People working together for peace, justice and the restoration of the community of life.
Reflections on our Trial
for Protesting at Vandenberg AFB
On January 3, we stood facing the judge, the six of us, arm in arm, supporting and being supported by each other’s deep tenderness and strength, upheld by the thoughts and prayers of well-wishers and by a sense of solidarity with others who had taken stands of conscience. We had just been found guilty of trespassing onto Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The “guilty” verdict was no surprise, and since we were not willing to pay a fine, we were ready to go to jail. Before sentencing, however, the judge allowed us the customary opportunity to make our statements to the court. Each of us gave our statements, speaking from the heart about our motivation, knowledge, and convictions.
Our trial was the culmination of many court appearances following an action of civil disobedience at Vandenberg Air Force Base eight months before. We had crossed a temporary demarcation line last May 19 with 21 other people as a public witness against the “Star Wars” Missile Defense System being tested there.
We crossed the line at Vandenberg in order to urge our government to uphold international treaty law, which according to the US Constitution, is the highest law of the land. The Missile Defense System violates the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the foundational treaty of the nuclear age.
There are other problems with the Missile Defense System. It is provocative and dangerous, threatening all life on earth. It will fuel another nuclear arms race, making us less secure and bringing us closer to nuclear annihilation. Russia refuses to renegotiate the ABM Treaty. China has stated that it will add more Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles to counter what it perceives as a threat from the US.
The Missile Defense System itself will be ineffective in protecting us. Many scientists have stated that it could be easily overwhelmed by decoys. Most of the tests to date have failed, in spite of military planners knowing the exact location of the test missiles. Furthermore, such a system cannot protect us from attacks by terrorists, which are far more likely than an attack by a “rogue nation” using long range missiles whose place of origin can be easily identified.
The Missile Defense system is expensive and idolatrous. The government’s plans to spend $120 billion on this system robs the poor and working people of money that could be used to better human lives. It is a golden calf, an idol, something to worship that human beings have created. It is a way of placing our security in high-tech weapons systems rather than in the gracious love of God.
Efforts to build a Missile Defense System are deceptive. The government presents it simply as a defensive system in order to gain public support, but it is actually part of a larger plan to dominate the world from outer space. The overall plan is outlined in Space Command’s document Vision for 2020. This “vision” includes a missile defense system, satellites for surveillance and for directing wars on the ground, and high-tech space weapons, including lasers. Check it out on the Internet at Space Command’s website: http://www.spacecom.af.mil/usspace/LRP/cover.htm.
Our statements were varied and powerful. The court was hushed as we spoke. Russ Jorgenson, an 83-year old Quaker, spoke of the Nuremburg Principles and of our responsibility not to cooperate with evil done by our government. Young Blanca spoke from the heart: “I’m tired of all the killing,” she said. Steve and John gave their statements. Guarionex read a poem he had written for the occasion. In my statement, I spoke of our five children and seven grandchildren, about how I want them to grow up in a world where there is hope.
Now we stood waiting for our sentence to be imposed. We faced up to five years probation and up to six months in jail.
Standing in that courtroom, arm in arm there before the judge, the power we experienced there together went beyond the personal—it was as if all the desires of humanity for peace and justice were lifting us up, as if the yearning of the earth and all its creatures for life and hope were being expressed through us, as if all the powers of good at the heart of the universe were right there with us. It was an amazing sense of solidarity and power, and we knew that no matter what sentence was imposed, our cause would be affirmed.
But as the judge began to render his verdict, it was amazing to hear him acknowledge that he was impacted by the hundreds of letters he had received in our support, and to say that he was impressed by our character. In the end, he sentenced us to unsupervised probation that will end as soon as we finish just 16 hours of community service.
I’m grateful—grateful to all who supported us, grateful to our lawyers, grateful to God. And I’m grateful that there is still time—time for us to speak truth to power, time to stand up for peace and justice, time to become the change we want to see.