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The Killer Drone Lovers Have Their Movie

If the recent spate of anti-drone movies and plays was making you feel warm thoughts about U.S. culture, you'll want to avoid seeing "Eye in the Sky," starring Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, and Aaron Paul. This is what "Zero Dark Thirty" was for torture lies. This is what "The Interview" was for hatred of North Korea. The Director of "Eye in the Sky," Gavin Hood, openly brags about having had military advisors on this film, just as those films had their government advisors. And it shows.

"I'll bet the military loves this film," I told Hood after a screening in Washington, D.C., on Monday. He claimed that some loved it, some liked it, both in the military and in some human rights groups that I won't name because I doubt very much Hood's implication that at least one of them didn't condemn this piece of propaganda.

Let's be clear, this film is the best quality drone film yet made and has the coolest technology in it, including drones the size and shape of birds and beetles. But it is the furthest presentation of drone use from reality. Following the film screening, the director and General Eaton (no last name, like Cher) and Patrick Tucker, a technology writer from Defense One, gave a little presentation that included flying a tiny drone in the theater. Said Tucker, as if he had proved this: "So everything you saw in this movie is very close to reality."

I asked the director roughly this: We know of actual cases where the target was not identified, where the target could have been captured, and where the target was not actually about to commit mass murder. In fact the Justice Department has redefined "imminent threat" to be virtually meaningless, and I don't know of a single case in reality that matches this fictional fantasy. Do you?

Gavin Hood hemmed and hawed but said that No, he was unaware of a single case in reality that matched what he had produced in his slick propaganda. Then it was his turn to question me: Do I oppose the whole drone program?

I replied that it is counterproductive and that every time a top official retires they point that out, that it creates more enemies than it kills. Remarkably, Hood said that he agreed entirely and that in fact this point (which showed up nowhere at all in his movie) was the very point of his movie.

Then Hood strayed back into his own fantasy, recounting as if we hadn't just seen it that in the film one politician comments that it might be better politically to allow foreign terrorists to kill lots of people than for the politician's own government to be exposed as having killed one person.

Well, yes, this proves that in a fantastic scenario that hasn't ever happened a fictional politician could cynically discard human lives. It proves nothing else. But it creates the sick pretense that murdering is wise and not murdering is a form of propaganda. And, for the record, the "one person" was actually one unknown innocent plus several other people understood to be complicit in planning mass murder.

The cherry on top of this movie's feat of manipulation is Hood's making one of the drone victims white. Thus the drone program is not racist, is not killing people who haven't been identified, is not killing people who could have been captured, and is only killing people who are literally in the act of arming themselves to kills lots of other people momentarily.

The killer drone has its movie and it also has its argument. This piece of fiction is what the ticking time bomb nonsense is for torture. This is what every reincarnation of Hitler is for war as a whole. This is Obama's dream eulogy when the first drone warrior king is finally laid to rest.

All sins have been absolved.

Relax. Get some popcorn.

Or wake up, get outraged and join the next protest at Creech Air Base. Please. We're better than this.

One-Hour Special: Mary Anne Grady Flores from Jail on Why She Protested Killer Drones

  https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/one-hour-special-mary-anne-grady-flores-from-jail-on-why-she-protested-killer-drones

Mary Anne Grady Flores speaks in this 1-hour special from inside the jail near Syracuse, N.Y., where she has been imprisoned for 6 months for protesting drone murders at Hancock Air Base.

Total run time: 56:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.

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Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
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ACTIVISTS ARRESTED FOR ENTERING DRONE BASE WITH LOAF OF BREAD

Buddy Bell     Voices for Creative Nonviolence        773-540-7657  buddy.vcnv@gmail.com
Joy First          WI Coalition to Ground the Drones   608-239-4327  joyfirst5@gmail.com

Camp Douglas, WI --- On February 23rd, two peace activists with Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Brian Terrell and Kathy Kelly, were arrested when they attempted to deliver a loaf of bread and a letter to drone operators at Volk Field, an Air National Guard Base in Wisconsin, which trains pilots to operate Shadow Drones over other countries. Voices activists have lived alongside ordinary people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Gaza. People who can’t flee from drone surveillance and attacks have good reason to fear people from the U.S., but instead they have broken bread with Kelly and Terrell and have welcomed opportunities for deepened mutual understanding. Kelly and Terrell carried the loaf of bread to signify the worth of relying on words rather than weapons.

Before entering the base property, Kathy Kelly said: “Living alongside ordinary people who can't escape drone surveillance in places like Iraq, Gaza and Afghanistan and knowing that a drone operator could be ordered to assassinate civilians who have nowhere to turn and nowhere to hide affected my conscience. I wanted to ask drone operators in Volk Field whether they had been asked to target any people for possible assassination that day.  I want to ask how the base training manual teaches people to distinguish between civilians and armed combatants. If an operator wants to quit, what does the commander of Volk Field do?”

Brian Terrell also noted: “Wisconsin is where I was born and raised and so I feel that coming to Volk Field is a responsibility that I owe in gratitude to my home state. The premise that drones will limit the parameters of war and make for fewer civilian casualties has proven false. General Stanley McChrystal, who led troops in Afghanistan from June 2009 to June 2010, warned that the drone ‘lowers the threshold for taking operations because it feels easy, there's a danger in that.’ And yet the evolution of drones in the militaries of many countries around the globe has been anything but cautious. Instead there is a reckless proliferation of this deadly technology.”

Terrell and Kelly will be arraigned on February 24th, after 2:30 p.m., at the Juneau County Justice Center, 200 Oak St., in Mauston, WI. Also on February 25th, at 9:00 a.m., Mary Beth Schlagheck, will be tried for having crossed the line at Volk Field in August of 2015.  Hers is the last of seven trials stemming from nonviolent civil resistance actions at Volk Field that were undertaken as the culmination of the “Let It Shine” walk from Madison to Volk Field. The witness of the activists who have protested at Volk Field, and who have testified so eloquently in court, inspired Brian’s and Kathy’s action.

Drones and Children

Phil Runkel, Dorothy Day Archivist and Activist, Found Guilty of Trespassing in Wisconsin

By Joy First

On Friday February 19 Phil Runkel was found guilty of trespassing in Juneau County, WI by Judge Paul Curran after a 22 minute trial.  Phil had joined nine other activists in attempting to walk onto the Volk Field Air National Guard base and meet with the commander to share our concerns about the training of drone pilots that takes place there.

District Attorney Mike Solovey followed his standard procedure of calling Sheriff Brent Oleson and Deputy Thomas Mueller to the stand and identifying Phil as one of the people who walked onto the base on August 25, 2015 and refused to leave.

Phil cross-examined Sheriff Oleson asking him about the purpose of the space between the gates and guard house.  Oleson responded that the space was used so that cars waiting to enter the base didn’t back up onto the county highway.  Phil asked when it was legal to be in that area, and Oleson responded that it was when you are given permission.  But that isn’t true.  Cars drive through the gates and about a block to the guard house and wait to talk to the guard without getting permission to wait in that space.

Phil asked Oleson if we were asked why we were there  so the base officials could determine if we were there for a valid reason, and the sheriff responded that he knew we weren’t there for a valid reason.

The state rested their case and Phil told the judge he would like to be sworn in to testify and then give a brief closing statement.

Testimony                                                                          

Your Honor:
I am employed by Marquette University, where it has been my privilege to have served since 1977 as archivist for the papers of sainthood candidate Dorothy Day. She has often been lauded for her performance of the works of mercy—most recently by Pope Francis--but scorned for her equally steadfast opposition to the works of war. This led to her arrest and imprisonment on three separate occasions for failure to take cover during civil defense drills in the 1950s. I am one of many who have been inspired by her example to seek peace and pursue it.

I respectfully plead not guilty to this charge. Following World War II the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg declared that “Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience imposed by the individual State.” (Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal, vol. I, Nürnberg 1947, page 223).This was one of the Nuremberg Principles adopted by the International Law Commission of the United Nations in 1950 to provide guidelines for determining what constitutes a war crime.  These

principles are arguably part of customary international law and part of domestic law in the United States under Article VI, paragraph 2 of the US Constitution  (175 U.S.677, 700) (1900).

Former US attorney general Ramsey Clark testified under oath, at a trial of drone protesters in Dewitt, NY, that in his legal opinion everyone is obligated under the law to try to stop their government from committing war crimes, crimes against peace and crimes against humanity
(http://www.arlingtonwestsantamonica.org/docs/Testimony_of_Elliott_Adams.pdf).

I acted out of a conviction that the use of drones for extrajudicial, targeted killing constitutes such a war crime, and I sought to apprise base commander Romuald of this fact. I intended to uphold international law. (As Ms. First noted at her trial last week, Judge Robert Jokl of Dewitt, New York, acquitted five resisters for their action at the Hancock drone base because he was persuaded that they had the same intention.)

Article 6(b) of the Nuremberg Charter defines War Crimes--violations of the laws or customs of war-- to include, among other things, murder or ill treatment of civilian population of or in occupied territory. Weaponized drones, assisted by reconnaissance and surveillance drones piloted from bases such as Volk Field, have killed between 2,494-3,994 persons in Pakistan alone since 2004. These include between 423 and 965 civilians and 172-207 children. Another 1,158-1,738 have been injured. This is data compiled by the award-winning Bureau of Investigative Journalism, based in London (https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/category/projects/drones/drones-graphs/).

According to the legal scholar
Matthew Lippman (Nuremberg and American Justice, 5 Notre Dame J.L. Ethics & Pub. Pol'y 951 (1991). Available at: http://scholarship.law.nd.edu/ndjlepp/vol5/iss4/4)    
citizens have “the legal privilege under international law to act in a non-violent proportionate fashion to halt the commission of war crimes. “  He contends that “Nuremberg… serves both as a sword which can be used to prosecute war criminals, and as a shield for those who are compelled to engage in conscientious acts of moral protest against illegal wars and methods of warfare.”

Lippman counters the common admonition for protesters to confine themselves to legally-sanctioned means of dissent, such as lobbying congresspeople. He cites Judge Myron Bright, of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. Dissenting in Kabat, Judge Bright stated that: “We must recognize that civil disobedience in various forms, used without violent acts against others, is engrained in our society and the moral correctness of political protesters' views has on occasion served to change and better our society.”

Examples he gave included the Boston Tea Party, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the more recent disobedience of “Jim Crow" laws, such as the lunch-counter sit-ins. Kabat, 797 F.2d at 601 United States v. Kabat, 797 F.2d 580 (8th Cir. 1986).

To Professor Lippman, “Today's obscenity may be tomorrow's lyric.”

I’ll conclude, then, with these words from a song many of us know: “Let there be peace on earth. And let it begin with me.”

Note that Phil was stopped in the fifth paragraph, giving statistics on the number of people killed by drones, when DA Solovey objected citing relevance and Curran sustained the objection.  Phil was not able to complete his statement, but it is included in this report because he provided valuable information that could be useful in future cases.

