You are hereDrones
By Debra Sweet. Last week 17 people died from a U.S. drone strike in a remote area of Yemen as they drove in a convoy returning from a wedding. People in the area had heard the drone overhead since the day before. As to what really happened, we are fed a lot of speculation by the US news media, because, of course, the U.S. military won't comment... “those killed were linked to al Qaeda, and therefore legitimate targets... the government of Yemen is running the war, and they choose the targets... the drone strike targeted that convoy by ‘mistake.’”
Very rarely does our government ask us what to have a war on. The proposal for missile strikes into Syria was a rare occasion when public pressure and other factors compelled Congress to demand a say. Public pressure then compelled Congress to say No.
But daily drone buzzings over various nations aren't occasions for public debate. We aren't being asked about another decade in Afghanistan or cooking up a future war on Iran. And our current president and his predecessor combined have wiped out eight wedding parties (six in Afghanistan, one in Iraq, and one in Yemen earlier this month) without our having ever been asked about any of them.
What if we were?
There are various ways a debate over whether to launch a war could go. In a highly-informed debate, we might investigate whether a war would violate the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the U.N. Charter, and the U.S. Constitution. We might ask how many adults, children, and infants would likely be killed, injured, and traumatized, how many refugees created, what sort of environmental damage, what economic cost, what erosion of our civil liberties, what heightened secrecy in government, what increase in violence throughout our culture and the country attacked, what likely blowback for decades to come, and what obvious alternatives are available to violence. But, of course, if we asked all that, then we'd never have any wars.
In a more plausible scenario, we might expect a debate to squeeze its way onto our televisions that would ask questions like: How many U.S. troops will die? How much will it cost? Why are we on the same side as al Qaeda this time? How will it end once begun? How does bombing more people express our support for suffering people? Or, depending on the circumstances, maybe even this: Haven't we been arming that dictator for decades -- why the urgency to overthrow him now?
But how would a debate over whether to send hellfire missiles screaming into a wedding party look? What if such a debate were to develop in our news media this Christmas season?
In areas of frequent drone strikes, people are often afraid to get together in large numbers. In Yemen, parents resort to home schooling for fear of letting their children out of the house. Few and far between are the events deemed important enough to risk violating that rule. One such event is a wedding.
How much, we might hear our pundits ask, could be saved by killing 15 people at a wedding as opposed to killing them each separately? (If the missiles alone cost $1 million each, the answer is well over $14 million.) What element of surprise might be gained in obliterating people whose minds are distracted by love and friendship and an important
right rite of passage? What fear and respect might be placed into the minds of the survivors? Let's say one of the wedding couple survives and the other doesn't; which one would it be most desirable to let live? Does it matter what kind of dress the bride is wearing? Should fashion consultants be brought in by the Pentagon, or should morning talk shows contribute that analysis as part of their patriotic duty? Should the missiles hit just as little kids bearing flowers enter the scene?
The debate may sound absurd, but its creation would actually be a significant step toward sound government. We ought to vote on or be represented by officials who vote on important decisions for us. We ought to be informed, engaged, and consulted. Therefore, a debate before the next wedding strike is a perfectly reasonable proposal -- unless of course we're going to unilaterally stop blowing up weddings. Far be it from me to suggest anything that rash.
Syracuse has passed this:
[Editor's note: This is a terrific complement to a similar statement by another long list of organizations at BanWeaponizedDrones.org --DCNS]
Statement by the European Section
Global Anti-Drone Network
Ban Weaponized Drones!
We oppose the use of drone technology for killing, surveillance and repression.
We oppose weaponized and surveillance drones because their deployment lowers the threshold to armed aggression, is used for “targeted” killing of people within and outside warzones – without indictment, trial and conviction, terrorizes the population of the targeted territories, fuels hatred, thereby increasing the cycle of violence, leads to the development of autonomous kille robots, thereby making even more horrifying wars likely, initiates a new round in the arms race.
We demand that all governments cease the production and acquisition of armed drones, as well as their research and development, and work towards a worldwide ban of these weapons.
