CHALLENGING PENNSYLVANIA ON ITS PART IN DRONE KILLING

A unique anti-drone war effort is underway in Pennsylvania in which Brandywine Peace Community and a group of Mennonites from the Lancaster area are holding their state government accountable for the drone killing being conducted at the Pennsylvania Air National Guard base in the town of Horsham.

The work is also unusual because an interfaith group has been formed to address state officials.*  Here is a report on the campaign by H.A. Penner, a Mennonite peace activist, on the campaign to close the drone command center in Horsham. 

The Pennsylvania Interfaith Network Against Drone Warfare demonstrated at the January 20, 2015 inauguration of Governor Tom Wolfe to encourage him to oppose the drone control center at Air National Guard base at Horsham, Pennsylvania.  Coordinator Bob Smith of the Brandywine Peace Community pointed out that while the developing drone command center is federally funded, the Governor is the head of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard and the command center is being established on Pennsylvania state land, home to William Penn's and the Quakers “Holy Experiment” of living together in peace.

Because many of the planned drone warfare command centers across the U.S., including the one at Horsham, are being established at Air National Guard Stations state-owned at facilities, representatives of the Pennsylvania Interfaith Network Against Drone Warfare met at the Pennsylvania state Capitol building on April 13, 2015 with two members of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s policy and planning staff.  At that time the governor was urged to initiate public hearings on drone warfare developments in the state—a matter of impending and critical importance not only to the citizens of Pennsylvania but also to all of God’s creation.  Information about emerging drone warfare activities in Pennsylvania was also shared with the offices of key state legislators as well as representatives of Pennsylvania in the U.S. Congress.   To date there have been no public hearings for Pennsylvania citizens and state authorities to address these emerging drone warfare activities.  The Network continues to make the push. 

Drone training operations are being conducted and surveillance drones are being deployed at the Fort Indiantown Gap headquarters of the Pennsylvania Guard/Air National Guard (See http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2014/04/drone_crash_fort_indiantown_ga.html).  We are appealing to Air Force drone operators (computer “pilots”) and prospective operators to refuse to operate (“fly”) lethal drones and to "walk away" from drone warfare and spying. 

Meanwhile, ongoing vigils and demonstrations including banners, leaflets and flyers are held at Governor Wolf’s downtown Philadelphia office and at City Hall by the Brandywine Peace Community to urge the governor to take responsibility to initiate public hearings leading to the end of drone warfare activities in Pennsylvania.  We can choose justice for our communities: education, jobs, health care, an end to poverty.  Stop the drone attacks!

H.A. Penner

* Note:  There are occasions when clergy get together for anti- drone war protests, as happens at Beale AFB, but, at this moment, I know of no group of clergy other than those in Pennsylvania, who have formed into a lobbying group to systematically pursue state or local officials with respect to drone war or any war issue.  The Interfaith Network on Drone Warfare was recently formed to act in relation to the federal government, and a letter to the President appears at http://www.peacecoalition.org/campaigns/67-interfaith-conference-on-drone-warfare/562-interfaith-conference-on-drone-warfare.html  The group organized a Congressional call-in day on May 15.