Campaign Bulletin #10

Campaign Bulletin #10; April 12, 2014
By Nick Mottern

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1.    ACTION REPORTS

  • Whiteman AFB
  • Honolulu
  • New York City
  • Pakistan
  • Washington DC
  • San Francisco

2.    WCC STANDS OUT AMID CLERGY SILENCE ON DRONES
3.    THE U.S. KILLER DRONE PROGRAM IS GROWING
4.    KILLER DRONES, CLIMATE CHANGE AND JOBS
5.    IDEAS
5.    PLANNED EVENTS

 

Drone_protest_4.6.14_WAFB[4]

Photo by: Charles Heiss, Sheriff, Johnson County, MO

ACTION REPORTS

Whiteman AFB

Pictured above are activists who gathered on Sunday, April 6 at Whiteman AFB, about 70 miles southeast of St. Louis, MO, to protest its Reaper and Predator drone control base.  Whiteman is also home to the B-2 “Spirit” stealth bomber, which is capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

As noted in the excellent report of the protest by Jane Stoever, appearing in Attachment A, Ray McGovern used the name of the base to observe that U.S. drone attacks are rooted in racism.  He criticized church leaders who are remaining silent in the face of drone attacks that are committing a “wanton slaughter against black and brown people.” 

(See the WCC article below and also the remarks of Madiha Tahir and Carl Dix in the report on the Kick-Off Forum in Bulletin #9 http://www.knowdrones.com/2014/04/campaign-bulletin-9.html#TOPIC1 )

Brian Terrell, who spent six months in Federal prison after being arrested at Whiteman in 2012, also spoke, calling blasphemous the use of words with religious meaning  -  “Spirit”, “Hellfire” and “Reaper” – to name weapons.

In case you read the credit line on the photo above, Brian explains that Johnson County Sheriff Charles Heiss was across the street from the base throughout the protest and that: “He came over as we were packing to leave and asked how it went.  He politely agreed to take several of our cameras and take some group shots.”

The next protest at Whiteman will be part of Trifecta Resista - 2014, May 30 – June 1, that will support a pardon for Pvt. Chelsea Manning at Ft. Leavenworth, KS; protest nuclear weapons parts production at Bannister Federal Complex in Kansas City, MO; then protest drone war and surveillance at Whiteman.  See http://www.trifectaresista.org

Honolulu

On Wednesday, April 9, World Can’t Wait Honolulu organized an anti-drone/militarism protest in front of the Sheraton Hotel in Waikiki, the site of LANPAC (Land and Power in the Pacific), which WCW’s Carolyn Hadfield describes as:

“…an annual international symposium and exposition organized by the U.S. Army that brings together top military and weapons industry representatives to strategize on how to strengthen U.S. military control over the Pacific region.  Representatives of 30 countries were invited; exhibiters include Boeing, Lockheed, and other major drone suppliers.”

Carolyn’s report on the protest appears here, along with details on the next action, which will be at a talk by Al Gore on April 15. http://www.worldcantwaithonolulu.blogspot.com

New York City

IMG_1532 (2)[7]
Photo provided by Marty Rajandran

 In New York City, on April 8, members of the Granny Peace Brigade, Veterans for Peace and KnowDrones.org held a leafleting session in Tribeca to promote a resolution that would ban the use of weaponized drones and surveillance drones in the city.

The leafleting, which was the first of a series that the GPB will hold as part of Spring Days of Action, was particularly effective because the time, 3 pm, and place, at a subway entrance, gave an opportunity to encounter literally thousands of people, including students on their way home from Stuyvesant High School. 

One of the students had just participated in a debating competition in which he had taken a position against drone warfare.  He said he believes drones will be the central issue of foreign policy for his generation.  He said too that it will be up to his generation to save the planet from environmental destruction and climate change. 

This link gives information on the next GPB leafleting events and the drone ban resolution.  http://www.grannypeacebrigade.org

Pakistan

Screenings of Unmanned: America’s Drone War are being courageously organized by students in Pakistan.  Tim Molina, outreach director Brave New Films, that produced Unmanned, forwarded this report from one of the students in Pakistan. It comes belatedly but offers the opportunity to know and see something of what the students are doing.

“Our screenings here in Pakistan are in full momentum. The screening at Namal College on the 21st (of March) went really well. The students were completely engrossed and wanted to share it further. You can view the photos of the screenings here:  https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.443637409101902.1073741833.419249894873987&type=3

“Yesterday (Mar. 24) we had a screening in a university in Karachi. The event was a huge. Many in the audience saw this dimension of the drone strikes for the very first time. Photos will be up in a day or two. 

