Bix and Joe are on the road again

Greetings Plowshares Friends! This just in from Joe Power-Drutis, our roving reporter, who is travelling with Bix around Europe.  What a whirlwind tour!!!  

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Greetings from the mother country,

Bix and I find ourselves in the land of the great lady Elizabeth and
Harry Potter; where I might add the muggle cap my daughter Tamara gave
me hardly creates a stir. We are aided by travel companions Helen
Young and her photographer Flavia Fontes. Helen is producing a
documentary of the November 2, 2009 Disarm Now Plowshares action
involving Steve Kelly, SJ, Sr. Anne Montgomery, Lynne Greenwald, Susan
Crane and Bix. Helen hopes to complete it with footage of Bix
traveling through Norway, Sweden, England, and Scotland. By following
the following link     http://www.huffingtonpost.com/helen-young/2012-greater-tacoma-peace-prize_b_2287247.html
an article Helen wrote for the Huffington Post, you will have the
initial reason why Bix and I are here.

Bix and the organizers of this year’s Pacific Life Community Retreat
thought it fitting for us to confer with Catholic Worker communities
and other significant people working to dismantle nuclear weapons and
Trident Submarines in England and Scotland. Our intent is to film,
document and bring back this information to the people coming to this
year’s Pacific Life Community retreat, the Sons and Daughters of
Norway and other interested groups in the Northwest.

My initial plan was to write frequent short updates on our travels in
the region and to send them back via Plowshares News to anyone
interested; however, our packed schedule nixed that. We departed
Tacoma on December 6th and it has been a roller coaster ride all the
way; with action and schedules trumping writing time.

Today is Sunday, Dec 16th and we are allotted a day of rest here in
Oxford. Tomorrow we will continue our journey north into meet up with
Angie Zelter in Wales and beyond to Scotland; there we will connect
with Brian Larkin & Jane Talent, long time peace activists at the
Faslane Peace Camp, a permanent peace camp sited alongside the Faslane
Trident Sub Naval base. We will then travel to Edinburgh to visit
Cardinal Keith O’Brien, one of Scotland’s foremost critics of nuclear
weapons and especially the Trident Submarine.  On Dec 23rd we fly out
of Glasgow, and return to the Northwest.

We are now at what is commonly referred to as Oxford University, a
consortium of 38 colleges and 6 religious orders – Jesuit,
Benedictine, Dominican, 2 Anglican and a Baptist; all  mixed within a
fascinating labyrinth of old world passageways. It is the home of
Gerry Hughes, SJ, who resides at Campion Hall. Bix and Gerry’s special
friendship goes back to the years 1956-59 when they studied at the
Jesuit Theologate in Frankfurt. Both Gerry and Brendan Callaghan, S.J.
Master of Campion Hall, have opened their home and are caring for us
for the duration of our 2 days stay in Oxford. Our time together with
Gerry is worth the trip alone; his insights and knowledge of ‘what is
real’ is reflected in his every word and footstep. Truth be known, it
is Bix that is the driving force behind our daily schedule, no
surprise by all who traveled with him to Japan. Thanks to Gerry, Bix’s
minions will be allotted a few hours of rest so he and Gerry can have
time together.

Leaving Norway on Dec 13th, we landed in London and after jumping
through all of the hoops necessary to get out of the airport, we
snagged a rental car and made straight for our friends and hosts at
the London Catholic Worker who lovingly took in us four weary
travelers. They were a site for sore eyes after bumbling our way
through the heart of London on “the right-their left” side of the
road; of course the Brits feel the colonies were just being
oppositional by having “the yanks” drive on the opposite side of them.
Not wanting to be “dodgy”, that’s for you Dave, I took up no argument
with that issue. Our hosts, Martin Newell C.P. , Ciaron O’Reily, Dave
Nash, Conner Wurth and Roland Dale showed us every kindness possible
as we shared stories of resistance and how our two communities are
alike and different. We were also fortunate to share time with Bruce
Kent, former director of the Committee for Nuclear Disarmament UK
(CND), Ms.Pat Gaffney, General Secretary of Pax Christi International
and Dr. Rebecca Johnson, one of the UK’s foremost experts on nuclear
weapons and a peace activist.

