Peace Activist Nun Imprisoned
by Stephen Lendman
Sister Megan Rice is a Roman Catholic nun. She’s an anti-nuclear activist. She’s aged 84. She’s committed for peace.
She’s been involved in numerous anti-war protests. She was arrested more than three dozen times. She was imprisoned twice before. Each time for six months.
On February 18, she was sentenced to 35 months more for anti-nuclear activism. On May 9, 2013, she, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed were convicted.
Sentencing was scheduled for January 28. Inclement weather forced postponement.
In trial testimony, Sister Megan said “I regret I didn’t do this 70 years ago.” More on her case below.
Howard Zinn called dissent the highest form of patriotism. So is civil disobedience against government wrongdoing.
Sister Megan reflects exemplary patriotism. America honors its worst. It persecutes its best. It’s longstanding policy. It’s worse than ever now.
Washington’s agenda threatens humanity. At stake is human survival. Hans Morgenthau (1904 – 1980) was a prominent geopolitical observer.
He was strongly anti-nuclear. Ignore reality and perish, he believed. Late in life he reflected on the future of international relations, saying:
“(W)hat future? In my opinion the world is moving ineluctably toward a third world war – a strategic nuclear war.”
“I do not believe anything can be done to prevent it. The international system is simply too unstable to survive for long.”
What stronger argument for resistance. It’s a vital imperative. In his book titled “Protesting Power: War, Resistance and Law,” Francis Boyle discussed effective tactics.
Civil resisters represent hope, Boyle believes. They’re “archetypical American heroes.” They’re committed for equity, justice and peace.
They risk their own welfare doing it. Ramsey Clark saluted them saying: “Our jails are filling up with saints.”
Supporting them is a universal obligation. When governments threaten humanity, resistance is the last line of defense.
America is lawlessly out-of-control. Nuclear weapons risk mushroom cloud denouement.
Boyle called the Trident II strategic nuclear missile submarine the “most hideous and nefarious weapon of mass destruction ever devised.”
Each vessel has 270 or more times the destructive power of the bombs that incinerated Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They can extinguish much or perhaps all life on earth.
America has a first-strike nuclear policy. It’s illegal under Hague Regulations, Nuremberg Principles and the UN Charter.
No nation may unilaterally wage war. Nuclear weapons were used twice. It takes a giant leap of faith to believe never again.
When nations go to war, they use every weapon in their arsenal considered necessary. They stop at nothing to win.
Laws of war don’t matter. Anything goes is prioritized. Shock and awe is US policy. Wanton mass slaughter and destruction follow.
How much more war is too much? When is enough enough? What weapons are too destructive to use?
Events preceding two world wars “hover like a sword of Damocles over the heads of all humanity,” said Boyle.
Civil resistance is crucial. It’s the only way “to prevent WW III and an (inevitable) nuclear holocaust,” he believes.
Apathy isn’t an option. Activism is essential. At stake is human survival.
Boyle calls “civil resistance, international law, human rights, and the US Constitution four quintessential principles to counter militarism run amok.”
Our choice is “stark and compelling.” Resist or perish. There’s no in between. At stake is potential “nuclear omnicide.”
Sister Megan is a Transform Now Plowshares (TNP) activist. She’s part of “an effort by people of faith to transform weapons into real, life-giving alternatives, to build true peace.”
TNP follows Isaiah 2:4’s message: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares; their spears into pruning hooks.”
“One nation will not lift the sword against another, nor shall they train for war anymore.”
On July 28, 2012, three TNP activists “began a symbolic conversion of the Y-12 Highly-Enriched Uranium Manufacturing Facility.”
They broke into the Oak Ridge, TN facility. They were convicted of harming national defense and damaging government property. Potentially they faced up to 30 years in prison.
International law supports them, they claimed. They gained access to Oak Ridge’s stockpile of weapons-grade uranium.
They chipped the facility’s structure with hammers. They spray-painted biblical graffiti. They lit candles. They remained in place.
They awaited arrest. A guard confronted them. They offered him food. They began singing.
They acted according to law and conscience, they believe. Federal Judge Amul Thapar disagreed.
He ordered $52,557 paid for damage to government property. “The critical point is contrition, and I don’t think any of the defendants are contrite about what they did,” he said.
