|Painted banner by the author of this post, Russell Wray.|
Russell's op-ed was first published in the Bangor Daily News on January 30, 2017 under the headline "BIW should make life-affirming products instead of death machines."
On , the trial of the Zumwalt 12 will begin. We will be going to stand trial for obstructing a public way just outside of the Bath Iron Works (BIW), during a protest of the “christening” of a Navy Zumwalt destroyer this past .
Though none of us dispute the fact that we did indeed block traffic on the road for approximately ten minutes, we are pleading not-guilty, and the jury will hear why we believe our action was not only reasonable, but it was also necessary, in order to try to prevent a much greater crime that would do far greater harm to our planet.
Four of the Zumwalt 12 are veterans of the US military, all members of Veterans For Peace, who strongly believe that our nation’s militaristic, imperialist policies and actions are in violation of international law and have made the US a rogue state. They recognize the fact that the Zumwalt has nothing to do with defending the coastline of the United States, for it was designed and built to be a stealth, forward deployed attack weapon.
Like other Navy warships, it will likely be ported at some of the roughly one thousand US bases around the world. These bases usually come at the expense of the local people’s right to decide for themselves if they even want that base on their own lands and waters, as well as their right to a healthy environment. For these veterans, sitting down in the road at BIW was “an act of civil resistance, not a matter of breaking the law, but an action taken in response to broken laws.”
It was a cry out to the American people to look at what our government is doing to others around the world, in our name.
A number of us choose to take this action for deeply held faith-based reasons. One of these has stated that “As a follower of the nonviolent Jesus, I found it impossible to remain silent as another weapon of mass destruction was blessed and prepared for delivery to the Navy…..Through the simple act of sitting down and refusing to move, we embodied a resounding “No” to the immeasurable suffering caused by national policies that have made weapons of mass destruction and unrestrained, endless war our country’s major exports.”
Members of the jury will also be hearing from some of us economic reasons for opposing these warships. Only three of these ships having been, or are being built thus far, at a staggering cost of over $21 billion. This brings to mind President Eisenhower's famous quote: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children…”
There is also the immense cost to our planetary environment brought about by our government’s addiction to war-making.
To mention only two of the innumerable ways our planet is suffering this addiction: The Pentagon’s vast carbon footprint, the Pentagon being the single largest contributor to climate disruption on the planet. The other, an important reason for my own participation in the action, is the great harm being done to marine life because of the Navy’s refusal to take meaningful, commonsense mitigation measures that would drastically reduce impacts resulting from its reckless use of sonar.
While we each had our own personal reasons that led us to sit down in the road that day, it’s fair to say that we all share the belief that if we are going to continue living on this planet, it is absolutely necessary that we move away from militarism and war towards a more sustainable culture of diplomacy and cooperation, where justice prevails, and we care for one another and the Earth.
We would all be much better off, if instead of building death machines, BIW’s skilled workers were building high-speed rail, wind turbines, and other sustainable, life-affirming products. Lets make that change happen!