Sep. 27, 2010
Nathonal Catholic Reporter
"Antiwar defendants get unexpected hearing"
By Joshua J. McElwee <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Fourteen antiwar activists claimed a victory of sorts Sept. 14 when a
county judge in
case into a wider hearing on the legality of the use of unmanned
military drones by the
Surprising both the activists and prosecutors,
Judge William Jansen said he needed “at least three months” to look
into witness testimony and study applicable international law
regarding the activists’ allegedly illegal April 2009 prayer vigil on
Creech Air Force Base.
The activists, who are known together as the “Creech 14,” walked on to
the base outside
there, they offered Air Force personnel bread and water and started a
prayer vigil for the end of the military’s use of unmanned aerial
vehicles. After about an hour at prayer they were arrested and taken
According to a Sept. 14 news release, the activists’ key strategy for
the trial was to call several notable figures as expert witnesses
regarding international law: former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey
Clark, Center for Constitutional Rights legal director Bill Quigley,
and retired U.S. Army Col. Amy Wright.
After relatively brief questioning from prosecutors, the witnesses
were questioned at length by Jesuit Fr. Steve Kelly, a defendant who
acted as his own counsel. At first Jansen said the witnesses would
only be able to answer questions pertaining to the charge of trespass,
but allowed them to go on as he became interested in the issues of
international law involved with the activists’ action.
Jansen ultimately delayed the verdict for the activists by four months
and scheduled a written decision for Jan. 27, 2011.
Speaking to NCR Sept. 18, Brian Terrell, one of the activists, said he
was completely surprised by Jansen’s decision to delay judgment and
had “expected everything we tried to be shot down.”
Terrell, who is a community member at the Strangers & Guests Catholic
Worker farm in
when, during questioning from the prosecution,
activists’ action calling attention to the use of unmanned drones to
saving a child from a burning house with a “No Trespassing” sign
In his closing statement, Terrell used
“I submit that the house is on fire and babies are burning in
Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan because of the activities at Creech,”
Terrell said in his statement. “We 14 are ones who have seen the smoke
from the fire and heard the cries of the children [inside]. We cannot
be deterred by a ‘No Trespassing’ sign from going to the burning
Other members of the Creech 14 include Jesuit Fr. John Dear,
Franciscan Frs. Louie Vitale and Jerry Zawada, Holy Child of Jesus Sr.
Megan Rice, and Voices for Creative Nonviolence coordinator Kathy
While a memorandum filed in court by the activists argues that the
continued use of unmanned drones by the
“extrajudicial killing” and is thus illegal according to international
law, the federal government has continued to defend its use of the
unmanned aerial vehicles.
In a March 25 speech to the American Society of International Law,
Harold Koh, a legal advisor to the U.S. State Department, said the use
of drones by the
international law for war-making.
“Great care is taken...to ensure that only legitimate objectives are
targeted and that collateral damage is kept to a minimum,” Koh said.
“There is no prohibition under the laws of war on the use of
technologically advanced weapons systems in armed conflict -- such as
pilotless aircraft or so-called smart bombs -- so long as they are
employed in conformity with applicable laws of war.”
Joshua J. McElwee is an NCR staff writer.