Althaler, Birgit – Palestine Solidarity Basel, Switzerland
Aune, Björn – Boycott, Sanctions, Divestment (BDS) Campaign Berlin, Germany
Baloch, Farooq – Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), Germany
Benjamin, Medea - Code Pink (Co-Founder), USA
Björkmann, Rosie – Women for Peace, Sweden
Bosma, Geert – Vredes Informatie Centrum (Staff) & War Resisters Intl. (WRI), Netherlands
Braun, Reiner – Intl. Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA – Executive Director),Germany
Cole, Chris – Drone Wars UK (Founder) & Drone Campaign Network (Convener), United Kingdom
Dubrow, Niels – Staff Assistant to Dr. Ute Finckh-Krämer, Member of Bundestag (SPD), Germany
Finckh-Krämer, Ute – Member of Bundestag (MdB), Social Democratic Party (SPD) & Stiftung Friedensbildung, Germany
Fredegård, Anita – Women for Peace, Sweden
Fuchs, Barbara – attac & Friedensratschlag, Germany
Fuchs-Kittowski, Klaus – Forum of Computer Scientists for Peace and Social Responsibility (FIfF), Germany
Ghannam, Doris – Boycott, Sanctions, Divestment (BDS) Campaign Berlin, Germany
Hunko, Andrej – Member of Bundestag (MdB) & of Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, DIE LINKE (the Left)
Hugler, Helmut – Staff Assistant to Dr. Ute Finckh-Krämer, Member of Bundestag (SPD), Germany
Javaid, Tariq – Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), Germany
Kachel, Thomas – Parliamentary Advisor on Peace and Security Issues, DIE LINKE (the Left) in the Bundestag, Germany
Käss, Helmut – Intl. Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), Germany
Krutsch, Elfriede – Intl. Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), Germany
Lammerent, Hans – Vredesactie Peace Movement (former Chair), Belgium
Lorentz, Charlotte – Staff Assistant to Angieszka Brugger, Member of the Bundestag, Green parliamentary group, Germany
Martensson, Ingela – Women for Peace & former Member of the parliament (Liberal Party), Sweden
Mudassir, Ali – Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), Germany
Müller-Reiss, Brunhild – Drone Campaign & Peace Office Hannover & War Resisters Intl. (DFG-VK in WRI), Germany
Nineham, Chris – Stop the War Coalition (StWC -Vice Chair), United Kingdom
Norberg, Agneta – Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space & Women for Peace, Sweden
Paulini, Peter – Stiftung Friedensbildung (Foundation for Peacemaking), Germany
Pflüger, Tobias – Drone Campaign & Info. Agency on Militarisation (IMI, Founder) & former MEP (DIE LINKE), Germany
Rassbach, Elsa – Code Pink & Drone Campaign & War Resisters Intl. (DFG-VK in WRI, Board), USA/Germany
Schoeppe, Florian – Staff Assistant to Katja Keul, Membe of the Bundestag, Green parliamentary group, Germany
Steffen, Jens-Peter – Intl. Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), Staff Adviser on Peace Issues), Germany
Stryk, Lydia – Playwright, USA/Germany
Wijnberg, J.M.T. (Miek) – Burgerrechtenvereniging Vrijbit (President), Netherlands
Wimmersperg, Laura – Drone Campaign & Peace Coordination Berlin (Speaker), Germany
Wirl, Lucas – ICC No to NATO (Co-Chair) & Intl. Network Engineers & Scientists for Global Responsibility (INES), Germany
Following a deadly U.S. drone strike on civilians in Yemen, members of a dozen peace groups wearing blue scarves gathered at the entrance of CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. With guards and barricades on one side and cars whizzing by on Rt. 123 on the other, they held a vigil in memory of civilians, especially children, by U.S. drone bombings in Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“The CIA touts that drones are accurate,” said Jack McHale of Pax Christi USA to about 30 protestors from groups including CODE PINK and Veterans for Peace. But, he said, according to the Navy’s own analysis, they’re no more accurate than traditional air power. “I think we saw that this week when a wedding party was targeted and 17 people were killed as a result of an armed drone in Yemen.”
THREE ARRESTED DEC 9 TRYING TO DELIVER AN ORDER OF PROTECTION TO THE 174TH REAPER DRONE ATTACK WING AT HANCOCK AIR BASE
This afternoon, December 9, 2013, two Yale Divinity School students and a Catholic Worker were arrested as they attempted to deliver an Order of Protection on behalf of Afghan children and their families at the Hancock Air Base main entrance on East Molloy Rd. near Syracuse, NY.
Since October 25, 2012, over 50 citizens have been arrested – and issued Orders of Protection – for protesting the killing of children by Reaper drones piloted from Hancock Air Base.
The local DeWitt Town Court has issued these Orders at the request of the Hancock colonels. Such Orders suppress the First Amendment right of all those arrested to petition their government for redress of grievances at Hancock.
The grievance is that Hancock’s 174th Attack Wing technicians pilot weaponized Reaper drones over Afghanistan, engaged in the targeted killing of civilians.
The three declared, “This is the season for naming and wrestling with the reality of death in our life together. Advent’s austere themes of Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell challenge us to see, to mourn and to resist the forces of death that hold our age in their power, forces that murder children overseas (and on our own streets) for the sake of corporate profit and the military-industrial complex. We are engaged in this action because we believe we can only see Christian hope when we confront the reality of bombs being dropped on children by remote-controlled killing machines.”
The three are Mark Colville of the new Haven Catholic Worker, Greg Williams and Creighton Chandler both of Yale Divinity school. They were arrested and charged with obstruction of governmental administration, trespass, and disorderly conduct. Mark was given an additional charge of Criminal Contempt for violating his order of protection that was issued from a year ago for a Commander at the base.
