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Fw: Maloy IA CWer "Brian Terrell's peace witness from prison" by John Dear / NCR / Jan 8, 2012

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  • Robert Waldrop
    ... From: National Catholic Reporter Date: Tue, Jan 8, 2013 Brian Terrell s peace witness from prison by John Dear / NCR / Jan 8, 2012
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 8, 2013
      ---------- Forwarded message ----------
      From: National Catholic Reporter <ncrsub@...>
      Date: Tue, Jan 8, 2013

      Brian Terrell's peace witness from prison by John Dear / NCR / Jan 8, 2012

      This week, the president nominated the head of the U.S. drones
      program, responsible for killing hundreds, perhaps thousands, of
      innocent women and children in Afghanistan and Pakistan, to be his new
      head of the CIA. That is appropriate, because the CIA runs the U.S.
      torture, rendition, assassination and mass-murder program in
      conjunction with the Pentagon. Of course, all of this pure evil goes
      contrary to everything the nonviolent Jesus taught. What do we
      Christians do? We protest the ongoing killings by these evil U.S.
      drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen; continue to call for
      nonviolent conflict resolution; try to build a movement of
      nonviolence; and take nonviolent risks to stop the killings.

      My friend Brian Terrell has taken many nonviolent risks to say "no" to
      a future of drones and permanent war. A longtime peace activist, a
      member of the "Creech 14" and a founder of the Strangers and Guests
      Catholic Worker Farm in Maloy, Iowa, Brian is currently serving six
      months in the federal prison in Yankton, S.D., for protesting our evil
      U.S. drones program.

      On April 15, Brian and two friends walked onto the Whiteman Air Force
      Base in central Missouri to present a letter to the base commander
      calling for an end to the U.S. drone warfare. They tried to make the
      case that dropping bombs on women and children in Afghanistan and
      Pakistan will not lead to peace -- much less improve our own security
      -- but will inspire thousands of people to join the violent movements
      against the United States. They were immediately arrested, tried and
      sentenced in federal court. While our recent government war criminals,
      Wall Street criminals and torturers go free, Brian is holed up in a
      cell in South Dakota.

      His wife, Betsy, told me on the phone yesterday that she had a good
      New Year's Day visit with Brian, and he recently wrote me an upbeat
      letter. He hopes to be released in late May. This is Brian's third
      arrest for protesting drones. In an article for their newsletter,
      Brian described their action:

      At the Whiteman base, Ron, Mark and I attempted, on behalf of a larger
      group of protestors, to deliver an "indictment" to Brigadier General
      Scott A. Vander Hamm, the base's commander. Our indictment charged the
      chain of command, from President Obama to General Vander Hamm to the
      drone crews at Whiteman "with the following crimes: extrajudicial
      killings, violation of due process, wars of aggression, violation of
      national sovereignty, and the killing of innocent civilians." It noted
      the fact that "extrajudicial targeted killings by the use of unmanned
      air-craft drones by the United States of America are intentional,
      premeditated and deliberate use of lethal force in violation of U.S.
      and international human rights law" and demanded that these crimes
      immediately cease. Our polite request to the base sentries for
      directions to headquarters to deliver the indictment was denied and
      our way blocked by military police who handcuffed us and took us away.
      Our thirty or so companions, clearly exercising the
      constitutionally-protected right to peaceably assemble for the redress
      of grievances, were chased off the property by about fifty Air Force
      personnel in full riot gear who performed a carefully if grotesquely
      choreographed drill routine, complete with goosesteps and synchronized
      grunts and beating of clubs on shields.

      The notorious Whiteman base used to launch B-2 stealth bombers that
      flew directly to Iraq, where they dropped their bombs, killed
      thousands, then turned around and flew home to Missouri, just in time
      for their Air Force pilots to have dinner with their families. They
      were also used at the beginning of our war on Afghanistan. These days,
      Whiteman is building up its drones program so the killing can be done
      by remote control and robotic fighter bombers.

      In his sentencing statement before the judge on Oct. 11, Brian tried
      to make the case that the drones should be put on trial. Here's an

      Each of the government's witnesses, all of them Air Force police
      personnel, testified that participants in this protest were
      nonviolent, respectful and peaceable in assembling at Whiteman Air
      Force Base, a government installation, to petition that government for
      redress of a grievance, demanding that the remote control killing
      carried out daily from Whiteman cease. They testified that at no time,
      before or during our protest, did they perceive us as a threat. Our
      expert witnesses testified that our behavior was consistent with the
      activities that the drafters of the First Amendment intended to be
      protected, not persecuted, by the government. The order and security
      of the base would not have been compromised had the security police
      allowed us to proceed to the headquarters to deliver our petition. No
      testimony to the contrary was offered this court.

      Instead of planning to accommodate a constitutionally protected
      peaceable assembly, however, the Air Force chose intimidation and
      conspired to deprive us of the rights they are sworn to protect. We
      learned from government witnesses that that the phalanx of
      goose-stepping riot police is a "Confrontation Management Team,"
      deployed only in the case of preannounced events. Whiteman security
      did not call out the Team to defend the base but to intimidate
      citizens engaged in lawful activities.

