. A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble. Mahatma Mohandas K. Gandhi

8. Any attempt to replace a personal conscience by a collective conscience does violence to the individual and is the first step toward totalitarianism. Mahatma Mohandas K Gandhi

9. What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow; that is the whole Law: all the rest is interpretation. Hermann Hesse

10. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law … That would lead to anarchy. An individual who breaks a law that his conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law. Martin Luther King

11. The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. Martin Luther King

12. Live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about his religion. Respect others in their views and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and of service to your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, or even a stranger, if in a lonely place. Show respect to all people, but grovel to none. When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision. When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero . Tecumseh

I then compared these words to what Robert Oppenheimer said on his successful test of the first atom bomb. “I am Vishnu destroyer of worlds.”

But of course the Court must decide what to do with Father Kelly. In doing so it must consider U.S.C. 18 § 3553. The most appropriate section in this case being Section 6. The need to avoid unwarranted sentence disparities among defendants with similar records who have been found guilty of similar conduct.

Under this cause number the Court has already sentenced Susan Crane on a similar violation. The Court ordered her to do 60 days in custody and terminated her supervised release. A similar result should be ordered in this case.

Dated this 18th day of May, 2013.
/s/ Roger A. Hunko
Attorney for Father Steven Kelly

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Editor’s Note: You can read this entire document as entered into the official public record at https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BzRG1crlv8YMcGpaQ2w4VEtKaVE/edit?usp=sharing

Transform Now Plowshares: Let the trial begin!!!

Dear Friends,

As I write this our dear friends Megan Rice, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed of the Transform Now Plowshares are in the thick of the second day of their trial in Federal District Court in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Yesterday was jury selection. Today they get down to the real business at hand.

Bix travelled back to Knoxville to be with them, and based on the photo I saw of him whooping it up with Sr. Megan during yesterday’s street celebration, it should be quite a week.

This trial is NOT – although one might not know it from nearly any of the media coverage – about lax security at a major nuclear weapons production facility (although one might ask questions about that).

  • It is about the total lack of security provided by the continued pursuit of nuclear weapons.
  • It is about the fundamental immorality of weapons that kill indiscriminately and on a massive scale, and leave a continuous trail of death far into subsequent generations.
  • It is about the fact that it is impossible for nuclear weapons and true human security to co-exist.  Nuclear weapons are against all that is human, and do not fit within any moral framework.
  • It is about why the United States continues to consider itself above our own laws, international humanitarian law and treaty obligations.
  • It is about asking questions such as how does the continuing buildup (by the US) of its nuclear weapons infrastructure along with the production of new weapons systems (example: the new generation of ballistic missile submarines in research and development) move us towards a nuclear weapons free world???
  • It is about whether we will we choose to base our nation (and our world) on a culture of peace or a culture of violence?  And nuclear weapons are truly the taproot of violence.

The Transform Now Plowshares has a website/blog where you can keep up with trial developments on a daily basis.  While you’re at the  blog you can sign up (see the upper right hand column) to get updates by email.

Let’s hold Greg, Megan and Michael and all who support them through their trial in our thoughts and prayers this week and beyond.

In Peace,

Leonard

Transform Now Plowshares URL: http://transformnowplowshares.wordpress.com/

“Washington youth pair anti-nuclear action with Scottish protests”

Dear Friends,

A group of youth from St. Leo Church in Tacoma led a vigil at the Bangor Trident nuclear submarine base on April 14th in witness against nuclear weapons.  You can watch a video of the day below (with thanks to videographer Rodney Herold), and read an article about their vigil in the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) written by Julie Gunter: Washington youth pair anti-nuclear action with Scottish protests.  

The NCR article quotes (among others) Bill Bichsel who laments the state of the world that current and previous generations have created for the young people and future generations, and says “My generation, and the generation following, have left so much violence, so many systems of exploitation, to our young people,” he said. “I believe we have the obligation to let them know we’ve made mistakes, and help give them the strength to resist what we didn’t have the strength to resist.”

With gratitude to these young people, and their strength and courage, AND for models like Bix and others who show the way (to PEACE)..

Peace,

Leonard

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Ramsey Clark testifies on behalf of the Transform Now Plowshares

Dear Friends,

Yesterday (on April 23rd) the Transform Now Plowshares (TNP) were back in the courtroom this time for a status hearing in which the judge allowed them to call witnesses to provide testimony on the legality of nuclear weapons, the importance of civil disobedience, and other issues.  The judge will then decide whether Megan, Greg and Michael can use the necessity defense and other such defenses to demonstrate that a greater good was accomplished by breaking the law to prevent imminent harm.

Former Attorney General Ramsey Clark appeared on behalf of the TNP, and as I read the transcript (see below) of his testimony I was carried back to the Disarm Now Plowshares trial in 2010 in which Clark appeared on their behalf giving another strong testimony before the judge there.  We are blessed by such people as Clark, Bill Quigley (who is part of the legal team assisting the TNP) and others who help bear witness to the immorality and illegality of nuclear weapons, and our nation’s continued threat of use of such weapons of mass destruction (or perhaps one should use the term annihilation).

Ramsey Clark & Sr. Anne Montgomery at the courthouse in 2010

Ramsey Clark & Anne Montgomery at the courthouse in 2010

You can read the transcript of Clarks testimony below (with thanks to Ralph Hutchison of OREPA for providing it). You can keep up with the TNP trial at the Transform Now Plowshares Blog.  You can learn more about the Y-12 facility (where the TNP action took place) and the issues surrounding it at the OREPA Website.

In Peace and Toward a Nuclear Weapons Free World,

Leonard

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HE WALKS AROUND WITH IT BY HIS SIDE

The judge interrupted the questioning of former Attorney General Ramsey Clark as he testified at a hearing in federal court in Knoxville, Tennessee in preparation for the Transform Now Plowshares trial in May.

Bill Quigley, counsel for the defense, had just asked Clark if the threat of the use of nuclear weapons was imminent.

“It’s omnipresent,” said Clark.

“Excuse me,” the Judge said. “Are you saying the President intends to use nuclear weapons? Are you in a position to know that? Are you tied in with the President?”

Clark said, “It’s not academic. We continue to build and to modernize these weapons, for what other reason than that we intend to use them?”

“But wasn’t our last use World War Two?”

“No, there has been testing.”

“A fair point,” said the Judge. “But as to an imminent threat—does the President have his finger on the button?”

“Well,” said Clark, “he walks around with it by his side.”

The exchange was one of many during the nearly one and a half hours the 85 year old statesman was on the stand.

What follows is not a transcript following from start to finish. It is a compilation of excerpts that is a true and accurate reflection of the course of the testimony and arguments. Some moments fall away as repetitious, others mundane, and one or two maybe just because my hand was too tired to keep writing.

One bit of news: The trial will begin May 7 as scheduled, but jury selection will begin at 1:00pm on Monday, May 6. The court expects to call 70 prospective jurors for the first round of voire dire and will set up a closed-circuit TV room for the public and press.

===

The occasion was a hearing on the prosecution’s motion to limit testimony at trial. In responding to that motion, the defense asked the judge to hear the testimony, a “proffer” in legal parlance, before deciding. Judge Amul Thapar agreed, and so we found ourselves in Courtroom 1A at the federal courthouse on April 23, 2013.

After dispensing with the niceties—Ramsey Clark was in the Justice Department from the first day of the Kennedy Administration to the last day of the Johnson Administration and he served as Attorney General from September 1966 until January 1969—Bill Quigley, who questioned Clark for the defense, began. Quigley’s questions were primarily aiming to establish that the defendants’ beliefs were reasonable.

=======

IT WILL DESTROY EVERYTHING IN ITS PATH

Quigley: The defendants believe that the nuclear weapons that are manufactured at Y12 are inherently uncontrollable and indiscriminate. Is that a reasonable belief?

Clark: Yes.

Quigley: Can you explain?

Clark: It is widely known to be true.

Judge Thapar: They are indiscriminate, no one would argue with that. But uncontrollable, do you have scientific evidence or knowledge of that?

Clark: I haven’t thought of it as a physics matter. What happens when you release the energy in a thermonuclear bomb is uncertain.

Judge: So if you drop it, you can’t control the harm.

Clark: It will destroy everything in its path.

Judge: But only on release.

Clark: It is extremely dangerous. If someone were to get ahold of one.

Judge: Yes, when released. But if the government secures them…

+++++++

YOU WILL DESTROY LIVES THAT ARE PROTECTED BY THE RULES OF WAR

That may have been the moment when it became clear how the day was going to go for the government. After the whole thing was over, a local reporter who has been following the case closely said it seemed to him the tables had turned and it was now the government that somehow was under indictment.

“If the government secures them…” the Judge had said.

Ramsey Clark took it up for him. “If you assume the government does its job. But if people can just walk in there, as these people did, people who were not equipped as, say, Rangers or Navy seals.”

Judge: But how easy would it have been to steal?

Clark: They were seventy-five to eighty percent there. All they had to do was get a truck and steal one.

Judge: Well, I don’t think they were ever standing next to one.

Clark: No, but if they were experts at breaking and entering, how hard could it have been to get in once they got where they got.

Bill Quigley took the steering wheel back from the judge. “Back to uncontrollable when they are used. The defendants believe indiscriminate weapons are illegal under US military code. Is that a reasonable belief?

Clark: By definition it follows they are illegal. If you can not control the direction of the blast, you will destroy lives that are protected by the rules of war.

++++++

WE DON’T BUILD THEM TO STORE THEM

Quigley: The defendants believe these weapons, by design, present an imminent risk to generations yet unborn. Is that reasonable?

Clark: Not only reasonable, it is inevitable.

Judge: You are not speaking as a scientist, but giving your opinion.

Clark: My judgment. No, I am not a scientist.

Quigley: Is it reasonable to believe these weapons pose a threat of death or serious injury?

Clark: That’s what they’re made for. If they’re used, it’s a disaster.

Quigley: If they are used. These weapons are made to be used, they are used as a threat?

Clark: I’m afraid so. We don’t build them to store them.

++++

ATTENTION HAD TO BE PAID, AND IT ISN’T BEING PAID

At one point, Ramsey Clark noted the building of nuclear weapons has “gone on for years and years. It’s what causes proliferation. If we do it, others will do it. The magnitude of the expenditures. These weapons present a clear and present danger to life on earth.”

Quigley: But is there no reasonable, legal alternative?

Clark: This is the only way people have to tell the truth. You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free. If we keep on building them, we are on the path to total destruction. Attention had to be paid, and it isn’t being paid. We have to get the government to pay attention. That’s why this was necessary.

Quigley: Is it reasonable for the defendants to believe that weapons of mass destruction are illegal under US and international law?

Clark: It is reasonable. It also recognizes the violation of Article Six of the Nonproliferation Treaty—the obligation that is in the treaty we signed when I was the attorney general. The obligation of the weapons states was to stop the arms race and eliminate them from the planet.

+++++++

THE LIFE OF THE PLANET IS AT RISK FROM THIS ONE PLANT IN TENNESSEE

Quigley: Is it reasonable to believe that what is being refurbished at Y12 are weapons of mass destruction?

Clark: It’s an established fact.

Quigley: And reasonable to believe they violate international law?

Clark: Reasonable. Under the NPT we agreed to eliminate them.

Quigley: And I believe I just heard today or yesterday that the Boston bomber was indicted for use of a weapon of mass destruction—that is part of our criminal code…

The Judge stepped in. “A weapon in the hands of a terrorist or a citizen is different than a weapon in the hands of the government. A machine gun, or a tank—is that a fair statement?”

