What follows is a forward to one of Francis
A. Boyle's book.
It was written while Phil was in prison for the Prince of Peace
Federal Correctional Institution at Petersburg 1996-1997
Federal Correctional Institution at Elkton 2001
My suspicions about human law go back 30 years.
They began with the trial of The Baltimore 4 following Dr. King's
assassination in April, 1968. Our effort, in October 1967, was one
of many raids on Selective Service -- some say over 100 -- both
standby and covert.
In the Baltimore 4 trial, the federal judge
enforced a narrow focus -- did we do the resistance act we admitted
doing against the genocidal debacle in Southeast Asia? He suppressed
"why" we did it, except by our testimony, which the prosecutor
dismissed contemptuously as misguided, even adolescent. But no
expert testimony reached the jury about search and destroy
operations, napalm, cluster bomb units, Agent Orange, Phoenix
Program assassinations, millions of Indochinese dead, the risks of
nuclear war against China and the Soviet Union.
I witnessed for the first time an American
Court fabricating a legal railroad -- what we call a kangaroo court.
On reflection it was pitiful -- a court exposing itself like an
exhibitionist snatching his raincoat open. But despite the shameful
(and shameless) spectacle, the judge initiated a pattern
scrupulously followed for 30 years, departing again from the initial
concept of The Founders -- protection of the people against the
government and powerful. The judge did the exact opposite -- he
protected the government and military against the people.
Such legal machinations are insidious -- they
effectively strip people of any non-violent redress against "their"
government. We should recall that Thoreau called legal dissent
"consent" since he apparently believed that tolerating legal dissent
by the regime strengthened its credibility (and injustice). In
brief, the government imposes an enormously effective deterrent --
"break the law and you'll go to prison!"
As the years passed and my arrests mounted,
setting up a revolving door between prison and "minimum security," I
feverishly researched material on law and the judiciary. I read
Thomas Merton who likened the legality of Christ's execution -- "we
have a law and according to this law he must die" (Jn 19:7) -- to
the legality of nuclear war (Hiroshima and Nagasaki and subsequent
doomsday adventures). This time, Merton wrote, the death sentence is
passed on humankind, The Body of Christ.
I read further, discovering that the Bible
gave human law ample treatment. 1st Samuel 8th chapter, for example,
exposes the State as a public, bureaucratic rebellion against God.
But how do you distinguish between the State and its law -- Saul's
law, Nero's law, Clinton's law? Philosophers of the law don't try,
because they are the same thing. One can't imagine the State without
its law, or the law without a patron State. They are identities.
Therefore, the law, like the State is inherently flawed and violent
-- its function to legalize a rebellious State. Can it even -- in
cases of conscience -- offer non-violent redress? One can question
Further on still, I reviewed Paul's Letter to
the Galatians -- his most sustained indictment of human law. (Some
claim that Paul in Galatians was attacking Mosaic Law. Others reject
that as superficial -- he was indicting all law.) Paul argued that
the law reduced Christ to a curse, necessary to redeem us from the
The genesis of the State then, ancient or
modern, is rejection of God, rebellion against God. "They have not
rejected you [Samuel], they have rejected me as their King." (1 Sam.
8:7) And God instructs Samuel to tell the elders what a human King,
Leader, Premier, Fuhrer, Prime Minister, President would cost the
people -- sons for the military, daughters as domestics, crushing
taxes, fields, vineyards and flocks confiscated, servants seized,
slavery the final, tragic culmination. As the ruling hierarchy told
Pilate: "We have no King but Caesar." (John 19:15)
Paul equates the law with sin and death -- sin
because law has nothing to say to sins of omission, and death
because most will draw their morality from the law. The morality of
most Americans is legalized. To become "law abiding" is to fear the
penalties of the law, to become house-broken, domesticated. Morality
limited by the boundaries of the law is spiritual death.
Scholars speculate that the law and its courts
(not the prisons) are social yardsticks -- in fact, condensations or
crystalizations of the society as a whole. What of imperial America?
What do the courts condense and symbolize -- war, profit,
corporatism, contempt of the Poor, guns (nuclear and others)
domestic violence, racism, discrimination against women, war against
the children. The priorities of the empire are so implanted in the
courts that arguably, they cannot accord justice to non-violent
resisters. Just as the government by itself is helpless to disarm.