Curran asked Phil what his testimony has to do with trespassing and Phil began to talk about why he walked onto the base when the DA interrupted and said there is nothing about intent in the statute.  As Phil persisted in trying to explain his actions to the judge, Curran became increasingly agitated and angry.  He said he didn’t need to be lectured by Phil about Nuremberg.

Phil tried to explain he was acting under the belief that he was obliged to enter the base, and that we are compelled to engage in resistance to illegal warfare.  Again, Curran made his same old argument that his court is not going to tell Obama that what he is doing is illegal.  That continues to be a false argument that the judge makes in many of our trials.

Phil was very persistent in trying to get his point across and continued to argue his case, but the judge could not hear anything he was saying.

Finally the judge said guilty and $232 fine.  Phil said he wanted to give a closing statement.  Curran said it was too late, it was over, and got up and quickly left the courtroom.  I am concerned about a judge who refuses to allow a closing statement.  Is that legal?

This is the closing statement Phil would have liked to present.
I stand with my co-defendants in the conviction that silence in the face of the injustice of the immoral, illegal and counterproductive drone warfare being carried out by our government makes us complicit in these crimes.  And I fully endorse and support their testimonies before this court. 

In his book The New Crusade: America’s War on Terrorism, Rahul Mahajan wrote, “If terrorism is to be given an unbiased definition, it must involve the killing of noncombatants for political purposes, no matter who does it or what noble goals they proclaim.” I ask your honor to consider which poses the real threat to peace and right order—the actions of groups such as ours, or those of the CIA and other agencies responsible for our drones policy.

Again, a very disappointing outcome, but Phil reminds us of the importance of what we are doing and why we must continue as he states, “I was disappointed, of course, that Judge Curran didn’t allow me to finish my testimony or make a closing statement. But such rulings won’t deter
us from continuing to speak our truth to the powers that be.”

Mary Beth’s will be the final trial on February 25 at 9:00 am at the Juneau County “Justice” Center, 200 Oak. St. Mauston, WI.  Join us there.

Joy First, Grandmother Activist, Found Guilty of Trespassing in Juneau County, WI

By Joy First

On February 9, 2016 Judge Paul Curran found me guilty of trespass for walking onto the Air National Guard Base at Volk Field in Wisconsin on August 26, 2015.  I joined eight others who wanted to deliver a message to Base Commander Colonel David Romuald, demanding that he immediately end the program of training pilots to operate the Shadow Drone at Volk Field.  Shadow drones are used overseas for reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition, and so contribute to the deaths of thousands of innocents through U.S drone warfare.  This action came at the end of the 8-day 90-mile walk organized by Voices for Creative Nonviolence from Madison to Volk Field.

The trial began as predicted with DA Solovey calling Juneau County Deputy Sheriff Thomas Mueller who established that I was at Volk Field on August 26 and that I did cross onto the base after being told not to. 

The following are the questions that I asked the deputy under cross examination.

What is the purpose of the area between the gates and the guardhouse?

Response: It is so cars have a place to line up while waiting to talk to someone in the guardhouse without blocking the county road.

When is it legal to be there?

Response: When you are a member of the public waiting to talk to someone in the guardhouse.

Did you ask any of us why we were there so you would know if we were there for a valid reason, and were therefore authorized to be there?

Response: No I didn’t.

Why weren’t we allowed to walk to the guardhouse and state our business?

Response: The sheriff said we should arrest you when you stepped onto the base.

Why does a military base that is supposed to be protecting us need to have the Sheriff protect them from nonviolent dissenters?

Response: I don’t know.

If we are arrested at Camp McCoy the base security makes the arrest.  Why does the county take this on at Volk Field?

Response: I don’t know.

I said I had no further questions.  I then asked the DA if the Sheriff was expected today as he had testified at the other trials.  The DA said he was not.  I was disappointed to hear that because the sheriff likely would have been able to answer my questions.  It seems clear we are being discriminated against by not being allowed to go to the guardhouse when that is what anyone else is able to do, but I was not a good enough examiner to bring this out with the witness that was there.

The defense rested and I told the judge I would like to give a brief statement as testimony, a closing statement, and then if I was found guilty I wanted to give a sentencing statement.  The judge said that was fine, and I was sworn in and took the stand. 

Here is my testimony from the stand.

As each of those who came before me said, silence is complicity and so I must speak out.

I am testifying that I have a First amendment right to petition my government for a redress of grievances and that was what I was doing at Volk Field on August 26, 2015.

I am also testifying that I have an obligation following Nuremberg to speak out when I see that my government is doing something illegal.

I was not there on August 25 in order to enter the base without permission, but to get to the guard house to request a meeting with the base commander to talk about US drone warfare.  I was not there because I wanted to get arrested.

Defendants have not been permitted to present evidence as to their intent.  For example, Ms.  Ellwanger’s statement was completely stricken from the record and Mr. Timmerman was not allowed to talk about intent. 

I then cited information that we had used to appeal a previous case and said:

However, according to previous court cases, the “mere omission of any mention of intent will not be construed as eliminating that element from the crimes denounced.”   The Supreme Court held that a statue’s “silence” on the mens rea element “does not necessarily suggest that Congress intended to dispense with a conventional mens rea element.”    The Staples Court importantly added that “some indication of Congressional intent, express or implied, is required to dispense with mens rea as an element of a crime.” 

I handed the judge the complete text, which included the court cases cited and continued:

And our intention for being there is an important element in this case.  We were not violent.  We meant no harm, rather we were there to try to prevent harm to others and to uphold the law.

When the police asked us to leave I believed it was my right and my duty to remain.

As I walked back to the defense table the DA asked if my complete statement could be stricken from the record.  The judge overruled this request, stating that I included some legal arguments in my statement.

The judge then said that I was found guilty and started saying I would have to pay the $232 fine when he remembered that I wanted to make a closing statement.  He asked if I still wanted to make a closing statement and I said that I wasn’t sure if it was relevant since he already pronounced me guilty.

The judge replied that he had sat through so many of these cases and heard us talk about our personal beliefs and convictions about drones and he had heard it all.  He said if that was what I was going to talk about he didn’t want to hear it, but that if I had something else to say he would listen and if necessary vacate the sentence. 

So I read the following as my closing statement:

I am here before you today because I cannot and will not remain silent as our government continues to engage in drone warfare which is illegal and immoral.  I did not go to Volk Field on August 25, 2015 to break the law; rather I was there to uphold the law.  This is not a simple trespassing case.

Testimony was given that I, as a committed and concerned U.S. citizen, was there exercising my First Amendment rights, and following my obligations under Nuremberg.  I went to Volk Field not with the intention of getting arrested, but rather to try to meet with the base commander, who has never answered a letter from us.

I was not there to engage in unlawful activities.  I am a person of nonviolence, involved in Constitutionally-protected speech.  My intent was to seek to influence the commander, wake him up and affect his conscience, hardly an offense that I should have been arrested for.

You have heard testimony that when the police told me I had to leave, it was my right and my duty to refuse that order.  I acted in a nonviolent manner, and I had the right and responsibility to remain and continue my request for a meeting.

You have heard that I was acting under the First Amendment which gives us the right to peaceably assemble, speak out, and petition our government for a redress of long-standing grievances. 

You have heard that I was following my citizen obligations under Nuremberg and other international law. 

According to the Nuremberg Principles, if we remain silent while our government is engaged in illegal and immoral activities, then we are complicit, we are equally guilty of being in violation of international law and of going against our most dearly held values.  It is our responsibility as citizens, as taxpayers, as voters, as prosecutors, as judges to speak out.  Robert Jackson, the United States judge at the Nuremberg trials said, “The very essence of the Nuremberg Charter is that individuals have international duties which transcend national obligations of obedience imposed by the individual state.”

I will not, indeed, I cannot, be complicit when our government has gone so astray.  It is my responsibility as a citizen of this great country to call attention to the unjust actions of our government and demand that they stop now.  I believe that I can make a difference, that I have made a difference, and you can too.  Please, look into your heart and see that I was doing what I was called to do, and that I did so peacefully, and now you have the opportunity to find me not guilty of trespass.

You have said that you have no authority over our foreign policy, but if a judge in Juneau County finds me innocent, it would make a difference and people would pay attention.

At the Hancock AFB  in New York resisters were acquitted because the judge said they intended to uphold the law, not break it.  We were at Volk Field on August 25 to uphold the law.

I ask that you please find me not guilty as charged and join me in saying that we need to stop arresting, detaining, and prosecuting nonviolent people of good will and conscience who take action for peace and justice. 

Thank you for your time and attention to this case.

I finished and Judge Curran again pronounced me guilty.  He said that what I was asking him to do was very dangerous.  He cannot let me off because he likes me or agrees with me.  That would set a very dangerous precedent.  He can’t let his personal beliefs affect his rulings as he picks and chooses which laws to obey and which not to obey.  He is bound and sworn to follow the law.

The trial lasted 18 minutes.  Curran left the courtroom without giving me a chance to give a sentencing statement as I had requested.  Again, he is sick of us and does what he can to shut us down.  His argument at the end makes no sense.  He IS picking and choosing which laws to obey when finds us guilty.  He is ignoring the constitutional law of our First Amendment rights.  He is ignoring international law, including Nuremberg, the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions – all of which make U.S. drone warfare illegal. 

Afterwards, I realized that I should have added something to my closing.  I should have pointed out that Deputy Mueller said that members of the public are allowed to pass through the gate and proceed to the guardhouse to request permission to enter the base.  If that is the case, why were we arrested at the gate without being asked what our business was at the base?  Why are we not being given the same rights as other members of the public?

As so many of my activist friends say, “You do not find justice in the courtroom.”  There was no justice for me today, but more importantly, there is certainly no justice for the thousands of people whose lives have been destroyed because of U.S. drone warfare.  We continue with two more trials for our Volk Field action – Phil on February 19 and Mary Beth on February 25.

CATHOLIC WORKER, PEACE ACTIVIST DON TIMMERMAN FOUND GUILTY IN JUNEAU COUNTY, WI

By Joy First

In another farcical trial for the 14 activists arrested at Volk Field Air National Guard Base in Wisconsin, Don Timmerman was found guilty of trespass in a Juneau County trial presided over by Judge Curran on February 1.  Apparently Judge Curran, who said he did not want to consolidate our trials because it could be prejudicial to us, has fine-tuned his skills in short-circuiting any defense we might provide and the whole trial lasted about eleven minutes.

As predicted, DA Solevey had Juneau County Sheriff Brent Oleson and Deputy Sheriff Thomas  Mueller take the stand and establish that Don was at Volk Field on August 25 and that he crossed onto the base after he was told not to by the Sheriff.

Under cross-examination Don asked Oleson if he knew why we were there.  The DA objected as irrelevant and the judge sustained the objection.  Don asked Mueller if he was aware that the base property was purchased by the taxpayers.  Don was going to make the point that we had the right to be on the property, but this question was also objected to and the objection was sustained.

Don took the stand and said he wanted to talk about why we were there. Curran said it was irrelevant to the charge – that intent is not an element of the trespass charge – and therefore he would not allow this testimony.  The judge complained that he has heard this information repeatedly over the last couple of years and that moral convictions are not relevant to the case.

Don said that if he was not allowed to talk about why he was there, he didn’t have anything else he wanted to say.

The judge quickly told Don he was guilty of trespass and would be fined $232, and that it would be attached to his income tax refund if he didn’t pay it.  Again, a defendant was tried and convicted without being allowed to provide a defense.

Don asked Curran if he could do community service or jail time and the judge said no.  The judges made the same empty argument that it would take too  much time to administer community service with a number of additional hearings being required.  This is simply not true.  We have models for community service in both Milwaukee and Madison where it is a matter of filling out a form that would be signed by a local minister and then turned into the court.

Don asked Curran if he could say one more thing and the judge said he would allow it.  Don said, “I cannot allow killing of innocent people in my name.  This needs to be stated over and over.  We are always going to be protesting killings.”  And with that the judge stood up and quickly left the courtroom.

Don was hoping to read the following statement on Nuremberg from Nuremberg and American Justice during his testimony, but was not allowed:

Allegiance to the nation-state must be replaced by a loyalty to the human community and by a respect for international law.  It is not the rebel who threatens civilization, but the compliant conformist who mechanically suppresses his moral qualms when confronted with the dictates of authority.  The famous therapist R.D. Laing reminds us that the perfectly adjusted bomber pilot poses a greater threat to the survival of the human species than does the hospitalized schizophrenic.  Laing goes on to note that so-called normal individuals have been responsible for the unnecessary death of perhaps one hundred million of their fellow human beings in the twentieth century.

And so we are reminded of the importance of continuing our work.  It might seem disheartening to witness the outrage and absurdity of the United States criminal justice system, but as I was driving to court today I was thinking of the words that Art Laffin always shares, “Keep your eyes on the prize.”  Whether we are found guilty or not in this sham of a court does not really matter in the big world picture.  What we need to stay focused on, and what really matters, is the thousands and thousands of innocent children, women, and men who are being killed by U.S. drones.  Continuing our message to stop the killing is what is important.  And Don told the judge, “We will be back.”

We have three trials remaining:

Joy - February 9 at 10:00 am

Phil - February 19 at 10:0 am

Mary Beth - February 25 at 9:00 am

12 Arrested Thursday for Opposing Drone Murders


Jerry Berrigan Memorial Drone Blockade

Hancock Air Drone Base, Jan. 28 – Twelve Activists Arrested


On Thursday morning, January 28, thirty life sized cutouts of Syracuse peacemaker Jerry Berrigan blockaded the main entrance of Hancock Air National Guard Base outside Syracuse, NY. The cutouts were accompanied by twelve nonviolent drone resisters, who were arrested after blockading for an hour and a half. See video (of the blockade and arrests).

Jerry Berrigan, who died on July 26, 2015 at the age of 95, dedicated his entire life – like his brothers Dan and Phil – to Jesus’ command to love one another, Jerry came to the base on a bi-weekly basis whenever he was able, in his words, “to remind the base commander of our government’s pledge under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, a treaty to safeguard non-combatant’s well-being in any warzone in which U.S. forces are engaged in combat.”  And further, “to register horror and indignation at reports of bombing missions by drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan which resulted in the deaths of many innocent civilians; men, women and children.”

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern was among those standing with the Memorial in the roadway. Others were Beth Adams, Bev Rice, Bill Ofenloch, Brian Hynes, Charley Bowman, Ed Kinane, James Ricks, Joan Pleune, Joan Wages, Pete Perry and Steve Baggarly.

They were all charged with one misdemeanor and two violations, with the exception of Bev Rice and Joan Pleune, who were both charged with an additional misdemeanor (for allegedly violating an order of protection taken out by the base commander).

In 2008 Jerry was asked if there was anything he would change in his life. Jerry replied, “I would have resisted more often and been arrested more often.” The activists brought Jerry’s image to the gates to remember that this is where he would be, speaking out and putting his body on the line to say a clear “NO” to killing.

The group also remembered Mary Anne Grady Flores, who is serving a six-month sentence for violating an order of protection, taken out by the colonel at Hancock Air Base. Clearly, courts in NYS believe that a colonel at this highly armed base needs protection from citizens calling attention to the drone killings.

More and more evidence mounts regarding the illegality of U.S. drone policies, from the “Drone Papers” published by The Intercept, to the four drone pilots who have come forward to speak out about what this policy is doing. The activists tried to deliver a letter addressed to the Hancock  military personnel stating that “Under the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice you must not be complicit in these crimes against peace, crimes against humanity and war crimes. In fact, you are required to disobey unlawful orders from a superior.”

Hancock Air Base deploys hunter/killer Reaper drones 24/7 over Afghanistan and probably elsewhere. These weaponized robotic drones are instruments of terror. They perpetrate extrajudicial killings, violate due process, violate national sovereignty, and kill non-combatants and civilians.

For more information, see The Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, www.upstatedroneaction.org

Below are the letter to the Hancock military personnel and the drone resisters’ statement.

HANCOCK REAPER DRONE WORKERS:
HONOR YOUR OATH

To the men and women of the 174th Attack Wing of the NYS National Guard:

Each of you, when you joined the United States Armed Forces raised your right hand and solemnly swore to uphold the United States Constitution. Article VI of that Constitution states:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

This clause is known as the Supremacy Clause. The Supremacy Clause declares that when the U.S. ratifies international treaties, those treaties become the “supreme law of the land.” This means they trump all local and federal law – including the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice.

One such treaty is the United Nations Charter. Signed by the U.S. president in 1945 and ratified by a Senate vote of 89 to two, that Charter remains in effect today.

The Charter’s Preamble states that its purpose is to “save future generations from the scourge of war.” It further states, “all nations shall refrain from the use of force against another nation.”

This U.N. Treaty applies to all levels – federal, state, and local – of the three branches of our government – Executive, Legislative, and Judicial.  The personnel of all these entities must act consistent with U.S. treaties and obey the U.S. Constitution, including Article VI.                            
Under the U.N. Charter and under long-established international law, anyone –
civilian, military, government official or judge – who knowingly participates in or supports illegal threat or use of force against another nation or its people is committing a war crime.

Men and women on duty at Hancock AFB: Four of your colleagues, veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, formerly operating weaponized drones at other U.S. bases, have – courageously – gone public about drone war crimes they acknowledge committing.

The 174th Attack Wing of the NY Air National Guard deploys hunter/killer Reaper drones 24/7 over Afghanistan and probably elsewhere. These weaponized robotic drones are instruments of terror. They perpetrate extrajudicial killings, violate due process, violate national sovereignty, and kill non-combatants and civilians. They bring dishonor on the United States and upon its armed services.

Under the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice you must not be complicit in these crimes against peace, crimes against humanity and war crimes. In fact, you are required to disobey unlawful orders from a superior.

Those protesting here today are exercising our First Amendment right to petition our government for a redress of grievances (the vile use of our tax money). We urge you to do the honorable thing. We urge you to heed your conscience.

From the Upstate Drone Action Coalition: Ground the Drones and End the Wars,  28 January 2016
 

*****

We come to the gates of Hancock Drone Base today to install a memorial of Jerry Berrigan.

Jerry Berrigan, who died on July 26, 2015 at the age of 95, was a husband, a father, a brother, a teacher and someone who – like his brothers Dan and Phil – dedicated his entire life to Jesus’ command to love one another. Jerry came to the base on a bi-weekly basis whenever he was able, in Jerry’s words, “to remind the base commander of our government’s pledge under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, a treaty to safeguard non-combatant’s well-being in any warzone in which U.S. forces are engaged in combat.”  And further, “to register horror and indignation at reports of bombing missions by drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan which resulted in the deaths of many innocent civilians; men, women and children.”

As more and more evidence mounts regarding the illegality of U.S. drone policies, from the “Drone Papers” published by The Intercept, to the four drone pilots who have come forward to speak out about what this policy is doing, we bring Jerry’s image here to the gates to remember that this is where he would be, speaking out and putting his body on the line to say a clear “NO” to killing.  Because Jerry Berrigan knew that it matters where we put our bodies.

In 2008 Jerry was asked by The Syracuse Post Standard if there was anything he would change in his life. Jerry replied, “I would have resisted more often and been arrested more often.” In our memorial today we use an image of Jerry from The Syracuse Post Standard where he is being arrested for opposing the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

As we are installing this Jerry Berrigan Memorial Drone Blockade, we also remember Mary Anne Grady Flores who is serving a six month sentence here in the Onondaga County jail because the courts in this county believe that the colonel at this highly armed base needs protection from citizens calling attention to the drone killings. We challenge the courts to apply the law as it was meant to be applied; to protect victims not victimizers.  

Syracuse has a great history of men named Jerry and resistance to injustice. We call to mind “The Jerry Rescue” memorial that stands across the street from The Federal Court house where Syracusans in 1851 literally got in the way of the illegal and immoral Fugitive Slave law and the officials who tried take a man named Jerry back to enslavement in the South. They opened the prison gates for him to go to freedom. Our intent for this memorial today in honor of Jerry Berrigan, is to get in the way of the illegal and immoral use of killer drones. And to stand in solidarity with all those resisting other injustice – from Black Lives Matter to those putting their bodies to halt climate change.

Thank you Jerry Berrigan for your life and example. Your Spirit lives on!

In peace,
 
Beth Adams (Leverett, MA), Bev Rice (Manhattan), Bill Ofenloch (NYC), Brian Hynes (Bronx), Charley Bowman (Buffalo), Ed Kinane (Syracuse, NY), James Ricks (Ithaca), Joan Pleune (Brooklyn), Joan Wages (Roanoke, VA), Pete Perry (Syracuse, NY), Ray McGovern (Arlington, VA), Steve Baggarly (VA)

We come to the gates of Hancock Drone Base today to install a memorial of Jerry Berrigan.

UPDATE: 12 arrested today.



Jerry Berrigan, who died on July 26, 2015 at the age of 95, was a husband, a father, a brother, a teacher and someone who – like his brothers Dan and Phil – dedicated his entire life to Jesus’ command to love one another. Jerry came to the base on a bi-weekly basis whenever he was able, in Jerry’s words, “to remind the base commander of our government’s pledge under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, a treaty to safeguard non-combatant’s well-being in any warzone in which U.S. forces are engaged in combat.” And further, “to register horror and indignation at reports of bombing missions by drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan which resulted in the deaths of many innocent civilians; men, women and children.”

