Sunday, September 20, 2015

Vigiling Against Weaponized Drones

Earlier today some friends and I traveled from the Twin Cities to Little Falls, Minnesota where we joined with 30 others outside the gates of Camp Ripley to protest the U.S. military's use of weaponized drones.

Why protest the use of these types of drones? In reading about the issue I've come to learn that there's at least three valid reasons: weaponized drones are expensive, they're illegal, and they terrorize.

One Predator drone, for example, costs $4.5 million and requires 168 people to keep it airbourne for one hour.

In terms of their legality, weaponized drones are a violation of International Law and the Geneva Convention, primarily because they violate the sovereignty of another country. Also, drone assassinations by the U.S. government/military are without oversight or judicial process.

Furthermore, only 2% of those killed by weaponized drones are actually leaders of terrorist groups. Not surprisingly, the use of weaponized drones fuels insurgent movements in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Yeman and Pakistan and creates hatred of the U.S. in these countries and elsewhere.

Camp Ripley is the largest military training base in the Midwest. Soldiers are trained here to operate Shadow Drones, which are weaponized and, according to Camp Ripley Range Regulations, are currently used for bombing.

Today's protest and vigil was organized by the Brainerd Area Coalition for Peace. A number of those who traveled up from the Twin Cities did so as members of Veterans for Peace MN and Women Against Military Madness (WAMM). The vigil lasted three hours and was followed by a potluck at nearby Belle Prairie Park.

[Weaponized] drones are costing America
the moral high ground.

– General James Cartwright, USMC, Ret.

Above: Former FBI agent and whistleblower Coleen Rowley at today's vigil.

You may recall that Coleen jointly held TIME magazine's "Person of the Year" award in 2002 with two other women credited as whistleblowers: Sherron Watkins from Enron and Cynthia Cooper of WorldCom. She also received the Sam Adams Award for 2002.

Speaking at today's vigil, Coleen said:

Americans are being led to believe that [drone strikes] are killing "high level terrorist combatants" . . . but they're not paying attention to the fact that we're killing a lot of civilians and that it is actually counter-productive because the drones terrorize. If we are terrorizing the rest of the world, how can we possibly be "winning hearts and minds"? Our own military says that there is no military solution. . . . General McChrystal admits that we are creating ten new enemies for every one person killed. So it's an exercise in futility.

Above: My friend Steve Clemens' sign is a reference to the People’s Agreement to Abolish War, an initiative started by justice and peace groups in Afghanistan. Following is the text of this Agreement.

We, the people of the human family, agree to abolish war.

Like you, we are tired of wars. War costs us everything and resolves nothing. War has increased ‘terrorism.’ Wars risk spiraling into our destruction by nuclear weapons.

To abolish war, we form small, local peace circles or communities of two or more persons in which we agree to ban weapons and war and to build nonviolent systems for every aspect of life.

With autonomous alternatives, we no longer need to participate in today’s warring systems. We opt out, and we withhold support and money from any individual or group that uses war.

We begin to heal and live differently. Students learn better, laborers and farmers work better, mothers worry less, and basic human resources are better shared.

We nurture egalitarian relationships with nature and all human beings and connect to form a critical mass that’s free of borders, going beyond our separate causes and working together for a green and equal world without war. A critical mass is crucial as we can’t abolish war without reversing global warming and inequality; these are global crises driven by the same elite who rule over us by force. We abolish war person by person. We won’t wait for the elite, because they’re the ones who keep waging wars.

We make no distinction as to who wages the war, the scale of the war or the individual justifications for the war. We renounce all violence and wars and agree never to resort to war in any circumstance.

We, the people of the human family, agree to abolish war.

To sign this petition, click here.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Quote of the Day – May 4, 2013
Steve Clemens: "If We Wish to Stand with the Holy Innocents, We Must Stand in Opposition to Empire"
Award-Winning "Hellraisers" At It Again
Alliant Action
In Search of a "Global Ethic"

Related Off-site Links:
The Drone Makers and Their Friends in Washington – Jill Replogle (KPBS, April 11, 2013).
The Drone Operator Who Said 'No' – BBC News (January 21, 2015).
Drone Art Project Hopes to Make Pilots Think Twice Before They Shoot – Nick Robins-Early (The Huffington Post, April 7, 2014).
41 Men Targeted But 1,147 People Killed: U.S. Drone Strikes – the Facts on the Ground – Spencer Ackerman (The Guardian, November 24, 2014).
168 Children Killed in Drone Strikes in Pakistan Since Start of Campaign – Rob Crilly (The Telegraph, August 11, 2011).
Almost 2,500 Now Killed by Covert U.S. Drone Strikes Since Obama Inauguration Six Years Ago – Jack Serle (The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, February 2, 2015).
Even the Warriors Say the Wars Make Us Less SafeWorld Beyond War (2013).

UPDATES: Moved by Paris Attacks, Former U.S. Drone Operators Speak OutMiddle East Eye (November 19, 2015).
Life as a Drone Operator: "Ever Step on Ants and Never Give It Another Thought?" – Ed Pilkington (The Guardian, November 19, 2015).
Air Force Whistleblowers Risk Prosecution to Warn That Drone War Kills Civilians and Fuels TerrorDemocracy Now! (November 20, 2015).
A Review of Eye in the Sky – Godfrey Cheshire (, March 11, 2016).
Killer Drones and the Militarization of U.S. Foreign Policy – Ann Wright (Foreign Service Journal via Common Dreams, June 19, 2017).

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

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