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Death's Sting - Phil Berrigan * War Crime * Execution Stay

07 December 2002

"I die with the conviction, held since 1968 and Catonsville, that nuclear weapons are the scourge of the earth; to mine for them, manufacture them, deploy them, use them, is a curse against God, the human family, and the earth itself."

Philip Berrigan

1) O death, where is your sting? Phil Berrigan's Last Statement
2) U.S. Gulf War 'crime'
3) Judge Stays Desmond Carter's Execution
4) Ten Hopeful Cracks in the Bush Facade

Editor's Notes:

Just before releasing this issue, with the hopeful news of a Judge's ruling to stay the execution stay of Desmond Carter, (see Item 3), I was ready for a positive, almost cheerful Flyby News. Human Rights Day might not be blotted by another US racist-based execution. With this information, I was prepared to send the information linked in Item 4, ten hopeful cracks in the Bush facade. Then news came on the death of Philip Berrigan, which included a most powerful incomplete "last statement," which was dictated to his wife, including this sentence: "I die with the conviction, held since 1968 and Catonsville, that nuclear weapons are the scourge of the earth; to mine for them, manufacture them, deploy them, use them, is a curse against God, the human family, and the earth itself." And so, another issue takes form, and Item 2 provides more information on Gulf War disease and the harm by exploded depleted uranium shells. This item also includes information of concern that the administration is moving toward creating new kinds of nuclear weapons. Yet the voice of Phil Berrigan and others, continue to ring loud and clear for truth, justice, humankind, and time is short.

1) O death, where is your sting? Phil Berrigan's Last Statement

The following message is from the Jonah House, where Philip Berrigan, a spiritual leader of the anti-war movement, passed away, with loved ones present, and a message for our world.

Hello Everyone,

Phil died tonight at Jonah House. The family is grieving, but also thankful that his last painful days are over and he can now rejoice. There are many who have helped and supported the family with prayers and food and kind words; all of your support is greatly appreciated. All the letters and calls Phil got in his final days showed the strength and compassion of this, the beloved community.

Contact Jonah House if interested in housing possibilities in Baltimore if you choose to come for the wake and/or the funeral mass. Folks from Viva House Catholic Worker (410-233-0488) here in Baltimore have volunteered to coordinate housing; Jonah House is filled to the brim with family, so please contact Viva House if you need to find a place to stay.

This is the press release the family sent out, as well as a chronology of Phil's life and works, and a statement he and Liz write shortly before his death.

Thanks to you all, and peace be with you.


Philip Berrigan, Anti-War Activist, Dies at Home in Baltimore, MD

Baltimore, MD - Phil Berrigan died December 6, 2002 at about 9:30 PM, at Jonah House, a community he co-founded in 1973, surrounded by family and friends. He died two months after being diagnosed with liver and kidney cancer, and one month after deciding to discontinue chemotherapy. Approximately thirty close friends and fellow peace activists gathered for the ceremony of last rites on November 30, to celebrate his life and anoint him for the next part of his journey. Berrigan's brother and co-felon, Jesuit priest Daniel Berrigan officiated.

During his nearly 40 years of resistance to war and violence, Berrigan focused on living and working in community as a way to model the nonviolent, sustainable world he was working to create. Jonah House members live simply, pray together, share duties, and attempt to expose the violence of militarism and consumerism. The community was born out of resistance to the Vietnam War, including high-profile draft card burning actions; later the focus became ongoing resistance to U.S. nuclear policy, including Plowshares actions that aim to enact Isaiah's biblical prophecy of a disarmed world. Because of these efforts Berrigan spent about 11 years in prison. He wrote, lectured, and taught extensively, publishing six books, including an autobiography, Fighting the Lamb's War. In his last weeks, Berrigan was surrounded by his family, including his wife Elizabeth McAlister, with whom he founded Jonah House; his children Frida, 28, Jerry, 27, and Kate, 21; community members Susan Crane, Gary Ashbeck, and David Arthur; and extended family and community. Community members Ardeth Platte and Carol Gilbert, Dominican sisters, were unable to be physically present at Jonah House; they are currently in jail in Colorado awaiting trial for a disarmament action at a missile silo, the 79th international Plowshares action. One of Berrigan's last actions was to bless the upcoming marriage of Frida to Ian Marvy.Berrigan wrote a final statement in the days before his death. His final comments included this: "I die with the conviction, held since 1968 and Catonsville, that nuclear weapons are the scourge of the earth; to mine for them, manufacture them, deploy them, use them, is a curse against God, the human family, and the earth itself."

