Support statement for Graeme Dunstan’s Rocky Tiger Ploughshares trial

My good friend Graeme Dunstan goes on trial one week from today for an action he did with Bryan Law in 2011. Together they disarmed a Tiger Armed Reconaissance Helicopter with a garden mattock (details of the action, including video, here.). Bryan died around Easter this year, so Graeme faces court alone, though with many friends present (including me). He asked me to write a statement of support for him, which I’ve included below. Graeme shaped it into this media release.

I am an ordained Baptist minister with the GraceTree Community in Melbourne. I wish to express my support for Graeme as he faces trial for the Rockhampton Tiger Ploughshares action, and will travel to Rockhampton to be present at the trial.

Graeme and I have been spiritual companions for a few years now, having first spent significant time together at a peace gathering near Canberra in April 2010. Graeme being a Buddhist and I a Christian has opened up rich opportunities for common understanding and mutual challenge and encouragement. I consider him a friend and a person of great integrity.

As an antiwar activist myself I have been involved in many acts of civil disobedience (see below), and been arrested half a dozen times including for trespass actions into Shoalwater Bay Training Area at the 2007 and 2009 Talisman Saber military exercises. In March 2011 I was part of an international delegation of peacemakers who spent time in Afghanistan to learn the reality of war for ordinary Afghans. Along with members of my church I have been involved in countless public demonstrations for peace and built friendships with the Afghan Peace Volunteers, an Afghan peace movement.

I admire, and am personally challenged by, the stance Graeme has taken in this Tiger Ploughshares disarmament action and trial. His and Bryan Law’s willingness to risk suffering in order to arouse the conscience of the Australian community on war demonstrates integrity of the highest order, not to mention exemplary citizenship. Civil disobedience is generally not well understood in this country, but it is one of the highest duties of any person when their government is acting immorally or unjustly.

Ploughshares actions take their inspiration from the Biblical books of Micah and Isaiah, which speak of a day when “swords will be beaten into ploughshares, and spears into pruning hooks”. The image is one of disarmament, the transformation of destructive weapons into creative farming tools. There have been more than 80 such actions since 1980, with three common elements: 1. being absolutely nonviolent towards people; 2. to remain and take responsibility for the action; and 3. to make some attempt to disarm a weapon and begin its transformation into something useful.

Disarmament is often seen as an impossible dream; desirable, certainly, but utterly unrealistic. It is precisely this societal torpor that Ploughshares actions seek to address. Ploughshares actions are an indictment on the imagination and moral commitment of contemporary society just to the extent that they are seen as outrageous, destructive, or utopian. While most of us ask, “Why would we reduce or even give up our ability to kill?” people like Graeme and Bryan gift us with the confluence of flesh, steel and carbon fibre, and ask, “Why not?”

In a time of perpetual war, it is high time we took that question seriously.

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