      The court was mistaken a month ago when it said that our group was
      "allowed" to assemble on the highway right of way by the Air Force and
      that this space provided for us met free speech requirements of
      reasonable time and place. This place in question is not only outside
      the base's jurisdiction, it is outside the sight and hearing of anyone
      on the base. The court's decision is part of a widening disintegration
      of civil liberties, where speech is tolerated only in designated and
      remote "free speech zones" where it cannot be heard by the government,
      and criminalized in any place where that speech might actually have a
      chance to be understood. Intended or not, the court's message is a
      chilling one- that a citizens' constitutional right to assemble to
      petition the government extends only to places outside government
      facilities and where the government does not have to hear it. The
      court's easy dismissal of international law as not "trumping" domestic
      law has precedents, but is all the more disturbing for this fact.

      Last fall, I was on trial for a drone protest in a New York State
      where, in contrast to this court, former United States Attorney
      General Ramsey Clark was permitted to testify on international law.
      Judge Gideon, after listening to Ramsey Clark speak of the Nuremburg
      Principles at length, leaned over the bench and asked him, "This is
      all interesting, but what is the enforcement mechanism? Who is
      responsible for enforcing international law?" "They are," responded
      Mr. Clark, pointing to us defendants, "and so," he said to Judge
      Gideon, "are you!" Every citizen is responsible under international
      law and every judge more so.

      In our trial here last month, as at our protest in April, our
      intention has been to put the illegally operated predator drones on
      trial and so we have focused on the machines that are sowing death and
      terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan by remote control from Whiteman Air
      Force Base. It was never our intention to address or to protest the
      weapons system that is the larger mission of Whiteman, namely the B-2
      Stealth Bomber. However, Judge Whitworth, both in sentencing Mark
      Kenney and in our trial, you noted that your commitment to maintain
      the security of the B-2 weighs heavily in your decisions. For a judge
      to admit to being swayed by a consideration other than the law, not to
      mention when that consideration is the security of weapons of mass
      destruction, raises obvious questions about that judge's impartiality.

      For my part, Judge Whitworth, I am grateful to you for calling our
      attention to the larger picture. It is not, of course, the technology
      of robotics that we protest but the murderous and criminal uses the
      government puts it to. Drones are the weapon of choice in the current
      administration's wars of aggression, but it was the B-2s from Whiteman
      that first violated Afghan airspace eleven years ago this week and
      began killing the people of Afghanistan. The crimes against humanity
      that began in October, 2001, with B-2 airstrikes on a defenseless
      civilian population continue today with drones operated from that very
      same base. The B-2 Bomber, blasphemously nicknamed the "Spirit
      Bomber," is also ready at a moment's notice to commit the ultimate and
      unthinkable war crime of delivering a first strike nuclear payload to
      any place on earth. A cold war boondoggle, the B-2's stealth
      capability shields it from radar the Soviets never got around to
      developing before their own tragic empire finally imploded.

      On the official website for Whiteman Air Force Base I found the base's
      mission statement. It is as brief as it is vicious: "Skilled and proud
      Airmen providing full spectrum, expeditionary, B-2 global strike and
      combat support capabilities to geographic commanders and the
      Commander, US STRATCOM, while supporting Team Whiteman. We kick down
      doors and kill targets ... Weapons on Target, On Time!"

      I have visited Afghanistan and know that eleven years of NATO troops
      "kicking down doors" has not brought peace there. Often soldiers don't
      seem to know whose door they've kicked in or whether the "target" they
      kill is who they are hunting for. B-2 bombers from a great height or
      even drones with state of the art video feed do no better. We know
      that even children are sometimes named as targets to be killed by
      drones. Children regularly are among their "collateral damage." The
      targets themselves are often victims of assassination rather than
      legitimate casualties of war.

      Eleven years of kicking down doors has only made the world a more
      frightening place and has earned our nation more enemies and less
      security. Whiteman's mission is not counter-terrorism; it is
      terrorism. [See the Catholic Worker website: www.justpeace.org]

      While Brian was settling in to the horrors of the U.S. prison system
      last month, I was visiting Afghanistan. There, the youth of the Afghan
      Peace Volunteers told me that no one there knows who is or who is not
      a member of the Taliban. How do the U.S. soldiers 10,000 miles away
      back in America know who are members of the Taliban? they asked me.
      Most of the drone raids end up killing women and children, they said,
      as they told me their stories of grief and death.

      "When Gandhi was talking about the cycle of violence, I think he was
      talking about something just as provable as the laws of physics,"
      Brian told the local newspaper the day before entering prison. "We're
      taking the Golden Rule and turning it inside out. We'll do unto other
      people the worst thing we could imagine happening to us so that it
      won't happen to us. But you're not going to stop your neighbor from
      wanting to hurt you by hurting your neighbor."

      "There is an Arab proverb that says that a true prophet is a person
      who can love at long distance," Brian continued. "I think what the
      American people desperately need is, while we have this technology to
      kill people who are very far away and strange to us, to be at least as
      ready and work just as hard to figure out how we can love the people
      who are so far away. I think our best ethical, moral and religious
      energy needs to be put toward loving these people. Otherwise, we're
      just making the world a much more dangerous and scary place."

      As we begin a new year, I invite us to heed the peace witness of Brian
      Terrell and consider what more we ourselves can do for peace. Change
      comes through grass-roots movement building, creative nonviolent
      action, and risk -- or, as the New Testament explains, through our
      participation in the Paschal Mystery of Christ. May Brian's prison
      witness touch our hard hearts and inspire us to do our part to end
      drones, bombs, torture and warfare, once and for all.

      Letters of support can be sent to: Brian Terrell, #06125-02, FPC
      Yankton, Fed. Prison Camp, P.O. Box 700, Yankton, SD 57078.


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