Why John LaForge won’t pay fines imposed for nuclear weapons actions in Germany

Nuclear resister John LaForge, co-director of Nukewatch, writes about why he will not pay fines imposed for trespass convictions for two nonviolent actions at Büchel Air Base in Germany, where up to 20 U.S. nuclear weapons are stored. On January 10, he will begin a 50 day sentence at Billwerder Prison in Hamburg.

from CounterPunch

Why Not Pay Fine Imposed for Actions Against Nuclear Threats

I’ve been sentenced to a 50-day jail term in Germany for refusing to pay fines imposed for trespass convictions after two “go-in” actions against nuclear weapons threats. The actions were two uninvited entries into Germany’s Büchel Air Base where up to 20 US hydrogen bombs are stationed under a policy called “nuclear sharing.” The sentence will begin January 10 at the Billwerder prison in Hamburg.

I’ve appealed the convictions to the Constitutional Court, Germany’s highest, which has yet to issue a decision. The appeal complains that expert witnesses in international law — who were prepared to validate my defense of “crime prevention” — were not allowed testify, effectively eliminating my right to present a defense.

My refusal to pay the fine raises a lot of questions, principally: Why not avoid prison and just pay?

One reason is because my protest was not wrong or a mistake in any sense, whereas paying the fine implies I’m guilty of some sort of offense or misconduct. Further, agreeing to pay has the appearance of an apology or remorse on my part when none is warranted. I believe any nonviolent action against preparations to commit mass destruction with nuclear weapons is in the public interest. Further, my so-called “trespass” was an attempt at crime prevention, or interference with ongoing government criminality, and as such was a civic duty.

Refusing to pay fines for nonviolent resistance to nuclear war preparations is, from my position of privilege, also an act of solidarity with the poor, the undocumented, and the outcasts who often don’t have resources or connections enough to purchase their way out of pre-trial detention or incarceration for minor offenses.

In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as Dr. King said. The ongoing threat to attack people with nuclear weapons (known as “deterrence”) is prohibited by international law. My go-in actions at Büchel were based on international legal obligations, which in the words of the Nuremberg Principles “bind every citizen just as does ordinary municipal law.” Plans for massacres routinely practiced under nuclear sharing and nuclear deterrence policy are prohibited and have been criminalized by the combined obligations — considered as a whole — set out in the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions, the Hague Conventions, the Nuremberg Charter, Principles, and Judgment, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), and the US and German federal constitutions. I hope never to pay respect to governments that declare that its ratified treaties are the “supreme law” but then proceed to wantonly violate them.

The latest and best condemnations of the threat to use nuclear weapons are found in the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and the 1996 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice. The NPT is particularly key to my case, because its Articles I and II explicitly prohibit any transfer whatsoever of nuclear weapons from one country to another. Confirmation of this prohibition is Article 31 of the 1969 Vienna Convention or “The Law of Treaties,” which states that “A treaty shall be interpreted in good faith in accordance with the ordinary meaning to be given to the terms of the treaty…”

It can never be a crime to interfere with the deployment, rehearsals for use, or the threatened use of nuclear weapons, or to resist the U.S. and German governments’ joint plans to commit indiscriminate, uncontrollable mass destruction using firestorms and radiation. No criminal conspiracy of any kind anywhere compares to the level of deliberate public lawbreaking inherent in our famously “credible” nuclear weapons threats. Rather than a trespass, my peaceful interference with nuclear attack machinery is justifiable, preventative, precautionary, and lawful.

Court systems in Germany and the US have labored to dismiss this lawful defense of necessity and to ignore their own constitutional mandate to abide by international treaties. Instead, when courts in both countries have been confronted with the treaty obligations outlined above, they have routinely denied their applicability in protest cases involving nuclear weapons. Courts in Germany have gone so far as to say that because Germany and the US have agreed to nuclear sharing, the practice is therefore legitimate. This argument is a sham, akin to organized crime’s collusion with police authorities who are paid off to overlook criminal conduct, rewarded for protecting it with political and judicial winks and nods that deny the obvious.

I have presented to the courts in Cochem, Koblenz, and Karlsruhe the facts about nuclear weapons, their effects, the government’s preparations for using them against civilians, and the treaties that forbid any such planning for massacres. By ignoring or denying these facts, the judges are guilty of pretending the criminality of deterrence is lawful, and they are complicit in the self-destructive maintenance of prohibited and suicidal nuclear threats. It is naïve or mentally unbalanced to act as if this charade is not homicidal and suicidal. Otherwise the courts are cynically corrupt to ignore the criminal intent of the governments of Germany and the United States regarding nuclear sharing. I hope to be able to stand up to the courts’ coercion and intimidation, and to refuse to cooperate, paraphrasing Thoreau, with such a government that is the nuclear terror’s government also.

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.