Volume , Number 0
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Ustan b. Reinart
Law & Order
John M. Laforge
Press The Press
Dru Oja jay
Lee Siu hin
Z Papers on Vision
An interview with Betsy Leondar-Wright
Gay & Lesbian Community Notes
Herbert P. Bix
European Union News
Eleanor J. Bader
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Opponents Prevail Over Dirty Bombs
the span of five days, separate juries found two groups of anti-
war activists “not-guilty” of trespass last December.
Such verdicts are extremely rare, but four different juries have
now sided with peace activists who refused to leave the premises
of the biggest arms merchant in Minnesota—Alliant Techsystems,
Inc. (ATK)—before getting an appointment. After refusing to
talk with them last July, the company’s managers had them arrested.
Along with an identical acquittal in October 2003, and a similar
one in 1997, the politically-charged trials—all conducted by
different judges in Hennepin County District courts—have vindicated
a total of 106 people. The 1997 group—79 protesters in all—won
a “not guilty” verdict after showing that the outlaw status
of land mines excused what otherwise appeared to be trespassing.
This past January and May, three other groups of alleged trespassers had their charges dropped just prior to trial. Another group of 34 civil resisters arrested March 14 had charges dismissed on a technicality—a hastily-enacted Edina city ordinance had not been officially published, i.e., enacted, before it was charged against the protesters.
Alliant Tech, a $2.4 billion weapons giant headquartered in the Minneapolis suburb of Edina, is one of the nation’s foremost producers of “depleted” uranium munitions (DU). The armor-piercing shells are made of radioactive waste uranium-238 left over after uranium-235 has been removed for use in reactor fuel and H-bombs. The misnomer “depleted” is a soothing Pentagon distraction, since DU is “depleted” only of uranium-235. The shells are solid radioactive waste and turn into chemically toxic and carcinogenic dust when they smash and burn through hard targets.
Three of the defendants in the December 14 acquittal had visited Iraq and seen firsthand the consequences of using nuclear waste as a weapon of war. Jane Hosking, John Heid, and Mike Miles—all of Anathoth Community Farm, an intentional anti-war community near Luck, Wisconsin, testified as witnesses to the documented increases in cancer and leukemia in southern Iraq since the U.S.’s 1991 bombardment.
Hundreds of tons of the waste uranium shells have been used by the U.S. against Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Kosovo. The U.S. military fired at least 340 tons of DU into Iraq in 1991 and from 176 to 200 tons during its March 2003 bombardment; five tons into Bosnia in 1994-1995; and between 10 and 12 tons into Kosovo in 1999. Estimates of how much was used in the 2001 bombardment of Afghanistan vary widely, but the Uranium Medical Research Center (www.umrc. org) claims 2,000 tons. In November 2004, Iraq’s U.S.-picked provisional government had the nerve to ask the UN for help in cleaning up the uranium dust spread across the country by U.S. and British forces during the 1991 and 2003 attacks. The UN declined, saying the U.S. had not provided it with maps of where its DU was used.
The use of DU created a European uproar in January 2001 when pollution left from the bombing of Kosovo was found to contain plutonium and other highly radioactive fission products created inside reactors. The Pentagon’s Kenneth Bacon had to acknowledge that, “We discovered some stray elements...in depleted uranium. They consisted of plutonium, neptunium and americium.” Since then, Italy, Germany, Norway, Greece, and other NATO allies have called for a moratorium on the use of DU, hundreds of protests have taken place across Europe, and numerous civil resistance arrests have taken place at ATK and other DU manufacturers in the U.S.
The Pentagon calls its DU shells “tank busters.” In fact, they don’t always work as such because the angle of impact must be within a small range to avoid ricochets or duds. When they do make a hit, uranium shells are more properly called “gene busters,” because the pulverized uranium-238 can be inhaled or ingested. Inside human bodies, DU attacks the gene pool, bombarding surrounding tissues and damaging chromosomes in successive generations—for eons. Uranium-238 is a heavy metal toxin, like lead or mercury, with a radioactive half-life of 4.5 billion years.
About 700,000 tons of DU were produced at government-owned uranium enrichment plants in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Paducah, Kentucky; and Portsmouth, Ohio. The government gives this waste uranium metal free to weapons merchants. They then turn around and sell the shells to the government. Even the small caliber (30mm) shells bring $21.50 a piece, according to the Wall Street Journal, quoting the Air Force. The Air Force’s A-10 Thunderbolt—sometimes called the “Warthog”—fires 30mm DU shells at a rate of 3,600 shells per minute (or 60 rounds per second). The war profiteering is almost mind boggling. (ATK is also the country’s top bullet maker. The company announced last April that its Lake City, Missouri plant had produced 1.2 billion bullets for the U.S. Army in a period of 12 months. Over the next 12 it plans to make another 1.5 billion bullets.)
