Water Man Spouts

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Liberty of Conscience

{1} "Every man, not least the conscientious objector, has an interest in the security of the nation. Dissent is possible only in a society strong enough to repel attack. The conscientious will to resist springs from moral principles. It is likely to seek a new order in the same society, not anarchy or submission to a hostile power. Thus conscience rarely wholly disassociates itself from the defense of the ordered society within which it functions and which it seeks to reform, not to reduce to rubble.

"In parallel fashion, every man shares and society as a whole shares an interest in the conscientious objector, religious or not. The freedom of all depends on the freedom of each. Free men exist only in free societies. Society's own stability and growth, its physical and spiritual prosperity are responsive to the liberties of its citizens, to their deepest insights -- to their free choices --'That which opposes, also fits.' .....

"When the state through itits laws seeks to override reasonable moral commitments it makes a dangerously uncharacteristic choice. The law grows from the deposits of morality. Law and morality are, in turn, debtors and creditors of each other. The law cannot be adequately enforced by the courts alone, or the courts supported merely by the police and military. The true secret of legal might lies in the habits of conscientious men disciplining themselves to obey the law they respect without the necessity of judicial and administrative orders. When the law treats a reasonable, conscientious act as a crime it subverts its own power. It invites civil disobedience. It impairs the very habits which nourish and preserve the law."
-- Chief Judge Charles Wyzanski, Jr; U.S. Federal District Court of Massachusetts; decision exempting atheist John Sisson, Jr from draft on C.O. grounds; April 1, 1969

My oldest son offered to drive me to Binghamton, NY yesterday, so that I could attend the rally in support of the St. Patrick's Four. These are the Catholic Workers on trial for an act of civil disobedience two days before the Bush administration invaded Iraq. One of his friends from grade school, who he shared a tent with every year at scout camp, had been killed in Iraq. And so I realized that it was a rally that he was interested in, too.

The four, Daniel Burns, Clare Grady, Peter DeMott, and Teresa Grady, are from Ithaca. They are parents with strong ties to their families and community. Their religious faith helped them to understand the invasion of Iraq was simply wrong, long before most citizens of the United States would come to the same conclusion. So they went to a local military recruiter's office, said some prayers, spilled some blood, and were arrested.

They went to trial in the Tompkins County Courthouse, charged with criminal mischief, a felony. Their defense was based upon the Nuremberg Principles. These principles resulted from the Nuremberg Trials, which occured after WW2, in which the USA and three other nations laid out the international law to prevent genocide and holocausts.

Nuremberg recognizes three types of crimes: (1) Crimes against peace, which is planning and waging aggressive war; (2) War crimes, or the mistreatment or murder of prisoners or innocent civilians; and (3) Crimes against humanity, or the enslavement or extermination of a civilian population either before, during, or after a war.

The St. Patrick's Four based their defense on the "crimes against peace" aspect, which holds each person responsible for what actions they take or fail to take when their government is planning an illegal, aggressive war. They told the jury about the rich history of civil disobedience in the United States. Nine of twelve jurors voted to acquit, and the judge declared a mistrial in April, 2004.

{2} "The obscene haste with which a large part of the American people rushed to the support of a man convicted of multiple premeditated murder of men, women, and children, the obscene pride with which they even identified themselves with him is one of those rare historical events which reveal a hidden truth.

"Behind the television faces of the leaders, behind the tolerant politeness of the debates, behind the radiant happiness of the commercials appear the real people: men and women madly in love with death, violence and destruction. ...

"Has the lieutenant taken our sins upon himself; will he redeem our sins? What sins? Could it be the wish to kill, kill without being punished? Has the lieutenant become the national model for a new superego, less exacting than the traditional one, which still preserved a trace of thou shalt not kill?

"The old superego still stuck to the memory of this prohibition even in war. The new superego is up-to-date. It says: you can kill. No -- you can waste and destrooy. Calley never used the word 'kill.' He told a psychiatrist that the military avoided the word 'kill' because it 'caused a very negative emotional reaction' among the men who had been taught the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill.' Instead, Lieutenant Calley employed the word'destroy' or the phrase 'waste 'em.' A pardon for Calley, who did not kill but only destroyed and wasted 'em would, according to some, be a 'constructive step to restore the morale of our armed forces and the public at large.'"
-- Herbert Marcuse, philosopher; New York Times; May, 1970

For a period of time, the Bush administration enjoyed widespread popular support for their war in Iraq. This support was the result of a sophisticated "perception management" campaign. The administration told repeated lies, which went unchallenged by the corporate news media. They convinced more than half the adult population that Iraq was behind the terrorist attacks on 9-11; that Saddam had extensive WMD programs; and that the USA was at risk of a biological, chemical, and/or nuclear attack. "We can't wait for a mushroom cloud!," the administration told the public over and over.

Years ago, C.G. Jung spoke of this type of appeal to the mass unconscious: "...what the unconscious really contains are the great collective events of the time. In thecollective unconscious of the individual, history prepares itself; and when the archetypes are activated in a number of individuals and come to the surface, we are in the midst of history, as we are at present. The archetypal image which the moment requires gets into life, and everybody is seized by it. That is what we see today. I saw it coming, I said in 1918 that the 'blond beast' is stirring in its sleep and that something will happen in Germany'." (C.G. Jung; Analytical Psychology; Vintage Press; 1968; page 183)

The St. Patrick's Four was, much in the manner of Jung, aware of a beast arising in the collective unconscious of America. Much like Jung in 1918, very few believed their message. They knew, for example, that the military machine was using young men, and preparing them for a sanitized attack -- not unlike Calley's -- in which "enemies" were destroyed and wasted.