Going backwards, our plane from Tacoma took us over the Artic Circle
and into Iceland, where at the Reykjavik airport, we met up with Helen
and Flavia, who departed from New York – then the 4 of us were onto
Oslo and the beginning of an exciting adventure. We arrived on the 7th
and were “supposed” to use the 8th to recover from jet lag; but, Heir
Fuehrer Bichsel plotted our course right off to Sweden where we would
drive the beautiful countryside of Norway and Sweden in the morning,
spend the afternoon and early evening with Per Herngren then return
late to Oslo. Per founded the Gothenburg Catholic Worker, Vine and Fig
Tree and has been involved in Plowshare Actions in the US, Scotland
and Sweden over a 25 year period. On April 22, 1984, Per was involved
in the Pershing Plowshares action along with our beloved Sister Anne
Montgomery and 6 other activists in
Florida.

Fortunately Heir Fuehrer saw fit to allow his minions to rest some and
for the better part of the 9th we did just that, and so did
he.

Dec 10th – Following the Nobel Peace Prize awards ceremony Bix and
Helen met with Dr. Bjorne Hilt who is with the International
Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. Dr. Hilt stressed that
in the event of a nuclear war, and given the sheer size of our present
day nuclear weapons, the medical community would find it impossible to
address the needs of survivors.

On Tuesday the 11th we met with Kjell Magne Bondevik, former Prime
Minister of Norway and presently the administrator for the Oslo Center
for Peace and Human Rights. He explained that his work was primarily
to address governments working together to correct human rights
abuses. We also met with Steinar Bryn of the Nansen Center for Peace
and Dialogue, who is currently working to resolve conflict with
peoples in the Balkan States.

In the evening time we met members of 3 anti nuclear organizations who
were having their end of year meeting. We shared thoughts and ideas on
the elimination of nuclear weapons as well as human needs.

On Wednesday the 12th we had lunch with Hanne Aaberg, Secretary
General of Norwegians Worldwide, and co-workers Maria Vang Ormhaug,
Turid Johannessen, Ingrid Margrete Hillestad, Lisbeth Bo Haaverstad,
and their intern Linda; they work to keep Norwegians Worldwide
connected with their home country. Over lunch we very much enjoyed
sharing hopes and dreams for a more peace filled world. A special
thanks to Maria and Turid without whose assistance we may still be
driving around in circles in the downtown core of Oslo. (Small hint,
if you ever go to Oslo – no GPS system works in the downtown core due
to massive street changes and no satellite map updates)

In the afternoon we met with Geir Lundestad, Director of the Norwegian
Nobel Institute who responded to questions about the controversy
surrounding the European Union receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. We met
around the table that is used for the selection of the Nobel Peace
Prize recipient (s).

The day ended with a tour of the Nobel Peace Center which features an
elaborate Gandhi display.

On the morning of Dec 13th Bix spoke with the Academic Coordinator for
Peace and Conflict Studies, Torstein Dale-Akerlund and a group of
students at Bjorknes College. Several students from Pacific Lutheran
University in Tacoma were in attendance.

After another exciting road trip to the airport we managed to make it
to our 3:15 flight to London. I will try to update more regularly as
we head north – but one never knows.

Bix: In the Audience at the Nobel Peace Prize

Friends, Here is the latest on Bix’s European journey that began with a stop in Oslo to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies.  Documentary filmmaker and producer Helen Young, who is accompanying the Jesuit on his mission, wrote a column in the Huffington Post, which I have posted in its entirety here.  The source URL is http://www.huffingtonpost.com/helen-young/2012-greater-tacoma-peace-prize_b_2287247.html.  Peace on Earth (or else!!!), Leonard

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In the Audience at the Nobel Peace Prize

by Helen Young, 12/12/2012

They were all in one majestic room: Norway’s King and Queen as well as the Crown Prince and Crown Princess; the leaders of 20 European nations including Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Francois Hollande; the European Union’s Nobel Laureates and their entourages; plus hundreds of other dignitaries. They filled Oslo’s massive and beautifully ornate City Hall. And there, too, among the VIPs sat an 84-year-old Jesuit priest who had traveled half a world away from Tacoma, Washington to be there. He seemed to be as well dressed as the rest of the crowd, though he admitted his black suit jacket and trousers had been purchased at Good Will. But to know Father William Jerome Bichsel is to understand that he does not place much importance on appearances. He’s focused laser like on action, and what the next best action needs to be to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

