The Right of Civil Resistance to Prevent State Crimes
The Right of Civil Resistance to Prevent State Crimes
With the Regan/Bush administrations’ ascent to power in January of 1981, the peoples of the world have witnessed governments in the United States of America that have demonstrated little if any respect for fundamental considerations of international law, international organizations, and human rights, let alone appreciation of the requirements for maintaining international peace and security. What we watched instead is a comprehensive and malicious assault upon the integrity of the international legal order by a group of men and women who were and still are thoroughly Machiavellian in their perception of international relations and in their conduct of both foreign policy and domestic affairs. This is not simply a question of giving or withholding the benefit of the doubt when it comes to complicated matters of foreign affairs and defense policies to a U.S. government charged with the security of both its own citizens and those of its allies in Europe, the Western Hemisphere, and the Pacific. Rather, the Reagan/Bush administrations’ foreign policy represented a gross deviation from those basic rules of international deportment and civilized behavior that the United States government had traditionally played the pioneer role in promoting for the entire world community. Even more seriously, in many instances specific components of the Reagan/Bush administrations’ foreign policy constituted ongoing criminal activity under well-recognized principles of both international law and U.S. domestic law, in particular the Nuremberg Charter, the Nuremberg Judgment, and the Nuremberg Principles.
In direct reaction to the Reagan/Bush administrations’ wanton attack upon the international and domestic legal orders, tens of thousands of American citizens engaged in various forms of civil resistance activities in order to protest against distinct elements of a U.S. foreign policy that grossly violated basic principles of international law and human rights. These citizen protests led to numerous arrests and prosecutions by federal, state, and local governmental authorities all over the country. Soon thereafter, this author began to give advice, counsel and assistance to individuals and groups who had engaged in acts of civil resistance directed against several aspects of the U.S. government’s foreign policy: the Nuclear Freeze Movement, the Sanctuary Movement, Greenpeace International, the Anti-Apartheid Movement, the Plowshares Movement, the Pledge of Resistance Campaign, Gulf War resisters, among others. I also participated in the defense of individuals who were not part of formal movements but nevertheless resorted to civil resistance to protest against the U.S. government’s policies on nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence, Central America and the Caribbean, Southern Africa, Europe, the Middle East, etc.
In addition, I have also helped defend active duty members of United States armed forces who were persecuted and prosecuted because of their acts of conscience and principle. For example, in the fall of 1990, I served as Counsel for the successful defense of U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Jeff Paterson, the first military resister to Bush Sr.’s Gulf War I. Then I represented U.S.M.C. Lance Corporal David Mihaila in a successful effort to obtain his discharge from the Marine Corps during Bush Sr.’s Gulf War I as a Conscientious Objector. Corporal Mihaila was the Clerk of the Court for the Paterson court-martial proceedings and was motivated to apply for CO status as a result of my oral argument for Corporal Paterson.
Then at the start of 1991 I served as Counsel for the defense of Captain Dr. Yolanda Huet-Vaughn, who was court-martialed by the U.S. Army in part because of her refusal to administer experimental vaccines to soldiers destined to fight in the Bush Sr. Gulf War I. Later on, I served as Counsel for the defense of U.S. Army Captain Lawrence Rockwood, who was court-martialed for his heroic efforts to stop torture in Haiti after the Clinton administration had illegally invaded that country in 1994. Most recently, in 2004 I served as Counsel for the defense of U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia, the first military resister to Gulf War II by the Bush Jr. administration.
Upon their incarcerations, both Capt. Dr. Huet-Vaughn and Staff Sgt. Mejia were designated as Prisoners of Conscience by Amnesty International. We Americans like to delude ourselves into believing that there are no Prisoners of Conscience or Political Prisoners inhabiting the Gulag Archipelago run right here by the United States government in “. . . the land of the free, and the home of the brave.” In fact, there are many. Both Captain Dr. Yolanda Huet-Vaughn and Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejia are America’s equivalent to Vaclav Havel, Andrei Sakharov, Wei Jingsheng, Aung San Suu Kyi, and others. They are the archetypal American Heroes whom we should be bringing into our schools and asking our children to emulate, not those wholesale purveyors of violence and bloodshed adulated by the U.S. government, America’s power elite, the corporate news media and its interlocked entertainment industry.
One generation ago the peoples of the world asked themselves: Where were the “good” Germans? Well, there were some good Germans. The Lutheran theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was the foremost exemplar of someone who led a life of principled opposition to the Nazi-terror state even unto death.
Today the peoples of the world are likewise asking themselves: Where are the “good” Americans? Well, there are some good Americans. They are getting arrested and going to jail for protesting against United States weapons of mass destruction (WMD) whose power for human extermination far exceeds even the wildest fantasies of Hitler and the Nazis. Or else for protesting against illegal U.S.. military interventions around the world. As my friend and colleague former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark once said: “Our jails are filling up with saints!”
By: Francis A. Boyle
July 21, 2004