You are hereDrones
by David Swanson | July 2013
How Jerry Falwell's Liberty U.—the world's largest Christian university—became an evangelist for drone warfare.
LIBERTY UNIVERSITY in Lynchburg, Va., was founded by televangelist Jerry Falwell. Its publications carry the slogan “Training Champions for Christ since 1971.” Some of those champions are now being trained to pilot armed drones, and others to pilot more traditional aircraft, in U.S. wars. For Christ. Liberty bills itself as “one of America’s top military-friendly schools.” It trains chaplains for the various branches of the military. And it trains pilots in its School of Aeronautics (SOA)—pilots who go up in planes and drone pilots who sit behind desks wearing pilot suits. The SOA, with more than 600 students, is not seen on campus, as it has recently moved to a building adjacent to Lynchburg Regional Airport. Liberty’s campus looks new and attractive, large enough for some 12,000 students, swarming with blue campus buses, and heavy on sports facilities for the Liberty Flames. A campus bookstore prominently displays Resilient Warriors, a book by Associate Vice President for Military Outreach Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Robert F. Dees. There’s new construction everywhere you look: a $50 million library, a baseball stadium, new dorms, a tiny year-round artificial ski slope on the top of a hill. In fact, Liberty is sitting on more than $1 billion in net assets. The major source of Liberty’s money is online education. There are some 60,000 Liberty students you don’t see on campus, because they study via the internet. They also make Liberty the largest university in Virginia, the fourth largest online university anywhere, and the largest Christian university in the world. More than 23,000 online students are in the military—twice as many as students who live on campus. Liberty offers extra financial support to veterans and those on active duty, allowing them to be credited for knowledge learned in the military and to study online from a war zone. Liberty has been turning out “Christ-centered aviators” for a decade. In fall 2011, Liberty added a concentration in Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS, aka drones), making it one of the first handful of schools to do this. Now at least 14 universities and colleges in the U.S. have permits from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly drones, and many institutions, including community colleges, offer drone training. If one chooses to concentrate studies on piloting drones, the load will include a half dozen courses on “intelligence.” Liberty students can also pick up a minor in strategic intelligence and take courses in terrorism and counterterrorism. (Liberty’s school of government brags that Newt Gingrich helped develop its course on “American exceptionalism.”)
LIBERTY UNIVERSITY in Lynchburg, Va., was founded by televangelist Jerry Falwell. Its publications carry the slogan “Training Champions for Christ since 1971.” Some of those champions are now being trained to pilot armed drones, and others to pilot more traditional aircraft, in U.S. wars. For Christ.
Liberty bills itself as “one of America’s top military-friendly schools.” It trains chaplains for the various branches of the military. And it trains pilots in its School of Aeronautics (SOA)—pilots who go up in planes and drone pilots who sit behind desks wearing pilot suits. The SOA, with more than 600 students, is not seen on campus, as it has recently moved to a building adjacent to Lynchburg Regional Airport.
Liberty’s campus looks new and attractive, large enough for some 12,000 students, swarming with blue campus buses, and heavy on sports facilities for the Liberty Flames. A campus bookstore prominently displays Resilient Warriors, a book by Associate Vice President for Military Outreach Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Robert F. Dees. There’s new construction everywhere you look: a $50 million library, a baseball stadium, new dorms, a tiny year-round artificial ski slope on the top of a hill. In fact, Liberty is sitting on more than $1 billion in net assets.
The major source of Liberty’s money is online education. There are some 60,000 Liberty students you don’t see on campus, because they study via the internet. They also make Liberty the largest university in Virginia, the fourth largest online university anywhere, and the largest Christian university in the world.
More than 23,000 online students are in the military—twice as many as students who live on campus. Liberty offers extra financial support to veterans and those on active duty, allowing them to be credited for knowledge learned in the military and to study online from a war zone.
Liberty has been turning out “Christ-centered aviators” for a decade. In fall 2011, Liberty added a concentration in Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS, aka drones), making it one of the first handful of schools to do this. Now at least 14 universities and colleges in the U.S. have permits from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly drones, and many institutions, including community colleges, offer drone training.
If one chooses to concentrate studies on piloting drones, the load will include a half dozen courses on “intelligence.” Liberty students can also pick up a minor in strategic intelligence and take courses in terrorism and counterterrorism. (Liberty’s school of government brags that Newt Gingrich helped develop its course on “American exceptionalism.”)
The first city in the United States to pass a resolution against drones now has a drone display just across the pedestrian Downtown Mall from City Hall, thanks to Martha Rosler whose "Theater of Drones" is part of the Charlottesville Festival of the Photograph.
Click to enlarge:
Martha Rosler works in photography, video, performance, sculpture, and installation. Her work often addresses matters of the public sphere and landscapes of everyday life—actual and virtual—especially as they affect women. Rosler’s photographic series on places of passage and systems of transportation—airports, roads, subways, streets—have been widely exhibited. Rosler has for many years produced works on war and the “national security climate,” connecting everyday experiences at home with the conduct of war abroad. In 2004 and 2008, in opposition to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, she reinstituted her now well-known series of photomontages House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home, originally made as a response to the war in Vietnam in the late 1960s.
“Beginning a conversation through art provides symbolic closure but does not relieve us of the necessity to keep on informing, organizing, audience building, and agitating.” – Martha Rosler
Rosler has had numerous solo exhibitions at museums and galleries internationally. In spring 2012, her solo photo exhibition Cuba January 1981 opened at Mitchell-Innes and Nash in New York City. In November 2012, she presented her performance-installation Meta-Monumental Garage Sale at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the most recent of a series of Garage Sales she has held in and around art galleries since 1973.
- Location: The Paramount Theater
- Date: Saturday, June 15, 2013 | 4pm
- Title: Theater of Drones
- Date: June 10 - July 7
- Location: 605 East Main Street at the Freedom of Speech Wall
- Date: Saturday, June 15th | 6:30pm
- Location:The Paramount Theater
Experts Say U.S. Executive Secret War Harming U.S. National Security
collected by Fred Branfman
Admiral Dennis Blair, Former Director Of National Intelligence
“Admiral Dennis Blair, the former director of National Intelligence (in the) New York Times : While “drone attacks did help reduce the Qaeda leadership in Pakistan,” he wrote, “they also increased hatred of America.” He said the drone has also damaged “our ability to work with Pakistan [in] eliminating Taliban sanctuaries, encouraging Indian-Pakistani dialogue, and making Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal more secure.””
Lots of positive honks and waves. One angry guy in an SUV. Not bad.
Former drone operator Brandon Bryant tells NBC's Richard Engel that he felt like he became a "heartless" "sociopath" under the drone program.
A former Air Force drone operator who says he participated in missions that killed more than 1,600 people remembers watching one of the first victims bleed to death.
Brandon Bryant says he was sitting in a chair at a Nevada Air Force base operating the camera when his team fired two missiles from their drone at three men walking down a road halfway around the world in Afghanistan. The missiles hit all three targets, and Bryant says he could see the aftermath on his computer screen – including thermal images of a growing puddle of hot blood.
“The guy that was running forward, he’s missing his right leg,” he recalled. “And I watch this guy bleed out and, I mean, the blood is hot.” As the man died his body grew cold, said Bryant, and his thermal image changed until he became the same color as the ground.
“I can see every little pixel,” said Bryant, who has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, “if I just close my eyes.”
Bryant, now 27, served as a drone sensor operator from 2006 to 2011, at bases in Nevada, New Mexico and in Iraq, guiding unmanned drones over Iraq and Afghanistan. Though he didn't fire missiles himself he took part in missions that he was told led to the deaths of an estimated 1,626 individuals.
In an interview with NBC News, he provided a rare first-person glimpse into what it’s like to control the controversial machines that have become central to the U.S. effort to kill terrorists.
He says that as an operator he was troubled by the physical disconnect between his daily routine and the violence and power of the faraway drones. “You don't feel the aircraft turn,” he said. “You don't feel the hum of the engine. You hear the hum of the computers, but that's definitely not the same thing.”
At the same time, the images coming back from the drones were very real and very graphic.
“People say that drone strikes are like mortar attacks,” Bryant said. “Well, artillery doesn't see this. Artillery doesn't see the results of their actions. It's really more intimate for us, because we see everything.”
A self-described “naïve” kid from a small Montana town, Bryant joined the Air Force in 2005 at age 19. After he scored well on tests, he said a recruiter told him that as a drone operator he would be like the smart guys in the control room in a James Bond movie, the ones who feed the agent the information he needs to complete his mission.
He trained for three and a half months before participating in his first drone mission. Bryant operated the drone’s cameras from his perch at Nellis Air Force base in Nevada as the drone rose into the air just north of Baghdad.
Bryant and the rest of his team were supposed to use their drone to provide support and protection to patrolling U.S. troops. But he recalls watching helplessly as insurgents buried an IED in a road and a U.S. Humvee drove over it.
“We had no way to warn the troops,” he said. He later learned that three soldiers died.
And once he had taken part in a kill, any remaining illusions about James Bond disappeared. “Like, this isn’t a videogame,” he said. “This isn’t some sort of fantasy. This is war. People die.”
Courtesy Brandon Bryant
Brandon Bryant stands with a Predator drone in Nevada. He says that as an operator he was troubled by the physical disconnect between his daily routine and the violence and power of the faraway drones.
Bryant said that most of the time he was an operator, he and his team and his commanding officers made a concerted effort to avoid civilian casualties.
But he began to wonder who the enemy targets on the ground were, and whether they really posed a threat. He’s still not certain whether the three men in Afghanistan were really Taliban insurgents or just men with guns in a country where many people carry guns. The men were five miles from American forces arguing with each other when the first missile hit them.
“They (didn’t) seem to be in a hurry,” he recalled. “They (were) just doing their thing. ... They were probably carrying rifles, but I wasn't convinced that they were bad guys.“ But as a 21-year-old airman, said Bryant, he didn’t think he had the standing to ask questions.
He also remembers being convinced that he had seen a child scurry onto his screen during one mission just before a missile struck, despite assurances from others that the figure he’d seen was really a dog.
After participating in hundreds of missions over the years, Bryant said he “lost respect for life” and began to feel like a sociopath. He remembers coming into work in 2010, seeing pictures of targeted individuals on the wall – Anwar al-Awlaki and other al Qaeda and Taliban leaders -- and musing, “Which one of these f_____s is going to die today?”
In 2011, as Bryant’s career as a drone operator neared its end, he said his commander presented him with what amounted to a scorecard. It showed that he had participated in missions that contributed to the deaths of 1,626 people.
“I would’ve been happy if they never even showed me the piece of paper,” he said. “I've seen American soldiers die, innocent people die, and insurgents die. And it's not pretty. It's not something that I want to have -- this diploma.”
Now that he’s out of the Air Force and back home in Montana, Bryant said he doesn’t want to think about how many people on that list might’ve been innocent: “It’s too heartbreaking.”
The Veterans Administration diagnosed him with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, for which he has undergone counseling. He says his PTSD has manifested itself as anger, sleeplessness and blackout drinking.
“I don’t feel like I can really interact with that average, everyday person,” he said. “I get too frustrated, because A) they don't realize what's going on over there. And B) they don't care.”
He’s also reluctant to tell the people in his personal life what he was doing for five years. When he told a woman he was seeing that he’d been a drone operator, and contributed to the deaths of a large number of people, she cut him off. “She looked at me like I was a monster,” he said. “And she never wanted to touch me again.”
FIRST UK MASS TRESPASS AND ARRESTS LINKED TO ANTI DRONES PROTEST NARROWLY AVOID CONSPIRACY CHARGES
Jun 5—Yesterday, six peace activists, representing “Disarm the Drones” became the first UK activists to face charges for anti-drones related offenses. They were kept overnight at Lincoln police station after they planted a peace garden in RAF Waddington on Monday morning. They had been charged with Conspiracy and Intent to Trespass and Criminal Damage; the charge of Conspiracy was later dropped.
The non-violent peace activists DISARM the drones 6 managed to breach security at Britain’s drone control base in Lincolnshire. Their threat was considered so serious they were kept overnight and sent straight to court yesterday. Their homes were also raided by police and computers have been seized.
Their action was timed to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the first UK Drone strike and the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression.
The six individuals, who took in news stories about civilians killed as a result of drone strikes were: Chris Cole (Drones Researcher), Martin Newell (Catholic Priest), Dr Keith Hebden (Anglican Priest), Susan Clarkson (Quaker Pensioner), Henrietta Cullinan (Teacher) and Penny Walker (Grandmother). They all felt moved to act after British Armed Drones (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles) became operational from British soil on the 25th April 2013, and the MoD has since confirmed that British drones controlled from RAF Waddington have made their first kill in Afghanistan.
Serious legal questions have been raised by the UN, Britain and the US about the legality and morality of drones, especially around their use in undeclared wars. As part of their legal defense, DISARM the Drones 6 plan to invoke international law which reserves the right to break a law in order to stop a greater harm from happening. The 6 have been bailed out until a preliminary hearing on the 4th July 10am at Lincoln Magistrates Court.
900 block of Dolley Madison Blvd., Langley, VA
The National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance calls for a protest at the Central Intelligence Agency on June 29, 2013 starting at 3PM opposing the continued use of drones by the US Military and CIA. The US Military is using drones in it's illegal wars of aggression and the CIA in particular is killing people with these extrajudicial death squads of the skies. We must come out and protest the killer drones and hold the CIA and US Government officials accountable.
For every high-level suspect in Pakistan, the U.S. military kills 49 other people who we know little to nothing about.
By Ben Kuebrich
U.S. support for drone strikes has dropped 18 percent over the last year (see the Washington Post/ABC poll conducted in 2012 and the Gallup Poll released in March 2013), but almost two thirds of the U.S. population still supports drone strikes "in other countries against suspected terrorists."
As the first two numbers below demonstrate, the majority that believe drone strikes are effective, surgical tools used against terrorists hold this belief against the available facts. Both numbers are published inLiving Under Drones, a report conducted by human rights and law clinics at Stanford and NYU about drone strikes in Pakistan and confirmed by a variety of other sources.
The number of people killed in U.S. drone strikes for every high-level suspect. Despite President Obama's statement on CNN in September 2012 that drone strikes were used in "[situations] in which we can't capture the individual before they move forward on some sort of operational plot against the United States," only two percent of the people drones killed in Pakistan between 2004 and 2012 actually fit that description.
The number of children killed between 2004 and 2012 for each high-level suspect.
It might be surprising to learn that we kill more children than high-level suspects. News reports flood in daily about the scores of "militants" killed in U.S. drone strikes, but these reports rely on the Obama administration's offensive, illegal definition of "militant" as all "military-age males in a strike zone." Think of the justifiable outrage if this same definition were applied to people killed in attacks on U.S. soil.
The above two numbers replace the reckless ambiguity of "militant" with categories that can be counted with accuracy. The amount of high-level suspects were all confirmed by at least two reliable news agencies, and the amount of children killed by drones in Pakistan is kept in daily reporting by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
Together, these first two numbers present the reality of U.S. drone strikes as it is hardly every covered: for every high-level suspect in Pakistan, the U.S. military kills 49 other people who we know little to nothing about and at least three of those 49 are children.
The final two numbers come from the Pew Global Attitudes Project. Pew has been reporting on global attitudes for over 10 years, polling what citizens of countries around the world think about the United States, other countries, and a variety of issues. The results from their recent report on Pakistan, published earlier this month, will come as a surprise to anyone still holding the belief that that the United States is helping Pakistan with its barrage of drone strikes. Here are two important numbers from the report:
The percentage of Pakistanis who hold a favorable view of the Taliban. On top of that, 98 percent of Pakistanis see terrorism as a problem and only 13 percent of Pakistanis see Al Qaeda as favorable. It would seem that these numbers, alongside regular news of Taliban's heinous abuses, surely justify U.S. drone strikes in the region. The country is clearly against terrorist groups and the United States is a self-certified terrorist killer, so we must be welcome there, right? See the next number.
The percentage of Pakistanis who have a favorable view of the United States. That's right, the same percentage of Pakistanis favor the U.S. as favor the Taliban, and Pakistanis actually have a more favorable view toward Al Qaeda than they do toward the United States. The report also finds that only 5 percent of the population is supportive of U.S. drone strikes.
For anyone reading first-hand accounts of drone strikes in Pakistan, like those published in Living Under Drones, these numbers should come as no surprise. The citizens of Pakistan talk about U.S. drone strikes in the same language that people talk about terrorism--constant fear, psychological trauma, never knowing if someone leaving the house to go to a wedding, community meeting, or funeral will end up dead as the result of a drone strike. That we fall into the same category of favorability as the Taliban and Al Qaeda may speak to the sort of actions we carry out in Pakistan.
Some readers may not care what Pakistan thinks about drone strikes, but hopefully these numbers dispel any myths about our violence in the region being more favorable than our enemy's violence, and they very clearly dispel any myth about our presence in the country as helping Pakistani citizens.
Authorizing the City of Evanston to Establish a Moratorium on the Use of Unregulated Drone Technology
WHEREAS, the implementation of drone (unmanned aerial system) technology in the United States implicates the privacy and constitutional rights of United States residents, including the residents of Evanston, Illinois; and
WHEREAS, the federal government and the State of Illinois have yet to enact reasonable regulation on the use of drones within the United States; and
WHEREAS, police departments in the United States have begun to deploy drone technology absent any regulation on the appropriate use of such technology, although the Evanston Police Department has not.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF EVANSTON, COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS, THAT:
SECTION 1: That the foregoing recitals are hereby found as fact and incorporated herein by reference.
SECTION 2: The City of Evanston establishes a moratorium on the use of drones in the City of Evanston in the absence of reasonable state and federal regulation of the use of drone technology which will expire without further action by the City Council two years from the date of this resolution; with the following exemptions:
1) for Hobby and Model Aircraft, defined as an unmanned aircraft that is— a) capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere;
b) flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft; and
c) flown for hobby or recreational purposes; and
2) the Research and Development of "Experimental Aircraft" for non-Department of Defense contracts.
SECTION 3: The City of Evanston establishes a moratorium on the use of drones in the City of Evanston in the absence of reasonable state and federal regulation of the use of drone technology; and
SECTION 4: The City of Evanston supports efforts in the Illinois General Assembly, the Illinois Senate, and the United States Congress to enact legislation (1) prohibiting information obtained from the domestic use of drones from being introduced into a federal or state court, and (2) precluding the domestic use of drones equipped with anti-personnel devices (meaning any projectile, chemical, electrical, directed- energy), or other device designed to harm, incapacitate, or otherwise negatively impact a human being.
SECTION 5: The City of Evanston jointly resolves, with the Associated Student Government (“ASG”) of Northwestern University, as evidenced by the attached resolution of the ASG (Exhibit 1), to provide that the moratorium on drone use extends to all areas of Northwestern University.
SECTION 6: Copies of this Resolution will be sent to Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk, U.S. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Illinois State Senators Daniel Biss and Heather Steans, and Illinois State Representatives Robyn Gabel, Kelly Cassidy and Laura Fine.
SECTION 7: This resolution 27-R-13 shall be in full force and effect from and after the date of its passage and approval in the manner provided by law.
From Joy First
CAMP DOUGLAS, WI – Five nonviolent activists attempted to deliver an indictment for war crimes to Volk Field Commander Colonel Dave Romuald. They walked peacefully onto the base with the indictment in hand, and asked for a meeting with Colonel Romauld. Instead of a meeting, they were promptly arrested, taken to the Juneau County jail in handcuffs, and charged with disorderly conduct and trespassing. They were released several hours later after processing.
By Dave Lindorff
(This article was originally written on assignment forwww.counterpunch.org)
Imagine if at some point during the 1990s or 1980s the President of the United States had given a speech. And this was his speech:
My fellow Americans, I've been regularly shooting missiles into people's houses in several countries. I've wiped out families. I've killed thousands of people. Hundreds of them have been little children.
I've killed grandparents, wives, daughters, neighbors. I've targeted people without knowing their names but because they appeared to be resisting an occupation of their country. I've killed whoever was too near them. Then I've shot another missile a few minutes later to kill whoever was trying to help the victims.
I don't charge these people with crimes. I don't seek their extradition. I don't even try to kidnap them. And I don't do this to defend against any imminent threat. I don't make you safer by doing this. It goes without saying (although the people in the countries I target keep saying it) that I'm generating more new enemies than I'm killing. But I urge you to remember this: All but four of the people I've killed have been non-U.S. citizens.
So here's what I'm going to do for you: I'm going to start applying the same standards I use for killing U.S. citizens to my killing of non-U.S. citizens, at least in certain countries, at least after another 18 months or so goes by. Sound good? I know, I know: what do you care? These are not even U.S. citizens we're talking about.
So, let me tell you about the four U.S. citizens.
One of them we didn't actually know who we were shooting at, and he turned out to be a U.S. citizen. Hell, for all I know a few other bodies could belong to U.S. citizens too -- It's not as if we know all the names and backgrounds.
A second one of the four we got because he was with the one and only U.S. citizen we targeted. So, that was a two-fer. We saved enough on missiles on that one to pay for a school or whatever it is people keep whining about wanting money for.
A third one was a 16-year-old American kid. He was the son of the one and only U.S. citizen I targeted. I hit him two weeks after killing his father. Sheer coincidence. I don't have any good explanation for it, but you'll just have to trust that I meant to take out a bunch of innocent non-American teenagers, and there happened tragically to be an American among them.
Fourth is the one U.S. citizen I meant to kill. I'd like to ask you to ignore certain facts about this one for the moment. Actually forever. Let's ignore the fact that we tried to kill him before any of the incidents that I now claim justified his killing. Let's ignore that my attorney general said back then that we were killing him for things he'd said, not for anything he'd done. Let's forget that we never charged him with any crime, never indicted him, never tried him, never sought his extradition, never appealed to U.S. or foreign or international courts. Let's forget that we've never made any evidence against him public, nor explained why we can't. Let's forget that nobody else has produced any evidence against him.
Now, let me tell you this: I only killed him because he was responsible for planning and executing violent attacks on the United States, was an imminent threat to the United States, and could not possibly have been captured. Got that? Write that down.
Now, it's true that courts and the legislature and the public are left out of this. But you're going to have to trust me.
There is not a single domestic or international law that permits the killing of human beings by someone who invents criteria for himself to meet and then claims on the basis of secret evidence to have met those criteria.
But, what do you care? You've already forgotten that for all but one of the people I've killed I don't claim to have met any criteria at all.
Now clap, you morons!
What would the response have been to this some decades back, as compared to last Thursday?
I think there might have been some outrage.
Instead of outrage, we're going to have more wars.
This memorial day, see if you can remember what it was like to object to giving presidents the power to murder us.
It could have been any kind of gathering between friends as I sat with six others in Malachy Kilbride’s living room in Arlington, VA on the morning of May 21, 2013, drinking coffee and munching on pastries. Besides Malachy and me, we were joined by David Barrows, Max Obuszewski, Manijeh Saba, Ray McGovern, and Ted Majdosz. But there was a sense of excitement and anticipation in the air that morning. We have risked arrest together many times before acting in resistance to the illegal and immoral actions of our government, but today we were going to try something different.
With U.S. approval of Congress holding steady at a whopping 15%, one wonders just who it is the elected representatives are representing. Perhaps we can answer that question, by looking at some of their recent activities, and considering some of the things currently left undone.
President Obama is expected to announce that the eternal war on the world will have an end.
He won't say.
I too have an announcement. I promise my drinking problem will end some day.
I'm not saying. But the celebrations of the armistice in 1918 began when plans for it were announced, and the partying continued until it actually happened. Perhaps that is the best approach here. As an aid to your festivities, let me present the . . .
Afternoon Obama Murder Rap Drinking Game
(which I promise to stop playing soon)
1. The President is going to admit that he has a murder problem and propose to correct it by murdering less in certain countries. If examples occur to you of crimes you might commit that you could not continue committing by promising to limit your criminal activities in some countries but not in others, DRINK!
2. The President is going to claim to have targeted, or to have allowed an unnamed John Brennan to have targeted, only one U.S. citizen for murder but to have killed three by mistake, on top of three killed by President Bush by mistake. If you can think of outrages you might commit that you could not go on committing by claiming that 86% of them were accidental side effects, DRINK!
3. The President is going to claim that the one U.S. citizen he or his subordinate chose to murder was an imminent (meaning eventual theoretical) threat to violently attack the United States, that capture was infeasible (meaning the target was hiding following lots of death threats, but his location was known anyway), and that said citizen was a senior operational leader of al Qaeda (or an associated group or was an adherent or a backstage groupie who had once met a guy whose cousin knew where an al Qaeda meeting was held one time). If you understand what that means, DRINK!
4. The President is going to hope that nobody notices that laws against war and murder don't include exceptions for people who invent lists of arcane criteria that they require themselves to meet before murdering. If you think you could invent and meet at least three qualifications before engaging in some immoral behavior, DRINK!
5. The President is going to hope nobody notices that he did not actually meet his own criteria before murdering Awlaki. Attorney General Eric Holder now says Awlaki was killed for actions, not words. Prior to the deed, Holder said it was the "hatred spewed" on Awlaki's blog that put him "on the same list with bin Laden." Asked if he wanted Awlaki captured or killed, Holder did not say "captured if feasible," but evaded the question. Awlaki, as far as we know, was never a member of al Qaeda. Obama's and Holder's claims about Awlaki's role in terrorist attacks are undocumented claims. No evidence has been presented and no charges were ever brought in court. If you think shouting "Whoever he is, and whatever he's charged with, he did it!" would be a nifty way to get out of jury duty, DRINK!
6. The President is going to speed past the fact that over 99% of the people he's murdered have not been U.S. citizens, and that the pretense of justification so lazily applied to U.S. citizens has not been bothered with at all in these cases. He's not going to discuss "signature strikes" targeting unknown people and whoever's near them, or the targeting of the rescuers of victims. He's not going to discuss children, women, seniors. He's not going to discuss the posthumous identification of males as "enemy combatants" -- a non-legal term that adds insult to murder. He's not going to discuss the many known cases in which the victims could quite feasibly have been captured, were clearly not involved with al Qaeda in any way, and lacked any capacity whatsoever to threaten the United States. He's going to propose applying the fraudulent, meaningless, and illegal standards he applies to murdering U.S. citizens to murdering non-U.S. citizens in the future ... in some countries. If you can think of some people who might not be satisfied with this reform, DRINK!
7. The President is going to claim to be moving some but not all drone kill operations from a secret agency technically lacking in Congressional oversight to a department Congress simply chooses not to oversee. If this falls short of what you can imagine when you hear "most transparent administration ever," DRINK!
8. The President will not be speaking about how some 75 other nations with drones should begin applying his standards to their own behavior. If you think such matters are worth discussing, DRINK!
9. The President is going to brush over the question of where and how he will be ordering the murder of people by means other than missiles. If you can think of ways this might become seen as a problem down the road, DRINK!
10. The President is going to speed past the existence of a massive ongoing U.S. war on Afghanistan, larger now than when Obama moved into the White House, and expected to continue for many years after it "ends" in another year and a half. If his ability to get away with this strikes you as perhaps what he must love most about drones and how they change the conversation, DRINK!
11. If you have concerns that go unanswered about the global expansion of U.S. bases, threats to Syria, weapons provided to Israel, threats to Iran, or the gargantuan military budget, DRINK!
12. The President will leak a great deal of information about his kill list program in this speech, as he has done on some previous "I killed bin Laden!" occasions, and yet will fail to prosecute himself for espionage at the end of the speech. If you believe laws should be applied equally to all, DRINK!
CITIZEN ACTIVISTS CONFER WITH US ATTORNEY URGING AN INDICTMENT AGAINST U.S. PRESIDENT, CIA DIRECTOR, AND OTHERS FOR WAR CRIMES
It has been some time since the language of U.S. politics has been twisted so far as to render words nearly meaningless. In an effort to clarify what is actually being said in Washington, D.C., this writer offers this glossary of terms, with historical context, current usage and, at times, synonyms and antonyms.