The wake and funeral will be held at St. Peter Claver Church in West Baltimore, (1546 North Fremont Avenue, Baltimore MD 21217); calling hours: 4-8 PM Sunday December 8 with a circle of sharing about Phil's life at 6 PM; funeral: Monday, December 9, 12 PM. All are invited to process with the coffin from the intersection of Bentalou and Laurens streets to St. Peter Claver Church at 10 AM (please drop off marchers and park at the church). A public reception at the St. Peter Claver hall will follow the funeral mass; internment is private. In place of flowers and gifts for the offertory, attendees may bring pictures or other keepsakes. Mourners may make donations in Berrigan's name to Citizens for Peace in Space, Global Network Against Nuclear Weapons, Nukewatch, Voices in the Wilderness, the Nuclear Resister, or any Catholic Worker house.

Philip Berrigan, 1923-2002

Born: October 5, 1923, Minnesota Iron Range, near Bemidji to Frieda Fromhart and Thomas Berrigan
1943-1945: Served in WWII, artillery officer, Europe.
1949: Graduated from Holy Cross College.
1955: Ordained a Catholic Priest in the Josephite Order, specializing in inner city ministry.
1956-1963: Taught at St. Augustine's high school, New Orleans, a segregated all black school.
1962 (or 3?): First priest to ride in a Civil Rights movement Freedom Ride.
1963-1965: Taught at a Josephite seminary, Newburgh, NY.
1966: Published first book, No More Strangers.
1966: Served at St. Peter Claver parish, Baltimore, MD.
October 27, 1967: Poured blood on draft files in Baltimore with 3 others. Known as the "Baltimore Four."
May 17, 1968: Burned draft files in Catonsville, MD with 8 others, including his brother, Fr. Daniel Berrigan. Action known as the "Catonsville Nine." Convicted of destruction of US property, destruction of Selective Service records, and interference with the Selective Service Act of 1967. Sentenced to prison.
1970: Married Elizabeth McAlister, an activist nun, Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary.
1970: Became a fugitive when appeals failed. Captured and returned to prison.
1971: Named co-conspirator by J. Edgar Hoover and Harrisburg grand jury while in prison. Charged with plotting to kidnap Henry Kissinger and blow up the utility tunnels of US Capitol buildings. Convicted only of violating prison rules for smuggling out letters.
1973: Co-founded Jonah House community of war resisters in Baltimore, MD.
April 1, 1974: Birth of Frida Berrigan at Jonah House.
April 17, 1975: Birth of Jerry Berrigan at Jonah House.
1975: End of Vietnam War and beginning of focus on weapons of mass destruction and changing U.S. nuclear policy. Actions included pouring of blood and digging of graves at the White House and Pentagon resulted in several jail terms ranging up to six months.
1975: Atlantic Life Community conceptualized as East Coast counterpart to Pacific Life Community.
1976: First of summer community building sessions; led to triannual Faith & Resistance Retreats in DC.
September 9, 1980: Poured blood and hammered with 7 others on Mark 12A warheads at a GE nuclear missile plant, King of Prussia, PA. Charged with conspiracy, burglary, and criminal mischief; convicted and imprisoned. Action known as the "Plowshares Eight;" began the international Plowshares movement.
1980-1999: Participated in 5 more Plowshares actions, resulting in ~7 years of imprisonment.
November 5, 1981: Birth of Kate Berrigan at Jonah House.
1989: Published The Times' Discipline, on the Jonah House experience, with Liz McAlister.
1996: Published autobiography, Fighting the Lamb's War.
December 14, 2001: Released from Elkton, OH prison after nearly a year of imprisonment for his final Plowshares action.
July 12, 2002: Underwent hip replacement surgery at Good Samaritan Hospital, Baltimore, MD.
October 8, 2002: Diagnosed with adenocarcinoma, cancer in the liver and kidney.
December 6, 2002: Died at home in Baltimore, surrounded by family and community.

PHIL'S STATEMENT 12/05/02 (via Liz McAlister)

Philip began dictating this statement the weekend before Thanksgiving. It was all clear - he had it written in his head. Word for word I wrote...

WHEN I LAY DYING...of cancer
Philip Berrigan

I die in a community including my family, my beloved wife Elizabeth, three great Dominican nuns - Ardeth Platte, Carol Gilbert, and Jackie Hudson (emeritus) jailed in Western Colorado - Susan Crane, friends local, national and even international. They have always been a life-line to me.