As more and more evidence mounts regarding the illegality of U.S. drone policies, from the “Drone Papers” published by The Intercept, to the four drone pilots who have come forward to speak out about what this policy is doing, we bring Jerry’s image here to the gates to remember that this is where he would be, speaking out and putting his body on the line to say a clear “NO” to killing. Because Jerry Berrigan knew that it matters where we put our bodies.

In 2008 Jerry was asked by The Syracuse Post Standard if there was anything he would change in his life. Jerry replied, “I would have resisted more often and been arrested more often.” In our memorial today we use an image of Jerry from The Syracuse Post Standard where he is being arrested for opposing the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

As we are installing this Jerry Berrigan Memorial Drone Blockade, we also remember Mary Anne Grady Flores who is serving a six month sentence here in the Onondaga County jail because the courts in this county believe that the colonel at this highly armed base needs protection from citizens calling attention to the drone killings. We challenge the courts to apply the law as it was meant to be applied; to protect victims not victimizers.

Syracuse has a great history of men named Jerry and resistance to injustice. We call to mind “The Jerry Rescue” memorial that stands across the street from The Federal Court house where Syracusans in 1851 literally got in the way of the illegal and immoral Fugitive Slave law and the officials who tried take a man named Jerry back to enslavement in the South. They opened the prison gates for him to go to freedom. Our intent for this memorial today in honor of Jerry Berrigan, is to get in the way of the illegal and immoral use of killer drones. And to stand in solidarity with all those resisting other injustice – from Black Lives Matter to those putting their bodies to halt climate change.

Thank you Jerry Berrigan for your life and example. Your Spirit lives on!

In peace,

Beth Adams (Leverett, MA), Bev Rice (Manhattan), Bill Ofenloch (NYC), Brian Hynes (Bronx), Charley Bowman (Buffalo), Ed Kinane (Syracuse, NY), James Ricks (Ithaca), Joan Pleune (Brooklyn), Joan Wages (Roanoke, VA), Pete Perry (Syracuse, NY), Ray McGovern (Arlington, VA), Steve Baggarly (VA)

Grandmother and Long-time activist Joyce Ellwanger Guilty of Trespass in Wisconsin

By Joy First

Joyce Ellwanger was found guilty of trespassing by Judge Paul Curran in Juneau County court on Friday January 22, 2016.  Though Curran never formerly pronounced a verdict saying Joyce was guilty, he said she trespassed and he imposed a sentence in another heavy-handed trial for the nine activists who were arrested at Volk Field in August 2015.

Refusing our request to consolidate the cases, Judge Curran has already found Jim Murphy and Bonnie Block to be guilty.  Jim spent five days in jail, and Bonnie asked for community service, but Curran refused and said that if she didn’t pay the fine it would be attached to her income tax.  Four trials are remaining and coming up in February.

The DA, Michael Solvey, continued his familiar defense in Joyce’s trial.  He called the county sheriff and a deputy sheriff to take the stand, establishing Joyce’s identity and that she did indeed cross onto the base.

URGENT - MARY ANNE GRADY FLORES EDITION – DRONE ORGANIZERS BULLETIN - JANUARY 2016

DRONE WAR OPPONENT MARY ANNE GRADY FLORES HAS BEGUN SERVING SIX MONTHS IN JAIL
By Nick Mottern, KnowDrones

As many of you know Mary Anne Grady Flores, 59, grandmother of three, a caterer, with responsibility with her other family members for caring from her critically ill mother, began serving a six-month jail sentence on Tuesday night, January 19, 2016 in connection with a drone protest at the Hancock Air National Guard drone control center hear Syracuse, NY.
 

Retired Army Colonel Ann Wright, who has also been arrested at Hancock, says: “All the drone trials are bogus, and Mary Anne’s charges, trial and sentencing were particularly egregious. (A statement from Colonel Wright appears below.)
 

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO SUPPORT MARY ANNE GRADY FLORES
 

1. Speaking on Thursday, January 21 from jail, Mary Anne said that the #1 thing she would like to be done in support is for people to organize local anti-drone war teach-ins or other events. She would like the events to include identifying the similarities between drone killing and killings by police in terms of lack of due process and accountability. See Mary Anne’s statement below.
 

2. Send money to support Mary Anne and the anti-drone war movement in Upstate New York, for example in paying legal fees. Please make out your check to:

Ithaca Catholic Workers, write Mary Anne Grady Flores in the memo line, and send the check to:

Ithaca Catholic Workers
514 N. Plain Street
Ithaca, NY 14850


3.  Send Mary Anne a letter, addressed to:

Mary Anne Grady Flores – Inmate #12001966
Jamesville Correctional Facility
PO Box 143
Jamesville, NY 13078


Here is the report from the Syracuse Post Standard on Mary Anne’s surrendering at court for imprisonment, followed by her statement immediately before her imprisonment.

http://www.syracuse.com/crime/index.ssf/2016/01/dewitt_drone_protester.html - incart_river_index
 

Mary Anne’s statement: 

https://youtu.be/G_r-7wiBkg4
 

and that of her attorney, Lance Salisbury:

https://youtu.be/-_D_LbBodYE
 

Also statements by Mary Anne’s sister, Ellen Grady

https://youtu.be/vgX9x2-MQJk
 

and Carol Baum of the Syracuse Peace Council

https://youtu.be/r_engGBmYbI
 

Mary Anne’s imprisonment has received wide press coverage including:
 

http://www.democracynow.org/2016/1/19/photographing_drone_war_protest_lands_peace

and

http://billmoyers.com/story/a-drone-protestor-heads-to-jail/

and

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/mary-anne-grady-flores-drones_us_569e78a1e4b00f3e9863073d?utm_hp_ref=politics
 

 

Colonel Ann Wright's Statement 1-19-16
 

As Grandmother Mary Ann Grady Flores is taken to jail today for violating an “Order of Protection” requested by the Commander of the U.S. National Guard Hancock Drone base, Syracuse, NY, I, as a retired U.S. Army Colonel with 29 years in the US military find it quite embarrassing and ludicrous that a U.S. military commander decided that his personal security so threatened by peaceful, non-violent protesters of the drone policies of the United States that he applied for an “Order of Protection” from the courts—and that the courts issued the “Order” without any evidence that any protester had ever even seen the Commander, much less constituted a threat to him. 
 

I would have expected a U.S. military commander to have had the courage to meet with the group of concerned citizens rather than obtaining a cowardly “Order of Protection.” Had I been the commander, I certainly would have met with the citizens and would never have contemplated getting an "Order of Protection.
 

I have just returned from South Korea and Okinawa where citizen protesters daily block gates to military bases where highly contentious runways and ports are being built.  Each day police remove non-violent protesters from the gates, but they have never been prohibited from exercising their rights to protest, a right that is under siege by the military and the courts in Syracuse, New York.
 

As further evidence of how contorted the law enforcement and judicial process in the U.S. is about protests, while armed, white militia hold a federal wildlife reserve in Oregon in protest of the government having too much land and are not even arrested, Mary Ann Grady Flores, a peaceful grandmother who stepped on a double line and therefore violated an “Order of Protection” is going to jail for six months.
 

The actions by the U.S. military at Hancock drone base and the town courts of DeWitt, New York are blatant measures taken unconstitutionally to silence dissent against the assassin drone weapons policy and intimidate protesters.  They both should be ashamed. 

 

Ann Wright

US Army Colonel (retired)

 

In solidarity,
Nick

Grandma Drone Protester Remanded to Jail for 6 Months

Mary Anne Grady Flores to be taken into custody Tuesday, January 19

Ithaca, NY.  On January 12, the National Day of Action to Stop Killer Drones, grandmother and drone resister Mary Anne Grady Flores learned that she is to go back to jail for six months starting Tuesday, January 19. She is to report to the Dewitt Town Court (5400 Butternut Drive, East Syracuse, NY) at 5pm to be remanded to Jamesville Correctional Facility, East Syracuse NY.

Mary Anne had been out on appeal of a lower court convicting her of violating an order of protection. It had been given on behalf of Col. Evans of the Hancock Air National Guard Base 174th Attack Wing (in Syracuse, NY), to “protect” him from nonviolent anti-drone activists. She had been charged with violating the order while taking pictures of eight Catholics protesting the US drone assassination program at Hancock on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013.  Onondaga County Court Judge Miller upheld the lower court conviction. Of note is that all eight Catholic drone resisters were acquitted because they went to uphold law, not break it.

Orders of protection, typically given in domestic violence situations, have been used by the Court and the Base in an attempt to deter protest and suppress free speech. Judge Miller also upheld a lower court ruling on the Hancock 17, seventeen nonviolent drone resisters given orders of protection, jail time, and fines.

Mary Anne, a grandmother of three, has been a part of The Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, resisting the drone assassination program since 2011.  According to leaked military documents called the Drone Paperssent to the Intercept, 90% of drone assassinations target and kill civilians, including children.  On the National Day of Action, drone resisters were arrested at Creech Air Force Base (Nevada), Beale AFB (California), and Volk AFB (Wisconsin), and Ramstein AFB, Germany and in Pakistan, all a part of the worldwide resistance to drones.

Mary Anne received the verdict and sentence by mail, even though she was originally told to appear in County Court on January 22 to hear the court's decision. This may have been an attempt to prevent a full courtroom and press with cameras from attending, as occurred at the time of her original sentence.

                                                            www.upstatedroneaction.org

                                                                             ###

Father Jim Murphy Sentenced to Five Days in Jail in Wisconsin for Anti-drone action

By Joy First

Father Jim Murphy of Highland, WI was found guilty of trespass during a bench trial on January 4, 2016.  With Judge Paul Curran presiding over the Juneau County proceedings we saw another miscarriage of justice in our continuing struggle to end drone warfare.  Jim will be spending five days in the Juneau County jail after stating he would not pay a $232 fine.

Jim was arrested on August 25, 2015 along with eight other activists, for stepping onto the base at Volk Field, an Air National Guard Base in Wisconsin where they train pilots to operate the Shadow Drones.  This action was at the end of an eight-day 90 mile walk from Madison, WI to Volk Field organized by Voices for Creative Nonviolence.

The prosecutor, DA Solovey, called three witnesses - the chief of security at Volk Field, the Juneau County Sheriff, and a deputy sheriff - to establish Jim’s identity, that he did walk onto the base, and that he was not authorized to do so.  Jim declined to cross-examine the county’s witnesses.

Jim took the stand in his defense and stated his name as Jim Murphy.  Curran wanted it noted for the record that Jim was a Catholic priest and was officially Father James Murphy.  Jim began to read a prepared statement condemning drone warfare.  He was interrupted by Curran who said that this is only about the trespass charge, nonetheless he allowed Jim to continue with his statement.  However, Solovey quickly objected and the judge said Jim could not finish his statement.  The judge also commented that Obama does not care what his court has to say about drone warfare.

Jim was persistent and asked for the court’s indulgence to complete his statement, and finally Curran decided to allow him to finish.

Jim eloquently reminded us that, “We cannot remain silent without becoming complicit.”  I hope the judge heard that and thought about what his silence means.   Jim finished by saying, “You view this as a trespass charge.  I view it as a long tradition of opposition to war.”

Judge Curran ruled that Jim was guilty of trespass and said he would have to pay a $232 fine.  Jim said he was not able to pay the fine and would do the jail time instead.  Curran seemed very uncomfortable with this prospect (because he was a priest?) and finally Curran responded that he knew Jim really couldn’t pay the fine and so he would sentence him to five days in jail and spare him the lecture about Juneau County’s financial difficulties.

This was in reference to the lecture given by Judge Curran when two activists from earlier trials took the jail time rather than pay the fine.  The judge told them that Juneau County is one of the poorest counties in the state and admonished the activists for using county money to put them in jail in lieu of paying the fine.  I guess Judge Curran must have some kind of insider knowledge – or more likely some deep-seated prejudice – so that he can determine that it is ok for some of us to choose jail time, but not for all of us. 

The judge could have saved the county a lot of money by granting our motion for consolidation, but he refused to do so.  There will be seven more trials, with Bonnie Block coming next on January 8.  In the meantime, keep up the resistance and join us in DC on January 12 for the Real State of the Union action.

Talk Nation Radio: Cian Westmoreland, former U.S. Air Force technician in Afghanistan, speaks against war

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-cian-westmoreland-former-us-air-force-technician-in-afghanistan-speaks-against-war 

Cian Westmoreland is a former Air Force technician who served in Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan at the 73rd Expeditionary Air Control Squadron. He assisted in building a signal relay station that was used for transmitting and receiving data, radio, and radar picture for unmanned and manned missions for approximately 250,000 square miles over Afghanistan. In a report provided to him after his tour, he was credited with assisting in 2,400 close air support missions and 200+ kills of supposed enemies. The UNAMA report for that year, 2009, claimed however that this number also included 359 civilians killed in airstrikes. Westmoreland discusses his experience.

Learn more: http://projectredhand.org

See related film: http://dronethedocumentary.com

Support whistleblowers: https://whisper.networkforgood.com

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.

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Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://TalkNationRadio.org

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https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Killer Drone Protesters' Charges Dismissed in Upstate New York

This afternoon, December 16, town of DeWitt (NY) judge Robert Jokl dismissed the charges against the five anti-Reaper drone protesters arrested on September 21, 2015. The protesters had blocked the main entrance of Hancock Air Force Base near Syracuse with three long one-word banners reading DRONES  KILL  CHILDREN. Hancock is the home of the 174th Attack Wing of the New York State National Guard.
 
The five Central New Yorkers  are from Syracuse and Ithaca, and are each active in the Upstate Drone Action Coalition.
 
That Coalition alleges that the 174th Attack Wing commits ongoing war crime for its weaponized Reaper drone missions over Afghanistan. The robotic unmanned Reapers operated by remote control notoriously kill many civilians both within and beyond war zones through the Middle East and West Asia.
 
Pro bono attorney Jonathan Wallace argued before Judge Jokl  that the prosecution’s paperwork was woefully inadequate. That the prosecutor failed to even appear in court probably did not help his case.
 
The five – along with many others -- have each been arrested and incarcerated for previous nonviolent anti-drone protests at Hancock:
    Dan Burgevin
    Ed Kinane
    Bonny Mahoney
    Julienne Oldfield
    James Ricks.
 
Since 2010 scores of Upstate Drone Action members have been arrested for their nonviolent protests at Hancock.###

Do Mass Killings Bother You?

We now know this. A young man who had successfully killed on a large scale went to his religious leader with doubts and was told that mass killing was part of God's plan. The young man continued killing until he had participated in killing sprees that took 1,626 lives -- men, women, and children.

I repeat: his death count was not the 16 or 9 or 22 lives that make top news stories, but 1,626 dead and mutilated bodies.

Do such things bother you?

What if you learned that this young man's name was Brandon Bryant, and that he killed as a drone pilot for the U.S. Air Force, and that he was presented with a certificate for his 1,626 kills and congratulated on a job well done by the United States of America? What if you learned that his religious leader was a Christian chaplain?

Do such things still bother you?

What if you learned that most of the people killed by U.S. drones are civilians? That the pilots "double-tap," meaning that they send a missile into a wedding party or a house and then wait for people to try to help the injured and send a second missile into them? That as a result one hears the injured screaming for hours until they die, as no one comes to help? That a drone pilot sent a missile into a group of children from which three children survived who recognized their dead brothers but had no idea that various pieces of flesh were what was left of their Mom and Dad and consequently cried out for those now gone-forever individuals?

Is this troubling?

What if President Obama's claim of few or no civilian deaths was proven false by well-documented reporting? And by the fact that most victims are targeted without even knowing their names?

What if a leading candidate for president in the past week were to both declare that the way to win a war is to start killing whole families, and stage a public Christian prayer session in order to win over a certain demographic of voters?

Is that bothering?

What if it became clear that police officers in the United States have been murdering people at a higher rate than drone pilots? Would you want to see police videos of their killings? Would you want to see drone videos of their killings? We have thus far gained limited access to the former and none to the latter.

What if it were discovered that gun murders in San Bernardino are almost routine. Would they all be equally tragic?

My point is not to cease caring about the tragedy that the television stations tell you to care about. I wish everyone would care 1,000 times more, and even better do something to take away the guns and the hatred and the culture of violence and the economic injustice and the alienation.

My point is that there are other tragedies that go unmentioned, including larger ones. And exploiting one tragedy to fuel hatred toward a large segment of the human population of earth is madness.

Academic’s Research Shows NY Times, Wash. Post Don’t Do Follow-up Reporting to See if Civilians Killed in U.S. Drone Strikes

predator firing hellfire missileBy John Hanrahan

By now you know the drill: The CIA or U.S. military forces unleash a drone strike or other aerial bombardment in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia or any other country that the United States claims the right to attack.

A U.S. government spokesperson reports 5 or 7 or 17 or 25 or whatever number of “militants” killed — Taliban, or al Qaeda or ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State fighters — according to its fill-in-the-blanks press release. Wire services, mainstream newspapers, television newscasters dutifully report in brief fashion on another successful drone or missile strike, fulfilling minimal journalistic standards by attributing it to the Pentagon, or intelligence or U.S. government sources — sometimes even naming the spokesperson who issued the news release.

And then — usually nothing. Yes, sometimes someone with a little clout raises a stink — say the Afghan president, or some prominent local official who was an eyewitness to the attack, or Doctors without Borders after the U.S. attack on their Afghanistan hospital in October. (* See footnote.) In such challenges to the Americans’ claims of killing only “militants,” these pesky eyewitnesses contend that many of those killed were actually noncombatants, even women and children.

But on those occasions when U.S. officials are confronted with too-strong evidence of civilian casualties, they typically issue an apology (while not usually admitting civilians were actually killed), promise an investigation — and then that’s the last we ever seem to hear of it in the mainstream press.

Now, an American University (A.U.) academic, Jeff Bachman, has documented what some readers may have surmised in reading drone news coverage over the years, but didn’t have the data to back it up. In examining articles by The New York Times and Washington Post in the immediate aftermath of U.S. drone strikes between 2009 and 2014, Bachman concluded:

“Both papers have substantially underrepresented the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, failed to correct the public record when evidence emerged that their reporting was wrong and ignored the importance of international law.”

Bachman’s research dovetails with The Intercept’s recently published “Drone Papers” articles, which among other things document the U.S. government’s lying to the press and public about the number of noncombatants killed in drone strikes.

Bachman, professional lecturer in human rights and the co-director of Global Affairs M.A. Program at A.U.’s School of International Service, examined a sample of 81 Times articles and 26 Post articles published within two days of particular drone strikes between 2009 and 2014. He then compared the two papers’ reporting to the research and tracking of drone strikes by the London-based The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ). He said he considered TBIJ’s data authoritative “because they used a methodology that has been endorsed by the Center for Civilians in Conflict and Human Rights” at Columbia University’s Law School.

In the drone attacks reported on by The Times, TBIJ found civilians killed in 26 of the 81 attacks. The Times, though, reported civilians killed in only two of those attacks, Bachman wrote.

Looking at The Post’s coverage of drone attacks, Bachman found that TBIJ reported civilians killed in 7 of the 26 attacks, while The Post reported civilians killed in only one attack.

In the 33 strikes that produced civilian casualties, TBIJ found that between 180 and 302 civilians were killed — yet Times and Post articles reported on the deaths of only nine civilians in the three stories in which they noted that there were civilian casualties.

“This trend of underreporting of civilian casualties means readers are not being informed of the real consequences of drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan,” Bachman wrote. “It represents a failure by journalists at these papers to view critical government claims regarding who is killed in particular strikes.”

Even worse, Bachman reports what happened when he contacted both newspapers to question them “about the inaccuracies in their reporting on civilian casualties, and to see whether either newspaper published corrections” about civilian deaths from drone strikes. “The answer from both was that they had not,” he wrote.

Read Bachman’s article to see the full summary of his findings and the exact comments he reports receiving from Times and Post representatives. But for one sample of mainstream media indifference to this issue, consider what Bachman reported he was told by Sylvester Monroe, The Post’s assistant managing editor.

Monroe, wrote Bachman, “stated that when using ‘official sources’ it is impossible to ‘independently verify which of the dead were members of militant groups and which might have been innocent civilians.’”

According to Bachman, Monroe added this amazing disclosure: “Even if the CIA were to acknowledge that its count was inaccurate, it would not be up to us to run a correction.” Let that sink in: The Post will apparently not make corrections of a spy agency’s lies and misrepresentations even in the unlikely event the agency itself admits them.

Bachman also noted that the term “human rights” — and various equivalents — showed up in only 5 of The Times’s 81 drone attack stories, and in only one of the 26 Post articles. The term “laws of war” or “laws of armed conflict” — needed to “place the drone strikes in their international legal context” — were not mentioned in any of the articles.

“Without government transparency and accurate reporting, whistleblowers, like the source of The Intercept’s ‘Drone Papers,’ are the only source for information that will allow us to understand the real consequences of the drone strikes,” Bachman concluded.

___________________________

  • The recent October 2 multiple U.S. bombings on the Doctor Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, where at least 30 staff, patients and others were killed, might prove to be that unique case that events will force to be seriously investigated. But don’t count on it. In the Kunduz hospital case, eyewitnesses — Westerners/doctors from a highly respected international humanitarian medical organization making allegations that the bombings were deliberate — could not be so easily written off by the Pentagon and our usually incurious mainstream media. Doctors without Borders has called the multiple bombardments on the hospital a possible war crime and wants the attack investigated by an international inquiry under the Geneva Conventions. Instead, General John F. Campbell, the American commander in Afghanistan, has appointed a two-star general from another command to head what Campbell termed an independent investigation — a far cry from what Doctors Without Borders has called for. Keeping the investigation within the military’s own house makes it much more likely that we may be heading for one of those mistakes-were-made Pentagon reports, rather than a war-crimes-were-committed report. Even this inadequate, conflicted investigative step, though, is far more than usually happens when ordinary civilians are killed by U.S. attacks and there are no Westerners or credentialed people to witness them.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

 

About John Hanrahan

John Hanrahan, currently on the editorial board of ExposeFacts, is a former executive director of The Fund for Investigative Journalism and reporter for  The Washington Post,  The Washington Star, UPI and other news organizations. He also has extensive experience as a legal investigator. Hanrahan is the author of  Government by Contract  and co-author of Lost Frontier: The Marketing of Alaska. He wrote extensively for NiemanWatchdog.org, a project of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.

Originally published by ExposeFacts.org

Chicago Restricts Drones: Who's Next?

Chicago media outlets are reporting that drones have been banned from most of Chicago's skies and cannot fly over you or your property without your permission. The text of the ordinance, however, makes exceptions for police that will require eternal vigilance.

Local legislative action around drones began in U.S. cities in early 2013 with the public demand for resolutions opposing foreign drone murders by the military and CIA (and related training in U.S. skies), combined with public concern about domestic U.S. police departments that had begun acquiring weaponized and surveillance drones. This quickly expanded to include concerns about private drones -- among other reasons, because surveillance footage from private drones could be acquired by governments. As near misses between drones and passenger aircraft began piling up, those issues of safety were added to the mix.

Chicago has now passed a modified version of an ordinance that forbids any drone "that is equipped with a firearm or other weapon" and any drone flown "with intent to use such small unmanned aircraft or anything attached to it to cause harm to persons or property." The new law also bans any drone flight "for the purpose of conducting surveillance, unless expressly permitted by law."

Then come the exceptions: "nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit any person who is authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration . . . ." And: "nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the use of a drone by a law enforcement agency in accordance with Section 15 of the Freedom from Drone Surveillance Act, codified at 725 ILCS 167/1 et seq., or its successor provision."

That Illinois law allows police to use drones whenever they claim there is "a high risk of a terrorist attack" or they obtain a 45-day warrant from a court, or they decide they don't have time to bother obtaining a warrant and must act swiftly "to prevent imminent harm to life or to forestall the imminent escape of a suspect or the destruction of evidence," or they're attempting to locate a missing person but not undertaking a criminal investigation, or they're solely doing crime scene or traffic crash scene photography (with a warrant if on private property), or there is a disaster or public health emergency (which need not have been formally declared).

None of that explicitly allows weaponized drones for police, except in so far as the word "terrorist" is generally taken to allow just about anything. So, does Chicago's ban on weaponized drones remain intact for police? I'm pessimistic. I don't think the ban on entering the sky over private property or flying at night or flying drunk or any of the other bans survive for police. The law says "nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the use of a drone by a law enforcement agency. . . ."

How police drone use works out, I think, depends entirely on how the state law is interpreted and enforced. Who will monitor police drone use? Who will punish violations? The new Chicago ordinance includes penalties: "Any person who violates this section or any rule promulgated thereunder shall be fined not less than $500.00 nor more than $5,000.00 for each offense, or may be incarcerated for a term not to exceed 180 days, or both. Each day that a violation continues shall constitute a separate and distinct offense." But that sounds like a penalty for an individual, not a government agency.

I'm afraid what has been created is a policy of restricting drone use by individuals in Chicago, without effectively restricting it by the entities most likely to violate rights, intimidate, restrict ability to exercise free speech or assemble or petition the government for redress of grievances, and to use unjustifiable force.

This question is far from settled. Chicago is only one city. Other cities and states could choose to clearly ban weaponized drones, and to ban police surveillance drones under a clear system of supervision, oversight, and accountability.

Reaper Madness: Counterproductive Drone Wars

By Doug Noble, Upstate (NY) Drone Action Coalition

"Our entire Middle East policy seems to be based on firing drones," Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told The Intercept. "They're enamored by the ability of special operations and the CIA to find a guy in the middle of the desert in some shitty little village and drop a bomb on his head and kill him."

Targeted killing by drones remains the US weapon of choice, famously called “the only game in town,” by former CIA director Leon Panetta. This despite a decade of worldwide moral outrage over its overwhelming civilian casualties, violations of international law, disregard for national sovereignty, dismissal of due process, and continuing secrecy. The Obama administration recently announced that the drone killing program will in fact be increased by 50 % in the coming two years.

Now government documents leaked to the Intercept show conclusively that the US drone program kills thousands of innocents on bad intelligence and careless targeting while being falsely portrayed as a program of impeccable planning and precision execution. The recently leaked “Drone Papers” reveal the extent of willful ineptitude in US drone operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, which rely on systematically faulty intelligence and astonishing inaccuracies in identifying targets. These revelations only further confirm what many of us already knew about the appalling failure, relentless deception and criminal lethality of the US drone program.

But it’s even worse. Careless execution and public distortion are one thing. If the US were in fact relying on a proven military technology and strategy to defeat terrorists and “keep America safe,” despite setbacks and innocent lives lost, there are those who could justify the cost.

But what is perhaps most insidious of all is the fact that many studies long available to military planners have shown decisively that the use of weaponized drones in counterinsurgency and counterterrorism efforts is both ineffective and counterproductive. Even more, the historical record and recent research shows quite clearly that the “decapitation” strategy driving such drone use - the assassination of high value targets - has itself been both unsuccessful and counterproductive in defeating insurgent or terrorist organizations.

So the drone warriors have known all along it wouldn’t work: that killer drones and kill lists would slaughter thousands of civilians but never defeat terrorists. They’ve known this conclusively from decades of  military experience and volumes of research studies. Yet they continue to do it anyway, ever more expansively, ever more mindlessly. Why? Because they can (and because they have no Plan B).

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Weaponized drones were in fact first proposed by the US military in 2000, prior to 9/11, as a means to both target and kill, with the same aircraft,  the Number One high value target, Osama Bin Laden. For this purpose, Predator surveillance drones were fitted with Hellfire missiles still available from the Gulf War. The name “Hellfire,” an acronym for “heliborne-launched fire-and-forget missile,” was originally designed as an “anti-tank guided missile (AGM),“ somehow now redeployed for remote precision killing of individuals, or, as one Air Force article called it, “warhead to forehead.”

These weaponized drones have been used ever since, as the weapon of choice in US operations all over the Middle East and North Africa. Now, given all the moral and legal controversy surrounding their use, some have begun to question if  these weaponized drones have even been effective in defeating terrorists. As Los Angeles Times columnist Doyle McManus asked recently, “Are we winning the drone war?”

It’s hard to know since, as a recent Stimson Center Task Force on US Drone Policy report explains, “after more than 10 years of use, the U.S. drone program remains so shrouded in secrecy that we do not have enough information to make an educated assessment of its effectiveness … Without a clear understanding of the drone program’s strategy, goals, and metric(s) used for evaluation, … experts … cannot make informed assessments regarding the program’s efficacy.”

The Stimson Report observed that “on May 23, 2013, President Obama delivered a major speech at the National Defense University in which … he pledged to continue the difficult task of ensuring that the use of lethal UAVs is .. strategically sound.’ The Report’s authors recommend that the US government conduct a thoroughgoing evaluation of the impact of UAV strikes on terrorist organizations, with regard to capabilities, threats currently posed, morale and recruiting, as well as their impact on public opinion, litigation, and defense policy.” Nothing is expected to be forthcoming any time soon.

President Obama did provide a metric of drone effectiveness in a major speech in 2014: “Our actions should meet a simple test: We must not create more enemies than we take off the battlefield.” Though hardly a robust definition of victory, even by this measure, given the growing numbers of new recruits in  Al Qaeda, ISIS and other groups, it would appear that the US strategy has been decidedly ineffective. But since there are no clear numbers from the Obama administration of enemies killed and new recruits created, this metric of effectiveness is decidedly unhelpful.

Historical precedent  and longstanding military doctrine, though, offer insight into the potential effectiveness of Obama’s drone war. What follows is a brief sampling of conclusions drawn by research scholars, both within and without the military, who have examined the historical record and the military evidence. These scholars all agree that drone strikes are useless to defeat counterinsurgency and counterterrorism, but they all concede as well that the US military will continue into the future to rely on them anyway, as “the only game in town.”

James A. Russell, a  researcher at the Department of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School, concludes in his article The False Promise of Aerial Policing,”  that “the idea of aerial policing is dangerous and deeply flawed, yet mysteriously it has become a panacea for states seeking to apply force in the modern era….  Aerial policing is an intellectual and strategic house of cards built on shaky foundations ... [it] represents the triumph of tactics over strategy, turning fundamental truths about the nature of war on their head.”

Aerial policing grew out of theories of airpower that the airplane had revolutionized war by making it unnecessary for armies to clash on the ground and destroy one another. Instead, they argued, an opponent’s armies, his means of waging war, and even his will to fight could be destroyed from the air via strategic bombardment. The conduct of this strike war, they argued, reduced operations and warfare to an engineering problem of identifying and striking targets.

World War II was the great laboratory to try out these ideas, as the United States and Britain sought to pound Germany into submission via strategic bombing. The lessons of the war for strategic bombardment, however, went unlearned. The allied bombers missed most of what they were aiming at, did not end Germany’s means to wage war, and did not convince the German people to give up the fight.

The mythology of the airpower advocates endured through the Vietnam War, despite another failure of airpower to achieve strategic effect. More recently, America’s special forces set about creating an insurgent targeting methodology that had its roots in the engineering approach employed by the airpower advocates. The targeting methodology was eagerly seized upon by airpower enthusiasts to assassinate suspected terrorists around the world with America’s new generation of robots in the sky.

America’s strategic retreat from Iraq and Afghanistan after 15 years is a monument to the failure of … clever tactics championed by counterinsurgency advocates and their precise targeting methods. Yet America’s response to this strategic failure has been to double down, showering more money and responsibility on the Special Forces and similar organizations that achieved no positive strategic effect in battle over the last 15 years.

James Igoe Walsh, U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute, wrote a comprehensive article entitled, “The Effectiveness of Drone Strikes in Counterinsurgency and Counterterrorism Campaigns.

He concludes  that “… drones are at most, weak substitutes for traditional counterinsurgency operations. While drones have the capability to punish and deter insurgent organizations, they do not alone contribute to the establishment of effective state authority in direct and meaningful ways, which … requires large numbers of ground forces and civilians to provide services to, and gain intelligence from, the local population.”

The groups targeted by drones operate in areas where the United States and the [local] national government cannot or will not engage "on the ground" in large numbers. Drones are most useful in precisely such areas, since they allow the United States to project force when it and the national government have few other options

But the absence of boots on the ground makes it more difficult to gather human intelligence on the activities of militant groups that can be used to target drone strikes. Ungoverned spaces also can allow armed groups to proliferate and form complex and short-lived alliances that are difficult for outsiders to understand, increasing the challenge of targeting only militants who oppose the United States. Drones, then, are most useful for counterterrorism in precisely those settings where the challenges of counterterrorism are the greatest, and the ability to collect intelligence is the weakest. This means that the bar for the successful use of drones to counter terrorism is set quite high.… The evidence from the most sustained campaign to rely on drone strikes to deter and punish insurgent organizations in Pakistan suggests this technology has limited capacity to achieve these objectives. Despite these limitations, drone technology seems very likely to spread both within the U.S. Armed Forces, the armed forces of other countries, and even insurgent organizations.

Philosopher and historian Gregoire Chamayou, in his book A Theory of the Drone, cites a 2009 op-ed by David Kilcullen, influential US military advisor on counterinsurgency, which called for a moratorium on drone strikes in Pakistan. Kilcullen viewed them as dangerously counterproductive, driving the population into the arms of extremists. Kilcullen drew direct parallels between the current drone program and  the infamous  failures of earlier French and British aerial bombardment campaigns in Algeria and Pakistan. He also opposed the technological fetishism of drone use, which “displays every characteristic of a tactic - or, more accurately, a piece of technology,  - substituting for a strategy.”

Gregoire notes that “air force strategists are well aware of the objections that [counterinsurgency] theorists never fail to raise, …that what is being presented as a new strategy has already been tried out, with remarkably disastrous  results.” He cites in military doctrine the  “truism that COIN [counterinsurgency] is about boots on the ground and that airpower is counterproductive.”

Gregoire observes,“Dronized manhunting represents the triumph... of antiterrorism over counterinsurgency. According to this logic, the total body count and a list of hunting trophies take the place of  a strategic evaluation of the political effects of armed violence. Successes become statistics.” Never mind that drone strikes multiply new enemies. The strategic plan of drone counterinsurgency now seems to be that an armada of killer drones is capable of eliminating new recruits as fast as they are created: “as soon as a head grows back, cut it off,” in a pattern of ongoing eradication. This assessment  coincides with the Stimson report conclusion that “the availability of lethal UAVs has fueled a ‘whack-a-mole’ approach to counterterrorism.”

The whistleblower source for the Drone Papers concludes: “The military is easily capable of adapting to change, but they don’t like to stop anything they feel is making their lives easier, or is to their benefit. And this certainly is, in their eyes, a very quick, clean way of doing things. It’s a very slick, efficient way to conduct the war, without having to have the massive ground invasion mistakes of Iraq and Afghanistan. ... but at this point, they have become so addicted to this machine, to this way of doing business, that it seems like it’s going to become harder and harder to pull them away from it the longer they’re allowed to continue operating in this way.”

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In addition to research on drone killings, some scholars have been researching the strategy underpinning US drone strikes, namely, the “decapitation” strategy (our own manner of beheading the enemy). This strategy assumes that the assassination of leaders and other key players -  so-called “high value targets” (HVTs) - within an enemy insurgent or terrorist group will eventually defeat the group itself.

Scholars, though, come to the opposite conclusion.

RAND researcher Patrick B. Johnston, in his article "Does Decapitation Work? Assessing the Effectiveness of Leadership Targeting in Counterinsurgency Campaigns," notes:

“Regardless of whether a government’s adversary is a state, a terrorist organization, or a guerrilla insurgency, the scholarly opinion has been that high-value targeting is ineffective at best and counterproductive at worst. … The data also show conclusively that killing or capturing insurgent leaders is usually not a silver bullet, since governments were only around 25% more likely to defeat insurgencies following the successful removal of top insurgent leaders.

In his review of the relevant  literature, “The ABCs of HVT: Key Lessons from High Value Targeting Campaigns Against Insurgents and Terrorists,” Matt Frankel of the Brookings Institution, concludes:

“The final implication for the United States is that it is vital that any HVT campaign take place as part of a larger  strategy, not merely as an end to itself. Remote strikes and targeted raids need to be combined with broader  operations, both military and non-military, to achieve maximum effectiveness.

The United States will face an uphill battle in utilizing HVT campaigns successfully, since it will always be operating as a third-party force. If the goals of the host government and the third-party force are divergent, there is little chance for success.

It is clear that as long as Al Qaeda remains a global force, U.S.-sponsored HVT operations will continue. But if the United States continues to conduct HVT operations in a vacuum, …it will continue to be doomed to failure.”

Professor of International Affairs Jenna Jordan, concludes in her article “Why Terrorist Groups Survive Decapitation Strikes”

“The targeting of terrorist leaders affiliated with al-Qaida has been the cornerstone of U.S. counterterrorism policy since 2001. ..Targeting al-Qaida is not likely to result in organizational decline or long-term degradation [since] its bureaucratic organization and communal support have allowed it to withstand frequent attacks on its leadership.”

However, she cautions, “Regardless of the effectiveness and potential for adverse consequences of its decapitation strategy, the United States is likely to continue targeting al-Qaida leaders because U.S. policymakers view the killing of high-level targets as successes in themselves.”

Conclusion

The publication this year of the Drone Papers reveals that the Obama administration, the US military, and the CIA have been lying all along about the drone assassination  program, its targets and its civilian casualties. These documents also expose the obscene disregard for human lives pervading the entire operation, as the drone warriors pursue their technological dreams. “Throughout human history,” the Stimson Report reminds us, “the ability to project force across significant distances has been a much sought-after military capability… and since the dawn of mechanization, militaries have sought to replace people with machines.” In this context, drones are the unholy grail. The Drone Papers reveal that in its pursuit these Dr Strangeloves  have been well aware of the horrific human costs of their enterprise and that they couldn’t care less. ​

What I've tried to show here is something more:  that these military miscreants have also known all along that their drone technology and targeting strategy are militarily bankrupt. They could not but be aware from military history and doctrine that these approaches have  absolutely no possibility of defeating terrorist groups or keeping America safe. They must know that in fact the opposite is true, that  their nefarious enterprise only further endangers us all. And yet they will continue ever more brazenly their Reaper madness, the scholars here all agree, until we find some way to stop them.

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References

Recommendations and Report of the Stimson Center Task Force on US Drone Policy, Second Edition.  Research Director: Rachel Stohl, April 2015 http://www.stimson.org/images/uploads/research-pdfs/task_force_report_FINAL_WEB_062414.pd

Rachel Stohl, “Just how effective is the US drone program anyway?”

https://www.lawfareblog.com/foreign-policy-essay-just-how-effective-us-drone-program-anyway

Doyle McManus, “Are we winning the drone war?” Los Angeles Times, April 24, 2015

Patrick B. Johnston, "Does Decapitation Work? Assessing the Effectiveness of Leadership Targeting in Counterinsurgency Campaigns," International Security, 36(4):47-79, 2012

Frankel, Matt(2011) 'The ABCs of HVT: Key Lessons from High Value Targeting Campaigns Against  Insurgents and Terrorists', Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 34: 1, 17 — 3

Jenna Jordan , “Why Terrorist Groups Survive Decapitation Strikes,” International Security, Vol. 38, No. 4 (Spring 2014), pp. 7–38,

Gregoire Chamayou, A Theory of the Drone, The  New Press, 2015

Richard Whittle, Predator: The Secret Origins of the Drone Revolution. Henry Holt & Co., 2014

Andrew Cockburn, Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins, Henry Holt & Co., 2015

Jeremy Scahill et al., The Drone Papers.  https://theintercept.com/drone-papers

Creech AFB Drone Center Near Last Vegas Focus of Graphic Commercials on CNN, ESPN & other Networks This Week

Spots Plead with Drone Pilots to 'Refuse to Fly'

LAS VEGAS, NV– Disturbing images of children killed and mutilated by U.S. drones are shown in graphic and controversial television commercials that begin airing in Las Vegas on Monday/Oct. 26 on CNN, MSNBC, ESPN  and other cable networks.

The spots are airing in conjunction with 14 trials starting Monday in Las Vegas of anti-drone demonstrators arrested last March at protests at Creech AFB. The trials begin at 1 p.m. this Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Additionally, this week, a series of protests at Creech AFB's drone center – the major drone operating and training facility in the nation – will be held all this week by CodePink and other people opposed to the U.S. drone program.

The commercials can be seen here: http://youtu.be/dP4vYOUDjQ8

Sponsored by KnowDrones.com, the spots also ran last February and March in Las Vegas – it was the first time any anti-drones advertising had appeared on U.S. television. Since then, the spots have run near drone operation centers from California to New York.

The 15-second commercial shows an image from a drone operations video screen, an explosion, civilians searching through rubble after the drone attack, a Hellfire missile loaded onto a drone and images of children killed and mutilated by the attack.

On-screen text charges "Drone Killing Violates Law and Morality," and then ends with a plea for "Drone Pilots. Please Refuse to Fly. No one has to obey an immoral law."

The television spot's appeal to pilots to "Refuse to Fly" is aimed at Creech AFB drone pilots, sensor operators, support personnel and their families as well as the general public. 

"We produced this spot to make the point as powerfully as possible that drone killing is horrifying, illegal and immoral," said Nick Mottern, coordinator of KnowDrones.com.

Bernie Drones and Bernie Volunteers

The "senior digital organizer" of Bernie Sanders for President volunteers Aidan King, has this to say:

"I was so excited about Obama. And I still think he's done amazing things. But I wanted more follow-through," says King, listing "drone strikes, kill lists, NSA spying on Americans, the expansion of Bush-administration policies, a failed drug war, failed foreign policy," and the increasing influence of money in politics as his main concerns. "I put a lot of stake in authenticity," he says. "And I've been exposed to Bernie's politics and his honesty since I was in diapers."

Was this last week? Was Senator Vitter there?

Because here's Senator Sanders announcing yet again this week, as he's done before, that as president he would murder people with drones. (Yes, he only favors the good drone murders, not the bad ones, exactly what Obama says too.)

There's actually no knock on Sanders' honesty here. There's no indication of inconsistency, no reason to imagine he's lying. He may be 100% USDOD-grade authentic. But what about his staff and volunteers? And what about journalists? Is it responsible journalism to publish an article on people working for Bernie in order to end drone murders and not include any mention of the fact that Sanders is in favor of them? Is it responsible, for that matter, to be reporting on candidates' volunteers prior to and instead of ever reporting on what those candidates would do if elected? The Nation does lots of great reporting, but its interview of Sanders pretended 96% of humanity and 54% of the federal budget didn't exist, and the magazine has never made up for that by reporting on Sanders' foreign policy. So all a Nation reader gets is the golly gee report on the dude just out of diapers who is putting in long hours to end drone strikes by electing Bernie.

