Two Year Anniversary of Transform Now Plowshares Action

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Two Years Later, the Crime Remains the Same:

To Honor Tranform Now Plowshares Activists We Must Continue the Work of Disarmament

With the two year anniversary of the Transform Now Plowshares action today, 28 July, and with Megan, Greg, and Michael (MGM!) seeming to be stable at their prison assignments for now, it is a good time to review the action, the trial and sentencing, and the subsequent responsibility of all of us to support and move forward their work resisting nuclear weapons.

Transform now proteters with banners

These hot, humid days of deep summer certainly bring back memories of being in hot, humid eastern Tennessee two years ago and beginning to travel Oak Ridge and Knoxville area roads  which later became very familiar after so many visits for hearings, trial, and sentencing. When I took Megan’s first call from jail and heard her elation that they had gotten to exactly where they wanted and done all they had planned, it was clear the blessings of God or the universe had again supported the work of disarmament, as so often has happened with plowshares actions.

This was evident too in the fact that they were found by a long-employed guard with prior experience with peace activists at Rocky Flats, so he knew that he faced no physical threat and did not use violence. The video of that meeting we later saw in court was touching; MGM bowing and holding out their hands in friendship, offering bread and flowers, and the guard’s  calm demeanor in response. What a shame that plant management fired him for doing his job so well. His union continues to support his claim of wrongful dismissal, as well they should.

Sister Megan Rice with Michael Walli, 68, a veteran and Greg Boertje-Obed, 57, a carpenter.

Sister Megan Rice with Michael Walli, 68, a veteran and Greg Boertje-Obed, 57, a carpenter.

So then the media frenzy began. I did my best to convey to cameras and scribbling pencils  that Plowshares is a movement, not an organization, and that the whole point of 3 less-than-youthful people hiking steep ridges in the dark and cutting and crawling through four fences to risk their bodies to tag and dent the storehouse of tons of highly enriched uranium which has only one genocidal use, was to try again, as have over 100 prior plowshares actions since 1980, to wake humanity up to the horrendous maintenance and further development of mass killing machines, and the knowledge that officials cannot end the arms race, so citizens must.

Long months of legal maneuvering ensued. The prosecutor sought approval from above for the  harsh sabotage charge only ever used for Plowshares actions. Defense tried and failed to get  first-hand testimony admitted as evidence from former Attorney General Ramsey Clark about personally helping write the nuclear weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty, and therefore knowing  exactly what they meant when they said the nuclear nations must totally disarm at an early date.

A terrific legal team of national and local attorneys formed and wrangled about the best courtroom strategies. Out awaiting trial, MGM spoke and wrote and attended Congressional hearings where the meaning of their action was distorted with the government’s focus on the shocking security breach that MGM were able to penetrate the “Ft Knox” of highly enriched uranium, instead of the total breach of all human security which weapons of mass destruction are at every step of their existence, from the mine to the missile silo or submarine to the cooling pools in lieu of permanent “disposal”, sucking up so much money so critical to meeting human needs.

Media attention continued, and as a military veteran myself and ambivalent about the inordinate notice peace veterans can gather as compared to other run of the mill peaceniks, I was interested to find out how strongly an old nun trumps 2 veterans! To listen to many outlets you would almost think Sister Megan acted alone. Excellent and very accurate work also came when reporters couldspend the time to get to know and understand, especially the long article run in the Washington Post by Dan Zak with excellent photos by Linda Davidson, drawings by Jeffrey Smith. Exciting news has come that Mr. Zak has a publisher for the book-length examination of the plowshares movement he is on sabbatical to write. Transform now message

Gratifying support from activists and concerned people all over the world generated speaking opportunities for MGM, donations for legal and travel expenses, and hundreds of signatures on a  petition to the Attorney General seeking to prevent the sabotage charge, and later thousands of postcards to Judge Thapar urging that he recognize that MGM are not terrorists but responsible citizens pointing out their government’s crime, and to depart downward from the 30-year possible sabotage sentences.

However, since sentencing, much generous concern has centered on the relatively mild and expected 3 and 5 year terms, instead of the ongoing government crime of not only NOT disarming, but modernizing and reconfiguring nuclear weapons for future missions. It has been cringe-inducing to see much activist time devoted to calling for reduced sentences or pardons for MGM, instead of pushing for abolition of all nukes now.

To quote one supporter who does get it:

Misterbadexample:
Beyond what you think about civil disobedience and symbolic disarmament, the US has some 1,950 strategic weapons ready to fire at a moment’s notice; the Russians have 1,800. It wouldn’t take muchin the way of misunderstandings for those missiles to fly and start splitting atoms. But instead of whittling down those numbers, the US is embarking on a modernization program that will cost us over $1 trillion over the next few decades. This despite the fact that in 1996 the ICJ declared virtually all use of nuclear weapons contrary to international law.

Meanwhile, there are petition drives to get Sister Megan (and now Father Carl) out of prison. I agree they should be released, but I don’t think that serves them. What they want is for the rest of us to get off our couches and do something about the weapons. We owe it to them to take a stand.

PLEASE dear friends, keep pushing to abolish weapons. Sign the petition at nuclearzero.org supporting the brave Marshall Islanders in their lawsuits against the 9 nuke nations for not disarming, and learn more and find activist ideas at wagingpeace.org/nuclearzero, help organize and speak out on the upcoming Hiroshima and Nagasaki days, support strengthening the recent bills in the US Congress to reduce weapons budgets. Write MGM to tell them what you are doing. That is what they want us to do.

Ellen Barfield is active with Veterans For Peace, War Resisters League, National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance, School of the Americas Watch, and the Plowshares movement. She has been a nonviolent activist for nearly 30 years, after leaving the US Army with an unformed wish to challenge warmaking, oppression, and environmental destruction, and having the very good fortune to meet and work with so many amazing colleagues.