An Appeal for Support for the "Silence Trident" Disarmament Action
January 24, 2001
I am writing to ask for your support in the case of the "Silence Trident" disarmament action.
As you know, a crucial piece of the U.S. nuclear arsenal -- Project ELF -- is secluded in Wisconsin's Chequemagon National Forest. Project ELF's function is to threaten and to signal a secret Trident missile attack against another's weapons before they are launched-- in a "decapitating" nuclear first strike. The ELF system was built because it is part of the Pentagon's terrible plans for a preemptive" nuclear war. And since the law forbids aggression and preparations for aggression, ELF is not only provocative but also illegal. A World Court opinion and the Geneva Conventions make it so.
They's why Bonnie Urfer and Michael Sprong trained the spotlight of justice on this "Trident trigger" with their nonviolent disarmament action. Using a pair of bow saws last June 24, they toppled three of these poles that suspend the antenna, taking the dangerous and illegal system off line. They tacked to the poles a Citizen's Indictment of Project ELF, reminding everyone that U.S. law prohibits the planning of massacres or indiscriminate war. The "Silence Trident" pole cutting was an act of crime prevention. But it will take financial resources to prove that to a jury.
The real crime is this: Project ELF is the Navy's one-way command post for sending orders to Tridents -- the most destructive war machines in human history. Aboard 18 Trident submarines, there are 1,700 warheads with 475 kilotons of nuclear firepower, and again as many 100 kiloton warheads. Like a giant gun that's cocked, the fleet constantly threatens mass destruction thanks to the communications "trigger" provided by Project ELF. All told, the Trident missile fleet holds the equivalent of 79,488 Hiroshima bombs. With 140,000 killed outright at Hiroshima, the mathematical terror of Trident is that the fleet could kill 11 billion people -- almost twice the world's population.
But rather than investigate the allegations made in the Citizen's Indictment, the police took the papers to the evidence room and Bonnie and Michael to jail. They've been charged in federal court with criminal damage to property, and they face a year in prison and a $100,000 fine. Both are free pending trial which is set for Feb. 20 in Madison, Wisconsin.
Will you contribute financially to see that crime prevention and nuclear weapons remain the focus of this trial?
The government will try to prevent any defense testimony that refers to the object of the protest. The government wants to ignore the Citizen's Indictment and pretend this is a case of vandalism or horseplay. That's the only way the U.S. Attorney can protect Trident and ELF from the plain fact that nuclear weapons are instruments of a crime. We need your financial help to bring expert witnesses to Madison to explain why Trident and ELF are illegal, why nuclear war plans are an ongoing criminal enterprise, and why Bonnie and Michael were privileged to use nonviolent force against ELF. (In England, defendants have recently been acquitted in three similar anti-Trident cases, and in a 1996 ELF case Donna Howard and Tom Hastings were found not guilty of sabotage.)
The expert witnesses -- former Trident missile design engineer Robert Aldridge from Santa Clara CA, and Matthew Lippmann, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Illinois -- will have to be flown in to a Feb. 8 pre-trial hearing. They will testify as to why an affirmative defense such as crime prevention should be heard by the jury.
Without going to the expense of bringing in experts, the jury has no chance of hearing the action explained, and the defendants will be put through a kangaroo court scene. And while federal courts rarely allow juries to hear the legal case against nuclear weapons, the case of the Silence Trident action presents a new opportunity. The history of disarmament cases shows that if juries hear the evidence, the government is incapable of defending the Trident system.
Please help strengthen the case against nuclear weapons by making a gift to the defense of the Silence Trident activists. Thanks very much for your concern and generosity.
John LaForge, for Nukewatch
P.S. The crucial Feb. 8 hearing requires transportation expenses for experts and attorneys and the associated costs of organizing support and hospitality for the trial. Donations are tax deductible if they are made to the Progressive Foundation (just note "Silence Trident" on the memo line).