“Today we have 2 screenings in Peshawar. 

“Will keep you posted. You can also log on to our Facebook page, best way to track all the activity. www.facebook.com/pakserz

Washington DC

On Thursday, April 10, Medea Benjamin and other members of Code Pink went to Capitol Hill to counter-act a lobbying “expo” organized by the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems (AUVSI) for members of the Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus.  See http://www.dcmediagroup.us/2014/04/10/drone-lobby-visits-congress/

It seems odd for the AUVSI to lobby the caucus since the group is notoriously a lobbying arm for the drone industry inside the Congress, with a number of members getting drone industry campaign money.  For example, Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), caucus chair, got $23,700 in this campaign cycle from Northrop Grumman and $21,850 from General Atomics, maker of the airframes for the Predator and Reaper drones, and $8,500 from Honeywell International, maker of the engines and some navigational and guidance equipment for Reapers.

To see the members of the drone caucus: http://unmannedsystemscaucus.mckeon.house.gov/about/membership.shtml

To check on their campaign contributions: http://www.opensecrets.org

San Francisco

On Wednesday, April 9, Bay Area counter-drone war activists held large posters of children drone victims at their weekly vigil in downtown San Francisco. 

http://www.firejohnyoo.net/2014/04/children-have-no-place-in-war.html

The pictures, in color, are stunningly sad.  I asked Mathias Quackenbush, one of the protesters, about how people responded, and he reports:

“I haven't been to a lot of demonstrations yet so it's hard to have a basis for comparison. I can say that the SF demonstration on Wednesday attracted a lot of attention, and a lot of allies. I did get one woman who confronted me about our methods, saying that she felt like she and her friends would not be receptive to our use of the photos and our calling out of Obama for his war crimes. She said that, to her, that made us seem like "crazy people." But even as I was having this conversation, other passersby gathered and expressed opinions strongly divergent from that. Over all, I think it was a good tactic.”

 

WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES STANDS OUT AMID CLERGY SILENCE ON DRONES

The Executive Committee of World Council of Churches (WCC), headed by Dr. Agnes Abuom, of the Anglican Church of Kenya, went further this week to try to halt drone attacks than the United Nations and leading human rights organizations, announcing that it: “Condemns drone strikes by any country, especially the unlawful policies and practices of the use of lethal force by drones carried out in different countries.”  (Emphasis theirs.)

The WCC statement is also noteworthy because it stands out so starkly in comparison to the total unwillingness of major religious leaders around the world to call for a halt to drone attacks.  There have been expressions of discomfort by some religious leaders over lack of “transparency” about the strikes, but there are none, to my knowledge, who are taking a relentless public position in opposition to drone war and spying such as Dr, Martin Luther King Jr., the Rev. William Sloan Coffin, the Rev. Daniel Berrigan and Clergy and Laity Concerned, and others, took in opposition to the Viet Nam War.

It is also worth noting that Pope Francis has failed to call for a halt to drone attacks in spite of a write-in campaign last December to his Facebook page.

To his great credit, Dr. Cornel West, a professor at Union Theological Seminary, has courageously called out President Obama as a war criminal for his authorization of drone attacks http://newsone.com/2229728/cornel-west-obama-drones/    Dr. West was keynote speaker at last year’s Code Pink drone conference, and he will speak on April 27 at the annual counter-drone war gathering of the Upstate NY Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars. (See the Planned Events section.)

The WCC executive committee appears to expect that drone attacks will continue, calling on the attackers to, among other things, be “transparent about the development, acquisition and use of drones and publically disclose the legal basis for the use of drones…”   Here is a link to a list of those on the executive committee:

https://www.oikoumene.org/en/about-us/organizational-structure/executive-committee/ExecutiveCommittee.pdf ; and a link to the group’s statement:

https://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/executive-committee/geneva-february-2014/statement-on-the-use-of-drones-and-denial-of-the-right-to-life

 

THE U.S. KILLER DRONE PROGRAM IS GROWING

There have been reports of a lull in U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan but an increase in Yemen.  Attachment B describes how the U.S. killer/surveillance drone program is expanding, regardless of what is being reported about fluctuating levels in drone attacks.  It suggests that we begin to focus more systematically on encouraging war/spy drone operators to step back from their consoles.

 

KILLER DRONES, CLIMATE CHANGE AND JOBS

By the time you read this, the protest at the launching of the new destroyer “Zumwalt” in Bath, ME, will be ending, with a potluck supper the Unitarian Church in Brunswick.  But I am mentioning it because Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power, in his announcement of the protest, below, is making an argument appropriate to the U.S. killer/surveillance drone program as well as the Zumwalt.  Here is a link describing the Zumwalt: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-04-02/the-navys-newest-destroyer-is-a-drone

Here is Bruce’s statement:

Connecting the Dots in Maine: April 11-12 Events Update

 This weekend Maine Veterans for Peace, and other sponsors, will hold three events in our state to make public the issue of the US military 'pivot' into the Asia-Pacific.  This pivot is being used to provocatively surround China and Russia as 60% of US forces move into that region.  Vital in this pivot will be naval forces, many of which are built at Bath Iron Works. 

Remembering the call to work within our 'bio-region' the issue of the Navy's April 12 ceremony in Bath thus looms crucial for our collective movements.  The ‘christening’ of the new $4 billion Zumwalt ‘stealth’ destroyer ought to be connected to climate change and growing cutbacks in social spending.

At this very moment USM (University of Southern Main) students are in the streets protesting faculty lay-offs and cuts of entire programs, while climate change activists are stepping up their local efforts to arouse the public about our warming Mother Earth.  To all of our movements the public appears tranquilized in the face of these mounting crises.

The US ‘pivot’ is all about control of declining resources on the planet.  In order to be successful the Obama team has stepped up military escalation and confrontation that benefits the agenda of the resource extraction corporations.  Not only is this strategy highly expensive, but also it dramatically exacerbates the already massive carbon footprint the US has.  In fact the Pentagon has the largest carbon boot print on the planet today, and during the development of the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate the US military’s boot print had to be waived as a relevant issue in order for the US to agree to sign on.  There can be no doubt that warships equal global warming.

…How do we end the US addiction to military production in our local communities?  Unless the workers at BIW (Bath Iron Works) feel that people across Maine share their desire to "build something more positive" then little movement toward real conversion is possible. Jobs are key... there must be public discussion about how we convert BIW and protect jobs. By connecting the issue dots we can help create an alternative strategy that reduces spending on militarism, helps end wars for oil, lowers our national carbon boot print, and creates 'products' like needed commuter rail systems at BIW.   This difficult but crucial undertaking is our greatest challenge.

 

IDEAS

Here is a report of this week’s conference call:

Barbara Kidney and Andrew Dalton – Hudson Valley – reported that this Sunday, April 12, a  “Fly Kites Not Drones” event will be held in the middle of the Poughkeepsie-Highlands Railroad Bridge, with people starting out from each end of the bridge at 2:45 pm.  Barbara also reported success in getting approval for a drone program at a Quaker meeting.  

Groups in Boston and New York City are planning to do a reading of names of drone victims at noon on May 6, and Barbara is thinking of organizing a call-in on that day to President Obama or some other official with responsibility for drone attacks.  She said there is no central place in her community that would be good for the reading.

Barbara is considering presenting the region’s U.S. Attorney with a request for a drone war crimes indictment against President Obama, CIA Director John Brennan and other officials, picking up on the initiative of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR).  NCNR attempted to give such a request to the acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia but were locked out of his office. (See Bulletin #9)

Barbara is also considering starting an petition to oppose drone attacks in addition to the current Roots Action drone ban petition in that this would increase exposure. Here is the Roots Action petition: http://act.rootsaction.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=6180

She also reported that Bard College has a Center for the Study of the Drone with a website offering news and commentary.  http://dronecenter.bard.edu

Dave Lambert – Fort Wayne, IN – reported that a “Fly Kites Not Drones” event will be held this Sunday afternoon at Headwaters Park in downtown Fort Wayne.

He said Harry Dougherty, a former Peace Corps worker in Afghanistan, will bring authentic Afghan kites.  The kite flying event is being done in solidarity with the Afghan Peace Volunteers.

David Sladky – St. Louis, MO – joined the call a little late, having just returned from taking a drone replica to the campus of the University of Missouri where the first meeting of “Drones & Donuts” was being held.  The group has organized to prevent the St. Louis police department from using drones. http://www.dronefreestl.org

David said that, regrettably, people who oppose the St. Louis police use of drones do not want to challenge President Obama’s drone attacks because they have “a blind allegiance to Obama.”

At the end of the call we discussed ways to frame counter-drone war arguments to place them into a larger context of the competitive struggle for global resources.  I asked Barbara to write a short article based on her comments, and this will appear in next week’s bulletin.

Andrew speaking of how drones generate war, observed that drones enable the United States to launch simultaneous attacks in a number of countries that would otherwise be impossible if the country had to send troops to each.

 

PLANNED EVENTS

Here is a selected list of planned counter-drone-war events.  For a complete list of what is happening around the U.S. see:  http://org.salsalabs.com/o/1170/p/salsa/event/common/public/index.sjs?distributed_event_KEY=708

Amherst, MA

Tuesday, April 15
Screening of Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars - 7-9 PM
Jones Library – The Woodbury Room
43 Amity St, Amherst, MA 01002
www.joneslibrary.org
(413)259-3090

Tuesday, April 29  - An in-depth, filmed interview and Public Q&A, with Nick Mottern, Paul Voss and Paki Wieland, moderated by Beth Adams.
3-5PM
Amherst Media
246 College Street, Amherst, MA 01002
www.amherstmedia.org
(413)259-3300

Tuesday, April 29, 2014 – 7-9 pm - The “Know Drones Public Forum” with Nick Mottern speaking on “Drones and the Death of Democracy, and panelists Frank Gatti, Paul Voss, Jeff Napolitano and Paki Wieland, sponsored by the Amherst, Massachusetts Human Rights Commission will be held at the Amherst-Pelham Regional Middle School, 170  Chestnut Street, Amherst, MA 01002  (413)362-1805 Directions: www.arps.org  

Baltimore, MD

The Center for Advanced Media Studies is pleased to announce the April 21st screening of Robert Greenwald's film "Unmanned: America's Drone Wars" at 7:30 PM in Hodson 110, Johns Hopkins University.  A discussion will follow, featuring the filmmaker himself, the philosopher David LaRocca, the Director of the Maryland Film Festival, Jed Dietz, and moderated by the director of CAMS, Bernadette Wegenstein.

King of Prussia, PA

Friday, April 18 – Noon.  “Good Friday Stations of Justice, Peace, and Nonviolent Resistance” at Lockheed Martin.  Gather at Mall and Goddard Boulevards, directly behind the King of Prussia Mall and across from the UA King of Prussia movieplex.  Nonviolence discipline for participants, http://www.brandywinepeace.com/nonviolence.html . Call the Brandywine Peace Community, (610) 544-1818, by April 12 if you are interested in participating in the nonviolent resistance/civil disobedience and willing to face arrest.  There will be an on-site meeting at 11a.m. for those planning on doing the civil disobedience.

New Haven, CT

Wednesday, April 16 – 7 pm - Medea Benjamin will receive the Gandhi Peace Award from Promoting Enduring Peace at the United Church on the Green, 270 Temple St. with a reception following.  Please RSVP: http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?utm_medium=email&oeidk=a07e8wvlqjw8039c23d&llr=w9nytzkab&utm_campaign=Janemail&utm_source=February092014

Horsham, PA

Saturday, April 26 - Noon – 2 pm – Monthly “Stop the Drone War Command Center at the Horsham Air Guard Station” demonstration.  Easton Road and County Line Road, Horsham, Montgomery, PA 19040

Ft. Benning to Atlanta, GA

April 26 – May 3 - Join School of the Americas Watch Maria Luisa Rosal and SOA Watch's newest council member Kevin Moran on the "Right to Peace" walk from Fort Benning, Georgia to Atlanta, Georgia.

A 120-mile "Right to Peace” walk will culminate with a rally at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in Atlanta, to draw attention to the research and development connection between Georgia Teach and the Maneuver Battle Lab at Ft. Benning focusing on autonomous killer drones.  The walk will also protest the training of Latin America's police and military forces at Ft. Bennings’ School of the Americas (SOA/WHINSEC) in the use of the tools and tactics of oppression.  See: http://georgiapeace.org or contact: kevin@soaw.org.

Syracuse, NY

Sunday, April 27 – 2 pm – Dr. Cornel West speaks at Tucker Missionary Baptist Church, 515 Oakwood Ave., Syracuse on “The People’s Orders of Protection Against Drone Terror”; 4:30 pm – Rally near the Hancock Air Base drone control center at the BOCES parking lot, 6820 Thompson Rd., Syracuse.

Chicago, IL

Monday, April 28 – 9 am - “No Killer Drone for Boeing” protest at the Boeing shareholders meeting, aouth steps of the Field Museum, 1400 S. Lakeshore Drive, 60605, beginning with a press conference featuring Kait McIntyre, anti-war candidate for Boeing’s Board of Directors; her platform appears here. http://antiwarcommitteechicago.blogspot.com/ and follow her campaign here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/692013380842253/

Sponsored by the Anti-War Committee-Chicago.  Sign their Boeing petition here: https://antiwarcommitteechicago.wufoo.com/forms/zqtccbx0znm21r/

In closing this week’s bulletin, here is a report from The Onion, thanks to Dave Lambert

http://www.theonion.com/articles/obama-spends-afternoon-in-garage-restoring-classic,35505/

In solidarity,

Nick

 


ATTACHMENT A

TALKS, TEARS HIGHLIGHT RALLY VS. DRONES AT WHITEMAN AFB

By Jane Stoever

Bearing witness against remote control of reaper drones from U.S. military bases, about 20 protesters rallied Sunday, April 6, at the Spirit Gate entry to Whiteman Air Force Base near Knob Noster, Mo.

Noting the name Whiteman Air Force Base, former CIA intelligence analyst Ray McGovern in his talk said, "When B2 bombers flew out of here to Afghanistan and Iraq, they weren't killing people who looked like us (white), but who were what the airmen were taught to call 'sand niggers' or 'towel-heads.' White-man is killing brown, black, and other men, women, and children who don't look like us. White-man Air Force Base is a reflection of the American original sin, racism."

McGovern recalled that President Obama on May 17, 2013, said he wished he could stop drone strikes. "Gimme a break," said McGovern. "The president could stop the strikes if he had the backbone." Acknowledging that he was in the Bible Belt, McGovern assailed the silence of the churches about drones. "If the church does not speak out against this wanton slaughter against black and brown people, then the church is the same institution Jesus spoke out against and got killed for doing it."

McGovern, after being introduced by Brian Terrell, said, "It's not often I'm introduced by a prophet!" McGovern thanked Terrell for serving six months in a federal prison camp for his 2012 protest at Whiteman AFB--the longest sentence any drone resister has received.

Terrell, a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, speaking during the rally, asked whether the resisters knew what "Spirit Gate" meant. The name evokes not the third person of the Holy Trinity--the Holy Spirit, not a "higher power," not a spirit that animates and gives life, nor even the Higgs-Bosson particle. "Spirit Gate" and, even more pointedly, the "Spirit Chapel" that can be seen just inside the gate, are named for the nickname the Air Force gives to the B2 Stealth Bomber nestled at Whiteman AFB. The Air Force calls these weapons of mass destruction "Spirit Stealth Bombers."

"This is the 'spirit' that is evoked and worshiped here at Whiteman," said Terrell, co-founder of Strangers and Guests Catholic Worker Farm in Maloy, Iowa. "When we were here for the first Trifecta Resista action in 2012, Whiteman personnel were using Predator drones. Now we have Reaper drones--think Grim Reaper--and they are armed with 'Hellfire' missiles. These terms--Spirit, Reaper, Hellfire--are theological terms and, as used here at Whiteman, are shear blasphemy!"

Terrell noted his best times during his six-months imprisonment in South Dakota were spent walking a large circle path outside in the cold, even in minus-40-degree wind chill, times when no one else was out walking, unlike warm days when the path became Grand Central Station. He called his prison time "highly productive" for thinking/praying/planning. He later asked whether any locals had come forward to say they will do civil resistance during the May 30-June 1 Trifecta Resista that will return to Whiteman AFB. The answer: not yet. For info on that resistance weekend, see www.PeaceWorksKC.org.

Rally organizer Jeff Stack of Columbia, Mo., head of the Mid-MO Fellowship of Reconciliation, asked protester Jo Ann Witt of Kansas City to say a few words about why she came to the rally. "Because so many innocent civilians have been killed by the drones," said Witt, moved to tears.

McGovern thanked Witt for her tears, noting they were the humane response to the horror of drone warfare that the U.S. has unleashed.

