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Islamabad: A Pakistani court on Thursday declared that US drone strikes in the country's lawless tribal belt were illegal and directed the Foreign Ministry to move a resolution against the attacks in the United Nations.
The Peshawar High Court issued the verdict against the strikes by CIA-operated spy planes in response to four petitions that contended the attacks killed civilians and caused collateral damage.
Two recent, but seemingly unrelated, news articles are worth reviewing more carefully, to see a common thread.
The first concerns remarks made by special rapporteur with the UN Human Rights Council, Richard Falk. Following the horrific bombing at the Boston Marathon, Mr. Falk said this: “…the United States has been fortunate not to experience worse blowbacks, and these may yet happen, especially if there is no disposition to rethink U.S. relations to others in the world, starting with the Middle East.”
By Bruce K. Gagnon, www.space4peace.org
I was honored to be involved in the weekend drone conference and protest in Syracuse, New York organized by the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars. I've just returned home after spending Sunday night in jail (with maybe one hour of sleep) and the long eight-hour drive back to Maine. So my mind is slipping a few gears, my wrists still hurt after about 11 hours of wearing handcuffs, but my heart and soul feel strong from the experience.
The drone conference began on Friday evening at a local community center in the Syracuse black community. More than 200 folks showed up for the event that featured some of the great activists from around the county like Col. Ann Wright, Kathy Kelly, David Swanson, Dr. Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese, Charley King, Mark Johnson, Elliott Adams, Howie Hawkins, Nick Mottern, Joe Lombardo, the Grady sisters, Tighe Barry, Debra Sweet and a large delegation of Veterans for Peace members from many states.
I spoke Saturday morning on a plenary panel along with Kathy Kelly and David Swanson. This gave me the chance to put drones into the larger context of US strategy and space technology development that is being used to advance the "interests" of corporate globalization and their effort to control resources around the planet. I suggested that we might think of military space satellites as being the "triggers" that makes it possible for drones to fire their deadly "Hellfire" missiles that frequently kill innocent civilians in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen.
In addition I did a workshop entitled "Full Spectrum Dominance" that allowed me the time to thoroughly cover the nuclearization and weaponization of space issues.
On Sunday morning we gathered for a meeting on the planned civil resistance action later that day at Hancock Air Field from where the "Reaper" drone is flown over Afghanistan by military personnel sitting in front of computer terminals at the base - all hooked up by military satellites and Space Command down-link stations spread around the world.
The thirty one arrestees were arraigned in De Witt Town Court before Judges Benack, Gideon, and Jokl, who imposed bails ranging from $500 - $3500, totalling $34,000. Some of the defendants were released with appearance tickets Others are refusing to post bail and will be held in jail until the next court date of May 7th & 8th. Donations may be sent to the Syracuse Peace Council, with checks made out to Syracuse Peace Council,note : Upstate Drone Action Bail Fund. 2013 E. Genessee St., Syracuse, NY 13210.
UPDATE: The thirty one arrestees were arraigned in De Witt Town Court before Judges Benack, Gideon, and Jokl, who imposed bails ranging from $500 - $3500, totalling $34,000. Some of the defendants were released with appearance tickets Others are refusing to post bail and will be held in jail until the next court date of May 7th & 8th. Donations may be sent to the Syracuse Peace Council, with checks made out to Syracuse Peace Council,note : Upstate Drone Action Bail Fund. 2013 E. Genessee St., Syracuse, NY 13210.
275 People at Protest; 31 Arrested
Three women and one man from the Berlin Peace Coordination intervened yesterday during the parliamentary debate in Berlin regarding possible German acquisition of weaponized drones. The anti-drone activists, who are co-founders of the campaign "No Combat Drones!," sought to call attention the gravity of the upcoming decision by the German government, either for or against weaponized drones, in light of the growing international struggle to ban such weapons.
In solidarity with actions of U.S. peace organizations such as Code Pink, the German activists raised their hands -- which were painted blood-red -- and called out "Ban Combat Drones, sir!" when the speaker of the Christian Democratic Party (CDU) came to the microphone. The Berlin activists were aware that they were violating regulations of the German Parliament. Their personal information was taken, and they were told that charges would be brought against them.