I die with the conviction, held since 1968 and Catonsville, that nuclear weapons are the scourge of the earth; to mine for them, manufacture them, deploy them, use them, is a curse against God, the human family, and the earth itself. We have already exploded such weapons in Japan in 1945 and the equivalent of them in Iraq in 1991, in Yugoslavia in 1999, and in Afghanistan in 2001. We left a legacy for other people of deadly radioactive isotopes - a prime counterinsurgency measure. For example, the people of Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Pakistan will be battling cancer, mostly from depleted uranium, for decades. In addition, our nuclear adventurism over 57 years has saturated the planet with nuclear garbage from testing, from explosions in high altitudes (four of these), from 103 nuclear power plants, from nuclear weapons factories that can't be cleaned up - and so on. Because of myopic leadership, of greed for possessions, a public chained to corporate media, there has been virtually no response to these realities...

At this point in dictation, Phil's lungs filled; he began to cough uncontrollably; he was tired. We had to stop - with promises to finish later. But later never came - another moment in an illness that depleted Phil so rapidly it was all we could do to keep pace with it... And then he couldn't talk at all. And then - gradually - he left us.

What did Phil intend to say? What is the message of his life? What message was he leaving us in his dying? Is it different for each of us, now that we are left to imagine how he would frame it?

During one of our prayers in Phil's room, Brendan Walsh remembered a banner Phil had asked Willa Bickham to make years ago for St. Peter Claver. It read: "The sting of death is all around us. O Christ, where is your victory?"

The sting of death is all around us. The death Phil was asking us to attend to is not his death (though the sting of that is on us and will not be denied). The sting Phil would have us know is the sting of institutionalized death and killing. He never wearied of articulating it. He never ceased being astonished by the length and breadth and depth of it. And he never accepted it.

O Christ, where is your victory? It was back in the mid 1960's that Phil was asking that question of God and her Christ. He kept asking it. And, over the years, he learned:

that it is right and good to question our God, to plead for justice for all that inhabit the earth
that it is urgent to feel this; injustice done to any is injustice done to all
that we must never weary of exposing and resisting such injustice
that what victories we see are smaller than the mustard seeds Jesus praised, and they need such tender nurture
that it is vital to celebrate each victory - especially the victory of sisterhood and brotherhood embodied in loving, nonviolent community. Over the months of Phil's illness we have been blessed a hundred-fold by small and large victories over an anti-human, anti-life, anti-love culture, by friendships - in and out of prison - and by the love that has permeated Phil's life. Living these years and months with Phil free us to revert to the original liturgical question: "O death, where is your sting?"

2) U.S. Gulf War 'crime'

Iraqi doctors in Tokyo accuse U.S. of Gulf War 'crime'.

The likelihood of people developing cancer increased 10 times in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, because of the depleted uranium bullets that the U.S. military dropped during the Gulf War, two Iraqi doctors claimed in Tokyo Thursday.

Jawad Kadhim Al-Ali and Husam Al-Din Said-Jormakly, both university doctors in Iraq, are visiting Japan to study methods of treating cancer caused by radioactivity. In Basra, with its population of some 1.7 million, the probability of developing cancer increased 10 times from 1988, (a year before the 1991 Gulf War), to 2001, Al-Ali said at the Japan National Press Club. The doctors claimed that children were most susceptible to cancer and deformity, as they were apparently exposed to radioactivity during the war, as embryos and fetuses inside their mothers' bodies. As a result, the probability of pregnant women giving birth to deformed children tripled since before the Gulf War. Al-Ali said the use of depleted uranium bullets was a crime ranking closely behind the atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

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Mysterious illnesses plague gulf war vets.
Martha Quillin, Staff Writer

The News and Observer (Raleigh, NC)
November 10, 2002 Sunday, FINAL EDITION

FAYETTEVILLE-- If they would give him a fresh Air Force uniform, former Staff Sgt. Richard Wadzinski Jr. gladly would climb into the cargo hold of the first C-130 headed toward Southwest Asia to supply a U.S. assault on Iraq. "I'd go today. Right now," he said, taking a deep breath that stiffened his spine, briefly recalling the career military man he once was. Just one thing holds him back: Wadzinski is so sick from his deployment during Desert Storm, 11 years ago, that the military wouldn't take him. Like the rest of the country, Persian Gulf War veterans are divided over the long-term political effects of a U.S. war with Iraq. But those like Wadzinski, who suffer from illnesses linked to their duty in the gulf, say there is one certain outcome of sending troops back to the region to fight: another generation of service members with medical problems that may haunt them for life.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said it would spend $ 20 million on research into gulf war illnesses in 2004, more than twice what it has spent in any previous year. In announcing the funding, Leo S. Mackay, deputy secretary for the VA, said, "There is increasing objective evidence that a major category of gulf war illnesses is neurological in character" and not related to combat stress, as some scientists have said. Many sick vets believe their illnesses are caused by a combination of toxins they were exposed to in the war..