Some of these words and terms have been around for a while; others are brand new.
Our elected and unelected officials tell us that drone strikes target top level enemies of the United States who are imminent threats to us, and that killing innocent people is avoided altogether or minimized.
But drone pilots have begun talking to the media. And they describe policies that bear a lot closer resemblance to reporting from the areas where the missiles strike. These pilots should be brought before Congress.
Here is a stunning new interview with one of them:
"So the pilot is not only flying the airplane, he or she is using all those sensors to watch a potential target, circling over it for hours or days at a time. What can you really see?
"Okay, so in a village in, say, country X, where the houses are built together, there are adults who live in this house, and these children belong to those adults because we see them out in the fields together or we see them eating dinner. So you can start figuring out who is associated with who. Who is a stranger, who is it that's visiting this house? There's a dog and it barks at strangers, so if we needed to go in and free a hostage or conduct a raid, you'd want to tell the land forces there's a dog there and either it's an attack dog or it alerts the village that somebody's coming.
"You must develop an emotional tie with the people on the ground that makes it hard if there is going to be a strike or a raid, people are going to be killed.
"I would couch it not in terms of an emotional connection, but a … seriousness. I have watched this individual, and regardless of how many children he has, no matter how close his wife is, no matter what they do, that individual fired at Americans or coalition forces, or planted an IED -- did something that met the rules of engagement and the laws of armed conflict, and I am tasked to strike that individual. The seriousness of it is that I am going to do this and it will affect his family. But that individual is the one that brought it on himself. He became a combatant the minute he took up arms."
This pilot, in fact this director of the Air Force Remotely Piloted Aircraft Capabilities Division, has not said that a high level operation leader of terrorists who is imminently threatening the United States is targeted. He has said that some ordinary guy who has chosen to violently resist the hostile foreign occupation of his country by shooting at the occupiers is targeted.
He has also not said anything to satisfy those who support the notion of just wars but want them conducted in compliance with the Geneva Conventions and other such legally binding limitations. This director of a U.S. drone kill program openly says that our public employees target a family for death if needed in order to blow up a foreign soldier from thousands of miles away. Every effort is made to avoid killing innocent family members, he says in the interview, but if it can't be avoided, well, the target "brought it on himself."
War is murder, and this type of war ought to look to most people like the murder that it is. But even if you accept war, this is not how ANYBODY claims it is to be legally done. This is beyond what Congressional witnesses or even Congress members would say is acceptable or legal. Yet this pilot blurts it out to the media with apparently no concern that his life will be inconvenienced by further questioning.
Enough is enough is enough. End this madness now.
Jack Gilory has written a short 2-act play called The Predator. The script is available here.
The characters include a college student, a drone pilot, a senator, and a peace activist. The drone pilot supports war. The senator supports herself. The peace activist opposes murder. And the student is almost in agreement with the peace activist. All four of them turn toward the audience at the end of the play and ask "What do you think?"
What a great way to start a discussion! The play has been performed or read at Georgetown, Syracuse, and Wittenberg Universities, among other venues. It would make a great event in YOUR town and requires no expenses, just four people who can read lines. Try it out.
Local resolutions have helped advance many issues, including war opposition, when they've been passed in large numbers. When we passed a resolution in Charlottesville, Va., last year opposing any attack on Iran, I heard from numerous cities that wanted to do the same. As far as I know, none did. I heard back from some that they'd been told it was anti-Semitic to oppose a U.S. attack on Iran. I didn't have an answer to that -- not a printable one anyway.
When Charlottesville passed a resolution against drones in February of this year, I heard from people all over the country again. Since that time, to my knowledge, one little town in Minnesota called St. Bonifacius has passed something, while dozens and dozens have tried and failed. The problem seems to be that drones can have good uses as well as bad. Of course, that's grounds for halting the lawless and reckless spread of drones until we can figure out any ways in which their good use can be compatible with our Constitutional rights. But that would make too much sense. When there's money to be made, technology to be played with, and terrorists to destroy our freedoms if we don't hurry up and destroy them first, the American way is full steam ahead. But I actually think I might have at least a partial answer this time.
There are two separable issues to be addresses in anti-drone resolutions and ordinances and laws and treaties. One is weaponization. The other is surveillance. I'm not aware of anyone yet having any difficulty getting their local officials to oppose weaponized drones. Most are unaware that some U.S. localities already have drones armed with rubber bullets and tear gas. Most consider it a crazy idea -- as they should. But it is an idea that should be addressed, because it is not science fiction; it is a dystopia that is already upon us. Getting localities in the United States to oppose the use of weaponized drones in their skies should be easy. Having thus established that our towns can address the problem of drones, we could come back and deal with the complex matter of surveillance.
