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U.S. Activists Arrested at European Air Bases Protesting U.S. Nuclear Weapons Stationed There

StoryAugust 10, 2023
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As the world marks 78 years since the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we speak with two activists arrested while protesting the placement of U.S. nuclear weapons in the Netherlands, Germany and other European countries as a violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty for NATO’s so-called nuclear sharing program. “We’re very concerned about the legality,” says Susan Crane, who was arrested Tuesday during protests at the Volkel Air Base in the Netherlands. We also speak with John LaForge, co-director of Nukewatch, who just served a 50-day sentence in Germany for a similar protest at the Büchel Air Base. “The attempt to interfere with the threatened use of these weapons is justified as an act of crime prevention,” says LaForge. Actions are planned today at Büchel Air Base in Germany.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman.

We end today’s show with one of the 10 peace activists arrested on the runway Tuesday at an air base in the Netherlands where 15 U.S. nuclear bombs are stockpiled. The activists entered the Volkel Air Base and knelt on the runway, glued to the runway copies of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The nonviolent protests were part of the international peace camp and week of action and came on the week marking the 78th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, August 6th and 9th, 1945. Today the activists arrived in Germany to protest at the Büchel Air Force Base, which is preparing for the delivery of replacement nuclear weapons, including the new B61-12 thermonuclear gravity bomb now in production in the U.S.

We’re joined in Luck, Wisconsin, by John LaForge, the co-director of Nukewatch, recently served a 50-day sentence in Glasmoor prison outside Hamburg, Germany, for protesting U.S. nuclear weapons stationed in Büchel Air Base. Also with us, Susan Crane, one of the anti-nuclear activists arrested at Volkel Air Base, just arrived at Büchel Air Base for today’s action.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Susan, if you can talk about why you’re at Büchel and why you were arrested at Volkel, why you were there?

SUSAN CRANE: Well, thank you, Amy, for having us.

We’re very concerned about the legality of the United States sending nuclear warheads to the five countries in Europe, particularly to the Netherlands and to Germany, because it’s against the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The treaty says that nuclear countries can’t share, as it were, their nuclear weapons with nonnuclear countries, and nonnuclear countries can’t accept these weapons. So, as far as we’re concerned, the Volkel Air Base, which is in the Netherlands, is a crime scene, and the same with Büchel Air Base here in Germany. They’re both crime scenes where international law is being broken. And we want to bring that to people’s attention.

AMY GOODMAN: Three of the U.S. citizens who participated in this week’s protest at Volkel Air Base in the Netherlands were banned from entering the European Union for a year. Passports were stamped with an entry ban. The significance of this, Susan? And were you one of those three?

SUSAN CRANE: I was not one of those three. But it’s pretty — it’s pretty significant that a country would say, “Oh, you were part of a nonviolent direct action saying these nuclear weapons are a crime, and therefore, we’re not going to let you go anywhere in Europe for the next year.”

AMY GOODMAN: I want to bring in John LaForge, the co-director of Nukewatch. You just served a 50-day sentence in Glasmoor prison outside Hamburg, Germany, for protesting U.S. nuclear weapons stationed at the Büchel Air Base. Talk about your reasoning for doing that and your time in prison.

JOHN LAFORGE: Sure, Amy. The prison is a minimum-security place. It’s very easygoing conditions there. The fine that was imposed for going into the Büchel base a couple of times in 2018 went unpaid deliberately by me, and so the court system there imposed the alternative jail sentence.

We argued in trial that, as Susan pointed out, the stationing or the transfer of U.S. nuclear weapons to Germany is an unlawful act, a violation of the Articles I and II of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. And we were convicted anyway, although we offered to present expert witness testimony to explain the international treaties that forbid this transfer, this ongoing threatened use of U.S. nuclear weapons from Germany against Russia. We argued the case presented primarily by the international law professor Francis Boyle of the University of Illinois, who points out that nuclear weapons, their components and their delivery systems, in Germany and everywhere, are principally just instruments of international criminal activity, repudiated and prohibited, as he says, by international law, including and especially the Nuremberg Charter, the Nuremberg judgment and the Nuremberg principles. And as a matter of fact, today we wouldn’t recognize as property the right of a gas chamber in Auschwitz, and so we consider nuclear weapons not property at all. And so, the attempt to interfere with the threatened use of these weapons is justified as an act of crime prevention.

Those offerings — we offered to have this and other expert witnesses, including a retired German judge, Bernd Hahnfeld — were refused by the court. And for that reason, we’ve appealed from the German Constitutional Court, its highest, to the European Court of Human Rights, complaining that the refusal to hear this expert testimony prevented us from presenting an adequate defense, and we should be allowed to have a full trial.

AMY GOODMAN: John LaForge, we are talking to you in Luck, Wisconsin, where you’ve returned home. Susan, we just have 30 seconds. You’re at Büchel now. What are your plans for today’s action in western Germany?

SUSAN CRANE: Well, we plan to go to the base and hold some banners and hopefully talk to the people there and ask them not to fly the planes. And, you know, the — well, they don’t have planes there right now, but they do have the nuclear weapons there. And what’s happening now is they’re working on the runway to [inaudible] —

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to leave it there. I want to thank you, Susan, for being with us. Your phone line is breaking up as you’re on the U.S. base in Büchel in western Germany. Susan Crane, one of the anti-nuclear activists arrested at Volkel Air Force Base in the Netherlands, just arrived at the Büchel Air Force Base for today’s action. And John LaForge, co-director of Nukewatch, now back home in Luck, Wisconsin.

That does it for our broadcast. I’m Amy Goodman. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org.

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