Summary of the Disarm Now Plowshares Trial. This can not be! Not now! Now What?

by Anabel Dwyer

Pray! Mourn! Organize!
This we still refuse to learn:
Our legal system “protects”
with useless fences
non-existent, classified “property”
belonging to US
“missioned” for genocide
from a Sister, two Fathers and
two Grandmas
who walk with and in love and beauty.

Disarm Now Plowshares and their banner “Trident: Illegal and Immoral” say it all. Stunning whistleblowers:  Sr. Anne Montgomery, 84;  Fr. William Bischel, 81;  Susan S. Crane, 65; Lynne Greenwald, 60 and Fr. Steven Kelly, 60, pointed out, with boundless kindly courage, the grotesque Trident plans and preparations for nuclear extermination
that clearly violate peremptory rules and principles of humanitarian law, U.S war crimes (18 USC 2441) and Genocide (18 USC 1091) statutes and military law.

At trial, the Disarm Now Plowshares were not permitted to corroborate their legal and moral convictions and knowledge which formed the basis for their action.  Instead the court directed the jury to convict them for conspiracy, trespass, destruction and depredation of property knowing that this malicious and misplaced prosecution was fraudulently based on intentional misrepresentation of the purpose and function of the Kitsap-Bangor Naval Base.

Now’s the time to keep on keeping on as the Prosecutors “doth protest too much, methinks.” In the face of the nuclear holocaust, “mission” of the Trident submarines, the prosecutors overdo it in protecting fences, which the prosecutor says protect nothing, from “damage” from elderly priests, a nun and teachers.

As Susan Crane said in her opening statement, citing Judge Christopher Weeramantry, “Indeed anti-nuclear civil resistance is the right of every citizen of this planet for the nuclear threat, attacking as it does every core concept of human rights, calls for urgent and universal action for its prevention. If it is a basic human right to be free of threat or violence, if the right to life is a basic human right, and if the protection of children and future generations is a basic human duty, international law [specifically
the rules and principles of humanitarian law] must unhesitatingly recognize that the right to non-violent resistance activities for the prevention of such an international crime is basic to human dignity.”

Disarm Now: Nuclear disarmament is obligatory, realistic, achievable and wise. The ICJ held unanimously “There exists an obligation to pursue in good-faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.”

Plowshares: While Isaiah’s prophecy, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares” may have been ahead of its time, the Plowshares Movement extraordinary human beings though they may be act urgently in our time, while teaching other citizens, the courts, prosecutors and juries to catch up and get real. Surely we can hale the Disarm Now Plowshares courage and organize to both keep them out of prison and act collectively and effectively both in and out of court.  After all, nuclear weapons are not only illegal and immoral but also useless and unusable. Ridding ourselves of nuclear weapons non-violently is our only option for survival.

Trident: The court and the prosecutors claimed at the trial of the Disarm Now Plowshares, that the purpose and function of the Kitsap-Bangor Naval Base was irrelevant and “classified” even though they know or should know that it is the homeport for eight US Trident submarines each planning and preparing to unleash 24 submarine launched ballistic missiles each with 4-6 100 kiloton or 455 kiloton nuclear warheads.

For the court and prosecutor to claim that this well known information is classified is fraud. As Robert Morris said, “If it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, it’s a duck!”

So was this case really about what the court and prosecutor said it was not about?   Here’s what the International Committee of the Red Cross said about nuclear weapons to the Geneva Diplomatic Corps on 20 April 2010, “[T]his debate must ultimately be about human beings, about the fundamental rules of international humanitarian law, and
about the collective future of humanity.” The Disarm Now Plowshares honestly raised this debate which can and should be held now in and around every nuclear weapon site, including the biggest US site, Kitsap-Bangor. Hundreds of people stood up in support. Now we need hundreds more. “Please join us,” Anne Montgomery said to the jury but
they could not hear.

