On Feb. 1, the trial of the Zumwalt 12 will begin. We will stand trial for obstructing a public way just outside of the Bath Iron Works, during a protest of the christening of the second of three Zumwalt-class destroyer last June.
Though none of us dispute that we blocked traffic on the road for approximately 10 minutes, we are pleading not guilty, and the jury will hear why we believe our action was not only reasonable, but also necessary in order to prevent the much greater crimes committed by our nation’s military that would do far greater harm to our planet.
Four of the Zumwalt 12 are veterans of the U.S. military and members of Veterans For Peace, who strongly believe that our nation’s militaristic, imperialist policies and actions violate international law and make the United States a rogue state. They recognize the fact that the Zumwalt has nothing to do with defending the coastline of the U.S. because it was designed and built to be a stealth, forward-deployed attack weapon.
Like other U.S. Navy warships, it will likely be ported at some of the roughly 800 U.S. bases around the world. These bases usually come at the expense of the local people’s right to decide for themselves if they want that base on their lands and waters, as well as their right to a healthy environment. For these veterans, sitting down in the road at Bath Iron Works 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 in our name to others around the world.
A number of us choose to take this action for deeply held faith-based reasons. One of the Zumwalt 12 has said 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 also will hear the economic reasons for opposing these warships. The three ships have been built at the staggering cost of more than $21 billion, including research and development. This brings to mind what President Dwight Eisenhower said in his chance for peace speech: “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 environment from our government’s addiction to war-making. First, the Pentagon has a vast carbon bootprint, and our military is the largest institutional consumer of oil in the world, using more than 100 million barrels of oil a year. That makes it one of the largest contributors to climate disruption on the planet. Second, and an important reason for my participation, is the great harm being done to marine life because of the Navy’s refusal to take meaningful, common-sense measures to drastically reduce the impact of its use of sonar.
While we each had 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 toward 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, the skilled workers at Bath Iron Works were building high-speed rails, wind turbines and other sustainable, life-affirming products. Let’s make that change happen.
Russell Wray volunteers with Citizens Opposing Active Sonar Threats, and he is one of the Zumwalt 12. He lives in Hancock.