[Ppnews] Showing Conviction at Echo 9

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Sep 18 12:46:35 EDT 2006


September 18, 2006

Not One of the Soldiers Admitted Knowing That They Were Guarding 
Nuclear Missiles

Showing Conviction at Echo 9


The Echo 9 launching facility for the intercontinental nuclear 
missile Minuteman III is about 100 miles northwest of Bismarck, North 
Dakota. Endless fields of sunflowers and mown hay dazzle those who 
travel there.

The fenced off site at first appears innocent. Until you get close 
you cannot see the sign that says deadly force is authorized against 
trespassers. A 40 ton nuclear missile lies coiled beneath the surface 
of a bland concrete bunker. Echo 9 is but 50 feet from a gravel road. 
This one Minuteman III missile has over 20 times the destructive 
power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

After you realize what a launching facility looks like, you can see 
that the pastoral countryside is full of nuclear weapon silos. One 
nuclear weapon launching site lies just across the road from a big 
country farmhouse, another just down from a camp for teens. There are 
150 other such nuclear launching facilities in North Dakota alone.

Sunflowers, farmhouses, teen camps and nuclear weapons who would have 
thought the power to destroy the world many times over could fit in 
so well? The people of this state will not need to turn on CNN to 
know when the nuclear holocaust arrives.

On the morning of June 20, 2006, three people dressed as clown 
arrived at Echo 9. The clowns broke the lock off the fence and put up 
peace banners and posters. One said: "Swords into plowshares - Spears 
into pruning hooks." Then they poured some of their own blood and 
hammered on the nuclear launching facility.

Fr. Carl Kabat, 72, along with Greg Boertje-Obed, 52, and Michael 
Walli, 57, were the people dressed as clowns. Carl Kabat is a 
catholic priest. Greg is an ex-military officer, married and the 
father of an 11 year old daughter. Mike is a Vietnam vet who has 
worked with the homeless for decades. Greg and Carl are members of 
the Loaves and Fishes Community in Duluth. The three are called the 
Weapons of Mass Destruction Here Plowshares.

They placed a copy of the Declaration of Independence, the US 
Constitution, international legal condemnations of nuclear weapons, 
bibles, rosaries, bread, wine, and a picture of Greg's daughter on 
the top of the missile silo.

Then they waited until the air force security forces came and arrested them.

They were charged with felony damage to government property and were 
kept in North Dakota jails until their trial in September.

In their trial they planned to argue to the jury that because the 
Minuteman III is a weapon of mass destruction it is illegal under 
international law. They hoped to share with the jury testimony from 
the Mayor of Hiroshima about the effects of nuclear weapons. They 
asked to have Professor Francis Boyle testify about the illegality of 
nuclear weapons. And they planned to introduce the 1996 advisory 
opinion of the International Court of Justice outlawing nuclear weapons.

They hoped to put on evidence that warheads launched from the 
Minuteman III missile silo can reach any destination within 6000 
miles in 35 minutes. The nuclear bomb launched from a Minuteman silo 
produces uncontrollable radiation, massive heat and a blast capable 
of vaporizing and leveling everything within miles. Outside the 
immediate area of the blast, wide-spread heat, firestorms and neutron 
and gamma rays are intended to kill, severely wound and poison every 
living thing and cause long-term damage to the environment.

But the judge ruled the jury was not permitted to hear this evidence.

The night before the trial, the peace community of North Dakota, 
along with friends and supporters from across the US shared a 
Festival of Hope potluck supper, songs, prayers and calls for peace 
at a local Unitarian church. The North Dakota peace community was 
very supportive. Even the federal prosecutor and an air force 
investigator joined the festival after being invited to attend by 
Carl, Greg and Mike. They too were welcomed by the community.

On the day of the trial, the judge asked people about their 
backgrounds and their opinions about nuclear weapons. Those who 
expressed any skepticism about the use of nuclear weapons were struck 
from serving on the jury by the government. Likewise, a Baptist 
missionary with a dove on her collar and all the Catholics were excluded.

Fr. Carl Kabat represented himself in the trial and gave his own 
opening statement. Dressed in a rumpled roman collar, black jeans and 
white tennis shoes, it was apparent he came right out of jail to the courtroom.

Fr. Kabat told the jury that he had been a priest for 47 years and 
spent three years in the Philippines and several more in Brazil were 
he witnessed poverty and hunger on a scale unimaginable to the US. 
After that, he said, he was ruined to life in the United States. He 
could not allow 40,000 children a day to die from malnourishment 
while our country built and maintained thousands of nuclear weapons.

