Guilty of Trespass – Again

BONNIE BLOCK FOUND GUILTY OF TRESPASS — AGAIN

Report by Bonnie Block of NCNR, The National Coalition for Nonviolent Resistance

Joy First is the usual reporter on the trials of Wisconsin Coalition to Ground the Drones activists  but she is in Washington, D.C. for the NCNR action on “The Real State of the Union. So I’ll report on my bench trial on January 8th.

My statement to the court is below.  After I read the first paragraph the District Attorney objected but Judge Curran did not honor his objection and let me read the statement without interruption which is progress because in the past we have often been interrupted when trying to make our case.

STATEMENT TO THE JUNEAU COUNTY COURT, January 8, 2016

I sit in this courtroom once again charged with trespass and the claim that trespass is purely a matter of “whether or not one entered or remained on the land of another” and that any justification for doing so is merely political and thus not relevant in a court of law.  Yet the bedrock foundation of the rule of law is due process. Thus I need a chance to speak of why my action on August 25, 2015 should not be viewed as trespass. There was no intent to harm anyone or damage anything which is what trespass laws exist to prevent. Rather it was an act of nonviolent civil resistance calling on Volk Field personnel to abide by the rule of law. Why do I say that?

Because:

Drone warfare is Illegal.  From all the reading and legal research that I’ve done I’m convinced the training of and use by operators of the RQ-7 Shadow 200 UAV’s at Volk Field is part of an illegal program.  I refer the Court to the 14-page Motion to Dismiss I filed in on April 18, 2014 prior to my first trial on an almost identical set of facts.  Obviously, I won’t repeat all of that but four things do need to be said.

First, targeted assassinations are murder because bombs from the sky provide absolutely no due process and murder is illegal in all 50 states.

Second, The US has ratified the UN Charter which requires member states to settle disputes by peaceful means and to refrain from the threat or use of force against any other state.  The US claim that the right of self-defense allows it to engage in pre-emptive attacks is not valid.

Third, the UN General Assembly and its Human Rights Council both have declared drone warfare to be a war crime. This should come under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court but the US has not ratified the ICC precisely because it fears US officials being might be found guilty of just such crimes.

Fourth, drone warfare violates the provisions of Universal Declaration of Human Rights which sets the basic standards by which human beings should be treated.  Multiple international human rights organizations charge the US with violations of international humanitarian law.

Drone warfare is also immoral. I need not go into the moral arguments against drone warfare because this past Monday one of my co-defendants, Fr. Jim Murphy, eloquently set them out in this very courtroom prior to being sentenced to five days in jail.  I agree and affirm every word of his statement most especially that “we cannot remain silent without becoming complicit.” There is no justification for even one person much less thousands of people being killed, wounded or terrorized by US drones.  Data for each country in which drone strikes occur can be found at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Drone warfare is ineffective.  The recent release of “The Drone Papers” is just the most recent report showing remote-controlled wars are counter-productive.  A summary of this report published on October 23, 2015 at www.commondreams.com  states:  “Even a drone operator who defended this type of warfare… admitted that things have gotten worse on the ground: “The military has quadrupled drone strikes over the past seven years; and now instead if hiding in Waziristan, al-Qaida is flourishing all over the world.”

Not only that, but what goes around comes around.  The New York Times and other media outlets are reporting that US drone operators have the same or even higher rates of PTSD than military personnel who have been in combat.  And, God bless them, many are leaving military service because they can no longer stand the stress of participating in remote control killing.

Rights and Duty. Every citizen has not only the constitutional right, but I think a duty, to engage in nonviolent resistance when our government is in violation of the law. Crossing the line is one way of exercising our constitutional rights to free speech and petitioning a branch of the government for a redress of grievances over what is being done in our name and with our taxes.  Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “Where, after all, do universal rights begin?  In small places, close to home. (…) Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.”

That’s why I keep coming to Volk Field and ending up in this Courtroom.  Wisconsin is our home and dismissal of this trespass charge could set a new precedent right here in this small place. We could honor universal human rights here.

The myth that the use of force such as drone warfare will make us safe and the influence of the war profiteers producing drones and other weapons of war are both very strong.  But we could all, in our own way, be one of those tiny grains of sand that slows down the gears of the machinery of death.   We could help stop the drones originating from Volk Field rather than acquiescing in ratchetting up the level of violence and injustice because we’re “just following orders” or “we can’t make policy.”

Thus I continue to engage in nonviolent civil resistance to call on my government (and its military) to abide by the rule of law and that I believe fails to meet the elements or intent of the law of trespass.  Instead I ask—as do the children of Afghanistan—that we “Fly Kites, Not Drones.”

– Bonnie Block

I was wearing one of the “Fly Kites Not Drones” T-shirts the WI Coalition has had printed so everyone in the courtroom saw our heartfelt desire–especially the Sheriff and one of his Deputies who had to identify me — thus insuring they also saw the words on the shirt.

BUT as has happened previously each time one of us has gone to trial, the Judge did find me guilty of trespass under a County ordinance.  I said that as a matter of conscience I couldn’t pay the fine and would do the jail time or better yet community service.  (At my trial in 2015, the Judge said the County couldn’t afford to hire a supervisor for court-ordered community service and thus sentenced me to five days in the Juneau County Jail.)

This time I came more prepared.  A local pastor, Rev. Terry McGinley, appeared on my behalf to say would supervise my community service at one of three non-profits in Mauston (the county seat) that he had already contacted. He also said he would report back to the Court upon the completion of the number of hours the Judge ordered and do this without charge to Juneau County. The Judge replied that he wasn’t able to make a decision “after just hearing about it three minutes ago.”

Apparently Judge Curran didn’t remember that we have been asking for the community service outcome for two years.  Or perhaps he was miffed that I was forcing the issue.  Anyhow, he sentenced me to pay the $232 fine and if it wasn’t paid in time Juneau County would attach my income tax refund and thus get the money — regardless of my conscientious objection to paying a fine for an action taken in opposition to what I believe is a war crime!

I plan to file a Motion for Reconsideration after Rev. McGinley has met with Judge Curran to see if there is still a way to work out doing community service in lieu of paying a fine.  So many human service programs have been cut because our elected officials doubled military spending since 9/11. Thus it seems only right to support a Food Pantry, an Aging and Disability Resource Center or a Habitat Restore instead. (These were the three agencies that told Rev. McGinley they would welcome court-ordered community service.)

Stay tuned.  Six more trials are scheduled later in January and in February.

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This is one of 3 great descriptions by Joy First and Bonnie Block of trials  for civil resistance activists protesting drones at Volk Field Air National Guard Base in Wisconsin.    These scenarios seem very similar to the ones we face at Hancock Air National Guard Base in Upstate New York.    It isn’t every day that we get such a careful transcription of events.

 




Harry Murray Convicted of Trespass

January 27: Harry Murray was convicted of Trespass in a Bench Trial with Judge David Gideon Presiding.    Harry was charged for participating in a die-in April 28, 2013 when he was arrested with 30 other people for blocking the access road leading into thebase compound.   An OGA charge had been dropped prior to the trial.

College Professor, Catholic Worker, NonViolent Civil Resister, Peace Activist Harry Murray came presented  his case pro se.    He asserted that US policy of targeted killing with drones is morally unacceptable and in violation of international law.    The courtroom was filled with supporters.     This is the last trial of the Hancock 31 arrested in April of 2013.    Sentencing will be in March.

Harry’s co-defendants, Mary Loehr and Cynthia Banas accepted a plea agreement negotiated by their attorneys, Daire Irwin and Jonathan Wallace, with the DA.

Erica Bryant of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle published this Interview with Harry following his conviction.

 

 




Jerry Berrigan Memorial Blockade Press Release

Jerry Berrigan Memorial Drone Blockade
Hancock Air Drone Base, Jan. 28 – Twelve Activists Arrested

On Thursday morning, January 28, thirty life sized cutouts of Syracuse peacemaker Jerry Berrigan blockaded the main entrance of Hancock Air National Guard Base outside Syracuse, NY. The cutouts were accompanied by twelve nonviolent drone resisters, who were arrested after blockading for an hour and a half. See video (of the blockade and arrests).

Jerry Berrigan, who died on July 26, 2015 at the age of 95, dedicated his entire life – like his brothers Dan and Phil – to Jesus’ command to love one another, Jerry came to the base on a bi-weekly basis whenever he was able, in his words,

to remind the base commander of our government’s pledge under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, a treaty to safeguard non-combatant’s well-being in any warzone in which U.S. forces are engaged in combat.” And further, “to register horror and indignation at reports of bombing missions by drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan which resulted in the deaths of many innocent civilians; men, women and children.”

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern was among those standing with the Memorial in the roadway. Others were Beth Adams, Bev Rice, Bill Ofenloch, Brian Hynes, Charley Bowman, Ed Kinane, James Ricks, Joan Pleune, Joan Wages, Pete Perry and Steve Baggarly.

They were all charged with one misdemeanor and two violations, with the exception of Bev Rice and Joan Pleune, who were both charged with an additional misdemeanor (for allegedly violating an order of protection taken out by the base commander).

In 2008 Jerry was asked if there was anything he would change in his life. Jerry replied, “I would have resisted more often and been arrested more often.” The activists brought Jerry’s image to the gates to remember that this is where he would be, speaking out and putting his body on the line to say a clear “NO” to killing.

The group also remembered Mary Anne Grady Flores, who is serving a six-month sentence for violating an order of protection, taken out by the colonel at Hancock Air Base. Clearly, courts in NYS believe that a colonel at this highly armed base needs protection from citizens calling attention to the drone killings.

More and more evidence mounts regarding the illegality of U.S. drone policies, from the “Drone Papers” published by The Intercept, to the four drone pilots who have come forward to speak out about what this policy is doing. The activists tried to deliver a letter addressed to the Hancock military personnel stating that “Under the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice you must not be complicit in these crimes against peace, crimes against humanity and war crimes. In fact, you are required to disobey unlawful orders from a superior.”

Hancock Air Base deploys hunter/killer Reaper drones 24/7 over Afghanistan and probably elsewhere. These weaponized robotic drones are instruments of terror. They perpetrate extrajudicial killings, violate due process, violate national sovereignty, and kill non-combatants and civilians.

Original PDF




Jerry Berrigan Memorial Statement

We come to the gates of Hancock Drone Base today to install a memorial of Jerry Berrigan.

Jerry Berrigan, who died on July 26, 2015 at the age of 95, was a husband, a father, a brother, a teacher and someone who – like his brothers Dan and Phil – dedicated his entire life to Jesus’ command to love one another. Jerry came to the base on a bi-weekly basis whenever he was able, in Jerry’s words,

to remind the base commander of our government’s pledge under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, a treaty to safeguard non-combatant’s well-being in any warzone in which U.S. forces are engaged in combat.” And further, “to register horror and indignation at reports of bombing missions by drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan which resulted in the deaths of many innocent civilians; men, women and children.”

As more and more evidence mounts regarding the illegality of U.S. drone policies, from the “Drone Papers” published by The Intercept, to the four drone pilots who have come forward to speak out about what this policy is doing, we bring Jerry’s image here to the gates to remember that this is where he would be, speaking out and putting his body on the line to say a clear “NO” to killing. Because Jerry Berrigan knew that it matters where we put our bodies.

In 2008 Jerry was asked by The Syracuse Post Standard if there was anything he would change in his life. Jerry replied, “I would have resisted more often and been arrested more often.” In our memorial today we use an image of Jerry from The Syracuse Post Standard where he is being arrested for opposing the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

As we are installing this Jerry Berrigan Memorial Drone Blockade, we also remember Mary Anne Grady Flores who is serving a six month sentence here in the Onondaga County jail because the courts in this county believe that the colonel at this highly armed base needs protection from citizens calling attention to the drone killings. We challenge the courts to apply the law as it was meant to be applied; to protect victims not victimizers.

Syracuse has a great history of men named Jerry and resistance to injustice. We call to mind “The Jerry Rescue” memorial that stands across the street from The Federal Court house where Syracusans in 1851 literally got in the way of the illegal and immoral Fugitive Slave law and the officials who tried take a man named Jerry back to enslavement in the South. They opened the prison gates for him to go to freedom. Our intent for this memorial today in honor of Jerry Berrigan, is to get in the way of the illegal and immoral use of killer drones. And to stand in solidarity with all those resisting other injustice – from Black Lives Matter to those putting their bodies to halt climate change.

Thank you Jerry Berrigan for your life and example. Your Spirit lives on!

In peace,

Beth Adams (Leverett, MA), Bev Rice (Manhattan), Bill Ofenloch (NYC), Brian Hynes (Bronx), Charley Bowman (Buffalo), Ed Kinane (Syracuse, NY), James Ricks (Ithaca), Joan Pleune (Brooklyn), Joan Wages (Roanoke, VA), Pete Perry (Syracuse, NY), Ray McGovern (Arlington, VA), Steve Baggarly (VA)

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To Hancock Reaper Drone Workers

HANCOCK REAPER DRONE WORKERS: HONOR YOUR OATH

To the men and women of the 174th Attack Wing of the NYS National Guard:

Each of you, when you joined the United States Armed Forces raised your right hand and solemnly swore to uphold the United States Constitution. Article VI of that Constitution states:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

This clause is known as the Supremacy Clause. The Supremacy Clause declares that when the U.S. ratifies international treaties, those treaties become the “supreme law of the land.” This means they trump all local and federal law – including the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice.

One such treaty is the United Nations Charter. Signed by the U.S. president in 1945 and ratified by a Senate vote of 89 to two, that Charter remains in effect today.

The Charter’s Preamble states that its purpose is to “save future generations from the scourge of war.” It further states, “all nations shall refrain from the use of force against another nation.”

This U.N. Treaty applies to all levels – federal, state, and local – of the three branches of our government – Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. The personnel of all these entities must act consistent with U.S. treaties and obey the U.S. Constitution, including Article VI.
Under the U.N. Charter and under long-established international law, anyone –
civilian, military, government official or judge – who knowingly participates in or supports illegal threat or use of force against another nation or its people is committing a war crime.

Men and women on duty at Hancock AFB: Four of your colleagues, veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, formerly operating weaponized drones at other U.S. bases, have – courageously – gone public about drone war crimes they acknowledge committing.

The 174th Attack Wing of the NY Air National Guard deploys hunter/killer Reaper drones 24/7 over Afghanistan and probably elsewhere. These weaponized robotic drones are instruments of terror. They perpetrate extrajudicial killings, violate due process, violate national sovereignty, and kill non-combatants and civilians. They bring dishonor on the United States and upon its armed services.

Under the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice you must not be complicit in these crimes against peace, crimes against humanity and war crimes. In fact, you are required to disobey unlawful orders from a superior.

Those protesting here today are exercising our First Amendment right to petition our government for a redress of grievances (the vile use of our tax money). We urge you to do the honorable thing. We urge you to heed your conscience.

From the Upstate Drone Action Coalition: Ground the Drones and End the Wars, 28 January 2016

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Grandma Drone Protester Begins 6 Month Sentence

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Hancock Drone Resister Grandma Goes to Jail

DeWitt, NY, Jan 19   Following a 1/2 hour press conference, Mary Anne Grady Flores, a mother, grandmother and daughter, proprietor of a small Latino catering business, was sentenced to 6 months in jail, then handcuffed and taken from the courtroom to Jamesville Correctional Facility in East Syracuse. In December, Judge Miller of the Onondaga County Court of Appeals heard arguments for an appeal of her previous conviction for violating the terms of an Order of Protection issued in 2012 on behalf of the base commander at Hancock National Guard Base to her and other protesters to keep them away from the base property.

A week ago, on January 12, Grady Flores was informed by her attorney, Lance Salisbury, that he had received a letter saying that her conviction had been upheld but her sentence would be reduced from a year in jail to 6 months. The letter also re-affirmed the conviction and sentence of Grady Flores and 11 others in a January 2013 trial on charges of disorderly conduct for the 2012 protest where they had blocked the access road to the base.    Since they had completed their sentences, the decision was moot except in so far as it affirmed Grady Flores’ Order of Protection issued in conjunction with sentencing.

The system is waiting for a signal.    The case of Mary Anne Grady Flores, who was convicted of violating her order of protection by standing in the public highway in front of the Hancock Base taking pictures of a protest, is now being appealed to the New York State Supreme Court. Only after Grady Flores’ arrest, Base personnel informed protesters that the Base property extends to the center of the thoroughfare, more than 100 feet from the 10 foot high chain link fence that surrounds the compound. .    Despite ongoing civil resistance at Hancock Base, no other protester has been convicted of violating an order of protection, an instrument designed to protect victims of domestic violence and witnesses subject to intimidation

This is a critical case for civil liberties and freedom of speech. The right to petition the government for redress is guaranteed by the first amendment of the constitution.

The Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars was formed in 2009 when Hancock Air National Guard Base, now home of the 174th Attack Wing and a center for Reaper Drone piloting and training, became one of the first drone support bases in the US.   Since 2011, there have been 160 arrests of nonviolent anti-drone protesters at Hancock.   Since 2012, the courts handed down orders of protection to every protester until the Grady Flores case was appealed.    Grady Flores is the2nd protester to be sentenced to more than 2 weeks in jail.   The first was a 79 year old WWII Vet, a retired school teacher and lifelong advocate for peace and justice.

Since 2002, drone strikes have killed 5,000 people, at least 1/4 of them civilians, in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.   There are no good statistics for drone strikes in Afghanistan beyond the fact that the majority of airstrikes there have been drone strikes, which would indicate a higher total than anywhere outside Afghanistan, which is a declared war-zone. Civilian deaths are likely under-counted because methods of identifying ‘militants’ are poorly defined and self-referential.

Resistance continues at Hancock and drone bases around the country. For more information on Drone Warfare and resistance to drone warfare at Hancock Air National Guard Base: http://upstatedroneaction.org

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Press Conference: Grandma Drone Resister Goes to Jail

A press conference was held for Mary Anne Grady Flores at 4:30 on Tuesday, Jan 19 before she was taken away to serve her six month sentence in the Jamesville Correctional Facility.      Mary Anne is a life long activist, mother and grandmother and daughter, proprietor of a small Latino catering business in Ithaca, NY.  During her absence, Mary Anne will be will be greatly missed her family, and most likely some hungry customers as well.   But, Mary Anne would prefer to draw your attention to the victims of targeted killing in the Middle East and Africa, who receive death sentences from the US drone program without a trial or even, in many cases, evidence of criminal activity.

What follows are some of the high points of the press conference.

Ann Wright Calls in:

Mary Anne Grady Flores speaks:

Attorney Lance Salisbury, on Mary Anne Grady Flores’ appeal and jailing:




Drone Pilots Open Letter, Telling the Truth

Drone Pilots’ Open Letter to President Obama, Ash Carter and John Brennan

To:

President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, D.C.

Secretary Ashton B. Carter
Department of Defense

Director John O. Brennan
Central Intelligence Agency

November 18, 2015

Dear President Obama, Secretary Carter and Director Brennan:

We are former Air Force service members. We joined the Air Force to protect American lives and to protect our Constitution. We came to the realization that the innocent civilians we were killing only fueled the feelings of hatred that ignited terrorism and groups like ISIS, while also serving as a fundamental recruitment tool similar to Guantanamo Bay. This administration and its predecessors have built a drone program that is one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world.

When the guilt of our roles in facilitating this systematic loss of innocent life became too much, all of us succumbed to PTSD. We were cut loose by the same government we gave so much to ­­ sent out in the world without adequate medical care, reliable public health services, or necessary benefits. Some of us are now homeless. Others of us barely make it.

