Letter from Susan Crane
Maryland State Prison, April, 2000

The following letter was printed in the Fri-Sat, April 26-27, 2000 issue of the Ukiah Daily Journal under the banner, "Protester continues actions" and a note that "Susan Crane is a former Ukiah resident and teacher."

To the Editor:

Thanks for covering our Plowshares trial in Maryland. I'm also thankful for the letters and prayers from people in Ukiah.

Sitting here in the Maryland State Prison, I have time to reflect on our Plowshares witness and our trial. The A-10 planes that we hammered on are the delivery systems for depleted uranium munitions. Depleted uranium, U-238, is a radioactive alpha emitter and chemically toxic heavy metal. Shooting radioactive waste at our enemies and destroying the health of our own military personnel as well as men, women and children of Iraq is outrageous criminal behavior, according to our own laws as well as moral laws.

During the trial, we had hoped to have the testimony of several expert witnesses who could talk about the effects of U-238, and who could show the jury that the use of U-238 is illegal under national and international law. Dr. Rosalie Bertell, a Grey Nun of the Sacred Heart, an epidemiologist with 30 years of experience with communities exposed to uranium mining and milling, who has worked with Gulf War veterans for the last three years, was eliminated as an expert witness by Judge James Smith.

Dr. Doug Rokke, assigned as a health physicist during the Gulf War as an officer in the U.S. Army Medical Brigade was prepared to testify about how U.S. troops were sent into toxic areas in T-shirts and exposed to DU in Iraq. Dr. Rokke would have explained how the A-10 jet fighter fires 30mm DU rounds, each containing about 300 grams of U-238, and how over 300 tons of DU have been left in Iraq. Dr. Rokke was going to explain how the DU munitions are pyrophoric, burn on impact and leave tiny dust- like particles of radioactive uranium in the air. These particles can travel 25 miles, get in the soil, the water, plants and animals. They enter people through lungs, cuts or food, causing cancer, kidney disease and birth defects. Dr. Rokke was not allowed to speak.

Also ready to testify was Professor Francis Boyle who is an expert on international law. Boyle would have explained to the jury how military use of DU violates international law and U.S. law.

In Maryland, there are "pattern jury instructions" for each charge. The judge reads the parts of the pattern jury instructions he thinks are appropriate. We were charged with malicious destruction of property. For this charge, one of the jury instructions reads, "to convict the defendants the state must prove 'that there was no legal justification."'

Judge Smith omitted this section of the jury instruction, and wouldn't let us, in testimony, speak about why we hammered on the A-l0s or why we poured our blood on them.

So, the four of us, Philip Berrigan, Fr. Steve Kelly, S.J., Elizabeth Walz and myself, sit in prison. But the problem of depleted uranium remains. Our own veterans are sick. The people of Iraq---particularly children and child-bearing women---are sick and dying from the effects of the DU radiation.

Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who was one of our lawyers, commented, "The jury can't hear anything about DU. If we can't hear the truth in time, there is no hope."

We need to look at what we are doing to our own soldiers and to those who are labeled "enemy", and to what we are doing to our earth.

Before the action, our Plowshares community took time in prayer and discernment about what it means to love our enemies (Matt. 5.43). I realized that love has to be manifest in deeds, and means that we share with and protect our beloved. It's not very complicated: we just aren't allowed to poison and kill each other.

I'd sure like to hear from anyone who is inclined to write, whether you agree or not!

Susan Crane, #916-999
Maryland Correctional Institution for Women

(now at 1301 Moreland Ave, Baltimore, MD 21216)


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