According to its own promotional materials, ATK has made over 18 million DU shells—16 million 30mm and 2 million 120mm “anti-tank” rounds. The uranium “penetrators,” as the company calls them, are “pyrophoric”—they burn through tank armor and self- sharpen as they punch through. (Tungsten also works to smash through tank armor, but its importation is expensive.)
T he six-person jury in the case— and in similar trials December 10, 2004, and October 18, 2003—decided that the defendants’ argument was reasonable even if technically “mistaken.” As the judge told the jury, “If defendants acted in good faith under claim of right, even if reasonably mistaken as to this right, you must find the defendants not guilty.”
ATK’s uranium munitions can’t be squared with the Geneva Conventions, which require protection of civilians and which forbid long-term environmental destruction; and DU also violates the 1907 Hague Regulations’ prohibition of poisoned weapons.
Because of the uranium pollution found in Bosnia and Kosovo, governments and NGOs around the world have pressed for independent studies of DU’s effects and have recommended a halt to its use until its dangers are better understood. International efforts to rid the world of uranium weapons appear the strongest in Europe. The legal victories in Minnesota will put the U.S. anti-DU movement on the map with other international campaigns.
The October 2003 trial ended in acquittal just as an international uranium weapons conference in Hamburg, Germany (www.uraniumweaponsconference.de) was wrapping up its work. Two-hundred delegates from 23 countries resolved that the U.S. and the UK must: (1) provide medical treatment and compensation to DU-contaminated troops and civilians; (2) clean-up and decontaminate DU- targeted areas in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq; and (3) join in efforts to prohibit the manufacture, sale, stockpiling, or use of DU.
The UN Environment Program has recommended, “Continued monitoring is clearly needed and the local [Kosovo] population should be informed about DU issues.” The UN Sub-Commission On Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities has resolved that “states...need to curb the production and spread of weapons of mass destruction and indiscriminate effect, in particular... weaponry containing depleted uranium....”
The European Parliament, in its “resolution on the consequences of using depleted uranium munitions,” called upon member states that are also in NATO “to propose that a moratorium be placed on the use of depleted uranium weapons....” The resolution also called for “measures to provide assistance to civilian victims and to protect the environment” in Bosnia and Kosovo.
In Minneapolis, activists explained to the jury that after World War II the laws of war changed in two ways. First, prior to the Holocaust, acts of mass destruction were outlawed, but prosecutions were possible only after-the-fact. At Nuremberg, German judges, military officers, and private industrialists were tried and the “planning and preparation” of illegal warfare was criminalized. Nuremberg’s purpose in punishing “inchoate crimes” or crimes-in-the-making— by outlawing production of weapons that can’t be used legally—was to insure that ordinary citizens can act to prevent wartime atrocities.
Second, the Nuremberg Tribunal held individuals responsible for their actions even if they were fulfilling government contracts or just “following orders.” The prosecution, led by a U.S. Supreme Court justice, demanded then that if mass destruction is made legal by the state, then the state must be disobeyed.
The Nuremberg Tribunal declared, “International law, as such, binds every citizen, just as does ordinary municipal law. The fact that a person acts pursuant to his government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law provided a moral choice was in fact available.”
The cumulative effect of Nurem- berg, the Geneva Conventions, and the Hague Regulations is that citizens are rightfully allowed to interfere with the government’s criminal acts. In Minnesota law, juries don’t have to agree with this analysis. They only have to find that it is legally reasonable.
As we explained in our closing argument at trial, “In a nutshell, the law says: It is forbidden to use poison or poisoned weapons; to use weapons that do severe, long-term damage to the environment; to use weapons that cannot distinguish between civilians and soldiers, or to use materials or devices that are similar to gas; the planning or preparation of wars that would violate binding treaties is itself a crime; individuals are personally responsible for their participation in these crimes—which is to say that we must all avoid such participation; finally, binding treaties and agreements are officially elevated to the position of ‘the Supreme Law of the Land’ by the Constitu- tion of the United States.”
To date, four juries have recognized the citizen’s right to nonviolent obstinacy in the face of official wrongdoing. In the case of refusing to leave ATK’s “dirty bomb” headquarters until we were granted a meeting, we attempted an act of crime prevention.
Not only did we win our case, but government prosecutors can now consider bringing charges against the real criminals.
John M. LaForge lives at the Anathoth Community Farm where he works on the staff of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental action group based in Wisconsin ( email@example.com) .
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.