Brian’s First Book: On Third World Legs

 

On Third World Legs

by S. Brian Willson

Published in 1992 by
Charles H. Kerr Publishing Co.
1740 West Greenleaf Ave.
P.O. Box 914, Chicago, IL 60626
Ph. 773-465-7774
(This book is now out of print.)

"This is a simple, straightforward and humble account of the odyssey of one person–from believing that the United States should bomb Vietnam into oblivion to risking his life (and almost losing it) in a series of efforts to stop worldwide U.S. terrorism. Filled with passion, compassion, logic and common sense, it could inspire and empower people to create relationships, institutions and policies that genuinely promote ‘justice and freedom for all.’ Read it and weep. Read it and take heart. Revolutionary nonviolence is on the move again."

–DAVE DELLINGER

 

* * * * *

This book is dedicated to
Norman Morrison
whose ultimate expression
of conscience and anguish
helped light the horizon
so that I could see.

* * * * *

 

    CONTENTS:

* * * * *

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Gratitude and thanks to all the people who have sent me healing energy through their thoughts, letters, calls, visits, prayers and financial assistance. Without you I simply would not be here sharing ideas and experiments on the journey seeking a world based on love and justice rather than selfishness and greed.

Special thanks to Staughton Lynd, who has encouraged and provoked me to share my story and to express my passions and anguish and who so faithfully advised me in writing this autobiography.

* * * * *

 

INTRODUCTION

    by Staughton Lynd

After the death of Martin Luther King in 1968, nonviolence continued to be developed for the most part outside the United States. In the 1970s and the first half of the 1980s, nonviolence was acted out by movements associated with Lech Walesa in Poland, with Desmond Tutu in South Africa, with Oscar Romero and Miguel D’Escoto in Central America, as well as in the Philippines, occupied Palestine, and elsewhere in the Third World. Nonviolence in the United States was far from dead, as the anti-nuclear and environmental movements make clear. But the center of gravity of nonviolence had moved elsewhere.

With Brian Willson, we can again begin to hope for a mass movement of nonviolent resistance and transformation within the North American colossus. And it will be a different kind of movement than the nonviolent movement for civil rights and peace in the 1950s and 1960s.

The typical advocate of nonviolence in the 1950s and 1960s was middle-class. (In saying this, one should not forget Fannie Lou Hamer and other rank-and-file leaders of the southern civil rights movement. They were the exception, not the rule.) In background, in style of life, in manner of speaking and writing, an A. J. Muste, a Martin Luther King, a David Dellinger, were poorly positioned to reach working-class households characterized in those days as "middle Americans" or "hard hats." Brian Willson, as he never tires of insisting, is an ordinary person with whom mainstream white Americans easily identify. When Brian sat down on the tracks at Concord, California on September 1, 1987, he was wearing a St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap. After he was run over, somebody found the cap and brought it to Brian at the hospital. Hearing of this, the St. Louis Cardinal baseball team wrote a letter to Brian, and sent it to him together with an autographed ball and a Cardinal batting helmet (the protective insert in which could also serve to protect Brian’s injured skull).

Similarly, the city of San Francisco declared a "Brian Willson Day," just as the State Senate of Massachusetts voted him a personal citation for "Idealistic and Courageous Participation in the Veterans’ Fast for Life" in October 1986.

This is not the community response to which United States citizens on the Left are accustomed. Brian Willson is a folk hero to a degree rarely seen in this country since the death of Eugene Debs, more than sixty years ago.

But Brian Willson’s historical significance goes beyond his role in reviving the practice of nonviolence in the United States, and the fact is that he does so as a person of working-class background. The awesome additional fact is that, finding his way on the basis of his own firsthand experience in the Vietnam War, this working-class practitioner of nonviolence seeks to confront United States imperialism.

As Brian again himself emphasizes, building a mass movement against imperialism within the imperialist heartland is extraordinarily difficult. The victims are, by and large, elsewhere. To be sure, survivors of North American imperialism’s first victims remain sequestered in inner cities or even more secluded on Indian reservations, while other victims present themselves as refugees and aliens from places like Haiti and Guatemala. To encounter the majority of those oppressed by the government and capitalist economy of the United States, however, takes the money and special effort to travel out of the country. Workers and other poor people find it hard to make such journeys, and therefore, are likely to harbor stereotyped views about Nicaraguan "Communists" or Palestinian "terrorists."

When Brian Willson returned to consciousness after the assault on September 1, l987, he slowly began to realize that what had happened on the tracks at Concord was not just the loss of his legs. He had also been given something. He had been given what he calls "Third World legs": the opportunity to experience solidarity with the people of the Third World, no longer merely as a sympathizer, but as a fellow-victim. Visiting Nicaraguans in the spring of l987 who had lost their legs because of contra landmines, supplied by the government of the United States, Brian said over and over that his legs were no more valuable than theirs. On September 1st of that year he lost his own legs, too, at the hands of the same government.

People of the Third World recognize Brian Willson to be like themselves, just as do many veterans and working people in the United States. Life has provided him a unique opportunity to bridge the gap that had hitherto seemed unbridgeable: between the exploited workers of the imperialist United States and the super-exploited workers of the colonized and neo-colonized Third World.

He invites us to join him in that adventure. "The train that assaulted me," he has said, "assaulted you too. It is our train. We own it! We operate it! We must take responsibility for stopping it and t
urning it around."

But while "the train" is literally the life-destroying government and economy of the United States, from another standpoint each of us has his or her own train. In a message to the Peace Caucus at the 1988 Democratic Party Convention, Brian Willson wrote: "Define your tracks, your principles, and then stand up and say no to your train, however you feel the need to define it."

* * * * *

 

1. ALL-AMERICAN BOY

    Growing Up Redneck

I grew up in a working class family in upstate New York. I grew up a redneck.

I was born in 1941. Like Ron Kovic, I was born on the Fourth of July. Until I was nine years old the family lived in Geneva, New York, in the Finger Lakes region west of Syracuse. My father was a deacon in the First Baptist Church. My mother sang in the choir. When I was about five years old, my requests to Santa Claus included (along with a fire engine, a toy rabbit, tinker toys, and a paddle wheel boat), an "Army truck (1arge)" and a "machine gun."

Then we moved to Ashville, New York, where I lived until I went away to college. Ashville is a town of about 300 people in the southwest corner of New York State near the famous Chautauqua Institution. I fished and swam for twelve years in Goose Creek, which meanders behind the house in which I grew up. The house is still there. After an absence of nearly thirty years, I now reside in the house following the death of my parents.

Ashville was very conservative, politically and religiously, and so was my family. My dad was employed at different times as an office worker and as a salesman, always struggling to maintain the family’s position at the bottom of the lower middle class. He was a political reactionary who sympathized with the American Nazi Party. He didn’t like Catholics, Jews, Italians, or Blacks. Almost anybody who lacked a Northern European background was considered not just inferior, but in some way destructive to the lives of the rest of us who had a superior right to be on this planet: the Germans, the French, the Scandinavians, the English, the Scottish. (I don’t know about the Irish.)

Fulton Lewis Junior had a radio show at seven o’clock every night of the week. He frequently reported about employees of the United States State Department who he said were members of the Communist Party. My father used to keep a log of those names, believing it was important to be vigilant. I enthusiastically read Masters of Deceit, a book by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

It was not an unusual frame of mind to grow up with in my town. I didn’t know any better. It seemed normal. It seemed all right to me. I wanted to be a patriot and a good citizen.

I drew a picture in grade school that shows a procession with trumpeters and an American flag, marching across the page just as the Fourth of July parade passed in front of my house in downtown Ashville. Another picture that my mother saved shows a stick figure with an enormous pistol shooting another stick figure, unarmed. In a third picture, a giant man in a cowboy hat and boots is firing into the head of an Indian whose arrow has barely left the bow.

I was a Boy Scout, and a member of both the Methodist Youth Fellowship (MYF) and the Baptist Youth Fellowship (BYF). For five years I attended summer Baptist camp on total scholarships received for perfect Sunday School attendance. Our town had a youth recreation program on Thursday nights at the school, and community TV watching at the volunteer fire hall on Friday nights. We watched wrestling for one hour and boxing for another.

I played baseball, basketball, and football with the other kids in town at the grade school field and on the homemade basketball court I created behind my parents’ house. My older brother Dwight and I constructed a pitcher’s mound in front of the house. I believe that my passion for baseball and the collecting of baseball cards was my first real passion in life. I began following baseball in the spring of 1953 as an eleven-year-old kid. Along with my brother and mother, I rooted for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Some people still remember me from those days. I was a good student. I was valedictorian of my eighth grade class in 1955 and gave a commencement speech on sportsmanship. One of my lines was, "Not only does one have to be a good sportsman in sports but also a good sportsman in everything one does by not giving up easily when handicapped."

In high school I was selected for membership in the National Honor Society and was elected to the student council. The center of my life was sports, in which I excelled. Playing for Chautauqua, I was first baseman for championship baseball teams in 1957 (Babe Ruth League) and 1959 (High School), and was named to the Southern Division All-Conference high school Basketball Second Team in 1958-1959. After graduation, I had an opportunity to play for a St. Louis Cardinal farm team but passed it up in order to go to college.

In my town not many went to college in the 1950s. Not many were interested. But I was a good student and a good athlete and it was the expected thing. I wanted to be an FBI agent.

 

    A Little Rebellion

I applied for the FBI but I didn’t get accepted, so I went on to study to become a Baptist minister. I thought that was a good way to serve my country. I received a B.A. in Sociology from Eastern (Baptist) College, in St. Davids, Pennsylvania, in 1964.

But for some reason when I went to the Baptist college and they were telling me how to be a Christian, I went through a little rebellion and questioned some of the things they were telling me. I became a bit concerned about the lack of basic intellectual reasoning by many of my Christian friends and acquaintances who similarly were pursuing careers in the ministry. In 1964, I experienced a revolution of religious beliefs. I changed from beliefs of almost a fundamentalist nature to beliefs guided more by a concept of agape love and situation ethics. Situation Ethics by Joseph Fletcher was a popular book at the time, promoting a more flexible morality and continuing where Bishop Robinson left off with his Honest to God. Because of my rebellion, I decided to go to law school instead of seminary.

During the year 1965-1966, while I was in law school in Washington, D.C., I taught Sunday School to the high-school-age group at the Oxon Hill, Maryland, Methodist Church. The text I chose, God’s Revolution and Man’s Responsibility by Harvey Cox, seriously critiques the passivity of organized Christianity while calling upon Christians to "stand with God" and to enter more vitally into the secular world if they are to be agents of reconciliation.

During the summer of 1966, when I was twenty-five years old, I continued to teach a smaller group of high schoolers at the same Oxon Hill Methodist Church. One day I read in The Washington Star that the World Council of Churches had a meeting in Europe condemning the United States bombing in Vietnam. I said, "Well, the WCC doesn’t speak for me and I hope it doesn’t speak for the Sunday school class." We read the article in class and composed a letter to the WCC, condemning them for condemning the U.S. bombing in Vietnam. We felt it was important to stop Communism.

Exciting as my internal revolution in religious belief had been for me, I still retained in 1966 similar political views to those I uttered at a chapel service at Eastern Baptist College in 1963-1964: we should bomb the North Vietnamese into oblivion and stop Communism once and for all.

While attending law school at American University, I also pursued an M.S. in Correctional
Administration. I lived for ten months in the District of Columbia jail as a "classification intern." In one incident in March 1966, I intervened to prevent two of the prisoners from hanging themselves in their cell.

 

    Vietnam

After two years of studying law and penology, I was drafted in 1966 into the United States military. I chose the alternative of enlisting in the Air Force as an officer, a four-year commitment that I believed would be easier, more educational, provide more income, and likely be a lot safer than an Army tour in Vietnam.

My first two years in the Air Force were served in a relatively plush assignment as a member of the Inspector General’s staff of a major command headquartered at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D.C. My enthusiasm began to wear off as I observed incompetence and, in the perception of this "country boy," licentious behavior among many of the officers and their wives and girlfriends. I even wondered whether in fact decisions about going to war, and how to fight once engaged in war, could be made with careful thought by the kind of men with and around whom I was working. Occasionally I began to wonder whether the Vietnam War itself was legitimate. For the most part though I continued to believe in "America," its dreams of the good life, and the morality of the war against Communism being waged 12,000 miles west of my hometown.

Then I received my orders to Vietnam. A clue that something new was brewing inside me emerged during the special three-month training our unit underwent in Kentucky before deployment to Vietnam. I found the bayonet training repulsive, a surprising response for a fairly macho, very athletic guy who supported United States wars and the military necessity to fight them. I continually refused actually to plunge the bayonet into the dummy and was reprimanded. More importantly I began seriously to question the war in Vietnam and expressed this concern to my superiors. I was reprimanded further.

When the time came to deploy I accompanied the six fire teams of six men each and a mortar crew under my command. Before I knew it we had flown across the Pacific Ocean and were landing for our mission assignment at Binh Thuy Air Base, nearly 100 miles south of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) on the Bassac River in the Mekong Delta near the city of Can Tho. During 1969 I served as Section Leader of the combat security police unit protecting the base, with the rank of First Lieutenant. We were protecting the airplanes so they could launch their bombing missions at neighboring villages and return safely to a well-protected base.

Binh Thuy was a frequently attacked base. It was the sometimes headquarters for the South Vietnamese Air Force, and its fleet of small fighter/bombers needed the extra security we were supposed to provide. Vietnamese Vice President and former commander of the Vietnamese Air Force, Nguyen Cao Ky, used to fly his own plane in and out of Binh Thuy on a regular basis.

Shortly after we arrived, the Vietnamese base commander, Col. Anh, asked me, the officer in charge of the special combat security unit, to perform some additional security and "intelligence" functions. I was to travel fairly routinely to different designated hamlets and villages as well as to Can Tho City to meet with identified Vietnamese in order to gather information that might be helpful in determining when and from which direction Binh Thuy might be attacked on the ground or by mortars and recoilless rifles. Also, I was occasionally to travel to villages within hours after they had been bombed by South Vietnamese pilots in order to conduct a ground assessment of the "success" of the raids as measured by damages and deaths, and to double-check the reliability of air reconnaissance. Normally I would be accompanied by a trusted South Vietnamese lieutenant. Apparently they didn’t trust their own Vietnamese pilots so they wanted a U.S. officer to go with a Vietnamese officer into the villages to assess the success of the bombing missions.

Col. Anh explained that this was to be a "quiet" assignment, probably because of its quasi-official nature. I said, "Fine." I thought this extra assignment was a bit strange, but it sounded interesting, and I would meet English-speaking Vietnamese of whom there were a surprising number in the Delta.

Meantime Binh Thuy was attacked on the average of about once a week. The base regularly received bodies, usually already in body bags, of Vietnamese and United States dead on their way to the morgue in Saigon. The smell of death was everywhere. I came to feel an affinity with the Vietnamese as people, and soon was identified by other officers as a "gook lover." I was beginning to know why the bayonet drill had so repulsed me. Why were we halfway around the world killing people we knew little and cared less about? What did we really know about the history of the Vietnamese people, their culture, their religion, politics, mores, etc.? What did we as people of the United States know about anything outside our borders? What did it matter to us? What did we really know about our own history? Killing and maiming thousands of human beings by weekly bombings began to seem bestial, barbaric to me. I started speaking out against the war to my superiors.

One day I encountered an old Vietnamese man fleeing his village as it was being bombed. I was driving near the village as the bombing started, not knowing in advance that I was about to be in harm’s way myself. I was in a bit of shock because of it. The old man’s eyes and my eyes met at about forty yards’ distance before he fled in a different direction. I sped off in my jeep thinking that I was merely experiencing a nightmare. I had an impulse to tell the man, whom I have come to call Hue, that I was terribly sorry about the bombing, that I didn’t know why we were causing this destruction. I just wanted to go home to scream and weep. Such insanity! I couldn’t believe I was really experiencing it. It must be a nightmare. Please let it be a nightmare! I jabbed the palm of my hand with my Swiss army knife. I drew a drop of blood. I was not waking up from a bad dream.

Not long after, while assessing the "success" of a bombing mission in a small village south of Sa Dec, I looked at the face of a young mother on the ground whose eyes appeared to be open as she held two children in one arm, another child in the other. Upon closer examination I realized she and her children had been killed by bomb fragments. Napalm had apparently burned much of her face, including her eyelids. I stared into her eyes from a close distance, leaning over to do so. Tears streamed down my face. Many other bodies, including the bodies of farm animals, were strewn about. All the small houses (that we called "huts") had been leveled by direct hits or by fire. Subsequently I learned that over 90% of the victims of U.S. firepower were civilians, the majority women and children.

I looked at that mother’s face, what was left of it, and it flashed at that point in my mind that the whole idea of the threat of Communism was ridiculous. Somehow I couldn’t see Communism on her face. I remember looking at that woman’s face and thinking, "I wonder what a Communist looks like?" All I saw was the face of a mother no older than twenty holding her children. All of them were dead. I said, "My God, this bombing, this war, is a lie. I’ve been living a lie. What does all this mean? These people are just persons, just human beings." I knew then that I didn’t know anything.

The Vietnamese lieutenant accompanying me asked why I was crying. I stood straight up and turned to him and replied, "Because she is my sister, and these are my children, too." I have no idea from where that feeling and response came. It must have been a very deep and previously unknown place within me. The lieut
enant angrily responded: "They are just Communists." I didn’t say anything. I knew that I was in a different place. A different Brian Willson was emerging. I did not know how to talk. I did not know how I was going to survive emotionally or intellectually. We rode together in stone silence the hour or so back to Binh Thuy.

Back at Binh Thuy the eyes of the mother on the ground were etched in my consciousness. I have come to call her Mai Ly. I am sorry my dear Mai Ly, I said. I am sorry. You have penetrated my soul, forever.

I was never to be the same again. During these days and weeks in April and May of 1969 I was "born again" in the most meaningful of sense. Sometime in late May, I was enjoying dinner with a Vietnamese family in Can Tho City. The family was very political, and together we were expressing our outrage at the barbarism being unleashed on the Vietnamese by the United States. I came to have dinner with this family because one of its members worked in the Air Force Base library. She noticed the books I borrowed, and discerned that I was at odds with the other Americans at the base.

After dinner the family sang some songs, one of which, accompanied by musical instruments, they translated into English especially for me. The song was dedicated to, and about, a North American hero to the Vietnamese people–Norman R. Morrison. Four of the lines went something like this:

 

The flame which burned you will clear and lighten life
And many new generations of people will find the horizon,
Then a day will come when the American people
Will rise, one after another, for life.

I was initially stunned. It was like being in shock. When Norman, in protest of United States bombing of Vietnam, burned himself to death in front of the River entrance to the Pentagon a little after 5 p.m. on Tuesday, November 2, 1965, it had had very little impact on me. At the time of his death I was in my Washington, D.C. apartment studying my daily law school assignment. It did not register for a while that this was the same Norman Morrison who had also graduated from Chautauqua High School, and had been the first Eagle Scout I ever knew. I thought in 1965 that what Norman did was a foolish act, and felt sorry that Norman had cracked, and shamed himself.

But now I was in a pleasant room with compassionate Vietnamese people sharing my own outrage at the war. "And many new generations of people will find the horizon." I broke into tears, trembling with emotion in the midst of some kind of metaphysical, spiritual experience, for the first time sensing a profound connection with Norman. This connection, and power, has remained with me ever since.

While still serving in Vietnam I began to write letters and memoranda against the war, citing the Hague Convention, the Geneva Convention, and the Nuremburg Principles. I was shipped back to the United States after 151 days in Vietnam. There was no explanation. I knew why; they didn’t have to specify the reasons.

I served one final year in the military with the rank of Captain as the supply squadron executive officer at England Air Force Base in Alexandria, Louisiana. I played a lot of basketball while anticipating that formal charges might be brought to trial. Nothing did happen. I was honorably discharged.

I had started my journey as a recovering white male.

* * * * *

 

2. FIRST STEPS OF A RECOVERING WHITE MALE

    The Prison System, At Home and Abroad

I attempted to resume my professional life as a lawyer and penologist. After finishing law school, I was employed in a number of interesting and socially productive endeavors. In 1971-1973, I was employed by the Offender Rehabilitation Division of the Public Defender Service in Washington, D.C., and later by the Cincinnati City Council and the Commissioners of Hamilton County, Ohio as a corrections consultant. From 1974 to 1978 I was a project attorney for the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, coordinating a campaign for a National Moratorium on Prison Construction. In this capacity I did my first extensive public speaking, traveling to over twenty-five states while advocating various alternatives to prisons. I also worked for a time as a legislative aide on prison and veterans’ issues for a Massachusetts Senator and a Representative known for their social consciousness.

I desired in those years to establish my rightful security in the middle class, but with an edge of radicalism to my opinions and life’s activities. Though I began to develop a simpler lifestyle, especially after the divorce from my first wife in 1980, it seemed important, nonetheless, to maintain a certain middle-class credibility in terms of type of job and reasonable income level.

The thrust of what I had to say about the prison system is suggested by a memorandum that I wrote in 1977.1 began by reviewing the statistical results of ten years of the "war on crime." The United States was spending about $25 billion a year in direct expenditures for crime control, a fourfold increase in less than a decade. The rate of reported crimes had risen slightly. The prison population was "becoming Blacker and poorer than ever before." Society’s error, I argued, lay in focusing massive bureaucratic and technocratic efforts on individual wrongdoers.

 

There are at least twelve recent studies that reveal empirically the strong correlation between unemployment rates and prison intake rates. Today we can land human beings on the moon but it is beyond our capacity to abolish the housing shortage. The top 10% own 67% of U.S. wealth, while the lower 50% own but 8.3%. The top .5% of families own more than the bottom 82% of families. The official U.S. poverty figure reveals "only" 26 million families below the "poor" line, but other officials estimate that functional poverty affects half the population.

Massive social, economic, political, and racial injustice made it absurd to punish individual poor persons for street crimes as the major means of ensuring domestic tranquillity. A holistic solution was required.

After becoming a lawyer I was very restless. I was very troubled. Somehow, coming back and being part of the "successful lifestyle" away from the war, back to some kind of normality, wasn’t normal at all. After Vietnam I stared reading. I had an insatiable desire to read everything I could about history, about philosophy, about life. I used to tell my first wife, who was a lawyer, that living in the United States was like living in Disney World. It was unreal. And I was still part of it.

I didn’t know what to do. I discovered that we don’t even know our own history, to say nothing about other people’s history. We don’t know our own history of nonviolent resistance. We don’t know our own history of the labor movement, of the suffrage movement, of the abolition movement. We know very little about those things. We know little about the violence used by political and economic forces to suppress those social movements. We don’t know very much about the people that were involved putting their lives on the line for justice in our own country.

I started reading about that history and about the history of United States policy in Latin America. The United States has invaded Nicaragua twelve or thirteen times. I read about El Salvador and Guatemala and learned that my government overthrew the Guatemalan government in 1954. We’ve been involved in Brazil, in Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Venezuela. I read about Africa. Then I decided that I would read more about Asia, where I had been. It was incredible learning about the history of, what would you call it, imperialism? the evil empire?

Then I reread the history of Native
Americans in the United States. Indigenous people were on the soil when my ancestors came here. We killed them too. We couldn’t tolerate them. They were in the way. They were savages, we were taught: savages, or Communists, or terrorists, or drug traffickers, anything to make them faceless and nameless and less than human so we could justify destroying their life and their culture. They threatened "manifest destiny." We were destined to have all of this life, this land, these resources. People had better get out of the way because we wanted it, and we’d kill for it. I was reading all this stuff and I thought, "God, can this be true?" I knew about British imperialism and Dutch imperialism, Portuguese imperialism and all those others; but my country?

All through the 1970s and early 1980s I was reading about the history of greed, the history of violence, the history of hatred, the history of prejudice. I didn’t like it. It bothered me. It offended me, but I didn’t know that I could do anything about it except sit at the dinner table and rant and rave at whomever was sitting there.

But I was also beginning to read Gandhi, King, Tolstoy, Thoreau, A. J. Muste. And I met a man named Schumacher, from England, who had written a book called Small is Beautifiul: Economics As If People Mattered. I met him in Washington, D.C. in the mid-1970s. It was a fortuitous meeting. He talked about his trips to India in the 1940s and having met Gandhi. Meeting Schumacher led me to read more about Gandhi. I read more about and by King. I was learning about alternative values that provoke people to live with a higher consciousness than just going around shooting people, or paying others to shoot people.

I didn’t think that I could personally subscribe to these ideas. They seemed too difficult. But I was fascinated intellectually. I was going along with my life with one foot in the system to give me respectability while the other foot was in a place where I was asking questions and reading these books, discussing something other than what I’d been raised to believe. I felt I could not really follow the dictates of my conscience. People might laugh. People would ask, "What on earth is Willson doing?" So I pretty much continued on the conventional path.

 

    Basic Producer and Vietnam Vet

From 1978 to 1980, my wife Julia (a practicing lawyer) and I owned the Charlotte Highlands Dairy Farm in Sinclairville, New York. The farm was near the home of an aunt and uncle, and two miles from my grandfather’s Depression years Jersey farm. We likewise milked Jersey cows. I used to get up for early morning milking and give a big yell of sheer exultation on the way to the cow barn.

During those years I also served as Tax Assessor and Building Inspector for the Town of Charlotte in Chautauqua County. Later I worked as marketing manager for an all-natural dairy products company in western Massachusetts.

In this period I viewed myself as a "basic producer." I opposed a central county landfill for hazardous waste. In letters to our then-Congressman, the Honorable Stanley Lundine, I described Schumacher’s views about decentralized, appropriate technology, as an alternative to promoting heavy industry at any cost.

In these letters I find for the first time the idea of what I later came to call the American Way Of Life, or AWOL.

This country consumes more than 40% of the world’s production of natural resources with about 6% of the population, a disparity that is both practically and morally indefensible. The result of massive production is massive filth far beyond the absorbing capacities of our environment. Water in the U.S. is being polluted on an unprecedented scale. Modern technology such as that present in western New York is already pressuring nature with thousands of synthetic substances, hundreds of new ones being added each year, many of which resist decay–thus poisoning people, animals, plants, and minute but necessary organisms.

What was needed, I concluded, was small, simple, labor-intensive, safe, "non-violent industries," which did not produce hazardous or toxic substances, either for sale or as by-products.

For a couple of years in the early 1980s I served as a legislative alde in Massachusetts. While investigating a series of prison assaults and homicides in state prisons, I witnessed a beating. The guards were beating on a prisoner in the walkway in front of the cells, and I had a flashback to that village in Vietnam. I saw that mother’s face. I thought, "My God, we’re still killing people, right here. It’s happening right in front of my eyes in Massachusetts."

In some ways I had been very safe since Vietnam. But there I was remembering walking through that village and seeing that Vietnamese mother. By now I knew about all the "adventures" in Nicaragua and El Salvador and Guatemala and Chile and Mozambique and Angola and South Africa and Sri Lanka and Kampuchea, and many other places. I said, "This is going on today all over the world. We’re killing people, we’re butchering people."

I couldn’t get off my mind the bombing missions in Vietnam. Over and over I was remembering the bombing and the images of people lying on the ground.

I went to a Vietnam veterans’ rap group. I never thought I would do that. I never thought that I would even acknowledge that I was a veteran. I was twenty-seven years old in Vietnam, I was an officer, I was in the Air Force, I wasn’t pulling triggers or dropping bombs. I certainly didn’t expect to have these problems. I just saw a few things.

But I went to that rap group and I just wept. For the first time in twelve years I talked about the images of Vietnam. Many of my friends were shocked to learn that I was a Vietnam veteran. "What? You’re a Vietnam veteran? No!" I said, "Yeah, I’m gonna face it now, and I’m gonna share it."

I was determined to share what I felt because I didn’t think up the idea of Vietnam. It was a policy of the whole nation, and we all have to face the responsibility of why we keep killing people. We’ve got to learn why, since our origins in the 1600s and 1700s to the present day, we continue to kill so many people. What is it about us that makes us such marauders? We’re good people, aren’t we? We don’t believe in killing people. But we keep doing it as a nation. Why? What is it about us that destroys water, trees, topsoil, air and human beings as if they don’t count? Do we kill because of our obsession with profits? with consumption? I wasn’t an ideological person. I didn’t have any political ideology in particular. I wasn’t a Marxist; I didn’t even know what that meant. I was interested in life, in justice. It was inconceivable to me that we had been killing people for hundreds of years as if it were just a normal part of life.

After that vivid mind return to Vietnam, I couldn’t forget the war. It seemed on the very front of my forehead. It wasn’t particularly depressing, but it was provocative. It reminded me every day about me and my culture and perhaps about Western culture in general. So I started becoming active as a Vietnam veteran.

 

    What I Was Really Dealing With Was the United States

I helped organize the Veterans Education Project in western Massachusetts in 1983. I worked with Robert Stenson, another Vietnam veteran who was also a sheep farmer and dairy distributor in Deerfield, Massachusetts. Distressed by the recruiting efforts of Green Berets in local high schools, we successfully sought access to schools and colleges to tell our side of the story.

I estimate that in the course of this work I spoke to nearly 7,000 students in over sixty classes. I talked about war, about its insanity. I offered the principle that we always have choices. I told them about the ideas of cooperation
in Prince Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid. I quoted Eugene Debs’ words: "I would no more teach children military training than teach them arson, robbery or assassination."

Many of the Vietnam veterans with whom I associated seemed in much worse shape than I. They couldn’t work, they were on medications just to keep calm and get through the day. They had lost their families. Many were drug addicts. Some couldn’t even enjoy a baseball game.

I started meeting many homeless vets, dozens of them, living out in the street. I thought to myself, "I know twelve vets who committed suicide in a period of two and a half years. There’s something very profound about this Vietnam experience, something very powerful that causes these problems." I called it "moral dis-ease": a conflict between what we’ve been taught and what we know from what we experience viscerally, in our bones and gut.

But to take on what we had learned from those experiences meant questioning our whole value system. That’s scary. The tendency is to want to flee, not to deal with it, and to fall back on our old, previously-learned paradigm. That paradigm might be pathological, but it’s comfortable because it’s familiar. It seems easier than taking on a new paradigm, easier than asking fundamental questions.

So I became a counselor in a Vietnam veterans’ storefront advocacy center. In 1984-1985 I directed the Vietnam Veterans Outreach Center of Greenfield, Massachusetts.

I was publicly recognized for my work with veterans. I was a member of the Massachusetts Commissioner of Veterans’ Services Agent Orange Task Force in 1984-1985, of Governor Dukakis’ Homeless Veterans’ Task Force and of Senator John Kerry’s Veterans Advisory Committee in 1985-1986. In 1985 I received a commendation from Governor Dukakis for "Humanitarian Service Above and Beyond Normal Expectations to Your Fellow Vietnam Veterans."

Yet all the time my views were becoming more and more "radical." Every day I was dealing with vets, but what I was really dealing with was the character of the United States. I was dealing with massive denial and amnesia. And I was dealing with the visceral knowledge of these men that they were part of but 5 % of the world’s population consuming nearly 50% of the world’s resources. Our society requires a system of exploitation everywhere in order to maintain and sustain itself. The bottom line in the minds and hearts of most of these Vietnam veterans is that people, real people, have died. Real people have been murdered. We have been murderers. Healing is required to deal with that issue.

Healing requires an honesty, a brutal honesty, and an atonement. It means dealing with having been complicit in marauding a whole nation. It means developing an understanding that the marauding of the earth in the end is the marauding of ourselves, the destruction of our own souls, the destruction of our essence as human beings. It’s painful dealing with these issues. To take justice seriously requires major changes in the way we think and feel and experience life. It means saying of other human beings on this planet that we are all equal. "We are not worth more, and they are not worth less." Nonviolence is a whole way of life, and for most of us, a new way of life.

But what about my own nonviolence? I continued to read about nonviolence, but at the same time I hated my father. I couldn’t get beyond hate. I hated my father because he represented the lie. He was a convenient person on whom to unleash my fury, a man who represented all the reasons why we went to Vietnam, a father who never expressed his feelings, who never said he loved me, who never said he was sorry about anything, who never cried and who always talked about this group of persons or that group of persons as being inferior or a threat. I went 12,000 miles away to be part of killing Vietnamese, people he called "gooks." I felt enraged that this attitude came from my own family.

I went to therapy to deal with this hatred of my father. I didn’t want to hate my father any more because it was destroying me. I couldn’t get on with my life. I was obsessed with my old man. That son of a bitch! If only he would change I could love him! But that’s not the way love works, is it? Love is unconditional. You can’t count on anybody else changing. The only thing you can do is to take responsibility for your own feelings, behavior and choices.

The counselor said, "You’re going to play the role of your father and yourself, back and forth, through these sessions." I used to put a picture of my father on the sofa in this safe counseling room and beat him with my fist and sometimes with a tennis racket. I unieashed many feelings. One day when I had to play the role of my father lying on the floor after I had beaten him up, I said to the counselor, who was playing me, "How does it feel, Brian, to have beaten up your old man, talking about love and peace and justice and nonviolence?" It was a kind of breakthrough.

I was able to deal with my father after that. He hadn’t changed any. He had the same attitudes, the same philosophy. But I didn’t have any agenda when I was with him. I didn’t sit there waiting for him to change. I could love him. I still didn’t like him, but I learned to love him. (He died in 1989.) Fortunately, my mother had always patiently listened to my brother’s and my concerns as we were growing up and she gave us plenty of warm love. (She died in 1988.)

At this point I was able to start thinking more seriously about nonviolence. Nonviolence comes from deep within yourself. It’s not something your brain decides to undertake. You may be interested in reading and studying about it. It’s important to understand it. But for me, it was important to go deeper emotionally and attitudinally into the question of what nonviolence is about. It is about unfettered love. It is about justice, sharing and caring, and taking the risks necessary to love. If we don’t learn to love we are going to destroy ourselves. Our life-styles will destroy us, through our ecological marauding or from the explosion of weapons that we designed and developed to protect our disproportionate privilege. There came a time when, as head of the Veterans Outreach Center, I took one of the veterans to a detox center for about the eighteenth time. I said to myself, "You know, I don’t think I’m doing a whole lot of good for these vets. I’m helping them stay alive, but they don’t have any dignity, they still see themselves as victims. How does one get empowered?" I resigned.

 

    People’s History, Logic, Law and Conscience Call Me to Resist Taxes

As I accumulated voluminous information and knowledge of the historic and continuing violent and lawless intervention by my national government into the sovereign lives of other nations and peoples, it became clear to me that paying any money to support these heinous crimes was utterly immoral, and from a common sense perspective, clearly inappropriate.

What I was learning, understanding for the first time, was staggering. Between 1492 and 1900, one of the most diabolical genocides in human history had occurred in the Americas. The invasion of the "New World" by Europeans had decimated the native American population both north and south of the Rio Grande. North of the Rio Grande, from five to ten million natives present in 1492 were reduced to 250,000 in 1900.1 This is a reduction of over 95% of their population. Perhaps 1,000 tribes and as many as 2,000 languages were virtually destroyed in the Americas.2 Meanwhile the European population of North America had grown from zero in 1492 to 75 million in 1900. Over 500 treaties and agreements with native groups have been violated by the United States government, in effect illegally and forcibly acquiring virtually all of the land originally inhabited by native, abori
ginal people.3 Only 4% of the land area of the United States still belongs to Native Americans.4

Further, I was grasping at a deeper level the historic evil of slavery. As the native population was being decimated, the Europeans forcibly kidnapped and transported Africans to the Western Hemisphere to furnish slave labor with which to build the economic foundations of our "civilization." It is estimated that at least 50 million Africans lost their lives by resisting capture or dying in the squalid conditions of sea transportation to the Americas.5 By 1800, ten to fifteen million Africans had been successfully transported to the Americas, over one million of whom came to the North American colonies.6 There were nearly 1,500,000 slaves in the United States when the external slave trade was prohibited in 1808.7 However, the internal slave breeding business thrived and by the beginning of the Civil War in 1861 there were as many as seven million slaves.8

Wage slavery continued as many immigrants came to the United States to build the industrial economy that replaced the agrarian society in the course of the 19th Century.

Meanwhile the United States was busy expanding its concept of Manifest Destiny. Nine continental territories, forcibly taken from natives, were added to the original states.9 After the Civil War, the United States acquired through a variety of means (most of them illegal or ethically questionable) fifteen islands and the Panama Canal Zone.10 Our economic empire-building left our shores with the conquest of Hawaii in 1893, and the conquering of the Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico, and Cuba in 1898. The United States State Department has identified nearly 160 hostile operations by the United States military overseas between 1789 and 1945.11 Careful review of the record reveals 113 military interventions in Latin America alone between 1831 and the late 1980s.12

There were times in my study when I did not want to understand this history. But I could not escape it if I wanted to heal and grow as a human being, no matter how painful the reality.

After World War II, a sense of global Manifest Destiny came to dominate United States policies. Between 1945 and the late 1980s, the United States militarily intervened more than 200 times into the internal, sovereign affairs of well over 100 "third world" countries,13 causing directly or indirectly the murders of 20-25 million human beings and the maimings of at least that many.14 Part of this violent assertion of hegemony has been the production and positioning of 30,000 nuclear weapons, many of which are or have been stationed at nearly 1600 military facilities in at least 21 countries.15 The United States has threatened the use of nuclear weapons on more than twenty occasions.16 The Pentagon Comptroller has reported that nearly $11 trillion has been spent since World War II containing "Communism."

With the creation of the National Security Council and the Central Intelligence Agency in 1947, covert activities became an important part of the necessary enforcement of this global hegemony. It is known that by 1953 the United States had conducted major covert operations in 48 countries. From 1961 to 1971, the CIA conducted over 800 major covert operations and 5,000 other covert actions.17

This historical record provided the context for my deepening understanding of Pax Americana, of how Vietnam fit into this hegemonic pattern, and of what I was about to learn concerning the way that Nicaragua and El Salvador continued to be victims of these imperial principles. The American Way Of Life (AWOL) knows no limits, and will stop at nothing to assure that its now less than 5% of the world’s population continues disproportionately and immorally to consume nearly half the world’s resources.18 The United States uses its political, economic, military, and covert forces to enforce the Western Way Of Life, ensuring that about 25% of the world’s people continue to consume nearly 85% of the world’s resources.19 Put another way, 75% of the population, the have-nots, are forced to accept but 15% of global resources. Can any human being of conscience accept the propriety, morality, and continuation of this grotesque injustice?

With all of this in mind, and heart, to continue paying the agencies and the government that plans and funds the perpetuation of these crimes, is clearly to cooperate with evil in a manner totally at odds with my conscientious efforts to pursue truth and justice, in explicit defiance of the spirit and essence of non-violence itself. Furthermore, as I understand international and domestic law, and the United States-inspired Nuremburg Obligation that emerged from the Nazi trials after World War II, each citizen is obligated to make known, and to noncooperate with, policies of his or her government that perpetrate war crimes, crimes against peace, and crimes against humanity. Violations of treaties are also violations of law under the United States Constitution. Thus paying for the carrying out of any of these criminal activities and violations of international laws and treaties is itself illegal, and amounts to being complicit in their commission, even if ordered to pay by governmental officials.

In 1981, after leaving employment as legislative aide for the Massachusetts State legislature, I made a decision to begin living my life, and engaging in work, in such a manner that I would no longer be a citizen-channel of money flowing to the criminal enterprise operating under the name of the United States government. Since then I have been consciously self-employed or earning little or no income, avoiding any withholding of tax money from employee earnings which, for most workers, is automatically sent to the government. For part of this period I earned "taxable" income while openiy refusing to comply with the tax collection laws and procedures.

