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“It’s Too Bad the Soil Couldn’t Cry Out From the Blood Shed Upon It”: On Memorial Day, An Extended Conversation with Peace Warrior Philip Berrigan From Inside a Federal Penitentiary

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Today is Memorial Day, the traditional day to honor all US military veterans. President George Bush is in France. It is the first time in history a sitting president has been out of the country for Memorial Day. Bush will spend the day visiting the D-Day beaches of France’s Normandy coast and the U.S. war cemetery there.

Yesterday, Bush met with French president Jacques Chirac. After hailing France’s cooperation in US led so-called War on Terror, Bush compared sacrifices made in the current war to sacrifices made by US soldiers throughout history. He said, “We still fight people who hate civilization.” He said, “… A civilization that we love — they can’t stand freedom.”

Today on Democracy Now!, we are going to celebrate Memorial Day in a different way. We are going to hear the words of a lifelong anti-war activist. Philip Berrigan was the first Roman Catholic priest to be imprisoned for political reasons in the United States. Berrigan was first jailed in 1967 for destroying draft files in Baltimore. In 1968 he was arrested for burning draft files in Catonsville, Maryland, in a case that became known as the “Catonsville 9.”

Philip Berrigan is one of the founders of the Ploughshares movement, which organizes non-violent direct actions against nuclear weapons. Several years ago, Berrigan was given a two-year federal sentence for attempting to destroy an Aegis nuclear destroyer in Maine. He was released in 1999.

Berrigan is now 78 years old. He has served more than ten years in prison for over 100 anti-nuclear actions since he began leading nonviolent resistance during the Vietnam War.

Let’s turn now to an interview that Jeremy Scahill and I conducted with Philip Berrigan, inside the Petersburg federal penitentiary in West Virginia on St. Patrick’s Day, in March 1998.


  • Philip Berrigan, longtime anti-war activist and one of the founders of the Plowshares Movement. He was a member of the “Catonsville Nine” who burned draft records during the Vietnam War. He has spent over 10 years in prison for his anti-war activities.

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