They tried to deliver this:
THE PEOPLE’S ORDER OF PROTECTION FOR THE CHILDREN OF AFGHANISTAN AND THEIR FAMILIES:
TO: President Obama; The United States Military; Col. Greg Semmel; Col. Earl Evans; The 174th Attack Wing of the Air National Guard.
Whereas good cause has been shown for the issuance of this order of protection, the people of all nations committed to peace, having overwhelmingly made a determination in accordance with both the Spirit of and the Letter of the United Nations Charter do hereby order that the above named, and more specifically their Hell Fire missiles and 500 pound bombs fired from the MQ9 Reaper drones operated at Hancock Airfield, home of the 174th Attack wing of the New York State Air National Guard, are to stay away from the Children of Afghanistan and their families, and:
Their places of play; and
Their places of work (ie., the forests where they gather wood, the fields where they tend their vegetables and flocks)
And further the above named shall refrain from:
Assault, stalking, harassment, menacing, bombing, killing, maiming and terrorizing, criminal obstruction of breathing or circulation, disorderly conduct, criminal mischief, forcible touching, intimidation, threats or any criminal offense or interference with the victims of the alleged offenses perpetrated by the offenders named in this order.
There shall be no more improper touching of the Children of Afghanistan or their families with your Hell Fire missiles and your 500 pound bombs.
There Shall be no more menacing and reckless endangerment of the children and their families.
It is further ordered that this order of protection shall remain in force forever. Failure to comply with this order will result in the people’s continued nonviolent resistance to this illegal and immoral behavior.
And further please see attached plea from the people of Afghanistan making this request.
ORDER personally served at the gates of Hancock Air Base, site of where war crimes are being committed.
Pakistanis Protest Drone Murders in New York, But They Do So Nonviolently So Your Television Doesn't Tell You
Thanks to Medea Benjamin, Code Pink, Reprieve, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the attention and energy of 400 who gathered this past Saturday at Georgetown Law School, we were able to consider Drones Around the Globe: Proliferation & Resistance. It was a very worthwhile weekend which will impact how people act on and respond to U.S. use of drones.
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Dear Mr. President:
We strongly urge you to compose a letter of remorse, including an offer of compensation, to 9-year-old Nibila ur Rehman. She is a surviving grandchild of the 68-year old Pakistani grandmother who was reduced to a grisly corpse by a drone strike you ordered last year. No claim or evidence has surfaced indicating the slain grandmother was mistaken for a jihadist or circulating among them.
The details of the apparent murder were related by the 9-year-old child recently in a congressional hearing hosted by Representative Alan Grayson (D. Fl.): “It was the day before Eid. My grandmother asked me to come help her outside. We were collecting okra, the vegetables. Then I saw in the sky the drone and I heard a ‘dum dum’ noise. Everything was dark and I couldn’t see anything, but I heard a scream. I don’t know if it was my grandmother, but I couldn’t see her. I was very scared and all I could think of doing was just run. I kept running but I felt something in my hand. And I looked at my hand. There was blood. I tried to bandage my hand, but the blood kept coming.”
Speaking as American citizens, we are ashamed of what was done to that grandmother and granddaughter and what continues to be done to innocents. Silence would make us morally complicit in the cruelty that found expression in the grandmother’s killing. It would be no defense to echo the inelegant remark of a former Secretary of Defense: “[S]tuff happens.”
Playing prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner in secret to destroy individuals abroad on your say-so alone is fueling enmity against the United States that endangers us all—another example of blowback reminiscent of the birth of Al Qaeda from our participation in the disintegration of Afghanistan. Malala Yousafzei, a 16-year-old Pakistani heroine and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, recently informed you at the White House that “drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people.”
Your chief of staff in 2011, William M. Daley, has related his internal doubts about the effectiveness of drone killings in defeating international terrorism:
“One guy gets knocked off, and the guy’s driver, who’s No. 21, becomes 20? At what point are you just filling the bucket with numbers?”
We also urge you to cease all use of predator drones except during times of legal wars in areas of actual hostilities against the United States. International law, justice, and the safety of American citizens all militate in favor of such an enlightened policy.
Coupled with a contrite letter and commensurate compensation from the United States to 9-year-old Nibila and her family, these measures would be a commendable mark of simple moral decency in the presidency.
Member of Congress
Report Back: Occupy Beale AFB and Resisting Drones, November 2013
On November 25-26, we held our monthly vigil that included a surprise “pre-emptive peace response”
direct action on Tuesday morning against drone warfare at Beale Air Force Base. We were wearing
white clothes with blue scarves in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan who want peace.
www.TheBlueScarf.org “The Blue Scarf represents the expansive blue sky we all share and has
become a global symbol for togetherness. It was set in motion by a brave group of women in
Afghanistan ready to be heard and is now being worn around the world as a way for people to
express their solidity as global citizens for a better world.”