And so their act of civil disobedience was a reminder: Thou shalt not kill.

At the time, it was not hear by many of the unconscious people in America, who were frightened by mushroom clouds. But as the war wore on, and no WMDs were found, and President Bush's claims were exposed as lies, the war became less popular. In the effort of "manage public perception," any opposition to the war was viciously attacked. Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" became more popular as it was attacked; his book "Will They Ever Trust Us Again? letters from the war zone" shows the movie became a favorite of American soldiers in Iraq. A woman named Cindy Sheehan caught the attention of America when she questioned what "noble cause" her son had died for; an attempt to paint her as "anti-American" has largely failed.

It was in this context that the Bush administration pressured the Department of Justice to prosecute the St. Patrick's Four on federal charges of "conspiracy." This is the Patriot Act in practice, keeping America safe from Catholic Workers who pray for soldiers and remind politicians that Thou Shalt Not Kill.

{3} "Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and avenger." -- Psalm 8:2

There are thousands of examples of the evil being committed in Iraq by the Bush administration. Over 1900 were Americans. Despite the Geneva Convention agreements, the US military is not keeping track of Iraqi civilian deaths. For the sake of this essay, I will attempt to focus on only one segment.

The people organizing the demonstrations of support for the St. Patrick's Four have extensive information about the suffering and death of babies and infants in Iraq. Most Americans have heard that in the years between the first Gulf War and the second, over 500,000 Iraqi children died as a result of our "containment" of Saddam. It is hard for any of us to picture a half a million children. But the organizers have photos and film that show how Iraqi children have been damaged by things such as depleted uranium. I can say that any juror who sees one of these photos will never convict the St. Patrick's Four.

We know that Jesus said that those who harm little children would be better off having a heavy weight ties around their neck, and being dropped in deep water. The harsh teachings of Jesus are always aimed at the self-righteous, such as politicians who pretend to be religious men and women, but who are guilty of war crimes, of crimes against peace, and crimes against humanity.

Isaiah said, "I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them," (Isaiah 3:4). I believe that if the American public were more fully aware of what the St. Patrick's Four and other anti-war protesters were able to show them is happening to Iraqi children, the support for this war would stop. No one could take George Bush seriously when he attributes the violence in Iraq to "terrorists" who hate us for our freedoms.

{4} "Gaze deeply into my pupils as I spin this glittering antenna in my hand. Round and round it goes. It is one of Secretary Rusk's antennas that he used in the old days to detect signals from Hanoi. ... Do not fight me now. Lie back and breathe deeply. ....

"You are going to sleep, and you are going to clear your mind of all thoughts of falling dominoes. ... Sleep. Sleep. Sleep, until ditches filled with bodies may lose their existence, and the dread of becoming a helpless giant can never again haunt your sun-filled afternoons. In sleep, forget.

"See my antenna spin. See how it glitters in the light, even through the deepest darkness of unutterably restful sleep, with he bone-eating brightness of liquid fire in the night. Sleep warm in its brighness. When you awake you shall think of sports or flowers, or of bills and of nice fun things to do after work."
-- Russell Baker; Sleep; New York Times; March 6, 1971

The Bush administration is hoping to manage the public's perception of the St. Patrick's Four in several ways. First, the corporate media is paying their trial very little attention, considering that it is the first federal trial of anti-war protestors.

Second, the Bush Department of Justice has petitioned the federal court judge to keep the four from being able to present their defense based upon the Nuremberg Principles. They are aware that this defense worked with the jury in county court, and do not want it to be included in the conspiracy trial.

Third, because they are aware that many people on the democratic left are concerned about abortion clinic bombers, the administration has begun to have their people -- including many disguised as democrats -- say that it would be "dangerous" to let the St. Patrick's Four present their defense, because then clinic bombers and the murderers of doctors could "get off" with the same defense. They also compare the four to the Ku Klux Klan members who were found "not guilty" of lynching blacks in the deep south, only to be prosecuted by a noble Department of Justice.

What's sad is that the appeals to these unconscious "buttons" works in many cases. I have had people on the Democratic Underground forum be fooled -- if only temporarily -- by the liars who pretend there is no difference between someone who is engaged in civil disobedience and a mad bomber or mass murderer.

I discussed this with a veteran who served in Korea, as I left the rally in Binghamton. He was clear that he was opposed to the St. Patrick's Four's activity at the recruiters. He believed they should have been convicted in the county court, and sentenced to community service. When I asked him if he believed the four were being allowed to present a defense, he said, "Hell no." And he recognized that there is no threat to the justice system by allowing them to speak of Nuremberg.

{5} "I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a 'thing-oriented' society to a 'person-oriented' society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and mlitarism are incapable of being conquered."
-- Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr; "A Time to Break Silence (Beyond Vietnam)"; April 4, 1967

I stood outside the federal courthouse in Binghamton, talking with two old friends. One is a Lakota Indian woman, a spiritual being who prays daily for peace. The other is a retired administrator of community-based programs for the disadvantaged; he is a socialist who traveled to Cuba frequently in all the years I have known him. As I listened to them talk, each from their own distinct point of view, I mentioned the above quote from King, because in the truest sense, it summed up what both were saying.

More, it is what the St. Patrick's Four are telling us.

"Somehow this madness must cease, " King told us a year before he was killed for delivering this message. "We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother of the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours."

To learn more about the case of the St. Patrick's Four, see:


and read the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin at: pressconnects.com


At November 7, 2005 at 9:28 AM, Blogger TheDevilIsInTheDetails said...

And on a lighter note than pure scope trial , check out the funniest trial transcript ever! If it's not serious enough of a topic, well, just pretend it's the Brit's version of scope trial !

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