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