On Monday afternoon, four of us from the Bay area went to the Doolittle Gate. There were another 6
at the Wheatland gate. Meeting at the main gate at 5:30pm, in the dark and cold, we were visited by a
security detail from the base during our potluck. They advised us of the nighttime cold. When Flora,
a local activist, arrived with MacGregor, we gladly accepted an offer of her warm house for the night.
After our potluck, we shared two birthday cakes to celebrate the completion of our 3rd year at Beale.
Three years ago this month, Toby, Martha, Lisa and Eleanor dared to come to Beale AFB in the dark of
the early November morning for the first drone warfare vigil. We have since had nearly 100 different
people join the vigil, 4 road blockades and numerous arrests. These past 3 years, many more people in
our country have become aware of the immoral use of drones against civilians, women and children in
other lands. As more and more innocents are being slaughtered by drones the outrage is intensifying.
On Tuesday morning, shortly after 5am we headed out to the Wheatland gate on S. Beale Rd., a heavily
used artery into the base. 12 of us were able to again block traffic into the base at the Wheatland
gate for over 30 minutes. Traffic had backed up for nearly a mile. We held out large banners with
messages of peace, including the beautiful drone victim quilt, with panels of paintings showing some
of the many children who have been murdered by drone warfare. The large NO DRONES light brigade
signs glowed brightly in the night. The vast majority of vehicles respected our blockade without physical
confrontation, but several irate motorists forced their way through the vigil. One dragged our drone
quilt and other visuals several hundred feet, and put one Veteran For Peace activist, John Reiger, at risk,
though luckily he was unharmed. (This led to a length discussion and learning experience for how to
deal with confrontational motorists: peacefully let them through). Not all of us were able to risk arrest,
thus we moved aside after Highway patrolman, Dan Yeager, arrived and gave several warnings. It is our
deepest hope that in that brief period of the morning, as the war machine was momentarily halted, that
maybe a human life in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia or elsewhere was saved.
Four of us, Shirley, Flora, Michael and MacGregor then walked about ½ mile down the road to the
waiting military police at the base boundary, McGregor handed over the vigil’s signed letter she
had prepared to the base commander demanding a halt in the base participation in the drone wars.
Michael, as a military veteran, told the soldiers he was there to speak on their behalf to condemn
the U.S. government for forcing our military personnel to be involved in war crimes against innocent
civilians. After waiting over 15 minutes for a representative of the commander, who never came, the
four of us walked onto the base and were immediately arrested. We were treated well and were
processed out just after 9am to the greetings of many of our fellow vigilers who had braved the cold
morning air another 2 hours to support us. We then closed our usual vigil with breakfast, debriefing
and planning for future drone resistance at the Brick Coffeehouse in Marysville. We will be back and we
hope you will join us the next time.
Written by Michael Kerr, Martha Hubert and Toby Blome
And people wonder what drones in U.S. skies will be used for!
Pakistan Deploys First Domestic Drones
The Pakistani military deployed its first fleet of domestically developed drones Monday, as police cracked down on a protest by demonstrators angry at the U.S. for using similar aircraft to attack Islamic militants in the country.
The new Burraq and Shahpar drones will be used by the Pakistani army and air force, the military said in a statement. It was unclear whether the aircraft are armed or unarmed, and military officials did not immediately respond to request for comment.
The announcement coincided with a move by Pakistani police to prevent activists protesting U.S. drone strikes from blocking trucks carrying NATO troop supplies to and from neighboring Afghanistan.
The intervention was the latest chapter in a saga that began Saturday, when thousands of protesters led by Pakistani politician and cricket star Imran Khan blocked a road in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which is used to ship goods to and from Afghanistan.
Khan's party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, said it would block NATO shipments until the U.S. ended drone attacks.
from Caneyhead Pictures
In June of 2013 a group of peace activists set out for a walk across Iowa to protest the Predator drone control center planned for the Iowa National Guard Air Base in Des Moines. Beginning at the arms depot at Rock Island Illinois and ending at the National Guard Air Base in Des Moines, the intimate journey of 25 peace pilgrims is documented in the film Walking the Walk: a March Against Drone Warfare. For two weeks and one hundred ninety-five miles, the walkers discuss their mission, their hopes, fears and outrage. Among the walkers are a man just released from prison for attempting to deliver a letter to the commander of a drone base, a businessman who has left a lucrative career to walk and witness for peace, veterans who have witnessed war first hand and a lawyer and former government official deeply concerned with the legality of the United States' drone strike program. In discussions with locals they meet and public presentations in libraries, parks and colleges we hear the issue of armed drone strikes and assassinations discussed in all their ethical complexity. Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the world-wide peace action organization Code Pink called the film "Wonderful... Fantastic... Brilliant, it gets out so much info in such a humanizing way. And so beautifully filmed."
