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This is Philip Berrigan's reflection on the Prince of Peace Plowshares action
at Bath Iron Works on Ash Wednesday morning, February 12, 1997.


by Philip Berrigan

"But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out. They had all seen him and were terrified. But at once he spoke with them : 'Take courage, it is I. Do not be afraid!'" (Mark 7: 49,50)

It doesn't get any easier - my fifth Plowshares, and it doesn't get easier.The last days before D-Day are the worst - one is on a form of countdown - resisting the passage of time, numbering the days and hours. Fear dogs one, always a companion; always lending its peculiar misery. Fear of leaving Elizabeth, our family and community, fear of the war- makers, and the security given weapons over people; fear of the numbing travel (650 miles plus); fear of injury or worse; fear of kangaroo courts and jails. Fear of the unknown.

I don't gather that God wants us to pretend our fear doesn't exist, to deny it, or eviscerate it. Fear is a reminder that we are creatures - fragile, vulnerable, totally dependent on God. But fear shouldn't dominate or control or define us. Rather it should submit to faith and love. Otherwise, fear can make us unbelieving, slavish, and inhuman. Those last days saw that struggle - containing my fear, rejecting its rule, recognizing that it saw only appearances, while faith and love saw substance, saw reality, saw God's bailiwick, so to speak: "Take courage, it is I. Do not be afraid!"

2:30 a.m., Ash Wednesday - the long drive to the Bath Iron Works begins. Almost immediately, we enter a "white-out", a snowstorm so heavy as to erase the lines on the highway. As suddenly, the weather clears. We enter Bath at 4:20 a.m. and drive to the shipyard. Like other similar hellholes, the yard's security is absurd - bolt cutters dispose of a gate's lock and we enter adjacent to an Aegis destroyer named "The Sullivans", for the five brothers killed on one ship in the Pacific during World War II. (Apparently the Navy thought their memory was houored by a warship tooled to fight in an atomic or bacteriologic or chemical war, possessing enough nuclear firepower to incinerate a continent. Clearly, "The Sullivans" was neither a sign of enlightenment, nor restraint, nor remembering. More likely, it was an example of imperial blindness, arrogance and waste).

Minutes later, we mounted the gangplank and stepped to the stern, only to encounter a security shack and Navy M.P.'s. They were courteous, but firm: "Sir, we have to see some ID!" We tried bluffing, mumbling that General Dynamics, which now owns Bath Iron Works, had sent us to check security. But the distortion didn't wash, and the M.P.'s again demanded ID. At this, Susan Crane and Steve Baggarly crossed the stern, mounted to a fore-deck, and began to hammer on Tomahawk Cruise Missile Hatches and label them with their blood. Hysteria seized the sailors, who ran frantically about, brandishing handguns and shotguns. Four or five guarded Mark Colville, Tom Lewis, and myself, wrenching from me my hammer and container of blood. They virtually immobilized us, but we did, however, provide some diversionary cover for the others.

Feverishly hunted for some forty minutes, Steve Kelly had crossed the stern and entered the ship, searching for the Combat Information Center, a euphemism for the fire control room where the ship's obscene armaments can be fired. The Sullivans' crew had, however, secured sensitive areas, and Steve discovered only passage to the "pilot house", or bridge, where he disarmed navigational technology and poured his blood on sensitive circuits. With missile hatches and navigational controls tended, symbolic but real disarmament had happened. Praise be to God!

Why? Why risk liberty, limb, or life to act this way? Both sincere people and dilettantes will ask the question. They know, as we know, that the Navy will mop up our blood, repair its hell-ship and, eventually, put it on imperial patrol. They know, as we know, that the empire hasn't blinked over more than fifty Plowshares, and that it is a more efficient killer now than when the first Plowshares happened in 1980.

So why do what we did? Even sympathizers will tell us that Plowshares looks ridiculous now, a sermon to the converted, ignored by government and media, the public no longer listening. Most Americans would agree that Plowshares is a Theatre of the Absurd.
So why? Our answers come from both faith and sanity. Because God forbid us (persons and governments) to kill. Because God commands us to love our enemies, even protect them when others threaten. Because the God of the Bible is an unarmed, nonviolent God, who enjoins us to be perfect, and therefore, disarmed. Because Christ Our Lord went to his death rather than pick up the sword.

As for sanity - nuclear weapons have made war obsolete, for those interested in sane conduct - we disarm or we are socially helpless. Nuclear weapons and the empire's wars are killing us and humankind - killing us spiritually, ecologically, socially. They are indeed, the taproot of violence. Nuclear weapons and war dominate foreign and domestic policy. Our government is helpless to disarm. Therefore, the people must.

The federal government has now indicted us. Warrants for our arrest have been issued - federal marshals hunt us. We will return to the Bath Iron Works once, twice, and then , the marshals will take us and remand us to jail. Later, in all likelihood, we will face a gag rule in court, and have all reference to God or the empire's warmaking or divine and international law suppressed.

No matter. We gamble on reconciliation, knowing that only the weaponless can greet a sister or brother. And believing (knowing) that reconciliation will happen in God's time - that we will become what we are, children of God, sisters and brothers of one another. So Isaiah is not blowing smoke in the second chapter of his prophecy. The Messiah has come; God has instructed us in her ways so that we may walk in her paths, and the nations have begun disarmament.

"One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again." (Is. 2:4) This is Phil Berrigan's reflection on the Prince of Peace Plowshare action at Bath Iron Works on Ash Wednesday morning, February 12, 1997. Since that time, Susan Crane and Steve Kelley SJ have been jailed because of a probation violation in CA after their imprisonment there for their Jubilee Plowshares action at Lockheed Martin. The other four: Phil Berrigan, Steve Baggarly, Tom Lewis-Borbely and Mark Coville were released with pending State charges. However, the federal government intervened and brought two charges on the six peacemakers: conspiracy to destroy government property and destruction of government property...with consequences of a total of 15 years in prison $500,000 fines and six years of probationary measures if found guilty. Warrants for the arrest of the four who had been freed were issued. No formal notice came to any of them but after hearing from Susan they began their trek back to the scene of the government crime - Bath Iron Works - for a public vigil. They were arrested at it on Monday, jailed, and arraigned on Thursday.

They remain in the Cumberland County Jail, 50 County Way, Portland, ME 04102. You can write to them at that address. For further information please contact Prince of Peace Plowshares / Justice Peace office, 1 Pleasant Street, Portland, ME 04104 Phone: 207-828-8620 or Jonah House, 1301 Moreland Ave., Baltimore, MD 21216 Phone: 410-233-6238