Early in the morning on October 6, 2002, three
figures clad in white toxic clean-up “bunny” suits entered
a nuclear missile silo in northern Colorado. Their mission was to inspect,
and disarm weapons of mass destruction in accordance with international
treaties signed and ratified into U.S. law.
The front of their suits read “CWIT” (for Citizen Weapons
Inspection Team), with “Disarmament Specialist” written
on the back. They were not military personnel; they were Catholic nuns.
Sisters Jackie Hudson, 68, Ardeth Platte, 66, and Carol Gilbert, 55,
symbolically disarmed a Minuteman III nuclear missile. They tapped hammers
on the tracks that allow the missiles to be fired and poured their own
blood to form crosses on the tracks. They read a liturgy and sang hymns
until their inevitable arrest.
Ten months later, the three nuns were convicted in federal court for
sabotage, each sentenced to more than two years in prison: Jackie received
31 months, Carol 33 and Ardeth 41. The following are excerpts from their
statements upon sentencing on July 25, 2003. —C.C.
Sister Jackie Hudson
Well, today is the day. It holds many unknowns regarding the judgments
and decisions of Judge Blackburn. Yet it holds many knowns...
• The continued presence of nuclear weapons—latest figures
list the U.S. ownership at 10,455;
• A President in office who has stated publicly that he would
use these weapons—in violation of multiple treaties, charters,
conventions and protocols;
• A national budget that would allow these weapons of mass extermination
to be multiplied and present ones upgraded;
• Millions of people worldwide who do not have sufficient food,
shelter, education and healthcare, who lead lives of [bare subsistence];
• U.S. cities legislating against the homeless;
• One in every 32 adults is imprisoned, on parole or probation
in this country—basically a warehousing of its poor;
• We three are threatened with raising the numbers of incarcerated
today—for six, seven, and eight years.
We went to the silo site because of a burden of knowledge. We have studied
the various treaties declaring the threat to use, or the use of, nuclear
weapons as illegal. I refer today to the Nuremberg Principles and the
Tokyo Tribunal, which our government was principally responsible for
writing after WWII. They declare that:
Individuals have international duties which transcend the national
obligations of obedience… Therefore [individual citizens] have the duty to
violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from
occurring.—Nuremberg War Crime Tribunal, 1950
We brought evidence to prove that our actions were legal. Two eminent
international law Professors testified on the stand at our motions hearing
that what we did was legal, and that we should be released from our
We will enter the courtroom silently repeating our mantra: “O
God teach us how to be peace makers in a hostile world.”
We are living in a period of history which will see a ban on war forever…
What gives me such hope? Earth’s inhabitants have come to realize
the barbarity of war as it is waged today. Millions in the streets
this loudly and strongly prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq [in nonviolent
protests on February 15 last year]. Leadership will have to begin to
listen...and as the quote says... at some point governments will get
out of the way and let the people have peace, a just economic system
and an equally just judicial system.
The hope of the world rests on each of our shoulders… I promise
to do my share… How about you?
Sister Ardeth Platte
Sisters Carol, Jackie and I believe that we had a responsibility to
expose this weapon of mass destruction, to avert a crime of our government,
and to uphold the laws of the United States, not break them. Don’t
people claim today that the citizens of Germany should have blocked
the trains carrying people to the crematoriums, dismantled the ovens,
or done something to stop the mass murder of people by Hitler? How
future generations judge all of us?
I find the charges…bogus. Ours was a simple, measured, nonviolent,
symbolic action wherein the liturgical rituals were crystal clear.
The jury did not recognize the ongoing changes in the wording of the
charges throughout the trial—from an indictment under sabotage
by a grand jury, citing a specific intent to obstruct the national defense,
then use of vandalism and trespass, and finally use of destruction of
national defense premises recorded on the verdict form. Even the government’s
witnesses claimed under oath that national [security] was never jeopardized.
How can an offensive first-strike weapon be launched as a national defensive
weapon? Are we charged with sabotage? Yes! Isn’t that the reason
I face 92 to 115 months in prison?
