Covert Action Magazine: Ban Killer Drones: International Grassroots Movement to Ban Weaponized Drones Launched (Part 1)
May 10, 2021, Jack Gilroy, writing for Covert Action Magazine reported,
An international grassroots movement to ban weaponized drones and military and police surveillance, entitled Ban Killer Drones, has been launched. Progressive readers will remember the years of struggle that produced the recent ban on nuclear weapons as well as the struggle that produced agreements on landmine and cluster bombs. Weaponized drones have nothing that is praiseworthy. Weaponized drones are unmanned weapons carriers used to assassinate people in foreign (for now) lands. The use of weaponized drones is immoral, illegal, racist (used mainly to kill people of color) and pragmatically stupid. No other nation does what the United States does frequently: assassinate with weaponized drones in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, Libya. The United States is still the greatest purveyor of violence in the world and killer drones have become our deadly calling card. Bill Quigley, a Loyola University professor of constitutional law, has defended protesters arrested for nonviolent actions. At the same time, Bill is raising awareness of our immoral and illegal acts of killing suspected “terrorists” by weaponized drones: the dead and wounded almost always including innocent civilians. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that they have tracked more than 14,000 drone strikes through 2020 and that up to 16,000 people have been killed by U.S. drones. Most drone victims remain nameless even to congressional oversight committees studying weaponized drones.
Ban Killer Drones: International Campaign of Civil Disobedience Necessary (Part 2) – “A large campaign of civil disobedience is necessary to abolish one of the U.S. military’s monstrous creations”
Brian Terrell continued the series in Covert Action Magazine in Part 2, where he chronicles his multiple arrests, convictions, and jail sentences for civil disobedience in opposition to killer drones.
Acts of civil resistance such as these are responses to grave crimes of the state and not crimes in themselves, even when arrest and prosecution seem the immediate outcomes. Such actions are often required, but are not the whole of a campaign for change, either. In resistance to killer drones, such tactics as petitions, billboards, teach-ins, marches, pickets have also been effectively used and more will be needed as we go forward. Martin Luther King, Jr., explained the necessity of direct action in his 1963 Letter from the Birmingham Jail: ‘Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has consistently refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.’
Banning weaponized drones is not an abstract “cause” but a real human obligation”
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Home of the Hunters
In an NBC news video in 2015, three former Air Force airmen spoke out against America’s drone war, calling the military drone program “morally outrageous” and “one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world.”
“People think it’s a video game.”
“You reform reality so you don’t have to think about what you did.”
“It’s dark and you’re just watching lights blinking on and off.”
“People who join the military, we join because of things that we learned in school. We learn about our government and the great things it was founded on, we learn about our Constitution, and we learn that Americans are always afforded due process. They haven’t honored the Constitution, they should be fighting for that.”
“Washington will state that they are very efficient, then why are so many civilians getting killed?”
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In October of 2020, as reported by Common Dreams,
For the 11th straight year, CodePink and Veterans for Peace led their twice-annual Shut Down Creech demonstration against killer drones at Creech Air Force Base to “oppose the remote-control killing” orchestrated from the military facility located 45 miles northwest of Las Vegas. CodePink organizer Toby Blomé said the activists, who hail from California, Arizona, and Nevada, “were compelled to participate and take a strong and determined stance against the illegal and inhumane remote killing by U.S. drones that occurs daily” at Creech. Indeed, hundreds of pilots sit in air-conditioned bunkers at the base—known as the “Home of the Hunters”—staring at screens and toggling joysticks to control the more than 100 heavily armed Predator and Reaper drones that launch airstrikes in around half a dozen countries, sometimes killing civilians along with targeted Islamist militants.
False Impressions About Drones
In his video presentation, David Swanson outlines false impressions that make it difficult for the misinformed public to understand the imperative for killer drone bans.
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One of the first false impressions is that there are advantageous uses of drones, for example, for fire and rescue, scientific research, tracking, etc., and therefore, bans are undesirable. But there are many scenarios in public policy where it is understood that there are both benefits as well as risks that must be managed. David Swanson gives the simple example of selling mushrooms, while recognizing that some mushrooms are poisonous and illegal for commerce, without banning all mushrooms, Advantageous and moral uses of drones can be protected, while addressing weaponized killer drones and unconstitutional surveillance.
