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   EDITORIAL: Nuremburg Principles for Others--But Not for Us?


EDITORIAL:

Nuremburg Principles for Others--But Not for Us?

Is it "unpatriotic" to heed the clear exhortation of the Nuremburg principles? Is it "unpatriotic" to attempt to call attention to the potential for our nation to commit great wrongs--indeed, crimes against humanity--by deploying offensive weapons of mass destruction?

The point of the Nuremburg principles promulgated after World War II was first, to make all German citizens accountable for Hitler's crimes against humanity. These principles were codified to create international laws governing citizens' rights and responsibilities to overthrow any regime that violates these new standards. Though the US had a leading role in promulgating the Nuremburg principles, our courts are loath to recognize their authority.

Witness what has happened recently. Three Dominican nuns with Baltimore connections--Ardeth Platte, Jackie Hudson and Carol Gilbert--believing (rightly, in our view) that the US' minuteman missiles, as first strike weapons, represent a potential crime against humanity, fulfilled what they viewed as their moral and civic obligation under the Nuremburg principles when they hammered a missile silo in Colorado on Oct. 6, and painted crosses on it with their own blood.

When it came time for their trial, however, their lawyers were not permitted by the judge to use these principles in their defense. Their trial in Denver ended April 7, and they were found guilty of various federal crimes. Very likely they will be sentenced to prison.

"What do I care about the law? Hain't I got the power?," asked robber baron Cornelius Vanderbilt, expressing not only his own arrogance, but the real guiding principle of US foreign policy for over two centuries.

To its shame, The Sun published an editorial cartoon by Mark Lane on April 9 that was supposed to poke fun at the military by having three nuns pictured with rulers, having rapped a general's knuckles. But the text with the trivializing image was worse: it referred to the nuns as "unpatriotic."

Is it "unpatriotic" to heed the clear exhortation of the Nuremburg principles? Is it "unpatriotic" to attempt to call attention to the potential for our nation to commit great wrongs--indeed, crimes against humanity--by deploying offensive weapons of mass destruction?

If the action of these nuns was "unpatriotic," and if the Nuremburg principles are not seen by our nation's courts as a defense for actions of civil disobedience (not as an 'excuse,' but as a defense--there's a big difference), then we are past ready for the alarm bells to be going off.


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This story was published on April 10, 2003.
  
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