DeWitt (NY) town court Judge Robert Jokl sentenced five Hancock drone resisters April 24 for peacefully blocking the main entrance of Hancock air field last October 5. Jim Clume, Brian Hynes, Ed Kinane and Mark Scibilia-Carver all were sentenced to fifteen days in jail and $125 Court surcharge. Julienne Oldfield was sentenced to 50 hours of community service, the $125 surcharge and given a one year conditional discharge.
Judge Jokl found the five guilty of “trespass” in an April 18 bench trial. The five were among ten who had attempted to deliver a citizens’ indictment to the Hancock base commander and personnel for ongoing war crimes being perpetrated with weaponized hunter/killer Reaper drones over Afghanistan.
Noting that the October 5 defendants weren’t disobeying the law, but rather seeking to enforce international law, defendant Jim Clune told Judge Jokl, “We have no need to work at cross purposes here. Law is a wonderful instrument when it safeguards and promotes life, and it should be used for that purpose.”
The October 5 action is one of a half dozen such initiatives at Hancock by Upstate Drone Action, a grassroots group opposing Reaper war crimes.
Those sentenced tonight: Jim Clune of Binghamton, Brian Hynes of the Bronx, Ed Kinane of Syracuse, Julienne Oldfield of Syracuse, Mark Scibilia-Carver of Trumansburg.
Tuesday's Senate Judiciary Committee's subcommittee hearing on drones was not your usual droning and yammering. Well, mostly it was, but not entirely. Of course, the White House refused to send any witnesses. Of course, most of the witnesses were your usual professorial fare.
But there was also a witness with something to say. Farea Al-Muslimi came from Yemen. His village had just been hit by a drone strike last week. He described the effects -- all bad for the people of the village, for the people of Yemen, and for the United States and its mission to eliminate all the bad people in the world without turning any of the good people against it.
The usual droning and yammering that preceded and followed this testimony seemed more offensive than usual. One witness summarized the general position of pointless witnesses who accept all common wisdom and have no information or insights to contribute:
If the drone strikes are part of war, that's fine, she said. But if they're not part of war, then they're murder. But since the memos that "legalize" the drone strikes are secret, we don't know whether they're perfectly fine or murder.
That's the common view of things. But to say it in front of someone who knows something about the killing from the perspective of the victims seems particularly tasteless.
The basic facts are barely in dispute. A single individual, President Barack Obama, is choosing to send missiles from drones into particular houses and buildings. Most of the people being killed are innocent and not targeted. Some of those targeted are not even identified. Most of the others are identified as run-of-the-mill resisters to hostile foreign occupations of their or neighboring countries. A handful are alleged to be imminent (meaning eventual theoretical) threats to the United States. Many could easily have been arrested and put on trial, but were instead killed along with whoever was too close to them.
If this is not part of a war, apparently, then it's murder.
But if it's part of a war, supposedly, it's fine.
It's funny that murder is the only crime war erases. Believers in civilized warfare maintain that, even in war, you cannot kidnap or rape or torture or steal or lie under oath or cheat on your taxes. But if you want to murder, that'll be just fine.
Believers in uncivilized war find this hard to grasp. If you can murder, which is the worst thing possible, then why in the world -- they ask -- can you not torture a little bit too?
What is the substantive difference between being at war and not being at war, such that in one case an action is honorable and in the other it's murder? By definition, there is nothing substantive about it. If a secret memo can legalize drone kills by explaining that they are part of a war, then the difference is not substantive or observable. We cannot see it here in the heart of the empire, and Al-Muslimi cannot see it in his drone-struck village in Yemen. The difference is something that can be contained in a secret memo.
This is apparently the case no matter whom a drone strike kills and no matter where it kills them. The world is the battlefield, and the enemies are Muslims. Young men in predominantly Muslim countries are posthumously declared enemies once a drone has killed them. They must be enemies. After all, they're dead.
I wonder how this sounds to a young Muslim man who's taken to heart the lesson that violence is righteous and that war is everywhere at all times.
Do people who blow up bombs at public sporting events think all together differently from people who blow up peaceful villages in Yemen?
Don't tell me we can't know because their memos are secret too. Those who engage in murder believe that murder is justified. The reasons they have (secret or known) are unacceptable. Murder is not made into something else by declaring it to be part of a war.
War is, rather, made criminal by our recognition of it as mass murder.
By Brian Terrell
In the final weeks of a six month prison sentence for protesting remote control murder by drones, specifically from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, I can only reflect on my time of captivity in light of the crimes that brought me here. In these ominous times, it is America’s officials and judges and not the anarchists who exhibit the most flagrant contempt for the rule of law and it is due to the malfeasance of these that I owe the distinction of this sabbatical.
As I share in the perspectives gained from residing in the federal prison camp in Yankton, South Dakota, it is important to disclose that as a political prisoner sent up on trumped misdemeanor charges for a few months, my situation is not the same as my fellow inmates! All nonviolent “offenders”, most by far are prisoners of the war on drugs and most are serving sentences of many years. I also try to avoid the temptation to exaggerate the hardships and privations I’ve suffered here. Certainly, doing time in a minimum security camp is easier time than in most other kinds of jails. If basic necessities are barely met, they are met. I am in good company and time is passing with little drama and without fear. For me, these months have been more a test of patience than of courage.
Still, this is a hard place to be in many ways and it would be wrong to minimize what people suffer here. Among these are the basic humiliation of being numbered and then counted at intervals through the day, frequent shakedowns, random frisks (stranger’s fingers fumbling with a lacerated heart, Solzhenitsyn remembered) and strip searches, separation from family and friends, severely limited visits, intercepted mail and interrupted phone calls, incessant noise and overcrowding, petty rules arbitrarily enforced.
The regime here is one of omnipresent and unrelieved bureaucracy. What I am experiencing over a few months as inconvenience and minor irritation, cumulative over years can amount to a crushing and ruinous burden.
“A concentration camp is the complete obliteration of privacy,” wrote Czech novelist Milan Kundera. It is “a world in which people live crammed together constantly, night and day. Brutality and violence are secondary, and not the least indispensible characteristics.”
At Yankton and in camps and prisons like it, the federal government has achieved the complete obliteration of privacy as the drug war has increased America’s already bloated prison population sevenfold over the last twenty years. No country locks up more of its citizens for so long sentences as the United States and it can be said, too, that the government is taking strides to extend the obliteration of privacy to the general population.
What the government has not been able to accomplish by locking up suspected drug users and dealers by the thousands is any reduction in addiction or in the sale and use of illegal drugs. There is little doubt that jailing drug related “criminals” causes more and not less drug use and crime and yet the so-called criminal justice system is expending an increasingly greater fortune in human and material resources on prisons, contrary to the ends of public safety or rehabilitation.
Before he retired, President Eisenhower warned of the emergence of a self-perpetuating “military industrial complex” producing weapons and provoking conflict for the sake of ensuring a market for more weapons. Likewise, America is increasingly in the grip of what some call a “prison industrial complex,” building and filling prisons for the purpose of ensuring fodder for more prisons.
The United States government does not run its foreign policy on any more enlightened or humane premise than it does its prisons.
The refrain “we are creating enemies faster than we are killing (or capturing) them” is a bit of truth that gets leaked to the media occasionally in recent years. Sometimes the sentiment is voiced by even the most senior military commanders and applied variously to any of several strategies, including night raids in Afghanistan, check points in Iraq, the prison at Guantánamo, and drone attacks in Yemen and Pakistan.
As with prisons, United States military and diplomatic policies run contrary to their stated objectives of peace and public safety and yet they persist with little question. Prisons and the military, America’s dominant institutions, exist not to bring healing to domestic ills or relief for foreign threats but to exacerbate and manipulate them for the profit of the wealthiest few, at great cost and peril for the rest of us.
One of many discouraging moments of the presidential campaign that ended just before I surrendered to authorities here in November, was in a debate where Mr. Obama stated that Americans need to “decide for themselves” whose sanctions against Iran would be “more crippling,” his or Mr. Romney’s. This was an obscene and unacceptable choice.
Sanctions are portrayed as a diplomatic alternative to war but in their application can be as lethal, warfare by another name. Sanctions that extend beyond trade in armaments to include embargoes on food, medicine, educational materials, and other necessities of life can constitute weapons of mass destruction in themselves.
It is often said that such comprehensive and indiscriminant sanctions make prisons of the countries targeted with them. While the regime of sanctions against inmates here at Yankton is less severe than the brutal conditions I witnessed in Iraq in 1998 or that the United States imposes on the people of Iran or Gaza (by proxy), the comparison is apt. Sanctions and prisons are both about imposing economic and social isolation and both can raise levels of tension and fear when applied without conscience.
Meaningful employment, decent housing, support of loved ones, education and self-respect would be helpful responses to the scourge of addiction and the crimes that ensue from it. Providing these for people at risk would be a priority for a responsible society but all these are robbed from inmates in federal prisons. Threats of war and terrorism are provoked by sanctions and invasions and can be countered only by addressing root causes.
“What father,” Jesus asked, “would give a stone to a child who asks for bread?” We know the answer and it is to our shame.
“The choice is no longer between violence and non-violence,” said Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As resources dwindle, the climate warms and nuclear arms proliferate, even more clearly now than in King’s time, “the choice is between non-violence and non-existence.”
The quality of life and the very existence of all of us depends on the security and well being of each person, especially of those we label criminal or enemy. The admonition from the Hebrew book of Proverbs to give food to our enemies when they are hungry and drink to them when they are thirsty, echoed in the Sermon on the Mount and the universal Golden Rule to treat others as we would be treated is no romantic, unobtainable dream. “Love is the only solution” to the human predicament, said Dorothy Day. Love in our time has become a hard, pragmatic, gritty requisite for survival.
Brian Terrell, a Catholic Worker and Co-Coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence will be released from prison on May 24, 2013. After that he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CALLING ALL NEW YORKERS
You’ve heard of U.S. military drones spying on and killing people overseas. That could happen here in our hometown, so let’s stop it before it starts. There is precedent. On March 18, 2013, in Seattle, Washington, Mayor Mike McGinn ordered the city police department to scrap plans it had to roll out drones, and instead to focus its resources on public safety and the community building work that is the city’s priority. In Charlottesville, Virginia a version of the resolution presented below, calling for a moratorium on drones in Charlottesville, was passed on February 4, 2013.
Let us join other cities and persuade our City Council to pass a resolution banning the use of drones in New York City. The Granny Peace has spoken with with a representative in every New York City Council Member’s office about the resolution. Most often we spoke with the legislative director. Next we sent this resolution to all New York City Council Representatives and also to a staff member.
Below is an Anti-Drone Resolution written by David Swanson and modified for use in New York City by the Granny Peace Brigade. The original anti-drone resolution was presented to the Charlottesville City Council in December 2012. It is clear that drones are here to stay. Only by constant vigilance and outcry will we be able to stop the use of drones in NYC for all but humanitarian reasons. A resolution such as this would be a good first step.
Granny Peace Brigade drone committee members have called every City Council office to get the name of the legislative director and then snail mailed the resolution to every Council person and to staff members and emailed them as well.
Keep New York City Drone-Free
A Resolution by David Swanson
Modified for New York City by the Granny Peace Brigade
DRONES, OR UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLES (UAV) are aircrafts without pilots. Some are operated by computers on board; others by a human being in another location. The human operator can be thousands of miles away.
WHEREAS, United States airspace is the busiest in the world, “air traffic controllers handle 50,000 flights a day;”
WHEREAS, unmanned aircraft (drones) have an accident rate seven times higher than general aviation and 353 times higher than commercial aviation; On March 4, 2013 an unidentified drone came withing 200 feet of an Al Italia passenger plane preparing for landing at Kennedy airport.
WHEREAS, the Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 directs the FAA to create regulations that will enable drones to fly throughout U.S. airspace by September, 2015;
WHEREAS, small drones, 25 pounds or under, are now permitted to fly in general airspace below 400 feet for the use of police and first responders, with FAA permission;
WHEREAS, drones do not have the same capability to avoid other aircraft as aircraft piloted by humans on board;
WHEREAS, drones have at times gotten out of human control, in at least one instance having to be shot down, and drones are susceptible to electronic interference and having control seized electronically by unauthorized operators;
WHEREAS, drones can be used to film individuals or groups around the clock, in public spaces and through the windows of private homes, and to continuously monitor cell-phone and text messaging;
WHEREAS, drones are being developed that will use computerized facial images to target individuals and, once launched, to operate, autonomously, without further human involvement, to locate and kill those individuals;
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 New York City;
WHEREAS, the federal and New York State governments have thus far failed to provide reasonable legal restrictions on the use of drones within the United States;
WHEREAS, police departments throughout the country have begun implementing drone technology absent any guidance or guidelines from law makers;
WHEREAS, the federal use of drones provides a poor precedent for their domestic use, drone wars having turned public opinion in Yemen and Pakistan dramatically against the U.S. government, drone strikes having killed far more non-targeted people than those targeted, targeted victims having included men, women, and children known by name and unknown, no targeted individual having been charged with any crime, no legislative or judicial or public oversight having been permitted, “double-tap” strikes having been used to target rescuers of victims of previous strikes, children and adults having been traumatized by the presence of drones, over a million people having fled their homes in heavily droned areas, drones having killed Americans in accidental “friendly fire,” drone operators having been targeted and killed on a base in Afghanistan, and drone pilots having suffered post-traumatic stress disorder at a higher rate than other pilots as a result of watching families for long periods of time before killing them.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the City Council of New York, New York, calls on the United States Congress and the New York State Legislature, to adopt legislation prohibiting the use of drones for surveillance, and prohibiting information obtained from the domestic use of drones from being introduced into a Federal or State court, and precluding the domestic use of drones equipped with anti-personnel devices, meaning any projectile, chemical, electrical, directed-energy (visible or invisible), or other device designed to harm, incapacitate, or otherwise negatively impact a human being.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the New York City Council of the City of New York, calls on the U.S. government to immediately end its practice of extrajudicial killing, whether by drone or any other means.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the City Council of New York, New York, declares New York City a No Drone Zone, and performs the necessary legal tasks to transform this declaration into Code wherein drones are hereby banned from airspace over New York City, including drones in transit, to the extent compatible with federal law.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that exemptions will be made for hobbyists to fly remote controlled model aircraft and other unmanned aerial vehicles in specified areas, away from dwellings and the urban cityscape of people and buildings as long as those devices are not equipped to monitor any person or private residence or equipped with any weapon.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that drones will not be purchased, leased, borrowed, tested, contracted or otherwise used by any agency of the City of New York.
On April 18, in Dewitt (NY) Town Court, Judge Robert Jokl found five Reaper Drone resisters guilty of trespass at Hancock Air Base. The five were among ten who last October 5 peacefully blocked the main entrance of the base as they attempted to deliver a citizens’ indictment [ http://upstatedroneaction.org/
The five – who had defended themselves without attorney representation – must return to court at 6 pm, Wednesday, April 24 for sentencing. Noting that the defendants on October 5 weren’t disobeying the law, but rather seeking to enforce international law, defendant Jim Clune told Judge Jokl, “We have no need to work at cross purposes here. Law is a wonderful instrument when it safeguards and promotes life, and it should be used for that purpose.”
A sixth defendant, Martha Hennessey, a New York City Catholic Worker, was found not guilty in absentia.
The October 5 action is one of a half dozen such initiatives at Hancock by Upstate Drone Action [www.upstatedroneaction. org], a grassroots group opposing Reaper war crimes.
Those standing trial were
~ Jim Clune of Binghamton….Brian Hynes of the Bronx….Ed Kinane of Syracuse….Julienne Oldfield of Syracuse….Mark Scibilia-Carver of Trumansburg
By Dave Lindorff
I ran the Boston Marathon back in 1968, and, my feet covered with blisters inside my Keds sneakers, dragged across the finish line to meet my waiting uncle at a time of about 3 hours and 40 minutes. It was close enough to the time that the current bombing happened in this year’s race -- about four hours from the starting gun -- that had I been running it this year, I might still been near enough to the finish line to have heard the blasts.
At 5 pm, Thursday, April 18, 2013, six anti-drone activists from across New York State will stand trial in the DeWitt Town Court. Charged with Trespass for blocking the entrance of Hancock Air Base on October 5, 2012, the activists will go pro se, i.e. defend themselves, in this bench trial presided over by Judge Robert Jokl.
Along with four others (who are pleading guilty), the six sought on October 5 to deliver a citizens’ war crimes indictment [http://www.
From Hancock the Reaper, a weaponized hunter/killer robot, is piloted over Afghanistan, killing and terrorizing non-combatants. The defendants have argued in previous trials that such terrorism violates international law and that their actions are in accord with the Nuremburg principles requiring citizens to expose their nation’s war crimes.
The October 5 action was one of about six such events conducted by the grassroots anti-drone group, Upstate Drone Action, over the last couple years. Besides this trial, two more such trials are in the offing at the DeWitt Town Court.
At a March 20 pre-trial hearing Judge Jokl told the defendants that those found guilty on April 18 would begin jail sentences that evening. Having found Upstate Drone Action defendants guilty of Trespass previously, the Judge may well follow through on his threat.
Those standing trial:
~ Jim Clune of Binghamton
~ Brian Hynes of the Bronx
~ Ed Kinane of Syracuse
~ Julienne Oldfield of Syracuse
~ Mark Scibilia-Carver of Trumansburg
~ Martha Hennessey of New York City
stopwar.org.uk · 020 7561 9311 · 15 April 2013
1) Ground the Drones protest logistics
2) Fighting Drone wars behind our back
Ground the Drones
|March route We will gather at 12pm on the West corner of South Park (look out for the Ground the Drones banner). At 12:30pm we will set off along the A15 to the site of Helen John's caravan protest against drones (the green symbol on the map) which is opposite RAF Waddington. The length of the route is 2.8 miles and we will arrive at approximately 2pm in time for a political rally.
By train If you are travelling to Lincoln by train, shuttle buses will run from Lincoln train station to South Park, the start of the march. When you arrive, look out for stewards in hi-viz jackets to find out when the next bus will leave. Please let us know if you plan to use the bus. They will leave at approximately 11:45am and about 12:15pm. Alternatively the number 1 bus goes from outside the Railway station at 11:05, 11:35 and 12:05 to Lincoln South Park. When the march and rally has finished at 4pm, the shuttle bus will return people to the train station.
By coach or car Please ask your group's driver to drop you off at South Park, off Cross O'Cliff Hill, and park at the end of the route to the north of Sleaford Road (A15) where there are plenty of parking spaces. This will make it easy for your group to leave at 4pm.
Birmingham - 07771567496 email@example.com
Doncaster - 07587697028
Cambridge - 07562724750
Coventry - 07732030231
London - 02075619311 or buy online
Manchester - 07765122829 firstname.lastname@example.org
Norwich - 07717504 210
Sheffield - 01142680726
York - please contact Doncaster
Organizing transport in your area? Let us know
We need your help. If you would like to volunteer as a steward to help us get from Lincoln to RAF Waddington, please drop us an email or call 020 7561 9311.
We advise that you bring a packed lunch, although there will be refreshments available at the end of the route. More details to be announced soon.
The groups who have come together to organize the Ground the Drones protest will bring their organization's banners and some placards will be available. However, we encourage participants to make their own banners and placards to send a clear message to the government.
2) Fighting Drone wars behind our back
Chris Nineham, vice-Chair of Stop the War, writes that the great advantage of drones for western governments is they can be used without domestic casualties and therefore, they hope, without the risk of popular opposition or protest.
RAF Waddington will soon be the control centre for British drone warfare. It may already be, we can't be sure.
The fact we don't know testifies to the secrecy that surrounds the operation of these remote control killing machines. Drones embody the sinister shift that has been taken in the West's wars post Iraq.
They blur the distinction between war and state execution, with no chance for public scrutiny.
Britain has been using drones in Afghanistan for some years. But by developing its drone capability, the British government is now stepping up its global ability to conduct arbitrary assassinations.
Official US language shows droes are normalizing such behaviour. There has been next to no public discussion about their use in Britain, but in the US drones are actualloy justified as precision weapons of international assassination. Their supporters say they are capable of surgically removing terrorist targets, so 'cleansing' weakened states of extremist leaders.
In a half hearted attempt to provide a legal framework, the Obama administration has claimed that drones are justified because they are used only against "specific senior operational leaders of al Qaida and associated forces" involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks who are plotting "imminent" violent attacks on Americans. The US is still at war against Al-Qaeda, the argument goes, so such lethal incursions into foreign territory are legal.
"It has to be a threat that is serious and not speculative," President Barack Obama said in a Sept. 6, 2012, interview with CNN. "It has to be a situation in which we can't capture the individual before they move forward on some sort of operational plot against the United States."
But the evidence is unchallengeable: this is nonsense. Recent reports suggest that just 1.5% of the estimated 3,100 that have been killed by US drones in Pakistan were identified by US officials as 'high-profile targets'. The US categorises victims as children, civilians, "high-profile," and "other." "The 'other" grey zone comprises males of fighting age.
The Obama administration assumes that these are legitimate targets even though there is no information as to their affiliation. But the Washington Post reported in February that most attacks now are "signature strikes," in which targets are selected based on suspicious patterns of activity and the identities of those who could be killed is not known. In 2012, the New York Times paraphrased a view they said was shared by several officials that "people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good."
Their crime in other words was to have been young, male and in the area.
But it's not just that fantasies are being peddled about drones' technical ability to single out their targets. Their strategic role is being obscured too. In reality drones are not used simply as surgical weapon to pre-empt a possible attack. Partly their adoption has been driven by the unpopularity and the manifest failure of the conventional wars that have been fought under the rubric of the war on terror over the last twelve years.
The great advantage of drones from the point of view of western governments is that, at least while the West has the technological edge over competitors, they can be used without domestic casualties and therefore, they hope, without the risk of popular opposition or protest.
Another advantage of drones is that they are a relatively cheap way of killing people, important at a time of spending cuts. They are a way of continuing foreign wars while slimming budgets.
Drones are no more part of a rational policy of self-defence than the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. And nor do they mark a drawdown in US military ambitions. They are in fact being used as a surrogate for conventional military operations. White House senior counterterrorism adviser John Brennan defended drone strikes in April 2012 by comparing them to "deploying large armies abroad" and "large, intrusive military deployments."
The fact the US has used drones in Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan and very likely in Mali as well as Iraq and Afghanistan, testifies to the fact that drones are integrated into the US's wider war strategy. They are being used to destabilise enemy governments and shore up allies.
The conditions that led to the war on terror are still in place. The US faces growing economic challenges while it retains enormous military predominance. The chaos and volatility created by the failed wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the rise of Chinese power in influence in the Pacific, in Africa and elsewhere make the global situation is, if anything, even more tense than at the beginning of the last decade.
The US military is explicit that the war goes on. In January, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, told Ted Koppel that even after 2014, "Our war in Afghanistan will be complete, but no one has ever suggested that that will end the war." Secretary Panetta is just as clear: "We are in a war. We're in a war on terrorism and we've been in that war since 9/11."
In a process that the experts call 'monopoly erosion', drone use is spreading fast, confirming that they are becoming the new face of modern warfare. A 2012 survey showed that 11 countries had functioning drone systems, including France, Germany, Israel, Turkey, India and China. Other countries are rushing to catch up. We already face a frightening situation in which great powers are confronting each other with these 'easy to use' 'low cost' killing systems.
A US study based on extensive research in Pakistan gives some inkling of the impact of this remote control imperialism:
Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles and public spaces without warning. Their presence terrorizes men, women and children giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities. Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves.
One man interviewed by the researchers described the reaction to the sound of the drones as "a wave of terror" coming over the community. "Children, grown-up people, women, they are terrified. . . . They scream in terror." Another "God knows whether they'll strike us again or not. But they're always surveying us, they're always over us, and you never know when they're going to strike and attack".
The opposition to our government's foreign wars must continue – we mustn't let them keep fighting behind our backs.
16 April Public Meeting in Parliament: Drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan
Public meeting jointly called by Afghanistan Withdrawal Group of MPs and the All Party Drones Group
Tuesday 16th April: 18.30 to 20.00
Wilson Room, Portcullis House
(next to Westminster tube station)
Chris Cole, Drone Campaign Network UK
Rafeef Ziadah, War on Want
Paul Flynn MP
Afghanistan Withdrawal Group of MPs was launched to press for British withdrawal and consider constructive ways in which the conflict might be ended. The group is co-chaired by MPs Paul Flynn and Caroline Lucas. Supporters are drawn from across the political parties.
All Party Parliamentary Group on Drones was set up to examine the use of drones by governments for domestic and international, military and civilian purposes. It is chaired by Tom Watson MP. Baroness Stern, a cross bench peer and human rights and criminal justice campaigner, is group vice chair.
April 26-28! Resisting Drones, Global War and Empire:
A Convergence to Action!
Three Days to Join the Resistance! Three Days of networking, learning, sharing and preparing to build a national movement! Three Days to say NO! to Drones. NO! to Global Wars. NO! to Empire.
At The SouthWest Community Center 401 South Avenue, Syracuse, NY.
6:00-9:30 PM, Dinner, Welcome and Introductions, Music and Celebration with Charley King
8:00 AM, Registration Opens, Continental Breakfast
9:00 AM, Plenary Panel with
Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative NonViolence,
Bruce Gagnon of Global Network and
David Swanson of War is a Crime [dot] org.
10:00 AM-12:45 PM, Workshops Session 1 & 2
1:00-2:00 PM, Lunch Break
2:00-4:45 PM, Workshops Session 3 &4
Dinner on your own
7 PM, Keynote Speaker: TBD
Followed by: Music and Celebration with Colleen Kattau and her band, 'Some Guys'
8:00 - 11 AM
8:30 AM, Peace Action NY Annual Meeting
9:00 AM, Final preparation for Demonstration
Presenters include:Colonel Ann Wright, David Swanson of WarIsaCrime.org, Kevin Zeese and Dr. Margaret Flowers of Occupy Washington, Joe Lombardo of United National Antiwar Coalition, Debra Sweet of World Can't Wait, Nick Mottern of Know Drones, Rafia Zakaria, Dr. Horace Campbell, Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative NonViolence, Bruce Gagnon of Space 4 Peace, Steven Downs of Project SALAM
Topics include:The War on Terror Under Obama, Full Spectrum Dominance, Ending the Fabrication of the War on Terror: Lessons from Africa, Mass Action as a Strategy for the AntiWar Movement, The Human Face of War, International Law and Restoring the Law to the People, Activism from Spirit, Veterans Reflecting on the Justification "But Drones Save Lives . . .", Resistance Through Art, Civil Resistance in Action, Networking, Community Organizing Against Drones, Organizing on Campus
The Bill of Rights Defense Committee has produced two model ordinances to assist local communities against domestic surveillance and weaponized drones. One creates a drone-free zone, while the second model establishes rigorous requirements limiting their use by law enforcement agencies and other public officials. The model regulating drone use (rather than prohibiting it entirely) allows drones to be used pursuant to a judicially issued warrant as well as for non-law enforcement purposes such as fire detection, hazardous material spill response, search & rescue, and natural disaster response.
The model legislation is available online:
Read more about the model legislation on The People’s Blog for the Constitution.
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) is the largest trade association representing the unmanned systems — which includes air, ground and maritime systems — and robotics community. We are holding AUVSI Hill Day in conjunction with National Robotics Week on 9 April and we invite you to attend the celebration of the 4th annual National Robotics Week in the Cannon Caucus Room on Tuesday, 9 April from 5:00 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. (hors d'oeuvres and refreshments).
AUVSI members will display and demonstrate interactive robotic technologies for attendees. AUVSI coordinates this annual event with the House Robotic Caucus co-chairs Reps. Phil Gingrey and Mike Doyle.
This year’s event is sponsored by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, UAV Solutions and Carnegie Mellon University.
The reception in the Cannon Caucus Room is a widely attended event and is open to all Members and staff.
Here's the story from Minnesota this week:
No drones have appeared over the Hennepin County city, St. Bonifacius Mayor Rick Weible said, but that day may come.
“There seems to be a rush to use this new tool within the U.S., but our state and county laws are fairly silent on the issue right now,” he said.
A few weeks back, he and four City Council members got to talking about drones, and all shared concerns about privacy of those who might unwittingly be caught on camera. Their fears, he said, were not unlike those expressed during recent debates in Minnesota and elsewhere about using unmanned cameras to photograph vehicles running red lights and ticketing their owners.
So they voted to ban drones from city airspace up to 400 feet; higher altitudes are managed by federal authorities. They made exceptions for emergencies and search warrants, and for individuals flying drones over their own property. Violation of the ordinance is a misdemeanor.
The city also called for a two-year statewide moratorium on drones until the public can weigh in on how the technology will be used, and whether its images and other data can be used as evidence in court.
And from Charlottesville in February.
The state of Virginia has now passed a two-year moratorium.
By Elsa Rassbach
Leading national and local peace and justice organizations in Germany have launched a major campaign to oppose the German government's recently revealed plan to acquire combat drones (weaponized drones).
The organizations met together in Hannover earlier this month to begin the joint campaign. As a first step, they drafted an appeal—"No Combat Drones"—which was made public this past Sunday. Close to one hundred German organizations and hundreds of individuals have already endorsed the Appeal, signaling a very strong interest in this issue.
The Appeal will be circulated throughout Germany during the annual Easter weekend peace marches. The German activists plan to continue the campaign until the German government and military agree to abandon the plan to make use of combat drones.
"April Days" to Protest Drone Killing and Surveillance, Long Planned, Gets Boost From Opposition to Drone Use Inside the U.S.
What: Rallies, Protests, Visual Photo-ops
Where: Across U.S.
When: April, 2013
A nationwide, month-long campaign of counter-drone teach-ins, rallies and protest, called "April Days of Action" by its organizers, will challenge the escalated use of drones for targeted assassination by the Obama Administration as well as domestic surveillance by police agencies around the United States. The actions will call for a total halt to drone killing and surveillance.