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.




Kiiller Drones: 2015

Guest Post by Charles Piers0n; Originally published on Counterpunch.org, January 1 2016 as ‘The  Year in Drones, 2015′

2015 was another glorious, blood-soaked year for US killer drones.

One story began in 2014, but it was not until 2015 that we knew how it ended. In February 2014, the Associated Press reported that the Obama Administration was contemplating a drone strike on a US citizen, an al-Qaeda member living in Pakistan and known by the nom de guerre Abdullah al-Shami (Abdullah the Syrian). Al-Shami had been born in Texas, but had not been in the United States since he was a toddler.

We did not hear of Al-Shami again until the following April. Al-Shami still lived but had been captured by Pakistani security forces and turned over to the United States. In April, al-Shami (now identified by his real name, Mohanad Mahmoud Al Farekh) was arraigned on terrorism charges in federal court in Brooklyn.

Other US citizens have been less fortunate than Al Farekh. On January 14, a 73 year old aid worker, Warren Weinstein, was killed in a US drone strike on an Al-Qaeda compound in Pakistan. His family had been trying to negotiate ransom for Weinstein who had been abducted from his home in Lahore in 2011. Also killed in the strike were an Italian aid worker, Giovanni Lo Porto, and an American member of al-Qaeda, Ahmed Farouq.

Eight US citizens have been killed in US drone strikes. The best known is Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born high-profile al-Qaeda spokesman. Al-Awlaki was killed by a US drone in Yemen on September 30, 2011. Al-Awlaki’s 16-year old son, Abdulrahman, was killed in a separate drone attack a month later. All other US citizens killed by drones have been members of Al-Qaeda. Al-Shami’s tale proves that the Obama Administration continues to be willing to execute Americans without due process of law.

Proliferation

Israel is the world’s number one exporter of drones, followed by the US, then China. (US companies sell more drones than does Israel, but Israel exports more.) Israeli and Chinese success is due to US restrictions on selling drones abroad. Export restrictions mean that US drone manufacturers have to sell most of their armed drones to just one customer: the Pentagon.

On February 17, the Obama Administration announced that it was easing restrictions on the sale of US-manufactured drones abroad. Prior to this, only the United Kingdom had in 2007 been allowed to purchase armed drones from the United States.

Purchasers must promise to use the drones only in accordance with international law, just like the US does. Purchasers must also promise not to use killer drones against their own people. Ignore these unenforceable restrictions. More encouraging is the fact that it was not until November that the US State Department approved the first sales of killer drones to Italy.[1] Included in the deal are 156 Hellfire missiles. All this for a low, low price of $126 million.

In the past, Turkey, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had all asked the US for armed drones. All were rebuffed. Since then, Saudi Arabia has reportedly purchased armed drones from South Africa and China. Turkey announced on December 21 that it had successfully tested an armed drone developed by Turkish defense companies.

Pakistan has developed its own armed drone, the Burraq, which it unveiled in March. By September, the Burraq had tasted blood. Pakistan’s military announced on September 7 that the Burraq had taken out three Islamist militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Pakistan joins a short but growing list of nations which not only possess armed drones but have killed with them. The US is in the forefront. Britain has made drone kills in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iraq has killed ISIS fighters with the Chinese-manufactured CH-4B “Rainbow” armed drone. Israel has used armed drones against Gaza. Hamas claims that it possesses armed drones, although what Hamas has displayed in videos may not be a drone, but rather a small single-use missile which can only be controlled while within the operator’s line of sight. Iran’s so-called “suicide” or “kamikaze” drones are similar. Iran, however, also has developed an armed drone similar to the Predator or Reaper which it calls the “Ambassador of Death.” You have to hand it to the mullahs: we may not like them, but they do have a flair for the dramatic.

The race for killer drones is on!

“The entire program was diseased”

In 2015, The Intercept broke two important stories on drones. In February, Jeremy Scahill reported on the US base in Ramstein, Germany. Leaked US slides and their confidential source confirmed what had long been suspected: that Ramstein Air Base is the global hub for relaying signals which allow pilots in the United States to control US drones in South and Central Asia, the Arabian Peninsula and Africa. The slides put the lie to US and German attempts to minimize Ramstein’s crucial importance to the drone war. The slides raise the possibility of US personnel at Ramstein facing prosecution under German law for assisting drone assassinations in violation of international law.[2]

Then in October, The Intercept published The Drone Papers: a series of classified documents on the US government’s drone assassination program. The Drone Papers were leaked to The Intercept by an unidentified source inside the intelligence community who is being called the new Edward Snowden. The new source can look forward to getting his face on the cover of Time and his ass in a prison cell—that is, unless he gets out of the US before the Obama Administration finds out who he is.

The Drone Papers confirm every horrifying thing we have learned about drones’ indiscriminate killing. For every intended target, about six unintended targets are killed. Civilians killed by American drones are counted as enemies killed in action (EKIA), unless they are subsequently proven not to be militants. Internal criticism of the drone program is rife. Insiders say that drones are successful only at boosting terrorist recruitment.

Four other whistleblowers—former drone operators in the US Air Force—went public in an open letter to President Obama in November. The four lashed out at the drone program’s callous disregard for human life. Drone operators call children “fun-size terrorists” and refer to killing children as cutting the lawn before the grass gets high. One of the whistleblowers, former Staff Sergeant Brandon Bryant has said: “We killed people who we really didn’t know who they were, and there was no oversight.”

True that. After Warren Weinstein was killed the New York Times ran this headline: “Drone Strikes Reveal Uncomfortable Truth: U.S. Is Often Unsure about Who Will Die.” “The entire program was diseased,” Bryant says. For speaking out, Sgt. Bryant and his colleagues have had their bank accounts and their credit cards frozen.

Perhaps the most appalling revelation in The Drone Papers was that during one five-month period in Afghanistan 90% of drone victims were not the intended target. The civilian death toll is not always that high, but it is high enough. An op-ed in the July 14 New York Times gives these figures:

In 646 probable drone strikes in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen recorded by the [British NGO] Bureau of Investigative Journalism, as many as 1,128 civilians, including 225 children, were killed—22 percent of deaths. The New America Foundation’s estimates are lower, but suggest a civilian death rate of about 10 percent.[3]

US killer drones have taken lives in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, and Somalia, Syria, and the Philippines. US drone strikes on Yemen have continued even during the country’s civil war, providing de facto assistance to Saudi Arabia’s criminal aggression in bombing Yemen.

Drone missions take their toll on those drone operators who still have a conscience. Substance abuse is common. So are burnout and PTSD. “Guilt-ridden American drone pilots continue to quit in unprecedented numbers,” according to RT, the Russian news service. Yet the Obama Administration wants to increase daily drone flights by 50% over the next four years. Good luck finding enough pilots.

Other veterans are also speaking out. In June, forty-four veterans representing each of the four service branches with ranks from private to colonel signed a letter urging armed forces members to refuse to fly drone missions. The “Refuse to Fly” campaign is also running a series of fifteen-second anti-drone TV ads. The ads show graphic scenes of death and destruction taken from Madiha Tahir’s documentary Wounds of Waziristan about Pakistanis killed by US drones. Each ad ends with a voice urging drone operators to “refuse to fly.”

According to a poll conducted in May by the Pew Research Center, 58% of Americans support US drone strikes. The same poll shows that one-third (35%) of Americans disapprove of drone strikes, up from 26% two years ago. Americans need to learn the truth about drones. Yet coverage of The Drone Papers and the four whistleblowers in the mainstream media has been spotty to nil. The word needs to go out if there is to be the sort of public pressure that it will take to ground the drones.

 

Notes.

[1] Italy already owns the unarmed version of the MQ-1 Reaper. Under the November deal, Italy will receive kits to convert its unarmed MQ-1 Reapers to armed drones. The Italians will assemble the drones themselves, not unlike buying killer drones from IKEA.

[2] In October 2014, human rights groups brought a civil lawsuit in Germany to force the German government to end drone strikes directed from its territory. The suit was brought on behalf of Yemeni victims of US drone strikes. The suit was dismissed on May 27, 2015. The claimants have appealed.

[3] Pratap Chatterjee, Our Drone War Burnout, N.Y. TIMES (July 14, 2015). Regularly updated spread sheets showing US drone kills by country for Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and Afghanistan can be found on the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s website.

Charles Pierson is a lawyer and a member of the Pittsburgh Anti-Drone Warfare Coalition. E-mail him at Chapierson@yahoo.com.

 

 




Minnie Bruce Pratt on Drones and Our Work

SU Professor, Minnie Bruce Pratt, on Drones and our work at Hancock Base, originally published in Workers World.