Carl admitted that he had spent over sixteen years in prison for 
protesting against nuclear weapons. He told the jury that he 
understood that because he was 72 he might die in jail in punishment 
for this protest. "I don't know if I am doing the right thing or not, 
I am only doing the best I can. If anyone can think of anything 
better to do to stop this insanity then, by all means, do it! It is 
up to all of us to do something to stop this madness!"

He said they dressed up as clowns as "fools for Christ," and because 
"court jesters were often the only ones who could tell the truth to 
the king and not be killed for it!" We realize most people do not 
care about nuclear weapons. "To them we are nutballs," he said. "We 
are doing the best we can to stand up against these evils. My feeling 
is do what you can do about injustice, then sing and dance!"

Fr. Carl pointed out in some detail that nuclear weapons violated 
international laws. "Now I am not a lawyer," he kept saying, "but I 
know the International Court of Justice has ruled these are illegal." 
He asked the jury "Why do you think it is it illegal for North Korea 
or Iran to have nuclear weapons when we have thousands? I don't want 
anyone to have them.

The weapon at Echo 9 can kill the entire population of New York 
City--just that one missile and we have thousands of them! This is 
insane! Polls say that 87% of the people in the US want us to get rid 
of nuclear weapons--let's do it! People may think we're nuts for 
dressing up as clowns and risking jail to get rid of these weapons, 
but it is these weapons that are actually insane!"

Greg Boertje-Obed spoke briefly to the jury about growing up in the 
Midwest and the south. He was dressed in rumpled pants and a t-shirt 
decorated with the symbol of a local Native American tribe. He told 
them that he was married and the father of a young daughter. He 
admitted he basically did not know anything about nuclear weapons or 
civil rights. He joined ROTC to be able to attend college and was 
made an officer. His military group discussed nuclear war and one 
made a powerful case for first-strike. All the time he was a 
churchgoer. In graduate school he started awakening to the contrast 
between the religious values he found in church and the actions and 
priorities around him. Greg told the jurors of his journey into 
resistance as he realized that nuclear weapons were both illegal and immoral.

Michael was described to the jury as one of 14 children who grew up 
in the Midwest. He joined the Army and spent two tours in Vietnam. 
After a religious conversion, he began a life of voluntary poverty 
and assisting the homeless and sick.

The prosecutor called an FBI agent who told the jury all about the 
events of June 20, 2006. He described the defendants as polite at all 
times. The prosecution projected huge photos of the three dressed as 
clowns, pictures of the Echo 9 launching facility, and pictures of 
the items left behind on the wall of the courtroom.

Fr. Carl asked the FBI agent if he had found a statement that the 
three left on site. The judge allowed Carl to read the statement into 
the record at this time. Carl put on his reading glasses and in a 
loud voice read to the courtroom:

"Please pardon the fracture of the good order. When we were children 
we thought as children and spoke as children. But now we are adults 
and there comes a time when we must speak out and say that the good 
order is not so good, and never really was. We know that throughout 
history there have been innumerable war crimes. Two of the most 
terrible war crimes occurred on August 6th and 9th, 1945. On August 
6th, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city of 
Hiroshima , Japan , killing more than 100,000 people (including U.S. 
prisoners of war). Three days later the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb 
on the city of Nagasaki, Japan, killing more than 50,000 people. Use 
of these weapons of mass destruction on civilian populations were 
abominable crimes against humanity.

"The U.S. has never repented of these atrocities. On the contrary, 
the U.S. has deepened and expanded its commitment to nuclear weapons. 
The U.S. built a large nuclear-industrial complex which has caused 
the deaths of many workers and has resulted in killing many more 
people by nuclear testing. Our country built thousands of nuclear 
weapons and has dispersed weapons-grade uranium to 43 nations. Each 
Minuteman III missile carries a bomb that is 27 times more powerful 
than those dropped on the Japanese people. The building of these 
weapons signifies that our hearts have assented to mass murder. 
Currently the U.S. is seeking to research a new class of smaller 
nuclear weapons demonstrating its desire to find new uses for weapons 
of mass destruction."

The prosecution then called a succession of young Air Force folks, 
who served as security for the Minuteman missiles in the silos in 
this area, to briefly describe the arrest and detention of Carl, Greg 
and Mike. Each one said the clowns were cooperative, non-violent and peaceful.

At the conclusion of the first soldier's testimony, Fr. Kabat asked 
him, "Do you know what was in the ground at Echo-9?" The flustered 
airman said, "No, sir, I do not." "You don't know what is in the 
ground there?" Fr. Kabat asked again incredulously. "No sir," 
repeated the helicopter airman. The courtroom was stunned.

For the next half hour, every one of the rest of the young Air Force 
people called as witnesses by the government either said they did not 
know what was in the ground, or refused to answer Fr. Carl, saying 
"that is not my area of expertise, sir."

