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Drones and Gadflies – Framing the Debate on War by Remote Control

By Brian Terrell

On May 23, President Obama gave a major address from the National Defense University, ON THE FUTURE OF OUR FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM, in which he acknowledged for the first time the US government’s still officially secret program of assassination by remotely controlled drones. I was able to watch this televised speech from the privileged vantage of a federal prison on the last day of a sentence resulting from my protest of drones lethally operated from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri over various countries around the world.

Over the previous six months in the Federal Prison Camp at Yankton, South Dakota, I had watched from afar as the discussion on drone warfare emerged from the fringe and into the mainstream. Fellow prisoners brought me clippings on the subject from their local newspapers and kept me apprised of what they heard on the evening news. The American people seemed to be just awakening to the reality and consequences of wars being fought and assassinations carried out by unmanned but heavily armed planes controlled by combatants sitting at computer screens at stateside bases far from the conflict.

My own anti-drone activism began with protests at Creech Air Force Base in the Nevada desert in April, 2009. Even some otherwise well informed people were skeptical, back then, that such things were even possible, much less happening daily. Many who were aware accepted the simple and happy narrative of drone warfare as a precise new high-tech system in which soldiers from a safe distance of thousands of miles can pin point those who mean us imminent harm with little or no collateral damage.

Even some among our friends in the peace movement questioned the wisdom of focusing attention on drones. Must we protest every new advance in weaponry? Can’t we allow for methods that are at least improvements on indiscriminate carnage? Is not a precisely aimed and delivered drone attack preferable to carpet bombing? Is it not preferable to invasion? Does it make a difference to the victims, in any case, whether there is a pilot in the plane that bombs them or not?

The fact that four years later on the day before my release from prison, the president of the United States was defending the use of drones before the country and the world is truly remarkable. This is not a discussion that he or anyone else in the government, politics or the military encouraged or one that the media was anxious to take on. The fact that the issue is up for discussion at all is due to considerable efforts of the few here in the US and the UK in solidarity with many in the streets in Pakistan, Yemen and Afghanistan protesting this foul weaponry. Communities of protest and resistance in Nevada, New York, California, Missouri, Wisconsin, England and Iowa thrust the issue into local forums, courts and media through creative actions and legal stratagems, effectively demanding that grievance over drone killing be heard. The president’s own speech was itself only rescued from being the cleverly constructed but empty litany of alibi, half-truth and obfuscation that it was intended to be by the interruption by our friend, Medea Benjamin.

In his 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., noted that often a society like ours “bogged down in the tragic attempt to live in monologue rather than dialogue,” requires “nonviolent gadflies” in order to “create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal.”

As with the issue of segregation 50 years ago, so today the parameters of discussion allowed by politeness and good manners or sanctioned by the police and courts simply cannot abide the objective appraisal of drone warfare that the times require. Such as it is, the discussion is made possible only by some who dare speak out of turn, as Medea, or who use their bodies to intrude on the orderly commission of criminalities in our midst. Before the president’s lecture drone warfare’s approval rating was at the top of the polls but a month later drone pilot Col. Bryan Davis of the Ohio Air National Guard noted a turn of the tide. “We are not popular among the American public, every other base has been protested,” he lamented to a local paper. “It doesn’t make you feel warm inside.”

The narrative of humanitarian war via drone had begun to unravel in the public eye in the months leading up to the president’s speech and has since fallen further into disrepute. Months before the president made the assertion in his May 23 speech that “by narrowly targeting our action against those who want to kill us and not the people they hide among, we are choosing the course of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life,” his administration had already revised earlier claims that the drone programs in Yemen and Pakistan had yielded zero known noncombatant deaths to one death to finally admitting to a death toll in “single digits.” By almost any accounting the noncombatant tolls in those countries have been at least in the hundreds.

Just weeks after the president spoke at the National Defense University, a journal published by that institution published a study that debunked his assurance that “conventional airpower and missiles are far less precise than drones, and likely to cause more civilian casualties and local outrage.” Drone strikes in Afghanistan, the study found, were “an order of magnitude more likely to result in civilian casualties per engagement.”

Another assurance given in this speech, that “America cannot take strikes wherever we choose; our actions are bound by consultations with partners, and respect for state sovereignty,” was discredited on June 8 when the US ambassador to Pakistan was summoned by the prime minister of that country angry over a US drone attack that killed nine people. “It was conveyed to the US chargé ď affaires that the government of Pakistan strongly condemns the drone strikes, which are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs. “The importance of bringing an immediate end to drone strikes was emphasized.”

“We act against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people.” Formerly the word “imminent” referred to something about to happen at any moment and using the generally accepted definition of the word one might construe in the president’s words a guarantee that drone strikes are used only to stop “terrorists” engaged in acts that would cause immediate harm to Americans. John Brennan, now director of the CIA, suggested in September 2011 that “a more flexible understanding of ‘imminence’ may be appropriate when dealing with terrorist groups.” This more flexible understanding of imminence justifies the assassination not only of those caught in the act, but also of targets who are suspected of having written something or said something to make someone think that they might have something to do with an attack on the US someday. A person who is caught on the drone’s video feed from 7,000 miles away as acting in a manner consistent with someone who might harm one day may now be eliminated as an imminent threat.