Daddy Warbucks: May I have the first word?
Brother Pax: If I may have the last one.
DW: I'm sure you will, and you had the first one too. Before the drones came on the scene, you called them forth. You said "War costs too much money." You said "War kills too many soldiers." Well, here you go. War costs less money. And war kills nobody. And yet you aren't satisfied.
BP: Now, this will be a very short debate if my position is to protest the murdering of people with drones, and your position is that drones kill nobody. There must be more overlap in our worldviews than that if we are even to talk.
DW: You know perfectly well what I meant.
BP: It might be clearer if you tell me.
DW: Drones don't kill pilots or soldiers. They only kill the people who need to be killed.
BP: Let me grant you part of that. We've had pilots and soldiers killed by suicide, by accident, by friendly fire, and by suicide bombings at drone bases. But let's suppose they've been fewer than they might have been in some other form of war.
DW: There's no question.
BP: There is always a question. Sometimes it's a different question than the one being so insistently answered.
BP: If the question is whether to have this kind of war or that kind of war, then we must choose the better kind of war (if we can make out what it is). But if the question is whether to have peace or to have war, then a different answer is available.
DW: Well, of course. We all want peace. But that comes after.
BP: Does it? Let's go back to the "people who need to be killed."
BP: Who are they?
DW: Criminals, terrorists, threats to -- in fact -- kill a lot more people. Stopping them is the whole point.
BP: May I ask you a few questions that might seem unrelated?
DW: Go ahead.
BP: If the government doubled your taxes, would you trust it to do the right things with that money?
BP: Do you trust government officials' campaign promises?
BP: Are you confident that the inspectors who allowed the flooding of the Gulf of Mexico with oil are doing a good job now?
BP: Do you believe politicians tell you a straight story about their new healthcare reforms?
DW: Not exactly.
BP: When people in various cultures established public procedures, such as courts of law, to try to arrive at the truth in criminal cases, rather than just allowing a king or a magician to declare guilt or innocence, why do you think they did that?
DW: To be sure of being right.
BP: Now, why is it that you trust the government to kill thousands of people with missiles from drones, even though the government won't tell you who they are or why they are killed, nobody is indicted, nobody is prosecuted, nobody's extradition is sought, many cases have been established in which the person could quite easily have been arrested, the government's memos redefine "imminent threat" to mean nothing of the sort, the government's memos redefine "combatant" to mean dead male human being between 16 and 65, people are targeted without knowing their name, many of the victims are known to have been innocent, many have been children, many women, many elderly, many those attempting to rescue survivors of a previous strike, and the people in the places where the missiles land say peace negotiations are ruined, criminals are turned into heroes, hatred is created for the United States, and terrorist organizations are strengthened dramatically, in fact the counterproductive nature of these operations on their own terms is so stark that many speculate that creating enemies is the secret purpose or at least that Washington doesn't mind if new enemies are created considering how profitable war is for certain people, and . . .
DW: Now just a minute . . .
BP: Why? Why do you trust that this secretive government is only killing "people who need to be killed"?
DW: Because there are evil people in the world.
BP: Of course there are, but how can you be sure the government has found them? Has it looked everywhere well and hard? Has it created public procedures of verification? Has it looked into any mirrors?
DW: You can't publicly announce who you're going to kill and still be able to kill him.
BP: Have you heard the name Osama Bin Laden?
BP: Didn't they publicly announce they were going to kill him?
DW: Yes, but you can't always.
BP: Can you publicly announce that you're going to try someone in a court of law?
DW: Sure, but not during a war.
BP: Can I ask you another odd question?
BP: Thus far about 80 nations have weaponized drones. Which of those nations are justified in flying them over the United States and murdering people?
DW: No one's doing that.
BP: Let's just think this through, for the sake of argument. Not so many years back, nobody was using these weapons at all. If, next year, a nation flies a drone over the United States and murders someone, will that be justified? And will people in that other country be right to trust that their government did the right thing?
DW: Of course not.
BP: Why not?
DW: It just isn't the same.
BP: I agree.
DW: You do?
BP: Nothing is ever the same. But what are the differences? It's not terribly hard to imagine someone attacking the United States, while an attack on Canada sounds rather comical. But, then, Canada doesn't have troops in 177 other countries and weapons in outerspace and every ocean, doesn't spend as much on its military as every other country combined, doesn't account for 80% of foreign weapons sales to dictatorships and democracies alike, doesn't prop up vicious monarchies to exploit their resources, doesn't view its manhood as entirely dependent on its readiness to bomb anybody who looks at it funny.
DW: And your point?
BP: What if peace doesn't come after war? Is Afghanistan more peaceful now, or before the current war, or before the drawing in of the Soviet Union and the initiation of all of these recent wars? Is Iraq more peaceful now, or before the last war, or before the pair of wars and the sanctions? Is Libya more peaceful now, or before the war? Isn't peace a very hard thing to find during or after a war?
DW: Maybe, sometimes.
BP: But isn't peace right there, right within reach, before you start a war?
DW: We don't start wars.
BP: Is Yemen more peaceful? Is Pakistan more peaceful? Did we replace a ground war with a drone war? Or did we replace peace with a drone war?
DW: It's still a better option!
BP: Better than peace?
DW: No, not better than peace.
BP: Let me ask you one more odd-sounding question. Would you rather have cancer or the flu?
DW: Is this a joke?
BP: Just pick, in all seriousness, and I'll explain.
DW: The flu.
BP: Now, if there were only a few cases of cancer, and doctors were getting close to curing it, but the flu was extremely contagious, it spread rapidly around the globe, it could spring up anywhere with no known cure, and -- strange to say -- sometimes the flu began turning into a new kind of cancer -- Now, in this situation, which is worse, the few cases of cancer or the epidemic of flu?
DW: The epidemic, of course.
BP: You can have the last word.
DW: Let me think about it.
Originally posted at AcronymTV
Representatives from some of the parts of the world where US drones kill descended on Washington DC for the largest ever anti-drone summit. Code Pink, The Nation Magazine and the Georgetown chapter of the National Lawyers Guild served as host for the two-day summit.
As Majore Cohn, professor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, writes:
WHO: Members of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance [NCNR] have been active in challenging U.S. invasions and attacks on Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries. Most recently, NCNR has been expressing a grave concern against the use of drone strikes to assassinate people in various countries. On October 22, five members of NCNR were convicted of trespass at the Central Intelligence Agency on June 29 while seeking a meeting to discuss drone strikes.
WHAT: As part of the CodePink Global Summit on Drones, citizen activists have come to Washington to raise the issue of killer drone strikes. NCNR organized a planning session, and it was decided to write to Senator Chuck Schumer, a noted proponent of the unconstitutional drone strikes, to demand that he speak out against this assassination program. Now NCNR representatives intend to visit his office to seek a meeting.
WHEN: Monday, November 18, 2013 at 1:30 PM
WHERE: 322 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington D.C. 20510
WHY: On August 7, 2013 HADAS GOLD reported that Sen. Chuck Schumer promoted the drone war: “’On terrorism, the president has been tougher than anybody else,’” ‘the New York Democrat said on CNN’s “New Day.’” “’Remember, George Bush wouldn’t let the drones go into Pakistan, and Al Qaeda flourished. The president did, and terrorism is way down. He’s pursuing the tactic in Yemen, and I think it’s working.’”
The NCNR citizen activists disagree. No declaration of war has been declared against Yemen, and civilian casualties are rampant. And it can be argued that drone strikes are just breeding more terrorists. In fact, Malala Yousafzai, when meeting with the Obama family, raised concerns about the administration’s use of drones, saying they are “fueling terrorism.” Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch issued a recent report speculating that U.S. drone strikes may be war crimes.
The activists will try to convince Se. Schumer to support the termination of the assassination program. This would be an opportunity to instead use f reconciliation and diplomacy rather than pernicious killer drone strikes. A U.S. policy of endless wars must be placed in the dustbin of history.
Saw this movie last night and highly recommend it. You'll learn more about U.S. foreign policy than you could gather from a mile-high stack of the New York Times, and you'll imagine you're just being entertained. Pick up some popcorn and pull up a chair:
Germany had planned to buy a fleet of "Euro Hawk" killer drones -- perhaps in an effort to bring the European Union up to speed with certain other Nobel Peace laureates.
But something happened on the way to the celestial colosseum.
Of course, Captain Drone Man himself undoubtedly learned the news first, unless the NSA misplaced some of Frau Merkel's emails under a pile of exchanges among nonviolent activists planning the upcoming drone summit in DC.
What happened was public pressure within a nation dedicated to peace and -- at the moment -- more resistant than Japan to being turned back toward war. Germany has now said nein, nein, and hell nein to killer flying robots. And not just to the use of weaponized drones within what Americans might call Der Homeland, but to Germany's use of remote control murder planes against human beings anywhere on earth.
Earlier this month at the United Nations, several nations, including most prominently Brazil, denounced the criminality of murdering people around the globe with drones. Now Germany has taken a serious step in the direction of condemning armed drones to the status of land mines, poison gas, and nuclear weapons. If Germany can do it, we can all do it. And the scene in this video can go global:
What Localities and States Can Do About Drones
Note: Actions taken by cities apart from resolutions, as in Lincoln, NE, and Seattle, WA, are not listed here. While Iowa City, Iowa, is listed in various places as having passed a resolution, we have not seen confirmation of final passage.
UPDATE: Berkeley (no. 10?) did this.
UPDATE: Woodstock, NY, is number 8.
UPDATE: Amherst, MA, is number 7, and they passed two!