Not one single soldier acknowledged that they were guarding nuclear weapons!

The final prosecution witness was a Lieutenant Colonel who said the 
damage to the site was over $15,000 because a spin dial lock on a 
hatch was damaged and had to be exchanged for another.

The Lt. Colonel, after initially refusing to do so, admitted that a 
Minuteman III missile was in the silo but that the Department of 
Defense would not allow him to say anything more.

After the prosecution rested, the judge ushered the jury out of the 
room. Then the three were allowed to introduce into the record the 
evidence of the International Court of Justice decision about the 
illegality of nuclear weapons, the testimony of the mayor of 
Hiroshima, and two statements by Professor Boyle about international 
law and its condemnation of nuclear weapons. The judge was asked to 
dismiss the case because of this evidence. When the judge declined, 
Greg told the judge that he was making a mistake. The judge responded 
that in light of all the other federal cases he had reviewed he was 
not making a mistake. "But in the judgment of history, you are," Greg 
responded. The judge noted Greg's objection for the record and 
re-started the trial.

With all the rest of their evidence excluded, the three defendants 
tried in their own words to tell the jury about how international law 
condemned nuclear weapons, what kind of damage the weapons caused, 
and how the very existence of nuclear weapons was robbing the poor of 
the world of much needed resources.

Fr. Carl choked up several times talking to the jury when he 
described the extent of hunger and starvation he had witnessed. 
"Nuclear weapons," he said softly, "and hungry children, are the two 
greatest evils in our world."

Michael told the jury how he joined the army at the suggestion of a 
family member and ended up spending years in Vietnam. While there he 
heard about the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., described on the 
base as "an agitator." He described his later work with the poor and 
how it was consistent with his peace work. He concluded by correcting 
the record. "These young military people testified that after we 
arrived at Echo--9 it became a crime scene. But in truth, Echo 9 was 
a crime scene long before we ever got there. Nuclear weapons are war 
crimes that are designed to kill innocent civilians. They are 
outlawed by international law and by God's law. This was a crime 
scene long before we got there, and is still a crime scene today."

Greg showed the jury the picture of his daughter. "I brought this to 
Echo 9 as a symbol of why we again and again try to disarm nuclear 
weapons. We do this for the children."

With the evidence finished, it was time for the jury to decide. The 
judge would give instructions to the jury about how to decide the case.

The defense asked for two instructions about justice one from the 
preamble to the US Constitution another from Judge Learned Hand--both 
were denied by the judge. Defendants asked that the jury be read the 
First Amendment--denied. International law? Denied. Nuremberg 
Principles? Denied. The US statute defining war crimes? Denied. The 
US statute defining genocide? Denied.

The judge then went forward and instructed the jury to disregard 
anything about nuclear weapons, international law, and the good 
motives of the defendants. The effect of these instructions was to 
treat the actions of the defendants the same as if they had poured 
blood and hammered on a Volkswagen pure property damage.

Limited like this, the jury came back with felony guilty verdicts for 
all three defendants. As they filed out, Fr. Carl called out to them, 
"Thank you brothers and sisters!"

One of the jurors told people afterwards that many on the jury 
learned a lot in the trial and were sympathetic to the defense, but 
"the judge's instructions left us no option but to find them guilty." 
As she walked away, the juror waved to supporters and yelled "Peace!"

The local paper reported one lawyer concluding that, despite their 
convictions, "History will have different judgment on their actions."

The three remain in jail. They are in good spirits and at peace in 
the justice of their convictions. Greg pointed out that juries in 
Europe were allowed to learn about international law when evaluating 
the actions of peace protestors. "Why do English, Scottish, and Irish 
juries get to know about international law, but not US juries? Why do 
our judges keep our juries deaf and blind to the law of the world?"

Mike noted "The ungodly will always say Let our might be our norm of justice.'"

Fr. Carl, who feels "fantastic--as usual," said, "One with God is a 
majority, and some day the will of the majority will triumph!"

For their convictions, they face sentences of up to 10 years in 
prison and fines of up to $250,000 each.

They will remain in jail in North Dakota until their sentencing date 
of December 4, 2006.

For more information about the men contact the Loaves and Fishes 
Community in Duluth at 218.728.0629 or Nukewatch at 715.472.4185. 
Copies of some pleadings in the case, pictures and updates from the 
men are posted on the<http://www.jonahhouse.org/> Jonah House website

Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer and professor at Loyola 
University New Orleans College of Law. Bill and Dan Gregor assisted 
the defendants in this matter. You can reach Bill at 
<mailto:Quigley at loyno.edu>Quigley at loyno.edu

The Freedom Archives
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