Tamara Severns of PeaceWorks-KC arrested by surprise at drone protest

Tamara Severns of Kansas City, Mo., was arrested unexpectedly during an April 6 protest of drone warfare at Whiteman Air Force Base, near Knob Noster, Mo. A member of the PeaceWorks, Kansas City, Board of Directors and a Co-member of the Loretto Community, Tamara was walking toward the Visitors' Center to use the bathroom. She and other resisters had used those facilities with no problem during about five earlier protests. On April 6, Tamara and several others had arrived at the base entry after authorities had warned the resisters not to step across the white line on the entry road. Unaware that "the rules" had changed, Tamara crossed the line to go toward the Visitors' Center, was taken into custody with no warning, and was handcuffed, searched, and detained on the base about an hour.

"The officer said, 'Turn around. You're being arrested,' and clamped the metal handcuffs on my wrists," Tamara said after her release. "They gave me no warning to leave the property." Her wrists still showed red marks two hours after the handcuffs were removed. A male officer twisted the chain between her handcuffs to direct her where to walk and to hurt her, Tamara said. "I was scared because he was being so rough."

Tamara received a U.S. District Court Violation Notice for "trespassing on military installation" and expects to be summoned to court. Brian Terrell of Maloy, Iowa, a speaker at the rally, said later he hoped Tamara would not be taken to court because no date or location was listed on the notice. Tamara fears she will receive a court date because the officers told her she would, and it says it on the ticket.

One complicating factor: Officer John Sullivan, who was debriefing the protesters, had gotten inaccurate information from someone else, said Tamara. Sullivan told protest organizer Jeff Stack that another security officer said Tamara had tried to go around the driver's side of the police car toward the Visitor's Center after being advised not to. The truth, said Tamara, was that she never left the sidewalk on the right side of the car and no one said anything except "You're being arrested."

Protester Vicke Hooper Kepling, on her Facebook page April 7, wrote this about Tamara: "She walked to the bathrooms ... like she had done at other protests ... AND GOT TICKETED (detained, felt up, the works). I said "ticketed," but I believe she was actually arrested. I woke up thinking about it. She may face the same fate as the three who intentionally crossed two years ago. One actually did six months in federal prison, and the other got five years probation (reduced to one). I wasn't putting the same weight on it because of her intention (and that she and others had used the restrooms before). But after reconsideration, I bet it's the same."

Former CIA intelligence analyst Ray McGovern, who spoke during the rally, said afterwards, "It's so obvious Tamara's civil rights under the First Amendment have been violated. Somebody said to this officer, 'Make an example of Tamara and brutalize her,' and he did."

 


ATTACHMENT B

THE U.S. KILLER DRONE PROGRAM IS GROWING

 By Nick Mottern

1. Numbers of Drone Attacks.

This week a counter-drone war https://notabugsplat.com poster project went viral, and reports about the project said that people in the Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa region of Pakistan, where the poster was laid out, “say attacks by the pilotless aircraft are a part of daily life.” http://news.yahoo.com/girl-pakistan-drone-installation-not-a-bug-splat-140003715.html

If this report on the frequency of drone attacks in Pakistan is accurate, we are confronted with the question of what we really know about the level of U.S. drone activity.

So far, many of us have been looking to reports from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism to gauge the level of U.S. drone attacks and the intensive, constant surveillance that goes with them.  The Bureau has reported just reported a 96- day lull in drone attacks in Pakistan, and an increase in drone attacks in Yemen.  (No organizaton is even attempting to report accurately on drone attacks in Afghanistan, apparently because drone killing there is viewed by some as more legally acceptable there under international law than elsewhere.)

http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2014/04/01/march-2014-update-us-covert-actions-in-pakistan-yemen-and-somalia/

The 2012 report of the Columbia University Law School, http://web.law.columbia.edu/human-rights-institute/counterterrorism/drone-strikes/counting-drone-strike-deaths

points out that all organizations reporting on drone attacks are up against the basic reality of not having accurate on-the-ground accounts of each and every drone attack.  The report calls for more information from the U.S. government, but it also offers this EXTREMELY important observation:

“The estimates provide a dangerous assurance: the human toll is something we have identified, debated and considered.  If we know who and how many people we have killed, calls to examine and deliberate on the drone program – and calls to end it – lose their urgency.”

2. Drone Attack Cover-up.

There is the real possibility, if not likelihood, that the U.S. is responding to international and domestic criticism of its drone attacks by clamping down harder on any information about the attacks. 

It is also appears that, in Yemen and probably elsewhere, there will be assassination from the air by the U.S. using “piloted” aircraft in company with drones to conceal just how much killing is being done by drones.  I put “piloted” in quotes because it appears that the crop duster planes referred to in this linked article may amount, effectively, to drones with Yemeni pilots strapped on board for show.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/aramroston/exclusive-for-a-new-type-of-targeted-killing-yemenis-and-ame

3. Numbers of Hunter - Killer Drone Control Bases Increasing Inside the U.S.

A 2012 War Department report showed 24 existing or planned drone control or training bases for MQ-9 Reaper and/or MQ-1 Predator drones within the U.S. http://www.fas.org/irp/program/collect/uas-future.pdf   The Reaper and Predator drones, termed by the military as hunter-killers, are the only operational attack drones being used by the U.S. at the moment.

However, since then at least another six have been added that were not on the list.  They are located in: Des Moines, IA; Nashville, TN; Battle Creek, MI; Springfield, OH; Niagara Falls, NY; and Horsham, PA, all at Air National Guard (ANG) bases, and most replacing other types of air operations that are being phased out.  Dave Lambert, in Fort Wayne, IN, said there are rumors that drone training will replace operations of the A-10 Warthog ground support plane at the Fort Wayne ANG base.

The opening of these new bases, and this may not be a complete listing, suggests a decision within the Obama Administration to widen long-term use of U.S. hunter-killer drones around the world.  One can get a sense of the official energy behind this project from the ANG website linked below, forwarded by Bob Smith, Coordinator of the Brandywine Peace Community in Pennsylvania, which is fighting the establishment of a drone base in Horsham.

http://goang.com/About/Missions/SpecialOperations

Note that there has been no explanation for these or the other 24 bases coming from the Administration of the Congress.   Word from members of Congress has been limited to self-congratulation for supposedly saving jobs that would have otherwise been lost with the phasing out of  various air units.

The increase in bases may be related to the planned increase in the numbers of Reaper drones, which now number about 300, to a total of 400 by FY2021.  (The U.S. has about 200 Predator drones.)

4. Gray Eagle Units

As described in the article linked below, the Army intends to operate its own fleet of 152 Gray Eagle drones, giving each Army division its own drone company. This will be in addition to the Predator and Reaper drones now controlled by the CIA, the Air Force and the Air National Guard. http://www.militarytimes.com/article/20130203/NEWS/302030318/Army-equips-every-division-massive-UAV

The Gray Eagle is a more powerful version of the Predator that can carry four instead of two Hellfire missiles.   As the article says, the Army hopes to use these drones, flown by drone operators riding in helicopters, to conduct attacks while being far away from the battlefield.  It is highly likely, however, that the wide-ranging “eyes” of the Gray Eagles will fall on many civilians who will be seen as suspected combatants or combatants supporters.

The article says that Gray Eagles are being used in Afghanistan in a limited way, which appears to be experimental; it also says the program is encountering technical problems. 

Certainly these drones will be used in “counter-insurgency”, which practically speaking is a term for killing and terrorizing people who are fighting to control their own land and resources.

5. The Drone Operators

The poster mentioned in the first paragraph is, among other things, an appeal to drone operators to think about what they are doing, to think about the executions they are doing and to stop.  It is an appeal to conscience.

The appeal to conscience is implicit in our continuing protests, but the poster suggests that we should give consideration to ways in which we can systematically make explicit, direct appeals to the consciences of the women and men who are using drone cameras every day to intimately follow, to stalk, their fellow humans as prey and then, from time to time, kill them.

In making this appeal, it seems important to seek to educate not only the operators but the public on the nature of the war that is being fought, that it is not about “terrorism” but about control of resources. 

Key points for this education can be found in the still timely Beyond Viet Nam, the speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1967 at a meeting in Riverside Church in New York, organized by Clergy and Laity Concerned, exactly one year before Dr. King was assassinated.  http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/documentsentry/doc_beyond_vietnam/

A point of moral reference is also provided in the sermon of El Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, in which he called on Salvadoran soldiers to disobey orders to kill:

"Brothers, you came from our own people. You are killing your own brothers. Any human order to kill must be subordinate to the law of God, which says, 'Thou shalt not kill'. No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God. No one has to obey an immoral law. It is high time you obeyed your consciences rather than sinful orders. The church cannot remain silent before such an abomination. ...In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cry rises to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you: stop the repression."

The power of his words was underscored by his assassination a day later, March 24, 1980, while he was celebrating Mass.