LOS ANGELES; A twenty-eight-year-old Berkeley woman was convicted on Nov. 16, of taking out one-third of the U.S. nuclear first strike capability. Katya Komisaruk, who faces a possible twenty years in prison for decommissioning the Navstar missile guidance system at California's Vandenburg Air Force Base, hopes to place special focus on a technology with which the peace movement has yet to familiarize itself.
Komisaruk has been stifled from explaining her motives or discussing international law and Nuremberg principles because of what has become common in such political trials: the introduction of a motion to limit a defence to the specific charge, in this case destruction of government property. Nevertheless, she feels her action was necessary to safeguard the future.
"I've always wanted to have a kid, but my mom would say that before I did that I'd have to prepare: have a good job, nice neighborhood, medical insurance. I finally thought, what good are all these things if the kid is going to burn?" Komisaruk says.
"1 decided the most responsible thing I could do to prepare for having a kid would be to make a definite commitment to disarmament. When the world was safer, it would be right to start a family."
Komisaruk destroyed a system of three computers that, combined with eighteen satellites, form a vital component of U.S. first strike capability. Navstar can guide warheads to their targets with great accuracy, enabling them to destroy Soviet missiles in their silos. Possession of such a system contradicts the stated U.S. policy of launching missiles as a retaliatory measure. According to peace researcher Derek Rasmussen, Navstar has received very little attention from the peace movement or arms control advocates, yet he believes "it's potentially the most important issue in terms of technology facing the peace movement. The eyes and the brains are the most important weapons systems, not the exploding fists.
"The fist has all the pizzazz, but this stuff can only get to a certain level. But the accuracy of where it's going to go and how it's going to get there is what they've been changing over the past thirty years, and Navstar is the peak of that."
Rasmussen adds that, although a specific weapon system may be stopped, the guidance system which makes any missile deadly accurate -- Navstar -- remains in place. He notes that the U.S. Senate recently passed an arms appropriations bill for the purchase of 17,000 Navstar receivers for placement on existing Minuteman missiles, "which turns the entire U.S. land-based missile force into a first strike weapon.
"This makes the Katya Komisaruk case all the more pressing. A hundred years from now, if there are history books and historians are alive, they may be able to count in the dozens the number of people who kept us from going up in smoke. She would be one of them."
Komisaruk, who lost relatives in the Holocaust, named her action after the White Rose, a group of non-Jewish German medical students who spoke out against the concentration camps and lost their lives. She compares inaction on disarmament to the silent complicity of millions of Third Reich Germans.
Komisaruk entered the Navstar facility by a window. Using a cordless drill hammer and crowbar, she pulled components out of the computer, threw them on the floor, and punched holes in a satellite dish. She never ran into any security guards. After she made her way to the East coast without being caught, she went public and revealed the nature of her action.
Supporters of Komisaruk are engaged in an international letter-writing campaign to urge her judge to allow an open trial that will permit full discussion of Nuremberg, international law, motives, and other relevant aspects of the case. Write letters to Judge Rea and send them do the Katya Komisaruk Defense Collective, 1716 Felton St, San Francisco, CA 94l34.
Peace Magazine Dec 1987-Jan 1988, page 28. Some rights reserved.
Search for other articles by Matthew Behrens here