In August 1985 I sent a letter to the United States Commissioner of Internal Revenue in which I wrote that "I cannot kill nor can I support others killing…in my name. Therefore I cannot fmancially support such activities. I grieve over the policies of my own country that plans, prepares, initiates, or wages a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances, or participates in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of same….I cannot in good conscience pay these taxes. Furthermore, by so doing, I am upholding the Constitution of my country."

I have received many pieces of correspondence and several personal home visits from officials of the Internal Revenue Service. I have continued to explain the reasons why I choose not to pay any money or cooperate with the collection of funds or resources that the government alleges I owe it. For me, to pay would not only be dishonoring the integrity of my fragile conscience, but would also amount to violating the laws of the United States and international law. With peace of mind and heart I have resolved to serve whatever prison time the government may decide to punish me with, as an alternative to cooperation. Thus I shall honor my sense of interconnectedness with the barefoot and shirtless people around the globe whose lives would be further threatened by any funds collected by the United States government if I were to cooperate.

 

* * * * *

 

3. VETERANS ACTING FOR PEACE

    Nicaragua

I had become ever more troubled as I learned about United States efforts to overthrow the revolutionary government of Nicaragua. I began to smell another Vietnam, except that men and women from North American communities were not directly involved as soldiers. United
States
body bags would not be returning home.

I needed viscerally to experience this new Vietnam to help me deal with my rapidly-growing intense feelings of betrayal, of being deceived, of being dishonored as a conscientious citizen by my lawless and immoral government.

In January 1986, after I had resigned from my job with the Veterans Outreach Center, I went to Esteli, Nicaragua as a Spanish language student. A language school gave me a scholarship as a Vietnam veteran and paid my plane ticket, tuition, and room and board. I knew no Spanish. I was in the slowest of five levels in the school.

After I had been in Esteli about ten days, the contras began to attack about four kilometers to the west of the city. For three nights in a row I could hear the machine gun fire and see the tracers.

One night I went out in the street. I wanted to go up to the mountain where the contras might be and stand with open arms in front of them proclaiming: "For God’s sake, stop the killing, stop the killing! If you need to kill, then kill me, but don’t kill these peasants!" I tried to talk the Nicaraguan army into letting me go up there with my flashlight and my little dictionary, at night. The army wisely directed me back to my Nicaraguan family’s house.

I had difficulty going to my classes. I couldn’t sit for four hours and study a foreign language. I was too agitated.

At least eleven campesinos were murdered that week. Some of the bodies were brought into Esteli for burial on horse-drawn wagons. Standing alongside the street watching the procession to the cemetery I could see the open caskets containing mothers and children. Five women! I had been here before. Two children! I had been here before. I found myself moaning, quivering inside, with tears rolling down my cheeks.

That evening I talked for nearly seven hours with my Nicaraguan sister, Guadalupe. I was obliged to communicate in Spanish with my very limited vocabulary, poor grammar, and a small dictionary. My Nicaraguan family was concerned that I might be afraid. After I understood what my Nicaraguan sister was saying to me, I struggled to tell her in Spanish that I was not afraid, but furious. I knew by the end of our conversation in the early hours of the morning that the events of the day and my visceral responses had amounted to an extraordinary integration or synthesis of nearly two decades of internal conflict.

The earlier transformation in Vietnam of my political and emotional awareness from "all American" to spiritual and global consciousness had been resurrected. For seventeen years I had allowed the dictates and parameters of my culture, the "reasonableness" of middle-class "credibility," generally to take precedence over the profound wisdom of which I had first been made conscious in the villages of the Mekong Delta: that we are all interconnected in a sacred, mysterious fabric called life.

Though I had been moving away from my concern about credibility for several years, it took this day of seeing and feeling with my own eyes and stomach dead Nicaraguan mothers and children to make it crystal clear that we are all in this sacred interconnection. The mothers, children, fathers, and grandparents in Vietnam, their relatives in Nicaragua, and everywhere, are all my relatives, too. The sacredness of life, even the fact that I am sacred as well, had found a home inside me. I am not worth more than they; they are not worth less.

Since that moment in January 1986, my life has been committed to thinking about and attempting to experiment with living and acting as an equal human being in the global context. I remained another seven weeks in Nicaragua before returning to the United States. Six more civilians were killed in two additional incidents. Several additional civilians were kidnapped, and a number seriously injured. Most were women and children.

While I was still in Nicaragua, I projected "the possibility of one or two unarmed observer teams of veterans, tactically utilizing our military training and experience in placing ourselves in the war zones." In a radio speech broadcast "to warriors from North and Central America located in Honduras waging war against Nicaragua," I said: "I am encouraging more citizens, including a number of veterans, from the United States to come to Nicaragua’s war zones to observe your behavior and to take your bullets, if necessary, to end this madness of our government."

After I returned to the United States, I went into seclusion for a month. It was difficult to talk with anyone who had not been in Nicaragua. I was reminded of what happened after Vietnam, when I did not talk much about the experience there. A major difference, however, was that after returning from Nicaragua, I was not just mourning the diabolical nature of my society. I was also feeling the hope and tremendous passion and excitement expressed by the Nicaraguan people in their revolutionary process.

During the spring and summer I avoided cramming my life with activities. Some of my thoughts were published in local newspapers. I occasionally took part in Central America rallies and events, and spoke to several groups of high-school students, but allowed myself a lot of time for thinking, reflection and praying. I worked at day labor jobs to cover my expenses. I made several trips by train to Washington, D.C. for meetings with veterans and to lobby against contra aid.

That’s what we are taught to do in our civics lessons. You lobby policymakers. You lobby legislators to change their policy. If the policy violates international law, it should be very easy. If you convince them it’s against the law, they’ll change.

I testified at special People’s Hearings in Albany, New York, on behalf of the Vietnam Veterans Peace Education Network (VVPEN). I testified in Washington as President of the VVPEN, as a member of the Steering Committee of the Veterans Education Project of Western Massachusetts, and as New England Representative of the Veterans for Social Justice. It led to an extraordinary revelation for me. I realized that I and others were not able to convince policy makers to change what they were doing, no matter how convincing our evidence.

So several of us veterans decided we needed to talk with our bodies.

 

    The Veterans’ Fast For Life

On Wednesday, June 25, 1986, I sat in the gallery of the United States House of Representatives and watched the debate and vote on $100 million more aid for the contras, whom the United States was training and flinding to overthrow through terrorism the revolutionary Nicaraguan society.

The level of debate was despicable. I did everything in my power to keep from screaming and crying. Nothing was said about the needless death and maiming of thousands of Nicaraguan civilians. The Democrats as well as the Republicans castigated the Sandinistas. There was no presentation of any moral or legal basis for preserving and respecting the rights and sovereignty of the Nicaraguan government and nation.

The assumptions glibly thrown around "on both sides of the aisle" were these: The Sandinistas are governing by totalitarianism, and have a Marxist-Leninist government that seeks to spread Communism throughout the hemisphere; the Nicaraguan people are being subjected to Sandinista tyranny; the Soviet Union is constructing a military base of operations in Nicaragua; and there is a legitimate civil war there. Lies, lies, I kept saying to myself. The only expressed difference between those who were planning to vote No on the aid and the others was that the naysayers believed the contras could not do the job, and supporting them in a losing effort would hasten the day when United States troops would have to be sent in. The naysayers were advocating, as an alternative, a policy of starvation through a harshly-enforced econom
ic embargo.

Not far away in the gallery were three of the contra leaders, watching with seemingly great assurance.

At approximately 8:45 p.m., the time came to vote. It took about fifteen minutes. The electronic tabulation boards kept all present abreast of who was voting Yes or No, and the total tally at each moment. From the beginning, the yeas ran ahead of the nays. Then there was a momentary tie at 185 to 185. But the yeas soon went ahead to stay. The final tally of 221 yeas to 209 nays showed that a number of Congresspersons had switched their votes since the last vote in March when the House narrowly defeated aid to the contras.

The contra leaders stood up and cheered. Most of the people sitting in my section also offered loud applause. They were typically young and well-dressed. I had guessed earlier that they belonged to some conservative youth organization. I left. I was in emotional shock.

Two days later the World Court condemned the United States for "training, arming, equipping, fmancing and supplying the contra forces" as well as for "encouraging, supporting and aiding military and paramilitary activities in and against Nicaragua." The United States government quickly announced that it was, for purposes of this particular Court decision, not subject to the Court’s jurisdiction.

As I sat at my desk in my Chelsea, Vermont cabin, I began to imagine flatbed trucks driving through the quiet town, loaded with bodies of dead and maimed Nicaraguans. For a couple of weeks after the June 25 vote in the House, I woke up with images of my Nicaraguan mother and other members of her family lying on their mud floor with blood oozing from the base of their skulls. Fortunately, at the time I had a friend in Esteli with a telephone not far from where my Nicaraguan family lived. My friend found out that nothing so serious had occurred, although Pablo, one of the family’s four sons, had been shot by a contra near Matagalpa and suffered a serious injury to his right arm.

The question that started to emerge was: How do I stand in front of the flatbed truck and boldly and with faith hold up my weaponless arms and clearly confront the nose of that moving truck, declaring, "For God’s sake, stop the lies, stop the killing?"

I telephoned Charlie Liteky, a Vietnam veteran and recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, who was already considering a political fast. Also subsequently joining the discussion were George Mizo, a highly decorated Vietnam veteran, and Duncan Murphy, a World War II ambulance driver. On July 29, Charlie Liteky returned his Medal of Honor to protest United States policy in Central America, placing it at the Vietnam Memorial, and requesting a cessation of his corresponding VA benefits. All four of us committed ourselves to a water-only fast for life, beginning September 1, 1986.

We wanted to express what we felt simply by sitting on the Capitol steps, the front porch of Congress, and drinking water. Just water. We wanted to be proxies for all those people in Central America who couldn’t be there, who were going to be dying because of United States policies. We wanted to share our anguish with other people in the United States. We wanted them to feel something. Don’t just say you’re against the policy, but feel something. When you feel something, you start getting in touch with your passion and compassion. Things start happening. You start acting in different ways when you operate out of passion and feelings. We veterans had been trained to go to war and kill people and put our lives on the line for the cause our government told us about. Now we were going to be willing to put our lives on the line for peace, to save lives.

On August 18, I wrote to my older brother Dwight and to my Mom and Dad, telling them about the fast. I wrote that United States policy in Nicaragua "is the antithesis of the teachings of Christ." I said that under the Nuremburg Charter, "to which the U.S. was and remains a primary signer, citizens are obligated to do all in their power to make known the violations of international and Constitutional Law of their own government, and of their own superiors, and to stop those violations from continuing." I tried to tell them about the friends with whom I would be fasting.

Charlie Liteky…was a Catholic Chaplain in Vietnam….He won the Medal of Honor for rescuing 20 U.S. injured troops while under heavy machine-gun fire. He still retains physical wounds of that valiant action….Duncan Murphy…drove ambulances for 3-1/2 years in Europe and Northern Africa. You actually know Duncan. He was the Shiloh baked goods delivery man that came every week to our house during the 1950s….

I told my family that if there was a lot of publicity, I would do my best "to steer media reporters away from asking any questions of you directly."

The Veterans’ Fast for Life began as planned on September 1, 1986. By prearrangement, Duncan Murphy and I did not publicly take up the water-only diet until September 15, so as to be able to carry on the fast after the others no longer could, should that be necessary.

The Capitol police, many of them Vietnam veterans, talked with us throughout our stay. They saw us, I believe, as pretty normal guys. We were all ex-athletes, formerly macho males, but relatively stable emotionally. We listened to baseball games on the steps of the Capitol and read Gandhi.

For the first two weeks, only a few people talked with us. Virtually no media covered us. But after about three or four weeks we were getting hundreds of letters and by six o’clock at night sometimes there would have been a thousand people visiting us on the steps that day. We started saying, "Wow, there’s something going on here, there are actually people who care. There are people that feel." We were telling people, "Search your own heart, express your own conscience, but express it. The answer to what is your own path is in your own heart." We were advocating nonviolence, nonviolent resistance, and an affirmation of a new lifestyle.

On October 17, after forty-seven days, in response to thousands of (as the Latin Americans say) "conscienticized" citizens, we came off the fast to join the movement.

 

    Veterans Peace Action Teams

After the Veterans’ Fast for Life, I went back to the war zones of Nicaragua. I helped to organize the Veterans Peace Action Teams (VPAT). This undertaking occupied me through the first half of 1987.

The idea for the Veterans Peace Action Teams was planted in my mind by an article I read in 1982. By Gene Keyes, it was entitled "Force Without Firepower: A Doctrine of Unarmed Military Service," and published in the Summer 1982 issue of The CoEvolution Quarterly. Keyes documented many twentieth century examples of the use of unarmed groups of military, paramilitary, and civilian forces for peacekeeping, and argued that people could and should wage peace directly, without the use of violence. Keyes wrote, for example:

Is it too much to expect that soldiers on active defense duty could give their lives, yet not kill? I argue that the military ethos of courage in facing death is not a function of killing people. To ask whether anyone could be expected to enlist in a front-line unarmed force is to ask why any soldiers anywhere go to war, volunteer for hazardous duty, or lay down their own lives that others might live.

