|Words from Fr. Frank Cordaro|
March 6, 2002
Statement of Rev. Frank Cordaro
Before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jaudzemis
First, I want to thank the court for postponing these proceedings until after I recovered from my heart attack. I want the court to know that given the damage caused by the heart attack I suffered last September, I have recovered as well as could be expected. My doctors tell me (and they have informed the court) that I am healthy enough to survive any jail time that might come from this court appearance, as long as I continue to take the prescribed necessary medications and avoid strenuous manual labor.
People have asked why I choose to plead "no contest" in this case. They wonder, "is there no legal defense for your line-crossing at Offutt Air Force Base"? There are indeed sound legal defenses for the action we took at Offutt on August 9th, 2001. These legitimate legal defenses come from the growing body of international law. Law that Iím certain supports nonviolent nuclear war protesting. Here are just a few examples of the many treaties, tribunals and conventions - to which the U.S. is bound - that outlaw the use or threat to use weapons of mass destruction: The Geneva Convention of 1925 which prohibits the use in war of poisonous weapons; The Geneva Convention of 1949 which makes it illegal to target civilians; The Nuremberg Charter which outlaws "Crimes Against Peace, War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity"; The International Court of Justice ruling on The Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, July 8, 1996 which states, "There is in neither customary nor conventional international law any specific authorization of the threat or use of nuclear weapons".
Many legal scholars in the U.S. have concluded that because Article VI of the U.S. Constitution states that treaties entered into by the U.S. are the "supreme law of the land," our nation is bound by these agreements. When the government violates these treaties, or agreements that carry the same legal weight, citizens are responsible and privileged to act - without causing harm to others -- to stop such violations. This includes acts of nonviolent civil resistance. Should citizens be brought before any court for such acts of civil resistance, they should be able to offer evidence that the threat to use nuclear weapons is so illegal and so imminent that their actions are justified. The problem is, in federal courts in the United States, including yours, such defenses are not allowed. My guess is that you would rule that in this case Iím not even entitled to any defense that shows my actions were justified because of the illegal status of nuclear weapons and StratComís part in the threat to use them.
Faced with the unwillingness or inability of the court to allow any real defense, I stipulate to the fact that I crossed the line at Offutt Air Force base, the headquarters of StratCom, our nationís strategic nuclear weapons operational command, last August 9th. And yes, I did this in violation of previous ban and bar letters from Offutt Air Force base. And God willing and if my health holds out, I will do it again. But that is only half of the truth, itís not the whole truth.
It is right that we are here in this federal court because there is criminal activity going on at Offutt Air Force Base. It was happening on August 9th of last year when Ed Bloomer and I crossed the line, itís happening today and itís been happening everyday for over 50 years! Charging people like Ed Bloomer and me with trespassing at Offutt Air Force base is like charging a person who breaks down a door to save a child in a burning building with breaking and entering. Your honor, the building is burning, the world is at risk, life itself, all life, the whole fragile ecosystem on which this planet sustains life is under the gun, a nuclear gun. And the people who are working at StratCom headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base have their fingers on the trigger of that gun and they have got to be stopped! The very existence of the weapons of mass destruction under the command of StratCom and our nationís intent to use them constitutes a crime against humanity, unmatched by any crime the world has ever experience and that is saying a lot.
With the tragic events of Sept 11 last, our president, other national political leaders and media talking heads tell us that the world has changed; a hole new evil is in our mist and it must be rooted out. They have compared the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in NYC and on the Pentagon in Washington, DC with what happened to our country when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, bringing the United States into WWII. They are telling us that we must create the same national myopic thinking and resolve to fight this new evil that was created during WWII. Since 9/11 this country has gone to war against the country of Afghanistan, one of the poorest nations in the world, a people who have known nothing but war, killing and poverty over the last 20 years; a hellish reality that we in the United States help to create. We have bombed and we continue to bomb Afghanistan, to this date, killing more innocent people than were killed in New York City, Washington, DC and Pennsylvania on 9/11. We are currently seeking other nation states to unleash our war-making machines and continue our thirst for bloodletting. Since 9/11, our nationís national priorities have been distorted even more than they were prior to 9/11, which is no small feat, with the Pentagon and war-makers getting everything on their wish list with a price tag of over 400 billion dollars a year in tax money. Meanwhile, basic human needs like health care, education, transportation and social services go unmet.
All this, while the government goes deeper and deeper in debt. The new hype of home security has brought with it an erosion of our treasured civil liberties and legal rights and protections. All of this in the name of preserving our freedoms in this so call war on terrorism. It has been said that the first casualty of any war is the truth. In my 51 year life time, our government and national leaders have lied to us during every war or foreign military intervention that this country has undertaken. This certainly rings true in this so call war on terrorism. A lifetime of lies and false national mythologies has taught me not to trust anything our president, elected officials, military leaders and media talking heads have to say about our nationís military adventurism.
How should we Americans see the tragic, God-awful events of 9/11, when death and destruction and, yes, evil visited New York City, Washington, DC and Pennsylvania? For my point of reference and the context to reading the events of 9/11, a day of human and national tragedy, I go to the voices of two black American men from the 1960s, both of them advocates in their peopleís struggles for freedom and justice, both of them gunned down by the same violence they confronted throughout their lives; one a pacifist, the other not. It was Martin Luther King who said in 1968, when he was speaking out against the Vietnam War that, "The United States is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world". This statement was true in 1968. Itís even truer now. And Malcolm X said of America after the assassination of President John F Kennedy in November of 1962, "The Chickens have come home to "roost". In biblical terms Malcolm X was trying to tell us that we reap what we sow.
I disagree with those who say that the tragic events of 9/11 can be compared to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. No, the crime against humanity that took place on Sept 11th is directly connected to this countryís dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in Aug of 1945. More than any other event in the 20th Century, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan set the mark, gave the moral and legal legitimacy for the mass killing and murder of innocent life in the pursuit of a just cause. Far from being totally evil subhuman beings, the terrorists of 9/11 were simply students and copy-cats of the master minds behind the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Which brings us back to the mission and work of the Strategic Command headquartered at Offutt Air Force Base. Instead of putting on sack cloth and ashes, begging forgiveness from the family nations for the crimes against humanity which our country and our allies committed at the end of WWII, for the indiscriminate bombings of all the major cities of Germany and Japan, culminating with the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan, this country denied any criminal or moral responsibility for the mass killings of innocent people. Instead we brought this evil war-making policy and its demonic nuclear technology to Omaha and Offutt Air Force Base. We improved on the nuclear technology and its delivery systems multiplying the destructive power of the bombs used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki a 1,000 fold. We, and our partners the Soviet Union, teamed up to create a nuclear and conventional arms race we called the Cold War, in which millions of innocent people died throughout the world in proxy regional wars. We backed up each of these wars and many other military adventures and political disputes with the threat to use the nuclear weapons under the command of the Strategic Air Command, now StratCom.
President Bush keeps telling the American people that in this war on terrorism we are fighting evil nations and evil people. How blind our president is! We need to take the plank out of our own eye before we seek to take the speak out of our neighborís eye. Evil is what evil does and in this regard in this past century, we wrote the book on killing innocent people in so called collateral damage for just causes. Today there is no Soviet Union, no cold war, and no rational for the continued possession of thousands of nuclear weapons, but they are still with us. The surest sign that we do not posses them but that they posses us.
Throughout this post Hiroshima Nagasaki era, the great shame for me has been the role my Church and my Faith Community has played in giving moral legitimacy to these hellish weapons and the demonic possession that the intent to use them has brought to my fellow citizens. As a Catholic priest I am mortified and ashamed by my Church's almost complete cooperation and blind support for the mission and work of StratCom. What ever punishment you deem to give me today, I gladly take on upon myself for this sin of my Faith Community and for the conversion my Church must go through to repent of its pro-war pro-bomb ways and instead better proclaim and embrace the nonviolent loving resistance spirit of Jesus in whom we say we believe. I also look for the day when some federal judge in some federal court in this land of ours joins nonviolent peacemakers in not only recognizing the immorality of these weapons of mass destruction but also see them as criminal devices in criminal hands that pose a threat to all human life.
I wish to inform the court that from this point on, I will not cooperate with any kind of probation, nor will I pay any kind of fine, nor do any kind of community service as might be connected with any sentence you choose to give me. Finally judge, the last time I was in your court, my dear friend and fellow Catholic Worker, Norman Searah was before you. You treated Norman very badly, you hurt his good spirit and showed great disrespect to his person. You mistook his purity of heart and simple faith in the nonviolent love of Jesus to be a mark of a simpleton. You were badly mistaken and you would do well to apologize to Norman. Donít let this Roman collar that I am wearing fool you, nor the fact that I am one of the organizers of these protests at Offutt and my name appears on our press releases. For when it comes to true leadership, I am simply a follower of the likes of Norman Search and Ed Bloomer. You would be hard pressed to find any finer men of faith and gentle warriors for God's Kingdom.