Minnie recently spoke to Ed Kinane about her articles, so I thought it would be nice to draw attention to them here in our blog.

http://www.workers.org/articles/2015/10/25/brave-new-resister-explodes-secret-u-s-drone-kills/

Spanish translation:   http://www.workers.org/articles/2015/10/27/resistente-expone-asesinatos-por-drones-eua/

http://www.workers.org/articles/2015/10/18/undrone-upstate-walk-opposes-u-s-wars/

http://www.workers.org/articles/2014/08/22/jury-acquits-anti-drone-protester/

http://www.workers.org/articles/2014/05/02/anti-drone-events-central-new-york/

http://www.workers.org/articles/2015/03/23/protests-decry-12-years-of-u-s-wars-abroad/

http://www.workers.org/articles/2014/10/09/anti-drone-protest-stop-u-s-wars/

http://www.workers.org/articles/2013/05/19/drone-base-picketed/




Terrorism is Killing or Instilling Fear – No Matter Who Does It

We watch proliferating terror and violence. . . Mourning and fear come too. What’s the remedy? More of the same?!

Peacemakers on retreat were playing a game where the caller, standing in the middle of a circle of seated people says, “The Big Wind Blows on anyone who . .” All for whom it’s true – including the caller – must find another seat. The person left standing is the next caller. 

My friend said, “The Big Wind Blows on anyone who has ever been part of a Terrorist Organization.” I was shocked. Why did he ask that? And was the room bugged? Would the FBI, who bugs peace groups, think that meant we’re terrorists? Why would he ask that?

Since I wasn’t the only confused-looking person, he said, “Well, I was part of a terrorist organization: the U.S. military.”

The Buffalo News said in its December 4 headline story “Massacre again raises question of when to define it as terrorism,”

Federal law defines terrorism as dangerous acts intended to intimidate a civilian population, influence government policy or affect government conduct “by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping.”

Some examples are

  • our weaponized drone program, where, per Intercept based on leaked U.S. internal documents, nearly 90% of those killed were not the intended targets (assassination, mass destruction and community intimidation included);
  • night raids in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, which terrify surprised families and whole communities. War is state terrorism.
  • “policing” murders, especially of black people. People of color, activists, and innocents know and are highly intimidated because even moving (Amadou Diallo); questioning (Sandra Bland); or failing immediate obedience (12-year-old Tamir Rice) – could result in one’s getting killed.

Terrorism is killing and/or instilling fear. Let’s kill the people who are killing people? Which causes more people to kill? How can that work? It doesn’t make sense. (Don’t hit your sister. Whap!!) Restraining and preventing aggression is necessary. Instilling fear and Islamophobia promote a police state.

The U.S. treatment of whistle blowers confirms governmental intimidation. Hero Edward Snowden caused policy improvements, yet he faces espionage charges. Drone pilots revealing program truths have had their bank accounts and credit cards frozen. Police have generally been protected from charges of murder, wrongful death, or brutality until quite recently. State violence is excused.

State terrorism is still terrorism, and like violence, Terrorism begets more Terrorism. In fact, besides our government’s above-described intimidation of civilian populations, the U.S. efforts to influence other governments’ policies and/or affect their conduct are well known worldwide. The Project for the New American Century espoused our challenging policies or conduct of other governments that are not aligned with our interests and prominence.

Do we need more or less violence? Hope we can agree we need less.

We need faith, courage, and resolute adherence to principle. Let’s work cooperatively, fearlessly, to mainstream nonviolence, including petitioning our government. You can join organizations like the WNY Peace Center and allies on specific campaigns.

_________________________________________

Victoria Ross, QCSW, LMSW, MALD, is the Executive Director of the WNY Peace Center, a consultant for the Interfaith Peace Network, and Holy Trinity Lutheran Church’s delegate to the Network of Religious Communities (all cosponsors of the Solidarity Rally along with Muslim Public Affairs Council, and 40 other groups).

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Does America Spend Enough on Defense?

In response to the Buffalo News’ interesting August 2 feature “Does America Spend Enough on Defense?”: We don’t need more military spending – we need less. Our military aggression makes us a target.

John Quigley rightly points out that we should be building bridges at home, rather than bombing bridges abroad and maintaining about 1,000 military bases worldwide. He observes that the average annual defense budget has risen, not fallen, since George W. Bush left office. 

In opposition, James Jay Carafano claims that cuts to military spending will leave the US weaker than before 9/11: without continual increases in military spending, others will think we’re weak and attack us. However, Al-Qaida’s 9/11 attack was not caused by perceived weakness.

The USA spends $15 Billion more on its military than the next nine countries put together, per the International Institute for Strategic Studies, or more than 34% of the military spending for the entire world, per the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 2015.

What have we got to show for such spending?

  • A drone program that kills 28 people for each one targeted, which person may be reported killed up to seven times (per Reprieve’s 2014 study “You Never Die Twice” ) – prompting the question: who was actually killed?
  • Ever-multiplying numbers of potential “terrorists,” persons violently disposed toward U.S. citizens for the U.S.’ terrorizing of whole communities (by soldiers’ night raids on suspect family homes, and frequent drone surveillance with intermittent deadly attacks).
  • Culpability for war crimes. Attacks are made without regard for humanitarian principles of international law governing armed conflicts (e.g., necessity and proportionality; protection for civilians, especially women and children; and prohibition against collective punishment).

The USA is also the major seller of arms worldwide, representing more than ¾ of all arms exports in 2011, per the NY Times. We sometimes arm both sides of a conflict, and not surprisingly are often attacked with weapons we provided, lately by Isis and Al-Qaida. (We are also #1 in guns per capita, with [per the UN Office of Drugs and Crime] an unbelievable 88.8 guns per 100 residents in 2012 – excluding arms held by the government!)

We are the only country that has used nuclear bombs (despite Japan’s imminent surrender), and we maintain our nuclear arsenal at great financial and environmental cost rather than pursuing nuclear disarmament. The treaty with Iran is the first recent serious attempt toward nuclear nonproliferation. Hopefully Congress will support the treaty with Iran. The accord prevents Iran from obtaining nuclear capabilities, and includes robust reporting and verification. Iran will benefit by the end of sanctions – as will U.S. businesses eager to enter that market. Diplomacy rather than military efforts make this a real victory for the U.S.

Such peaceful and just conflict resolution benefits all, and is much more effective in reducing violence. Let’s invest in life-sustaining efforts instead.

—————————————————————

Victoria Ross, QCSW, LMSW, MALD, is Peaceful Conflict Resolution Consultant for the WNY Peace Center and the Interfaith Peace Network.




Omnicide, No Thanks!

Guest Post by George Payne, republished from The Deconstructed Globe

What has the U.S. done to respond to the “slow emergency” of global warming?  The short answer is not much. Even though the United States has been the world’s largest polluter over the past hundred years, our nation has done almost nothing of significance on the political level to curb greenhouse gas emissions. In 1997 Clinton failed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and shamefully walked away from the problem. At the key moment when we were in a position to help curtail the worst impacts of global warming, we simply turned our backs on the responsibility. In 2003 the U.S. invaded Iraq, hijacked that nation’s oil supply, commandeered transportation and distribution routes for oil, and ensured American hegemony in the region for years to come. On the domestic front the U.S. increased natural gas extraction from Colorado to Pennsylvania, making it cheaper and more abundant than it has ever been in our nation’s history. 

Adding salt to a festering wound, in 2009 the U.S. participated in a UN summit in Copenhagen in which the U.S. and China failed to reach any binding agreements. When Copenhagen failed, Congress doubled down on their climate change denial and neglected to pass legislation which would have reduced carbon emissions at home.

I hate to sound pessimistic about what is happening in Paris right now but I have little faith in the U.S. to help solve this crisis. There is just not enough willpower on the national level to do anything that will substantially alter the course we are on. I am writing this lamentation just a few days after the “Global Climate Action March” in Rochester which took place on Sunday, Nov 29. Now that the excitement of the march has toned down a bit,  I am feeling compelled to speak more reflectively about my overall state of mind concerning the movement and its prospects for success. Without taking anything away from the utterly inspiring work of the organizers- and without diminishing or trivializing the passionate display of civil democracy which I experienced first hand as a marcher- I do think it is important to honestly acknowledge that the vast majority of our fellow citizens could care less about this issue. This may be an overly simplistic and harsh way to articulate my dissatisfaction, but that’s how I feel. As impressive as it is to see nearly 500 concerned citizens show up at a demonstrate on a holiday weekend, the fact remains that over 190,000 people chose to stay home. The overwhelming majority of these people had no intention of supporting the marchers or their cause. Truth be told, they do not believe that global warming is a serious threat to their lives; and they certainly do not believe that the government should be prioritizing this issue at the expense of others such as job creation, international trade, the rise of religious extremism in the Middle East, race relations in American cities, and so much more that is presumably unrelated to climate.

