GERMAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES LEASING DRONES THAT CAN CARRY WEAPONS

 NO DECISION YET ON WHETHER THEY WILL CARRY WEAPONS.

Elsa Rassabach reports:

German parliamentarians of the CDU, CSU and SPD decided yesterday (June 13, 2018) to approve leasing Israeli Heron TP drones that can carry weapons. The opposition parties (Left, Green and the right-wing Alternative for Germany) opposed the leasing.

Per the majority decision of the Budget Committee yesterday afternoon, the Heron TP drones may at this time be used only for reconnaissance like the Heron 1 non-weaponizable surveillance drones that Germany has deployed in Afghanistan since 2010 and in Mali since 2014. (Since 2010 German pilots have been trained in Israel to use the IAI Heron drones, working closely with the leasing contractor Airbus, the German-French weapons manufacturer that also has the contract to develop and build a “Eurodrone" by 2025).

Yesterday the SPD parliamentarians basically stuck with the position they took a year ago: a) refusing weapons for the drones until after a full investigation of the implications of weaponizing them, and b) allowing use of weaponizable drones but for reconnaissance purposes only.

The formal agreement of yesterday between CDU, CSU and SPD regarding lease of the Heron TP drones states:
1) no munition may be purchased;
2) there can be no training regarding use of weapons;
3) Both 1) and 2) could be reversed following hearings, parliamentary debate and vote about whether and under what conditions the German-Israeli drones could be weaponized.

The hearings would not take place until the German Defense Ministry formally requests to purchase weapons for the drones. As we want to keep the weapons off the drones, we hope such a request will not come soon. We need to be prepared that the hearings could happen soon or not for years.

You in the US helped immensely on our extensive lobbying and letter-writing campaign over the past weeks to try to persuade parliamentarians that the hearings, debate and vote about ever weaponizing the drones must be carried out BEFORE weaponizable drones are leased. We asked the SPD to further delay the decision to lease as they did in June 2017. Our position was supported by some leading German media and NGOs. It was widely supported by SPD members and by many SPD parliamentarians, but they did not prevail within the SPD. Unfortunately, they went ahead to lease the weaponizable drones without requiring that the hearings first be held.

We met with a leading SPD parliamentarian in the Defense Committee yesterday, and he emphasized how important the hearings are to the SPD: they must be public, held in the full parliament, and televised.  There may be regional debates as well.

These would be the first parliamentary hearings ever held in any NATO member country to critically explore use of weapons on drones — an historic first. We need to keep up the dialogue and pressure to try to ensure that the hearings are significant and fully investigate all significant issues re: armed drones.

THANKS SO MUCH TO EVERY ONE OF YOU WHO WROTE LETTERS!

The SPD parliamentarian yesterday mentioned the many letters from the USA. Your letters were thoughtful, compelling and brought many new and unique insights based on US experience.  They provide a good basis to request (as we do in all meetings with German parliamentarians) that US and UK drone experts, whistleblowers, and also drone victims, medical doctors and legal experts be among the witnesses called to testify in any hearings regarding weaponizing drones.

It would be great if your letters could be posted online.  This would be an important resource going forward to build for effective hearings. 

In solidarity,
Elsa from Berlin

Here are press reports about yesterday's decision:

https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Israel-and-Germany-green-light-billion-dollar-killer-drone-deal-559938

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-military-drones/german-parliament-committee-backs-israeli-drones-leasing-plan-idUSKBN1J92IY

http://www.dw.com/en/german-army-can-lease-arms-capable-israeli-drones-lawmakers-say/a-44212763

https://www.timesofisrael.com/german-lawmakers-approve-e1-billion-drone-lease-from-israel/

Why an Israeli drone? See this: https://www.defensenews.com/industry/2018/05/31/german-lawmakers-cite-nsa-and-facebook-scandals-in-rejecting-us-drone-tech/

https://digit.site36.net/2018/04/30/german-countdown-for-armed-drones/

https://sputniknews.com/analysis/201804151063587204-germany-weapons-drones-surveillance/

Commentaries on the German decision and a link to all the letters that were written to the parliamentarians will appear in the next issue of this bulletin.