Enter Francis Boyle and international law. The
U.N. Charter, the Nuremberg Statutes, the Geneva Conventions, the
World Court Decision of 1996, ruling that the "threat or use of
nuclear weapons is illegal." Francis Boyle is perhaps the most
competent and impassioned advocate of international law in the U.S.
He has as well, noble colleagues like Ramsey Clark, Peter Weiss and
Critics of international law tend to dismiss
it as toothless, or for some of the reasons argued above. But I tend
to support it, and to revere excellent lawyers like Boyle, Clark et
al. And I contend that my apparent inconsistency evaporates when one
reflects that international law is stateless, and therefore, escapes
the moral contamination of nation/state law. Secondly, it coincides
in most aspects with the justice of divine law. One can test it for
example, against the summation of "the law and the prophets" --
("Love your neighbor as you love yourself.").
Finally, international law is a curb on the
lawlessness and derangement of nuclear club members, especially the
U.S. They have all freely agreed to become signatories, agreeing
also to the superseding nature of international law, and its binding
power over every court in the land.
Like all bodies of thought truthful enough to
threaten the empire, international law endures an enormous weight of
How will the American people respond when they
understand that their government is nakedly lawless before its own
law? There is, for example, the war in Afghanistan. I wrote the
following from federal prison in Elkton, OH after the awful events
of September 11, 2001:
By all definitions, presence in a penal
dumpster restricts one. Having no resource for research, I must rely
on friends for analyses of current events. Articles by Francis
Boyle, Stan Goff, and John Pilger struck chords in me. They appeared
true and plausible. Furthermore, none of the three has a hidden
agenda, an axe to grind.
Boyle estimates that the war in Afghanistan was at least four years
in preparation, and that around September 11th, the U.S., U.K. and
NATO had 60,000 troops on maneuvers in the mid-East and South Asia,
with adequate naval support. He comments: "September 11th was
pretext, trigger, or both!"
The Bush family is steeped in oil; there is no disguising that. Nor
can one ignore the fact that the Bin Laden family was in "business"
with the elder Bush. Bush's Administration is all oil, excepting
Powell, who is military and weathervane, quick to adjust to the
White Man's wind. After the Taliban chased the Russians, its leaders
were wined and dined in Houston by Unocal, a Texas oil company. The
deal was to make Afghanistan an American oil colony, where Afghans
would protect and profit from pipelines run through Afghanistan from
the Caspian Basin, the largest oil and natural gas reserves in the
world. The Afghans turned down the deal.
intend now to construct a pipeline through Turkmenistan, Afghanistan
and Pakistan to the Indian Ocean for the Asian market. Niaz Naik, a
Pakistani Foreign Secretary, was warned by senior American officials
as early as mid July that hostilities in Afghanistan would commence
in mid October, as reported by the BBC.
need to explode two premises upon which the Bush Administration
bases this war:
that the war is a response to the attacks of September 11th
that those attacks were conceived, organized and enacted by Afghans.
Neither premise holds water.
Our leaders intend not just to colonize Afghanistan, but Russia as
well, which is a dominant military and economic rival in South Asia.
The oil goes east to the Indian Ocean and west to Western Europe
through Kosovo. NATO, a force projection of the U.S., inches toward
Russia along the 40th parallel, with an American base already in
Uzbekistan. Four independent republics of the defunct USSR, cluster
around Afghanistan - Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and
Kazakkstan. From dominating these, the U.S. and NATO plans to reduce
Russia to a huge client.
this volatile area, six members of the nuclear club pursue their
fierce and often unilateral directions - the U.S., Russia, Britain,
India, Pakistan and China. Pathological nationalism at best.
one in the national media has had the integrity to scrutinize George
W. Bush's conduct on September 11th. Four airliners are hijacked in
less than half an hour - unprecedented!. All four are tracked by FAA
radar. At 8:45 a.m. the first plane crashes into the World Trade
Center. No one notifies the commander-in-chief. At 9:03 the second
plane slams into the World Trade Center and Andrew Card whispers the
news to Bush; he does nothing. At 9:35, the third plane crashes into
the Pentagon. No one does anything; no one issues orders; no one
scrambles the Air Force. Bush doesn't even leave the Florida
elementary school to call an emergency meeting. Was Bush - and his
coterie - grossly negligent or deep into criminal conspiracy?
Given the military buildup in the mid-East and South Asia, it seems
safe to conclude that the Administration orchestrated a gigantic
swindle on people at home and abroad - namely, the war against
terrorism, Al Quaeda, and Osama Bin Laden. By shifting blame, Bush
also shifted attention to an administration notable for its bumbling
and myopia. Suddenly he had no problems of legitimacy, or recession,
or world-wide resistance to globalization, and could, with impunity,
silence dissent with an anti-terrorist bill. September 11th raked
many a Bush chestnut out of the fire.
Our bombing goes on relentlessly in Afghanistan, pulverizing a
poverty-stricken country, decimating its people, creating tens of
thousands of refugees. Food relief is negligible - the bombing has
driven out Oxfam and other agencies.
the 8th chapter of John's Gospel, Jesus links lying and murder and
identifies both with Satanism. That is to say, the mass murder of
war is always justified by lying. Watch Bush's lips - if he reflects
on the war, know that he is lying.
Lawyers should take strict notice of this
book. Hopefully, they will respond two ways: begin to educate
themselves on this law of the U.S., and secondly, join and/or defend
resisters to these hellish weapons. I have known lawyers who for
years, resisted nuclear weapons and went to prison. Other lawyers
gave strenuous defense to resisters pro bono. They rearranged their
priorities, concluding that their humanity and religion were
immeasurably more important than their law.
This title does much to suggest to me the
broad impact of Francis Boyle's work. He teaches international law
at the University of Illinois at Champaign. Not many law colleges
boast such a course, and fewer still have such a professor to teach
it. Secondly, he has written several books on international law --
all given authority by teaching and courtroom test. Next, Francis
Boyle is one of those rare Christians who understand the critical
significance of Plowshares, i.e., based on Isaiah's prophecy of
disarmament, reinforced further by the Sermon on the Mount. He
recognizes that these Scriptures, as the Word of God, have the
potential to bring the nuclear club to heal, suddenly disarming its
nuclear weaponry. As long as there is a remnant of Christians,
faithful, free and daring enough to take hammers and blood in hand
to invade the hellholes and disarm the First Strike obscenities, The
Word has flesh that will threaten the Killing Machines of the World.
Lastly, Francis Boyle is, like Ramsey Clark, a
legal globetrotter, who responds to critical need everywhere --
South Africa, Hawaii, the Middle East, Germany.
This book could restore some dignity to a
profession jaded by greed, corruption and the politics of ward
heelers. Talk to The Poor and to the crooks of the Superrich about
their lawyers. The Poor will tell you that their lawyers have
learned to draw blood from stones. The Superrich will tell you that
if their lawyers must bring their cases to court, they consider it
an insult and a failure.
Francis Boyle is a lawyer of the quality of
Thomas More or Gandhi. I treasure him as fellow Christian, friend
- Catholic priest married to Elizabeth
- Three children: Frida 27, Jerome 26,
Kathleen 20 – all dedicated to nonviolent resistance and to
justice and peace.
- Lives at Jonah House, a nonviolent
resistance community in Baltimore, MD. All our eight adult
members are Plowshares veterans save one, and, by definition,
veterans of prison as well.
- Began nonviolent resistance to U.S. wars
in 1966, breaking laws legalizing the Vietnam war. In the last
35 years imprisoned nearly 1/3 of the time or 11 years. Newly
home from federal prison, being released on December 14, 2001.
- Participated in six Plowshares witnesses,
all disarmaments of first strike nuclear weapons. (Plowshares
takes its authority and inspiration from Isaiah 2:4 where the
prophet explains that those who beat swords into plowshares,
abolishing war as institution and politic are beloved of God.)
- Published eight books, invariably about
nonviolent issues and war and peace.
- Lectured on modern war and peace,
nuclearism and interventionary war in most of the American
States, and across Canada and Western Europe.
- With Daniel Berrigan, nominated for the
Nobel Peace Prize at least six times.