Since September 2014 the United States has been launching air attacks against Iraqis and Syrians, undoubtedly killing and wounding thousands of people. The U.S., Iraq and Iran are now fighting to retake Tikrit, in Iraq, from ISIS, which will likely lead to a slaughter of Sunnis by Shia militia. Further, the U.S. has announced plans to retake Mosul, an attack that, according to the U.N., will produce 1.5 million refugees, most Sunni, fleeing for their lives. And then there will be the retaking of Fallujah, possibly the most war-decimated city so far in this century.
With this comes the near certainty that the U.S. Congress will approve a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force to give “legal” cover for sending tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers to reoccupy Iraq and probably to go into Syria to take control there if possible.
In Afghanistan, it is likely there will long-term stationing of U.S. soldiers, probably at least 10,000, who will continue to be involved in combat, as suggested by the deployment to Afghanistan in February of an Army Grey Eagle drone unit from Fort Drum, NY; the Grey Eagle a highly sophisticated weapons system used to support ground operations.
Considering the intensified drone operations in the air attacks in Iraq and Syria, as well as Libya, it appears that drone operations are being thoroughly integrated into U.S. battle planning, meaning that U.S. military strategy will be increasingly dependent on the violation of the rights of privacy of entire populations, on assassination and on terror.
At the moment two streams of action are addressing these ominous developments:
1. Mass Mobilization
From March 18 – 21, “Spring Rising” will take place in Washington, DC. The event, keyed to the 12th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, is an effort to kindle a spirit of mass resistance to U.S. wars and militarism. http://cindysheehanssoapbox.com/schedule-of-events.html
The four-day event, resulting from the combined inspirations of Cindy Sheehan and Malachy Kilbride, amounts to an attempt to apply a defibrillator to anti-war organizing within justice and peace groups and the Left generally, where the current controlling belief appears to be that matters such as global warming, environmental destruction, world trade agreements and police killing can be dealt with effectively without stopping the wars and systematic killing that are being generated in Washington.
To dispel the notion that somehow the United States can do good things with one hand while killing people with the other, most of “Spring Rising” is devoted to teach-ins that will examine the ways in which U.S. wars and militarism must be addressed and stopped in if there is to be progress on any other issue of survival and well being, domestically and internationally.
In addition, CODEPINK is organizing a lobbying session in Congress on the morning of Mar. 19, and in the afternoon Cindy Sheehan is doing something very unusual and educational, a bus tour of offices of war planners and profiteers.
A rally, march and die-in are planned by the ANSWER Coalition for Saturday, Mar. 21, starting at noon in front of the White House.
There also will be solidarity actions around the country such as the “Spring Mobilization for Peace” to be held at the Bath Ironworks shipyard in Bath, ME on Saturday, March 21 from 11:30 am to 1 pm. http://mainetalk.org/hccn/sat-march-21-spring-mobilization-for-peace-street-theater-bath-1130am/
2. Civil Resistance and Outreach to Drone Operators
Civil resistance has been a key tactic in trying to stop drone attacks for about five years, largely focused on drone bases. As other anti-war activity ebbs, civil resistance to drone attacks stands out more and more, not only with respect to drone war but U.S. war- making generally.
An increased interest in civil resistance to counter drone operations was dramatically evidenced in the arrest on March 6 of 34 people at Creech Air Force drone base, more than had ever been arrested there before. http://m.reviewjournal.com/news/las-vegas/anti-drone-protesters-arrested-creech-air-force-base and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67-InPZ3Fa0
The Creech action was also notable because Veterans for Peace asked drone operators to consider stopping flying missions and offered to assist those who quit.
In addition, KnowDrones.com ran 15-second spot on Las Vegas commercial television to coincide with the protest, showing images of children killed and mutilated by drones and calling on drone operators to “refuse to fly.” http://warisacrime.org/content/tv-ad-airing-las-vegas-asks-drone-pilots-refuse-fly
A solidarity protest to support those at Creech was held at Kirtland AFB, in Albuquerque, NM, which coordinates satellite drone communication, and Bob Anderson, an organizer reports:
“All of our signs were messaging on killer drones and we had far more thumbs up signals from people going in and out of the gate than negative remarks. In the past it was usually the other way around. I think it says something about the public awareness of drone assassinations.”
It is important to note also that on Ash Wednesday six people, including clergy and veterans, were arrested at Beale AFB, another key drone operations center, near Sacramento, CA. where civil resistance has been used for several years. The Rev. Sharon Delgado, one of those arrested, said in a statement, that the protest was not only about drone attacks but “the harm done to the Indigenous people who used to live where Beale is now, the harm being done to Mother Earth by our building and deploying high-tech weapons and weapons of mass destruction, the harm done to families and communities who suffer cutbacks in public services while billions are spent for the military, the overall harm caused by the global reach of US military power.”
Other counter-drone witnesses are continuing at Hancock Air Base outside Syracuse, where civil resistance cases are still being heard in the local DeWitt, NY court. And monthly protests are organized in Horsham, PA by the Brandywine Peace Community to block the opening of a drone control center there.
In addition, on April 22, the National Campaign for Non-violent Resistance is planning a march from the Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Washington to the Pentagon. https://www.facebook.com/pages/National-Campaign-for-Nonviolent-Resistance-NCNR/184398124955311
Much could and perhaps should be written about the apathy and avoidance among the general public when it comes to the nation’s wars. Sadly this state of mind seems to have infected the agendas of many justice and peace organizations.
What we have is the reduction of active participants in anti-war actions to a core of people, many if not most of whom are viscerally opposed to war either because they have seen war’s impact while in the military or because they have had personal relations with people from other countries, particularly those that have experienced war. These are people who oppose war for the suffering it brings more than for what it costs in dollars.
While this group is not enough to be called a mass movement, it is large enough to raise the moral and legal implications of U.S. militarism. The willingness of this group to undertake civil resistance may be what keeps alive a spark of decency and hope in this dark time.
But we have to look at the nature of this dark time, and what we see is a political system that typically has tried to dole out just enough money domestically to achieve political stability while at the same time conducting wars internationally to secure benefits for global corporations. For moral as well as financial reasons, this system is insupportable and self-destructive, as powerfully explained by Martin Luther King Jr. in “Beyond Viet Nam.”
Heading into the 2016 Presidential election, we are going to be told by the major political parties that we must swallow the chicken bone of war to have peace, prosperity and security at home, as well as money to meet our domestic human needs. Whether or not this wretched, immoral choice will be accepted in yet another election will depend in part on the reaction of justice and peace organizations. The question is whether the majority opinion and action of these groups will be guided by those within their number who can’t abide more killing.