Any courtroom in China or Iran could have been the scene: An 84-year-old Catholic nun in prison garb, chained hand-and-foot and surrounded by heavy Marshals, is shuffled jangling into court. Her attorney asks if she might be allowed one free hand in order to take notes. The nun has been convicted of high crimes trumped up after her bold political protest embarrassed the state. A high-ranking judge lectures her about law and order and then imposes a three-year prison term.
Like a Mullah thundering against an Infidel, the judge absurdly orders the penniless convict, who has lived her entire adult life within a vow of poverty, to pay $53,000 in restitution — what the government said was cost to fix four cuts in wire fences and repaint a wall.
The nun, Sr. Megan Rice of New York City, had fearlessly declared to the court, “To spend the rest of my life in prison would be a great honor and I hope it will happen.” Life expectancy for white women is 81 years, so hers may be a death sentence. The judge denied he had imposed a life sentence, just like any magistrate in Beijing or Tehran. But this is US district court in Knoxville.
What had the frail, retired missionary, who spent 40 years building schools and teaching in Africa, done to bring down the weight of the US Justice Department upon her? With wire cutters, spray paint, poured blood and prayers directed against the “Y-12” H-bomb factory at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Sr. Rice (and two retirement-aged US Army veterans) dared to call the US government a criminal enterprise in its production and threatened use of nuclear weapons. Speaking to the court, she said she’d walked up to Y-12’s bomb-grade uranium fortress which, “… we were able to reach, touch and label with statements of truth.”
The Mullah, US District Judge Amul Thapar, told Rice her action, “evokes complete disrespect for law … total disregard for law,” that, “at some point the law demands respect,” and, “we need to … protect the law,” and that she “transgressed laws of the United States, a great country,” and “No man or group is above the law,” and, finally, “Courts aren’t the places for judges to disregard the law.” Turns out the judge disregarded a lot of law.
“International law is not an empty promise, and treaties must be enforced.” — President Obama
Never mind that the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions, the Hague Conventions, the Treaty of Paris, the Nuremberg Principles, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and other binding humanitarian law prohibit the planning, threat or commission of massacres, deliberate long-term damage to the environment and construction of new nuclear weapons — all of which is today ongoing at Oak Ridge.
Never mind that Obama said Sept. 24, 2009, “International law is not an empty promise, and treaties must be enforced.” Never mind that the US Constitution holds all such treaties “supreme,” and says treaties are binding on “every judge in every state.” Never mind that the US Supreme Court has upheld this “Supremacy Clause” five times.
Never mind any of this law — because nuclear weapons are considered above it all in federal court. Evidence and testimony about the criminal status of nuclear weapons is considered inadmissible there. Contraband cannot legally be in anyone’s possession, but if experts offer proof that nuclear weapons are contraband, the offer is excluded by federal courts.
Oak Ridge’s W78 and B61 nuclear warhead production, forbidden by the Nonproliferation Treaty, can’t even be described to a federal jury. Even the expert testimony of a former US Attorney General — that Oak Ridge’s mission is a criminal conspiracy to produce banned weapons — can be, and was in this case, hidden from the jury.
Four US Courts of Appeal have said juries would be “confused” by this powerful evidence. On the contrary, proof that H-bombs are illegal would pierce the vacuum that protects the Bomb complex from judicial scrutiny. Any evidence of the fact that planning and preparing massacres is criminal, that nuclear weapons can only produce massacres, and that the government is presently building new H-bombs, would dissolve the façade of legitimacy surrounding the Bomb. It would also exonerate the nun’s action in a new context — that of whistle-blowing and crime prevention. Sr. Rice told the judge her protest had lifted “an enormous cloud of deception covering up the monstrosity of Y-12.”
The illusion that H-bombs are lawful and defensive is embraced by almost no one outside the weapons complex and the judiciary — either in China, North Korea or the US. Only a swarm of amplified protest and resistance can possibly break through this willful blindness.
John LaForge is a co-director of Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, edits its Quarterly, and writes for PeaceVoice.