If only we lived in the world that Father Bichsel & Associates think we live in.
It’s a world where – but for misunderstandings and fears – lions would lie down with lambs. Dictatorships would be shamed into disarmament by the moral examples of noble nations. It’s not the world we share with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Kim Jong Il, unfortunately – but wouldn’t it be nice?
Bill Bichsel, a Jesuit priest from Tacoma, has succeeded in getting himself incarcerated yet again – along with four others – for acts of civil disobedience at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, where naval nuclear weapons are stored. The five cut their way through multiple fences and poured blood near the weapons bunkers in November 2009; they were convicted Monday of conspiracy, trespassing and destruction of government property.
In theory, the crimes merit 10 years of hard prison time. But these five are religious pacifists and patently harmless. None is younger than 60; Bichsel and Sister Anne Montgomery are octogenarians.
Some reasonable punishment is due. True practitioners of civil disobedience accept civil penalties as the price of pointing out the world’s evils.
Nuclear weapons are in fact evil. They have no battlefield value; in the hands of ordinary governments – as opposed to nihilists, terrorists and fanatics – they are, at best, instruments of intimidation.
But in the real world – as opposed to the wishful-thinking world – intimidation is sometimes the only means of maintaining peace.
It would be a grand thing for the world’s nuclear powers and would-be nuclear powers to lay down their weapons and never build another one. But general disarmament would only invite the likes of Iran and North Korea to deploy their own nukes; the noble governments would then promptly beat their plowshares back into swords.
Human nature often isn’t pretty, but it can’t be pretended away. Until the advent of the peaceable kingdom, nuclear arms are likely to remain a necessary evil.
Still, these five demonstrators have done everyone a very real service by embarrassing whoever is responsible for security at the base. The protesters appear to have been within the Navy’s restricted zone for hours as they cut through fences and penetrated to within a stone’s throw of the bunkers.
The bunkers themselves would have been a far tougher nut to crack, but you’d like to think a nuclear weapons depot is surrounded by crack guards and multiple perimeters that actually keep people out.
Navy and Marine Corps, take note. If terrorists don’t come knocking, Father Bichsel will.