An opinion worth noting as more peace activists face sentencing
By John LaForge
Federal District Judge Miles Lord, who died December 10, 2016 at age 97, could have given me 10 years once. Instead, the famously outspoken judge, who was well known for protecting ordinary people from corporate crime and pollution, used the anti-nuclear case a group of us argued before him to deliver a remarkably scornful condemnation of nuclear weapons and of the corruption that protects them.
On August 10, 1984, Barb Katt and I did more than $36,000 damage to launch-control computers being built for Trident missile-firing submarines by Sperry Univac (now Unysis) in Eagan, Minnesota. It was the 9th in a series of 100 so-called Plowshares actions, one we’d planned for two years.
After walking into the Sperry plant dressed in business suits, we used household hammers to smash two of the company’s missile-guidance computers then under construction.
We were charged with felony “depredation” and were convicted by a jury after a three-day trial. Facing a maximum of 10 years in prison at a November 8 sentencing, Barb and I urged Judge Lord to boldly denounce US nuclear war preparations that were then common knowledge. Judge Lord then did exactly that.
With the federal government today proceeding with a 1-trillion-dollar nuclear weapons modernization program, much like the one Ronald Reagan was overseeing in 1984, Judge Lord’s stunning critique of criminal corporate militarism is as relevant as ever. These are the judge’s sentencing remarks from the bench, as reported in the official transcript:
“It is the allegation of these young people that they committed the acts here complained of as a desperate plea to the American people and its government to stop the military madness which they sincerely believe will destroy us all, friend and enemy alike.
“They have made a plausible argument that international law prohibits what our country is doing by way of manufacturing weapons of mass destruction.
“As I ponder over the punishment to be meted out to these two people who were attempting to unbuild weapons of mass destruction, we must ask ourselves: Can it be that those of us who build weapons to kill are engaged in a more sanctified endeavor than those who would by their acts attempt to counsel moderation and mediation as an alternative method of settling international disputes?
“What is so sacred about a bomb, so romantic about a missile?”
“Why are we so fascinated by a power so great that we cannot comprehend its magnitude? What is so sacred about a bomb, so romantic about a missile? Why do we condemn and hang individual killers while extolling the virtues of warmongers? What is that fatal fascination which attracts us to the thought of mass destruction of our brethren in another country? Why can we even entertain the thought that all people on one side of an imaginary line must die and, if we be so ungodly cynical as to countenance that thought, have we given thought to the fact that in executing that decree we will also die? Who draws these lines and who has so decreed?
“How many of the people in this democracy have seriously contemplated the futility of committing national suicide in order to punish our adversaries? Have we so little faith in our system of free enterprise, our capitalism and the fundamental concepts that are taught us in our constitutions and in our several bibles that we must, in order to protect ourselves from the spread of foreign ideologies, be prepared to die at our own hands? Such thinking indicates a great deal of lack of faith in our democracy, our body politic, our people and our institutions.
“There are those in high places that believe Armageddon is soon to be upon us, that Christ will soon come to earth and take us all back with him to heaven. It would appear that much of our national effort is being devoted to helping with the process. It may even be a celebration of sorts. When the bombs go off, Christ won’t have to come to earth. We will all, believers and nonbelievers alike, meet him halfway.
(“I believe that the poor are blessed and that we have a duty to help them,” said Judge Miles Lord in a short 2017 video about him, shown below.)
Read more and watch video.