FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Our Bonhoeffer Moment

The Bonhoeffer Moment of nonviolent civil resistance and disobedience to the world war being waged by the United States is clearly at hand. As Congress considers an additional $190 billion to fund the Iraq–Afghanistan war through September 2008 and as the threats of war against Iran become increasingly loud, it is time for us to learn lessons from the German resistance to Hitler, to the Nazi regime and to the war waged by the German nation-state. We must engage in the Long Resistance to this current world war, using every nonviolent means to bring about its end.

I was set to be tried on October 2 for an act of nonviolent civil resistance at the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command. The judge dismissed the charge the day of the trial. Following is the closing statement I prepared for the jury trial in Waukegan, Illinois.

Our Bonhoeffer Moment:

In 1942, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran theologian engaged in resistance work to bring about an end to the Nazi regime, penned the following lines in his letter “After Ten Years”. He was in prison and under investigation when he wrote:

“We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds; we have been drenched by many storms; we have learnt the arts of equivocation and pretence; experience has made us suspicious of others and kept us from being truthful and open; intolerable conflicts have worn us down and even made us cynical. Are we still of any use? What we shall need is not geniuses, or cynics, or misanthropes, or clever tacticians, but plain, honest, straightforward men. Will our inward power of resistance be strong enough, and our honesty with ourselves remorseless enough, for us to find our way back to simplicity and straightforwardness?”

Silence.

Silence is golden.

Silence is Death.

Silence in the face of our country waging a world war is complicity in the war; is complicity in the deaths of thousands of U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens; is complicity in a crime against humanity.

I chose to break the silence at the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command (MEPCOM) on July 5, 2006. I choose to break the silence today.

I chose to act at MEPCOM last July for a number of reasons. MEPCOM is the command headquarters for the system of Military Entrance Processing Stations. Each person entering the military takes their oath of enlistment at one of these stations. MEPCOM, as the command headquarters of this system, is the focal point of injustice being done to those who serve in our country’s military.

I acted to oppose the injustice of stop-move orders which force service members to extend their tour of duty beyond its scheduled end date.

I acted to oppose the injustice of stop-loss orders which force service members to remain in the military beyond the agreed upon end of enlistment date.

I acted to demand that our country provide the highest quality health care for veterans and their families, as well as for all who live within the U.S.

I acted in solidarity with those members of the military who have chosen to risk prison for refusing to comply with orders to deploy to Iraq to fight in an unjust war.

I acted to demand that our country immediately withdraw from Iraq and recommit itself to rebuilding the Common Good in Iraq and in the United States-funding hospitals, health care clinics, schools, jobs programs and the like rather than funding war, death and destruction.

I acted to engage in a conspiracy of Life with Iraqi citizens suffering over these past 16 years of economic and military warfare and to act in a conspiracy of Life with U.S. soldiers, citizens and others who are engaged in nonviolent action to end the U.S. war in and occupation of Iraq.

Does this form of civilly disobedient action accomplish anything? I don’t know. I believe it does, but I simply don’t know within the context of a world war-the first world war begun by a democracy. For guidance, I look to those German citizens who engaged in resistance work to bring an end to the Nazi regime and to end the world war.

In 1943, German students formed the group the White Rose which advocated for the overthrow of the Nazi regime and for an end to the war. Their simple, yet profound, act was to distribute flyers advancing their positions calling for resistance to Hitler and his regime. Once discovered and arrested, they were executed by the German state. Yet 50 years later, everyone in Germany would come to know of Hans and Sophie Scholl and their comrades in the struggle to end the war and the regime.

In 1945, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and many others were also executed by the German state for engaging in resistance activities to overthrow Hitler. Bonhoeffer, in 1939, had the option of remaining in the U.S. where he would have been able to ride out the war in the safety of academia. Instead he chose to return to Germany to participate in resistance work. Writing as a Christian theologian about his country in which the Church was a willing accomplice in crimes against humanity, Bonhoeffer stated his reason for returning:

“Christians in Germany will face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization may survive, or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying our civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose; but I cannot make this choice in security.”

Bonhoeffer knew what choice he had to make, he made it, and he paid the price for it.

Let this be our Bonhoeffer Moment of resistance to our country’s world war in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere that the guns are being aimed.

The examples of Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl and Dietrich Bonhoeffer echo down through the years. In 1983, German judges and prosecutors recalled the example set by the German resistance efforts to Hitler and the Nazi regime and crimes against humanity and determined that it was their obligation to act to prevent nuclear genocide from occurring. German judges and prosecutors actively blockaded the U.S. military bases to which Pershing nuclear cruise missiles were being deployed. They acted to uphold international law even though that meant violating national law.

So does an act of entering the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command do any good? I don’t know. I do know that my action did not stand alone on that day. I do know that others are engaged in active nonviolent civil disobedience to end the Iraq war. Since February 5 of this year, over 700 people have been arrested across the U.S. in actions to end the Iraq war-with many more arrests to come.

I ask you today to join with us in this conspiracy of Life. You have the opportunity today to find me guilty or not guilty. If you believe that the war in Iraq is proper and just, you should find me guilty-regardless of what the law says. If you believe the war in Iraq must be brought to an end today, you should find me not guilty-regardless of what the law says.

The choice is clear and stark. Life or Death. Not guilty or guilty. The future of the war is in your hands today. I urge you to follow your conscience-regardless of the law.

JEFF LEYS is Co-Coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence and a national organizer with Seasons of Discontent: A Presidential Occupation Project as well as the Occupation Project. He can be reached at: jeffleys@vcnv.org

 

More articles by:

JEFF LEYS is Co-Coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. He can be reach via email, jeffleys@vcnv.org

January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail