Is the kind of punishment important?

On Democracy Now! today (33 minutes 12 seconds into the show), Kathy Kelley, founder of the anti-war group Voices in the Wilderness, spoke on why her organization won’t pay the US$20,000 fine they have been ordered to pay by Judge John Bates in a Washington, D.C. Federal Court (transcript). But any member of the organization would be willing to go to prison, if that were ordered: (emphasis mine)

“[…] it was interesting that Judge John Bates in Washington, D.C. Federal Court concluded a 17-page opinion by quoting the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. And he quoted from King’s letter from a Birmingham jail in which Dr. King said, “Those who break an unjust law should do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty.” And what we want to say to Judge Bates and to the United States government is that if Judge Bates were to choose to put any one of us in jail, then we would go openly and lovingly, but we won’t pay one penny, not one dime, to these war criminals to continue putting U.S. productivity into attacks against Iraq’s people or into the imperial designs to seize Iraq’s oil revenue. It’s something that, relying on Dr. King’s teachings, we in conscience cannot do.”

It’s worth noting that Voices is (in other sections of this interview and in their own statements) quite clear that the corporations which also violated the Iraq sanctions have not paid any penalty for their illegal acts; no fines, no higher-ups or decision-makers have been sent to prison, etc.

With that, is Voices making a distinction between kinds of punishment here—imprisonment is okay, fines are not—even though inaction against corporations virtually gives them the green light to illicitly trade against sanctions?

Couldn’t Voices raise the argument that corporations can’t be imprisoned (as corporations have “no soul to save and no body to incarcerate”, as one of the Barons Thurlow warned), and since none of their leaders have been imprisoned, imprisonment is also unfair?

One thought on “Is the kind of punishment important?

  1. I think the point is that the revenue from fines can be used to directly further the cause of war. Spending time in jail can not, and even costs the state money to keep you there.

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