Giving Thanks for Political Disagreements

How a Would-be Thanksgiving Argument Can Help Birth a Revolution
by Sam Husseini

It's become something of a cliché: Many people dread Thanksgiving in part because they have to break bread with friends -- and especially relatives -- who they adamantly disagree with politically. 

One is pro-immigration, the other wants to build a bigger wall, etc. 

But what if this annoying encounter was actually a blessing?

I don't identify as either a Democrat or a Republican, but I recognize that there are millions of people who identify as "Democrats" for some good reason and there are lots of people who identify as "Republican" for good reason.

Thing is, those "good reasons" mostly have to do with how bad the other party is.

And a further rub is that many rank and file Democratic voters and Republican voters agree on certain core issues: They are sick of Wall Street and big business domination. They are skeptical of perpetual wars, etc. This is in spite of the fact that the establishment of both the Democratic and Republican parties are deeply tied to Wall Street and back perpetual wars, occasional rhetoric to the contrary.

Indeed, when a somewhat popular figure comes before the base -- whether it's Democratic Obama or Republican Trump -- they take the guise of being critical of Wall Street and of war.

But that's not how they govern.

They back Wall Street.

They back wars, occasionally what speaking against them.

And they get away with it.


Because if you're not at the table, you're on the menu.

Rather than the bases being divided by the establishment of the parties, seemingly hypnotized by the venom spewed by Fox and MSNBC against the other, they need to have honest, and even loving, dialogue to break out of their partisan boxes.

The key may be to engage and turn the discussion in way that what could be an annoyance is blissful food for the soul.

Manna from heaven, even.

That's what the VotePact strategy is about.

Instead of a disenchanted Democrat and disenchanted Republican (relatives, coworkers, partners, lovers, friends) cancelling out each other -- one self-loathingly voting for Biden and the other for Trump at year from now, they could both vote for candidates they deeply believe in.

Imagine if instead of "Trump sucks and everyone who likes him sucks" it's "Hey, I understand, you think Biden is corrupt. I prefer him to Trump, but I actually agree that he's corrupt. So, instead of you voting Trump and me voting Biden -- let's both vote for other candidates." That could be Greens, Libertarians, whatever you like.

Of course, part of the victory of the establishment is that voting for independent or third party candidates seems unthinkable to many right now. That's because it's a hate-fueled system.

The establishment wants you to hate and be driven by it.

It doesn't want you to see that while you are arguing about immigration for example, keeping you in your partisan boxes, the Democratic and Republican party "leaderships" are actually work together on the causes of desperate immigration: Interventions and wars in Latin America and the Mideast, drug polices and trade policies that all fuel desperate migration.

Of course we're now in primary season. But we need to be thinking along these lines and get other people to be doing so because it frames the debate now.

Consider that Carlos Rojas recently confronted former Vice President Joe Biden about the Obama administration’s record on immigration.

How did Biden respond?

“Well, you should vote for Trump," Biden said. “You should vote for Trump.”

That's the mindset of the Democratic -- and Republican -- establishment: I don't have to deliver for you. Because the other guys are worse. You're my prisoner.

But you can break out of the and others can too. As hokey as it sounds, through dialogue and love. That person who annoys you across the Thanksgiving day table can be your salvation. You can both stop being a pawn of the DNC or RNC.

If this isn't challenged now, then less establishment candidates like Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard (who merit criticism, but are clearly distinct from Biden and other candidates) will be further marginalized.

We need to be talking about a radical center emerging now. And doing so can help those more anti-establishment candidates.

Thus, the Sanders campaign is wrong when it says there's "No Middle Ground."

There should be no middle ground for the establishments.

But there should be a radical middle ground.

A common ground.

Where principled progressives and conscious conservatives can break out of the establishment that has at its heart being an Empire, fueling wars, oppression, exploitation in every community and on a global scale.

It would be most fitting that the turning away from Empire would take a step forward on this holiday considering the role of Thanksgiving in helping spawned the U.S. as Empire centuries ago.

Sam Husseini is founder of

Can the Religious Left Take Down Nuclear Weapons?

Pope Francis will travel to Hiroshima and Nagasaki this weekend. On Sunday, he will give a public address at the ground-zero site of the nuclear attack on Nagasaki. He is expected to give the clearest articulation yet of the Vatican's position, since 2017, that condemns the "very possession" of nuclear weapons. This is something Plowshares activists have been arguing -- and acting upon -- since 1980.


Prosecutor E. Greg Gilluly railed to the jury as he held up a copy of Daniel Ellsberg's book -- The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner: It was evidence, but not "for the truth of it." Judge Lisa Godbey Wood of the US District Court for the Southern District of Georgia only grudgingly allowed the book to be entered into evidence since the seven activists, who could face decades in prison, had left it at Kings Bay base which houses the Trident submarine nuclear weapons arsenal on the Atlantic coast.

In her testimony, Plowshares defendant Clare Grady of the Ithaca, New York Catholic Worker community tried to explain to the jury the motivation and urgency of the group: US government is using nuclear weapons daily as a gun pointed at the head of the planet. But even as she spoke, she had a series of legal guns pointed at her own head. She and her fellow defendants had been threatened with contempt if they disobeyed Wood's edict not to cite evidence or legal arguments that might result in acquittal. As law professor Francis Boyle  warned before the trial: “This is a kangaroo court with a rubber stamp and a railroad all put together.”

So, Grady and the six others -- the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 -- pleaded with the jury to look to their conscience. The activists were following the biblical edict to turn swords into plowshares, after all. But the jury seemingly didn't crack open either Ellsberg's book or their hearts, deciding on guilty verdicts on all four counts, including conspiracy, destruction of property and depredation, against all seven defendants in under two hours late last month.

Defendant Elizabeth McAlister, the 79-year-old widow of Phil Berrigan from Jonah House in Baltimore, who donated her own blood for the action said: “The government has set up a religion of nuclearism. It is terrifying and dead, dead wrong. It is a form of idolatry in this culture." 

If that seems like hyperbole, consider that Wood allowed prosecution witnesses to state -- under oath -- that they could "neither confirm or deny" the existence of nuclear warheads at the base. The defense had objected to this -- which had been allowed in prior trials of Plowshares activists -- in pretrial motions, but as with much else, the prosecution got away with things without so much as an objection being heard by the jury. Thus Wood effectively denied the central empirical reality of the case, that Kings Bay houses six Trident submarines each submarine can carry 24 submarine-launched ballistic missiles designated Trident D5. Each of those missiles can carry up to eight 100-kiloton nuclear warheads -- about 30 times the explosive force of the Hiroshima bomb. All the while, the defense was effectively dismissed for acting on their "subjective" beliefs.

After entering the base on April 4, 2018, exactly 50 years after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, McAlister, Steven Kelly, a Jesuit priest, and Carmen Trotta of the New York Catholic Worker went to "limited area." Like a prophetic expedition of Fivers out of Watership Down that had seen the signs that others couldn't understand, they went down Rabbit Run Road to the actual weapons.

Trotta testified of looking over the bunkers. “Each one of them the equivalent of a mass grave ... and that's an understatement." But the meaning of "bunker," like much else, was likely obscure to the jury. They may well have thought of defensive fallout shelters for people, not casings for offensive nuclear weapons. Indeed, at one point a the judge -- while the jury was out of the courtroom -- read a question from a juror who was puzzling over whether there were actually nuclear weapons at the base.

Mark Colville of the Amistad Catholic Worker House in New Haven and Pat O'Neill went to a monument to nuclear weapons at the base. They wrote "Swords into Plowshares" and "Idol" on the missiles. Colville tore down the backlit lettering of the command: "STRATEGIC WEAPONS FACILITY ATLANTIC," hung banners such as "The Ultimate Logic of Trident is Omnicide" and spilled blood on the emblem of the command, representing both their religious beliefs and the blood of the victims of US foreign policy -- in sacramental language, "making the invisible visible."

O'Neill took a hammer to missile replicas while wearing a head mounted camera to actually document his "crime." So the jury saw eerie footage of his shadow swinging a hammer upon upon a replica of a Trident missile. As the shadow of the hammer approaches the surface of the missile, the actual hammer becomes visible and strikes the missile.

One of the guilty charges was "depredation" defined by Wood as "rob, plunger or lay waste" but obviously the activists were not stealing and a case could be made that they made the items of greater value -- even artistic value. As even prosecution acknowledged at one point, they "transformed" what they saw.

Grady and Martha Hennessy went to the administrative building, spray painted "May Love Disarm Us All" on the sidewalk, posted an indictment of the base and left the Ellsberg book.

Indeed, the book was the one item the prosecution didn't place into evidence. Special Officer Kenney, a juiced up contemporary Officer Obie from "Alice's Restaurant" produced photo after photo of Kind bar wrappers, spray paint cans, as well as the the actual fence the activists cut through to get into the base. The purpose of his prolonged testimony was ostensibly to "prove" that the activists did what they openly declared they did, but the actual effect allowed the prosecution to continually depict the defendants as vandals and to portray the goverment as the source of "facts."

The government produced "witnesses" -- security people who dealt with the activists -- but never the first ones who came across them; ie, it's quite likely that the government produced people at trial based on their willingness to portray the activists in the most negative light. Grady at one point cross examined Kenney, who had claimed the activists had put "caution" tape -- compelling him to concede that they in fact clearly had put "crime scene" tape.

At 10:10 p.m. on the Friday before the trial began the following Monday, Wood ruled against virtually all affirmative defenses, writing that the international law defense that Boyle had enabled in past cases at the state level would not be allowed. Wood wrote: "whether nuclear weapons are *actually illegal under international or domestic law…is not relevant or an appropriate issue to litigate in this case.” Thus, the court adopted the relativism of the government while posing as a neutral upholder of "truth" and "law."

In his closing arguments Gilluly demanded the jury render a verdict based on US law, "not some other law that someone else wants to believe in." But part of the point of Boyle's argument is that international law is part of US domestic law.

With expert testimony excluded, the court room became the domain of an authoritarianism without authority.

Wood repeatedly warned the jury of fliers they might receive from the scores of supporters for the activists assembled, allegedly since what is written on the flyer might "not be true." "Anyone can write anything on a flier" said Wood, thus pretending that her criteria for evidence being admitted was based on search for fact rather than upon government interest.

Wood's statements that the burden of proof was on the government and the defense "need not present evidence" -- a phrase that typically helps the defense -- took an extremely ironic, insidious meaning since she was actively preventing the defense from introducing entire bodies of evidence.

And while the activists were deemed guilty of "conspiracy" -- there was ample evidence that the actual conspiracy at play was between the judge and prosecution. Time and again, Wood sustained all but the most laughable of the prosecutions objections, and at times seemed to be doing their thinking for them. Over and over, some movement by the activists was cut off, a sidebar was called and the line of questioning was dropped.

Another defense rendered mute by Wood was that of necessity or justification as Ellsberg had filed an affidavit with the court arguing that the defendants were justified in their actions because they are attempting to prevent “omnicide, the collateral murder of nearly every human on earth in a war in which the nuclear missiles aboard Trident submarines were launched.” Ellsberg in his declaration also highlighted the history of civil disobedience, echoing testimony by Howard Zinn in a prior plowshares case.

But without an outside party to make the case, it was raised by the defendants themselves -- though they spoke of "civil resistance," not "disobedience," since they assert they are upholding the law. Prosecutor Karl Knoche derided Grady: "You get to decide to run red lights," accusing her of being a "bully" -- while he was attempting convict her for crimes that could send her to prison for the next 20 years.

But Colville would later talk about how he ran every single red light when he drove his wife to the hospital to give birth. And Grady later cited a statement from Martin Luther King: "when a fire is raging, the fire truck goes right through that red light, and normal traffic had better get out of its way." Effectively a necessity defense was articulated to a degree, since the prosecution had opened the door to it, but it was not sufficiently fleshed out.

There was insufficient challenge to the prosecution "run red light" soundbite to the effect that it's the government that's running every red light on the planet by careening its massive nuclear weapons arsenal. Not just the illegality, but the reality, destructive power and threatening first strike capacities of Trident were not allowed. The fears of the defendants may as well have been like a child afraid of the monsters in the dark. Ironically, much of the thus far paltry media coverage of the trial, even that which is seemingly sympathetic to the activists, similarly avoided legal defenses and articulating the threat of Trident.

The extreme threat of Trident was made especially clear years ago by the whistleblower Robert Aldridge, a former a missile designer for Lockheed, who went public, highlighting that it even violated prevailing international political theory of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), which dictated that both the US and the USSR were safe from nuclear war because they would both be assured of annihilation. Trident, because of its ability to go to the shores of Russia and because of its accuracy would effectively force the USSR/Russia to be on a hair trigger alert to avoid having their command and control being obliterated. This is a process the US is accelerating.

Indeed, there's a deep seated connection between such direct action such as the Plowshares actions and whistleblowers. The Plowshares activists are effectively highlighting secrets in plain sight. The extraordinary threat that nuclear weapons pose is continuously averted. Ellsberg in his affidavit for the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 notes that he himself was inspired to expose the Pentagon Papers because of religiously inspired direct actions against draft boards, writing "I am a link in Frank Kroncke’s causal chain.”

Hennessy's testimony initially seemed a high point for the defense. To the palpable relief of supporters of the defendants filling the pews, the defense was finally able to able to speak meaningfully about their religious motivations. Hennessy talked about her grandmother, Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker movement, how she is up for sainthood and their work with the poor. She spoke about how she gave her a book on the Hiroshima bombing as a child, how she opposed nuclear weapons and more.