URGENT, EXTREMELY IMPORTANT REQUEST FROM ELSA RASSBACH IN BERLIN TO U.S. DRONE WAR ORGANIZERS

Contact: Elsa Rassbach at elsarassbach@gmail.com

(Dear Friends: Elsa has been quite ill and hugely busy lobbying German parliamentarians to continue Germany's historic rejection of weaponized drones.  Hence her request to us here in the U.S. comes with short notice and will require us to take very quick action.  The stakes are extraordinarily high, and we must respond.  Here is her message. - Editor - Nick Mottern)

By this coming Monday, June 11th, please send a brief personal statement to German lawmakers urging them not to approve acquisition of weaponizable drones.  (Instructions and email addresses of parliamentarians are below.) 

BACKGROUND:

So far Germany remains the only large NATO country that has acquired neither weaponized nor weaponizable drones, and we would like to keep it that way. 

Right now we are engaged in an intensive letter-writing and lobbying campaign to defeat a proposal by Chancellor Merkel’s Defense Ministry to lease five weaponizable Heron TP drones from Israel for use by the German military. The drones would be stationed on a military base in Israel, where German military drone personnel would be trained. This proposal will come to a vote for final approval in the Budget Committee of the German Parliament (Bundestag) on June 13, 2018.  

See:  "Berlin nears its first-ever combat drone – minus the weapons"
https://www.defensenews.com/unmanned/2018/05/31/berlin-nears-its-first-ever-combat-drone-minus-the-weapons/ and "German Countdown for armed drones"
https://digit.site36.net/2018/04/30/german-countdown-for-armed-drones/

In June 2017, we were able to win a surprise upset victory “against all odds” in the  German parliament on this issue. The Budget Committee rejected a request by Chancellor Merkel’s Defense Ministry for approval to lease the very same Heron TP drones from Israel that are again being proposed this year. 

See:“Germans Take Historic Stance Against Arming Drones"
https://www.knowdrones.com/updates/2017/6/27/germans-take-historic-stance-against-arming-drones)

This year we face our greatest challenge ever in our efforts to prevent the German military from acquiring armed drones. The drone deal that will come up for vote this June 13th is a “wolf dressed up in sheep’s clothing.” The supporters of acquiring the weaponizable drones claim that they will “only" be used for military surveillance. However, there is already a mandate for a later proposal to arm the drones — supposedly only after a careful assessment in the German parliament of the “constitutional, international law, and ethical concerns” regarding the use of such weapons. 

The details regarding how and when this parliamentary assessment is to be conducted have not been revealed. Likely the German Defense Ministry envisions only a brief "rubber-stamp” hearing of a few hours. Our demand is that any such hearing become a true first-time-ever parliamentary tribunal on drone warfare: that it be public and seek testimony from international drone whistleblowers and from drone victims, as well as from medical doctors, international and human rights law experts, and relevant NGOs as well as the UN. To achieve that end, we must delay — or hopefully even prevent — a Budget Committee approval to lease the weaponizable drones.

A sizeable majority of the German population opposes weaponizable drones as well as armed drones on moral and ethical grounds. Early in 2013, shortly after the German Defense Ministry first announced a plan to acquire armed drones, German activists launched a “Drone Campaign” supported by 150 peace organizations, NGOs, and the Left and Green political parties in the German parliament. Many members at the base of all the political parties in Germany now oppose drone warfare. The film NATIONAL BIRD has had a great reception here and was shown in theaters throughout Germany as well as on prime time television. And as many of you know, German activists have in the past few years mounted large demonstrations against German government complicity with US drone warfare (i.e. in allowing use Ramstein Air Base and AFRICOM for illegal US drone strikes). Several U.S. activists will participate in and speak during the Ramstein Action Week at the end of this June. (After you have written to the German parliamentarians, please consider joining us in Ramstein!)

In our campaign last June against the acquisition of weaponizable drones for the German military, personal email-letters from U.S. drone war organizers were among the most effective letters German parliamentarians received. U.S. drone opponents know from deep personal experience the anguish of being unable to stop  war crimes being perpetrated in our name — and most Germans feel strongly that Germany must never again become a perpetrator of such war crimes. 