The best solution on surveillance may be the one produced by the Rutherford Institute and embodied in the Charlottesville resolution. There is nothing in that resolution that prevents a drone from delivering your coffee or checking out a forest fire. I wish there were, but there actually isn't. While I'd like stronger resolutions, I think at this point the movement would benefit from passing any resolutions at all. And I think the way to make it simpler, clearer, and extremely easy would be to ask our local representatives to simply oppose weaponized drones.
Ideally, of course, I'd like to see cities and counties join the movement to ban weaponized drones from the world. Such a resolution might read:
Weaponized drones (or unmanned aerial vehicles) -- including those carrying lethal weapons such as hellfire missiles, and those carrying non-lethal weapons such as tear gas or rubber bullets -- are no more acceptable than chemical weapons or land mines. Whether these drones are controlled by pilots or act autonomously, whether they are publicly or privately owned, they can have no place in a civilized world and should be banned. The City of ________ urges the State of _________, the U.S. Congress, and the U.S. State Department to pursue state, national, and international prohibitions on the development, ownership, or use of weaponized drones.
The trouble with this, of course, is that most of your city council members approve of murdering foreigners with drones. Thus it becomes a harder measure to pass. What we want, therefore, is something that does not conflict with the resolution above but addresses itself to local, state, or U.S. skies. To ease passage most swiftly, we want local resolutions that don't commit localities to anything, but simply make recommendations to states and the federal government. However, I suspect that -- as in Charlottesville -- a statement of local policy will not be a deal breaker. Here's a version of the Charlottesville resolution stripped down to the weaponized drone issue alone (just delete the last 14 words to commit your city to nothing):
NOW, THEREFORE, LET IT BE RESOLVED, that the City Council of ________ calls on the United States Congress and the State of ________ to adopt legislation precluding the domestic use of drones equipped with anti-personnel devices, meaning any projectile, chemical, electrical, directed-energy (visible or invisible), or other device designed to harm, incapacitate, or otherwise negatively impact a human being; and pledges to abstain from similar uses with city-owned, leased, or borrowed drones.
Opponents of this resolution will be, and should be denounced for being, supporters of putting weaponized drones in our skies. Supporters can remain technology lovers. They can continue to believe every move we make should be videotaped by Big Brother. They can plow right ahead with their brilliant idea for replacing the pizza guy with a drone. But they will be taking a stand on a popular issue that has no opposition. There is no organized popular movement in your town in support of putting weaponized drones in the sky. There's not even a concerted effort by police, or even by the drone profiteers. They can make big bucks off surveillance. They can fill the skies with drones first. The weapons can largely come later. They are not prepared for us to build a movement against weaponized drones and then turn our focus toward the lesser offense of spying. And by us I mean essentially everyone. Libertarians and leftists are in agreement on this, and so is everybody else.
So, you can build public pressure. It's not hard. In Charlottesville, we brought a crowd of people to two consecutive city council meetings and dominated the public speaking period. You should watch the videos of the January 22nd and February 4th meetings here. We published a column in the newspaper making the case, including the case that it is proper for cities to speak up on national issues. We organized an event in front of City Hall on the day before the vote. We displayed a giant model drone produced by New York anti-drone activist Nick Mottern. Our little stunt produced coverage on the two television channels and in the newspaper. I asked people to commit to attending the meeting on a FaceBook page. And when I spoke in the packed meeting, I asked those in agreement to stand. Most of the room stood.
We presented a weak resolution at the first meeting, which put the issue on the agenda. We then proposed a stronger one, which one of the best city council members put into the official agenda for the second meeting. At the second meeting, the council members negotiated a compromise. You might want to try that approach, which we stumbled into unplanned.
You can also lay the groundwork. We invited Ann Wright and Medea Benjamin and Nick Mottern and Kathy Kelly and other great speakers to Charlottesville in the months leading up to this resolution effort. This was not part of a plan, but we knew that it never hurts to educate people about their government's crimes. If you sign the international petition to ban weaponized drones from the world, you'll see a list of organizations at the bottom. Those are the places to go for resources, speakers, props, reports, flyers, and books that can help you in this effort. You can also print out a mammoth list of signatures on the petition to impress your elected officials. Or you can gather signatures locally and add them.
It's time we made things nice and simple. Are we in favor of killer flying robots over our homes and schools, or are we not?
Once we've given the obvious answer, maybe we'll start asking each other whether we really think Pakistanis disagree.
The Drones Quilt Project is a way to memorialize the victims of U.S. combat drones, and to educate and inform the public.
Each square of the quilt is made by someone like you who puts their name and then the name of a civilian victim on a square of fabric. These are then sewn together to create a quilt panel that can be used in many ways: