An Interview with Harry Browne, author of Hammered by the Irish: How the Pitstop Ploughshares Disabled a US Warplane - With Ireland's Blessing
For you, what is the definitive moment in the story of the Pitstop ploughshares?
Well, there are all sorts of moments that to all or each of them might be remembered as definitive. For me, from the outside, I can only go with a moment that I was actually present for, and the moment that most clearly connects their case with Irish society more broadly: the moment, in July 2006, when the Pitstop Ploughshares were acquitted by a jury in the Dublin Circuit Court. I'm pretty sure they wouldn't agree with me. Ciaron O'Reilly, anyway, seems to kind of like going to jail, to judge by his record. But if you're interested in resistance as something more than personal and symbolic, something that builds to wider social and political significance, then something like that endorsement by 12 ordinary
That's not to say I would judge the
What do you make of the
I go into some detail about that in the book, and I do find it interesting. I certainly don't pass any judgments and as someone whose only arrest was as part of a mass trespass in 1985 I'm in no position to do so. But I will say that of course in the end it's not about some almost-academic dispute over terminology. The important thing is that people on both sides of the
Why are you the right person to write this book?
Who said I was? I'm the guy with his name on it so I'm right only in the 'de facto' sense. Plenty of people, including the defendants themselves, could have done something, something different and better, though of course it wouldn't have been 'this book'. I discussed doing a book with the defendants, who were mostly keen at the time. I'm a journalist, so though I'd never written a book I knew it wasn't beyond me. I had no ambivalence about the action or my view of it, and I'm sympathetically and reasonably knowledgable about the Catholic Worker tradition, at least in the
The other thing, I guess, that makes this book distinctly 'mine' is that as an American who has lived 20 years in Ireland I took it as an opportunity to 'explain' Ireland at this weird moment in its history to outside readers. So there are large swathes of the book which to Irish readers will seem like a rant about familiar history, but which I hope will inform and contextualise the Shannon action for those not so familiar with the recent story of
What difference did the Pitstop ploughshares make to the peace effort?
Well, the peace effort failed. You could argue that it perhaps softened the blow against
What is the future for those who would hope to see all swords hammered into plooughshares?
If you could write a book on anything what would it be?
'Hammered by the Irish'.
How would you describe your own faith and politics?
I'm the Atheist Slacker whom I have been assured is welcome in the Catholic Worker.
But I'm ethnically Catholic, and care a lot about what happens in the Church, even while it sickens me: my late father was a priest so it's the family business. I'm also something of an Atheist for Jesus: I think there's an awful lot to be said for what we know of the man and his teaching. But I have little reason to believe that he rose from the dead, and less reason to believe that his mother was a virgin.
I start to squirm in the presence of political labels. I'm not, quite, a pacifist. I'm an anarchist, I think. I'm an anti-capitalist, to be sure, and was one long before the bankers and politicians started raving like Trots.
Can we ever have peace when we have nation states that defend themselves?
Who knows? It's certainly possible that we could have moments of non-conflict between armed nation states. I wouldn't call that peace -- not given how deeply military and militarist logic permeates our societies even when we're not 'at war'. The nation-state is of course a huge part of the problem, but as someone living in a postcolonial society I am wary of 'global solutions', i.e. empire.
Where do you see the Catholic Worker in the
I'm not qualified to answer that, either by affiliation or geography.
If you had a magic wand...?
It would cause me to reconsider everything I believe about the world, where magic only happens in the eyes of a child on Christmas morning.
What's one of the most inspiring things you've ever read or heard and quoted?
"There's no free trip, there's a toll gate along every highway. Stand somewhere, walk there, sit there, refuse there, sing there, get dragged away there. Pay up, or join the inhumans." That's Dan Berrigan, and I use it in the book.
Who should buy "Hammered by the Irish" and why?
I'd like to say 'anti-war people who need a little lift' -- but though this story has some semblance of a happy ending I've got to admit it won't give you a sustained high. Reality intrudes. I'd say, instead, and somewhat pedestrianly, it should be read by people who maybe have heard something of this story and have any of the following questions: Who were these people? How did they manage to hit a US Navy plane? What is the