I knew that Gandhi had talked about the creation of a non-violent army and peace brigades in the 1930s. I read in The Power of the People, edited by Robert Cooney and Helen Michalowski, that in 1961 an experimental peace brigade was established to "revolutionize the concept of revolution itself by infusing into the methods of resisting injustice the qualities which insure the preservation of
human life and dignity." The brigade’s most important project was a training center for nonviolent action in Dar-es-Salaam,Tanzania. In 1981, according to Keyes, Peace Brigades International (PBI) was created to "undertake non-partisan missions which may include peacemaking initiatives, peacekeeping under a discipline of non-violence, and humanitarian service."

In the fall of 1983, I considered running for a national board position at the upcoming founding convention of the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA). It had become clear to me that we veterans needed to become directly involved in bringing about an end to the United States-sponsored wars in Central America. I prepared a platform statement that called for VVA to send unarmed observer teams along the Nicaraguan borders with Costa Rica and Honduras, and into the war zones of El Salvador. In addition, I proposed that we send work teams of veterans to Vietnam as a "profound act of reconciliation."

I handed out my platform statement at the November VVA convention. The ensuing controversy so threatened the electoral chances of other candidates whom I supported that I withdrew my candidacy.

After visiting the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. on Veterans Day 1984, I was motivated to develop in more detail the concept of a Vietnam Veterans Central America Peace Brigade. In January-February 1986, while I was in Nicaragua, I wrote "Creation of a Veterans Service Corps in Solidarity with the People of Nicaragua Including Observers and Peace Keeping Teams in War Zones."

By the time the Veterans’ Fast For Life ended in October 1986, the idea of the Veterans Peace Action Teams (VPAT) had been fully developed. In January 1987, VPAT became a reality, headquartered in Santa Cruz, California. The first team of nine veterans and two non-veterans left in February for the war zones of Matagalpa and Jinotega in Nicaragua.

The focal point of VPAT activity for that first team was a 73-mile walk from Jinotega to Wiwili on one of the most dangerous roads in Nicaragua. It was the road where the Pantasma land mine explosion occurred in October 1986. Fifty-five people had been blown out of a truck. Eleven ultimately died, six immediately and five later. Many were left legless.

Before beginning the walk, we met with Alfred Laun, Information Officer at the United States Embassy in Managua. We handed him a letter addressed to Ambassador Bergold. The letter stated that for two weeks we had been visiting and sleeping in settlements, clinics, and hospitals in the war zone. It expressed agreement with the Americas Watch report, published in December 1986, which found that "civilian deaths are directly foreseeable and avoidable, but the contras take no precautions to avoid civilian casualties." We concluded: "If any member of our team receives injury or incurs death as a result of our witness of conscience, we wish to be clear that we do not hold the Nicaraguan government or people responsible. We will hold personally responsible you, Ambassador Bergold, and President Reagan, and every Senator and member of the House of Representatives who continues to support this grotesque intervention."

Mr. Laun responded that if the walkers were harmed or killed, the United States government, without investigation, would "hold the Sandinista government responsible." He also indicated that any land mines we encountered would most likely have been placed there by the Sandinistas, not by the contras. In fact, the Nicaraguan government had not encouraged this walk and only reluctantly gave us clearance after we stressed the individual responsibility felt by the walkers for the destruction in Nicaragua and the world caused by the United States.

During the first three days of the walk we heard five fire fights occurring not far away, and the sounds of exploding mortars one or two miles ahead of us. Holley Rauen, later my second wife, and I left the walk at one point at the request of then-President Daniel Ortega so as to speak at the national coffee harvest festival in San Ramon, near Matagalpa. Driving over a road we had walked two days before, we encountered a bloody ambush that had occurred only a few short minutes earlier in which at least six people were killed and nine others injured. Several freshly expended 40mm grenade shells fired from an M-79 grenade launcher, made in the United States, were found alongside the road at the ambush site. Holley and I took the injured driver of the ambushed vehicle to the hospital in our jeep.

The contras came on the radio saying that we veterans were part of an international Communist conspiracy and that they were going to stop us from getting to Wiwili. So we got on a Nicaragua radio station and said, "We’re walking unarmed and undefended to Wiwili and we’re not turning back." We had moments when we thought, "Do we really want to go through with this walk?" And we said, "Yes. We want to take on United States imperialism point blank."

We finally got to Wiwili after walking seven days. Many from the town of seven thousand people came south to greet and accompany us.

On that walk we prepared ourselves for potential injury, including the loss of our legs. We went through role playing, practicing medical procedures for how to stop the flow of blood. Holley, being a midwife, was our medic. She carried all our bandages and medical supplies.

We met some of the twelve amputees from the Pantasma mine explosion. I went to hospitals and homes all over the country and talked with more than four hundred persons who had lost limbs to United States land mines. As I spoke to the amputees I said how sorry I was that they had had to pay such a high price for defending their country from my country’s terrorism, but I also wanted them to know that their example of courage inspired me to do more. As I left one hospital where I had seen over two hundred amputees I cried out, "Jesus Christ, their legs are worth just as much as my legs! My legs aren’t worth any more than their legs!"

I wept a lot. I think I grieved over the loss of so many legs in Nicaragua that when I lost my own legs, I had already grieved for them. At some metaphysical level, their legs and my legs became the same.

* * * * *

 

4. THE TRACKS

    Nuremburg Actions

A relative of mine had been a young military officer who served with the United States prosecution team at Nuremburg. The chief United States prosecutor there, Justice Robert H. Jackson, grew up in the Jamestown, New York area, a few miles from Ashville. Upon signing the London Agreement of 1945 creating the International Military Tribunal, Jackson stated: "For the first time, four of the most powerful nations have agreed not only upon the principle of liability for war crimes of persecution, but also upon the principle of individual responsibility for the crime of attacking international peace."

When I returned from Nicaragua in the late spring of 1987, a number of friends and I decided to try to interdict the flow of arms from the United States to Central America. Charlie Liteky and I put out a leaflet in which we called for "thousands of people to participate in sustained strategic actions in the United States to block the flow of arms to Nicaragua." Later a group of us organized Nuremburg Actions at the Concord Naval Weapons Station in California.

The Concord Naval Weapons Station (CNWS), at Port Chicago about thirty-five miles northeast of San Francisco, is the largest munitions depot on the West Coast. Its bunkers store a variety of bombs and munitions, including nuclear weapons. Many of these means of war are transported by train and truck from storage areas to the pier, for shipment by boat to their destinations. The train, consisting of a locomotive pulling box cars,
has to pass through an area open to public use on its way from one piece of government property to the other.

During the Vietnam War, anti-war activists blocked both trains and trucks in the Bay Area. Members of the Berkeley Vietnam Day Committee sat down on the tracks in front of trains carrying soldiers bound for Vietnam. There were four such blockades in August 1965 alone. In May 1966, four women in San Jose blocked trucks loaded with napalm bombs for seven hours outside a trucking company. When they returned to the same location the next day, a truck driver told them that the company had decided to stop bringing napalm through that point. The women then moved on to an enormous bomb storage facility in nearby Alviso. There they had some success in delaying the loading of bombs onto barges for transit to Port Chicago. Marches, lengthy vigils, and frequent blocking of trains and trucks also occurred throughout the Vietnam War at CNWS itself.20

We decided to revive the historic Bay Area focus on the Concord Naval Weapons Station. We had a copy of a contract with the government of El Salvador (procured through the Freedom of Information Act) disclosing that a number of bombs, white phosphorus rockets, and other munitions had been shipped to El Salvador from CNWS in June 1985. I had learned of substantial bombings of villages in El Salvador during my trips to Nicaragua and El Salvador. An item in the July 1987 Harper’s indicated that 230 Salvadoran villages had been bombed or strafed by the Salvadoran Air Force in 1986. This behavior is a grotesque violation of international law. Furthermore, I had spent time with Eugene Hasenfus, both on a visit to the crash site and while he was imprisoned in Nicaragua in November 1986, and learned of the air drop routes used to transport United States military supplies from bases in El Salvador to the contras in Nicaragua. (Hasenfus, a Wisconsin native and ex-Marine in Vietnam, had previously participated in secret missions over Southeast Asia for the CIA-owned airline, Air America. He was caught red-handed in October 1986 dropping supplies from the United States to contra terrorists in the interior of Nicaragua when the secret plane he was on was shot down by the Nicaraguan Army. He parachuted to safety before being captured.) We had plenty of reason to ask that CNWS refrain from any further illegal shipment of munitions to kill civilians in Central America.

On June 2, 1987, Chris Ballin and I wrote to the CNWS. "We are planning a nonviolent action beginning June 10th. We are writing you because we wish to maintain open contact with all law enforcement agencies and military personnel….We welcome the opportunity to discuss in person why we feel so strongly about this matter and the plans for the on-going resistance."

CNWS personnel cabled to their superiors in Washington as follows:

 

BRIAN WILLSON, COORDINATOR OF A PACIFIST ORGANIZATION KNOWN AS QUOTE VETERANS FAST FOR LIFE AND VETERANS PEACE ACTION TEAMS UNQUOTE INFORMED PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICER THIS COMMAND THAT ON 10 JUNE HIS ORGANIZATION WILL BEGIN A PERPETUAL ATTEMPT TO BLOCK WEAPONS STATION CONCORD EXPLOSIVE RAIL AND TRUCK MOVEMENT BETWEEN THE STATION’S INLAND AND TIDAL AREAS BY PERMANENTLY STATIONING PERSONNEL ON RAIL TRACK AND IN ROADWAY. HE FURTHER STATED THAT WHEN ONE PERSON IS ARRESTED, ANOTHER WILL TAKE HIS OR HER PLACE FOR AS LONG AS THEY HAVE PEOPLE REMAINING, WITH THOSE ARRESTED RETURNING TO THE SCENE AFTER RELEASE FROM CUSTODY TO REPEAT ACTION. WILLSON IS SAME PERSON WHO FASTED IN WASHINGTON, DC, EARLIER THIS YEAR PROTESTING U.S. CENTRAL AMERICAN POLICY WITH RESULTING HIGH VISIBILITY NATIONAL MEDIA ATTENTION. MEMBERS OF GROUP HAVE BEEN SEEKING TO BUY OR RENT RESIDENCE IN AREA TO HOUSE MARATHON PROTESTERS. WILLSON SAYS THEY HOPE TO KEEP EFFORT GOING FOR AT LEAST SEVERAL MONTHS. SINCE TRACK AND ROADWAY INVOLVED EASILY ACCESSIBLE TO PUBLIC AND UNDER JURISDICTION OF CIVIL AUTHORITIES, THIS SITUATION COULD REQUIRE PERMANENT POLICE PRESENCE AND HAS SERIOUS SAFETY AND SECURITY IMPLICATIONS.

The sustained vigil began on June 10. I was not emotionally or spiritually prepared at first to bodily block vehicles, risking likely arrest. The very first day we watched a locomotive hauling two dozen or so box cars loaded with lethal weapons move slowly by our solemn vigil at the train speed limit of five miles per hour. All of a sudden I burst into tears. In my mind I saw each box car stacked ceiling-high with bodies of Nicaraguans and Salvadorans. It was as if I were a German standing alongside a Nazi train loaded with Jews on their way to the death camps.

Truck blocking went on throughout June with regular arrests and erratic jailings by the police. I was a support person from the sidelines. Train blocking was part of the plans of Nuremburg Actions but had not happened by early July. A local insurance salesman, who had been present on several occasions to support the vigil but who had not taken the prescribed nonviolence training, stepped out on the tracks on his own, without giving notice, when few vigilers were present as a munitions train slowly moved toward him. The locomotive came to within several feet of this man and stopped. The spotters standing on front of the locomotive grabbed the sign from his arms and removed his body from the tracks.

Our presence continued throughout the summer, always at the same location on the Port Chicago side of the public highway at the place where the munitions trains cross the highway. There were nearly always more than one, and sometimes a couple of dozen, persons present during daylight hours from June 10 to September 1.

Sometime in early or mid July I made plans to escalate my own participation in Nuremburg Actions beginning September 1, 1987. On that day, the first anniversary of the beginning of the Veterans Fast For Life, I and others would start a forty-day water-only fast and begin blocking munitions trains. We would attempt to block movement of the trains for every day during that period. We would fast on the tracks adjacent to the location where we had regularly vigiled since June 10.

Others were invited to join and several persons agreed to participate. Duncan Murphy, a participant in the 1986 fast, also agreed to be part of the forty-day fast on the tracks.

We had examined the history of people blocking trains and had concluded that the train would certainly stop. The base would be notified in advance of our action. I still have some of the photographs we collected: for example, Life magazine pictures in the October 8, 1956 and May 19, 1972 issues showing locomotives stopping for protesters.

A doctor was planning to monitor my condition throughout the fast. I expected to spend some or most of the forty days in jail and had briefed the doctor on my need for potassium supplements during the fast to protect nutrition of the heart, and asked that he talk to jailers about the importance of my receiving these supplements.

On August 21, 1987, I sent a letter to CNWS Commander Lonnie Cagle explaining in detail the nature and philosophy of the September 1 plans. The letter asked for a personal meeting at least four times.

This letter…requests a personal meeting with you….I want you to know in advance of this plan….Because of the seriousness of these matters I ask that we have a personal meeting to discuss them. This action is not intended to harass you or any military or civilian personnel. I would like to discuss with you your views and response to our concerns….I hope that you will respond so that we can set up a mutually convenient time to meet.

Copies of the letter were sent to the Contra Costa County Sheriff, the Concord Police Department, the California Highway Patrol, and a number of elected officials, including U.S. Senators Cranston and Wilson of California, U.S. Representatives Boxer, Miller, and Edwards of California, and U.S. Senators Ker
ry, Kennedy, Leahy, and Jeffords of Massachusetts and Vermont, where I had lived most of my life since 1980. I had received no replies as of September 1.

On August 23, Holley Rauen and I were married. We committed ourselves "to be prepared for the risks and prices required, individually and collectively, to live and promote a radical transformation in our North American society."

Another cable from CNWS to Washington was sent on August 31. It revealed no confusion about our intentions and showed that the Navy was quite clear about our expressed plans.

 

RECEIVED LETTER FROM GROUP IDENTIFIED AS VETERANS FAST FOR LIFE AND VETERANS PEACE ACTION TEAMS ADVISING THAT PROTESTERS PLAN TO FAST FOR 40 DAYS ON RAILROAD TRACK USED TO TRANSPORT MATERIAL BETWEEN STATION INLAND AND TIDAL AREAS. LETTER AND NEWS ARTICLE QUOTING PROTEST PRINCIPAL, MR. S. BRIAN WILLSON, STATES FAST TO BEGIN 1 SEPT AND THAT FASTERS WILL NOT MOVE FOR APPROACHING RAIL TRAFFIC. LOCAL SHERIFF AND POLICE OFFICERS AWARE OF THREAT. SHOULD POTENTIAL INTERRUPTION OF RAIL SERVICE OCCUR, THEY WILL BE REQUESTED TO REMOVE PROTESTOR(S). COMMANDING OFFICER’S ASSESSMENT: INTERRUPTION OF NORMAL STATION OPERATIONS NOT ANTICIPATED.

 

    September 1, 1987

The morning of September 1 arrived. We planned a worship service on the tracks after a press conference announcing the formal launching of the fast and the train blockade. Having never been arrested or jailed before, I was a bit anxious. I was most concerned about the prospect that as the fast progressed and I grew weaker, I might be hurt in the arresting process by officers repeatedly removing me from the tracks. Fasting on the Capitol steps appeared easy in comparison to fasting on train tracks at the same time I was attempting to block munitions trains, and subjecting myself to continual arrests.

Besides Duncan Murphy and myself, David Duncombe, a World War II and Korean veteran and a chaplain at the University of California Medical School in San Francisco, would be fasting for forty days on the tracks. Others might join us for different periods.

My wife Holley and stepson Gabriel accompanied me as I drove to CNWS, along with fellow faster Duncan Murphy and another friend. Two photographer friends and a friend with a video camera were present to record the press conference, worship service, blocking action, and anticipated arrests.

There were only a few media representatives present for the press conference. We conducted a worship and meditation service with the thirty or forty fasters and supporters. I said the following:

My hope is that today will begin a new era of sustained resistance like the salt march in India and like the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s where people, every day, realize that we, the people, are the ones that are going to make peace. Peacemaking is full-time. War-making is full-time. And so my hope is that we will establish or create a kind of action here that revives the imagery of the sustained resistance of the past such as in the salt march and the civil rights movement where people are committed every day to say, "As long as the trains move munitions on these tracks we will be here to stop the trains." Because each train that goes by here with munitions, that gets by us, is going to kill people, people like you and me.

And the question that I have to ask on these tracks is: Am I any more valuable than those people? And if I say No, then I have to say, You can’t move these munitions without moving my body or destroying my body. So today, from the spirit of a year ago on the steps and then for five months in Central America and coming back, the Nuremburg Actions and today, I begin this fast for atonement for all the blood that we have on our hands and that I have on my hands.

And I begin this fast to envision a kind of resistance, an empowering kind of spirit, that we hope to participate in with many people, saying, These munitions will not be exploded in our names and they will not be moved any longer in our names, and we must put our bodies in front of them to say, stronger than ever, that this will not continue in our name. The killing must stop and I have to do everything in my power to stop it.

And I hope that when people ask us what they can do to support us: what they can do is they can come to the tracks and stand with us on the tracks to stop the trains. That’s all we want. We want more people to join hands and say, This will not continue. And only we the people can stop it. Thank you.

At about 11:40 a.m. the three of us took our positions on the tracks. Two others held a large banner across the tracks just behind us that stated in bold letters: "NUREMBURG ACTIONS: Complicity in the Commission of a Crime Against Peace, a War Crime, or a Crime Against Humanity, Is a Crime Under International Law."

I experience what the doctors call regional amnesia. Though I’m told that I was conscious the entire time prior to and after being struck by the train, except for the time in the hospital under anesthesia during surgery, I have no memory over a several-day period. So I will finish my account of what happened on September 1 with this transcript of a cassette recording made by a friend.

VOICE: Okay. Here comes the train.

MALE VOICE: We’re not leaving the tracks, right?

MALE VOICE: We’re not leaving.

MALE VOICE: It’s planning, preparation, initiation, waging a war of aggression or a war in violation of international

[INAUDIBLE DUE TO TRAIN WHISTLE]

[TRAIN WHISTLE IS HEARD FOR NINETEEN SECONDS BEFORE IMPACT]

[TRAIN WHISTLE CEASES]

MALE VOICE: No.

FEMALE VOICE: Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Stop the train! Stop the–Oh, my God!

MALE VOICE: Help.

FEMALE VOICE: Come help me!

FEMALE VOICE: Ambulance is here.

MALE VOICE: Look what you did, you’re the murderers.

GABRIEL: You murderers! You killed my father! You killed my father!

MALE VOICE: Where’s the fucking ambulance?

MALE VOICE: Get an ambulance.

FEMALE VOICE: My God! [SIRENS]

[MULTIPLE VOICES--INDISCERNIBLE]

GABRIEL: You killed my father! Killed my father! You did that, by God!

MALE VOICE: Stay right there.

MALE VOICE: We love you, Brian.

HOLLEY: I’m holding the bleeding.

MALE VOICE: You want me to hold that [INDISCERNIBLE]

HOLLEY: Yes. You have to press very hard so that no more blood comes out.

MALE VOICE: Relax. Real, real hard.

HOLLEY: Right here.

[MULTIPLE VOICES--INDISCERNIBLEJ

MAN OPERATING TAPE RECORDER: The train--there's total confusion. There's a fire truck that came. There's still no ambulance. It's been five minutes since the train came barrelling down the tracks, blowing its horn. The three men who were on the tracks had panic in their eyes and two of them jumped aside. One of them who was kneeling fell back under the train, had his foot rolled over and cut off. Was dragged and bumped and dragged again. His head split open. His other foot cut off. And finally bumped into the inside of the track where the train then pulled on and stopped 400, 500 feet down the road.

The--I never saw the eyes of the guys in the caboose. There were two guys on the cowcatcher, sort of screaming and yahoomg and "Here we come." The Marine guards who are around with their M-16s look panic-stricken. Now there are several veterans who are enraged and yelling and screaming at the soldiers who are starting to surround the crowd and keep people off the tracks. There is still no ambulance. There's been a County Sheriff and a fire truck and a military vehicle of some kind with an official person with a radio coming around calling for things.

Holley, Brian'
s wife, is holding his leg trying to keep it from bleeding. His skull is open, you can see his brain inside. It's probably a four or five inch gaping hole in his skull. He's stunned. Stunned--fuck! Grief, all around.

The man from the fire department is attempting to suture and bandage what he can but he--the military keeps telling people to step across the fucking yellow line. I can't believe it.

Why don't you guys do something constructive? Jesus Christ!

MALE VOICE: The train was going full bore.

FEMALE VOICE: We heard the screaming. I [INAUDIBLEJ

MALE VOICE: Didn't touch the throttle. Didn't even touch the throttle.

MALE VOICE: Fucking unbelievable.

MAN OPERATING TAPE RECORDER: They've attached something to his nostril. I just picked up a huge chunk of bone. Duncan Murphy is leaning over Brian, trying to hold on to life.

Brian's eyes are closed. I'm not sure at this point.

Gabriel, Brian's stepson, is still distraught and screaming. As you look around, some of the responses are changing from shock and grief to anger.

Here comes the ambulance. Five, six, seven minutes later.

This was not a surprise. This had been a well-publicized protest. Brian had sent letters to some fifteen or twenty people, the base commander amongst others, last week. Everyone knew full well that this was going to be a day where the train was going to be stopped and the train did not stop.

Looks like military nursing personnel have arrived. He's still blinking, still holding on. Brian is such a strong character.

FEMALE VOICE: Let's get a small no-pressure dressing-bandage, a Kurlex.

MALE VOICE: I've got [INAUDIBLE]. I’ve got everything under control.

MALE VOICE: Okay.

MALE VOICE: John, is that the only way you can stop it, is with that?

MALE VOICE: –have a tourniquet.

MALE VOICE: Hold on, man.

VOICE: Let’s make a hole.

MALE VOICE: Need anything, buddy?

MALE VOICE: No. Looking good. Looking good.

FEMALE VOICE: How you doing, guy?

MALE VOICE: Pretty good.

FEMALE VOICE: I’m Petty Officer McGee. I’m a Navy Corpsman, okay? Let us help you.

MALE VOICE: I couldn’t tell you, myself.

FEMALE VOICE: Don’t hold pressure. Just hold it there.

FEMALE VOICE: 110 over 80 bp, Bob.

HOLLEY: You’re doing good. Your blood pressure is good, honey. You’re hanging in there.

FEMALE VOICE; You’re doing great, guy. You’re doing great.

FEMALE VOICE: How’re you doing? You doing all right?

FEMALE VOICE: Yeah.

MALE VOICE: Okay. Keep your hands [INAUDIBLE].

HOLLEY: I love you, Brian.

MALE VOICE: We all love you, Brian.

FEMALE VOICE: Brian. Brian.

MALE VOICE: How many victims do you have?

MALE VOICE: What?

MALE VOICE: How many victims do you have?

FEMALE VOICE: Two that I–there’s one minor victim down there.

MALE VOICE: Where’s the other one?

FEMALE VOICE: Everybody’s making a circle around you for healing, Brian.

HOLLEY: Honey, you’ve gotta be brave, okay?

GABRIEL: Why didn’t you dodge it? I wanted you to dodge. Why didn’t you dodge it? Dodge it. You should have dodged–My God, that’s a piece of him! That’s a piece of him!

HOLLEY: Tell him you love him, Gabe. Just tell him you love him.

GABRIEL: My God, that’s a piece of Dad.

MALE VOICE: It’s all right.

HOLLEY: Just tell him you love him.

GABRIEL: That’s a piece of my Dad!

HOLLEY: Tell him you love him. Bring him up here.

MALE VOICE: It’s all right.

FEMALE VOICE: Dan, tell him you love him.

HOLLEY: Hey, Gabe, listen, I’m going to go to the hospital with Brian and –

VOICE: I want to go with you.

FEMALE VOICE: I’ll take you there.

HOLLEY: Okay, they’ll take you and you meet us at the hospital, okay?

FEMALE VOICE: I’ll take you there, Gabe. I promise you.

FEMALE VOICE: Okay? Okay? Okay?

VOICE: God.

HOLLEY: He’s going to be okay, honey.

GABRIEL: No, it’s not going to be all right, that’s my Dad.

HOLLEY: Yeah, we kuow. You kuow? I know, honey, I saw the whole thing.

FEMALE VOICE: Right now we need to get out of the way so they can [INAUDIBLE].

GABRIEL: God, you have blood all over you!

HOLLEY: I was stopping the bleeding on his legs, honey.

MAN OPERATING TAPE RECORDER: They brought a stretcher now. They’re placing Brian’s torso, that’s what it is. His legs are gone below the knees. His head is wide open. He’s still hanging on. His blood pressure is pretty good. People have formed a semi-circle around him, holding hands, trying to help pump life.

It’s still a pretty confusing situation. Duncan Murphy is still hanging on, as is Holley. And the Corps is working to strap him to a piece of plywood now to lift him up into the ambulance.

Now there are police vehicles everywhere. Highway Patrol, Concord Police, County Sheriff; as well as all the military police. Lots of little radios calling someone somewhere.

The train is still stopped, ironically, down the track some 500 feet, meters, I don’t know: some distance down the road with this little triangle of explosive or dangerous cargo highlighting the back of it.

The engineer is still standing on the cab looking back. The two guys on the cowcatcher, I don’t know where they are. They are behind the fence and the sentries so we can’t approach them. It’s on military property and they’re making it very clear that we don’t cross the yellow line.

The young Marine guards whose responsibility that is, initially came out here trying to look serious but sort of with a chuckle. This was another day, another job. And all of a sudden it’s a different day.

People are yelling. Some of the veterans are angry and yelling at the–I don’t know–at the air, at the fates, at the gods.

This whole thing had been orchestrated and planned and the train didn’t stop. [End of transcript]

 

    Why Did the United States Government Consider Me a Terrorist?

When I became conscious, I saw Holley Rauen sitting next to my bed. I saw many green plants throughout the room. I thought this was a very unusual jail cell. It seemed more like a greenhouse. Holley explained to me that I was in John Muir Hospital, Walnut Creek, California. The train (on September 1 a locomotive hauling two boxcars) had crashed into me and continued moving over my body until the last of the two box cars was inside the fenced base area guarded by United States Marines.

I asked what happened to Duncan Murphy and David Duncombe who were part of the blockade. I learned that David, who was crouching (not sitting like me), jumped out of the way just before the train would have hit him. Duncan, also crouching, made a mighty leap straight up–quite a feat for a sixty-seven-year-old veteran–and grabbed the cowcatcher railing, cutting his knee but otherwise escaping injury.

It took several days for this reality to sink in. I began to watch television news reports on the wall-mounted hospital TV, which continued to carry stories about the assault, including selected cuts from the amateur video footage provided the media by my friend Bob Spitzer. For several days I saw the speeding train with two human spotters standing on the platform above the cowcatcher barrelling down on the three of us on the tracks.

I began to comprehend the life-altering nature of my injuries. The most serious of my injuries were a severely fractured skull, missing a golf-ball-size piece from the right forehead area; a seriously cut and damaged right frontal brain lobe; a severed but sewn-back-on left ear; and two legs missing b
elow my knees. That I was alive at all seemed the more remarkable when I learned that a United States Navy ambulance arrived on the bloody scene within the first few minutes after I was hurt but refused to provide medical assistance or transportation to a hospital, apparently because my body was not lying on government property.

People who were present told me that I was conscious throughout and talked with those attending to my very vulnerable body. Holley directed a series of emergency medical procedures with the aid of several horrified supporters, stopping the bleeding from my right leg stump, from my mangled and twisted left leg, from my almost severed ear, and from the hole in the right forehead portion of my skull. These procedures, in addition to the nourishing love of those present, kept my fragile being alive until the county ambulance arrived some twenty minutes later.

Why hadn’t the train stopped, I asked? They knew we were there. Visibility was excellent. The speed limit was a slow five miles per hour.

Holley was as shocked as I was, as everyone was. She said that as she was standing off to the side, carrying a political sign as part of the support demonstration of thirty to forty people, she saw the two human spotters standing on the front of the locomotive distinctly shaking their heads from side to side as if to say, "We are not stopping, no way!"

From the beginning a lot of people came up to me and said, "You know this couldn’t have happened without it being designed and intended to happen that way." I’m not a very conspiratorial-thinking person, nor a particularly paranoid person. I’m kind of naive.

I started thinking differently after the Congressional hearing held on November 18, 1987. Navy officials admitted that they knew a lot about me. Navy Captain S.J. Pryzby told the Congressional committee that the Navy knew about me, about the fasts, the trips to Nicaragua, and my being at the tracks since June 10, and he seemed to be describing me as a man of my word. I sat there thinking, "They knew that I wouldn’t get off the tracks."

Then I found the notes of the unsanitized Navy report that had not been made public lying on the table in the room next to the hearing room. I started reading them and thought, "My God, this is in the original report that they didn’t release to the public." I put the notes in my briefcase.

Later I got a copy of the sheriff’s report, which was not included in the Navy report. It contained interviews with the train engineer, who said he was under orders not to stop the train.

Finally, I learned that at the time of the assault I was being investigated by the government as a terrorist. I was in the ABC-TV studio in Washington, D.C. in November 1987. They showed me the FBI documents and said, "We want your face on camera looking at these documents." I hadn’t known anything about them until then.

Let’s restate what happened on September 1 according to what we now know. The protesters, including myself, began the blockade after elaborate prior notice at about 11:40 a.m. A few minutes later the munitions train came into view. Upon seeing three men blockading the tracks, the train stopped near the main gate to await further instructions. CNWS personnel notified the county sheriff. The sheriff told them it would take his forces thirty minutes to reach the scene.

Up to this point everyone’s actions were consistent with the expectation, which I confidently shared, that the locomotive would not move until the sheriff’s men arrived and arrested us.

Just after 11:55 a.m. the train began to move forward again. The FBI concluded after examining Bob Spitzer’s videotape that the train was speeding at about 17 miles per hour, over three times its legal speed limit of five miles per hour. It was a bright sunny day. There was clear visibility for at least 650 feet according to the Navy’s report. Yet the locomotive not only did not stop, but seems to have accelerated after striking me, as evidenced in a photograph revealing a fresh burst of smoke issuing from its smoke stack at the time of impact and after, as I lay mangled under the train.

The train did not stop because the train crew had been instructed not to stop. Ed Hubbard, railroad supervisor at CNWS, says "he told the crew, if the protesters started climbing on the train, to continue until the train was inside the gates and the marines could take over." David Humiston, the engineer, and Ralph Dawson, one of the two spotters, said they received orders not to stop if the protesters started "boarding the locomotive or the cars it was pulling." The statements of the crew members are quoted in "Weapons train that maimed pacifist was under Navy orders not to stop," National Catholic Reporter, Jan.29, 1988.

Now, of course, we who were on the tracks had no intention of boarding the train or climbing on the locomotive and box cars, and we never did anything of the kind. But it seems that the Navy expected us to do so. And because of this expectation, the crew was instructed not to stop until it reached base property, or perhaps, not to stop if we did anything causing them to think we might be about to board the train.

From what source did the Navy derive its apparent belief that those who sat down on the tracks on September 1 would also try to board the train? We had written to the CNWS commander, distributed leaflets throughout the area, and talked extensively with the media. In none of these many statements did we state or suggest that we might seek to do anything but sit quietly on the tracks. I believe the source for the Navy’s mistaken anticipation may have been the FBI. On October 10, 1986, while the Veterans’ Fast For Life was in progress, U.S. Senator Warren Rudman of New Hampshire released a letter stating in part: "In my opinion, their actions are hardly different than those of the terrorists who are holding our hostages in Beirut." See "Rudman Likens Fasting Veterans To Terrorists," Boston Globe, Oct. 11, 1986. In that same month the FBI directed its agents to begin an inquiry into the alleged terrorism of those conducting the Veterans’ Fast For Life. FBI agent John C. Ryan told his superiors in a memorandum of December 4, 1986 that he refused to take part in the investigation of a group that had a "totally non-violent posture." He was fired after nearly twenty-two years of service. See "The cost of a fired FBI agent’s journey to Catholic nonviolence," National Catholic Reporter, Nov.27, 1987; "FBI Probe of Willson Reported," San Francisco Chronicle, Dec.12, 1987.

These facts support the conclusion that the United States government expected "terrorists" like Brian Willson to try to seize the locomotive and its boxcars, just as terrorists hijack airplanes; and therefore, at some level higher than the CNWS train crew and its supervisor, decided not to stop the train.

I continue to believe that the decision to move and accelerate the train on September 1, 1987, cannot be fully understood outside the context of the government’s demonstrated interest in my activities before September 1. The precise relationship of this prior interest to the decision intentionally and recklessly to move the train has yet to be unravelled. At a minimum it created a milieu of lack of concern, contempt, and wanton disregard. At a maximum, it was attempted murder.

I have a lot of empathy for the train crew. First of all, they’re all living the way I used to live; I believe they’re brainwashed just as I was. Second, they probably do have traumatic stress (which is what they sued me for) because I think they were caught in a conflict between following their orders and following their consciences. They were on the lower end of a chain of command that’s involved in a diabolical, criminal national policy. They’re the grunt men, just as w
e were in Vietnam.

The solution to their stress is to endure a transformational process within themselves, not to sue me. But if they were going to sue, they should have sued the Navy, which gave the order and possesses money.

I condemn their action. I just plead with them to be open to transformation, which is the only way to heal their stress, and to tell the truth about who gave the order and as to their state of mind.

POSTSCRIPT. As of the date of this writing (June 1, 1992), Nuremburg Actions has steadfastly resisted movement of munitions trucks and trains at CNWS for 1,817 consecutive days, temporarily blocking well over a thousand such trucks and trains, weathering cold, rain, 1,700 arrests, a number of jail terms, and hostile and violent responses from local residents. Rev. David Duncombe, himself having narrowly escaped injury or death on September 1, 1987, has continued his participation in Nuremburg Actions, being present every Thursday since that date when not in jail. He has been arrested numerous times for blocking the movement of munitions trucks and trains, while continuing to maintain his position as Chaplain and Professor at the University of California at San Francisco Medical School. He has been convicted twice in jury trials, serving a number of weeks in jail on each sentence. In both trials the judge excluded from jury consideration the violations of international (and therefore United States Constitutional) law by the United States government, and its agent, the United States Navy, in committing war crimes, crimes against peace, and crimes against humanity in the murdering and maiming of innocent civilians in Latin America.

* * * * *

 

5. ON THIRD WORLD LEGS

    Meditation on Survival

What dominated my mind at the time was that I was alive. What a miracle! What did it mean to have survived being assaulted by 200,000 pounds of a locomotive hauling thousands of additional pounds of lethal munitions? My body survived the entire mass of iron and steel rolling over me. And despite a seriously fractured skull and a life-threatening brain injury, I seemed still to have my mental faculties.

Oh Great Spirit, what doest thou have in store for me? Thank you for the gift of a second life. Can I become a closer cooperator with the infinite wisdom of the Great Spirit and Mother Earth? Do I have the strength and capacity to stand up to the demonic values and policies of my government and culture? Will I be creative and courageous enough to live out an alternative, even if experimental, vision, while noncooperating with dangerous entrenched status quo values and policies?

As I pondered the extraordinary event of September 1, 1987, I realized that it was an out-of-this-world, transcendental experience, which paradoxically put me in much closer touch with the essence of life in this world.

In an instant of a second, like a speeding bullet, I had become literally physically merged with all those "underdogs," all those tired, maimed, and murdered strugglers for justice, throughout the world. I was no longer merely sharing feelings of emotional, intellectual, and experiential affinity with the downtrodden. I had become one of the legless, one of the victims, of the old (or is it now the new?) world order. I had merged with Hue, Mai Ly, the mothers and children in the caskets on their way to the cemetery in Esteli, Nicaragua, and the millions of campesinos around the world killed, maimed, terrorized, and forced into poverty by the policies of the United States.

My legs have become, in effect, Third World legs. They are indisputable evidence of the burden and the gift of being in the struggle for liberation, for justice.

    The People’s Fast for Justice and Peace in the Americas

Since September 1, 1987, I have traveled on my Third World legs to over thirty states and twenty-three countries, including Panama, North and South Korea, Northern Ireland, occupied Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Cuba, Haiti, and of course, El Salvador and Nicaragua. Most recently, in February-April 1992, I was part of a group that visited Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, and other nations of South America.

Just as it took me many years to understand what I experienced in Vietnam, so the meaning of this new immersion in the suffering of my Third World brothers and sisters and their resistance to the forces causing their suffering, may not yet be fully clear to me.

I feel the need to act on what is obvious to me now, however. With this in mind and heart I helped to plan a fast to protest what I have come to call "the Columbus Enterprise." To explain the fast, and to invite others to participate in it, Scott Rutherford (a fellow veteran, and a companion in many of my activities after 1985) and I issued in June 1992 the following announcement:

* * * * *

 

THE PEOPLE’S FAST
FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE IN THE AMERICAS,
OR, A FAST OF PENITENTIAL REFLECTION
ON 500 YEARS OF THE COLUMBUS ENTERPRISE

"I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values."

–Dr. Martin Luther King

"These great powers will have to give up their imperialistic ambitions and their exploitation of the so-called semi-civilized nations of the Earth and revise their mode of life. It means a complete revolution."

–Mahatma Gandhi

"It is my stubborn faith that if, as revolutionaries, we will wage battle without violence, we can remain very much in control–of our own selves, of the responses to us which our adversaries make, of the battle as it proceeds, and of the future we hope will issue from it."

–Barbara Deming

 

THE FAST

On September 1, 1992, we–S. Brian Willson and Scott Rutherford–will begin a 42-day water-only fast at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. The fast, which will end on October 12, "Columbus Day," will be a penitential reflection to mark the end of the first 500 years of the Columbus Enterprise: 500 years of conquest, domination, exploitation and genocide–and, as importantly, 500 years of indomitable resistance by those it would destroy.

The fast will start on the fifth anniversary of the assault on Brian by the U.S. Navy munitions train in Concord, California. It will also mark the sixth anniversary of the beginning of the 47-day Veterans’ Fast For Life in which Brian, Charles Liteky, Duncan Murphy and George Mizo fasted to protest U.S. aid to the Nicaraguan Contras.

We invite others to fast with us, to sponsor or endorse the fast and/or to undertake solidarity actions such as relay fasts, reflection circles and vigils.

We are extending a special invitation to Afro-Americans, indigenous people, Latinos and others from all of the Americas who offered and continue to offer resistance to the conquest to join us. We want them to share with one another and with us their thoughts and feelings about the common struggle in which they are engaged. We believe that they have much to say about the new world order. We also want them to participate in our reflection. Together we can envision a people’s world order rooted in the sacred interconnectedness of all life and founded on justice, equality, self-determination and nonviolence, a world where no one goes hungry and where there is an understanding that an injury to one is an injury to
all. We will seek financial help so that they are able to travel to the fast.

One who has accepted our invitation is Nelsa Curbelo, the Continental Coordinator of SERPAJ, an organization which is supporting the formation of a nonviolent struggle for liberation throughout Latin America.

We will coordinate activities over the course of the fast with events and actions which others will be undertaking including the Kairos process, nonviolent direct action planned by indigenous peoples throughout the Americas, the meeting of the Latin American bishops at Santo Domingo and the continental meeting of the Assembly of the People of God. We will greet the Peace Walkers who will arrive in Washington D.C. on October 12 at the conclusion of a ten-month walk through Central America. We were present with them when they began the walk on December 20, 1991 in Panama City, the second anniversary of the U.S. invasion.

We have shared our plans of the fast with hundreds of people whom we met on a recent three-month pilgrimage we made to eight Latin American countries. They enthusiastically supported it. Now we wish to share our plans with you and ask for your support.

 

WHAT WE WANT

We want two things:

* We want the people of this country to come alive to what is being done in their name to the poor of the Americas by a wealthy and powerful elite here and in Latin America. We want them to understand that under the new world order millions of innocent people will unnecessarily die and that the way we live life on this planet will be fundamentally altered forever. We want the revolution of values of which Martin Luther King spoke. We want the people at the grassroots to take matters into their own hands. We want a popular movement in this country to support and to draw strength from the popular movement in Latin America.

* We want the United States to begin a process of reconciliation and reparations with the poor and people of color in this country and Latin America. The process can begin with the cancellation of the huge external debt which burdens every country, the lifting of the trade embargo with Cuba, and the initiation of reparation payments to Native Americans, Afro-Americans and Latinos for the injury we have done them over the course of our history.

 

THE NATURE OF THE FAST

We believe a penitential fast–an act of atonement for the part which we and our forbearers have played in the Columbus Enterprise–is a fitting conclusion to the quincentennial anniversary of the European invasion and conquest of this hemisphere. It will provide an opportunity to reflect on the conquest and its terrible consequences and to consider how and why the conquest continues to this day as the "new world order." As importantly, the fast will offer an opportunity to reflect on the courage of those who have resisted, and who continue to resist.

During our three-month visit to Latin America we were able to witness the new world order in action and by looking in the eyes of the people and hearing their testimony learn firsthand about its devastating effects. What did we discover?

* That the gross violations of national sovereignty through our direct interventions in Panama and Nicaragua and our participation in the coups in Brazil and Chile–which were followed by terror and repression–cost the lives of thousands of people and affected the lives of millions more.

* That the Andean initiative–the extension of the war on drugs to Latin America–is merely a pretense for our participation in the counter-insurgency campaigns being carried out by the Peruvian and Colombian governments against the popular movement. They are killing its leaders and bringing terror to their communities.

* That the neoliberal or "free" market economic policies are the deus ex machina of the new world order and a new form of low-intensity warfare. Neoliberalism offers a model for economic development which is ecologically disastrous and unsustainable. It is a source of structural violence–poverty, hunger, ignorance, disease. It then uses political violence and terror to repress the discontent and dissent which are its inevitable by-products.

We found islands of prosperity in every major city we visited. A small minority of the people were clearly reaping the benefits of a "free" market economy. But we also found that the "free" market had consigned millions of others to the margins of the society–to favelas or squatter towns, to lives of misery, fear and desperation. We heard about the riots in Los Angeles while we were in Santiago, Chile. We understood immediately that they were a result of the operation of the same neoliberal economic policies whose effects we were witnessing in Latin America.

Virtually every Latin American country is restructuring its economy in order to receive new credits from the international financial community which will be used to repay the foreign debt that each one has already repaid many times over. The effects of the restructuring are devastating to the poor–especially the women and children. The callousness with which it is being carried out suggests that we–the nations of the North–are wittingly or unwittingly trying to kill the millions of marginalized people who are unable to participate in the modern or capitalist sector of the economy. Perhaps it is because they are neither producers nor consumers. Since they perform no "useful" economic function–indeed are a burden on the economy–there is, presumably, every good reason to get rid of them.

But there was good news. We also learned about the empowering, life-risking and transformative struggle that the people everywhere are waging to liberate themselves from injustice and oppression.

It has many forms: nonviolent land occupations by the landless of Brazil and Ecuador who then farm the land cooperatively and collectively; the formation of soup kitchens, health clinics, and schools by the millions of poor living in the favelas and shanty towns in Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and Brazil; moves toward autonomy and self-determination by the Indians of Ecuador who are forming their own parliament; successful efforts by the rubber-tappers in Brazil to resist the interests that would destroy their livelihood and the rainforest along with it.

But what is perhaps most significant in their struggle is not the product but the process–a process which is transformational on several levels: the political as the relationship between the people and the state is fundamentally changed from one of dependence to one of local reliance; the social as they learn new forms of organization which are cooperative and in Kropotkin’s term based on mutual aid; the spiritual as they come to a new understanding of the gospel as about God’s struggle for the liberation of the poor now and the importance of self-sacrifice in the search for truth and justice; and, finally, personally, as they become more fully human with the capacity to take responsibility for their lives–a new man and new woman who, not surprisingly, are perceived as a grave threat to the new world order. This suggests other meanings for the fast:

* As a way of accompanying and standing with the poor and oppressed, most particularly those among them who are courageously struggling to transform their communities and their lives in the face of the enormous forces arrayed against them by the new world order.

* As a nonviolent protest of the new world order and of the system and way of life that underlies it and sustains it. We will withdraw our cooperation from our economic system for the duration of the fast, and find our sustenance in the bread of the living Spirit.

* Because it is an act of atonement it is also an act of reconciliation and healing. We are not weighed down by guilt. But as citizens who are white males who hav
e served in the United States military, we do feel a strong sense of responsibility for the part our nation has played in the conquest.

As a nation we have never looked back and taken responsibility for our actions. We have never said we are sorry or made reparations for the injustice and injury we have caused. We never grieve except for our own who have fallen in our imperial wars. Indeed, such behavior would be considered a sign of weakness. So wounds are left open, grievances are not redressed, divisions are not overcome, suffering is not relieved. We neither forgive nor are we forgiven. Our great economic and political power allows us to live by the dictum that might makes right-not acts of generosity or compassion or reconciliation. How sad. But there is a price. There is guilt and shame etched into our cultural consciousness. There is a dark side to our nature that we project onto others and that casts a shadow forward to cloud our future. And there is fear.

The time is long overdue when we should make reparations to the poor and oppressed people of Latin America, as well as "Third World" people everywhere. If our nation state will not do so then we-the-people must. Models exist already such as the work of the Veterans Peace Action Teams in Nicaragua and of the Veterans Vietnam Restoration Project which helps veterans return to build health clinics alongside the Vietnamese.

* As a public forum where we-the-people from North and South can reflect together on the Columbus Enterprise and its legacies and to share with one another our visions of a different kind of world order.

* As a prayer to the Great Spirit for guidance, strength and courage to carry on the struggle.

 

OUTCOMES

We anticipate that the fast will have the following outcomes:

* A more widely shared understanding of the nature of the Columbus Enterprise and how it is continuing today throughout the Americas through the systemic evil of the new world order.

* The initiation of a new transformational process through which we-the-people of the Americas through new bonds of solidarity would create a people’s world order. The process could be supported by a South-North frente given concrete form by the establishment of nonviolent training institutions, understanding that North and South are involved in a common struggle.

* A greater understanding of the popular or grassroots movements for justice and peace in both north and south–their similarities and differences in the ways they analyze the issues which confront them, in their projects and programs and in their approaches, especially their employment of nonviolence.

* Finally, the fast may help the United States as the seat of the empire find its way toward a healing and renewal of its deeply wounded spirit–to the revolution of values about which Dr. King spoke….

* * * * *

    Conclusion

I have chosen to be in the struggle for the dream of a new world, a world based on justice and caring, a world understood from a consciousness of interconnectedness, emerging through development of a radically new woman and new man. I have concluded that I am quite inept on this journey but that this is no reason to hold back, simply a reason to remain humble. I hope we see each other on the trail as nonviolent revolutionaries. We need each other. I know I need you.

* * * * *

 

NOTES

1 Russell Thornton, American Indian Holocaust and Survival: A Population History Since 1492 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987), pages 26, 32, 36; 1900 U.S. Census.

2 Rohert Silverberg, Home of the Red Man: Indian North America Before Columbus (New York: Washington Square Press, 1971), page 7; Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States (New York: Harper & Row/Perennial Library, 1980), page 18.

3 Institute for the Development of Indian Law, A Chronological List of Treaties and Agreements Made by Indian Tribes with the United States (Washington, D.C.: Institute for the Development of Indian Law, 1973); Zinn, op. cit., page 515; Vine Deloria, Jr. and Clifford M. Lytle, American Indians, American Justice (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1983), pages 3-4; Imre Sutton, editor, Irredeemable America: The Indians’ Estate and Land Claims (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1985), page 36; Vine Deloria, Jr., Custer Died For Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto (New York: Avon Books, 1969), page 35; "Treaties," in Funk & Wagnalls New Standard Encyclopedia, Volume XXIV (1931), pages 7-8.

4 Sutton, op. cit., page 4; Map ‘N’ Facts: Native Peoples of North America (New York: Friendship Press: 1985).

5 Zinn, op. cit., page 29; Yvonne V. Delk, "A Moment of Turning: An African-American Vision for the Kairos of 1992," Sojourners, October 1991, page 17.

6 Zinn, op. cit.; Thornton, op. cit., page 59.

7 "Negro," Compton’s Pictured Encyclopedia, Volume 10 (1951), page 108.

8 John Lewis, Anthropology Made Simple (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1961), pages 153-158 (Chapter 22, "The Anthropologist Looks at the United States"); Compton’s Pictured Pictured Encyclopedia, op. cit.

9 "Territorial Growth of the United States," Mathews-Northrop Atlas of the World at War (Cleveland and New York: The World Publishing Co., 1942), page 45; "Territorial Expansion," Information Please Stndent Almanac (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1989), page 57; Richard B. and Jeffrey B. Morris, editors, Encyclopedia of American History (New York: Harper & Row, 1976), pages 599, 619.

10 Zinn, op. cit., pages 302, 304-305, 399, 555; "Pacific Ocean," Compton’s Pictured Encyclopedia, Vol.11 (1951), pages 11-13; Richard Drinnon, Facing West: The Metaphysics of Indian-Hating and Empire Building (New York: Schocken Books, 1990), pages xiii-xiv; Mathews-Northrup Atlas of the World at War, op. cit.; Information Please Student Almanac, op. cit.

11 U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Background Information On the Use of United States Armed Forces in Foreign Countries, 91st Congress, 2nd Session, 1970; William Blum, The CIA: A Forgotten History–Global Interventions Since World War II (London: Zed Books, 1986), Appendix II, "Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-1945"; William Appleman Williams, Empire As A Way of Life (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), Appendices found on pages 73-76, 102-110, 136-142, and 165-167.

12 Third World Guide 86-87 (New York: Grove Press, 1986), Appendix, "Latin America: Imperial Chronology–U.S. Interventions 1800-1985," pages 530-540; Harvey Wasserman, Harvey Wasserman’s History of the United States (New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1988), Map, page 41; S. Brian Willson, United States Intervention into Western Hemisphere Countries (San Francisco: Institute for the Practice of Nonviolence, January 1990).

13 Zinn, op. cit., page 559; Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy, Discriminate Deterrence (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1988), pages 13-15; Frank Bamaby, editor, The Gaia Peace Atlas (New York: Doubleday, 1988), page 56; Blum, op. cit., Table of Contents identifies 49 interventions into 43 countries after World War II; S. Brian Willson, The U.S. At War With the World: U.S. Intervention/CIA Involvement Since 1947 (San Francisco: Institute for the Practice of Nonvio
lence, January 1990).

14 Barnaby, op. cit.; Willson, op. cit.

15 William M. Arkin and Richard W. Fieldhouae, Nuclear Battlefields: Global Links in the Arms Race (Cambridge, Mass.: Ballinger Publishing Co., 1985), pages 38, 146-147; Helen Caldicott, Missile Envy: The Arms Race and Nuclear War (New York: Bantam Books, 1986), pages 37, 117.

16 Joseph Gerson, editor, The Deadly Connection: Nuclear War and U.S. Intervention (Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1986), page 11; Barnaby, op. cit., page 128.

17 Center for National Security Studies, Report (Washington, D.C.: Center for National Security Studies, 1977); Blum, op. cit.; Third World Guide, op. cit., pages 489496; "Black OPs, 1963-1983," Harper’s, April 1984.

18 World Development Forum, Global Village (Washington, D.C.: World Development Forum, April 22, 1990); Edward Goldsmith and Nicholas Hildyard, editors, The Earth Report: The Essential Guide to Global Ecological Issues (Los Angeles: Price Stern Sloan, Inc., 1988), pages 179-180; Moskowitz, Katz and Levering, editors, Everybody’s Business: The Irreverent Guide to Corporate America (New York: Harper & Row, 1980), page 532; The World Resources Institute, World Resources 1990-91 (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), page 142; George Kennen, PPS 23 top secret document, planning staff of U.S. State Department, February 24, 1948, found in: Thomas H. Etzold and John Lewis Gaddis, editors, Containment: Documents on American Policy and Strategy, 1945-50 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1978); the 1990 U.S. Census revealed about 249 million people which represents nearly 4.8% of the estimated 5.2-plus billion world population.

19 Pupulation Crisis Committee, 1992 Human Suffering Index, reported "83 countries with 73% of the world’s population reveal high or extreme human suffering"; untitled article in Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) Third World Bulletin, January 1988; Barnaby, op. cit., pages 29, 112, 256; Third World Guide, op. cit., pages 600, 602; The World Resources Institute, op. cit., page 142; Felix Greene, The Enemy: What Every American Should Know About lmperialism (New York: Vintage Books, 1971), pages 150-151; Gilbert M. Grosvenor, "Will We Mend Our Earth?," National Geographic, December 1988, page 770.

20 The facts in this paragraph about blocking of trains and trucks during the Vietnam War are drawn from an unpublished manuscript by Tom Wells, "The War Over the War: Protestors and the White House During the Vietnam Era."

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