"I was so excited about Obama." There's an opening remark that reveals a similar level of misguided ignorance in the past. "And I still think he's done amazing things." One has a heck of a time imagining what those are and how they outweigh what comes next. "But I wanted more follow-through." More follow through? On what? He then lists drone strikes, kill lists, NSA spying on Americans, the expansion of Bush-administration policies, a failed drug war, failed foreign policy, and the increasing influence of money in politics." He surely doesn't want more follow through on any of these crimes and abuses and outrages. He wants them halted.

And so do I. So why should I give the poor guy a hard time? Millions and millions of people aren't doing a damn thing for the world. They're sitting on their butts watching TV while Rome burns. Several political candidates openly want to radically enlarge the military (yet again) and launch any number of wars. Why pick on Bernie?

I'm not picking on anyone. I'm well aware of such obvious facts and numerous others. I think such facts are good things to know, no matter what you decide to do about them. I'd just add a few more. You want to spend the next many months calling people on the phone and telling them Bernie is against drone murders, knock yourself out. I just think you should do it with open eyes. You shouldn't actually believe what you're saying.

I'm also of course, as we all are, painfully familiar with the argument that Bernie simply must secretly agree with the progressive views of his volunteers, but that in order to get elected he has to put on a pretense of sucking a good bit, whether it's to please the public or the media or the military industrial complex depending on the variation. We were told the exact same thing about Obama. It didn't work then and it won't work now. You can't pretend someone secretly agrees with you and then expect him to keep the promises you fantasized.

If you look at the facts and adopt for just the moment the crazy hypothesis that you're more or less right about Bernie's authenticity but wrong about his closet anti-militarism, you'll find that he's nowhere near as bad as Obama was, is, and shall continue to be for well over a year more. No mere human is going to out warmonger Hillary Clinton, though Jim Webb and a whole crowd of Republicans will try. You can make more or less the same argument you make to yourself to justify volunteering for Bernie, after facing the facts, as you made before.

So why do I care?

Because there are activists working night and day, strategically, courageously, with pure principles and endless dedication to actually end drone murders, and they need your help, and they need it now. They have built the awareness of these horrors that has led to volunteers wanting to end them. But volunteers volunteer in the wrong places. Instead of joining the peace movement and educating, organizing, lobbying, protesting, reporting, suing, artistically moving, and nonviolently resisting drone murders and the militarism that is risking war with Russia prior to the next corporate-bought election in the U.S. -- instead of following the path that has tended to effect change over recent centuries and needs to do so in Paris next month if the climate is to have any hope, they instead dedicate themselves to one candidate or another, start making apologies for them, start living out fantasies about them, and start arguing with other peace activists who are working their fingers to the bone for some other candidate, or with activists who haven't gone all election yet in a year that has no election in it.

If we ever have real elections we'll need people to work on them, and there's always a chance working on them now will help bring that about, and if you'd asked me months ago I'd have said the media would never let Sanders get this far. So, if you want to do the election thing, go ahead. Do it with Sanders who disagrees with you. Do it with Jill Stein who agrees with you. Do it with one of the others. But do it with a bit of honesty and with awareness that it's not the only thing you could be doing.

Undrone Upstate

165-MILE WALK FROM SYRACUSE TO NIAGARA FALLS

Oct. 7th – 21st, 2015

Oct 7, 2015: Undrone Upstate is a pro-peace, anti-drone demonstration and walk to educate the public on drone operations in the Western New York region.  The group will be walking about 165 miles from the Hancock Air National Guard Base, a national Reaper hub, to the Niagara Falls Air National Guard Base. Both bases are sites of drone operations, including training and remote piloting of drones over Afghanistan. The walk will include outreach programs at colleges and community centers along the way, including Rochester, Brockport, and Niagara Falls.

Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence will speak at a kickoff event Sept 6 at 7pm at All Saints’ Church, 1340 Lancaster Avenue, Syracuse and join the walkers for the first few days.  Kathy has been to Afghanistan many times as a guest of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, joined other walks for peace and justice, and has been arrested protesting drone warfare outside of U.S. military bases.

Medea Benjamin of CodePink will join the walkers when they arrive for a rally at Niagara Falls Air Base.  (Details on website below)  Medea has written ‘Drone Warfare’, a book that clearly describes the disturbing issues that surround drone warfare.   CodePink has facilitated anti-drone conferences in Washington DC and CodePink members are a regular force at drone protests at Creech Airforce Base in Nevada.   

Targeted drone assassination is Obama’s favored weapon against "global terrorism." Outdoor markets, wedding parties, and village meetings have all been subjected to drone attacks, carried out on secret evidence and with little regard for human bystanders. The Department of Defense plans to increase its use of drones by 50 percent over the next four years.

The purpose of the walk is to heighten public awareness of the mindless murder and relentless terror perpetrated in our names by the criminal use of killer drones on terror suspects. Members of Upstate Drone action were among the first to investigate drone warfare and actively begin protesting this illegal and immoral campaign.  

 For details of events associated with the Undrone Upstate walk,  go to upstatedroneaction.org/unup-itinerary.html, or go to the Undrone Upstate Facebook page.

Protest Underway Now at Drone Base in New York State

DRONES KILL CHILDREN -- DRONES FLY, CHILDREN DIE

IMG_7332

The United Nations General Assembly has declared today, September 21, 2015, an International World Day of Peace. As we stand here at the main gate of Hancock Air Base, its “hunter/killer” MQ9 Reaper drone arrogantly patrols Afghan skies 24/7 -- killing innocent children there and likely elsewhere.

We U.S. citizens and taxpayers look on with horror at the millions of refugees fleeing airborne terror and are shamed by our unconsented complicity. Too many drone victims are precious and beloved children. We bring their images and their silenced voices to Hancock today.

Wisconsin Walk for Peace and Justice: Nine Arrested at Volk Field

By Joy First  

Voices for Creative Nonviolence engaged with a number of Wisconsin peace groups to organize an 8-day 90-mile walk across southwest Wisconsin from August 18-25.  The purpose of the walk was to call attention and make connections between the militarized police violence at home and the military using violence abroad through drone warfare and by other means.  In both cases the victims are people of color, which forces us to reflect on the systemic racism of our society.

The walk began at the City/County/Jail complex in Madison on August 18.  Dane County has one of the highest rates of racial disparity of any county in the country on many issues, including when it comes to incarceration - hence starting the walk at the jail.  In fact, in order to make the prison population match the general population in Dane County, we would need to release 350 Black people.  This is horrific, especially when we understand that so many people of color are in jail for nonviolent crimes and crimes of poverty that could better be solved by more positive interventions.  It is up to all of us to stand up with our brothers and sisters and proclaim that “Black Lives Matter!”

Let It Shine

By Kathy Kelly

"This little light of mine, I'm gonna' let it shine! Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine."

Imagine children lustily singing the above lines which eventually became a civil rights anthem. Their innocence and happy resolve enlightens us. Yes! In the face of wars, refugee crises, weapon proliferation and unaddressed climate change impacts, let us echo the common sense of children. Let goodness shine. Or, as our young friends in Afghanistan have put it, #Enough! They write the word, in Dari, on the palms of their hands and show it to cameras, wanting to shout out their desire to abolish all wars.

Let It Shine image two

This past summer, collaborating with Wisconsin activists, we decided to feature this refrain on signs and announcements for a 90-mile walk campaigning to end targeted drone assassinations abroad, and the similarly racist impunity granted to an increasingly militarized police force when they kill brown and black people within the U.S.

TV Commercials Urging U.S. Drone Operators to 'Refuse to Fly' Pulled from Air

Cable Provider Has Strong Links to Military Industry, Including Snowden Employer and Drone Contractor Booz Allen Hamilton

CLOVIS, NM – An international cable provider with links to the war industry is refusing to air television commercials produced by U.S. military veterans that are critical of the U.S. drone program, according to vets involved in the production of the spots.

While the controversial commercials – which urge U.S. military personnel to "Refuse to Fly" military drones – have run elsewhere in the U.S. without incident, Suddenlink Cable refused to air them. They were pulled after just a few days of being on the air.

Suddenlink is linked to a financial backer, The Carlyle Group, a major international arms investor which owns drone contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, Edward Snowden's former employer, according to KnowDrones.com, sponsor of the anti-drone commercials.

Booz Allen Hamilton is now contracting with the U.S. Air Force to do drone targeting analysis, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Suddenlink, the nation's seventh largest cable provider with 1.4 million customers in 17 states, pulled the spots within days of when they began airing in early July in Clovis, NM, seven miles from Cannon AFB. The base is home to the 3rd and 33rd Special Operations Squadrons that are reported to control MQ-9 Reaper drones in the skies over Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen and possibly elsewhere.

Suddenlink, despite repeated requests, refused to give any reason for cancelling the anti-drone commercials. 

The anti-drone commercials have run on FoxNews, CNN, MSNBC, ESPN and other networks on Comcast, Cox and Time Warner throughout the country since early 2015, including near drone operation centers near Las Vegas, Sacramento, New York and Florida. The spots can be seen here.

Nick Mottern, coordinator of KnowDrones.com, said Suddenlink's decision to censor the ads may be because Suddenlink is controlled by Altice, owned by Patrick Drahi, described by the newspaper Haaretz as a "Franco-Israeli telecoms billionaire." Drahi is connected to the war industry through his association with the Carlyle and Cinven private equity firms; both are invested in the arms industry, and both are invested in Altice, which bought 70 percent of Suddenlink in May, 2015 for $9.1 billion.

"Suddenlink's decision to kill our ads raises the extremely disturbing possibility of censorship at the behest of Mr. Drahi, Carlyle, Booz Allen and the U.S. military. Through the images of children killed in drone attacks the American people can see the illegality and immorality of the U.S. policy of systematically killing people without due process. Suddenlink's decision to censor the spots shows how powerful the commercials are, and it reveals connections that give power to people who profit from war to literally remove the truth from the public airwaves so that Americans only see the sanitized version of how their tax dollars are killing and mutilating people around the world," said Mottern.

The “Refuse to Fly” message in the ad is reinforced by a letter from about 50 veterans to drone operators urging “drone pilots, sensor operators and support teams to refuse to play any role in drone surveillance/assassination missions.”

Via worldcantwait.org.

Speaking Events

January 10 and 11:
Events in Washington DC to present a petition telling president elect to end wars:
https://act.rootsaction.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=12501

January 20-21 Occupy the Inauguration
 
January 29 David Swanson speaking in Arlington, Va.
 
February David Swanson debating a war supporter in Boston, Mass.
 
April 21-23 UNAC's annual conference in Richmond, Va.

April 29 possible multi-issue protest in DC.

Find Events Here.

 

 

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