Referring to the killing of Anwar Awlaki, an American citizen in Yemen, the president assured us that “for the record, I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any US citizen -- with a drone, or with a shotgun -- without due process.” The general usage of the words “due process” would cause the misapprehension that the right of a citizen to have trial by jury before being executed is being reaffirmed here. “This is simply not accurate,” says Attorney General Eric Holder. “‘Due process’ and ‘judicial process’ are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.” The burden of “due process” can now be met when the president decides based on secret evidence that a citizen should die.

Drone technology is changing our language beyond redefining terms like “imminence” and “due process.” We have progressed, too, beyond Orwellian euphemisms such as naming an intercontinental nuclear missile “Peacekeeper.” These new “hunter-killer platforms” bear names like “Predators” and “Reapers” and may soon be supplanted by “Avengers” and “Stalkers.” The ordinance they deliver is a missile named “Hellfire.”

In Iowa where I live, the Air National Guard unit based in Des Moines has replaced its F-16 fighter planes with a Reaper drone control center. This transformation was marked by changing the unit’s name from the “132nd Fighter Wing” to the “132nd Attack Wing.” This change is more than symbolic- a “fight” by definition has two sides and the word implies some kind of parity. There is such a thing as a fair fight (of course the 132nd’s F-16s were used only on all but disarmed populations in places like Iraq and Panama) and a fight usually has some kind of resolution. An “attack” however, is just that. An attack is one-sided, something that a perpetrator inflicts on a victim. A fighter might sometimes be justified, an attacker, never. There is no “just attack” theory. The parsing out of innocent and guilty drone victims is in a sense a waste of time. All alike are victims.

George Kennan, might have seen this coming in a policy paper he wrote for the State Department in 1948. In order to preserve the global disparity of wealth post World War II (“We have about 50% of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3% of its population”) he suggested that “we should cease to talk about vague and unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.” While the speech at the National Defense University was an embarrassment of idealistic slogans, it also used chilling pragmatism to deal with straight power concepts. 

“For me,” the president said on May 23, “and those in my chain of command, those deaths will haunt us as long as we live.” Those words had a truer ring a few days later spoken on NBC news by Brandon Bryant, an Air Force drone operator who confessed to being haunted by 1,600 deaths he took part in. Bryant admitted that his actions made him feel like a “heartless sociopath,” and he described one of his first kills, sitting in a chair at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada when his team fired on three men walking down a road in Afghanistan. It was night in Afghanistan, and he remembers watching the thermal image of one victim on his computer screen: “I watch this guy bleed out and, I mean, the blood is hot.” Bryant watched the man die and his image disappear as his body attained the ambient temperature of the ground. “I can see every little pixel, if I just close my eyes.” The remoteness of the drone warrior is no protection from the moral damage of war, and these people are victims as well, and it is on their behalf as well that we protest.

We cannot know the hearts of President Obama and those in his inner circle but it is not hard to wonder whether they are truly haunted by the deaths of those killed by drones at their commands. If they may not be haunted by their own consciences, perhaps the responsibility of haunting them falls to us.

 

Brian Terrell is a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, www.vcnv.org,  and lives on a Catholic Worker Farm in Maloy, Iowa

Beale Anti-Drone Protestors Sentenced to Community Service

Beale Anti-Drone Protestors

Beale Anti-Drone Protestors:  Sharon Delgado, Jane Kesselman, Jan and David Hartsough, Shirley Osgood

By Sharon Delgado

My four friends and I were sentenced today to ten hours each of community service by the judge who convicted us last month of trespassing onto Beale Air Force Base during an anti-drone protest.   Judge Carolyn K. Delaney in U.S. District Court in Sacramento acknowledged that we were motivated by conscience and by “deeply held ethical and religious beliefs.”  We were delighted with the light sentence, which sets a precedent for other protesters.  The judge could have imposed up to six months in jail, a $5,000 fine, and/or five years probation.

Shirley Osgood, Janie Kesselman, David and Jan Hartsough and I had engaged in civil disobedience by crossing a line onto Beale Air Force Base last October during a demonstration against the U.S. drone warfare program.  Global Hawk surveillance drones, based at Beale, assist in finding targets for weaponized drones.  Here is the statement I made in court today:

Sharon Delgado’s Statement at Sentencing

Judge, although you did not allow us to use the necessity defense or to appeal to international law or to use expert witnesses, the facts are still there.  My faith compelled me to act, and I’m willing to accept the consequences.

We stepped onto Beale property because of conscience.  US drones are killing people, including children.  US drones are creating enemies who will want to take revenge.  US drones are not making us more secure, but less secure.   By acting outside of international law we are making the world a more dangerous place.

The classic metaphor when talking about the necessity defense is the image of a house on fire.  There’s a house on fire, with a child crying from the window and a No Trespassing sign on the door.  What is the right thing to do in such a situation?  Can a person ignore the sign and enter the house in order to save the child?   That’s what we’re talking about here.

In 2011, Brian Terrell was arrested with 14 others for protesting drones at Creech Air Force Base. At their trial, Brian said, “The house is on fire.  And we fourteen are ones who have seen the smoke from the fire and heard the cries of the children.  We cannot be deterred by a No Trespassing sign from going to the burning children.”

People are dying.  The house is burning.  We crossed the line at Beale to try to stop the conflagration and keep it from spreading. We were obeying a higher law.

Judge, I am non-repentant.  I do not regret standing in front of the gate at Beale and holding our sign.  I think our action was a success.  More people are talking about the drone program than they were before this action.  I would do it again.  In fact, I encourage others to take action, including nonviolent direct action, to interfere with the U.S. drone program and to stop the most recent rush to war.

I will not pay a fine,  but I will gladly go to jail or accept community service.  My faith compelled me to act, and I’m willing to accept the consequences.

Previous blogs that give an in-depth account of this case can and of the harm caused by drone warfare can be found at Sharon Delgado’s blog.  The statements of the other defendants will be posted there over the next few days.    

“Follow” this blog by signing up to receive an email message when a blog is posted or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell FaceBook Page.

Protest Drone Wars at the CIA

Amidst the struggle between violence and war or diplomacy and peace, the US is focused on a civil war in another country, Syria, denouncing the Syrian regime which the US claims kills innocent people including children. This Saturday, September 14 we will continue our monthly vigil against the use of armed drones used by the US CIA and US Military who are killing innocent people including children. Please find some time and join us for our vigil.
 
Our message is simple:
DRONE WARFARE IS IMMORAL AND ILLEGAL. NO MORE WAR, STOP ARMED DRONES NOW!
 
DATE & TIME:
Saturday, September 14 at 10AM to 11:30AM
PLACE:
Central Intelligence Agency headquarters located in the 900 block of Dolley Madison Blvd., McLean, VA
 
Since our last vigil in July protesting the illegal and immoral use of killer drones the US has continued the practice of extrajudicial killing with the aerial death squad drones in various countries. According to the investigative reporters with The Bureau of Investigative Journalism just in Yemen alone the number of drone strikes was the highest since March of 2012 with 22 to 43 people reportedly killed. Six civilians were reportedly killed by the American death squads of the skies.
 
Supported by Pax Christi Metro DC, Northern Virginians for Peace & Justice, Episcopal Peace Fellowship (DC), Dorothy Day Catholic Worker of DC, Code Pink, Nova Catholic Community, Langley Hill Friends (Quaker), Washington Peace Center, Peace Action Montgomery County, MD, Little Friends for Peace, Maryland United for Peace & Justice, Veterans For Peace

For more information contact Jack McHale: 703-772-0635

David Hartsough’s statement at sentencing Sept 9 for his nonviolent protest against Drones at Beale Air Force Base

Drones have killed thousands of innocent civilians and are immoral and illegal under US and international law. They also recruit many more people into Al Qaeda.
 
We are one human family. All people in the world are children of God and are our brothers and sisters. If someone attacks our blood brother or sister, we would do everything in our power to stop them. This is the way we feel about innocent civilians being killed by drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.
 
One hundred and seventy-eight children and thousands of other civilians have been killed by drones in Pakistan and Yemen. Does this strengthen our national security? Is this making the world a safer place?
 
Drones are totally immoral and are against everything we have been taught in our religious Faiths: Love one another, Love your enemy and Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This is a question of religious freedom. I am a Quaker and my religious Faith requires me to try to stop the killing of innocent people.
 
How would we feel if Russians or Chinese or Afghanis or Pakistanis were flying drones over the US and killing American people?
 
It is illegal under international law to go into another country and drop bombs on people our government doesn’t like. The Nuremberg Principles require citizens to attempt to stop crimes against humanity and killing innocent civilians is a crime against humanity. Doing nothing or remaining silent is complicity in these crimes. In protesting at Beale AFB, I was trying to uphold international law.
 
The United States is making decisions to kill people without them ever coming before a court or found guilty. The US government is playing Judge, Jury and Executioner. Is this what we call the rule of law?
 
Using drones and killing many innocent people is creating more and more enemies of the US. Every person we kill has at least 50 family members and friends who will mourn the loss of their loved ones.  Many will seek revenge on the people and nation that has killed their loved one or friend.
 
Instead of drones and dropping bombs on people we need to send Peace Corps people to build schools and medical clinics and help people in these countries recover from the wounds of war. We could be the most loved country on earth rather than the most hated.
 
By our silence we condone this senseless killing. We must speak out and act to stop this madness. By our nonviolent protest at Beale AFB, we were acting to uphold God’s law, US law, the Nuremberg Principles and international law.
 
We call on our fellow Americans, people in churches and synagogues and mosques, students, all people of conscience to join us in stopping Drones before they kill more innocent people and recruit more people into Al Qaeda. Unfortunately, our “war on terror” is a receipe for perpetual wars and endless suffering and death for people around the world.
 
Judge Carolyn Delaney, at a time when our country is preparing to reign down missiles and bombs on Syria which could start a much larger war in the Middle East killing thousands or hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps the best place for people of conscience is behind bars.
 
I am at peace with whatever you sentence me to.  I cannot pay a fine or accept probation for a nonviolent action in which I was trying to uphold God’s law, US law and international law. Judge, if you so decide, I am ready to do community service or spend time in prison.

David was arrested along with eight others blocking two entrances at Beale Air Force Base where they closed the main entrance for over three hours.

Cruise Missile Law Enforcement

The White House is treating the Syrian government like a potential drone strike victim.

President Barack Obama's preferred method for dealing with targeted individuals is not to throw them into lawless prisons.  But it's also not to indict and prosecute them.

On June 7th, Yemeni tribal leader Saleh Bin Fareed told Democracy Now that Anwar al Awlaki could have been turned over and put on trial, but "they never asked us." In numerous other cases it is evident that drone strike victims could have been arrested if that avenue had ever been attempted.

A memorable example was the November 2011 drone killing in Pakistan of 16-year-old Tariq Aziz, days after he'd attended an anti-drone meeting in the capital, where he might easily have been arrested -- had he been charged with some crime.

Missile-strike law enforcement is now being applied to governments as well.  The Libyan government was given a death sentence.  The Syrian government is being sentenced to the loss of some citizens, buildings, and supplies.

The purpose is not to end the war, or even to speed the coming of the end of the war.  The purpose is not to overthrow the government (an action which in Libya was not yet clearly recognizable as this new form of law enforcement).  Nor, of course, is the purpose rehabilitation or restitution or reconciliation or most of the nobler motivations we sometimes assign to punishment.  The purpose of sending missiles into Syria will be "punitive," meaning retributive.  It will "send a message," possibly intended to include deterrence.

When the Bush-Cheney gang was accused of cruel and unusual punishment because it tortured, they replied: this isn't punishment, it's interrogation.  But surely dropping missiles on people is not interrogation.  It's advertised as punishment.  And that's putting its best foot forward.  It's punishment so that it doesn't have to be a crime itself.

For, of course, dropping missiles on people is normally itself a serious crime, just as kicking in your door at night with guns blazing is normally against the law.  But if a policeman -- global or normal -- does it, well, then it's law enforcement, not law breaking.

This is why the U.S. government can itself use chemical weapons, while punishing others for doing so.  It's the cop.  It uses white phosphorus and napalm to enforce laws, or at least to do something in the line of duty.  The BBC this week reported on yet another horrific incident in Syria, this one involving "napalm-like burns."  The only way for the U.S., the land of napalm, to punish such acts with righteous indignation is through the immunity granted to the global police force.

I wrote a book three years ago called War Is A Lie in hopes of helping to build enough awareness so that some day we would have a majority against a war before it began, rather than a year and a half later.  That day has arrived.  The UK is a bit ahead of the USA, but we've all moved toward much greater and healthier scepticism toward war lies.

We don't believe that the evil of Assad justifies bombing Syrians.  We laugh when Obama says Syria might theoretically attack us some day.  We don't see the supposed generosity in dropping bombs on an already war-torn nation.  We don't accept that a war is inevitable.  We watch Parliament say no and wonder where Congress is.

Congress members have been "urging" the president to consult with them, centuries after this country was formed by supposedly leaving royal powers behind in England.  When will Congress members call for a return to Washington for an emergency session?  When will they vote to block funding for any attack on Syria?  They should be aware that by not taking these actions they have made themselves complicit in our eyes, and in the eyes of the world.

Phil Ochs saw the Global War on Terra Part II coming when he sang:

Come, get out of the way, boys
Quick, get out of the way
You'd better watch what you say, boys
Better watch what you say
We've rammed in your harbor and tied to your port
And our pistols are hungry and our tempers are short
So bring your daughters around to the port
'Cause we're the cops of the world, boys
We're the cops of the world

"BRENNAN 3" CONVICTED OF PROTESTING DRONE WARFARE

 IN SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE HEARING CONFIRMING JOHN BRENNAN

            On  August 19, 2013, three defendants charged with disruptive and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, were convicted in a jury trial in DC Superior Court.  David Barrows of Washington, DC, Mari (Toby) Blome of San Francisco, CA, and Joan Nicholson of Kennett Square, PA, were each charged with one count of disruption of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence confirmation hearing for CIA director John Brennan, on February 7, 2013 in the Senate Hart Office Building.  The three stood trial before a jury of 12 DC citizens, in a trial overseen by Associate Judge Patricia Broderick.
            David Barrows and Joan Nicholson were arrested before the hearing formally began, and yet were convicted of disrupting the hearing.  They were arrested by US Capitol Police before Committee Chair Diane Feinstein (D-CA) had gaveled the committee to order.  Subsequent acts witnessing before the committee ensued.  About 20 minutes into the hearing, Toby Blome stood on a chair, holding a doll which symbolized the children being killed by drones in Pakistan and other countries.  She spoke truth to her Senator, California Democrat Diane Feinstein, saying that “the CIA will not even tell Congress which countries they are killing children” in; she was shocked that Congress could not or would not, do its job!
            The three stood trial before a jury in DC Superior Court, before a diverse jury of citizens of Washington DC.  Over the course of three days, they told their compelling stories, along with other witnesses who were also at the hearing.  The witnesses described that often those attending a hearing, can hold signs and can speak to Senators or even call out loud, before the hearing begins.  Yet, these three were arrested (along with five others) and charged with disrupting the confirmation hearing of CIA Director John Brennan.
            John Brennan was third in command of the Central Intelligence Agency during the presidency of George W Bush, and was complicit with the CIA program of torture.  In the Obama Administration he joined the White House National Security Council staff, overseeing “Terror Tuesdays,” when White House officials decide who to assassinate by killer drones. Those assassinated have included American citizens, including a 16-year-old boy, the son of Anwar Al-Awlaki.  White House spokesman explained the killing, saying the boy “had the wrong father.”
            During the course of the trial, Defendants were prevented from describing in detail the killer drone program, as well as mentioning international legal principles such as the Nuremberg Principles. Such evidence was ruled “irrelevant” to the charged disruption.  The three defendants conducted the trial as "pro se" attorneys, assisted by their legal advisors, attorneys Mark Goldstone and Ann Wilcox.
            The three will be sentenced before DC Superior Court Associate Judge Patricia Broderick on Tuesday, August 20, 2013, in Courtroom 112.  The convicted intend to appeal the jury verdict.

Trial Ending Monday for Brennan 3

Peace activists who protested CIA Director John Brennan's confirmation hearing are at the end of their trial for disruption of Congress.

Brennan 3.jpg
The Brennan 3 who ended up being prosecuted by the US Government for speaking out against CIA Director's nomination hearing will come to the end of their trial on Monday, August 19 in Superior Court in Washington, DC.

They are asking the local DC area activist community to come to court as they are able to support them.

They have issued the following statement:

Three of the activists who were arrested at the Feb 7, 2013 Senate Confirmation Hearing of John Brennan as CIA Director are currently on trial in DC. The last trial day is likely to be Monday, Aug 19, or Tuesday at the latest;. Drone Czar, John Brennan, was ultimately confirmed to head the CIA, but our commitment for peace and justice is relentless and "SHALL NOT BE MOVED."

The three co-defendants, David Barrows, Joan Nicholson and Toby Blome are representing themselves pro se, with terrific assistance from their legal advisors, DC attorneys Ann Wilcox and Mark Goldstone. The co-defendants are arguing they did not have specific intent to disrupt the hearing, along with other arguments, Please join us at DC Superior Court, Courtroom 112 (Judge Patricia Broderick). The courthouse is at 500 Indiana Ave., NW, Washington DC.

For details of the CodePink anti-drone action that the defendants were part of, refer to the media links below.

Please hold us all in your thoughts,

Sincerely,

Toby Blome, Bay Area CodePink


CodePink speaks out at John Brennan Confirmation Hearing:


DEMOCRACY NOW
www.democracynow.org/2013/2/8/codepink_repeatedly_disrupts_brennan_hearing_calling


C-SPAN:

www.c-spanvideo.org/program/ADirectorNomi

Drones Quilt Project Makes Exhibit Debut

The Drones Quilt Project exhibit made its debut appearance at the recent Veterans For Peace convention in Madison, WI.  The exhibit consists of four quilts of 36 blocks each, four informational posters, and a Resource/Take Action handout.  Each block was individually made from people all over the country and memorializes the victim of a U.S. combat drone strike.  Currently only about 20% of the drone victims have been identified.  More blocks are being created and more quilts are being made as the identities become known.  For more information about the Drones Quilt Project, see www.dronesquiltproject.wordpress.com.  If you are interested in making a block for the quilt, or hosting the exhibit in your town, please contact Leah Bolger:  leahbolger@comcast.net.

5 Drone Protesters Found Guilty

By Veterans For Peace

5 Anti-Drone Protesters Found Guilty of Trespassing Monday(Aug 12); Federal Judge Won't Allow 'Nuremberg Principles' Defense Regarding Civilian Casualties

SACRAMENTO – Five peace advocates protesting against the Obama Administration's use of killer drones and killings of innocent civilians, including children, around the world were found guilty late Monday in U.S. District Court here of trespassing.

The so-called "Beale 5" were arrested Oct. 30, 2012 at the main gate to Beale AFB, where the Global Hawk drone is based. It flies surveillance for lethal predator drones.

The guilty verdict – handed down by federal judge Carolyn K. Delaney late Monday – means a possible fine and/or up to six months in federal prison. Sentencing is set for Sept. 9.

All the defendants have said they will not pay a fine or accept probation.

The court refused to allow the defense of necessity or the Nuremberg defense, which provides that a citizen is complicit in the killing of civilians – as in the drone strikes – if they do not protest or try to stop that killing by their government.

Cindy Sheehan and about 50 peace advocates from Northern California attended the trial.

The defendants were represented by volunteer lawyers coordinated by the National Lawyers Guild of Sacramento, which said the government also denied defendants a jury trial, even though they could be sentenced to six months in prison.

Those found guilty were Janie Kesselman, Camptonville; Sharon Delgado, Nevada City; Shirley Osgood, Grass Valley; and David and Jan Hartsough, both of San Francisco.

A second anti-drone trial is scheduled later this year for another group of five people arrested at Beale AFB this past April 30.

Talk Nation Radio: Rooj Alwazir: U.S. Drones Terrorize Yemen

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-rooj-alwazir

Rooj Alwazir is a Yemeni American peace activist and an organizer and cofounder of the Support Yemen Media Collective: http://supportyemen.org She describes the horror and the disaster that is the U.S. drone war on Yemen.

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download or get embed code from Archive or  AudioPort or LetsTryDemocracy.

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

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

John Kerry Needs an Intervention

If John Kerry was beating his children and promising to stop "very very soon" and then explaining that he meant "very very soon" in a geological sense, he'd be forced to resign his office.

If we even discovered that John Kerry had once beaten one of his children, even many years ago, perhaps shortly after he returned from killing people in Vietnam, he'd be forced to resign.

Imagine if we were to discover that John Kerry was actually murdering children, and women, and men, using missiles shot out of flying robots and promising to stop "very very soon" and explaining that what he meant by that was "I'd like to see you try to stop me you goddamn primitive Pashtun peons." 

Would we respond?