If I may continue to speak bluntly, the reason I am so discouraged (besides our nation’s history of political inaction on climate change) is the failure of the populace to understand how these social problems are intimately connected. Economic growth can not be considered without thinking about a future based on renewable energy sources. War and deprivation cannot be considered apart from the terrible ecological impacts that climate change will have on volatile conflict zones. And racism generated against people is essentially no different than the violence perpetrated against other living organisms. To hate someone or even kill them because of their skin tone is  no less damaging to our systemic health as a global community than clear cutting forests or strip mining mountaintops. In both cases living organisms with intrinsic worth are assaulted due to ignorance, malice and greed. That being said, I was hoping to see more people of color at the march. Until we all understand that the causes listed above are all based on the same existential struggle for liberty, dignity and genuine happiness, we will continue to distract, divide and defuse our capacity to make meaningful and lasting change. Whether we like it or not, this change that we are seeking will only come when a majority of the 190,000 people in our city (and the majority in all cities) participate in the movement.

In order to take this climate justice movement to the level it needs to go, it will need conservatives to join the fight. That is, people who think liberals are incredibly naive and self-righteous. The movement will need people of color who have traditionally distrusted large scale environmental campaigns run by middle class whites. It will need youth who are not afraid to put down their laptop and iphone and get a little dirty in the field of grassroots organizing. It will need elders who have serious roles to play. It will will need activists, artists, teachers, priests,  rabbis, imams, and symbolic figureheads. It will need people who speak different languages and come from different parts of the world. It will need people who have no employment but have a a plethora of skills to employ. Every step of the way it will need people who are in love with compromise and negotiation. And it will need to have hardcore dreamers and hardcore scientists alike. No one can be left out.

Furthermore, those who come out in force for the environment must also come out in force for young men and women who are killed unjustly in wars-whether for natural resources overseas or by undisciplined police in their neighborhood. Those who are willing to show up in costumes to a climate justice event on a Sunday afternoon, must also stand side by side with laborers who are fighting for a living wage on a Tuesday morning. And those who are willing to bring their children to a church for a peaceful walk around the City Center, must find the courage to also bring them to a military drone base in Syracuse where they can bear witness to the murder of other children living in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen.

My hope is that this march will be another milestone event that continues to build momentum over the next few weeks and months. For me and others, there is simply no turning back. Turning back is to walk off a ledge into the abyss of omnicide. No thanks.

George “Casey” Payne, M.A., M.T.S.
Justice and Peace Coordinator with Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes
Visiting Adjunct Professor at Finger Lakes Community College
Founder, Gandhi Earth Keepers International




Exposing the Killer Drones of Hancock Airbase’s 174th Attack Wing

by  Ed Kinane, Reprinted from Truthout.org Speakout, November 18, 2015

Every first Tuesday of the month since 2010 a handful of us have been protesting the weaponized Reaper drone atHancock Air Base. In milder weather – from April to November – we also protest on third Tuesdays. We call this work, “street heat.”

Why such persistence? Hancock AFB, near Syracuse, our home town, hosts the 174th Attack Wing of the New York Air National Guard. Although its operations and the identities of its drone personnel are classified, several years ago in our local daily the then-base commander bragged that Hancock’s hunter/killer Reaper drones operate over Afghanistan “24/7.” (And we must wonder where else.)

Hancock seems to know that its operations are both illegal and reprehensible. The base, closed to the public, bristles with armed guards. Its commanders have ignored our repeated attempts to communicate with them. Given its attack identify and its attack role, Hancock may be a legitimate target for those whom it attacks. That means those living near the base risk being “collateral damage.”

While seldom thought of as such in the US, abroad the Reaper is seen as an instrument of terror – maiming, assassinating and displacing human beings – mostly in the Middle East and west Asia, mostly in or near the Islamic oil lands. Drone terror contributes to the refugee crisis now convulsing those regions.

Often the drone assassins – or their chain of command – don’t know the names and affiliations of their defenseless targets. It seems the intelligence – whether derived from signals or from client governments and paid informants with their own axes to grind – is often faulty. Sometimes the targets are combatants, offensive or defensive; often however the victims are far from any combat zone. Some are armed males; far too often they are children and women. Frequently these innocents are in the wrong place at the wrong time – sharing with the target the same vehicle or compound or wedding party.

Sometimes when the Reaper’s Hellfire missiles – missiles that dismember and incinerate – strike, the intended target is no longer present or never has been. In a tactic called “double tapping,” those killed are first responders arriving shortly after the attack to aid the wounded or recover the corpses and body parts. Sometimes the missiles are deliberately aimed at those attending the funerals of the casualties of the two earlier strikes – “triple tapping.”

