The five-week “working” vacation of spurious George is nearing its end, which means the true measure of the Sheehan phenomenon will be known shortly to us all. Will the anti-war tide dispel as quickly as it gathered, or will the roadside vigil mark the first resolute steps of the anti-war movement’s long, sustained march for justice? Early signs show the latter; the Bring Them Home Now Bus Tour rolls out of Crawford today, and the major peace and justice organizations have promised solidarity long enough to organize and co-host a major, late September convergence in Washington.

But if the anti-war movement wants to deepen the protest, to announce our determined commitment to both resist the aggression, deception, and intimidation of this administration, and also hold to account the ministers of war (Republicans and Democrats), then the route from Crawford to Washington must be amended.

Next stop for the anti-war movement: Binghamton, New York.

"The St. Patrick’s Four: Killing Cannot Be With Christ"
On September 19, the first federal conspiracy trial of civilian war resisters begins in Binghamton. The case traces back to an act of nonviolent resistance committed by four parents on March 17, 2003, two days before the illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq. The four, since nicknamed the “St. Patrick’s Four,” walked into a military recruiting center just outside their hometown of Ithaca New York and carefully poured their own blood around the vestibule. They prayed, knelt, and awaited the authorities.

Tried in April 2004 on charges of criminal mischief and trespassing, the four Catholic Workers represented themselves and articulated a compelling defense that braided together history, morals, and constitutional and international law. Peter DeMott, a Vietnam veteran, spoke of the horrors of war, of men and women who, when asked to kill for dubious reasons, return forever changed. Danny Burns explained our constitutional obligation to international treaties as the “supreme law of the land” (Article 6), and why this planned invasion was in direct violation of the UN Charter. Clare Grady spoke of her moral obligations as a Christian peacemaker. Teresa Grady reminded the court of how modern warfare harms women and children disproportionately, and so as a mother, saw no legal or moral justification to wage merciless war on Iraqi children who obviously posed no threat to our national security.

When all was said and done, nine of twelve jurors voted to acquit. Months after the trial, Judge David Peebles admitted that the four had represented themselves "probably better than some of the attorneys that practice in this court, frankly."

However, in February of this year, the federal authorities decided to retry the case. Incredibly, for a nonviolent act committed in accordance with their Christian faith and international law, the four are being charged with “conspiracy to impede an officer of the United States” and other lesser charges. If convicted of conspiracy, each parent faces up to six years in prison and $250,000 in fines—a dangerous precedent for sure.

Bill Quigley, a law professor at Loyola University, New Orleans, and legal counselor for the activists, explained this as a simple case of intimidation. “The federal government is clearly trying to make an example of these people and to intimidate future nonviolent protestors by charging these folks with conspiracy.”

And wait, it gets worse. A few months ago, Thomas J. McAvoy, senior U.S. district judge for northern New York, issued a ruling that stated the four are not allowed to articulate the same defense that proved so persuasive in their previous trial. “This court offers no opinion on the war in Iraq as it is entirely irrelevant to this matter. Assuming an illegal war, it does not provide a justification for violating the criminal laws of the United States.”

"In clear violation of the Nuremburg principles and the Constitution, [McAvoy] has ruled that domestic law supercedes international law,” replied Teresa Grady. But more than a dubious interpretation of constitutional law, McAvoy’s ruling was a tacit admission that he would not tolerate any mention of either the war or international law. Basically, he gagged the four defendants.

Or so he thought. Fortunately, a local peace and social justice alliance circled the wagons around these four heroes and issued a response just as bold. Because the federal judge wouldn’t allow the four to present a reasonable defense in his court, the SP4 Support Team decided to invite expert witnesses to submit similar testimony in public court. Titled ‘The Citizens’ Tribunal on Iraq,’ the five-day event will run concurrently with the first week of the trial and present the legal, historical, and moral defense of civil resistance to this unjust war. The event has gathered incredible momentum in just a few weeks, and panelists include Ray McGovern, Medea Benjamin, Camilo Mejia, John Bonifaz, Kathy Kelly, Jimmy Massey, US Representative Maurice Hinchey, and many others.

Mr. Bush might delight as August ends, having evaded Cindy’s simple question, “For what noble cause did my son die?” But that was Crawford, just the beginning. The anti-war movement is focused now, and fully aware that to pursue peace and justice, we must dare bolder possibilities. Next stop: Binghamton.

"The Link between Crawford and Binghamton"
The anti-war movement is always dogged by accusations that it can only protest, and some of that criticism carries great merit. Rarely does the movement advocate an alternative to war that balances security, justice, and liberty. But what better opportunity to both protest the arrogant, fearful exceptionalism this administration has pursued to reckless ends and simultaneously advocate a humble, hopeful internationalism that addresses through stern diplomacy the endemic conditions of poverty, indignity, and oppression? Better than a weekend protest, a trial allows us the chance to debate the legality and morality of this war. Better than a peace vigil, a tribunal is a powerful educational session that aims to indict the ministers of war who lied us into an act of preemptive aggression.

Or was Crawford the limits of our outrage and hope? Was “Cindy Goes to Crawford” just so perfectly suited to our mediated culture, a neat spectacle that Moveon could share with us all and then play back to us in slideshow format? And is Washington next, because, well, it’s a chance to easily pencil in resistance to our busy calendars and a good place to hawk a t-shirt with a cool slogan?

I don’t think so, but it’s absolutely necessary that we question the depths of our commitment to peace and justice with such candor. There’s no time for pop culture resistance. Vigil for a grieving mother? Sure, easy, count me in. Stand in solidarity with four parents who, in accordance with their faith, poured blood on the flag in a military recruiting office? Well…

If you wavered, don’t worry, you’re not alone. In fact, just last weekend, the church that the SP4 Support Team had reached a rental agreement with bailed out completely. The agreement was to allow the SP4 Support Team use of the main hall for hosting the tribunal, the kitchen and dining hall for feeding guests, and the day care center for caring for children. Apparently, the Church vestry concluded the tribunal was too controversial after a local resident with no ties to the church issued a legal threat to the church. That the legal threat was groundless doesn’t matter—here was a house of faith and prayer that thought it was too controversial to debate the morality of war, care for children, and feed out-of-town guests. Something about “resistance” just seems to ask of us too much.

Now I don’t dare take anything from Cindy Sheehan—she has bravely weathered a storm of vitriol that can only attest to the moral force of her actions. Still, it’s important for her and other Gold Star mothers—and the entire anti-war movement that her vigil has finally energized—to recognize the connect between Crawford and Binghamton. Not surprisingly, the mourning woman and the protesting Christians—all parents.

But there’s more. See, the grief Cindy must forever endure, a deep grief that she regrettably shares with thousands of other mothers—Iraqi and American—is precisely what the St. Patrick’s Four had hoped to prevent when they resisted nonviolently over two years ago. Casey, the beautiful son that brought Cindy to Crawford, was the same young man held in the prayers of the four when they sat in a small room stained with their own blood before Iraq was shocked and awed. And for that pious call for peace, the St. Patrick’s Four may be imprisoned for six years.

So just as we rightfully stood united with Cindy in August, let us stand united with the St. Patrick’s Four in September. Let us say to the ministers of war who have sent our children to die for lies and who betray our shared humanity and degrade our hopeful possibilities, that August was hardly a summer spectacle. Our movement is on the move—from Crawford to Binghamton to Washington and beyond—and our beautiful new song will never again be surrendered nor silenced.

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Tarik Abdelazim is a free-lance writer, volunteer at Binghamton-IMC, and the Community Progressive Advocate in Binghamton, NY. He is a volunteer with the SP4 Support Team. For more details of the trial and tribunal, and to sign a letter of support, please visit www.stpatricksfour.org.