Clark: It’s fair if you limit it to machine guns or rifles, but weapons of mass destruction—the US is in violation of the intent of the most important treaty we ever signed.

Quigley: Do you believe the continuing threat of the use of Y12 weapons constitutes a war crime?

Clark: It is a reasonable and fair statement of belief.

Quigley: And a soldier can commit war crimes?

Clark: Yes.

Quigley: And using, or preparing to use weapons of mass destruction is a war crime.

Clark: That is reasonable to believe.

Quigley: The defendants believe the work at Y12 is preparation for genocide, could be carried out by civilians or armed services. But they believe the weapons activities at Y12 are in preparation for genocide and a violation of international law.

Clark: That is reasonable. Because of the magnitude of the program at this time. One sub, one sub can carry one hundred warheads. Eight submarines, on alert at all times, eight hundred warheads in a position to strike. Think of maps. Eight hundred places in Europe… or on the continent of the Americas. It is criminally insane.

Quigley: Not homicidal, but omnicidal.

Clark: The life of the planet is at risk from this one plant here in Tennessee.

++++++

Later, Ramsey Clark again noted nuclear weapons threaten all life of the planet. “Yet we proliferate,” he said. “I lived through Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In 1968, we came up to sign the NPT. We realized if we let weapons spread, they would threaten life on earth. So in Article I the non-nuclear powers agreed not to procure nuclear weapons, and in Article VI, the nuclear powers took on the obligation—it places an obligation on us. It was highly idealistic, even commits us to complete disarmament. We put it on the shelf. We didn’t read it.

Quigley: The defendants believe the United States is in violation of the Nonproliferation Treaty, specifically Article six…

Clark: If you’re an informed person, it’s the only belief you could have.

+++++

THE OBLIGATIONS ARE SERIOUS AND MUST BE OBEYED

When the subject turned to Nuremberg, Quigley asked the Attorney General about his knowledge. “I was there, for one day,” Clark said. “But I read about it.”

Quigley asked about the Nuremberg principles as binding US law. Clark said they were the supreme law of the land.

Quigley asked, “Is it reasonable to believe they outlaw crimes against humanity?”

Clark: Not only reasonable, but highly desirable.

Quigley: And they not only outlaw the killing, but planning and preparation.

Clark: That is the only way to prevent the killing.

Quigley: The principles do not obligate people to wait until after, but confer on them the right and obligation to act to prevent…

Clark: If you can only punish, and not prevent, that is not sufficient for human survival.

Quigley: So it was reasonable for the defendants to believe they had a right and a duty to act to prevent?

Clark: Yes.

Judge Thapar broke in: Could the defendants be convicted of a war crime?

Clark: They might be convicted of trespass, though I don’t consider it trespass.

Quigley: Your honor, the defendants believe it is the government that is committing the war crime.

Clark: The conduct of the US government—it was a treaty we signed, we should be the first to respect it. The obligations are reasonable and serious and must be obeyed.

+++++

At one point Clark inserted a historical note for context: “If you look at the threat to life on the planet in 1945, one country had atomic bombs and others were seeking them. It’s a sad fact, but if two countries have a controversy, a dispute, or a difference of ambitions, and if one country has nuclear weapons and the other doesn’t, they have to get them in order to be free, to live free.”

+++++

THESE DEFENDANTS SOUGHT TO PRESERVE SOCIETY

Quigley: The defendants believe international treaties are binding law, is that reasonable?

Clark: Reasonable belief and a correct statement of the meaning of the Constitution.

Quigley: And the NPT is binding law…

Clark: It is the supreme law of the land.

Quigley: The defendants believe the program at Y12 which modernizes nuclear weapons violates the NPT.

Clark: It is the only reasonable belief. Our laws have to seek to preserve society. These defendants sought to preserve society.

+++++

BY A GOOGLE

Quigley: A moment ago, the judge asked if the government has the right to criminalize trespass. Is the trespass of these defendants miniscule compared to the crimes they are trying to prevent?

Clark: They were justified. There is a long history of justifying minor infractions to prevent grave injury. The only requirement is courage. If they had to cut through a fence, so be it. It was a minor infraction to prevent calamity.

Quigley: The law of proportionality favors the defendants. Is it reasonable to believe the small matter of harm they did is less than the harm that would come from nuclear weapons?

Clark: By a googol. It’s googol to one.

++++

Quigley: Since the use of these weapons on Japan, there have been thousands of tests around the world.

Clark: Yes, it was a race. Proliferation.

Quigley: And the defendants believe these tests have caused harm to thousands, on Bikini, the Marshall Islands, downwind of the Nevada Test Site—in ways that violate our treaties.

Clark: Based on clear knowledge, and a lot more than you have described.

+++++

Greg Boertje Obed closed the initial questioning of Clark with a question about drone warfare. Referencing the statement read by the Transform Now Plowshares resisters when they were at the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility on July 28, 2012.  “Is it reasonable to believe that drone warfare is illegal?

Clark answered: As used, in a time of peace, they are clearly illegal because they are indiscriminate. They are also lawless—first we execute, then the trial.

It was 11:56. Ramsey Clark had been on the stand for an hour.

+++++

I COULD IMAGINE A COURT IN THE FUTURE…

Under cross examination, Clark was patient, plain spoken, and profound. Assistant District Attorney Jeff Theodore, specialist in national security, asked, “Are you contending that operations at Y12 are criminal?”

Clark: They are unlawful. Had we met our obligations, we could be living in a world where these acts could not be committed. But there is no specific statute.

Theodore: You don’t believe these are war crimes, do you?

Clark: I could imagine a court in the future…

Theodore: But you don’t believe that.

Theodore turned the conversation to international law, pointing out that Congress is not bound by international law. Clark noted the Supremacy clause of the Constitution declares treaties to be the Supreme Law of the Land.

“So court opinions to the contrary are wrong?” Theodore asked. Clark said he would have to read the opinion. Judge Amul Thapar broke in, “Does supremacy mean Congress can not ignore international law?”

Clark: Congress can. But when we sign a treaty, and it enters into force, it becomes the supreme law.

Judge: But a treaty doesn’t trump the Constitution.

Clark: It’s in the Constitution.

Judge: But if there is a contract.

Clark: It says, “The Constitution and Treaties” are the supreme law of the land.

Judge: But take this case on chemical weapons. Whether Congress can pass a law in accordance with a treaty in the absence of another basis. If international law said marijuana was legal. Can Congress pass a lawmaking it illegal?

Clark: If Congress signed a treaty?

Judge: We can have statutes that are inconsistent with customary international law.

Clark: You’re talking about international law, not a treaty.

Judge: I think I understand.

++++++

THAT’S THE ADMIRABLE THING ABOUT IT. SOMEBODY HAD TO ACT, AND THEY DID.

Later, the Assistant DA tried to hammer Clark on whether or not the Plowshares activists had other alternatives to civil disobedience. He appeared to confuse written statements from another prospective witness, but Clark took up the discussion.

Theodore: Do you agree their action was civil disobedience?

Clark: It could also be for the greater good.

Theodore: But if it was civil disobedience, was it direct or indirect?

Clark: Mostly I would say it was indirect. Their motivation was clearly affirmative.

Theodore: But there are alternatives. There are always alternatives. Always the political process.

Clark: There are always alternatives. But they are not restricted to them, especially if they don’t seem to work.

Theodore: But the court said, after Schoon…

Clark: The alternatives may not be adequate.

Theodore: But just because they don’t get the result they want, the democratic process does work, doesn’t it?

Clark: It’s not working on this.

Theodore: But on any number of issues, people’s views have changed.

Clark: Yet militarism has grown and grown.

Theodore: But we have had a reduction in the number of nuclear weapons since 1969.

Clark: Not in the destructive capacity. You think of the power of the warheads on just one submarine. It is unbelievable.

Theodore: But democracy works, doesn’t it?

Clark: It’s pretty darn good on most things.

A moment later, after a discussion of Nuremberg during which Theodore attempted to limit the imperative of Nuremberg to cases where citizens were being forced to undertake unlawful acts, he said, “They weren’t compelled, these three.”

Clark answered, “That’s the admirable thing about it. Somebody had to act, and they did.”

Theodore drew his cross examination to a close: “A minute ago, you testified that the activities at the Y12 site were unlawful. Are the people who work there criminals?”

Clark: They are engaged in a criminal enterprise.

++++++

WE COULD NOT FEEL THEIR PAIN

Bill Quigley, on redirect, reached through the tangle of legalese for the heart.

“Mr. Clark, in the 1960’s, when you were in the Justice Department, was it necessary for African Americans to commit civil disobedience to force you to act?”

Ramsey Clark was silent for just a moment. “Sadly, yes,” he said. “We could not feel their pain. We could not feel the misery of their lives. We came to understand it, finally, but without their initiative, we would not have the Civil Rights Act or the Voting Rights Act or any of that. Without Martin Luther King…”

Then, suddenly, the Judge entered the discussion, agreeing that Martin Luther King was an apt example. “It shows that civil disobedience may be honorable, but still illegal.”

Clark: We always hope the law understands the moral value of conduct.

Judge Thapar: But as Attorney General, that was your call, a prosecutorial discretion call.

Clark: Not just discretion.

Judge: But it, take an onerous example, one I think or I hope we would all find—the Klan. If a prosecutor brings charges, and if the judge is sympathetic, he is not then at liberty to ignore the law. If the prosecutor decides to bring the case, the judge’s action flows from it. Civil disobedience, though moral, is maybe not legal.

Clark heard the judge’s plea for absolution but did not grant it. “The final call is with the judiciary,” he said. “The judge disposes.”

Thapar: In accordance with the law.

Bill Quigley reentered the conversation with a question to Clark. “Did Nuremberg prosecute judges?”

“I believe they did.”

“And prosecutors?”

“I believe there were some.”

+++++

IT IS AN HONOR TO BE HERE

By now, Ramsey Clark had been on the stand for more than an hour and a half. Bill Quigley led him to the close. “Is there anything else you would like to say?”

Clark allowed a brief smile. “I could make a speech, but I will restrain myself.” And then he was serious. “It is an honor to be here.”

Yes, Ramsey Clark, it was an honor to be there.

###

Disarm Now Plowshares Alert! Time to plant Seeds of Peace!!!

Many of you have undoubtedly seen the one-in-a-million Bix Tacoma Action Figure, created by local (Tacoma) artiste R.R. Anderson.  It’s a wonderful tribute to our selfless Friend Bix.  Well, Monsieur Anderson has done it again.  But this time there’s even more!

That’s right Kids!!!  Now, you can get your very own Father Bix Anti-Nuke Sunflower Seeds.  Yup – Sunflower seeds are a symbol of a nuclear weapons free world.  Part of this story is that sunflowers (really do) absorb certain radioactive elements from the soil and water, and have been used to clean up radioactive contamination in places like Chernobyl.

And besides; sunflowers just seem to make people happy.  Plant a bunch of these subversive seeds and you can have your very own field of sunshine.  (AND make a statement for a world free of the scourge of nuclear weapons).

This subversive, comic moment brought to you by local artist par excellence, R.R. Anderson!!!

This subversive, comic moment brought to you by local artist par excellence, R.R. Anderson!!!

Bix and his companions in the 2009 Disarm Now Plowshares action cut through fences and made their way over the course of many hours across the massive Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in the dark of night on their way to the Strategic Weapons Facility, Pacific.  That is where the Navy stores the thermonuclear warheads for the missiles that are carried on its nuclear ballistic missile submarines.  Their purpose?  To symbolically disarm the weapons stored their – turning them “from swords into plowshares.”