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They still fight Iraq war--Military gulf-war syndrome victims are still battling -- to get answers from the U.S. government.


The Orange County Register, November 11, 2002

Every war leaves unanswered questions. For many of the 700,000 Americans who served in Desert Storm 11 years ago, they include questions like this: Why are my teeth falling out? That's what Anthony Joseph wonders when he stares in the mirror. The man who stares back also has welts on his stomach, rashes on his hands, cramps in his legs and night sweats. ''The gulf war is still on for me,'' says Joseph, 51, of Santa Ana. ''I'm still fighting.''

So are 110,000 other gulf-war veterans -- 16 percent of those who fought -- who are on some kind of disability today, according to the Veterans Administration in Washington, D.C. And thousands more who can't get benefits because their symptoms are too elusive, too unpredictable, or just inexplicable. Their battle continues as the United States weighs another war against Iraq.

''I think we need to take care of the ones we already had there, before we send more,'' says Joseph, an 18-year Marine veteran who now works in maintenance at the Orange County Transportation Authority. One of the main justifications for fighting Iraq again is to eradicate Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass-destruction, including nerve gas and other chemical weapons blamed, in part, for cases of gulf-war syndrome. Several such causes are suspected for the syndrome. But there are several other suspected causes of the syndrome, some of which came from the American military -- U.S. ammunition loaded with depleted uranium, defective vaccines for anthrax, and antidotes to nerve gas. Also, smoke from burning oil wells, desert heat, and stress could have contributed to the ailments..

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Nuclear Study, Given Go-Ahead, Rouses Fears About a New 'Bunker Buster' Weapon
[The New York Times] November 17, 2002

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 Buried in the $393 billion defense authorization bill that Congress approved this week was an obscure item that has raised concerns that the administration is gradually moving toward creating new kinds of nuclear weapons.

The item authorizes the National Nuclear Security Administration, which manages the nation's nuclear stockpile, to spend $15 million to study modifying nuclear weapons so they can be used to destroy underground factories or laboratories.

The United States produced a "bunker buster" weapon in 1997 by repackaging a hydrogen bomb into a hardened case. But Pentagon planners contend that such a weapon would not be effective against the deeply buried and fortified installations that some countries, including Iraq and North Korea, are thought to use for producing and storing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

Advocates of the study contend that the administration is not yet proposing to create a new weapon, and is simply looking at solutions to an increasingly significant problem.But critics argue that the study is a first step toward producing weapons that would require a resumption of nuclear testing, which the United States suspended in 1992. The Energy Department is also considering building a new installation for making the plutonium pits that are at the heart of nuclear bombs. The plant would cost $2.2 billion to $4.1 billion, the department estimates. It intends to issue a decision on construction in April 2004.

3) Judge Stays Desmond Carter's Execution

A Durham judge Wednesday halted the execution of confessed murderer Desmond Carter, scheduled for early Tuesday, and agreed to hold a hearing in January on his legal claims, including an allegation of broad racial bias in sentencing.

After Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson signs his written order, perhaps today, lawyers for the state promise to appeal it immediately to the state Supreme Court, which has frowned on such last-minute intervention by trial judges. Carter's attorneys were elated. "A human life is at stake," one of his attorneys, Tom Loflin of Durham, told Hudson during a court hearing that lasted until after the rest of the Durham County courthouse had been closed and emptied because of the winter storm.

"We need to take the time to get it right, as it were." Attorneys for the state told Hudson that Carter's last-ditch plea outside the normal appeal process, couched as a legal challenge to the jurisdictional authority of Carter's trial judge and jury, was a misuse of the courts "to subvert the process of justice in this state." They said Carter's claims are baseless but could apply to many other convicted murderers."

Mr. Loflin is not just asking you to set aside Mr. Carter's conviction in this case," Barry McNeill, a special deputy attorney general, told Hudson. "He's asking you to empty death row."