Such drone strikes may be tactically clever; but – as even some high-ranking US militarists argue – strategically they are stupid. Although these pragmatic warriors may or may not respect international law, drone assassination violates and erodes such law. Generally the killing promotes hostility among the survivors toward the US (Can anyone – as in the wake of 9/11 – still wonder, “Why do they hate us?”) And the killing also generates hostility among the victims’ fellow tribespeople… and even among those in other nations horrified by the carnage, cowardice and iniquity of it all.

The killing undermines any efforts by our boots on the ground to win “hearts and minds.” Some other nations and entities are building or importing (usually from Israel) their own drones. Proliferation makes no one safer; one day proliferation will endanger our own leaders and armed forces. US drones are already targeting US citizens overseas. As we keep getting de-sensitized to drone lawlessness and that lawlessness keeps getting normalized, domestic police and Homeland Security may be tempted to target demonstrators, dissenters and minorities.)

***

We demonstrate outside Hancock on Tuesdays from 4:15 to 5 pm – rush hour. Our handheld signs, in bold, block letters, declare: DRONES FLY, CHILDREN DIE; or TO END TERROR, STOP TERRORIZING; or REAPER DRONES ARE INSTRUMENTS OF TERROR; or STOP HANCOCK WAR CRIME…. Hundreds of vehicles drive past – some drivers and their passengers avert their eyes, some make rude gestures, others honk in support.

But we’re not trying to reach only the public. We especially want those driving on or off the base at shift change to see us. In their controlled environment Hancock personnel surely have little exposure to criticism of drone killing, but our signs are hard to avoid. Maybe our steadfast – year in and year out – presence get drone operators thinking. We’re all about sowing seeds, pricking consciences. We hope that eventually some base personnel will – as the post-World War II Nuremburg Principles require – refuse to follow their illegal orders. Ideally they’ll go public with what they know.

The Pentagon seems to be having a tough time recruiting enough personnel to maintain and operate all the killerand surveillance drones it hopes to deploy. The Pentagon dreams of expanding its drone fleet well beyond its current capacity; it dreams of achieving full spectrum dominance over the world’s skies. Every state or non-state leader, friend or foe, can then feel their vulnerability, thereby muting resistance to the imperium’s demands.

At our monthly and twice-monthly demos we stand directly across East Molloy Road from Hancock’s main entrance and exit. In doing so we exercise our First Amendment right of expression and assembly (which, if unexercised, tends to wither). Once several years ago, exasperated with our presence, Hancock summoned the sheriffs (who seem to know little about the First Amendment). A couple of us were arrested, but even in the hostile DeWitt Town court the charges were dismissed “in the interests of justice.” Since then, during these demos, the police have left us alone – though scores of us have been arrested at other times when, in separate nonviolent actions, we’ve ventured across Molloy Road closer to Hancock’s main gate onto what the base claims is its property. But that’s a whole other story.

Our Tuesdays at Hancock help get us out of our armchairs and “into the street.” Our demos tell the war machine that, whether or not it’s in our name or with our tax money, we don’t tolerate the killing. Arguably, world-wide it’s the street, in crisis after crisis, that might correct regimes straying too far from decency and democracy.

Street heat is one kind of voting that may make a difference. Certainly there would be more impact if more of us participated, whether at Hancock or at other killer drone bases. But even if there were only one of us, s/he would send an essential message. However, if no one is ever there, that absence sends its own – fatal – message: that drone terror is somehow normal (and not cowardly and vile); that the US public is indifferent to killing, indifferent to international law.

Sadly the Hancock drone operatives, some barely out of their teens, allow themselves to become robots – deadly, amoral robots – in a vast imperial, oil-soaked enterprise. Hancock itself is only one of many hundreds of US military bases throughout the US and the planet. Fortunately, though generally ignored by the mainstream media (which rarely dare apply the phrase “war crime” to US military policy), protests like ours occur at various bases operating weaponized drones. Inshallah, such resistance will go viral.

Given that most US Congressional districts have military contracts – whether linked to drone research and development and operations or to other weapons systems – there usually are sites (bases, research centers, factories) nearby to protest. These are opportunities for more of us to get out of our armchairs and into the street.

If our demonstrating can help de-glamorize the drone and diminish drone operator recruitment and re-enlistment, the souls and lives we save will surely be worth the few hours a month we spend exposing the operators’ often naïve complicity.