We witnessed gross waste, mismanagement, abuses of power, and our country’s leaders lying publicly about the effectiveness of the drone program. We cannot sit silently by and witness tragedies like the attacks in Paris, knowing the devastating effects the drone program has overseas and at home. Such silence would violate the very oaths we took to support and defend the Constitution.

We request that you consider our perspective, though perhaps that request is in vain given the unprecedented prosecution of truth­tellers who came before us like Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden. For the sake of this country, we hope it is otherwise.

Sincerely,

Brandon Bryant
Staff Sergeant
MQ­1B Predator Sensor Operator
SERE Instructor Trainee
USAF Joint Special Operations Command
3rd Special Operations Squadron
Disabled Iraq and Afghanistan Veteran
Founder of Project RED HAND

Cian Westmoreland
Senior Airman
RF Transmissions Systems
USAF CENTCOM
73rd Expeditionary Air Control Squadron
Disabled Afghanistan Veteran
Project RED HAND‘s Sustainable
Technology Director

Stephen Lewis
Senior Airman
MQ­1B Predator Sensor Operator
USAF Joint Special Operations Command
3rd Special Operations Squadron
Iraq and Afghanistan Veteran

Michael Haas
Senior Airman
MQ­1B Predator Sensor Operator Instructor
USAF Air Combat Command
15th Reconnaissance Squadron
Iraq and Afghanistan Veteran




Col Ann Wright Addresses Col. Evans’ OOP

Colonel Ann Wright’s Statement 1-19-16

As Grandmother Mary Ann Grady Flores is taken to jail today for violating an “Order of Protection” requested by the Commander of the U.S. National Guard Hancock Drone base, Syracuse, NY, I, as a retired U.S. Army Colonel with 29 years in the US military find it quite embarrassing and ludicrous that a U.S. military commander decided that his personal security so threatened by peaceful, non-violent protesters of the drone policies of the United States that he applied for an “Order of Protection” from the courts—and that the courts issued the “Order” without any evidence that any protester had ever even seen the Commander, much less constituted a threat to him.

I would have expected a U.S. military commander to have had the courage to meet with the group of concerned citizens rather than obtaining a cowardly “Order of Protection.” Had I been the commander, I certainly would have met with the citizens and would never have contemplated getting an “Order of Protection.

I have just returned from South Korea and Okinawa where citizen protesters daily block gates to military bases where highly contentious runways and ports are being built.  Each day police remove non-violent protesters from the gates, but they have never been prohibited from exercising their rights to protest, a right that is under siege by the military and the courts in Syracuse, New York.

As further evidence of how contorted the law enforcement and judicial process in the U.S. is about protests, while armed, white militia hold a federal wildlife reserve in Oregon in protest of the government having too much land and are not even arrested, Mary Ann Grady Flores, a peaceful grandmother who stepped on a double line and therefore violated an “Order of Protection” is going to jail for six months.

The actions by the U.S. military at Hancock drone base and the town courts of DeWitt, New York are blatant measures taken unconstitutionally to silence dissent against the assassin drone weapons policy and intimidate protesters.  They both should be ashamed.

 

Ann Wright

US Army Colonel (retired)

 




Peace Not War

Peace is the Way

Guest post by Rob Mulford, cross-posted from the News-Miner Community Perspective
The Daily News Miner of Interior Alaska, Jan 3, 2016

Editor’s note: Some of us met Rob in Pakistan where we both participated in a peace delegation which took us into Waziristan and gave us an opportunity to talk to people from different segments of society in Pakistan. Rob has been watching the growth of the drone program in Alaska, and his initiative to infiltrate the planning has resulted in an inside perspective on the overweening hubris behind US militarism and the imperialist drive to rule the world.

What our Leaders are Saying

On Nov. 15, the News-Miner quoted Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan as well as former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding the recent “terror” attacks in Paris.

