Law Is On The Side Of The Nuclear Abolitionists

John LaForge

Anti-nuclear weapons activists Megan Rice, Left, and Michael Walli leave U.S. District Court in Knoxville after pleading not guilty Aug. 9 to three counts of trespassing and property destruction at the Y-12 nuclear weapons materials complex.Photo courtesy of Oak Ridge Today.
Anti-nuclear weapons activists Megan Rice, Left, and Michael Walli leave U.S. District Court in Knoxville after pleading not guilty Aug. 9 to three counts of trespassing and property destruction at the Y-12 nuclear weapons materials complex.Photo courtesy of Oak Ridge Today.

 

On July 28, the three nuclear weapons abolistionists who boldly entered the Y-12 nuclear weapons factory in Oak Ridge, Tenn. used blood, spray paint, hammers and banners to name the machinery a criminal conspiracy to commit mass destruction.

The Y-12 National Security Complex produces the highly enriched uranium jacket or “secondary” that makes an atom bomb into a hydrogen bomb, the Big One.

The three, Greg Boertje-Obed of Duluth, Megan Rice of New York City, and Michael Walli of Washington, DC, claim their intervention at Y-12 and their “naming” of the facility was justified in law because nuclear weapons production is a criminal enterprise — like the work of a meth lab or drug cartel. The crime fighters are set to be tried for trespass and felony damage to federal property February 26 in Knoxville, and they face a lot of prison time.

The federal government says Y-12’s H-bomb work is needed for defense because nuclear weapons deter attacks on the United States.
On the contrary, say the three disarmament radicals, nuclear weapons don’t protect anything and are illegal to possess like cocaine or land mines. To make their case, they brought to the action a written indictment of H-bomb production.
In addition to “refurbishing” the B61 gravity H-bombs used by U.S. bombers in Europe and the United States, a new bomb factory is under construction at Y-12. The new complex will reportedly be able to produce 80 thermonuclear secondaries per year. It will cost over $6 billion. The building was symbolically hammered on by the intrepid intruders whose protest is part of a series of over 90 “Plowshares” actions that have symbolically “beat swords into plowshares.”

The three walked 1.5 miles into the gigantic compound undetected, and after doing their hammering, bannering, painting and blood pouring, they waited to surrender to security guards so they might explain in court how federal, constitutional and treaty laws forbid what the government is doing at Y-12.

The new Uranium Processing Facility is to produce “replacement” secondaries for the warheads currently in the nuclear arsenal under the so-called Stockpile Life Extension Program. Don’t call it the Nuclear Weapons Extension Program, since that might taint President Oh-Bomb-Ah’s Prague promise of seeking “a world without nuclear weapons.”

Greg, Megan and Michael’s indictment of Y-12 notes that the 1945 UN Charter obligates all signers to “refrain from the use of force against another nation;” that the 1945 Nuremberg Principles outlaw not only mass destruction in war but the “planning and preparation” of wars of indiscriminate destruction; that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty requires signers to negotiate in good faith the abolition of nuclear weapons; and that the Limited Test Ban Treaty prohibits full-scale nuclear explosions. Elevating the status of all these treaties is Art. VI of the U.S. Constitution which declares that all treaties made “shall be the supreme law of the land” and that “the judges in every state shall be bound thereby.”

Greg and the others charged in their complaint “The Nuremberg Principles oblige those of us aware of the crime to act against it. … We are required by international law to denounce and resist known crimes.”

Did the three take the law into their own hands when they dared to desecrate the obscenity of an H-bomb assembly line? No more than did civil rights workers of the ‘50s and ‘60s who endured police attacks just for registering to vote or demanding service at a lunch counter. And just as the anti-segregationists did, nuclear abolitionists have the Supreme Court on their side (see the Paquette Habana case). Back then, the Supreme Court had outlawed “Jim Crow” rules and “separate but equal” schools but local, state and some federal authorities refused to enforce the prohibitions. It took thousands of acts of civil resistance to force the courts to obey the law of the land and forbid segregation.
Likewise, it may take thousands of acts like that of the disarmament rebels to get the government to obey the Law of Nations. The hard part, meanwhile, is that individual obedience may land you in jail for a long time.

— John LaForge is on the staff of Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog group in Wisconsin. <nukewatchinfo.org>

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