INSTRUCTIONS:

YOUR LETTER can be very brief, just a few sentences, or it can be more extensive. As examples see the great letters Nick Mottern and Ed Kinane wrote to German parliamentarians last year: “Letters Urge Germany to Drop Killer-Drone Deal"
https://www.knowdrones.com/updates/2017/6/25/letters-urge-germany-to-drop-killer-drone-deal

As their letters do, it is often good to connect with your reader by writing from personal experience and feeling as well as by providing analysis. Ed and Nick's letters are also still good examples because the proposed German Defense Ministry deal for the weaponizable Heron TP drones this year has not much changed from the deal proposeed last year.

To use for a sample, here is letter to the parliamentarians written by Ed Kinane on June 6, 2018. 

Esteemed Parliamentarians:                                          

I write you as one who has directly experienced aerial terrorism. In 2003, as a member of the U.S. human rights group, Voices in the Wilderness, I lived in Baghdad during “shock and awe.” I know firsthand the dread of having missiles flying overhead and exploding nearby. Such missiles killed people right across the street as we awaited our own death. While I was fortunate to survive, an uncountable number of Iraqi civilians did not.

I am a founding member of Upstate (New York) Drone Action, a grassroots group that since 2010 has worked to awaken the U.S. public and especially Hancock AFB personnel about the illegality and immorality of  the weaponized Reaper drones piloted from that base over Afghanistan – and probably elsewhere.

These robots are insidious. While they originally operated as surveillance tools, they soon became weaponized – wreaking terror over the regions they flew. The so-called U.S. “war on terror” is in fact a war of terror – state terror.                                

 Last year I was heartened to learn that SPD Parliamentarians opposed your government’s acquisition of military drones – thereby avoiding further collaboration with the U.S. profit-driven war machine. I am now dismayed to hear that there is to be yet another vote that could lead to Germany acquiring Israeli Heron PT drones.                       

Within just the past few weeks IDF snipers have assassinated dozens of unarmed Palestinians while wounding hundreds more. The Heron drone is an assassin from on high. I earnestly entreat you to vote against becoming a drone ally of Israel and its ally, the United States.

Sincerely,

Ed Kinane


It is no problem that your letter will be in English. Most German parliamentarians read English well or have staffers who do.

The basic message can be something like this:

"We urge you not to approve the acquisition of weaponizable drones for the German military. If weaponizable drones are acquired, they will likely sooner or later be weaponized. At present international law seems to be ineffective in preventing illegal drone killings and large numbers of civilian deaths Many in the US military deeply regret their involvement in drone killings; we hope German soldiers will never have to experience this. We hope very much that Germany will help lead the way to effectively bring such weapons under international control and eventually to ban them.”

Please use a clear title in your subject line, such as “Heron TP Drones” or “Please do not approve acquisition of weaponizable drones” etc.

Please put personal contact information and street address at the end of your email.

EMAIL ADDRESSES OF THE PARLIAMENTARIANS:

For the upcoming vote in the Budget Committee of the German parliament, most of the political parties have already made a firm decision to vote for or against acquisition of the Heron TP drones.  Only the Social Democratic Party (SPD), making up about 23% of the membership of the German parliament, appears to be having continuing internal debate about this issue. The SPD “swing vote" will likely be decisive for the outcome regarding weaponizable drone acquisition on June 13th. 

Though activists from all over Germany have previously written to the members of the German parliament in all the political parties, we are now focussing mainly on the members of the SPD in three key committees: Budget, Defense and Foreign Affairs. You can send the identical letter to the members in all three committees.  

Below are all the email addresses for the SPD members of the three committees. We generally copy each email list as a block and paste it into the recipients' box (“To:”). 

