Professor of international law, University of Illinois College of Law
“Where are the “good” Americans? Well, there are some good Americans: notable among them are…war resisters and protesters…”
The Good Americans
One generation ago the peoples of the world asked themselves: Where were the “good” Germans? Well, there were some good Germans. The Lutheran theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was the foremost exemplar of someone who led a life of principled opposition to the Nazi-terror state even unto death.
Today the peoples of the world are likewise asking themselves: Where are the “good” Americans? Well, there are some good Americans: notable among them are Richard Sauder, Jeff Paterson, David Mihaila, Yolanda Huet-Vaughn, Lawrence Rockwood, Camilo Mejia, Ehren Watada, the late Philip Berrigan, Elizabeth McAlister, Daniel Berrigan, Kathy Kelly and other war resisters and protesters among them. Or consider three Catholic Dominican Sisters in Denver, Carol Gilbert, Jackie Hudson, and Ardeth Platte, who called themselves the Sacred Earth and Space Plowshares. They faced arrest, prosecution, and did about two and a half years in prison for protesting against United States weapons of mass destruction (WMD) whose power for human extermination far exceeds even the wildest fantasies of Hitler and the Nazis.
Many more activists risk arrest for protesting against illegal U.S. military interventions around the world. In 2004 The Nuclear Resister estimated that since the fall of 2002, there had been more than 9,500 anti-war related arrests in the United States alone. As my friend and colleague former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark once said: “Our jails are filling up with saints!” Today the Bush Jr. administration is committing myriad actions in violation of the Nuremberg Charter, the Nuremberg Judgment, and the Nuremberg Principles, as a result of its repeated wars of aggression, crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. As a consequence of these actions, American citizens possess the basic right under international law and United States domestic law, including the U.S. Constitution, to engage in acts of civil resistance in order to prevent, impede, thwart, or terminate ongoing criminal activities perpetrated by U.S. government officials in their conduct of foreign affairs and military operations purported to relate to defense and counter-terrorism.
This same right of civil resistance extends to all citizens of the world community of states. Everyone around the world has both the right and the duty under international law to resist ongoing criminal activities perpetrated by the Bush Jr. administration and its foreign accomplices in allied governments such as Tony Blair in Britain and John Howard in Australia. If not restrained, the Bush Jr. administration could very well precipitate a Third World War.