Could peacemakers’ lives be that expendable? Will the punitive
measures taken against dissenters, enforced under Patriot Bills I and
II, be so harsh that any lawlessness on the part of government officials
will go unchallenged in the future? Who will demand an end to U.S.
Who will be there for prisoners illegally detained in Guantanamo? Who
will teach the treaties and U.S. Constitution and who will demand their
implementation by every court of the land? Who will bring nonviolence
into the forefront for conflict-solving?
Four plowshare actions have been carried out since ours—one on
Memorial Day on the USS Philippine Sea, with the use of blood poured
on the bomb hatches, and hammers used in the same symbolic way…yet
no charges were brought forth.
Whatever sentence I receive today will be joyfully accepted as an offering
for peace. With God’s help it will not injure my spirits. In
the sacred moments or years of imprisonment, I will remain with you
and walk together with you for the good of all humanity and creation.
My love and gratitude always.
Sister Carol Gilbert
For many months I have pondered what to say, if anything at all. St.
Francis once said, “Preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary
use words.” It seems that today a few words are necessary.
We know we should be acquitted for upholding the U.S. Constitution
that declares all laws and treaties to be the supreme law of the country.
Article 6, Section 2 of the Constitution declares “…all
Treaties made, or which shall be made under the Authority of the United
States, shall be the supreme law of the land and the Judges in every
State shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution of laws
any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”
We should be acquitted for upholding International laws, which this
court has deemed unnecessary but which it is bound to enforce under
the U.S. Constitution.
We should be acquitted for upholding the highest law—God’s
Judge Blackburn talked a lot about law. He didn’t want this to
be a political trial but a case about law. So did we. That was our deepest
hope. But we were not the ones that turned this into a political trial.
We will not make ourselves political prisoners—the prosecutor
and judge will.
We have read in the press and in our pre-sentencing reports that the
lengthy sentence is for deterrence—both for ourselves and others.
But what the government fails to recognize is that long prison sentences
will only energize the movement. As a T-shirt in upstate New York reads, “You can jail the resister but not the resistance.” We
will not be silenced.
During our seven months in the Clear Creek County Jail we received thousands
of letters from the U.S. and international community, over 1,000 signatures
from people who stand in solidarity with us and more than 1,000 letters
were sent to the judge asking for compassion and justice. Resistance
will not be deterred. You cannot silence truth. Truth will be spoken.
Law will be upheld.
Someday history will prove that what we did on the early morning of
October 6, 2002—inspecting, exposing and symbolically disarming
a Minuteman 111, a weapon of mass destruction—was legal.
I don’t fear going to prison. I don’t fear loss of freedom
to move about. I don’t even fear death. The fear that fills me
is not having lived hard enough, deep enough and sweet enough with
gifts God has given me.
The demons are banished by light and like the prophet Micah, this is
what God asked of us, only this—”To act justly, to love
tenderly, and to walk humbly with our God.”
This is a story told of Daniel Berrigan, Jesuit priest, prophet and
friend, who was once asked to give the commencement address at a prestigious
university. He stood up, walked to the podium and said, “Know
where you stand and stand there,” and then he sat down. My friends,
“Know where you stand and stand there.”
A Final Note from Sister Ardeth Platte:
Our lawyers will request a list of U.S. military sites on which the
three of us, Sacred Earth and Space Plowshares, may not set foot during
our three years of probation following our release dates. When these
sites are published (or if you know one in your vicinity now), would
you be willing to do a Citizen Weapon Inspection Team (CWIT) direct
action procedure at the site close to you? Is the site used for training,
research, testing, construction or deployment? Inform the public. What
life-giving and transformative benefit does this site provide for people?
Begin a campaign and long-term commitment using vigils, leafleting,
bannering, converting, demonstrating, occupying, resisting, etc. Unmask
the enterprise of the war department and war state and convert it into
what is good, righteous and essential for a peace state, a peace nation.
Let us make our country a model of nonviolence, compassion, simpler
lifestyle and beatitude living.
Sister Ardeth Platte can be contacted at: # 10857-039, FPC Danbury,
Rt. 37, Danbury, CT 06811.