By John LaForge
HAMBURG, Germany — You have to wonder if the Department of Homeland Security is insecure or just lame.
On Dec. 31, I was just about to board a flight to Hamburg, when a pair of its employees stopped me and asked a few questions. My mistake was to forget to ask their names, their jobs, and if I was under arrest. Instead I calmly answered their irrelevant queries. Nothing they asked related to anybody’s homeland.
Three pieces of paper that one officer handed me did not concern me or my international travel plans. They were sections of the United States Code regarding “subversive activities” at United States military sites. I’m in Germany to attend the appeal court hearing of a nuclear weapons abolitionist, Gerd Büntzly, whom I joined in 2017, along with three other US citizens, in a protest at the German Air Base Büchel. There are 20 US-manufactured nuclear weapons (B61-4s) at the base, but it’s a German air base. The USAF just works there (under the name 702nd Munitions Support Squadron) to guard, support and train German pilots in use of the US H-bombs.
Gerd, 68, a German language teacher, pianist, orchestral arranger and former music teacher from Herford, Germany, intends to testify at his own appeal that nonviolent resistance at the Büchel base is a lawful act of crime prevention because Germany and the United States deploy the US nuclear bombs there in violation of the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
The NPT prohibits the transfer of nuclear weapons to or from other states that have signed it. Both the US and Germany are parties to the NPT. (What the US has said to rationalize its nuclear lawlessness is: 1. The H-bombs are under USAF control at the base until war starts; and 2. The NPT doesn’t apply in wartime when the bombs would be transferred to German Tornado fighter jets.) Now that’s subversive activity at a military base!
One inquiring officer wanted a look inside my cornet case even though it had already passed two sets of airport security. (Of course, you never know about cornet players!) The other officer asked if I knew it was unlawful to enter a military installation without permission. I should know after having done so in at least two dozen protests. I said Yes.
After skimming the badly copied sections of the US Code, I asked why the officer was giving them to me. One said, “So you can’t say you haven’t been warned.” But none of the text I was given involved warnings, just federal statutory facts. The US Code is addressed to the US population as a whole. The material was neither addressed to me, nor had a date or the name of an issuing officer. Two pages had a DHS seal shabbily stamped in red. The pages were just photocopies or web page print-outs, complete with comical errors: One elaborately defined federal misdemeanor was said to have a penalty upon conviction of “a fine not to exceed ,000.” Wow, some warning.
The airport interruption was perhaps a sort of “proof of surveillance” demonstration by the cops — a useless and absurd one. One officer then felt the need to inform me that, “‘No trespassing’ signs at military bases are written in English.” I thought, What would become of the nation without the stern Dept. of Homeland Security! I walked down the causeway to my seat.
Regular readers know that your Nukewatch reporter has protested and engaged in civil resistance against nuclear weapons and war since long before the advent of the Dept. of Homeland Security. Perhaps the attempted scare tactic was actually a message meant for everyone else. By reporting on the airport delay, maybe I only help the DHS put on notice those readers who may be considering opposition to US militarism.
What the DHS hasn’t figured out is that hokey theatrics used to shoo people away from political dissent only succeed against those few activists who were born yesterday. There are just too many time-honored, practical, hard-headed, ethical and strategic reasons for nonviolent political action (against the tyranny of the war system, misogyny, homophobia, racism, sexism and human exploitation) to ever intimidate committed loudmouths.