U.S. and U.K. War Veterans Against Drones
"What, quite unmanned in folly?" --Lady MacBeth
This past Thursday was a beautiful day for a protest, both in London, England, and in San Diego, California. Fortunately for those of us who still care about peace and justice in the world -- even to the point of opposing cold-blooded murder no matter who does the murdering or how far away the victim is -- Veterans For Peace has become an international organization.
General Atomics is the manufacturer of the Predator and Reaper UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles) in service with the U.S. and U.K. militaries. These drones have been used in numerous attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and other countries. People targeted by these weapons are killed from above without warning and without due legal process. Numerous entirely innocent people including women and children have been killed by these weapon systems. Here's a former British drone pilot who just admitted that he was minutes away from murdering "an insurgent" when he realized it was a little kid playing in the dirt.
Many of us remember taking over General Atomics' offices in Washington, D.C., last October (video). That's me and Tighe Barry, with filmmaker Dennis Trainor Jr., going in the side door and opening the front door for the crowd.
As it happens, General Atomics does its evil work in San Diego and London. Veterans for Peace has no tolerance for murderous robot planes, wherever they're made. Mike Reid, executive director of Veterans For Peace, said on Thursday, "If we oppose murder at close range, we should oppose it at long distance. If we oppose it when it's risky and difficult, we should be horrified of a practice that makes it trivial and easy. Imagining that drone wars don't damage the very culture of the people engaged in them is naive. Those manufacturing these instruments of death, in particular, should think long and hard about the road they are on."
They had a chance to do just that on Thursday. "On a bright autumn afternoon," reports Ben Griffin, "VFP UK headed to Tower 42, which contains the offices of General Atomics in London. We took our placards bearing the slogans 'GROUND THE DRONES' and 'GENERAL ATOMICS, DEATH FROM ABOVE.' We unfurled our VFP flag donated by Gerry Condon and set about handing out our flyers."
"Within minutes we were joined by over 20 nuns from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. They had heard about our protest and wanted to join in. They were soon into full song and dealt with an inquiring policeman effectively. Folks from Occupy, Friends of Bradley Manning, London Catholic Worker and supporters of Julian Assange also turned up."
Griffin's remarks to that crowd included this:
"People are targeted with these weapons without being identified and are killed from above without warning. Numerous innocent civilians including women and children have been killed as a result of these attacks. Mosques, schools, funerals and meetings of elders have all been attacked by drones. People responding to drone strikes by pulling the wounded out of buildings have also been attacked with these weapons. We must spread the word about these weapons, and the hidden wars they are used in."
And the word was spread to passing cars honking their support, passersby stopping to inquire, and many people who worked in the building, some of them surprised to learn that General Atomics was there as well.
A bit later on Thursday, the afternoon sun reached General Atomics in Poway, California, where, Dave Patterson reports, "Veterans For Peace, Chapter 91, had terrific posters and banners. I think I can say that our momentum is picking up for this cause now in week 6 of sequential demonstrations."
Here's a terrific video.
If you're in Southern California on a Thursday, join the protest from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. at the corner of Scripps Poway Parkway and General Atomics Way in Poway, CA.
Veterans For Peace is calling for the grounding of Predator and Reaper Drones and for General Atomics to stop manufacturing them. Other members of VFP are currently traveling from the United States to Pakistan as part of a delegation organized by Code Pink to visit one area where U.S. drone strikes have become frequent. VFP is part of a coalition organizing an online petition in support of banning weaponized drones.
Veterans For Peace was founded in 1985 and has approximately 5,000 members in 150 chapters located in every U.S. state and several countries. It is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization recognized as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) by the United Nations, and is the only national veterans' organization calling for the abolishment of war.
David Swanson is an associate (meaning non-veteran) member of and a paid contractor for Veterans For Peace.