Here’s what the International Court of Justice said about nuclear weapons: “Nuclear weapons are explosive devices who energy results from the fusion or fission of the atom. By its very nature, that process, in nuclear weapons as they exist today, releases not only immense quantities of heat and energy, but also powerful and prolonged radiation… The destructive power of nuclear weapons cannot be contained in space or time. They have the potential to destroy all civilization and the entire ecosystem of the planet. The radiation released by a nuclear explosion would affect health, agriculture, natural resources and demography over a very wide area. Further, the use of nuclear weapons would be a serious danger to future generations. Ionizing radiation has the potential to damage the future environment, food and marine eco-system and to cause genetic defects and illness in future generation.”

No person who looks at the reality of the US bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki can possibly think that anyone has the right to do such a thing.  Yet on December 16, 2010, headlines all over this country read “Big-city nuke attack ‘a survivable event'” (USA Today).

The Navy used to call the area that the Disarm Now Plowshares entered the Strategic Weapons Facility of the Pacific (SWFPAC). Now they gloss it The Main Limited Area (MLA). What they do there hasn’t changed. The plans remain unlimitable nuclear annihilation.

Fences: As for the fences with signs on them, the “property” at issue in the Disarm Now Plowshares case, the Prosecutor said they were there for no reason or an unknowable, secret reason but they belonged to the Navy’s innocuously glossed as MLA. “When those who seek to exercise their right to protest violate the rights of others, they must be held accountable under the law,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Arlen Storm said in the statement following conviction. In other words, the Disarm Now Plowshares violated the right of the Navy to have fences that keep people away from nothing or anything the Navy feels like.

The law: Actually of course that’s not the case. With sufficient/organized urging, Navy commanders and the US Department of Justice may inform both the prosecutors and federal courts that we are all bound by peremptory rules and principles of humanitarian law. No Navy, no government, the US or others and no person or organization on this planet has a right to plan, prepare, threaten or commit mass murder or extermination for any reason.

We argued that of course in detail in our briefs and the case against the Disarm Now Plowshares can still be dismissed or the Judge and Prosecutors can come to their senses.

At trial the Disarm Now Plowshares were prohibited from raising any evidence about the facts of the Trident and the international, national and military law which prohibits any planning, preparation, threat or use of such a weapon of mass destruction. Similarly no evidence which would go to the reasonableness or the lawfulness of their action was permitted. The court’s prohibition against any “international law” evidence exhibits a woeful ignorance of the prohibitions embodied in the rules and principles of humanitarian law, US war crimes and genocide statutes and military law.

As Judge Weeramantry put it, “The legal system which accommodates that rule [which justifies any or some potential uses of nuclear weapons], itself collapses upon its foundation, for legal systems are postulated upon the continued existence of society.”

At trial Retired US Navy Captain Thomas Rogers, who served as Commander of a nuclear submarine during the Cold War said, “Strategic nuclear weapons are kept on alert, deployed and if ever used, they are released with a coded message that’s authorized on board the ship and the commander of the ship shoots the missiles, delivers the weapons. Which in my opinion , in my knowledge is contrary to the law of armed conflict which says a commander is responsible for following the rules and principles of humanitarian law and for not indiscriminately hurting noncombatants and for not causing undue suffering a or environmental damage and that commanding officer is powerless and its an awful feeling.”

Violations of law and Non-violent solutions: Limits to the Use of Force were recognized by the Navy and prosecutor but again narrowly. The signs on the SWFPAC fence announce “Deadly Force Authorized” but the young Marines did not feel threatened by the Disarm Now Plowshares. The Prosecutor argues that the Disarm Now Plowshares
violates the right of Marines to use deadly force by making it clear that they don’t need to.

Non-violent solutions including implementing complete nuclear disarmament through good-faith negotiations and agreement can and must happen at all levels of society. The Disarm Now Plowshares action shows that even the most egregious institutional violence can be corrected non-violently with transparency and honesty as first steps.

Our task as organizers and lawyers before sentencing of the Disarm Now Plowshares scheduled for March 28, 2011 is to continue to insist on good-faith negotiations to institutionalize the process of end to refurbishment and deployment as part of a transparent disarmament process. As part of that process we must dream up ways to ensure that the court can acknowledge the honest and exemplary behavior of the Disarm Now Plowshares. We think that can happen only with hundreds of us gathered to discuss and plan proper non-violent resolutions of these issues in Tacoma/Bangor in March.

As we come to the Solstice of 2010, let’s organize for the Equinox of 2011.