BUDGET COMMITTEE:

To:

Doris.Barnett@bundestag.deMartin.Gerster@bundestag.deMichael.Gross@bundestag.deBettina.Hagedorn@bundestag.deThomas.Jurk@bundestag.deJohannes.Kahrs@bundestag.deDennis.Rohde@bundestag.deSwen.Schulz@bundestag.deAndreas.Schwarz@bundestag.deSonja.Steffen@bundestag.de
Ingrid.Arndt-Brauer@bundestag.deLothar.Binding@bundestag.deBernhard.Daldrup@bundestag.deEsther.Dilcher@bundestag.deUlrich.Freese@bundestag.deMetin.Hakverdi@bundestag.deChristine.Lambrecht@bundestag.deChristian.Petry@bundestag.deUdo.Schiefner@bundestag.deGabi.Weber@bundestag.de,

Address your letter to:
Dear Members of the Budget Committee in the SPD Parliamentary Group in the German Bundestag:


DEFENSE COMMITTEE:

To:

Karl-Heinz.Brunner@bundestag.deFritz.Felgentreu@bundestag.deMartin.Gerster@bundestag.deWolfgang.Hellmich@bundestag.deThomas.Hitschler@bundestag.deSiemtje.Moeller@bundestag.de
Dirk.Voepel@bundestag.deGabi.Weber@bundestag.deSabine.Dittmar@bundestag.deJohannes.Kahrs@bundestag.deLars.Klingbeil@bundestag.deRolf.Muetzenich@bundestag.deDetlev.Pilger@bundestag.deSoenke.Rix@bundestag.deDennis.Rohde@bundestag.deMarja-Marja.Voellers@bundestag.de,

Address your letter to:
Dear Members of the Defense Committee in the SPD Parliamentary Group in the German Bundestag:


FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE:

To:

niels.annen@bundestag.dedaniela.deridder@bundestag.dedagmar.freitag@bundestag.debarbara.hendricks@bundestag.dejosip.juratovic@bundestag.debaerbel.koffer@bundestag.dechristoph.matschie@bundestag.dedietmar.nietan@bundestag.dethomas.oppermann@bundestag.deaydan.oezoguz@bundestag.denils.schmid.bundestag.dedoris.barnett@bundestag.dekarl-heinz.brunner@bundestag.deyasmin.fahimi@bundestag.defritz.felgentreu@bundestag.desiemtje.moeller@bundestag.derolf.muetzenich@bundestag.dedagmar.schmidt@bundestag.deulla.schmidt@bundestag.dejohannes.schraps@bundestag.demartin.schulz@bundestag.de,

Address your letter to:
Dear Members of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the SPD Parliamentary Group in the German Bundestag:

LEAH BOLGER SEEKS DRONE QUILT HOSTS

In 2012, I was a member of a delegation which visited Pakistan to learn the effects of combat drones first-hand.  Their stories and pictures had a profound effect on me, and motivated me to do something to memorialize the lives of those killed, injured, and displaced by U.S. drone attacks. Each quilt is made of 36 blocks, made individually by adults and children, and contain either the name of someone who was killed by a drone, or it says something like “name unknown,” or “beloved child,” to represent the 80% of victims whose names we do not know.

In Memory Of.jpg

The DQP consists of 3 parts:  the quilts, informational posters, and a handout with lists of resources and actions.  Since its first showing in August 2013 at the Veterans For Peace convention in Madison Wisconsin, the DQP has been shown in over 50 locations around the country.  Currently there are 13 quilts and 3 sets of posters, so the exhibit may be shown in more than one city at once.  Usually the exhibit shows 4 quilts, but can fewer or more.

Exhibit Hosts.jpg

I am looking for exhibit hosts!  The responsibilities are not onerous.  The biggest part of the job is to find a venue.  The DQP has been exhibited in a wide range of locations:  libraries, peace houses, churches, and even a bank!  The only cost to you, is the cost to ship the exhibit from your town to the next town.  They will be shipped to you at the previous exhibitor’s expense.  The shipping cost varies depending on the number of quilts, but is usually $75 or so.  If the cost is a hardship, the project can take care of it.

The project was designed to educate the public and honor the victims, but it doesn’t do anything at all when the quilts are folded up and in my laundry room, like several of them are now!  Please consider hosting the DQP exhibit!  More information may be found on the DQP website: dronesquiltproject.wordpress.com.  If you have any questions, please contact me, Leah Bolger, leahbolger@comcast.net or 541-207-7761.