Second American enters German prison for anti-nuclear weapons actions

Photo by Michelle Shiloh

from CounterPunch

by John LaForge

While dread of nuclear war between Russia and NATO states over Ukraine have reached new heights, especially in Europe, a second U.S. citizen has been ordered to serve prison time in Germany for protest actions demanding that U.S. nuclear bombs stationed at Germany’s Büchel NATO base, southeast of Cologne, be withdrawn.

Dennis DuVall, 81, member of Veterans for Peace, U.S. Air Force veteran of the war in Vietnam, and veteran anti-nuclear activist, is to report to the federal prison in Bautzen, Germany, 32 miles east of Dresden (JVA Bautzen, Breitscheid Str. 4, 02625 Bautzen, Germany), on Thursday, March 23 to begin a 60-day sentence.

On July 15, 2018, DuVall was one of 18 people who clipped through the chain link fence and entered the base in order to — as the group said in a statement — “bring an end to the ongoing criminal conspiracy to unleash uncontrollable and indiscriminate heat, blast, and radiation with every B61 nuclear bomb deployed at Büchel NATO base.”

Charged with trespass and damage to property, DuVall explained to German trial and appeals courts that he has a legal obligation under the Nuremberg Principles to join in nonviolent protests to prevent or halt the planning and preparation for nuclear attacks which is taking place at Büchel. Well-reported exercises like the annual “Steadfast Noon” are often described as nuclear attack rehearsals.

Today, with NATO materially at war in Ukraine, the needless forward-basing of U.S. H-bombs at six European NATO bases facing Russia has never been more provocative or destabilizing. NATO’s latest “Strategic Concept” (June 2022) reaffirmed its ever-present threat to launch nuclear first-use attacks using U.S., French and British weapons.

In Cochem District Court on May 11, 2020, DuVall was the first U.S. citizen to be convicted in Germany for civil resistance against the ongoing threat to attack Russia with the U.S. nuclear weapons stationed at Büchel, 170-kiloton B61-3, and 50-kiloton B61-4 free-fall hydrogen bombs.

Dennis with supporters in front of the prison on March 23. Photo by Michelle Shiloh.

For years, Büchel protest defendants have warned of the base’s threat of nuclear annihilation, and have urged court authorities “to send a message to the German government to remove B61 H-bombs from Büchel NATO base, and return them to the United States for dismantling and disposal.” In trial testimony on May 11, 2020, DuVall reminded the District Court Judge that “the threat of nuclear weapons is a clear and present danger to the European community, and nuclear war is an existential threat to the web of life on our planet.”

In refusing to pay a court-imposed fine, DuVall explained to the public prosecutor in the case that “it is a matter of conscience I share with many other U.S., Dutch, and German Büchel defendants not to pay money to those who willingly protect weapons of mass murder deployed at Büchel NATO base.”

The first U.S. citizen to be jailed in similar protests, yours truly (writer John LaForge), was released February 28 from Glasmoor prison near Hamburg after serving 50 days.

“It is my right and my duty,” says DuVall, “to work toward the abolition of nuclear weapons, and it is the responsibility of the German government to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and to ensure the prompt removal of U.S. B61 thermonuclear weapons from Büchel NATO base.”

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

Dennis and his wife Michelle in Berlin in January 2023 to mark the 2nd anniversary of the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons