The Citizen’s Metamorphosis

This morning I awoke from unsettling dreams to recognize that my agenda is now construed as a hideous terrorist threat. As a regular non-violent civil-disobedient direct-action treesitter and an activist with Peace and Human Rights proclivities, I expect that I should be terrified about the unsurprising recent revelations about the extent of the Bush domestic espionage programs. I should flatter myself that my seemingly piddling efforts have now put me square on the National Security Agency (NSA) radar screen. While researching for this article, I have been browsing deep into the forbidden territory of direct-action activism, and with every click of the mouse, apparently, I’m lighting up a red-flag on some spy-screen down at N.S.A./F.B.I./Pentagon CentCom. Just by the bookmarks I’ve collected in my computer, I could well be slated for extraordinary rendition to some nearby dungeon of the Bush torture gulag.

In Bush’s Kafkaesque oil-fuelled fantasy, his dictator’s role in the murderous on-going slaughter in Iraq is a godsent mission to “spread peace, freedom and democracy in the world.” But his twisted totalitarian tyranny requires unfettered access to oil, and he’ll go to ungodly lengths to get it. Bush dictates that his Gestapo-type NSA operatives must have free licence to conduct unwarranted eavesdropping and infiltrations into such domestic terrorist organizations as the Raging Grannies, the Catholic Workers Group, Code Pink, the Vegan Community Project, Greenpeace, PETA, readers of “The Little Red Book” and “The “Monkeywrench Gang,” and myriad other environmental, peace and human rights groups and individual activists. Although John Lewis, an FBI deputy assistant director and top official in charge of domestic terrorism says that “the No. 1 domestic terrorism threat is the eco-terrorism, animal-rights movement,” apparently all citizen action efforts are now under police-state scrutiny. In a statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee in May 2004, Lewis noted the “upswing in violent rhetoric and tactics” among eco-terrorists and said that in recent years the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and Earth Liberation Front (ELF) “have become the most active criminal extremist elements in the United States.”

On February 6, 2002, Dale L. Watson, Executive Assistant Director, Counterterrorism/Counterintelligence Division of the FBI testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He noted that “during the past decade we have witnessed dramatic changes in the nature of the terrorist threat. In the 1990s, right-wing extremism overtook left-wing terrorism as the most dangerous domestic terrorist threat to the country. During the past several years, special interest extremism–as characterized by the ALF and the ELF–has emerged as a serious terrorist threat. The FBI estimates that ALF/ELF have committed approximately 600 criminal acts in the United States since 1996, resulting in damages in excess of 42 million dollars.”

Last week six young environmental activists were arrested in a series of coordinated raids in New York, Virginia, Arizona and Oregon. Daniel McGowan and Stanislas Meyerhoff are now facing potential life inprisonment. They are accused of setting fires in 2001 at a lumber company and an experimental tree farm in Oregon. No one was injured in the blazes. Chelsea Gerlach, Kevin Tubbs, Bill Rodgers and Sarah Harvey face between 20 and 25 years in prison for allegedly setting other fires. These are the most serious charges ever filed against environmental activists for allegedly taking part in such direct-action.

What’s particularly interesting is that the remarkable efforts of direct-action Peaceniks who have been attacking, and causing significant damage to the American (and British) military apparatus and weapons of mass destruction have not been identified in the FBI’s ranking of current terrorist threats. This heroic and classically non-violent direct-action citizens’ campaign against what are clearly the most obscene terrorist threats ever, has been conspicuously absent from the FBI list, and from mainstream media attention. If Iraqi freedom fighters had downed two US Navy F-16’s, one can be certain that such an accomplishment would be front-page headline news. But when the Italian Christian Peacenik, Turi Salvatore Vaccarro recently destroyed two US Navy F-16’s with a sledgehammer, not a single headline turned up on my Google search of the incident. Vaccaro simply climbed over a fence into a US/NATO air base in the Netherlands where about 20 nuclear bombs and some F-16s were stationed and managed to completely destroy the cockpits of the jets.

It is because the difficulty of framing a terrorist label around the gentle and principled people who attack such obviously horrific weaponry is simply beyond the Kafkaesque and Orwellian machinations of Bush’s Rovian spinmeisters. To add to their hypocritical difficulty, it has most often been devout Christians and nuns who are wielding the hammers. While the logging industry’s PR henchflack may have successfully spun a “good-news story” of the wanton corporate gutting of our Earth’s final ancient forests, the Bushites are desperately, albeit unsuccessfully trying to reframe the deteriorating image of their Iraq-attack. The derogatory ‘hippie treehugger’ frame has been so successfully embedded that the somnolent general public yawns at life sentences for Enviros who burn down a logging company office, but the same spin cannot be applied to direct-action Peaceniks. And while the importance of the Peacenik actions cannot be overstated, there isn’t much difference between what the treehuggers do and what your average Humvee-burner does; what the animal rights activist does, and what those who attack nuclear submarines and missile silos with hammers do. These heroic people are all opposed to the wanton destruction of life on Earth, and the power of their simple actions severely threatens Bush’s global domination scheme.

To realize my unsettling dreams, I should now venture into discussion which will get those red flags down at Spy-CentCom really flashing. It’s tough for civilians in wheelchairs and senior citizens (see below) to scale fences to sledgehammer weapons of mass destruction. But sabotage is easy for those already on the inside. It’s past time there was some conscience and courage from those who volunteer their lives to serve their country, but are now messed up with the global domination scheme of the current megalo-maniac dictator. The only German soldiers who are recognized as genuine military heroes after WW11 are people like Claus Von Stauffenberg, who along with Wilhelm Canaris, Carl Goerdeler, Julius Leber, Ulrich Hassell, Hans Oster, Henning von Tresckow, Fabin Schlabrendorff, Peter von Wartenburg, Ludwig Beck, and Erwin von Witzleben attempted to assasinate Adolph Hitler. There will never be a heroic epitaph written for those soldiers who have volunteered for George Bush’s Iraq massacre, but whoever amongst them who works to frag this scourge and his war-chest will have done humanity and the good Earth the ultimate service. They should do their duty.

People who practice principled non-violent civil-disobedient direct action have exhausted all due-process options to address the injustices that they see. That’s the point when the citizen’s metamorphosis occurs. At some point the need for peace and justice goes beyond what can be advanced through existing channels. A person will go beyond the limitations of human organization to exert the tremendous personal power of the moral upper hand. The metamorphic stages go from the public demonstrator to those brave souls who commit the final non-violent act of non-sentient material sabotage to change the world for the better. But then there are those individuals who’s lives have been so irrevocably damaged by injustice that their act of civil-disobedience passes beyond non-violence and comes to target the living. It is easy to understand the motivation of a person who awakes to find their innocent loved ones murdered by some heinous dictator raining hellfire from afar. We may not advocate it, or practice it ourselves, but we can understand, and perhaps even forgive their actions.

Here below, I’ve collected a few names and the actions of a few of the many great heroes of humanity whose personal non-violent direct-action was made truly in the name of Peace:

On New Years Day in 1991, Ciaron O’Reilly and three others entered Griffiss Air Force Base in New York and began hammering on a KC-135 (a refuelling plane for B52’s). They then proceeded to smash the engine of a nearby cruise-missile-armed B52 bomber that was to be used in the strikes against Iraq. They also destroyed some of the runway, chipping at two sections, one being nearly five feet in diameter.

In January 1996, Andrea Needham, Joanna Wilson, Lotta Kronlid and Angie Zeltner broke into the high security hangar owned by British Aerospace in Lancashire to disarm a newly built Hawk jet. The jet was slated for delivery to the Indonesian Government to use against villagers of East Timor. They broke into the hangar and set about destroying the war machine. They developed a steady rhythm, once they realised that the security was not coming. Over a period of about an hour the women methodically destroyed the plane’s weapons system with their hammers.

On February 1st, 1999, Rosie James and Rachel Wenham swam 300 metres in wetsuits into the Vickers dock yard at Barrow in Furness to reach HMS Vengeance. They swam in freezing conditions in the dark with their disarmament equipment of hammers, chisels, crowbars, screwdrivers and paint. The women then climbed around the submarine and dismantled radio equipment used to launch weapons of mass destruction. They hung a banner on the conning tower which read “Women Want Peace”, painted the words ILLEGAL DEATH MACHINE and peace / women’s symbols on the hull and smashed testing equipment on the conning tower.

On August 29th, 1999, Sylvia Boyes and Anne Scholz entered the water in the dark to the south of the perimeter of the Faslane nuclear submarine base. They swam round the perimeter fence and after two hours in the water were intercepted while swimming under the jetties where the Polaris submarines were formerly berthed. Anne said: “My plan was to get onto a Trident sub and lock myself to it. Sylvia had a hammer to use on the exterior and spray paint to use on computer monitors inside the boat.”

A Trident SSBN (Ship Submersible Ballistic Nuclear) has 16 missile tubes. Each missile can carry eight warheads, and each 100 kiloton warhead is eight times the size of the Hiroshima bomb. A Trident submarine is on patrol 24 hours a day, every day of the year, on reduced alert but able to fire missiles within days.

On June 24, 2000, Bonnie Urfer and Michael Sprong used hand-held Swede saws to cut down three poles supporting transmission lines for a controversial U.S. submarine communication system located near Clam Lake Wisconsin. After performing their “act of nonviolent direct disarmament and crime prevention,” the two waited over an hour for the arrival of Ashland County Sheriff’s Deputies who took them into custody. This was the fifth time since 1984 that the transmitter – known as Project ELF (Extremely Low Frequency) – was shut down by activists who simply walked up to poles supporting the 28-mile-long transmitter antennae and cut them down with hand saws.
On Sept. 4, 2002, Eoin Dubsky and Tim Hourigan of Refueling Peace were arrested at Shannon Airport for “Defacing an Aircraft.” Mr Dubsky took a can of flourescent orange paint to a USAF Hercules plane, and afterwards, wishing to be accountable, he phoned airport police himself to inform them of his actions.

On October 6, 2002, the Sisters Jackie Hudson, Ardeth Platte and Carol Gilbert broke into a Minuteman III nuclear missile silo.They pounded on on the silo with hammers and smeared it with their own blood. The nuns said they were compelled to act as war with Iraq moved closer and because the United States had never promised not to use nuclear weapons.

On March 10th, 2003, anti-war activists breached the security at RAF Leuchars in Fife twice in twenty-four hours. The so-called “Citizens’ Inspections” were made all the more embarrassing for military chiefs by the fact that one of the activists is a wheelchair user. At 4.30am wheelchair user Roz Bullen (32) and Swedish national Petter Joelson (22), both members of anti-nuclear group Trident Ploughshares, entered via holes they had cut in the boundary fence at the base. They were able to paint the slogans “A flower in your gun” and “Peace and Responsibility” in blood red paint on part of a hangar and military vehicles.

On March 12th, 2003, Trident Ploughshare activist Ulla Roder destroyed a Tornado jet at Leuchars airbase. She went into a hangar at the Fife airbase and discovered the plane completely unguarded. She said: “I took my hammer to the nose-cone, the cockpit, the fuselage, the wings, the tailplane and other parts of the plane which were safe to damage. I don’t see it flying again. I then sat down and waited for the security people to arrive. I am pleased that this particular aircraft will not be dropping bombs on innocent people in Iraq.”

On May 25, 2003, Mark Colville, Sister Susan Clarkson, Joan Gregory, and Brian Buckley went aboard for a tour of the USS Philippine Sea during the 16th Annual Fleet Week in New York City. The USS Philippine Sea was the first warship to attack Afghanistan after Sept 11. Once on the ship, they poured their blood and hammered on the missile hatches that hold Tomahawk Cruise Missiles. They held up pictures of Iraqi children who had been injured and maimed by US weapons.

On January 29 2003, Mary Kelly caused extensive damage to a US Navy C 40 Boeing 737 aircraft at Shannon Airport by smashing it with a hatchet-type hammer. She caused more than 500,000 euros worth of damage to the nose cone, the nose wheel, the hydraulics and electrics of the plane.

A week later, at the same airport on Feb 4th, 2003 Ciarron O’Reilly smashed the same plane which was being repaired after Mary Kellys disarmament action the previous week. They spraypainted the hangar with ” PITSTOP FOR DEATH” and ” THE WAR STOPS HERE ! PHIL BERRIGAN R.I.P.” and constructed a shrine with photos of Iraqi children. Human blood was poured on the runway and a mattock was used to begin to take the runway up. Mr. O’Reilly said “that it was an emphasis on taking responsibility to help others”. He said that after 5-6 minutes of beating on the aircraft, the group knew it would definitely have to be grounded.

INGMAR LEE can be reached at