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Father Bichsel, whom everyone calls Father Bix or just plain Bix, was invited to the Nobel Peace Ceremony after he was awarded the 2012 Greater Tacoma Peace Prize by the Scandinavian community in Tacoma a few months ago. The award is bestowed annually on an individual whose life exemplifies a dedication to peace. The elderly priest had just been released from federal prison because he and four other activists broke into the U.S. Navy’s Trident nuclear submarine base near Seattle, which houses one of the largest stockpiles of nuclear weapons in the country. Acting as citizen weapons inspectors, the intruders, whom prosecutors called, “The Bangor 5,” were intent on exposing America’s “weapons of mass destruction.” Father Bix has spent a lifetime “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable,” says Tom Heavey, a U.S. military veteran who headed up the committee that voted to give the elderly priest its Greater Tacoma Peace Prize. Heavey admits he wrestled with the decision to give the priest the award, because Heavey is “uncomfortable” with some of the priest’s protests actions. In the end, however, Heavey decided Father Bix deserved the honor and that it was the right thing to do.

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One wonders if there was similarly such soul-searching among the members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee whose choice of the European Union as this year’s Laureate has sparked so much controversy.  The EU is mired in a three-year-old debt crisis causing rampant unemployment, with some countries in the group teetering on bankruptcy. Several previous Nobel Laureates have sharply criticized the decision including, Desmond Tutu who called the EU an organization based on military force and not deserving of the award. Despite that one cannot overlook the progress in peace the group has fostered over the last 60 years, culminating in a unity among nations who were at one time often at war with each other, such as Germany and France.

At the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony, Father Bix listened intently to the speeches and said he came away feeling an opportunity had been missed. He commended the remarks of European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, who described the European Union as supportive of disarmament and against nuclear proliferation.  However, Father Bix said he wished that the support had come in the form of some concrete action from the EU instead of just words.

Helen Young interviewed about the Elder “Commandos” of Disarm Now Plowshares

Friends,

Robbin Shannon recently interviewed Helen Young on Fordham Conversations at WFUV.org, 90.7 FM about the Disarm Now Plowshares.  Helen is Emmy Award winning writer, producer and film maker, currently working on a documentary called “The Bangor 5.”

Listen to the audio interview at WFUV.org.  The interview with Helen begins just after 4 minutes, 30 seconds into the program.

The interview is a great way to familiarize yourself with work of the Disarm Now Plowshares.  Here’s the description from the WFUV Website:

Five Senior Citizens’ Break into a Military Base

A discussion with Emmy Award winning filmmaker Helen Young who’s producing a documentary called “The Bangor 5.” It follows the case of five unlikely commandos, all over the age of 60, who executed a bold break-in at a military bases near Seattle that stockpiled nuclear weapons.

Peace,

Leonard

A Malicious Nun? Are you kidding me?????

The following article about Sr. Anne Montgomery and the Disarm Now Plowshares was written by Documentary filmmaker and Emmy award winning writer and producer Helen Young, and published in The Huffington Post today.

A Malicious Nun?

There are many words that come to mind to describe Sister Anne Montgomery, and her work but “malicious” is certainly  not one of them. Sister Anne, an 85-year-old Roman Catholic nun from the Society of the Sacred Heart who once taught students in Spanish Harlem and high school dropouts in Albany, also spent years working for Christian Peacemakers, an  ecumenical anti-war group. She has put her life on the line in some of the world’s most war-torn regions, including the  Balkans in the 1990’s, the Middle East, and more recently in  Iraq. Her life has been devoted to working for peace and on  nuclear disarmament. Continue reading

Meet the Bangor 5

The following article was written by Helen Young, Documentary filmmaker and Emmy award winning writer and producer.  It was originally published in the Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/helen-young/bangor-5_b_1346108.html?ref=impact&ir=Impact).  I know, I know; we all know them as Disarm Now Plowshares.  But dontcha think “Bangor 5” does have a catchy ring to it???  Helen is working hard to finish the documentary on Disarm Now Plowshares and get it distributed. Continue reading

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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