But any empirical connection to nuclear weapons was not allowed. Thus, Hennessy was not even allowed to speak about how she worked with victims of atomic bombing as an occupational therapist.

Then the prosecution asked Hennessy if in prior Plowshares actions, others had been prosecuted. She simply answered "yes" and her attorney didn't follow up to remedy the situation.

In fact, Art Laffin, editor of the two-volume work Swords into Plowshares, who spoke to supporters at a nearby church one night after their common dinners noted of the  more than 100 actions since 1980, there have been "several Plowshares actions where people were not charged with a felony; Aegis Plowshares in 1991 in Maine; Riverside Plowshares in 2004 in NYC and Crane Plowshares in 2011 in Kansas City, MO." 

That serious problem for the defense from Hennessy's testimony would then be compounded.

O'Neill, a jovial father of six from North Carolina was especially effective in attempting to overcome any anti-Catholic prejudices the jury may have had, referring to himself as a "Christian" while the others had repeatedly branded themselves "Catholics". While the centuries-long debate of "faith vs works" seemed a subtext in the trial, O'Neill engaging talked about "one Bible".

However, his free spirited style under cross examination had him blurt out: "if you do the crime, you do the time." He would later attempt to walk that back, but the prosecution predictably went to town on the statement, quoting it twice in their closing arguments.

By managing to invoke their sincere religious beliefs, the defense succeeded in ensuring that the case was not just about bolt cutters -- but those beliefs were ultimately amorphous. And an actual defense based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act -- the first attempt in this kind of case -- was prohibited by Wood  because of an alleged compelling government interest. Before the trial began, Wood also claimed that the government had used the least restrictive means to stop the activists.

"Religous liberty" has been seemingly monopolized by the right, see a recent report from the The Law, Rights, and Religion Project at Columbia Law School. Wood's decisions ensured that Fordam University theologian Jeannine Hill Fletcher would not be heard by the jury, so her speaking of "Seven Catholic prophets felt compelled to wake us up to the threat of nuclear destruction" was only heard outside the courthouse.

In the courtroom, the Jesus who drove the money changers from the Temple was referred to, but was rarely seen. Indeed, even when he was referenced, the prosecution would object and Wood would quickly sustain. Having been thus bludgeoned, the defendants embodied an ethos of speaking well of those who prosecute you.

There was a stark lack of anger expressed on the part of the defense that the prosecution perversely filled at the end. The prosecutor acted outraged that the activists would cause such damage to the military base, so that paint had to be removed and some fencing replaced.

Of course, the defendants were in a bind. If they denounced the proceedings or in any way seemed to polarize with Wood, or even the prosecutors, they likely feared a harsher sentence. Not just for each of them alone, but for each other. What they likely faced was a strange sort of prisoners dilemma.

Nor were they totally alone in this. At any time, the hundred or so supporters seated in the pews in the courtroom could have stood up and told the jury that the judge was preventing them from hearing about international law and various other defenses. That would likely have simply caused a mistrial and possibly a banning of family and other supporters from the courtroom.

After the lengthy verdict was read, there was not a sound in the packed courtroom, but as the community of supporters from around the country went to the hallway, women wailed and then the supporters all sang: "Rejoice in the Lord always; And again I say, rejoice!"

The soft spoken public interest lawyer Bill Quigley -- who represents Liz McAlister -- asked in his closing remarks if the activists committed a crime or prevented one. Outside the courthouse that an "appeal is almost certain"

Sentencing by Wood is expected shortly after Christmas. Fr. Kelly, the only defendant still in jail looked as though his incarceration had taken a genuine toll on him. He sat in his prison clothes, but often wore someone else's jacket for warmth in the cold courtroom. He never stood for either the judge or jury, but did hop up when identified as having done the action. Instead of speaking to the court, he wrote to the 200 or so supporters at a "Festival of Hope" that was organized just before the trial started:

“We engage the judiciary in the courtroom, one of the more dangerous rooms in the Pentagon. The judiciary at the District, Appellate Circuit and Supreme level have precluded truth telling in the courtroom so that in the words of Daniel Berrigan, a nuclear holocaust will be legal. ... You are the hope you have arrived to find.”

Indeed, the supporters who came for the trial all made it something of an all-volunteer barn-raising. They consisted largely of Catholic Workers from around the country, filling the courtroom as well as an overflow room with a video feed. Other supporters, including Buddhists with drums, where usually outside the courthouse, some with signs. Chrissy Nesbitt of the Rose of Sharon Catholic Worker, still grieving the death of her wife, came from North Durham, North Carolina and helped organize the line of supporters outside the courthouse and tried to get the hang of doing courtroom sketches. Sarah Cool, who currently lives in Atlanta and helps organized continuing protests outside the Trident base, did much of the work to provide food for the assembled at a nearby church during the week of the trial.

Still, a mass attended by many of the activists the Sunday before trial made no reference to them. A Presbyterian minister, Eric Johnson from North Carolina, who has been supportive of the activists said that many of his fellow clergy "are paying the rent and losing the Kingdom."

Plowshares History Talk by Art Laffin

Plowshares History Talk 

(Talk by Art Laffin given on Oct. 22, 2019 at evening support gathering during  the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 Trial at St. Athanasius Episcopal Church, Brunswick, Georgia. This version Includes some slight revisions. Audio is here. Laffin is member of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker community in Washington, D.C. He is also editor of the two-volume work Swords into Plowshares, which has a forward by the late Father Daniel Berrigan.)

I am honored to be invited to speak tonight and to share this presentation with Rosalie Riegel.

I would like to begin by thanking God for the miracle of this day, for the miracle of life and for the Kings Bay Plowshares7, for Martha, Liz, Clare, Steve, Patrick, Mark, Carmen and their families and communities, for their amazing legal and support teams. Let's give them all a standing ovation!!! 

I would like to call into our presence the crucified and risen Jesus, and all the Holy Cloud of witnesses, including those plowshares friends who have gone home to God--Fr. Paul Kabat, Larry Cloud Morgan, Mary Lyons, Elmer Maas, Sr. Anne Montgomery, Peter DeMott, Kees Koning, Joe and Jean Gump, Sr. Jackie Hudson, Larry Morlan, Agnes Bauerlein, Macy Morse, Judy Beaumont, Tom Lewis, Bill Bichsel, Lynne Greenwald, Brian Law, Phil and Dan Berrigan. I believe they, along with countless others, including peacemakers who recently died--Frances Crowe, John Downing,  Mary Grace McCoy, Ned Smith--(other names are invoked from the audience)-- and all are beloved departed, are advocating for us and cheering us on! 

