What they carried into their act of civil disobedience might not strike most people as topping a list of tools for "saboteurs":
In their backpacks, he [Michael Walli] and the nun carried twine, matches, candles, a Bible, three hammers, six cans of spray paint, three protest banners, copies of a letter they wished to deliver to Y-12 employees and two emblems of sustenance — a packet of cucumber seeds and a fresh-baked loaf of bread with a cross molded into the top.Nevertheless, Sister Megan Rice, Michael Walli, and Greg Boertje-Obed, were found "guilty of damaging a defense facility under the sabotage act [18 USC, Chapter 105], which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, and causing more than $1,000 damage to government property, punishable by 10 years in prison." The fact is they saw themselves on a mission for God on behalf of their nation and humanity as a whole. Unfortunately, many Americans, along with the federal government, appear to measure godliness in terms of the nation's military capabilities. Their sentencing will take place in September. What the protestors' act brings to light is another example of twisted priorities, in a nation where government investment in implements of mass destruction persists alongside austerity for social programs.
And six baby bottles of human blood.
The Y-12 activists did not overestimate their abilities, though they seemed to believe in their mission's divine purpose. Again, from "The Prophets of Oak Ridge," according to Greg Boertje-Obed:
We are a little bungling. We are just ordinary people, and inept. … So we chose a date and said come in advance. We thought Sunday. We thought maybe there would be fewer workers, maybe they would be in a more charitable mood – if it’s a Sunday, they’re less likely to shoot you.And according to Sister Megan Rice:
It’s idolatry, putting trust in weapons. And weapons are made like gods. … Weapons are always false gods because they make money. It’s profiteering.Maintaining the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal remains a costly endeavor. Referring to updates to Stephen Schwartz's (1998) landmark study of the total cost of the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal from 1940 to 1996, David Silverberg notes (approvingly) that
If future cleanup, stockpiling and dismantlement is included, that rises to $5.8 trillion. Even with the Cold War over, the United States is spending $35 billion a year—14 percent of the defense budget, or $96 million a day—on nuclear efforts of which about $25 billion goes for operation and maintenance of the nuclear arsenal. The rest is spent on cleanup, arms control verification, and ballistic missile defense research.So the activists gathered, got through multiple levels of security, including the so-called "kill zone," the perimeter around the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, which
houses the nation’s cache of highly enriched uranium — an estimated 400 tons of it, racked in cans floor-to-ceiling across 110,000 square feet.On the way there, they'd be confronted by one guard, Kirk Garland, whose decision not to shoot or arrest the activists would lead to his being the only government employee to be fired over the incident, though the incursion led to extensive investigation of historically lax security and new investments of federal dollars in addressing these. Apparently, the "site's $150 million-a-year security operation" has not been sufficient to develop enough technology upgrades or manpower increases so that all decisions as to how to act rested with a single security guard brandishing a pistol. In any case, Garland decided not to shoot or arrest, having seen activists on-site before, and he has shouldered the bulk of responsibility for the breach of security.
Inside the building was enough radioactive material to fuel over 10,000 nuclear bombs, which would end civilization many times over.
Paradoxes abound in the story of how a (then) 82 year-old nun, 63 year-old (once homeless) Vietnam Veteran, and 56 year-old house painter, came to be arrested for, changed with and convicted for "intent to injure, interfere with, or obstruct the national defense of the United States." Their "success" led to congressional hearings during which they were vilified for an act of "sabotage," and, in some cases, praised for having revealed the laughably insecure nature of the "national security." One wonders where the $150 million per year for security was getting spent prior to their trespass. Since their break-in, new (and more costly) security measures have been put in place, and politicians decry ever more stridently the need for upgraded nuclear capabilities as "rogue" states, such as North Korea and Iran, pursue their own weapons. It was a symbolic act, theirs, and the aftermath is as symbolic as is the obscenity of "weapons of mass destruction" at which they aimed their hammers and peace sentiments.
As the U.S. economy continues to lurch forward in some areas while dragging along or stagnating still, in others, who can argue with the "success" that is Oak Ridge (again, from "The Prophets of Oak Ridge"):
The complex is the second-largest employer in East Tennessee and creates 24,000 indirect jobs, according to the site contractor’s Y-12 Community Relations Council. Eight thousand people go to work there, including contractors, subcontractors, protective-force guards and 80 federal employees of the Department of Energy. For 2014, $1.2 billion was requested by the NNSA [National Nuclear Security Administration] for the management and operation of Y-12.It would appear that nuclear weapons investments, similar those in penal institutions, will continue to grow. Both are "growth industries" these days. Once again, it seems the man who left office warning the nation of building a "Military-Industrial Complex," had offered similar wisdom nearly a decade earlier, in 1953. Then-President Eisenhower said
Y-12 is slated to construct a new Uranium Processing Facility, a massive building that will ensure that America’s nuclear arsenal remains operational. Peak construction of the UPF will create 1,500 construction jobs and 5,000 support jobs.
This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. . . . We pay for a single fighter with a half-million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. . . . This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.And if it is a cross upon which we choose to crucify ourselves, why do we bequeath it to each generation to keep bearing? Perhaps the activists were right, and its a deal only the devil, or a war profiteer, could love.