2 state and 2 federal courts have ruled that Carter, 35, had a fair trial and sentencing. There is no question of his guilt. If the state Supreme Court does not overrule Hudson's order, he will hear evidence from defense lawyers and state attorneys on four issues that Carter's attorneys raised Tuesday in an emergency court petition, filed 1 week before the scheduled execution: Alleged broad racial bias in state sentencing for murder. Carter's attorneys plan to rely on two UNC-Chapel Hill studies asserting that race -- especially the race of the victim -- unevenly influences punishment for murder. Carter, who is black, stabbed to death his 71-year-old next-door neighbor Helen Moore Purdy, who was white, one night in 1992 when she refused to loan him $5 to buy drugs. He then stole $15. The next year, a jury convicted him of 1st-degree murder and sentenced him to die.

A claim that Carter's trial lawyers in 1993 would not have met tougher qualification standards that went into effect in 2001. The General Assembly intentionally did not make the change retroactive, but Carter's attorneys say it should be by law. However, they are not arguing that Carter's trial lawyers actually did a poor job. A challenge to the standard of evidence used to prove aggravating factors that contributed to Carter's death sentence. This claim turns on a disputed interpretation of a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. A technical challenge questioning whether Carter's indictment sufficiently spelled out his 1st-degree murder charge. The state Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected similar arguments. Hudson dismissed Carter's 2 other claims: that North Carolina's elected judges can't fairly handle capital trials and appeals because they have a personal political stake in being perceived as tough on crime; and that it's not fair that Carter's prosecutor did not have the discretion to seek life in prison instead of death for the 1st-degree murder. Hudson's decision was a dramatic turn in the 9-year history of Carter's case.

His attorneys first asked Superior Court Judge Shirley Fulton of Charlotte to hear the emergency petition Monday. She refused. On Tuesday afternoon, they persuaded Hudson to hear it. On Wednesday, Carter won a tentative reprieve, depending on the state Supreme Court's action.

Gov. Mike Easley plans to proceed today with Carter's clemency hearing. Carter's attorneys are asking Easley to spare Carter and convert his sentence to life in prison. The proceeding Wednesday was based on Carter's petition for habeas corpus, an order to bring the prisoner personally to court to hear the claim of unlawful imprisonment. But when the prisoner got there, he didn't want the public to personally see him. Through his attorneys, he objected to the presence of TV cameras for WRAL and Time-Warner Channel 14. Instead of forcing the cameras out, Hudson and the lawyers found a way around Carter's concern by letting him waive his right to attend the hearing after all. So he waited in a nearby room. Throughout the hearing, Hudson and the lawyers discussed what the Supreme Court might do or should do in response to the execution stay and order for an evidentiary hearing.

"Is this the way our system is supposed to work?" McNeill asked Hudson at one point. "Do we want capital defendants waiting until a week prior to their execution and then going to any judge regardless of the jurisdiction to file a petition? I don't think so."

"I know one thing, Mr. McNeill," Hudson said. "If I do something in this case that they don't like, and you petition the court, I'm sure they'll take the case and do what they want to with it. "Why the North Carolina Supreme Court does what it does, why the U.S. Supreme Court does what it does, I have no idea. I don't lose a lot of sleep over it."

> (source: News Observer)

4) Ten Hopeful Cracks in the Bush Facade

Through a Glass Lightly: 10 Hopeful Cracks in the Bush Facade
By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers

Don't know about you, but I find myself caught right in the middle of the glass half-empty/half-full way of looking at our current political situation.

In my last piece ("Shining Our Light on the Shadow Forces: Open Letter to the Fledgling 'Movement'"), I talked about how things are going to get worse before they get worse, and then even more worse, and then things will start to get better. In my darker periods -- which these days is most of the time -- I still believe this, that what is about to come down from Bush&Co. in the next few years is going to be horrendous, both for Americans domestically and for those in the way of U.S. imperial moves abroad.

Domestically, due-process Constitutional protections, already in shreds thanks to Bush & Ashcroft, will nearly disappear. Big Brother government will invade our privacy in virtually every area of our lives, thanks to technological breakthroughs and the magic word "terrorists." More citizens will be yanked off to the American gulags, cut off from judicial review or even their attorneys. Internationally, Bush&Co. will continue to march forward belligerently, arrogantly and threateningly in their desire to bring "benevolent hegemony" to those areas of the world rich in minerals and energy sources, thus stirring up anti-U.S. rebellions and fueling more terrorism.

But rather than dwell on that awful picture, and what it presages for the future -- the glass half-empty scenario -- let's search for any hopeful signs that point to a way out of our current morass.

In this glass-half-full approach, consider these:.

{For the complete insightful and hopeful article by Bernard Weiner, co-editor of the Crisis Papers, see:

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