In Dan Berrigan's book, Testimony, there is a chapter titled "An Ethic of Resurrection." Towards  the end of the chapter Dan speaks about the teachers who influenced him. After naming different people, Dan writes: 

"Incomparably, the greatest of these (teachers) is Jesus, who for His part took bread, broke it, and said "This is my body given for you." Then He took the cup and said, this is My blood, given for you." The ethic of the body, given, the blood outpoured! The act led straight to the scaffold and to that "beyond" we name for want of a better word, resurrection..." We have yet to experience resurrection, which I translate: the hope that hopes on…

A blasphemy against this hope is named deterrence, or Trident submarines, or star wars, or preemptive strike, or simply, any nuclear weapon…That is why we speak again and again of 1980 and all the plowshares actions since, how some continue to labor to break the demonic clutch on our souls of the ethic of Mars, of wars and rumors of wars, inevitable wars, just wars, necessary wars, victorious wars, and say our no in acts of hope. For us, all of these repeated arrests, the interminable jailings, the life of our small communities, the discipline of nonviolence, these have embodied an ethic of resurrection.”

Dan's words go right to the heart of the spirituality of plowshares actions. Indeed, these (and other acts of nonviolent resistance as well), of beating the swords of our time into plowshares, are manifestations of an ethic of resurrection. They are rooted in the belief that the God of all Creation has the last word, not the principalities and powers. The God of Life has overcome the powers of this world and the forces of death! Consequently, this abiding faith in the God of Life leads us to commit our lives to making God's reign of love, justice and peace a reality by doing the works of mercy, accompanying the poor and the victims, embracing the way of nonviolence and community, actively resisting the forces of death and trying, trying to build a new world within the shell of the old. 

The 39 year history of plowshares actions, I submit, are connected to and a continuation of the resistance of the Baltimore Four and Catonsville Nine actions and subsequent draft board actions, where peacemakers believed that it was better to destroy draft files (licenses to kill) than to burn children and destroy entire villages in Vietnam. Likewise today, sisters and brothers who have carried out plowshares actions, believe it is their duty to nonviolently and symbolically disarm weapons of mass murder that can end all life and civilization, and incinerate the planet.

I would like to give a brief background of plowshares actions, reflect on the underlying spirit and hope of these actions and address how the courts have responded. It is my intent here not to be exhaustive on covering all these issues in great detail, but to give a general sense of what plowshares-disarmament actions are about.

On September 9, 1980, the “Plowshares Eight” carried out the first of what have come to be known as plowshares actions. Eight peacemakers entered the General Electric plant in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, where the nose cones from the Mark 12-A nuclear warheads were manufactured. With hammers and blood they enacted the biblical prophecies of Isaiah (2:4) and Micah (4:3) to “beat swords into plowshares” by hammering on two of the nose cones and pouring blood on documents. Thus, the name “plowshares” has been used to identify this action. The eight were subsequently arrested and tried by a jury, convicted and sentenced to prison terms ranging from 1 1/2 to 10 years. After a series of appeals that lasted 10 years, they were resentenced to time served—from several days to 17 1/2 months. How many were here at the Plowshares 8 trial? I did support for this action and trial as Dean Hammer, from our Covenant Peace Community in New Haven, was one of the eight. I also knew all of the others who acted. 

Since the Plowshares Eight action, others, acting in community and some individually, have entered military bases and weapons facilities and have symbolically and actually disarmed components of U.S. first-strike nuclear weapons systems: the MX, Perishing II, Cruise, Minuteman ICBM’s, Trident II missiles, Trident submarines, B-52 bombers, P-3 Orion anti-submarine aircraft, the Navstar system, the ELF communication system, the Milstar satellite system, a nuclear capable battleship and the Aegis destroyer. Combat aircraft used for military intervention such as the F-111 fighter bomber, the F-15A fighter, the F-18 bomber, the A-10 Warthog, the Hawk aircraft, as well as combat helicopters and other conventional weapons, including aircraft missile launchers, bazookas, grenade throwers, and AK-5 automatic rifles, have been disarmed. Model weapons have been disarmed at an “Arms Bazaar.” 

In the Transform Now Plowshares action in 2012 at Oak Ridge Y-12 Nuclear Facility at Oak Ridge, TN, Mike Walli, Sr. Megan Rice (who are here at the trial) and Greg Boertje-Obed hammered on the cornerstone of the newly built Highly Enriched Uranium Manufacturing Facility, poured blood and spray-painted messages on the facility. Because of so-called security issues, this action prompted authorities to close, what's been called the "Ft. Knox of Uranium," for an unprecedented three weeks.

People who have been involved in plowshares actions have undertaken a process of intense spiritual preparation, nonviolence training and community formation, and have given careful consideration to the risks involved. Plowshares activists, accepting full responsibility for their actions, remain at the site of their action so that they can publicly explain their witness.

Resonating closely with this spirit of nonviolent direct disarmament, other people, though not seeing their action arising out of the biblical prophecy of Isaiah and Micah, have been compelled to nonviolently disarm components of nuclear and conventional weapons. Although individuals who have carried out these actions have been inspired by plowshares participants who embrace a biblical vision, they view their action as being primarily motivated by a deeply held conscience commitment to nonviolence or by other spiritual or moral convictions.

As of this year, more than 200 people have participated in some 101 plowshares and related disarmament actions that I am aware of. [1] (I want to acknowledge Felice and Jack Cohen-Joppa, co-editors of the Nuclear Resister, (who are both here) for their amazing work at  in keeping records of all the different actions that have happened. I have drawn on this information to compile the Plowshares chronology). 58 of these actions have taken place in the U.S. and 43 have been international actions. Also several groups and individuals were stopped by security and arrested at or near a weapons site before being able to complete their intended disarmament action. Some plowshares activists have gone on to participate in other plowshares actions.

Plowshares actions have occurred in the U.S., Australia, Germany, Holland, Sweden, New Zealand and Scotland and  England. 21 of these plowshares actions have been directed at the Trident submarine program--16 actions in the U.S. and 5 in England and Scotland. The backgrounds of plowshares activists vary widely. Parents, grandparents, veterans, lawyers, teachers, artists, musicians, priests, sisters, house-painters, carpenters, writers, health-care workers, students, advocates for the poor and homeless, and members of Catholic Worker communities have all participated in plowshares actions. I would like to ask all those present who have participated in Plowshares actions to please stand so we can acknowledge them. I want to affirm something Carmen Trotta said Sunday at the Festival of Hope. We all owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Jonah House for being the inspiration and sustaining force for the Plowshares actions. I also want to hold up Elmer Maas, and Peter DeMott, who in the years before their deaths provided invaluable support to Plowshares communities. And I want to acknowledge my dear friend, Sr. Anne Montgomery, who did 6 Plowshares actions-we did two together. We also co-edited two Swords into Plowshares books.  

In my view, the basic hope of the plowshares actions (and here I’m not attempting to speak for other people involved in these actions) is to communicate from the moment of entry into a plant or base—and throughout the court process and prison witness—an underlying faith that the power of nonviolent love can overcome the forces of violence; a reverence for all life and creation;  an acceptance of personal responsibility for the dismantling and the physical conversion of the weapons; and a spiritual conversion of the heart to the way of justice and reconciliation. Thus, plowshares participants believe that the physical dismantling of the weapon and the personal disarmament of the heart is a reciprocal process. As Philip Berrigan states: “We try to disarm ourselves by disarming the weapons.”

The main symbols used in plowshares actions are hammers and blood. Hammers are used to literally begin the process of disarmament that thousands of talks and numerous treaties have failed to accomplish. The hammer is used to take apart as well as create, and to point to the urgency for conversion of war and weapons production to products that enhance life. The blood symbolizes the mass killing that weapons of mass destruction can inflict, as well as the murderous cost they now impose on the poor. Blood speaks too of human unity and the willingness to give one’s life rather than to take life.

Seeking to expose the violence, secrecy, and idolatry of the national nuclear security state, some plowshares defendants have tried to present a “justification” or “necessity” defense. During their defense they have tried to show, through personal and expert witness testimony, that their actions were morally and legally justified and that their intent was to protect life. In most cases, the courts have shown their complicity in protecting the interests of the government and have disallowed this defense. In the Sperry Software Pair plowshares case in 1984, John LaForge (who is here) and Barb Katt were allowed to present a justification defense but they were convicted.  Some plowshares groups have also presented a defense declaring that a state religion of “nuclearism” has been established, which is unconstitutional, in violation of the First Amendment. Moreover, nuclearism is in violation of God’s law, which forbids the worship of “gods of metal.” Plowshares defendants have moved for dismissal of all charges brought against them; for the law, as applied in these cases, is used to protect this unconstitutional state religion. Such motions have been consistently denied. For the first time in a plowshares case, the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 introduced in court the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to be used as part of their defense. But as we all know this, too, was denied. 

With the exception of the G.E. 5 in 1981, the Kairos Plowshares in 1988, the Aegis Plowshares in 1991, the first Australian Plowshares action in 1987,  the Sacred Earth and Space Plowshares action in 2000 (after 7 days in jail their charges were dropped), and the Riverside Plowshares in 2004, all plowshares activists have been prosecuted for their actions.  While most plowshares-disarmament activists have plead not guilty and have gone to trial, several opted to plead “no contest” or “guilty” to charges brought against them. 

Most of the trials to date, mainly jury trials, have ended in convictions. However, members of the Epiphany Plowshares were tried an unprecedented five times with three trials ending in hung juries and mistrials. Also, Chris Cole’s first trial for a plowshares action in England ended in a hung jury. The first ever acquittal in a plowshares case occurred in Liverpool, England where a jury found the Seeds of Hope—East Timor Ploughshares not guilty. There was also another plowshares acquittal, which occurred in Edinburgh, Scotland during the trial of three women who disarmed Trident-related technology as part of the Trident Ploughshares 2000 campaign. And in another plowshares-disarmament action against Trident in England, a trial for two women ended in a hung jury for one charge and an acquittal for the second charge. 

Here's an overview of other plowshares actions where cases were either not prosecuted, resulted in hung juries or found not guilty.

--Bread not Bombs Ploughshares, Sept. 13, 1998, VSEL Barrow in England. Hung Jury in first trial. Peacemakers convicted in second trial.

--HMS Vengeance Disarmament Action, Nov. 23, 1999, Barrow Shipyard in England. Jury verdict of Not Guilty.

--Aldermaston Women Trash Trident, Feb. 1, 1999, Barrow Furness shipyard, England. Jury found peacemakers not guilty on one charge and could not reach a verdict on second charge.  A second trial resulted in jury not be able to reach a verdict.

--Trident Three Disarmament Action, June 8, 1999, Laboratory Barge with Trident Equipment in Loch Goil, Scotland. Not Guilty Verdict.

--Pit Stop Ploughshares, Feb. 3, 2003, Shannon Airport, Ireland. Two mistrials. Third trial resulted in jury Acquittal. 

--Waihopai Plowshares, April 30, 2008, GCSB/U.S. National Security Agency Spy Base in New Zealand. Jury acquitted three peacemakers. The first Plowshares case in Federal court was the Griffiss Plowshares in 1984, which Liz and Clare were part of. They were acquitted by a jury of sabotage, but were convicted of conspiracy and destruction of government property. 

During the trials in the U.S., which have occurred in both state and federal courts, most of the defendants have represented themselves and have been assisted by legal advisers. The  trial tactics by judges and government prosecutors have become extremely repressive. A “Motion In Limine,” which calls for the complete prohibition of “affirmative” defenses, has been introduced by the government and accepted by the Courts in most, if not all of the plowshares trials at least since the Epiphany Plowshares trial. For example, prior to the third and fourth trials of the Epiphany Plowshares, the trial judge, complying with the U.S. prosecutor’s request, imposed a “gag” order forbidding any mention of such subjects as God’s law, the Bible, international law, U.S. military intervention in Central America, nuclear weapons and the poor. For speaking about these subjects, two defendants were given contempt charges and 20-day jail sentences. And during their opening statement to the jury in North Carolina, members of the Pax Christi-Spirit of Life Plowshares in 1994 were found in contempt of court for not complying with the judge’s instruction to refrain from speaking about crimes of the national security state and their moral and legal intent.

Prison sentences have varied for each plowshares-disarmament action. These sentences have ranged from suspended sentences to 18 years. The average sentence for plowshares activists has been between one and two years. I want to note here that, as a consequence of their Plowshares actions, Fr. Carl Kabat has spent close to 18 years in prison, Helen Woodson over 12 years in prison, and Fr. Steve Kelly about 10 years in prison. [2] (Please see below Notes regarding other plowshares activists who have served long prison sentences for their actions). These, and all Plowshares activists, in the U.S. and internationally, who have served prison sentences, have made great sacrifices and risked their freedom to help bring about a disarmed world.

With respect to the Transform Now Plowshares, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned their sabotage conviction as they were already serving over a year and a half their 3 and 5 plus year prison sentences. This resulted in their sentence being vacated and they were released from prison and resentenced to probation and ordered to pay restitution.

Regarding pre-trial detention for plowshares people who were not willing to bond out or comply with other pre-trial release conditions, the case of the KBP7 is unprecedented. Mark served over a year, Liz, 17 months and Steve, 18 months and counting.

Doing support work on behalf of plowshares activists has also been an integral part of the plowshares actions. Efforts by local support groups, including now here in Georgia, have been invaluable in supporting plowshares activists during trial and imprisonment and in helping to educate the public about the meaning of these actions. As people have been sentenced to long prison terms, support for prisoners and their families has been, and continues to be, crucial.  

While plowshares activists have different perspectives on a variety of issues, most would undoubtedly agree with the following viewpoint articulated by Philip Berrigan in 1992:

Plowshares began disarmament in 1980, doing what the government refused to do for 35 years. With equal concern, Plowshares appealed to the hearts, minds and spirits of the American people—‘You must share disarmament!’ The twin goals of Plowshares—symbolic yet real disarmament and sharing disarmament—have reciprocity. The weapons exist because our fear, violence and hatred built them... The imperative is to be human in an inhuman time, to act in season and out despite the prospect that the American empire might not break up in our lifetime, nor disarmament happen while we live. If that be the case, modesty of means will sustain us as another face of faith. And faith is not faith except for the long haul. [3]

Regarding this notion of faith, Elizabeth McAlister asserts:

 There is not going to be any real disarmament until there’s a disarming of hearts. And so one puts oneself on the line to symbolically, but really, disarm the weapons in a hope and prayer that the action might be used by the Spirit of God to change minds and hearts. One puts oneself on the line—at risk and in jeopardy—to communicate the depth of commitment to that hope. [4]

Based on my experience, it is important to note that each of the plowshares participants I’ve met has carefully reflected on these and other important considerations prior to an action. While there does exist among plowshares participants a basic unanimity about the underlying spirit for plowshares actions, there is a diversity of opinion among plowshares participants about certain issues including defenses to use in court, the level of cooperation with court and probation authorities, and the payment of fines and restitution. Clearly, these and other issues that I have addressed have generated important discussion among plowshares activists and the wider disarmament movement.

In the final analysis, people who do plowshares actions are ordinary people who, with all their weaknesses, are attempting to respond in faith and conscience to a moral mandate, which must be enacted in our violent world, and for those in the U.S. arguably the most empire in history. These actions are not to be glamorized or taken lightly. People have taken great risks, experienced the loneliness and dehumanization of prison, and have had to cope with many difficult personal and family hardships. Building and sustaining an acting community takes extraordinary commitment and is certainly not problem-free. Yet, with all their limitations and imperfections, these actions are a powerful reminder that we can live in a world without weapons and war if people are willing to begin the process of disarmament by literally beating the swords (weapons) of our time in plowshares. While these actions are deemed criminal by the state, they should be considered, in light of the great evil we face, the norm. Although each plowshares action has many similarities to others, in the end each is unique, each is a learning process, each is an experiment in truth.

Friends, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists have turned its Doomsday Clock to two minutes before midnight because of the apocalyptic twin dangers of climate chaos and nuclear war. Russia and the U.S. possesses over 6,000 nuclear weapons each, many of which are on hair trigger alert. U.S. and NATO Missile Defense systems ring Russia and China, increasing already heightened tensions. A new U.S. Space Force has been created to oversee military control and domination of space. Meanwhile, during this past year, the U.S. withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Deal and the INF Treaty with Russia. On February 13, 2019, the U.S. carried out a sub-critical nuclear test, a flagrant violation of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the new UN Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons. And Pentagon policy makers have declared that a limited nuclear war could be waged and won, according to a new nuclear doctrine titled "Nuclear Operations."  These actions, along with the fact that there have been 32 nuclear accidents (broken arrows), have further exacerbated the nuclear peril.

With an unpredictable president in office, and the development of a new smaller nuclear warhead, the W76-2, to be deployed this fall, the U.S. will now have the nuclear "flexibility" to wage what is called a limited-nuclear war. Let's be clear: The stated U.S. nuclear policy is that it must be prepared to use any military means necessary, including using nuclear weapons, to protect and ensure its "vital" national security and geo-political interests. And all this is supposedly "legal!" Remember that since the U.S. used nuclear weapons against the Japanese people in 1945, every U.S. president has threatened to use nuclear weapons to bolster U.S. imperial ambitions--at least 30 such threats have been made.

This reality of the use and threatened use of nuclear weapons being "legal," came home to me in a powerful way in 1982 during the Trident Nein plowshares trial, in which I was a defendant. The Trident Nein action was carried out on July 5, 1982 when nine peacemakers hammered and poured blood on the USS Florida Trident nuclear submarine and components at the General Dynamics-Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton, CT. We also spray-painted USS AUSCHWITZ on the submarine and poured blood and hung a banner on sonar equipment. The banner said: TRIDENT A HOLOCAUST-AN OVEN WITHOUT WALLS! At one point during the trial an extraordinary exchange with the trial judge took place. He stated that we defendants may very well be right, that the world might be blown up, but the law must still be upheld! I was astonished by this statement! By implication, the judge was clarifying how the civil law of the United States protects nuclear weapons. Even though the use of such weapons pose an unprecedented peril for our world, the "law's" sanctioning them cannot be questioned. In short, the use of nuclear weapons, which could end the world as we know it, would be technically lawful.

On Sept. 4, 1989, six peacemakers (including Kathy Boylan and Jackie Allen who are here) and I carried out the Thames River Plowshares action in New London, Connecticut. We were able to swim and canoe to the docked USS Pennsylvania, the 10th Trident, and hammered and poured blood on the hull. Elmer Maas, Jim Reale and I beached our canoe on the fin end of the Trident and were able to climb on top of the submarine. There, kneeling in prayer on the submarine, we read from the entire 15th chapter of John's Gospel and prayed for the abolition of nuclear weapons. As MP's used fire-hoses from a distance to try and get us to leave the submarine, I made an appeal to them to become conscientious to war. We were then taken into custody by the Coast Guard. 

From aboard this most destructive weapon on earth, I believed then, and I believe now, that if people have the faith to believe that disarmament is possible, and act on that faith, it can occur. I, along with other Plowshares activists and many other peacemakers, know this can happen because we were, in fact, able to literally begin the process of true disarmament. 

Let’s thank God for the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 who risked their freedom and lives on April 4, 2018 to enflesh God's dream for the human family to abolish weapons of mass murder and war! Now is the time to heed the pleas of the Hibakusha to the world that Jim Douglass referred to in his powerful reflection on Sunday at the Festival of Hope: HUMANITY CANNOT COEXIST WITH NUCLEAR WEAPONS! And that the U.S. must now lead the way to repent  of the nuclear sin and ratify the UN Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons. Now is the time to renew our commitment to join with them to eradicate the triple evils of poverty, racism and militarism that Dr. King implored us to do. As all of you are already doing, let us recommit ourselves, through God's amazing grace, to bringing about a nonviolent and disarmed world and create the Beloved Community! For with God and community all things are possible! Let us all continue to strive to embrace and embody an Ethic of Resurrection! 

Thank you very much!


[1] See: Swords Into Plowshares: A Chronology of Plowshares-Disarmament Actions, 1980-2003, by Arthur J. Laffin, WIPH and STOCK Publishers. Expanded Plowshares Chronology: 2003-2015, by Arthur J. Laffin, See link on

[2]There have also been other Plowshares activists who were sentenced to long imprisonment, including Fr. Paul Kabat, Larry Cloud Morgan, Martin Holliday, Jean Gump, Joe Gump, Jerry Ebner, Richard Miller, Jeff Leys, George Ostensen, Peter Lumsdaine and Sachio Ko-Yin, Katya Komisaruk, Lin Romano, Sr. Jackie Hudson, Sr. Megan Rice,and members of the Plowshares Eight, Trident Nein, Griffiss Plowshares, AVCO Plowshares, Trident II Plowshares, Trident Two Pruning Hooks, Pershing Plowshares, Silo Plowshares, Anzus Peace Force Plowshares, Jubilee Plowshares East, Pax Christ-Spirit of Life Plowshares, Thames River Plowshares, Prince of Peace Plowshares and Gods of Metal Plowshares and Plowshares VS. Depleted Uranium. And there have been plowshares activists who did multiple plowshares actions and served substantial prison time, including Elmer Maas, Peter DeMott, Sr. Anne Montgomery, Daniel Sicken, Susan Crane, Sr. Ardeth Platte, Sr. Carol Gilbert, Phil Berrigan, Liz McAlister, Greg Boertje-Obed, Michele Naar-Obed, Michael Walli, Kathy Boylan and Turi Vaccaro. This is a partial listing and does not include international actions. Please see Swords Into Plowshares (book) and KBP7 link for all those who have been imprisoned for their courageous and prophetic witness!

[3] Phil Berrigan, The Nuclear Resister, December 23, 1992.

[4] Liz McAlister, The Catholic Agitator, November 1992.


Biden Taking Iraq Lies to the Max

Presidential candidate Joe Biden is adding lies on top of lies to cover up his backing of the Iraq invasion.

At last night's ABC/DNC debate Biden lied about his Iraq record, just like he did at the first two debates.

In the July debate, Biden claimed: “From the moment ‘shock and awe’ started, from that moment, I was opposed to the effort, and I was outspoken as much as anyone at all in the Congress.”

When he first said that, it received virtually no scrutiny except for Mideast scholar Stephen Zunes, who wrote the piece "Biden Is Doubling Down on Iraq War Lies." Zunes outlined much of Biden's record, including his insistence in May 2003 -- months after the Iraq invasion -- that “There was sufficient evidence to go into Iraq.”

At last night's debate on ABC, Biden claimed that he voted for the Iraq invasion authorization to "to allow inspectors to go in to determine whether or not anything was being done with chemical weapons or nuclear weapons."

But the congressional vote happened on October 11 (see Biden's speech then). And by that time Iraq had agreed to allow weapons inspectors back in. On Sept. 16, 2002, the New York Times reported: "U.N. Inspectors Can Return Unconditionally, Iraq Says." (This was immediately after a delegation organized by the Institute for Public Accuracy -- where I work -- had gone to Iraq.)

Now, independent journalist Michael Tracey, who interviewed Biden in New Hampshire recently, reports that Biden made the ridiculous claim that he opposed the invasion of Iraq even before it started. Said Biden: “Yes, I did oppose the war before it began." See Tracey's piece: "Joe Biden's Jumbled Iraq War Revisionism" and video.

Film "Official Secrets" Points to a Mammoth Iceberg

Two-time Oscar nominee Keira Knightley is known for being in "period pieces" such as "Pride and Prejudice," so her playing the lead in the new film "Official Secrets," scheduled to be release in the U.S. this Friday, may seem odd at first. That is until one considers that the time span being depicted -- the early 2003 run-up to the invasion of Iraq -- is one of the most dramatic and consequential periods of modern human history. 

It is also one of the most poorly understood, in part because the story of Katharine Gun, played by Knightley, is so little known. I should say from the outset that having followed this story from the start, I find this film to be, by Hollywood standards, a remarkably accurate account of what has happened to date. "To date" because the wider story still isn't really over.

Katharine Gun worked as an analyst for Government Communications Headquarters, the British equivalent of the secretive U.S. National Security Agency. She tried to stop the impending invasion of Iraq in early 2003 by exposing the deceit of George W. Bush and Tony Blair in their claims about Iraq. She was prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act -- a juiced up version of the U.S. Espionage Act, which has in recent years been used repeatedly by the Obama administration against whistleblowers and now by the Trump administration against Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange.  

Gun was charged for exposing -- around the time of Colin Powell's infamous testimony to the UN about Iraq's alleged WMDs -- a top secret U.S. government memo showing it was mounting an illegal spying “surge” against other U.N. Security Council delegations in an effort to force approval for an Iraq invasion resolution. The U.S. and Britain had successfully forced through a trumped up resolution, 1441 in November 2002. In early 2003, they were poised to threaten, bribe or blackmail their way to actual United Nations authorization for the invasion. See recent interview with Gun.  

The leaked memo, published by the British Observer, was big news in parts of the world, especially the targeted countries on the Security Council, and effectively prevented Bush and Blair from getting a second UN Security Council resolution they said they wanted. 

U.S. government started the invasion anyway of course -- without Security Council authorization -- by telling the UN weapons inspectors to leave Iraq and issuing a unilateral demand that Saddam Hussein leave Iraq in 48 hours -- and then saying the invasion would commence regardless

It was the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, where I work (, Norman Solomon, as well as Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg who in the U.S. most immediately saw the importance of what Gun did. Dan would later comment: “No one else -- including myself -- has ever done what Katharine Gun did: Tell secret truths at personal risk, before an imminent war, in time, possibly, to avert it. Hers was the most important -- and courageous -- leak I’ve ever seen, more timely and potentially more effective than the Pentagon Papers.”

Of course, we didn't know her name at the time. After the Observer broke the story on March 1, 2003, we at put out a series of news releases on it and organized a sadly sparsely attended news conference with Dan on March 11, 2003 at the National Press Club, focusing on Gun's revelations and Dan calling for more such truth telling to stop the impending invasion. 

Even though I followed this case for years, I didn't realize until recently that our work helped compel Gun to expose the document. I didn't know till a recent D.C. showing of "Official Secrets" that Gun had read a book co-authored by Norman, published in January 2003 which included material from as well as the media watch group FAIR that debunked many of the falsehoods for war and was published in January of 2003. 

Said Gun about the period just before she disclosed the document: "I went to the local bookshop, and I went into the political section. I found two books, which had apparently been rushed into publication, one was by Norman Solomon and Reese Erlich, and it was called Target Iraq. And the other one was by Milan Rai. It was called War Plan Iraq. And I bought both of them. And I read them cover to cover that weekend, and it basically convinced me that there was no real evidence for this war. So I think from that point onward, I was very critical and scrutinizing everything that was being said in the media." 

Thus, we see Gun shouting at the TV to Tony Blair that he's not entitled to make up facts, so the film may be jarring to some consumers of major media who might think that Trump invented lying in 2017. 

But Gun's immediate action after reading critiques of U.S. policy and media coverage is a remarkable case for trying to reach government workers, handing out fliers, books, having billboards outside government offices, to encourage them to be more critically minded. 

“One America" -- To What Ends?

The report is 121 pages. I've delved into it. I could immerse myself in it and write a dissertation, but who would read it? For a short piece, it's enough to just look at the cover -- and consider how this administration uses this issue as cover.

"One America in the 21st Century" is the title. Not "Finally Overcoming Racism." Not "Towards an America of Equality." "One America" -- is that really the point? Should that be the goal of this race initiative?

National cohesion is the driving concern here. How can we make these differing ethnicities get along well enough to ensure that this stays one nation is a question elites must ask themselves. We are called to "overcome the burden of race." In some respects, the people -- their very genetic makeup and heritage -- is implicitly viewed as a threat to the great goal: "One America." Is that more important than reaffirming our humanity with regards to ethnicity? Indeed, humanity is viewed at best as a mere lever, a tactic for national unity, just as racial diversity is viewed as a means to economic success.

There is some truth in the notion that governments should not legislate morality. So the issue foremost on this administration's mind should be: "Are we doing anything that is fostering racism? Are we carrying out the laws that are on the books properly? Or are we applying punishments, such as the death penalty, in a manner that is prejudicial? Are police harassing African Americans on the highways? Are security personnel stopping Arab Americans more than others at airports?” Bill Clinton can ask himself: “Did I do virtually nothing to stop the disaster in Rwanda because their skin was darker than mine?” and “Am I keeping the sanctions in place in Iraq because the greatest victim -- 4,500 Iraqi children dying every month -- belong to a group that has been cast as ‘the other’ – the great non-American  ethnicity?” 

Can we really talk about "The President's Initiative on Race" with some seriousness? Clinton lied to -- and about -- Lani Guinier; he signed the crime and the welfare bills. Clinton -- when he had a Democratic majority -- did not invoke "one person one vote" to rally support for DC statehood. The president did, however, run down to DC from Martha's Vineyard when he ordered the launching of missiles, in total violation of international law at a pharmaceutical plant in the Sudan, apparently to distract from his sex scandals. Few recall that this same man, when the Gennifer Flowers story was breaking, pulled his first "wag the dog" stage on the national by running down to Arkansas to oversee the frying of a retarded black man.

Of course, "One America in the 21st Century: Forging a New Future" could be used as a title for things other than “The President's Initiative on Race." Say, on economics. What would that title mean in that context? Perhaps on healthcare, where this administration portrayed itself as challenging the health insurance companies while it was actually in cahoots with the insurance giants as they clashed with the smaller players. The Clinton administration doesn't seem interested in forging "One America" economically, where we "overcome the burden of economics." "One America" was not of a great deal of concern to the 14 billionaires who gave up their US citizenship to avoid paying taxes a few years back.

Bill Clinton's presumed hero, John F. Kennedy, said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. " And here, we are asked to address the "burden of race" -- for the good of the country.

We have accepted Divine Right of Nations. Walter Mondale said that "America is forever." Wouldn't true religious people view that as idolatry? Nations are made to serve humans. It is people who are born with inalienable rights. It is governments that must not trample on those rights. Patriotism has become an less expression of love for those around you, or a devotion to timeless principles, than blind allegiance.

Sam Husseini is former media director for the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. [Originally published in the Jan/Feb 1999 issue of Poverty & Race.]

"Radical": Frank Lloyd Wright interviewed by Mike Wallace

I came across this wonderful pair of interviews with Frank Lloyd Wright years ago. They are on the website of the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. While their site has transcripts of the interviews, there seems to be no easy way of linking to them, so I've posted their transcript here, while making a few corrections. See my piece "Frank Lloyd Wright, Used by GOP, Since His Actual Ideas Are So Little Understood."

Video is also on youtube, but audio isn't as good:

WALLACE: Good evening, what you are about to witness is an unrehearsed, uncensored interview. My name is Mike Wallace, the cigarette is Philip Morris. (OPENING CREDITS) 

WALLACE: Tonight we go after the story of one of the most extraordinary men of our time. You see him behind me, he is eighty-eight-year-old Frank Lloyd Wright, perhaps the greatest architect of the twentieth century. And in the opinion of some, America's foremost social rebel. According to a story in Life Magazine not many years back, fellow architects have called him everything, from a great poet to an insupportable windbag. The clergy has deplored his morals, creditors have deplored his financial habits, politicians, his opinions. And we'll get Frank Lloyd Wright's views on morals, politics, religion and architecture in just a moment. My guest's opinions are not necessarily mine, the station's, or my sponsor's Philip Morris Incorporated, but whether you agree or disagree we feel sure that none will deny the right of these views to be broadcast. 

WALLACE: And, now to our story. Admirers of Frank Lloyd Wright hail him as a man one hundred years ahead of his time. Now, eighty-eight years old, he is still designing homes and buildings which are revolutionary, including plans for a mile-high skyscraper for which he's had no buyers yet. But just as radical as Frank Lloyd Wright the architect is Frank Lloyd Wright the social critic. Mr. Wright, before we go any further, I'd like to chart your attitudes specifically, by getting your capsule opinions as an architect or as a social critic of the following: First of all, organized Christianity. 

WRIGHT: Why organized it? Christianity doesn't need organizing according to the Master of it, the great master poet of all times didn't want it organized, did he?. Didn't Jesus say... that wherever a few are gathered in my name, there is my Church? 

WALLACE: Therefore you, would just as see... er... just as soon see your religion unorganized? 

WRIGHT: Well, that may be why I am building a synagogue in Philadelphia, a Unitarian church in Madison, a Greek Orthodox church in Milwaukee, and (CLEARS THROAT) a Christian Science church in California. 

WALLACE: Are you a religious man yourself? 

WRIGHT: I've always considered myself deeply... 

WALLACE: Do you go... 

WRIGHT: ...religious 

WALLACE: Do you go to any specific church? 

WRIGHT: Yes, I go occasionally to this one, and then sometimes to that one, but my church I put a capital N on Nature and go there. 

WALLACE: All right, sir, what do you think... 

WRIGHT: You spell God with a G, don't you? 

WALLACE: I spell God with a G, you will spell it with...? 

WRIGHT: I spell Nature with an N, capital. 

WALLACE: What do you think of the American Legion, Mr. Wright? 

WRIGHT: I never think of it, if I can help it. 

WALLACE: What do you mean by that? 

WRIGHT: They're professional warriors, aren't they? 

WALLACE: Uh-huh. 

WRIGHT: I'm against war. Always have been, always will be. And everything connected with it, is anathema to me. I have never considered it necessary. And I think that one war only breeds another. And I think I've been borne out by the reading of history, haven't I? One war always has in it, in its intestines, another, and another has another... 

WALLACE: Mr. Wright... 

WRIGHT: Why be for war? And if you are not for war, why are you for warriors?