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Who are The Real Saboteurs?

Lew Patrie, M.D.
Terry Clark, M.D.
March 6, 2014
printed in the Asheville Citizen Times

Who are The Real Saboteurs?


Why haven’t we heard more about three “Transform Now Plowshares” protesters, who in July 2012, cut through four fences at The Oak Ridge Y-12 Plant and walked into the center of the nuclear weapons complex? The three, including 84-year-old Sister Megan Rice, strung crime scene tape, poured blood on the walls and hung banners reading “Swords into Plowshares” (Isaiah 2:4). The guards detected them 30 minutes later. The three have been convicted of sabotage and just sentenced to three to five years in federal prison. In August 2012, Energy Secretary Chu avowed: “The Department has no tolerance for security breaches at any of our sites. ... I am committed to ensuring that those responsible will be held accountable. ... The Department will further strengthen its program to continue independently testing our guard force to ensure they are performing their security function fully and completely.”

Subsequently, the president of Babcock and Wilcox’s corporation, under DOE contract for providing security at the complex, made a similar commitment. Events during and following the broaching of the sacrosanct Y-12 nuclear weapons plant sound more like Saturday Night Live than those regarding a sophisticated national security installation. Because later, the defendants’ defense lawyer toured the site under auspices of security personnel to compare notes. Following that, the attorney met with members of Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance (OREPA), where they visited and took photographs. They reported that the hole cut in the outer fence was still open, undetected by the security force, despite Department of Energy’s assurances. OREPA’s coordinator, Ralph Hutchison, commented that had they been terrorists, armed with explosives, and entered buildings where thermonuclear weapon cores are manufactured, they could have caused unimaginable havoc, destroying U.S. nuclear capability or stealing weapons grade uranium.

At the trial in their defense, the three activists attempted to argue that signed treaties including the Nonproliferation Treaty are identified in the Constitution as the law of the land. Thus our nation is breaking our law by continued maintenance and planned production of nuclear weapons. Retired former Attorney General Ramsey Clark offered to testify to this but the judge did not allow him to speak. Similarly, Dr. Ira Helfand, an internationally recognized expert witness from Physicians for Social Responsibility, was not allowed to testify on the continuing global threat to billions of people from nuclear weapons.

Doesn’t the law-breaking of these three brave activists pale in comparison with that to which we as a nation commit by continued maintenance and production of nuclear weapons? Shouldn’t their sacrifice lead us all to demand Congress cancel $19 billion for a proposed Y12 Uranium Processing Facility and the billions of dollars budgeted to maintain our dangerous and unnecessary nuclear weapons arsenal beyond 2100?

Lew Patrie, M.D., is Chair Emeritus, Western North Carolina Physicians for Social Responsibility; Terry Clark, M.D., is Chairman, Western North Carolina Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Mission Statement

PREVENTING WHAT WE CANNOT CURE: Physicians for Social Responsibility is the medical and public health voice working to prevent the use or spread of nuclear weapons and to slow, stop and reverse global warming and the toxic degradation of the environment.