Letters To The Editor


December 30, 2005

Punishing pacifists sends strange signal

So many events in this 21st century have verged on the surreal that what once seemed unimaginable is accepted as commonplace. Still, the article "Nun freed after serving 3 years for war protest" (Dec. 23) reveals chilling details of an incident that simply could not have happened in the America we once knew. In this instance, satire, however bitter, is inadequate - even the master Mark Twain would have found the task daunting.

Dominican nun Sister Ardeth Platte, 69, is now home at Jonah House after 41 months behind bars. Two other nuns served a bit less time in federal prisons.

In 2002, before President Bush launched his "preventive" war, these women cut a chain-link fence, entered a federal site in Colorado, poured blood in the shape of a cross on a silo cover above missiles 200 feet below ground, then prayed until they were handcuffed.

All have devoted their lives to symbolic peace protests, and have willingly served short jail sentences many times. But here, the judge levied sentences averaging more than three years since government property had been damaged.

Indeed it had, and the monetary cost has been exquisitely quantified: $3,052.75 (this includes the cost of cleaning the blood from the silo).

End of frightening story? Not quite. Since their vows prevent paying for any war purpose, the nuns may be returned to prison. Their attorney has requested the U.S. District Court to set off the value of their work on behalf of others while behind bars (knitted clothing for the poor and elderly housed nearby and more).

The U.S. attorney in Denver objects, with a spokesman intoning: "The criminal conduct of the defendants caused a monetary loss to the government."

Yes, let us teach these miscreants a lesson - and mourn for the soul of this good nation.

Milton Bates


A symbolic effort to disarm missiles

It was such a pleasure to open The Sun and find a front-page article on the release of my friend Sister Ardeth Platte ("Nun freed after serving 3 years for war protest," Dec. 23).

As a bonus, there was a wonderful photograph of Sister Platte and her colleague, Sister Carol Gilbert, hugging. These activists deserve to have their story told on front pages across the world.

As someone who has been arrested with both of the nuns at the National Security Agency in protest of its spying on individuals and countries, I know them to be pacifists who are nonviolent in their actions.

So I was disturbed to read this: "Plowshares attacks federal installations on a regular basis in symbolic acts."

More accurately, it should be said that Plowshares' actions are efforts to symbolically disarm a nuclear weapons system.

The word "attack" should be used only when the military invades a country or an individual engages in violence.

As someone involved in nonviolent direct action against the injustices that abound in our society, I believe it is important to note the distinction.

Max Obuszewski


What if the nuns had been terrorists?

After I read "Nun freed after serving 3 years for war protest" (Dec. 23), it struck me how inept our government is at protecting our nuclear missile silos. Yet it focuses on making an example of a 69-year-old nun and still seeks $3,052.75 in restitution.

The nuns' actions took place in October 2002, more than a year after the planes flew into the twin towers. Yet these women were able to enter the nuclear silo compound and commit an act of civil disobedience.

Now if these nuns, who simply cut a fence and poured blood in the shape of a cross over the missile silo, had instead been terrorists bent on some more nefarious action, we might have had a tragedy similar to that of Sept. 11, 2001.

I wonder if the government would have tried to collect damages from the 9/11 hijackers if they had survived?

Jerry Todd


DNR is investigating misconduct charges

Over the past few months, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Maryland Park Service became aware of the allegations regarding volunteer activities detailed by Candus Thomson in "State park volunteerism gets a black eye" (Dec. 15).

Since these allegations were in the form of unsubstantiated rumors, we requested that all documentation and evidence of wrongdoing be provided to us. Unfortunately, no such evidence has been supplied.

Nevertheless, because DNR takes such allegations very seriously, we initiated several internal investigations to explore the rumors.

While three of the investigations are ongoing, two others involving radio-collared deer have been completed and the charges were found not to have merit or not to involve volunteers.

We are now making every effort to conclude the remaining investigations regarding potential ethical breaches and inappropriate conduct by volunteers as quickly as possible.

And if any wrongdoing has occurred on the part of DNR staff, disciplinary action will be taken.

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