He addresses the fantasy of “imaginary drones.” People imagine that drones are being used against identified targets who have been convicted, who cannot be arrested for some reason, who are in the act of committing mass murders, who are alone and far from innocent people, when this is not the case. The idea some hold is that by using drones, ‘no one gets killed.’ This ignores the fact the murder is illegal world-wide, and that the weapons operate outside the law, and that drones kill innocent civilians. Drones make it easier to murder people who don’t matter, who can be slaughtered. Patriotism and sentimentality for the weapons industry also exerts undue influence, with the idea that the top secret weapons are being employed by people who are wiser, with more information.
As Ban Killer Drones notes,
And, finally, although drone attacks continue to spread into new nations, the global press has largely lost interest, accepting governmental lumping of these attacks under the normalizing terminology “air strikes”, apparently having accepted the slow, steady advance of drone atrocity as a relatively minor issue, almost certainly because those being killed are almost exclusively poor people of color.
“Between July and September 2014, Alkarama conducted a survey to understand the presence of trauma on a sample of individuals living in Yemen, in areas where drone operations are being carried out by the United States (hereinafter “U.S.”).”
With this study, our aim is to reduce the gap between the abstraction of a military personnel sitting behind a screen triggering the strike and the overwhelming as well as constant mental suffering of civilians on the ground. This study is thus a testimony to the presence of a direct causal link between the one powerful side and the other. It is fundamentally an attempt to highlight – to the international community, of which the U.S. is an integral part – that drone operations have direct consequences on Yemeni civilians, particularly on their mental integrity; that the suffering involved amounts to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment; and that the current U.S. drone operations in Yemen hence amount to a gross violation of Yemeni civilians’ basic human rights.
In February of 2013, Charlottesville VA became the first U.S. city to pass anti-drone legislation, addressing both citizen surveillance and weaponization
As reported by Salon,
Charlottesville, Va., has become the first city to formally pass an anti-drone resolution. Activist David Swanson brought the resolution, drafted largely by civil liberties organization the Rutherford Institute, before the city council, who approved the measure 3-2 this week. The legislation asserts the following: “[T]he City Council of Charlottesville, Virginia, endorses the proposal for a two year moratorium on drones in the state of Virginia; and calls on the United States Congress and the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia to adopt legislation 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; and pledges to abstain from similar uses with city-owned, leased, or borrowed drones.”
When Legislation Becomes Propaganda and/or False Choices
In January of 2021, The National Conference of State Legislators reported that:
Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly called drones, have a host of applications including law enforcement, land surveillance, wildlife tracking, search and rescue operations, disaster response, border patrol and recreational use. Drones have become a part of our daily lives, especially among drone hobbyists. State legislatures continue to debate if and how drone technology should be regulated, considering the benefits of their use, privacy concerns and their potential economic impact. Since 2013, at least 44 states have enacted laws addressing drones and an additional three states have adopted resolutions. Common issues addressed in the legislation include defining what a UAS is, how they can be used by law enforcement or other state agencies, how they can be used by the general public and regulations for their use in hunting game.
Like many current legislative efforts, most drone regulations are controlled narratives and manufactured choices that protect industrial, economic, surveillance, and military objectives. Despite international laws, the use of killer drones has yet to be addressed. State policies focus instead, for example, on politically expedient ideas like banning drone flights over correctional facilities. Decision-makers are protecting corporations and military objectives and not representing people. They are engaged in an immoral chess game.
Therefore, the morality issues need to be addressed by an international grassroots movements; “These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every person of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits their convictions, but we must all protest.” — Martin Luther King, Jr. “Beyond Vietnam” April 4, 1967
Unexamined, unmonitored expansion of wireless technologies, wide-scale citizen surveillance, weaponization of space, and unconstitutional murder of civilians, including children is immoral. As MLK noted, this necessitates action “to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has consistently refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.” Petition