We didn't respond when he claimed Bush won Ohio.  How'd that work out?

What if we were about to consider possibly responding, and maybe even growing indignant, and John Kerry stood up on a pile of corpses and screamed "Wolf! Giant ass wolf right behind you! Arabic speaking wolf! Wolf! Wolf!"

And what if he added, "The safest thing for you to do now is to go shopping. But try not to get blown up.  What? You don't believe me? Look, here are all the details of what the terrorists are planning.  If Bradley Manning gave you this kind of information, I'd hang him by his ears and get a red hot poker with one of those . . . .  I mean, the point is very very soon I'm going to stop killing people.  Not very soon, but very very soon."

Would we react with the outrage we'd achieve if John Kerry drove drunk? if John Kerry smoked pot? if John Kerry had sex with someone not his wife? if John Kerry promised never to nuke Iran? 

Are we sure we've got our priorities straight? 

It's been months since Obama gave a speech on prison victims and drone victims.  Since then no prisoners have been freed, Obama's drones have kept killing, and people who cheered for Obama's speech are ready to cheer for John Kerry's. 

As our global Zimmermen stand their ground, we need to step in.  Addicts who oppose their own addictions -- be they to caffeine or hellfire missiles -- are ready to take the next step in shaking the habit. 

John Kerry needs an intervention.

If he were beating his wife, we'd advise her to leave.  So, we must advise the world's governments.  Stop putting makeup over your bruises and covering up for your abuser.  The time has come to walk away.  You don't need any more drone strikes.  John Kerry does not love you and he never will.

There was once a time, from the birth of the nation to the birth of the internet, when the U.S. government could tell the Native Americans or the Mexicans or the Filipinos one thing, and the good citizens back home something else. 

No longer.

The Washington Post can compare innocent prisoners in Guantanamo with Nazis, but not without the world recognizing the extent of the sickness from which the U.S. establishment is suffering.

A 16 year old American boy murdered by presidential drone has a grandfather who is suing in court to find out why his grandson was killed. 

I am confident he'll receive an answer very very soon.

 

Kerry and Drones

 

CNN reported on August 2 that Secretary of State John Kerry made some rather startling remarks regarding drone strikes. A look at a few of these remarks is instructive

Remark 1:  “Following talks with the Pakistani government, Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States is making progress in the war on terror, and hopes to end the use of drone strikes ‘very soon.’”

This apparently means that the U.S., which has waged a war of terror for several years now, is making so much progress in doing so that drone strikes will no longer be required to kill and terrorize innocent people.

Remark 2: Regarding ending the strikes, Mr. Kerry said this: “We hope it's going to be very, very soon.” In this statement, he seems to indicate that ending the strikes is something outside of the control of the U.S. government; he ‘hopes’ the strikes will end soon.

Wounds of Waziristan

Drones Kill Innocents

Fourth U.S. City Says No to Drones

Following Charlottesville VA in February, St. Bonifacius MN in April, and Evanston IL on May 28th, Northampton MA on July 11th passed a resolution against drones.

WGGB reports:

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WGGB) – The city council in Northampton has voted to accept a resolution on drone aircrafts Thursday night.

The resolution calls for the end of unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance and violent purposes, as well as putting the airspace above the homes of residents under local control.

That would not only prevent the government or large companies from using that airspace, but it would also allow people to fly their own drones in that space.

“If farmers do not maintain ownership of their airspace above their property, they cannot use aircrafts to monitor their crops. And we’re talking about small low cost aircrafts and historically what has been done, or used, are larger aircrafts that are manned and that’s very costly,” says resident Aaron Cantrell who supported the council’s vote.

The resolution is the first of its kind in New England.

The Fourth of July

On this, the anniversary of the  U.S.’s independence from Great Britain, some observations:

A Noir America: Killers and Roller-Coaster Rides

By John Grant


We're all aware of the reputed Chinese curse about living in interesting times. Upheaval seems to be in the air. According to Wikipedia, the interesting times curse was linked with a second, more worrisome curse: "May you come to the attention of those in authority."

Drones: Friend or Foe?

PROTESTING KILLER DRONES AT THE CIA: FOR THE CHILDREN OF THE WORLD

I just returned to my home in Wisconsin after spending four days in the Washington, DC area, participating in two actions against drones organized by the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR).  I flew to DC on Thursday.  On Friday we returned to the US Attorney’s office in Alexandria, VA to follow up on the criminal complaint we filed in May, and on Saturday we did an action at the CIA where six of us were arrested.  I had purchased a one-way ticket to fly out there because I did not know when I would be able to return home.

ACTIVISTS ARRESTED DECRYING KILLER DRONES AT CIA

LANGLEY, VA – Fifty people protested killer drones at the main gate of the CIA today, and six individuals were arrested. The action was organized by the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance [NCNR], a group that has been active in challenging U.S. invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries, abolishing torture, closing Guantanamo, and bringing an end to drone warfare.

MORE PHOTOS HERE.

Members of NCNR previously sent a letter to CIA Director John Brennan requesting a meeting to discuss ending the drone program, and have received no response. Because the group is concerned about continuing deaths from drone strikes, they decided they must act, and they must personally go to the CIA and ask for a meeting. They were joined by Cindy Sheehan, Brian Terrell, and other activists from Code Pink, World Can’t Wait, Veterans for Peace, Answer, and many individuals affiliated with other groups to protest the illegal and immoral CIA killer drone program. Sheehan is the mother of Casey who was killed in 2004 in Iraq. Terrell was recently released from federal prison after serving a 6-month term for a peaceful protest against drones at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.

The group walked up to the gates of the CIA with a copy of the letter they had sent to Brennan. When they were denied a meeting, six individuals crossed onto the base. After announcing a mock drone strike, five people lay down on the ground and were covered with pictures of drone victims. The sixth person keened and wailed over the bodies. After 20 minutes, the group rose up and began to walk further onto the base carrying pictures of drone victims. They were arrested, and cited and released on site.

Somewhere around 3500-4500 people have been killed by drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, and other places around the globe with no due process. According to a study from Stanford and NYU only 2% of those killed are high-level targets. Over 200 children have been killed in Pakistan alone. According to Malachy Kilbride, NCNR, “These illegal drone strikes are not making people in the U.S. any safer and will only perpetuate the cycle of violence.”

NCNR citizen activists believe they have the right and a Nuremberg responsibility to highlight perceived illegal government operations. Moreover, the Nuremberg trials pointed out that citizens must act to prevent their government from further illegal activities. Ellen Barfield, Vets for Peace, commented on the arrests stating, “Because our government seems incapable of restricting drone weapons, these brave citizens are practicing their Nuremberg responsibilities.”

Those arrested were Joy First, Mt. Horeb, WI; Malachy Kilbride, Arlington, VA; Max Obuszewski, Baltimore, MD; Phil Runkel, Milwaukee, WI; Cindy Sheehan, Vacaville, CA; and Janice Sevre_Duszynska, Lexington, KY.

Cindy and 5 Others Arrested at CIA HQ

Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox

Dear Friend,

Today, Tour de Peace rode to the CIA HQ to join about 50 other people in a protest against the CIA drone program...and drones in general.

Of course, I initiated the first protest at the CIA against drones in January of 2010 and since then many more individuals and groups have become involved.

Today, we demanded a meeting with the director of the CIA John Brennan, or anyone elese, and were denied, so we simulated a drone strike and had a die-in. After the die-in, we tried to walk up to the HQ and six of us were stopped, detained, cited and then released. For such an evil place, it was actually a very civilized arrest.


CINDY IN ORANGE SHIRT



The CIA Six will fight the charges to bring the use of that immoral practice into the Federal Court cyst-em even though it's hard for me to go back and forth from California to WashedUp, DeCeit for hearings and trials and such, it's a small sacrifice compared to the fact that The Empire that I live in regularly slaughters innocent (and they're all innocent, never any trials) people by the use of this dastardly technology.

Tour de Peace will be completing this leg of the journey (from California to DeCeit) on Wednesday, July 3rd, and the information for our action on that day is below. The journey will never end, though, as long as there is one person left who is struggling for peace, justice, and the environment: for our children and for the future!

Thanks for your support and encouragement. We couldn't have done it without you!

Love & Peace
Cindy Sheehan

Drones: It Wasn't Me

Anti-Drone Activists Stopped at U.S. Canadian Border due to “Orders of Protection” given by court to Commander of Drone Base

By Charley Bowman

In mid-June, 2013, Western New York Peace Center board member Valerie Niederhoffer was stopped and interrogated for several hours at the U.S.-Canadian border when returning to the US from an afternoon doing Tai Chi in Canada with friendsi.

The U.S. immigration and customs officer entered Val's name into his computer system and discovered Val had an Order of Protection. He then asked her to pull over for an extended interview.

Orders of Protection (restraining orders) are generally given for spousal abuse, but this unique Order of Protection has been given to activists who have been arrested for challenging the U.S. assassin drone policies.

MAINE DRONE VICTORY (OF SORTS)

By Bruce Gagnon

Yesterday the Maine House of Representatives passed our drone bill 115-33.  It was a mixed victory.

On the positive side, the long sought police warrant requirement was in the bill which would allow law suits against the police if they violate the warrant provisions.  The bill also has a two-year moratorium on police use of drones in Maine.

On the negative side, the bill carried an amendment that allows testing of weaponized drones in Maine.  The bill language reads something like this: An unmanned aerial vehicle may not employ the use of facial recognition technology or be equipped with a weapon except .....  for the purposes of research, testing, training or manufacturer of such vehicles.

I was told that the office of Gov. LePage (Republican) wrote the weaponized drone language.  He is likely to sign the bill because of the inclusion of that language.  Many Tea Party activists across the state strongly supported the bill's warrant requirements which ensured many Republicans in the legislature would support it.

I must say that the ACLU in Maine was instrumental in getting this bill passed.  They pushed very har

d for the police warrant requirement and from my understanding Maine is now the first state legislature in the country to pass such a bill.  I worked directly with Shenna Bellows from the ACLU for months on this and our role was to help build the grassroots support for the bill.  All indications are that the continual grassroots pressure was a key to building deep and wide support in the legislature for the warrant requrement.

But we did not always agree on the bill language.  The ACLU really wanted the warrant requirements and in the end they had to settle for the drone weapons testing in order to get what they wanted.  The weapons testing was not an issue the ACLU would draw the line for.  Just yesterday we in the peace community were asked by state House leadership to agree to the drone weaponization language and I said that it was not possible.  I told Rep. Seth Berry (Democrat) that "I appreciate your position but you must know that I represent a constituency as well.  I'd be hung from the nearest light pole if I endorsed lingo to allow the weaponization of drones.  I can't morally or ethically do it."

Sometimes even progressive groups don't agree on everything and you have to work together as best you can.  Shenna tried hard to have our voice included in the middle of the negotiations but in the end the ACLU decided to set a precedent by getting a bill passed somewhere in the country with the warrant requirement in it.

So in the end the Maine police can't spy on you without a warrant but the drone industry and the military can freely practice killing you with Hellfire missiles.   Such is the sausage making business.

Our next steps will be to organize an anti-drone presence in the Bath July 4 parade and then do a Maine drone peace walk from Limestone to Augusta on October 10-19.  We will stay on the drone issue in Maine.  It's not over by a long shot.

Drones for Christ

by David Swanson | July 2013

How Jerry Falwell's Liberty U.—the world's largest Christian university—became an evangelist for drone warfare.

 http://sojo.net/magazine/2013/07/drones-christ

LIBERTY UNIVERSITY in Lynchburg, Va., was founded by televangelist Jerry Falwell. Its publications carry the slogan “Training Champions for Christ since 1971.” Some of those champions are now being trained to pilot armed drones, and others to pilot more traditional aircraft, in U.S. wars. For Christ.


 

Liberty bills itself as “one of America’s top military-friendly schools.” It trains chaplains for the various branches of the military. And it trains pilots in its School of Aeronautics (SOA)—pilots who go up in planes and drone pilots who sit behind desks wearing pilot suits. The SOA, with more than 600 students, is not seen on campus, as it has recently moved to a building adjacent to Lynchburg Regional Airport.

Liberty’s campus looks new and attractive, large enough for some 12,000 students, swarming with blue campus buses, and heavy on sports facilities for the Liberty Flames. A campus bookstore prominently displays Resilient Warriors, a book by Associate Vice President for Military Outreach Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Robert F. Dees. There’s new construction everywhere you look: a $50 million library, a baseball stadium, new dorms, a tiny year-round artificial ski slope on the top of a hill. In fact, Liberty is sitting on more than $1 billion in net assets.

The major source of Liberty’s money is online education. There are some 60,000 Liberty students you don’t see on campus, because they study via the internet. They also make Liberty the largest university in Virginia, the fourth largest online university anywhere, and the largest Christian university in the world.

More than 23,000 online students are in the military—twice as many as students who live on campus. Liberty offers extra financial support to veterans and those on active duty, allowing them to be credited for knowledge learned in the military and to study online from a war zone.

Liberty has been turning out “Christ-centered aviators” for a decade. In fall 2011, Liberty added a concentration in Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS, aka drones), making it one of the first handful of schools to do this. Now at least 14 universities and colleges in the U.S. have permits from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly drones, and many institutions, including community colleges, offer drone training.

If one chooses to concentrate studies on piloting drones, the load will include a half dozen courses on “intelligence.” Liberty students can also pick up a minor in strategic intelligence and take courses in terrorism and counterterrorism. (Liberty’s school of government brags that Newt Gingrich helped develop its course on “American exceptionalism.”)

Martha Rosler's Theater of Drones Buzzes into Charlottesville

The first city in the United States to pass a resolution against drones now has a drone display just across the pedestrian Downtown Mall from City Hall, thanks to Martha Rosler whose "Theater of Drones" is part of the Charlottesville Festival of the Photograph.

Click to enlarge:

 

From Charlottesville Festival of the Photograph:

Martha Rosler works in photography, video, performance, sculpture, and installation. Her work often addresses matters of the public sphere and landscapes of everyday life—actual and virtual—especially as they affect women. Rosler’s photographic series on places of passage and systems of transportation—airports, roads, subways, streets—have been widely exhibited. Rosler has for many years produced works on war and the “national security climate,” connecting everyday experiences at home with the conduct of war abroad. In 2004 and 2008, in opposition to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, she reinstituted her now well-known series of photomontages House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home, originally made as a response to the war in Vietnam in the late 1960s.

“Beginning a conversation through art provides symbolic closure but does not relieve us of the necessity to keep on informing, organizing, audience building, and agitating.” – Martha Rosler

Rosler has had numerous solo exhibitions at museums and galleries internationally. In spring 2012, her solo photo exhibition Cuba January 1981 opened at Mitchell-Innes and Nash in New York City. In November 2012, she presented her performance-installation Meta-Monumental Garage Sale at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the most recent of a series of Garage Sales she has held in and around art galleries since 1973.

www.martharosler.net

Insight Conversation

Exhibit

  • Title: Theater of Drones
  • Date: June 10 - July 7
  • Location: 605 East Main Street at the Freedom of Speech Wall

Book Signing

The Paramount Theater

Even the Warriors Say the Wars Make Us Less Safe

Experts Say U.S. Executive Secret War Harming U.S. National Security
collected by Fred Branfman

Admiral Dennis Blair, Former Director Of National Intelligence

“Admiral Dennis Blair, the former director of National Intelligence (in the) New York Times [49]: While “drone attacks did help reduce the Qaeda leadership in Pakistan,” he wrote, “they also increased hatred of America.” He said the drone has also damaged “our ability to work with Pakistan [in] eliminating Taliban sanctuaries, encouraging Indian-Pakistani dialogue, and making Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal more secure.””

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