23rd April 2001, Helensburgh District Court
In the words of this court I conducted myself in a disorderly manner, sat on the roadway, disrupted the free flow of traffic to the alarm and annoyance of the lieges refused to desist when required and thus commited a breach of the peace.
In my own words however I would put it differently. You see I was carrying out my duty , reiterated by the Nuremberg principles post WW2, of intervening to stop a violation of international humanitarian law. Others have argued, more eloquently than myself, ad-lib & ad-nauseum, in this very court ( when given the opportunity ) on raindrenched roundabouts and even at more elevated levels of power , as to why TRIDENT is a breach of world peace. If I dented a commuter’s karma, then I apologize. Peacemaking has a cost to the general public – traffic tailbacks, being late for work etc but no lives are lost. no consciences are killed. What is the peace I have breached compared to the peace TRIDENT is continually breaching. Comforting the afflicted sometimes means afflicting the comfortable.
Pope Paul VI said : if you want peace, work for justice. Peace is not the mere absence of declared war. It arises from just relations. How can any of us be at peace when our brothers and sisters are dying of starvation, being destroyed by debt, and sanctions. When we threaten to slaughter the civilian population of a potential enemy with Trident, we already commit a monstrous injustice. Trident destroys peace, because it destroys justice.
Law is good when it curbs violence and safeguards values necessary for the survival of human communities. But what if it safeguards values tending to the destruction of human communities? I put it to you, Your Honour, that in its continual research and development of the means to destroy life rather than secure and enhance it, the TRIDENT nuclear weapons system leads not only to physical death , but the dimunition of human life,development and dignity , the alienation of people from themselves and from one another. By defending TRIDENT , the law is not living up to its calling. Justice is not being served.
for those in our community on the breadline as the bombline rolls on, costing much needed schools, hospitals, libraries, community centres, drug rehab centres, teachers, doctors, ( not prisons, lawyers or police ofcourse ) justice is not being served.
for those in communities worldwide whose poverty from Debt repayments caused by the ill logic of global capitalism is guaranteed by military might & TRIDENT justice is not being served.
and for those working inside the base who receive no briefing from the MOD about the ICJ verdict of 1996, and would no doubt be be horrified to find themselves legally compromised as they go about their unlawful and schizoid business, justice is certainly not being served.
With TRIDENT , law in Scotland, since the shameful LAR verdict, has become captive to violence in its enforcement. It has been sucked into the contest for power – economic and military domination of the globe
through its support of weapons of mass destruction. It has been subverted to its own purposes. I and other Ploughsharers, through our regular court appearances, are merely attempting to return to the true spirit of the law that was intended in its creation.
In his book In Humanity – a moral history of the 20th century , historian Jonathan Glover claims that what so disfigured the last century – wars , massacre, genocide – rose from a ghoulish combination of modern technology and psychology, where our tendencies to conflict meet our inclination to mass killing. The technology cannot be reversed he argues – the know-how to make a nuclear bomb will now always be with us – but the psychology can be changed and this demonic combination severed. What we need is an urgent reinforcement of our moral defences against barbarism
the retreat from a morality based on authority to the creation of a morality which works with the grain of human nature, aiming never to distance ourselves from our victims.
My action may have been illegal on one legal level, but I lay claim to it because it was legitimate. I don’t demand clemency but justice. Either I have acted in everyone’s interest and you will acquit me, or I with my fellow peaceworkers have shaken the establishment , and in that case you will no doubt punish us.
Regarding the words of this court and any sentence passed on me, it is prudent to remember Henry David Thoreau’s quote that – the lawyer’s truth is not TRUTH but consistency, or a consistent expediency. Our Ploughshares actions – and the one on the 14th February 2000 was no exception – speak real truth to power. Nothing is more rare or more truly revolutionary than an accurate description of reality. And the nuclear arms industry has done more than any other to disguise its true nature by misnaming itself and its products, and by promoting itself as defending the weak and the poor when the opposite is true. 14 february was our Operation Spotlight on the whole murderous business.
As Vaclav Havel once said : A better future depends on something like an international community of citizens, which ignoring state boundaries, political systems and power blocs will seek to make a real political force out of the phenomenon of human conscience. That is what I with others was doing on the date in question, and will continue to do until TRIDENT is a relic of the past.
“Our childhood wars have aged us” says poet Audre Lorde, “but it is the absence of change which will destroy us.”