Along the way the five brave souls sprinkled sunflower seeds.  And so a bit of sunshine might have one day sprouted in the evil darkness of a place dedicated to the preparations for the murder of upwards of millions of people and quite possibly the end of civilization as we know it on this small planet.

So get your very own Father Bix Anti-Nuke Sunflower Seeds today (just in time to plant) from the Central Tacoma Radical Media Exchange!  Spread a little subversive sunshine.  You’ll be glad you did.

Let’s all spread the message – Swords to Plowshares!  Ditch the Nukes!

Bix reflects on the April 14th youth vigil at Bangor

In conversations with Ciaron O’Reilly, Pat Gaffney and Bruce Kent in London; Gerry Hughes, S.J. in Oxford; Brian Larken, Jane Talents, Rev. Allan McDonald, and Cardinal Keith O’Brian in Scotland, it was strongly agreed that our different countries must support each other and be in solidarity with those carrying out actions and events to abolish nuclear weapons and the Trident delivery system.

On April 14th young people from the Tacoma area came together to carry out a planned resistance event at the gates of the Trident Sub Base at Bangor, Washington at the same time that a large blockade action at the gates of the Trident Sub Base in Faslane, Scotland was taking place.

Prior to the event at Bangor there was a planned video/Skype hook-up at Jeans House of Prayer at the Tacoma Catholic Worker; supporters of the blockade in Faslane connected with the youth of our community who were on their way to the resistance event at Bangor, and a sense of solidarity evolved. At 11:45 AM (PST) the youth of Tacoma (expressing reasons why they oppose nuclear weapons) were in touch with a room full of Scottish resisters who cheered and waved signs. Some of the youth present were Will Bently, Elias Rodkey, Rosie James, Claire Bently, Amanda Brown, and Kaitlin Martin. They identified themselves and expressed why they were there. Sam Colella led us in singing “Yellow Submarine” but with a modified version – changing yellow to Trident.

We concluded our Skype connection and solidarity wishes with singing together “We Shall Overcome”. After this we car pooled to Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, where we gathered in preparation for our walk to the Bangor gate. We were welcomed by Connie Mears then Will Bently called us into a circle and thanked all for coming. Brenda Gallo and Eli Rodkey expressed why they had come. There were words of support for what the youth were doing from Mary Gallagher, Ruth Gallo, and Niko Colella. After this all assembled recited the pledge of non-violence. The group was fortunate to have Mira Leslie and Mary Glystein as peace-keepers who gave instructions on how the group would safely proceed to the main gate of the Bangor Base; following this Peter Roderick led the procession with drumming.

On arriving near the entrance to the Bangor Base, we assembled in the usual place of demonstration which is bordered by a white line restricting entrance onto the state highway and a blue line restricting entrance onto federal property. No sooner had we assembled than a group of 5 marines with a guard dog assembled on the other side of the blue line. Will Bently welcomed everyone then he, Gabe and Quinn spoke of why they were there. We were led in song by Kaitlin Martin and George Rodkey.

Then all of the assembled greeted the marine guards with waves and words which said we were brothers and sisters and not enemies; mindful that we wanted the best for them while we work for a nuclear weapon free world. This was followed by a communal blessing of the guards led by Gerri Jones. Our gathering was ended by a reading from Martin Luther King by Amanda Brown. This reading stated that non-violent action first affects the participant and does not immediately have an effect on violence inherent in nuclear weapons.

We were a vulnerable, rag-tag, insignificant group gathered in a “cloud of unknowing” of the deep, devastating forces of violence that protects nuclear weapons. Though most had a general idea of why we were there, for many the reason of our gathering was a bit fuzzy and, for some, confusing.

We were like long-legged, spindly spiders trying to avoid a puddle. We were the stuff out of which an amused and joyful God writes on our fleshy hearts about the Kingdom (Kindom) coming.

 

 

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