“The defendants will not be given acceptance of responsibility.” He denied their claim for leniency.
They acted “to prevent a perceived greater harm,” they said.
“I understand that the defendants perceived a greater harm, but I think the United States has a different point of view,” Thapar added.
Sister Megan urged Thapar to “have no leniency on me. To remain in prison for the rest of my life would be the greatest honor you could give me,” she said.
Defense counsel called four character witnesses. Each expressed strong support. Yale Professor Mary Evelyn Tucker said:
“It is clear that Megan is a person of high moral principles with a profound Christian commitment to alleviate suffering and advance the cause of peace.”
Catholic Worker Kathy Boylan lives with Michael Walli at Washington, DC-based Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House.
She said he’s “trying to save our lives; your life Judge Thapar; your life Mr. (prosecutor). Listen to him.”
Wilfred “Andy” Anderson urged Thapar to release all three defendants. He called them “terrific, decent, warm-hearted human beings. (They) present (no) danger to society.”
Sister Megan belongs to the Society of the Holy Child Jesus. SHCJ’s Sister Sandra Lincoln testified at trial.
“We’ve been hoping and praying for either a suspended sentence or a lenient (one), especially because of (Sister Megan’s) age,” she said.
She’s 84. “She has a heart condition and over 50 years of service in our community.”
Boertje-Obed’s wife Michelle testified. “I know it’s the Holy Spirit who’s in charge here,” she said.
Law Professor William Quigley said this case isn’t about sabotage involving terrorists.
“Michael, Greg and Sister Megan are not saboteurs, spies, bomb making terrorists, or the kind of offenders Congress anticipated when it created the Federal Sabotage Act” in 1918.
It was strengthened in 1940 and 2001. During proceedings, Thapar struggled with how to handle federal sentencing guidelines.
“At some point, the law has to command respect, and there is a lawful way to change it,” he said.
Assistant US Attorney Jeffrey Theodore argued for stiff sentencing. Thapar called imposing it “overkill.”
He paid special attention to Sister Megan. Her past good works deserve consideration in sentencing, he said.
On February 28, Transform Now Plowshares (TNP) headlined “Judge Sends Transform Now Plowshares Resisters to Prison.”
Walli and Boertje-Obed received 62 months on each count to be served concurrently. Three years of supervised release will follow.
Sister Megan got 35 months on each count to be served concurrently plus three years of supervised probation.
Ralph Hutchison is Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance coordinator.
“Judge Thapar has tried to strike a compromise that reflects the nature of this nonviolent action but satisfies the government’s demand that Megan, Michael and Greg’s sentence send a deterrent message to the wider community,” he said.
“For now, their bodies remain in prison. But their voices are free, reminding us that the central issue of this action and trial have not been resolved.”
“As long as the government continues to produce thermonuclear weapons of mass destruction in Oak Ridge or anywhere, people are required to resist.”
Sister Megan’s sentence doesn’t matter, he explained. “It’s of absolutely no consequence to her.”
“(S)he strongly believes (she’s) a servant of God wherever she is.” She and others like her “feel that nuclear weapons are the single greatest threat to God’s creation that exists in the world today.”
In pre-trial hearing testimony, Ramsey Clark called production of nuclear weapons components at Y12 “unlawful.” It’s the work of “a criminal enterprise,” he stressed.
On July 28, 2012 pre-dawn, Megan, Michael and Greg cut through four fences to enter Y12. They poured blood on the facility’s walls.
They spray-painted “Plowshares Please Isaiah” and “The Fruit of Justice is Peace.”
They chipped off a concrete wall corner. They symbolically acted according to Isaiah’s prophecy, saying: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares.”
Y12 plans a new multi-billion dollar uranium processing facility. An estimated $19 billion will be spent to produce thermonuclear cores for warheads and bombs.
TNP activists chose it for that reason. Supporters said:
“The United States is breaking its own law when it builds bombs in Oak Ridge. Any government that would lock up Megan, Michael and Greg is desperate to hide the truth.”
“By their actions, they have broken the silence. Their sacrifice
challenges each of us to speak up for a safer world.”
“In prison or out, Michael, Greg and Megan will continue to pray and work to save the life of the planet.” What’s more important than that!
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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