UPDATE: Leverett, MA, is number 6.
UPDATE: Syracuse, NY, is number 5.
Charlottesville, Va., passed a resolution that urged the state of Virginia to adopt a two-year moratorium on drones (which it did), urged both Virginia and the U.S. Congress to prohibit information obtained from the domestic use of drones from being introduced into court, and to preclude the domestic use of drones equipped with "anti-personnel devices, meaning any projectile, chemical, electrical, directed-energy (visible or invisible), or other device designed to harm, incapacitate, or otherwise negatively impact a human being," and pledged that Charlottesville would "abstain from similar uses with city-owned, leased, or borrowed drones."
St. Bonifacius, Minn., passed a resolution with the same language as Charlottesville plus a ban on anyone operating a drone "within the airspace of the city," making a first offense a misdemeanor and a repeat offense a felony.
Evanston, Ill., passed a resolution establishing a two-year moratorium on the use of drones in the city with exceptions for hobby and model aircraft and for non-military research, and making the same recommendations to the state and Congress as Charlottesville and St. Bonifacius.
Northampton, Mass., passed a resolution urging the U.S. government to end its practice of extrajudicial killing with drones, affirming that within the city limits "the navigable airspace for drone aircraft shall not be expanded below the long-established airspace for manned aircraft" and that "landowners subject to state laws and local ordinances have exclusive control of the immediate reaches of the airspace and that no drone aircraft shall have the 'public right of transit' through this private property," and urging the state and Congress and the FAA "to respect legal precedent and constitutional guarantees of privacy, property rights, and local sovereignty in all matters pertaining to drone aircraft and navigable airspace."
See full text of all resolutions at warisacrime.org/resolutions
Other cities, towns, and counties should be able to pass similar resolutions. Of course, stronger and more comprehensive resolutions are best. But most people who learned about the four resolutions above just leaned that these four cities had "banned drones" or "passed an anti-drone resolution." The details are less important in terms of building national momentum against objectionable uses of drones. By including both surveillance and weaponized drones, as all four cities have done, a resolution campaign can find broader support. By including just one issue, a resolution might meet fewer objections. Asking a city just to make recommendations to a state and the nation might also meet less resistance than asking the city to take actions itself. Less can be more.
Localities have a role in national policy. City councilors and members of boards of supervisors take an oath to support the Constitution of the United States. Cities and towns routinely send petitions to Congress for all kinds of requests. This is allowed under Clause 3, Rule XII, Section 819, of the Rules of the House of Representatives. This clause is routinely used to accept petitions from cities, and memorials from states. The same is established in the Jefferson Manual, the rulebook for the House originally written by Thomas Jefferson for the Senate. In 1967, a court in California ruled (Farley v. Healey, 67 Cal.2d 325) that "one of the purposes of local government is to represent its citizens before the Congress, the Legislature, and administrative agencies in matters over which the local government has no power. Even in matters of foreign policy it is not uncommon for local legislative bodies to make their positions known." Abolitionists passed local resolutions against U.S. policies on slavery. The anti-apartheid movement did the same, as did the nuclear freeze movement, the movement against the PATRIOT Act, the movement in favor of the Kyoto Protocol, etc. No locality is an island. If we become environmentally sustainable, others will ruin our climate. If we ban assault weapons, they'll arrive at our borders. And if the skies of the United States are filled with drones, it will become ever more difficult for any city or state to keep them out.
How to pass a local resolution: Every city or county is different, but some rules of thumb are applicable. To the extent possible, build understanding of the issues. Invite speakers, screen films, hold conferences. To the extent possible, educate and win over elected officials. Make the case that localities have a responsibility to speak on national issues to represent the interests of local people. Make the case that the time to act is before the problem expands out of control. Most states are considering drone legislation, so refer to that activity in your state. Make clear that you are aware of countless benevolent and harmless uses of drones but that you are prioritizing Constitutional rights and want exceptions made for uses that do not endanger self-governance rather than drones being made the norm and restrictions the exception. The Congressional Research Service says drones are incompatible with the Fourth Amendment. The U.N. Special Rapporteur says drones are making war the norm. If possible, propose the weakest resolution you can, and ask the local government to put it on the agenda for consideration; then propose the strongest possible resolution you dare. You may end up with a compromise, as happened in Charlottesville. Work the local media and public. Pack the meeting(s). Take advantage of every opportunity for the public to speak. Unlike at the state or national levels, you are unlikely to face any organized opposition. Make your most persuasive case, and make a great show of public support. Equate a "No" vote with support for cameras in everyone's windows and armed drones over picnics. Equate a "Yes" vote with prevention of racial profiling, activist profiling, and the targeting of all sorts of groups that can be recruited into your campaign.
STATES: See full text of all resolutions at warisacrime.org/resolutions
Oregon has passed a law banning weaponized drones in all cases and banning drone use by law enforcement unless they have a warrant, they have probable cause without a warrant, or for search and rescue, or for an emergency, or for studying a crime scene, or for training (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).
Virginia has passed a law banning local and state (but not federal or National Guard) government drone use for two years unless various color-coded alerts are activated or there is a search or rescue operation or for training exercises or for drone-training schools, and strictly banning (for two years) any state or local weaponized drones.
Florida has passed a law banning law enforcement agencies from using drones to gather information unless they think they have some sort of reason to do so (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).
Idaho has passed a law banning drone surveillance "absent reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal conduct" except in pursuit of marijuana in which case no such suspicion is needed (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).
Illinois has passed a law banning drones except for law enforcement agencies that have a warrant or when the Secretary of Homeland Security shouts "terrorism!" or they are reasonably suspicious it's needed or are searching for a missing person or are photographing a crime scene or traffic crash scene (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).
Tennessee has passed a law banning law enforcement drones unless the Sec. of Homeland Security shouts "terrorism!" or there's a warrant or there's suspicion without a warrant (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).
Texas has passed a law banning the capturing of images with drones except for ... too many exceptions to list.
Congressman Grayson passed an amendment to a DHS funding bill banning DHS from using weaponized drones, a step that must be repeated each year for this and other agencies unless a full national or international ban is put in place.
This article as a double-sided, single-page handout: PDF.
WHEREAS, the rapid implementation of drone technology throughout the United States poses a serious threat to the privacy and constitutional rights of the American people, including the residents of Charlottesville; and
WHEREAS, the federal government and the Commonwealth of Virginia have thus far failed to provide reasonable legal restrictions on the use of drones within the United States; and
WHEREAS, police departments throughout the country have begun implementing drone technology absent any guidance or guidelines from law makers;
We are at a critical crossroads in this new era of robotic warfare. In the global war on terror, remote-controlled unmanned aerial vehicles, also called drones, make it possible to strike almost anywhere from the comfort of a base close to home. The use of drones has been escalating under the Obama Administration and now includes attacks in countries with which the United States is not officially at war. Drones are expected to be used widely in the United States beginning as early as 2015.
There is great secrecy surrounding the use of drones. The public has not had access to documents that provide legal justification for drone killings or outline the guidelines for decisions on who is targeted. Strikes are largely coordinated covertly by the CIA and Joint Special Operations Command, JSOC, an arm of the military that carries out high-security activities. Nor has the government provided information on the number of killings, how many are civilian deaths and where they occur. Instead, tracking groups try to fill that void with estimates - as The Bureau of Investigative Journalism does in their Naming the Dead project.
A Yemeni man who lost two members of his family to a US drone strike one year ago has asked President Obama to meet with him when he visits Washington DC this week.
Faisal bin Ali Jaber lost his brother in law, a preacher who publicly opposed al Qaeda, and nephew, a local policeman, in a strike that took place in the Hadhramout region on August 29, 2012.
Just days before he was killed, Salim bin Ali Jaber had preached at the local mosque against al Qaeda. He was killed, along with police officer Waleed bin Ali Jaber, in a strike which may have been targeted at three strangers who visited the village demanding to speak to Salem following his sermon.
Mr Jaber is visiting Washington DC from Thursday November 14 to Wednesday November 20 in order to hold meetings with members of Congress and address conferences of academics and activists regarding his experiences. His visa has been sponsored by peace group Code Pink, at whose conference he is speaking on Saturday.
Writing to President Obama on behalf of Mr Jaber, his legal representative, Cori Crider, an attorney at human rights charity Reprieve said:
“As well as killing innocent Yemenis, Faisal believes the drone strikes are counter-productive. His village is peaceful. They bore the US no ill-will, quite the contrary as can be seen from Salim’s brave stand five days before he died. Yet today the villagers associate the US with the brutal murder of two of their own.
“Faisal is visiting the US as a representative of the victims’ families to bring attention to the true cost of the drone war, not only in terms of Yemeni lives and but in terms of America’s reputation in the region. I know that you are very busy, but I hope that you might make time to meet him, in order to understand the cost of the US’ drone programme for those on the ground in Yemen.”
Faisal bin ali Jaber, a Yemeni man whose relatives were killed in a US drone strike, is traveling to the United States this week to tell his story to Congress and human rights activists at this weekend’s Drone Summit (which I’m covering for Truthout, FYI).
Jaber’s brother-in-law, 49-year-old Sheik Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber, was killed in a covert drone strike on Hadhramout in August 2012. Salem was a Yemeni cleric and father of seven who preached loudly against the extremism exhibited by Al Qaeda, which his family feared would invite violent retribution from Al Qaeda linked militants. But in the end, it was US violence that ended Salem’s life as well as that of Waleed bin ali Jaber, a local policeman who was with Salem at the time of strike.
Happy 96th Armistice Day!