On Sept. 19, the four of us will go on trial a second time for trying to prevent the Iraq war. We are charged with conspiracy to impede "by force, intimidation and threat" an officer of the United States and three lesser charges. If convicted of federal conspiracy, we face up to six years in prison, a period of probation and $275,000 in fines.
On March 17, 2003, just before "Operation Shock and Awe," on the Iraqi people, we entered the Lansing, N.Y. military recruiting center and poured our own blood carefully around the vestibule of the center. We were alone in the vestibule as we poured our blood. We knelt and read our action statement. No one was prevented from entering or leaving the center.
We were among millions nationwide and worldwide who went into the streets, government centers and recruiting stations to call our country away from preemptive, illegal war. Over seven thousand people were arrested that week for acting nonviolently to prevent the war.
In April 2004 we were tried in state court, where nine of twelve jurors voted, after listening to our defense, that we were not guilty. The judge declared a mistrial after 20 hours of deliberations.
We were compelled to act by the Nuremburg Principles of international law, which state that citizens have individual rights and duties to prevent war crimes and crimes against humanity which supersede our obligations to obey domestic law. And we were inspired by our nation's rich history of nonviolent action for justice:
- Henry David Thoreau, who was jailed for refusing to pay taxes in opposition to slavery and war.
- Abolitionists who aided escaping slaves via the underground railroad.
- Susan B. Anthony and other suffragettes who were jailed for picketing and attempting to vote.
- Rosa Parks and freedom rides to end racial discrimination in bus seating.
- Students who conducted sit-ins demanding divestment from South Africa.
Our action was legal under the law of necessity because any harm we caused -- a mess in the vestibule of the center -- was minuscule compared to the heinous crimes of mass murder, grand theft and torture we were trying to prevent.
Tragically, much of what millions of others and we had hoped to prevent has come to pass:
The deaths of over 100,000 Iraqi civilians 1,890 U.S. service members, and thousands more injured and traumatized.
Dust from many tons of cancer-causing depleted uranium munitions has contaminated the Iraqi landscape and the bodies of its people for generations to come.
The diversion of $200 billion from communities unable to afford health care and education to an illegal and unwinnable war in Iraq
The diversion of essential state and federal resources to the Persian Gulf, which has left our Gulf Coast vulnerable to the fatal catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina
Now, with an ever worsening situation in Iraq, the United States government wants to retry us for conspiracy. We believe our actions were moral, legal and necessary. As with our first trial, if the jury is allowed to hear about the illegality of the war, our country's history of nonviolent resistance to injustice, and how our faith in God calls us to work for a world unified by love, solidarity and mutual cooperation, we expect our peers will vote to acquit.
We invite the people of Binghamton and surrounding areas to both our trial and The Citizens' Tribunal on Iraq. The trial will begin at 9 a.m. at the Federal Building at 15 Henry St.
From Sept. 18 to 22, the Tribunal will be held at Centenary Chenango Street United Methodist Church, 438 Chenango St. Leaders of faith, U.S. and United Kingdom diplomats, U.S. soldiers, victims of aggression, and legal experts will present the moral, historical, and legal grounds for nonviolent civil resistance to this war. For more information, please visit the Web site www.stpatricksfour.org
No matter the verdict, we will continue to work for our country's transformation from one that engages in aggressive war and the intimidation of those who call for justice and accountability into a country that engages in nonviolent solutions and seeks social justice.
The writers are known collectively as the St. Patrick's Four.
© 2005 Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin