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April 2004
Weapons Inspectors Convicted


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, expose 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 jail cells.

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 stated 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 will 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. interventionism? 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 in prayer 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 of 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 Law.

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 whatever 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.





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