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Now Playing: Disarm Now Plowshares were in court again (Nov 2010)
1. Disarm Now Plowshares: Motions to Dismiss DENIED!
(posted on VFP ch 72 email server: Malcolm Chaddock)
The Disarm Now Plowshares were in court again; this time for the pre-trial
conference in which a most important issue ? the motions to dismiss their
case ? was argued.
All five Disarm Now Plowshares co-defendants - Bill ?Bix? Bichsel, SJ, Susan
Crane, Lynne Greenwald, Steve Kelly, SJ, and Anne Montgomery, RSCJ ? were
present for the proceedings in Judge Benjamin Settle?s courtroom at the U.S.
District Court, Tacoma, Washington on November 22, 2010.
Susan Crane began the defendant?s testimony; the following are some of her
?Our action on Nov. 2, the testimony of Ramsey Clark, the motions we filed,
make clear that we are *concerned about the trident nuclear warheads*??
?The trident nuclear weapons system is illegal and immoral. It?s a system
preparing for the mass murder of innocent civilians that will affect
generations to come.?
?As loving human beings, we have a responsibility, right and duty to use
nonviolent actions to prevent the trident nuclear weapons system from
Crane went on to invoke the heart of the Plowshares vision and its vital
importance in addressing Trident (and nuclear weapons) that constitute the
taproot of violence in our nation (and the world).
?On Nov. 2, 2009, we *remembered t*he words of the prophet *Isaiah,* who had
a vision of beating swords into plowshares??convert weapons of war into
something useful for human life. *It is our firm understanding that these
Trident nuclear weapons are illegal under national and international* law,
as well as the teachings of our faith, and general humanitarian law and
Crane worked to build the defense case for applying the necessity defense;
that ?the indisputable facts of Trident are hard to face, but we can?t deny
that it is in preparation for the use of nuclear weapons.? Understanding
that there is ?imminent harm? from the manufacture, deployment and
preparation for the use of Trident, the Disarm Now Plowshares acted out of
conscience, and moral and legal duty. ?The harm we created (cut fence) is
minor in comparison with the harm of a nuclear explosion.?
Anne Montgomery spoke to former Attorney General Ramsey Clark?s previous
testimony in this case before she moved on to discussing her first
Plowshares action, King of Prussia in 1980. She remembered thinking at that
time that, ?If someone had a gun in his or her hand, I would have to knock
it out of that hand.? She stated that they cut the fences because there was
no other way in; no criminal intent. Montgomery also stressed that they
have tried all other means to bring light to these weapons, and had to do
this Plowshares action because the public is ignorant of the existence of
the weapons. ?We were willing to give our own blood to avoid shedding the
blood of others.?
In reference to the justification defense, Montgomery quoted Judge Spaeth
from a concurrent opinion in the Superior Court in Pennsylvania in a 1983
appeal of the Plowshares Eight trial.
?Accordingly, whenever a defendant pleads justification, the court should
ask, ?What higher value than the value of literal compliance with the law is
defendant asserting?? The trial court failed to ask this question. Apparently
in its eyes *no* higher value is implicated in this case. And for the
dissent, this case is to be decided as we would decide a case involving ?the
theft and destruction of guns or explosives by altruistic and well-meaning
citizens who sincerely believe that guns or explosives possess the potential
to kill at sometime in the future.? But appellants are not pleading the
danger arising from ?guns or explosives;? they are pleading the danger
arising from nuclear missiles. One who does not understand that danger does
not understand appellants? plea.?
?Appellants do not assert that their action would *avoid* nuclear war (what
a grandiose and unlikely idea!). Instead, at least so far as I can tell
from the record, their belief was that their action, in combination with the
actions of others, might accelerate a political process ultimately leading
to the abandonment of nuclear missiles. And that belief, I submit, should
not be dismissed as ?unreasonable as a matter of law.? A jury might ? or
might not ? find it unreasonable as a matter of fact. But that is for a
jury to say, not for a court.?
Although not referred to in today?s proceedings, the following text from the
closing argument for the Plowshares Eight appeal (referenced above) is most
powerful, and sums up the reality of the peril of nuclear weapons.
?The people in the Pentagon offices and their counterparts in the Kremlin
where the questions of coping with war injuries are dealt with must be
having a hard time these days, looking ahead as they must to the possibility
of thermonuclear war. Any sensible analyst in such an office would be
tempted to scratch off all the expense items related to surgical care of the
irradiated, burned, and blasted, the men, women, and children with empty
bone marrows and vaporized skin. What conceivable benefit can come from
sinking money in hospitals subject to instant combustion, only capable of
salvaging, at their intact best, a few hundred victims who will be lying out
there in the hundreds of thousands? There exists no medical technology that
can cope with the certain outcome of just one small, neat, so-called
tactical bomb exploded over a battlefield. As for the problem raised by a
single large bomb dropped on New York City or Moscow, with the dead and
dying in the millions, what would medical technology be good for? As the
saying goes, forget it. Think of something else. Get a computer running
somewhere in a cave, to estimate the likely numbers of the lucky dead. L.
Thomas, *On Medicine and the Bomb*, reprinted in L. Thomas, *Late Night
Thoughts on Listening to Mahler?s Ninth Symphony*. Nor is the peril
confined to those who will be ?irradiate, burned, and blasted.? It extends
much farther, to our survival as a species. If only a small fraction of the
nuclear missiles now able to be fired, either by us or by the Soviet Union,
are fired, a ?dark nuclear winter? will occur: a cloud of debris will block
off our sunlight; temperatures will plunge; and our death by freezing of
starvation will follow. Scientists have identified a 100 megaton explosion
as the ?nuclear war threshold? that once crossed will lead to such a global
catastrophe. See ?After Atomic War: Doom in the Dark,? Phil. Enquirer,
November 1, 1983. It is in the light of this peril that the reasonableness
of appellants? belief must be judged.?
Steve Kelly then summed up the legal case. He stated that U.S. voluntary
participation in international law is well established, and that Ramsey
Clark clearly established this fact in his earlier testimony. Kelly also
cited the International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision on the Legality of
the Threat or Use of Nuclear weapons.
Constitutionally, the laws are clear that the threat of use of nuclear
weapons is unlawful, and the presence of Trident (which targets civilian
populations) is grossly unlawful. He further stated that the conditions of
necessity have been met; the defendants were not trying to change the law,
but were ?trying to block any intended threat or use of those weapons,? and
they did in fact successfully do so; the base was locked down and no work
was done on the warheads for up to 11 hours that day.
Earlier in the proceedings Crane stated (in justifying the Plowshares
action) that over many years people have tried many, many other avenues,
including fasting, vigils, war tax resistance and demonstrations, to bring
the government?s attention to this issue, but they have still been ignored.
The prosecution later declared that the Disarm Now Plowshares co-defendants
had taken the lazy path; ?Going to Bangor is easy,? stated the prosecutor. He
further stated that the hard thing is engaging in the democratic process,
using speech, etc.
William Bichsel responded to the prosecution?s statement, saying that they
engaged in nonviolent action to turn these weapons (symbolically) into
plowshares, and inform the public about the presence of these weapons so
that the democratic process could be fulfilled. After 40 years of using
every method conceivable, any reasonable person would consider these actions
reasonable and necessary. Bichsel also spoke to the traditions that have
been so important and effective over a long period of time; that the
defendants are standing in the tradition of people like Harriet Tubman and
Rosa Parks, and are schooled in the nonviolence of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Following the testimony, Judge Settle denied both motions to dismiss, and
stated that although he understands that the defendants ?are acting out of
conscience,? that does not apply here since the court is supposed to uphold
the Constitution. It must therefore follow, by precedent, that the
Nuremburg Principles and necessity defense are not applicable in this case.
When Crane responded that all five co-defendants ?feel we are entitled to a
full defense,? Judge Settle replied that court is bound by precedent, and
that the defendants can appeal should there be a conviction. Case closed???
The Disarm Now Plowshares five trial begins at 9:00 AM on December 7, 2010.
Although the government has essentially denied the defendants any reasonable
defense, the five are prepared to forge ahead with joyful hearts. Let all
who believe in extinguishing the violent fire of nuclear weapons before it
erupts support these courageous individuals who are fully prepared to give
up their freedoms for this just cause.
There are many opportunities to support Disarm Now Plowshares. In addition
to coming to the court to witness the trial and join in vigils outside the
courthouse, there will be evening programs in Tacoma beginning on Monday
(December 6) and continuing each evening of the trial. These will be
opportunities to meet the members of Disarm Now, hear speakers, and enjoy
music, food and fellowship.
On Monday evening, December 6, Angie Zelter will be the main speaker. Zelter,
a peace, human rights and environmental campaigner, has written several
books, including "Trident on Trial - the case for people's disarmament."
On Tuesday evening, December 7, Colonel Ann Wright, is the main
who served in the U.S. Army and Foreign Service, resigned on the eve of the
U.S. invasion of Iraq, stating that without the authorization of the UN
Security Council, the invasion and occupation of a Muslim, Arab, oil-rich
country would be a violation of international law. Most recently, she was
on the May, 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla that was attacked by the Israeli
There are other speakers not yet confirmed, and all the event information
will be posted on the Disarm Now Plowshares ?Events? page at
http://disarmnowplowshares.wordpress.com/events/ as they are confirmed.
Read the Disarm Now Plowshares Blog at
http://disarmnowplowshares.wordpress.com/ for ongoing reflections leading
up to trial and daily reports during the trial.
Finally, please spread the word about Disarm Now Plowshares and their
courageous act of resistance so that everyone may learn of these immoral and
illegal weapons of mass destruction (Trident) and their duty, as citizens,
to speak out against them.
Peace to All,
Contact: Leonard Eiger, 425-445-2190, email@example.com
Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action
16159 Clear Creek Road NW Poulsbo, WA 98370
Further information (and updates on events) on Disarm Now Plowshares is
available at http://disarmnowplowshares.wordpress.com/.
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