“The truth is… they hate us for who we are, what we stand for. Democracy, religious freedom, tolerance, equality… What we need to do is … take the fight to them, so they don’t show up on our shores.” – Senator Dan Sullivan

“The desire of radical Islam to attack our nation remains ever so present. This is not the time to reduce investment in our national security, whether abroad or here in the homeland.” – Senator Lisa Murkowski

“This election is not only about electing a president, it’s about choosing our next commander in chief. All the other issues we want to deal with depend on us being secure and strong. We are at war with violent extremism.” – Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

An Inside View of the Military Planners

Hellfire missileIn December 2011, I attended the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA) Special Operations Summit in Tampa, Florida, a yearly event held for the military, private contractors and government agencies involved intelligence and special operations. I did this surreptitiously as a control systems integrator. The conference forbade members of the press from attending, and we were assured that no one was recording the sessions so the attendees were free to openly discuss their clandestine programs.

One of the presentations, covering the technology end of the summit’s focus, Human Geography, included PowerPoint slides depicting automated models of human communities. These models look somewhat like organic molecules. I learned that individual atoms in the models represent actual individual human beings, although dehumanized by reclassification as agents. Clusters of atoms represented actual groups of human beings such as villages, tribes, families, professional associations, businesses and religious groups. Each agent and cluster had associated with it data, both historical and dynamic, of that particular object’s cultural, religious, economic, political and military characteristics. The interconnecting lines represented interrelationships between the various objects. Near real-time dynamic data driving these models was supplied by: “human intelligence” like that gathered by Human Terrain Systems field teams; signals intelligence coming from sources like the monitoring of cell phone traffic and drone sensors.

This technology, known as Dynamic Network Analysis, is one of the instruments used to generate drone targets. The people that do this they call “human geographers” and “targeters.” I receive several help-wanted ads every week from companies looking to fill these positions.

During the session’s discussion period, one of the special operators said the term “high value target” is generally misconceived to mean a leader of a terrorist cell or someone responsible for acts of terror. He said, “If we take out a leader, they just replace him in short order.” He explained they found it much more useful to use the models to find inter tribal and inter familial connections, like those made by marriage. He said when we take out one of these connections, it disrupts their network (i.e. inter-tribal and inter-familial relations) and has more tactical value. He explained that they were using this method presently to target the Haqqani (tribal) network in Pakistan.

Meeting the Victims

In the fall of 2012, I had the honor and privilege to be a member of a Code Pink peace delegation, invited to Pakistan by Pakistani human rights attorney Shahzad Akbar, to witness the devastation caused by U.S. drone warfare there.

One of the highlights of our visit was an 11-hour caravan to Waziristan. En route we stopped at many villages were we were greeted by crowds of Pakistanis, most in their youth, returning our peace sign salutes in kind. When we reached Dera Ismail Khan, in Pakistan’s Federally Administrated Tribal Area it was glowing in the moonlight. Once again crowds of youth lined the street. I placed my hands on the window of the bus. A Pakistani placed his opposite mine. Soon the bus was rocking from others on the bus and in the crowd sharing this loving expression. The next morning we joined thousands of Pakistanis on a farm near the village of Tank chanting, “We want peace”. My tears welled.

If we symptomatically diagnose “their” reaction to “their” pain, how can we in all honestly claim, “They hate us for who we are”, if our actions toward “them” have indeed been guided by, “Democracy, religious freedom, tolerance, equality”? To do so defies logic as well as common decency.

Peace Not War

US “investment” in military solutions from 2001 to the present total more than $8.7 trillion. The world is no less broken today. If your car were malfunctioning, how long would you go on paying a mechanic to beat it with a sledgehammer, 14 years plus? The world “invested” more than 75 million lives in World War II. That’s the equivalent to 40,000 violent deaths per day for five years. Do we really want to go there again? Are these, in themselves, not examples of violent extremism?

I believe that we can do very well without a commander in chief. After all, the Department of Defense is no older than I am. We cannot, however, even begin to address those issues that we need to deal with, like global climate change, while we remain on this deathly path. Let’s begin forging swords into ploughshares by demilitarizing our local economy. As the ever spiritually mindful A. J. Muste said, “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.”

Rob Mulford is an Interior resident and peace activist.